Britain’s Second City



O lovely Brum, O sprawling mess,
home of ingenuity, enterprise and engineering,
dirt and noise as metal is bashed
into products to travel the world.

Nuts and bolts to hold it together,
locks to keep it shut, machines and motorcars,
tools and tyres and taxicabs,
Cadbury’s chocolate, beer and Bird’s Custard.
Your jeweled genius adorns the throats
of the loveliest ladies.
The Stock Exchange and the Birmingham Mint
assure the wealth of nations.

Your theatres, your music, your public art,
from golden boys Boulton and Watt
surveying their City at the top of Broad Street
outside the building where I was wed,
to the Floozie in the Jacuzzi  in Victoria Square.
From that strange fantastical Selfridges building
to the monstrous concrete wind tunnel library,
so ugly they’ve gone and listed it.

Your people from umpteen races
so full of character and humour,
swarm in terraced rows and high-rise blocks
lord it in Georgian Edgbaston elegance,
preserve their respectability in miles of suburbs,
all living rather more than less in harmony.

Not native-born and yet I loved the years I spent
with your quirky characters,
your Brummy backchat and humour,
your enterprise, your get up and go –
and some of us got up and went.

Pictures from

I started this with the best of intentions to follow Margo Roby’s last “places” prompt, to aprostrophise my subject, using a copy-change format.  Then I was carried away on a tide of nostalgia, and promptly forgot what I was supposed to be doing.  As a first draft, I appreciate that this is over-wordy, but Birmingham is a city that has everything, is constantly mocked and under-rated, so my poem is the first draft of an attempt to show it in its real multi-coloured splendour.


All poetry, prose and pictures posted here, except where otherwise stated, is my own, and may only be used elsewhere with my expressed permission. Please don't be inhibited from correcting my bloopers and making suggestions: Most of what I post here is instant, ill-considered and off-the-cuff, in serious need of editing.
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32 Responses to Britain’s Second City

  1. I’d forgotten about the Floozie in the Jacuzzi!! I haven’t lived there for over 20 years now, but was born amidst all the things you mention, and more! I loved how you piled everything and everyone in – a great reflection of Brum’s vibrancy, diversity and energy! 🙂


  2. zongrik says:

    makes me want to go and explore there

    popsicle on a stick


  3. And you have succeeded well. You took me there!


  4. Love it that you shared Birmingham with us. Although, once I read Cadbury’s, I was submerged in chocolate creme fantasies. :0)


  5. MarinaSofia says:

    What a tongue-in-cheek ending, Viv! I’ve only ever passed through Birmingham on my way to somewhere else, so I couldn’t possibly comment… But I think your love (and exasperation) for the city and its people shines through.


  6. Prajakta says:

    I got a bit lost with ‘Brum’, but caught up 🙂 I love the tiny details you have inserted throughout… the things that really catch the unsuspecting eye.


  7. Birmingham – there is a certain charm with the second largest city .. Some charm I have met in other countries. I could see myself going there..


  8. claudia says:

    i’ve never been to birmingham but you def. made me curious… sounds like a city with lots of different hues…


  9. This really made me smile. I had to stay in Birmingham for two separate weeks many years ago when I was studying Human Resources. They were both interesting visits and I even got to go to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory – very cool. I had no idea when I booked my accommodation there that I was in the red light district . . . I did wonder why there were 3 deadbolts on my rental door!!!


  10. Mary says:

    You have made me want to pay a visit. I have visited CADBURY, but Cadbury in Australia…not England. I picture Birmingham as being a ‘working city.’ I enjoyed your poem.


  11. Glenn Buttkus says:

    This one sings like opera, throngs like a symphony, & it simply both bowls us over, & drags us along with its energy, powerful imagery, & terrific word smithing; one of my favorites of yours,
    Viv; so nice to have the international set of poets as part of the dVerse pack.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Gabriella says:

    You sent me years back. I have not been to Birmingham in decades.


  13. Wow, was just chatting with someone about how I’d love to live in London; the USA is much too closed-minded for me… this poem just makes me more eager… smiles. Lovely details on what seems to be such an amazing place

    Liked by 1 person

  14. brian miller says:

    tools and tyres and taxicabs,
    Cadbury’s chocolate, beer and Bird’s Custard

    love the consonance in there…
    I have been to Birmingham Alabama but I not britains…smiles…
    sounds like a really cool place…I would love to make it over
    the pond….

    Liked by 1 person

  15. wolfsrosebud says:

    the theater and art is wonderful


  16. Bryan Ens says:

    I think that the “roughness” of a first draft truly does capture both the shine and the grit of your chosen city. Nicely done!


  17. Misky says:

    This makes me want to pack up sticks and move to Birmingham. Almost. 🙂


  18. judithhb says:

    The floozie in the jacuzzi – love it. And you quite obviously love Birmingham as i still love London.


  19. margo roby says:

    I am tickled to read this about Birmingham. I know little of it and have often wondered why I hear the city’s name often, but nothing about the city. I am fascinated at the details.

    You say yourself in your notes you got carried away. It looks to me like you have what you need as a jumping off place for a revision that will lead to quite a word portrait of Brum. If you do, I would love to see it.


  20. Your jeweled genius adorns the throats
    of the loveliest ladies.

    I love this and SUCH great details in your place, Viv! Great!


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