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Birmingham feels so much smaller than I imagined such a large sprawl on the map would be. The sprawl made me think it would be like London's neverending vastness, where as in fact, it's all very compact and Victorian. (To be fair, I now know it's the suburbs, not the city, which do all the sprawling. Maybe B'ham is really more a conflation of several cities, along with all the ambient conurbation expanse.) It may have a slew of city-center railway stations, but the cathedral is petite and I feel as if I can walk everywhere important within twenty minutes. It has a thriving, healthy city centre with handsome buildings and a plenitude of the usual High Street shops.

The city's main waterway is a canal system. It couldn't have grown up that way though. I wonder what the river is hiding in Birmingham's heart?


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 29th, 2007 10:29 pm (UTC)
How long are you around in Birmingham for? Do you want to meet up with Abi and me sometime?
Mar. 29th, 2007 10:56 pm (UTC)
I'm here until Saturday afternoon, for a conference. While I love the idea of seeing you two while here, I'm not sure if the logistics are obvious. I leave as soon as the conference ends. Thank you for offering!

I'm going to be seeing lots of you two next week, though, I hope!
Mar. 29th, 2007 11:01 pm (UTC)
Yes, the logistics are probably a bit tricky. Not to worry - we'll see you (and hopefully C too) in Chester next week.
Mar. 29th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)
I grew up on the edge of those suburbs, and, yes, the city centre itself really is surprisingly tiny compared to London.

Go and see St-Martin-in-the-Bull-Ring (now nestling in the shadow of a looming, amorphous shopping centre), with its stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, and its sixteen bells. And take some time to go for a good curry somewhere :-)

And apparently Birmingham really does have more canals than Venice.
Mar. 30th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC)
It has more milage of canals anyways, according to that.

I have to say, when I saw your comment I wondered what it meant. How many canals does Venice have? In the literal Venetian sense, perhaps three of them - the Grand Canal, the Giudecca (and I'm sure there's one more, only I can't think what it would be just now). Everything else is a rio. On the other hand, we English speakers think of rii as canals.

So much to see and so little time! I'll have to come back.
Mar. 29th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC)
I, too, am a Brummie, and thanks to school Geography classes can tell you that the river you're searching for is the Rea. It's barely visible within the cityscape now, though, and was only ever pretty tiny anyway.
Mar. 30th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 29th, 2007 11:52 pm (UTC)
The river Tame is there somewhere too, I think, but it's not really a river-crossing settlement - it was a mere village until the Industrial Revolution. The sprawl includes the Black Country which is actually quite distinct - and has an even nastier accent. If you're in Edgebaston you're already two villages away from proper Brum. The lower-middle-class suburban sprawl goes on for miles in each direction and merges with the Black Country, South Staffs, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield and various other distinct places. John Lewis sees no commercial advantage in having a brach in Brum, but does have one in Solihull, generally accounted posh by Brummy standards.

I'm about 35 miles away, in actual Wariwckshire, a county which once held Birmingham till it burst out like the creature in Alien...
Mar. 30th, 2007 11:31 am (UTC)

Ar doh loik the way yow am torkin baht us Black Cuntry Fowk!*

*Translation: Why, I verily speak with the softness of Spring in my mouth, don'tcherknow!

Mar. 30th, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
Moi grandad yowsed tow tork Aynoch and Ayli wiv the best of 'em. Oi jus' down't loik the whoine mooch.

Mar. 30th, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
Even villages have a tendency to grow up near water - especially running water. I really need to sit down with a map when I am reunited (tomorrow) with my atlas.
Mar. 30th, 2007 06:06 am (UTC)
Oddly, it isn't several cities. It's much more networked and compact than, say, Manchester. If you follow that "sprawl" you'll find it's actually pretty dense. You have to get out to Solihull before you are in another Real Place.

Go into the gallery: they have many of their pre-Raphs in storage, but it's still a fabulous collection, and the tea room is an experience in itself.
Mar. 30th, 2007 06:58 am (UTC)
You're not counting e.g. Moseley as a Real Place? :-)
Mar. 30th, 2007 07:52 am (UTC)
When Moseley can sustain a particular supermarket for an entire decade, it will be a Real Place.
Mar. 30th, 2007 11:14 am (UTC)
Hmm ... I don't use that definition :-) Sage Wholefoods seems very well established, though.
Mar. 30th, 2007 11:35 am (UTC)
I've tried this conversation with a certain someone and he kept pointing to London, saying, well Chelsea is part of London -it's still London. And I said , yes, but that's London. We tend not to think of Edgbaston and Moseley as part of Birmingham itself, but of the Birmingham area. Degrees of separation perhaps.
Mar. 30th, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC)
We do? I grew up in Moseley and we all called ourselves Brummies.
Mar. 30th, 2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
Well, I'd probably call you a Brummie as well, but that would probably be to distinguish your geographical provenance from mine! We are great separatists in the Black Country - it can be a divisive thing sometimes...

Mar. 30th, 2007 02:15 pm (UTC)
go on, guess who said that!
Mar. 30th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC)
I just realised that in a roundabout way, I've admitted to being a Brummie albeit in denial... what am I on about??

... I think I need a nap.
Mar. 30th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
Duz yow coom from Doodlaye then?

Mar. 30th, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)
The northwest is one big mass of urbanization, from Preston to Liverpool to Manchester to sprawl. But - having spent more time there - I don't think of it as one big place the way I mistakenly did Birmingham. I've been to Solihull to visit friends - it didn't really feel like much more than Manchester suburbia, but I didn't see too much of it for context.
Mar. 30th, 2007 06:59 am (UTC)
The Real Rivers AFAIK are the Rea - conduited, but you can walk along parts outside the city e.g. at Cannon Hill Park - and Cole, which runs through The Shire.

Say Hi! to D today, as I assume you're at the same conference as Z, F etc?
Mar. 30th, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'll look at a map in greater detail when I next have convenient access to one (and am more awake...). Had I only checked email this morning, I could have done so! As is, you'll be seeing lots more of him before I will. I am indeed at the same conference.
Mar. 30th, 2007 08:01 am (UTC)
Birmingham only really became a city of any significance because it was a central point in the industrial revolution. The city and the canals grew together, effectively.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )