13 May 2012

City of Surprise

Birmingham is only an hour and 40 minutes from Manchester by super-expensive train. The super-expensive bit is probably why I've never visited before. Also, I've never visited because I've heard it's a boring city, an ugly city.

I'm starting to think British people say this about every city. Britain doesn't have a city that everybody goes, "Oh, it's lovely there. It's cool and friendly and lovely." They don't have a San Francisco. According to them, they just have a whole load of Detroits.

I have heard from one or two people that Birmingham is nice. My friend Stuart lives there and he really likes it. I've heard English people say it's a very American city. Which I was hoping meant there would be tacos.

I visited Birmingham on a fluke a couple weeks ago. My friend Red (yup, that's her actual real name), works at a temp agency and they were offering two days paid work, travel and expenses covered, in Birmingham. I volunteered because I had the time and I need the money.

The bits of Birmingham that we saw during the visit were mostly on the university (as we were conducting surveys with university students). And the university is gorgeous. It has a really lovely campus, with loads of cool statues and public artworks. It was a fantastic place to wander around.

This is one of the campus buildings. I'm not even sure what people do in this building, I just loved all the domes.

And this super coolstatue commemorates Michael Faraday, by Edward Paolizzi. Faraday discovered the Magnetic Field & Electromagnetic Induction

And this building is the Selfridges in the middle of town! Selfridges is a department store that often does experimental design things in their front windows, but I've never seen something as large-scale as this. The whole thing is all bulbous and covered in these giant metal buttons. It's such a cool-looking building. Must be awful to work in, though, given there are no windows...

The Cathedral in the town is lovely, too, as are most British cathedrals. Red and I really liked the decorative hinges on the doors.  

One of the things I liked best about the city was that because it was very hilly, you often got surprising views. Just a bit uphill from the cathedral, when you looked across the little shopping plaza, it looked to me like the Cathedral was sinking between these 2 department stores, about to be completely engulfed. And wouldn't that be a lovely visual metaphor for the whole capitalism versus religion thing? Of course, I couldn't get too carried away with that thought. Red said, "I think it looks like the cathedral is pushing up between the buildings and splitting them apart."

I don't know whose glass is half-empty there, or whose is half-full.

Red and I had an awesome time, drinking at the Student Union and a little pub she'd found last time she was there. We got over 600 surveys filled out as well, which was a very good job, I reckon. We stayed in a weird hotel and both found ourselves thinking Birmingham Uni wouldn't be a bad place to waste another few years on education.

And then, we took the train back home to Manchester, to wait for that next offer of a few days' work.

Things are going pretty well for me here lately. I have started to work freelance with another radio company, which is very helpful, given I need money and would like to stop feeling like radio is just so flipping hard all the time.

Last weekend, I went down to London to celebrate Mark's birthday with his twin brother, Paul, and all their friends in London. It was a fantastic weekend. I met more of Mark's friends, and caught up with some I've known for months now. I don't think I've had that lovely a night out in *ages.* Here's the cookie letter cake I made for Mark's birthday.

I know. It looks ridiculous. I'll do better some other time!