My main worry about taking part in 11-11-11 was that I was going to get really bored. So I had packed two magazines, Jon‘s DS with my fave game Zookeeper and a pack of cards. I needn’t have worried though as the day flew by and none of the aforementioned distractions left my bag.
I had taken my battered old fold-out A to Z map with me so that I could get my bearings. It was my intention to trace the route with a marker pen and make notes on it as I went along, but it was a bit unwieldy for the space I had available and the ride was a bit bumpy for drawing!
So I resorted to tweeting my observations on my iPhone. In hindsight, this may have been a mistake. It took me quite a while to compose each tweet (possibly because I am still getting used to the touchscreen keyboard) and I kept missing things that were going on outside while I was looking at my phone! Also, it wasn’t until the second circuit that I realised that I should quickly take some photos before it started to get dark.
I think the ideal way of recording my thoughts would have been little snippets of audio/video, then I could have kept my eyes on what was going on at the same time.
I originally planned to observe the people (both inside and outside the bus). One idea was to do a survey of what music people were listening to, another was fashion commentary. I had thought that that was one way to keep me entertained, but actually I found that there was so much going on outside the bus that I didn’t have time to do that.
One of the reasons that the time passed quickly for me was that Jon and I had various people join us for parts of the day. To start with, we were accompanied by the BBC Midlands Today crew, Peter Plisner and his camerawoman. Then TWM Driver joined us with his family for a circuit; Jon’s mum and dad joined us for a bit and Michael Grimes aka Citizen Sheep caught up with us during our first circuit celebratory cake break at the Kitchen Garden Cafe in King’s Heath. Artist Alicja Rogalska, who has an interest in art and public transport (go do her survey) joined us for our second circuit. CyBrum boarded our bus totally by chance as he had previously been travelling alone. Then later on we caught up with Simon Gray aka star_one and his lovely wife Bettina. Having lots of companion passengers made for a really enjoyable day.
I’m not originally from Birmingham (and neither were half of my fellow travelling companions) so was fascinated by the trivia snippets that Jon and TWM driver were able to offer us as we went along. I’m sure that the experience for me was completely different to that of someone who had grown up here and had lots of childhood memories. I was able to look at the city with relatively objective eyes, although there were parts of the route that I was more familiar with than others. I have lived in Acock’s Green and used to drive down a good part of the route (King’s Heath/Stirchley/Bournville/Harbourne) when I worked in Halesowen and another section (Acock’s Green/Yardley/Stechford) when I worked in Sutton Coldfield. For me the day really helped to join up the gaps in my knowledge of the geography of the city.
There was so much to look at, that you could almost pick a different ‘theme’ to document on each circuit, such as architecture, shops, housing, parks/green spaces, roads (signs/markings/road furniture), grafitti/tagging etc etc. I suppose I ended up tweeting a bit of everything. When taking photos, it was impossible to take them while the bus was moving, so I was limited to when the bus was stopped at bus stops/juncions/traffic. I’m actually quite tempted to drive a circuit of the route, so that I could stop and take a photo or make a note of everything that I find interesting, in my own time.