It’s a Brum ting for Battleaxe’s birthday!

Just back from a few days in Birmingham.  As Battleaxe writes this, she should have been setting off for a holiday in Russia with old friends Sue and Alex. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but as we had already arranged to spend the day before up in Birmingham (my birthday) before flying out together, we decided to still go to Brum. Phew, the weather was scorchingly hot! Of course, the city was all still consumed with the Commonwealth Games, so we saw the sights in ‘Town’ (as Brummies call the city centre)… very impressed. It is now 11 years since we moved down to Hastings, and Birmingham City Centre has changed almost beyond recognition.

The famous Bull.

The first night, we all went out for a Chinese meal, by special and particular request from me.  Now look, Hastings, much as I now love you, let’s be frank, we just don’t have any decent Chinese restaurants down here.  There are plenty, but it is all monosodium glutamate-laced gloop. The same is sadly true for Indian restaurants. Nada, none. I suppose it is inevitable, if still disappointing, that Brum does better on the Indian meal front – it is the home of the Balti after all. Anyway, less of that. We went to a place called Wok Chi in Harborne – the city centre was far too crowded. Very good, very fresh food, beautifully presented. The place is small – largely does take-away, but well worth a visit.

Next day, I headed out with the Two Sues for a trip to town. We got the infamous Number 1 bus up to Five Ways (Infamous? Battleaxe travelled on that bus, on and off, for 30 years. First I travelled up to the Marriage Guidance/Relate centre, then in Broad Street, then I did a Women in Management course in one of the Five Ways towers, then later my company was based at Five Ways. That bus was notoriously unreliable). Now, some of Five Ways is known as ‘Edgbaston Village’. All tarted up, lots of bars… Anyway, great excitement, we caught a new-style EuroBrum tram.

It goes all though town as far as Wolverhampton, but we got off at Centenary Square. Even though it was just after 10am on a Monday the square was packed. We passed the temporary studio building where (the very boring, I think) Clare Balding presides over the telly coverage of the games, and looked at the famous Birmingham Bull. I gather nearly 10,000 people signed a petition to prevent the bull being scrapped after the Games, but it will clearly be a headache for the city to find an indoor home for the creature, which is over 10 metres tall.

Anyway, it is clearly a huge tourist attraction. For those who don’t know, the bull starred in the Games opening ceremony… here is a pic from the Birmingham Evening Mail. It still does tricks – moving and breathing fire, but it only does it once an hour, so we didn’t wait.

We walked through into Victoria Square, and had a coffee in Dishoom, which of course didn’t exist in my day.  Back then, the site was occupied by the Brutalist Central Library. I was sad to see it go – here is an old postcard, a bit fuzzy but you get the idea. Back in the 70s it was totally cutting edge, an architectural triumph… but lasted barely 30 years.

I didn’t really get an impression of the new architecture, but it looks something like this… Anyway, Dishoom definitely looked worthy of another visit – the food menu looked fabulous.

We had a look at the temporary Queen Victoria sculpture/statue/installation – by someone called Hew Locke. I quite liked it – not sure what it is supposed to be about, and like many Brum public art works, it has attracted plenty of controversy. Now, here is a strange thing – last week Philosopher and I went up to London, to Tate Britain. The ground floor of the gallery is full of a massive installation called ‘The Procession’, also by Hew Locke. Clearly, he is the man of the moment.  Here is a review of it.

Then, we caught the tram again. From what I saw of the new-look Brum, I was impressed. It does feel like a big city though. Well, that is because it is a big city, you idiot. So different from Hastings! I think I might find it a bit overwhelming.  Our friends said they don’t go up to the City Centre much… I don’t regret leaving, and nor does Philosopher. And I do like to be beside the sea.

In the evening, the two Sues had put together a great buffet supper for the six of us, including a Birthday Cake with some actual candles!

Look, our stay was not just a round of hedonisitc pleasure – I  did do a couple of other things – I’ll talk about them on another occasion.



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