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 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?

You Should Go To Walsall Wood.

A few weeks ago myself and a mate were going to do a Walsall Wood pub crawl but he cancelled so we said we’d do it in January. Then I saw on the Brownhills Bob Facebook page that The Black Cock Inn was closing for good on the 2nd of January. This bought a new sense of urgency to the mission so I mentioned it to another mate Sean and within 3 days we were jumping on the number 10 bus.

Walsall Wood is pretty much a straight road from Walsall Town Centre, the Romans must be very impressed and it’s about 15 minutes on the bus.
Sean had sorted out the route and times of pub openings, but I have been stung by the latter on Google before and as we we entered The Royal Exchange we were the first customers but glad it was open at just 20 minutes past midday on a Thursday afternoon.

The jukebox was off and the pub was very quiet but then my mate Madels turned up and his manic laugh broke the silence. We had a very pleasant pint in here and a good chat but then the jukebox kicked into life and it played UB40 so we moved on. Before we departed there was a toilet visit. Sean and I approached the hand driers at the same time and his kicked into life as mine remained dormant. After he walked away I realised I was trying to dry my hands beneath a paper towel dispenser. I must check if I still qualify for free eye tests when I’m back at work.

Next up was the Brickmakers Arms. I’m not sure if they were doing their bit for the planet but none of the main lights were on. The only sources of light came from festive ones running around the place, sporadic lamps and the spotlights embedded in the top of the bar. There were a few folk in along with one or two dogs (I couldn’t quite work out if it was the same dog or not but it did seem to be getting round the pub very quickly so it may been two of them). There were a few folk in and and a good atmosphere.

Pub 3 was The Drunken Duck. This is my favourite and most visited pub in the area, it’s always been a cracking time. We were letting fellow blogger Chris and his wife Mary. A great couple and Chris has really helped get my blog out to a wider and I’ll always be appreciative for that. His blog can be found here

The Drunken Duck. Always a joy to visit.

The car park was rammed, so it was no surprise to see the pub was busy inside. On a previous visit in 2015 with @blackpooljane, we walked unexpectedly into a full on Sunday afternoon rave complete with a smoke machine, lasers. l half expected Jane to walk straight back out but she loved it and it was her idea to break pub challenge rules and stay for a second drink. The free sausages and fire alarm going off added to that occasion but this visit was more low key but still enjoyable.

A sign in The Duck That I can certainly get on board with.

It was Black Cock time. Unfortunately the door was closed, a chain across the car park entrance didn’t offer much hope, but through a slightly open curtain we could see the drink signs still illuminated so we hoped it might be opening later on (it was still only 3.20pm).

We decided to head to The Horse & Jockey.
This had been planned as just a quick pint and move on kind of visit as to me it is a very foody pub and not quite my scene but when we walked in it was mostly people drinking and chatting. A good start.

The card machine was playing up so as Sean tried to pay for the round, I had a little mooch round. It’s certainly different to how I remember it. The decor is good and there is both Walsall Football and Rugby Clubs are represented. There was also a poster claiming that Christmas starts on November 22nd. Hmmm. Not for me. I get into the Christmas spirit around the 23rd of December and not a minute before. My big money making idea for this Christmas is Advent Calendars with just 2 or 3 doors on for miserable sods like me.

No it doesn’t.

Anyway we found a table next to a family who were the only ones dining in the building. I told Sean an anecdote about a time about 10 years ago that Madels and myself made a pact that we would finish work and head straight to The Wharf Bar for outside drinks. We got there and it was tipping down, but stuck to our plan as it was what we’d agreed.

As I finished this tale the lady on the next table mentioned that her daughter had asked if we were The 3 Wise Men but having heard about us sitting in the rain drinking she’d had to conclude that we were not wise men (bit harsh that Sean got tarred with this same brush). My mind immediately flashed to a 90’s copy of Viz in which Roger Irrelevant was playing one of the Wise Men in a Nativity but turned up with a roll of lino instead of Myrrh. I do have a roll of lino that I bought in 2019 for my kitchen that I haven’t laid yet so I could have pulled this off, and anyone who knows would say I’m more Roger Irrelevant than Wise Man so it would have been good.

Anyway we had a laugh at her comment and a nice chat and then her partner returned to the table and said he recognised me from Walsall FC matches years ago so it was a nice interlude. A really good visit.

Then it was Boatmans Rest. Good to see this open as it was earmarked for demolition a few years ago but the plans were turned down. It’s now a Desi pub and this was confirmed as soon as we opened the car door as the amazing smell emanating from the place hit me straight away. My nose was in the air like a 1980’s Bisto advert.

There is a plaque by the front door with an emergency contact number. I made a note of it for future reference. “Hello, I know it’s 4am and you’re closed but this is an emergency. I need a pint and some chicken wings please”. We headed inside. It’s very smartly decked out and the roaring fire was very welcoming.

We 3 Kings followed yonder star to The Boatmans Rest.

Sean tried to call The Black Cock as it was now after 4 but the number was unavailable. A gent on the next table heard our conversation and gave the grave news that it had already closed down. Sad to lose such a great iconic pub.

Me and my polystyrene parrot Carl outside the Black Cock in 2015, which would turn out to be my final visit.

After a few more silly discussions we bid Madels farewell. Sean and I decided to have one more pint before the bus and as English Cricket fans we thought The Duck was topical so we headed back there. It was still very busy but now there were free mince pies and a kind of Ferrero Rocher selection box on the bar. Nobody had touched them. I find mince pies evil but I happily grabbed a chocolate. Ambassador you are spoiling us and all that.

We grabbed a table and had a another pleasant pint. I like all kind of pubs but this place is very much a me pub. I’d use it all the time if I lived nearer but I have promised Chris and Mary another and hopefully longer visit soon.

We were still in a topical mood and with the PDSA darts on at the moment we opted for the 5.01pm bus back. We had a visit to The Tap & Tanner to round off a splendid day.

Last pic and pint of the day with Sean in The Ta[ & Tanner.

Walsall Wood, I’ll be back.

Spending A Fortune To Save A Fiver.

*Written in 2019*.

As a CAMRA member you get 50p off a pint vouchers for Wetherspoons pubs. I don’t use them very often, and they used to come in blocks of £5 worth that you had to use in 3 months. For once I opted to try and use all 10. To make things interesting I decided to use them in pubs that I’d not visited previously. Not easy as during the course of 3 pub challenges I’d visited over 1100 pubs ticking off most of the easily accessible Wetherspoons around the West Midlands. I like exploring though so off we went.

The old style CAMRA vouchers.

1. The Pear Tree – Kings Heath.

It was St George’s Day, so I was off work as per normal. By a bizarre twist it was also National Asparagus Day. Daz and I jumped on the excellent no 50 bus service from Moor Street and were soon in Kings Heath. I’d done some research but not where to get off. So we alighted and ambled down the main street only to discover a stop right outside the pub. Had we stayed on the driver could only have got us closer had he drove into the building and ordered us a pint.

The pub was busy for a Tuesday afternoon, there was red and white bunting all over the place which I assumed was for St George’s Day. Turns out it was advertising pizzas. We approached the bar and I was expecting a plethora of asparagus ales but alas no. I opted for a Slater’s Pale which was in good nick.

The pub was smart, we sat by the impressive fire pit and enjoyed our visit.

2. Elizabeth Of York – Moseley.

It was still St George’s Day and the 50 bus back into Birmingham was passing another Wetherspoons. We dived in. This one was also adorned with non St George’s Day bunting. As mentioned in the last edition, when I see Walsall ale outside of our fine borough I have to have it. This time it was Backyard’s Hoard. Also on good form. We sat by a very futuristic looking fire. I went upstairs to explore. The toilets are on the second floor by the stairs up to another level. I wanted to continue to the summit but a couple sat up there eyed me with suspicion so I ran off back to my pint. Another good pub.

3. The Wallace Hartley – Colne, Lancashire.

Named after the band member on the Titanic who kept playing as the ship sank, who hailed from the town. I expected it to be wall to wall Titanic beers in lieu of this but there wasn’t a single one. Instead I had a Worsthorne “Blonde Violin”. It’s a Smart pub with oak panelling and shiny black tiles. Lots of people were indulging in the Tuesday steak offer. I enjoyed my pint and catch up with a great friend who hails from that part of the world, Sarah the lovely lady who introduced me to the concept of visiting pubs as part of a challenge. I have much to thank her for.

4. The Pump House – Shirley.

My journey from Colne to Walsall went via Solihull. Directions have never been my strong point. Upon leaving Solihull station I spotted a taxi, and knowing that another Wetherspoons was lurking just two miles away it had to be done. I asked the driver “can you take me to The Pump House, Shirley?” “Yes”, came the response “and don’t call me Shirley”. Sadly, he didn’t actually say that. I put that in to keep you interested. The pub was very smart and arty with a big enclosed fire pit in the

middle. I had the Sihil “Blonde Star” which was on offer at £1.49, down to 99p with the voucher. I’d met my mate Dave in Birmingham who was wearing a mildly offensive t-shirt which nearly caused the glass collector to drop her load as she read it. Cracking pub. I liked it a lot.

5. The White Swan – Solihull.

Another smart Spoons. “Blonde Star” appeared to be the beer of the day so I had it again, although not on offer this time. Dave’s t-shirt was received better in here with the barmaid laughing her head off at it. We opted to soak up some sun and sat outside. Another pleasant visit.

6. The Butler’s Bell – Stafford.

There is a tradition in my family that dates back centuries which states on payday you must go to the pub. Payday in May saw me in no mood to break this cycle so straight from work via the metro and train I headed to Stafford. This town currently boasts two Wetherspoons so naturally I opted for the one that was included in the 16 put up for sale by the company in March. On entry the ales were listed on a board which at the bottom had a little poignant message saying “To our lovely customers, thank you for everything” furnished with a little heart. A nice touch.

I was served by a friendly barmaid who apologised for the delay even though I hadn’t been waiting long. As I was in Stafford I opted for a Slater’s ale. This one called Refresher which I hadn’t seen before. It was very good. I was ravenous so opted for the Tuesday steak deal – large of course, which arrived in no time and I had another Refresher to act as a chaser.

Smart pub, some of the booths had bars round them, no doubt as a nod to the nearby prison but they looked cool. The whole place had a really good feel. Lots of decorations around. A large, wide floor to ceiling case full of ladies shoes in the colour white really caught my eye.

I really enjoyed my visit here. The other Wetherspoons in town must be outstanding if this is the one to be axed.

7. The Lord Keeper Of The Great Seal – Oadby.

When I decided to do this article I Googled Wetherspoons pubs within 50 miles and right on the cusp was this place. When I saw the name it had to be done. So on a gloomy and damp June morning, when the trains in Walsall were not behaving I set off. Upon eventually leaving good ole DH the journey went smoothly and I arrived in Leicestershire wet but on time.

There is a sizable family area to the right, so I opted to sit on the other side of the pub. There was a cider named after one of my favourite singers Katy Perry so I opted for that even though 5.5% is quite lively for the first pint of the day. No trek upstairs for the loo here either, it’s a gentle downward slope.

Nice visit this one but with having to bus back into Leicester I made it a brief one. As I was finishing Katy off a barmaid put down a fish Friday leaflet on my table to try and entice me to stay, but the bus was calling so off I went.

8. The Last Plantagenet – Leicester.

There were 3 options available in Leicester for a visit so again like Stafford I opted for the one that was put up for sale in March. I was peckish upon arrival and with fish Friday still in my mind from Oadby I had it here along with a Gordon’s gin. The cod was massive and the gin was pleasant. All for about £7.20. Result. I still had the voucher lurking in my wallet so I went for an Oakham Citra. It was back to heading upstairs again for the loo but I figured I’d got some calories to burn off after the fish. Another pleasant visit with lots of Friday afternoon drinkers also enjoying themselves.

9. George Hotel – Bewdley.

Named after our patron saint and his picture adorns the sign outside. We initially struggled to work out how to get in. Glancing up a side alley, then working out the entrance is through what looks like a shop front next door. Enville White was the beer of choice here. My friends Matt and Ben hadn’t eaten so we opted to indulge in the 3 small plates for £10.25 between us. A small pizza was an option and I’d been wanting to try one since Kings Heath so opted for pepperoni. Matt tried to order on the app but gave up citing it was a ball ache. The barmaid had already said that Bewdley “didn’t really do wi-fi” so off he went to the bar to order. The traditional way. I approved.

We sat in a conservatory style extension and whilst doing so the sun finally decided to put his hat on. Hip hip hip and numerous hoorays. It suddenly became red hot. We didn’t mind. It was a Monday afternoon and we were all off work. The food arrived quickly. The pizza was unsliced so it took me longer to work out how to eat it than to actually do so but it was really good.

I didn’t get to explore this place as much as usual due to the distractions of ale, food and good conversation but it was still an enjoyable visit, rounded off nicely by Ben getting up out of his chair and walking into a drain pipe.

10 – The Britannia – Blackheath.

This one nearly didn’t happen. Another straight from work payday jobbie but I was lured into The Wellington in Birmingham en route by a colleague and after a few pints in there I just wanted to get back to Walsall to resume supping but with just two days left to use my final voucher if I didn’t do it that day then it wasn’t happening.

This place is unusual for Wetherspoons in that it was already a pub when being added to Tim’s empire. Good friendly place too. Three blokes all said “alright” to me as they left the toilet when I paused to let them pass. Backyard Hoard was again the ale of choice. Whilst mooching around I saw a side door, with a bus stop in sight and in view was a bus with one of my favourite words “Walsall” on it. I hadn’t been feeling the walk back to the train station, so I asked two gents to watch my pint and nipped out. Another bus back to the promised land was in 9 minutes. Perfect. I necked my pint, said and received back cheerful goodbyes from my beer minders and jumped on the next bus. I liked this one so much I went again the following week for a proper visit.

So that’s it. Lots of new pubs visited whilst doing this, all vouchers used, a fiver saved on beer costs and good times enjoyed. I still haven’t had any asparagus though.

I Love It When A Pub Needs A Revisit.

I have two main reasons for re-ticking pubs. If it’s had a name change or gone through a major refurb. Some folk re-tick a pub if it has new gaffers but I’m less arsed by that, plus I have enough contacts who let me know if a pub goes downhill after a change of hands. So here’s some words of pubs that I have re-ticked of late.

The Bulls Head, 38 Bishopsgate Street, Birmingham.
So I visited this pub with Madels as since my previous visit in 2010 on Pub 365 Challenge (volume 1) it had changed from the Highgate Brewery operated “City Tavern” to the Davenports “Bulls Head”.

This a bit of a walk from New Street Station but well worth it. The staff were all decked out in Peaky Blinders attire, but as I’ve not seen said programme this was wasted on me. If they’d been dressed as Early Doors characters I’d have been all over it.

There were candles all round the place but none of them were lit which was a shame as it would have bought a bit of a Boyzone “Love Me For A Reason” video feel to the proceedings. We used to have Friends Of Highgate Brewery socials in the room upstairs back in the day and I’d do a short quiz. This didn’t happen this time so at least I was spared being asked “what’s with all these shit questions?” like during our final gathering there after I’d posed “which motorway forms a ring road around Manchester?”

The beer was good, pub busy for a midweek afternoon, good atmosphere and a really good visit.

The Glassy Junction, 131 Willenhall Road, Wolverhampton.
Another midweek afternoon visit, this time with Dave. Again another visit for the first time since Pub Challenge 1 when the pub was known as The Malt Shovel. My notes for that visit was I got a smile from the barmaid (this doesn’t happen often hence it getting minuted) and the pool table taking up too much room in the small front room. Thankfully the table had gone and the barmaid on duty was smiley and welcoming.

Me and Dave outside the Glassy Junction.

After a road work delayed journey from hell on the 529 which took well over an hour we agreed to break strict pub blog/challenge rules and have a second pint regardless of how good the first one was. We’d more than earned it.
We got our drinks and surveyed the scene. There was only one table available next to one with a very serious looking man sat at it. I was hesitant but desperate to start supping so we marched over and sat down. He didn’t greet us. If I ever get my arse into gear and finish editing my novels, send them off and they get made into films, he is already on the shortlist to play Mr Serious.

These were needed after that bus journey.

When myself and Dave are in an unfamiliar pub, other than the magic tricks we are very much like Penn & Teller. He’ll talk to everyone in the vicinity in the loudest voice possible and I’ll just sit there silent and looking glum. I’m one of life’s miserable sods and I take this role very seriously. Anyway a conversion was never going to spark up between myself and Mr Serious so Dave sparked one up with the people in the middle of room. A lady called Kath was to prove to be the high-point of the visit. Friendly, funny, not afraid to stick a quid or two in the jukebox (during one such visit she asked “does anyone want any Billy Ocean?” and I had no hesitation in suggesting Red Light Spells Danger, which was the answer she wanted to hear.

The pub earned bonus points by providing free hot samosas which were amazing. We moved onto Kath’s table, and even I relaxed enough to join in the conversations. Turns out a few pints of Carling Dark Fruit cider does wonders for banishing my shyness. This was a superb visit and the highest accolade I can give this place is I really want to go back for a Friday night visit.

The Flying Tiger Bar, 49 Bradford Street, Walsall.
Launched in 2005 as BAR NV “Walsall’s Champagne Bar”, I’ve been in this place numerous times but not seen much champagne occurring. Craig was joining me on this re-tick after it had a refurb and change of name to The Flying Tiger.

Decor in The Flying Tiger. When I saw this I had the urge to send an email.

Located conveniently just a short walk from the town centre and on the edge of Walsall’s popular red light district this now smart bar is worth a visit. I do have fond memories of the old bar though, two of which were Swill vowing never to set foot in the place again after the barmaid called him a boring fart for saying he was going home (I’m pretty sure he kept to this pledge) and another time my mate Mark Parton being asked by the barmaid what he wanted and he replying “a pint of Carling and your phone number please”. And he got both. I barely have the guts to order my beer. He got to take her out as well. What a bloke.

Anyway, onto this visit. We walked in and the barman enquired to Craig as to why he was sweating. He wasn’t really, it was hardly Prince Andrew in Pizza Express so that was an odd start. We then had an old lady on the next table tell us 3 times that if we wanted the darts turning over in favour of Soccer Saturday then just ask the barman. We don’t mind the darts. If you want it turning over love ask him yourself.

I have a reputation for missing Walsall FC goals when I’m at matches, and I was soon to transfer this skill to darts as I returned from the toilet to see a man complete a 170 finish and I’d only missed the first 120 of it.

We had a pleasant pint, the desi pub arrangement mean the place smelt amazing, and a quick glance at the menu saw that they do a salmon curry, which I’ve never heard off at £13. Good luck with that in Walsall. Nice place this but due to it’s location I never walk past it but it will be included in the town to Bescot Stadium pilgrimage when we finally get round to doing that before a home game.

Bankfield Inn, Bankfield Road, Bilston.
This pub is only about 3-4 years old but was called White Rabbit previously and both of my visits occurred under that name. The latter being an office trip for food. I’d been looking forward to my carvery for hours but upon walking in all the meat looked tired and dried out. They’d clearly had a harder day than me so I ordered off the menu instead. A couple of families then called in and demolished the lot. They came in like a wrecking ball if you like.

Crap picture of The Bankfield but I wanted to get pub, moon and white stripes in.

So like I say, this is a new build, family orientated foody place. If your Friday night of choice involves a few lagers, a game of darts followed by a good punch up, this probably isn’t the place for you.

This was a straight from work jobbie, delayed slightly by the 79 bus being behind a car who’s occupant was clearly practising for a new career driving a hearse, and then further held up by a visit to Majors chip shop but I was soon in the pub with Andrew Rollason one of the very few former work colleagues that I still meet up with.

It was dark when I arrived and there was a bouncy castle outside, which I didn’t expect on a cold November evening, and it was still being used. 10 year old me would have been straight on it even with the cold and dark, but 47 year old me wanted booze, and the latter won.

Inside is a sign saying “Bar, this way to happiness” a sentiment I can certainly get onboard with. The toilets are pristine and it has a vending machine where for just three of your hard earned English pound coins you can purchase 3 condoms, 1 stimulator ring or 2 x 850mg sexual stamina tablets. No Lion Bars though. All good vending machines should stock Lion Bars.

We had a couple of quick pints, but as a food place there were lots of kids running around so we departed in the direction of Cafe Metro.

The Lazy Hill, 196 Walsall Wood Road, Aldridge.
This pub went through a major renovation during lockdown and reopened in May so it needed a re-tick. After an arduous 529 journey which had me wondering if Jane Wiedlin would have been quite so enthusiastic about Rush Hour had she spent one of them on this service, I arrived at Walsall Bus Station, met Dave and we jumped on the number 7.

A good looking pub.

We were soon in the pub and I needed a good beer as a consolation to being knocked out of Whamageddon in the office earlier (on day 3) and Backyard Blonde was on and that fitted the bill nicely. We were stood back from the bar but the barmaid must have read Dave’s lips as he requested Stowford Press as she was already pouring it as I approached. Whilst being served around I glanced around. I had seen a video during the renovation and was worried some of the internal walls had gone making the pub open plan but no. The same partitions were still there keeping the pub with it’s different sections.

The pub has been transformed inside. Other reviewers have referred to it’s previous decor as old fashioned and tired but that is certainly not the case now. It looks really smart inside. It also has televisions dotted around the place now but these were showing two men in waistcoats hitting balls around a table with sticks so nobody (apart from Dave) was paying attention to them, instead chatting, drinking and having a good time.

It was Dave’s turn for the second round and he was gone for what seemed like a few seconds. The service is really good in here.

We had a seat right by a roaring fire which was very welcome, this itself was accompanied by a bottle with loose change in it . I have seen a much bigger and fuller one of these being swung around during a fight in The Fullbrook but there was no danger of that being repeated in here.

As is standard procedure I popped to the loo in search of additional material. The gents were clean, pristine and not much to report but then I spotted it. The mossiv radiator. It was taller than me and had me pondering do all pub toilets have radiators? I made a vow to now check every toilet for radiators. Sad, but you have to have these noble ambitions in life. Anyway, a great pub visit. Loved it.

It’s mossiv.

King George V, Forge Road, Darlaston.
Formally Herberts Park Tavern, then Gabba’s Bar and now George V this pub has had so many different names that Cheryl Cole is a bit jealous. The George V was opposite the former home of Walsall FC, Fellows Park but lost it’s licence so they took the pub name, signs and staff uniforms to a new site in Darlaston. A move just a bit less controversial than Wimbledon FC being moved out of SW19. The move has hit the Walsall FC matchday experience a bit as the former King George is now being turned into flats, but it was time to visit the new site.

The new George.

My sole visit to this place was in 2016 and it was venue number 5 on Pub Challenge 2, and my notes said that it was busy for a Monday night and Vintage TV was showing videos from 1988 and I only left because I had a Walsall CAMRA meeting to go to.

This revisit happened on Friday night. The pub is smartly decorated with lots of glittery effects on the walls and it was totally in the festive mood with decorations everywhere, including a miniature post box on the fire place for Santa wish lists. The slot wasn’t big but you don’t need an A4 sheet to ask for gin and some points for Walsall FC.

Loved this bit of decor.

The bar was completely behind a big plastic screen with gaps cut out of the bottom for the exchange of cash and drinks, which made it feel a bit like a visit to Santander but that bank doesn’t have a big jug with £2 bottles of vodka shots behind the plastic. They could learn from this.

The screens were showing modern music videos but the jukebox was over ruling them and playing great songs like Love Really Hurts With You and Tragedy.

Josh arrived and went straight up the bar and ordered drinks and food, I wasn’t expecting him to share the food but the tandoori chicken and onion bhajis went down a storm.

Me and Josh with Marilyn looking on longingly.

Someone else went up the jukebox and soon we had Black Lace Superman playing but disappointingly only two people did the moves. I wondered if she’d but on “We’re Having A Gang Bang” by the same group would more people have joined in. This was followed by Gangnam Style which I haven’t heard since a Christmas do years a go when a metal loving colleague Steve Tonks did the dance after being pressured into it all week at work. So I did a low key version of it too. Knife and fork in one hand, lassoing with the other. Josh is normally cool with all my antics but even looked away at this point.

Josh had to shoot off so I savoured the rest of my pint. The pub was busy for early evening, the atmosphere was really good and it was a great visit. I left just in time for the bus to arrive and the start of Indie Night on Radio X so it was a good trip back to town. It was only as we came through Pleck I realised that I had forgotten to check the toilet for a radiator.

Anyway so it’s been 6 good pub visits and big thanks to everyone who came along.

An Illuminating Snowy Day In Walsall.

I woke up on Saturday to a sprinkling of snow. Not quite the 3 foot deep efforts that we used to get in the 1970’s but still enough to raise a tut or two. Now don’t get me wrong, white is my favourite colour but not when it’s all over the pavement and reducing my usual power walk to an awkward trudge.

It was the last Saturday of the month and that meant one thing. AJ’s Ales was open for business, so snow or not it was going to be done.

First up though was a visit to my favourite cafe Jack & Ada’s. This was my first visit since they installed one of the displays from the long lost and sadly missed Walsall Illuminations. It is in full working order and looks amazing. You can read more about it here

This is just amazing.

Time to order came, and I’m not really one for dabbling with the 7 Deadly Sins but I must confess to being very envious of the lady in front who ordered a caramel latte. I was too scared to ask for it myself so opted for a mug of tea. Standard.

Whilst waiting for the food I casually perused the menu and noticed that they now do what they call “The Walsall Omelette” which boasts an additional egg and more ingredients that’s standard counterpart. These people clearly know the residents of this great town like their food, and it’s something for me to consider next time.

With the exceptional breakfast demolished, the tea downed in one, and the urge to sneak back up to the counter for a caramel latte suppressed it was time to head to AJ’s.

AJ’s Ales is a microbrewery opened in 2014 and it does excellent beer. It only opens once a month for drinking so it’s always good to head there. On arrival there were a few people I know already present including friend of the blog Ernie. I went straight for a Beertrice, a 4.8 pale hoppy beer named after the Walsall CAMRA logo. The beer was in excellent nick.

This was superb.

My mate Dave arrived, we had another couple of excellent pints, and I also had a ham cob despite having breakfast. The cobs are just a quid at AJ’s and they are good. Bargain price too without the need for any Black Friday nonsense.

I’m never likely to be able to afford to turn left on a plane, and I never turn left when leaving AJ’s but today we did. I wanted to go somewhere I hardly go, and the New Inn fitted that bill.

I like the new smoking shelter but the place still reminds me of the Amytiville House.

The wind chill cut us in half en route and I was praying the fire would be roaring but it wasn’t. Closed off with a solid metal guard. Rubbish. I loitered by the radiator but it had little effect so I sat down and enjoyed a bit of classic Chicago action on the Now 80’s tv channel. Unfortunately this was soon replaced by “Mickey” by Toni Basil, a song that was the absolute bane of my life at primary school and the main reason I still despise being called Mickey 40 years later.

Standard Saturday afternoon pub departure time.

We moved on and hit The Oak Inn, again I sought out the radiator, I was stood by it so long Dave thought I was hiding in the toilet. I joined him at the table but we were in the half of the pub with television showing horse racing, which attracted my attention only briefly when I saw a jockey wearing a top like the Walsall FC home kit of 97/98. My interest didn’t last long enough to see how he got on.

From there we went to The Red Lion. They sadly don’t allow people upstairs anymore so I sat at the back of the pub on a table behind the curtain where the artists appear from of a weekend. I considered pulling the curtain closed, then bursting through it to put on a turn but the potential audience wasn’t big and I only perform for paying audiences these day.

Due to the cold, we decided two out of three ain’t bad.

We went in the now renamed Bar Sports (complete with bonus letter s at the end unlike the old days), the highlight in here was finding out that the cheap beer offers in the week are also valid until 9pm of a weekend.

We went in The Watering Trough as I will still cold. This place had to have the fire on. They had it going one day in Summer so surely it would be tonight. We walked in. No fire. Rubbish. I’ve heard good things about Inch’s Cider and they have it on sale here so I tried it and it was good. The DJ set start and it was loud. Seriously loud, so we ventured outside. Just as we were leaving someone came out and turned on the massive heater and upon getting inside the fire was now roaring. The Heat God’s clearly were not on my side today.

A quick one for the road in Flans followed but I don’t think alcohol and icy pavements are a good mix so I called it a night. Cracking day. And I finally felt warm after about an hour in bed.

Thirsty Thursday In Brownhills.

Morning everyone. It’s been a while. Apologies for the lack of blogs of late, but here is one about a little wander around Brownhills.

On Thursday evening I was at a loose end, a bit thirsty and in dire need of some blog inspiration so at the third time of asking I jumped on the number 10 bus (I missed one by seconds and the next one just drove past the stop) and headed to Brownhills, the most northern point of the Walsall borough.

I hadn’t eaten properly and as the bus approached the Hussey Arms I remembered how good the food is in there, but I’ve been spending too much on takeaways and meals of late and I’m trying to cut this cost down. I had an R Kelly lyric pop into my head. “My mind’s telling me no, but my body, my body’s telling me yes”. But as it was now dark and I wasn’t overly convinced that I knew where my first pub to visit was, my mind won and I remained on the bus.

First point of call was The Waterside, which is very much tucked away up a side street, and I only learned of it’s existence when scrolling around maps on the pubsgalore website when trying to find places to visit on Pub 365 Challenge volume 3 back in 2017. My notes from that sole visit was “cracking bogs, very friendly staff”. I couldn’t remember what the toilets were like so I was eager to see why they had impressed me so much. I found the pub easily enough, which is good as I was worried that I would take a wrong turn and end up ambling down the A5 which is a bit of a long road, but there was a distraction opposite the pub. A fish and chip van. Now I have heard of these things but never actually seen one. I was very excited, still peckish but also still thirsty so pub won.

Good start to the night.

The barmaid was friendly but delivered the grave news that the chip van wouldn’t be outside for long. The quiz machine wouldn’t take my money so I sat down and watched a bit of tele. I don’t really have the time or inclination to watch tv, that fact that I am still half way through series 2 of True Blood probably speaks volumes for this.

I turned into Mavis from Open All Hours at this point.

The toilets were good although I can’t see why I rated them so highly on my previous visit. I did like the cubicle doors, and the floor space is probably just about big enough for a game of Twister.

A good pub visit, and I must pop back here again next time I’m in Brownhills. The chip van had done one though by the time I left.

Next up was The Jiggers Whistle, a pub celebrating it’s 4th birthday this weekend. I walked in, was greeted by Colin the gaffer, and I’d barely go my coat on the back of the chair when a man approached and asked “what do you want mate?”. I didn’t know who he was but asked for the golden ale, thinking it was very nice of him to buy me a pint. It was only when he walked behind the bar and started pulling said pint that I clocked he was staff and just doing his job, I am very easily confused.

Great pub.

I had time for a second pint and as this pub is the current Walsall CAMRA Cider Pub Of The Year, I had a Raspberry Ripple cider which was ace, and whilst drinking this a lad at the next table came over for a chat. He supports Aston Villa but has gone to a few Walsall games of late and recognised me. I’m always up for talking about Walsall FC so this was a pleasant development.

The Shoulder Of Mutton was next up. I’ve only been in here twice before. First time I was stared at by several people which was unnerving, next time was Friday night disco, and before I’d even got through the door I’d been greeted by two of the locals and been given the nickname of Noddy by one of them and it was a superb visit. I wondered which version of The Mutton I was getting this time.

What a place.

Well, a gent outside gave me a friendly “hello”, and upon entering I was greeted by a very friendly lady and a dog. The barman was friendly and polite and it was busy with a good atmosphere. I’ve not noticed the decor on my previous visits but it is a mixture of humorous alcohol signs and lots of things about musicians. Next to the dart board is an array of blank betting slips, a takeaway menu and randomly a leaflet for a hotel in Blackpool but this sums up what a great down to earth boozer this is. Another cracking visit.

Next up was my first visit to the new Jack Jigger Taylor pub. I think it’s run by the same company that has the Tap And Tanner in Walsall Town Centre and it very much has that same feel. Service was quick and my beer was served in a proper jug style glass (it’s only that staff in the Black Country Arms that normally know I like this style) and I settled down and before I’d taken a sip of beer another person who recognised me from Walsall games joined me for a chat. He told some great stories of following The Mighty Saddlers from way back in the 60’s. Needless to say this was another enjoyable beer.

New pub alert. When could I last say that?

On the way to the final pub I spotted Mario’s Fish Bar. a chip shop that I’ve heard repeated good things about on the Brownhills Bob Facebook page. It had to be done. I ordered the £1.70 cone of chips. I paid the £1.70. What I got couldn’t have been further from a cone of chips. It was mossiv. A delightful mix of battered and plain chips, and despite it being a decent walk to The Anchor I still had some left upon arrival. I loitered outside trying to finish them, (while the chip van from earlier approached) but with the clock ticking to my intended 10pm bus back I had to admit defeat and leave a few. What an absolute bargain.

Final pub was The Anchor. On my last visit here with Mase and Goughy it was just us 3, the barmaid and DJ in the place. This time however it was very busy which is good to see. I had to search for the toilets and the barmaid stepped in as I was heading to the ladies. She diverted me to the other side of the pub and as I approached the gents a flustered looking lady exited them. We must have been on some kind of bizarre wrong toilet exchange visit.

It was a quick enjoyable pint, I made the 10 at 10. God that sounds like some kind of local radio feature. You can tell I still dream of being a dj even though my voice sounds like someone gargling with a couple of full ash trays.
Absolute superb night. Brownhills you were a blast. I can’t wait to go back.