Saturday, 7 August 2010
Saturday lunchtime in Birmingham...
I'm not at all sure of what I think of blogging as diary but I seem to be doing it increasingly. I have now lived in Birmingham for just over a year. I like it well enough - better than I expected - but don't anticipate remaining here forever. My roots and my fractured family are elsewhere. But it is okay for now.
Here is a verbal picture of Saturday lunchtime in central Birmingham, I start by going to buy a newspaper. The asian guy behind the till asks about my Barcelona shirt. Can I spell Barcelona? he asks. I demonstrate that I can to his satisfaction. Why not support an English team? he asks. I say that I do. I then give him a lecture on the Spanish civil war, Catalonia and anti-fascism. He looks as if he wished he hadn't bothered asking. I move on before I am in danger of launching off about Orwell for good measure.
On the subject of football shirts, most shirts seen in the street are Birmingham City as opposed to Aston Villa ones. The average working class Brummie is a bluenose (for overseas readers and the footballingly challenged, a bluenose is a person who supports a team who play in blue - as Birmingham City do). Villa is seen as regional and aspirational and nothing much to do with the average working class Brummie, I think.
I live just round the corner from the Birmingham Hippodrome . I haven't been to see anything there yet - basically because there hasn't been anything I have wanted to see. I can pass on Connie Lingus - sorry Fisher and The Sound of Music, thank you. But today there is street theatre on the pavement outside. The street theatre involves young women with hula hoops and loud music. A street person makes his way unsteadily toward the entertainment, can in hand. He is grinning broadly and attempting to gyrate his hips as if in possession of an invisible hula hoop. I move on. I pass through the Bullring, which is at the corner of High Street and New Street and has apparently been a market since the middle ages. Now it is the point where a collection of shopping malls intersect. Children climb all over the Bullring bull (above) and love to be photographed on it. I head down the High Street.
As usual there are stalls. One has a large display of Korans (or more accurately Qur'ans) on some sort of Muslim evangelical foray. There is often a street evangelist here as well (but not today). I once saw the street evangelist launch into a pair of asian men who were wandering about minding their own business. 'You muslims' he announced. 'You are all murderers! You can only be saved from your sins by the blood of Jesus Christ!' I reflected that he was plainly not getting the hang of the inter-faith dialogue thing and moved very rapidly out of the way. I expect he got away with it, though. He is one seriously big guy.
Next to the man with the Qur'ans is the Socialist Workers Party. As always, as well as a stall they have a megaphone and a petition. The petition is in relation to the Tory cuts. Unsurprisingly, they are against them. The Hippodrome street theatre has a second spot on the High Street today. It appears to involve people dressed as kangaroos on this location. I move briskly past them and the guys selling great fistfuls of inflatable novelty items.
Then on to my weekly treat - fish and chips at John's Fish bar, a place I never go in on a weekday because it is right by the courts and full of clients. They serve a reasonably modest portion for £1.90. This is a bargain. They have a thing about chips round hereabouts (that's fries to American readers). A very kind friend put me up in these parts on and off for much of the first half of last year. One night he suggested fish and chips for dinner. I agreed. We went in the fish and chip shop...
'Two fish and one large chips' he said. 'I have a weakness for chips' I announced, not at all sure that one large portion would be enough for two.
'Just watch' he replied.
The guy shovelled about three large scoops onto the wrapping paper. Then he paused momentarily. Then he shovelled another couple of large scoops. Then he paused again to admire his handiwork. Then he shovelled on another scoop. And then another. Then he finally decided that perhaps the accumulated chip mountain would be sufficient unto our needs. Two of us could not finish the chip mountain between us and the rest was fed to the deer on Cannock Chase. Deer like chips, it emerges. Tonight I'm off to somewhere in Warwickshire for dinner. here is some helpful stuff on hula hooping.