Monday, 11 November 2013


This last weekend, I was supposed to be going to the Lakes: the trip was called off after I had bought my train ticket, so - in order salvage something from it - I spent Friday in Birmingham, mainly looking all round the magnificent new Library.

In the foyer, there's a wooden pavilion housing "The Library of Lost Books". Intrigued by the title, I went in to find the transformation of a collection of old, damaged books and music scores, many over a century old, which had been discarded by different local libraries. Two years ago, local artist Susan Kruse had sent one item to each of more than 40 artists and printmakers from around the UK, to breathe new life into them through their interventions. The reworked books have now returned to Birmingham for this temporary exhibition.

On the way home, before I stepped out into the November gloom (and rain), the conductor made some of us smile: "We are," he said, "now approaching the charismatic station that is Cheltenham. Please ensure that you take all your belongings, relatives etc. with you when you leave the train."

This morning, changing trains on my way to York, I was back in Birmingham. One poor man - "I haven't been on a train for years," he told me - travelled there by mistake. He was seeing his wife off from Cheltenham, and got on so as to lift her case onto the rack above her seat. The doors closed as they were kissing goodbye. So much for gallantry.

A noticeable - if not a complete - hush came about New Street Station for the two minutes after 11 o'clock.

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