This past weekend I made the latest stop on my Tour of Britain - Birmingham, or as it's (to some, un)affectionately known, Brum. Birmingham is Britain's second city and was one of the centres of the industrial revolution. Like the rest of those cities, it fell into decline once the world decided it didn't need so many wool knickers. And it has made its way back from the dark days farther than some other blighted urban oases - farther than Middlesbrough, for sure - but not as far as Manchester or the other Northern gems.
The word that appropriately comes to mind to describe Birmingham is middling*. It reminded me a lot of Boston. It's not a very interesting city - nice enough, if you've a reason to be there, such as for school or you want a comfortable, sedate, middle class life. But there's nothing striking or compelling, either in a good or bad way. I toured the bars, rifely as average as the city. You can tell the 70s had their way with the city though - lots of concrete, much of it designed by Polish architects from the look of it, which I love. It was fine, but no reason to rush back.
In local news, the credit crunch has hit home. I was lucky enough not to lose my job, but my flatmate was not. Today is his last day and there is absolutely nothing out there right now. But I really enjoy living with him, so in the interest of the longer-term living environment, I am going to make some rent concessions to him while he gets on his feet again. So, I will be poorer for a little while - TV nights, pasta and (a) bottle(s) wine anyone?
And speaking of TV nights, that's always easier when you live near - so why don't you come live nearer me?!
My development came to market just as the housing market crested and the credit market began to wane. They've not sold all the units, even with shared ownership and, as a result, are offering places on a unique scheme called rent-to-buy. With this programme, you get to rent a flat at a subsidised rate for up to three years.
The idea is, with cheaper rent, you can make the savings to buy. Then, at any time you decide in that three years, you can buy your flat (either outright or in shared ownership). So, it's a good, inexpensive way to get in a flat, wait out the decline in the market, and then jump in when you're ready. A friend of mine has just accepted a two-bed flat in the programme and it's a really good deal.
So, if you're keen, just drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org, CCing email@example.com and let them know you're interested. I think there's even an open house coming up.
Hope to have some of you as neighbours soon. :-)
*For those not familiar with Britain's geography, Birmingham is the major city of a region called the West Midlands.
1) DSC00003 - Me reading the timely Christmas menu at a balti house
2) DSC00004 - Mary Keany crossing a footbridge in the city centre
3) DSC00008 - Mary and I at some basin someone told us about where the industrial canals come together. It's one of those urban-renewal centre points, but I can't for the life of me remember what it's called
4) DSC00009 - And we're ready for our close-up!
5) DSC00011 - Brum has some exquisite architecture
6) DSC00012 - Some even with trees on it
7) DSC00014 - Numbering as only the British could do
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
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