Saturday, 15 March 2008

Birmingham is the weirdest place to live in the UK

Birmingham: city centre scene at corner of New Street and Corporation Street
View eastward, along New Street. This was 1957
"IT'S OFFICIAL - Birmingham is the weirdest place to live in the UK.", say the Birmingham Mail in "a clever piece of publicity", as Birmingham: It's Not Shit's Jon Bounds describes it.
This is probably the first "marketing gimmick" for the city that I can actually imagine Brummies getting behind and being proud of. If the British, in general, are experts at putting themselves down, then Brummies have converted this self-depreciating humour into an art form. Because after all, who the hell wants to be labeled as boringly "normal"? Not me for a start. I've made a lifelong career of being weird and proud, so I would say Brum probably produces some of the weirdest members of the human race.

Born at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, Birmingham in 1957, I was initially dragged up in Great Barr, which is virtually next door to Aston.

Where, says the article:
"Between 1957 and 1958, Cynthia Appleton, a housewife from Fentham Road, Aston, claimed she was repeatedly visited by "spacemen" who showed off their futuristic technology, taught her Venusian and got her pregnant with a "space baby".
(Mrs Appleton dear, if what you got was pregnant, then what they showed you wasn't just their "futuristic technology": it was something else entirely.)

Bloody hell, that's the same year. This can't just be a coincidence, can it?

Tell you, this really is The Twilight Zone fodder (listen)!

As Jon Bounds says, "it's all crap obviously". Actually, he says "obviously" twice (see title of his post), which tells you two things; 1) Brummies say obviously a lot, obviously and 2) unless you are one, it probably isn't obvious at all.

Also notice that we Brummies often describe ourselves as "mildly sarcastic".

This should show you that we also attempt to master "gross understatement."

What I think about "tiny winged figures, wearing goldfish-bowl helmets, [...] shaking the Christmas tree, dislodging the fairy", is that dear old Mrs Hingley had been at the cooking sherry or smoking herbal fags! Or, simply watching too much of The Flintstones. Mind you, I worked in Oldbury once and, since I couldn't understand a bloody word those Yam Yams were saying, perhaps a space ship had gone off in that direction ...

It's all so long ago it's a blur ... Although I hadn't remembered the date, I was aware at the time, that I'd left Birmingham, the first time, on the very same day that the "old" "new" Bull Ring shopping center was opened, on May 29, 1964.

Video: Bull Ring Centre Opened (1964)

I was only 7 then. The only reason I was familiar with the city at all was through going back to visit my grandmother and, later when I lived in Brum between 1984 and 1992. It struck me, looking at images of the Birmingham skyline, that I wouldn't know the place at all now. I only recognize the Rotunda, which again, wasn't finished when I left and the, also then still under construction, GPO/PO/BT Tower.

In the 80's, a 4 story Victorian "mansion" in Kings Heath was equivalent to the price of a garage down in "the smoke". My problem (like everyone else), is that I only ever had a shoebox budget. I've also lived in Handsworth, Selly Oak, Kings Heath and the cheap end of Bournville - Stirchley - although the back gate of Cadbury's was in my road, so we used to say it was Bournville, hoping to add an extra 5 grand to the value of the house!

The weather, even when it wasn't weird, was a good reason to leave again!

In reality, I always seemed to be "just visiting" the place of my birth and when I went back to live there, no longer with a Brummie accent, the "natives" treated me as an outsider. This always felt strange, actually, to be the only person in my family to be born in Birmingham, yet the one who knew the city least. This is probably responsible for shaping my feelings that "I don't belong anywhere, therefore I belong everywhere": a true citizen of the world and, also allows me to make my home anywhere I lay my sombrero.

Birmingham named "weirdest place"

Photo © Ben Brooksbank (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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