By the time I got to New Street, everyone bar Jinksy were already there. It even included Jude, although she was simply there to say goodbye to Spoons. Jinksy’s absence was due to him already being on the train up to Glasgow to watch Rangers v Aberdeen. Me, JK, Daryl, Steve, Ian and birthday boy Spoons, boarded the train down to Bristol. Another passenger must’ve liked the look of me, because in between chatting to the rest, struck up a conversation with me. Apparently it was his birthday too. Thing is, I’d forgotten about it being Spoons birthday until we’d got to the first pub in Bristol, and we’d toasted him. (How we fitted him under the grill, I’ll never know.) To be honest, I think the lad had just got that ‘anonymous’ feeling you get as an adult when you feel compelled to tell everyone. Birthdays are different to Christmas, when everyone knows the date, and it’s a shared experience. With birthdays, it’s more personal and intimate. You’re centre of attention, or feel you should be. As a kid, much is made of your birthday. As an adult, there’s always a tiny part of you that however much you attempt to suppress it, there’s still that the inner child in you that longs for that feeling of being centre of attention. These days, I never mention to anyone when my birthday is. Instead, I take a great delight in seeing the recognition on someone’s face if ever I have to reveal my date of birth on the very day it is. Bizarrely, I share my birthday with fellow WhatsApp group member, Nat Peters and so it’s remembered better. Because that’s the other thing. Birth dates are always always forgotten outside family, partners, or very close friends. Anyway, as we were approaching Bristol, another passenger expressed that she was feeling kind of left out, because she was in the middle of the conversations going on around her. Had she said it earlier, I’d have probably involved her too. I still found out that she was an Evertonian. So at least she was a blue and not a red, but she didn’t much care for real ale though. Touching down in Bristol, it was onto one of only a handful of real ale pubs in the city that open before 12 o’clock. When I say handful, after a couple of Wetherspoons branches, it equated to less than three options. No1 Harbourside was to be the preferred option, and we managed to sneak in undetected. Other groups of males were being turned away, yet groups of females were welcomed.
With time to go still to high noon, we went in the Shakespeare. A Green King pub, I really wasn’t expecting much. I was to be pleasantly surprised, and somewhat pleased to see that there was several guest ales on the bar. I’ve been scathing about the chain post lockdown because of its lack of real ale choices, but I was really impressed. Is it a sign that Green King are back to where it was pre Covid? Time will tell. The barmaid took a shine to us, and as we left, she wished us well for the game much to the ire of the locals sat near in their City colours. Get over yourselves lads, she was just being friendly. It was now after the golden time, and we went to our first ‘proper’ pub. The Lime Kiln is a pub I’d not been in before. In truth, I’ve not been to Bristol that many times, so I’ve got to admit that I’m enjoying discovering it. The rest of the ale trailers I was with, had been many times before, and JK even lived there at one point. From what I’m learning, not only is Bristol an excellent city, but I was in good hands.
I could’ve easily have stayed in this place longer, due to it’s great, and well kept selection of ale, but also the fantastic jukebox. It’s been an absolute age since I went to a music gig, and it’s something I really need to rectify. Covid hasn’t helped obviously, but with restrictions and measures now at an end, I haven’t an excuse anymore. After the Lime Kiln, it was onto the Bag ‘O’ Nails. If anyone knows this pub, then they’ll know that it’s renowned for it’s collection of cats. Now I’d been in this place before, and I’ve got to say, that the cats have got the run of the place. That many cats doing virtually whatever they please, meant everything was covered in cat hair, and the place stunk of cat urine to the point of being overwhelmed by ammonia. We’d been chatting about it on the way to the place, and Ian, deciding that his nostrils couldn’t take another bashing, had veered off to a nearby pub, before joining back up with us. Entering the pub, I was fully expecting to be hit by the stench again. An unexpected byproduct of Covid lockdowns, meant that the pub has been able to have a deep clean. the cats were there still, but your eyes don’t stream from the ammonia, and you don’t have to brush all the cat hair off when you’re walking to the next pub anymore, or at least, not at the moment.
Ian caught up with us in the Grainbarge, and it didn’t matter how much we implored him that the Bag ‘O’ Nails didn’t now smell as horrendous as it had, he just wouldn’t be convinced. In all fairness to Ian, once he’s got something fixed in his mind, there’s no shifting it, no matter how many facts you point out.
It’s a good job Ian doesn’t believe the world to be flat I suppose. If you’d have told me at the start of the season that by the end of it I would’ve had a pint on two different boats but not actually gone anywhere on them, I’d have been incredulous at best. The next place though, Spoons knows well from delivering there. What none of us have worked out, is how there’s always home fans drinking in The Merchants, but whether we leave just after them, like we did the last time, or with them, like we did this time, we still miss kickoff. Not that that’s ever worried us, but it would be nice to work out how they can make kickoff.
Even had I not bought the Bristol City fanzine, I’d have still missed the first goal of the game. Although it was nice staring at the screen and seeing that Blues were 1:0 up, I would’ve liked to have seen Tahith Chong’s first goal for the club. With a bit better timing, mine or his, I might get to see his second. Personally, I was just grateful to see Chong back in the starting lineup again. Thankfully, he’s not the only attacking option we have now. Roberts was back in defence, and it made a big difference. Although much maligned, he definitely gave the defence much more solidity. I may have missed the really early goal, I didn’t miss the early goal. After just twelve minutes, Blues were 2:0 up. I repeat, after just twelve minutes, Blues were 2:0 up. As usual when this sort of thing happens, my imagination tends to run away with me, and I start dreaming of 5,6,7 goal wins. Then the pessimistic side of me slaps the optimist for being so ridiculous and points to recent 2:0 leads being wiped out. It’ll then instill panic by digging up memories of being 3:0 up at halftime and losing 4:3. Then to really press the point home, Swindon is dragged up. Even now, I struggle with explaining what happened…..here goes……50 minutes in, Blues are 4:1 up. Swindon had managed just one attack and they’d scored from it. What happened next still haunts me all these years later. Almost 3 decades in fact. The then player/manager of Swindon, Glenn Hoddle, brings himself on as sub. 4:1 up, lost 4:6. (Turns TV off, light off, lies on bed in darkness, sobbing uncontrollably.) The second against Bristol City was a brilliantly headed finish by Nico Gordon. A youngster who I’d watched play for us before in early League Cup games, and not rated. Watching him compete in the backline next to Roberts, he looked a totally different player. So 2:0 at halftime, and it could and probably should have been at least 3:0, so much were the chances we’d created and squandered. We just needed to coast the second half and maybe even add to the 2 we’d scored in the first half. Within a couple of minutes of the restart, Bristol City got a goal back and with the impetus it had given them, pressed for the equaliser. I fully expected the lead to be wiped out. It’s Blues, it’s what happens to us. However, we kept the home side out, and pushed back. With our attack looking potent, the gusto that the home side had come out in the second half with, was extinguished. After the initial fright and although 1 goal is always a perilously slender lead to have, we looked comfortable for our win. Apparently, it’s now 9 wins in 11 against the Robins of Bristol. “Can we play you every week?” Goes the terrace song. Not something Blues fans get to sing very often.
Coming out of the ground, we managed to get through the police cordon easily enough. Something always made easier by Spoons’ sartorial choices. We headed to the Bristol Beer Factory. Our accents may have attracted a few disgruntled stares, but none of us were bothered. In fact, it just made the victory all that sweeter. After Daryl had bought himself a T-shirt with the brewery on, we moved on to the Tobacco Factory. Don’t worry, we weren’t looking for either a job or cigarettes to go with our beer, although Ian is partial to the odd cigar from time to time. Personally, I’d been looking forward to the cinder toffee stout they do. I was extremely disappointed to find that it wasn’t available.
Heading back towards the centre of town and the station, we ducked into the Robert Fitzharding. Spoons in a Spoons, well it just had to be done. As the rest left for the next place, me and JK both went to produce some Carling and afterwards, conspired to lose where the others had gone. Believing JK knew where he was because of once living and working in Bristol, I hadn’t held on to it till the next place. In the end, we grabbed a bus back to the station and then managed to catch up with the rest.
Touching back down in good ol Brummagem, we headed up to the Colemore to finish the night. The alcohol had done for Daryl, and he’d bailed to go home. It’s strange how the beer effects Daryl. One minute he’s perfectly fine and sober still, then with one pint more, he’s drunk. He’s like the old game of Buckeroo. Keeping adding until ‘bang’, the whole lot goes. For those too young to remember the game, stop playing on your Playstation and do your homework…. And stop picking at those spots on your face too. Both JK and Steve were next to bail, leaving just me, Ian and Spoons. I fancied one more, but instead, bailed myself. It had been a good birthday for Spoons. One to remember.