Little did we know when we went to Birmingham this weekend for the Good Food Show Summer that we would be travelling back in time, circa 1988.
We went to the wrong Premier Inn initially; the woman on reception told us we needed to follow the road and drive around six roundabouts before we reached our destination. She neglected to inform us, however, that the roundabouts would be the equivalent of Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter and we would be entering a parallel universe.
We’ve since figured that each roundabout sent us back about four years, until, like DI Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes, we ended up in the eighties.
Nothing seemed amiss, at first, apart from a woman’s clothing shop that stocked clothes you would find on the audience members of Ricky Lake. The hotel was clean, bright and had the amenities you would expect to find in 2012 (apart from the kettle and the toaster, which took so long that we began to look for a handle that we may need to wind in order to power them).
By Friday evening, however, after listening to Now 13 on loop in the hotel bar and especially when we walked past ‘Colour My Funeral’ (where you could buy custom made coffins in all sorts of designs like Union Jack, flowers and an attractive skull and crossbones), we started to seriously wonder.
On Saturday we went to the Good Food Show all day and apart from sampling vodkas with flavours that were a blast from the past like Kola Kube, Black Jack and Rhubarb and Custard, everything else seemed pretty contemporary…until we ventured out for our evening meal.
The decor at the restaurant was, to be polite, ‘shabby chic’, so we hoped the food would be real, honest to goodness, authentic Indian and that the money had been put to better use by buying top quality ingredients and hiring a decent chef. Oh, how wrong we were.
We tried to talk over Tom Jones belting out ‘It’s Not Unusual’ until our food arrived. I had ordered the ‘Chicken Makhan’, which consisted of pieces of chicken (I hope) in a congealed gloop that looked like mayonnaise streaked through with tomato ketchup, with the added twist of a sweet, synthetic orange flavour. Eric’s wasn’t much better.
We struggled down a few mouthfuls, reluctantly paid and walked to the pub nearby. As we opened the door, all eyes turned towards us, mouths agape. Pool balls stopped in their tracks, ‘A Groovy Kind of Love’ stopped playing on the duke box and everybody reached for their weapons (OK, I’m exaggerating, but it was obviously a pub for ‘local people’).
We sat down and whilst we tried to detect traces of arsenic in our drinks, we glanced up at the ‘What’s On’ board above our heads, to find this…
…Nope, nothing ‘Coming Soon’ either.
As the tumbleweed rolled by and the wind whistled around our heads, we began to think that we should just buy a bottle of Cava and take it to our room, having purchased some blackcurrants in cassis that we were reliably informed would enhance any glass of bubbly.
We perused the drinks’ menu and found a list of four sparkling wines of varying prices. We made our choice and went to order at the bar…to be informed by the barman that they didn’t stock anything ‘fizzy’ at all, despite what the menu said.
‘That’s OK’, we said, puzzled but not defeated. We had seen Morrisson’s just up the road and a Sainsbury’s a little further along the road; surely one of these two big supermarkets would have some. Silly us! of course nothing opens past nine o’clock on a Saturday evening, or it didn’t in 1988, apparently…
So we went back to the bar, ordered a bottle of regular white wine, a large glass of not very fizzy soda water and a glass of ice. Surprisingly, it wasn’t quite what we were hoping for. The blackcurrants sat sadly at the bottom of a glass of expensive vinegar topped up with liquid limescale. This is how bad it was – I POURED MINE AWAY. I know!
But rather than feeling disappointed we laughed about it, because a very wise man once said, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’, (Bobby McFerrin, 1988. I KNEW I liked something about that year…) 🙂