Last week found us taking an overnight trip to Birmingham. This is a city that seems to attract a great number of disparaging comments and regrettably, in my mind is associated solely with TV comedy programmes from forty years ago and a ‘Brummie’ restaurant manager that I worked along-side in the sixties. He was a tough bird. One of the toughest people I had ever met. His girlfriend was tough too. She was a waitress in the same establishment and I found their voices and accents totally bemusing and, sad to say, bloody awful. I take solace in the fact that many people find my accent pretty awful too. I reckon that allows me a little leeway in the (gentle) criticism stakes!
Anyway, back to Birmingham. We travelled up on the M40, through Oxfordshire. To encourage us, the weather decided to be pretty OK. The sun shone, we were blinded because neither of us thought to take sun-glasses (after all, it is winter in England), and the scenery was very therapeutic. As we drove across the Thames Valley, we were surrounded by acres of gently undulating farmland, almost flat and with water still lying in the fields from the recent floods.
There is definitely something up-lifting about speeding along on a wide, well-surfaced open road, perhaps with the radio blaring out some oldish music and not too much traffic. It allows you to luxuriate in a cosy cocoon where the outside world, for a short time at least, has no influence. I think that, over the years, I have experienced my moments of purest, unalloyed, mind-floating pleasure at times like this. There is no particular external factor prompting this feeling of well-being, but it manifests itself by what I think used to be called “a swelling of the bosom”. Or is it ‘in’ the bosom? A sensation of fullness in the region of the heart along with a feeling of absolute gratitude, satisfaction, warmth and believe it or not, youth! The road could carry on for- ever, going anywhere, without limits. (No wonder those old road movies were so popular.) The Sun is important, though. I think that it only really happens on a sunny day. You know – the sun is shining and all is right with the world. Just a shame that the poxy lorries have to be there as well.
Anyway, we spent our night in Birmingham and the only thing we saw while we were there, other than the hospital, (the reason for our visit) was the inside of Akbar’s Indian Restaurant (Bradford).
I have to say, that they provided one of the best Indian meals I had ever had. We go to Bradford two or three times a year and we had always wanted to visit the original Akbar’s there, but had never had the opportunity. We now realise what a treasure we had missed. The whole experience was really special – polished service, wonderful food and the biggest Naan bread in the whole world! Definitely a place to return to.
Next time we go to Birmingham, I hope to actually see something of the city!