Whenever I think of Birmingham, all that springs to mind is that line by Mike Harding: “How can two and half million people have a speech defect?”

I can’t help it because I know very little about the place. I’ve rarely visited and then some years ago on business, so I hardly got to know the city. All I have is an abiding memory of flyovers and flyunders, particularly the latter; narrow lanes and high speeds seemingly inches from concrete walls and pillars worryingly reminiscent of a similar tunnel in Paris in 1996.

Also the overwhelming sixtiesness of the architecture. I know that Birmingham suffered more than most cities having been pretty comprehensively flattened in WWII, but having sixties architects involved in its rebuilding seems to have piled terrible luck upon bad.

Mrs P has a similarly jaundiced view having lived in Handsworth for about a year after leaving university, but when we ventured there on Monday we decided to do so with an open mind.

On the plus side, there were far more fine older buildings than we thought, or else they were always there and have only now regained some of their original grandeur.

Some of the newer developments are quite fine too, especially The Bullring. We particularly liked the way that two of the new buildings frame the spire of St Martin’s Church below. We wandered down to look at this fine example of a parish church, although with such retail giants towering above, it does rather hint at the dominance of mammon over God.

On the downside, there is still too much of the sixties concrete buildings left, grim and soulless, alongside and in stark contrast to the wide open spaces and impressive structures, such as the Hall of Memory.

We found the people friendly and helpful and rather more intelligible than Mike Harding had led me to believe. Given good enough reason, we’d go back again.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

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