I will not drink.
Two hours on the train with three children, two rucksacks, a Game Boy, a Discman, the collected works of Douglas Adams in hardback and and Teen's entire year of GSCE maths coursework. You would think we were emigrating instead of just visiting a friend, and having lunch in Birmingham's newly opened Radio Cafe.
But I will not drink.
Anyway, it was a bit early for one of the Radio Cafe's immense array of unappealing, though inexpensive, cocktails - all of which convinced me that, indeed, the world would be a better place without Bailey's Irish Cream.
When we arrived just after noon the place was so empty that you could almost see the tumbleweed blowing across the tiled prairies, bringing with it the unmistakable tang of fresh polyurethane paint. It was like an Ikea designed nursery school before the kids turn up in the morning. Our waitress looked tentatively around at the empty chairs as if she wasn't quite sure what they were for, or what she was expected to do with us - finger painting or the sand box.
As I said, it was a bit early.
The menu - well it comes in a CD case which is as original as it gets. Apart from a couple of disorientated oriental dishes, inside it's just cover versions of America's greatest fast food hits - things like steak, ribs, burgers and club sandwiches, all rounded off with a chorus of fries.
The kids had potato skins and nachos to start. When the food arrived both dishes were drenched rather than merely garnished with spring onions - like it had been raining hedge clippings in the kitchen. Nachos may be the sort of cheese on chips gloop that makes pot noodles look positively healthy but we devoured them hungrily - black beans, salsa and all. Being snobbish about the food while secretly enjoying it is half the fun of eating with children. The other half escapes me at the moment.
Then they had burgers - Bill had a bacon-cheeseburger and Bob had a roadside - an unfortunate name for anything you are expected to put in your mouth and swallow. However it did come with sliced red onions and thousand island dressing so perhaps it's apt. It's unclear how my purist free-range, foodie philosophy has influenced young Bob. Not at all, I'd say.
The Teen had a Quorn cheeseburger, while I, to my eternal shame, had an Alhoa chicken sandwich with melted Provolone cheese and bacon, though I did ask them to remove the pineapple rings first.
And I still didn't drink.
The fries were anaemic, the salad consisted of a lettuce leaf and buffalo tomato slices. The meat came medium to well done, without prior consultation, and there was more bun than burger. Similarly my chicken breast was dwarfed by two stolid chunks of hard ciabatta large enough to rub down, wax and surf on.
The burgers were pretty good - hefty, succulent and cooked to perfection. The Teen pronounced her Quorn burger 'excellent', though why a vegetarian who claims not to like the taste of meat wants to eat a meat substitute which does, is beyond me.
All in all - the food was generally okay as these places go - but overpriced for such basic fare. You're really paying for the chap in a booth playing desultory singles with accompanying videos - which is somthing like in-flight entertainment but without the free drinks and the little pack of nuts. At times the local station BRMB does broadcast from the Cafe, but live radio is not exactly a spectator sport.
The Teen was underwhelmed and thought it too expensive had she been paying - a novel concept. And anyway - opposite is the Sport's cafe, brimming with testosterone TV-watching Brummie blokes. What girl in her right mind would be in here watching videos when she could be over the road looking at boys.
On Saturday lunch time it seemed to be mostly divorced father country. Ideal for lone parents who lunch. Certainly Bill and Bob had fun until I started singing along with the videos. We had another round of cokes - pure profit iced water with syrup - while the DJ played requests. I begged the Teen to ask for 'Sway' but she said that she'd rather extract her own teeth with a pair of nail clippers. Apparently I'm deeply uncool.
Pudding. Oh yes - let's have more sugar because we're only going to spend two hours in a confined space playing 'thumb wars'. I was persuaded to order, God-help me, sizzling nanas (for this I'm wearing Armani?) Sliced bananas with caramel sauce and ice cream 'to share' - which roughly translates as to 'fight over and dribble across your GCSE course work'.
You know, on reflection - Bailey's is probably a vastly underrated drink, especially when mixed with kahlua, creme de cacao and quarrelsome children. But I did promise myself I wouldn't drink.
So, I just had a coffee.