Tour Diary: Birmingham (UK / Day 11)

Salty Snack of the Day: M&S Prawn Cocktail – I had to try at least one prawn snack right? I wasn’t looking forward it but was told by a concerned local that the Marks and Spencer brand was the best. Just very slightly fishy with a little tomato in there. Not that notable either way really.

Britishism of the Day: Bollocks “It’s like putting clean underwear over dirty bollocks.”

Birds: Grey Heron and probable Buzzard flying over.

I don’t remember much of the drive to Birmingham. Days are starting to run together. I met a motoring enthusiast with a broken down 40-year old Morgan who was ever so happy to tell me the entire history of the company and the various models of Morgans then and now. (always accompanied by the liter size of the engine) They still create 200 cars a year largely by hand. He was still talking as I backed away, lost in his reverie, waiting for the break calipers to cool down enough so he could drive home and tinker some more.

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We were set to play the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham, but it was actually in an area called King’s Heath, a suburb about 5 miles from the city center. We were running late because of repeated bouts of horrific traffic. In order to stave off my usual soundcheck crash I order my first typical English breakfast.* Yesterday a pasty, today an English Breakfast. Is there anything I’m missing that is classically English, but also potentially vegetarian? Ooh, crumpets! I should have one of those. Wouldn’t mind some clotted cream too. Mmmm….clots.

We walked into the venue’s room and were engulfed in smothering fog machine smoke. Since we were late we flew through the soundcheck and began to look around. The H&H was a very old, maze-like, gorgeous pub and venue. The walls were covered in stunning art deco tiles, and I found a courtyard that felt like a secret hidden in the middle of the building.

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I ate my breakfast for dinner, (baked beans with a hash brown floating in them, toast, egg, tomatoes, and grilled haloumi cheese) and looked up the history of the place. And it was haunted! Here’s an excerpt describing the events in question:

In the 1990’s barmaid, Marion Powell, had an experience she will never forget! She went down to the cellar to get the cleaning products she needed at the start of her shift when she spotted an overwhelming blackness come rushing down the stairs towards her and engulfed her! Marion describes it as pure evil.  But that wasn’t the worst of it! She then heard “GET OUT!!!” screamed at her and she needed no further incentive to run out of the pub!

Sometime earlier the landlord noticed a foul smell coming from the sewage system and it had become blocked by a black gunge coming through the walls of the cellar.  It seems that the building next door was the site of the city gallows.  The bodies of the executed criminals were pushed into a trough which now forms part of the cellar wall of the pub!! It’s ok though, they have built a new wall now between the cellar and the old building.

Today we often meet Harey Harold, our friendly ghost, who occasionally plays with the lighting and music systems as well as knocking the odd thing off the shelves. 

Except I just found out this story came from a different Hare and Hounds. Piss. Oh well, it’s a good story.

Anyway, The H&H we were at had a plaque stating UB40 had made their debut there, and it’s legitimately considered one of the best small venues in the UK. As has become the habit we were treated well, provided tea, coffee, water and beer, and of course the sound was excellent. We played an abbreviated set because there was a DJ up after us. The crowd was kind of far away from us and mostly hidden by the rock fog, but it was a good night.

Olie had spent a good portion of the evening under the van trying to fix what now seemed like an exhaust issue. After the show he reported that it hadn’t worked and was getting steadily worse. With a long drive to our last headlining show in Scotland the next day, he said he was going to try a 24 hour Mercedes Benz garage, but that we were probably going to have to attempt to rent a van the next morning. Olie was obviously displeased and left for the garage around midnight with the plan to plead our situation using many dire adjectives and puppy dog eyes. He returned shortly after with the place being locked down and inaccessible. So tomorrow at the crack of dawn we shall sally forth,** deposit his van, rent a different one, and still try to make soundcheck. Will we make it? Prospects look dim as the dim prospectors settle in for an uneasy night of fitful sleep.***

*With Linda McCartney sausage. I can’t believe there’s enough left of her after all this time but she was delicious.

**Sally Worth. Whatever.

***How’s that for a cliffhanger? It’s a pretty shit one isn’t it? Dammit.

Tomorrow is Edinburgh