I consider myself incredibly lucky most of the time. One of the things I think myself lucky for was being born in Birmingham (UK). The word even looks lovely written down, lots of skinny letters mixed in with fat ones…glorious, and a very welcome sight on the motorway signs as you’re driving home. (It is only slightly annoying when they shorten it to B’ham, because even that makes me smile.) The city itself is as diverse and multicultural as it is possible for a place to be, full of huge differences held together by an accent that always sounds as if it doesn’t quite know if you’re joking or not. It is a wonderful place with art galleries and parks and tiny pubs hosting live music. There are posh shops selling £400 jeans to be found up the street from independent department stores full of goths, vinyl records and second-hand tartan.
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Birmingham is not a place that creates scared little country mice, so my reaction to that other Big City – London, was interesting to me. I am fortunate enough to have visited London so frequently that I have lost the vacant tourist gaze (I hope) but I still find it engaging enough to provoke strange musings and ambles of delight.
I romanticise London. I don’t know why I do this because my normal reaction to hype of any sort is to deny it, question it’s origins and deliberately act in defiance of it. I don’t think I can blame this on TV or films either, I watch so few of them, but still I find myself day-dreaming as I walk towards Head Office from Euston. Those two bored tradesmen, sitting in their anonymous white van, taking a break from work? They’re NOT bored tradesmen. In reality they are fiendish supervillians casing that bank before they rob it next week. Those policemen, friendly and polite as they answer yet another tourist’s question? They have just had the word that a major celebrity will be rounding the corner in five minutes and they are scanning our faces for stalkers. That middle-aged woman, shyly smiling as she passed you, obviously proud of her re-usable coffee mug? She is really a world famous, yet reclusive, author about to sign an 60 million pound publishing contract.
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These are thoughts that can drift through my mind anywhere, but they seem particularly frequent in London. The buildings hold delights, the people are all characters and my visits are events I look forward to. I know everywhere can have dark and frightening aspects, but the colours and textures my mind adds when I go to London, or Birmingham, increases my enjoyment of them. The pleasure I get from a simple train or car journey is increased by those imaginary backstories and mysteries. They don’t cost anything, they don’t add any distress or harm to anyone else’s life, and they allow me to enjoy situations that may otherwise stress or depress me.
I consider myself fortunate because I know there are people in the world who would struggle to entertain or contain those thoughts. They add to my existence while others might be consumed by them. I accept the delights of those flights of fancy, at the same time as acknowledging that others would find them terrifying.
I know how lucky I am.