One of the questions that I was asked when I embarked on this mini quest to create a digital persona to keep me out of trouble and to keep you informed about travel and Birmingham events was… Why? And more specifically… why Birmingham?
Well first of all, write about what you know. I’m a Brummie girl, born and bred in the city. There have been times – more than once in fact – that I have wanted to pack it all in, pack up my suitcases and move elsewhere. This usually comes at the end of a holiday, or a weekend away – or sometimes even after a daytrip – when rolling green fields and beautiful countryside suddenly become a concrete, graffitied jungle*. Why did I have to be born here, in the middle of England? And more to the point – why do I stay when the world is at my fingertips?
*For the record, we have discovered that most cities have their “less” desirable areas, which are also concrete, graffitied jungles. These areas are just not publicised in the guidebooks.
Because it’s my home. I love London, New York, Paris, Milan. But as a visitor – as a tourist. I can stroll along boulevards with no care in the world, spend whole mornings jumping around rocks in Central Park, pop into shops that I have no intention of ever spending money in. Because I’m a visitor. I have time to explore. Unless there is a specific tour, gallery booking, theatre show or dinner reservation, you’re not on a strict timetable. You can linger for an hour over a coffee, people-watching. You can eat waffles from a street stall in Brussels at 4pm, and not have to eat for the rest of the day. You can order a glass of wine or a beer, with any – or every – meal, and not be considered an alcoholic. Because you’re a visitor. You’re on vacation-time. And this lack of scheduling, with the necessity to be a certain place at a certain time eliminated, means that you can take in your surroundings and enjoy them a little bit more.
When was the last time you did this in your home town? I mean, really did this. Got up in the morning with no plan for your day but to explore your city? Having brunch or a coffee in a little café that you discover down a side street – not the Starbucks from which you pick up your morning caffeine fix on the way in to work. Stopped and looked at the streets and buildings that you hustle past every day, in too much of a hurry to get to your destination. Sought out the parks and waterways hidden behind the grey facades.
We don’t tend to treat our own city as we would if we were visiting elsewhere. If I spend a weekend in another city – even in the UK – I will prepare a Google map of recommended sites, cafes, parks and restaurants. I will check opening times of museums and galleries, and find out what events might be happening in the city that we can take part in. I’ll check reviews on TripAdvisor, and ask advice from friends, family and colleagues who may have visited. In the past I have been more likely to know about events happening in other cities than those in my own back yard.
The realisation has been this. I live and work in Birmingham. Barring a serious life-changing event or lottery win, this is unlikely to change. I can visit every city in the world, but Birmingham is the one that I’ll come home to. And therefore, every moment possible (and where appropriate) should be treated like I’m discovering something or somewhere new. Mr Fletche and I have tended to stick to the same old drinking establishments and areas in the past, but this year we have extended our patch to include the Jewellery Quarter and Digbeth. Even in familiar areas such as the Mailbox, Brindley Place, St Pauls Square, we have avoided familiar places for the sake of trying somewhere new. If we have a choice between a chain bar or restaurant with its generic menu of food and drink, or an independent with a rotating menu of new and interesting choices, we will choose the independent. (Not every time though – sometimes familiar is just what the doctor’s ordered; I don’t always want to peruse a cocktail menu the size of the phone book when all I want is a glass of merlot.) Sometimes we make a good discovery, and we’ll want to return. Sometimes, once is enough. But it’s about making new experiences and memories, even if they are on our doorstep.
So, why focus on Birmingham? Because I’m a Brummie. And because this city is exciting and vibrant and always has something interesting happening. New buildings spring up all the time, making us gush and snap photos of an area which has been a construction site for as long as we can remember (yes New Street/Grand Central, I’m looking at you). Architecture divides opinion – Selfridges, the Library – but everyone has an opinion, and as a result Birmingham is talked about. New bars and restaurants are constantly opening, or re-inventing themselves – you can eat your way around the world, and still leave room for a cocktail or two. And the streetfood events and local festivals surely can’t be beaten – in the City Centre or in the suburbs, there’s always someone cooking up some sort of amazing concoction which just tastes better in the fresh air.
Things I love. Travelling. Writing. Being with my husband and family. Birmingham. And that is what a Brummie Home and Abroad is about.