I’m currently flat hunting, and by flat hunting I mean that I spend my lunch breaks wearily trawling through Rightmove, bookmarking the same flats that I bookmarked yesterday. However, it seems that no matter what area of Birmingham I type in, no matter what postcode I’m seeking, Rightmove shows me a perfectly furnished, perfectly priced flat in Ladywood.
For those who don’t know, Ladywood is an inner-city area in Birmingham. It featured in Benefits Street earlier in the year, not long ago held the title for the highest unemployment rate in the UK and is somewhere that you could definitely get a gun if you wanted to get a gun. It regularly pops up in Bravo documentaries about gangs and I would last approximately three weeks if I lived there. Maybe four, if I got a gun.
In short, it’s not a particularly nice place to live. However, would I say that to someone who lived there? No. No, I would not.
That’s not because they’re all drug-dealing gun toting bad eggs, though. They’re not. I wouldn’t say it because I’m not a dick.
Lot’s of people are dicks, though and if you come from somewhere that’s not as nice as most parts of the south of England, then people will tell you that where you come from is a shithole. If they’re feeling tactful, they’ll pull a face. It’s basically a shithole or face situation.
I’m not sure when it became ok to take the piss out of where someone lives to their face. Personally, I blame panel shows. Seriously, watch Dave and take a drink every time Jimmy Carr takes the piss out of Wolverhampton, or Slough, or somewhere that isn’t the Home Counties. You’ll be smashed by the time they’ve stretched a 25 minute show into a 40 minute show.
Punching people ain’t cool though, so here are three tips to stop you from chinning the person who started having a whip round the second they found out you weren’t from London.
1. Accept that they will do the accent.
Seriously, make peace with it, because it’s like a fucking reflex for some people. I went to Sussex University, so I spent three years listening to kids from Watford try and do a Brummie accent. Some sounded Liverpudlian, some sounded Geordie and others sounded like they’d had a stroke. The most effective response? A patronising smile, with a head tilt thrown in for good measure.
Last year, my local newsagents had a sign in the window advertising half price ‘raping paper’, I’m pretty sure that if I ever sat in a café and tried to read a book I would be burned as a witch and a local pub has just started advertising it’s new pulled pork burger – that’s a little summary of Kingswinford, the town I live in. It’s where the King kept his pigs, according to one of my primary school teachers. I’m pretty sure this is total bullshit because surely, as the king, wouldn’t you keep your pigs close to where you live, just incase you wanted to see them or count them or roast them and eat them and stuff? And, as far as I know, no kings have ever lived here. The place my family calls home was once judged as fit for pigs to live in, so yeah, you could say where I live is a bit shit.
It’s also not that bad though. There is some pretty countryside near by, two branches of Five Guys have opened and Birmingham has some great pubs, so things are getting better all the time.
Would I launch into a passionate defense of all that the West Midlands has to offer, though? Draw a little map on the back of a napkin for the unimpressed North Londoner who asked whether you ‘can even get Tapas in Birmingham’?
Would I fuck. I mean, I’m not asking them to produce an off the cuff Zagat guide to Kent, so I sure as hell wouldn’t do the same.
3. Say this to them, in your head.
You know what? We can’t all live in London. It’s expensive and far away from our ill grandparents and there are too many bus numbers. Other places that aren’t London are ok, too, for now. And you, you’re twenty-fucking-two; you didn’t strive to get a mortgage on a gorgeous little house in Tunbridge Wells, your parents did. You got lucky, so fucking shut up. Sometimes people just have to live somewhere, build a life there and be fine with it.
But remember, you say that in your head.