Did you know that the Dalai Lama’s interior design team gets its inspiration from Birmingham rotary clubs?
It was certainly news to me upon reading Camilla Long’s account of her visit to his digs in Dharamsala in yesterday’s Sunday Times. “Behind a clanging electric fence, his private quarters are furnished like a rotary club in Birmingham. You can see why he spends so much time away – the place is a swamp of camel sofas and buzzing”.
I honestly wouldn’t have paid much attention to this had the previous day’s magazine not included a description of a Birmingham native’s demeanour in Caitlin Moran’s rundown of her Jubilee shenanigans. “He has the impossible, non-specific melancholy of all Brummies”.
So, now I am wondering – what exactly do Caitlin and Camilla (or, perhaps, The Times in its entirety) have against Birmingham this week?
Brummies aren’t shocked, or particularly peeved, by a slanderous comment here-and-there. It’s nothing new to be derided; whether it be on account of the accent or a more generic barb against the city itself. Our skins are thickened such that we’re one of those few “ethnic groups” that give as good as we get.
However, do we actually deserve these blows or, are they a reflection on the authors themselves; a lack of imagination and a large chip on at least one shoulder?
To be fair, I have little, actually zero, experience with rotary clubs. Maybe Camilla does? So I decided to do a bit of outreach. I wrote to the Birmingham rotary club and posed the question, “Does the Dalai Lama’s lounge resemble your club’s interior?” As yet, I’ve not heard back. I can only imagine they’re busy consulting with another Buddhist monastery on selecting the appropriate sofas and creating the right “buzz”. In reality, it seems most of their meetings are hosted by a local hotel!
As for “impossible, non-specific melancholy” – is this a fair assessment of the Brummie psyche? Even if it is, is it really an exclusively Brummie trait? My husband, a Yank, posits that there’s a general resignation common to many Brits; John-O-Groats to Land’s End. An epidemic of non-specific seasonal affective disorder.