Saturday, December 8

East Birmingham the Second

It's Friday 7th December and the Second City is once more on the radar as the Anti-Hub Marketing Board gear up for their pre-Christmas campaign meeting...

EASTSIDE: with the terms and conditions meter ticking once more, Chairman D9 arrives just in time for a breakfast conference during which he takes delivery of the Board's latest marketing publication, a 2013 calendar. Having inspected the goods we then convene in Eastside to see how the transformation of the area is gathering pace. Moby Dicks and the former Belmont Row works are looking increasingly incongruous as new development takes place around them. 

- Belmont Row Works -

NECHELLS: next up it's a case of inner-city interrogation as we weave our way through Nechells where various gas holder towers are a constant presence on the skyline. Other landmarks to note include Avenue Road canal bridge, Shanahans Bar on Rocky Lane and the Villa Tavern on Nechells Park Road, and the stage is also set for some 'sleeve surprises'. The Chairman offers up the corner closet on St Clements Road whilst the Secretary lands a double serving in the form of the Britannia and the Albion Vaults, two very intriguing backstreet boozers.

- Giving it some Gas -

BLOOMSBURY: having lubricated ourselves with M&B Mild courtesy of the Albion Vaults, we breeze into Bloomsbury where the local library is a red-brick bastion of Victorian civic pride. Hints of history can also be detected in Bloomsbury Park where there's a vehicular monument marking the location where Lanchester built the first All British four-wheel petrol car back in 1895. The Foaming Tankard is of more recent vintage and has a few Christmas decorations to get us into the festive spirit.

- St Clements Closet -

SALTLEY: Chairman D9 is in his element as we explore the area around Saltley Viaduct, trying to pinpoint where the 'Battle of Saltley Gate' took place as part of the 1972 Miners Strike. The Saltley Coke Works have long gone now, along with the urinal that Arthur Scargill stood atop when declaring victory, but it is still fascinating to reconnect with the area's industrial history. A quick half in the Sportsman is our surreal reward, chatting to a couple of interesting characters whilst listening to a soundtrack drawn from Alma Cogan and Eve Boswell.

- A Spot at Saltley -

ALUM ROCK: Alum Rock Road is always an experience with its vibrant ethnicity as we catch the 14 up to the Brookhill, a 1930's Mitchells & Butlers estate pub where the Chairman attempts to resuscitate his dead mobile phone. Sadly the poor thing is out of power and nothing can be done to boost the battery. 

WARD END: the East Birmingham extravaganza continues with a wander into Ward End where we find St Margaret's Church closely followed by the Barley Mow. Ansell's Mild and a roaring coal fire are just the job on a windswept December afternoon. There is a suspicion of price collusion in the air given that every round we've sampled so far has come to £2.50, threatening to scupper our perennial battle over who can secure the biggest discount. We needed a dose of Wetherspoons to break the cycle, and the Hornet came with the added prospect of meeting drivers from the former Lea Hall Bus Garage. 

- Christmas Chairman at the Fox & Goose -

YARDLEY: the onset of dusk sends us scampering to Yardley, making use of the Outer Circle for a visit to Swan Island where the shopping centre has been redeveloped by Tesco. The Chairman recalls the days when the Swan pub was a major focal point in this neck of the woods and reputedly had the longest bar in Europe. The pub closed some years ago, leaving the New Inn, the Old Bill & Bull and the Redhill Tavern to maintain the Coventry Road quota.

- The Monica -

SMALL HEATH: every excursion has to end somewhere, and in this case the final stand is taken in Small Heath where we go on a Monica hunt only to find the pub closed. On a brighter note, we are able to acquaint ourselves with Bedders fish and chip shop, a Coventry Road institution going back over 50 years that combines nostalgia with excellent food and a free serving of onions in vinegar. What a way to finish an East Birmingham epic!

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