Today was our second full day in Birmingham. We didn’t have a solid plan for the day because things partly depended on how fast Shane was recovering from the vaccination side effects. The answer: Still wabbit, and no free 5G dataplan or superpowers yet. With that in mind, we decided to hang around, but we did want to move the boat a little so as to get some fuel – we hadn’t been moving, but heating needs diesel.
While doing this, we also wanted to turn our boat around for the next leg of our journey. We set off with Clare driving. The first turning spot was occupied by a boat, the driver waved us on so we kept driving toward what was essentially an area where the canal splits then rejoins itself. By looping around, we could end up going back the way we came. It wasn’t exactly a scenic route, unless you like diggers, as we found ourselves circling a large building site. We did spot a Buddhist temple in the distance, which offered a nice splash of colour with its golden roof.
As we were driving, the weather took a turn for the worse and we started getting rained on. I rushed inside to grab gloves and a waterproof coat for Clare, and took the tiller while she put them on. In true comic fashion, the rain had petered out by the time she had got the coat and gloves on. I kept driving for now, and was able to pilot the boat through the rest of the little loop, admittedly getting slightly too close for comfort near boats awkwardly moored on a corner.
Once we were fuelled up we moored again. Shortly after, Paul arrived eager to show us more of Birmingham, but Shane wasn’t up for a walk in the cold, and both he and Shane had existing plans at 2, so we simply had lunch instead. A trip to a local shop netted us some bagels and falafels for lunch, as well as a chance to use a discount coupon!
Once lunch was over, Paul left and Shane was preparing for a video chat, so me and Clare had to make our own plans. I had something in mind already, for the past few days I had felt the call of the Birmingham Sea Life Centre. Like a sailor taken by sirens of myth, I had been called from my boat, lured beyond the safety of my vessel by the alluring call of the denizens of the ocean.
The first creatures we found weren’t fish, but birds! Penguins waddled and swam, and some nice windows positioned so they were partly above water and partly below offered a great view of them whether on land or sea.
Further in we saw fish of many kinds. At the side of one tank was a tiny tunnel, suited in size for children, and marked with a sign requesting one family group go in at a time. While we could have walked around the tank and continued our tour, we weren’t one to disobey a sign and crawled through the tunnel, which gave a unique and close up view of the fish within. A note of confusion was that there were many more types of fish than signs identifying the species, so what some of them were a mystery. Some weren’t however, like the unmistakable (once you read the info board) leopard moray.
Further into the aquarium we didn’t find the octopus, as its ability to camouflage itself and squeeze into tiny spaces allowed it to elude our sight. An otter however did not escape a sea otter in fact, very large and very cute. Unfortunately gone from sight again before I could snap a picture. A particularly entertaining sight was the garden eels, which are thin as pencils and burrow in the sand, popping their heads up to stare at you through the glass.
Not far from the tiny eels were a number of turtles with surprisingly long necks, I always thought of them of a creature of very little neck, but this proved us wrong.
It was at this time that my phone’s batteries died, sadly leaving me unable to share the rest of my trip through photos with the blog. A pity, as there were many more sights worth snapping. We passed by a different window in the otter’s enclosure. We stared in awe and nervousness at the trailing tendrils of jellyfish.
Descending in a lift we encountered the most spectacular part of the tour, an underwater tunnel, with even a section where the floor was transparent and fish swam below, which gave us a spectacular close up view of guitarfish, sharks, and huge sea turtles among others. The whole experience reminded me of the local aquarium back in Edinburgh and filled me with childlike joy.
With that, our trip to the aquarium was over, and we made our way back towards Barty. Shane was still on a call, so Clare took me to the Roundhouse, a horseshoe-shaped building that used to host many horses when they were needed to pull carts. They had interesting exhibits on horses, history, and an exhibition about night shift workers past and present, it was enlightening and shone a spotlight (or streetlight) on an important and overlooked group of people.
All in all our day was educational and very enjoyable. All that was left was to return to Bartimaeus for tea (where Shane was feeling better than earlier and done with his call) and plan our next steps.