Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Why I love Birmingham

I love the city I live in, over the past decade it's become my home.

I love the buildings, the strange mixture of old and new; the way the Digbeth Dalek dominates the view as you approach the city centre. The old Victorian brick of end of Corporation Street with the law courts fills me heart with joy as I walk down it every morning, it's so beautiful. I love the old buildings, though criminally I hadn't realised how much of the city's architectural heritage remained until I visited Leeds (where you're hemmed in by old buildings). I even have a soft spot for the old library, which is a big slab of Brutalist architecture, an industrial ziggurat reaching up into the sky. In addition to that the location feels so much better than where I lived before, for someone who's Chinese horoscope suggests a need for water in my surroundings I really don't miss the sea (but then I lived in Southport, I never saw the blessed thing!) and I like the feeling of being central. Beyond that there's something about the city that feels welcoming to me, it always has. I feel comfortable as I pass Millennium Point on the train when I've been away.

I think I was fortunate that a good friend of mine, Phil Kavanagh, already lived down here when we moved south. He introduced me to the Waylands Forge and Nostalgia and Comics, the local gaming and comics stores respectively (geek priorities) which are still rather brilliant.  As a result the city's always felt friendly and welcoming, far from the forbidding place it could be. I've made good friends here, some of whom I don't see nearly enough, and the cats help too; nothing feels like coming home more than seeing my lovely wife and kittens. If we feel like places are home because of good memories and associations, it helps to feel loved and appreciated; and I do feel those things here.

I don't feel more divorced from nature, Birmingham isn't a dark Victorian realm of 'satanic mills', at least not yet, and whilst there may be light pollution and lots of cars, I've seen wild animals here; foxes in the garden, a heron in the local parkland. We do seem to have a lot of corvids though, which is a pity because it affects the number of birds that prosper locally.

I know these are things that could apply anywhere, or at least to any city, but I feel them most keenly here.

Perhaps a little context would help here. I was raised in Kenilworth, went to school in Princethorpe and when I fled north (desperate to get away from the Midlands truth be told) I wound up in Ormskirk and Southport. Most of my life has been spent in small towns and I'm keenly aware of their limitations. To live in a town I would have to be dependent on a car to get to culture or even decent shops; and whilst a car could be useful it would also drive my costs up to ridiculous levels.

I like the feeling of size too, it feels big enough to get lost in, if you want to. Towns feel too pokey, too personal; as if you have no privacy. Whilst I like to feel as if people know me, I also value time to escape and I find that far more possible in a city than in a town.