24 February 2008


Twenty four hours away in Birmingham. Tony and Fiona come over from Hull and then we're off to Brum. Drop shopping off for daughter outside student residence. Drive on to Hagley Road and the Edgbaston Palace Hotel - surprised to find it is not a palace and that in our room there are no curtains.

Like African explorers, we study the A to Z and weave our way past weird and unfamiliar urban zones like Bearswood, Smethwick and Winson Green till we arrive at the wasteland known as West Bromwich. We park up on Paddington Road, crossing our fingers that the car will still be in one piece when we return. Failing to find a "greasy spoon" for some lunchtime nosh we pass through the Jeff Astle gates and purchase burgers and chips and styrofoam cups of tea at extortionate prices from the fairground caravette.

In The Hawthorns for the very first time. The cops and stewards search us without explanation or apology in this free country. We find our cramped seats in the packed away end. The match kicks off and half way through the first half we score - a wonder goal from Fraizer Campbell, looped in from thirty yards out. The Baggies start to come back at us and they equalise five minutes before half time. We await the second half with trepidation but after the break our lads are on top again. We create more chances and we have got the mighty West Brom under the cosh. We're taunting their fans - "You're supposed to be at home!" and "Just like a library!" till in the eighty second minute Caleb Folan ghosts in from the left wing and despite the attention of three defenders, drives past the faliling West Brom goalie into the corner of his net.

The Hull City end explodes with unbridled joy. We haven't won at West Brom since 1974! The fourth official signals four extra minutes! Four? Where the hell did they get them from? No trainers on the field, nothing! Is the ref a closet Baggies fan? But the whistle eventually goes and we have won! Oh wonder! Oh beauty! "Oh what joy it is to see Hull City win away!" (To the tune of "Jingle Bells").

Later we pick up Frances from the student residence and get ripped off by a greedy taxi driver who takes us into the heart of the Balti triangle. He tries to deposit us at the wrong restaurant but I have done my homework and we are definitely going to the Al Frash on Ladypool Road. £15? You tosser! On the first floor, who is sitting there - none other than the Brummie MP, Clare Short. Rudely, she doesn't even ask for my autograph!

Click on image for Al Frash website

The curry is superb and authentic and it is easy to see why this little curry house recently figured in The Guardian's top ten of British curry restaurants. We swill the delightful grub down with Cobra beer from the nearby off-licence. Then we get an £8 (!) taxi ride back the way we came and guzzle a couple more drinks in The Garden House near our hotel.

Oh Lord! Good company, great food and a fine Hull City victory. Could heaven possibly be better than this? There's even a curtain up in our room as we collapse into bed.


  1. The Midlands is a different country; they do things differently to we sensible Northern folk (I speak as one who lived in leicester for a number of years). Baltis are, however, marvellous creations.

  2. Nice one, YP. Sounds like a good time had by all - particularly that thieving taxi driver!

  3. Aaaah the joys of an authentic curry, here they look offended when I tell them it is not hot enough. Kiwi's it seems only like very mild curry.
    Still how can you take seriously a country that has, as its Air forces emblem a flightless bird ?

  4. Congrats on the win.... I wish I could say the same for Hudds!!

    Q: "Could heaven possibly be better than this?"

    A: If Clare Short had done a lap dance for you and you'd managed to sell the photos for an amazingly extortionate amount of money which would have negated the great taxi swindle and paid for your curry, then probably, yes!! Perhaps if Carlsberg made football excursions...... they'd still make crap lager though!!


  5. You went all that way just to watch football, YP??? ;)

  6. I was thinking of you when I saw Saturday's result YP...nice one!

  7. What fun! I'm sure Clare Short was only trying to respect your privacy by not asking for an autograph. She's a true blue fan that way, you know.

  8. My son is soon to be a Hull supporter too, we visited the uni open day at the weekend and think it is great.

  9. Congrats YP. That curry house sounds great.

  10. brave man heading to berminG'am, strange food, strange accents, did you go to bournville? bull ring used to facinate me as a kid, a bull ring?


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