I walked out of New Street Station and into a time warp. I was in the heart of Britain's second city, a city where I worked for two years as a management trainee in a large department store.
Three things immediately struck me.
Look at this picture and the one below then answer these questions.
1. Where is the litter ?
2. Where is the graffiti ?
3. Where is the traffic ?
This was not the Birmingham I knew. Several people had said to me I would find it different. Yes it was different, it was better. Unbelievably better.
From leaving school in the summer of 1967 until August 1969 I worked as a management trainee in Lewis's Department Store in Bull Street.
Last year I wrote down my teenage memories into an autobiography and published it as an e-book on Amazon. This is the book on the left and this is the department store in the picture below on the right.
Tuesday for me was a walk down memory lane.
The department store went bust decades ago but the building is still there.
Significantly modernised but I was able to pick out the very window on the third floor where I worked in the soft furnishing department.
I have been promising myself this visit to Old Brum for years and yesterday I finally achieved my ambition. I liked what I saw, it was not at all what I expected. I thought I would find a scruffy, run-down city centre but NO far from it this was a clean, vibrant lovely place.
But Memory Lane was not the reason I have travelled North, I was there to visit Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham.
I had carefully prepared a map of the location. I wish I had not bothered. If I had followed my memories of the city I would have gone straight there instead of getting lost.
Stopping someone and asking for directions I asked where Birmingham Childrens' Hospital was. Ronald McDonald House has sixty-six rooms accommodating families from all over the country who have a child sick in this hospital.
Ronald McDonald House is a HOME FROM HOME taking care of families whose child has been sent to a hospital where specialist treatment is needed, a hospital some distance from where they live. That hospital is Birmingham Childrens' Hospital
Just watching the Mums and Dads going in and out of the main entrance I could not but be impressed with this hospital.
But where was Ronald McDonald House ?
The man at the reception desk in the hospital gave me precise directions and within minutes I was there. Ronald McDonald House Birmingham - The House That Love Built.
There it was, adjacent to Birmingham's Queensway. Every night the 'bus home from where I worked at Lewis's went down that road. I took this photograph from a window in the house.
EXCUSE ME - where is the traffic ? Where is the litter ? Where is the graffiti ?
Let me digress and tell you a story not many people in twenty-first century Brum know.
Just off to the left of the picture is an underpass. The Queen came to open and name this underpass.
I name this road Queensway.
AH ! Your Majesty, it was the tunnel we wanted to call Queensway, not the entire road ! The deed was done the monarch had spoken, the entire length of road was then called Queensway and has been called so ever since.
I knew I would fall in love with Ronald McDonald House Birmingham the moment I was there. The telephone conversation I had with Bethany was fun. The e-mail I received from House Manager Libby was so lovely. Before I met them I knew these were people after my own heart.
That's the way to care for families. Cuddle them, metaphorically, but don't wrap them in sympathy - LIFT THEM UP. Have fun, be a bit silly, smile and make others smile.
Where have you heard that before ?
As I was shown round the house I could feel this spirit coming out of the walls.
This is the laundry room. Probably the most boring place you could imagine, but this was not boring. Look at the painting on the wall. Isn't that fun ?
Bethany told me how the grandmother of a child in the hospital had based herself in the laundry and taken charge of the washing and ironing for all the families.
Isn't that wall painting just fun ? I wouldn't mind that on the wall of the utility room in my own home.
Here's another painting which was just as much fun but has a sad story behind it.
It was produced by a family whose child had not survived treatment in Birmingham's Children's Hospital. It was given to the house in memory of the child and tosay THANK YOU. Isn't it lovely
Isn't that The Wave Of Love on the wall ?
The world's largest jigsaw puzzle.
My photographic skills do not do justice to this amazing image. It is made up of tiny puzzle pieces. I have tried to estimate how many there are. It must run into hundreds of thousands, everyone a piece of love.
No, my photograph does not do justice to this amazing jigsaw puzzle nor do my words. It is incredible ! Absolutely and utterly incredible !
I took with me some gifts from OurRebekah to families in the house. I took sixty-six cardsfriends had kindly signed for families and I took the scarf, programme and match-day ticket from my visit to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. Sponsoring goals at Saturday's match generated £40 for Ronald McDonald House Birmingham.
YOU CAN HELP RONALD McDONALD HOUSE IN BIRMINGHAM BY SPONSORING THE GOALS SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY SCORE - JUST CLICK THIS TEXT AND CHECK OUT OUREBEKAH'S SPECIAL FOOTBALL PROJECT.
I had an e-mail from Club Director Trevor waiting for me in my inbox when I got home from Birmingham. He said an anecdote I had shared about that song had made him laugh.
Trevor, I have managed to buy from e-bay an original 7" single of this song. We will be doing something special with this so make sure the boys score LOTS of goals !
The next Sheffield Wednesday game is on Saturday AWAY to Cardiff. Will you CHEER ON THE TEAM and support Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham ?
I shared with friends at Ronald McDonald House Birmingham three ideas I have for OurRebekah to support the work they do. As soon as they give my ideas their blessing we will kick off - pardon the pun - and start work.
Thank You Ronald McDonald House Birmingham for a lovely day and THANK YOU Birmingham City Centre for such a special welcome as I wandered down memory lane.
This morning I have a meeting with the diary secretary of a government minister who wants to help OurRebekah and pass over some contacts. Then I am going to see Ro, the manager of Wrigglies Exotic Pets which is hosting our frog challenge. Then I will come back to the laptop and sort out the busted link - I am not going to tell you where it is ! Update the Sheffield Wednesday pages and rewrite The Bridge House project.
Yesterday 95 people read the blog, numbers down a bit. I wonder how many will check today's entry.
SPEAK AGAIN TOMORROW.