Archive for the 'Life' Category

Some you win

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Time I blogged a bit more…

A week of differing days: starting with a very long day, and a failed Internet connection and firewall migration (which had to be reverted), followed by another late finish, followed by a hospital appointment with a long wait (and having arrived early in order to park, that made it a very long one) and a vile, stop-start rush hour drive back through Brum, along with the accompaniment of an ominous rattle from the car, sounding like I was dragging a wind chime.

Today was improved: the rattle went, and after a check by my friendly local VW specialist, we agreed it was probably nothing more than a stone trapped in a brake disc shield, which then dropped out at some point. A grim drive from there to work, but then things start to improve later in the day: I did have a spare PCI ethernet card in my desk to connect a failing wireless network, the IPCop firewall PC did have a spare slot and the drivers for the card, I did know the password, and it all just worked, which meant a 4pm finish, and a surprisingly good journey home.

With a bit more time on my hands, it’s easier to persuade myself go for a quick spin on the bike to Chasewater. Rush hour was still in progress on the roads, but the towpath was literally almost deserted (I met one person, one cat and one fox in over 6 miles) and peaceful, but tough going after a week and a half not riding. The compensation for dragging my corpulent carcass out on a dark and relatively cold night is that I’ve reclaimed my towpaths from the armies of dog walkers, anglers, fair-weather cyclists, and pokemon hunters that are all over the place on the lighter, warmer evenings (though to be fair there was one pokemon hunter at Chasewater itself).

I’m now hoping my plan to leave early today (Friday) comes to fruition. A plan for the cinema, some beer and some food is forming….

Taphouse 6: The Park Inn

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

PubBlog Link
Whatpub Link
Brewery Site

Taphouse 6, again with a brewery actually onsite- Holdens.

The Park Inn, with added Pete.

The Park Inn, with added Pete.

I was less enthusiastic than my last visit (but then, I was suffering with a worsening hangover), and we all agreed that while there was nothing wrong, it missed something. Pleasant enough, though.

Ambience 7.3
Beer choice/quality 8.6
Architecture 6
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 7
Toilets 6

Which means an overall score of 6.98.

Taphouse 5: The Beacon Hotel

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

PubBlog Link
Whatpub Link
Twitter

Taphouse 5, with a brewery actually onsite- Sarah Hughes.

Beacon Hotel. Image from Google.

Beacon Hotel. Image from Google.

More details in the PubBlog post. It’s still as good as ever, 3 years later.

Ambience 10
Beer choice/quality 8.3
Architecture 9
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 10
Toilets 6

Which means an overall score of 8.66, which I think makes it the leader so far.

A Tale of Two Crap Towns

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

We’ve been away, and as I still didn’t fancy the long drive required for Scotland that we often take at this time of year, we went a bit closer- Morecambe. Morecambe has something in common with Walsall: Public ridicule by up-themselves arseholes.

Morecambe faomusly gained 3rd place in the original Crap Towns book in 2003, but by 2013’s “crap Towns 3” it has gained “not so crap” status. Walsall, was once famously described by Theodore Dalrymple as “Ceaucescu’s Romania with fast food outlets”, which brought forth one of the few times I found myself agreeing with Mike Bird, and is rumoured to have appeared in one of the books, but I couldn’t find it.
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Bristol City

Monday, March 7th, 2016

We went away for a few days, and my better half suggested Bristol. We’d never been, so it seemed like a good idea; pubs, restaurants, thibngs to see, and not too far to go. Given that parking was going to be expensive, and driving has certainly lost its allure these days, we chose to go by train. A lift to Walsall from a friend one Saturday morning saw us experience the joy of Walsall station, a structure seemingly designed to suck the joy of life from you (and no BOAK building as a comforting sight any more), but it is at least functional, and with a simple layout; something you can’t level at the glitter-rolled turd that is New Street and Grand Central now.

[note: at this point I split off my whining about New St to a separate post]

Anyway, enough whining. On to our train, and the bliss of first class (and without costing the earth, thanks to pre-booking), and around 90 mins later we’re at Temple Meads: a very different matter: Victorian, magnificent, easy to navigate, and within a few minutes, we’re in a cab. Our appartment wasn’t ready, so there’s only one place to go:

The Bag of Nails. Beer, cats, pie, music.

The Bag of Nails. Beer, cats, pie, music.

The Bag of Nails. A few pints in the company of kitties, and a half-mile walk across town past the stunning cathedral to the apartment, before heading out.

Bristol’s a nice city: architecture, pubs, restaurants, and things to see and do, and not remotely up itself, which suits me. We took an open-top bus tour (always a good way to orientate yourself), looked around the amazing ss Great Britain in its dehumidified dry dock, walked over the Clifton suspension bridge and wandered around Clifton, and looked around the Aquarium and cathedral after we’d tired ourselves out walking back and didn’t want to walk too far. Obviously, between those activities, we visited a few pubs too. There’s the usual suspects in chain pubs, chain restaurants, and chain stores, but look about and there’s independent places everywhere.

Coming back was a pain-free experience too: a bus to Temple Meads, train to New St (ugh), and on to Walsall, and a bus saw us home in great time (TM to home in under 3 hours), stress-free.

#100pubs2015: The Finale

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

We did it.

The challenge set by Andy was completed last night, with some good company we hit pub number 100 at The Turf Tavern, aka Tinky’s, having already used the original choice of The OC’s very recently, we needed a reachable, nice pub for our final one, and, as it is happily now open again, this filled that role admirably.

We’re planning a new drink-related challenge for 2016- just a few things to check out first, and we’ll also be publishing our findings during the challenge at some point.

#100pubs2015: The Home Straight

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Despite a hangover (from all of four pints, FFS) on Saturday, I managed to get my errands done in time to get out by bus and meet Andy in Walsall for the start of another push at 100pubs2015. The start was going to be what used to be The Pen and Wig, but it is now The Lounge, and was shut. We considered a diversion to Arbor Lights, but the beer didn’t inspire us, so off the The Wheatsheaf it was, as it fitted our route- Brimingham, via The Bartons Arms. After that, we did a few Birmingham City Centre pubs, which will appear on PubBlog if previously unvisited, and will appear over on Andy’s blog (link above) once he gets a chance to log them.

Usual target is 5 pubs per trip, so we were pleased to see off 7 in this trip, leaving us at 99 completed. Now we have to pick pub 100, and try to reassemble as many of our companions on some of the trips together as possible for a final episode between now and Dec 31.

A kick up the 80s

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

We’ve been away, unshiunto Lanzarote. Winter sun, so while you lot were enjoying the dark, cold, wind, and rain, we were relaxing, drinking and eating. My usual irrational fear of a disaster of some type didn’t happen this time, and largely things were nicely uneventful, with the worst thing to happen that I managed to break my Kindle e-reader. Happily, between some dead-tree books obtained locally (it’s good to go somewhere frequented by English tourists) and my dear better half loaning her older kindle some of the time, I got sufficient reading material; I don’t read a great deal, apart from on holiday…

I did look at obtaining a new Kindle locally, but local gadget shops are famed for fakes and scams, and the packaging looked wrong, so I didn’t take the chance, having narrowly escaped a dodgy camera seller back in 2009. With new device purchased (hint: Amazon will offer a discount on a new one if you’ve broken your Kindle, even when it’s over 3 years old)

Anyway, the 80s thing? I have never heard so much 80s music in one place before; every bar was playing Internet/Sky radio stations, and the 80s soundtrack was constant. Odd. Is it the demographic?

Sticking it to The Man

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

I’m now, around 2 months after surgery, finally starting to feel a bit recovered- but still having to take things very, very carefully. At point of coming out of hospital, I could just about hobble a few yards on 2 sticks, or rather elbow crutches. I’ve built that up, very gradually, to the dizzy heights of half a mile with one, wandering around the house with none, and managing a trip around the supermarket with the trolley to lean on, and I can drive short distances. Soon, I’ll hopefully be better (but fatter, see below) than beforehand.

Being temporarily disabled opened my eyes to a few things.

1) People, overall, are very kind and helpful, from pub and restaurant customers to bus drivers and passengers, and taxi drivers- but people *stare*. It’s good-natured- they want to be sure you’re OK- but still uncomfortable.

2) Having to use taxis a lot gets expensive quickly. Getting to my GP surgery if someone couldn’t drive me in a car was a ridiculous journey: it is all of 2 or 3 miles, and can be done on one bus *if* you can walk about half a mile to a bus stop, which I couldn’t at that point- so taxi it was. Anyone on a low income would struggle, and even for a simpler trip to Walsall, that walk to the bus stop (only a few hundred yards) can seem a long way, and getting to a walk-in NHS centre to get staples removed would have been next to impossible except by car or taxi.

3) Room to move becomes important, and people parking on pavements, self-closing doors, and narrow doorways in buildings become really difficult.

4) Sitting on one’s increasingly capacious arse (a result of boredom eating, and going from cycling 4-5 evenings a week and walking to local shops to doing almost *nothing*) sounds like fun, but rapidly isn’t. The garden is overgrown, the cars are unwashed, and I have the time to do them, but can’t do so. Friends have helped, but I cannot rely on that all the time, and don’t want to either. By the time I *can* do it, I’ll have to go back to work 🙁

5) I spent a few weeks being almost totally dependent on others- I could get to the toilet, I could get showered, and dressed (even if it took 15 minutes and a dazzling amount of expletives to put a sock on…), and it wasn’t a good experience, despite my better half being very supportive. I could get to the kitchen, but could only carry stuff I could get in a pocket. What would I do if I lived alone?

6) While Internet shopping handily solves some difficulties, being unable to lift/carry items within the house makes getting the shopping from the front door hard. I’m not suggesting they should come and put it away for me; merely that on the face of it, it seems like a fix, but I still needed assistance.

7) One’s drinking social life becomes impaired. Pubblog has had few updates, and #100pubs is looking very, very sick.

Basically, it’s stunning how many everyday things get harder, more expensive, or both, and at the risk of repeating myself, people would do well to remember this.

PS: when you start watching On The Buses repeats, and being genuinely aggrieved if you miss it, you’ve probably been at home too long ;-).

Shout

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

The 80s Tears for Fears song Shout contains the line

These are the things I can do without

and that came true last Friday. Warning: middle-aged whinge content approaching.

I’d already arranged to meet a friend in a local pub, when my neighbours suggested a meal out. I’d got plenty of time, so we trotted (well, walked) off to a local pub. The food and beer was fine, but one thing *really* grated: the volume.

The music wasn’t the problem. What was the problem was a group of people, clustered around the bar (Grrr!) seemingly unable to conduct a conversation at normal volume: even the act of moving out of my way so I could get to the PDQ machine was accompanied by a needless cacophony of shouts (to which I muttered “for fucks sake” under my breath (hopefully)), and something about the acoustics of the room made it impossible to hold a conversation ourselves (though, as we’re all distinctly middle-aged, it could be the start of our hearing deteriorating in a noisy environment).

This was repeated later when I met my friend in another pub, but also with a band playing. Loud.

I really don’t mind music in pubs; or indeed bands in pubs. In fact, I love music in pubs, if it’s decent, but why always so loud? The loud music, of course, then creates the shouting if it wasn’t there already.

This thing really feeds into my perfect pub post: and it’s worth noting that the pubs I really like often have no music, like this one, this one or this one, or music you can converse over, like this one and this one and, again referring to my critera, the old model of multi-room pubs (before they all got knocked into one space) really helps here: it may have been an answer to the smoking issue too (as many pubs had a smoke room back in the day).

This is starting to sound like a grumpy old man’s desire for quiet pubs with no life to them (last Sunday, I visibly winced when one heavily refreshed customer suggested my local needed loud music on the jukebox to “liven it up” (on a Sunday evening, FFS)), but I’ll address that in two ways. First of all, I know I’m not alone, and secondly, having been in this place at work-chucking-out on a Friday, with it rammed to the point of standing room only, and felt the buzz in the place, which, frankly, was infectious, but still been able to talk to my companion, because people were talking, I can honestly say that at times I crave a bit of life to a pub.

So then: am I just getting old (though, in truth, I’ve hated over-loud pubs since my teens), or getting (even more) boring? I know Andy will agree here, but he’s older than me (and possibly, if the two of us are present, this post may become hypocritical…), and others may not, and I suppose here there’s a point to be made that pubs are, well, public spaces, so have to accommodate different tastes.


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