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Birmingham: Observations of the 'Second City'

Birmingham is variously referred to, but is generally known as Britain's Second City. This is perhaps disputed in Manchester whilst it has also been recently suggested that Hebden Bridge, nestling as it does in the Pennines between Manchester and Leeds, and which is said to be  one of the most interesting and flourishing towns in the UK, could be a contender for 'Second City' status. BBC journalist, Evan Davis recently penned an article which made the case for Hebden Bridge in this regard, however it would be reasonable to suggest that this must have been a column filling item, rather than a serious social or demographic observation. Following a meeting held in Birmingham on the afternoon of Friday 7th, and it being the first truly glorious day of the year so far, the writer walked from the appointment into the city centre and this article shares a collection of thoughts from the experiences gained that afternoon.


As with so many towns and cities in Great Britain today, it is very hard to navigate around the various streets and promenades without being accosted by various obstacles of the human kind; indeed it would sometimes be useful to possess the lithe physique's of Torvill and Dean, purely to ease one's self around in an unhindered manner due to the plethora of clip board wielding survey hunters, street beggars but worse still the strategically placed, professional street sales people representing various branches of the multi-billion sterling, Charity Industry, the latter being so clearly evidenced by the constant bombardments we have via TV and newspaper advertising, many of which portray moving images that are clearly designed to tug at heart strings and to compel the viewer to complete a Direct Debit mandate for X-Pounds a month. 


The professional charity rep: is likely to be bedecked in a tabard which displays the logo of whoever it is they are working for on the particular day of the week; additionally, they too will be clip-board or electronic tablet wielding as they entreat you to complete a DDM for whatever amount a month. It is tantamount to harassment, purely and simply put and furthermore, given that they are either on £8-10 per hour or OTE (on target earnings) based earnings, they need to collect a fair few duly completed mandates to cover their individual employment costs, let alone their company overheads, before so much as a copper coin reaches whichever charity it is one is supposed to be supporting! This columnist has often suggested that the best course of action to take, is to forceably 'deposit' said clip-board or tablet in the bearers 'southern facing orifice' and where the sun has never been known to shine, so seriously irritating are the tactics of these people upon our streets today. 

Street beggars have for a long time, been a feature especially in major cities. For a variety of reasons, the numbers are increasing all the time however, whilst the liberals and lefties will doubtless blame the policies of successive governments for the increase in street-begging, the reality is that a great many are actually professional beggars or 'grifters'. Whilst perambulating along one street, one spotted a couple of middle-aged chaps with one handed extended to collect loose change whilst the other was employed in clutching a can of very strong lager! It could be speculated that if God had granted them two pairs of hands, that would mean that 3 cans could be supported leaving one free to gather the means to maintain such vital supplies!


One intrepid little chap ( a dwarf actually) successfully obtained a quid from yours truly when he caused mild amusement when he suggested that he was 'down on his arse' at the moment which, given that his was far closer to the ground than most, his endeavour bore fruit; however he was a pretty mobile little chap and a couple of hours later, he tried it again in a different location, but on this occasion he got 'growled at' at scurried off with a downcast expression at both ends (presumably) of his diminutive physiology!


On the bright side though, the weather was such that your ever thirsty columnist had his first beer of the day sitting outside in the sun; this was quickly followed by a second, before moving on to watering-holes anew. Having found a spot in view of one of Birmingham's many canals, one spied a pair of Her Majesties Police Officers patrolling the Tow Path and whilst it was pleasing to see visible policing in the Second City, that it was a nice day may just have had a bearing on the course of their patrol, this particular Friday afternoon. 


And so back to the train station homeward bound; half a dozen beers sampled, a pound for the 'Pigmy' and all charity clip board's duly accounted for and other obstacles avoided, it was time to vacate the city centre and to leave it to the night-time revellers who would need all the room they could get, especially later on at night.

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