It’s all okay in the UK

To round out a week full of travel-centric blog posts, I would like to share with you all a brief snap shot of Mr. M’s and my first few days in the magical city of Brum.

We lived in Birmingham for four months in 2009. I was on research leave for my MA, and M, being a Swiss citizen, was working as a language teacher at a community school, teaching ESL to young Afghani asylum seekers.

Here is a journal entry I wrote at 12:55 am because I couldn’t sleep due to my excitement yes, but also because I had an irrational fear that my landlady’s estranged husband (who also lived in the house) would murder us in our sleep:

I cannot even begin to communicate the hilarity that is M’s and my life here in Birmingham. We are enamoured with the city and its many eccentric but loveable inhabitants, impressed with its Balti and other culinary delights, frustrated with our “washing machine”, flabbergasted at the extremely cheap grocery prices, and proud of the fact that we turned an absolute dive into something that vaguely resembles a home.

Home sweet Brummy home!

Our travel to the city was a gong show and a half, what with the airline deciding to add stops in both Calgary and Dublin at the last minute, and then charging most passengers between four and nine hundred dollars at check-in because their luggage was overweight.

There was more than a little anger brewing at the Fly Globe Span counters (worst airline in the world – copyright 2009)  let me tell you. Luckily, I am a neurotic and anxiety-ridden individual and had already checked the allowances online, so we were in the clear.

Once we arrived in London we decided to take the bus to B town (or Brum, or Birmingham if you’re not into the whole Brevity thing) and not the train, which was a HUGE mistake, albeit much cheaper than the alternative.

The ride ended up taking about four and a half bloody hours.

I spent the time dozing under a pile of jackets because the air conditioning was set to arctic chill MAX, and I apparently have ZERO ability to cope with the cold, while M befriended a six hundred year old man who somehow didn’t succumb to the drop in temperature and die in his seat.

(I should have asked what his secret was.)

Anywho, we managed to finally get to our hotel (the glorious Etap Hotel, that may or may not moonlight as an elderly homosexual pick up joint) and fall into bed.

The next day we set out in search of a place to live and a cell phone plan. Once this (the plan) was procured, we needed to get our Canadian phone unlocked, which led to our first introduction to the Birmingham market, which we LOVE. We’re sure it’s the place where we’ll get most of our fruit and veg and any odd bits that we need.

Market! Well, just down the hill at least.

We then set off for the library in hopes of getting internet access to only learn that THERE IS ABSOLUTELY ZERO FREE WIRELESS IN ENGLAND SERIOUSLY THE INTERNET IS NO WHERE TO BE FOUND.

Why no internet UK? 

Eventually we managed to find a connection and slowly began to contact potential landlords.

M was a bit flabbergasted when it came to actually talking to people on the phone and he kept telling me (while the person was still on the line, yammering away), “I can’t understand anything these people are saying!”

The Brummy accent folks, is truly something to behold.

When one woman asked him if he was a student he responded with “okay” to which she just said “okay?”

Believe me when I say the laugh attack that I had been suppressing since our arrival in the city was unleashed with full force.

The first guy we met was a complete jerk. He showed up twenty-five minutes late, did not say hello, and then mumbled that it was “six months minimum” before just walking back up to his car!

What an arsehole.

After this encounter, we were lucky enough to meet Sue – our now landlord. (Though we did have to walk over 10km in order to get to her place.)

No word of a lie though, the place was a total crap box when we arrived. However, we’ve cleaned like maniacs, and M has put up a ton of paintings that Sue gave us, a coat and towel rack, the bed has new bedding ,and we’ve been given a small tv with tons of vhs tapes.

After a day committed to making our home, well, livable, we bussed to Moseley – a very radtastic area of the city – for dinner and drinks. Once again I was reminded about how much I still hate beer, but seriously the chips here are MAGNIFICENT.

Curry and chips!

Also, this is completely off topic, but if one more person calls me “love” I am seriously going to have to have a sit down, because it DESTROYS me.

Further, I have also now come to realize that “You okay?” doesn’t mean “Are you damaged?” but is more of an expression of helpfulness. This is very good to know because people say this to me A LOT.

Man. This is going to be quite an adventure.

I cannot wait to see where we’ll end up.

11 thoughts on “It’s all okay in the UK

  1. The Wife and I used Starbucks as American Embassys as we traveled around the UK on honeymoon. If we wanted to pick up wireless (which we did since our phones didn’t work and didn’t have internet anyway and we only brought an iPad and iTouch which don’t connect with wires to ther webiverse) we had to sign up for a Starbucks loyalty card which came with a code to access their wireless for free. There were many times late at night when we would stand in front of a closed coffee shop to make guest house reservations for the next night in the next town. Next time: we get international phones.

    • Good thinking re: starbucks. I did most of my studying-writing in a coffee shop next to the public library (figure that one out!) because as long as I bought a tea I could sit there all day and not have to pay for my wifi. (Hilarious almost typo – I first wrote wife instead of wifi). The only other reasonable place to get a connection was the bleak as hell library on campus, so either way, it wasn`t exactly comfort central. Drove me up the bloody wall.

      Do you know Charles Stross? I think you would really, REALLY dig him. Check out his blog: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/

  2. This is awesome! Love that you kept a journal while you were there, so fun to look back over that and see your impressions. It looks like a very cool city, and sounds like you guys made the best of the not-so-fab parts. What an adventure! Another amazing travel post…
    Have an unforgettable weekend, “love”. ;)

    • LOL! YOU DESTROY ME!!

      And you are totally right, it is a terrific way of reliving the memories – even the more, ahem, bonkers of the lot! Plus it jazzes me the heck up for future romps around the world.

      Birmingham is a great city that totally gets a ton of flack but we loved it. Can`t wait to return one day!

      Hope you have a fab, FAB weekend!

  3. I can really feel the excitement of the move (even the parts that didn’t go according to plan, hehe) Sounds like it was a great experience and I love the pic of the market especially- gives one a feeling of being ‘amongst it’.

    • It really was an amazing four months. I think about it all the time :)

      OMG you must be getting revved the heck up about your up-coming adventure! School must be very close to finishing… meep! The excitement!

  4. Oh, this takes me back to my childhood – the Brummy accent is routinely mocked in the UK – it sounds a bit like Liverpudlian on Tramadol – and “You okay, love?” comes out something like ‘Yow owkai luv?” Bahahaha! I’m just amazed you didn’t get called ‘duck’, that was endemic where I was born, 45 miles north of Brum.

    • If someone had called me duck I would probably have died on the spot. There is no way in heck I could handle that amount of cute.

      “Yow owkai luv?”actually just made me laugh out loud. 45 miles North eh? Wolverhampton mayhaps?

      • Stafford, duck. ;P I have to say, the accents in that part of the world are far more charming than I ever thought they were when I was a kid! And now I live in Geordie-land!

        • Geordie land is totes cray-cray (sorry I couldn’t help myself.) Every time I think of that accent I think of the bellhop in the second series of Alan Partridge. Blinkin hilarious!

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