A visit to Lichfield and Erasmus Darwin Museum


Our main reason for coming here to Birmingham was to visit the house museum of Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin. Rather than stay in Lichfield, which is a small town, we came to Birmingham, where we will have a second day to explore.We took a train to Lichfield and back.

Stephen has become rather fascinated by Erasmus Darwin after reading his biography. He was actually quite an amazing man, a well respected doctor and inventor, with many and varied interests. He married twice, and also had two illegitimate daughters by a housekeeper when he was between marriages. He believed in the education of women, including in the sciences, but not in true emancipation, of course. He set up a school for girls to be run by his illegitimate daughters, I guess a way of giving them a useful occupation.

A couple of his inventions were the trap for water closets that meant they no longer connected to the sewage directly, having a water cap. Water closets had been in use for some time, but this was a definite improvement. He also worked out that carriages needed to have a special front axle for turning to make the wheels move at different angles and speeds. Carriages used to tip over frequently and he used his invention on his own carriage. This invention is in use to this day, especially useful for large vehicles such as buses. He didn’t patent any of his ideas and inventions, believing that they should be the benefit of all humanity. He and his LunatikSociety (as they called themselves, actually the Lunar Societybecause they met on the night of the full moon so that they had moonlight for travelling to each other’s houses) also believed in the abolition of slavery. He may have been influenced by his medical training in Scotland. As a group, they worked together on inventions and ideas.

Erasmus was overweight and not good looking at all, according to contemporary accounts, yet seems to have been very successful with women, perhaps because he considered them to be as intelligent as men, although his ideas still included that women should be there to take care of the children and household matters, and perhaps that the education of women would make them better companions for intelligent men like himself.

And this is the man who had a great deal of influence on his grandson, indirectly as they never met. Erasmus wrote books where he explored the idea of natural selection and he believed that the evolution of life took millions of years.

At one time it was thought that Lichfield would be much more important than Birmingham, but the advent of the Industrial Revolution changed all that. Consequently, Lichfield is a beautiful small town with many historic buildings, including a truly splendid cathedral.

Afternoon tea at the Cathedral Tearooms

We enjoyed our outing very much and arrived back in Birmingham in time for a browse in Waterstones (one of the few bookstore chains still successful). We had a light meal at a small pub near our accommodation.

On our first day I bought some milk for morning cups of tea and stored it in the communal fridge. It was well labelled as being ours. Yesterday morning we found that someone had opened and used our milk, despite it being clearly labelled. I put a note on it asking politely that it not be used, but when we got home yesterday evening, it had been used again. Rather than rely on notes and labels, I took it to our room and stored it on the windowsill near the open window overnight. It was OK to use this morning, but we threw the rest away.

Breakfast is included at our backpackers, but it is quite meagre, just toast and various jams, and some bowls of fresh fruit. This morning we picked up some fruit and went out to a local café where we had mugs of hot chocolate and bacon and egg sandwiches. I had hoped for coffee, but it was a very basic café and hot chocolate seemed safer.

We topped up our phones this morning, using vouches from our provider.

We caught a bus, just one stop but it saves our legs a bit, into the centre to explore the Art Gallery and Museum, the Library, and the Birmingham Cathedral. I’ve had coffee in the Edwardian Tearooms in the Gallery, and worked on this blog whilst Stephen went through the history of the Industrial Revolution. He gave me the highlights. The building is very beautiful inside and it is free. Perhaps they make money from the tearooms and shop to help with upkeep.

The ceiling of the Gallery Tearooms.


Birmingham or bust

This excellent graffiti mural is opposite where we are staying. Most of the graffiti we see isn’t nearly this good.

We caught our local train to Victoria Station, then hauled our stuff about a block and a half to the coach station.

We made it, of course. We are staying in a backpackers that is very like the backpackers we used to stay in, before they became more like hotels. I’ll take some photos of the common room tomorrow when we have breakfast. Our actual room is in an annex, which is more modern, but still shabby. Still, we have our own room with en-suite and it is roomy enough, with modern windows.

The outside of the main building/

We go through the purple door to get to our room at the rear of the hostel

We had two cases, my duffle, plus small backpacks and shoulder bags, nothing very heavy since the weight was well distributed, but we were very happy to have help getting the cases upstairs to our first floor room.

Birmingham as we came into town is very dingy and almost deselect looking. Our backpackers is close to the centre of town in a dingy street. But, we walked up to the town centre this evening and found an extensive modern shopping centre and some older buildings further along. There were lots of people around, in fact it was bustling. At the Town hall there was the obligatory protest about the present political situation, with police looking on.

This, believe it or not, is the Apple Store.

We had tea at a place that specialises in pies, and had traditional English style with mushy peas and mashed potatoes. The other clientele were young and stylish, the prices moderate, and as we were very hungry we felt we had made the right choice.

After a few days of doing very little (going up and down stairs in the Croydon apartment surely counts for something) I have done about 15,000 steps today, not too bad.

We watched the protest from a distance.

The beautiful Town Hall.

This area is called the Bull Ring. We need to know more of the history to know what it means.

Old and new.

The young woman on reception is a bit of a history buff and was able to give us lots of information on local attractions, particularly with regard to historical sites. The Tourist Information Bureau has closed, but she could run it by herself. One of the places would interest Eversley, the local town of Bournville where the Cadbury Chocolate Factory was built by Quakers. She said that in Britain chocolate factories were usually started by Quakers. I theorised that chocolate is an addictive substance that seems to be very safe, something that doesn’t contradict their ideas of living simply. The original owner built a beautiful village for the factory workers, based on the usual English style of little houses in a row. I hope we have time to go there, and to some of the other places she mentioned.

The weather did change yesterday, as promised. It was still a bit stuffy overnight las night, but definitely cooler today. We wore light jumpers when we went for our evening walk. Tomorrow should be dry and about 22 degrees, very good for exploring.

We felt a bit of an affinity for this restaurant because of the name.

Boris subverts democracy with Trump’s approval

Boris looked like not being able to get a better Brexit deal than Teresa May and a group within his party wanted to fight against a ‘no deal’ Brexit happening on October 31st. Boris has taken the extreme step of closing parliament early. They could have had up to 39 days to work things out, now they will only have about 5 days.

The Queen must have been extremely angry about having to ‘consent’ to such a patently political move by Johnson. Even the speaker of the house has spoken out, and the speaker is supposed to be politically neutral.

It has created much discussion, no major protests so far, it will be interesting to see what happens. It isn’t a matter of being for or against Brexit, even supporters are outraged. It is unclear what the consequences of a ‘no deal’ Brexit would be, but there is talk of shortages of food and medicines and the need to stockpile.

Today we’ve been concentrating on packing our bags for leaving Croydon tomorrow to travel north. We are leaving quite a lot of clothes here, basically our summer gear.

For today, a couple of the photos taken through the train window in Switzerland.

An awfully hot day

We are just not used to coping without air conditioning. We didn’t go out today, apart from me going down to the shop for some salads.

Stephen has had a headache off and on for the past couple of days, a bit like a migraine in that it makes him feel unwell. We hope it’s just a virus and will clear by Thursday when we will be travelling to Birmingham.

Stephen had a shower during the afternoon to help him cool down. I went one better and sat in a bath for a while. We are so glad that the weather is going to change, but in the process of change it has become very humid and we might have one more uncomfortable night. G may have to invest in fans for his guests if this continues. We have an air circulation system but it isn’t strong enough to have the effect of a fan forcing air over us. We have all the windows and doors open to catch any breeze.

Tomorrow we need to pack for our journey northwards. We will need to sort through food in the cupboards and fridge to make sure we only leave what will be in date when we come back in October.

I’ve taken many photos from our balcony and the top floor patio on our other visits. It’s hard to resist as we have uninterrupted views on two sides of the building. There are taller buildings in East Croydon, but they are on the other side of the building.

Central London towers in the distance, this view is lit up with red lights from the many cranes at night.


So, the third day of heat here in southern England. We stayed home today as we thought everywhere would be packed because of the bank holiday. There is quite a strong breeze, but it hasn’t made dealing with the heat that much easier. We are not used to it being this hot without airconditioning.

We hope to go to another seaside town tomorrow. The temperature is forecast to be 31, just slightly cooler than today at 33. This sets a heat record for the August bank holiday.

before takeoff (1 of 1)


take off (1 of 1).jpg

Today’s blog features a few more photos from Margate.


Trip to Margate on Saturday

We wanted to continue our exploration of English seaside towns and chose Margate – no special reason really, but it turned out to be a good choice as it is quite different to Hastings where we went on our last trip. For one thing, it has beautiful golden beach sand and have to say that people were making the most of the warm and sunny weather. The train filled up gradually as we got closer to our destination until there were people standing.

The train to Margate starts at Victoria Station. Stephen booked the tickets online the day before and we picked them up from a ticket machine when we got to the station. We left the house at about 9.30 a.m. and arrived home at 10.00 p.m. – a 12 hour day with around 5 hours of travelling, but still easier to organise than staying overnight. It gave us a chance to experience the seaside experience though we didn’t explore all that Margate has to offer.

My step count for the day was 19,000, and that equates to 10kms. There were lots of stairs as we went up and down from the beach front. We had lots of time for sitting around (on trains and in cafes) and it didn’t seem arduous at all, until we got home and I went straight to bed.

At lunchtime we found a pub with outdoor seating and reasonable prices. A shared bottle of alcohol free beer (.5 instead of the usual .4 alcohol, so called alcohol free beer wouldn’t work for a recovering alcoholic), a baked potato with cheese and salad for me and a green curry and rice for Stephen. There was a breeze and we almost put our jumpers on. You may see some photos of Stephen with his jumper on. By evening, the breeze had dropped and it was quite warm.

The most amazing natural feature was the difference between high tide (12.30 p.m) and low tide (6.30 p.m.). We left just as it reached peak tide to catch our train home. Days like this do not necessarily occur all that often and there were places that hired out deck chairs, beach umbrellas and wind breaks. Some people on the train brought picnics with them, but there was no need to bring other beach equipment, even if you had it.


low tide with boats on sand (1 of 1).jpg
Low tide with boats on the sand
high tide with boats floating (1 of 1).jpg
Taken at around 6.30 p.m. with boats afloat.

The day was a little misty, especially noticeable over the sea.

Another phenomenon was a statue of a man looking out to see, which gradually disappeared as the tide came in.

man in the sea (1 of 1)

man in the sea as tide coming in (1 of 1).jpg

man in the sea as tide disappeared (1 of 1).jpg
So completely gone that we had difficulty locating where he was.
man in the sea sign (1 of 1).jpg
There was a museum nearby where we spent some time, viewing the exhibitions and having afternoon tea. We spent so long there that although I got one photo through a viewing window of the sea rising on the man, it had completely disappeared by the time we went out again. I wish I had gone out early enough to catch another glimpse of him being swallowed up.
England now (1 of 1).jpg
The water was fairly shallow and you had to go out some way for swimming, both in the bay and here on the outer beach. A little bit of social commentary… England is very black and white these days – and people of all colours mix socially (except at Glynbourne, which was overwhelmingly white, including the cast on stage). We hear about racism here, but it seems very integrated to us.

Our longest walk was after the museum visit and afternoon tea. We walked along the beach on a paved path, then up through a gap in the cliffs to the path along the top.

cliff gap (1 of 1)

flowers and sea (1 of 1).jpg

As usual, we find travelling in trains very comfortable and restful. Stephen bought some Kentish Gypsy Tarts to enjoy on the way. He was excited to find we could buy two for 1.5 pounds (I’ll have to find the pound sign on my laptop keyboard, it must have one).


Our dinner consisted of a shared, very expensive hot dog, these tarts, 2 small apples and a stick of Margate Rock. The tarts were very light and I couldn’t pin down the flavour of the filling, perhaps mocca.

high tide water at steps (1 of 1).jpg
Sea lapping at the foot of these steps at the end of the day. The steps were a long way from the water when we arrived.

Matt rang us at 11.30 a.m. today (Sunday). I was just setting up the laptop for blogging and it was a good time to see him. He seems, as usual, very happy and relaxed.




Dulwich Village

Stephen has been reading about the villages of London, suburbs with individual character. We went on a bus journey two and fro through many narrow and winding roads, an amazing feat of driving by the driver, as we could see from our perch on the upper deck. We had a similar amazing journey home, and this time in very busy traffic.

Our first stop was at the Horniman Museum. Donated to the public by a very rich businessman, it is a rather interesting house with a large and lovely garden. The museum is housed in a new building at the back of the main house. It is a very popular place with parents and children, so rather busy and noisy.

After lunch at the museum cafe we had a short walk in the garden before going by bus to our next destination, the Dulwich Picture Garden. I objected to the $26 entry fee, so chose to sit in the garden in the shade and write my blog.

Then we walked through the nearby park to find our next destination. We noticed lots of children in hire bicycles where you lie on your back, but didn’t take photos because they were kids. We asked directions of an elderly man and enjoyed a brief discussion about life.

We were heading to a cafe mentioned in the guide, the Blue Brick Cafe. It was probably mentioned because of having vegan and vegetarian options, but also because in a place with many cafes it is unique. Not many tables inside and curiously no windows that actually open. We sat outside.

Last night I noticed a big splodge on some photos of the city skyline. I took the blower to the sensor and thought it was fixed. This morning I found that I had merely scattered the dust around the sensor, and had to keep trying, taking photos of the sky in between bouts, to get it actually clean.

Sensor with splodge. Using an HDR process in editing certainly enhanced it.
After lots of goes at cleaning the sensor.

I’ll have the sensor properly cleaned when we get back to Perth, but in the meantime I hope this will suffice. I’m not changing lenses, which can introduce dust, but the zoom lens going in and out can pull dirt inside. Strange that we have been on holiday all this time before it happened.

Today we have been resting, only going to our local park for afternoon tea. Stephen made friends with the woman who runs the kiosk when we’ve been here on other stays in Croydon, and hoped to see her today, but her daughter was there instead. She was diplomatic and said that her mother has mentioned us to her. We appreciated her kindness, whilst doubting it was actually the case.

That’s where we had afternoon tea and you can see that we are having another sunny day. It is forecast to be about 30 and sunny for the next couple of days. A last burst of summer.


Yesterday we went to see ‘Night of the Iguana’, a Tennessee Williams play. It was very interesting, if not necessarily uplifting. The main characters were actors we have seen in films and British television shows – not that we could see their faces. We had good seats in the back stalls and were high enough to see the stage clearly. It is quite a small theatre, one amongst many in Covent Garden, London.

I took a few photos before the play began, filming is of course forbidden during the show.

In our usual fashion, we left home later in the morning and arrived in the city for lunch, after a bus ride from Victoria Station. The place was in the crypt of St Martin in the Fields, a budget cafeteria style cafe. Apart from the setting, which is very atmospheric, we felt it was the equivalent of the City Place dining room, with slightly better food. We have been there before on a previous trip to London.

After lunch we had time to go into the church before heading off to the afternoon matinee.

The play ran from 2.30 to 5.30 p.m. with an interval. Afterwards we went to see Westminster Cathedral (I mentioned Westminster Cathedral in a previous post, but actually meant the Abbey). This church is actually the Catholic Church, but looks a bit like a mosque. I didn’t take photos inside as no one else was taking photos and I wasn’t sure it was allowed.

In this part of London lampposts, shopfronts and pubs are decorated with flowering hanging baskets.

St Martin in the Fields
Nelson’s Column
The theatre closest to Victoria Station, Victoria Palace, has a ballet dancer on the dome.

Part of Victoria Station

We were home by about 8.30 and it was nearly dark. We’d stopped for a beer, of course when we actually wanted a nice pub, it was difficult to find. A traditional pub was very noisy and we ended up in the open air, but at a place that was quite modern. The ‘happy hour’ tempted us to have a beer each, which left us very floaty in the head as it was far more than we are used to. Stephen made scrambled eggs and I made the toast for a light supper. I went to bed about 9.00, very tired.

Today we are exploring Dulwich – an area of London described as a ‘London Village’. I’ve just discovered a nasty blotch on the sensor of my camera. I don’t know how it got there as I haven’t been changing lenses. I’ll try the blower on it tonight. In the meantime, it’s possible to remove blemishes from photos in Lightroom, so I’ll still use the camera. I noticed the blob first on a photo from this morning, but when I checked it is large enough to see through the viewfinder if I point the camera to the sky. It wasn’t there when we went to Wandsworth Common because I would have noticed it when shooting aircraft in the sky.

The next few days are forecast to be quite warm, possibly up to 30 degrees. Today’s maximum is 25, with a very sunny morning and a bit of cloud about this afternoon.

Wandsworth Common

Feeling that we should get out of the house we went to Wandsworth Common for afternoon tea. We had to catch a train one way, then catch a train back to actually land there. Of course, we visited the Common a few years ago when Stephen wanted to check out the house where he used to live. If you are interested, here is a link to that blog entry.


We had afternoon tea at the same Neros Cafe that we went to before. Stephen remembered that it had newspapers he could read. The paper he wanted wasn’t available, but the girl on the counter said he could read one of the ones on sale, and just pay if he wanted to take it away. In the end, we took it away with us (paying, of course).

Then we enjoyed strolling around the Common, finding we remembered some things well and other things not so well. There is a beautiful cafe down one path and I think we actually went there last time, as well as going to the Neros. We spent a lot longer in the area that time.

We came home feeling refreshed from being in the open air and greenery.

Afternoon tea (1 of 1)

Cafe Nero (1 of 1).jpg
Stephen says he doesn’t remember this row of cafes at the edge of the Common. But, he wasn’t much into cafes at that stage of his life.

Wandsworth Common (1 of 1)

white house (1 of 1).jpg

The Skylark Cafe (1 of 1)
I’ve left the leafy shadows at the side of the sign deliberately as I like them. 
anything for me? (1 of 1).jpg
This swan came in close hoping for some food.

white swan (1 of 1).jpg

viewing platform (1 of 1).jpg

There were lots of little platforms for fishing, but you do need to have a fishing licence.

Mr Whippy (1 of 1).jpg
Only in summer, of course. She was running the engine as a generator, but I think the Mercedes van has a second alternator for that purpose.
Virgin (1 of 1).jpg
We sat on a bench and watched the aircraft flying in for Heathrow. My zoom lens isn’t that long, but the tracking on my camera is very good and by cropping the image we could see the marking clearly and identify some of the airline marking.
bowling green (1 of 1).jpg
The sky was washed out in this image, but using the neutral density filter in Lightoom I was able to bring it back. Of course, I should have used masking on the trees on the right as all detail has disappeared. Next step… We were sitting on a bench her on the edge of the bowling green to watch the planes and have a rest.

On the station at East Croydon Stephen checked with an officer about our train. We ended up having quite a good conversation. We assumed he was British, given that most of the people of colour in our area are, but it turned out he was Nigerian and had only been here for five years. We compared notes on the ease of getting back to our home countries from England, he said he can decide he wants to have dinner back home and be there in 3-4 hours, whereas for us, it is takes such a long time. He and his wife want to travel when they retire. We felt quite a connection and may well see him again when catching trains.

My new lens cap arrived this morning and it felt much better taking the camera out with a lens cap on. The delivery was very prompt, they promise four working days, but it was less than two.

The bed here in the Croydon apartment isn’t all that comfortable. The mattress is a bit saggy. It has a mattress topper where I tuck in the bottom sheet. It usually needs retucking each day. It triggered something for me. The double bed in our motorhome is terribly difficult to make because we have a thick mattress and is in the corner and it’s impossible to really tuck the bottom sheet in properly. Like this one, you have to retuck most mornings. In addition, I’m still having problems with the damaged tendon in my thumb which happened when struggling with the bed making.

What if we got a mattress topper for the bed in the motorhome. Although the bottom sheet might still come untucked, it would be so much easier to retuck it into a thin and light mattress than our big, heavy mattress. The bed is extremely comfortable and we wouldn’t want to get rid of that mattress.

The mattress topper would need to be cut to the odd shape of our bed, but I believe memory foam mattress material can be cut to order. We would just need to measure it very carefully. It might be possible to use safety pins with a mattress topper to keep the sheet tucked in, something that is nearly impossible with our normal mattress because it is so hard to lift up and get access underneath. Anyway, a realtively cheap and simple solution to a problem we’ve had ever since getting the van.