30 April 2013

London: Boys About Town

Boys, Boys, Boys! I'm looking for a good time! I received a rather random text message from Paolo suggesting a day out to London. I couldn't refuse this offer as life has not been the same since our Newark days and of course London is a place that I love! All in agreement for our day out it was set that the Las Vegas three reunited a lot sooner than I thought we would B!

London Town was calling, so there wasn't a minute to lose I booked my train tickets within a few days of this fantastic revelation. Setting off to the capital city on a super early train I wanted to do a bit of sightseeing before my amigos arrived in London, the home of the beautiful people! Trusting the London Underground I made it from Euston to Camden Town in search of a slice of something different. I'm better at getting the tube independently, its a crazy part of London so being in-control of my journey helped a lot! The sun was shining, there were a few clouds in the skies but I wasn't going to complain, I was back in London! If you haven't been to Camden or any of its markets then I say shame on you! Camden is a retro and hip part of London, which has a bohemian feel with the range of diverse market stalls and shops that are on offer. How was I in London? Yes, London was looking lovely to me in that moment!

I didn't need Sloane Square because I loved what I was looking at. I initially made it to Camden at around 9:45am I don't think I was doing too badly? I just wanted to have a mooch around to get back to where I spent the day with my friends Joe, Jordan, Ursula and Rebecca back in late 2011. I do love the Camden Lock area where the canal meets the variety of market stalls where you can taste delicious food from the four corners of the world. I think you need to get yourself to Camden! Oh, I also made a quick visit to Covent Garden, I love that place! Bargains don't get any better when your train down to London only costs £6.00! London Midland got me my sweet deal only a matter of days before I was summoned to London by Paolo and then Thomas! The heat had been turned up at university with exams and the final deadlines for the remaining assignments, a so London getaway was much needed! No Bang Bang chicken for be that day, I was too busy for food to care!

Where was Paolo and Tom at? I was finally reunited with my Hallmark brothers, we hit London's Transport Museum like a bunch of excited little boys! We made sure we had a great time. It was an educational visit from one perspective because we learnt about how Londoners of the past used to make their way around this brilliant city. Paolo had to be Paolo by going crazy when he saw the interactive Tube driving games, ah well its a good job we are friends because you certainly looked the part! Before ending our rampage of London's Transport Museum we saw how the first London Underground tunnels were actually dug from street level, how the times have changed because those Tube trains are well and truly underground. The past, present and future of all things transport for London opened my eyes for sure, let's just say the London Underground will be looking unrecognisable in the years to follow! OK L?!

Moving through our trivial pursuit I took in the views of Covent Garden and the Piazza for a second time that day while the other two decided our next move. We decided to make our way to The Strand to reach a post office because Tom and Paolo had a transaction to complete. I was back in the city where I was born, I know that London will always have a place in my heart. Spontaneity can be good, I really need to embrace that notion more!  Tom and Paolo had planned to return to Newark, NJ for their second time after placement but I wasn't on that hype because I'm off to Spain and Turkey in the next few months, I will return to Newark in the future but it has to be on my terms. No West End show was on our radar, acting as the perfect tonic because that's always on my to-do list when I'm in London! I was able to bring back a side of my Britney persona for the afternoon but I'll always be the fabulous on out of this three! London, can I ask why are your buses so red?! 

The sun was shining and the tourists were out in their thousands, let me just add we weren't tourists at all! I'll show you my Passport because that will prove it 100%! Looking down over Trafalgar Square was absolutely immense! This day was turning out be an amazing state of affairs, it was only going to get better! I hadn't been to Trafalgar Square for a long while, so getting back there was amazing! The boys were all back in town, I would not of had it any other way! All of a sudden I felt like I was at a film premiere! It's got to be Leicester Square, because that's where the film premieres are held in England. Making McDonald's our choice for lunch I said that I wanted to see the Thames that afternoon. Who honestly knows what the rest of our day will bring? I wanted to see the River Thames, but would that happen? Birmingham seemed like a world away, the warm weather knew where I was going B! 

Making our way through London's Piccadilly Circus we found ourselves going to Regents Street for a look around Hamley's, London's premium department store for toys. It was so amusing because we were like excited children in a sweet shop, well we were really young men in a toy store! One part of Hamley's that I loved the best was finding the Virgin Atlantic Airways airport set, yes they did have an Emirates plane which did impress me much. Yes, serving some Airport Realness during out day got me thinking about our crazy year working at the airport in Newark, NJ! A Britney Bitch had her boys to hit the bright lights of Las Vegas and a whole lot more of shenanigans! Northampton was good but London allowed us to get back to a near New York City vibe like the old days that weren't that long ago! Embracing my inner Disney Kid at London's biggest toy shop, you already know that I loved the Disney Princesses! That's will never be a secret of mine because Brit's a ratchet princess B!

Taking the Tube from Oxford Circus to Embankment in the middle of the 5pm rush hour was a tad stressful but we made it to the River Thames nonetheless. I captured the photo on the right as we made our way across the Golden Jubilee Bridge, don't you just adore London? Well minus all the busybodies that push through the crowds its amazing! The weather was still great, a minor miracle compared to the previous weather we had experienced the previous month. My wish to be close to the River Thames was granted, grabbing an ice cream all three of us found a place to relax on the grass overlooking the London Eye, it was bliss. Our spontaneous day in London was nearly over but so far I had enjoyed everything that we had experienced. Let us just take a little while to relax and take in the sites, shall we? The banter was back, I had forgotten that I was the one that got all the jokes aimed at me! Britney!

The sun was setting on London Town, we saw some great things that day for certain! From the beginnings of the London Underground at London's Transport Museum to my impromptu visit to Camden Town I loved every moment! I obviously was not ready for the final phase of our London adventure, because we were off to no other than G-A-Y for a few drinks! Meeting one of Paolo's friends from university we made our way to the popular London gay club for a few early evening drinks, why did I have a train booked back to Birmingham so soon! The drinks were super cheap and when I mean cheap, £1.70 for a pint of Cider! I would have loved to of spent the night there but it was time to say our goodbyes and part once again. G-A-Y, I'll be back! When will be the next reunion be boys? You know Brit can be impatient! So, my weekend in Huddersfield was unique, Northampton was OK but London certainly gave me life! Until I receive another random text message! Thank you! 

Birmingham Soon?!

Joseph Harrison

25 April 2013

Southside, Birmingham

Birmingham gets me! There's one part of the city that I really connect with and that's Southside! Home to Birmingham's Chinatown and Gay Village I just can't get enough of that good food and a sense of pride! Everybody loves the theatre with the Hippodrome taking centre stage within Birmingham's Southside. Let's see why this part of Birmingham is my favourite!

Birmingham's Hippodrome Theatre hosts a magnitude of performances which range from pantomime right through to ballet. Standing on Hurst Street, bordering three of the integral parts of Southside Birmingham. I've seen numerous performances at this establishment, like the revamped version of the musical 'Starlight Express'. The Hippodrome Theatre always attracts the best names for its annual Christmas panto. 2010 brought Hollywood glamour to the Hippodrome in the form of 'Joan Collins' as the panto villain in the pantomime favourite 'Dick Whittington'. Another famous face to tread the boards for pantomime at the Hippodrome was actor 'John Barrowman'. I missed seeing a panto when I lived in the U.S., so I'm looking forward to December!

Going to the theatre has to be one of my favourite things to do, its great because an evening at the theatre doesn't leave me with a horrendous hangover! I'm looking to mix things up this semester by being a little bit more cultured, those nights on the tiles are getting all the same as I've been in Birmingham for almost three years now! I have booked my tickets to see Birmingham Royal Ballet's upcoming performance of 'Copellia' for an evening early in June. It's clear to see that Birmingham really does have it all! The Birmingham Royal Ballet have been wowing audiences for a number of years at the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre and all in the confides of Southside! The West End has its charms but Southside keeps everything central for that post theatre drink or meal! On with the show!

Ni Hao! East meets West in Southside! Choose Day Inn Supermarket to caters to my Oriental shopping needs, from vacuum packed chicken's feet to loose leaf Po-Nee and Oolong teas. Forget Tesco or Asda because these supermarkets do it better, I have seen things that amazed me! My dear friend Kelly opened my eyes to this supermarket. Keep to Cathay Street for Caffe Chino, this Oriental bakery serves the best Oriental cakes I have ever tasted. Taking me back to the crazy streets of Chinatown NYC I look forward to each visit to Birmingham best Oriental cafe. Thanks for taking me back to NYC! Listening to the Mandarin conversations is always an interesting affair because that Chinese language sounds crazy! Getting away from the student crowd makes things better because not a lot of my fellow uni kids know what delights Cathay Street has to offer. No kidding I'm all for that Oolong brew Brum!

Call me stupid but the Arcadian really has it all, I'm always happy with what I get when I visit this complex of shopping, dining and entertainment in Birmingham's Southside! When Chinese New Year is celebrated the Arcadian comes alive with a range of colourful and authentic displays that bring the Chinese New Year in perfectly! I'm definitely going to be celebrating one Chinese New Year in the Arcadian for sure! There's plenty of places to eat but let's keep quiet about that part for now. Well I heard Indi Bar is a good place to go on the weekends? When the sun goes down 'Arcadian' starts the party, I can remember one of the bar crawls I went on during my second year at university in Birmingham. The Arcadian is cool but like I mentioned before I'm all about Cathay Street but I'll always give Arcadian some thought because it makes Southside tick! Don't get this twisted but its all about Bubble Tea, Oriental cakes and a Chinese ASDA keeps things Arcadian real for me! Go!

Dinner has been served! Southside, Birmingham is home to the city's Chinese Quarter. Birmingham's Chinese Quarter brings a healthy slice of eastern promise, there's just something about these communities that I love! Southside certainly has the perfect blend of ingredients to be my favourite Birmingham district. This avenue of beautiful restaurants and Oriental amenities has everything you need for the perfect time in Southside. Sing your heart out at karaoke, try you luck at a spot of gambling or enjoy a sumptuous meal at one of the many restaurants within the quarter. I sampled the delights of Chung Ying, a family run Cantonese restaurant, located on the corner of Wrottesley Street in the heart of Brum's Chinese heart. Hao!

Choosing to try some Dim Sum I opted for the Chicken's Feet in Black Bean Sauce, having never tried this dish I was pleasantly surprised by the infusion of tastes from the Chicken's Feet. For my main course I enjoyed Sweet and Sour King Prawn with Egg Fried Rice, a sweet but flavoursome twist to my usual Oriental dining choice. Chung Ying is very good value for money and certainly satisfies those taste buds! Living in Birmingham has allowed me to see more parts of the city like Southside, after my Industrial Placement I know its given a sense of adventure.  I can't wait to have another meal at Chung Ying Birmingham, or maybe somewhere else within Southside? Yes, I have a lot to thank Kelly for when it comes to my love of Dim Sum! I know I'll visit China! Does Southside sound good?

In my eyes I have saved the best until last! Southside's Gay Village is made up of a range of colourful Gay orientated bars, nightclubs and restaurants. If I want to paint the city Pink then this side of town is for me! Pictured to the right is the Village Inn, a all-singing and all-dancing Drag Gay Club. If only for one night you must come to the Village Inn to work it on the dancefloor and have a laugh at the superb Drag Acts that perform weekly. I frequent Birmingham's Gay Scene on most Friday and Saturday nights, I can safely say that each visit tends to be an eventful state of affairs. It was just last Friday night that I enjoyed a camptastic night at The Village Inn. I shamelessly grooved to my kind of anthems, but when the DJ played one of Destiny's Child's anthems that made me turn the party up some more! I think I could get used to working it to some 'Survivor' on a Friday at The Village Inn more often! Yes, Southside!

I have to be honest that spending time within the Gay Village in Southside at the beginning of my university experience opened my eyes to a part of my life that was just about to make an appearance. I had been curious about the sights of Hurst Street before I moved to Birmingham in September 2010 for destiny was trying to tell me something, it doesn't need be spelt out what I mean but I'm thankful for the nights I had at venues such as the Village Inn, Nightingales and Missing Bar for its reaffirmed that once sneaking suspicion into my colourful and exciting life that I enjoy to the fullest. I can remember during my first semester at university myself and my fresher friends watched the Vengaboys perform their anthems and unveil their comeback song, for many reasons it was certainly a night to remember! Birmingham Pride takes a hold of Hurst Street each year during the May Bank Holiday weekend, I'm determined to enjoy that event before I graduate! A celebration!

Southside... You know It makes sense!

Joseph Harrison

16 April 2013

Oh My United Kingdom!

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland holds many great sights that I've seen. I have been fortunate to travel so some amazing far off destinations but there's nothing like home. It's true to say that seeing greatness on my doorstep is great! England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have something to show us, let's give the UK a chance!

England is seen as the focal point of the United Kingdom with its centerpiece city of London? I embrace my home country to a certain level but I've learnt to get on with its flaws, mostly the wet and dismal weather. London is our capital city and the moneymaker for tourism, its older than NYC and its seen some conflict during its reign as a super city! Moving away from the big smoke its up to the West Midlands to introduce my hometown of Bilston, once an industrial heartland with its many steelworks and extensive canal works. Endorsing the delights of Major's has to be winner when talking about my hometown, orange in appearance those battered chips are tasty! Home is where the heart is, its not my favourite place in England. Let's go!

Birmingham's where I found myself, studying and living in a changing city will always fill me with happy memories for me to look back on! I ventured up to the city of Liverpool to piece together a possible family connection, if you call a stroll down past the Port of Liverpool building and the Albert Docks close to that? Serving more industrial Realness is a past time of mine with visits up to Stoke-on-Trent and also Huddersfield because I'm all about seeing what hard work did for the communities of my past. After my year away in America I have embraced my home nation just a little bit, taking a chance on what's looking right at me. There's always more I want to see in England, including the educated city of York and to revisit the seaside mecca of Blackpool! God save our gracious Queen?!

Scotland, a worthy part of the United Kingdom but Braveheart tried to protect Bonnie Scotland from the invaders. Scotland has previously been on my travel checklist, taking in Glasgow and Edinburgh on more than one occasion. Firstly in 2009 as a part of my residential study visit from college, we took in Scotland's capital Edinburgh for two nights. Getting on the whisky wasn't allowed during that trip but we visited the Royal Yacht Britannia at Ocean Terminal, it was a royal affair for sure. Second time around I took my Portuguese friends to Scotland in 2011 for a crazy birthday weekend for my 22nd year of life. Glasgow showed us some crazy situations, but Edinburgh allowed me to get to that Scottish capital city all over again. The Whisky Experience showed me the right tipple for the night ahead, Edinburgh Castle was too expensive for our liking so we made up for it later that night down the Royal Mile. Oh no!

Everyone says that driving up to Scotland can take a very long time so I was lucky to fly up to Edinburgh the first time, then snatching a cheap train from Birmingham New Street the Glaswegian part of my second trip to Scotland got hectic! Taking it to Regent's Street we saw the main shopping street of Scotland's second city, the pre-Christmas shopping had already begun in November so we ditched that pastime for the Gallery of Modern Art to be greeted by several Georgian marvels of architecture. I let my Portuguese friends Filipa and Ines take the lead onward to the Necropolis, a graveyard that afforded us with a picture postcard view of Glasgow's vibrant city-scape. After finding our hotel we decided to take it to the River Clyde to see how the riverside looked in the cold winters dusk, its a changing waterway with remnants remaining from its industrial days. McDonald's always tastes better with an Iron-Bru but we a group of sozzled ladies started a fight amongst themselves!

Over the Irish Sea the United Kingdom has Northern Ireland to add to its list of home nations. During a trip to Dublin, Republic of Ireland I decided to take the Enterprise rail link up to Belfast, Northern Ireland for the day to see the city for myself. Belfast's City Hall stared me right in the face, I noticed some similarities with St. Paul's Cathedral but on a smaller scale for that governmental building! The recent snowy weather during my 2013 day trip meant that the weather was super cold. One thing I loved about Belfast being part of the UK was that I got my mobile phone signal and internet back compared to the likes of being in Dublin! I had to pinch myself to think that I was actually in the United Kingdom! Yes, call me crazy Belfast!

Taking a Taxi Trax Day Tour opened my eyes to a side of Belfast that I was intrigued to find out about. Passing through both Protestant and Catholic areas painted many pictures of what Belfast would of been like during the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland. Seeing the murals around the Shankill Road estate sent chills down my spine as well as seeing the plaques of remembrance along Bombay Street were both sobering experiences. West Belfast had more of a traditional Irish Catholic feel about it with the emphasis on more Gaelic traditions, I even saw the office of Sinn Féin to strengthen my Republican point of view. Belfast showed itself to be a strong city with many reasons to look towards a bright and peaceful future. Oh, before I forget I went to the Titanic Experience N.I!

Not forgetting Wales, the fourth and final UK nation that I've visited in recent years. From a small boy I've been going to Wales right up until the last time in 2010. I went to Barmouth with my maternal grandparents and baby brother when I was about four years old I think? They keep reminding me when I fell off the trampoline and I recall seeing some Donkeys on the beach? Going back over the border to Wales once more to spend a dreary week in Borth on a caravan site, it was an eventful week to say the least but we made the most of the weather. Discovering the quaint town of Machynlleth where we received a frosty reception entering what seemed like a Welsh only pub! Aberystwyth served us with gale force winds but the fish and chips tasted good I didn't mind the crazy wind! Thankfully, we found Aberdovey on the last day, we took to the beach for what seemed the only sunshine day! Ydy!

Before going to university in 2010 I wanted to cut the family holiday abroad in half to spend some time in Wales camping with my aunties, uncle and cousin. Me and my younger brother ditched Turkey for a four day camping holiday within the Snowdonia National Park on a campsite in the village of Beddgelert, a lovely little place that challenged my views on camping trips. Taking bike rides over the hills to see that less than two hours away from my English hometown lies somewhere beautiful. Taking some time to check out the village centre of Beddgelert where we found a fudge shops and I snatched a pint of lager from a small hotel pub, I did pay for it! Climbing every mountain I was not ready for the biggest hurdle of my life so far, like literally it was hard walking up Mount Snowdon! Overall, staying with the confides of the United Kingdom broadened my travels without having to fly or drive too far away from England! Greatness awaits us in the United K! 

The UK Rocks!

Joseph Harrison

11 April 2013

Serving Up... Northampton, England!

I ventured to Huddersfield to see my friend and ex-colleague Paolo in February 2013, but Tom didn't make the ride so we made a pledge to reunite the Las Vegas Three! Huddersfield was something else so I wanted something special from Northampton. Yes, BB got her Newark boys back for one weekend! Northampton, you didn't make me any Kinky Boots! Oh N!

Hello Northampton! I was greeted by Northampton's god awful bus station, I am sure that place is referenced as the 'Gateway to Hell'? Anyway, I and Thomas were reunited after I got lost trying to find the exit of the bus station. Northampton build a new one please! Getting lost seems to be a recurring thing for me because I got lost whilst in Huddersfield just over a month ago! I could not help myself, I simply had to take another trip to somewhere! My current mantra is seek adventure close to home, so Northampton fitted the bill for than reason. Tom was missing from the shenanigans in Huddersfield, so I wanted to spend some time in Tom's hometown as he went on about it being so amazing when we worked at Newark Airport in 2012, BB!

Traveling makes me hungry so it was time to eat, where would we go for tea? Tom took me to 'Buddies' for some quintessentially American food, this place made it feel just like old times! 'Buddies' revealed itself to be a very interesting eatery, which harboured countless relics and memorabilia from the fabulous New York City! Our conversation turned into one great catch-up, we had shared some great times in America during our placements at Newark Liberty International Airport. It was great to see you again Tom!! Our food was so good! I had the 'Cuba' hamburger followed by a 'Dr. Pepper' ice cream float, honestly it was amazing! Life gets in the way of things, so getting back to happier times brought the bacon for sure! Conversations are better without awkward gaps! Broseph's back!

Saturday turned into Sunday, we were still missing one more person until we could allow the proceedings to go forth. Paolo droved down from Huddersfield early so we could make the most of our time together in Northampton. The 'Las Vegas Three' were finally reunited!! We might not be living our American dream anymore but it was starting to feel like old times! The boys were back in town! Britney and her boys took to the road for our day together would be eventful to say the least! We ate at 'Red Hot' which is an International Buffet Restaurant. I had to get a snap taken of us altogether, so thats where the photo above was taken! Next on our agenda was a quick visit to Tom's mom's house, we collected the Northampton edition of 'Monopoly'. To own a game as specific as that, Tom really must love his town! Games aside we made our way to 'Ten Pin' to bowl like we did back in Jersey! I still remember Linden Lanes BB!

To end our first day back together as a three we decided to have a few pints at Tom's local pub. Paolo and Tom played darts while I enjoyed my cider, something told me I'm not and will never be the type to play darts! Monopoly took force and I bowed out of this game early because I have never really had the knack for board games, but nevertheless it was funny! From buffets to bowling and finally board games it was a day to remember! Our time together was short but I for one had a great time, you know you've got good friends when it's feels like any time hasn't passed. Northampton brought back something nice, it served some strange sights but its not a major tourist hotspot so I appreciated its normal exterior. In a strange way I was a very looked after tourist with the background information Tom bestowed to me and I didn't have to pay for any hotel! No Brazilian food for us three in the heart of Newark's Ironbound District, it was Northampton or nothing at all!

Northampton happens to be a nice town, I wouldn't of ventured to this town if it wasn't for Tom living here and him sharing his passion for his hometown. Tom took me on a guided tour around Northampton town centre both on Saturday and also on Monday along with Paolo in tow. I treated this experience like a little history lesson. I was schooled about the messed up history of All Saints Church, I'll say a prayer because what happened was crazy! I was acquainted with '78 Derngate House' a listed building crafted by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, this house is quite impressive from the outside. Monday brought our chance to sample the formidable 'Oliver Adams' bakery, a place which is something of a talking point in Northampton. Somebody does love his hometown a lot! If the truth be told I learnt a lot about a town that I previously knew nothing. A stark change comparing Las Vegas Boulevard?

One part of Northampton that I didn't see were the shoe factories like the one featured in the film 'Kinky Boots'. I don't feel like I missed out not seeing a shoe factory because I saw places that looked just like from the film! I lied about the shoes, to make up for not seeing any shoe factories or museums we went to the gates of the first Carlsberg Brewery outside of Denmark, another ode of Northampton trivia for us to add to our belts! From the pastries of Oliver Adams to that random ice cream factory shop I thank you for showing me your town with such enthusiasm and pride! It was sure different compared to our crazy weekend in Las Vegas, USA but the time spent in Northampton with Tom and Paolo was great, I even changed my travel plans to stay for the rest of Monday! We didn't have any flight delays or grand gambling plans but Buddies gave me and Tom the chance to catch-up after nine months and what can I say about Paolo?! Northampton, it was emotional for certain!

Boys, Let's Not Be Strangers!

Joseph Harrison

4 April 2013

Bilston: A Town Stronger Than Steel!

Bilston, a town that has stood the test of time! You might ask why manual work, council housing and football gives this town an interesting yet strong history? The 'Industrial Revolution' came to Bilston, leaving a lasting impression and a lifelong career for the local Bilston men of yesterday. I don't need a history book to educate me about my hometown! Bilo' is strong!

When thinking about Bilston Town Football Club I didn't know what to think, its never really been a place that I've paid much attention to before. Formed 121 years ago in 1894, Bilston Town F.C acted as a strong contender within the early days of West Midlands football. Bilston's football players were branded as 'The Steelmen' who took to the pitch due to the linkage with the steelworks, this name is still used today. I haven't seen a match at their Queen Street home ground but who honestly knows? Nowadays, the social club is a firm favourite with the local Bilston folk, I believe that they have party nights their most weekends. Getting back to the game its being a struggle for this football team, having a smaller ground hasn't stopped this Bilston based football team stay in the league throughout the years. During the next season its hopeful that this West Midlands football club will sure return to the top!

Flashing back to 1954, bringing Bilston Town FC's victory in the 'Birmingham & District League' which stands as a positive thing for this time if anything else. During the May of 2012 signified the beginning of new management for Bilston Town FC, this new start emphasised the involvement of local youth teams within the league. Off the pitch Bilston Town F.C is working with the 'Bilston Partnership Youth Football League' and other groups forging relations with local 'Pupil Referral Units' and 'Probation Services' to improve the lifestyle of local troubled young people. There were plans to completely revamp the ground, creating more capacity, with a hotel and conference space but that development hasn't come to fruition just yet. Maybe a new look Bilston Town F.C would bring in a brighter future? I think that the work that's being carried out with the young people sounds like a great development in a different sense. I know that 'The Steelmen' will keep playing on for Bilo!

Bilston was transformed from simple farmland to a progressive town by the opening of the 'Birmingham Canal' back in 1770. Bilston's fire was first ignited ten years later with the first blast furnace opening in 1780. Bilston has changed so much throughout the years of my great-grandparents and grandparents lifetime, but it's easy to see that Bilston's boom time must of been when the fumes were billowing from the furnaces? I might be playing with fire as lots of local Bilston people have wrote about the Steelworks in Bilston but this milestone in history has a personal link to my family. My Great-Granddad Tom worked in the Steelworks at Spring Vale after he served his time during WWII, this tough profession played an integral part for my family as I have had great-uncles and also a Great-Great-Granddad who worked in the furnaces. Granddad Tom did say that kids learnt how to swim in the cut!

The Bilston steelworks of 'Stewarts and Lloyds' employed countless men who worked very hard in the works for their families, bringing food to the table each week. 'Elisabeth' a blast furnace was fired up for the region to see in 1954. The Steelworks gave Bilston and countless other communities across the country a honest livelihood for a considerable amount of time, like 'Stewart and Lloyds' which lasted from 1770 to 1979 for a staggering 199 years! I remember my Nan said to me that where the Morrison's supermarket is in Bilston used to be a booming steel manufactures part of the Joseph Sankey plant. Bilston was apparently one of the Black Country's booming towns for its steel production? Of course B worked hard! Bilston is not the most exciting place to be young professional nowadays but I know that with the fiery past this hometown of mine has had I'm proud to say I'm from Bilston! I don't want to judge a book by the cover, oh I know that Bilston's still stronger than steel!

Throughout the 'Industrial Age' housing in Bilston was transformed at an alarming rate. During the 1920's Bilston benefited from the building of new council housing with front and back gardens, electricity and running water. We take having a separate bathroom and an additional toilet inside our houses like its a normal thing, but having these amenities would pose as a luxury to families lived during Bilston's past. My family home happens to be a council house just off Bilston's 'Lunt Road'. My ancestors who worked at 'Stewarts and Lloyds' all lived in council houses. The countless amount of workers who made their living, the cornfields and farmlands of yesterday are now lively neighbourhoods that all have a story to tell. I can only guess how living in a new council houses before World War Two would have been for the former folk of Bilo. A concrete jungle this part of Bilston maybe with the harsh tones, but Bilo is home!

Bilston will always be a formidable town in my eyes, more than three generations of my mums family originate from this great West Midlands town, I make up the fifth generation with my brother and three cousins. I know that I knock Bilston sometimes but deep down its not being bad to me and living in council house leaves me without a shred of embarrassment! How will this town change in the future? To be completely honest its all thanks to the 'Industrial Revolution' giving Bilston the links and opportunity to prosper! Bilston Town Football Club will carry on playing as 'The Steelmen' keeping that 1894 beginning alive. The fumes of Bilston's previous industrial past will always be a part of the towns history, maybe even making a slight comeback in the future? Also knowing that council houses were once deemed as luxury abodes I have no problem saying that I live in one now! I won't stop spreading my wings, even though I fly away from Bilston I always return! Ta'ra Bilo!

Bilston... Stronger Than Yesterday!

Joseph Harrison

2 April 2013

My Journey: The Story So Far...

Life has changed so much since I finished 'Sixth Form College' in 2008, from college assignments to moving to Birmingham. Time waits for no one, I guess that sentiment applies to my life of recent? Just how much of the ‘American Dream’ has been a part of my success? Would that 'Mickey Mouse' take me away to work at a magical Floridian theme park? Life has been kind!

Saying good riddance to St. Thomas More I was ready for an almighty change! The September of 2008 brought the beginning of my BTEC National Diploma Level 3 Travel and Tourism course. If I’m honest secondary school wasn't really for me but I know that my time at City of Wolverhampton College benefited me immensely. Exams weren't a part of my new start in education so I relished in the fact that my work was all class based. I found the modules complex to begin with but with time I grew in confidence and soon enough the Distinctions came my way! From ‘Holiday Representatives’ to ‘UK as a Destination’ I took everything I could from the modules I studied at College. Finding a subject that I had a passion for seriously helped me enjoy my course, I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to be part of the classes I studied at the City of Wolverhampton College! Travel and Tourism rocks!

With the expertise of the lecturers from the Travel and Tourism department I achieved three Distinctions. My time at College wasn't all work because I got to experience the city of Edinburgh, Scotland as a part of our ‘Residential Study Visit’ module. I met some nice people, to this day I only keep in touch with Jade and Tashalee because the rest of the class were on a different hype and if there's no point carrying on with a friendship I'm fine with that! I detested everything that school stood for, being different in ways that I have now confronted I never want to revisit those years but going to College was a welcomed change. I worked so hard on my assignments each term, at first I would only settle for the pass grade but with a little bit encouragement I was snatching those Distinctions! Pretending to be a Overseas Representative was a laugh and of course I adored the Cabin Crew module! Where are those wasters who I went to school with now? Yes, I had the last laugh B!

Two years on from starting College I embarked on my University journey. University College Birmingham became my next educational challenge, a degree is essential nowadays! Anyway, life hasn't been the same since my first week at University, it’s not just the assignments I have to worry about it’s a whole new way of life living away from home, being independent and finding my way in the world. ‘Hospitality and Tourism’ would be the subject of my degree for the next four years I would become a fully-fledged student! The semesters have flown past, the experience has been a complete blur so far and it’s not quite over yet! The assignments haven't finished yet, I have my Dissertation to complete first! I want to go back to Freshers!

The magic of ‘Disney’ would make its way into my life for the summer of 2011. I became a ‘Cast Member’ working in the merchandising department at the ‘Walt Disney World Resort’ in Orlando, USA. ‘EPCOT’ became my home for three months from June 19th 2011 until September 2nd 2011. Working for the ‘Mouse’ was a memorable experience, learning the art of smiling for six hours per day became a way of life for the summer. It was my second job but first time working abroad, I was up for the challenge and to be back at 'Disney'. No one does it like ‘Disney’ working for a company that makes a million dreams come true everyday makes any other job quite boring. Dreams seriously do come true! It just goes to show that if you wish upon your star any dream can come true!

I have less than three semesters remaining at 'University' so you could say that its time for me to make my next step?! I'm looking for a career in the skies, as a flight attendant for 'Emirates Airline'. I have gave this choice a lot of thought as I don't see any other choice. I want to work for a award winning airline that delivers leading customer service. Can I cope with the pressure? If I'm lucky enough to become a member of cabin crew for this airline I will draw experience from my time at Virgin Atlantic. I need to break free from this country, I missed home but the grass is greener abroad for me as I crave the international life! I would have to say to any student who wants to work in this industry must have a thick skin and smile away those harsh words, passengers don't mean to be out of turn or rude its just the nature of the business. If I get my wings then I'll be over joyed but somethings in life aren't meant to be?!

We all need a back-up plan, if I don't get the gig with Emirates then I will have a go at getting my (TEFL) Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate, China's looking like a winner at the moment with the abundance of work out there I might get something? Teaching English in China would enable me to learn a new trade that could have the potential to take me across Asia, sounds similar to my dream of being a flight attendant? My friend Catherine who I met during our Fresher year at University College Birmingham went to teach English in Wuhan, China so I may well be asking her about what experience she had living in China. Getting away is so important for me, after I finish 'University' I would like to have a project to get into straight away, does that sound unreasonable? For either opportunity I would miss my upcoming graduation from UCB, I'm actually crazy to even consider that! Looking back over the last four years I know that I have achieved great things! Keep on!

Life is a Journey!

Joseph Harrison