Messers Danny Smith and Jon Bounds, a couple of good friends of mine, are attempting to visit the 56 functional pleasure piers in the UK in a fortnight and write about them. To do this they’re doing one of those crowdfunding things. As you’d hope, the pitch is as entertaining as the end result promises to be.
Birmingham is not a coastal city. An Englishman’s blood tastes of lager and salt, but those that live in the shadow of the Bull Ring are landlocked; non-swimmers in a nation of mermaids. Even the city’s proudest claim is an open joke amongst its residents: “more canals than Venice,” we say with a grim smile, knowing the difference between the breathtaking tragic romance of Venice and our banal doom but leaving it unsaid like a shopping trolley sinking beneath the water’s surface.
The still brown water of the canals is metaphorically a million miles from the sea, but Birmingham is only 100 miles away from the nearest beach. The irony from our disconnect to the sea is that in anywhere else in the world Birmingham would be considered ’coastal’. Australians talk about driving four hours to get to the beach like it was popping to the outdoor for ten fags, and Americans that live in the mountains own jet skis.
Those from Birmingham are perfectly placed to write about an ephemeral British seaside because that’s what the seaside is to them: a ghost, a Vaseline-smeared Shangri-La cobbled together from Carry On films, hazy childhood memories and nostalgia for a bygone era.