Adventures of an Expat Kiwi – Part 6 – Welcome to Birmingham

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

Birmingham – June or July 1997

Part One, Two, Three, Four and Five of the Adventures of an Expat Kiwi are here…

The Bullring Centre in Birmingham looked like this in the mid to late 90's - Expat Kiwi's adventures in Birmingham
The Bullring Centre in Birmingham looked like this in the mid-to-late ’90s when I visited

After about 6 weeks working in the pub, and after my boss accused me of shorting the tips for the Office/Her Drinking Fund, I had built my funds back up to somewhere near what they were when I arrived in the UK. So still with less than a grand to my name, I decided it was time to look for greener pastures.

One night in the basement bar of the Eastbourne Terrace hostel, I met a tall, friendly and outgoing Canadian guy, called Orlando. He had just returned from a visit home to see his family in Canada and was staying in London for a few days to catch up with friends before heading back to this awesome, exciting and outstanding city where we lived, not far from London.

He was singing the praises of this overlooked, little gem of a city. This haven of joy and fun, of parties and night clubs, of drastically reduced cost-of-living… Of culinary delight!

I and a few other travellers were definitely interested.

Orlando offered to put me and a Kiwi girl I’d met in the hostel, I recall her name was Carla, up at his place to check out the wonders that Birmingham had to offer.

Mosley Shoals by Ocean Colour Scene - 1996

He lived in the Village of Mosley, made famous by the Ocean Colour Scene album, Mosley Shoals, that had been huge about a year before. Mosley Village was a small green suburb a few miles south of the city centre.

Orlando spoke of the club night Godskitchen at the Sanctuary Nightclub in town. He spoke of the path to paradise, Ladypool road in nearby Balsall Heath, known to the locals as Balti Boulevard (or was it the Balti Mile?). Reportedly where the Balti was invented and home to the best Curry in England.

Godskitchen Birmingham at the Sanctuary
Godskitchen at the Sanctuary in Birmingham, circa 1997

The way he told tales of the place there was no reason to remain in London for a moment longer!

We travelled as a trio to Birmingham. This was my first experience of using the National Express Coach service. This was a short journey, so it wasn’t too bad, but for a three-hour journey, I was surprised to still be on the outskirts of London after half of the time had elapsed. Either London was the entire universe now and had swallowed up all other cities, or we were going to be belting it once we left the city limits.

Sure enough, once London finally disappeared into the background and the coach joined the motorway North, the driver really opened her up and we arrived pretty much on schedule.  It is accurate to say that London traffic doubles your journey time.

We entered Birmingham and passed the famous Bullring centre. Someone had the bright idea to put all of the cars above ground and the people below ground, presumably to keep them safe from the Midlands weather, and the area around the Bullring had become known as a muggers paradise. The Bullring centre had already undergone it’s second revamp, a third was yet to come. It still looked pretty grim.

The Bull Ring Centre in the 1990's
The Bull Ring, it’s not the most inviting place…

We arrived at Orlando’s house, a pretty two and a half story terrace house in a green and leafy street. We met his housemates and probably got a takeout curry.

One of the housemates had left suddenly in Orlando’s absence, so he got an upgrade to the loft room and I stayed in the spare room with Carla. We shared a bed but nothing happened. There was no interest and no chemistry between us. Or at least I wasn’t interested in her. I have been known to miss the ‘signs’ before.

I wasn’t looking for romance, I had just made my first foray out of the confines of London. This expat Kiwi had discovered that there was an entire country outside of London!

I didn’t know if I would stay in Birmingham or not, but I knew that I was going to keep exploring more of the UK. I had heard a lot about Scotland, Ireland was enticing too… But for now, this expat Kiwi was enjoying the green and open spaces of Birmingham, of Mosley village and Kings Heath.

For the first time in my life, I tasted a somewhat authentic curry! The best I would get outside of India. The curry that I had eaten as a child, the curry that I had grown up on, the curry made by my lovely and wonderful mother… Came out of a tin. I always thought that I hated curry.

This was a curry that wasn’t made from a beige-brown powder, didn’t come from a tin and didn’t smell a bit like shit. There was hope for my undereducated Kiwi palet yet!

The Next Part of The Adventures of an Expat Kiwi is coming soon…

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By Simon The Homesick Kiwi

Expat New Zealander since 1997. I was living in the UK for a looong time, but now I'm living in Crete, Greece with my Greek wife and two cats, teaching English and writing about my Expat Kiwi Adventures. I'm working on playing the guitar better and thinking about making music sometimes. I'll always call New Zealand home but I'm not sure if I'll ever live there again. This is my story.

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