31 December 2013

2013: The Story So Far...

2013 has passed us by and I have to say that it was a good one. I miss 2012 but I have hope for 2014 because I know that I shall find my golden ticket. From my Louisianan holiday to the days spent beside the Bosporus. I can't say that I don't miss my Newark days because I do, I'm not one for moping about for I've been to some places and made memories this year. 

Taking to the skies I said farewell to my Industrial Placement in Newark I made my way to New Orleans and then Orlando to conclude my 2012 American adventure. Me and my friend Fiorella spent time in the French Quarter in New Orelans for two lovely days, even though the weather fared to be dreary we had a great time. My next Delta port of call was Orlando, where I was reunited with my Disney diva Zach Airstarr! Call me sad but I loved transiting through Atlanta Airport! 2013 was staring me in the face so I wasn't about to give up, it was time to keep pushing on. But nothing can last forever so it was time for me to return back to Bilston to continue my degree for the new term. I travelled so much throughout 2012 so I had ambitious plans for the year ahead of me. Life has changed! Bilston is great but I enjoyed an outstanding year in the USA, looking back through the crazy working hours I would do it all again!

January turned into February, I resumed my studies in Birmingham, moving forward onto my next chapter. I had grown close to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Newark Airport so attending lectures was a shock to the system. Being back home was super cool in the respect I got to meet my then baby cousins for in a few months they would be turning one, so being back in Mother England wasn't that bad. As the semester progressed I kept the faith that I was going to get through the course, I was back in the Maltings away from my shared apartment on Lafayette Street so that was another bitter pill to swallow, but I had to just be happy with that situation. I had a mission to travel as much as I could through 2013 so I could relive the excitement and adventure of the previous year. I had Ireland and France in my sights so I kept my head high and embraced Birmingham again. 2013 certainly began with a bang, I wanted things to get better month by month! Things would improve! 

Getting back to University wasn't that bad but I did love being back in Birmingham, I do love my student city! I moved back to the Maltings to find a new challenge, let's just say it was an eventful first semester back. I jetted off to the far flung paradise of Huddersfield! Taking my first National Express coach trip from Birmingham to Huddersfield proved to be a bearable experience, I had a great time reuniting with Paolo Fiorello who I had worked with at Newark Airport. We missed Thomas Johnson from this trip so we met again a few weeks later in Tom's hometown of Northampton. I loved Northampton, some people don't think its got much to offer but I think its quirky. The Las Vegas three made their third meeting in April for we spent the day in London, us boys were about town! Working in a airport is great, Newark Airport is a dynamic place, seeing people make their flights each day. Oh Britney B!

I booked my flights and a bed in hostel, seeking adventure in Dublin in March. I saw many places like the Ha'penny Bridge and Kilmainham Gaol both sights impressed me much! I wasn't completely satisfied by just seeing Dublin for the whole trip so I took the Enterprise train link from Dublin Connolly to Belfast, Northern Ireland for a day of discovery. I loved Belfast for it showed me a slice of its dark past, a Taxi Trax Tour that took me around the Protestant Shankill Road area of Belfast, across the Peace Line and finally into Catholic West Belfast. Europe never looked so good, I loved being back in Birmingham where I found Caffe Chino for a Bubble Tea or three! American's don't have a clue about Eurovision so I was overjoyed to be at home watching the contest streamed live from Malmo, Sweden! 2012's winner Loreen came back from her winning show with a new song along with her winning anthem 'Euphoria'. Get me to the Village Inn, I really needed to werk! Summer time of my life?

I wasn't going stateside, I had a series of trips planned. France showed me Bordeaux, Cognac and Jonzac. I stayed in Chatenet, a small hamlet, located 50 minutes from Bordeaux Airport. Thanks to a promo deal with Monarch Airlines I purchased my flight to Bordeaux and then to Barcelona, another trip that proved to be amazing! I wanted to get back to Europe to experience something extra. I embarked on my Spanish adventure from July 1st to July 5th starting in Barcelona for two days I took in all of the sights including La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. Moving onto the charming town of Tarragona for my third day I loved life and lapped up the culture. I lived it up in Sitges, a rainbow seaside town and it was eventful! Yes, Spain loved me right! 

I had to take one more holiday during the summer of 2013, it was time for Turkey! I took a few days out to spend one weekend in Istanbul, I loved my time in Istanbul for its such a dynamic and exotic city that definitely kept me on my toes! Take me back to Istiklal Caddesi where I found a Topshop and Turkish tea house on the same street! I spent three weeks in the Turkish holiday town of Calis Beach that is located along the Turquoise coast. I missed two holidays in Turkey due to my American work commitments, I suppose I couldn't have everything but I loved what I experienced in Turkey. I spent the day lazing at the world famous Oludeniz beach and finding a bargain or two at Calis's Sunday Bazar. It was time to finish my degree at University College Birmingham. Time was ticking!

Rounding off 2013 with another foreign trip me and my brother Lewis went to Amsterdam for a great weekend. Mary Jane Holland was about so things were just fine! But things had to get back to business, my studies kick-started my final year of education for my degree. Birmingham has showed me something new, with the festive season upon us I had to make the best of what time I have left in my student city. Things are changing there but I'll always have my student haunts to remember. From seeing the new Library of Birmingham to spending the last days of sunshine at Cannon Hill Park. Friends come and go so I was ready for the change, if you don't make the cut then move on. Studies were getting really intense so my blogging had to take a back seat but I got to see my Portuguese lovely Ines Ladislau whilst she was on a layover from her Dubai flying duties for Emirates. 2013 wasn't so bad! 

I would like to say that my blogging is starting to pay off, with a Christmas video for Visit Birmingham and an invitation to a Berlin tourism event. Things have been challenging trying to balance my studies with blogging so I kept things local around Birmingham so I could have the best of both worlds. Visiting Cadbury World to find out that Bournville is really sweet like chocolate and experiencing the Frankfurt Christmas Market kicked off the festive season just right. In November I took the train up to Liverpool and Chester for the night, seeing the RopeWalks and reuniting with my Disney friend Kat, also extending my trip to see the Clock Tower in Chester for a few hours I really liked that place. Looking back on Christmas 2013 I have to say that I got into the Christmas spirit good and proper, I ate, drank and got very merry indeed. After being back for the year since my year in Newark has been a challenge to say the least I can say that 2013's been great! Will 2014 be beyond!

Thank You and Goodbye 2013!

Joseph Harrison

29 December 2013

Once Upon A Christmas

It's no secret that Christmas changes for us as we grow up but I still want to have a memorable day each year. Being back in Bilston this year for the festivities was great, but it was a bitter sweet feeling for me as my previous Christmas season served up some tough competition. So, being back home for the holidays meant that this year's festivities had to be top notch! 

Last Christmas lacked in the tree department for I didn't see my Nan and Granddad's Christmas tree decked out in all of its finery, I appreciated that this year. I remember the same Christmas tree making an appearance every year as far back as I can remember, it's always going to be magical. I have always loved the build up to Christmas, being super excited as a boy and not being able to think about anything else. Things do inevitable change but I just love Christmas! I have to day that I've been craving Christmas in NYC just recently, I'm never satisfied! Having toddler cousins is great for their excitement and enthusiasm towards the big day is truly amazing! Things got crazy with the presents and the mayhem of family! Oh life!

To get in the festive spirit I booked two tickets to the Pantomime in Birmingham, I booked these tickets as soon as they were released as it had been a good while since I didn't want to miss out! I chose this outing to be a present for my mum, I went to see Madonna in NYC last September without her so panto was our treat. Panto has changed for sure, new songs and set featured in Brum's latest seasonal show. This years Panto was Snow White at the Birmingham Hippodrome theatre with an outstanding headlining cast. Gok Wan played 'The Man In The Mirror'. Stephanie Beacham dazzled as 'Queen Sadista' whilst actor John Partridge played the heroic 'Prince John'. It was the perfect way to spend our Christmas Eve in Birmingham, it's a testament Panto still makes me laugh! 

I didn't want a lot this Christmas, but I love each and every present that I received this year. Christmas changed for me this year, the gifts are lovely and the money that I received will set me for some great trips in 2014 but it was all about the whole experience this year. Like I said before Christmas changes, lets embrace the change. Captured to the right is my first attempt of a 'haul' I got a great Espirit travel bag and a bottle of Gordon's Gin, I love Gin I do! I have a dream to visit North Korea so my North Korea: Undercover book will make the perfect read. I recently saw the show 'Cabaret' in theatre so I look forward to watching this Berlin inspired musical. My blogging is getting to all parts of my life, its got to be that way! Bringing the music to the table I asked for Icona Pop's new album This Is ... but I received their EP titled 'Iconic EP' so that was a surprise! My simple Christmas wish list was fulfilled! Thanks!

Bastille's new album 'All This Bad Blood' made its way into my Christmas collection, amongst an array of chocolates and biscuits because the diet isn't welcome for Christmas Day. I love my Chinese tea so I was overjoyed with my tea pot and assortment of Chinese teas. I would like to say my gifts all have a purpose that I shall make my mission to put them to use. I also received some spends that will sort out some overseas trips during early 2014, but due to a drunken Christmas decision I'm going to Bath and Bristol so it shall come in handy for that upcoming trip. Did I say drunk? I was completely fine! I know my choice of beverages will delay the opening of my bottle of Gordon's for I sank a considerable amount of Gin on Christmas Day! Whilst the kids play with their toys its only right to sink a few alcoholic drinks during that special day! I'm not that kid that I used to be so I like a good drink when the opportunity arises, or the occasion arrives. I got merry very indeed! Yes!

Food glorious food! Christmas Day is all about the food so I'm happy to say that my dinner was great! I consumed a healthy amount of Christmas spirits by dinnertime so I did the good thing by just eating my dinner. It was all about self-service this year, we all chose what we wanted to eat and that worked out just fine. My Grandparents had cooked up a storm of tasty Christmas delights, we had the choice between Pork and Turkey accompanied by a hearty selection of vegetables. I think we had Brussels Sprouts but judging by the photo captured to the left I had decided against that Christmas dinner choice. I look back to last year's Christmas dinner with fond memories as I was served some super tasty food but nothing compares to family, even though I was suitably inebriated but it was Christmas Day! I don't think I overindulged with my food during Christmas Day but I mad allowances in other areas! Sherry Trifle please!?

By the time dinner was served I was quite inebriated but when its Christmas there's always an excuse for having too much to drink. Nevertheless, dinner was great but the usual tradition would be to discover what presents I had received that year but with one five year old and two toddlers it wasn't going to happen, pass me another gin! Like I've mentioned before the feeling of Christmas is like no other for a child but I have no desire to have my own children so I'll just open another box of chocolates and a bottle of whatever is in the drinks cupboard. That's a solid promise! From Bucks Fizz at breakfast time to slumping in our chairs to watch Gavin & Stacey. I was completely sober the previous year at Christmas I worked the late shift, welcoming the VS17 Virgin Atlantic Airways flight from London Heathrow into Newark Airport, I don't know how the future will map out for me but I'm glad I got to work that shift with Valerie, we even had our very own Christmas Day in 2012!

I would like to introduce my cousins Poppy and Micky who are both aged one. I missed their first Christmas for I was working in Newark, USA in 2012 but they were only small babies then so their grasp on Christmas wasn't as crazed and excited as it was this year. Christmas is all about spending time as a family so I would have to see that I loved it even if it proved to be extra crazy the children made the day for sure! Indigo who is the older brother of Poppy had a great day opening all of his presents and he knew what was going on more than anyone else there, that boy is clever! Me and Indigo shared a present, we will be seeing Charlie and The Chocolate Factory in London at the Theatre Royal on the 18th of January 2014 so I'm very excited, Indigo will be as well for children have their own special way of saying their looking forward to something. Poppy got her kitchen and Micky got his car so all parties were happy!

This year's Christmas was unique and very different compared to last Christmas and other previous Christmases. From my pre-Christmas Panto at the Birmingham Hippodrome to my first Christmas drink I know that every moment was equally as good as each other. I loved all of my presents and spent some quality time with my cousins compared to the previous Christmas before my family had expanded. All the trimmings tasted great and I enjoyed maybe a little bit to much Gin but Christmas is for enjoying ourselves and if that means Boxing Day is plagued with a hangover then so be it! As for Christmas 2014 I'm hoping to spend it away in somewhere further afield than Bilston. I've just got over this Christmas so I'm nowhere near ready to think about next year's shenanigans! It makes me feel very grown up when I think about the countless years I would run downstairs on Christmas morning, that's the way the cookie crumbles! Thank god Christmas only falls once a year!

Tis The Season To Be Jolly! 

Joseph Harrison

28 December 2013

Bilston Town: Where Dreams Are Made?

Bilston Town, is it really a place where dreams are made? Bilston may be a concrete jungle but it's a town that always gives me that 'Empire State of Mind!' Bilston happens to be my hometown, as I live between Bilo and Brum I would like to think I get the best of both worlds. I have been to some faraway places but none of them compare to Bilston. I need to get my life!

Bilston, I like you a lot! You've been through tough times but against all odds you're a town that keeps on fighting! We do not need posh things, we're not the Nouveau Riche nor do we want to be for we have our own honest values! From our industrial past to our current way of being the people of Bilston get on just fine, we're stronger than steel! Let's get back down to reality for Bilston shunned Michelin star restaurants for the likes of Major's Fish Restaurant and Cafe Metro. Bow down to Bilston for we are looking good and feeling fine! The famous Major Fish Restaurant serves up the best battered orange chips, I lived and worked in America on two occasions and my co-workers could not fathom the idea of this Bilston made product, I guess that's Major's stands to be famous?! Whenever I return back home to Bilston, I either get a bag of chips or a pork & stuffing sandwich. Bilston must be a culinary wonder?

Five generations of my family are from Bilston and when all is said and done there's no other place olike it! I'm currently in my final year at university in Birmingham but Bilston is home, but for how long shall I be living here until I jet off again? I'm always 'Desperately Seeking Adventure but will always be back every now and again. I've got dreams and aspire to be working in a foreign land once again but Bilston Town will be my making, as I said before we're stronger than steel! Bilston's Industrial past runs through my family for my Great-Granddad Tom once worked at the Steelworks, Great-Granddad Tom worked at Spring Value after serving in the army during WWII. Like many other towns during the revolution of industry Bilston prospered from its farmland beginnings to a booming success! Bilston's success's were more than smoke in the sky it was the fire fueled the development to become the town I know! Elisabeth burned from 1954, one of the furnaces that burnt red.

Bilston knows how to shop, to the left is the entrance to Bilston's indoor and outdoor markets, both markets receive a continual flow of custom, us Bilston folk like to buy from our own. Bring rain, shine or even snow the Bilston people venture out to the markets in hot pursuit of a bargain and I can assure you that a bargain or two can be found in this formidable West Midlands town! At any time of year its the done thing to buy the weekly essentials at one of Bilston's premier butchers from the indoor market. I can remember taking trips to the market way with my Mum, Nan and Aunts for Bilston is a place where dreams are made! Over the years the markets have been beautified because we all need a new look every so often. Get it Bilston!

Bilston's got talent when it comes to our markets, go and shop somewhere else if you don't like it! We're not Harvey Nick's but Bilston brings it big because small independent market stalls trade weekly in this steel-like town. Bilston is about looking after our own, pushing the mainstream chains away for we have a string of businesses that have been trading in this town for donkey's years! Looking for that perfect loaf of bread or a tasty cream cake? Pete's Pantry is the answer to your question, children if you haven't been here, you're sure missing out! You should choose Harper's Quality Meats for a top quality cut of meat, perfect for that Sunday Roast or that Saturday night steak and chip dinner! Oh, I've boasted about Major's so that's your lot when it comes to Bilston!

Bilston is moving forward in many ways, we might only have a small town centre but what we have is enough for us. Firstly, Bilston took the plunge by saying goodbye to the decaying Bilston baths to make way for the all new multi-purpose Bert Williams Leisure Centre, named after Bilston born former International goalkeeper who played for England's football team. Now, 93 the former sportsman opened the all new swimming pool and gym that gave Bilston a breath of fresh air, I told you its all about beautifying yourself from time to time! During my summer holidays this year I used the pool most days in-preparation for my holidays to Spain and Turkey, one has to be active from time to time. Bilston folk were quite skeptical when this new facility opening as the former Bilston baths had been a part of the town's fabric for an age. I have one thing to say to Bilston! Build that Urban Village Bilston! Yes Bi!

From the Metro making its way to Birmingham New Street in 2015 direct to Bilston Central it's another vital link for Bilston to be proud of. Bilston has come full circle as this town once had a mainline rail station but times change so Bilston moved forward with them to make way for Midland Metro in the early 00's. This new Birmingham expansion is developing slowly but surely, I suppose such a project can't be knocked up overnight? During my final year at university in Birmingham I have seen the new tracks, its going to be one year yet. I'm a regular passenger on the Midland Metro from Birmingham Snow Hill to Bilston Central, I just can't beat seeing Morrisons and the warehouses come into view as I arrive into Bilston Central Metro station! Bilston brings it, I'm a firm believer that if transport is improved a place can strive to reach its full potential so I have full confidence that Bilston is working and serving all it needs! Bilston! You'll stay strong, OK?! You are a dream maker?!

Fidelitate Et Industria Stat Bilstonia!

Joseph Harrison 

18 December 2013

Aston Villa FC: Match Of The Day

I have been so busy recently, well from a university perspective so me and my friend Kelly decided to book some tickets for the football on a whim to The Villa for an afternoon at the football. Our premier league football match happened to be played between Aston Villa and Manchester United. I had hit the sauce hard the night before the match, not the best idea!

Before kick-off I got the chance to see the original facade of Aston Villa Football Club's Villa Park entrance, dating back from 1894 I was loving what I saw. I'm not one for sports, well I have never been really but I guess its a captivating event that grabs people's attention so I'm willing to give that notion a try. During my year in New Jersey and New York I made it my mission to view as many sporting events as possible, so I knew that one football match would put me in good stead. I had never been to a football match in Birmingham before that day. The weather wasn't so nice but me and my friend Kelly didn't pay any attention to the grey skies for the kick-off was waiting for us! I'm known for supporting Birmingham as a city and as a tourist destination so I thought I would extend this passion to the football match in hand. Sport is still an ingenious way to attract people to a city! Visit Birmingham get it down!

I was looking forward to the beautiful game to begin, we had acquired our tickets for a rock bottom price compared to our fellow students from University College Birmingham, for the outing had been organised through the International Guild. I had passed Aston Villa's football ground on many occasions whilst on the train to and from Lichfield so I was quite excited to be formally acquainted, good things come to those who wait! I was very impressed with the red brick entrance to the home fans section as we would be in the Aston Villa home supporters section, when in Birmingham I fiercely support my student city no matter what capacity it may be. Aston was in my sights so I'm pleased I made it to the Villa, next time to Aston Hall though! I had over indulged in some mulled wine and cider the night before so my state of mind appeared to be quite fragile, let's just say that watching a football game was quite a good hangover cure. I showed my ticket to enter the stand.

The pace and energy of the game gained momentum as each second past. I was the envy of my brother and my granddad for they would have done pretty much anything to get tickets to a Barclay's Premiership match like this one. Manchester United picked up an early lead by scoring their first goal during the 15th minute by Welbeck, securing a second goal in the 18th minute to a rapturous applause from the United fans but a defiant crescendo of dismay was displayed by us the Aston Villa fans. We kept things positive, jumping up and down at a seconds notice as each time the ball drew nearer to the home-side's goal area. I was getting into the spirit of things, cheering on the Villa, I felt myself get emotional about the game because Villa needed to score! Yellow card after yellow card were dished out by the referee, tensions were rising. So, Wayne Rooney played a fair game but made some off tackles. 

Benteke made the crowd cheer, I could sense that the loyal supporters cared much more about the capability of the player rather than the status of the player, not mentioning various members of the Manchester United squad. It wasn't looking to good for Aston Villa but our commitment and applause didn't wane for we knew that good things would come Aston Villa's way. It became evident that Manchester United would take the lead, for in the 52nd minute United's Cleverley scored the third and final goal that decided the fate of the match. Villa tried their best but for me it wasn't about the winning, I'm not that into football. I would say that throughout all of the match the tempers never frayed in the Villa home side for we had this covered anyway, whereas a sea of police officers descended upon the front of the away fans section of the football ground, no trouble took place that boded well. I might book another ticket to see Aston Villa, the next season looks packed!

Moving away from the match I couldn't help to notice that Turkish Airlines happens to be Aston Villa's official airline partner. Captured to the right is an image that caught during the half-time competition where one of the three prizes appeared to be a free return flight from Birmingham Airport to any airport within their route network. I have had the opportunity to fly with Turkish Airlines on two occasions to Dalaman via Istanbul and more recently this July. Looking back at my TK experience I would definitely fly with Turkish Airlines again for they are a formidable airline. Keeping in line with Aston Villa I see the partnership to act as an integral part of the future development of Birmingham Airport and Birmingham as place to do business. I'll be looking for tickets for matches at Aston Villa in the new year. I'm not an avid football fan it's always great to show some love to my student city.

It's easy to say that Aston Villa FC had a winning formula even though things didn't pan out so good for this match, I know their winning luck will return on Boxing Day for their next match against Crystal Palace. I'm super glad I managed to get tickets to see this match between Aston Villa and Manchester United for it was a great experience that took me back to my afternoon at the New York Red Bull's in Harrison, NJ. I won't be going back to the NYRB's but I will have that Montreal Impact gave available in my back catalogue from 2012. I'm hopeful that next year I shall return to Aston, Birmingham to experience the Gregorian manor house Aston Hall. I'll be leaving Birmingham for the Christmas break, it was a great day besides the epic hangover but somethings are just so. Football isn't my first thing but I like to challenge myself once in a while because life is all about taking chances. Let's just say that Aston Villa FC has been serving footie realness since 1894! Football isn't so bad! 

Up The Villa!

Joseph Harrison 

17 December 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

Birmingham, its beginning to look at lot like Christmas! This time last year I experienced the glamour of New York City's festive charms but this year I have been loving Birmingham's festive Christmas delights to the fullest! From the Centenary Square wheel, to the formidable Frankfurt Christmas Market I've been spoiled for choice! Who needs the Rockefeller, Brum?!

The Frankfurt Christmas Market came to Birmingham once again this November for the festive season. It's my last Market this year, so I went all out this season! I always say that when the market comes to town the festive season can truly begin in Birmingham. I'm planning to visit Berlin in 2014 so I wanted to get the best of the market this year to be acquainted with a slice of German culture. Upon my visit this year I indulged by enjoying a Bratwurst hot dog and I bought a Birmingham themed cookie, which took me about a week to eat fully. Ironically, the market opened on the 14th of November this year, which happened to be my 23rd birthday. To get the best of the market I chose to visit in the week for the weekend's have been crazy busy, but it's definitely worth the crowd for the atmosphere is great! Aside from the mayhem I love the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham. Yes, Berlin is calling me!

Last Saturday afternoon I decided to breakaway from my studying to take a walk around Birmingham's city centre to begin the festive season as the last semester has been bedlam, plagued with deadlines and presentations. I would like to say that with the dark nights drawing in before 5pm I saw it as a benefit to be proactive by taking some Xmas snaps. The Christmas Market was buzzing with all types of people enjoying their Glühwein and German Beer during that ice cold December night. It's interesting to see that most of England's cities are embracing the German Market during the festive season, but Birmingham reigns supreme! I must admit I love to people watch so it was a great opportunity to see people enjoying themselves, might I add that some of the market-goers were speaking Turkish and French! Birmingham has definitely been attracting people from across the continent to enjoy the Frankfurt Christmas Market. Brum, I loved it but it was so packed! 

Through the festive period the Mailbox always looks charming. I might be a penniless student but I love that place! As of recent the adjoining Cube complex has flourished with the opening of new restaurants and existing eateries that have relocated from the Mailbox to make way for its 2015 redevelopment. As I walked along Wharfside Street I could hear several languages, for Birmingham is a very multi-cultural city but the Turkish speakers that I heard took me back to sunny Turkey! Captured to the right is Christmas at the Malibox, the largest Christmas tree made an appearance in November in-preparation for the festive season to commence. Bearing in mind that it was a Saturday night whilst I was out experiencing my Birmingham Christmas evening I did notice more of a hubbub of people enjoying themselves, its a time like that when I wished I wasn't a poor student! You know I love you Birmingham!

Christmas is a time when people just shop and shop, that's how it looks this season but when you don't have any money it doesn't have that appeal. I've probably already mentioned in my previous blogs that Christmas coming is my last in Birmingham as a student. Looking at the here and now I'm prepared for this year to signify the last of my serious Christmas's at home in England so I'm excited to enjoy the whole rounded experience. Spending the time away from England for the Christmas season it opened my eyes to how Christmas is spent. I went to  Los Angeles for Christmas, I learnt that Americans don't say 'Happy Christmas' its more like 'Seasons Greetings' its always good to recognise that people do things different in other countries. Birmingham gets a bad rep most of the time, I have to say that this Christmas the city lights made all the main points of interest shine fine. Oh, Birmingham is great for now but I'm buzzing to spend a Christmas somewhere new!

Dressed in all of his finery is the Bull who guards the Bullring shopping complex. It's great to see this part of Birmingham's flagship shopping centre all dolled up for the big day. Birmingham has become one of England's fashion capital's for this time of year brings incomprehensible amounts of shoppers to buy their fill of Christmas presents. Going from Macy's on 34th Street in NYC to Birmingham's Bullring has been a contrasting experience for sure, but there's nothing that beats Birmingham's retail delights. My Christmas shopping this year has been non-existent but I did treat myself in November for my birthday for it would be inhumane to not treat oneself. Le sigh! Those darker afternoons come in handy from time to time! I love the Bull for it always makes an effort during the seasons and always makes the perfect holiday snap for Birmingham's growing number of international visitors. Let's go!

Whatever the budget Birmingham has something for everyone, let's be honest the smile on someone's face on Chrismas morning is priceless! I always make a point of having a browse through Selfridges as I'm a sucker for their high-end products, I need a job! If I could write my dream Christmas list from Selfridges I would choose a range of items from Paperchase, I just adore the stationary and pens that are sold just by the food court. Taking the escalator up to the Men's wear I would ask St. Nick for some BOY clothes and a few high-end t-shirts by Vivienne Westwood. Lastly, I would love to have some beauty products from the cosmetic section as I always like to look good. As I made my way around the luxury of Selfridges I enjoyed my Mocha Frappuccino with the feeling of Christmas all round me, the busy bodies passed making their frantic pre-Christmas purchases, I finally felt Christmassy! We all want to be Material Girls, so a little luxury every now and then doesn't hurt? No B!

I missed the festive season last year for I spent Christmas in New York and New Jersey, so I have really appreciated seeing the Christmas magic that Birmingham has offered so far this year. This festive season in Birmingham has surpassed my previous Christmas experiences for the Wheel has come to town, overlooking the Library of Birmingham that recently opened in September of this year. Birmingham's got talent for the view from the raised gardens at the Library always gives the best night-time view over Birmingham. I'm no Torvil and Dean so I only watch the ice skaters as I pass the ICC to and from university on a daily basis. The ice rink is a great addition to Centenary Square for it was quite a bore to put up with the partitions and workings of the developing library and the REP Theatre, everything looked fantastic under the December moonlight! I'm excited for the big day on the 25th! 

So I say! Let's keep this short, well I never do a good job at that when I blog. Make Birmingham your new shopping destination during Christmas period? I'm always learning something new about my student city, getting to grips with the new developments that this city has been going through so let's go! The streets might be packed with busy shoppers making their way around the Bullring and the other shopping spots but its all about doing your own thing, I try not worry about that when I went about my business that December night. Birmingham is changing, I won't be spending Christmas here next year but I'll return in a few years to see if things change, from what has been developed in Birmingham its not looking too bad, only joking its going good. The Christmas lights will be shining bright for the next couple of weeks so we can still enjoy the atmosphere about in the city of Birmingham. I need to stop going on about Birmingham, I'll say what I want! It's Christmas!

Birmingham . . . It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

Joseph Harrison

12 December 2013

Bournville... It's Sweet Like Chocolate!

Do you know a place that's 'Sweet Like Chocolate?' Me and my friend Kelly both made a sweet escape from Birmingham's bustling city centre to experience the city's confectionery wonder! Stressed out by our current load of  university assignments and looking for something to do, we decided to take a trip to Bournville's famous Cadbury World! Life is sweet!

Arriving in Bournville felt like I was revisiting somewhere familiar as I had been to Cadbury World numerous times as a child for it had been a few years since my last visit, so I was very excited! This semester has been a trifle stressful but holidays are coming! The streets of Bournville were quiet but very cold as me and Kelly walked from the train station, we marveled at the wide array of Cadbury built houses that dated back to the 1890's! I decided on a complete whim to book our tickets, with the help of Cadbury World's social media team I was assured that we could use our student cards to get student discount, save more money for chocolate I say! Getting to Bournville from Birmingham city centre is really simple for London Midland trains run every fifteen minutes from New Street station so we found it effortless. I wanted something different compared to the big smoke of Birmingham! The city gets crazy!

Above on the left is one of the 'welcome' signs to Cadbury World and its operational chocolate factory, for this chocolate-making empire acts as both a tourist attraction and a integral part of Birmingham's history as a key innovator from its Quaker beginnings to their recent partnership with Kraft Foods. Being from Bilston means that I've always been close to Cadbury World as I have had the chance to visit many times before my most recent experience. I wanted to see what Cadbury World had to offer for I'm a degree student in my final year so I would be able to see things from a different perspective compared to my previous visits. I won't lie to anyone because on that morning I was so excited to get on the move I woke up before my alarm that morning, Christmas arrived early! I wasn't prepared for the difference with the attraction but times do change. So, let's get to grips with the here and now for I wanted to each so much chocolate I would feel ill afterwards! Oh no don't!

Located four miles away from Birmingham city centre is the town of Bournville, this is a town that truly has that 'chocolate box' look for its just beautiful. The cold harsh December weather made Bournville's village centre looked very Christmassy, I have been busy with my assignments the festive season had not entered my mind. Too much chocolate can me you sick, why not try something different beforehand? With some time on our hands we chose to grab a bite to eat at the Bournville Bread Basket, to the right, we found a wide selection of freshly prepared pasties, pies and sandwiches. We enjoyed our cakes and pasties outside for its acceptable to partake in alfresco dining in Bournville, aside from the cold weather we had a perfect view of Bournville's quaint village heart. Cadbury is a large part of Bournville so we made the effort to support one of the smaller Bournville businesses.

Pardon me for my tardiness, I haven't explained the meaning of Bournville, the Cadbury brothers took inspiration from the Bournbrook river and the French word for 'town' that created the then village of Bournville. This village like town gave the workers of Cadbury a sanctuary, a place to raise their families away from the smog of Birmingham's growing industrial centre to enjoy the greener pastures of Birmingham's french fancy of a town. Bournville welcomed us with opened arms, so I know a return visit will be in-order soon! I felt like I was transported to another time for the feel of Bournville's Victorian architecture is like a breath of fresh air compared to the fast paced life of the city! To quote I was like a child in a sweet shop, well a 20 something in a chocolate factory! I know that I might sound like a five year old child but I really don't give a hoot! If you visit Birmingham I recommend a visit to Cadbury World! We can never have too much of the sweet stuff!? 

The time had come for us to experience the 'Chocolatey Fun' promised by Cadbury World, our journey through the life and times of all things Cadbury was mighty fun. No visit to Cadbury World would be incomplete by not learning where the 'sweet stuff' originated from, now I understand why I visited here for my school trips so many times! I personally enjoyed my supply of chocolate that was kindly handed out during our visit through the Cadbury visitor experience and factory. It was great to see new and existing parts of the exhibition for things have to grow and change, I saw lots of new things that amazed me! Our day out was becoming the perfect 'sweet escape' that we needed to forget about our tiresome final year studies! Who knew that George Cadbury opened his first cocoa shop on Bull Street, in the heart of Birmingham's city centre?! Remember that Birmingham makes it best! Hershey? Who!

To the left is one of the Cadbury Chocolatiers who was crafting a range of beautiful looking bespoke chocolate high-heels, I was really impressed with the skill and quality of the product as they were displayed in a glass cabinet that sat a few metres away from the assembly line of chocolate Chocolatiers. I'm sure I saw these tasty heels in the factory shop at the end of the exhibition? It's a key thing to bare in mind that the Cadbury factory is fully operational so I had to re-frame from taking photographs in the packaging areas that were on display to us, its always best to respect rules! Anyway, I loved the factory tour even the brief ride on 'Cadabra' a great experience for young and old, which I do remember from my childhood visits. I tried to take some snaps throughout the ride but my camera fails me. It was like we had entered into 'a world of pure imagination' where we did view a interpretation of what could be called 'paradise', we were in a chocolate factory after all!

It's no secret that in recent years Cadbury's has changed the way that it advertises it's confectioneries and chocolate brands for its been mirrored within the final stage of the Cadbury World exhibition, no longer are we 'so excited' for Crunchie for there's a new series of adverts that have been seen on our television screens and on YouTube, one of the new adverts featured a Gorilla playing a drum kit, it was great! But it was also nice to see the older marvels of Cadbury's advertising efforts featured an exhibit that was themed around the popular soap opera that advertised Cadbury's Astro's, a chocolate treat that are no longer made, shame that is Cadbury! This new addition to the Cadbury World experience showed a modern, detailed and interactive glimpse of the future. From the Aztec beginnings to the Quaker way, ending with the projections of the future, Cadbury World is definitely worth a day out!

Our day spent in Bournville at Cadbury World was ace! Thank you for allowing me and Kelly to use our university student card's that allowed us to enjoy our day at Cadbury World on a budget! I have every intention to continue eating Cadbury chocolate and being proud of my student city producing such great chocolate! From the chocolate high-heels to the quiet streets of Bournville, I'm glad that I chose to spend my day in this part of Birmingham! I almost forgot to mention that by suggesting a friend to visit Cadbury World for the first time should warrant some extra chocolate for me? Sort it out CW! It was really nice to get out of the city centre and do something nice before breaking up for the Christmas holidays, need I say no more? I held back from buying any treats from the shop, its changed so much since visited when I was a boy. I write because I love it, so having a blog to publish about chocolate was great! Thank you Cadbury World for our 'sweet escape!' 

Yes, Bournville's. . . Sweet Like Chocolate!

Joseph Harrison

7 December 2013

Half Time Whistle

Honestly, I seriously underestimated the complexity of my final year! I know that the Christmas holidays are just around the corner, things will be fine has the 'Half Time Whistle' sounds for this part of my final year at University. It's not all been stress and deadlines for I have been busy with other ventures that seem to be improving this blog. Blogging is not a waste of time!

Back from the summer I had plans to see another side of Birmingham for my time as a student in this city is dwindling, I wanted to experience the Balti Triangle. Being curious about discovering Birmingham's most famous dish I found Sparkbrook to be like a scene from 'East is East!' I chose to eat at Shabab Balti Restaurant where I had a delicious Balti dish, worth the price I certainly ate well during my Balti session. Getting to Sparkbrook was a memorable task for the walk from the Maltings showed me the lively neighbhourhood of Highgate, it was an eventful evening. I'm glad that I hadn't discovered the Balti Triangle until this September for it showed me Birmingham has many different international communities that open my eyes to a new side of this vibrant and emerging city. I might well return to Sparkbrook before I say goodbye to university life in Birmingham. No, I really can't answer that! 

Chinatown, Birmingham gave me a new found zest for this blog, I subconsciously created my 'Chinatown - Birmingham's Oriental Heart' blog from a simple visit to the Chinese Quarter on the 4th of November with my friend Kelly. We do try and make time for a Bubble Tea or two at Caffe Chino for all this academic reading for our Dissertation's can get very tedious, so a little break down Cathay Street sorted us out. Getting to grips with Day In Supermarket proved to be a lesson of discovery for I learnt about some of the different products that sat on the shelves ready for purchase, compared to the usual visit to Tesco it was very interesting to see another culture go about their grocery shopping ways. I look to Birmingham's Chinatown as my first stepping stone on my way to visiting Hong Kong as I have learnt a lot about the Oriental cultures from this part of town and real-life stories from my friend Kelly. I found Oolong Tea, I had not found this tea for a ages plus it was loose leaf! 

From an academic point of view this semester has been crazy with the constant barrage of new assignments that quite frankly have too many words! I admit that things have been tough but I'm learning that pushing through the stress works a treat because there's nothing more fulfilling to finish or formulate a piece of final year coursework. The dreaded Dissertation hasn't been too brain-taxing so far, I'm actually enjoying the process at the moment so I hope that positive term of phrase sticks for the remainder of the year. I'm putting the finishing touches to my draft Literature Review, my experience so far with this research project has rubbished the whispers of previous final year students as they put the fear in me for what terrible stress that final year would bring us. I have adopted a blase train of thought, stressing isn't really worth my time! I'm going to embrace my Dissertation! Nothing good comes easy!

The Christmas holidays are insight, for the last few weeks have been a struggle to say the least. Aside from the Dissertation I have been studying two other level six final year modules, Operations Management and Strategic Management have been the highlight! Operations Management has so far been really quite interesting for its allowed me to focus on functional practices from my placement in Newark last year, so I have a lot of material to utilise for my 3,000 word essay. Strategic Management has been the bane of my life just recently for it can only be described as 'laborious!' Yes, strong words I know, but the presentation that me and my group presented yesterday took some stress to complete. Our company was Merlin Entertainment, they own Alton Towers. So we had a lot of work to do for us to grasp the subject let alone be familiar enough with the company in the first place. The whole experience has been a worthwhile process even the drama! It's done now!

I would like to think my blog has reached new audiences throughout the last three months, further broadening the types of visitors that boost the overall viewings of my blog. Using social media platforms like Twitter has gained the support from 'Visit Birmingham' for my Brum orientated blogs have been a hit with their social media team well most of the posts have been retweeted, I see that as a positive step. I took part in a promo video for 'Visit Birmingham' for their Christmas campaign, highlighting one of my favourite things to do in Birmingham at Christmas. I hope to remain in contact with Birmingham Airport as I was delighted to be contacted by their social media team after posting my blogs on their official BHX Twitter feed.

To the left is the promotional bag I received from the event I attended on Thursday, which was hosted by 'Visit Berlin' to showcase its new 'Pink Pillow Collection' hotels in Berlin that cater especially for Gay and Lesbian guests. I remember checking a strange looking email to find that I had been cordially invited to an exciting event, well I was very surprised for I never get invited to fancy events like this one! I made use of advice given to me by a fellow Blogger and friend to design some Blog business cards for the event to publicise my Blog website further. I exchanged business cards with the spokespersons from 'Visit Berlin' and 'Out Now Global' to see what opportunities may arise from attending this event. I'm hopeful to book a trip to Berlin soon, I say watch it Deutschland!

I Better Work!

Joseph Harrison

1 December 2013

Life's a Cabaret!

I do love a good musical so it was a great surprise to be seeing Cabaret at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre for my 23rd Birthday present! Wednesday 27th November 2013 arrived, I couldn't wait to see the show as I had visions of Liza Minnelli sing 'Mein Herr' so I had great expectations for the upcoming show! Being cultured last year I saw Hairspray: The Musical. Yas!

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome in Cabaret! How's it going stranger? Emcee and his dancers from Berlin's Kit Kat Klub welcomed us to the Cabaret! Performing in place of Will Young, Simon Jaymes brought a special flare to the show with the perfect opportunity to make the most of the spotlight. Emcee and his scantily clad dancers of the Kit Kat Klub brought the correct amount of sass, I loved every second of the high energy opening! I wanted to be at that Berlin bohemian hang-out for the stage shone bright with fast-paced dazzling dance troupe! An aspiring American novelist had just arrived in Berlin. Greeted by a friendly acting gentlemen who went by the name of Ernst Ludwig, befriending Cliff by inviting him to the Kit Kat Klub! Go!

The evenings proceedings were hotting up with the party in full swing but Cliff needed a place to stay in Berlin and somewhere to write his upcoming novel, thanks to a recommendation from Ernst Ludwig he had secured a basic dwelling by Fraulein Schneider. Now, I must say that the whole Berlin theme had me transfixed for I already wanted to visit the capital city of Germany before seeing this show, but as each second past through the first act of Cabaret I had been transport to a utopia of freedom. I know that my upcoming event for VisitBerlin will hopefully be as glamourous and outlandish as Cabaret prevailed to be! Back to the stage, Cliff discovered the British beauty that was Miss Sally Bowles. I agree with Sally that Gin makes everything a lot more fabulous!

Sally Bowles barged her way into Cliff's new life, she didn't leave him with much choice when she turned up at his dwelling, where she forced herself upon him! Fraulein Schneider didn't take kindly to her new guest but she agreed a price for Sally to live with Cliff. Fraulein dwellings were simple, renting her basic rooms to people from all walks of life. Fraulein Kost had a thing for sailors, she just couldn't help herself! Let's just say that delectable sailor wasn't her nephew for sure! Berlin's got talent! The mood didn't stay rosy for long as Ernst Ludwig had a shady plan for Cliff to make some quick cash for his book wasn't any near finished and Sally proclaimed she was pregnant! All seemed well with the money making scheme but Sally's bombshell left a sting in Cliff's tail! Cue to my favourite song as Sally belted out 'Maybe This Time'. Yes Sal!

I had to stop visualising Liza Minnelli or other Broadway inspired films I had previously seen whilst watching this show at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre, for I had been transported to another place entirely!  Cabaret has to be one of my new favourites for the plot is dramatic and full of campery so that's almost an extension of my personality! Back to Fraulein Schneider, she professed to have a strong and powerful personality by not having a place in her life for a man, but I think she underestimated that? A charming addition to this darling musical was Herr Schultz, a fruit salesman who happened to win the affections of Fraulein Schneider with a pineapple from California. If today romances could be struck up with a pineapple that would be quite something, but considering Berlin was on the verge of Nazi occupation a pineapple or a orange could even seal a marriage proposal!? I would want more than just a pineapple, it worked for Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider! Yes!

Do I hear the chime of wedding bells? A new day was dawning, a new frontier that would change the course of this once glamourous journey. Ernst Ludwig's motives were revealed at the engagement party of Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, a new Nazi path started to evolve. The increased change of Berlin's part of the pending Nazi rule halted the marriage of the mature couple for Herr Schultz being Jewish did not want to put Fraulein Schneider in any danger, she was unfortunately left on her own again. Sally and Cliff's relationship broke, with the situation of 1930's Germany becoming unbearable he fled for America alone. Sally wasn't about to give up for she had decided to terminate her baby, forfeiting her luxurious fur coat to supplement the procedure for she had no money, for her next move would be back to the Kit Kat Klub! No!

Emcee changed during the final scenes of the show, he seemed crazed by something for it was clear to see that the regime had killed the Kaberet! Things had started with so much glamour and flamboyant energy, a new dark and depressing day had arrived. I hate to say this but the chill of the gas chambers from Auschwitz had been recreated on the stage with the final 'A' to be remaining on the stage standing, Emcee bared all to join his fallen co-stars to perish in the gas chambers at one of the Concentration Camps operated by Adolf Hitler. There was no life left in this Cabaret, for this Cabaret took its final breath! The final lines had been read and the hiss of the gas chambers filled the theatre so the show had reached its conclusion. I could do nothing but join in with the enthusiastic applause for the cast took their final bow, it was a tremendous applause for this show had been executed with high energy, professionalism and spark! In the words of Sally, life is a cabaret! Ja WV1!

Dankeschön WV1!

Joseph Harrison