I wasn’t expecting to get the sleep I did. In fact, I didn’t expect to get any sleep at all. After not getting any kip before Q.P.R. away, I had visions of the same kind of insomnia enveloping instead of a blissful trip to dreamland. I’d set the alarm out of precaution, and low and behold, it woke me up. With this week being only my second double game weekend, I really was expecting the grey gunge that passes itself off as my brain, to be firing on all cylinders. I was even able to get ready and get out the flat without the grey gunge letting me forget something. I didn’t even miss by seconds or wait two and a half weeks for the next bus. Things were going far too well. With Jinksy having his first day back in the office, the idea was to meet up with him and Steve in the Welly and head over to Stourbridge for a few, before returning back to the Jewellery Quarter and then doing the game from there. We could’ve in all honesty, just drank in Brum, and then catch a last train to the Hawthorns. It was an away game, we wanted to do something different. When I lived in Telford, just drinking in Brum, was fine, but that was then and this is now. Things change. Jinksy was first out of the pair to join me. The Wellington has two resident cats. We’ve seen them grow from kittens. Well they weren’t going to shrink from grown up cats to kittens I suppose. Jinksy gave one of them a bit of fuss. I’m not one for pets. If I’m being totally honest, I prefer my animals on my plate and swimming in gravy. I’ve lived with cats and dogs and I will say, I prefer a dog myself. I much prefer a dog’s nature to a cat’s. We analysed the difference between the two animals. Jinksy prefers cats. I wondered what that actually says about our own personalities. Steve joined us, and the conversation switched to the games we were going to go to the following day. Hereford were playing Solihull Moors in the F.A.Cup, I was going somewhere else. (Nope, not going to reveal to you where Sis. You’ll just have to wait.) We timed the walk from the Welly to Snowhill station, just perfectly to get tickets and get down to the platform just as the train arrived. Getting off at Stourbridge Junction, it was onto one of the most bizarre little trains you’re ever likely to travel on, on the British rail system. I’ve covered about this contraption on a blog post for a game at Stourbridge before, so haven’t taken anymore photos of what is basically a minibus with flanged wheels. They had made an addition to the service though.
Getting off the train/minibus in Stourbridge Town, the town seemed smaller than the only other time I’d been there. It’s how the mind works. When confronted with something new, the brain races to process as much as it possibly can. After that, it eliminates what isn’t important. Our brains are the most powerful computers that we’re ever going to need, and yet we not only undervalue it, but we under use it too. Humanity is instead more concerned about the packaging that the brain is housed in. Without sounding like Sheldon Cooper from the TV comedy, The Big Bang Theory, and being all self righteous, it does make me wonder why we don’t take more care of that grey mush that sits in between our ears. Duke William was the first place we went. The tap house for Craddock’s Brewery. It’s got another tap house in the guise of the Good Intent, in the Great Western Arcade in Brum. Although not a bad little place, the Duke William is better. Jinksy, looking at his phone, discovered that the Tory MP David Amess had been stabbed several times. Much as I dislike certain MPs and/or their political views, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I know they’re not untouchable by any means, but it was a shock to say the least. Leaning of how many times the bloke had been stabbed, I was expecting further news that he hadn’t survived the attack. The Barbridge was next. A micro pub, I really liked this place the last time.
Even with the fact that my beer had turned, and I had to get it replaced, it’s still a great place.
Great decor, great music and the barmaid could not have been anymore genuinely apologetic if she’d tried. Some will question you when you tell them your beer has turned, will try it for themselves before agreeing, but she had a really refreshing attitude. Not only did she swap the beer for another choice without hesitation, but she immediately scrubbed the beer that had turned, off the blackboard, and started changing it for another barrel. After Barbridge, we moved on to the Red House Boutique. A bit more swish. Ok, a lot more swish, but the beer was good. Jinksy had been following the news story on David Amess. The attack on him, had proved fatal. I felt strangely numb. It confirmed what I was expecting. There are times in life, when I truly hate being right. Regardless that I’m a socialist, I still would’ve liked to have seen the bloke pull through against the odds. Before getting the train back, we went in the Dog House. Metaphorically speaking, I’ve lived most of my life in the doghouse for something or other, but this wasn’t that kind of doghouse. This was much, much better. In a previous incarnation, the whole building was the Vauxhall Tavern. It’s now been split into two, with the other half being a fast food takeaway. There is so much to like about the place. All three of us were impressed with it. We did though, speculate on how you could expand the pub. That’s not to say it’s too small, just that it was so good. I bought myself a ham and tomato cob that turned out to be gorgeous. The cob and pint cost me less than a fiver. “That Birmingham’s expensive ay it?” We grabbed the little jalopy back up to the Junction and travelled back to the Jewellery Quarter and the Rock and Roll. Telling stories of drunken memory blanks. Thing is, however inebriated we get, we still manage to get home. We may not remember huge swathes of the evening, but we live to tell the tale of what we do remember. Piecing together an evening with friends of a similar state, is in itself, one of lives entertainments. In those cases, photographic evidence just enhances the embarrassing experience. I think of some of the states I’ve been in, and I’m rather glad that mobile phone cameras are a fairly new phenomenon. My misspent youth has not been documented……..or processed and incarcerated. Spoons, Daryl, JK and the opposition in the shape of Alan Clements were in the Rock and Roll, when we got there. I love the variety and imagination of the music that they play in the R & R. It’s never the same twice, and it’s always stuff that you very rarely hear. They were playing Blues tracks with female vocals. With my Dad succumbing to cancer when I was 5 years of age, I was never able to have that adult connection, but I know of his love of the likes of Billie Holiday and Eartha Kitt. I can’t explain how it makes me feel, but I have this ‘link’ to my Dad when I hear them and Aretha Franklin. Call me daft if you want to, I really don’t care, but it’s like I sense my Dad in my mind. It’s not memories flooding back, it’s as though he’s sat there with me, soaking the music up, letting it wash over us. Ok, enough of the weird spooky stuff. I chatted to Alan about how well Halesowen were doing. I also bought myself a T-shirt with Rock and Roll Brew House on, whilst I was in there. Me and Steve, then got the tram down to the Hawthorns, spotting another old face amongst the Blues fans in a mixed carriage of Blues and Buggies. At one point, there definitely was a camaraderie between us and the Buggies that was palpable, but I’ve got to say, it’s dissipating rapidly. It’s no where near as nasty as it is between us and the Wolves, and will never be as nasty as it is between us and them lot that fester at the bottom of the road I live on, but it’s getting more toxic between us and the Buggies.
Getting in the ground, I had a look to see who was around. I spotted Alex (See? I can remember her name now. How the Hell is it I can forget it?) saying hello to her. I went up into the stand, climbing the steps as far as I could to stand with everyone else who was stood on the steps. I suppose I could’ve drank less, got to the ground earlier, and actually sat in the seat stated on my ticket, but that’s not how I like to experience watching Blues. That’s for someone much more sensible and reserved than what I am, or will ever be, for that matter. I wasn’t expecting much from the game if I’m being honest. A few weeks ago, I’d written about bumping into both Paul and Jackie Mason, as I got off the train at Moor Street station, and genuinely feeling like we’d have a chance of beating Albion, when we were to face them. Those feelings had evaporated, replaced by a foreboding that after the drop in form and the results that had accompanied, we were going to lose, and lose heavily. Bowyer had had the international break to work on Blues’ troubles, but it’s difficult to drag to halt a slide that is fast becoming an uncontrollable crash. I don’t know how much sleep Bowyer has lost, and I’d like to think he cares enough to have lost sleep, but it must be extremely frustrating trying to ascertain what’s gone wrong and how to put it right. Facing a club that has been able to make use of its Premier League parachute payments, in their own back yard, certainly wasn’t filling me with any confidence that we could pull off the unexpected in front of the Sky cameras. Albion took their time to get into gear, and I wouldn’t say that they were there for the taking, but Chong was looking good again. After keeping us at arms length, they started to dominate, aided and abetted by one of those home biased referees. Albion had worked out who our main threats were, and went about kicking lumps out of them, without punishment. I was though, impressed with how our defensive line was holding up. A defensive line that included my favourite Blues player George Friend. There was a time when if I took a dislike to a player, it wouldn’t matter how good a game he had, I still found something that I could smash them with. I am, of course, a lot older and I’ve mellowed. Goes with the territory I suppose. I don’t expect Friend to carry on playing well, but I’ve got to say, I was impressed with him. Am I going to afford him a little more leeway? Well I have with Harlee Dean. Dean is one of those players that runs hot and cold, form wise. Unreliable? He is right now and had rightly been dropped. He’s in such a cold spell of form at the moment, that he could freeze the sun, and I don’t mean the comic that masquerades as a newspaper either. The much vilified Marc Roberts was able to have a rest from carrying Dean, as Sanderson completed the back 3. Without Dean, we looked more solid at the back. There is no doubt that Albion will be around to get promoted at the end of the season, but we continued to make them look ordinary. LB had torn into Hogan after the last game, and it had obviously had the right effect. He was playing with a lot more purpose. Halftime 0:0. I spotted Rob from the Roost, and enquired about his well being. He’s hit a couple of walls with his mental health, something I know about too well. We chatted about coping with the constant battle. He’s a shadow of his former self. The Rob I first met, was brash and confident. He’s piecing himself back together now and is fairly fragile still. People really don’t realise how fragile they are until they get knocked sideways. It takes an immense amount of hard work just to be able to stand still and breathe. I also had time to say hello to the Noonan’s before the second half. They’d travelled to the game on Tony Rowtley’s (I’ve probably still got his name wrong) disco barge excursion to the game. Had it been 30 years ago, I’d have no doubt, been on it too. Not for me these days. I like my real ale too much. At this point, we were all content with the way the game was going. Just needed to get through the second half. We carried on much the same as we’d done in the first half. Solid, but without too much attacking intention. Blues showed little bits, but it was all about a clean sheet and a point. We kept closing in on that result. It would require something special from either side to win it. With only a quarter of an hour to go of normal time, that ‘bit of special’ arrived. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t from someone in a Blues shirt. It was a tracer bullet of a shot from just outside the area, low into the bottom corner. If we were going to lose, and we did, at least it had only been 1,0, and the goal that had won it, had been a good one, plus the performance on a whole, had been a lot better.
As I got to the station, I saw Steph, Justin, Seeley and Dave. I had originally been behind Dave in the queue for the ticket.
After we’d come away from the ticket office, we’d compared where our seats were. We had seats next to each other. See earlier in this blog post for why I hadn’t stood with them. (Nobody sits away at a local derby.) I was then in for my biggest shock since we’d been able to do Blues again……..Leo was now a bloke. When they postponed football and being able to get to Blues games in particular, Leo had still been at school and was effectively, still a kid. He’s now taller than me. That’s no great achievement granted, but he now gets served in a pub. Of course, as an upstanding citizen who upholds the law with that sort of thing, I can not condone behaviour such as that. What d’yer mean, I’m only jealous because I couldn’t get served in a pub until I was fully 18, and even then, I was forever having to produce my birth certificate as proof of age? Of course I’m not jealous…….much. That Anna Mosity bird was having a field day antagonising both Blues and Buggies fans at the doors to the station. The fluorescent yellow line was desperately trying to keep the two sets of fans from making acquaintance of a violent nature with each other. With plenty of flashing blue lights, accompanying barking alsatians, the pushing and gesturing was to prove in vein as the fluorescent yellow grew, their extendable batons deployed. (No, that’s not a euphemism.) Only the total idiots carried on until they were carried off by the Ol Bill to be processed for a day of remorseful hindsight in front of a judge. Friendly derby, they say. ‘They’, need to have a chat with Miss Mosity. Anna will put them right on a few things. The Ol Bill definitely need to be sat in on that particular conversation if they’re going to get their ‘policing’ right next time. Touching down back at Snowhill, I resisted the urge for a last pint, and went home. Much as cheating sleep seems to be a good idea at the time, it isn’t. I was to be up early the next day as it was.