Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Postcard from a writer's room 2

That table is incredible. On it, some of the most well loved works of fiction in the English language came to life. Look how tiny and unassuming it is. No room for laptop, notes, reference books or any of the other paraphernalia I pile up when writing. Even if I'm just scribbling in a notebook, I tend to take up plenty of space. But that table was all Jane Austen had. In a corner of the dining room in the house she shared with her sister, mother and a cousin.

The house is completely charming. Jane Austen did not live in luxury, but her brother made sure she was comfortable there and the cramped and shared conditions didn't seem to harm her writing. My other favourite item on show was a woven silk shawl which belonged to Jane. I can just picture her bent over the table, scribbling out the novels, shawl tucked around her shoulders. And ears always alert to the squeaking hinges of the door, warning her that someone was coming and the page she was writing should be hidden. No password protected documents in those days!

I guess not that much has changed about the writing process. It's still ideas moving from brain to page. I envy the simplicity of Jane's method though. Oh, and her genius of course…

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Postcard from the towpath

Call me lazy, but sometimes I don't want going for a walk to be a challenge. So a walk along a stretch of canal not overly troubled by locks was a great way to spend the afternoon. Fradley Junction marks the point where the Trent and Mersey Canal joins the Coventry Canal; I guess that means it's been the perfect place for a pub for a while now!

Holidaymakers and boat dwellers were out in force along both canals – taking in the scenery at just above walking pace. It was a bit noiser along the towpaths of Gas Street Basin later that night though. Gas Street Basin, at the junction between the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and the Birmingham Canal Main Line, is also a popular watering hole. They were spilling out of the bars at the Mailbox, although I guess fewer of the patrons had arrived by boat.
I have to admit that I didn't walk the entire distance between these canal junctions, and sadly didn't travel by boat either. But I did take refreshments at both, perhaps what canal junctions have always been best for.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Postcard from the curry house

Is it a bad thing when the staff recognise you as soon you walk into a restaurant? Well, I've been eating at the Kababish in Moseley for about fourteen years now (no, not every day!) and, as it's been owned by the same family for that time, I guess we've got used to each other's faces. There can only be one reason to return so often: the food is excellent. There is nothing wrong with the current spice-coloured d├ęcor (although I have fond memories of the old Parisian street scene mural), and the location is pretty handy. But it's the quality of the food that makes this a favourite (although I also miss the days when pick-and-mix balti was on the menu, things are a little classier now).

That's the Lamb Borti Bhuna on my plate – extremely tasty it was too. Across the table are the Lamb Pinnee, a side order of Brinjle Milaana, rotis and rice. Cobra to drink, obviously. I never intended the postcards blog to become the place for restaurant reviews but such a lovely meal deserved some kind of thank you. Apologies for the poor quality of the photograph, I was keen to get on with my dinner!

Of course, in the time I've lived in Birmingham I've been to many other good curry houses so, to spread the recommendations out a bit, other places I'd promote are Sylhet Spice in Kings Heath and Al Faisal's on Stoney Lane. I'm not a fan of Indian sweets, but the selection box I bought from Milan's Sweet Centre on Stoney Lane recently were demolished rather rapidly by those who know good from bad. All are independently owned, long established businesses with no city centre pricing. And all get busy, so make a reservation first.