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"I've a real treat for you Dolores."

"What is it?"

"We're going to Venice."

"Really? Where's the money coming from?"

"It's not so much the Venice as a Venice."

"You're taking me to Birmingham, aren't you?"

"You're annoyingly well informed about Britain, you know. I blame those years in Swindon."

"Yes, you've taken me to all the most romatic spots, Ronald."

"I spoil you. Most people would kill for two years in Swindon"

"I would, too. To not have to live there."


Birmingham, with architecture almost as special as Frankfurt's and a train station even better hidden in a shopping centre than Utrecht Centraal*. A ringing endorsement, I know.

But for all I take the piss out of Birmingham, I have a weird affection for the city. Maybe not so weird, as that's where my Mum's side of the family came from. In the 1960's and 1970's I visited the city dozens of times seeing uncles and aunts. The Brummie accent evokes all sorts of emotions. Mostly family memories. Especially of my Mum, who sounded relentlessly Brummie more than 50 years after leaving the city.

Approach in the right way, and Birmingham has much to offer. Restaurants that represent the diverse nature of the population. Great markets. Decent shopping. And the odd pub still with M & B signage.

More about Brum to come.

* That's Lexxie's official opinion. "Which do you think is the crappier station, Birmingham New Street of Utrecht Centraal."

"You've already asked me that."

"Dad has his memory lapses, you know. He's getting old."

"New Street, Dad."

"Tell me what you think of New Street in one sentence."

"Shit. . . . Oh you asked for a sentence . . . it's a good station, if it was hiding from Nazis."

"I guess you mean that they wouldn't be able to find it."

"Whatever, Dad."