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Friday, 16 April 2021

It's Bandwagon Time!

 To misquote The Bard of Avon, "Is this a bandwagon which I see before me, Come let me jump aboard!" Ever since the 'glorious' twelfth (of April) any reputable (and a few disreputable) beer/pub blogger has been revelling in and reporting on our new found freedom to have a proper pub pint in a proper!

Who am I to buck this trend? Yesterday I took my first steps back towards normality with a lunchtime session at the Sacks of Potatoes pub by Aston University. I haven't been to 'The Sack' for many years, but I have previously reported on it on this blog (#205).

We chose here because our regular local, the Country Girl in Selly Oak, hasn't yet reopened (26th April). We booked online, but it was possible to just turn up.

This was the scene, a typically beautiful sunny day in Brum...with a bit of a chill wind! It is so long since my last visit, I was convinced that they'd moved the pub as it wasn't quite where I thought it should be!

On arrival we were shown to our table in the outdoor smoking dining area and asked to fill in their track and trace forms (as neither of us have the app!). Service was swift and efficient...and the Carling was as good as ever!

The limited food offering was just right for us, although on another day I may have bemoaned the lack of a proper sandwich...but not today, I was just happy to be back out in the real world!

Drinking at home and with friends is fine, but you don't get the banter with bar staff or the unexpected (brief) conversation with a stranger (and Rangers fan) about how much longer Stevie G might stay north of the border before taking over at Liverpool. Nor do you get the frisson of excitement/apprehension as when a group of young Asian men and women turn up without booking and just sit down at a table. After a brief chat with the bar staff, it wasn't a problem! Reassuringly reasonable...all's well (so far) in publand!

Our stroll back to New Street Station took us past one of the seemingly less loved of Birmingham's statues - Bruce Williams 1996 sculpture of Tony Hancock.

This is my retouched version because in real life it is looking somewhat shabby after many years of neglect.

And so to home to spend the rest of the day sleepily thinking, "Why did I have that fourth pint?" Worth it!

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

#025 The Anchor, Digbeth, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021

 Whilst my fellow bloggers and pub tickers renew their acquaintance with beer gardens and blogging, I've still got one or two Digbeth classics to catch up with, and today's offering is The Anchor. Here's what I wrote back in 2011: -

"The Anchor in Digbeth is a success story in a world where proper pubs are disappearing, this pub is thriving. This is the eleventh in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series.

Here it is in 1998 and at this time I'd never been inside. This is another example of a pub built by James & Lister Lea and it is a Grade II listed building. Since taking the photo I have visited and found it to be a great place and 'unspoilt by progress'.

Here we are in 2011 and from the outside very little has changed. Even the lamp post is still the same one, although it has been painted in the intervening years! The inside is listed on the National Inventory of Pub Interiors which is run by CAMRA and shows pictures of the various rooms. The Anchor website is fairly extensive and also has plenty of useful information (not any more). If you find yourself in Birmingham (especially if you're at the Coach Station), The Anchor is well worth a visit."

Moving on to 2018 and I paid two visits to The Anchor. The first was in January when I took this picture.

As you can see it has had a bit of an external makeover...and the streetlight has disappeared! Apart from that, very little has changed about The Anchor as we found out on my second visit of the year for July's Proper Pubs Day Out trip around Digbeth.

So, as we reach 2021, how has The Anchor changed?

You'd have to say, "Not a lot!" The main question is, "When will it reopen (if at all)?" The good news, according to their Facebook page, is that The Anchor will reopen on 21st May (assuming the government don't do a U-turn)! 

Sunday, 11 April 2021

#044 Sir Charles Napier, Highgate, Birmingham : 1955 to 1998 to 2011 to 2021

 This is another pub that I've never been in, but it still thrives despite this! Here's what I wrote in 2011: -

"This is another of those pubs that I first discovered on my initial 1998 trip around the area. The Sir Charles Napier looks like a typical back street, corner pub of which there were many more then than there are now.

I've still not set foot inside, but I was pleased to see that the Sir Charles Napier was still in business when I returned in 2011.

Apart from a lick of paint it doesn't appear to have changed in the intervening years, aside from it not being an M&B pub any more. The shamrock leaves indicate that it is another Irish pub. It's unlikely that I'll ever visit the Sir Charles Napier for a drink as it is a bit off the beaten track from my usual pub crawls around the 'Eastside' of Birmingham

This is the twentieth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series.

As I was researching the Sir Charles Napier I came across this website - Digital Photographic Images (broken link) - which has many old photos of Birmingham pubs. One of the images was of the Sir Charles Napier from 1955. So I've acquired the postcard and scanned it so that you can see how the pub has changed over a longer period.
The main difference, and I can't quite work out how it was achieved, is that in 1955 the junction was a right angle as was the corner of the pub. However in 1998 the junction is an obtuse angle and the pub looks to have been similarly altered, but with no change to the overall appearance of the building! 

When I started this blog my intention was to use only photos that I'd taken, but I think in a few cases these old photos add to the detail and interest."
Moving on to 2018 and we get another external redecoration.
Lovely bright paintwork which is often a sign that the pub is still thriving.
I can't seem to find any information about when the Sir Charles Napier will be reopening, but their Facebook page seems to be active and promoting other local pubs and businesses.
This is how it looks in 2021. Another slight redecoration, but still looking vibrant!

As I've been writing this I wondered, "Who was Sir Charles Napier?" Not as simple a question as I'd hoped - it turns out, according to Wikipedia, that there were three of them!
General Sir Charles James Napier (1782 - 1853)
Admiral Sir Charles John Napier (1786 - 1860)
Captain Sir Charles Elers Napier (1812 - 1847)

So, I'm still not sure who the pub is named in honour of!

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

#030 Catherine O'Donovan, Highgate, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021 (RIP)

 This will be a relatively short entry, mainly because of the lack of concrete information. Here's what I wrote in 2011: -

"Back in 1998 when I took this photo the pub was called the Pig & Whistle.
Catherine O'Donovan
It is a pub I'd not been in then...and I still haven't in 2011!

I was somewhat surprised to see that it was still open thirteen years later, seemingly thriving under the new name of the Catherine O'Donovan.
It is quite remarkable that it has changed so little from the outside. I assume that it has been redecorated since 1998, but the owners/tenants have kept to the same colour scheme."
I did pass by in 2018 and took this photo from the other angle.
Largely unchanged in the intervening seven years (redecorated, no hanging sign), but, from what I can gather from t'internet, it was already closed by then.

Moving on to 2021 and the Catherine O'Donovan is still in the same state as previously!
If it is closed, it's very strange not to see it boarded up, I can only assume that the premises are still occupied (but I'm guessing!).

 In the modern era (pre-pandemic) it's not too surprising that it had closed down, being the only pub on a street exclusively made up of industrial premises, but it is nice to see it preserved (museum-like) showing a fine example of a back-street boozer in a purely industrial setting.
Postscript: as I was researching the rather sparse details on the Catherine O'Donovan, I did come across a little bit of it's earlier histroy and it was once called The Beehive Inn - picture here.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

#062 Town Crier, Digbeth, Birmingham : 1998 to 2021

The Town Crier is still a pub that I've never been inside, but despite that, it seems to be surviving OK! Here's what I wrote back in 2011: -

"This is a pub I've never been inside although I've passed by on many occasions. This is how it looked in 1998.

A rather unprepossessing appearance, but surprisingly it has survived into 2011!

Quite a few external changes have occurred in the intervening thirteen years. Most notably, it was an M&B pub and now it is Banks's. The Off Licence (or 'outdoor' as we Brummies call it!) is closed and boarded up and the windows have been replaced. Apart from that, there have been signage and other changes as well.
Apart from that I don't have much more information.

This is the twenty-ninth in my 'Birmingham Eastside' series."
One reason for its continuing success, that i didn't know in 2011, is that the interior of the Town Crier is on the Regional CAMRA Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.
I revisited (for photographic purposes) in January 2018 and this was the scene.
Some superficial changes have taken place over the years...seemingly an equal split between design choices and general decay. On our Proper Pubs Day Out later in 2018, the Town Crier wasn't on our itinerary, but one of our party did take a detour to pay a visit. Sheffield Hatter's review can be found here on the Pubs Galore website. This was when I found out about the heritage of the Town Crier.

So, we move on to early 2021 and this is how the pub looks at the moment.
It is difficult to discern whether the Town Crier is still a going concern or whether it will reopen when the current lockdown is over. I suspect that it will as it has proven to be a survivor over the past few years (but I can find no confirmation either way!)