Saturday, 18 April 2015

Bye Bye Birmingham But First a Tour of the Back to Backs

Traveling is always such an adventure. And today was no exception.

Last night I was on Canada time and didn't manage to fall asleep until after 3 am. When the alarm went off at 6:15, there was little hesitation in rolling over for another wee kip. When I went down to breakfast at the B&B, there were three others in the dining room, and all of us were in town for the WDYTYA event. The B&B owner offered to schedule me a cab, but one of the other guests offered me a ride into the NEC. We were able to catch various views of the NEC as we circled around, back and forth - even with the assistance of a Sat Nav!

Once inside, I was able to catch Linda Kerr's talk on DNA which had just started. Linda makes the different tests so easy to understand.

Then it was on to Stand #124 to show my Irn Bru nails to Sylvia Valentine. As I was approaching the booth, I came across Chris Halliday. We chatted for about half an hour and managed to set all of the wrongs in the genie world right - in our minds at least! If nothing else, it was a good laugh and a fun start to the day. Chris was ushered away to the Ask the Experts tables and I was off to get a seat to hear Kirsty Gray's talk on The Raw Materials of Industry and Industrial Power. While I have heard the talk before, I was much more engrossed in the mining stories this time, and the appalling conditions that the children were expected to work under.

I think the timing of Kirsty's talk was brilliant. I was fresh from my day at the Birmingham Library where I had viewed the Entrance Books for the Middlemore Children's Home and saw first hand the children who were transferred over, usually in groups of 10 or more, from the various workhouses in Birmingham. Top that with the stories of their working lives and it all leads to a tragic, albeit engrossing, tale.

I popped out of Kirsty's talk once the questions started and headed over to the train station. I was off to Birmingham New Street. After a short walk through a part of town that was not nearly as historic or well preserved as the area enroute to the Library, I was at the National Trust Museum Back to Backs. I had read on the web that the tours were by appointment only. However, I feigned ignorance and pled my case of traveling all the way from Canada....and with nary a negative word, I was in for the next scheduled tour.

Back to Backs were typical homes during the Industrial Revolution. Their main purpose was to provide housing for the ever increasing population as thousands poured into the city to find a job or ply their trade. These houses were not for the poor, they were the main housing system of the time. 

Back to Backs were only one room deep, with the main living/eating area on the main floor, along with a very small pantry, then a bedroom upstairs. There was a house in the front along a street, which shared a wall with a house in behind, facing into a courtyard. In the courtyard were toilets (outdoors of course) and a wash house for laundry. The amenities were shared by all of the people living in the set of Back to Backs. Depending on family size, this might have been 50 or more people in an 8 room complex. 

Having come fresh from Kirsty's talk on Industry and the working conditions of the Industrial revolution, it was quite powerful to then see the housing conditions and lifestyle that the workers returned home to. 

Then it was back to the NEC for a final once-round of the WDYTYA event before calling it a day and heading to the airport for my flight to Edinburgh. 

And what an adventure that was! I had initially decided to check both bags. However, once the first was checked, the airline staff said I could take both the carry on-sized bag and the back pack into the cabin. So, saving myself £40, the decision was made. However, once I got to the gate, I realized I wasn't sure if I was violating any of the security rules with what I had willy nilly tossed in the small case this morning. It didn't take long to find out. 

The case was kept aside and was rummaged through for liquids. GUILTY. Everything was of the right size with the exception of a brand new tube of Voltaren. I almost cried at the thought of it being confiscated. I told the security man that I needed it for arthritis. He asked if I had a prescription for it. No, it is an over the counter medication. And it is 150 mls rather than 100 mls. So much for the "value size" tube. I said, "When you get to my age, Voltaren becomes your moisturiser of choice" So a bargain was struck. He tested to make sure it really contained what the packaging said it did, and we did a trade off of hairspray for my Voltaren. Brilliant! 

I was in the very last row on the plane. The man next to me was incredibly chatty. He had been at the NEC with the two men across the aisle for an optic convention. And the six rows ahead of us were from a dental convention, also at the NEC. One of the men across had an e-cigarette, which he used and the smoke blowing across the back of the plane almost set me to run for the emergency exit. 

As we were approaching Edinburgh, the pilot came on with the usual " we are about to begin our descent.... the anticipated time of arrival is....and the weather in Edinburgh is...." Except it was all in SPANISH! 

We landed safely and were about half way to the gate when the plane stopped and an announcement was made "As is our practice on the last flight every Saturday, we are going to do an engine check. You may hear some loud noise and feel the plane vibrate" EH? An engine check? Surely that would have made more sense before we left Birmingham. Right, can we at least get off first? Nah. After a minute or two of shaking and baking we were on our way further up the tarmac. Only to park, be escorted onto a bus (a 44 seater for 84 passengers) and driven to the terminal. 

The good news is that I am now safely in Edinburgh, having experienced my first WDYTYA event. And as I await the arrival of my tour participants, I have a few hundred certificates to request of a colleague who was "loaned" 2000 credits into his ScotlandsPeople account!

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