I have no idea how I got here…


Beneath the rooftops, there’s a whole community and history in an otherwise unassuming post-industrial town.

This is a very self-indulgent note to mark a bit of an arbitrary milestone. This treatise is a bit rambly, and I’m not happy with it, but I’ve agonised over it too long and it’s the beast way I can put the things I want to say. I’ve deliberately not linked to any other articles here. If you’re a newcomer, and curious, I actively encourage you to search the archive. There’s a lot of it – nearly 2,000 posts and 11,000 comments.

Those who follow me on social media will already know that on Sunday evening, 17th November 2013, this site passed the one million hit mark.

I’d like to thank all the readers, commentors and contributors – the stars of this thing – that make it work so well. All the folk who dedicate time to writing, researching and contemplating matters of local history, current affairs and other stuff covered herein. All those who have helped on a personal level. Those around me who put up with me doing this. The fellow members of the local online community who’ve been so supportive.

I won’t quote names, except for one, because I don’t want to leave anyone out. But you wouldn’t be reading this now were it not for The YamYam – Mark Blackstock’s remarkable project to collate the disparate online threads of Walsall. It remains a beacon.

Managing this thing is hard work, but the rewards are fantastic. Seeing something obscure come to life, spark debate or restore lost contacts is wonderful. We’ve connected people far away back to their roots, debated the nature of our history, argued the toss over local politics. And this has been happening on a pretty much daily basis for four and a half years now. It would all have stopped a long while ago but for the interest shown by you lot.

It’s been hard at times. Sometimes, I run out of ideas, or energy, or enthusiasm. Sometimes, the grind of it gets me down. In curating the Brownhills Blog, I realised that  often, your opponents come from where you’d least expect, and that some people will take any effort to create anything at all as a personal attack. I learned a lot about the darkness of some aspects of human nature that I didn’t really want to know. Fortunately, the hassle is small compared to the pleasure.


This is an odd journey, and I have no idea where it’s going.

For those that have never noticed, there’s a counter in the sidebar on the right. It counts steadily as people visit the site, but cleverly ignores my visits. WordPress, the host I use for this blog, keeps daily anonymous statistics for what visitors read, what they search for, and in broad terms, what led them here. All this data is logged and held, and it shows I started this blog in the last days of April, 2009. Since then, traffic has grown steadily, approximately doubling in volume every calendar year up to now.  At the moment, the site is holding steady at between about 900-1500 hits per day.

Personally, I don’t think the traffic will grow much now; I think If anything, it’s probably peaked.

In terms of other popular sites on the net, this one is tiny, insignificant, a minute blip of traffic in a sea of much better content. But for a very specifically focussed site, it’s not too shabby, and I’m proud that a small community seems to have developed here.

I had no idea, and still don’t, what I’m doing. I have no writing experience, and still find the writing process quite difficult. I think my style and punctuation skills have improved a bit, but my typing skills are still lousy. I still read back every article I write and wince. In many ways, this site is rambling, shambling and badly written, but I like to think that it makes up for it’s deficiencies with the enthusiasm and interest I attempt to share.

I’m aware that I’m opinionated, and get lots of stuff wrong. I’m know only too well that my style and manner irritates and alienates a lot of people. However, I believe that something like this should have an opinion, a position and be prepared to argue it. I welcome discussion. It’s how we move forward and develop ideas and hopefully, mutual respect. I’m happy to accept I may be wrong.

When I started this, I had no idea where it was going or what it was going to do. I had a lot of stuff to get off my chest. Local politics figured much more prominently then than it does now; but others locally are writing with far more clarity on that stuff than ever I could, and the merry-go-round of local power confounds me theses days.

When I tentatively began to look at local history stuff I had no idea how large the subject was, or how little I actually knew. Much of what I thought I knew, I found to be arrant toss. The material I found in books was good, but dry. I wanted to make it a bit softer, to have discussions, enquiries, and record them. I wanted people to take back their history from the dusty shelves of the mystics and charismatics that often people the local history scene. I hate the gatekeeper mentality, and always will. History belongs to everyone, and the best way to learn about it is to take it back.

There’s stuff I’m very proud to have shared, from lost jazz tapes to intimate family histories. The generosity and openness of the readership has been amazing, and has often brought me to tears.

I have never had a desire to make any money out of this, nor will I have. The only ads to appear here are ones placed occasionally by WordPress, over which I have no control. Running this blog incurs a financial cost, but it’s worth it, as it’s a labour of love. 

At the moment, I’m tired, and may have a break for a week or two sometime soon. But if I do, I shall give notice and I will be back, for this is far to addictive to stop, and I have too much work from other folks waiting  to be shared.

This blog remains the work of a man with a brutally short attention span wandering through life, finding stuff, pointing to it and shouting ‘Look!’ loudly. I don’t know where it’s going at all. But as long as people are still reading, I’ll endeavour to keep it going.



One of the things I’ve been desperate to explain to people is the unexpected beauty of our locality. I regularly leaves me open-mouthed in amazement.

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33 Responses to I have no idea how I got here…

  1. I’ve only been following your blog for a couple of years but it’s the one which I visit frequently – thank you.

  2. morturn says:

    This is a great day for common sense history, and for the people who take our past for what it is; warts, lumps, bumps and all.

    I love this place, I feel at home here. I meet lots of interesting people with interesting things to say, and are interested in what I have to say.

    It’s a million miles away from the conventional academic routes of well thumbed, jealously guarded and quoted documents and manuscripts of the cleaver dick brigade, who are all so darn clever, they don’t have to listen to what is being said.

    Thanks for what you have done here mate, you’ve done us proud.

  3. I read everything you post, and probably always will. Here’s a good spot to say how much I appreciate your work.

  4. Edwina. says:

    You’re doing a fabulous job, shocks the old grey matter back to life, no two people are the same and that is evident when you read your blogs. Go on, have your holiday and return refreshed, we will miss you, but when you’re back full of the joys of life and over your S.A.D. ready with your beautiful pictures and your passionate stories of life in the round, we will be here waiting for you. Have a nice break.

  5. More than happy to indulge you! You’re a real inspiration. Thanks for everything you do. Here’s to the next million (but we’ll let you have a little break first!)

  6. What Edwina says…holiday! You get the hits because the content warrants it. The world and t’interweb are a richer place for your blog. I should imagine that many attacks are from the jealous as well as those who disagree with your politics when it rears its head! Now go and treat Mrs Bob to the best holiday ever 🙂

  7. Mick P says:

    Bob, you’re an inspiration, truly. I’m constantly in awe of the energy and enthusiasm you show in writing, managing, collating, photographing and simply manning the tiller of this wondrous land-locked bark. Your inclusiveness in bringing to us the fascinating work and insight of others is a lesson in generosity and humility. And through all of this, perhaps the most important thing of all shines through – your love for Walsall’s wonderful northern wastes. As Edwina says, if you take a well-deserved break, we’ll be here to pick up again when you return.

  8. peter says:

    I’m aware that I’m opinionated, and get lots of stuff wrong. I’m know only too well that my style and manner irritates and alienates a lot of people.

    Bob. Opinions and people are what matters so keep giving them, an opinion is just that so cannot be right or wrong, so keep giving them, so what if your style and manner irritates people, they could always try it themselves? If people feel alienated then sorry but that’s there tough luck not ours!
    Have a holiday by all means, we’ll still be here. A thousand or so people a day cannot be wrong!

    Keep up the good work…………….. Thank you from everyone.

    Mind how you go.


  9. As a ‘dipper-inner’, I am always drawn to your observations of local politics (and what a rich vein you have in Walsall!), but the images you post attract me to other content too. You should be very proud of yourself and know that many people are grateful for your efforts, for they both inform and entertain (and occasionally wind up!).
    A shame you are anonymous, because I would love to bump into you and see the man behind the very wise words 🙂
    Enjoy your R&R, Angela

  10. Dave (Eddy) Edwards says:

    I visit most days, I love it. If you take a rest enjoy and come back soon. Thanks for a great blog and for reuniting old pals.

  11. Ann Cross says:

    All of the above Bob, I have learnt so much since finding your wonderful Blog!
    Enjoy your break.

  12. David Oakley says:

    Thanks Bob. As a Yorkshire exile, your blog has taken Walsall Wood and Brownhills up by its historical roots and placed them on my laptop. I appreciate all the background endeavour that must go into the finished product, before you lay it before us, In the immortal words from “Oliver” ! “Fare ye well, but be back soon”.

  13. BrownhillsDavidNotBob says:

    BrownhillsBob – Brownhills’ own Lord Reith for the 21st. century?

    Dear old Lord Reith declared the BBC’s mission must be to “inform, educate and entertain… [and] bring the best of everything to the greatest number of homes”. He did, however, have the reputation of deciding what was best and who should provide it!

    BrownhillsBob looks to have done for Brownhills what Lord Reith set out to do while also offering the chance to contribute or comment to anyone with an interest to share. A great benefit to us all.

    Not only a million hits – providing a million little rays of sunshine as far as I am concerned !

  14. Dqvid Evqns says:

    Hi Bob
    fully agree with every comment….. congratulations and best wishes …and a big thanks …
    enjoy a well-deserved break …..leave your bike-clips at home.
    regqrds, using q funny keyboard;;;

  15. Caz says:

    Hi Bob, i have loved and will continue to love this blog. I often wonder how you manage to fit in running it, what with work, biking and all your other commitments but you do and for that i thank you. Long may it continue.If you do go on a break…..enjoy

  16. Pedro says:

    I echo the comment made by Morturn above, and by Bob’s tireless work he has provided a platform for the alternative view to be aired and discussed, not only locally but worldwide.

    But it is hard work and everything has a price; the man is more important than the Blog, and if I am right about most of the followers of the Blog they have a soft spot for our Bob!

    Take it easy mate.

  17. stuart cowley says:

    Evening Bob,
    I agree with all of the above comments and I know that people as far afield as Paris and South Wales are appreciative of all the work that you did on the old bands let alone all of the other work you have done, you only have to go on You Tube and see the counts going up on the clips that were added as a result of your blog. Memories and snippets in time are a bit like imprints on a beach and gradually get washed away, via the platform of your blog such memories can be preserved and appreciated just that little bit longer so thanks for all of that chap! I have wondered in the past how you manage to do it all and still have a life so take as long as you want on your break and while you’re at it give yourself a pay rise, thanks again.

  18. Warren Parry says:

    Hi Bob, did you happen upon a girl who reads or something?

  19. An inspiration and a total star. Well done you are one in a million

  20. Clive says:

    Hi Bob, you take a well deserved break. do yourself a favour and get some sun on your back mate. it will give us all a chance to do some catching up on past postings on the blog!

  21. Bill Breakwell says:

    Evening Bob
    I first chanced on your blog a year ago first one I’d really read but it encouraged me to follow others and opened up new horizons for me.
    How you fit it all I’ll never know,one more thing you’re a bit like the Lone Ranger a man of mystery,whenever I see a bloke on a bike round the Chase or general locality I often wonder could that be Bob !
    Thanks for all the pleasure and information you give with your posts enjoy a break you deserve it.

  22. billellens says:

    Hi Bob
    Take a break, come back refreshed and keep the good work going love the cycling videos and other items and news you post Well done

  23. Hi Bob

    It’s my birthday today, really. I haven’t quite hit the big 1m yet but what a nice hat-tip present.

    The comments above say it all – thoroughly deserved.

    Looking forward to the next million…


    • Happy birthday!

      If you never did anything else ever again (which is very unlikely indeed), the thriving, diverse and eclectic online community you brought to a focus in Walsall is testament to a great chap with good ideas, and very, very solid determination.

      Ride it like you stole it, moped boy!


  24. Hi Everyone

    Cheers for the kind words. I am humbled. As I said, the generosity and warmth of the readership – as evidenced here – is what makes this so special.

    Thanks, I’m flattered and a little bit embarrassed.

    I shan’t be taking a break for a week or two yet – I’ve still yet to work that out.

    While I’m on, I’m making preparations for this year’s Christmas/New Year quiz competition thing, since last year’s was such a great success. I want to do a section of questions from readers. Get your thinking caps on, and submit me a really good question – as hard as you like.

    It can be historic, pictorial, mapping related, or even a question about a blog article – anything at all as long as it’s locally focussed.

    Obviously you’ll need to email them to me, and please do give your best answer.

    The prizes this year will again be beer, books or other local goodies as appropriate, and I’ll give a special prize for the longest outstanding reader submitted question.

    Have a good think and get back to me.

    BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.


  25. mrdoops says:

    Bob – thanks to you, and this Blog, I got to hear my Grandad’s voice and magical music for the first time since 1979 and I can never thank you enough for that. Wonderful, wonderful Blog, you’re doing a fantastic and much loved thing here. Thank you mucker.

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