Sunday, 11 January 2009

Venice in the Midlands

There is much unfair cynicism about the great city of Birmingham, in the English West Midlands, second city of the country. A lot of prejudice, a great deal of it deeply unfair.

Unfortunately, it’s a prejudice that I’ve always shared. For many years I've felt that Birmingham’s greatest advantage was its excellent transport infrastructure, allowing you to get away from it quickly in any direction.

But my life has involved me in having to revise many decisions and beliefs I once regarded as immutable. Despite my unshakeable resolution in my teens never to go into business or to wear a suit, I’ve had to learn to do and like both (well, with the suit it’s more a question of getting used to it than of actually liking it).

It now looks as though I may have to revise my view of Birmingham too. Danielle, my wife, has just got a job there. And of all the jobs that she’d applied for since we returned to England last July, this was the one she wanted. So we’re delighted. On the other hand, a potential move forty miles down the road from our present place in Stafford, towards northern Birmingham, is now beginning to be a real prospect.

Clearly, I may have to learn to like the idea. Perhaps I’ll have to start to take advantage of some of its facilities to get to know the place better. We’ve already got tickets to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. I’m sure there are other wonderful aspects to the city. I just need someone to point them out to me so we can start to enjoy them.

Actually, to be perfectly honest, a friend and colleague of mine has already told me about one of them. It seems that Birmingham has more canals than Venice. Well, if we can start with some points of similarity between Birmingham and Venice, it might not take me long to revise my jaundiced view of the city. So I’ve been investigating the matter. I thought it might be interesting to share the results of my research, in the hope that others might give me their views and help me come round to the idea that there’s much to be said for the place.

Here for instance is a view of the Venetian qualities of the landscape near where Danielle is going to be working:

Venice is justifiably famous for its Grand Canal:

It’s perhaps time that we learned to value as highly Aston Locks in Birmingham.

Down the centuries many have sung the praises of St Mark’s Square in the centre of Venice

What we need now is the poets and painters who will do justice to Birmingham’s Bull Ring shopping centre

Judge for yourselves: how much mental effort would it really cost me to start seeing these two great cities as practically indistinguishable?

3 comments:

Mark Reynolds said...

Does this mean we can call you guys "brummies" now?

(also, Wikipedia tells me that the first recorded mention of Birmingham was in the Domesday book, which noted at the time that it was a small village worth 20 shillings. I'm sure that's gone up to a few quid, what with inflation and all).

David Beeson said...

It's a much bigger village now. As for its value, I'm really not the one to judge.

Few Brummies would allow us to apply that badge of honour to ourselves...

san Cassimally said...

This is also relevant to the Sunday blog on Humour and Israel.
Some UN guys meet in Gaza on Sunday after the cease fire, and the 'foreign' chap asks the Englishman where he is from and he says DUDLEY, whereupon the first chap frowns and asks, what state is that in?
The English guy looks around him and says, "about the same as here'
San