Thursday, July 21, 2005


Arrived in Birrrrmingham around 2.30 for 3 days at a budget (that's UK budget) hotel beside a canal on the outskirts of the CBD. Noting that the canal appeared to actually run into the CBD I asked one of the hotel staff if it was feasible to walk the canal path into town. The alternative appeared to be negotiating a set of traffic flyovers and monstrous roundabouts constructed by a civil engineer with a penchant for concrete embroidery.

"No I don't think so" the reply came, with a furrowed brow. "But" the wrinkles eased "it's really quite easy: you just go over two bridges, then go right and past the fire station, around the giant coke vending machine and then through a maze of twisty winding passages, all exactly alike and finally you end up in a room with a door leading in each direction...and you do realise how much this silly distortion of what I said dates you?"

"Um OK". Her wrinkles had lept to my forehead. I took the canal path and got into town quickly enough. Bondi was kept on a leash this time.

We approached a pleasant looking pedestrian area called the Bull Ring, and were quickly asked to leave by a security guard: "I know it's silly but the city says no dogs allowed". Apparently not, but pedestrians dropping garbage all over the same ground in front of security guards and police officers went unchallenged. We retreated for a while so I could look for a map that would allow me to reach the Birmingham tourist office without crossing interdicted grounds.

A few hours later we did pass through there again - quite by accident officer I assure you! The Bull Ring seemed to also comprise a lot of above and below ground malls and was adjoined to a Gaudiesque curve of building that looks like a Dalek's ballgown. That might have been appropriate given the total lack of natural life in that zone: a gigantic antfarm of international brands, a shiny artificial heart for the city.

When I had driven around the New England states of the US with Anthony 3 years ago, I saw little towns everywhere whose high street had been replaced by mini strip-malls: cancer cells of identical franchise and chainstore outlets with mitochondrial Starbucks fueling their metastasis.
"He shouldn't be in the city. He should be out running in the Arctic dandruff!"

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