December 6th, 2013

me: ooh!

Topic Meme: Day 4

[personal profile] major_clanger requested: Moving to the West Midlands. What's it like becoming a (near) Brummie? How do you find Birmingham/Worcestershire?

We’ve been here (rural Worcestershire) for slightly over a year. Since I don’t commute to London every day like I did when we were living in Cambridge, I’ve actually had a chance to get to know the area and our neighbours. In fact, this is an especially timely post because we had supper at a neighbour’s last night.

We live in a hamlet. Our postcode encompasses half a dozen houses and a pub. Nothing else. Our nearest village is about a mile away and the nearest town about two miles away. The University of Birmingham, where the bloke works, is over ten miles away. London is a hundred miles away. It is the most rural place I’ve ever lived. If I didn’t go to London for two days a week, I think I’d feel a lot more lost and isolated than I do.

The area we live in is stunning for its natural beauty and bedded-in cultivated areas, which feel like they’ve been the same for centuries. We’re in a cottage next to the Worcester to Birmingham canal. Pastoral and picturesque are the words that spring to mind when I look out over the fields surrounding us - in fact, it can sometimes seem slightly unreal, as if someone had painted the scenery on the windows.

There’s a split between our neighbours, as far as I can tell. I don’t believe it’s a deliberate schism, but the three sets of people we’ve gotten to know are not originally from here. Even the couple that could be called the king and queen of the village (in whose house we ate a roast dinner last night) moved to the area forty years ago and don’t have Brummie accents. Our immediate neighbours are a fabulous elderly woman whom I adore, a Londoner by birth and by choice until she retired and came to settle in her husband’s cottage, and one of her sons. The young couple over the road are from southern England and Iran. They have two sweet children and we don’t see them often enough. Though all of us have good intentions, they too work full time.

We have met the neighbours who were born and bred here, but we don’t know them very well. They have their own community, in which the older non-locals participate to a certain extent because they’ve been here for decades. I don’t think we’d be unwelcome in it, although I’m sure we’d have to try hard to be accepted and neither of us can put the necessary effort into it since we both work full-time (and not locally).

Because the neighbours we know and the friends we made through NCT (National Childbirth Trust) class are not originally Brummies, I don’t feel like I’ve got a deep understanding of the local culture. I know it seems quite different from London. It’s friendlier, but also flashier. When we go to the pub, I don’t think I can get away with jeans/boots/jumper like I do in London, or at least if I am going to be dressed relatively casually, I need to fix my hair and put on make-up. They make a real effort to look their best when they’re out, even just to put out the bins or post a letter. The decor of public spaces and house interiors also tends to be loud and/or blingy. The bloke’s taste is even more conservative than mine, so both of us found this a bit of a shock. I like it though - because they’re so good-humoured in general, it feels welcoming rather than off-putting.

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