Posted by: Natalie | August 13, 2010

Culturally Lazy

First a quick apology. My head is exceptionally groggy today and the writing muse is conspicuous by its absence! Words feel a little stuck in my head, so this post may jolt a little.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you may have picked up on the wide and varied things I am interested in. Books, obviously I think is a given as that’s what I spend most of my time obsessing over! But I also love history, art, crafty bits, cooking and all things foody. Anything that I can learn from, that can broaden my understanding of the world and my life within it, to me is fascinating.

Lancaster Castle

But, I am lazy. It is a curse that I have to try and break. I don’t appreciate the places on my doorstep, places that if on holiday I would add to the list of must-do-activities. For example, I lived in Lancaster for five years and not once took the tour of the castle! Despicable and unforgivable. Particularly as this wondrous building was on my walking route home for a good couple of years! I actually had to walk past the gate! Of course I have been across the grounds and attended the brilliant fireworks displays on November 5th, but I never went in! I never got to know all the gory detail about the last days of the Pendle Witches, or understand the true role as the seat of the King’s Duchy. Shame. Shame on me.

But I cannot, surely, be the only one who fails to enjoy the riches of the town in which they live? Please tell me so!

I have lived in Birmingham now nearing five years and I fear I am falling into the same complacent trap. Lots of people are negative about the second city, indeed I had never been here myself until applying (and accepting) my teaching role. But it is so full of jewels. Some of the architecture (particularly the old) is stunning and for entertainment, you could not ask for better. The month long Christmas market and the food fairs are incredible and satisfy the culinary desires in me beyond expectations. But what of my cultural soul? What of my eagerness to know more? Why constantly keep the nose in the book when there are so many pearls to be seen?

This morning I was going to head into town and admire the Rag Market (so much fun) in order to get my crafting head back in place (I hate to tell you this, but anyone planning on making Christmas presents might need to start thinking already!) but as the rain hammers against the window a sense of soggy dread has settled! Instead, I am going to construct a plan of action! I am going to provide you all with a list of things I will see and accomplish!

Until the 17th October, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is home to the Steve McCurry Exhibition, Retrospective. I am sure you all recognise this image of his, of the 1980’s Afghan girl, taken at the time of the Soviet invasion. I believe it has been the subject of more than one National Geographic magazine in its time and is startling magnificent. In fact, throughout my reading of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, this was the image that sculpted my characters further.

This event is apparently the sole UK exhibit of the American photo-journalist’s work. I cannot miss it, I should not. Granted I am not up to date with his photo catalogue but this is an opportunity I would loathe to miss. And I have no excuse to! Most of the exhibits at Birmingham Gallery are free! And those they do charge for hardly break the bank. It would probably be wise, while I’m in there to actually visit the Staffordshire Hoard too! This exhibition runs until 31st December. I might even treat myself this weekend.

Other things more or less in Birmingham’s centre that I need to visit include the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. I wonder at art galleries – I used to love going to the big London galleries as an A’Level art student and our house is full of contemporary pieces (granted, they belong to Steve, but I can pretend they’re mine!). I even actively aim for the art questions in Trivial Pursuit. Yet I have still not been to the Barber Institute. This is made even more embarrassing by the fact it is situated on Birmingham University Campus, where Steve works!

Then there are  . . .

The Botanical Gardens (Click Me)

Aston Hall (Click Me)

But, reaching slightly further a field, I would also like to visit . . .

Kenilworth Castle (Click Me)

Lichfield City (Click Me)

Boscobel House and the Royal Oak (Click Me)

Charlecote Park (Click Me)

Baddesley Clinton (Click Me)

Stratford-Upon-Avon (Click Me)

So, as you can see, I am shockingly uncultured when it comes to my Midland life. There are so many things to see and do, and this is just the tip of my own personal iceberg. This life will not become another Lancaster Castle, I refuse to let all these historical beauties slip through my fingers – I don’t believe I will live in the Midlands forever and I certainly don’t want to miss the chance of having them so close.

Please, feel free to add any gems you think I have missed! Or drop me a note if you want to come too!!



  1. WOW! You are surrounded by such awesome history! I am so jealous 😀 We have nothing like that in Oz 🙂

    • But this is what makes me so shockingly awful!! I love the fact that the UK is dripping with the stuff, but I never take the chance to see what is directly around me!

      Thanks for reading Merrilee, and I will let you know when I eventually visit these places!

      Natalie x

      • That would be brilliant! I’d love to hear what you think and maybe see some photos 🙂

        We have a Kenilworth over here, not a castle, just a little town with a cheese factory. Nowhere near as impressive 😉

      • But a CHEESE factory! Can’t go wrong with a bit of cheese!

        Nat x

  2. I would definetly go and see these places 🙂
    God,i wish i lived in England 🙂

    • Hi Christina,

      We are exceptionally lucky to have so much of our history still standing. If you ever get to the UK, go to Bath to visit the Roman Baths and take one of the free walking tours (amongst other things) – absolutely wonderful! A brilliant mix of eras, Roman, Medieval, Georgian and of course Victorian – an English social history crash course in one place!!

      Natalie x

  3. Natalie, you should not feel so bad because you know so little of your surrounds. I’m afraid that I, too, have the same laziness or procrastination for visiting the sights around the place I call home!

    A suggestion – become a tourist in your town… You’ll be amazed at how much fun you can have by merely looking at things with a tourist’s enthusiasm and excitement! Take a camera with you, buy postcards and send them to yourself! Oh, to live near one castle would be an adventure, but you are fortunate to have so many beautiful places, wrougjt with histories and tales…. ah, I envy you!

    Reading this, made me realize how little I know about my surroundings. I moved here (north-western New Jersey, US) a little over one year ago… you’ve inspired me to learn more by going to the many museums and historic places.

    In the meantime, keep writing about those things that inspire you or have sparked an interest in knowing more — there’s nothing wrong with that!

    • Hi Denise,

      You’ve made me feel so much better! I think because there is so much history in the UK, most of us take is completely for granted. To me, walking home after lectures through the grounds of a medieval castle seemed – ordinary! Its only now that I am in a real city (Lancaster is so tiny for a city) that I realise just what I wasted.

      I love your idea so much, and I am going to take your advice! I might even try building contacts abroad I could post cards to – an added incentive!!

      Hope you are well today,

      Natalie x

  4. I’m the same way. I saw the Seattle Aquarium only just a couple of weeks ago after spending nearly two years practically on its doorstep. I haven’t set foot on the beach when the beach is less than thirty miles away. It’s sad how complacent we are.

    • I have less of an excuse – you can fit the UK in America’s back pocket! The statistic goes that nowhere in England is more than 3 hours away from Birmingham (Scotland and Wales a little further) and yet I fail to take a ten minute train into the city! But I will do something worthwhile today!!

      Have a lovely weekend!

      Natalie x

  5. […] of my house. This last week, not only have I managed to ‘tick off’ two items from the Culturally Lazy list (post to come), but I even socialised with other human beings! In person! Rather an old photo, […]

  6. We were discussing Boscabel House yesterday – we MUST organise a trip. I can’t believe neither you nor Dapper have been there yet! And we’ll book in Lichfield too. xxx

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