Oh no. More Pub Talk.

So this fortnights blog was going to be something different but I didn’t quite manage to glean the material to finish it, so guess what? It’s another one about pubs.


I was recently invited out for drinks by Liquid Len (what a name), friend of the blog and one of the few people off Twitter that I have subsequently met up with in real life. We went in The Pretty Bricks and had a pleasant couple of beers, along with a chat with Mark the landlord who was departing the pub after around 10 years.


Before departing I nipped to the toilet, which is standard for me. I was surprised to see a urinal marked as “out of order”. I’m a big fan of something that you just piss into being out of order but fortunately it wasn’t urinal number 2 so I could proceed with my mission. I always go to urinal number two regardless of which pub I’m in. Not a problem usually, only when I’m in the Moon Under Water in Wolverhampton as it’s a long hike to it from the door in there.

I need a piss. That’s bang out of order.


So from there we went to the Walsall Arms. A wonderful pub but one I’d kinda given a wide berth too after getting very drunk in there on my birthday. Fortunately the landlady Jaz was her usual welcoming self so I was reassured that I hadn’t done anything silly whilst a bit out of it.


Whilst in there the full idiocy of the table service rule was laid bare. I ordered two pints, the barmaid popped them on the bar right in front of me but she then had to leave the bar, walk halfway round the pub to hand them to me. I could have been down off my Wimbledon umpire style chair, grabbed them, climbed back up, had a swig and shouted “new balls please” in 5 seconds. Better still if I had a Bo Selecta Mick Hucknall style long arm I could have just reached for them. The beer was good so it was well worth her effort.


On Wednesday I had a little pub crawl and the plan was to visit pubs I’ve not made it to since they reopened. Starting with The Victoria (Katz) which I have been in but not as much as I’d like. Unfortunately they had an issue in the cellar and weren’t opening for another hour so I moved onto The Crown. This is probably the most traditional of pubs within walking distance of Walsall Town Centre and known locally as The Funny House due to the pictures of comedians dotted around the walls. It’s so traditional that when I took a work colleague in last year, when he asked if he could pay by card he got a totally bemused look as if he’d asked if he could shit on the pool table. Well that could be asked in Winter I suppose as this is the only pub in Walsall town centre that still has outside toilets.

The pub has had a makeover during lockdown with new carpet, upholstery, paint job and sadly jukebox. I liked the old style one where you had to press a button and the flappy flappy things (don’t know how else to describe them) rotate and show the song choices.

The outside toilets complete with new hanging baskets and signage.


Anyway upon leaving there I was well ahead of time but behind on pints so I popped into Rock Steady Eddies. My usual port of call when I lived that side of town. Although I hadn’t planned on going in there I had jukebox money on me to appease the B-52’s and also to hopefully give my jukebox nemesis something to whinge about. Unfortunately he wasn’t about, possibly slagging off other peoples musical choices to the bar staff in another pub. So I put the money in a quiz machine for the first time since November. However in my excitement in doing this I suggested as one answer that elephants don’t have tusks. I didn’t win any money.


From there I popped back into The Pretty Bricks as it has now been taken over by Bar (his nickname) who moved on a Bosman from The Black Country Arms to take up this role. It was nice to wish him well, the beer was good, barmaid friendly and the out of order urinal now functional.


Next up was the Butts Tavern. After being asked if had the check in app, and explaining that I don’t as I’m from the 1970’s, then a quick year of birth off with the very friendly barmaid which revealed that she was older than me but still had the app, I found something called a pen, signed in in the more traditional way and took a seat. The pub was beautifully decked out with England flags everywhere, with a lone Wales one for balance. The Butty Bach and cob came to £4.30. Absolute bargain. Where do I sign? Oh yeah, by the door with a pen. I then won £4.30 on a game called Pixel It for just a 50p investment so everyone was happy. Great pub this and it used to be part of a cracking mini pub crawl but now somewhat isolated so I don’t venture there often but it’s always a good visit. Makes note to self. Always go up The Butts when possible.

£4.30 for that. The tomato was removed on government/SAGE advice.


So onto Friday and I hadn’t any plans for the match so was just going to head into town and have a mooch about but then my mate Dan announced there was room on his table in The Registry so I dived on that.


I didn’t take to Yates’s really but since it changed to The Registry I like it much more, even though it’s the same place. There is now some Walsall FC representation so that may have helped swing it, plus I’ve got to know some of the staff of late so all good. Disco Bingo on a Monday afternoon is a must when off work.

Disco Bingo. So addictive. Jumpin’ Jack Flash didn’t come out but I prefer She’s A Rainbow anyway.


On the way to The Registry I was delayed by a cat, Blackpool Jane would be very proud, so I opted to jump on the bus to make up time. Whilst studying the timetable, which was far more entertaining than the match my wonderful neighbours Zoe, Stewart and Ben spotted me as they drove past and gave me a lift. More drinking time and to be fair I was going to need it.


So I joined the table with fellow Walsall FC fans Dan, Josh, Zane, & Coxy and it was epic just to be drinking laughing and singing again with fellow footie fans. Due to the angle of seat and television I kept moving forward and blocking Dan’s view with my mossiv head. He was fine with it but it may have been a different story had the match been a tad more intriguing.

Yesterday I was joined by my mate Craig and we had a gentle amble round town, chatting our usual nonsense and culminating in a couple of beautiful pints of Duck Blonde in a very busy Katz, which was good to see. Followed by an epic curry at Blue Ginger. Rounded off nicely a cracking week off, but back to work and normality tomorrow.

Cheers for reading.

A Cob, Cheeseburger And Some Pubs.

So I’m slowly getting back into this going inside pubs lark. And very pleasant it has been too. Here’s some of the things I’ve been up to the past week.


Last Saturday was a free day but then Dave text saying that he was going to The Chuckery Club and did I want to join him? Now I have a bit of history with this place as I booked it for my 30th birthday party and when I went to pay for the room 2 weeks before the big day I found out that they’d given it to someone else. I then had to find a new venue, which I did, that ran out of lager at 9.30 on the night causing a chunk of my guests to walk out.


So I’ve had a grievance with the place for a while but new people have it now and after nearly 20 years maybe it’s time to let go of that grudge. They want to have a beer festival at the club and have sought assistance from myself and another member of the Walsall CAMRA committee so I thought it was time to go in and introduce myself. I also had to point out that whilst I’ve worked many beer festivals I’ve never actually organised one so I wasn’t going to be much help. But I know people who can.


Anyway there was no ale on and when asked what I wanted I panicked and said Carling. Three of these later we found out that that Strongbow Dark Fruit was being sold off at £2.20 a pint. So we stayed “a bit” longer. Anyway the new landlady was very welcoming, telling us about upcoming singers and also the soon to be launched mid week carvery, which you can have at £2.95 if you buy a drink. Well there’s going to be no problem on that score for me. I really should have asked how much the carvery is after 8 drinks. The talk of food got me hungry so I had a £1 ham cob, which was one of the best ever.

A quid for that? Amazing. (The finger hole in the top was caused by my eagerness).


On the Sunday I was meeting a group of mates at Wetherspoons for a few beers before meeting up again with Dave to visit more pubs in the name of blog material hunting. I was one of the last to arrive at the Spoons so all the seats on the lads tables were full. I stood in between the two tables looking a bit awkward. Mase suggested that I sit on the wall, a suggestion that I politely declined. I may look like Humpty Dumpty, doesn’t mean I want to recreate his work.


I like the ale in St Matthews Hall but in these strange times it feels naughty to go and look at what’s on offer. Back on the Dark Fruits then. Certainly getting my five a day in of late. The lads on one table were worried about the gathering of pigeons up above and possible deposits from them so when another table became available we dived on it. Mase took up his offer of wall sitting himself and I plonked myself down on the bench. Everyone’s happy. Apart from the member of staff who then came and told him off. After another couple of pints, it was time to go and meet Dave.

Alcohol (not rare) in the sun (very rare).


Dave was in The Tap & Tanner. Decent pub this and I always enjoy going. The music was good and mixed until they decided on a bit of banter and played Red Red Wine by UB40, a truly dreadful song that only normally gets played at last orders when the staff want to clear the room and go home. I wondered if I’d missed an announcement from Boris that a new Sunday evening 18.41 curfew was happening. After this I think they staff knew they’d gone too far so they played some Katy Perry to make up for it. and it went down a storm.


Next up was The Watering Trough where a warning about using the garden was in effect. We risked it. A pleasant pint was had here but the it was time for a last one.

All capitals. They mean it.


Last call was the The Wheatsheaf. This has new new people running it after the old new people left after about a month. A very pleasant pint was had in here along with a great cheeseburger. There was a live music in the garden and a real buzz about the place. This is good as it’s the closest pub to my house and I really should use it more. Which funnily enough, I will be doing later.

This was demolished very quickly.


On Friday I met my mate Andrew in Bilston after work so we could get a taxi to Walsall in search of liquid goodness. We opted for a pint before ordering the taxi so we headed to the The Trumpet. I thought it didn’t open until 7pm but as we approached, the door was reassuringly open. This was a false dawn though as the door inside had a sign on it telling us to go round the back. So we wandered round the back and settled in the garden, which I had no idea existed. We had a Guinness and a Golden Glow and it was mentioned how we had the same style of drinks as Duffy and Joe in Early Doors. We spent a few minutes discussing that great show until being interrupted by an eager raffle ticket seller. I tried telling her that we weren’t staying long but it was like pissing in the wind while it’s blowing a gale so I accepted defeat and handed over a pound. It’s very much a live jazz pub and instruments were being set up but we left before they started. It would have been nice to hear some as jazz to me only comes in magazine form.


After a pint in Bilston Wetherspoons we grabbed an Uber to Walsall and headed for Bar 10. After being shouted at a couple of times by the barman we signed in and sat down. We had an expensive round served in flimsy plastic glasses so moved on to The Oak Inn, now accompanied by our mutual friend Comedy Dave. I like this pub but the last time I went in it was a very rare bad pub visit. I was with Craig that time and we were told we couldn’t both go on the quiz machine, they didn’t give the usual friendly welcome and everyone was sitting there in total silence. We opted not to go on quizzer as a soloists, although had one of us gone on it, it would have been Craig. He went on 15 To 1 and got to the grand final whilst I got Barnsley and Burnley mixed up on short lived ITV Sport Channel quiz show Do I Not Know That?


Anyway this time the pub was back on form. Good music on the juke box and a sing song of Remember You’re A Womble from one corner (not ours).

From there we went to The Tap And Tanner. This pub usually has bouncers on of a weekend but it’s usually just a nod and an “alright”. This time it was proper football ground style security checks. It was like Brighton away in 2009 when my mate John-Paul got his balls squeezed during a very vigorous frisking from a steward. Still it inspired a new style Prince lyric. “Tonight were getting frisked like it’s Brighton 2009”.


We rounded the night off with a couple of hours in St Matthews Hall, the highlight of which was a bizarre telling off for sitting at an empty table. We opted not to contest our eviction from the table so there was no need for the lads from Can’t Pay, We’ll Take It Away to get involved.


So a good few pub visits. Let’s hope June 21st happens and we can get rid of these bizarre regulations that continue to hold pubs back. Death figures are right down and when did you last hear of the Annie Nightingale hospitals on the news? Come on Boris. Let’s get ordering at the bar and mask free pissing back in our lives.

When You Wish Upon One Star.

Hygiene ratings in takeaways. Some people study them religiously where as I’m more of a “if the food’s good, what the hell?” kinda guy. Not sure if it’s the same elsewhere but here in Walsall our takeaways are scored between 0 and 5 on how hygienic/clean they are. 1 star places don’t bother me but bizarrely if I’m in a 4 star I wonder what cost them that point and I will always glance around for any evidence.

I know it’s really not the case but it does cross my mind that whether the inspector has had a shag the night before could make the difference between a 3 or a 4 rating. So I do take these ratings with a pinch of salt or pinch of mouse droppings in some cases. I’m also aware that just because a place is a one star it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s covered in shit. They can lose points for things not being stored correctly in the fridge, poor hand washing facilities, cross contamination between chopping boards, or the place being covered in shit. Each venue has details on the website about the visit and what needs to improve but I didn’t bother looking at these. I don’t do details unless I’m telling a grim anecdote.


So where’s this leading? Well a couple of years ago I was going to visit all the 0 rated takeaways and do an article . As per usual though friends forced me to go to the pub on numerous occasions and I didn’t get round to it. But now I have a blog page and minimal content I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’m pleased to say that currently on the council website there isn’t a single place with a zero rating in Walsall. Well done everyone. So I’m doing the 1 star places instead. Bit healthier and I’ve enough zero’s in my life with some of the Walsall FC scores this season.


There are 50 or so places on the site with a 1 star rating. Not all takeaways, cafes or pubs. There are a couple of newsagents too. I can only assume the jazz mags have poor hygiene.

When I decided to do this it was poorly timed on my behalf as it was during Lent and I’d given up chip shops for the duration. What kind of writer does crap planning like this? I bet J K Rowling isn’t this disorganised. Anyway after convincing myself that some of these places are takeaways not chip shops so I could sneak a couple in. My Lent and I’m allowed to tweak the rules. So I bought Imodium and stocked up on toilet rolls (just a 9 pack, I don’t panic buy unless it’s booze or samosas).


All places were listed as 1* on the website at the time of visiting. Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (walsall.gov.uk)


Visit 1. Dixy Chicken, Bradford Street, Walsall. Last inspection 24/11/20.
The place looked clean enough from where I observed at the counter although it’s fair to say that a good sprinkling of dust could have settled over the place during the time it took the lady in front of me to decide what she wanted. I opted for a chicken fillet burger and wings. I wasn’t really paying attention at the list of quantities of wings available but 6 seemed to be the only even number amongst the stream of evil odd ones so I opted for those. The food came quickly and I dashed off to visit Dave – he was my support bubble at the time so it was allowed.


Well it took me longer to figure out how to open the paper wrapper of the delicious burger than to devour the contents within it. The wings were good too, although I offered Dave one which he accepted but I mentioned the hygiene rating and he went very odd claiming the wing was spicy and he couldn’t eat it. It really wasn’t. I’ve had spicier korma’s. Actually that’s fake news. I’ve never had a korma in my life. Anyway, a decent first mission.


Visit 2. One Big Bite, Milton Street, Walsall. Last inspection 28/10/19.
I need to throw a line in here, a month after my visit it had another inspection and this is now rated 3. Well done to them. It was still a one when I visited though so I’m leaving it in.


Friendly and welcoming guy was a good start as I headed in just after midday on a bright Sunday. There is a bit of a television theme as they do a Naga Doner, presumably after Naga Munchetty and also a Nigella Panini. Missed a trick here though as surely Nigella’s Baps would have people queuing out of the door. I scoured the menu for any thing named in honour of Lucy Verasamy but was left disappointed so I went with Naga. They guy told me it was spicy twice and I accepted the same number of times.


The place was clean, the Coca-Cola fridge was the best I’ve ever seen, and if space in my kitchen was sufficient I’d have had it away.


The kebab meat came with a freshly cooked naan and interestingly two forks, one red and one black (I used the Walsall red one). I like how he thought I must be sharing the food but If 2016 14 stone me had turned up I’m sure it would have just been the one fork provided. Anyway, he wasn’t lying about the spice. It was throat warming, nose running spicy and this I approved of. I have had kebab meat on a Sunday before but usually at around 2am, certainly not mid dayish and it felt strange eating it at a time people would still be heading home from mass. It was really good though. Another great visit.

Naga Doner, Palfrey style.


Visit 3. Dixy Chicken, High Street, Brownhills. Last inspection 14/01/21.
New kid on the block this one as it only opened in January. I knew it was a 1 star rated place before I’d even checked the website as it had been flagged up on the excellent Brownhills Bob group on Facebook, having been inspected shortly after it opened. I love it when my research is done for me.


This was an after work visit but I wanted to be home for 7 so I could watch Tenable on ITV4, so military style precision was needed. I nibbled a sausage roll whilst walking through Bilston to keep me ticking over as I don’t like eating on an empty stomach. I met Dave in Walsall and we jumped on the bus to Brownhills. I calculated that we had 15 minutes to find the place, get food and jump on the vital 18.15 bus back. Challenge Anneka food style. We arrived in Brownhills and it started to fall apart. My research had suggested it was opposite the job centre. It wasn’t and we’d gone in the wrong direction. We finally found the place, there was already 2 customers in the shop and we had 8 minutes remaining.


We got served, and I went for the same as in the Walsall store so I could compere. The place was clean, the decor was nice including a heart made up of foody words. To my surprise the lad serving, who seemed like a decent bloke asked what drink I wanted, so I pounced on the Apple Tango as I’d not had it for years. Dave had 2 pieces of chicken and chips. We needed fast food and we got it. We were at the bus stop with two minutes to spare. Turned out I’d got an actual burger meal and wings at a cost of 2p less than I paid in the Walsall branch, which hadn’t been a meal. The burger was good, the chicken wings, big, crispy and generally amazing. A superb visit and I was back home 7 minutes before Tenable started. And I got all the answers in the money round which was about the board game Cluedo. This was a seriously good visit. No wonder Elvis was always singing “oh I wish I was in Dixy, away away.”


Visit 4. Peri Peri Takeout. Prince Street, Pleck. Last inspection 15/12/20.
Bumped up the agenda of this article after myself and Dave’s original target was closed. A discussion, and the arrival of the 34 bus swung things and we were off to Pleck.


There were no customers in front of us so I got no chance to peruse the offerings so just went for the normal chicken burger and hot wings. Now I’m not a fan of meal packages in takeaways that include a drink as I want just pure food for my cash, but in this place items are sold individually but you can add chips and a drink for £1.20 extra. So I opted to do that. He then asked if I wanted fries and drink with the wings as well. Jesus. Old me would have been all over that but I declined this time.


Whilst waiting I did get to study the menu. They do a burger party bucket. This visit was straight after a crap day at work so I wasn’t in the mood to party. They also do a treat bucket, and boy did I deserve a treat as this was my first takeaway after Lent, but I wouldn’t have been arsed to carry the 1.5 litre bottle of Coke on the bus so I’m glad I stuck with what I got.


The burger was really nice, and the hot wings were perfectly spiced and they came in a box which said “enjoy chicken”. Not sure if this was an instruction or just a reminder of one of my favourite hobbies. Another really good visit.

The One That Got Away. Beacon Fish Bar, Beacon Road, Pheasey.
This didn’t make the initial list, but when a couple of my targets closed I had to do another search and I discovered that this place was by The Cat & Fiddle, a great boozer discovered on Pub Challenge 1 (and where Barmaid Of The Challenge from that year worked) so this place got penciled in. I put money aside, planned bus times, booked a table at the pub to wash down the chippy goodness and invited friends. Then during the week before I checked the hygiene website again and it said that place had been recently inspected and the new score would be announced soon. Why the delay? Stop building up suspense. You’re not revealing the bad guy on Line Of Thrones or whatever it’s called. Anyway, the chippy impressed the inspectors as it got promoted to a 3, and I got a call from the pub on the Friday saying that they wouldn’t be opening due to the weather. So I spent that Saturday eating Beef Space Raiders and fannying around on Twitter instead.

Just tell us, eh?


Visit 5. Fountain Cafe. Longwood Lane, Walsall. Last inspection 05/06/18
Now this is what I’m talking about. An eaterie in a static van by the side of a road. I’ve not eaten at anything like this since a midnight visit on a Tuesday night, in Cirencester on the way back from an away win at Bournemouth in 1992. All vans visited since have been mobile. I’m guessing this van hasn’t moved in years.


Yet again I’d done my research beforehand. Yet again I’d got it wrong, resulting in getting off the bus a stop early. This did allow me to have a stroll down a nice scenic road while Monday morning traffic thundered past. It felt like that scene where Alan Partridge walks along a dual carriageway to go and buy windscreen washer fluid. I should have sang Goldfinger to complete the look.


So by the time I arrived at the van I reckoned I’d burned off the calories of a slice of bread, so I had that slice along with another one with sausage, bacon and egg thrown in for good measure. It felt a bit odd waiting for a sandwich in a glorified clearing surrounded by trees at the terminus of dead end bit of road. Then another man arrived and ordered his food and we both stood there in silence. It felt awkward. Especially when his cup of tea arrived in the hatch and I got jealous.


After a little wait my sammo arrived, I bade farewell to my new friend, pulled my breakfast out and started walking back. The bus stop I should have got off at was 1 minute walk away so I stood there eating looking at my slobbiest for sometime. I am quite uncouth and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to reiterate this to traffic on a busy A road.


Anyway, the food was okay. You can’t go wrong with BSE, and she certainly wasn’t shy with the ketchup. Another tick, one that I’d done purely because I was off work but with a day left on my bus pass and I wanted to get some use out of it just on principle.


Visit 6. Chick’n Bites, Walsall. Last inspection 08/04/21.
One of my slight bug bears is when someone gets to a takeaway just ahead of me, and this was the case here but I’ve come to like it now as it gives me chance to study decor and menu. Firstly I really wanted the cool looking red table but then I noticed the door to the side which lets people from behind the counter out. Seriously it is the smallest door that I’ve ever seen in use. I know that I’m unlikely to ever win a Mr Tall contest but I think even I’d have to bend down to get through that one.


As it was the last review I decided to let my minimal hair down and order a bit more so I went for the 3 chicken wings meal with a side salad of kebab burger (no salad). The service was quick and I was soon making the short walk home.


Again it was unusual to be eating kebab stone cold sober but as the doner was landing in my stomach I’m sure said organ was screaming out”Oi George? Where’s the boozy hors d’oeuvre?”. Not sure why my stomach calls me George though.


Anyway I digress. The kebab meat was juicy, succulent and like it had been freshly shaved rather than plucked out of those nasty metal storage boxes. The chicken wings were great and had a nice bit of spice and the chips went down well after being doused in newly opened mayonnaise. The can of Pepsi (no choice in drink but I love this cola so all good) was also enjoyed. I’m deffo going here on the way back from The White Lion if that reopens. A great visit and a nice way to end this blog.


There are plenty of 2 star rated takeaways in Caldmore so there maybe a sequel to this article somewhere down the line as I’ve enjoyed reviewing food again for the first time since mine and Swill’s aborted Walsall Curry House Monopoly Challenge. Walsall Monopoly Curry Challenge | Monopoly-inspired curry challenge around Walsall. Visit the best Walsall Indian restaurants, eat curries, rate them and then place them on the board. Get a genuine insight into the restaurants of Walsall, with photos, stories and videos of what are sure to be some eventful nights. (wordpress.com)

Cheers for reading again.

Let’s Go Inside.

I’m a lower league football fan so I’m used to spending time outside in the wind and rain with minimal protection from the elements. It’s one thing doing that whilst cheering on your beloved team, but quite different to do it just to have a pint.


So today sees indoor supping resuming and the reopening of all the pubs that were punished for not having a decent sized outdoor space. This is a good thing, long overdue and the start of the industry getting back on its feet.


Although we can start going back inside it looks like table service will remain a thing. I’m generally not a fan of this. I love to walk in the pub, approach the bar then work it whilst clocking all the available ales. I appreciate that you can now get apps that tell you all the beers currently on in certain pubs, but I want hard evidence. God gave us pump clips before he gave us apps. Also how can you be tempted by cobs, pork pies and scratchings when you don’t get to cast your eye over them?

A pint and a cob inside a pub? Bring it on.


Table service isn’t a bad thing per se, but I very much like to walk up the bar, choose and order my beer whilst having banter with whoever is around. Plus ordering beer is generally the only time women talk to me. It is appreciated in places like the Black Country Arms where after lockdown one we had several very pleasant sessions without having to venture downstairs and the drinks were brought up on a tray by a member of staff. I generally don’t spill beer (save for the Hop House 13 incident mentioned a couple of blogs ago) but walking up those stairs in the BCA with 3 pints in your hands does feel a bit like being on It’s A Knockout. I’d just need one of my mates to play the joker before I set off and people on adjacent tables trying to put me off on my return by throwing wet sponges and that would be it. Channel 5 would be all over it. I could ask for a tray but I just don’t know how I’d cope with that. I honestly think I’d spill drinks by carrying them on a tray, so I’m not willing to risk it.

I don’t like using trays, but carrying pints like a milkman is fine.


Although the weather has been pretty shocking since the outside drinking begun, I have caught some sun during sessions but had the moist times too. I’m glad the outside only drinking is ending as now pubs will have more capacity so no more waiting for tables or queuing just to get in. I don’t mind queuing for things generally as long as the line isn’t Rocky IV opening at Walsall’s ABC cinema in terms of length. I just don’t like doing it for pubs. The other thing about the outside only rule is it’s hard to have a pub crawl as you don’t know if the next pub will have space or you have to queue so we’ve tended to just stick to one venue.

This now on our terms.


The Registry (formerly Yates’s) have a decent system in if there is room to sit out the front, you can do that and then move to the rear when a table becomes available. This does bring a kind of going for a meal feeling to the proceedings. “Hello Darling. You most certainly can have a carvery but you will have to wait 53 minutes for a table”. “Okay Darling. Where’s the bar?”

So table service remains, as does wearing a mask to go for a piss and still the rule of 6 applies. Which is fine if Girls Aloud knock my door and ask me to take them on a Walsall pub crawl.


I saw over the weekend that every person has to drink 124 pints or so to save the nations pubs. This is already underway but I hope they hurry up and give us our June target so I can start planning and budgeting.


If you’re off to the pub today have a cracking time. Long live the pub.

Away In A Manger Or Away At Maidstone.

*Written during lockdown 1, April 2020*

I don’t write very often nowadays. I’ve not penned a story since 2013, and other than pub challenge blogs or occasional Walsall CAMRA magazine articles my favourite pen has been furloughed for a lot longer time than I’ve known what that word actually means. So I thought I’d do a football post. I don’t do football writing other than drunken status updates about missing goals or what a great/shambolic display I’ve just witnessed.

Please forgive me because as I write this line I don’t actually know where this is going or what I really want to convey but as we are all missing our Mighty Saddlers fix, so to fill a bit of the void and maybe pass 5 minutes of your lockdown Sunday I thought I’d scribble some thoughts as my 30th anniversary of seeing Walsall win away for the first time is this year.

I didn’t get the football bug to start with. I wasn’t born into a footballing family. Sure I’d watch the FA Cup final as it would always be on, especially as in those days it was shown on 50% of the available tv channels. At primary school if asked who I supported I’d say Manchester United, but when asked to name any players I’d struggle. Just as I do nowadays at the first couple of games of a new season following yet another Summer rebuild of the Walsall team.

The 1986 World Cup hit me like a train. Suddenly I was football mad. Watching any match going, stopping up for those 11pm kick offs and falling asleep, missing a chunk of the second half. I clearly set out my stall to miss some of the match from very early on. The tournement ended in heartbreak of course but I wanted more and in January 1987 I went to my first Walsall match (I’m forever indebted to Swill for taking me). It was a bit of gloryhunting as I watched us knock Birmingham City out of the FA Cup.

I’m going to fast forward to 1990. A time when I was still a good boy and going to church. I used to love belting out hymns like Away In A Manger and Colours Of Day although I was soon to go full on Michael Stipe and was Losing My Religion as adult life set in. 1990 was another heartbreaking World Cup year but significant in other ways. Music fans will quite rightly point out that 1990’s Time For Guru but other stuff occurred. Walsall left Fellows Park and I left the bastard hole that was Thomas Moore School (named after the saint, not the absolute top bloke who’s doing 100 laps of his garden for the NHS).

I got a job straight away and whilst the money wasn’t great I hadn’t yet discovered alcohol so wages could go on away games. Maidstone (a) was my 3rd away game of the 1990-91 season, and 15th overall with my previous record consisting of 10 defeats and 4 draws. We travelled to Dartford where Maidstone were groundsharing, on Royston’s coach. I’m pretty sure it was Lank and Swill who accompanied me. My Walsall FC family could be counted on the fingers of one hand in those days, unlike the many hundreds that it is today. AND WE WON!! 3-1, and I saw all the goals. The cheese burgers were the best that I’ve had at any football ground, rivalled possibly only by the ones at Aldershot. Had I been a fan of either of these teams they wouldn’t have gone bust. Kiosk takings would have kept them afloat. Well maybe until I turned 18 and got on the booze.

So glad I kept the programme.

You can imagine the immense joy I felt on the way home. The curse had been lifted and I was now going to see Walsall win away on a regular basis. Reality bit the following Friday when I went to Northampton to see us lose 5-0.

So that first away win was 30 years ago this October. Because I’m sad and have absolutely no life my plan was to descend on Dartford in the Autumn to mark this anniversary by visiting the site of the ground there – now a housing estate (they had to sell the ground after financial difficulties knocked on from Maidstone’s liquidation and they resigned from their own league a year later). I was going to have a pint in a pub near the site, then head to Maidstone, see the new ground and have a pub crawl round town. This is probably not going to happen due to what is currently going on but I would like to do it at some point as Kent is ace and I always enjoy going there (save for the odd visit to Priestfield Stadium).

So the following 30 years have been a cracking time. I don’t get to many away games now due to mortgage costs and other things, but they are always a great day out. Walking into a pub in another town and seeing friends, or strolling into an away end just after kick off and waving at folk who are trying to watch the match. Sometimes the football is shocking but we know that can be the case, and we wouldn’t change it for the world. I saw a dismal match report in an Aldershot fanzine back in 1991 which ended with the line “The only highlight of the day was that it was another tick in my quest to see Aldershot lose at every Football League ground”) It’s the social aspect and all the fun of being a Saddler.

These days of lock down won’t be around forever. Stay safe and hopefully very soon we’ll clambering aboard cars, trains and mini buses cause when the Walsall boys play away, we won’t be far away.

P.s for the record I saw 5 more away wins that season, Aylesbury, Blackpool, Cardiff, Carlisle and Aldershot. Cheers.

5 Blokes, A Monopoly Board And Pubs.

*Article written in 2009*

So, after 5 years of thinking about it, talking about it, and putting it off a bit, we finally got round to doing the London Monopoly Pub Crawl. Me, and my great mates Woza, John, Comedy Dave and Alan had a good breakfast then dived in a cab to Digbeth Coach Station.

The coach departed promptly and we hit the motorway. It didn’t take long for the pissing around to start and soon me and Woza were having the usual blokey discussions, telling anecdotes, and of course doing impressions of Bo Selecta characters. We didn’t realise though, that the coach was rather quiet, our voices were loud, and our discussions could be heard by everyone. John and Alan in front were cringing at every use of words normally reserved for after the 9pm watershed.

We got to London, and set about the arduous task of finding what travel pass we needed, what lines on the underground we had to use, and rather vitally a map to help with this kind of planning. We eventually got sorted and found the hotel with ease.

I was looking forward to the hotel. On the internet it had said we would find helpful staff, who would help us plan our weekend, and we would get a warm welcome. I kinda guessed that the helpful and welcoming staff had all been given the weekend off.

So it was off to Elephant and Caste tube station that would take us towards Old Kent Road. We had to use a pub just round the corner called The George, and after being amused by the locals discussions – also more suited for late night Channel 4 , we moved on.

On Whitechapel Road, we were looking for The Blind Beggar (we didn’t find it), but whilst stopping for a photo at the road sign, a passing lad asked if he could join the photo. We said yes, and then explained what we were doing, and asked if he wanted to sign the board, after clarifying that he didn’t have to pay for the privilege, he signed it “Happy Birthday Evo. Connor”. More on that later.

We made our way to Liverpool Street Station, and this was to prove the highpoint of the night. A Wetherspoons pub, full of pretty ladies, and cheap booze. My fave lass was stunning, a brunette, in a fantastic white dress, and she made her way down the stairs like Priscilla Presley in Naked Gun (without the falling down bit obviously). Another high point was as we stood and watched a bloke calmly walk into the women’s bog. Upon realising his error, he simply turned round, checked his look in the mirror and strolled out.

Upon getting to Kings Cross, our guide said to head to Platform 8 where the bar would be. Upon reaching said platform though, the big building site style fences didn’t look good. Determined though I just marched off down the platform. I very nearly plummeted off the end of it. I don’t know what the next station down the line is, but I reckon I would have reached it very quickly. I turned and headed back and the lads had asked someone who had confirmed that the bar was behind the fences. A sign said “We are renovating this 150 year old station for your benefit”. Great, it’s been there that long, and they mess around with it on the one year I visit.

Disappointed we headed back to the pub by our hotel. The plan to tick off 8 properties on the first night, had not occurred and with only 4 visited, we needed a big push on the Saturday.

The signatures have faded but the memories haven’t.

Saturday.

We sat outside a pub by our hotel with cans of pop and quickly planned our route for the morning. As we mulled, an elderly lady approached and asked “is that pub open?” When Alan responded in the negative she simply said “bastard”, putting full feeling into it. Alan could only respond with “it aint my fault”.

Euston Road was second on the agenda. John had announced in the week his intention to get his pants out by this road sign for a photo. He duly pulled his jeans down and stood there in his briefs for a picture, and nobody passing by batted an eyelid. Once John was zipped back up we hit the pub – The Rocket. The barmaid happily signed the board, and when getting outside Woza checked what she had put. “Oh, she’s put a kiss on the board. I’d rather she put it on my nob”. Said barmaid had decided to take a break and unbeknown to Woza, she was now sat on the bench right behind him.

The Angel in Islington is the only property on the board that is a building rather than a street. The building on Islington High Street is now a J D Wetherspoons and in there we met another crowd doing the crawl. Although they had had the smart idea of putting their Monopoly board in a carrier bag, something that simply had not occurred to me. We had a chat, but soon realised that they were only on their 4th property and were already a bit worse for wear. One of them asked if I was a foreigner. My dodgy accent has never been deemed foreign before so that was novel. A fine Wetherspoons meal of sausage, egg and beans later, and we were back on the tube.

I’m a bit of a London Underground geek and whenever I’m on it I always pretend to be in the Aqua “Turn Back Time” video and sing that song loudly on the escalators just to be a bit of a nob, and this time was to be no exception.

Next we hit the green set. This was to be the mistake that killed the challenge. We deviated off the official pub crawl route I’d printed off as my mate said we were “right by” Regent Street. Firstly Oxford Street. There is no pub on Oxford Street, so we had to use a pub within spitting distance of it. A quick thought. Oxford Street is so long, and there is not one pub. The town planners have some serious questions to answer over this balls up, I tell thee.

So we were outside the pub, I spotted a lass who was collecting for charity, but was having a break and was sat on the floor. I gave Woza my bottle and camera to hold and he read me like a book. “You’re gonna ask her to sign the board aint ya?”. I was. The chance to get another signature on the board, whilst having a flirt, and doing my bit for charity was too much of a win win situation to turn down. So I went over, and she was more than happy to sign in exchange for a donation. Upon asking who I wanted the message made out too, I said “Evo” and pointed at Connor’s message from the previous night, so she could spell it right. She read this and promptly made the message out to Evo Connor. The lads lapped this up, and I had a new nickname for the rest of the weekend.

Shortly after this in another pub, I went for a toilet – yeah so unlike me, and upon walking back up the stairs, a nice lady was waiting at the top, so being a gentleman, I stepped aside and gestured her down, and she proceeded. As she approached I took a step back to give her more room, totally forgetting that I was on a staircase. As I started to fall, I had to grab the banister to stop me plummeting. I could hear her laughing as she walked down the stairs. We didn’t swap numbers.

Due to going off route we spent a lot of time marauding round the green set looking for pubs rather than being guided straight to the front doors of the suggested ones on the official route. We realised that we were now not likely finish the challenge so we opted to nip back to the hotel to change and then just see how many properties we could visit. We decided to head for the bright lights of the yellow set to start the evening.

In TGI Fridays on Coventry Street Woza noticed actual Aaron Lennon and Tom Huddlestone off of Spurs, across the room. So we headed over to ask them to sign the board which they happily did. It was a good job he saw them as my knowledge of Premier League football is minimal and I’ve have probably just walked past them. Two decent lads though and I was chuffed they stopped their chats to sign the board.

The staff in TGI’s were very friendly and more than happy to sign the Coventry Street square, and the one lass was so impressed with what we were doing, she decided she was going to do it with her boyfriend for his birthday. She was more than happy to pose for a photo too, so it was all good. A really good visit.

TGI Coventry Street.

As we admired Eros, at Piccadilly Circus, we saw a lass with a “I love the Monopoly pub crawl” t-shirt on, thinking she would be more than happy to give us an autograph, we hung around till she had finished her phone call. However we quickly clocked that she was American, very very drunk, and separated from her friends. In a bid to help them figure where she was, she advised that she was “by some big flashing lights, and a statue”. They knew where she meant though and found her while we were pondering our options. We moved on happy that she was okay.

The evening ended with a bit of frustration on the Bakerloo Line. We had our longest wait of the weekend and then when the train turned up, it got rammed straight away, and chugged along slowly until 2 stops from home where it ground to a halt. As about 15 mins passed without movement, and serious drinking time being wasted, along with temperatures rising on the train, the rest of the lads who were standing by the doors announced we were going to give it neck and grab a cab. Me however, sitting down in the carriage, had other things on my mind. I’d opened an albeit small amount of dialogue with a French lass opposite “je m’appelle Evo Boozy Saddler j’adore Walsall FC” – not sure how much she understood. Also the lady next to me had just removed her jumper, unfortunately flashing her white bra to everyone in the process, but just as I was wondering if I’d learned to say “do you fancy a kebab?” in French at school I was summonsed by the rest of the lads to grab a taxi. We took no more than two steps on the platform and the train doors shut and off it went. Arse. However, we saw that another was due in 1 minute, and it turned up bang on time. And then it sat there for about 10 mins. Double arse.

Sunday.

Sunday was a far more gentle day, which probably wasn’t a bad thing after I had slept on the floor, with just a towel for a blanket. (We opened a cupboard before departing and it was rammed full of blankets. Triple arse) With the challenge looking more than lost, we just sped round and ticked off Northumberland Avenue (The Sherlock Holmes), and Strand (a pub called The Coal Hole just had to be done as I’m childish and I liked the name), before hitting the tube to tick off Leicester Square.

With time against us, we played it safe and opted to just sup by the coach station. We still managed two more pubs, and a chip shop before getting to the coach with minutes to spare. The return journey was far more subdued than the one going down, Alan and John slept the whole way back, and didn’t have to cringe once.

A fine weekend, and I’ll remember it forever. We visited 18 of the 26 properties. But to finish with a Terminator style message for all in London, “we’ll be back”.

May The 3rd Be With You.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle at £4 An Hour.
So London has Boris Bikes and this week the same kind of concept has arrived in Walsall to much excitement, bewilderment or piss taking depending on your perspective. I’m all in favour of this and despite the fact that I am no Victoria Pendleton I wouldn’t mind having a whirl on one of these. Somebody however pointed out that after the unlocking fee, it works out at about £4 an hour to hire them. Still, I was please to see someone cycling around town on Friday on one of these. Less so when he nearly took me out though. Launched by West Midlands Trains, I bet the bikes did a roaring trade on Saturday when the rail line through Walsall was blocked by a broken down train at Bloxwich. Now how did the Queen song go? I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride to Bloxwich. I’ve got an hour’s budget so better get a wriggle on.


One Would Love A Pint Of Saddlers.
I saw this week that The Queen has launched two beers from crops grown at Sandringham. Golden IPA and Sandringham Best Bitter are brewed by Barsham Brewery in Norfolk. I urge you all to buy these as this year I am determined to finally visit Buckingham Palace. If sales have been good of these I could have a word with our beloved Monarch and tell her ale is the future and there is a wonderful brewery in Walsall that she could buy. Imagine that, Highgate Fox’s Nob by Royal Appointment. I used to work the Highgate Brewery tours so would be honoured to show Elizabeth around the place next time she is in town to pick up a handbag.


Hamburglar Is Back – He’s Lovin It.
Another story that caught my eye this week is one about a man being jailed for taking a replica gun into a McDonalds to demand cash and chicken nuggets. Unfortunately he was early and they were still serving breakfasts so he opted for a double sausage muffin instead. Have there been any other robberies where the demand has had to be changed? The article didn’t specify if he had to go outside and write a new note or if it was all done verbally. It did get me wondering though had he got his timings right why not a Big Mac or 5 chicken selects, with fries and large vanilla milkshake (which is a divine meal but I only have during McDonalds Monopoly as this combo affords you 9 stickers – 3 of which are usually Park Lane).

Then it struck me. If he only wanted 6 nuggets, these are shocking value compared to the 9 pack. I’ve only been to the new McDonalds on the outskirts of Walsall once, and that night I was trying to be good both financially and calorific so I opted for the 6 nuggets, plus the fact that I don’t like odd numbers also came into play. Unfortunately there was a delay on my order which gave me time to read the menu and prices. I can’t quite remember the details but everyone in the office got a 5 minute tirade about it the following morning. So yeah, 6 nuggets is shit value but don’t take a replica gun with you when you fancy some.


What Did You Expect From The Vaccine?
So on Friday I joined the millions who have got the first jab. The vaccination site is situated in a former store in Walsall’s Saddlers Centre. I’d only gone into get a pack of socks and an Oxo Cube holder (I’ve always wanted one of those despite never using said granulated stock geometric shape). The place was doing a roaring trade for 5.45 on a Friday afternoon, possibly even better than the former store did. It was fast, efficient and friendly. Well done to all the staff and volunteers. Funnily enough, last time I was in that store a fellow customer was being a complete prick, and this time I encountered a prick of a different sort. I then when home and listened to What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? The debut album from my current favourite band. Good start to the weekend.

Unlucky 13 For Guinness.
So I heard this week that Guinness is to stop selling it’s Hop House 13 lager in the UK. I’d never tried it so nipped out to grab a bottle and found a special offer so I dived in. 3 bottles for a fiver and the contents were over a pint which was good, especially as some of it ended up over the work surface upon my shocking attempt to pour. It was nice, and it’s bad news for some of my friends who I know love it. I still have my Enigma glass from the 90’s when Guinness last attempted to produce lager. So I now have drunk much more Guinness lager than the dark stuff of which I have only ever had one pint. So yeah, I need to sort my life out.

Two generations of Guinness lager saying hello.


Good Pub News.
So the White Lion in Caldmore which has been closed since around Autumn 2019 looks as if it’s reopening. Scaffolding has gone up around it and people have been marvelling at its erection as it was really thought we’d lost this place. I can’t wait to sit in the back room with a pint of ale and a quid in the jukebox.

Let’s Go Outside

The pubs are open. Well the outsides, toilets and the bar are but it’s a start. I said I’d be good and not go until the Friday. I stuck to my word despite having two invites on Monday within minutes of each other and another for Thursday so as you can bet by Friday I was gasping for a pint. A pint or two of real ale. Lock down one I didn’t have any alcohol for the whole duration but that’s not been the case since November, and I’ve downed gallons of cider in that time. I’m not one for drinking lager out of a can, and I can pull a perfect pint of ale in a pub but try and pour it out of a bottle into a glass and it’s so flat that even The Netherlands is giving envious glances.


Fortunately work was stupidly busy on Friday so the day flew by and soon it was clocking off time. I had the George Michael song “Outside” in my head as I walked in Bilston but when Mr Michael wrote it I don’t think he was on about the ballache of just trying to get a pint in a public house nowadays.


So I met up with a former workmate Andrew and we jumped in a taxi and soon were heading into The Wheatsheaf with my former housemate Comedy Dave. I got flustered/overcome with excitement just at signing in putting my name where the date should have gone then having to scribble things out and making my entry look like a 5 year old’s first attempt at drawing. But, there was room at the inn, or outside of it. A bench which seated 3 and we darted to it. My Castle Rock “Harvest Pale” soon arrived and disappeared even quicker. Nods and greetings were exchanged with other regulars, then a table became available which we jumped on, and were treated to occasional company from an extremely laid back dog. A pint of Wainwrights followed then it was moving on time.

The first pint.


There was no queue outside the Walsall Arms which was a relief as I thought this was the place we might struggle to get in. But there was actually a couple of tables available so all was good, as was the Wye Valley HPA.

Drinking HPA here. I’m H A P P Y as the song goes.


After two pints we headed to The Lyndon House. The place has got the most picturesque beer garden in Walsall, tucked away at the rear of the pub hence my calling it The Secret Garden but it sadly has now been mostly encased in a tent. I ordered Enville White and raised the glass in tribute to Ken Towe who owned the pub until his sad passing in December.

Some flowers are still visible at The Lyndon.


With the sun now very much clocked off for the day and headed no doubt to a pub itself the temperature was dropping so it was nice that in here blankets and throws had been provided. We took full advantage as did mates Josh and Mitchel who joined us for a pint. The music was good too as we were treated to one of the best songs of 1989 “Numero Uno” by Starlight.

The pilot episode of Last Of The Summer Wine – The Next Generation went down an absolute storm.


Our last port of call for the night was Black Country Arms. This place has won the Walsall CAMRA Pub Of The Year so many times that I’ve suggested they take on the building next door to make room for all of the certificates. If you don’t know this place they have 20 draught beers on, the names and style of which are displayed on screens throughout the building. The screens list 10 beers at a time, and the pages change frequently so you get to see all 20 and I love this as it makes me think I’m choosing my beer via Ceefax.


There are no screens outside though so I was wondering how we would glean this information without them. Apparently there is an app that you can install which will tell you all of this, but I’m not really down with apps. I’ve just about got Twitter on my phone and that will do. I was hoping that the staff would recite all the beers backwards from number 20 to 1 whilst everyone hummed the Pick Of The Pops theme tune. “At number 3 it’s quite lidderally Salopian Brewery with their smash hit “Lemon Dream”. Turned out that there were pieces of paper on the benches with the beers on as well, perfect for us technophobes.


The beer was in excellent nick and it was a pleasant visit, sat out back in what was the car park. At 10pm we revelled in the fact that we were at a pub and that ridiculous curfew was a thing of the past. By 10.01 though we were like “it’s really cold” so we called it a night but what a great first evening.

Saturday.


The plan for Saturday was meet friends in Black Country Arms and stay for a couple of hours then do a few more pubs for “blog research”. Those couple of hours turned into about 5. It was such a class afternoon with really good friends. Talking Walsall FC, raising a glass to Prince Phillip, and celebrating that HMS We Are Staying Up is ready to set sail (although that defeat at Colchester might have stalled the champagne bottle being smashed against her).


The beer again was ace. I had brews from Salopian, Bewdley Brewery and the final was a Titanic Raspberry Pale which I’d not had before which was ace and not the kind you’d find in a second hand store. Snacks were good too. The obligatory black pudding, cheese and onion cob was epic and Mase crashed the pork scratchings too. Sitting in the sun, supping ale and eating scratchings was just perfect. Like that scene in Shawshank Redemption when they drink beer on the prison roof. All we need now is to be let back in Bescot Stadium again and have some of those Walsall FC scratchings then we know all is good in the world again.


Upon leaving the BCA I planned to pop to The Pretty Bricks but there was no bus due and with the combination of weak bladder and 5 hours of ale I didn’t fancy walking so I popped to Bar 10 (formerly The Wharf Bar) as this now has new people running it so needed to be re-ticked. No queue to get in and I was quickly given a table. Within a couple of minutes though there were people waiting and conscious that I was occupying a table for 4, I quickly necked my pint and vacated. On the way out I heard my name called and saw friends Paul and Nigel who I’ve not seen for a very a long time. Another good Walsall FC chat ensued which went on much longer than the time it took to polish off my drink. I had a quick toilet visit and saw the angriest do not use sign on the hand dryer, and as I’m a good boy I didn’t.

Red ink, capital letters. Perfect.


I tried to get in The Registry as a mate was in there but I was turned away due to lack of space, St Matthews Hall and The Watering Trough both had queues so I carried on and headed to The Walsall Arms. I timed this arrival perfectly as the landlady Jaz was just doing the rounds with some free nibbles “to warm people up”. These were very much appreciated, and washed down with another HPA.


And with that I called it a night. Two superb occasions, and seeing really good people. A big thank you to all the pub staff and licencees who have all performed superbly in bizarre and challenging conditions. It’s good to be back.

Want A Blog With That Chocolate?

Blog time again. It was going to be another pub edition but I earmarked Tuesday evening as the night for writing it. Unfortunately this was also the same evening as I did my monthly Tesco shop, and boosted by a double reward points coupon I went a bit crazy. Upon getting home and embarking upon a near 40 minute game of Freezer Tetris, trying to get everything to fit, then cooking and eating, it was nearly 8.40 before I got the chance to think about writing, and by that juncture the ship hadn’t just sailed but been given a Norse Burial. So you’ve got a Sunday afternoon penned, chocolate distracted look back at the week.


Friends, Gardens, Beers.
How good has this first stage of lockdown restriction lifting been? Hope you’ve all had chance to have a catch up or two this week. My mate Josh certainly wasn’t messing around, inviting me for food and beer on the first evening. A few cans of dark fruit and a spicy chicken pasta bake were on the agenda, the latter being that good I devoured it in seconds. I must have looked like I hadn’t eaten for days. I was offered more which I accepted without hesitation. The last show I saw before lockdown was Oliver but I didn’t think I’d be reprising the part of the lead role so soon afterwards.


On Saturday I was invited to a first visit to the the new home of mates Mase and Beth. Again cider was on the agenda, accompanied by a bbq which was epic. As darkness landed and temperatures dropped Mase set up the fire pit which was ace. I’ve not sat round a fire pit with friends before so this was a class night, and to top things off, I got the first flush of the toilet after a leak which had robbed a large area of their water supply for about 6 hours. I’ve suggested a blue plaque be erected in honour of this. Anyway, it was ace to see some friends again this week after about 5 months. Now for more good times when the pubs re-open.

I’m a fire and I’ll burn burn burn tonight, to quote Biffy Clyro.


Must Repent, I Kinda Failed Lent.
So I gave up sweets, chocolate, crisps, chip shops and scratchcards for Lent, and by and large I succeeded but there were a couple of hiccups on the chocolate front. Firstly I had a yogurt which I didn’t realise had chocolate sprinkles in. An oversight. I can cope with that. Then one day I saw on Facebook that Morrisons were doing chocolate orange doughnuts. I went straight from work.Willpower is one of my very few strong attributes but it just didn’t cross my mind that I’d given up chocolate. I grabbed said doughnuts, and headed home. Opened the front door and I think I’d wolfed down 2 before I even got through the porch. They were good though. If you’re going to fail you may as well go for it in a big way so I went back the following week for more. Sorry God.

Yeah, cheers Mozzas. Now God is displeased and that’s just what we need at the moment.


Drama By The M6.
Did you see the explosion in the house by the M6? Bit dramatic eh? Especially for the passing car. Thankfully everyone was okay, two people went to hospital but weren’t badly injured which is good. We heard about it on the bus. The driver got out of his cab, said what had happened and warned us of the diversion we would be taking as we were due to pass the site. The explosion had happened only 20 minutes earlier. A couple of people weren’t happy so this was greeted with some tuts and shakes of the head. I don’t know if I’ve watched Airplane too many times but I always expect any announcement on public transport to be met with everyone fighting. Had this happened I’d have been straight over to flatten the bloke who pushes in to get on the bus before me each morning.


5K to No K.
I saw a story this week about a lady who ordered two bottles of perfume but instead got delivered a box of £5000 worth of lottery scratchcards instead. She must have also given these up for Lent as she phoned up Camelot and told them what had happened. They advised her where they should have gone, so she took them round and got no reward. It got me thinking about what would have happened if this had happened to a Walsall bar toilet attendant instead of this lady. Retro would have been full of ladies scratching away furiously at cardboard as opposed to coming back from a piss smelling of Paco Rabanne Lady Million Eau de Parfum for her (yes I had to Google that).


Blackpool Will No Longer Be Lapland?
Something else I saw this week is that Blackpool is going to phase out it’s lap dancing clubs by not renewing licences when they expire. Now I’m not a regular lapper, I’d be crap in Formula 1, but my first taste of this kind of venue was in Blackpool which must have been 25 years ago. I enjoyed the visit but I must point out that I was a good boy and didn’t have a dance that night. Two main reasons. (1) I was short on cash. Much like nowadays but with better music in the charts, and (2) I preferred the glass collector to the dancers, and with a minibus of very thirsty Walsall FC fans in the house she had her work cut and didn’t have time to dance.

That’s it for this edition. One week till the pubs open. We can do this. Stay say folks.

Lost Pubs. Thoughts & Anecdotes.

We’ve lost some pubs over the years, some inevitably, most needlessly and some grudgingly understandably. Some have gone for good, but I can hope that one or two might reopen one day. Here I look back at some of them.

The Stag – Bloxwich.
This pub earns the maximum 5 bulldozers out of 5 on the needlessly flattened scale. What a place it was too, serving Highgate beers with very friendly staff and customers too. My main memory of this was a gentlemen’s evening that me and a great mate Mark went to. A couple of ladies put on a show then came round to interact on a more personal level with some of the punters. One came to me. She held my hands out, covered them in cream and moved them towards her breasts. God, I called them breasts. I must be growing up. Just as my hands were about to make contact she pushed them back and slapped them around my head. Now I like cream on lemon drizzle cake, in my stomach, not in my ears without it. Everyone cheered and I laughed it off. No point being a dick in these situations. I don’t think she meant to embarrass me. She probably thought “in 20 years time this bloke might have an online blog and be struggling for material due to pubs being scapegoated in a pandemic. I’ll give him something to write about”. At the end the two ladies came round with pint glasses for tips. The one said “you have to pay double, you got cream”. She got a quid.

The Brewery Stores – Walsall.
Another great place and I was a regular in here during the late 90’s when it was also a Highgate pub. The Saddlers Bitter in here was simply divine and like it had been poured by God himself, though I’m not sure why Ray Graydon (legendary ex Walsall FC manager) would have been serving drinks in there. It’s still up for sale and someone I know had a viewing and said it could reopen as a pub tomorrow. We remain in hope.

The Brewery Stores, in it;s final guise of Market Tavern.

The Imperial.
Our former Wetherspoons which when opened contained an array of dinosaurs, including Dinky, a massive Diplodocus (I think) which took pride of place in the middle of the floor. My favourite memory of this pub hails from 1999 when Walsall FC got promoted ahead of big spending teams like Manchester City, after starting the season as favourites for relegation. During the promotion celebrations Phil a friend of mine decided to climb up onto Dinky to put a Walsall scarf round his neck. One of the barmaids was horrified, told him to get down and ran off to the fetch the manageress when he didn’t. She just laughed and told him to carry on. Sadly Dinky didn’t survive a refurbishment, but that memory will stay with me forever.

Dinky Is A Saddler. Big thanks to Addie Burns for the picture.

Hatherton Arms.
Great pub and another sad loss. Just outside of the town centre but with a real back street feel. The anecdote for this place is from when a pretty barmaid decided that she wanted a threesome with me and one of my best friends Woza. Unfortunately rather than ask us outright, she sought out her fellow barmaid as to whether it might happen. Unfortunately said barmaid was Woza’s then missus who promptly told her it wasn’t happening. She left shortly afterwards and I didn’t find this out until after she had gone. Shame she didn’t think that just myself and her could have given it a try. The wine would have gone further at least.

The Prince.
Some good times in here. Another pub on the hope to reopen list but on our last visit it was just myself, Mase and Swill in there along with the barman who didn’t seem that bothered if we were in there or not. I think I’ve only fallen asleep in pubs three times. Once in Ramsgate and twice in here so it has that bit of history and I’d love the chance to complete the hat-trick.

The pub formerly known as The Prince. R rate is 1. Not good.

Chicago Rock Cafe.
We used to go in here every Wednesday back in my drinking days when Wednesday evening would be the start of the weekend in my eyes. I have nothing but disdain for television talent shows but one night there was some kind of event like this going on so we stopped to watch. It was hosted by then BRMB DJ Rick Vaughan which as a radio geek excited me greatly ( I even tuned into his show a couple of times afterwards which was a big thing for me as I was strictly rival station Beacon growing up). After a few weeks Rick announced that as we were there every week, we were going to be the judges that night (which we knew nothing about) and that we would get a free pint for doing it. I always find booze to be a good incentive for doing things. It was great fun deciding who went through and he let us do it again the following week, although this time we had to argue with the barman for our free pint. And the good thing is, if I ever get to meet Amanda Holden, I now have an angle with which to break the ice with this fellow talent show judge.

They had live events in Chicagos too. Bad Manners came one night which was an amazing experience but a slightly odder one was a Girls Aloud tribute act. I’d made an effort and put on a decent shirt along with aftershave just in case I bumped into “Cheryl” at some point. But when they walked out there was only four them and we couldn’t work out who was who. So we finished our drinks and left.

The Black Swan.
Again, a superb pub needlessly converted into a trendy bar and didn’t last long after that. Epic nights in here including a 35ish person strong conga after we beat Colombia in 1998, which did a couple of circuits of the pub before venturing outside then someone remembered there were drinks to be finished inside and it quickly disbanded.

Mase and I have made a pact that one when one of us wins the lottery we are going to open a Walsall FC themed pub in town called Fellows Park Tavern (named after our beloved football teams former and much better ground). The Black Swan is my preferred place for this to happen. Right, I’m off to get my lucky dip for Wednesday’s draw.

Fellows Park Tavern, nee The Black Swan.

The Park Tavern.
What a place. Unfortunately it was on a large plot of land in a very desirable location so it never stood a chance and is now in pub heaven replaced by apartments.
Oddest memory of this place was going there for an England match and nipping up the bar just before half time. Barmaid took my order and wandered off, presumably to fill a couple of glasses I naively thought. After 5 minutes there was no sign of her and after a few more passed she finally emerged out of the kitchen carrying plates of food which she took off to the other side of the pub. Woza, who had opted to drive that night (you should never drive on international duty) said “come on geez, let’s go where we can get served”. So he took us to The Myvod in Wednesbury where we got served straight away. England ran riot in the second half, I chucked booze down me, he had a coke and dropped me off home. All turned out well in the end.

The Stein Bar.
Still standing, and after lying dormant for a while this is now apparently available to hire for private functions. We went one night to see a mates band playing. Got there early, paid in, hand stamped etc etc but after getting a drink it turned out it was going to be another hour before the music started so we opted to pop to the BCA for a quick couple. Upon returning the bouncers had clocked on and they refused us entry due to me having a Walsall FC polo shirt on. We explained that we’d already been in, paid, showed hand stamps but they were having none of it. We continued to argue and the bouncer had had enough and said I could go in, turn my top inside out in the toilets and then I could stay. So I took my top off there and then, in the very pleasant surroundings of the Stein Bar outside drinking area. The bouncer probably hadn’t banked on seeing a fat blokes moobs that night but he got the full eye full. And it was a great gig.


Right, I’ve taken up enough of your Sunday. I could write for hours about this (and sadly there a more lost pubs to provide the material). Thanks for reading and have a good day.