Tuesday, 27 December 2016

BRAPA - A Welcome Return to Lincolnshire

It's what Liz Smith would've wanted.  I achieved my first Lincolnshire pub ticks for the first time in nearly two years.  It was a Boxing Day bonanza in the renegade "North East" of the county, which seems to think it is a county in it's own right.  We'll call it "Post Humberside Hangover Syndrome" (PHHS).

Me and Dad drove down over the Humber Bridge, where the waters looked particularly murky and forboding on a chilly Monday morning - we were meeting the vast majority of the "Welly gang", our Hull City friends who used to frequent the Wellington in Hull which for a time circa 2008 was probably the best pub on the planet.

974.  Haven Inn, Barrow Haven

Dad reported photobombing twild interference as he stepped up to take the BRAPA outdoor pub photo, sadly he didn't capture them in shot.  The location was quite remote, but there were plenty of diners lurking and I had to veer to one side to avoid collision with an elderly woman with dark glasses, stick AND scooter.  The pub seemed to have something of a reception room, which I think might have been a dining conservatory, and finding the bar wasn't immediately obvious which is never a good sign.  We saw our Welly gang in the corner as I went to grab myself a pint of Tom Wood's best bitter (still a novelty to a York boy like me) - the barman juggled the change expertly, but he did probably have six fingers on each hand so a bit of a cheat.  Furthermore, I had to go back for a 'top up' as I'd got a three quarter measure but I'd rather blame lively quality bubbly beer than bad staffery.  If that's a word.  Tom was able to recount a humourous exchange on their arrival:
STAFF : Hi.  Are you dining with us today?
WELLY GANG : We haven't decided yet.
STAFF : Have you booked a table?
STAFF : Well you're not dining with us then!
Classic 2016 pub culture.  Well, the pub had a nice cosy feel despite the dining, some brunettes skulked around trying to be gorgeous, a wooden pheasant dominated the window, the roof was low and had beams, walls were a nice warming red, I grabbed a beermat from another table as instructed by Chris Irvin, and I was told about some floods of 2013 almost destroying the pub.  I felt the wall behind me,  It was dry.  On the way out, local expert Christine took me and Dad up a steep bank behind the pub to admire the views of Barrow Haven itself.  I almost commented it looked incredibly Lincs but she told me it reminded her of East Yorkshire.  This pub did remind of the Hope & Anchor at Blacktoft, only a bit more sterile.  Still, worth the trip out.

The Pheasant sees all.

Lovely (photoshopped) view out the back of the pub.
A short drive through Barrow back to Barton allowed us to have a local history tour of the area, everything from coal to the post office, as Bernard drove slowly to allow Bernie to keep up.

Ben, me, Christine arrive in Barton.
975.  White Swan, Barton-upon-Humber

As we walked in, Ben and Christine were greeted heartily by the friendly young bar chap and strike me pink if I didn't see one Tom Wood's or Batemans beer, but a selection of strong dark winter guest ales - just what you need when you are about to watch Hull City playing at home to Manchester City.  The highlight was the Yorkshire Heart Blackheart Stout - I don't often talk about individual beers cos beer is usually boring, but you gotta try it, absolute classic.  The pub had something of an airy modern feel, but still did just enough to be cosy and comfortable though some carpets and bench seating would be a nice addition in 2017.  I may have imagined a fire, but a Christmas tree decorated in pump clips is tasteful in anyone's book(!)  We sat and chatted about celebrity deaths - we'd already done the Hull City quiz in the last pub which I'd like to think I won but nobody was keeping score.  Boo.    Suddenly, I saw a bright shining light emanating from the midriffs of a few new arrivals - yellow bellies galore, led by the friendly but slightly mad presence of "Scunny Sarah" who's previous appearance was at the Rising Sun Beer Festival in Sheffield so she has a 100% BRAPA record.  Kick off was fast approaching, it became clear me n Dad were the only ones actually going to the game!  It felt a bit like a practical joke, but this was a great pub session, reminiscent of Welly days of yore.  

Ben as confused by the Xmas tree decor as me.

Nice view of the White Swan bar.

Inappropriate behaviour from the hand dryer.

Me and Dad managed to squeeze in a quick half at the George in Hull, which after many false dawns, has become a good pub which no longer has to rely on a small window for popularity.  The beers were all Abbeydale and Bradfield so wonder if a Sheffield person has taken over.  I read somewhere that the last time it was this good a pub, Charles II was on the throne!

Micky Phelan getting in a quick pint before the trek to the KCOM.
Hull City then played well for ages but still lost 0-3 thanks to some terrible substitutions (too much Abbeydale Moonshine Micky!) which left you wondering if life would have been better if Dad hadn't turned right over the Humber Bridge and had instead carried on to the likes of Winterton and Burton-upon-Stather. 

Whether or not I squeeze in a West Yorkshire tick tomorrow night, I'll definitely be back on Saturday for some New Year's Eve fun - it's what George Michael would've wanted.


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

BRAPA - Abbey Inn, Newlay

A chance Google Maps based conversation with my new 'Static Data' buddies, Messrs Dawson & Beckett, helped me to realise that the mythical railway station of Kirkstall Forge was actually real, and less than a ten minute walk from this mythical pub, which I'd asked 25 Leeds based folk about, only to receive 25 blank expressions......

It should have all been very straightforward, had I not mistaken 17:46 for 17:40 on the train scoreboard, and hence, I missed my train and had almost an hour to wait.  I popped into Scarbrough Taps (as everyone still calls it) during post-work Christmas Nicholson's chaos (am sure this pub was better in 2003) and I got chatting with the bubbly Lisa from Castleford about internet dating, 20 year old man-children and obviously BRAPA, before I escaped.

Ten minutes later I was walking through dark woodland between canal and river, slightly behind the silhouette of a man who I was convinced was about to turn around and murder me.  He resisted.  I grew to love him, he was like my casual captor who couldn't be arsed.  It was all very Stockholm Syndrome.

The pub is real!

It's named after Kirkstall Abbey, wherever that is.
973.  Abbey Inn, Newlay

I could sense the anticipation emanating from the clientele as soon as I entered.  They lined the pub's bench-seating looking hopeful.  I'd love to believe they were sat there with their BRAPA bingo cards about to cross off "nine hundred and seventy three, I'm off for a pee" but there was something bigger afoot.  As I expressed delight at a Christmas based Tetley's guest (great caramelly ale flavours, who knew?), the two young barmen looked surprised in a disgusted way and I was just about to ask them if they weren't fans of it, when a huge dreadlocked West Indian strode up and announced "you know I said we'd brought our own power, I lied!"  What was going on?  Oh well, with the main bar room a hive of activity, I took my pint to the pool room up two steps at the back of the pub where nothing much happened for the next quarter of an hour.  Eventually, a grumpy man appeared and thinking we were kindred spirits relegated to the back room, I tried to make conversation but he just wanted to vape and "get some peace and quiet" as he told someone later, fair enough misery guts, two can play at that game, I hate people too.  An excitable group of Mum's and daughters appeared and it soon became clear carol singing was on the agenda (they stole vaper man's vaping juice accidentally which was funny).  A nervous but friendly thirty something couple squeezed in next to me, we chatted BRAPA but she was worried she'd forgotten the words to Silent Night.  The professional West Indian singers kicked off early with some non-Christmas tunes, "Stand by Me", "Brothers in Arms", "Anarchy in the UK" (I can't remember, I'm guessing but I did get told off for complaining they weren't festive enough). It was time to sneak off before the whole pub got going on the carols.  Phew, I could hardly move for folk.  So much for a 'made up' pub!  A community haven.

This area was lined with people too by the time I left

Excellent pint!

I thought he was a paedophile but it is far worse.....
BRAPA is now closed for Christmas so ho, ho, ho, and all that business.  Have a good 'un one n all.

I'm getting a couple of bonus ticks in North Lincs on Boxing Day and I'll be back for West Yorkshire fun next midweek.  I have to go about nine miles out of Leeds which still isn't bad.  


Sunday, 18 December 2016

BRAPA - Are you Essex in Disguise?

Pub 970, Ship at Gidea Park
Three more East London pubs were ticked off in the name of BRAPA yesterday, to rocket it up the league table by 8 places, overtaking counties as amazing as Lincolnshire, Glamorgan and Ayrshire.

2016 BRAPA started in East London, so it seems fitting that the last "social" day of the year should finish there.

In Leeds Stick & Twist on Friday, alas Eva Hart didn't read the script.
All round BRAPA legend Tom Irvin tracked me and Dad down on the train going east out of Liverpool Street towards Essex, with the honing instincts of a bloodhound with a ginger beard and a bad cough.

969.  Eva Hart, Chadwell Heath

I'm sure the percentage of GBG pubs listed under London that are Wetherspoons is higher than elsewhere in the UK, and with no 50p vouchers seeming to cover the month of December, it felt like salt was being rubbed into my wounds (I was still suffering with man-flu).  Eva Hart the woman is famous for being one of the Titanic's oldest survivors, so the lack of Titanic beers made me feel like they'd missed a trick.  It was "Weltons" ales all the way, but not before the barmaid (who Dad labelled "gossip knickers") kept following her old crone gossip buddy around the bar to talk about car parks despite the fact that a shitload of customers were waiting to be served, by her, the only staff member!  She called us 'dear' though and sounded like Babs Windsor so something of a consolation.  As 'Spoons go, this was quite a pretty and cosy one, and we found a quiet booth in the raised area, quiet until Tom hacked his guts up and the pub alarm went off (not connected I don't think).  The barmaid said she was "off to change the cellar" which sounded like a huge task.  Our table was sticky and covered in crumbs, but the ale, strangely called "Heat Was In the Very Sod" was nicely festive.
Quite a typical early morning London 'Spoons experience.

Some Xmassy Welton brews to try once gossip knickers gets herself into gear.
A couple of stops further east was Gidea Park, and a shortish walk from the railway station saw us at this beautiful looking old pub, amazingly it still wasn't 12 noon so Dad was a bit eager trying to break in, a few locals with the look of unhappy Hammers about them lurked in the background.

A bloody foggy morning in East London / Essex.

Close up shows what Tom thinks of pub Christmas parties, plus locals.
970.  Ship, Gidea Park

It felt like good manners to let the locals go in first as we heard the door unlock from within - not that we had a choice - but what I hadn't accounted for was another group racing around through a side door from the carpark.  You snooze you lose!  Popular pub, and you could see why with low beams, nice and creaky, attempts at quirky decor.  Shame then that my jolly "hello!" to the barmaid wasn't reciprocated.  Miserable bitch, I thought, until I heard her sounding off to an equally miserable blue-topped local about how her morning couldn't have gone any worse.  She was rostered on til 7pm, and Friday night had obviously been busy, she'd had a lot of cleaning up to do.  Should I suggest working in the pub trade might not be for her, best not, might get barred.  She then had to tell me the Brewers Gold was off, I just nodded sympathetically.  Poor lady.  My Courage Best was lame, but the Tim Taylor Landlord was superb - this wasn't official BRAPA so I could stay for two pints, hurray.  The locals were watchful, not as friendly as they should've been, and I hit my head on the soft ceiling cushion on the way to the gents, and I'm a short-arse which just shows how low the roof is.  I was ankle deep in water as I stood at the urinal, I made a joke about it, I got glared at by the ghost of one of the Kray twins.  It was that kind of pub. 

Stain glassed Ship selfie
One stop back down the line found us in Romford, a place I've always wanted to go to since I found out Steve Davis had the Pool nickname of the Romford Slim and 90's chav girls had hairstyles known as Romford Facelifts.  The place itself was a bustling little Metropolis, plenty of characters, and it is fair to say the 'Spoons reflected that ......

The locals don't stop for BRAPA photos.  "Come on Gran, let's get ya home".
971.  Moon & Stars, Romford

Probably one of the more obvious pre-match drinking venues for West Ham fans despite the relative distance from their new Olympic soulless monstrosity, this was a hotbed of hubbub but a surprisingly open and friendly one.  The young lads seemed to have abandoned any vague Green Street leanings in favour of the chirpy Cockney wideboy approach.  Meanwhile, the oldsters looked like they were out of day release from the 'home', with their suits and army badges and insistence on calling you 'sir' before a carer appeared out of nowhere to help "get them back down the stairs".   In searching for a table, Dad was asked to help two old dears carry a tray of coffee and pastries up four steps.  He was described as 'very kind' as profuse thanks was showered upon him.  We perched between Noel Edmonds fruit machine and the bar, it was standing room only of course, supping a very good Lymestone ale called 'Stone Cold' before the mad dash to the new stadium.  Quite a classy place this pub and Romford, if you dare to look beneath the surface!

"Gor bloimey" "Lavva Dack" "'Av a banana!" "Oim foreva blowing babbles".
 After a game where the frame of West Ham's goal was man of the match, it was important not to dwell on another defeat and just be pleased it is easier to escape from Stratford than their old ground - which meant BRAPA possibilities were back on the agenda......

972.  Old Red Cow, Smithfield

I'd noticed how close this was to Barbican on the way in, liked what I read, liked that it is on the 'first page' of London in the Good Beer Guide, so thought I'd give it a go.  (as if I get to choose what pubs I go to!)  We entered to a squashy one roomed square pub room, with a nice selection of Moor beers and a few eager staff surprised to see non suited, non Prosecco drinkers in their pub.  As young ladies with long legs dangled from posing tables (it was like being in an advert for leg waxing), I realised that if London pubbing has taught me one thing, it is always worth exploring upstairs and downstairs for 'hidden' rooms.  And upstairs, I found an extra bar and we timed it just right as Hipster Roy Wood and Wizzard were just saying their farewells to some gushing staff.  Dad was loving this place as a potential new stop off point on his frequent trips to London, but Tom was more cautious - noticing that ordering a bowl of chips for £4 was almost on a par with his entire weekly food spend!  And I'm all for Scotch Eggs as pub snacks, but what the heck is a Padrow Pepper when it's at home?  Never seen one of them in Rochdale.  And why was the Christmas garland table decor so OTT that you couldn't rest your elbows on the tables?  But let's not complain too much, this was, as Central London goes, a pretty darn good pub to be in.  The beer upstairs was keg only but Dad got me a Titanic Stout for the road (rail?), it felt like the day had come full circle. 

A blurry Red Cow

Hipster Wizzard are about to depart.

Upstairs bar, I finally got my Titanic!
 It was a nice quick & painless journey back to York - I'll be back probably on Tuesday for a West or North Yorkshire pub tick as we wrap things up before the Christmas break.  Have a good week.  I've lost my voice which might be tricky when ordering beer. 



Tuesday, 13 December 2016

BRAPA - Further North, Chapel Allerton

After another horrid 'project' day, it was a great relief to be able to tick off a pub only a couple of miles from L**ds, my place of work.  Fittingly, the bus departed from opposite sister pub North Bar, at a stop which I'd always squinted at in fear from the safety of a pub window - if you like fried chicken and tattoos, this is the street for you.

I was warned by crazy work colleague Karen L that my bus would be full of weirdos, but nothing had braced me for an encounter with 'Catherine the receptionist', who shouted to me from afar, so the whole bus soon knew my BRAPA plans.

In the black drizzly evening, I soon arrived, the other highlight of the short journey being a girl on her phone matter-of-factly saying "yes, she works as an elf at the Trafford Centre on Wednesdays".

You'll just have to imagine the glowing red bit says "Further", ok? 

968.  Further North, Chapel Allerton

This was what you'd called an "intimate" venue, a much smaller squarer room than it's Leeds counterpart, where everyone seemed to be dressed and styled in 1970's garb, apart from an HMV style dog it had an element of 1996 about it.  Even the Christmas jumpers were worn in a demure "what of it, I wear this all year round and I look bloody good in it" kind of way.  Weird adult jazz music created something very lounge lizardy about the whole set up, a selection of odd lampshades intermingled with branches of Christmas trees and green tinsel, only added to the vibe.  The barman was a helpful young chap - determined to get me to do a "try before you buy" on a peppery Magic Rock porter, I had to explain I wanted to "jump straight in" as it may ward off early signs of man-flu I'd been feeling.  This appeased him and caused the pub to look at me enquiringly, as if weighing up how sympathetic they felt towards my ailment, before deciding they gave zero fucks.  They returned to their tankards of Euro beer.   Oh well, worth a try.  I took my pint to the 'radiator' seat, one of those that can give you piles simply by leaning your shoulder on it.  I watched two couples theatrically meet up 'by chance' and sit down for a drink in cosy fashion (swingers obviously) and the dog, which hadn't read the script, punctuated the calmness with sharp yelps every ten minutes.

It'll ward off man-flu but it is a tough one to drink!

Lampshades and stuff.
A crazy man helped me flag down a 3A bus when I wasn't concentrating and soon I was back at Vicar Lane, where I made the short walk to the railway station, home in York by 8pm,  Sorted.

Next Tuesday, in what will be the unofficial "BRAPA Christmas Special", I'll be visiting a pub I suspect doesn't actually exist as no-one has even heard of the place, never mind the pub!  I'm going along for the jolly anyway, could be a good one to write up.


Monday, 12 December 2016

BRAPA - Wortley Men's Club v BrewDog York

The York branch of the BRAPA nerve-centre
Can I have my weekend back please?  Not often I say that but after a pathetic return of one new pub and a highly pre-emptive pre-emptive, I'm not pleased with myself.  It all went wrong when I slept in until 1pm on Saturday, despite having only had 3 drinks on the Friday Christmas do - one of these being a can of Red Stripe, the other a pint of vinegar at the usually woeful Parkside Tavern in L**ds.

I spent more time here than anywhere else over the weekend!

Sunday travelling and pubbing is far inferior to Saturday as any pub goer will tell you, but why trains to Worksop only started approx 2pm when I was in Sheffield for 10:30am was just plain rude?!  It was time to pop into the proxy BRAPA nerve centre in Sheffield to gather my thoughts .....

Working out plan B in Sheffield Tap 
Soon I was in a taxi for the 'short' 8 mile run up to Wortley (busses would take too long and I figured if I got there n back ASAP, Worksop was still on).  The taxi driver said he'd wait for me until I asked him to take me to Chapeltown on the way back to save cost, when he decided to ditch me and give me a card with their number.  When I rang it to say I was in Wortley, they coughed nervously and said they had nothing available all day!  

Time to stop stressing and breathe in South Yorkshire quality.
967.  Wortley Men's Club, Wortley

The Club of the Year awards are fully justified, and for 35 mins at least, I was able to enjoy the splendour of this amazing place as time seemed to stop.   You know when you are stood at the bar, three locals let you go before them (remember, they are club members, I'm a CAMRA interloper) before nodding towards a complimentary spread of cheese and biscuits, you are in a good place.  Someone asked an old lady what she wanted to drink but she said "ey up, I want to get mi cheese n biccies and get settled first".  It summed up the place, no one under 60 but me.  A man volunteered to take my photo as I was (slyly) snapping away like tourist scum, a huge portrait of her Maj and Phil Windsor looked down on me, there was enough tinsel to shame the Plough & Harrow in Warfield, and a man stood up with a microphone to announce the prize winning raffle numbers - the runner up prize being a mixed grill, the winner got a gallon of beer.  He couldn't find the chalk for the blackboard to record the numbers.  An old stager called Horace thought he'd spied it on top of a shelf, but it was only dust.  Horace was politely asked to get his eyes tested.  The only music that played was Johnny Cash.    I didn't take any complimentary cheese n biscuits, it didn't feel right, plus Judgey Jesus would have probably walked in and thrown a giant olive at my head.  If it hadn't been for the BRAPA 2016 staple of Derby County and Tom Ince playing brilliantly on a TV screen, it'd have been 100% successful.  99% will have to do.  Are you watching Penistone?  This is how a club should treat visitors.

Me and the Christmas raffle prizes inc modern radio cassette player (perhaps).

The wise men get to grips with BRAPA 

Raffle time in Wortley and the excitement is palpable.

Ignoring Tom Ince and Phil Windsor, this place is wonderful.
It only seemed right to hop on a bus to Penistone after that, and then a long wait in the most rattly single glazed waiting room in history and a long train journey back to Sheffield.  By this time, Worksop hopes were looking slim with work tomorrow, and a train cancellation around Retford/Donny made my decision easier, so I played safe.

40 mins waiting in Sheffield Tap, I'm starting to finally get a feel for this place, on one of their silly tiny tables with beer of the year Bingham's Stout and some half a Bad Seed.....

Note the 85 year old lady in background who drank rest of Sheff Tap under the table (whilst sleeping).
Back in York, it was nearly dusk but time to visit a place which only opened on Friday (Thursday if you are a shareholder, Punk Rock!! Dire Straits Style!)

5 minutes walk from my flat, BrewDog arrives in York!
BrewDog, York

I knew the Aberdeen one was a highly optimistic pre-emptive so I couldn't ignore this on my doorstep could I, especially as rumours that BrewDog may return to cask have been circulating on and off for a while now.  And then who'll be laughing?  Me, that's who!  I entered to the smell of newness, very much like SociAle which opened just down the road a few months ago, though this is a deliberately darker dingier effort, designed with the serious (some may say discerning) beer (keg) drinker in mind.  I was greeted by a friendly personable barman (imagine Peter Andre if he lived under the city walls for 5 years and wore a beanie hat at all times) and he asked if this was my first visit.  "You've only been open two days so errm yeah!" was my reply.  He asked me what brought me here so I told him I live 5 mins walk and I normally drank cask ale in pubs like Brigantes next door - I had to get that in.  A man with a reddy brown beard and a lumberjack shirt (I'm not making this up) turned slowly to look at me, did he disapprove of my comment?  I felt like I was in a SeetheLizards parody blog, I bet he was called Luke,  Three leather booth seats were taken by slightly pregnant women who seemed to be judging how much Hardcore IPA they'd have to drink to spawn a hipster Twild.  I headed for an excited sign shouting "MORE SEATING THIS WAY", it was a bit like being in a ghost train.  I thought I'd gone outside, but it actually had a roof and reminded me of being in a gig venue with no music and Pret a Manger.  I asked a woman if I could perch on her bench "yuurrr, we're leaving in a minutsh anywaysh" she slurred.  They were still there half an hour later.  My drink was called Hoppy Christmas, served in a 2/3 measure because even the wildest punks know it is the final 1/3 that kills you.  Just ask Sid.  The folk in here made for great people watching.  The four stages of BrewDog bloke evolution - Seasick Steve, Tony Law, Dominic Diamond,  Dave Gorman.  Well apart from two middle aged Americans who looked lost in a Simon and Garfunkel kind of way (definitely a SeetheLizards parody!) I left having quite enjoyed it in an amusing 'ticked off' kinda way but I'm not cool enough to fully appreciate the intricacies of this chain.

So you may think Sunday's pubs couldn't be ANY more different, but in one sense, they were identical.  They were almost exact stereotypes of themselves.  And that is reassuring.  To me.  

Midweek BRAPA Update

Only one South Yorkshire pub left to do, New Year's Eve is the day!  I was perhaps a bit hasty with my "work is too stressful so am not doing midweek BRAPA for now" decision last week.  Even the 'Project Team' thought this was a crying shame (or do Aussies and Glaswegians just encourage drinking at any opportunity?).  

To compromise, I'm going to go back to the 2014 strategy i.e. instead of going alphabetically, do what is closest to Leeds and work my way outwards, by which time, things may've settled down.  So West / North Yorkshire midweeks start again tomorrow, and as penance for my crappy weekend, I'm off to squeeze an extra one in on Friday night too pre-West Ham.  

Have a good week all, 


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

BRAPA - More Ales, More Yorkshire Dales

"Eeee by gum" exclaimed my Dad, Bernard "Chaffeur" Everitt as we pulled into an unpromising looking eco-lodge development just outside Aysgarth on Sunday morning where a twild was hanging from a swing and a bearded young couple tried to look energetic, "I can't see this being open at 11am on a Sunday...."

I told him to trust me,  after all, both the GBG and Whatpub specified 11am opener Sunday.  But being a man of action, he'd found a reception area to the right of the bar, which was sitting in darkness.  "Is your bar open?" we asked the boss-man.  Had he replied with "11am?  On a Sunday?" he'd have had a point.  But his response was "Bar? Baaaarrrrr?  BAAARRRRR?" as though he'd been wondering for years what that long counter with drink fonts along it was all about.  We agreed to return at 12 noon.

No wonder that as we pulled up at the other Aysgarth 11am Sunday establishment, the good chauffeur had convinced himself we'd never get inside .....

963.  Aysgarth Falls Hotel

Even inside at the bar (albeit, very lowly lit with not a soul in sight). Dad spent the next five minutes muttering that this was no guarantee we'd get served, but then a nervous looking old chap appeared and soon, two pints of Isaac Poad 1863 from York's newest brewery were ours.  We sat in the warm and very Dalesy bar, and apart from spotting a backwards Old Peculiar clock, we just spent the next 20 mins as follows:
Me : "oooh nice place this isn't it?"
Dad : "mmmm decent pint isn't it?"
Me : "very cosy, the place, not the pint, which is nice too, glad we got served."
Dad: "mm hmm"
Things started to pick up when the old hubbie barman chap started being called "chef" by his various relatives, a possible sign they take food too seriously.  Then, crazy Mrs Falls Hotel appeared with the promise "I'm about to inflict some Christmas music on you both, sorry!"  Not wanting to be Christmas curmudgeons, we tried to remain positive, even in the face of Mariah Carey's background bleating.  Such positivity on our part was dismissed, Mrs FH decided we both hated Christmas, hated the music, hated the decor, probably the hotel, and were generally having a miserable time.  The harder we tried to reassure her, the worse it got - so we left.  This might be the pub where you can pay to look at a waterfall in their garden, but if I want to see running water, I'd go to the gents for free.

I hate Jam Jars, but not Christmas.

Nicer than it looks, promise.
964.  Henderson's Bistro, Aysgarth

12:02 and it was sarcastic slow handclap time for this ultra modern weird comfy contraption, they'd located the bar, and by jove, it was open!  Mrs Bistro, who'd been lurking in the shadows whilst her husband was being a "bar denier", knew we must be on some crazy pub crawl (good guess) so after some BRAPA chat, she declared she was delighted to be pub 964 on the list and we took our pints of grapefruity Semer Water to a low leather settee where, as you may expect, my emergency beer mat was required.  As there was a wildlife magazine on the "coffee table" I used a squirrel's face instead - this was the bravest BRAPA protest of 2016.  Apple air freshener was the overwhelming pub scent, the toilets were hidden from the restaurant by the kind of screens you get naked behind for your GP, but despite all this, I've had a pint in plenty worse places.  Staff were really good, though Mr Bistro was still looking perplexed every time he entered the bar, preferring to stay in the "day centre" style area.  Lunchtime couples came in, all bearded with a whiff of middle class glamping holiday about them.  The highlight was when a self-important looking woman marched out of a side room with a tiny dog under her arm, straight for the restaurant, like she was showing them the "Special of the Day".  And that sums up the Bistro.

Me at 11am, notice bar on left, looking very closed.

Take that squirrel face!
A short drive down the pretty Bishopsdale road took us to a great little village where we'd had a dubious pub-closed incident in the summer, when they were away on holiday yet still able to jet back from Ibiza to open at 6pm every evening .....

Dad at Thoralby, and the door is open!
965.  George Inn, Thoralby

It was all very "Moneyrow Green" as the barman tried to entice us away from the chilly seat on the far side to sit on comfier seating by the bar, near the fire.  But unlike me, Dad was very quick to say no, by which he meant "I can hide in this huge settle and eat my own sandwich without you seeing me so there!" Gotta be strategic in these food orientated Yorkshire Dales pubs.  But at least it was a proper old style pub, with an outdoor loo which is a dying breed these days - York's Royal Oak went from an 8/10 to a 3/10 since it moved it's toilets indoors, though that's a different story.  Martin Taylor will be delighted to hear that Dire Straits 'Brothers in Arms' was playing, and I enjoyed EVERY minute.  Punk rock.  And when you thought the excitement couldn't get any more high octane, Dad went to the car to grab a folder containing shower designs as I'm having a bathroom refit in the new year.  Oh yes, high octane.  No wonder I forgot to take my much awaited "Oral B in Thoralby" photo and had to cheat in the Fox later on.  The Buckden Pike was a quality pint, and a reminder of where we were headed next.

The pint photo I did take

Get the bluddy fire in (don't you hate it when the logs are "for show"?)

The pint photo I should have taken.
Even by Yorkshire Dales standards, the area around Buckden was spectacular, really pretty village and one of those picture postcard pubs I found in the not too far away Arncliffe, and a couple of others - Malham's Lister Arms springs to mind.

 966.  Buck Inn, Buckden

And an above average selection of ales and two fires in probably made this pub of the day, though the lack of Dire Straits and insistence on playing any song utilised in an advert for soap or washing up liquid was a choice that only the gaggle of clucky mother hen barmaids can explain.  "Lesley" raced straight over to the far end of the room, where we'd taken our pints of Rocket Fuel, brandishing menus in our faces.  When we explained that we were just here for a drink, her heart seemed to visibly break before our eyes, like "no-one has EVER said that before in this pub."  Shades of the Guinea in Moggerhanger or the Square & Compass in North Rigton, where I was almost rugby tackled to the floor by a hopeful waitress.  However, the pub will be remembered for the conversation we witnessed next to us - and all because a young bearded couple of mountain bikers joked with the waitress "what do you do for night life round here?"  She didn't get the joke, and started trying to come up with ideas!  Despite the conversation naturally petering out, she hung around, explaining her "lack of Yorkshire accent" came from a Dortmund upbringing, whilst she now lives in Keighley  (she did have a strong Yorkshire accent)  Even when their food arrived, she STILL stayed and chatted shit.  Boundaries woman!  It was painful to watch.  One of them had to ask her to go and find some mint sauce (even though he was eating everything but lamb) to get rid of her.  On the way out I heard her asking another couple what they were doing for the rest of the day.  Stop.  Talking.

Pint action shot

When the talking stops.  In the mirror.
Back in York, we popped into the Fox as in tradition on such days where we planned strategy for our next chauffeur day encompassing three North Yorkshire pubs, two beginning with a C, one with a G.  Crikey, I might be able to finish the whole of Yorkshire before September 2017.

On the downside, work is so crazy due to that project which sent me to Oz, I may have to temporarily knock Tuesday night BRAPA on the head - at least far away ones, and concentrate on easier ones as I'm having to finish work and 5pm or 6pm for forseeable future.

I'll be back on the slightly later day of Sunday for some W based fun.

Si Ev