3 Pies But Not 3 Points At Bescot.

Yesterday was planned. Short overtime duty at work, do a couple of missions then straight on the pre-match booze. As I headed to Santander 3 lads approached. One pointed at me, laughed and announced “look, it’s him off The Simpsons”. I do love an odd incident and I really should have stopped to ascertain which character he meant. Hope it wasn’t Hans Moleman.

Anyway in the bank I paid some money into my savings account which I can assure you never happens. I’m expecting a letter in the next couple of days saying “there has been some very unusual activity on your account”.

Upon leaving the bank I switched to plan b. I was drained after leaving work so I sacked off the other mission and the booze and went home. I had a mossiv mug of tea and two hours in, sorry on bed instead.

I called a taxi and was soon headed to the ground. This driver unlike his counterpart in Solihull had heard of Walsall FC so no discussions were needed. In fact the driver didn’t speak other than to clarify destination and ask for his fare which I was more than happy with.

As I approached the turnstile Mase emerged out of a room that I hadn’t even noticed was there before. I was initially concerned thinking was it a medical treatment room, but it turned out to be where the free water station was. So I had me a pint of that. I’ll drink anything if it’s free.

I was in my seat not long after kick off and I was asked by people around me had I got suncream on my head. In my rush to leave the house I hadn’t given it a thought. Ross handed me a bottle of factor 50 and I got to work. Upon finishing I turned round to hand him the bottle back, and missed the goal. I duly added this to the list of bizarre reasons I have missed a goal.

Upon returning to my seat for the second half Jayne Mason kindly provided me with a hat so my head is fine this morning, both internally and externally.

Stevenage equalised in the 10th minute of 8 minutes stoppage time which was annoying as I though we’d just about ground out the win.

Back to the Bescot Bar and I ordered myself a Madri and Swill a Carling. I also decided to have a pie at a cost of £3.80. Once the card payment had gone through another member of staff piped up “oh, the pies have been reduced to a pound. Would you like 4?”. I wasn’t really feeling eating 4 pies but I do like a bargain and I was sure someone would help with eating them so I said yes. One of the main gripes of Walsall fans is pies running out before half time. I don’t know if the order had been duplicated this week but suddenly there was an outbreak of them. A lady appeared with boxes and boxes of them. I couldn’t tell if she was giving them away or selling them for a quid but suddenly I had competition for shifting my 4. Swill finally agreed to have one of the chicken balti ones whilst I tucked into the two steak ones.

All of a sudden there was a mass exodus. Had they stopped serving? Did they want to clear tables to make way for some more pies? Was Patsy Kensit outside? Stewards appeared and said we had to evacuate due to “an emergency”. Emergency or not, I wasn’t leaving my pint (even though I could see people walking out with theirs) so I downed it. I also didn’t know how long we would be waiting for a taxi so I dashed off for an emergency piss. This done I headed for the door only to be told they were letting everyone back in. I didn’t even get to enjoy the emergency outside. The shutters on the bar went back up and the beer flowed again. Swill tried to find out what the issue was and a suspicious package was mentioned. The only thing suspicious at Bescot yesterday was the stoppage time.

The bar closed so Swill and I grabbed a taxi to town. Upon arrival Swill couldn’t get the door open and had to ask the driver for advice. I just sat there humming the theme tune to The Crystal Maze which I’m sure he appreciated. Although I had struggled to even get in the cab to start with as the ledge to stand on was missing so I wasn’t really in a position to throw stones but when does that ever bother me?

We went to St Matthews Hall, the Walsall Wetherspoons and had a pleasant pint outside. I also ate the final balti pie while the staff weren’t looking. I remembered my trip to Evesham where I only had enough time left to grab chips or a final pint so I did both and was told off for eating the chips in the Wetherspoons.

Serious drinking at Spoons.

We headed to Katz. Matt Stacky was outside with a few other Walsall fans. He gestured towards his crisps announcing “you can’t beat these massive bags of Monster Munch”. Those bags are all well and good until you buy a pack as I did before the Hartlepool game and nobody wants one and you have to eat them all yourself. Even as a crisps lover that is a big job.

Me, Swill and Matt up the Katz.

The night was rounded off with a Madri or two in the Walsall Arms then it was back to bed with the fan on.

Decent day. The sun had certainly got his hat on, and I was glad to have one for the second half.

The A-W & Y-Z Of Unticked Walsall Eateries Part 4.

Hello. Apologies that this has gone a bit Star Warsy. Three instalments in quick succession then what feels like decades for the next one. Here are the next 5 reviews.

Y – Yaadgaar, Wednesbury Road. Walsall.

It was a Monday evening, I was peckish and heading to Wednesbury. The buses weren’t being overly helpful so I got one to the end of Pleck Road and walked round to this place. Really unsure of what wares would be available inside I did some homework (cue all my teachers falling off their chairs in shock at that statement), and I’d checked the menu online. I didn’t peruse it long. They do a fish finger wrap? How many takeaways do fish fingers? Motion carried, I was having me a bit of that.

I certainly did make it a Yaadgaar moment.

A lady was placing an order as I strolled in. A second female joined us shortly afterwards and when customer no 1 was finished, lady no 2 went up. The server looked at her, glanced at me then looked back. The lady turned. I gave a sad looking face. “Oh, were you waiting?”. “Yes, but no problem. After you”. “No, you first” she insisted. So I did. To be fair, there was a problem. I was ordering fish fingers and was already looking like I would be late for the pub. This was not a time for messing around.

“Can I have the fish finger wrap and Terry’s Chocolate Orange milkshake please?” With the important part of the proceedings done it was time to look around for material. I saw a sign advising “red donner meat. The 1st in Walsall.” Quite a claim I thought. Whilst still looking around it was time for the 15-1 part where you get the quickfire questions.

“Do you want a meal?” “No”. “Do you want salad on it?” “No”. Do you want chilli sauce on it?” On fish fingers? I thought. I must remember to retch outside at the thought of this. “Do you have any Tartare Sauce?” I asked more in hope than expectation. “We have burger sauce. It’s similar”. “Go on then, thanks”. Final question was “sorry, did you want 3 milkshakes?” “Er, no. Just one will be fine.” I might have shit teeth but I’m not that desperate for Calcium.

It didn’t take long for my goodies to arrive, served by a lady who gave me a lovely smile.. The wrap was ace and the milkshake was really good.

It’s not often I walk past this place but I’m going back to try this red kebab meat and the Skittles milkshake next time.

Z – Zi’s Kebab, Pizza & Grill. Bradford Street. Walsall.

I’ve been in this place before. Most of us have but it’s unticked by me under it’s current name but it was formerly the legendary Kebab Ranch. Oh the memories. Superb curries and also fondly recalling the mid 90’s when Dominic Owen and myself would call in on the way back from the Wednesday night karaoke at Fibber McGee’s for large mixed kebab on naan bread.

It’s open. Run, run!

I’d earmarked this for my Z tick right from the start but then a month or so in it closed down. They taunted me a few weeks later by leaving the shutters up for a couple of days but remaining closed. The one night as I trudged towards it from work it was open. I’d been looking forward to fish fingers all day, home cooked not from Yaargaard but now these were off the menu. I had to get this in just in case they changed their minds and closed again.

I was warmly greeted by the man serving but as I looked up at the menu he gestured towards it and barked “all those are out of date. Everything’s gone up”. I thought he might want to rectify that before the drunken argumentative Friday night crowd rock up.

I opted for the large kebab meat and chips which I think was a fiver. The food was okay but not on a par with the Kebab Ranch days with the man in his green overall with the iron mark on the back. I’m glad it’s back open though.

O – Oregano, Wolverhampton Road. Walsall.

Dave joined me on this visit but he couldn’t wait to tell them they were being reviewed for a blog. He was blabbing before he’d even got through the door. I mentioned to him afterwards that these things are usually done without the staff knowing.

Yay, the crap angle pictures are back.

This is a modern feeling pizza place with 35 standard choices available along with the usual create your own option. I wasn’t feeling particularly creative so I went for number 32 Chicken Supreme. Just chicken on there and no sign of vegetation, an even number too which always pleases me.

It was £12.99 for a 10 inch which I thought was a bit high but then he explained that this was the buy one get one free price. Dave suddenly went a bit odd and decided he didn’t want anything so the man did mine for the “standard” £6.99. I ordered the Ferrero Rocher milkshake but the man explained his sign menu display was out of date and went into a spiel about how it didn’t keep long, not many people ordered it but I quickly stopped listening and went into stand by mode as I contemplated that the ambassador would not be spoiling me.

This place is nice to visit. The wood fire stove takes pride of place behind the counter and it is very satisfying watching the flames while waiting for the food.

There are a couple of ornate benches like you see in parks although none of them have metal plaques on them like those ones usually do. If I shuffle off this Earth soon I’d quite like a plaque on one of the benches. “Evo Boozy Saddler. He loved pizza and this place, even though he only came once” would suffice.

The food arrived quickly and we headed for the 529. I used my belly and the frame of the bus stop to wedge the box into position as I tried to tug a slice free, but then the box started to cave in and the pizza started to slide. I rescued the situation, even making a panicky noise whilst doing so. I’m glad I saved the pizza. Had it gone on the floor and been rendered inedible I would have to deduct them points.

Anyway the pizza was superb. Absolutely delicious. I offered Dave a slice. “What is it?” he asked. “Chicken Supreme”. “What’s on it?” “Chicken” I replied in my most deadpan voice. He really ought to know by now not to ask me daft questions.

Great visit this one and big thanks to my mate Darren Clayton for the recommendation.

R. Royal Punjab, Wisemore. Walsall.

A curry house that opens in the afternoon? That’s my Sunday dinner sorted one Sabbath day I thought. Due to extreme laziness I missed my desired arrival time of 1pm by three hours. Also due to this all I had eaten for breakfast was a pack of Rustlers pancakes and some salt & vinegar crisps. I was ravenous upon arrival and it looked like dabbling with my favourite Deadly Sin Gluttony would once again be on the agenda.

This stylish curry house is set in one of the new build units opposite the main entrance to Tesco. It opened last October with a £1 curry promotion on the first 3 Sundays. I had rehearsals on those days and despite it being unlicensed (a big bugbear of mine) I still wanted to pay it a visit.

I don’t like modern buildings but this one pleases me.

“Table for one please” I said on arrival. The waiter took me across the floor and put me at a table set for two. Then asked “table for 4 was it?” I was a bit confused and had to reaffirm that I was eating on my own.

The kids menu had fish fingers on it. Would they put some on a naan bread I wondered. Would that work? Bacon on naan certainly does. If I asked would they call me a dirty bastard and chuck me out? I opted not to ask.

I went poppadoms, starter and main. Lavish food on me please. I ordered the Strawberry Mohito “mocktail” too. The service was quick. My chicken Pakora starter was out before I’d finished the 1st poppadom. It was superb and at a bargain price too.

And I wonder why people call me a ponce.
The Pakora starter. Not bad for £3.50.

The chicken tikka masala was good too. There was a bit of a wait for the bill but when it finally came the waiter apologised and said it was because the other waiter went for food. This made us both laugh and all was forgiven. I had to deduct a couple of points as there was no complimentary chocolate or hot hand wipes provided at bill paying time but the food and ambience was so good I let that slide. And I had a red Bounty on the way home to make up for the former. Another good visit.

I. ISO Sushi Wok & Grill. Upper Bridge Street. Walsall.

I’ve been in this building during 2 of it’s former incarnations, firstly when it was an amusement arcade and then when it was the splendidly named takeaway Oi Nosh. Although had I eaten a pinball machine when it was the former it probably would have tasted better than the food I had when the latter.

ISO ISO, it’s off to eat I go.

I arrived straight from work on Thursday and this was right out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know many of the dishes. My mate Sean Harris loves this place and he recommended the gyozas. A quick internet search revealed that they contain Chinese cabbage and as I don’t do veg I discounted these. I should have got a second opinion and asked Jeeves. I’m sure he would have given a better answer.

I could have asked the guy behind the counter for advice but as you know, I’m not one for making conversation with people I don’t know so I did more internet before opting for Prawn Nigri and Chicken Fiery Rice. With the added bonus of Coke out of a glass bottle. It’s so much better out of glass along with ketchup and beer.

The Nigri came out first and I was still trying to get the hang of using the chopsticks when the rice came out. I did master the sticks but I don’t think I’ll be catching a fly with them like the Karate Kid anytime soon.

Nigri. The Wasabi was a bit warm.

The rice was ace. I could eat rice all day and this was no exception. It wasn’t that fiery after I asked for that to be calmed down a bit. It had decent pieces of chicken and a really good flavour. I wolfed it down the like The Simpsons eat their food and I didn’t care that I was sat by the window for all passers by to witness.

I’ll deffo return here and next time I will be brave and try a proper Japanese dish.

That’s it then for this instalment. One more to go. My U option has disappeared though so if you know of an eaterie beginning with that letter, please let me know. Cheers.

The Solihull Project.

I’ve got to say I wasn’t really feeling yesterday. When I woke at 9am I could have happily stayed in bed but there was beer and football in store so I eventually prised myself off the mattress and got ready. My mate Craig had stopped over and as he dropped me off outside Katz he announced he was going home to have a couple of hours in bed. I was so jealous. Although had Katz been open at that time I could have seen myself spending those same two hours in there.

I needed food and as I’ve not had a Wetherspoons breakfast in ages, St Matthews Hall is where I was headed. I was very excited about my order, so much so it took me three attempts to say Eggs Benedict and I’m still not sure I got it right. I’m not very good at talking during my first awake hour of the day. Fortunately the top lad that is Matt was serving and he knew what I wanted. It arrived quickly and once I’d removed all the rocket, the meal was polished off quickly.

As I passed St Pauls, a nice man stopped me and asked if I wanted to do market research and I’d be paid £5 for sampling 3 strawberry yogurts. I don’t do strawberries, rarely do yogurt but I do like free £5’s, especially as that amount brings back memories of Mark & Lard on Radio 1. “£5? Blimey Charlie, it’s a lot of cash” and all that.

10 minutes later I was back outside with my gut enjoying this rare influx of friendly bacteria and my wallet boosted with another £5 towards Josh’s stag do weekend.

Just like last Saturday Tim was on the platform of the train station so we travelled to Brum together before he went for the the easier route to the ground and I opted for the more alcoholic one.

We separated at New Street and I headed to Moor Street. This is the simply a beautiful station. Like catching a train in the 1930’s. I should have got a picture but the train was due and I needed the loo. Google image it if you want.

It didn’t take long to reach Solihull and on the way to the town was a Waitrose. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these with my own eyes before. I really was tempted to pop in for a laugh but there was the serious business of pre match supping to be done, not a time for laughing.

The first pub I found was Wetherspoons The White Swan. There was a civilised queue for the bar and it didn’t take long to get served. I headed outside to enjoy the view of a multi story car park and the banter of Dave O’Shea and his friends.

Next up Was Yates’s. Quite a few Saddlers were in here so that was good. After a couple of sips of my pint I started to get the munchies. The Eggs Benedict and 3 yogurts were wearing off. Perhaps I should have eaten the rocket. I headed back up the bar with menu in hand as is standard procedure. I went for the two small plates of Hunters Chips and Scampi. The extremely friendly barmaid explained the special offer and for just 1p more I could have a third plate. Bargain. Lavish the cheesy garlic bread on me. The food was really good and the garlic bread divine for just 1p. I won’t feel bad about winning the lowest prize on Deal Or No Deal now I know what it can get me.

I liked the look of the entertainment in this place especially the Wednesday night Drag-aoke hosted by the splendidly named Tanya Minge. It’s a free shot for every singer and a £20 bar tab for the best performer. Apologies in advance to my liver for all of these incoming bar tabs.

It was now 2pm and I’d only had 2 pints. I know it’s pre season but it’s a really poor showing on my behalf so I needed another venue. The top lad Matt Stacky was close by and he drives around for his job so I asked his advice. He suggested Popworld across the road but it was closed. Good job really as another pint and a couple of Katy Perry songs and I wouldn’t be making the game.

As I left Yates’s my eyes initially struggled to adjust so I made my way very carefully down the steps. Passers by must have thought I’d had about 12 never mind just the paltry two I was on. My eyes adjusted quickly and I spotted O’Neils across the road. That’ll do.

Solihull O’Neils

As I was in a posh town I thought I’d go for a more upmarket beer in here and opted for Camden Hells. Upmarket price too £5.75. Hmmm John Smiths next time I think.

Not Stella but still reassuringly expensive.

From there it was a black cab to the ground. The driver was eager to talk football until he came out with the line “Walsall? Are they even a team? I never see them on the tele.” Now I can take comments about my looks, my height, weight, lack of hair, lack of sex life etc but diss my football club and to quote our mutual friend Celine Dion “this is getting serious”. His comment bought out different responses from various parts of my body. Mouth said “yeah we don’t get picked up by Sky very often” in a tone which cut short the conversation. Brain thought “carry on like that and I’ll withhold your fare then overturn and torch your cab”. Throat thought “what’s all this talking? I need beer”.

The fare was £8.90 (I always tip but didn’t on this occasion) and soon I was outside the club with a pint and enjoying the company of Matt Stacky, Lee and Michelle. It’s a really good setup at this ground. The main club has an additional bar out the front of it which is what we were using. Home and away fans were drinking and mixing happily. I’m sure Neighbours fans would also do this.

Nice set up.
Distressing sight of an abandoned cheeseburger. They were a fiver each too.

By the time I’d finished my pint and made a few notes it was 3.30 and too late to go into the stand so another pint was in order. We took the lead before half time and I finally made it into the stand abut 15 minutes into the second half just in time to see us score our second.

Ideal for the player that likes a long run up throw in.

We won 2-0 and I was back up the bar just in time to hear the barmaid inform the customer in front of me that she was from “the shit part of Solihull”. He went and she asked me if the match was finished and I replied “yes” thinking this was also going to spark a conversation which would reveal personal life details but I got a “oh in that case I have to close. We finish when the game ends”. The main bar in the clubhouse was still serving and we had a pleasant hour and Matt let me jump in his Uber back to the station and only wanted a pint for it – which I still owe him. Next Saturday in the Bescot Bar Matt.

I rounded the day off back in Walsall with visits to Tap & Tanner, Katz and Walsall Arms. It was a really enjoyable day and I could have missed it due to being too lazy to get up or dancing around to Katy Perry in Popworld.

Pre-season is over then and my record is played 2 won 2 goals missed 2 goals seen 2. Lots of even numbers there. Bring on Hartlepool on Saturday. Proper football is back.

All’s Well In Wellington.

I’d missed the first couple of pre season games but yesterday football was back in my life. It was a friendly away at AFC Telford United so it was a day of sunshine, beers and a chance to meet up with folks I hadn’t seen for a while including Ashley a Telford fan who I’ve not seen since my last visit to their ground in 2006.

I arrived in Wellington just after midday and accompanied by Tim, a fellow Saddler we set off to find The Boot micro pub. We couldn’t locate it so dived into The Pheasant. This has 9 handpulls and at first I thought they didn’t do lager as there was no pulls but then I spotted them attached to the back wall. I had an ale, “Apollo” which was decent. Tim had his own itinerary for the day so he departed and I left to try and find The Boot. After a walk around the market place and a stop for a can of full fat Coke I spotted The Beacon and headed in there.

Nice looking pub to star the day.

The Beacon was dimly lit but playing ELO which is always good. I ordered a Carling and sat in a quiet corner. The tv’s were playing Now 80’s, ELO gave way to Madness and then Ashley arrived. We had a good catch up, well needed after about 16 years talking football and about the fottie forum that we had become mates on, and its posters.

The musical highlight was Fantasy Island by Tight Fit. Had I been a couple more pints down the road, and there been some ladies on the dancefloor then I would have been up their doing all the moves including lassoing. I mentioned to Ashley that he’d been lucky to not have to watch that.

Next up was The Boot. A new micropub that has only been open a couple of weeks. There was a great range of beers and whilst I was studying the form a lady behind us was loudly telling an anecdote which ended with “there was skid marks all over the sheets”. I wish I’d caught the start of this as it sounded a classic. She then reiterated that it was hilarious. I wanted the back story and also to know if she had found or left the skidders. Probably the latter as finding them usually isn’t that funny.

The Boot. Nice addition to an already good pub town.
Q & A action in The Boot toilet.

We started to head towards the ground which is just a 20 minute walk from Wellington but we broke this up by stopping at The Railway which is Ashley’s usual pre match haunt. Proper pub is this. It has the football pub feel and I was straight away at home. Ashley wanted a Staropramen which I’ve never ordered and I really pronounced it wrong. The barmaid just pointed at it and said “pint of that?”. “Yeah, pint of that” I replied. “Pint of that it is then” she concluded. So I will know always know it as that and when I ever get round to ordering it for myself, it’s how I’ll ask for it.

Me, Ashley and his pint of that in The Railway.

The pub has 3 dartboards dotted around the place which adds to it’s proper pub feel. I had to use the loo, and in there is the biggest mirror ever. You can admire yourself almost down to your ankles whilst also keeping an eye on what’s going on at the urinals, if that’s your thing.

Rigt by the ground is The Cock Hotel. A Joule’s pub with a good range of ales on. Lot’s of Walsall fans were in here which kept me happy. I opted for a pork pie as I was peckish. It came with a knife which was odd as it was small enough to eat in two mouthfuls. However as they had taken the trouble to give it me I opted to use it. I learned that cutting a pork pie is not my forte and should have eaten it whole.

Pork pie and a pint. Wonderful.
Real gentlemen get properly laagered. Discuss.

Ashley departed for the game but I stayed for another pint which is standard. I hooked with the marvellous Matt Stacky and his entourage for the walk to the ground. Upon arrival there were no turnstiles open and we were sent on a wild goose chase before eventually getting in at 3.25pm. I went straight for food and got a cheeseburger and small fries for £7 which was a tad expensive. All items wee wolfed down though.

I joined the queue for the beer and whilst doing this we scored. It was nice to get my first missed goal of the new American ownership era under my belt. At this point can I check you are sitting down? The next line might shock you. I decided that I didn’t want a beer and opted to see what half time in the stand is like. Turns out it was just people eating, talking about the game or watching the substitutes. Think I’ll stick to the bar in future.

Anyway I gather the first half was a bit poo, but we started brightly in the second half and scored again quite quickly with a well taken 20 yarder from Isaac Hutchinson.

The score remained 2-0 and it was an enjoyable afternoon in a nice ground. Afterwards I had time for one more beer before the train and it was a toss up between the Wetherspoons and the Station so I opted for the later due to it’s close proximity to the train home. Also because it had a quiz machine but this was no longer the case. They did have great looking cobs at £1.50 but like the beer I also know my limits with food so passed on these.

Wolverhamton Wetherspoons was visited on the way back for a drink with more fellow Saddlers. I also needed to get my steps in for the day so used the loos. As you know I like to use urinal no 2 and this is quite a walk from the door past 6 others so fitness levells went up a notch after that.

Back in Walsall me and Dave hit the Tap & Tanner just in time to watch James Beech Junior from Bloxwich boxing for the WBC Intercontinental belt live on BT Sports. He put up a great attempt but was stopped in the 8th. From there it was Wishbone for a kebab meat pizza and home.

A great day with tremendous people. Cheers all.

God Loves Me And I Love Rugeley.

Saturday was good. I left work at 1pm and headed straight to McDonald’s. I chose a table near the front door and from there I could hear every word of the mic-ed up preacher outside. I left around 20 minutes later with a full belly and suitably reassured that God loves me and died for my sins.

I jumped on the train and at Bloxwich I was joined by Chris and James. Chris I’ve been friends with since 1996 but I rarely drink with, and James who I know to say “alright?” to in Rock Steady Eddies.

We arrived in Rugeley, which had been the destination for my superb birthday bash in 2015 and made our way towards town but as the railway bridge loomed Chris ventured to the right. “Town is this way fella” I said. But he wasn’t going the wrong way. He was taking me into un-chartered territory and to a pub I knew nothing about. Not many people can say that they have taken me to a pub I’ve not been to before but Chris joins this short list by taking me to The Mossley Tavern.

Pub 1. The Mossley Tavern.

There was no ale available but the new Heineken Silver was on and I’ve not tried that so jumped on that. We settled at a table and the first pub discussion of the day was about Radio 2. A subject not normally on the agenda for debating over a pint but Chris was disappointed with the previous days news about Steve Wright being replaced by Scott Mills. On the other hand Scott is one of my favourite dj’s but he’ll still be on air when I’m at work so it’s academic to me. Chris was also sad at losing his title as “the last person to represent Walsall on Popmaster” this crown having slipped a couple of days earlier when my friend Sarah Sutherland went on and absolutely smashed it. Well done Sarah.

Our next stop was The Crown. This place was decked out with wall to wall Union Jacks and bunting. It’s so good to see that pubs are getting ready for the Queen’s 80th (Oak) Jubilee. Great stuff. Usher was playing as we walked in and when that finished was replaced by AC/DC, a leap that I wasn’t expecting. Soon The White Stripes came on and you don’t hear them in pubs often. Had I not been working I had been planning to wear my Jack White outfit of white t-shirt and red jeans. That would have been spooky with them playing.

The Crown, Jubilee ready.

In the week I’d sent Chris my wish list of 3 pubs to visit and our next port of call was The Vine which was on the list. This is a nice looking building and they have their own micro brewery on site. Chris whispered “Carling please”. I looked over quizzically. He fessed up that he was embarrassed to order this in a pub that brewed its own ale.

Vine ale, certainly not Carling.

The Vine is a great pub, a Rugeley must visit but on my last trip to the town I simply couldn’t find this pub despite having already visited it. I will never ask for directions so I prefer to look at sign posts and glance around a lot in the hope that a passer by will offer help but on that day nobody did so I didn’t make it. It was good to go there again. Word of warning though. If you go there on a hot date, take your own jonnies as the condom machine gives no prices or clues as to what your options are. Totally blank machine as if a victim of a bizarre government ban of sexual sheath advertising.

Double reassurance that it’s the gents. A sign for me, and a higher one for normal sized people.

Round the corner is Olly’s Bar and Chris was absolutely fuming that they didn’t sell crisps. “What pub doesn’t sell crisps?” he asked numerous times whilst in there. Maybe he could take this up with Scott Mills on Radio 2 soon.

En route to the next venue we spotted an array of wine bottles in a window and found it was Whitworth & Masons Lounge Bar. It’s so nice when you are on a planned route and you stumble upon a place that you had no knowledge of. This has happened twice before with Real Ale Corner in Chesterfield and Jinkys in Oakham. Places spotted whilst walking past. After a brief committee meeting we voted unanimously to give this place a visit. I’m so glad we did.

What a place.

Firstly the barmaid was lovely. They did real ale, Madri (2 pulls for this), crisps (Chris was delighted) and loads of gin varities. The place was very quirky in it’s decor and the staff were friendly a welcoming. All too soon though it was time to review the toilet. Right, at this point I’m going to stop typing and grab a mug of tea. This could take a couple of paragraphs.

Remember The Crystal Maze yeah? If the Industrial Zone had toilets these would be them. There are 4 cubicles. The first 2 for ladies and the second set for blokes. Cubicle 1 has an empty door. The others have garden implements attached. Why is number 1 empty though? I’m sure the budget could have stretched to a hoe. Hmm perhaps not. Not a good word to associate with the lovely ladies.

I still have absolutely no idea why. I was hoping Chris would ask.

I chose number three. The thing you grab to yank the chain (it must have a name, if the dot above the letter i has a name then this must) had the word pull on it. I’m crap with any kind of technology so am always grateful for instruction to use things. I’m crap at pulling but manged this with aplomb.

Whilst washing my hands a lady departed cubicle one. We exchanged brief hellos but this really caught me off guard. It felt a bit awkward so I didn’t hang around and dashed back to the bar to finish my Madri. This was a superb bar and I’m glad we found it.

The Red Lion was also on my to do list and as usual was on good form. The locals were lively, to the point that the lovely barmaid Jodie felt the need to apologise to us for the language. Whenever I go to another place I always look for which pub would be my local if I lived there and this place certainly gets the Rugeley tick.

Pub Of The Day.
Chris, James and me in Red Lion. Some big heads in that shot.

We moved onto The Albion where Chris seated by the pool table so we had 15 minutes of the players shoving those sticks in our faces which wasn’t fun so we went to Bojollys. Chris really struggled to use the jukebox in here and by the time he managed to select a song he realised that we would be long gone before it came on. He was already unhappy with the choices of other people so he also selected a song by Outhere Brothers just to piss everybody off. A level of pettiness that I can only hope to aspire to.

Last pub was The Plaza, the town’s Wetherspoons. For some reason all the urinals were out of use and covered in plastic sheeting meaning all users had to queue for two cubicles. A couple of blokes took matters into their own hands quite literally and ripped the sheeting open to dodge the queues.

Noooooo. I’m about to piss myself and there is a queue to poo.
Nice view out the back of The Plaza.

It was time to catch the train but what a superb day it was. My general rule is that when I have been somewhere and blogged about it, I then have to leave it about 6 months before I go again. However I want to go back to Rugeley soon so I might join the 1922 Committee and get them to change the rule. I might even take one of my very underused garden tools for that first cubicle door.

No Kent Do.

The cover for the Hard-Fi single Living For The Weekend features a clock showing 18.00 hours which I’ve always thought was a bit late but again it was around this time when my weekend could begin and after the standard order in McDonalds it was off to The Lyndon to meet Craig and from there we headed to Black Country Arms.

It was a bit lively upstairs so for the 2nd pint (blood orange cider after a green pint of Stonehenge Sign Of Spring) we headed for the part of the pub I call the Study. In here we found a joke book which Craig read from. I also chipped in with some of my favourite jokes like”a skeleton walks into a pub and says can I have a pint of lager and a mop please?”.

The BCA Study.

From there we headed to The Lounge (formally Pen & Wig) which was re-opening that day. It is now a desi pub serving food and there were a few folk in which was good to see. On our last visit 3 days after Christmas 2019 it was just me, Craig and the landlord in there and it was still playing festive music which was odd.

The bouncer knew I was taking pictures and made no attempt to get out of the shot.

As we hadn’t gone back upstairs in The BCA to use the loo before departing we both needed it here. Craig dashed in first whilst I got on with the important business of ordering the drinks. And then I dashed to the bogs.

Madri in a Madri glass and Thatchers in a Madri glass. The Thatchers glasses were the only thing that didn’t turn up.

I entered to find a bothered Craig having trouble washing his hands. He challenged me to get some water out of the taps. Upon finishing the matters arising I walked to the sink, used the left tap and it flowed freely. I don’t know what it is with Craig but he brings out my mainly dormant competitive side. With wet hands to prove my victory I bypassed the hand dyer and went out and flicked excess water at him. Had it been anyone else I’d have acted like my 48 years and just used the dryer.

There were food and drink menus to peruse. Cocktails include Strawberry Is Sexy and Sex On The Sofa. I might try those and in the latter case I might get round to having the drink at some point too. The food is the usual desi pub fayre. They do an amazing sounding mega deal which costs £49.95. I announced that next time I win £50 on a scratchcard, I’m having that. Craig mentioned that it was surely a meal for 4. “Fine” I replied. “I’ll bring Patsy Kensit, you bring Lucy Verasamy”. I didn’t think to check if he knows who Lucy is but either way I’ll have a flirt with her while he is at the bar.

Want want want. I’ll have the 4 drinks first though waiter.

From there it was The Registry then Katz. On the retro gaming machine we have found Super Pac-Man which is an a odd version of the original game with un-lockable sections and power pills which makes your man go all big and he can do what he wants for a bit. We had three games. I won one, Craig wiped the floor with me in the other two, so I’m putting this bit of the report second and hoping you don’t notice. He made some great scores and as usual drunk me was a bit blase with my Pac-Man. We headed to Blue Ginger to round the night off which is standard behaviour and it was ace. Also standard.

On the Saturday I was up early to head to work. I glanced ruefully at the railway bridge. Two hours later I should have been passing over it on a wacky one night trip to Kent rather than walking under it at an un Godly time to do overtime. With that trip off due to the train strike it was all about earning money rather than spending it.

It was pissing down as the clock struck 1, so a colleague (who quit suddenly in the time it has taken me to write this) offered me a lift to by The Saddlers Centre car park. Not a long walk but like the bloke in the Heart “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You” song, I had no umbrella, no coat so I was happy with the lift. He’d bought everyone breakfast earlier too so he was in my good books that day..

Anyway I went into the Saddlers Centre and grabbed a cheap pair of jeans for work from a charity shop. Size 30. I don’t think I’ve worn size 30 since I was about 7. I left the centre via the other exit into glorious sunshine. It hadn’t taken that long to get the jeans on honest.

I saw an ice cream van and I wanted in. I was drawn to the Raspberry Brain Rotter Sundae. Purely because I’ve decided that if I ever have to change my name or do a witness protection thing I would go for the name Sebastian Rotter (inspired by Faris Rotter lead singer of The Horrors). I might have to rethink this now I’ve revealed it in a blog that is read around the world. Vince Rotter it is then.

Just look at that magnificent bastard. It didn’t last long.

On the evening my mate Gareth was up from Newport in Wales. I warned him not to head to close to the football ground as he might get a 2 year contract as our manager Mickey Flynn hails from there and likes a signing from his home town.Gareth had bought his friend Dai along and we met up in The Lyndon. Upon leaving, I turned to inform Gareth that I was nipping for a quick piss. Only it wasn’t him. I don’t know who the bloke was but he didn’t seem too interested in my bladder emptying movements.

I had guided the lads to The Wheatsheaf as I was peckish and wanted to try the new BBQ. I was craving a burger but upon reaching the food area the chef said it was jerk chicken and goat curry and that the food was all cooked and inside. So I went to the window at the kitchen. They had no idea what I was on about so I went back to the bar. The barmaid directed me to go outside, which was what I was told first time around. She marched off outside and came backing saying she thought I had to order at the bar but wasn’t sure. Losing the will to live I ordered a ham salad cob and took great pleasure in extracting the non bread/ham content.

Gareth and Dai were getting stuck into the rum. Last time I tried this it was a spicy cherry version in Katz. I was showing off and drinking it neat. Next thing I knew I was being put into a taxi so I played it safe this time and had an ale. A bloke latched into Dai and eventually asked our names. “Mikee” I said. “Martin?” “No, Mikee”. “Nice to meet you Martin” he concluded. Oh well. I get called Steve and Andy so it’s nice to have another name to go by.

We went to Walsall Arms and met our mate Dan and from there we hit Katz and sat outside in the pleasant surroundings until the un June like temperatures put paid to that.

Dai wanted to go where the women were so it was time for The Registry. There were ladies about so that was good. I was flagging soon afterwards due to the busy long working week. Something need to liven me up. A final drink was doing the trick until this was usurped by the DJ playing “Set You Free” by N-Trance. This is just one of the best songs ever and always brings back memories of my 40th birthday bash when it was played late on and the whole room went up.

I finished my drink, thanked the lads for a cracking evening and headed home.

Kent? Soon. Maybe.

Lovin The Unplanned Live Music.

Yesterday was a bit odd. I was meant to be going to Milton Keynes but I made the last second decision not to go. The coach had no toilet and I deduced that a day of drinking, a weak bladder and no toilet wasn’t a good mix.

I went to Wetherspoons and had a mug of tea, followed by the obligatory free refill then went back home. I grabbed another cuppa and went back to bed. I was still knackered from the day before at work. When I accepted the job my hours were 8.30 until 5. Of late it’s been 7.30 until 6 and doing this the day before, marching around the warehouse all shift in 30 degree heat had taken it out of me, so a bit more bed time did me no harm at all.

Josh phoned on the afternoon asking if I wanted to go and see a band in Coventry on the evening. Thinking their might be some blog material in it, I jumped at the chance. My previous Saturday’s blog mission had gone up in smoke when trains from Walsall to Rugeley were cancelled to due to trespassers on the line, which is a totally wank reason to cancel, especially as we all got to stand and watch as the train on the platform then departed empty towards the trespassers.

So I’d gone one Saturday without material, this days mission to MK was off and next Saturdays totally whacky one night trip to Kent was out due to the train strike so I was grateful for this trip to Cov.

It was absolutely pissing down upon arrival at The Albany Club but we weren’t too moist upon getting in which was a result.

I asked Josh who the band was and I thought he said Plastic Door but he confirmed it was Plastic Dog. “Think of Love Island” he said but I’ve never seen that programme so this hint was wasted on me.

Plastic Dog. Great band.

The band came on and opened with “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. I’m no fan of Led Zep and I detest this song. I considered going and standing in the rain for a bit but my view was being blocked by a tall, broad grey haired man who I nicknamed Mr Gilbert (from The Inbetweeners) so I got my phone out and tried to block out the music.

Things improved. The nexy two songs were “Sitting On The Dock Of A Bay” and “All Along The Wtchtower” which were superb renditions.

There were a few folk in, some nice ladies which really made me wish I’d had a shave and put a shirt on. As the first half continued we moved from behind Mr Gilbert and really got into the night now I could see the band. The barmaid was very smiley and friendly which is always good.

As the first half drew to a close I even started to dance along to “You Don’t Know What It’s Like To Love Somebody” (BeeGee’s?). Unfortunately during the dancing my hand lightly brushed Mr Gilbert’s arse. Nothing was said though so he either didn’t feel it or liked it.

The band finished their first half set and on came Phil Collins with “You Can’t Hurry Love”. All of a sudden the dancefloor which had been empty all night was full of women dancing. The band must have been like “wtf?”. I joined in the dancing of course and was giving it portions to “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” and a woman walked past and gave me a big smile. Typically there was no toilet attendant in the place or I’d have been straight n there/ “Mate I need a shave, after shave and a shirt please. Here’s a pound”.

As the interval continued a lady came round with a tray of sandwiches which I happily opted to indulge in but as as I want to make my selection the lady next to me caught the underside of the tray with her flailing arm. Fortunately I stopped the tray launching and grabbed a couple of them. It was a panicky second though. Anyway I’ve never danced with a cheese sandwich in each hand before so I hope that was a good look.

I popped to the loo and as I departed the urinal I noticed Mr Gilbert had followed me to the gents. He clearly didn’t mind the arse incident.

The second half was also good but mindful that we had yo be back at The Walsall Arms before they closed the door, we departed before the end.

On the way over I’d found out that like myself Josh is also a fan motorway geekiness and we’d had a good chat about various routes and it was now that I declared that one of my ambitions when I pass my test is to drive on the M45 which has one of the lowest traffic volumes of all motorway traffic and driving along it apparently is like going back to the 1950’s. https://pathetic.org.uk/current/m45/

We made it back to Walsall Arms just as Allison was about to close the door. Stunning time keeping and a nice feel of Challenge Anneka to round the night off.

Class evening. You just can’t beat live music.

What A Weekend.

For my international readers, this weekend over here we have been celebrating the 70th anniversary of our Queen’s ascension to the throne. We were given a 4 day weekend and told to enjoy ourselves. Which we did. Us English like a 4 day weekend and a booze up so we grabbed this opportunity with both hands.

On Thursday my mate Craig rocked up and we had a little wander about which lead us to Katz. As is now tradition we dived straight on the free retro gaming machine. We played 3 different football games, both of us with automatic keepers. Unfortunately his was like Jimmy Walker and stopped absolutely everything where as mine went to pieces as soon as one of Craig’s players crossed the half way line. I played him off the park every game but somehow lost 4-0, 3-0 and 1-0. Our shouts during these games must have been audible as someone en route to the toilet took a diversion and came into the room thinking we were watching an actual football match. Despite being robbed on the football I won the Ms Pac-Man, Space Invaders DX and Donkey Kong games so was happy with that.

From there we went to Blue Ginger. I keep meaning to try new things in there but the garlic king prawns are just on another level so I always have those along with a nargis kebab and tandoori chicken for company.

It was quiz night at the Black Country Arms and they had Sign Of Spring from Stonehenge Brewery on. This amazing green beer only comes out at this time of year and the brewery is one of the best I’ve been to so I always have that when it’s on.

We won the quiz, well I say we, Craig won the quiz. I contributed just one answer if I remember correctly about Forest Green Rovers changing their name to Stroud FC. It was a good start to the weekend.

On the Friday we had a Walsall CAMRA branch meeting along with a little ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the branch.The Pretty Bricks was chosen for this event as that is the pub where the branch was founded back in 1972. I chaired the meeting which went well but ended on a slight low point when in any other business somebody complained about having to sit through the meeting before getting to the 50th anniversary bit. I apologised for costing him time, closed the meeting and we got stuck into beers and free cobs and sausage rolls kindly provided by the pub.

The 50th anniversary part went very well. The first branch Chairman Brian who I’ve never met before made a speech as did fellow founding member Keith Watkins. Keith is still involved with the branch and at the end was presented an award of being made Honorary Branch President by our Regional Director Cy Day.

Keith being presented with his award by Cy.

Afterwards we had a few discussions amongst the committee members and I really hope the branch can push on after I step down as Chairman in October.

I then received a message from Kimbo. He and other fellow Walsall fans Coxy, Dan and Kev were in The Registry and did I want to join them. Hell yeah. I timed my arrival to perfection just as a UB40 act was finishing and soon the dj was pleasing the crowd with Sweet Caroline and the two Bully Ocean biggies back to back “Love Really Hurts Without You” and “Red Light Spells Danger”, all of which went down a storm. We had a good dance around and sing along then someone proposed going to the Walsall Arms. It’s a great pub and on my way home so it was a yes from me.

Kimbo, Kev, Dan and Coxy. Top lads to drink with.

Obviously I needed the loo first so there I headed. Regular readers of this blog will know that in pub toilets I always like to head to urinal number 2. The Registry has 7, there was just a sole user but he was stood at number 1. I headed for no 4 (if I can’t have 2 it has to be an even number). The man at number 1 was attempting to sing along to Baby Come Back and his rendition was very entertaining.

It was karaoke in Walsall Arms and I haven’t done it in a while but by now I was in an advanced state of refreshment so decided to go for my signature song Everybody (Backstreets Back) by Backstreet Boys. Kev joined me for a duet which was ace and we smashed it out the park.

I got up very late on Saturday. I cooked an egg sandwich and made a cup of tea and went back to bed. I wasn’t hungover, just very lazy. Eventually I got hungry, remembered that the Walsall Arms had a BBQ on and so I ventured out. With a cheeseburger ordered and a Salopian Golden Thread in my hand I joined Chris Steele and his partner Hannah. The England match which I’d forgotten about was on. Another friend Simon joined us but I couldn’t really get into the match so I moved on.

A short while later Kimbo checked into the Tap And Tanner. Him and Coxy were out for round 2 so I joined them. Whilst not overly busy it was great to see so many people dancing around at such an early part of the evening clearly enjoying the occasion.

Enjoying round 2.

I was peckish again so went to visit Triangle Pizza for the first time. Situated in the former Oysters chip shop opposite the library I’ve been wanting to tick this off since it opened a couple of moths ago. The staff were friendly and welcoming. The smallest pizza they do is 12 inch. They clearly know us Walsall folk like our food. I opted for pepperoni with added roasted chicken. I think it came to about £12. It arrived quickly. It was still early and I was in no hurry to get to Katz so I rested the box on a litter bin and tucked in. After weeks of picking orders for pizza boxes at work it was nice to finally get my hands on one with the actual product in it. An employee came out and went to his car and checked with me if everything was okay. I confirmed all was good. I’m not sure if his food being eaten off a bin is good for the corporate image but I bet Italians have done this at some point so it’s all good.

Great place to be fair.
Pizza on a bin. Classy bloke aint I?

After a couple of slices I headed to Katz and ate the rest upstairs whilst the band downstairs played classics by Ugly Kid Joe and Green Day.

Last port of call was Black Country Arms where I had a Fixed Wheel beer brewed specially for the Jubilee. We’d won 8 free pints at the quiz and this was the first of them (Craig said I could have them all, an offer I happily accepted). It was a great way to round off an memorable weekend.

Free beer in a proper glass. Smiles, happy day.

Can’t Knock The ‘Nock.

My good friend and fellow am dram fam member Ian Kendrick has run the Cannock Conservative Club for 15 years but he is moving away and Friday was his leaving do. I said I would attend but it would have been rude not to have a mooch around the Cannock pubs whilst I was there.

I left work and headed straight to McDonald’s. I ordered a double cheeseburger and large toffee latte as standard and reached into my pocket for my wallet, and in there was my work tape measure and Stanley knife. Shit. My mind immediately switched to bouncers on pub doors, getting frisked and them finding this.

My first thought was to bin the knife, but after two months at my new job I have only just started sitting in the staff room this week and it was this very day that I first read the notice advising that lost knives would be charged to replace. Sod that. I may be earning more money now but I don’t want to waste it on knives when there is beer to be paid for. I thought about hiding it in bushes if I saw bouncers but then my imagination ran wild as it often does and I was thinking what if someone finds it then kills someone and police see footage of me leaving the knife there.

I had time to run up The Oak Inn but it would have been odd even by my standards to dart in and ask Adam or Anabelle “yeah, I don’t want a drink but could you look after this weapon until tomorrow please?” As I waited in the window I saw a work colleague passing. I’ve never been so glad to see a colleague. Seconds later the knife was in his bag, and minutes later toffee latte was in my hands. Panic over.

I headed to the railway station where entertainment was being provided by a drunk man dancing around vigorously, although he was distracted by a lass walking down the stairs onto platform 2. “Oi bab, I love your top” he shouted across the tracks. She looked nonplussed at this compliment. He didn’t comment on my attire which was somewhat disappointing.

First port of call in Cannock was The Merchant. It was much busier than on my previous 2 visits and this time beautifully decked out for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. The only real ale on was Plum Porter but I thought that was a bit strong for a first drink and it was still before 7pm. I then realised that at 10 Downing Street it would be wine time Friday. I like wine but again, too early. Whilst I’m on about that I would really like Sue Gray to investigate my previous birthday parties. I’d love to see what she digs up especially about my 40th where I have no recollection of the last hour.

Anyway with plum porter and wine off the table I was about to order a Coors, and then I spotted a thing of beauty. A fridge the absolute perfect size to host 12 Lilley’s Cider boxes. The barman who was a top bloke got down on his knees and went through all 12 flavours for me. I opted for Strawberry. Whilst at the bar I spotted pork crunch from local purveyor Ray Gray Snacks. This company are Walsall FC fans and I’m guessing the name comes from Sir Ray Graydon the legendary former manager of our beloved team. 27th of May is known as Ray Graydon Day in Walsall as it is the anniversary of him guiding us to play off glory at the Millenium Stadium. So I had to have Ray Gray pork on Sir Ray Graydon day.

Friday night dinner.

It was a pleasant pint. The music was varied ranging from Mambo No 5, Culture Club through to The Ketchup Song. There was a bottle of ketchup on the table which I considered dancing around with but I wasn’t sure that anyone in the vicinity would get the reference plus I wouldn’t have been able to recreate the shapes thrown by the bloke at the railway station so I stayed seated.

The bar in The Merchant looking good.

As I walked up the High Street I heard some very shouty karaoke so I decided to go wherever that was coming from and it turned out to be the next bar. JK’s. This place was busy and everyone seemed to be having a good time. There was a tip box on the bar which mainly consisted of coppers but someone clearly trying to impress a barmaid had stuck a fiver in. I was very jealous when someone got up to sing Help Yourself by Tom Jones, one that I’ve always wanted to perform. He did an entertaining rendition but I was still tempted to get up and duet.

Next up was Linford Arms, Cannock Wetherspoons. As I approached a man vacating the place looked to his left and shouted “Dan”. I’m never one to turn down an Alan Partridge reference so I also shouted it. I was tempted to stand there shouting it for a minute but it was time for my first real ale of the night so I ventured inside for a £2.10 Slater’s Golden Bitter.

Not sure if Dan is pictured.

It was time for New Hall Arms, my favourite Cannock pub, now run by former Wheatsheaf landlord and my predecessor as Chairman of Walsall CAMRA Tony Colpitts. I was across the road looking for my camera app when I heard “Oi, Walsall”. I looked up and Tony was in the doorway enticing me in. I had an excellent pint in here but can’t for the life of me think what it was.

What a pub though.
Looks like a Dr Who style Walsall CAMRA Chairman regeneration publicity shot.

I headed to the Conservative Club. Some of my fellow AMCS (Aldridge Musical Comedy Society) members had been singing at Ian’s leaving do earlier in the evening but I declined this due to pub commitments. On a previous visit here my mate Daz said his pint of Bass was the best he’d ever had. I’ve never tried it so I thought what a better time than the last night of Ian’s watch. It was very good. I saw Ian’s speech and then caught up with him for a chat. He’s a great bloke, and will be missed both on stage and in the dressing room. He was a great help to me when I first joined the society. I wish him all the best in his new life.

Me and Ian. What a bloke.

Penultimate pub was The Royal Oak. Now there is a thing about American singer Tiffany living in Cannock which some people believe but many think is a myth. Anyway on my previous visit to this pub “I Think We’re Alone Now” was blasting out as we approached. This time it took the time for me to walk in and go to the loo before they started playing it. I wonder if she is a local there so they give her PRS money by playing her regularly. Maybe mix it up a bit next time though by playing Radio Romance please. I’d like that a lot.

Final visit was The Arcade which is a fairly new micro-ish pub based in part of a former music shop. Really cool place this and a nice way to break up the walk from town to the railway station. I can’t remember what I drank, it was good whatever it was and I enjoyed the visit but soon it was train time. The carriages were busy so once I used the loo I snook into first class. I’ve only ever sat in first class once previously, on a Virgin train where I got free food and drinks but neither of these were forthcoming this time. The journey was quick and quiet, well until a lady went to the loo and upon her return was greeted by one of the men with her singing “she’s had a shit, she’s had a shit”. I bet that doesn’t get sang in first class very often.

I was first out of the station as I wanted to get one of the 3 taxi’s that wait outside as I had Saturday overtime for the first time since 2010, so I was a good boy and went straight home. Anyway, it was a great night and I look forward to going back to Cannock. Once I’ve learned the words to Help Yourself and Radio Romance.

Gotta Dig Digbeth.

Last Saturday I found myself in a rare situation of time to myself and no plans. Every so often when this happens I like to go for a wander and this time I jumped on a train and headed to Birmingham, with the destination of Digbeth in mind.

It was a pleasant evening and I enjoyed the casual stroll. However as I passed the markets I realised too late that I was walking on a broken bottle. I wasn’t injured but it was nice to appreciate how Annie Lennox felt after all these years.

I passed the Irish Centre and was saddened to see it boarded up and covered in graffiti. I had excellent nights in there watching gigs by two of my favourite bands Boy Kill Boy and Hard-Fi. Stunned it’s closed but I guess nowhere is safe in these Covid affected times.

I visited a pub that will be reported on later in another blog but as I made my way passed the Irish Centre again, two nice looking ladies stopped me. “Excuse me” began one “do you know where…..” at this point I was praying be somewhere I know so I look great. She concluded “the nearest Nisa shop is?”She could have asked me this in Walsall and I wouldn’t have known. “I’m sorry, I don’t know, I’m not from round here”. I felt like a bit of a nob, nothing new there I appreciate. I toyed with the idea of giving them directions to the next pub where I would have bought them a drink for the inconvenience but I opted not to. She asked if there was a shop of any kind around here and I pointed them in the direction of one I’d passed earlier. They smiled, thanked me and we went our separate ways.

Next up was the Big Bulls Head. This is a pub I only visit when going to gigs so it was a bit strange heading into there without live music on the agenda. The barmaid had a mouthful of crisps so couldn’t talk. I could however and ordered a pint of Madri. A bargain at only £4.30. The pub was busy, great atmosphere and I know I’m biased as I love the place but it was a very enjoyable visit.

Great pub. crap angle due to all the fences in the road.

Next up was The Ruin. The bouncer was deep in conversation on his phone as I approached and he moved in front of the entrance and broke off from his chat to ask “have you been here before?” “Yes, once about 3 years ago” I replied. He moved out of the way and went back to his conversation. I really have no idea what that was about and I wish I’d said no to see what happens. Next time I’ll put my investigative journalist hat on again and do just that.

The bouncer had finished his conversation by this point.

Anyway, The Ruin is a great pub. I was served by a very pleasant and smiley barmaid and I went for a mooch. On my previous visit to this place it was my first time of playing Cards against Humanity. Daz proposed playing this, Jane and Neil were up for it but I said no as pubs are for drinking and socialising not for playing games and I voiced this at the time. Saying that though I do allow myself to have a go on quiz machines in pubs, although it’s fair to say that it takes longer for me to withdraw money out of Santander’s new cash machines that it does for me to lose on quizzers.

Inside The Ruin, and that card game.

Anyway said game is still in the pub and it bought back good memories as I relented that night and did play and I laughed my nads off. Such a great game.

Next up was The Kerryman and the Award For Odd Conversation Of The Night will be presented to these once I’ve booked Chris Rock to come over and host. The barman approached. There was no music at this point. “Can I have a pint of Carling please?” “Laqer or cider?” “Oh, you’ve got the Carling Cider?” “What?” “You’ve got the Carling Cider on?” “No.” “Then I’ll have lager please.” He pointed to a font. “We’ve got Stella.” I think they heard my sigh in The Bulls Head. “Can I just have a Carling please?” He agreed and we were getting somewhere. I then ordered dry roasted peanuts. He went to the back of the bar, his hand moved towards the salted ones. He looked round and said “did you want dry roasted?”. After what felt like very hard work I got my drink and nibbles and sat down. Someone went up to the jukebox and on came the Blur classic “Coffee & TV” although the barman probably calls it “hot chocolate and Ikea flat pack wardrobe”.

Don’t pay The Kerryman, and I didn’t as I was seriously nowhere near the other side.

I left The Kerryman and had a bit of a surprise. The shop I directed the two ladies towards earlier actually was a Nisa. What are the chances of that? Had I been that flukey with the answers in my GCSE’s I might have ended up with grades better than ones that can spell out feedfeeed.

An A+ in directions please examiner.

Last pub of the night was Bull Ring Tavern which is a great boozer but not everyone’s cup of tea. It was busy. Seats were available but only at occupied tables and nobody was offering the chance to sit down. I perched on a stool and enjoyed my pint but all too soon it was last piss before the train and to dash for the train time all rolled into one. I’ve only been in this pub 3 or 4 times and it’s been a while and I couldn’t remember where the loos were. The door behind me just yielded the ladies. I headed along the bar, deliberately looking lost hoping someone would pipe up (nobody did). I asked a bloke but it was his first time in the place. I eventually found them upstairs, just about making it. Life lesson, don’t wait until you are about to piss yourself before looking for the bogs in an unfamiliar pub.

What a place though.

With the delay in finding the loo I had to run to the railway station. Apologies to the people of Birmingham, nobody wants to see that. After catching my breath I reflected on a cracking night. Digbeth is my favourite part of Birmingham. It’s cool, vibrant, the booze is cheaper than other parts of the city and it’s fun. There are new bars too which I didn’t try so it’s looks like I’ve got to go back. And this time I’ll know where the Nisa is.