I love the city. I love the buzz it gives me. Once a week I have to breathe it in. It’s my fix, an antidote to calm and serenity. I love the quiet life too, but in excess, it resembles death. They say life is change, so that’s what I do, I have a change, to remind myself of life at it’s most vibrant. I treat life as a dance if I can; an interplay between quiet introspection and head on participation. A two beat rhythm between living and reflection: live, reflect, live, reflect; dah dum, dah dum.
As it happens I have no natural rhythm. I tend to miss the first beat. I pick up the second and sustain it far too long. In terms of Iife I reflect, and reflect, and reflect again, forgetting to live. I’m a one legged dancer on the floor of life. But I get the first beat eventually: then it’s off to the city. I don’t care to bungee jump, hang glide, or do drugs, so it’s enough to take part; mix in and move with the flow. It suits me, and it works.
As cities go, Birmingham is unimpressive. It has little of architectural interest; spoiled by the aesthetic atrocities of the sixties which dominate. It has history though. Set in the midlands of England this was once the industrial capital of the world. Now it’s coming to terms with the post-industrial era; the era of high technology and services.
I was there this weekend. My senses heightened by caffeine, I strolled down the main semi-pedestrianised thoroughfare, enjoying the spring sunshine, stopping only to take photographs. Being a Sunday the crowds were light, and the clement weather lent it a festive air. Amongst the midday shoppers I was pleased to see a familiar face. Sitting crossed-legged and hunched over his instrument was the world’s worst busker. Giving very little to performance he justly gained very little in monetary return. Although possessing an unchallenging repertoire of three chord hits from the sixties, his virtuosity never progressed, due to his difficulty with F - oh how I love his riffs! His music would be an appropriate soundtrack for my one legged dance of life. I may record him for my funeral service, though I hope the pallbearers don’t walk to his rhythm. It was good to see him. He made me smile.
This lack of virtuosity befits Britain’s second city, which is, appropriately, second class. The council fools no one with its pretentious claims for being “of world stature". It has tried and failed. Motor sports and half-marathons have been and gone. Vast sums of money spent on developing the central area make no difference. There is no glamour. London, New York or Paris it aint. And that’s how we like it. We Brummies have an inferiority complex after decades of being the butt of others jokes. They laugh at our strange accent, and condemn our town for being dirty. And it’s true. The grime of yesteryear still clings. We accept it. If we want charisma, enchantment and good food. we’ll go elsewhere. Isn’t that what the continent’s for?
So why do I persist in going? That’s easy to answer. I have an old chunky-knit zip up cardigan which has seen better days. Haute couture it aint but it’s snug, and it makes me feel good, just like Birmingham, my town.