On Sunday I took a stroll over from Stirchley where I was staying to Northfield. I wrote this after a little wandering around.
I’m in Northfield. Specifically, I’m in McDonalds. It seems to be the only place open on a Sunday that you can sit and drink coffee. My Grandma would have been appalled. I’m pretty sure she’d be appalled by the idea of going out and paying just short of twenty-six shillings on a coffee served in a plastic cup, that you had to take to your own table. A table that hadn’t been wiped down for what looks like the last four or five customers at least. I doubt she’d like the music that’s screeching out of the loudspeakers, but if she was really here, I think she’d be most upset by the general state of the shops along the Bristol Road. To her, this was always “the village” because when she moved here at the end of the nineteen-thirties, that’s just what it was. I lived here from 1969 to 1975 but it still feels like home. We kept coming here regularly at least until my Grandma died in 1991. We think the 1970s were grim (I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy this week and it evoked very well for me the dark, brown, smoky atmosphere of my childhood) but I can’t believe that this town centre area was nearly as depressing as this forty years ago.
When I was in Worthing last week I asked what was wrong that needed fixing. It seemed obvious to Dan, who’s a native of the town and has lived there practically all his life. Perhaps it’s the same for me and Northfield, perhaps you need a real connection to see it. Or perhaps this bit of Birmingham really is more depressed than a seaside town in Sussex. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, they both need help and neither of them are getting it from the existing mix of public and voluntary services or the private sector.