Hello everyone. Apologies for the lack of blogs of late. Money and material were both in short supply but with February now upon us things should improve.

So after work on Friday I decided to pop to Birmingham to meet an old friend and get something to write about. It was also a chance for a little birthday drink as tomorrow is the first anniversary of this blog launching. And what a year it has been.

The working day on Friday seemed to go on forever but finally it was 4.30pm and I cantered out of the office. Work over the last two weeks have been trialling lighter skies as we leave and on this day a bit of low hanging Sun was thrown in which really lifted the mood.

Upon reaching the railway station I spotted that a train was due in 4 minutes would which involve a run over a bridge and the negotiation of stairs, but still I haggled with the machine to get a quid off the cost of my ticket. I then ran. I had one hand holding my wallet and ticket and the other was desperately holding up my trousers and pants. Oh, I sound like Alanis Morissette. For added giggles a staff member at Wolverhampton station had taped off one set of the stairs which added to the fun for both me and people coming the other way. I made the train but apologies to anyone on platform 3 who had to witness my descent down the steps. It would not have been pretty.

The train journey was very quick. I was just logging on to Twitter for the first time post work when the announcement “We are now approaching Birmingham New Street” came out. I was excited as I approached the exit of the station as the previous weekend I had seen footage of a large group outside singing “Killing Me Softly” and I hoped they were still around but singing something everyone could enjoy like “Bankrobber” by The Clash but there was no sign of them.

Normally on arrival in Birmingham it is standard procedure to go to the McDonalds on the ramp but this time I couldn’t be arsed and opted instead to go to the nearest Wetherspoons The Briar Rose for the chicken wings. I took a gentle amble, nearly getting taken out by a Just Eat cyclist who sped past as we both tried to get through the security barriers at the same time. I just hope he was delivering someone their first Chicken Big Mac as I could totally understand the urgency in that.

I passed the wonderfully named Needless Alley and was soon at Bennetts Hill. The Briar Rose had bouncers on the door and it was totally rammed even though it was before 6 pm. I hunted for a table but none were available. I don’t mind standing in pubs but not when I am trying to eat 10 chicken wings, so I moved on.

A £1.75 tuna mayo sandwich later and I was headed for Sun On The Hill. This is a really cool place and it made the Pub Of The Challenge shortlist on Pub Challenge 1 back in 2011 so it’s always nice to pop in. This place was also very busy so I ordered my first ever pint of Madri which a couple of my friends rave about then I went hunting for seatage. Not much about so I grabbed a stool at the end of the bar and acted as a bit of a traffic calming measure for the glass collectors trying to go about their business.

I’m mad for Madri.

A DJ was already on duty and the music whilst loud was pretty good, The Pasadenas “Tribute” being the high point. I enjoyed the Madri but I wanted one more pub before meeting Steve so I headed off and ended up in The Windsor. This was a bit more sedate but the service was friendly and efficient. I had a relaxing pint whilst catching my breath after a busy week and finally looking at Twitter and a few emails.

Then it was time for the main event. Tilt. A tucked away bar full of pinball machines. It hosts the greatest pinball machine The Addams Family, which me and Steve loved playing in The Fullbrook back in the 90’s. Upon arrival I did a quick reccy to check the machine was still in there and it wasn’t in it’s usual place. Aware that there are machines downstairs on the way to the toilets I decided to further explore and use the facilities. It wasn’t downstairs either. Absolute sad times.

After using the loo I headed to a quiet corner out of sight of the bar staff so I could send Steve a message advising that our machine was no longer here and did we want to go elsewhere. It was at this point that I spotted a neon pink sign advising 90’s pinball machines upstairs. I was previously unaware that there is an upstairs, so I headed through a door and at the top of the stairs was another room, and there it was. My number 3 machine the Twilight Zone was also there. Double excitement. I rushed back downstairs and ordered cider.

The Twilight Zone. My number 3 pinball machine.

Steve arrived and we went upstairs. I got a royal dicking on the first game but others were a bit closer and I think I sneaked a couple of wins. The music was excellent with The Strokes, Razorlight and Franz Ferdinand all making appearances.

Me, Steve and The Addams Family machine. Steve doing his best “where has my lino gone?” pose.

From there we had a couple of jars in The Trocadero. This was showing the Manchester United Versus Middlesbrough F A Cup match. I have little interest in football other than Walsall FC and England matches but I’ve had great nights in both Manchester and Middlesbrough so I opted to watch the penalties as a neutral. Both my teams are dreadful at penalties so they really stress me out but watching this as a neutral was enjoyable. Well done to Middlesbrough for winning a lengthy shoot out. My nerves would have been shot had that been Walsall.

The Trocadero toilets remind me of Frank Sidebottom.

It was then last train to Walsall time. This train is usually somewhat raucous, in fact the last time I caught it before the lock downs someone started preaching to the jovial and boozed up passengers that were all going to die if we didn’t repent. He only shut up 5 minutes later when somebody hit him. Anyway it was quiet for once and I was soon back in town.

I needed this. The train that is, not the man loitering by the ticket office.

The first taxi driver had no interest in taking my fare, and told me to go to the one behind. The driver of this one already had someone at his window and was making the same noises I’d had so I left them to it and went to St Matthews Hall, Walsall’s Wetherspoons and had a delish pint of Backyard “Subversion” at £1.99. Bargain. Then I got the bus home.

Anyway thanks for reading this article and all the other ones over the past year. I’ll end on another nearly Alanis line. “I’ve got one hand on the mouse, and the other is about to grab my mug of tea”.