- Ruby Thursday? -
First off we have Thursday 14th September and a brief but productive morning of central Birmingham bear photography. Stephen and I begin at Church Street Square where we find Bearjing (in the style of a Chinese dragon) and Hettie the Heritage Bear (depicting industries such as chainmaking and glassblowing). Heading over towards Arena Birmingham and the Sea Life Centre, we're pleased to find Ruby the red panda mascot for the IAAF 2018 World Indoor Athletics Championships.
- Mr B meets Bearmingham -
Brindley Place is certainly a sleuth stronghold as a succession of sculptures greet us among the prestigious banking buildings. Oozells Square offers Enlightment and The Ink Detective whereas Central Square is the base for Bear'indleyplace and Bearlock, the latter a definite favourite that pays tribute to Sherlock Holmes complete with deerstalker, tweed and magnifying glass! There's just time for a Bull Ring briefing with Bearmingham - the heraldic example that guards St Martin's Church -and a Selfridges shuffle to meet Brummie Bear by the department store's reception desk.
- The White Rabbit nears completion -
The combined necessities of work (for me) and cricket (for Stephen) put paid to any further Thursday sleuthing but I can resume the quest on Friday 15th September in the company of Mr D9. A 10:45 West Bromwich rendezvous gives me leeway for some solo stuff beforehand whereby I call in at Bilston to see how the White Rabbit is progressing. This new-build Marston's carvery pub is due to open in October so it looks like the hard hat army and cherry-picker cranes are just applying the finishing touches.
- Picnic Time for Teddy Bears -
I've mentioned before that the Big Sleuth bears aren't necessarily confined to Birmingham so a couple of their contingent have been let loose in the wilds of West Bromwich. Taking the tram up from Loxdale gets me into position for Bearolution (stripey waistcoat and a 'Success' love heart by the Farley memorial fountain) and Picnic Time for Teddy Bears (lurking outside the notorious former Public building, now the Sandwell Central Sixth college).
- Mr D9 gets a Bearhug -
With the Chairman nimbly dodging any cob-related forfeits, the Hub Marketing Board agenda can commence via a Midland Metro ride to Grand Central. New Street Station is the setting for a Bearhug, a sculpture with an in-built seat although I'm not sure the cavity was quite designed for people of our age or girth. D9 just about manages to extract himself in order to catch the 11:39 stopper train to Birmingham International.
- The Secretary risks a Soggy Bottom -
The NEC complex now stretches out before us, albeit minus the travelators that were always a novelty feature when visiting exhibitions past. Beyond the main halls we reach the realms of Resorts World, a rather exclusive shopping and entertainments emporium that looks like somewhere you could spend a lot of money very quickly. Bears rather than buys are our concern though, and to that end we quickly locate Richard the Virgin Trains Bear (with an uncanny resemblance to a certain Mr Branson), Citizen Khan Bear (inspired by Adil Ray's hit BBC comedy series) and Mary Beary (cupcakes, cardigan but thankfully no soggy bottoms).
- Birmingham International Bike Hub -
Aside from the animal art, we still need to attend to general marketing matters hence a photocall at the Bike Hub is a must. The Chairman completes his modelling duties here with aplomb and we 'reward' ourselves with a drink in Wetherspoons where the £4.55 Carling is definitely a spreadsheet buster! We recover from our expensive outlay by trading silly songs courtesy of Russ Abbot's 'The Plumbers Song' and Bruce Forsyth's 'I'm in Charge'.
- Solihull Steering on the S1 -
Hopping aboard the X12 towards Solihull, the next stage of our plan should have involved adding to our flat roof pub collection. Alas the Acres on Rowood Drive is undergoing renovation whereby part of the building is now a gents barbers and the remainder will reopen as the Damson Bar too late for our visit. A further X12 short hop brings us instead to the Greville Arms which as a Sizzling roadhouse is not as droolworthy as the Acres would have been. Nonetheless the Greville will do for some darting action, WME Whirlwind edging a tight encounter by 4 legs to D9 Destroyer's 3. The Central Buses S1 service is then on hand for the requisite expert driving demonstration.
- I Just Want To Be Your Teddy Bear -
On with the sleuth strategy and Solihull steals the limelight thanks to Grandpa Bear (bifocal spectacles, checked shirt and a chunky camera) and Flower Bear (bringing to mind a summertime meadow). A tour of the Touchwood Centre produces a hub in a lift followed by a memorable meeting at Theatre Square with an Elvis exemplar, clearly channeling the 1970s version of 'The King' by referencing Mr Presley's trademark white jumpsuit of that era.
- Beer in the Bear -
With pit stops in O'Neill's and then Shirley's Plume of Feathers, we make use of the number 6 bus to do battle with the Friday afternoon congestion along the A34 Stratford Road. One pub we simply must visit (especially given the overarching theme of the day) is the Bear at Sparkhill, a 1930s corner local with a distinct Irish influence. The Carling here comes with a frothy peak and goes well with some early evening quizzy entertainment from The Chase. We follow that with a Digbeth detour so as to admire the original bar balustrade and Minton tiling on show in the White Swan, armed with some Boondoggle but of course!
- A Bhangra Bear Bald Spot -
Continuing into central Birmingham, the Chairman's bald spot becomes well acquainted with Bhangra Bear on High Street and there is a brief get-together with some of D9's work colleagues in the Briar Rose (nice to meet you Dave and friends). Last but not least comes a Metro dash to the Rock & Roll Brewhouse, a lively Jewellery Quarter establishment where music is very much to the fore - a selected album playlist is displayed as we enter while the ales have flowerhead pumpclips and names like Brew Springsteen. Our visit is only a flying one and we definitely intend to return, but our Big Sleuth climax is nigh and the honour of being our final find goes to Mummy Bear in head-to-toe bandages outside Jewellery Quarter railway station. Cheers - and Bye Bye Bears!