"Things..."

FIND YOUR INNER CHILD

Would the nine-year-old you be furious if they knew how little time you now spend in treehouses? It can make one a little wistful if one ponders it for too long. How the things that make us happy change as we get older. Do us a quick favour? Watch this 20 second video with the sound up. It's a tiny glimpse of The Wonderful World of Rowland Emett, the delightful new exhibition at Birmingham Museum. 
Rowland was a sparklingly eccentric English inventor who, among many things, made fantastical mechanical contraptions between 1940 and 1980, which included the Maud Lunacycle - a bike built for cycling across the moon piloted by the skilled astronaut above. Snazzy, huh?
Many of his entrancing contrivances - which will truly inspire the child within you - appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, like this, the Hush-A-Bye Hot-Air Rocking Chair. "For some time," said Emett of his invention, "there has been a growing concern at the great waste of energy that must be experienced by users of rocking chairs. This neat, unobtrusive fitment, which can be applied to any chair, has been expressly designed to obviate this." Unobtrusive! 
The Little Dragon Carpet Cleaner, also from Chitty was "the machine no home of 1910 should have been without." Apparently "it crouches upon its four rubber-tyred wheels, with wings flapping, and its two brass pumps more or less co-ordinated with the kitchen-spoon induction-fan. It may then be deployed up and down the carpet with its head (a rather handsome chimney cowl) snuffling from side-to-side in search of dust. The electric eyes which greatly help in this search are equipped with a pair of magnifying spectacles." So they are...
But the above is, perhaps, the pièce de résistance. The Featherstone Kite was once used by British Airways (in the real world) as the interior decoration of their Tristar Fleet. Rowland said of it: "The machine is constructed of cane windbreaks from little-known French vineyards and the wings are supported upon willowy saplings; all major control surfaces are covered with wild silk, suitably tamed. Power is provided by a Wandering Hot-Air Brazier and a swarm of underslung silver butterflies provide a trivial lift to the nose section. There is a full-time Auto-Pilot FRED (Freehand Remembering Empirical Doodling system) and the co-pilot Rover in a combined pet-pod and windsock. The rudder provides a first class dickey-seat for Cirro Cumulus II, the pilot's personal pleasure cat." 

These days such mechanical contraptions are called automatons, but rather wonderfully Rowland simply referred to them his "things". Go see them. Then maybe go home and build a treehouse.

Marvellous Machines: The Wonderful World of Rowland Emett, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, on now until Sept 21; Adults £5, kids £3.

BOOK NOW: PAN-ASIAN SOUL FOOD

Perhaps Birmingham's most exciting cooking collective, Clarke and Lee, are set to move into their new HQ and bakery, Peel & Stone, on Water Street, Jewellery Quarter. To celebrate, their hosting a 'bring your own', pop-up night of Asian soul food. The menu looks amazing. It's £30 and will sell out soon. Book here. The bakery opens tomorrow, 10am. 

FIVE YEAR WAIT IS OVER

You wouldn't know it, being as they're hidden away in a draw in the back of the building, but St Paul's Gallery have just taken delivery of signed prints of two Queen album covers that they've been waiting for for five years. Brian May and Roger Taylor have both signed Day At The Races (pictured) and A Night At The Opera. They cost £750 each. Tell them we sent you and they'll knock 10% off, if you buy both.

TWO UNDER A TENNER

You're getting giddy about the weather and thinking barbecue, right? We asked Connolly's Wine to pick out a red and a rosé, both under £10, that can cope with the smoke. They recommend this Portuguese Fonte Da Serrana, 2012 (£7.49) which "has the heat and spice to stand up to lamb and beef" and Villa Wolf, Pinot Noir, rosé (£8.20) which is "food friendly and perfect for the sun". connollyswine.co.uk  
Venue: Fletchers Bar & Eatery, 7 York Rd, B14 7SA; fletchersbarandeatery.co.uk
Choice: Confit of pork belly (£9.95) Chooser: Restaurant Manager 


Make sure you're sitting down before you read this. Sat down? Okay. We think we've found, wait for it, Birmingham's best pork belly. Fletchers - one of a number of superb restaurants on a tiny stretch of Kings Heath - cook theirs differently. The chef places a weight on the pork which coaxes that gelatinous layer of fat that many aren't keen on, into the meat, giving what is often accused of being a boring cut a truly stunning flavour. The cider-infused gravy packs the perfect level of sweetness and acidity, while the mash is like a potatoey pillow pinched from a heavenly bed. Make that chef Prime Minister. Drinks-wise, the Curious Brew bottled lager is fermented with Champagne yeast making it clean and crisp.  
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