Saturday, 7 February 2015

Belonging

We're currently driving through the misty Shropshire countryside, listening to the London Requiem at full volume on the car stereo. It's amazing how appropriate the album feels for a journey through the darkened, rather mystical world of the county in which I'm proud to say I was born. I rather like being able to say I'm a Shropshire Lad...

We've spent the day in North Wales at Nathan's sister's house, celebrating Nathan's niece's 21st birthday. It was a lovely gathering which featured four generations of an extended family with so many eccentric and unique branches, it would be almost impossible to explain!

Sam had cooked us all chilli and a table full of party snacks including a birthday cake in the shape of a hippo surrounded by smarties. Perfect. Truly.

We talked a great deal about Christmas Day, which was the last day we'd all gathered together in that particular house. It was agreed that it had been one of the best Christmases ever.

We're now driving on the M6 through the middle of Birmingham. The mist is really closing in, or possibly descending because rather curiously there's a clear moon in the sky. A series of floodlights on incredibly tall posts are glowing - almost floating - in the air. Birmingham always looks so troubled from the M6. One sees nothing but battered industrial landscapes, lorry parks, rusty rail depots, pylons, graveyards and down-at-heel grubby Victorian buildings. The M6 is elevated above everything. Almost as though escape via road is the aspiration of all Brummies...

I'm a proud Midlander, but Birmingham was never somewhere we visited. There never seemed to be a great deal of point in our going there. We shopped and went ice skating in Milton Keynes and Peterborough and went to the theatre in Northampton and Coventry. I always thought Birmingham was nothing but great big scary blocks of concrete watched over by the ghastly Rotunda. I've been there perhaps five times in my life - once admittedly to watch the Eurovision Song Contest. I'm proud to say I was there in the flesh when Dana International won. The parents say the city is beautiful these days. The canal district is apparently well worth a visit and the experience of hearing the CBSO playing at the Symphony Hall is, I'm told, one of the great wonders of the sonic world!

Maybe I should go back there to spend some proper time...

As I write this sentence, we're passing the exit for Coventry and Nuneaton, which is where my part of the Midlands truly begins. I love Warwickshire. The red earth in these parts was farmed by countless generations of my forefathers, and every time I enter the county, I feel a sense of great peace and belonging which grows as I age.

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