Birmingham: It all went Pete Tong (literally)
Well I said I'd blog the whole sorry tale, so here it is....
There is an informal sort of gathering of alternative worship and Emerging Church folks happening this weekend in Birmingham, and I was going. Well actually I went, or at least tried to go. But then the most ridiculous farce of an evening happened and in the end I gave up and drove home, because I knew where York was, and Pete Tong and Dave Pierce's dance anthems were on the radio and the roads were cool and empty, and the drive home was really nice, but I missed the conference. And I'm sure there must be some deep and meaningful pattern behind it all, but just at the moment I can't think what it might be, apart from enjoying Dave Pierce's dance anthems at 70mph passing Sheffield.
It all started because it was Black Friday (which is a combination of having a Friday rush hour and the start of half term rolled into one). I left York at 3.30 so should have got to Birmingham at 6.30 at the latest, met up with the others, shared a Taxi to the Revive service with DJs and food and stuff at Lorraines and had a good evening. Followed by meeting up with the B1 people in their building near the cathedral the next day.
What actually happened was that I left York at 3.30, got caught up in multiple jams on the M1 (which in itself wasn't so bad, I was kind of expecting it), and drove into Birmingham. Then I drove round and round and round and round Birmingham looking for the Travelodge, ringing Malcolm 3 times for further directions as I went. Plus Birmingham drivers are bullies! In a Smart car I don't usually have problems navigating strange towns, as people are nice and let Smarts in, and they are nippy. But these guys were really awful and several times actually pushed me into the wrong lane so I couldn't actually get where I wanted to go. The signage is also pretty crap and doesn't come up nearly soon enough. I ended up going halfway to Kidderminster (or at least it felt like it) passing multiple hotels, none of which were the right one.
Anyway eventually I got to the hotel, by which time everyone had already gone to Lorraine's, and it was 9pm by then, as, once I found the Travelodge it took me another half hour to work out how to get into it negotiating the one-way system and once-again being bullied by drivers who simply would not let me out of a sidestreet. But the car park was full. Now the hotel directions say that alternative secure car-parking is available at the NCP car park 600 yards away. But there *isn't* an NCP car park 600 yards away, it seems to have been taken over by Europarks. I rang the hotel and they didn't bother picking up the phone. So I had to pay for temporary parking just to find out where the car park was (which cost 50p and it was a completely open car-park in were no CCTVs there or anything in a really dodgy looking area). Also there were big wheelclamping and wotnot signs everywhere.
So then I went into reception, got my room key and was told that it was the Europark over the road which was the secure one. So I rang Jonny Baker to check that there was still stuff going on, said I'd park my car and then be on my way by taxi unless he heard otherwise. And then the final straw happened.
I got into the nice shiny Europark, and discovered that they charge more than 5 pounds for 24 hours parking (so the hotel info is wrong! ). Plus, what the hotel did not inform us of, was that the machine only takes coins. No cards, no phone payment, no notes. (I *had* notes!) And even overnight parking costs 3.85 and I only had 3.40 left. (if you do the maths you will then realise that I *would* have had enough money if I hadn't had to pay 50p to park to find out where the car-park was). I tried to get change, but of course, everyone else is in the same position. They all needed it too.
I rang the helpline and the guy on the other end was very helpful in tone, he thought there might be a mobile phone-code I could use to pay, but after looking in his books and at his maps there wasn't one! He did suggest putting a note on my windscreen but if the traffic patrollers are anything like the ones in York I wasn't going to risk that. So then I was directed to the local cinema to get change. There were cash machines around (which of course only give notes). There were also bars around (where you can buy drinks and get change). There were also some friendly traffic wardens, who suggested I try the other Euro car park as they were sure that that one took notes. I went and had a look, but it didn't. But then there were also adults old-enough-to-know-better throwing fireworks! (yep at each other and the rest of the street!)
At that point, I thought "That's it. I'm going home." People complain about the Middle-East but it was safer in Ramallah than that bit of Birmingham and I didn't want to get my leg blown off by a stray rocket!
Now in retrospect I know that I *could* have just parked in the open car-park (but my car is new and shiny and undeserving of firework-attack), I *could* have just driven to Lorrianes (but you have to remember that my navigation skills aren't brilliant and I really didn't want to go through that getting-lost-round-Birmingham thing again for another hour and a half) or I *could* have done what the car park man suggested and put a note on my windscreen, but you have to remember that the way things were going I wasn't exactly having a good-day. I bet I'd have got the 100 pound penalty! Plus I'd have had to get up early in the morning to sort out the parking mess and I don't like mornings!
I think sometimes you just instinctively know that by the time the twentieth door has shut in your face, its time to give up.
So I drove home at 10 ish (I *know* where home is) and got back at 12.30 having made a reasonable-attempt at conference-going.
I'm not sure what lessons I might have learnt by this.
Go by train? (I should probably have gone by train, but thought that the Travelodge might not be near the station, they are usually set out of towns)
Get Sat Nav? (or maybe borrow one. I don't go anywhere often enough to buy one)
Just don't go anywhere you'll only get lost?