A story of ice

Nicklin, Phyllis (1967) Tame Valley, Perry Barr Midland Counties Dairy Ltd.

The car didn’t slow down as it mounted the pavement outside the dairy, wobbling as if stepping onto the kerb without knees. It didn’t slow down as it started to envelope the lamppost, bending it slowly over as it did so. Then it did, it stopped. It was lucky for the driver that he hadn’t been going that quickly in the first place. His seatbelt held him, but at the price of a cracked collarbone and an arc of a bruise around his right eye.

It was a crisp night, around midnight, and the sparkle of the tarmac on the Aldridge Road had begun. The bus driver (a 113, returning to depot) that saw the impact assumed that the car had hit a patch of ice. He told the car driver as much when he sat him down on the empty bus, watching him shake and offering him a cigarette for his nerves. The car driver didn’t smoke, but he took one anyway. He shuddered, fag in mouth then hand, and decided that the ice was a good story, it became his story.

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The Monaco of the Midlands – an exclusive extract of the Superprix novel

Tim Cornbill’s update of Jim Lamb’s original photo… Nicked from here.

Monaco of the Midlands is a novel by Alex Dennistoun, which I really enjoyed reading. It’s set in modern Birmingham but is most interested in a time about 30 years ago — much like this site. I’d be trying to pay it a massive compliment if I said it reminded me of novelisations of TV programmes from the ’70s like The Sweeney, it’s honest, straight, and gritty, it’ll go down well.  Someone should be looking to make that slightly retro Netflix series out of this. Anyway, here’s an exclusive extract: go see what you think.

Recently released from prison, Tony Walker spends his days pretending to be Polish to get cash-in-hand work at the local car wash. All the while he’s carrying ten grand’s worth of £20 notes in an old jiffy bag.

The money belongs to him, but he can’t spend it. He needs it to realise his dream of re-staging the Birmingham Superprix, a street motor race held around the streets of England’s second city for five consecutive years between 1986 and 1990.

Can they endure the help of a drunken ex-racing driver, an over-zealous investor, and an unwelcome face from their past, as they set about attempting to triumph against the odds and reignite Birmingham’s racing future?

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Central League

I’ve never heard anyone scream when they’re really hurt. I don’t know why that is: maybe shock, maybe adrenaline, maybe you’re just that bit busy thinking about the consequences. I didn’t scream, but I groaned with the sheer inevitability. The explosion seemed centred just below my right knee. The pain both quick and flowing, flowing up and around, and then I hit the ground and one, two, three lesser pains of impact made me lose track of the first.

I knew it was coming. I wasn’t fit, I wasn’t concentrating. I hadn’t wanted to play.

I’ve not wanted to play much in the last year or so. As much as I love football, I love it as a game you can win. You can’t win as a reserve, all you can win is a chance in the firsts and that wasn’t happening for me. There’s really no point in turning out in the Central League. No skill, no one’s trying. There’s no single way it improves your game or your chances of playing in the first team. Bad pitches faced by empty stands. Twenty two men who are — basically — not good enough for some average football teams, pervaded by an atmosphere of death. Death because the ground smells of death when it’s empty, rotting everywhere. Death because the only people who can find time to sit watching this pantomime for two hours on a weekday afternoon are the retired and the lame.


The pain of whatever I’ve done to my knee, my leg, was, is more burning than anything else. I can’t move it, much.
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Pub Timelord

I don’t have a problem. Or rather, I don’t have the problem you think I have.

I’m not drunk. I’m unstuck in time.

I slipped into the Rose Villa for a swift half. The gathering night battled with the street lamps and swooshing, the tyres scratched and the dull hum of a bus cream and blued it’s way through a puddle.

There was light behind the door, through the mottled glass. ELO playing on the jukebox. But first I needed a slash. “Ahh, that’s better,” I said to myself.

The bar looked the same, but different somehow. I didn’t recognise anyone, but I guessed I must be early. Or late. Nearly Christmas and everyone’s routines get shot to pieces.

But I couldn’t get my bearings. I searched the taps for anything I knew. No Brew, no M&B, no Ansells, no Black Label.

So I ordered pop, reasoning that it might wake me up. Half a coke. Through the heavy air I watched furry post-mixed cola, spluttering and coughing from the hose. But when the glass reached me, it was empty except ice and rough cut lemon. Placed next to it on a napkin — unsuited to the job of beermat — was a bottle. Clean, cold, open. But with a Victorian label. It tasted sweet, but so cold, so watery with the ice that there was nothing there.

A bitter. It’s Friday, I’ve been paid so I handed a fresh note over and pocketed the change without looking. The glass was tall, too straight. No handle. The beer not right.

Still no-one here. No-one I know. Everything has changed. Get me another, I’ll wake up then.

Premillennial Tension: revisiting Birmingham in 1999

It’s 1999, Birmingham, the end of the millennium and Jim Vale, aka Jimmy Tyrant, singer of one hit wonders The Tyrants, has lost everything he once loved. Like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and many rockers before him, Jim tries to end it all by committing suicide at the age of twenty seven. Trouble is… he survives.  To clear his debts the band’s manager suggests Jim fake his own death – just for a while – so they can raise The Tyrants’ profile and sell some records.

But as the press and the fans wonder more and more about the disappearance of the mysterious  Jimmy Tyrant, Jim gets drawn deeper into Birmingham’s gangland and  further  away from his ex-girlfriend, his troubled family and music. Making music and making music while traveling is something that can be eye-opening and make one feel better.

Karaoke-singing gangsters, reclusive teenage internet millionaires, sex, drugs and rock and roll all collide as Jim tries to understand the person he has become, to come to terms with his tumultuous past and somehow make it beyond the age of twenty seven.

27” is a book about one man’s search for love, music and his true self.

In this extract Jim has come back to a city in flux. Birmingham is leaving its industrial past to flat line. It is a city that’s centre has been ripped open and torn apart for the rebuilding of the Bull Ring Shopping Centre. Fin de siècle Birmingham was the ideal setting for a story of upheaval, confusion, fear and change.

Oh, and according to Nostradamus, it will soon to be the end of the world. And the millennium bug is going to help it along. Remember the millennium bug? The music industry was also mutating; the first Pop Idol TV show has been aired in New Zealand and is winging its way like a hungry Pterodactyl to our shores.

We join Jim after he has secured a bolthole in the city centre to hide from the not so bothered press. Now he needs to secure his future with a solo album and find the girl he left behind for a life on the road…
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In this new story by Alex Wyatt, a man and woman get more than they bargained for on a night out in the second city.

Victoria Square at Night



Darkshining outside and everywhere.


Dark through windows, alleyways and doors. Arm-in-arm, couples stroll steambreathed down Bennett’s Hill’s rainsmoothed cobbles. On Saturday, the day when the word is given. Some head home into light, into electric arms. Away from the grip of the dark.




Some hold firm in the clench.


The Lost and Found.


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