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A few days ago, I posted about Marsden Beach and Arbeia Roman fort. Now it is time for part two of my blog posts about locations I used in Transitions.

The university is where the contemporary action of the story happens. It also happens

The blue plaque at Sarehole Mill

to be one of the (several) universities I attended and worked at in my time as a scientist. I needed a university for my characters to be attending and it seemed a convenient one to use because I knew it so well. There were other advantages too.

One was the association with J.R.R Tolkien. As pointed out in the story, Tolkien did live for some time in the West Midlands (Kings Heath, now a suburb of Birmingham), spent a lot of time visiting places like Clent and Lickey Hills (both places we used to walk our dog) and attended school at King Edward’s school. Said school is right next to the university and does indeed have a good view of the iconic tower which was potentially the inspiration for the tower of Orthanc in Isengard (Sarehole mill being another inspiration, not to mention the dark smoke of the nearby black country). This provided a wonderful opportunity for two of the characters to be pedantic geeks.

The clock tower of the University of Birmingham

The tower itself was also a great location to use for the above scene because it looks so awesome – a huge, red brick clock tower in the middle of a courtyard made from similar red brick university buildings. Ever since I arrived in Birmingham this tower, which is visible from quite a distance away, always struck me as an ideal place for an epic battle between two powerful beings.

Of course… I use it in Transitions for a fight between two students, one drunk the other possessed. It’s hardly epic, more comedic as the drunken student is hardly competent in combat and the possessed one does not care and it ends with a piece of pedantry (like all the best arguments). However, one day I will use the tower again and this time it will be even more epic…

In the university I namecheck a number of lecturers. None of these are based on lecturers I know, though some have traits which some lecturers I have had may have shared. The names of the lecturers are, however, those of friends of mine. Professor Abigail Bath is named after two friends, one a costume maker (who also took my profile photo on this site) and the other a Doctor of History (who is also acknowledged in The Curse due to her expertise in Witchcraft). Professor Hayes is also named from a friend of mine. Not, as you may think, Ninfa Hayes (who is a friend but one I hadn’t met when I was writing Transitions) but the man she married. Finally, Dr. Gallop is named after my father in law. I do feel I have to apologise to at least two of the people namechecked here as both of the lecturers they name are not shown as the best of the breed.

The final scenes of the book centre on Selly Oak which is a place with a lot of student accomodation just outside the university. Specifically, a pub called the Bristol Pear

The Bristol Pear Pub, Selly Oak

which was for a while the home of the University Goth Society’s infamous ‘Friday Night Goth Shite’ nights (or FNGS for short). I tried to portray one of these nights as accurately as possible, including the description of one of the DJs. Unfortunately, FNGS (which was later joined by SNGS, no prizes for guessing what that means) is no longer based at the Pear but when I left Birmingham it was still going strong at a cocktail bar closer to the city centre. It may still be going somewhere. I like to think that someone in Birmingham can still wander into a small pub or cocktail bar somewhere and still find a goth night run by a student society.

So, there is a short tour of some of the Birmingham locations used in Transitions. Next up will be Aqua Sulis.

Note, unlike the previous article, none of the photographs here were taken by me. All credit for them belongs with the original artists who took them.