Walking and Art – Part 1

This is an examination of my notes from Hannah Hull’s ‘Walking and Art’ that featured as part of the excellent ‘Still Walking’ festival which happened in Birmingham last March. ‘Walking and Art’ took place at The Anchor in Digbeth, and I must say, it was damn good. However because my memory of that evening is rather sketchy, I will let the hyperlinks do the talking, divert at some tangents, and make art out of the words. And first, of course, the necessary rambling pre-amble.

Document 39 Microsoft Word said. And who was I to disagree?

This, as with the following article which hopefully will be a write-up of walk around Digbeth as led by Matt and Pete’s Photo School where I got lost half way through, is nearly a month old, but that shouldn’t divert you from the quality of the writing. The second draft of the MA is in, and already I’m remembering everything I’ve been told about creative writing. The getting rid of apologetic and uncertain turns of phrase “I hoped that.” “You could say…” etc. The groups of threes, none of those. I dare say (!) I did like the flowery language, but I’m not Keith Floyd, even though I liked his style, especially as he was a big Stranglers fan, and Floydian flowery language and purple prose is also out. All looks as though it’s going well, but I’ve got to make sure I get rid of the joke in my Areas for Further Research bit where I make light about my unsexiness as an emerging author;

” I was aware that the book would have limited appeal; a book about Birmingham written by an author from Birmingham with just two self-published collections of (gulp) POETRY to his name would not be a lucrative prospect to a wider, national audience.”

Yeah, yeah, I’ll get rid of it. It’s just the ‘(gulp) POETRY’ bit I’ve got to edit.

I thought to myself that this walk could be an alternative version of my Digbeth-focused chapter in The Wind called ‘New Light Through Old Windows’ (see below) – going down Bath Row onto Great Colmore Street which are described in the chapter, over the dual carriageway of Bristol Road, on Wrentham Street. At the corner of Wrentham Street there was a couple having a rather aggressive argument with each other, the bloke would walk away and then turn around and wave his hands in the air shouting, which he probably had seen on the telly somewhere, and she would look upset and confused and wondering why she’d ever bothered. There was an evocative piece of music playing on my IPod when I walked past them but I’m buggered if I can remember what it was. Got down Wrentham Street and over Sherlock Street  – but not straight onto MacDonald Street – I was going to take a right at the Access Storage Solutions and continue until I got to Gooch Street. Go the way of the Sir Charles Napier, and past the Catherine O’Donovan, on Bissell Street, and then crossing over onto Chris Rea Street South. Re-tracing the steps that I had already written out, in a self-reverential haze. There was a lot of police/community support officers out that night on Gooch Street, asking questions and looking efficient, hats pulled over eyes to optimise their hard-person image. They meant business that night, and I ducked into Bissell Street as soon as I could. This was the weekend after the St Patrick’s Week celebrations, however, the Napier was still plastered with shamrocks, and it looked inviting again, but it seemed like as though it was a family do, and, as usual, when I scanned the place to have a look, they all turned around and looked at me, so I beat it. The Catherine O’Donovan was shut as usual, the trespassers being tortured by the savage hermaphrodite dog-woman man-thing that lurks in the cellar as discussed in ‘New Light’ (of course there probably is no such thing there but that’s psychogeography for you) were probably all dead or passed out due to shock, and I got to Chris Rea Street South. Let me tell you about Chris Rea – I’ve been a fan for a while, ever since there was this episode of Casualty back in the 1990s which featured this man with a beard and glasses dancing around his kitchen to ‘The Road to Hell’ (part 2 – of course) and getting a bit tipsy – then he was driving this van and mowed over a hitch-hiker whilst listening to it. Me, in my youth eating my Saturday night Beef Curry and Egg Fried Rice from the Hong Kong Inn in West Heath thought this was the thing, and after that, Chris Rea was never denigrated. Chris Rea was the man. I went to see him live in 2008 on his Return of the Fabulous Hofner Bluenotes tour at the Manchester Apollo, and he was very good, however, when he did The Road To Hell (parts 1 and 2) he did it a bit too fast, and to me, The Road To Hell (part 2) has got to prowl, not race. But it was a good night, and I’d happily see him again.

On the end of Chris Rea Street South, past Muthers studio, and the bit where I always get slightly confused. A right up Moseley Street, or straight on? The Moseley Street way always takes me a bit too far out of my way when I want to go to the Anchor, and I end up at the White Swan – which isn’t a problem, but the other way, straight on and then weaving right, never seems to work for me, psychologically – the road curves round and takes you around the back of the Mercat Bar and Grill – it’s alright but there’s something a bit perfunctory about that way, a bit half-arsed. It’s like having a bacon sandwich without the HP. You come to that end of the road and there’s an empty feeling, like there should be something else to treat you with. No, not that way. Fuck that. The longer way, the Moseley Street way. It’s a longer way round, but it’s preferable. Maybe one day I’ll re-invent the straight on way as a secret passage, a short cut, behind enemy lines, on a stealthy reconnaissance mission. Then it would be great. But for now, it’s bullshit. I was at the White Swan, and the Anchor was in sight. Walking and Art.

End of part 1.


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