Bricking it in Coventry

Frieze, Birmingham Museum and Gallery
Frieze, Birmingham Museum and Gallery

Today’s courier run takes us to Coventry. As this isn’t far, we have bought cheaper tickets for the train departing Euston at 9:54. The day is cloudy with sunny intervals but a little chilly so far.

Robert Stephenson
Robert Stephenson, Euston Station

We reached Euston at about 9 am and looked around for breakfast. There is a Camden Food Co at this station and I am quite a fan of theirs though individual outlets are better than others. We bought cheese, omelette and tomato baps and had them warmed up. Unfortunately, when we came to eat them they were still cold inside. We should have returned them, I suppose, but instead ate them anyway.

The platform for our train – the Birmingham train, platform 8 – was announced even before the train arrived in the station. That must be some sort of a record, though I suppose with regular shuttle services like this the platforms are probably permanently assigned.

We left on time and so far the trip has been relaxed, like one of our own weekend trips. As we pass through fields yellowing with oil rapeseed, the sun comes out again, gold on gold.

When we reached Northampton, we had to change carriages because the train splits. Then the train just sat and waited. It was then that we suddenly realized that it had already gone 11 am and that we were cutting it awfully fine for a drop at noon. We still had three stops to go and the train showed no signs of departing. It eventually left Northampton at 11:17 and by this time we were, to use the vernacular, bricking it*.

What had gone wrong? We had originally planned to take the 9:43 Virgin train which reaches Coventry at 10:42 but had switched to the later East Midlands train on the advice of the ticket clerk for reasons neither of us could now remember. We had assumed that this train, leaving only 11 minutes later than the other, would arrive a few minutes after it. Wrong! It turned out to be a slow train taking nearly double the time and we were now seriously in danger of reaching the client’s address after the deadline.

The train seemed to dawdle. It trundled into Long Buckby, then Rugby. As the train left Rugby we got up and stood by the door ready to make a dash for the station exit and the taxis as soon as we reached Coventry.

At last we were there. We rushed to the taxi rank and clambered into the first cab. We knew that the address was at some distance from the station. Moreover, according to the driver, the address was incomplete and could refer to either of two sites. We elected to go to the larger and hoped for the best.

On arrival, I stayed in the taxi while Tigger dashed into the building. After what seemed a long interval, she emerged smiling, waving a slip of paper. This was the receipt, timed at 11:58. I must admit that my knees were shaking.

Coventry Station, Birmingham platform
Coventry Station, Birmingham platform

We took the taxi back to the station and went to the buffet for refreshments to recover our composure. This brush with failure was our own fault and we will check train times more carefully in future. It is just very lucky that we managed to scrape in under the wire.

These contracts are worth a lot of money to the company and if we failed to deliver on time for any but the most serious of accidents, we might not be trusted to do any more courier runs.

Having recovered our aplomb, we decided to go on to Birmingham, as we had already visited Coventry and thought there would be more to do and see in Birmingham. We would also be able to get a direct train from there back to Euston.

Unlovely Birmingham New Street station
Unlovely Birmingham New Street station

When we reached the unlovely Birmingham New Street station around 1:30 we set out to find an Indian restaurant for lunch. We were surprised not to find any in the neighbourhood. Perhaps we missed them or perhaps they are further out. Either way, we eventually settled for Chez Jules.

Chez Jules
Chez Jules

Rather than being a self-consciously “French” restaurant, Chez Jules reminds me of the friendly marketplace restaurants in France with check-pattern plastic tablecloths. The food was tasty and not over-priced.

The splendid Bullring Bull
The splendid Bullring Bull

As we emerged, it began to rain so we decided that a visit to the Museum and Art Gallery was in order. This is housed in a beautiful building behind the magnificent Council House with whose style it harmonizes.

The museum and the art gallery together form a huge display. It is impossible to see more than a part of it on a single visit. It’s also easy to get lost as the building is large!

Birmingham Museum and Gallery
Birmingham Museum and Gallery

It is the sort of museum that I like with proper displays in proper glass cases. There are some modern touches but these have been done to blend in.

The building itself is not the least important part of the exhibition because it is elegantly proportioned and richly decorated.

Stained glass window
Stained glass window

The museum does require you to sign a release before you can take photographs but their policy is eminently sensible: you can put the photos to all personal uses – including posting them on you blog – as long as they are not used for remuneration. I wish other museums would take note and adopt a similar policy.

Victorian sitting room
Victorian sitting room

With so many corridors to roam and galleries to visit, decor to admire and exhibits to study, our legs and feet were feeling the strain by 5 pm when the museum closed.

We walked to the station – glad that the road took us downhill! – and bought coffee at the Camden Food Co before seeking a train. Our tickets are valid only for East Midland trains, so we have to take the same slow train that nearly made us late this morning, albeit in reverse.

Wedding Chest
Wedding Chest

Now that we are aboard the 17:33, heading towards Northampton where we change, the sun has made an appearance again after the rain.

Apart from the scare of missing the deadline this morning, this has been a good day out.

*“bricking it”: a British slang expression meaning in a state of alarm or fear.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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