Monday, 5 December 2011

Work avoidance

I'm not avoiding you lot, honest! It's just been one heck of an autumn. As countless people have now said to me wistfully, becoming a parent, getting a new job and moving house are generally considered three of the most stressful things to do, and we have done them all within the space of a couple of months. I know! What can I say, other than that it was unavoidable? Not for us the long, cold separation of husband-working-away-from-wife and wife-at-home-with-newborn-infant. The job surely came at the providential moment, and what else could we do but answer the call? We see it as a letting go - love is proven in the letting go, as C. Day Lewis wrote in another context - and, at the same time a leap into the unknown.

That said, our new town is becoming a little less unknown. My move to a Midlands university persuaded us that Birmingham was the place to go - against all stereotypes and its dreadful reputation - and we have not been disappointed. Birmingham is in point of fact a magnificent city of a thousand hues, from its green and leafy outskirts to its pug-ugly, greying 1960s architecture. I can leave the latter but I'm very grateful for the former.

Actually, there us much less of the 1960s greying architecture than I had feared. Birmimgham is still filled with the civic grandeur that the Chamberlains brought to town. Moreover, the square and lawns around the Anglican cathedral make a welcome Georgian contrast with the pedestrianised steel and glass splendour of the far more recent Bullring Shopping Centre.

And then there is the city's heart, or rather its belly: le ventre de Birmimgham, with its crowded fruit and veg market

where they sell amazing produce at £1 a bowl, and its glorious meat and fish market where you can buy everything from finest, unplucked game to dull-eyed, staring sheep heads.

This isn't the plastic-wrapped cosmopolis in its low-fat pomp; rather, it is like something lurching out of the Middle Ages, vulgar, red-raw and ponging to high heaven but deeply human to the core. I bow to this temple of food as often as I can.

But the true religion of Birmingham is its Catholicism: it is extraordinary how it seeps out of all its pores. From the magnificent St Chad's along one of the Queensways, to the Oratory on the Hagley Road.

It was no mistake a pope just had to come here to beatify the first English beatus who ever walked these streets.

So, you see, with all that, and my many parental and professional duties, I might be excused even light blogging, were it not for the temptation of the soap box. And what do I feel like ranting about at the moment? Er, perhaps I must leave that for another time. Duty calls me away ...


Sue Sims said...

Remembering my own ten years in Birmingham, I'd agree that it's not that bad a city. However, Mrs Ches may not like it so much, particularly coming up to Christmas: because of the way the inner ring road was constructed after the war, it's almost impossible for the shopping area to expand. That means that premium rents are demanded in the city centre, leading to an abundance of large (and boring) chain stores and very few independent retailers. We found that Harborne was the only place we could buy anything interesting or different, and used to go to Nottingham or Oxford for Christmas shopping.

Ironically, when we lived in Birmingham, with the wondrous Oratory, I wasn't a Catholic! I only once visited St Chad's - not the church, but the parish hall, and that was for a book fair:-(

However, if you're still living there when Mini-Ches is 11, the grammar schools are excellent (I taught at both KES and KEHS for some years).

The Guild Master said...

'...vulgar, red-raw and ponging to high heaven but deeply human to the core. I bow to this temple of food as often as I can.'

So that picture above is seafood? Not...

Ches said...

You've lost me there, GM!

Ches said...

Thanks, Sue. We're not far from Harbourne but have yet to explore it!

Anagnostis said...

I used to be quite a frequent visitor, and spent two months working out of Coventry too. I really grew to like it - even the accent, and that ironic, lugubrious attitude. The sixties architecture is fab and its concentrated profusion constitutes a unique and deeply exotic revelation of a vanished world!

Kipper tie? Milk and two sugars, please.

Anagnostis said...

Mind you, I also love Hull.

Richard said...

Okay, it's been two full months. Holiday is over.