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Late Doors

Birmingham

Where's your first trip off? a few people have asked. Birmingham we've said and have been met by universal astonishment. MrsD has never been and of course my trips have nearly always been football related,usually with incident as well especially the two occasions walking up to st Andrews. Strange innit that a trip to Villa just a few mile north has never had that, lets call it intensity. Last time I spent any worthwhile time in Brum was around 97 at a Bluetones gig. Then it was a solo drive down and to this day I do not know why.

Incongruous to the Birmingham football games over these last forty years has been my experiences with Brummies in general. Without exception brilliant, funny, down to earth characters. Like Yorkshire people except with a funny accent. Anyway its time we spent more time there and apart from an Edgbaston trip some day now was as good as time as ever.

Huddersfield Manchester Stockport Stoke Stafford Wolverhampton and Birmingham. New street no less. No street more like, a building site in fact. Tea and sourdough egg sarnies at the ace Yorks bakery cafe brought us up to equilibrium

Dropping our bag off at our Premier Inn two hours before the check in watershed left us with a four hour initial perusing of our country's second city. I gathered my thoughts and impressions while I could as the grim grey drizzle around coated the work in progress that is currently Birmingham city center. The smell of curry seemed to permeate the air everywhere, even the shopping centers.

Like a bigger version of Huddersfield, not like Manchester or Leeds. More ordinary, not got the big city swagger like you big city kids in Leeds. No pretensions, even the posh people were ordinary. Except for the solitary fading glam of the middle aged ex Midland weather girl drinking champagne in the new bullring on the john Lewis champagne terrace. The only possible reason for her being there was to be noticed. She was, maybe just by me.

The new Library had an incredibly striking ornate latticed exterior with †beautiful circular book shelving around the internal tiers. Old tombs lined the shelves and at the pinnacle a fantastic homage to Shakespeare alongside a glass facade beckoning in the views of south Birmingham. St Andrews to the left, Shropshire to the right peeking above the shallow grey corrugated †plains of South Brum

In town the Red bricks of corporation st and the magistrate courts drew me to the familiarity of the venue I remember seeing the Bluetones in
The Wellington real ale pub was all carpet wallpaper wood and high ceiling. Incredibly they had a digital aleboard as if chalking the beers on a board was not cost effective. Rat beer from my local in Huddersfield along with †local black country brews were on the bar, wish I hadn't gone for the local, reminded me of Walsall and a different age long gone.

In the Victoria the staff were mixing sugar into water, stirring it in readiness for cocktail happy hour. We fucked off just in time. Handsome looking pub though and we would have stopped longer otherwise.

The Brew dog enticed MrsD so in we went, me reluctantly. Do I want to try first the barman asked. He wouldn't have anything he hadn't tried he said. That's the difference i replied.

Sun on the hill was a lively place brought down to earth by an insipid bar lass whose inability to raise a smile was only matched by her sagging chin.

Restaurant la Galleria was a different proposition altogether, seemingly authentically independent Italia run but if not a damm good job of appearing so. Fantastic crisp Frito misto starter and sensational thin pizzas. The sweet tomato sauce was heavy with earthly garlic body with sparse but intense capers and anchovies. See the beggars thread for what happened with the doggie bag leftovers.

Walking back to the hotel through the night New st station appeared to be covered in baking foil. The huge sections of reflective silver cladding giving it the appearance if a massive roast.

The following morning was wet and rainy but not too much. It just set the whole place off with a midweek damp hue. It seemed the whole city didn't wake up till afternoon especially around the renovated canal area of the gas basin and around. These waterside schemes just bombard me with conflict. On the one hand they rescue run down waste areas but on the other turn them into homogeneous chain restaurant peppered consumer units. Is this the only way we can create renovation? Is our economy so flat and desperate? Can it sustain itself like this. Newcastle was one if the first to do it but things seem as bad as ever now up there on that waterfront. A shallow †economy that turns product to toilet waste within 24 hours. But no doubt this area is better and I had the best cappuccino I've ever had in the slug and lettuce. Especially as the independent icon center cafe was closed for a private function.

The hyped jewellery quarter was just a collection of old industrial buildings. The sliding doors of welding factories opening out onto the pavement. Reminded me of work so we scurried on through the business district of Colemore

This Business district wasn't like the London city, they were normal people not the ill mannered strutting twats you get in London.

The splendid and free Art gallery and museum was next. Apparently it houses the finest collection of pre Raphaelite art in Europe. Wasted on us as we cant stand the ridiculous site of fat little cherubs staring at angels. The history of Birmingham section was much more interesting telling the story of Manufacturing and immigration in the city as well as a no holds barred account of their contribution to the nations wealth on the back of slavery and colonisation. Quite shaming really.

More sauntering around, i think we'd taken in all the architectural sights by now and it was time to Split, Me to the craven arms. MrsD to Primark. The pub was another gem, Edwardian with ten ales on. A couple of regulars in including a long dark haired young fella in a heavy coat sat at the side nursing an ancient looking book. I noticed a Magic Rock beer mat but none of their splendid ales so I plumped for a hefty fallen brewery caramelized stout and took a seat. Some great 90s Brit pop was been played and the seminal hour was broken when about twenty suited Scottish businessmen invaded the place. Decent chaps but the ambience was shattered.

Back at the hotel, short rest, Shower and out. The craft alehouse was all that could be expected, £4.50 for a pint of Kirkstall dissolution ipa. That plus MrsD wine came to £ 10.20. She liked it, I didn't. Plastic Man would not either it was everything bad about these places although there was a good crowd in which I've come to associate with Birmingham by now. The people are sound.

Next up the Old Contemptibles pub, a Nicholson place. Ie historic old pub presented in artificial preservative, like a Damien Hirst, or †like the Vic in Leeds . Nice place but I had to ask too nicely for my liking that a group of three †move their coats and bags off their adjacent seats so that we could sit down. I cant decide if they were just rude selfish arseholes, thick or just too engrossed in their own designer gloss to consider anyone else's requirements. I suspected the latter so I couldn't help a little sharpness on my request is which I'm sure registered through my smile. We Could feel vibrations that were a little disconcerting untill we sussed it was the traffic passing through the tunnel beneath the pub.

Restaurant Lasan is apparently Gordon fucking Ramsey's favourite. They rung us earlier that day to ask for a confirmation of our booking the cheeky bastards. Its got rave reviews, booking essential (that's why we did) , quite the place for the midlands glitterati it seemed but wonderful spicy Indian food. Salmons starters marinated in tomato and peppers and grilled on skewers. Marinated beef slow roasted so it pulled like Chinese duck, it had a touch of Thai masamam curry about it too,creamy highly spiced lentils and plain †nan, ace, fiery but all the flavours of the respective main events thundering home. No wine although they were doing everything they could to subtlety suggest it along with other extras we didn't need. That's the way these days though isn't it.

That was that, we left the place in cold glorious sunshine the morning after but at least had a chance to see the place in brighter light.

The place is in transition clearly. The ugly hastily erected post war concrete carbuncles are coming down slick bold structures are coming up. Industry soiled landscapes are getting a make over and on the face of it everything looks on an up. I didn't †see much evidence of the cities famed multi cultural integration. All the places we went were almost exclusively white. It all seemed a bit superficial. An undercurrent like most cities I suppose of extremities forming. A burgeoning white middle class and a sad neglected underclass. Is that really the only way we can resurrect our towns and cities?
sheeps

Cheers LD, may give it a go.
Late Doors

Be carefull who you give any leftover pizza to if you do
Plastic Man

I lived in Birmingham for most of the 80s and the early part of the 90s. The central city area and the immediate environs has certainly been transformed immensely. The nearest they came to cleaning the place up in my early years there was the occasional dumping of a bottle of detergent in the fountains down by the Town Hall/ (old) library.

The Gas Street basin canal area/ then Broad Street probably got the early investment. I remember Broad Street in the early-mid 80s as being threatening in the dark, predominantly lined with abandoned furniture showrooms and the like. It probably wouldn't have been a good idea to go canalside in Gas Street basin, even in broad daylight.  

These areas are now thriving. Broad Street is packed with bars/ clubs/ restauarants/ takeaways etc. and is heaving of a weekend evening. The canal area is packed with visitors, especially when the sun comes out. The money thrown at the area has reaped its rewards.

However, I suspect that just beyond the immediate areas where investment has been made to attract the entertainment/ tourist/ education cash, all is less well in other parts of the inner city. While money has been spent superficially "tarting up" these areas, the underlying malaise of drug and alcohol abuse , unemployment and lack of opportunity and hope is still the order of the day.
fartcatcher

Nice write up LD. Like PM, I lived there for a while, only a bit earlier.

The City Centre used to be absolutely hideous. Concrete and blue brick and designed for the car, not for the pedestrian. A wall of concrete and tarmac separated it from the rest of the city.

It's gradually been tarted up. The cleaning up of those sandstone and brick buildings to survive the town planners of the sixties, and pedestrianisation of the area round the Town Hall and the museum has created a much more tourist friendly environment.

The area around the centre - other than to the west up Broad Street hasn't changed much since I left in the eighties. The journey from the station to St Andrews is pretty typical.

Some of the suburbs, particularly Moseley, Kings Heath and Harborne are worth a visit.

Best beer is in the Black Country (Dudley, Netherton). The accent up there is impenetrable. I don't think Brummies can understand them. Every sentence takes twice as long to get through as every word has an extra syllable. They say owwuvver instead of over and rowwud instead of road.

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