Category Archives: Birmingham

Postcards from Birmingham

The Bull Ring: unutterably hideous. The only suitable penalty for the architects, town-planners and city councillors of the Birmingham of the 1960s is death

The Rotunda: a horrible 1960s monument to British architects’ incessant search for originality in the absence of taste or imagination. It has been preserved by the kind of criminals who allowed it to be built in the first place, in the hope that by doing so their own lack of taste and imagination will be justified or overlooked

Central Library: a preternaturally ugly and uncleanable inverted step pyramid of concrete, which replaced the magnificent and thoughtlessly demolished Victorian library

The Digbeth Dalek: there isn’t anything else like it in the world, nor should there be: uniqueness in art or architecture is no guarantee of merit or virtue, and in the hands of British architects is a guarantee of their opposite. This wall is already dirty and looks shabby; the glass roof of much of the shopping centre is also already dirty. The wall and the glass roof will be cleaned infrequently, if at all, because cleaning means costs rather than profit, and the British population has made perfectly clear by its behaviour that it doesn’t mind squalor in the least

Incompetence, malignity and destructiveness of modern British architects

Ruined: Imperial Square, Cheltenham

The authorities in charge of buildings preservation, writes Dalrymple,

often bully owners of listed houses in matters of tiny detail, at great cost to those owners, while simultaneously allowing for the desecration of whole townscapes.

Anyone who doubts this, he points out, should

take a look (just as one example among many) at Imperial Square in Cheltenham, where a criminally hideous tower office block has been permitted to ruin the outlook of a graceful Regency terrace.

Goldfinger Ernő: satanically bad and destructive work

He says that

the preservation order on the satanically bad and destructive work of Goldfinger Ernő, or on the preternaturally vile signal box at Birmingham New Street Station, are attempts to persuade us that there is something more to these buildings than scours the eye.

Preternaturally vile: signal box, Birmingham New Street Station

 

The result in Birmingham

Birmingham is where Dalrymple studied medicine and where he worked for many years as a prison doctor

Birmingham is where Dalrymple studied medicine and where he worked for many years as a prison doctor

Europe’s Muslims and social exclusion

Dalrymple identifies as a large threat to Europe’s future the presence of a sizeable and growing immigrant population, a big part of which, he says with delicate understatement, 

is not necessarily interested in integration.

As the population ages, the need for immigrant labour increases, and among sources of such labour are the Maghreb, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Dalrymple writes:

When I recently drove to Antwerp from the south of France, I thought I had arrived in Casablanca. There are parts of Brussels where the police are enjoined not to be seen eating or drinking during Ramadan. Similar accommodations are occurring all over Europe: in the Central Library in Birmingham, for example, I found a women-only table occupied exclusively by young Muslims dressed in the hijab. (They were the lucky ones, members of liberal households that allowed them out on their own.)

Across the non-border in France, there has been

a salutary monoculturalism,

but the country’s cock-eyed economic and social policies have

helped, if not to create, at least to maintain Muslim ghettoes. On one hand, the children of immigrants were told they were French; on the other, they were de facto excluded from the rest of society. Ferocious resentment was the result, and we ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Mendacity of the Guardian newspaper

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 09.03.09Dalrymple comes across an article on deportations in the London newspaper the Guardian. He explains that the article‘s

real point (exemplified by calling the migrants ‘undocumented’ rather than illegal) is rhetorical rather than informative: it wants to claim that the United States, or by extension any other country, including Britain, has no right to control who enters it to live there.

The article is accompanied by a photo of a man’s hand in a San Pedro Sula hospital. The man is waiting to be treated for a stab wound. There is a lot of blood. Only trouble is, the man turns out not to be a deportee from the US.

The photo was used only to raise the emotional temperature of the reader.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 09.05.45Dalrymple points out that since San Pedro Sula

is the city with the world’s highest annual murder rate, it is not difficult to take such photographs. Nor is it difficult to understand why anyone should wish to leave San Pedro Sula.

Dalrymple writes that in Birmingham in the English Midlands, where he used to work, there were

many migrants who had entered the country illegally. The officially accepted reasons for granting asylum—persecution because of race, religion, membership of a social group, or political opinion—didn’t by any means exhaust their reasons for leaving their countries, or even for justifiably fearing to return to them. Governments, alas, are not the only persecutors of people.

Irrespective of their reasons for immigrating illegally,

most of these people had had extremely hard, unenviable lives, and it was difficult not to sympathise with most of them as individuals.

However,

some were criminals pure and simple, seeking a more fertile field in which to sow and reap.

Corbyn’s endearing nature

Prophet: Corbyn divined that the euro would mean 'the imposition of a bankers' Europe'

Prophet: Corbyn divined that the euro would mean ‘the imposition of a bankers’ Europe’

The UK government is planning High Speed 2, a rapid train between London and Birmingham (where Dalrymple lived and worked for many years) and beyond.

Dalrymple states that he is wholly in agreement with the British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn (with whom he took part in a lively debate on socialism at the Oxford Union) that HS2 — labelled by the rightly scornful Herpes Simplex 2 — is

patently an extravagantly expensive, destructive, unnecessary and corrupt project.

Corbyn, writes Dalrymple, possesses a

curious and in a way endearing integrity, at least by comparison with the ersatz quality of most prominent politicians.

Herpes Simplex 2

Herpes Simplex 2

Until all can live in beauty, none shall

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 08.57.13Finding himself in

one of those ugly cities, formerly industrial, in which England abounds to an extent unknown in any other Western country,

Dalrymple discovers that one of the town’s gracious quarters, full of early-19th-century houses built for the nascent industrial bourgeoisie, has been ruined by the construction of ‘social housing’ in the midst of it. The purpose of the construction is plainly

to destroy the beauty in which so small a proportion of the population lived, since there were many other places in which the social housing, a battery farm for social pathology, could have been built.

Justice,

by which is meant equality of outcome, demands the universal spread of grunginess, the destruction of all outward forms of distinction.

Sickness of the modern aesthetic

Moseley School of Art, Birmingham. W.H.Bidlake, 1898. Closed 1975, building now owned by the Association  of British Muslims

Moseley School of Art, Balsall Heath, Birmingham. W.H. Bidlake, 1898. Closed 1975, premises owned by the Association of British Muslims

Dalrymple writes that the main purpose of the art schools of the West appears to be

to corrupt youth.

The art schools

imbue their students with the gratifying notion that originality unhindered by the weight or chains of the past is the highest goal at which they can aim, in the achievement of which ignorance will be a positive aid.

This explains why the exhibits in the graduating exhibitions of art schools

resemble the productions of kindergartens. Rare is the talent that can survive an art school education.

Birmingham’s giant pissoir

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The much-loved Free Public Library (left): rebuilt superbly in 1882 after a fire, demolished in 1974

Dalrymple confesses that he finds it difficult to write temperately on the subject of the mass desecration of Britain’s architectural heritage, which often, he says, leaves him

trembling with rage. My wife tells me to calm down; as she rightly notes, I can do nothing about this disaster now.

No town or city in Britain, he writes,

has inherited so little in the way of beauty that officials did not think it worth destroying.

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Birmingham Central Library: opened 1974, demolished 2015, replaced with something just as bad if not worse

It was the hope, for instance, of Sir Herbert Manzoni, an energetic city engineer and surveyor of Birmingham with modish proclivities,

to pull down every non-modernist building in Birmingham’s city centre.

Fortunately Sir Herbert dropped dead before achieving his ambition,

but he got quite far, and his spirit sputtered on after him.

The magnificent Victorian library

was pulled down and replaced with an inverted concrete ziggurat of such ugliness and, before long, dilapidation, that it defied description, at least by me.

Paris 1865

Ordinary, human-sized pissoir. Paris, 1865

Rapists’ haven

The environs of the library served as

a giant pissoir and, at night, as a haven for drunks and rapists.

In this way

the Albert Speers of Britain converted the Victorian dream of municipal munificence into the nightmare of administered anomie.

Manzoni and Speer

Manzoni and Speer

Dalrymple in Birmingham

Our man in the quasi-Asiatic city. Part of the Bull Ring shopping centre in the background

Our man in the quasi-Asiatic city where he studied medicine and worked as a prison doctor. Part of the Bull Ring shopping centre in the background