#17: Birmingham Diaries- 1
My Commonwealth Games Tour Diary
There are few things in life that are more welcome than unlooked for gifts. In that category, is the airline automatically assigning you a window seat. A good start to the journey to the Commonwealth Games, I thought.
So imagine my disappointment when I finally got to my seat, only to see it occupied by another woman. “I’ve just had surgery and need to rest”, she said. I had my doubts, but kept them to myself, and did not let her see me internally rolling my eyes as I settled into a middle seat. Even when she rolled into my space as she slept.
My grumbles continued as I arrived in London, from where I was transiting to Birmingham. Big mistake; should’ve booked a flight straight to Birmingham, just so that I could avoid the hour-long immigration line at Heathrow Airport. If you know, you know.
(Birmingham Airport meanwhile had a separate line for Games family.)
(On the bright side, the gentleman at the Immigration counter was also tired of seeing Australia win and was rooting for an India-England final.)
Nothing much had changed in London either. You’ll be hard pressed to find English spoken on the Tube, one of the things I love about this melting pot of a city. And London still has the same thrumming, bustling energy, the kind I feel in Mumbai, except, this vibe is cleaner, more organised, less sweaty.
What I loved about the hour I spent transiting through London, is observing fashion. In 10 minutes at Victoria Station, I saw it all: summer dresses, joggers and jeans, nothing but knickers and a jacket, pink pants, green shirts, suspenders, pants that needed suspending, everything. It’s refreshing to see a culture where self expression is so wide and varied. Especially for me, someone who doesn’t change my wardrobe very easily or often. I’ve still not gotten over the fact that bell bottom jeans are back in fashion, just as I was getting attached to my collection of drain pipes.
My first impressions of Birmingham? Memories of transiting through this city when I was in England for the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup. That time I’d only seen the train and bus stations, this time I went for a run through the city centre, and wondered what a very ancient Asian looking monument was doing in the middle of a modern roundabout.
It turns out the Chinese Pagoda is a nod to the Chinese Quarter, an area of Birmingham. Birmingham also has a Gun Quarter, an area that was the centre of gun manufacture in England in the 1700s. Ironic, for a host city that has chosen to not include shooting in the Games, much to India’s disappointment.
I also stopped to admire some graffiti that was going up around the city. Artist Joshua (Gent48) told me about one of his designs, Birmingham Bifrost, which was going up close to New Street Station, the transport hub of central Birmingham. The rainbow coloured bridge, which Marvel fans will be well acquainted with, is a representation of the different worlds all connected by this multicultural city. Give the Gent a follow.
A walk from my Airbnb to the Games Media Hub took me by the canals of Birmingham (I’ve been told, multiple times now, how Birmingham’s canals are longer than those of Venice and Amsterdam combined). Long boats, narrow lanes, and large gulls who like to pose made for plenty of pretty photo ops.
The Games staff were unfailingly polite, the Media Hub had a few familiar faces who I hadn’t seen since before Covid, and the pasta I had for dinner was passable. What I’m most thrilled about in Birmingham so far, is that my Airbnb’s bathroom has provided a mug.
If you know, you know.
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