A film and a burger. Deck chairs in a little square off Broad Street, customers in Jimmy Spices watching out the window and some staff at the Hyatt waving to us from up above the screen. That was my Thursday night, how was yours?
But it wasn’t just any film, it was Take Me High – a musical set in Birmingham starring Cliff Richard where he pulls off the banking deal of the century, gets the girl and re-invents local cuisine with the ‘brumburger’. But more about the burgers later.
Showing as part of Flatpack’s excellent Birmingham On Film season, Take Me High is a cult piece of Birmingham nostalgia, only ever released on VHS and as a free DVD given away with The Daily Mail six years ago (though there is a version on Youtube if you can get round the geographical content restrictions). It currently flickers as brightly as Cliff’s eternal flame.
Psychologists say that your answer to this problem reveals a lot about you.
There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. On Camp Hill are the Camp Hill chords, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch over the Camp Hill chords. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track towards Moseley. The Camp Hill chords, however are not open.
Given that Martin Mullaney and the Labour lot have been promising the reopening of the Moseley and Kings Heath stations in a war of pledges to outdo each other for the last 15 years, despite it actually being in the gift of Centro (who are about to be shut) and now the WMCA who are desperate to spend all available money in the black county to pacify them about being part of Greater B’ham: what the fuck are you meant to do?
We all remember being alive in the past. Sometimes we remember shops that were in the same place as a different shop is now, or that bus tickets were slightly different. And we all grew up in our own local area – how mad is that? The internet papers are full of it as the past makes us feel good. But how much of a person that grew up at my parents’ house in Coleraine Road, Great Barr, B42, are you? Find out by looking at this prime number of things you’ll only know if you grew up at my parents’ house in Coleraine Road, Great Barr, B42.
The hot water won’t be on if the heating isn’t, (and the heating won’t be on until October) you’ll have to run a bath with the shower.
An old bathroom, yesterday.
The circuit board that provides hooky cable should be unhitched if you’re not watching the sports or the movies, as they can tell, you know.
Bin day is Wednesday.
There’s no point trying to break in by climbing over the back fence into the garden if you come home a bit drunk one Christmas eve in the early ’90s. You’d still have to put the window of the back door to the lean to through and that is simply not worth the hassle.
The bloke next door has pinched a bit of garden up the back by the shed, but it’s not worth challenging him on it, just give him the cold shoulder.
The alarm code is a portion of the old phone number before we switched from British Telecom to the Birmingham Cable Company and had to get a 681 number.
How this bus stop looks now.
It takes exactly four minutes to walk to the number 16 stop by the Beaufort pub. If you leave at 7:25 you’ll get to school on time.
You can’t get Channel 4 as the aerial has to point to the Wrekin rather than Sutton Coldfield because Hamstead hill is in the way. The TV will sometimes go green when it’s been on for a bit, if it bothers you you’ll have to switch it off and let it cool down, banging it does no good.
Our pals over on Eye on Moseley have run a piece on the opening of Pizza Express and Prezzo in B13 and it’s a tasty slice of deep pan fun. There’s an obvious nimby trap laid out for the unsuspecting writer here—it’s tempting to moan about ‘chains’ and ‘independents’ and witter about bringing down the village—The Eye deftly avoids doing that and adding too much cheese (though many of their readers fall into the hole in some of the online chat that surrounds the article).
There’s a point we want to pick up on though which is that the opening of these restaurants makes no business sense. The Eye says:
“opening two almost identical restaurants within months of each other is just ridiculous. Opening two massive restaurants demonstrates little comprehension of how business works […] So one of these is going out of business, once they have bled their parent companies dry.”
The thing is, weirdly, it does make sense, it’s not ridiculous and it is exactly how business works. Pizza Express doesn’t act on emotions—it acts on numbers, maps and intelligence. It also doesn’t open a restaurant in Moseley to serve the village, it opens a restaurant in Moseley to serve the city, and it wouldn’t open it unless it also served the shareholders a wedge of dough. Marketing for multiple outlets relies on coverage, brand, and relationships with customers. Casual dining pizza restaurants have this down to an art.
The pizza chains’ websites and apps broker relationships between customers and the brand not between locals and restaurants. They direct us to our nearest touch point from where we are now, not from where we live, and they use voucher based incentivised pricing to keep us in the sweet spot of a reasonably priced dinner at all times. To be effective we always need to be near enough to a restaurant to be able to get there. That’s where these new restaurants come in: there’s a hole in the map where coverage can be improved and that hole is Moseley, in the Birmingham, Northfield area.
These restaurants will draw from miles around in a way that a locally owned place can’t: they don’t need to build a reputation through word of mouth. They’ll attract families that need a quick meal at a known price point (we haven’t time to explain, but the Pizza Express children’s menu is an exquisitely designed customer journey, which maximises income for the restaurant whilst feeling very reasonable). Teenage couples from a few miles down the road will come because it’ll be just far enough for them to feel like they’ve been out but close enough that they won’t have trouble getting there (the fact that the menu is so good for veggies helps put bums on seats in a multicultural city, and only a Nando’s would do better with the dietary requirements of most Birmingham kids).
Just imagine a local, bearded, entrepreneur decided to take up one of the premises and install a ‘food concept’. Even if it’s brilliant, a conceptual masterstroke like balti-pork scratching cobs with orange chips and a scallop served on a scale replica of King Kong, it will take time to build up word of mouth. Pizza Express is in like Flynn. Terry Flynn who opened Al Capone pizza in 1987.
We are in favour of variety and admire passionate people doing their own thing—despite our willingness to get a rise out of all things “street food” and “artisanal”—but we recognise that doing anything that starts small and builds is hard and that actually companies like Prezzo and Pizza Express are more likely to succeed over time because they have a method that works. That is why UK high streets all look the same. That is why these restaurants won’t close as quickly as The Eye thinks. Just look at the Pizza Express and Ask restaurants in Sutton Coldfield which have thrived for years separated only by a Wetherspoons (and just across from a Nando’s) whilst next door plucky indie after plucky indie has withered and died on a seemingly cursed plot, most recently ending in a frankly bizarre alleged murder plot which fails to take into account the fact that diesel fuel can’t melt steel beams.
And that’s why we are going to make a bet with The Eye: we bet them a slap up reasonably priced pizza dinner that Moseley will have a thriving Pizza Express in 2020.
And if there isn’t, we’ll get them an artisanal falafel.
Once, Birmingham had a scene. For a hot minute, somewhere between 2008 and 2009, it found something. And then we fucked it up.
By way of example, remember when the Birmingham Bloggers were a thing? I know there’s technically still a Facebook group or whatever, but it’s not like it was in 2008-09. With that group of awkward nerds came the sharing of knowledge and the birth of creativity; the kind of ideas that start from pub chats, or from blog posts or even single tweets. The ‘wouldn’t it be cool if’ ideas, like building cocks in the snow, or running a 5k at midnight, or sitting on the #11 for a day. Or even coming to a pub to hear some interesting people speak.
I think there are two problems at play in this city. For one, the social media scene got fucked up because all those with the best ideas went off to seek their fortunes, and the ones who were taking notes started charging people.
It’s time for this month’s Jack Dromey MP Twitter photo short story competition. To enter, just write a short (no limits) story based on this photo that Erdington’s MP Jack ‘Mr Harriet Harman’ Dromey has posted to his Twitter account. Post them in the comments, winners win a special Herne Hill, South London and Suffolk related prize, compo ends noon Friday 16 September.
Scandalous! Dove Sexual Health Clinic facing closure. NHS bosses must think again. With impressive Dr Sarah Wright pic.twitter.com/MMAa9wGtYW
To: Andy.Street@greaterbrumminghamlep.comFrom: Andre.De.Jong@zaphiks.inRe: All hail the Mayor!!!9th September 2016 12:01
How’s the shop going?
I hear in the news that you fancy a knock at the big job, that’s super. Given your work in a similar but totally accountable position for the last few years I’m sure you have what it takes. Don’t listen to the naysayers, Andy, nor the voters!
You’ll need a media guy, it’s all about the advertising these days. Post-truth politics is the new thing so we can just lie all day. AND I still have Dion Dublin’s phone number, can you play dube cube Andy? We could get a load with your logo on.
I’ve already thought of some some slogans for you. How about:
Taking back control (for exchange only within 28 days of purchase)
‘Best Midlands’, or something, it rhymes
Street cleaning/Streets ahead/Street view something
Andy Street: Serving the midlands (please take a ticket)
Never knowingly undersold – not sure what this one means.
We are the up to 99% off
Build a Wallmart and make Asda pay for it! (They’re the same company, right?)
If you want a digger for a neighbour, go to B+Q
Eat the Rich tasty ready meals in our essentials range.
Btw what’s the best email to get you on now you’re moving on? Kind Regards Andre
An Edgbaston woman told us today that she was having second thoughts after voting for the UK to leave the European Union.
Like a one woman Welsh village voting to cut its subsidies, Ms Stuart admitted that she had been taken in by the easy fixes offered by the Leave campaign and now regretted her support for Brexit.
“Some of my best friends have been shadow Secretary of State in the great offices, but nobody told me this would happen.
“I told everyone who would listen that we could stop spending money on those unelected MEPs and spend it on hospitals. The government has no control over what it does with its money, or at least that’s what Gordon Brown told me when I was in the government.
“Yes to controlling immigration, I’m not racist but, I thought I was just pulling the ladder up behind me. No one told me that there might be actual deportations. Some of my best friends are EU citizens and I’m devastated that they now might have to leave.. Hang on, I’m one too, scheisse er merde, I mean shit.”
“I just feel lied to,” she said, “I was told I was taking my country back: but it turns out they are taking me back to my country.”
During the 19th century clean water was in short supply in Birmingham and there were major epidemics of water-borne diseases including typhoid, cholera and diarrhoea. Birmingham City Council under Joseph Chamberlain, set about finding a clean water supply for the City. James Mansergh identified the Elan and Claerwen Valleys as a place that could supply the water, and the Foel Tower is the starting point of the 73 mile journey of the water from the Elan Valley to Birmingham.
With the creation of online distributed discourse there are a number of publications and organisations acting as hosts for the civic debate — and they have a responsibility to make that debate clean and safe. Elan Valley water rather than Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’.
Birmingham has an opportunity to lead in this space, as it did in public health all those years ago. So we urge people to press those with the power to influence the debate to sign up to this manifesto:
The Foel Tower Agreement
A manifesto for creating a healthier public sphere for a diverse city.
We call all organisations, individuals, publishers and publications that host online debate about and in the city to work to create a healthier public sphere for a diverse city.
These hosts should commit to the following principles in hosting online debate.
"irreverent, informative and laugh-out-loud hilarious"
"one of the funniest books I have read in quite a while"
"the industrial language was uncalled for"
"Good if you finish Viz before the next edition is out"
The PC Satirical Cartoon
Described for you in text as we can't draw.
It’s the morning, the results of the US election are in. We can tell this as a man in a suit in the background is holding a newspaper that says ‘Trump wins presidency’, despite that being both a shit headline and an impossibility because the papers were all printed before the results were in.
We’re in the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce office. It says so on the sign. There’s a bloke, well fed in a suit and tie. His desk sign tells us he is Paul Faulkner CEO of the Chamber. Let’s just say he’s made this out of a Toblerone packet much like you may have done playing offices as a kid, because, how would you get one of those these days? He’s on the phone, but holding it off his ear, hand over the mouthpiece.
“It’s BBC WM on the phone, desperately casting around for a local angle on the Trump election. I’ve told her that Midlands business can help make America ‘great’ again. But now they want an example…”
He has a traditional secretary, glasses and a beehive. She’s bringing him in a cup of tea – with saucer – on a tray. She says:
We’re not sure how this ends, so you can pick your favourite response here. It’ll give you about as much power over what happens next as your average voter.
“He could get the bricks for his wall at Wickes’s up by the Albion ground?”
“It’s a pity they’ll now be able to make their dystopian films at home now”
“Do they like award winning pop-up street food?”
“I think they are capable of making up their own bullshit.”
“You can get white sheets for Klan outfits and tin foil for hats at Latifs.”
“I’m sorry, this retro construct of a scene is so far removed from reality as is the idea that a sensible member of the Birmingham establishment would say something so stupid, that I am unable to suspend disbelief for long enough to comment.”