I read lovely Jon Hickman’s post on Paradise Circus about how he ended up in Birmingham. It’s a lovely bit of writing. I like Jon. I like how he writes. I’d like him to write more but, you know, he’s got a job teaching a degree to twitter to students (I hope he appreciates how hard I worked at that joke), a family and his genius has to work in several ways rather than just getting words on a page for me to enjoy.
Like John I didn’t grow up in Birmingham but it’s formed a backdrop for some of the best/worst/emotional/fun memories of the last thirteen years. I grew up in Wiltshire which emotionally feels a bit like Jon’s version of Guernsey. Easy to make cracks about the best thing about Calne being the A4 out of town. Before Joseph Priestley got run out of Birmingham and became friends with American Presidents he invented Oxygen in Calne. Also Michael Tippet lived in Calne and we both left the town at similar points, although he moved to London and I to Canterbury. I like that Michael Tippet lived in Calne, this fact pleases me greatly.
I liked that Jon posed the question “What on earth are you doing here?” Birmingham is a place I’ve left over and over again and keep returning to over and again. I’m like a really bad prodigal son. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Jon talked about the music that made him a 90’s teen. I was a 90’s teen too but my musical reference points are different.
First Arrival: I’m unsure of the exact year but when I was under 10 years old my church made a weekend visit to a revival meeting in Birmingham. Before the meeting we visited the concrete collar of the old Bull Ring, I have snippets of memory of greying sooty concrete and a sweet stall, underpasses. I’m suspicious of my memory because of the amount of Brum related nostalgia videos I’ve watched since then. Perhaps Telly Savallas narrates it in my head. I’ve also a feeling that the revival event was an intersection of a number of Christian friends before we knew each other, some were in the audience, some on stage playing music a couple of times we’ve tried to unpick who was where doing what and if we spoke but we’re not sure.
I was too young to be like the Prodigal Son as I was just a visitor, I was not permanent.
Second Return: Another childhood visit, another church event. A family friend was being installed as a leader at a central Birmingham church. The day was full of memories but my memory of Birmingham that day was being driven home at night along what I now know is the Hagley Road towards the motorway passing Chiquito’s. Cool glass and the light from streetlamps passing over my closed eyes.
Third Return: A rainy Saturday morning at New Street Station months after Diana’s funeral, the national still clutching its collective head in an emotional hangover. My parents had announced they wanted to move to Cradley Heath. (I know it’s not really Birmingham but emotionally it was Greater Birmingham at that point)
Fourth return, Fifth return and Sixth Returns are still a little too close for discussion. Fudging, I know but you’ll have to wait a little longer before I share those stories. Jon says half arsed apologies make him a Brummie. I think it’s the fact that no matter how many times I’ve tried to leave Birmingham I always seem to end up back there makes me a Brummie.