A City in the West Midlands (of England), but yet so much more, a cog in the huge megalopolis that is the Birmingham Conurbation, the very edge of The Black Country.
Sounds tempting doesn't it? Imagine my Delight when as a teenager living in South London I discovered that fate had chosen to send me there for 3 years. How come? my first 3 choices for college were refused and the pool offered me 2 options, Wolves Poly or go on the dole. It was everything I expected, but I did grow to love the place, in what can only be described as a sublime sense of masochism. I stayed there 4 years, one year longer than I needed.
The good news is that if you would like to visit Wolverhampton there are 2 hotels in the City centre that will eagerly sell you a room; The Fox Hotel & The Britannia Hotel. I have visited both of these hotels, the last, the Britannia. just a couple of years ago and I am glad to report that it confirms the feeling that you get when, as a visitor you leave the railway station. You see, the Britannia is a forgotten hotel, forgotten by the large chain of hotels that own it. It has a brave, possibly even beautiful Victorian facade and is clearly part of the same grandeur that Queen Victoria chose to close the blinds of her carriage to avoid seeing. Inside the Hotel is authentic, it has no restaurant, but they do sell coffee at the bar, once they are over the shock of a resident being in the bar, and have rediscovered where the coffee machine is. Yes this is one of those bars that has no carpet, and has furniture that can survive a hefty fling. The rooms are, well my one was anyway, yellow from years of nicotine and the sheets slightly crusty. This is not a cheap hotel to stay in.
The other Hotel, The Fox holds far better memories, although it must be said that it is decidedly outclassed by the Britannia. I have never stayed there, as what you might call a guest, but I did spend a night there in 1978 when a group of friends followed some nice chaps who played in a band called The Clash back to their rooms after a concert in town and proceeded to get Wolverhampton out of our systems. Mainly by displacing it with other substances. I still admire Paul Simonon for his perceptive choice of the Fox with its council flat aesthetics over the 'fur coat and no knickers' appeal of the Britannia.
At this point I should mention that there is a 3rd Hotel, some distance from the City centre, The Connaught Hotel, which I never new existed until I googled 'Wolverhampton Hotels' just before writing this. Funny thing is I must have walked past it every day for a year, I think that must bode well for any ascendant rock stars looking for digs in wolves that don't want to do the obvious.
What about the delights of the city itself? I am being honest and truthful when I say that Wolverhampton, or Bulberhampton as I have heard it referred to by some residents, Is a bit of an enigma. On the face of it Wolverhampton is the sort of place that makes newly arrived 18 year old students consider whether mortality is all it is cracked up to be, believe me I have first hand evidence of the trauma that some experience. But spend a few months there, and make a few friends there, which is shockingly easy and you will always feel a deep fondness for it.
In many ways Wolverhampton is the geographical equivalent of a near death experience. Once you have developed a way of dealing with the apparent run down drabness of the buildings, the tiny scale of the city centre, and the pervading smell of the brewery, you are left with nothing much, other than hope.
That is where the people make their entrance, they can take that hope and show you how to build a new existence out of it. not an easy task on an everyday 'bump into you in the chip shop' sort of basis, but they have evolved a cunning technique, and it works like the City, on the basis of the unexpected. If you are expecting a dull night out in the pub, someone will start singing; if you were expecting a half ruined street, you may find the best nightclub imaginable; if you were expecting that stranger to beat the hell out of you, you will end up best of mates. If you were expecting Wolverhampton to be dull you will have the time of your life.
So what may seem to be a short cynical piece of writing concerning a community whose heart is enclosed by a ring road and lives clustered around it, is actually an example of the way Wolverhampton operates, underneath the surface it is a sincere appreciation. The delights of Wolverhampton are not obvious, they are hidden well enough to make it one of the few Cities that only have 3 hotels, two of which, at least, no-one in their right mind would check in to.
I found many unexpected delights In Wolverhampton, the most surprising of which was how international and progressive the people that lived in such a run down, old fashioned town could be. That ducks prefer chapatis to bread, that the gorgeous hairdresser at the end of my road was married to the drummer from Duran Duran. That real tea is made using a whole pack of tea and is boiled milk and all, That a Hindi temple could be better than a restaurant, That a gay nightclub is, even for straight old me, a thousand times better than a straight one. that the band called spots on at the lafayette was actually The Sex Pistols, that even Baronets have to work for money, and that 24 years later I still miss the place.