Wednesday, April 14, 2010

(Not Staying) At The Crossroads

I'm off to Birmingham later.

Not unusual in itself and my apologies to those readers who are about to click on, but I'm fond of the place.

I first visited in 1977. It was the furthest north I'd ever been at that time, and I was terribly excited about it. For half term my brother and I were being dumped with an aunt who lived near Dudley. She and my uncle were rich and had a big house in the country. Most importantly she had a swimming pool! We were so thrilled about that, but realised it was February. So we just looked at it.

They were the epitome of nouveau riche. Bought-in title, decanters, chesterfields, gold plated this, that and the other, maroon Roller, far right views... you name it, they had it. The husband was from the humblest stock imaginable, and my the wife - my dad's sister - was no great shakes either. But appearances aside, they were kind and we had a super time.

Birmingham was a revelation. I think I imagined rows and rows of smoking factories, but I got the Rotunda, the Bull Ring, glamorous towering hotels and modernity. The Bull Ring was a bit scary, but it has a comic shop nearby which was all I needed.

We did all sorts of days out: Stratford-Upon-Avon is the one that sticks in the mind. We went out for a lot of hotel buffet lunches and it amused us that the aunt never took off whatever hat she happened to be wearing. One, a giant version of an Edwardian motoring hat looked absurd perched on her head all through lunch. We disocoverd later, after much snooping around the house, that she wore wigs with hats attached. Dad told us it was due to having lost all her hair after her husband had run down and killed a motorcyclist while she was pregnant with her first child. We don't laugh at that.

I don't remember my cousins being around much - they were older and at school - but they did approve of the records I bought: Daddy Cool by Boney M and Jack In The Box by The Moments. I bought them at Beattie's and was too shy to ask for them by name so asked for them by chart position instead. Today's teens will never know that thrill.

So anyway, I've been to Birmingham about a million times since. It's really nice now.

That was interesting, wasn't it.


Chris Hughes said...

"Bought-in title"? Well, we need to know more about that.

Obviously, any discussion of Birmingham in the 1970s leads inexorably to...

Ishouldbeworking said...

Wigs with a hat attached? That is terribly, terribly poignant.

Clair said...

I really enjoyed being at college in Birmingham; it was just the right size to play at being a grown-up, and there was loads of stuff going on. And to see the ATV studios, how marvellous!