- The Observatory -
Any cob catastrophes are completely avoided as we take the tram to Soho Benson Road where the morning ferret shall commence. The Soho Tavern is up for auction - not that we'd want to buy it - as we climb the hill to Handsworth Church. Shuffling our way into Lozells, there are interesting former pubs to photograph including the Villa Cross and the Observatory either side of some bladder emergencies.
- Hairless in Hockley -
Lozells gained unfortunate notoriety as the scene of rioting in both 1985 and 2005, but in the calm of a crisp autumn morning we find ourselves admiring some of the terraced architecture. The Stork on Heathfield Road is always a nice photo target whilst Lozells Road itself had a distinct multicultural atmosphere. Via Burbury Park we make our way to Hockley, locating the Queens Head on Farm Street before ferreting around the flyover where the Chairman is on the trail of an old public conveniences.
- Rotton Park Junction -
Ladywood is next on the agenda although the local canals make for an appetising side salad. Venturing past All Saints School and Hockley Port, we join the Soho Loop by Roseberry Street and follow on down to Rotton Park Junction, the only canal crossroads to be found on the BCN. From here we advance to Ladywood Middleway, locating a leisure centre, fire station and St John's & St Peter's Parish Church.
- Five Ways Demolition -
Mr D9 had a specific interest in visiting Five Ways as he'd heard that the shopping centre was due for demolition. This is indeed the case as chunks have already been taken out of the precinct, albeit some of the front stores are still trading and the former Crusader pub premises are intact for the time being.
- D9 prepares for the preacher -
A turn-up-and-go (TUAG) connection is now required and the 29 bus happily obliges for our link down to Northfield. The Chairman quickly adopted the requisite pose in readiness for some driving action only to be interrupted by a persistent preacher who tried to teach us the "Sinner's Prayer" with the aid of an illustrated exercise book.
- The Clock Cafe -
Fresh from the sermon we seek redemption at the Clock Cafe, a Northfield institution where the staff seem to know everybody who walks through the door - even those they don't recognise (such as two Hub Marketing delinquents) are soon made to feel part of the family.
- The Balmoral -
One hearty breakfast later we board the 18 to Bartley Green where the Chairman is sorely tempted to restock the local reservoir. Thankfully he manages to resist that particular urge and we can proceed to Kitwell as planned, calling in at the Balmoral for a closely-fought darts match that the D9 Destroyer won by three legs to two.
- Baldness and a bus -
Kitwell is something of a West Midlands outpost, a relatively modern estate that was originally part of Bromsgrove district until the Birmingham boundary was revised. The turning circle opposite the local shop serves as the terminus of the number 22 bus as well as providing a crafty bald spot opportunity.
- Sad Stonehouse -
Other than the Balmoral, other local pubs that caught our eye included the Cock Inn (on Jiggins Lane) and the Hairy Lemon at Woodgate Valley South (previously known as the Hobson's Choice but now with a distinctly studenty yellow-themed interior). It's a shame to see the Stonehouse in such a sorry state over towards California - you have to wonder if the wrecking ball is just around the corner.
- The Discount Demon celebrates -
To Harborne then, and the Hillyfields on Quinton Road serves up a discount half that had the Chairman positively beaming with smug satisfaction...
- Eyewatering expensiveness -
... sadly his joy was not to last long as a visit to the Junction inflicted untold damage on the D9 wallet courtesy of the most expensive couple of halves in hub marketing history.
- The Harborne Closet -
Other Harborne features would include the Bell Inn (by the church), the swimming baths and the Duke of York road junction although sadly the Scarlet Pimpernel down on Tennal Road is no more. Our favourite find has to be the old cast iron urinal which remains very much in working order just across from the library. Such a facility came in very handy when easing bladders in anticipation of the White Horse (where we met the pub cat) and the Harborne Stores.
- WME Whirlwind wins again -
Early evening sees us homeward bound on the 48 route, stopping off at West Smethwick to complete our darts duel. D9's Balmoral advantage quickly disintegrated as it was the Secretary who ultimately held his nerve to claim a prized place on the spreadsheet. Spon Lane then contributed the Flowerpot - the only pub remaining out of the twenty or more that once populated the street - and a Dartmouth Street shuffle rounds up shots of the Vine and the Railway for good measure with a bonus bit of Emmerdale watching (should you happen to like that kind of thing). Another day done and it's all praise to the hubs, they certainly served us well this time!