A few hours chin-wagging over beer and food in a Birmingham city centre pub, with a couple of good friends, what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? I gave James Brogden a copy of his soon-to-be published collection Evocations (coming from The Alchemy Press) and he was very pleased with the book. We talked about a possible new anthology for 2016 (more details later). Otherwise the topics of conversation were, mostly, inconsequential. But that’s fine – one can’t save the world every time one meets.
I drove into Birmingham from the south, along the A38, aiming to park somewhere in the Brindley Place area. Now, I lived in Birmingham for 20-odd years. I thought I knew the area well enough. Turns out, I didn’t and I was confused further by the new build in the that area — and all those bloody road closures due to them tearing up the city centre. How much more of Brum can they dig up?
Anyway, by chance I came across a multi-storey car park and exited on foot, headed towards the centre. At least, I thought I was walking in that direction. After a while it occurred to me that I should take note of the road names and, when I eventually found a bookshop, buy a street map. The walk seem interminable and wasn’t helped by a pedestrian detour through Paradise Circus area (trust me, it is not a paradise). Somehow I ended up beside the new library and all was clear – I knew exactly where I was.
I bought the A-Z and, horror of horrors, I couldn’t find any of the street names I assigned to memory (other than Broad Street and everyone knows that road). It seemed as though I had lost the car, even after spending half an hour studying the guide over a pint of beer, while waiting for James and Mike Chinn to turn up for a chat and a pub lunch. They arrived and I put the book away and decided to worry later.
After several hours of congenial conversation it was time to face an uncertain future: how was I to get home? I said my goodbyes to Mike and James and decided to walk along Newhall Street, a long straight route crossed by the inner ring road. It felt right. After a while I decided to take a left turn. It felt right. Suddenly I came across a car sales garage, one I recognised from my trek in. And there, across the road: Edward Street. I knew exactly where my car was parked. Phew. No need to panic.
For the record, Edward Street is on the map – for some reason my eyes refused to focus on that part of the page. I have since re-examined the A-Z and, of course, there was a straightforward, easy route into the city centre. The moral is, always have a guide map, even if you think you know where you are. Things change and sometimes the once familiar becomes a disturbing Joel Lane-ian reality.