Shirley might have had a ‘vibrant new retail and leisure destination’ built but it’s still got some belting characters in its pubs.
That opening gambit of a quote is straight off the Parkgate website; a gleaming new addition to the A34 which contains the likes of Greggs, Asda, Shoe Zone and Shirley Library.
Shirley might be next door to Solihull but it will never be quite as much of a destination shopping centre and it shouldn’t try to be. Where Shirley centre beats Solihull centre is the locals who inhabit its pubs, as they have some real stalwarts.
The huge eyesore that is the Powergen factory is be demolished imminently and replaced with a raft of new homes but I don’t think gentrification of Shirley will ever happen as the local population like it just as it is.
A smart suburb but not quite Solihull is how an estate agent wouldn’t describe it…but there is no way you would meet a character like I met in the 35 – Plume Of Feathers B90 3BW on a Bank Holiday afternoon in its more upmarket neighbour’s watering holes. .
This huge roadside pub has recently had a refurb and is now branding itself as a Stonehouze Pizza and Carvery hostelry but, to all and sundry, it is still the Plume.
There is still a bar area, although two other rooms are now food based, and the bar area had a smattering of old boys barracking the staff about the volume as Rhinestone Cowboy had them rocking in their seats!
I’d come, predominantly, to watch the cricket for a couple of hours on SKY as England capitulated against the West Indies and had a decent pint of Keg 61 Deep (Marston’s) for £2.75 whilst I was there.
The music was loud and as part of the bar ‘banter’ it was turned up and down on a regular basis until someone forgot to turn it down so we were left with loud ‘background’ music (I must be getting old).
With plenty of spare seats I was surprised, but not unhappy, when an old boy with a buggy and hearing aid parked next to me as he “can’t get on those low chairs.”
In a 30 minute conversation I learned a lot! Apparently, you have to spend £18 on the Toy Box machine before you can pick up a prize as the engineer installing it had told him (one of those kiddie soft toy grabbing machines). I also learned that his neighbour was cooking him shepherd’s pie later and his mate, who was rolling his own fags, came to join us and added to the humour by calling him a p*** head because he drank a four pack at home whereas he limited his intake to The Plume only..
After admitting he had only started to like cricket, when he got really old (that made me feel great!) he really upped the volume when discussing the recent refurb.
“They’ve put John Smith’s up from £2.50 to £2.75, I can’t believe it,” he said disbelievingly. “I mean it’s only John Smith’s, it’s nothing that tasty,” he added pointing to his pal’s Carling!
He still maintained, however, he’d have a couple of pints of his not very tasty tipple and get on his buggy!
Anyway, whilst all this was going on Johnny Bairstow was playing arguably the worst reverse sweep shot since Mike Gatting’s that cost England the World Cup in 1987 and that was my cue to leave.
However, I spent a cracking afternoon in a not very full bar with a steady stream of families and couples heading to the backrooms for Pizza and Meat.
Maybe it is the rise to £2.75, or the Parkgate’s big new ‘Spoons that has taken some of the trade away but the Plume has been a regular sight on the A34 for many years and with characters like this, I hope it is for many more to come.