Five things that I miss now that I don’t live in Birmingham

Two years ago this week we lost the vote (Birmingham lost if I may be so bold) on giving the city an elected mayor,  I got on a train to Bristol that night and haven’t really been back since for work, lovelife, miscellaneous reasons. I visit, and talk to people that live there and do stuff for this site, so the concept of Birmingham weighs heavy in my part of ideaspace (ideaspace can be compared to Jung’s ‘Collective Unconscious‘, or Dawkins’ memes). I’m unlikely to forget King Kong, or discover him again myself, but there are limits to how much the representation of a place in our collective unconscious can be held by just one person.

To that end I am recording these things I miss here, a memetic hope chest for a lost living space, with a view to reconsumating at some point in the future:

1. Drinking in pubs that are underground

In Las Vegas they—famously, but actually—don’t have clocks up anywhere so you lose track of time and keep gambling. In Birmingham city centre we have pubs that do the same—in order that you continue to drink there, afraid that no-where else is open. Downstairs in Saramoons, downstairs in The Swinging Sporan or down in the Old Royal Mail,  you can sup lager and dip your cuffs in the thin film of mild across every surface and be blissfully unaware of anything outside those four walls (such as the advance of Allied troops).  I miss that, it’s like a yeasty womb, without a view.

 

2. People being ready to get off the bus when it stops rather than pressing the bell and then sitting on their privileged arses until it has pulled up.


Like saying ‘thank you’ to the driver it just doesn’t seem the done thing elsewhere. In Birmingham the bell is a last resort to alert a pilot with his pedal to the metal that he’s about to skip your stop, for others the master/servant relationship between driver and passenger is what matters—to hell with speed and timetables.

 

3. Public art

The city, Oxford, that I spend most of my time in just doesn’t really do statues. Maybe there is enough history actually part of the fabric of the place but I miss looking up and seeing Joseph Priestley look down, tripping over Thomas Attwood’s homework, or wondering if the sculptor of the ‘floozy’ had ever seen an actual woman.

The also isn’t any graffiti to speak of, Inspector Morse has cleaned this town up good.

 

4. A genuine football rivalry that has a wonderful doublethink of hatred and good natured joshing

It may stray into banter, but the sheer speed at which most mentions of either Birmingham City or Aston Villa are countered by some real and vicious wit is a joy. And that can only come from such a city as Birmingham, where people can hold distaste and love for their family, friends and colleagues simultaneously. Much how we all think about Duran Duran.

5. Scallops

Because what you really want with your fried potato is a larger piece of fried potato fried in batter.

 

By Jon Bounds

14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands 2008, subsequently not placed.

His new book about visiting every seaside pier in England and Wales — Pier Review — has been described as “On the Road meets On the Buses”, it’s out now.

Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama to be performed on Twitter and founded the famous blog Birmingham: It’s Not Shit.

14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands 2008, subsequently not placed.

His new book about visiting every seaside pier in England and Wales — Pier Review — has been described as “On the Road meets On the Buses”, it’s out now.

Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama to be performed on Twitter and founded the famous blog Birmingham: It’s Not Shit.

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  • Nick Booth

    Even now though the habit of thanking bus drivers seems to be waning. Every time I do it I feel like someone’s old granddad.

    • pezholio

      I feel compelled to do it on the rare occasions I get a bus in London, but stop myself. Terrified I’ll be marked out as an outsider, pounced upon and devoured.

    • Marc Reeves

      I thank ’em even when they’ve thrown the No9 round Paradise Circus like Clarkson on acid, bouncing old ladies off the windows

  • Nick Drew

    I still maintain that the West Midlands travel smart card should have been called the “Scallop”.

  • Inkwash

    The chuckles I’ve had from the line “tripping over Thomas Attwood’s homework” are reason alone to make me glad I’m a Brummie. Thanks for that.

  • Chris

    Totally agree with point 2