Aussies you are now the proud owner of Birmingham
Birmingham is known as Britain’s forgotten city. Well, it would be if anyone bothered to mention it at all.
Having long ceased to be England’s industrial centre, the capital of the Midlands (yawn) is now notable for being about halfway between London and Manchester.
One of its two landmarks is “Spaghetti Junction”, an intertwined series of motorway overpasses. Yes, a motorway junction!
Imagine having to take a visitor to Sydney to see the M4-M7 junction to try to impress them and you start to get the picture of how scenically underprivileged Birmingham is*.
Having spaghetti junction as a must-see suits most Londoners who can claim to have done the sights of Birmingham without ever having to have got out of the car. Indeed without ever having to drop below 120kmh on the way to somewhere better.
Birmingham’s other landmark is the Bullring shopping centre, the busiest shopping mall in Britain (double yawn).
Set over 110,000 square metres, with 160 shops and 3,1000 parking spaces, the Bullring was built in 1963 and rebuilt in 2003.
The five tonne bronze bull at the main entrance is two-and-a-half times life size.
Now, even from as far away as London, I can hear you asking why do I care about a shopping mall in Birmingham? Or as Kevin Rudd would put it: Give a f*****g toss.
And you shouldn’t – except for the fact that you now own it.
Australia’s Future Fund on Friday paid £200 million ($A375 million) for a 49 per cent stake in the Bullring from its previous owner, Britain’s Land Securities.
The deal produced barely a ripple of news in the UK outside the property trade press but by all accounts David Murray, the former Commonwealth Bank boss who now holds the strings to our national investment kitty, drove a good deal on our behalf.
A year ago Land Securities’ stake in the Bullring was valued at £300 million and with the Aussie dollar at multi-decade highs, the deal begins to look like a steal.
But surely after our Ashes agony it’s not enough just to get the better of the Poms across the negotiating table? This is a golden opportunity for some reverse imperialism, a chance to stamp a bit of Australiana on a forgotten corner of the mother country.
So, once Kevin Rudd puts on his net hat and “Hi I’m Kevin F****n Rudd” name tag and strings up the “under new management” banner, here’s a few suggestions for the new Aussie Bullring:
1. New name – Big Kev’s Cattle Station. This would honour both the PM and Australia’s real king of shopping, Kevin “I’m excited” McQuay, God rest his soul.
2. Charity sausage sizzle – The full English breakfast is a thing of genius but impractical on a busy Saturday morning. A burnt snag, sauce and onions on fresh white bread provides as much taste and, importantly, can be scoffed on the way back to the car.
3. Public Transport – There’s too much of it in this country. Where’s the fun in going shopping without the chance to bag a prime parking spot in the multi-storey? Then forget everything on the way back to the car: “Wasn’t it purple D1?”. The top level should also be heated to 55 degrees to give the genuine Australian summer experience. Burns from steering wheels and seat belts are as yet unheard of in Birmingham.
4. A sandwich shop – More specifically, a sandwich shop that actually makes sandwiches. The Brits are happy to fork out $7 for a prawn mayo that’s been sitting in a packet in the fridge for three days. Milkshakes and fresh food in general are also thoroughly short in supply.
5. Ban surf shops – There’s something very unnatural about the sight of middle-aged Englishman in a pair of Billabong boardies. I once someone wearing a rash vest thinking he was in a t-shirt.
6. Opening hours – 10am – 4pm (or daylight hours in winter) leave little chance for the employed minority to get to the shops.
7. Man in a koala suit with a coin bucket - Every centre needs one.
8. Oporto – Legendary sauce with irresistible force.
Any more suggestions?
* My dad left Birmingham for Sydney in the early 1960s for two years when he was 19 and never went back. On a visit to my Grandmother we were shown spaghetti junction. It’s actually quite impressive.
** In the late 1980s I used to live three doors down from the man who has bought the rights to franchise Oporto in the UK. Currently there is one outlet in London.
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