My Birmingham is so many places, so many people it is hard to put in one article.
I've just turned 40 and spent every year, except three at university (which was spent mostly not there), in Birmingham and like so many Brummies, the biggest compliment I can pay it is that I live here.
I was brought up in Perry Barr in a grove which had Jamaican, Irish, Ukrainian, Polish, African, Rastafari and many more nationalities and religions living happily side by side.
At five-years-old I was sent to a Boys Brigade where the vast majority of kids were West Indian so thankfully taking the racist route was never an option for me.
We were all skint, and I remember seeing one kid's parents arguing about who would have him that night, neither of them wanted him. But blasting out LL Cool J whilst playing Donkey (table tennis) whilst cussing each others moms are some of my favourite Birmingham memories, and I love bumping into old comrades who are the only people to greet me as "Smiffy".
I remember one bright spark coming into BB and telling us that if you stick silver foil on a 10p and put it in a coke machine it will act as a 50p. It was as if we had literally won the lottery that summer, I worked out to press the change button but other boys had cases of cans of Quatro and Lilt in their bedrooms. I look back at the sacrifices the officers made and am truly thankful now, despite, not seeing it then.
It was a childhood of playing arcade games in chip shops whose outcomes could make or break a night and of endless fights, or running away from fights, or laughing at friend's fights.
The church we went to was fantastic too, there was a poor families exchange project, which saw us sent off to leafy places like Southampton, no kids seem to come from there to Perry Barr though. As part of a single parent family I went to several clubs with my mom, like the 610 in Kingstanding, and even got sent on a Gingerbread holiday for £5 to Wyre Valley when each night a kid would "escape".
I went to Perry Beeches Primary and Junior Schools and then to the country's biggest Comp - Great Barr. The amount offormer pupils I still see regularly again shows how us Brummies like where we live.
As a teenager I spent my evenings and holidays hanging around the Alexander Stadium's now long lost Astro - a magic carpet football pitch which we would invade from the sidelines playing "supporters and stewards" as bemused players would look on, or sometime pick us for their teams. No matter what your skill level, and there was some incredible talent on show, you could play on that Astro, now it has a high-performance centre built on it, for proper athletes.
Being from Perry Barr I was only ever going to be a Villa fan and travelling away with my mates was always a joy, our first jolly boys outing was to see us beat the mighty Man Utd in 1994. The fun I’ve had with my mates at the match trumps any sporting stuff I’ve seen down the Villa, going down? Who cares, I’ll be there. As long of the countless other faces I know from down there.
As well as the West Indian origin mates I had loads of Irish origin pals, no-one cared I was English, they probably only cared that I was a bit of a weirdo, still am as it is goes, their weirdo. I was friendly with Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus and also learnt about their cultures too, I’ve always felt lucky having the world the other side of my front door.
Then Thunderbirds, Blue and Red, came into our midst and then from boozing outdoors and into pubs, some in town and any that would let us in. As the mid-90s came round it was all about clubs, some super, some sweaty, some great, some rubbish but I could rave the night away in a darkened room packed with people I knew. Half the time it would be in gay clubs, like the legendary Tin Tins, and have hated homophobia ever since.
I spent less than a minute picking my university, I didn't think I'd go but ended up in Manchester and missing Brum like mad. I missed the merciless piss-taking, the self-deprecating humour, the not taking anything seriously. I made great mates up there though and am still known as "Brummy Ads." Wherever I go in the world I am a one man PR machine for Brum, I talk about the second hand bread shop in Perry Barr or the woman with "Bash-It" written by her vagina in Chinese. I always want people to say: "Met a bloke from Brum, funny dude, are they all like that?"
After university I was back in Brum and happy as larry, first on the dole, and then various call centres. Finally I got a job as a journalist. And as for 99 per cent of the people I met I was the only journalist they'd ever met I became known as "Adam-the-journalist." And though I’d sell someone’s granny for a front page I can walk in any moody boozer and not be called a grass.
I’m probably best known as the bloke who resigned from the Birmingham Mail during a drunken rant the night Obama was elected President in 2008. I cannot express the pride I had reading all the Brummies arguing with the rest of the internet on my behalf, people I knew and didn’t backed me big and it meant the world to me, Brummies “got it” and that was that.
I have not even mentioned falling in and out of love with Brummie beauties as I careered through my teens and twenties. What great women we have, Miss World on our doorstep no less.
Now as a 40-year-old I look around this city and smile as I see kids misbehave or see young lovers fumbling around. My Birmingham is that of laughter, the stupid stuff we’ve done, the hilarious stories of what others have done, we might not have changed the world but by Christ we have laughed hard at the world. I still get freaked out if I go somewhere all-white, I'm used to a colourful city with colourful faces, walk around the conference centre when the Tories are in town to see what that other world is like.
I still love the sound of the hum of a Birmingham pub. As our accent is the only major conurbation's which isn't shouty and aggressive when together the voices merge into one hum. Go to a Manchester, Liverpool or London pub and the voices compete with each other causing a row, not in Brum, we have a hum. During my clubbing years I was always struck by how polite Brummie clubbers were compared to elsewhere - "Soz mate" was the default first words said to one stumbling clubber to another.
My Birmingham is that of Perry Barr, Kingstanding, Handsworth, Lozells, Winson Green, Hockley, Aston and Witton not that of Sutton Coldfield, Moseley, Kings Heath.
I saw Benefits Street and saw a world I knew, it wasn't shocking, it was life. When I got onto the Birmingham Mail as one of the few local reporters I'd be sent to places like Northfield and Kings Norton which I'd only ever ventured to during the Walkathon.
My Birmingham is that of the scarred up binman Villa fan who always shouts how shit the team is every time I pass him.
My Birmingham is that of the friendly face that I see when I need it the most, like the stunning clubber who is the receptionist when I take my mom in for a hospital appointment.
My Birmingham is that of the permanently drunk pyromaniac who always reminiscing about raving at 9am.
My Birmingham is that of the old armed robber who put a gun to my head for a laugh during afters at a pub in 1993 and who still calls me "nipper".
My Birmingham is that of the crap goalie from BB who rose to become a gang kingpin but still asks "Smiffy, U Still Writing and Shit?" when I see him.
My Birmingham is that of my 80 plus neighbour with the soft Irish accent who I'll happily let talk the ears off me when I see her.
My Birmingham is that of Amlak Tafari, who I still call Desdale, the Steel Pulse bassist who I grew up two doors away and still gives me sage Rasta advice.
My Birmingham is that of the taxi driver who picks me up when I can’t speak but still asks me whose the hardest Alexander the Great or Ghengis Khan?
My Birmingham is that of the 80 plus former West Indian councillor who ran the Crown and Cushion for years and lends me £20 when I need it.
My Birmingham is that of the thousands of Brummies I have said "alright mate," to hundreds of times but don't know their name.
My Birmingham is the place I'll die in.
Steve Zacharanda has been a hard news journalist for 15 years in the West Midlands winning 'Midlands Weekly Journalist of the Year' for the past two years. He presents the Steve Zacharanda Radio Show on Scratch Radio every Thursday night at 9pm and wrote Obama and Me – The Incredible True Story of a YouTube Sensation