Non Blog related intro:
Today is the day that Joe Strummer passed away in 2002 – hence the picture at the start of this post. I loved The Clash and my eldest sister brought me their first album on my 11th birthday in 1981 and I have been hooked ever since
Clearly I was too young to see The Clash in their pomp but I did see Strummer and the Mescaleros at V2000 in Staffordshire and he still had the ‘angry anti-establishment’ vibe look on his face as he snarled and spat out lyrics to a number of classic tunes.
…Anyway, on with the blog and I had a fantastic afternoon in East Birmingham in the area known by Martin as a ‘real ale desert.’ Yardley is a real working class Brummie suburb that still has that rare sight of people walking around in Birmingham City shirts as well as a plethora of shops, lots of disused shopping units, tightly packed Victorian housing stock and a vibrant community spirit.
That spirit can, however, on occasions spill over and longstanding town/parish/village centre (it feels like a Birmingham suburb rather than a village or parish) boozer The Yew Tree was eventually shut down after one fight too many and being described as a ‘magnet for crime’ by a member of West Midlands Police. The Ring o’ Bells also bit the dust with a less than glowing legacy whist the pub with allegedly the longest bar in Europe, The Swan, has also departed meaning Yardley’s pub stock is severely depleted.
I recall a night in my youth at a boozer on the Radleys/Yardley/Sheldon border called The Mazeppa where World War III broke out in the bar but my pals just keep playing pool with a cool head as though this was the norm and that probably sums up Yardley pub life better than anything.
Expect the unexpected but just chill out and mind your own business and everything is absolutely fine.
The demographics of this area mean that there are still plenty of people who like a pint so the white knight in shining armour came in the shape of Tim Martin.
As Woolworth’s bit the dust so it was replaced by a Wetherspoons 120 – The William Tyler B25 8UT, and it has been a roaring success.
Places like Yardley need solid working class pubs and this is a classic. In true Yardley fashion, I took three photos of this place as I was leaving…the first one went unnoticed, the second one saw a local punter gesticulate whilst the third saw some ‘proper’ hand signals that I have spared you on this blog!
Say what you like about Brexit but at least it meant Wetherspoons provided me with my first beermats in their pubs this year as Tim cranked up the rhetoric with a deal inching ever closer.
However, for 1.30pm on a Friday this place was absolutely packed. Not everyone likes Wetherspoons but, in places such as Yardley, these pubs are an absolute godsend as this place was packed with a massive range of society.
Mobility scooter outside – one for you Mudgie – Hi Viz Jackets, mums, toddlers, couples, groups of lads and also a wake just completed what is an eclectic Friday afternoon in Yardley.
When Timbo was dispensing of some of his pub stock in the past few years there was no way this was going to be offloaded, as it is always packed and has some nice pictures of Brummie comic Tony Hancock en route to the toilets.
However, I digress and I was here for my annual meet with a pal who hasn’t missed a Birmingham City game, home or away, since 1974. Apparently, the last game he missed was a League Cup tie at Crewe in 1974 as a 16-year-old, so you can work out his age for yourself. That’s 44 years of hurt to coin a phrase adopted by Baddiel and Skinner interspersed with one Carling Cup triumph in 2011.
Nevertheless, my pal was in remarkably good spirits and upbeat about life in general, but relatively pessimistic about tomorrow’s trip to Sunderland as he suspected they might break their long run of winless games at The Stadium of Light!
I had a more than decent half of IPA (Greene King) and we were joined by another lad who had been at a funeral and appeared to know every single person in the William Tyler for a chat about Commonwealth Games issues.
Ostensibly, Birmingham has had a raw deal in the past. When bidding for Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games it has been disregarded ( in a similar vein to how the BBC regards England’s second city) but with Durban being stripped of the 2022 Games then Birmingham, almost by default, has been given the prize.
With the government promising to pick up three quarters of the bill as a sweetener for taking on the Games it almost seems like a good deal for Brummies with West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, doing cartwheels.
However, with the recent bin strike still fresh in the memory, there is the usual healthy amount of scepticism from the natives despite Theresa May acknowledging Birmingham’s existence with a congratulatory message.
I am sure Mancunians can tell me the positive affect the Commonwealth Games had on their city in 2002 and, whilst I can’t see Yardley benefiting hugely, areas such as Perry Barr might have hit the jackpot.
With housing stock needed to house athletes and Perry Barr in close proximity to the Alexander Stadium (which is also set to have it capacity doubled) then there is scope for some really positive spin offs for Brum.
However, my long suffering Blues pal and I were focusing on one sport in particular that is set to take place at the NEC in 2022, around 5 miles away from Yardley.
It emerged through a classic pub chat that my pal was actually a decent table tennis player and used to win many local tournaments in partnership with the long-standing gaffer of another local boozer – The Highwood – in Olton.
Whilst that story is unlikely to stay long in the memory he regaled me with a story of arguably England’s greatest ever table tennis player, Desmond Douglas.
Yes, Matthew Syed might have his own podcast with ‘Sav’ and ‘Freddie’ on BBC but he couldn’t hold a candle to Desmond as a player and Des was also a Brummie being brought up in Handsworth.
Eleven times an English champion, he also reached the giddy heights of world number seven and represented GB at the 1988 Olympics. Douglas is the man that most people of a certain age associate with table tennis.
But all this sporting prowess didn’t stop Douglas, allegedly, buckling under the pressure of a test drive in a Ford Capri 2.8i!
A pal of my pal (yes, that’s how all pub stories start) worked at a garage in Wolverhampton and Douglas came to buy a car whilst he was playing table tennis for Borussia Dusseldorf in the German Bundesliga in the late seventies.
Apparently Douglas asked for a Ford Capri 2.8i “because that’s what all my team mates are driving.” Cue a quick fire test drive through the streets of Wolverhampton in the style of Bodie and Doyle and Douglas soon realised fast cars weren’t for him!
He apparently decided a more sedate Ford Escort was more him and bought it on the spot!
However, he did give my pal a Douglas Number 1 shirt from Dussledorf (due to his ranking in the team) and my pal used to use it for big games to try and psyche out his opponents!
A thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours in a cracking pub that just got busier and busier and I was given a marvellous send off by the local lads in their Hi Viz jackets that I didn’t notice until I downloaded the pictures.
A top pub proving that suburbs of big cities can thrive and survive in the modern world.