Important thing your favourite pub is. Be it for somewhere to meet friends, or a place you can walk into any time and feel comfortable. Sometimes the urge to nip out for a pint and see who’s about strikes or you’ve had a crap day at work and just need to unwind a bit on the way home. I’ve done both of these in all of my favourite pubs. So let me tell you more about them.
The New Fullbrook. Favourite pub 1992-1998.
I didn’t really drink before I turned 18. Two days after coming of age it was time to start discovering pubs close to home. Accompanied by Sharon we walked to the bottom of the road. Turn right and a pub called The White Lion was close. Turn left and The Fullbrook was a slightly longer stroll away. I’m never likely to turn left on a plane so I did that night.
I’m shy, not very confident and was too scared to walk into the main room so we snook into the Lounge, a separate part of the pub in those days. I think I had two pints of Highgate Mild. A good start to this new chapter in my life.
Two days later I took another friend Gibbo along. To my horror he went into the main part of the pub and into the raucous sounding back room. I slowly followed. I was terrified but upon getting into that room he went off to play pool. So I just sat on my own drinking. Fortunately a couple of people started talking to me and that was it. I was soon making friends and I was heading in there at every opportunity.
The Fullbrook had something of a reputation. If I told people I drank in there they would look at me like I’d announced my local was the bar where Ted meets Elaine in Airplane. True, there were fights in there. One involving stools being thrown and a massive bottle full of coins being swung around concerned me and my friend Paul so much we moved our pints onto the window sill behind us before continuing to watch.
Despite the occasional scuffles there was a real sense of community in The Fullbrook. Everyone knew everyone else and you’d see the same faces in there night in night out. Friday’s which was disco night was perhaps the highlight. Although I once asked the dj for “More To This World” by Bad Boys Inc. Yeah, I wasn’t quite the cool indie music fan that you know me as today, back then. Every Friday there after when I walked in the dj would play this song with the announcement “Evo, your song’s on”. Obviously nowadays it would be something by Foo Fighters or The Vaccines.
Sunday night was karaoke and I think performing the hits of Right Said Fred on a regular basis was what really helped cement my place as a Fulbrook regular, known to all. People wanted to perform with me and even the seafood seller wanted in. So one night I put in his request for an Elvis song “Suspicious Minds” and the dj lined it up for when he arrived. It’s fair to say our harmonies were all over the plaice, it was a bit shit and nobody clapped. Perhaps they were a bit crabby. We didn’t perform again, and he didn’t even give me a free pack of prawns.
Probably the best of times in The Fullbrook was during Euro 96. The Holland and Scotland matches had the best atmospheres of games I saw in there. In the aftermath of the Spain game, a small window got broken during the celebrations. Sam the landlord asked two young lads to go round with a bucket to collect money to replace it. People were chucking fivers, tenners and all sorts in there. I think they could have double glazed the whole street with what it gleaned.
Sometime during the 90’s they decided to try and make The Fullbrook a bit more foody if I remember correctly, and they built these bizarre little walls in the back room. Not really sure why but it spoilt the room and really killed the vibe. Some people stopped going in and in 1998 I moved to Darlaston which stopped me going in for a number of years. I now live within a 20 minute walk of the place. It’s not the same as back in the 90’s but I’m glad it’s still open although I tend to only now go in before, after or on very rare dreadful occasions during Walsall games.
The Fitters Arms. Favourite pub 1998 – 2009.
So back in my early days of Fullbrook drinking, I befriended a group of fellow Saddlers, who on a Sunday night would go on a pub crawl of town before heading back to The Brook for the last hour of the night. I started tagging along. By 1998 I was living in Darlaston with Steve and Jane and they started going to a quiz at The Fitters on a Sunday. They asked me along but I refused due to already having stuff on on a Sunday. Then one evening not many folk were out and the night petered out. So I opted to go to the quiz. I didn’t know the pub. It was in a part of town I didn’t go to often but I ended up having a really good time. I got one question right, one more than I expected as it’s fair to say I’m not the brightest knife in the shed.
I continued going to town of a Sunday but I started sneaking off early and going to the quiz. I enjoyed drinking with people I lived with and the lift home was a bonus.
One Saturday I was at a loose end so decided to see what the place was like on a different night. It was karaoke. Nobody was singing so I thought I would, and treated them to the marvellous song “Nothing” by the band A. This song has to be belted out loudly. Upon finishing I saw the bemused looks on peoples faces. “Isn’t that the quiet guy who only comes in on Sundays and doesn’t speak?”. I’d arrived as a regular. Despite being 3 miles from home it became my local. It took an hour to walk there, about 80 minutes to get back. Especially when they were peddling the Highgate Bitter at £1.05 a pint.
I quickly grew to love The Fitters and was soon going in whenever I could, introducing friends to it so more drinking opportunities there would occur. You know when Karen Ramírez sings “I never knew I was looking for love until I found you” well change love for a new favourite pub and it summed up my feelings for the place. You could walk in there and live laugh love years before people started painting it on their walls.
Banter was a main thing in the Fitters with Dave the landlord being at the heart of most of it. Be it giving or receiving it. He once commented that he had painted the pub the previous year only to be told by my mate Alan “it may have been painted a year, but it certainly wasn’t the last fucker”. One of his classics was “the next person who farts is barred”. How I survived one incident then escapes me. During one quiz I popped off to the loo. The toilet doors were always open. I proceeded to do a fart mid piss and thought “that was a bit loud, hope I got away with it”. I hadn’t. Over the microphone came “Evo you dirty c**t” from Alan. The whole pub, possibly neighbourhood had heard it.
The Fitters was ace. There will never be another pub like it. I met one of my best friend’s Woza in there. It was the pub where I made my DJ debut and where I snogged a lass up against a fruit machine for the first (and only) time. I’d like more of both of those.
Sadly Walsall Council bought the place and shut it down in 2009, doing nothing with the land for another decade. Such a waste. I still think about the place every day.
The Victoria (Katz) Favourite pub 2014 onwards.
With The Fitters closing we had a nomadic few years, wandering around visiting many Walsall pubs. We seemed to have a guest favourite pub every week, bringing a Have I Got News For You feel to the proceedings, with me representing the tub of lard no doubt. Then my mate Jase took over at Katz, a pub we’d gone in sporadically. After a few visits we had a new home.
The Katz (as it was briefly known as in the 80’s but the name has stuck), is a homely welcoming pub and the ale is always bang on. After one evening on the Salopian “Lemon Dream”, I mentioned to my colleague the next day that it was on and in excellent nick. He suggested a pint after work. It was only going to be one for him as he drives but I was already considering a couple more. It was a crap day at work, the thought of this pint was the only thing that got us through it. Come 5 o’clock though and his car was blocked in. It took about 8 minutes for us to leave. We got to Katz to find the last Lemon Dream had just gone. Trouble is when a great pub sells amazing beer, you can’t hang about cause it shifts.
Like the other pubs I was soon popping in Katz on my own, but I didn’t hang around in taking friends in there either. And we’ve had some cracking times. Me and Mase on St George’s Day in 2019 spent the evening laughing our heads off at stuff. I’d hit the pubs very early on which is a family tradition on that day which dates back centuries and by the time Mase turned up I was warmed up and ready to laugh about anything.
Another cracking time was New Years Eve 2018. Me, Jane & Sarah (possibly Mark too) were sat in the front bar, and a group of 6 from West Bromwich en route to a house party had found the pub and decided to break up the journey with a pint. Something I have done with other pubs many times. A couple within this group just suddenly turned into the funniest people ever, and this was before they produced Cards Against Humanity. We ended up having such a laugh they actually stayed until an hour before the bongs and singing of Auld Lang Syne. She even told her boyfriend to do his Jimmy Saville impression which involved him standing behind her, grabbing her breasts and nailing the voice. I’m not easily surprised but even I wasn’t expecting that.
Other epic times there have been retro gaming nights (check out Retro Daz on Facebook), cat bothering in the garden, glorious afternoons soaking up the sun, Sunday dinners (the large one is named after me, truly honoured) and it was also the venue where I chaired a Walsall CAMRA meeting for the first time. Nice to do that on familiar ground.
It’s amazing to have a favourite pub. Apologies for waffling on so long but I hope it’s killed a couple of minutes until they re-open again, with or without booze.