An Adventure Up North

A surprise invitation…

It’s rare that I’m called out of my hiding place in Cornwall, but a special occasion this month proved just the thing to get me out of the county.

Weddings are odd events. They are both homogeneous and completely unique at the same time. Throughout your life (depending on how popular you are) you’ll be end up going to dozens of weddings, each one of them lodging irrevocably in your mind whilst simultaneously melding together . Whilst the couples will always appear radiant on the day, your enjoyment of the event will always depend on your closeness with those getting married (and the strength of the drinks on hand).

I remember that there was a period of time in my twenties when it felt like I was going to a wedding every other weekend, but soon enough the flow of invitations, which once felt like an endless cascade of ivory embossed cards slowed to a trickle, until the only envelopes adorning my door mat were politely asking me to pay my bills. I’m now in my fifties and my door mat is clear most days which means that all my friends have either married or died…and that I’ve finally managed to get a grip of my finances.

So, it should go without saying that I was more than a little surprised to find a plump ivory letter waiting for me when I came downstairs one morning last year. An old friend of mine from my farming days (who had somehow managed to keep hold of my address for nigh on 20 years) was getting married in Birmingham. It had been so long since I’d been to a wedding that I blindly accepted, hastily RSVP-ing that same day.

It wasn’t until I’d sent off the RSVP that I started to wrack my brain for the last time I’d even talked to this ghost from the past. Much like weddings, football games and waiting at bus stops – the monotonous days of farming had blended into one indiscernible mush in my mind. Keith had been the youngest of all of us and the most idealistic, perhaps he had been too ambitious to stay there. I marked the date on my calendar and then chose to put the whole thing out of my mind. No good would come of overthinking such a thing.

Before I knew it I was pulling on a wrinkled grey suit, sleeping on a train and stepping into a glitzy wedding venue in the centre of Birmingham. ‘Fish out of water’ does not quite do justice to how I was feeling. A vodka luge carved in the shape of a swan gurgled quietly in the corner, flowers decked out what must have been 20 tables and a lounge band on a raised stage kicked into life. A man in a dinner suit approached me with a beaming smile. He was handsome, in his 30s and didn’t look like anyone that I knew.

“Maxwell, you made it! Darling, come and meet the man who’s responsible for getting me out of that God awful farm!”

Keith had changed, but at least we shared an opinion on the farm…

Hangover Pie and Pint in Birmingham

I awoke with a start the day after Keith’s wedding.

With a glance at my watch I could tell that I’d already missed my train – at this point in time, my immediate worries were more based around my physical predicament rather than my transport home.

My years of drinking usually put me in good stead for a solid session, but apparently I’d been in particularly energetic form the night before. I groaned as my brain pushed at the edge of its skull casing, desperately seeking for a way to seep through my face. Attempting to rally my senses, I stopped to consider what had happened the night before, how had I lost control of my faculties? Should I have not drained a 4-pack of Stella before getting to the wedding? Should I have stopped drinking after the first bottle of Prosecco or the second?

Thankfully, I’d found a bed in the centre of Birmingham and I was just a cab ride away from a solid pie and pint.

Now, I would never go as far to say that I’m an advocate of day-time drinking. I usually hold with the classic ‘6pm rule’ when it comes to drinking, often finding that if I start any earlier then it can be a real challenge to make it out of the gutter the next day. Despite breaking this particular rule the day before (and subsequently paying the price for it) I knew that the only way that I was going to make a quick recovery and return to Truro in one piece was by partaking in the ‘hair of the dog’. I settled up with the smirking receptionist on the ground floor and hailed a taxi, ordering the man to take me to the nearest pie and pint.

A short drive from the centre of town lies The Village, less of a pub and more of a family-friendly bistro, when I arrived there was already a number of patrons there complete with their offspring. Although I usually baulk at any boozer that positions itself in the family-friendly market, I was in no position to be picky and the cabbie informed me that there was no better pie in the city. I pushed my way in, expecting to be assaulted by a wall of screaming children but was surprised to be greeted by a quiet murmur of mothers conversing, the lower rumble of middle-class father timorously discussing the football and the occasional bubble of cherubic laughter.

A sigh of relief later I had sunk myself into a deep leather chair and ordered their Hand-Raised Pie of the Day along with a pint of their weakest ale. I started out cautiously, unsure of what effect these foreign bodies would have on my fragile system. Thankfully, with every sip and mouthful of pie I found myself reinvigorated. Within half an hour I was gamely wolfing down the remnants of the pie and happily quaffing the rest of my pint, half-considering ordering another one for the road…

I decided against staying, knowing full well how a second pint before midday could change the course of my day, opting instead to nurse a bottle of wine on the long train ride back home.