It was the grey-est, gloomiest, damp January day and yet the people of Birmingham seemed to have lots to smile about. Our day in Brum for Cup football and a Burns Night Supper started with a Peroni for me and a glass of Kir Royale for Mrs Jones in Grand Central’s upmarket Frizzenti bar.
Next to us sat a young blonde Brummie woman who greeted her friend with a ‘y’owroyte moiyte?’ We had a really pleasant easy chat with them for a while. A bit later, I heard her complimenting one of the many groups of well-dressed young women taking a break from their shopping looking to have a good time. Everyone around seemed to be natural, decent, authentic, friendly and keen to have a good time.
A couple of pints later my walk to the Birmingham City ground took me through our second city’s history that took me firstly alongside t Chinatown, then past the old Bull Ring market and before eventually arriving in Digbeth.
Spending an evening here – where over 40 years ago I hung about for hours waiting for my coach to university – would never occur to me but nowadays there are some really tempting ethnic eateries and funky bars. I was beginning to wonder whether I really should be having something more exciting than tatties, neeps and haggis for dinner. It also made me think how much more exciting migration has made Britain’s cities.
Following all the other fans I took a shortcut through a grim looking industrial estate that still had a bit of a workshop of the world feel to it. Amidst all the small factories was the odd pub with revelers spilling out onto the street – they were happy, smiling with a bit of good-hearted banter going on between the two sets of fans.
As a Coventry fan sitting in the home end it really felt like the Blues fans were happy to make their homeless neighbours feel welcome in their stand and in their seats which made for a great atmosphere.
Maybe that friendly, generous, easy-going, happy, welcoming nature is partly why Birmingham became such a success in the industrial revolution.
With honours even between the two teams I walked back a slightly different route which took me past the impressive Festival of Light Show which had seemed to merge into the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Our Burns Night Supper was in a cool restaurant and bar along Temple Row near the Cathedral, a really lively part of the city centre on a Saturday night.
We had a great evening in a great city, a place I used to work in over 30 years ago, which has improved beyond recognition.