On the 22 November I got up and looked forward to a train journey from Rugby to Birmingham International.

Now, I live in Kent and the International train stations down this way go to the continent by TRAIN. You can get on a train at Ebbsfleet or Ashford and get off in Paris, Brussels or Disneyland [wtf would anyone want to go there?]. Birmingham International, by contrast, requires you to get off the train and go through the airport to board a plane. Same end result I guess but not as cool as a train going under the English Channel.

I like the trains from Rugby to Birmingham. They don’t cost a great deal, there’s a reasonable car park close to Rugby station, are always busy and comfortable. There were plenty of people dressed up at the station heading to Comicon in their cosplay outfits.

Sally and I had tickets to go to the MCM Birmingham Comicon at the NEC, we were meeting her brother there. I had bought an express ticket which apparently meant I could enter the hall an hour before Sally, whose brother bought their tickets. I think it’s worth pointing out that a glance through the official online programme produced absolutely no times that events were happening. This was annoying as it would have been nice to plan the day out while at home rather once in the venue and having to try and find a timetable.

Because I got in to the arena before Sally and her brother I went for a walk to figure out the lie of the land. I tried to find times of events, checked the autographing queues and looked at some of the shops there.

When it got close to the time for Sally to enter the event I wandered back and found her. I had expected a decorated hall with plenty of events. Comicon seemed to be a mostly trading event with many many shops selling all types of comic and anime stuff. There was an arena in a dome with some events but the cosplay was quite late in the afternoon and we decided to head home before then. We found a small stage area where the celebs were going to be paraded and interviewed. We hung around there to see Liv Tyler but didn’t listen to the interview. In one corner of the hall there was a Storm Trooper display:

They looked great. Although I think some of them looked a little short to be storm troopers.

We wandered around the autograph area where I saw various people from good sci fi shows over the years. I didn’t get their autographs as I don’t think that sort of thing bothers me. They are just people. Adding their signature to something may make it more valuable but doesn’t really change the product. I was quite impressed to see Virginia Hey as I remember her in Farscape. Steve Austin, of Six Million Dollar Man fame, was there too and I could see him. Liv Tyler also signed some stuff if you wanted.

I was already aware that these guys charge for signatures and it didn’t bother me particularly that they did but the prices really did vary! The bog standard celebrities were GBP5 for a signature. However, it would appear that the more famous you are the more you can charge:

That’s a lot of money just to be close to someone and see them sign something of yours!

On the way out of comicon Sally and I decided to find some geocaches as there were two within easy reach. It didn’t take long but as this was just after the Paris attacks it seemed weird to be nosing around near a train station and massive exhibition centre. We found two, as you can see below:

NEC Caches

I did buy a few comics direct from the writers who were based in writers corner. I have yet to read these but will report back once I have.

iPhone Lock Screen

If you read my communications regularly then you will be aware that I spend some of my time in the Midlands. Mostly the West Midlands but I’m not sure where the divide is.

Way back in May I went with Sally to the Stockton Locks on the Grand Union Canal. Here’s a Wikipedia page about it all. The locks are quite impressive and the pub near them, The Blue Lias, was very nice too.

I also have been to Hatton Locks, which are part of the Grand Union Canal. These are even more impressive. There was a pub nearby but we didn’t go in as we were heading home from Packwood House and it was raining and cold.

I have been very impressed with the industrial history of the Midlands and as much as I knew that existed it is nice to see it in person and appreciate it more.

Anyway, I decided to change the lock screen on my iPhone to a picture of locks. I initially had this picture of Stockton Locks.

Stockton Locks

However I now have this picture of Hatton Locks as my lock screen.

Hatton Locks
Hatton Locks

I will tell you that every time I look at this screen I chuckle. My lock screen is a series of locks.

Flag Of Destiny

I really am quite behind on updating this website. I have just been busy. That’s all. But, now I have a moment I can take the time to bore you all with tales of not daring-do.

After an excursion to London and our Canary Wharf apartment, we visited the Midlands. The Tuesday morning we carried our kit to the car, which was where we left it, and navigated our way out of London with a quick pass of City Airport, where planes were seen. The north circular and then the M11 facilitated our escape from the metropolis.

Later, Coventry beckoned. It was time to have a cuppa and biscuits with parents. This took us up to lunch time and so we headed to the Blue Lias pub next to the Grand Union Canal. The weather was lovely and so we ate outside (even though I don’t like doing that). There was activity on the canal with narrow boats and service boats travelling past. Then we walked up the set of locks nearby. These are called Stockton Locks. They are ingenious and very pretty.

Stockton Locks
Stockton Locks
Blue Lias
Blue Lias

After a lovely lunch we went to the centre of Coventry. Sally showed me around the town. I also got to see the cathedrals. I have to say I don’t like the new one. It’s depressing and ugly, along with windows that are likely to scare the crap out of kids and anyone who takes religion vaguely seriously. There was a display of children’s television programmes on at the museum in Coventry, the cathedral, museum and university were all next to each other. The display included some of the actual models used over the last 60 years of TV broadcasting for kids. It was a trip down memory lane.

While walking back to the car, and Ikea, we sneaked into a rather unassuming building that turned out to be the Guildhall. It was a very nice building with lots of history, fortunately this building survived the blitz. Coventry has mostly crazy ring road with interesting intersections.

One of the highlights of the half term was dinner at Simpsons in Edgbaston. On the Tuesday evening we drove to the restaurant. The food was quite simply, divine. The wine was gorgeous, the service impeccable and the overall experience was brilliant. I’m very much looking forward to sampling a similar meal in Kent soon.

Here’s a list of food that we ate:

  • Salmon and squid cracker canapé
  • Cheese and bacon ball canapé
  • Fancy bread
  • Mise En Bouche
  • Beef tartar
  • Ham hock with broth
  • Squab pigeon
  • Lamp
  • Corn caramel
  • Rum baba
  • Passion fruit soufflé
  • Very nice sweets

The return to Coventry from dinner was marked with a quick visit to Meriden. There’s a stick in the village green which is supposedly the centre of England.

Wednesday was similarly busy. A day in Birmingham was planned. We drove to and then parked in the Bull Ring. Karl and his two girls met us for drinks after which we wandered around the city looking for specific items of clothing for an event at the end of August.


We walked to the Custard Factory which was an eclectic mix of odd shops and weird stuff. The statue was pretty cool, although we didn’t find what we were looking for.

The Custard Factory
The Custard Factory

The Oasis is another collection of shops. I found some bits for the Asylum. It was time for lunch and we just had to have champagne cocktails at Bar Epernay. The snack food was lovely, as was the alcohol. There was a lovely view over the canal. What I didn’t understand though was why people would go to a champagne bar and just have a pint of lager?

Bar Epernay
Bar Epernay

We had a short walk along the canal to the Sealife centre. It was good fun to see the penguins swimming and, also, some otters running around playing. After the Sealife centre we found the car, packed up all our purchases and headed home. I’m looking forward to seeing plenty more in the Midlands.

Finally, the title of this communication? I saw a flag and asked Sally what it was. “The flag of destiny”, she replied. Fair enough.

Flag of Birmingham.svg
Flag of Birmingham” by JimmyGuanoOwn work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.