Just a selection of photographs from recent visits to educate ourselves that preconceptions are not always correct. We need to open our eyes and see maybe what else is around that we missed.
An excellent fast paced championship game on Boxing day 2015 surprisingly resulted in no goals. There are enough match reports to mean little point me adding to the details. It is the bigger picture though which is interesting , simply is this a prequel to the play off game with these two sides involved again?
Brighton were either average or Brentford made them look average. Nico Yennaris proved again that he is not a full-back but could be a decent midfielder. David Button had a day off. Philip Hoffman should have won the game for Brentford in the final minutes.
The game was played in good spirit with few fouls and none of note. Darren Deadman as referee was better than usual and actually not too terrible, but would either side clamour to have him back again, unlikely. A capacity 12,200 crowd gave an excellent atmosphere for a 1 pm kick off, which traditionally seem unable to provide the same atmosphere and noise as 3 pm kick offs.
The game was end to end and what was clear is that neither side had a potent striker who could have provided the goals that the game deserved. A 2-2 draw would have been a good pre-match bet and probably a reasonable score. Both sides are clearly good but maybe with Brentford improving and Brighton on the decline?
For me the best teams in the championship are Middlesborough and Hull City and these teams may get the automatic places. Perennial play off contenders Derby, Burnley, Ipswich may again make the play offs. Brentford and Brighton are also contenders with Sheffield Wednesday an outsider too.
The big surprise of the day however was being able to get an easy parking space in the Watermans Centre car park where the graffiti on a window of an office either suggested folks trapped inside demanding Xmas supplies or a prequel to a Lager advert. Great graffiti.
Anyone who has travelled to Birmingham will understand that it is as far from idyllic sandy beaches as is humanly possible. The road systems are enough to induce any kind of serious mental disorder, the many industries create novel pollutants and car parking is nigh on impossible. A little bit cruel but you get the picture. So in the few hours that I had there my challenge was to take photographs to make Birmingham look nice. To make it look a place that the tourist industry might promote, in the same way that this was attempted (?achieved) with cities like Bradford.
An hour walking around the car parks of the Hilton Metropole hotel at NEC and the car parks of the NEC found these photos below, well maybe the fruit and the Raspberry Bakewell came from inside the hotel. But this proves that niceness can exist in Birmingham after all.
Stavanger is a place in Norway. I say this because the reactions when I announced my trip were “where is that place”. Taking a quick look at what I was told I might find there seemed to educate me to expect a place with eternal 24 hour rain each day, where the highlight of the town was the National Petroleum Museum and a place that was centric to oil production. This opinion was further influenced when on the outbound British Airways flight from London, being generous the plane was perhaps 20% populated, a small Airbus 319, suggesting that an 8.30 am flight to Stavanger was not a mecca for travellers, and in the only row on the whole plane with three customers, they all sat talking, loudly, about the exciting topic of winches and other seemingly oil rig decorations through the flight.
Landing at Stavanger airport is also not designed to induce idyllic thoughts. The airport is small, clean and functional, but passengers are greeted with a huge mural photograph seemingly showing a man about to jump off a very high cliff, and this is closely followed by a large SAS advert (the airline, not the military organisation) inviting people to “get lost”. My own personal experience was then not further improved by a 45 minute wait for a taxi driver to appear.
Leaving the airport one might think that the whole of the Stavanger road transportation system was being replaced. Wherever one looked there was digging and building, though with little sign of the workers. Aliens arriving in Stavanger would certainly have rapidly reversed their spaceships and headed off to more succulent climes such as Birmingham or Croydon, or even Clacton-on-Sea.
So a fair summary as I approached Stavanger city centre, was that I had low expectations that had actually been exceeded by this seeming awfulness. How wrong could I be? It took around an hour to fall in love with Stavanger. The Radisson Blu Atlantic Hotel sits on a central small lake and from the 11th floor the views are impressive, of the lake, of the city buildings and the distant mountains. Walking around the lake is a nice start taking maybe 20-30 minutes and counting around 1500 steps on my Fitbit. There were nesting birds, and in fact a huge egg in a nest, which I presume belonged to the scary swan nearby, were really cute sights. Plenty of various seabirds in attendance including the greedy seagulls who seemed to own the benches for themselves and certainly used them as their own personal toilets. The only surprising thing was maybe the number of beggars sitting on their blankets around the lake, and even more so the fact that the lady here had expensive looking streaks of colour in her hair.
The walk down into the town, described as the “old town”, although not looking that old to me, was a nice walk, where cars were either prohibited or certainly discouraged. The walk takes one along the harbour or we should call it port, as a huge cruise liner from Holland America called “ Rotterdam” ( could their name have been a little more inspiring?) sat right next to the quayside to the extent that passengers could have hopped off any lower tier balconies. In 2011 Stavanger hosted 130 cruise ships. The quayside is lined by bars and restaurants all with nice looking menus that ranged from Reindeer to Burgers with a lot in-between. A few museums poked their heads out as did any number of coffee and snack shops no doubt designed to deal with the cruise liner passenger’s appetite. The whole atmosphere was relaxed and happy. Bars promised live music in the evening and the beer was flowing it seemed all day.
There was not 24 hour daylight as was suggested but maybe 20 hours certainly. The photographs show how the lake looked in the afternoon and also at 4.30 am.
A few facts about Stavanger. it is the fourth largest city in Norway with a population of around 150,000. Unemployment rates are low and lower than many other european countries at around only 2%.
So will I return to Stavanger? Certainly. A great option for a weekend break.
The good news is that on my visit there yesterday I found Birmingham City FC easily where Brentford will be paying a visit next season. I also found in the heart of Birmingham, Small Heath, a few unexpected sights. On a warm sunny day Birmingham even with its evil traffic, lack of road signage and far too many cars, looked actually quite cool.