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( Apr. 20th, 2012 08:56 pm)
Overheard last night in the Little Room:

"Ah, it's called Avenue Q is it? I didn't realise."

The design on the front cloth might have given it away. Or the words on the programmes being held up for sale. Or the posters in the foyer. I guess they might not have seen the tickets if they were bought for them. But even so...

Overheard on Saturday in the Carbuncle:

"Does he play the guitar?"

The three guitars on stage might have given it away.


(Still, I've been to enough comedians that I know nothing about.)

Mitch Benn had a lot of different material from usual on the set, alongside old favourites. And you know how audiences break into that moronic clapping along? I was sourly tempted to for "Auto Erotic Asphyxiation".
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( Apr. 20th, 2012 09:43 pm)
Having done much walking of late, I've felt very inspired by (and jealous of) the artist Hamish Fulton, who has said "If I do not walk, I cannot make a work of art", and lives round these parts. Most of his art are posters (or, rather, large areas of paint with vinyl lettering) recording walks - from coast to coast, from source to sea, across mountain ranges, along the Pilgrim's Way - and there is something about them that I like. There's a show at the Turner Contemporararararary - alongside the Turner - which is paired with a show at the IKON Birmingham, which I'm convinced I've had a brief look round before.

After a recent daytrip to Nottingham - to see Thomas Demand, which I suspect I've failed to write about - I booked tickets to and from Birmingham, and plotted an itinerary from New Street via various shops and coffee places to the bookshop to IKON to the BMAG and to a reportedly good pub and back again. I didn't do anything useful like print out a map or anything. This may have been a mistake.

The journey there was uneventful, aside from a new walking route from St P to Euston, avoiding Euston Road, which is unpleasant in differing ways, and to time, although I see that they are (still? again?) improving New Street. They've done something to the Pavilions which I can't put my finger on, and I got a little lost in my search for Digbeth. I did find a rather useful secondhand bookshop, where I bought a volume of the Sturgeon short stories - five volumes down, eight to go - for two quid. I forebore to purchase anything else, and then got lost via the market (and an illicit pork pie) in search of local cheese (fail) and Brindley Place. I have Googlemaps on my phone, but the instruction HEAD NORTH is no use without a compass on a day when the sun is obscured by cloud.

Thus it felt like a forty mile walk to the gallery - the signage is erratic - and I managed to plot a coffee bar free route (although there was a Costa in the square and if I've realised there was wifi, I would have used the cafe in the gallery). I climbed the steps to the top of the gallery and had a look round the exhibition, which, to my relief, was rather different from the Margate one, although along similar lines. I was rather taken by a couple of the acrostics -

Chinese
Economy
Tibetan
Refugee
Beijing
Olympic
Triumph

and

Brain
Heart
Lungs

(rare to have five letters rather than seven in these acrostics).

Alongside the Fulton were various rooms of Sarah Browne's "How to Use Fool’s Gold", not an artist I knew, and it includes a couple of crystal radios, pictures of flowers, a vodka still, photos of Icelanders in knitted jumpers. Sculpture, I suppose, in the widest sense, and usually collaborations - brewing, knitting, printing, electronics, writing, weaving. Intriguing, although I'm not clear what it all means...

On the back stairs were various "postcards" by Japanese artists - actually larger than usual postcards - which I wish I'd spent longer looking at. And there was a Martin Creed piece in the lift.

I'd almost found the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery by accident when looking for the IKON, so it was relatively easy to find. I had about 45 minutes, so I had a quick look at the Staffordshire Hoard, and spent a little longer on the Pre-Raphs and the twentieth century stuff. I'm getting better at recognising British artists. I wish I'd had longer.

By then I was feeling the lack of coffee (I don't think I'd had one since Euston), and I accidentally found a Caffe Nerd whilst in search of a Caffe Nerd - I suspect not the one I was looking for. It was pleasingly close to the Wellington, the pub I had in mind to visit, so that avoided getting lost. I fear the glory days of Birmingham beer are over - local breweries having been taken up and moved, and not the same level of microbrewing as, say, Nottinghamshire. Subsequent research reveals three local microbrews - ABC and Beer Geek in Ashton and Two Towers (Tolkien reference?) in Hockley - which demand a subsequent visit I feel. The Wellington has sixteen hand pumps, each with a different real ale, each replaced as the barrel empties. There is a screen telling you what is on and the ABV, and you are meant to order by number. The bar was predictably busy, but long practice meant I was served both times pretty well straight away.

For the record:
Purity Mad Goose 4.2% (Gt Alne, Warwickshire)
Hobsons Twisted Spire 3.6% (Cleobury Mortimer, Worcestershire)
Slater's Top Totty 4% (Stafford)
Ossett Excelsior 5.2% (Ossett)

I manage to find my way back to the station via a Tesco for sustenance without getting lost, although I found a shop I'd been trying to remember to look for earlier. I sat opposite two people - a couple? I'm not convinced - who'd been drinking in the Old Post Vaults, which has eight pumps, and who supplied me with a real ale map of Birmingham. I think I have a cunning plan to deploy in due course...
.

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