Monday, August 21, 2006

Wair ya bin? Bir-nin-em

As it were, I found myself this past Friday evening at the the 'toym of affpass seven' on the London to 'Bir-nin-em troin' for the 'wikend'. Faster and easier than going by 'buzz' or 'mowta'. Yes, Brummie's have a distinct dialect, closer to Brooklyn and New Jersey than The Received Pronunciation (Queen's English). Which to a home sick New Yorker, has a distinct charm. Quite timely, too, as research released today tells us that having a Brummie accent means more people are likely to laugh at your jokes. Although, the BBC in a nasty and smug moment obviously thinks otherwise in their piece, How to Speak Brummie. But we have all too many lines of national division at present, we don't need to be stirring up benign ones.

So it was that Birmingham called, or rather I called in on Birmingham (in that peculiar English turn of phrase), for if you are going to harp on about the country's first city you at least need to familiarise yourself with it's second. And with the recent shambolic implementation of airport security measures, who fancies a weekend city break abroad when you will spend 10 hours of 48 being frisked by Easy Jet staff in polyester orange zoot suits? No, think global, stay local.

And after a brief over nighter, I discovered Birmingham to be a gritty but 'on the up' post-industrial city with a tongue-in-cheek attitude and a quirky charm all its own. Birmingham's motto is 'Forward' - and that says it all. No other British city is so in thrall to progress. After a pummelling in WWII, Birmingham transformed itself, and has continued to evolve since. Although the most famous landmark does remain Spaghetti Junction.

You can take in the sights via Brum's answer to the London Eye, in the form of a miniature size observation wheel on Centenary Square. And Brum is not alone, these copycat wheels can be found in Newcastle, Manchester, and even York. But whilst the civic planners behind it may think it's a world city, Brummies are a comically cynical lot and take it all with a pinch of salt. The real city is on the ground, both attitudinally and architecturally.

So, c'mon, shake off the Monday malaise because you get a reprieve next week. No plans? Head up to Brum for a day trip or night stop over. It may not be beautiful, but if you enjoy Britain's two national pastimes - shopping and drinking - you'll find plenty to entertain.

Lasan: Because Brum is famous for its baltis. Try the best. Tel: 0121 212 3664

Medicine Bar: The Birds Custard Factory was given a fashionable makeover to become a haven for Birmingham's alternative dance crowd. Tel: 0121 693 6333

Super-stylish Mailbox, a converted 1960s Royal Mail sorting office, is home base for trendiness and a calm way to unwind after scaling the Bullring.

NiteNite , budget capsule hotels with luxurious but miniature rooms, or the uber stylish Malmaison.

Must see:
Canals. With 36 miles of canal to Venice's 24, Birmingham has something to boast. Check out the restored section between The Mailbox and Brindleyplace.

Getting there: By 'troin', 1.5 hrs from Euston Station to New Street Station. Virgin Trains. From £10.00/each way in advance. Or £36.00/return.

P.S.: If you do end up a weary retail warrior or just swept off your feet by gondola man, one tip for the morning after: a Malmaison bloody mary. Beats out a cup of 'tie', a 'cannabea' or a 'point' and will leave you feeling 'ooroyt' in no time.


Blogger Shep said...

Ah yo alriit ther bab?

You really should have had a 'Balti' at least...

12:21 pm  
Anonymous Ellen said...

I ADORE Brummie. AWESOME that a Londoner had the guts to acknowledge the UK has any other city. Way to go city slicker. And too funny that you spend your weekends doing urban grass root hunting. Love it!

12:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But brummie bus drivers are the rudest in the country!

12:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blastid bostin review.
Bout time some up their own ar^e London types go north ofthe watford gap. Just leave your attitude behind.

12:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally hate the accent
sounds very ignorant and harsh.

1:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Second City? Birmingham lost that claim years ago to Manchester.

1:06 pm  
Anonymous Sam said...

Keep dreaming Manchester. Not a chance. Everybody knows Brum is the 2nd city. Quit it

1:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

or you could get on a train to a real city. Manchester. should we start with football teams? Sorry I won't get that dirty.- Londoners come one come all to the North West.

1:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brum is UKs First City. London is part of the US

1:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, a few things!
firstly, Manchester is the second city: culturally, financially, aesthetically, sportingly, aspirationally, infamously and through achievement. Manchester invented the computer; enough said?
sorry, no not enough said, we can also be understood; CS your franky and johnny link is tenuous to most ears.
Secondly, we have one of these wheel/eye/fun fair things once a year from just before christmas till, this year, May. Not perminant and not a spot on the London eye, but also not to bracket us with all the 'other' cities.
Now to a personal gripe; ellen, sycophantic daily smoke-up-ass blowing is lovely but we get your point. friends can say it over a beer (or pinot grigio) and if you secretly wair comfortable shoes i am afriad, well not to my knowledge but there is an adventurous spirit there, CS doesn't. not being nasty but please.
oh and i am anoymous because registering is 'a mither': northern phrase. bye.

1:51 pm  
Blogger Red said...

I used to think that Ozzie Osborne spoke like that because he had done too many drugs, but it turns out that it's just a Birmingham accent!

Several useful tips in your post, should I ever find myself in the vicinity. But... but... City Slicker: implying that size is everything when comparing Birmingham's canals to Venice's is just not on!

1:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woahhhhhhhhh anonymous. R them fighting words for me or CS? I like the blog and I like Brum. I know nothing about CS and the shoes she wears. CS I am not allowed anymore to say anything nice do u want to come in and defend yourself since i am just a reader? i am standing down.

2:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not fighting words at all but and don't want to shout down anyone, just some thoughts at this juncture.
by the way, i agree (canal commentor), in this case (brum v manc)it is quality not quantity.

2:06 pm  
Anonymous Ellen said...

take your point anonymous person but have to think CS was being a bit tongue in cheek about brum over venice but maybe not. will fight you in quality point. and the computer thing is desperate

2:10 pm  
Anonymous max said...

Nice work. But how come you missed the amazing Selfridges? (Manchester has two of those, obviously. And a Harvey Nicks. And a Heal's.)

2:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, now you're saying desperate. not fair.
Computer thing: actually, fact!!! and without which: no Gates, Jobs, or Blogs!
anyway, and a point i forgot to make earlier, if Brim (originally a typo but now more pertinent as it rhymes with grim) is that great, why does half the population ascent to mancheter every weekend?

2:18 pm  
Anonymous Fresh said...

Manc stank, brim grim
there is only one LONDON

2:24 pm  
Anonymous Ellen said...

I havent been in 14 years to manc
Keep trying

2:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ellen, you wouldn't recognise it and you're welcome any time.
oh and also, The Lakes (The Lake District) for all you southerly facing ones, are on;y 1hr north. KO!!!!!
jesus, i'm actually getting into this (blog tinternet thing), i can't stop! i have to go eat some black pudding now.

2:29 pm  
Anonymous Henry said...

Bring back the tone - Manchester's music scene far outstrips Brum's. Do they even have one? And we print the Guardian. Nuff said!

2:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and soon to have Time Out!
I thank you.
can't hear any Brim out there.
connection has timed out for another day.

2:34 pm  
Anonymous Gail said...

brummie bus drivers are famous for being rude. and i think that it does not serve england well to put manc against brum against london. we should be lifting up all our cities. good for cs to have visited birm and report back to us. but it is also the duty of cities themselves to promote and not tear down. london will always be the capital but others have their role as well. i now live in london but was raised in devon and the north just seems so far away. i need to spread my english wings.

4:08 pm  
Blogger Gareth said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:13 pm  
Blogger Gareth said...

Brummies? I love their accent and I find them to be really friendly people, bet you had a wicked time up there?

4:14 pm  
Anonymous Hels said...

LOL as an American in London never connected the NJ thang with the Brummie speak. Good call CS. Interesting how uptight UK people are about their cities.

4:40 pm  
Anonymous Dave, a script writer said...

As the UK's 'second city', Manchester has everything you would expect of a big city, but it also has a friendly feel. I haven't seen any crime since I have been here.

There is always something to do from the Bridgewater Hall, which has really great classical concerts with international stars from all over the world, to the best clubs you are going to find in the UK outside London - maybe even better than. It's got all the good points of London, it has got all the great things that you want to do. I think it is a great place to live. I am a script writer and my wife has (a blog!) and we do not plan to leave for London again.

4:56 pm  
Blogger tideliar said...

Ahh buggery! As if I wasn't bloody homesick enough now i wanna fuckin' Balti too!!

6:44 pm  
Blogger tideliar said...

..and now I've actualloy read through your have bunch of really weird anonys on here don't cha?!

6:47 pm  
Blogger Shep said...

It's funny that everyone gets all lairy as soon as north of Watford is mentioned...

I've been up north. I didn't care for it. I daresay the feeling was mutual.

9:02 pm  
Anonymous Gail said...

Another top restaurant in Brum is Jessica's where French waiters will serve you the poshest nosh in Birmingham on many tiny plates until you burst. Definitely one to check out when in town.

10:30 pm  
Blogger Pie said...

Ooh, the north-south divide...dare I get involved? Nah, I'm a southern softie :-)

Anyways, my two experiences of Birmingham have been awful - except the people were much nicer than the Londoners in general, and nicer still than where I come from.

9:29 am  
Anonymous Dan said...

Finally a London blog about anothwr city. Never thought I would see the day. The Radisson in Brum is good to but a bit pricey. Tall new very close to centre. Check out the theatre scheduling as well we are getting The History Boys in October. Cheers, Dan

11:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Malmaison is pure luxury and they do a mean breakfast. The bloody mary's are the best in town and try the eggs benedict for the ultimate hangover cure. Hope you enjoyed your stay City Slicker

3:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every Londoner should leave London, visit another UK city, and then preach the virtues. thansk for not forgetting your north of watford gap readership CS!

12:15 am  
Anonymous Hels said...

I am a Londoner going out with a Brummie and cannot tell you the number of awesomely fun nights I have had out with him an dhis mates in Brum. Dont let the Northern thing put you off. It is great fun for a night stay over (or a dirty weekend - stay at the Malmaison :-)
Some great tips here from CS also check out Cutting Factory.
Come one come all

9:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the beeb's defence, H2G2 (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy 2) is written by users, not themselves - it was a kind of precursor to wikipedia, and certainly as scurrulous.

10:15 am  
Blogger Moaner Lisa said...

Never flustered, never too dramatic and definitely never over excited, the monotone accent fits the brummie personality perfectly.

12:27 pm  
Blogger Will said...

I've left London to see other cities, but I always come back. No offence, but Birmingham's a shithole. And Manchester is definitely our second city, god I'd put Bristol or Newcastle higher up the list than Birmingham.

I'd prefer to live in Birmingham, Alabama.

1:14 pm  

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