Good Thursday, Great Friday.

I like a Maundy Thursday drink, and after a working day consisting of 9 hours and 15 minutes, I’d certainly earned one. The rough plan was to leave work and head straight to Rock Steady Eddies to meet Craig, although I had advised a McDonalds pit stop would be required.

So I left work 15 minutes late, McDonalds was busy but I eventually made Eddies. Craig had got me 3 pints of Strongbow Dark Fruits and he seemed a little miffed at me rocking up with a large Toffee Latte (yes I’m a ponce nowadays) which I needed to finish first, I also wasn’t feeling 3 quick pints so he agreed to have one of them.

We attempted to move inside but people were blocking the door like it was a French port. We eventually got in to find the quiz machine in a bad mood and somebody loading up the jukebox with songs not quite to our taste so we moved on.

Next up was The Pretty Bricks which was playing Listen To Your Heart. This prompted a chat about the best song by Roxette. Craig went for the one playing but I opted for Almost Unreal, cause it’s great. We tried to involve the barmaid in this discussion but she wasn’t playing ball.

After a very pleasant pint we moved on to The Oak Inn. After months of being taunted with the Carling Black Fruits cider dispenser being lit up but them not having any, we got a pint of it for the second visit in a row. We had a discussion as to who would win a fight between Sam Fender and Jake Bugg, as I’d been pondering this in bed the night before and wanted a second opinion. We both went for Mr Fender.

Next up was The Old Bailey. I was intrigued by an abandoned lone pint of Guinness with just a mouthful out of it. As per usual I wanted the back story. Was it the lad’s first pint of Guinness and not to his liking? Was he drinking slowly and all his mates were moving on? Or had he got lucky and had to dash off for a shag? I was tempted to get my note pad and pen out and question the barmaid but I had a pint of my own with less sipped out of it, so I turned my attention to that.

Why? Just why?

We moved onto Katz where I was delighted to see that they had Broadoak Twisted Lime cider on, a delightful green beer that I had discovered in The Jiggers Whistle in Brownhills a couple of weeks earlier. Katz has a free retro arcade machine with 600 games on it so now me and Craig always pick a random football game which neither of us have played and have a bash. First time we did this I got battered 4-0 including a goal where my keeper threw the ball at a defenders head and it bounced into the net. I won tonight’s game though even though I had no idea what I was doing.

You’re twistin’ my lime man.

We finished up in Blue Ginger, where I have discovered an amazing king prawn starter but I can’t think what it’s called. Mo the owner knows what it is so if you want to try it just asked for Mikee’s king prawn starter. This was a great start to the weekend.

Good Friday was football day, and although not hung over, I wasn’t really in the mood for beer so I got to the Bescot Bar not long before kick off and just had a Pepsi. This caused some surprise and my mate Gaz wanted photographic evidence. I still wasn’t feeling the booze as the half wore on so wasn’t in a hurry to get back down to the bar, so I stayed in my seat till the 45th minute. The board went up to indicate 2 minutes additional time. I moved to the front row as we had a free kick and a corner. The ball came back up our end and I decided that was it and off into the bar I went. And then we scored. Oh well, I tried.

On 90 minutes the board went up again this time saying 6 minutes. This could have meant additional time or how long I was going to spend unsuccessfully trying to buy a packet of crisps out of the vending machine in the Bescot Bar afterwards.

At full time there was a little chant of “we are staying up” from my mates as the 1-0 victory meant we had reached the 50 point mark meaning we were safe from relegation out of The Football League. Big relief and everyone was in a good mood mood in the bar afterwards. There were a lot of great friends in there and I finally got on the beer. I also had a second go at the vending machine which was successful this and almost prompted me into a Doc Brown from Back To The Future style “it worked”.

After a visit pleasant hour it was taxi to Black Country Arms time as I was meeting Jane who was down from Blackpool for the weekend. After a quick pint and a much needed Scotch egg and sausage roll we moved on to Katz as Jane really wanted a Church End “Gravediggers” as she says it’s the best mild ever. It’s got to be 30 years since I had a mild as I don’t do dark beers but I had one here, and it was also the first outdoor drink of the year which was ace.

I’m digging the Gravediggers.

Anyway the mild was good, Jase the landlord joined us for a chat and then Jane produced two pens from her bag. A panda and a clown, both which had boxing gloves which could be activated by pushing pads. So we had a quick bout with them, of course I was the clown. Standard. This was my first ever taste of throwing punches in a pub and I quickly got into it. I declared myself the winner of the bout citing that the Chinese judge had been particularly impressed with my technique.

Jane with the punching pens.

We moved inside and Jane requested Mini Cheddars. I asked what flavour and she asked for the options. “What flavours of Mini Cheddars do you have please?” I asked of Colin. “Cheese” came back the very blunt reply. Oh right. A pack of them then please.

We ventured back to the Black Country Arms where Jane got talking to a Liverpool fan at the bar, this lad keeping his mate waiting for a drink for ages while the discussions were going on. He then announced his mate upstairs is a Walsall fan and did we want to join them? Unfortunately due to how long he had been talking, his mate only had time for a couple of mouthfuls before having to run for his train. The Liverpool fan though knew his stuff about Walsall FC and we had a really good chat, and he even bought me a pint as last orders struck. It was a great way to end an excellent couple of days.

Back In Blackpool – Just Another Funday Sunday.

I was last to the breakfast bar in the hotel again. I was ignored by the other two diners again. I polished off most of the orange juice again. But then things took a different turn. Instead of venturing to the Central Pier to lose money, I went back to bed. And it was ace.

As afternoon approached it was time to depart. As I left the hotel I wondered how long it would take for an odd incident to occur. I didn’t have to wait long. As I sat down at the tram stop, next to an elderly couple a tram heading to Fleetwood pulled up on the adjacent track. As it departed the elderly couple both waved then the lady shouted “bye. See you in Hell.” I know Galatasaray fans like waving Welcome To Hell banners but have Fleetwood Town fans started doing it too? As I pondered this I was waken from my thoughts by the always welcome sight of someone shitting themselves at being beeped by a tram whilst casually walking across the tracks.

This time I was off for drinks with Gareth and Sarah, the latter known to me as Lady Pub Challenge as it was her that spoke of the idea of said challenges. These two are an amazing couple and were travelling up from another part of Lancashire for refreshments.

Like Friday with Jane the meeting point was Cask & Tap. Sarah and Gareth were already there and there was joyous greetings. Then it was beer time. I am an absolute disciple to Green Duck Brewery in Stourbridge and they had a beer on of theirs that I’ve never seen “Session IPA”. It seemed a good place to start and it was ace.

Sarah, Gareth and me outside Cask And Tap.

We moved onto The Little Black Pug Bar. I’d wanted to tick off this place on my last visit to Blackpool in 2018 as the 7 points gleaned from the black in it’s name would have been useful on my Snooker 147 Pub Challenge, but events conspired (to quote the excellent band Ash). Despite earmarking it for an earlier visit I had no idea what the place looked like. Oh my God, it’s magnificent inside and out. Like stately home with a bar. I got a friendly greeting from the dj on the way in and upon leaving the toilet shortly afterwards there was the great sight of her and the barmaid having a good dance. More examples of the joy that Blackpool brings to people.

Just magnificent. Cheers to Sarah for use of the picture.

It was time for more North Pier action and a bar that Jane had put on our itinerary for the previous. Because I’m me, and very disorganised I hadn’t looked at the list of places Jane had complied so I marched us down to the end of the pier looking for what I assumed was a real bar. I finally checked the list and we were after a bar called Bloom. Which we were right by. Of course I mad a beeline for it without checking for traffic and I basically walked in front of the piers miniature train thing. I didn’t get beeped but I wouldn’t have moaned if I had due to enjoying someone else getting one earlier. I am a big believer in Karma. We had a quick drink here and departed. I nearly got taken out by the train again which was hurtling towards me as I paid no attention. We passed of those Carousel with Garth commenting that the horses were moving faster than any of the ones he had backed at Cheltenham.

Next up was 1887 The Brew Room. There was only one other customer as we entered and the barman exclaimed “wow, people” as we approached. The beer was good in here, as was the music. Not many pubs play The Vaccines so “If You Wanna” was very welcome. By no I had the munchies and spotted that the place did a footlong hot dog. I needed this in my life. I asked the others if they wanted food which they declined but upon arrival of mine they changed their minds. While they ate I found a Scrabble board and opted to start with some of my favourite words like Walsall FC and Lucy Verasamy. Gareth then got involved and we spent a wonderful few minutes filling the board with childish rude words. Great fun. There were a few more drinkers in by the time we left which was good to see.

A hotdog with perfect length and girth.
Toilet door in Brew Room.

Sarah wanted to visit Thirsty? and I was more than happy to go back. Odd incident in here as I managed to spill my drink all over the table and parts of Sarah. I still don’t know how I did it. I don’t spill beer as a rule, and can mosh around in The Trough to Green Day with a full pint and not spill a drop. Sorry again Sarah.

Spotted on the way to Thirsty? I may buy this on my visit, just to warn visitors to my house.
I think I’m too fat for this instruction.

They had time for one more drink before getting the train so we headed back to Cask And Tap as it was handy for the station for them and close to the trams for me.

Cask And Tap toilet. I have never flushed a urinal before.

After leaving there I opted for one last drink. I was still on holiday and it wasn’t yet 6pm. I headed back to the North Pier and surveyed. I could only hear a dj in one of them, so that got the nod. It was time for Shenanigans. This is an Irish bar with, it’s fair to say poor reviews on Pubs Galore but upon entry I got the feeling it was going to be a good visit. It was £4.60 for a Strongbow Darkfruit so I decided to nurse this pint for a while.

Happy to confirm that I didn’t go in Eden 2 Gentlemen’s Club. Despite being up for some fun and fantasy.

As soon as I sat down the dj played “Red Light Spells Danger”. What a start. I like it when a dj knows his audience. Whilst enjoying this song someone pressed the big red button marked “another odd incident” and it duly arrived. A man came up to my right shoulder and asked “is this where we are sitting?” I looked round and said “what?” “oh” he replied “I thought you were my wife because she’s got a bald head.” He then sat at the next table and lady joined him who wasn’t bald. I don’t mind people taking the pee out of my bald head but at least make it make sense please. To be fair I was just disappointed that he didn’t go full on Papa Lazarou from League Of Gentlemen and shout “you’re my wife now Dave”.

This was a great visit and the final song I heard was one I simply don’t know the name or artist of despite hearing it millions of times. It goes something like “tell me more when I go home, the boys won’t leave the girls alone”. I could Google it but it’s Saturday morning as I type ths and I’m eager to get our for breakfast. Anyway this song prompts two couples to get up and start dancing, when one couple visibly more vigorously than the other.

Towards the end of this number one of the lads squatted down and started doing a gym moves style of dance. A gent on his way to the bar at this point made a beeline for my table and paused long enough to mutter “it’s fucking odd in here.” He was staying for another pint though so fair play to him.

Naturally I had to use the loos and I was amused to see that the hand dryer had a protective wooded shield. Never seen that in a pub before.

“I may be a handdrier, but tonight Matthew I want to be a bird box”.

It was time to call it a night. I found a Chinese on the way back so rounded off the weekend devouring king prawn fried rice in my room whilst listening to Nick Abbott on LBC.

Absolutely brilliant weekend. Blackpool I love you and I will be back. Cheers to Jane, Sarah and Gareth for the company and good times.

Back In Blackpool – Saturday Piers, Beers And Fish.

I was awake early on Saturday morning. Breakfast was served at 8.30 and I walked in a minute after that. There were only two other diners, at opposite ends of the room. They both ignored me so I quite happily ignored them back. We sat there in total silence with only what appeared to be a Best Of The Carpenters cd to liven things up. They were also ignoring the jug of orange juice so I dived in and gave it some attention.

Breakfast was good, and I was soon off out to explore. I was panicking a bit about finding the railway station on Monday so I explored some directions that Jane gave me and I found it easily which really put my mind at rest.

I’d got a daysaver for the trams so I went off on a mission, catching one all the way from the North Pier to the South one. The trip was a joyous one. That long stretch of promenade doesn’t half bring back dome memories, from family holidays, through to football trips, stag do’s, an odd work visit and a meet up of posters from a football message board.

I left the tram at the South Pier and headed straight for the amusements. Again there wasn’t much to interest me, so I jumped back on the tram and headed for the Central Pier. In the amusements here I found a Deal Or No Deal fruit machine and somebody had left two jackpot symbols on the win line. Now I don’t play these anymore, and there is a rule that you should only gamble what you can afford to lose, I reckoned I could afford to lose £2.50. There was also a rule back in The Fullbrook days about not leaving two Jackpot symbols on the win line. “You can’t leave that on” was always sited by people in the vicinity. I put my money in, but the machine was in a bad mood.My £2.50 went very quickly (even at 10p a play), I didn’t get on the feature at all and barely got a nudge. Story of my life. I walked away leaving two jackpot symbols on the win line.

I went outside and spent £3 on what turned out to be a small Slush Puppy. New rule. Only spend on Slush Puppy what you can afford to lose.

It was time for a beer or two and I was meeting Jane in a new micropub called Shickers. It took me longer to find it than I spent in it so I was gasping for a pint when I eventually found it, which still required Jane shouting and waving even though I was opposite. Two people I don’t know repeatedly shouted hello at me as I walked in which startled and confused me a bit. I had a pint of Cunning Stunt which was as superb as its name.

This was epic.

The people that shouted hello had been talking to Jane whilst I was walking up and down the same street, and they advised that the Royal Oak opposite is “terrible” and like “going back to the 1980’s”. She knew that we were going in, and we did.

The Royal Oak was busy but good. I think it was around £3.50 for a pint and half. There were plaques dotted about to passed away former regulars including one for Donkey Dave, which I’ve got to be honest I had questions about.

I nipped to the loo and it was time for the first odd incident of the day. A guy followed me in, lined up to the urinal and then slapped the wall really hard. A voice from a cubicle came “is that you John?” “No it’s my granny” came the reply. There then followed a bizarre f word filled conversation which continued with John/his granny continuing to talk after the other guy had left the room.

We left although the doorway was partially blocked by a guy with a big bag asking if we wanted to buy any steak. We declined and he followed us to The Bull where he asked the same question of people there, through the gaps in the fence. Jane suspected that he may have pinched this merchandise but I try to see the good in people. Had I got my jury service hat on I could have been prepared to accept a plea that he is a vegetarian and had won the meat raffle in The Huntsman the night before.

When Jane and myself were on about the pubs to visit, I only had one on the list. The Bull. Swill and I randomly found this place in 2018 on our way back to the hotel and he asked if I fancied 1 more pint? I’m glad I did as of the 407 pubs that I visited on Pub Challenge 3, this place made the top 10. Was it going to be as good as last time? Oh yes. We hadn’t even walked in and we could hear the whole pub singing Champagne Supernova. A good sign. There was another plaque to a former regular here too, this one to someone called Wee Shite. I did get me thinking though, when I shuffle off this mortal coil, if all the pubs I frequent erect plaques there will be worldwide metal shortages again.

What a pub. Now on my mus visit every time list.

Anyway the bull was superb. But it was one drink per pub so we moved on to Last Resort. This is a pub that Jane had been advised not to go in. So we did. I had a pint of McEwans lager as I’ve not seen that since my last trip to Scotland. This was another decent pub. Felt a bit like the Blackpool version of the Tap & Tanner, which is no bad thing.

Cut my life into pieces. This is my last resort.

We now had the munchies so went off in search of food and stumbled upon Mother Hubbard’s. This fish and chip chain has recently opened a store on Pleck Road in Walsall which I have been meaning to tick off. We timed our arrival superbly as the couple of people in front were already being served and by the time we sat down the queue was back to the door, and no it wasn’t because I ordered everything on the menu. We both went for cod and chips with gravy which came in at around £10.50 each. It was absolutely divine. They do an XXXL fish and chips at a cool £18.95, but that’s for another day and budget.

You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Our next destination was Crazy Scots Bar. Someone got up to sing Kingston Town on the karaoke which called for the place to be renamed Pissed Off English People Bar. Next up was two young girls singing Let It Go from Frozen. Their dad proper got into it. I’ve never witnessed a guy in a vest and shorts clutching a pint of Carling singing Let It Go before. I had to visit the loo and for some reason the gents sign sometimes lit up in red, and it was like this as I entered. As well know Red Light Spells Danger so I entered cautiously. There was no danger. Just a couple of blokes having a piss. Pretty standard behaviour for a room of that nature.

The gents sign was much redder in real life, honest.

On the way to The Mitre we saw the Lifeboat Inn which wasn’t on our to do list but it looked lively so in we went. It was very busy. We found two stools which we were quickly evicted from but someone gestured that a table with a couple of drinks on was actually vacant so we dived on that. It was also karaoke in here but with a twist. The guy hosting was playing an electric guitar over the backing track as someone sang Highway To Hell. It was really odd but somewhat entertaining too.

We passed a new James Bond themed bar. I wasn’t fussed having only ever seen one of these films, but Jane wanted to try it. Upon entry we realised that the cheapest thing was a £9 cocktail. Appreciate it would cost them £2 but had it been priced £007 I might have gone for it for that quirky attention to detail. We said Dr No to those prices and sneaked out. The bouncer like a standard Bond villain didn’t spot us escaping.

The Mitre Inn was good which is the norm and we ended the night in Knobby’s Karaoke Bar which is right opposite. It was very busy in there but everyone was jovial and people were singing along to I Believe I Can Fly without a care in the world. I popped to the loo and gave the toilet attendant a quid, for which he tried to give me just a paper towel. Er, I don’t think so George. So he gave me a squirt of hand sanitiser too. Figuring that was all I was getting, I dealt and left.

Epic way to announce the respective toilets in the karaoke bar.

Walking back into the bar and it was now Angels by Robbie Williams being played. Not a song I’m a great fan of but absolutely everyone was singing so I joined in. It reminded me of the final episode of Early Doors.

We called it a night, Jane’s partner Lee gave me another lift back to the hotel which was very appreciated. The Carpenters cd had been turned off but I didn’t care. I was On Top Of The World, possibly even looking down on creation after another class day.

Back In Blackpool – Last Friday Night.

I’ve been needing a trip to Blackpool for a while. My last one was in 2018 and we don’t get to go there currently since Blackpool, Fleetwood Town and Morecambe have all decided that they are too good be in our league.

So a couple of months ago I sought out train tickets, hotel and drinking buddies and it was all good. Although at the time off booking I had no idea that I would be leaving my job of 22 years the day before travel.

So the big day arrived. I was buzzing. I’d walked out of work for the last time the day before with a lot of alcohol and a big smile on my face and now I was ready to party. I’d managed to get a train direct from Birmingham to Blackpool North which was a bonus. All I had to do was leave the station, find the seafront and then head to my hotel. Unfortunately I left the station in the wrong direction, spent a good 15 minutes wandering around aimlessly and then finally stumbling upon the seafront. I thought it was a 20 minute walk to the hotel. No. Wrong, and then wrong some more. Eventually I found a bench and took 10 minutes rest. God knows how I looked as one passer by stopped to ask “you okay pal?” Eventually I continued and the hotel was just 5 more minutes walk away.

Blackpool and North. Two of my favourite destinations, so when they are on the same sign….

I had time to kill so I headed to the North Pier for a wander around the amusement arcade. I know I’m a miserable sod but arcades are shit nowadays. I found an exciting looking Monopoly machine but the prize was paid in tickets. Swap 500 for a lollypop, that kind of shizz. I couldn’t see the traditional horse race machine, which I used to love playing despite always backing horse number 8 because it’s jockey wears white and it gives the biggest prize, and usually comes last. I finally found a machine that caught my eye. I put £1.30 in it and won a bottle of Lilt, which went down an absolute storm.

It was now time to meet Jane and get on the beers. First port of call was Cask And Tap, a nice bar which sold good ale and was dimly lit which I appreciated after having a sore, bright red eye (a bit like Arnie at the end of Terminator) for the past two weeks.

Next up was The Townsman which looked from the outside very much my kind of pub. We walked in and were stunned to find a game of bingo in full flow. I was not expecting this from first impressions. We got drinks and headed to the back of the room.

What a pub. Duly added to the must do when in Blackpool list.

There was a very jovial atmosphere in the place, helped massively by the group on the next table, who it’s fair to say had been on the sauce for a little while. Two women stood up and sang something when number 50 came out and they gave a big cheer when number 69 dropped a couple of balls later.

There was also a meat raffle. I am aware of these but I have never been present when the winner has been drawn. The excitement levels in the pub rose as this came up. One of the ladies on the next table shouted “come and claim yer meat” as the winner was announced. Shortly afterwards she headed over, gave me a kiss on the cheek and apologised for the drunkeness. That’s one thing you certainly don’t have to apologise to me for. All very amusing. This was the best pub of the night. Such a good time.

We headed across the road to Champy’s Sports Bar. This is wall to wall tv screens, like a Bond villain’s lair, with some boxing gloves and football shirts thrown in. I did note that it needs a Walsall FC shirt, so I’ll take them one of those next time. It was a bit odd in here too. We had a man come and ask if he could sit at our table despite their being lots of empty seats around. We also a had cracking karaoke rendition of Red Light Spells Danger from a lass but a bloke going up behind her, putting his arm around her waist then having a good gyrate mid song was different.

Churchill’s was next. Again more bingo was occurring but a bit more sedate, though this didn’t last long as the loud group from the The Townsman followed us as they had done in the sports bar too. We got chatting to one of the ladies who was an absolute delight. She should have been in Benidorm this weekend but was instead following us around Blackpool pubs. And we were glad they were.

Sign in Churchillls. Apart from the neat appearance I’m all over this.

We had a curry then went to Albert’s Ale Microbar. This is a place that you really need to know is there and thankfully Jane did. In the basement of the Albert Hotel. Decked out with a 60’s vibe this is a really cool place. I was excited by the toilet as it had a sliding door, but also one of those things that you see on office doors to show if in use, which I’ve not seen on a loo door before. I switched it to occupied with aplomb and ventured in. The toilet seat was glittery and there was a big poster of Audrey Hepburn to watch over you as you do your business.

I can see what you’re doing.

The beer was good in here and they also did a egg mayonnaise cob which makes a nice change from the usual cheese and onion or ham and tomato varieties you get round here. I was quickly pulled up on calling it a cob though. It’s a barm round those parts apparently. Oh well, I’m always happy to be part of a game of Spot the Tourist.

Next port of call was Thirsty? A really good micropub with great beer and decked out in cool band pictures. The barmaid was very friendly and sporting a Moomins t-shirt. As a lover of retro t-shirts myself I appreciated this. I think she was the barmaid of the weekend.

Yes I was.

Final place of the night was Raikes Hall. We weren’t going here but Jane saw it and remembered it was where she had her wedding reception in 1998 (I provided the best man services that day). So in we went. It was very busy. It must have been 80’s night as were treated to Level 42 and Roachford in quick succession. I made my final toilet visit of the night. I had a bit of trouble with the door but it just needed a good tug. Well we all do every now and again eh?

We finished our drinks, Jane’s partner Lee arrived and gave me a very welcome lift back to the hotel. And I sat on the bed and ate a pack of Bacon Fries. It was a splendid end to an exceptional evening.

Joysticks, Goujons, And Free Booze On Funday Sunday.

I was in a good mood last Sunday. The day before my beloved football team won and I’d been offered an epic new job, the latter of which shortly afterwards had me strutting down the road like the Bee Gees in the Staying Alive video.

On that Sunday my mate Daz and his missus Nat were running a retro gaming day at Asgard in town (up the market. Roughly where the MEB shop was back in that day. Showing my age a bit there). You can play board games and do Warhammer stuff along with enjoying food and booze. Daz has held these events at Katz previously, along with one at The Walsall Arms where I turned up late, didn’t play a game and spent most of my time applying for a job, which I didn’t get even though I smashed the interview.

He’d also held one at Asgard previously. I’d turned up (late again as I was trying to be good), but as I walked in the one member of staff was all over me demanding to know what I wanted. He also refused to serve me a drink (booze or pop) as it was after 9 o’clock. I have a rule that says if places don’t want my money one night, then they don’t want it any other night. So I left and went to Wetherspoons.

Asgard.

So when Daz switched his events to Asgard as their new home I was a bit disappointed and I said I wouldn’t attend while they were there. He was fine. He is currently boycotting a pub in Chasetown so understands these courses of action.

After he had two there I started to feel bad, and as the third one approached I had a word with myself. Stop being a nob, and go and support your mate. So I did. This time it was friendliness on the way in. £2 to enter which I was more than happy with.

I said my hello’s to Daz and Nat, then it was time for gaming. I knew what I wanted to play and I didn’t mess about. River Raid. Back in the 80’s you could borrow Atari 2600 games from Walsall Library, but you were not walking in and grabbing this game off the rack. No, this one you had to reserve and the waiting list was normally 3 months, but when that card dropped through the door and you could go and collect it you were the Billy Big Bollocks of Walsall for that fortnight.

River Raid. What a game!

After that I played Defender, a game that I spent so much of my childhood on. Maybe if I’d prioritised homework over it I may not have left school with no O Levels. Oh well, if I get reincarnated I promise to try harder at school next time. Maybe.

Sod you homework. I have aliens to shoot.

I switched to Adventure but I really couldn’t figure out what to do and had a crowd of football fans been about I’d have expected them to stand behind me singing “you don’t know what you’re doing”.

I visited the toilet and liked the wall decoration and was about to take my phone out to grab a picture when another man walked in which startled me so I washed my hands and ran off.

I was peckish and wanted food but some of the words on the menu baffled me. Korean Fried Chicken. Our twice marinated chicken with Kimchi and Gochujang Ketchup. What? I was tempted by the Fish Finger Bap – white fish goujons with lashings of garlic aioli. I could have Googled garlic aioli but couldn’t be arsed, so I just went for the goujons neat. They came with a pot of mayo which was nice.

They put up a brave fight but got demolished.

This was washed down with a kiwi and lime Old Mout Cider, and then it was time to enter the high score competition. Donkey Kong. I fancied my chances but then I lost my first life while trying to work out which button was for jump, and I threw away my last one by being a bit blase while going to remove the last rivet on level 3.

I know I’ve got to set a high score but I simply must have a picture first Darling.

I was pondering moving on but still fancied getting a picture of the toilet wall decoration. This time I was successful in getting the picture, but just as I’d put my equipment away the same man from earlier came in again. I like a coincidence but come on.

The decoration in the toilet.

On my way out I spotted the board games section. One in particular caught my eye.

I have no idea what this game entails but I am eager to find out.

Anyway I’m glad I went, the next one is at Asgard on March 27th. If you want more info on these events please visit www.retrogamingnight.co.uk

It was too early to go home and I was still beaming at the fact that I’d be putting my notice in at work the next day so I opted to head for more goodness. As I strolled up Leicester Street I could hear someone belting out my second favourite Pink song Just Like A Pill. Unsure if it was emanating from The Registry or Tap & Tanner I walked along until I could ascertain it was coming from the latter, so in there I went. Turned out it was someones birthday and it was an actual Pink tribute act doing a turn so I nursed my drink hoping for a bit of Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely) action but it wasn’t forthcoming so I moved onto St Matthews Hall, the Walsall Wetherspoons.

The place was bustling as usual and the plus point was the 3 beers on from Titanic due to a meet the brewer kind of event 3 days earlier. The Raspberry Pale was excellent and such a bargain at £1.99 for a 4.7% beer although this has now increased to £2.10 in the last couple of days. I really must get those 50p off CAMRA vouchers which seem to be breeding in my Living Room and take them to the pub one day.

Decent line up that, though I have not had the Captain Smiths.

From there I “popped” to Walsall Arms to round the day off. It was very busy with a fair few happy folks in Liverpool shirts. After I’d got my beer Jaz the wonderful landlady came round with a tray of shots which she was handing out. Red or clear so I opted for red. I think it was cherry sour but it was ace. Mind you it was free so I was always going to enjoy it.

I found a seat and settled down to enjoy the work of DJ Gaz-Sonic -Palmer. He really is the most entertaining DJ around town at the moment and he was on good form as per usual. Then came the moment of the day. He played N-Trance “Set You Free”, one of my all time favourites. I didn’t care, I stood up, raised my arms and sang along loudly. It was at this point after about 8 months of being at my lowest ebb since the 90’s I realised that things are going to get better. What a moment. And then Jaz who I’d told about my new job when I walked in sent me over a celebratory pint. What a moment again. Cheers Jaz.

I stayed for another couple but eventually opted to head home. Via the toilets of course. As I entered there was a lad washing his hands blocking my ingress (a word I learned whilst interviewing Walsall FC Secretary Roy Whalley in 1989, and I’ve not used it until now). He moved to the hand drier and I gave him the customary nod as he looked round. I positioned myself at the urinal and was about to get my equipment out when there was a tap on my shoulder.

“Did you used to DJ in the Dog & Partridge?” he asked. “No” I replied. Now after working in Customer Services for 11 years I have learned that if someone asks you a question and they don’t like the answer they either shout, go silent or ask the question again. He opted for the latter so I said no for the second time. “Oh right, I thought you did”. Conversation over he wandered off and I got back to the matter in hand. I have DJ’d before, twice in The Fitters and once in The Hatherton and would love to do it again but I’m a bit miffed that there is another Phil Mitchell/Matt Lucas/Michael van Gerwen look a like hoovering up my potential spinning the wheels of steel work.

So to summarise it was an epic day. I won the Donkey Kong tournament, I put Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely) on You Tube upon getting home and even found time to Google garlic aioli. According to Jamie Oliver it’s like a spicy mayonnaise and when made well is phenomenal. So on the next retro gaming day it’s all about playing Paper Boy, Unicorns & Urinals and phenomenal mayonnaise. Roll on March 27th.

The A-W & Y-Z Of Unticked Walsall Eateries. Part 1.

There are so many places to eat in Walsall now that I have not visited so I decided to do an A-Z of un-ticked places. First problem there isn’t one that starts with a X that I can think of and I’ve also studied the council hygiene website and there isn’t one listed there. So an A-W & Y-Z list it is then.

I was also going to do it in proper order A-E, F-J etc but my failed initial attempts to tick off B and E in prompted a re-think and I’m just going to report them in what ever order I visit. Makes it a bit back to front and possibly a Pulp Fiction jumping around feel to it. Let’s hope for less dead bodies and a coffee as good as Jimmy serves up in that film somewhere along the way.

K. KFC – c/o ASDA, George Street, Walsall.

I had absolutely no idea that KFC were opening a franchise inside our ASDA store until I walked past on Christmas Eve (I was actually on a food finding mission before several hours of drinking) and I saw a sign saying “KFC open inside”. Imagine my delight as our town centre branch didn’t reopen after lockdown 1 and my God have I missed the Colonel’s mix of 11 herbs and spices. I rushed inside only to find out it was “opening soon”. Fummin.

Then one gloomy January evening I got home to find money off vouchers through the door. Figuring it must now be open I decided it needed visiting. I didn’t hang around. I went the following night.

On arrival it was busy. Usual scenes, people waiting for food and others making using the self service screens look like something off The Cube. “You have thirty seconds to use the self serve facility to order a fillet tower burger and medium orange Tango. Sounds easy yeah, but nothing is easy in The Cube” “Cube, play the game”. Dramatic noise. “Eight lives remaining” etc etc. After a couple of minutes I decided to see if I could order at the counter and soon my reduced price boneless banquet (with gravy of course) was ordered.

Colonel we’ve missed you.

I retreated to wait and as per normal I went completely into standby mode. My number had to shouted twice before I responded. I collected my food and it was in a massive paper bag. Angry shoppers were departing the checkouts with their trolleys and pointing, tutting and muttering “look how much food that fat prick has got”. Okay they weren’t but I wouldn’t have blamed them if they did.

I then noticed that everyone else had gone. I was now the sole customer and it felt odd siting in the empty dining area but the food was excellent and I quickly devoured the lot.

I got home the next night and the same money off leaflet had been pushed through my door again. I think I now need to give up boneless banquets for Lent.

F. Fireaway. Lower Hall Lane, Walsall.

Fireaway or Fire (a) as it would be known on Twitter is a pizza company that recently opened it’s 100th store choosing Walsall as the location for this prestigious number. On launch day to mark this they gave away 100 free pizza’s. Typically I’d got the day before off but not this one. I left it a couple of weeks before visiting. As I approached I sang Fireaway, Fireaway, Fireaway to the chorus of Orinoco Flow. I do silly things like this just to amuse myself.

Do not sing Enya as you approach.

I opted for the Meathead pizza and Custard Cream milkshake. The very friendly lady advised that the pizza would be 5-6 minutes (the sign on the door says 180 seconds) which was fine as I had plenty of time to kill on this occasion. Next was a question that really threw me. Eat in or take away. I pondered eating it on the way to the bus station but I’d probably only eat two slices by the time I’d get there. The lady advised that it was nicer eaten in with it being fresher. Factor in that the weather was cold, nasty and unpleasant which I like as it matches my personality but it’s not ideal for standing around eating pizza in. So I opted to eat in.

I thought of a really good caption for this picture but forgot with.

The pizza was good, well it’s pizza. It’s always going to be. The custard cream milkshake was lush and like a fine bitter offered good biscuit notes.

A good visit. They do a luchtime collection offer which I may partake in next time I’m off work.

D. Dave’s Cafe. Walsted Road West, Walsall.

I’ve wanted to visit this place for ages so after two postponed visits due to alcohol induced lie ins I finally made it.

Well it’s bigger inside than I thought it would be and most of the tables were occupied which is a good sign. I opted for the medium breakfast at £5.80 whilst expressing no tomatoes or mushrooms. I was offered a substitute which earned bonus points as some cafes do not allow this.

The breakfast arrived quickly and most of the waiting time was spent wishing a man to hurry up and put his milk and sugar into his tea so I could do the same with mine. The breakfast included a extra piece of bacon. More points.

The big plus was the toast was cut horizontally. I’m a relatively calm fellow but if you want to see me go from placid to tirade in 20 seconds just mention cafes that cut their toast at a jaunty angle. Even more points.

Dave does good breakfast. I’d like to think that Trigger out of Only Fools & Horses would call it Rodney’s Cafe.

Once I’d finished throwing points around, which was a relief to the other diners I tucked in. Food was good. You can’t go wrong with a full English and this didn’t.

The serviettes came in a choice of colour either red or green, a nice nod to the fact that Bescot Stadium, home of Walsall FC is just down the road.

T. Turkish Shawarma, Caldmore Green, Walsall.

Last Sunday I was going to get the N tick in with a visit to Norwegian Kebabs in Caldmore. I stepped out into a bit of wind and rain, a dress rehearsal for the incoming Storm Franklin maybe. It didn’t take long for me to reach the store only to find that it is now called Desi Kebabs. And the Norwegian flag has gone from the window. Whilst I stood there pondering my options the heavens opened. I was already a bit wet but this was soaked in seconds kind of stuff. Cursing that had the shop not changed names I would have been inside and missed this. I literally had no choice but to run across the road and into the Caldmore Green Club for shelter (and a pint).

As I’d left the house on international duty I decided to keep in this mindset and headed for the nearby Turkish Shawarma. This place was Klair Fashions when I was a child and had a window display of big y-fronts for many years. I remember going there as a child with my mom but can’t recall what clothes we purchased but I can assure you it wasn’t the big pants in the window.

I opted for a Lamb Shawarma (basically a kebab) and some chicken wings. It was very satisfying watching him carve the meat with a massive knife, like one that Crocodile Dundee would be proud of, rather than shave it off like other places.

Whilst waiting I noticed they use big square Aluminium foil trays the biggest I’ve ever seen, which were being filled with rice and meat. Next time I go I’m all over that.

When working on my kebab he asked if I wanted salad which was quickly responded to with a “no”. He turned back and put more meat in instead. Good work Sir.

Food was good. I never really walk past this place but I could be tempted to go back.

A. Aldridge Chippy 2. Salters Road, Walsall Wood.

I’ve been in Aldridge Chippy loads of times, normally to overload myself with kebab meat and chips then realising I’ve got an hour of dancing at rehearsal. However I had no idea that there was a Aldridge Chippy 2 until my fabulous colleague Lindsey mentioned it. I was eager to get this first part of the article completed so after work last Monday I headed over.

We have a rule in our family that dates back centuries that says if your home town is going to be hit by an earthquake that evening, you have to have a good meal in readiness, plus I was ravenous upon arrival due to barely touching my lunch time sandwich as it was vile (and I’d made it so I can slate it).

They’ve not put their name in lights but I will.

The wall has various Walsall Chip Shop Of The Year certificates, making it feel a bit Black Country Armsish with all their certificates. I perused the menu but was drawn to the all day special which was mini fish, small battered sausage, chips and a choice of sauce. It wasn’t clear if it was either or regarding the fish and battered sausage and I was to scared to ask, bloody shyness, such a pain, so I just asked for the mini fish special and opted to see what I got.

I went for gravy even though I know this is somehow deemed as as a no no. @blackpooljane on Twitter regularly gets told off for having gravy on fish so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Follow her on Twitter if you want more pub blogging goodness.

The service was quick and I was soon back outside with my goodies. I opened up the lid and there was the mini fish with the sausage for company. Tremendous.

The food was ace. Chips and gravy just takes me back to the days of Mr Yip’s and I don’t have it often so that very enjoyable.

Cheers for reading. I’m off to plan part 2 of this. Think I’ll start with M. If you know a takeaway in Walsall that begins with X, please shout up and we’ll discuss it over a pint.

Walsall Boys And Girls Allowed In Stroud.

Yesterday I went to my first Walsall away match since September 2019. My God, that time has flown. We were going to Stevenage away in 2020 just before the lockdowns started, but that match got called off which led to our legendary pub crawl of Bedford instead. What a blog article that would have been.

I went to bed on Friday night in a bad mood, and woke up still in it and at that first moment I wasn’t really feeling the day. But it was a chance to spend time with great people and it was our first chance to see what new manager Micky Flynn is about so I quickly warmed to the mission. My team Walsall were away at table toppers Forest Green Rovers, and at the time of purchasing my ticket it looked like this could be a 9th straight defeat but we had finally broken the losing streak by beating 2nd in the table Tranmere Rovers the week before.

I met Woza, one of my absolute best friends whilst walking down the market. He enquired what was in my bag, “pork” was my response. I wasn’t lying. Forest Green are an eco club with vegan principles so I had stocked up on sausage rolls and a mossiv pork pie to eat on the way knowing that no meat products would be on sale in the ground.

First port of call was Jack & Ada’s Cafe. It was doing good business with a lot of my fellow minibus travellers already there. I pondered the vegan hot chocolate to get me in the mood for the day but panicked at the last second and ordered a full English breakfast with a mug of tea instead.

We set off and were soon on the motorway. I don’t like the M5. I have trust issues with it but the traffic was flowing and we were making good time. Soon the services were calling and off I headed to the toilets. Although it’s well known that I don’t do technology but I couldn’t fathom out how to release the toilet seat. Honestly if it was a Crystal Maze game I’d still be there now.

It didn’t take long for us to reach Stroud and we headed straight for the Wetherspoons this one called The Lord John. They had a special offer on, standard procedure in Spoons to check the bar for the A4 special offer page be it food or drink, and this time it was Bud Light Seltzer at £1.49 a can. I’ve always wanted to try this so I had a quick can of the lemon and lime variety. Woza insisted on a picture to prove that I was being a ponce again. I don’t think I’ll be buying it again.

Yep, I’m a ponce.

We had a decent hour, and a few more Walsall fans turned up which added to the atmosphere but soon it was time to move on and we headed to The Ale House.

From a quick mooch around on the https://www.pubsgalore.co.uk/ website Ale House seemed to be he pick of the pubs in Stroud so it was good to visit this place. The beer selection was superb, and they had spicy pickled eggs at 90p so they had to be sampled.

Everybody’s heard about the Werrrd!

After a visit to the toilet where I got lost trying to find them and saw an instruction not to use the urinal trough, I returned to find out that there was a pitch inspection planned for 1.30pm with a chance that the game might be postponed or “delayed”. A discussion was already underway as to what to do in the event of either. I voted to drink regardless.

Okay George, but there is only one cubicle.
This quiz in Ale House intrigues me.

It was pissing down as we left Ale House but we stopped at a market stall for excellent hot samosas. We had a pint in Jul’s Bar which was a bit upmarket but a decent pint and then we headed to the ground as the game was on.

Decent place.

I’ve had something of a soft spot for Forest Green since they were in the regional division of the Southern League although said spot hardened somewhat when they dicked us 3-1 at home on the first day of the season. It’s a nice compact ground although it does come with one of football’s main irritants, someone with a drum.

There were hundreds of us there, honest.

I’m a bit of a tightwad and when my mate Mase suggested I bought the £18 uncovered ticket as the £20 covered one still got you wet, I dived in. It had been raining since the moment we touched tarmac in Stroud, but now in Nailsworth where the Forest Green ground is located it was dry. And it stayed dry through.

I’m delighted to announce that I witnessed what turned out to be our winning goal, and also did my usual trick of trying to miss a large portion of the game. This was by queuing for food and we’d started doing this well before half time. I went for the vegan chips with gravy which was good.

You again? Queuing once was enough.

At full time there was much rejoicing. After 7 straight defeats it was now back to back wins against the top two and it was ace to see the players looking happy as they walked off the pitch.

I must give a mention to our minibus driver who was an a star driving down a very narrow hill, with a super reverse movement to get us to The George for a celebratory pint. Normally our drivers keep themselves to themselves but this one joined us in the pubs and even came to the match when a spare ticket was discovered.

The George is a very friendly pub with decent ales on and the outside toilets have been decorated with an array of Chelsea stickers, with a sole Forest Green one for company. I noticed upon departure that a Walsall FC one had joined the party. Right at the highest point of the cistern. I’d have been needing a double step ladder to get that there.

The George in Nailsworth. Great pub.

The journey back was very jovial with a sing song going on, I think Wonderwall figured 3 times and my request of Ça plane pour moi by Plastic Bertrand also going down a storm.

We ended up in the Walsall Arms where more drank flowed and Walsall songs were sang, which capped off a wonderful day. Big thanks to everyone for the great day and to Ian, Jayne and Sean for organising it.

I might not leave it so long before I go away again.

Them reds.

An Unplanned Good Un.

I woke up on Friday to a text informing me that my plans for the evening, a pub crawl of Darlaston were off. I didn’t really have time to give it a thought during those all too brief 20 minutes that I allow myself between getting up and leaving the house. During the day though, Josh who was going to join us for one pint in Darlaston announced that he was coming out earlier and would be in touch after dropping his missus off at 7.

The working day flew by, partially because there was lots to do, things to discuss and my post work treat of a pizza to focus on. There is now another company that operates the dreadful 529 service that gets me back to Walsall and as the long queue for the usual one slowly shuffled forward, the new operators service pulled up at the next stand. It was departing 5 minutes later than the usual one but I opted for it anyway. Going from a rammed bus to one with just two other passengers on was fine by me. As an added bonus the driver was not messing around, he was either on a promise or knew that I was going for pizza but he put his foot down. The bus barely stopped, we soon caught up and overtook the other 529 and I was back in Walsall before 5.30 for the first time. A beautiful journey.

I had the pizza, more on that at a later date and then I had an hour to kill before Josh would call. I walked to Bradford Place bus station with two options in mind. Go to The Globe half way between Walsall and Darlaston (next bus in 22 minutes according to the departure board) or the Queens Head in Wednesbury (with new management as of Monday just gone) but the bus to there wasn’t even on the departure board, so I turned and headed back to the main bus station with The Romping Cat in Bloxwich now firmly on my mind. However on the bus to Bloxwich I suddenly decided I’d had enough public transport for one day and got off by The Pretty Bricks.

The Pretty Bricks. Great pub, crap picture.

Sat in The Bricks was all round top lad and friend of the blog Elliot with a group of his mates. Elliot introduced me with the line “this bloke, he goes out gets pissed and then writes about it”. I can’t disagree with any of that. One of his mates then asked “are you a vegetarian?” “No” I replied. “You will be tomorrow”. There was then an awkward silence as he awaited my response and I desperately tried to work out what he was on about. Did he know something about the pizza I’d just had? Was the barmaid going to serve me but then do a bit of brainwashing starting with how good the McDonalds McPlant is? No, it turns out he was on about the Walsall FC trip to vegan club Forest Green Rovers, which is actually still a week away. I’m easily confused at the best of times though.

Also with Elliot was a dog who quickly befriended me but then a couple arrived with two dogs and a fair bit of barking broke out between the factions. Dogs can kick off in pub and everyone is like “it’s just nature” yet when humans do it the bar staff stop serving. Typical.

Anyway the dogs made friends and settled down, then Josh rang to see where I was and he came to the pub giving me time to get a second drink. My 1st, a Lilley’s lemon and lime cider had gone in minutes so I tried another Backyard beer for the first time. I had no idea that they do a Citra but it was amazing.

Backyard Citra. Yum yum yum.

When Josh arrived I told him what my original options were so he said he’d drive to two of the pubs I’d considered earlier. First up The Globe.

The Globe Inn. Nearest tree used to hide people loitering in the doorway.

I’ve not been in The Globe for a decade so it was nice to be back. Well so I thought until we walked in and they were playing UB40. There is no real ale in this place, and I soon found out that the Magners Dark Berries was off so I had an unusual cocktail of normal Strongbow with blackcurrant in. I wasn’t convinced at first but it worked. Madness replaced UB40 and everyone’s mood lifted.

The Globe has the widest corridor to the toilets I’ve ever seen. Not sure of the one way system though.

We stayed for one in The Globe then moved onto The Queen’s Head in Wednesbury. I was eager to see what it was like under new management as reports from the previous ones were not favourable. We walked in and Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” was playing and I need no persuading to get in touch with my camp side so I joined in very happily. We got served quickly, with the the bar staff having a mid pull con-flab about the look of my pint of Holden’s Golden Glow. No need as it was bang on. Wham finished and was replaced by the Chaka Demus & Pliers version of Twist & Shout which is always welcome. This place serves Inchs cider so the obligatory joke about me wanting to get some inches inside me had to be made.

In The Queens.

We noticed that there was a Madness tribute act on that evening, but he was just getting changed. We pondered getting the barstaff to drag him out just to perform “One Step Beyond” a Walsall FC fans anthem, and we’d then go very quietly and happily and let him go back to finish getting changed but the moment passed.

There was time for one more visit before Josh had to go so it was off to The Flying Tiger Bar. No idea why the tiger is flying. Hopefully it hasn’t been kicked by an arsehole of a football player. This place was quite quiet but Josh reported about 8 people eating in the dining room. The former landlord of the Fullbrook was in here and it was nice to see him and have a chat. The place serves Madri so I dived on that.

I had the usual trip to the toilet and when I got back to the table Josh was brandishing a menu. “Do you want some food?” he asked. I swear this lad is on a permanent mission to feed me and I have absolutely no problem with this. I wasn’t really hungry but opted for a chicken wings starter just to keep him happy.

More yum yum.

A sign of a good night as I have no recollection about what the music was like or what was showing on the television screens, but the food quickly arrived and it was really good. Josh had to go and left me to finish the chips and poppadums. I manged the former with aplomb and had a token effort at the latter.

I finished my drink and pondered. The nearest pub was 10 minutes walk away in one direction and my house is 12 minutes in another. I decided to call it a night, but what a good one it was.

I was home, in bed and listening to Nick Abbot on LBC by 10.30.

I woke the following morning and found my glasses in the bath. Another sign of a good night.

A Flipping Good Night In Birmingham.

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”.

Friday Night’s Alright For Drinking. And Eating.

On Friday night it was our annual quiz team night out. We’re not actually a team anymore since the last pub we did them in closed in 2012 but these lads are among my longest standing friends so I’m glad we kept this tradition going.

4.30pm finally arrived and I bolted out of the office. I had 20 minutes to get the bus outside work and then a connecting one to Bloxwich. As I exited the estate I was dismayed to see a bus at the stop as it’s a couple of minutes walk away and I really needed this early one. Fortune was on my side for once as the bus remained there and as I got on I realised it was being held up by one of those people that get on and then decide to start rummaging for their fare. Result.

The bus had none of its internal lights on and Mr Fare Fumbler was the only other passenger. A bit surreal. I wondered what he was thinking. I know my imagination runs wild at time but had this been a novel, would he have been plotting to kill me amongst the gloom? We’ll never know as the driver put the lights on a few minutes later and the bloke got off at the next stop.

So I got to the bus station and cast a glance up at the departure board. No sign of the number 60. Rubbish. I ambled round to the stand anyway and all was revealed. Every so often our local public transport overlords get a bit bored and decide to fanny around with the bus numbers. Since first using it a few years ago this service has gone from 560, to 60 and is now the no 9. Logical. Anyway the 9 turned up within 2 minutes, it had its lights on and there were plenty of fellow passengers to witness any killings.

I was soon in Bloxwich and headed straight for the Windsor Fish Bar. Okay, I was going for curry in a little while but there would be booze beforehand and I don’t like drinking or eating on an empty stomach so always try to keep my food levels topped up.

I like The Windsor Fish Bar as it is the only chip shop I know that sells booze. I don’t have much of a 2022 to do list but my aim in the Summer is to sit on the bench outside with fish and chips plus Thatchers Haze to wash it down with. After a brief discussion about the price in the window and the one I was being charged not quite matching up, I departed. I walked past the sites of the now demolished Bulls Head and the public toilets. Two venues I failed to visit which is strange given my fondness for visiting both of these kind of establishment.

Bloxwich is great for a pub crawl. I love going there, and once my snack was polished off it was Spotted Cow time. I could have picked any of the great pubs but this one is close to the number 60, sorry no 9 bus stop and The Windsor plus it’s a proper pub so win win.

It was busy but I had a quick glance around and couldn’t see Swill so settled in the back section. Woza walked in and asked if me and Swill were socially distancing as we were not sitting together. I’d somehow missed him but it was very busy. Swill and Woza are two of my absolute best friends so it was good to sit and have discussions with them. One of which was about dead childhood pets. Jovial.

From there we moved on to The Carra. This pub always fascinated me as a kid because the coach to away games would always stop outside and there would be nobody there. Then after a few minutes the door to this pub would fling open and around 30 people would pile out and onto the coach.

This pub was also busy but had a roaring fire too which was very much appreciated. Soon I needed the toilet. Now on occasion I have been known to walk into the toilets singing my head off or bursting into song whilst using said facilities. My new years resolution was to stop this as sometimes it does startle my fellow urineators and you don’t need that when you are in full flow. I lasted till day 7. Oh well, better than my attempt at Whamageddon. Red Light Spells Danger came on and there was no way I was staying silent.

We caught a cab to the One Man & His Dog. Again it was busy but I reckon it would draw a bigger crowd if called One Man & His Cat. We were soon joined by Dan, Mark and Alan. It was in here that Swill mentioned that the curry house is unlicensed. I have nothing but disdain for booze free curry houses. Having a pint of Cobra is part of the experience. I don’t take my own roast potatoes to a carvery.

To be fair, I’d had no input in the choice of curry houses. I was in the pub while it was being discussed in the group chat`but I refuse to take my own beer to these places and I was sticking to this rule. “I’ll drink water in there”. I’m a bit of a nob at times and very stubborn so I did stick to the water.

Absolute top lads. I reckon I’ve known these 5 guys for a total of over 150 years.

The food in Mirchi was excellent to be fair. I had a Nargis Kebab starter (think Indian style Scotch egg with an omelette on top. Main course was Golden Chicken Curry. Billed in the menu as “Cooked with cucumber, tomato & garnished with omelette”. I requested it sans cucumber and tomato for 3 reasons. (1) I don’t like cucumber and tomato. (2) I like my curry to be just meat and sauce. I can’t cope with it being busy. (3) I clearly hadn’t finished being awkward for the night. Both courses were really good. Swill had chosen well.

I forgot to take a picture of Friday’s Nargis, so here’s one I demolished earlier.

Post curry myself, Swill, Mark and Alan went to The Bloxwich Showman the local Wetherspoons. Named in honour of local fun fair owner Pat Collins. My granddad came from France in 1921 to work for him, who made him redundant 18 months later. Cracking banter from Mr Collins and I have the notification letter framed in my Living Room.

Anyway despite it being January 7th, and thus the Christmas period officially finishing the day before Swill decide he wanted a festive beer and headed up the bar in search of one. Fair play to the barmaid she was great. Asking someone else if they had one then when Swill asked for a festive shot instead she patiently read out the list of all of them. He complimented her on knowing all the shots despite her reading them off the screen. I think we ended up with Fireballs which were suggested due to them being Cinnamony thus festive. Whatever it was it was good so we had a second to make sure. It was a great end to a cracking evening.

Hot Shots Part Deux.

It was said that we ought to do this more than once a year as three of the lads now live outside of Walsall so we don’t meet up as a group at any other time, so bring that on. Just remind me to stick a licensed curry house in the group chat yeah?