NOSTALGIA FOR BIRMINGHAM

by evseymour

‘I was born in West Bromwich,’ I said.
‘Well, someone has to be!’
This poorly judged remark came back to me slap bang in the middle of an episode of ‘Peaky Blinders’ when the blokes from West Bromwich were asked to protect the passage of ‘goods,’ aka weapons, travelling by canal from Birmingham to London. I swear my heart thumped a little harder when I heard the dialect of my roots. This is not the only reason I love ‘Peaky Blinders’. Smoky dirty Birmingham in the early twentieth century was not so very different to the sulphur-tainted air of the Birmingham of my childhood, and although I never stumbled across ‘gypsies’, I was aware of mysterious blokes from places like Gornal who trained horses in a rough and ready fashion.

Anyway enough of me, and back to Peaky Blinders. I was a huge fan of the first series, yet the second seems stronger in every sense. The writing is fabulous. There’s a stellar cast of actors, including Helen McCrory and Sam Neill, whose depiction of a vengeful, double-dealing Northern Irish Inspector puts him on the same level as the bad guys he’s trying to nick. Thomas Shelby, played by a brooding Cillian Murphy, who inhabits the part as closely as a hand inside a glove, continues to magnetize as he schemes his way into taking a slice of the action in London. Deep down, I know I shouldn’t really like a guy who condones slicing through his opponents with a razorblade but, as with all the best anti-heroes, Shelby is not all bad by any stretch and when tormented in love, his Achilles heel, we suffer with him.

Tommy’s desire to turn the business from an illegal venture to legal is reminiscent of Michael Corleone’s plans for the business in Godfather III. In the same way Tom Hayden, the lawyer, took care of keeping the Corleone family above board as much as possible, Aunt Polly’s son, Michael, is employed as an accountant charged with covering up illegal accounting activities until such time as the Shelbys can emerge as an ‘on the level’ enterprise. Naturally, every good gangster family has a ‘psycho’ and Paul Anderson plays coked up and stoked up Arthur Shelby to perfection.

Primarily a family drama, ‘Blinders’ is rich with relationships and conflicts. I’m nine-parts looking forward to tomorrow night’s episode and one part dreading it: one can’t help suspect, that things will end in tears.

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