The bullring is abuzz. There is an urgency to everyone's pace. It`s beyond brisk, verging on controlled panic. Eyes dart from side to side, but no-one actually sees anyone else. They look through, past, within and without. The fact that no-one is crashing into each other is really impressive. It makes me wonder if perhaps thousands of Brummies had choreographed this to perfection last night. This is a glorious kind of frantic, rampant capitalism without any hair-pulling. A sanitised black friday. I`m clinging to a safety railing on the third floor looking down, trying to pinpoint an escape route. I face a gargantuan multi-level ant farm that is both directionless and perfectly synchronised.
I don`t know how to get to the Park but I do know I cannot think in here. I throw myself into one of the waves and hope for the best. An unmistakable whiff of stale Carling and Adidas aftershave hangs in the air. Then the Barbour Jackets and hipster scarves move past in a kind of smug waltz, doing their best not to engage with the `lads`. With the bottoms firmly tucked into their socks the lads hope the hipster catches their eye, not to debate class and economics but to enjoy that brief flash of fear in their eyes.
A few minutes later, having being successfully swept from the ant hill and through the doors, I am hit with a thundering silence. Adjusting to the soft daylight, I catch my breath and get my bearings.
A torn Poundland plastic bag drifts across my boots as I survey the way forward. Now entering a strange urban dsytopia, a low rumble is all that remains of the Bullring behind me. Settling on a route, I navigate hub caps, broken flowers, smashed brown glass and mysterious pools of purple. I am quite enjoying this eerie post-apocalyptic vibe I must admit. The Gaze I move through the empty grounds of the university as the faint hum of civilisation fully fades into the background. With an eye on the clock I pick up the pace. I spot a tall figure in a hi-vis jacket coming over the horizon. A singular bright spot on an a vast grey canvas. I can see his manic smile from 100 yards. His gaze remains firmly locked on me as he unnecessarily shoulders past. His wild brown eyes and deep wrinkles complement the strange perma-smirk. For a moment I`m envious of his little bubble of reality.
Where the fuck are all the cars I wonder.
A woman crosses the road to meet me. The zip on her once-white hoodie is broken and so is her right foot given how she appears to dragging her body along. I can see her grimace at me as she approaches. Her gaze remains firmly locked on mine as she grunts past.
The road now opens up in front of me in a seemingly infinite straight line.
The silent emptiness is soon broken as a white VW Golf with an huge spoiler careens out from a side road. The deep repetitive thump of the bassline reaches my ears before I can see the dark tracksuit top staring out from the open passenger window. The car sways slightly, probably due to the fact that there are seven people in the backseat. He drops down two gears. The front seat passenger leans out the window and screams. Her gaze remains firmly locked on me as she smashes an empty naggin of vodka onto the road near me and laughs. The engine is deafening as the car makes that weird `peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwww` sound and tears off.
Its like the Purge takes place on Xmas day in Birmingham and the survivors had barricaded themselves in the shopping centre last night. Some of those that survived outdoors are just stumbling around with dropped jaws, dumbfounded, befuddled, squinting at the daylight. Others have gone full Mad Max and embraced the smoldering remains of society. Could be just years of supporting Villa either.
A crushed can of Fosters and a dirty white string top. ETA 30 Minutes.
A single purple Doc Martin boot. 20 Minutes left I`d say.
A Condom. Blood. Wrong turn. Still 20 minutes left I`d say.
30 minutes later the hum returns. As a light rain washes my face, I can sense that rumble again in the distance. The red brick opens up in front of my eyes like a mirage. Finally. What a fucking beauty.
`BRILLIANT STUFF JACKIE-SON! DON`T FACKIN` DESERVE YOU WE DON`T` 'Mind you I'll be fackin` booing `im next year when `ee`s at Totten`am'
'WELL DONE DOUGIE MY SON`
`GET UP GREALISH YOU BLOODY IDIOT!!`
'Its ok Wesley son, someday you'll learn how to judge a ball for SIXTY GRAND A FUCKING WEEK! `GET A FACKIN` WHEELBARROW, GET `IM OFF THE PITCH` `SELL `IM TO FACKIN CHESTERFIELD`
`Kourtney Hause is doin` the work a 3 players though mate`
_____________ Underneath the tri-colour that hangs from the Holte end, Conor scores the winner. We are ushered out with 30 thousand Englishmen singing the name of the boy from Cork, stopping only to salute the mural of Paul McGrath as it watches over the stadium.
I like to imagine I`m contributing to an ironic, accidental, slow-burning colonisation. Avert your gaze.