The alarm goes off at ridiculous time again but I’m feeling quite happy and alert. That only means one thing, I’m still drunk. I start to come down on the bus into town. My body starts to moan at my mind, like a parent does a child when the child has done something errm, well childish really. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose mind is a lot younger than their body. I really should grow old gracefully i suppose but I really can’t see it happening. Definitely not yet anyway. An attack of the munchies leads to an unprecedented (For me anyway) purchase of Walkers Bacon and Cheese crisps and a way to crumbly chocolate bar. The crisps weren’t as nice as I was hoping. The chocolate did its job. For whatever reason, everything seemed to be in high definition with surround sound. Colours were more vivid than usual and I was hearing everything on my headphones. I sat back and took everything in. I changed trains at Cheltenham. I feel a proper alien in this place. Never feel comfortable. It’s full of money and eccentrics. It’s nice but just not for me. As I was to find out, an exact opposite of Stroud.
By the time I’d hit Stroud, the hangover had kicked in. I bought a lottery ticket off a young female shop assistant whose genuine cheerful friendliness unnerved me. I wasn’t used to this. Let me tell you, It was like that all day. I headed for The Lord John Wetherspoons. My head was now banging worse than a privy door in a storm. Hands shaking worse than John Solako’s on the 2nd round league cup draw. Even breakfast and first pint doesn’t help, I tried the Ale House. Not open yet though advertised as open. I hit the Queen Victoria. Nothing but Marston’s. I plumped for a Pedigree. This wasn’t going to make me feel better.
The steepness of streets didn’t either.
Not the place to try nursing a hangover. I headed through the farmers market or more to the point, the throng that was moving slowly through it. It did look a very good market but then Stroud is a place to visit. If you’re after a bit of bohemia, this is the place to come. If the towns coat of arms hasn’t the moto, “Live and let live” underneath, then it should have. I almost bought a t-shirt with the legend “Democratic republic of Stroud” on it. If I ever go there again, then I will do. I found the Ale House.
I was starting to return to some kind of equilibrium. I found a place to put some flyers for the Birmingham beer festival and mentioned it to the barmaid. I spotted a Camra mag for Bridgnorth, a small town in Shropshire, the place of my birth. A classic studded red leather armchair was just asking for me to add a bit of scruffy urchin to it. A good sup of the Mash, chocolate stout and I set about the mag. Flicking through i happened upon an article written by Clive Gwilt, a local historian with links to my family, subject matter was the Blackie Boy, a pub that stood no more than 40 yards from the house I lived in for the first 13 years of my life. Now what were the chances? Odds longer than winning the lottery. Talk about small world. Microscopic more like. Now I’d woken up, I was on a mission. I’d got 2 more pubs to get to and they weren’t exactly close to one another.
The Crown and Sceptre. A pub down the end of a non-descript suburban street. The outside not giving away what it would be like inside. I certainly wasn’t expecting what I found. I was hit by the sound of dub reggae and a right mix and mish mash of visual delights. If you think looking at the lights coming out of the collage of music posters and flyers, that beneath was a pool table, you’d be wrong. Try a huge farmhouse kitchen table. The type that could easily sit 12 people without elbows giving fellow dinners black eyes. I would have taken a photo of the ceiling in the toilet but I don’t want to gain a reputation that’s any worse than what I’ve already got.
Prince Albert was last on my list before finding and catching the bus to Nailsworth. Now sometimes on my travels I make a mistake. It was Tuesday morning by the time I’d recovered from the 3 mistakes on this trip. Timing can be crucial and mine was rubbish. I’d left the longest walk between pubs till last. Mistake number one. Included in this would be what felt like a near vertical hill climb. By the time I’d got to the pub, I’d only got time for a half. Ideally, I needed 2 pints, 1 to inhale and 1 to savor. If you’ve ever done the steps at Covent Garden underground station, then you’ll know how I felt when I got in the Prince Albert, when you got to the top. The pub was so much like the Crown and Sceptre that I asked if it was the Sister pub. Even down to the reggae they were playing, It wasn’t. Least it was down hill on the way back into town.
I asked for a return and got given a daysaver “Because it’s cheaper” instead. I wasn’t going to argue. I got talking to a couple of young lads. One was a proper Forrest Green fan, who to be fair, is trying to make an effort with his clothes too. The other with his Forrest Green scarf, claimed to be an Arsenal fan. He trotted out all the usual excuses to why he didn’t go which, as usual, I tore holes out of. Sometimes I just can’t help myself and I felt quite sorry for him in the end.
So with ticket picked up, I went in search of a programme. Now if I didn’t already suspect, this is where it was confirmed. This was truly a club that had climbed too quickly. Another club that should really belong 3 leagues below where it is. I’m not distracting from the friendliness of the place. Believe me, they’re Premier league on that score but in the main reception they had a little round coffee table near enough to the door to be in the way, with programmes and an assortment of club merchandise. Couple that with a shop display racking thing going on with scarf, hats AND the replica shirts, and this was definitely non-league. I spotted a sign saying, bar open to the public. Now normally, these things aren’t open to the likes of me, so I thought I’d try my luck. To my utter bewilderment, it was. Ticket scanned, I was in. Better still, they not only had real ale in bottles, I was given the option of cold or normal. No contest. Real ale is not meant to be cold. I drank up but not before taking a photo of the view.
Now I could just imagine a herd of cows or flock of sheep having to be removed from the pitch by the groundsman who just happens to be the farmer who owns them.
With the fact that this place is hard to get to and by the way, the last bus back into Stroud is 19:10, so evening games pretty much means taking a tent with you, AND there’s plans of making it even harder by moving the ground to what appears to be a place only accessible by crop sprayer, I was hoping for a Yeovil win. In fact, I desperately wanted this club to return to whence they came from. The game itself went a long way to a softening of these views. The home fans finished it off. This little lot love their football. They also have a collective sense of humour that is unique to anything I’ve witnessed. It’s constant. Not the usual expected banter, these lot were original and spontaneous. There was a fair few Blues connections on show. 3 on the Forrest Green side and 1 on Yeovils side. I watched Mark Cooper playing for his Dad Terry down St Andrews. F.G.R. have Charlie playing for Mark. Wow, did I feel old. They also had Reece Brown playing for them. This bloke has immense talent he also has an attitude problem. His free-kick and unwillingness to track back shows that this isn’t going to change anytime soon. Charlie scored. Well actually former Blues trainee Artur Krysiak let the shot squirm through his arms. 0:1,0:2,1:2,1:3,2:3,3:3,4:3 Usually when I ground hop, I get a 1:0 win or 1:1 draw. My Brother in law John ground hops and he gets to watch 6:4 or 5:5. I tried to see if I could spot him. I couldn’t. I wasn’t banking on the referee adding on 6 minutes injury time. I certainly didn’t need someone going down injured within that added time.
I went for the bus, only to have it pull off before I could get it. A bloke in front of me got even closer. Because the very next stop was quite close, he went for it, had I not seen him, I wouldn’t have got it in to my mind that I could catch it too. We got even closer this time. The driver must have seen us because he completely ignored us. I could’ve done without this after the lung busting walk up to the Prince Albert. Least I was going down hill. I quickly scoured the pages of the local Camra mag and then searching the Whatpub site on my phone, I ended up in The Village Inn. The added bonus was this was a brew pub. For obvious reasons, It wasn’t on my list. Great pub though. Once back in Stroud, I did my usual and went back to my favourite pub of the day. They’d got the Stoke v Arsenal game on in the Crown and Sceptre, Stoke were winning. My mate Andy Sticks is Stoke, Stoke season ticket holder to be exact. I text him with a “C’mon Stoke” I had a plastic on the same table as me. The more he got exasperated, the more I wanted Stoke to win, the more the big club mentality showed in him, the more I wanted Stoke to win. They won. I smiled. He went. I was engrossed with texting Jinksy, he and Nat Peters had been to Rangers v Hearts. Nat was on the Strongbow, so stopped paying attention to the time. Refocused, I needed to move. For the second time, I was running, thankfully, It was down hill again. The train was just pulling in as I hit the footbridge. I changed at Cheltenham. Two things. First thing, there were half a dozen clueless Villa fans trying to get home to nowhere near Brum. It was clear that they’d missed their connection and had no back up plan to kill time. Bless em. The other thing is that one of the station staff had left the staff information on.
For those like me that have only ever seen a boring little box. This is what it looks like when it’s awake.
Touch down Brum, back in good old Blighty. First double game weekend of the season, I did 8 last season. I was going to pay for this one though. I felt like I’d been run over by an artic lorry for a couple of days. Oh and the green thing? Never mind 50 shades of grey, try two shades of green. Yeovil in their Celtic shirts, or is it Celtic in their Yeovil shirts? And Forrest Green in their genetically modified vegan shirts.