Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Every other summer, the annual Medieval/Renaissance Music Conference takes place somewhere in England. It was fantastically convenient that this summer was one of them, so I took a week off from my work at the BL in London and headed up to Birmingham, the second-largest city in England. As with the Cambridge trip, husband came along just for the first day, which was really convenient as he helped carry my suitcase from the train station to the very small and hard-to-find hotel.

A word about British hotels: they're nothing like American hotels. Many of them are former houses that have been turned into bed-and-breakfast-style hotels. This unfortunately means the rooms are more like dormitories, with terrible mattresses and bathrooms shared by the whole floor. This one was neat in that it had a sink right in the room - useful for brushing one's teeth! - but I shouldn't have expected it to provide a hair dryer or bar of soap like an American hotel. So after checking in, husband and I set off to buy these items. It was harder than we thought; we stopped at four shops (two pharmacies, an electronics store, and a home-improvement store) before finally finding a small folding travel hairdryer at a grocery store.

Husband has long had a fellow youth minister friend who has been working all over Europe. Since she's currently working just outside Birmingham, we couldn't lose the opportunity to share dinner with her. Husband was delighted to catch up with an old friend, and I was happy to meet a woman about whom I'd heard so much. We saw just a bit of downtown Birmingham on the way to the pub, called the Old Joint Stock, which has a theater inside it and serves great burgers. We very nearly got to tour Birmingham Cathedral, but arrived just as Evening Prayer was ending and the cathedral was closing.

After husband left that evening, I settled in for four days of intense musicology!


  1. Oh - you were in our city! Not all hotels are like that, but quite a few bed and breakfasts are, and there is no rule about what calls itself a hotel and what calls itself a B&B. I always ask for an en suite room if I'm staying in the UK though and can always find one. I hope you enjoyed our lovely city!

    1. Oh, I wish I'd known! Not that I had a lot of time for non-conference things, but it would have been so nice to meet you over a cup of coffee or tea. I didn't see much of Birmingham, but I liked it very much. The university is quite lovely.

    2. Ah well, it's nice to know people are in and enjoying our city, and the campus is indeed lovely: I studied there and worked there twice, including in the Barber Institute!