Thursday, 30 June 2016

BRAPA - June Review / July Preview (2016)

As the BRAPmobile tears across the British countryside in search of it's next pub roadkill, we need to reflect on a wonderfully productive June, and see what lies ahead in July......

June Review

41 pubs in a month is the second best EVER, only April this year could beat that and all I can say is my Scottish holiday was more productive than I could have ever imagined with 20 pubs in three and a bit days.  I also had a superb day out with the work gang in Greenfield & Mossley.  Hell, even very east Berkshire was straightforward and enjoyable, and Sheffield's bubbling nicely on midweeks.  Finally, the Greater Manchester day was joyous in it's Joseph Holt's simplicity.

Picking three pubs of the month is near impossible, but here goes based on my experience on the day:

1.  Abbotsford Hotel, Ayr
2.  Shakespeare, Kelham Island, Sheffield
3.  Fleece, Mossley

July Review

I finish June on 958 pubs, which means another good month and I should manage to get my 1,000 up in August (though I will drop back below it of course when the 2017 GBG comes out).

A '5 Saturday month' will help immensely.  Firstly, we'll be kicking off with a Dad chauffeur day in the Dales as I look to complete my outstanding five pubs up there.  It has to be achievable despite some funny opening times, yes I'm looking at you Bellerby!   We are back in Berkshire a week later for Part 6, heading towards the south of the county and dabbling in Hampshire.  Week 3 is a TBA, am thinking North Yorkshire again (finally getting up Richmond way) unless someone craps on my BRAP.  A week after that, a group of York friends is coming on a Morecambe BRAPA trip with me in our old punk festival stamping ground - hopefully there are better beers now than in Davy Jones Locker.  And the month ends with the Hull City gang summer beezer, a pre-season friendly at Nottingham Forest where I have two West Bridgford pubs to do.

On midweek nights, I'll keep cracking on with outer Sheffield to a finish.  Still got a fair bit to go at, but once done (and don't shout this too loudly), Hazlehead MUST be back on the agenda.  No holidays off work in July, but 30 pubs is still an achievable target in my mind.

Right, I think I've rambled enough,  Stick around for my rambling pub reviews though won't ya?  Si

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

BRAPA - Sheffield West A.K.A. Studentsville

Maybe I was a bit harsh on Kelham Island last week.  Certainly, the barren industrial wasteland in the summer sun was more preferable than this weeks Studentsville in the driving rain.

I was relieved to hop on the 51 bus (considering I somehow got lost between the station and Arundel Gate) and although the whole Broomhill/Broomhall thing is too confusing for words, I found my first pub dotted amongst the takeaways and pop up supermarkets.

It's a mucky evening in the steel city.
956.  The York, Sheffield

The first question of course was obvious - "do people from York get their ale for free here?"  Sadly, I wasn't brave enough to ask the stern business-like student girl worker, who did at least soften when she realised she should have charged me £2.50 and not £3.10.  The pub was a bit of Roy Hodgson's England, it didn't really know what it was or have a distinct character.  On the one hand, there were some irritating dining areas (the smell of food, especially fish, told you they take this seriously), but the main bar area was pleasingly pubby enough, but with random quirky decor including stuffed peacocks, an anvil, and hopbines hanging from the bar - something you have to be skeptical of in any pub situation.  And the peacock feathers were in a jar above two people eating - appetising.  The clientele was 50/50 split between locals (mainly moaning about Gareth Southgate), and students (moaning about whether England is going to cease to exist as a country).  Bring a local from Atherton or Leigh to this pub, and they would most probably dissolve Wicked Witch in Wizard of Oz style.  I'd been conscious  I was taking up a large table, so when a girl asked "can I sit here, I've got some people joining?", I told her I was finishing anyway and swigged off my last mouthful, to which she responded "was it something I said?"  Well yes actually, it was.  Good bye!

Locals discuss Gareth Southgate under the hopbines.

A pint of Welbeck Abbey Henrietta and background peacocks

Random Anvil - because we are such a quirky bunch(!)
The rain wasn't stopping anytime soon, neither was the bus for that matter as roadworks seemed to be churning up the Fulwood Road going back towards town.  Still, less than 15 minutes power walking later, I was there.....

Roadworks and grey leaden sky - very Sheffield.
957.  University Arms, Sheffield

Entering this place felt like a cross between entering a working man's club, and the veterinary surgery in Fulford, York.  Whatever, it is owned by the Uni and it's a cracker.  Any pub with green tiling around the bar always goes down well with me.  Two smiling blonde barmaids jumped on me (not literally sadly) and I was drinking something with a stupid name by Raw Brewery, easily pint of the night.  £3.40 seemed a bit steep though.  A group of students followed me in, one (a large and more annoying Marcus Brigstocke) made a spectacle of himself by announcing in a flouncy way "OOOOH, Thornbridge on Keg?  Controversial!  I think I will start with a .... Diet Coke!"  The barmaids looked like they hated him, so did his own friends, so did I, so did the trio in the corner seemingly trying to recreate a dull British version of the Big Bang Theory, their half baked political chat meant they had to be put in their place by a hairy squat American girl.  Amusing clientele.   Unless you stay here for too long.  It was fairly busy, but then, there weren't a great deal of what I would call 'proper' seats.  I hid around a corner in the main bar, think I made the right decision as the volume of the shit munchers was getting louder & more excitable as we approached 7:30pm.  Great pub but you can have too much of a good thing.

Entrance gives you an idea of the clubby/vetty nature of this place.

My Raw ale and a view of the bar.  Nice tiling.
 I crossed the big ring road thing and was back towards the centre, for my final central tick.  The rain if anything, had got worse.  I had no hood, no hat, no waterproof, totally drenched!

Third and final pub of the night
958.  Old House, Sheffield

In that trendy West Street/Devonshire Street area, the GBG claims this place provides a more homely atmosphere than the other bars in the area.  Gadzooks!  I'd hate to see how unhomely the others are then. Having forced my way through some huge glass doors, it took me ages to get served as the trendy staff were twatting around shaking cocktails for their mates.  When I did get a pint, it was the warmest beer I've had since Tap on the Line in Kew.  I think "liquefied human organ" is the phrase I used.  I was probably the first person to have a cask ale all day judging by the posers and drunk middle aged females who made up the clientele.  Still £2.50 a pint was nice surprise.  And the beers had those "tasting notes" chalked in front of the pumpclip.  These were the laziest tasting notes I have ever witnessed with such gems as "it does what it says on the tin" and "sessionable and pale" (the latter on a beer called something like pale session ale).  The non serving staff, in their defence, were smiley, friendly and helpful, and when I got lost coming back from the loos, a nice young chap told me an old man once was convinced he'd come out of the loo and gone back into a different pub!  Chance would be a fine thing.  Talking of the loos, the kitchens might be down there, as there was an amazing smell, a heady concoction of garlic and hipster piss.

Lazy tasting notes .... always wondered what Raven's taste like ... oh, you mean Milk Stout!

Picturesque back bar.  Warm beer.

"Poser" tables abound, as do cocktail drinkers, but I want beer!
Visiting their pub website, it's clear they also have a fascination with gin.  Not the first cool and modern place to do this (King & Queen, Wendover ; Pleased to Meet You, Newcastle), but I've never heard of monthly "gin schools" before.  Am sure the whores of 1880's Whitechapel didn't need schooling in gin.
1.  Stagger into pub.
2.  Get gin
3.  Drink gin
4.  Get pissed
5.  Go to work but try and avoid Jack the Ripper
Sounds simple enough to me.

The journey back seemed easier than last week even though I had to change at Leeds this time.  I will be back next week for my final Kelham Island tick, combined with something North of centre.


Sunday, 26 June 2016

BRAPA - Atherton, Tyldesley and a bit of Leigh

It was time for the next leg of my Greater Manchester pub ticking adventure, normally saved for days where we don't want to go to a particularly unattractive Hull City away game, so one purpose of today was to discuss next season's unattractive Premier League (sorry, EPL) fixture list.

Me and Dad landed in Manchester Victoria railway station in good time to get a pre-emptive tick in, and what a strange station Victoria is, looking like it's been cobbled together from bits of station Meccano that Piccadilly and Oxford Road didn't want.

Beer House, Manchester Victoria

The pub is similarly unconvincing.  It looks nice enough on the surface with shiny mirrors, some nice tiling, an attempt at something along the lines of Huddersfield's excellent King's Head.  That is sadly where the similarities end, but for anyone still crying into their British Kellogg's cornflakes over Brexit, a heart warming scene followed.  Macho Italian's with echoey voices ordered pint after pint of Peroni, the coffee machine chugged espressos out until almost breaking point, a smiling Polish girl struggled to cope with demand, and a Jaegermeister device looked a bit like an old cash register.  20 minutes later, we were finally sat down on an uncomfortable bench with half of a bland "Beer House House Beer" which was almost certainly a re-badged Greene King, served in a dimpled half glass for no apparent reason.  As the rain bucketed down outside, Dad had serious toilet trauma as he couldn't find the "code", then Polish barmaid said it was unlocked, he still couldn't get in, one of the macho Italian's said his friend had been in but it was free now, then a pub plasma screen (always a bad sign)  told him it was definitely unlocked(!) until he gave up and found one in the station.  Not one to be troubling the Good Beer Guide compilers anytime soon I'd guess.

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder, and I'd say this place lacks inner beauty.
We took the train to Atherton where an old local gave me the inside knowledge on pubs along this train line, and in Southport, though he is strictly a book collector these days as his blood pressure "is up and down like a bride's nightie" and yes, that is a direct quote.  Beats a whores drawers I s'pose.

Waiting for the 1st (proper) pub of the day to open

952.  Pendle Witch, Atherton

We found the first pub hidden down a little side street, and as Tom mentioned (he'd appeared at Walkden), it did look like a former residential house, albeit with a strange conservatory area built onto the front.  On the list of "things not to say to me on entering a pub", "You are not scared of dogs I hope?" would definitely make the top ten.  I clung onto the bar nervously, but luckily the dog in question was a bounding headless chicken which didn't know where it was, so I could just about deal with it.  I scanned a fine range of Moorhouses ales, and went for Premier just cos it's one we don't see in York at all.  (I did have their Burnley Premier-ship 2 seasons back, and it slipped down as easily as the two teams I was watching that day!)  As the barmaid complained about her stiff pumps, we sat in the corner and discussed next season's away games, quite animatedly at times, which seemed to exhaust the one local man who'd come in for a quiet pint.  A caterpillar randomly appeared on my arm in a vain attempt to win the "pub pet of the year award" but apart from that, all I can report is that this is a little cracker and you should all go there now.

Witches, devils and local exhausted by impassioned football chat.
953.  Atherton Arms, Atherton

Ever been to the Crown in Horwich?  Well, turn up the Lancastrian pub concentration dial to 11 and you will get the Atherton Arms, wow, this was some place.  As Dad said, this was just the kind of place you'd come in the 60's for a pub disco all nighter (perhaps not his exact words).  The pub was very Joseph Holt's and my pint of hattrick tasted just like the kind of proper bitter you don't get in Spitalfields Crown & Shuttle.  A few locals watched England beating Australia (again) on a giant screen, but most sat around the perimeter moaning about life in general and had I been on my own, I may have picked up more of their conversations than "eff this, and eff that" but perhaps it was for the best.  Just when you thought the pub couldn't get any crazier, there was a massive back room with a full sized snooker table.  The third one this BRAPA year.  A very sociable fly joined us (trying to compete with Mr Caterpillar for BRAPA insect of the year no doubt).  An old man in the toilet seemed to be speaking to me, but he may just have been loosening the phlegm from his lungs, it was that kind of pub.    

Arriving at pub two.

As close as I dared get to photographing the locals

As Lancastrianlly brilliant as a pub could probably be
After that experience, it was time for a bus to Tyldesley, probably a slightly more charming town than Atherton but I suspect that may just be because the sun had come out, and friendly locals helped us get off the bus at the right time.  One feature of this part of the world has to be the fantastic friendliness of folk.  Spring Deer Chinese also looked enticing if it really sells deer.

Dad enters pub three, note the Elton John tribute act chalkboard drawing we admired.

954.  Mort Arms, Tyldesley

Another Holt's pub, this one was a bit cosier and close-knit with loads of decor, I have never seen so many England and UK flags in such a confined space!  As me and Dad eyed up the beer range (Holt's bitter or Holt's bitter), a jolly old local told us "that'll put hairs on your chest!" I nearly told him that at 4%, it was hardly likely to have the same effect as a 9% bottle of Cloudwater DIPA V3 but I think he might have just been very confused.  Tom decided to see if he could use a £5 note to buy 2 pints and a blackcurrant cordial - no problem.  A great feature of this pub was a model football ground, it had a pitch and Joseph Holt advertising boards, I think CAMRA should implement a rule where all GBG pubs have to have their own model football stadium which reflects the pubs nature e.g. this like Accrington's Crown Ground as it was a very traditional pub.  Hull FC were on TV boring everyone to death with some more egg-chasing, but the mood was a fantastic friendly hubbub and all that was missing was my third pub insect of the day.

We decided to walk to our next pub, in Astley just 1.2 miles as the crow flies but sadly, we are not crows so it was considerably more.  Still, sun was out, pubbing was going well .....

It had to happen, SHUT PUB ALERT.  Nooooo!  All that walking, AND alphabetically the next pub in the GBG for Greater Manchester and you know I like doing things fairly alphabetically.  It looked a cracker too, the Old Boat House being refurbished until mid-July.  Had I done my research properly, I could perhaps have saved us the walk but their official website didn't say!  Never mind.

Tom helped us to get a bus back to Leigh after I stood on the wrong side of the road, and the next pub was pretty much part of the bus station.

Relieved to get in a pub!
955.  George & Dragon, Leigh

I'd never been to Leigh before (and will have to return here for 2 more) but from a pub in the shadow of the bus station, it was just as I imagined, bustling with bored scroats using Euro 2016 extra time boredom between Poland and Switzerland as an excuse to get pissed on Fosters.  Not to say it didn't have it's good points, a 12 year old bar man randomly burst into a rendition of "we all hate Leeds scum" (or was it Leigh scum, perhaps that would have been a bit too brave) propelling him to the top of my 'barperson of the day' list.  When I finally got my elbows in at the bar, I was amazed to find two pints costing £3.88 (gorgeous White Witch and unidentified Three Lions ale) plus 35p for Tom's blackcurrant, a total of £4.23, trumping his early Mort Arms effort.  Dad was hovering and some toothless old men asked if he wanted to be served next, I think they were friendly but wondered if it was a euphemism.  We took drinks outside where the ash trays were full, and a scary man in a tracksuit put his lager on our table and glared at me.  I nearly told him the correct etiquette is to say "sorry lads, may i just put my pint on your table whilst I readjust my nylon Kappa tracksuit from 1997?" but I decided against it.  It was that kind of pub.

The nature of our train tickets and route meant frustratingly, I could not get any more ticks in but lessons have been learned for future trips in the outer Manchester area.  Had a cracking pint at York Tap as a night cap, and a nice and fairly sober end to proceedings.  

On Tuesday, I'll be cracking on with my Sheffield 'mop-up'.  Ta-ra for now.


p.s. 2016/17 Hull City Away Game Conclusions (unless Sky change kick off days n times)

GOING TO GAME .... Burnley, Bournemouth, Sunderland, West Ham, West Brom, Leicester, Stoke, Southampton, Crystal Palace.

GOING TO PLACE/GENERAL AREA BUT NOT GAME .... Liverpool (Crosby BRAPA day), Chelsea (London BRAPA day), Arsenal (North London BRAPA), Everton (Southport BRAPA day)

TOTALLY AVOIDING .... Swansea, Watford, Middlesbrough, Tottenham, Man Utd, Man City (most of these will be substituted by BRAPA pub days in Greater Manchester). 


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

BRAPA - Sheffield to a Finish : Part One

Bit of a strange city Sheffield, it seems so stretched out that you never really feel you are "in" a city.  Railway and bus stations excrete you from their backsides into two streets masquerading as the "city centre".  Before you can blink, you find yourself in one of the many urban wastelands of boarded up takeaways and second hand car dealerships.  The trams and taxis look at you piteously as if to say "this is no place for a pedestrian".

It's a bit like Stoke's town planners had a drunken orgy in the North, and then consulted Milton Keynes' committee on how to upset people on foot.  The redeeming feature of course is the people, a friendly down to earth lot (on a non-football day), even the tracksuit zombies will give you a welcoming smile.  And I'd take good people over city aesthetics any day.

Kelham Island might sound like the kind of place where flamingos dance in lily clad ponds with golden frogs, but it's not.  The pubs however all seem to be wonderful.

 A fine way to bring up the 950 mini landmark!

950.  Shakespeare Ale & Cider House, Kelham Island, Sheffield

And how on earth had I not been aware of this jewel of a pub before?  The CAMRA App GBG pushpin got me lost, before I found it hidden on an unlikely looking street.   I entered through an old corridor (always the best way) and found myself at the front bar, where I received a friendly welcome from a great blonde barmaid who looked like if Carla Bonner joined a hippy commune, got a pierced mouth and didn't wash for 2 years.  She was probably about 20 but still called me "luv".  It was time for my "pub tourist twat" routine I perfected in Scotland, this time I saw a businessman getting his pint topped up and demanded the same from blonde bar man, but mine was a LINED GLASS and I hadn't realised.  Schoolboy pub error.  At least we joked about it.  My pint of Shiny Pail was incredible quality, and two locals looked like they'd been placed here for the pleasure of my blog.  First, they moaned it was only getting darker now it was June 21st.  Then, they settled up a tab that had been running since lunchtime but with one more pint first (they did get a top up!) and then spied a bog standard mobile phone and were amazed by what a posh, smart device it was.  Meanwhile, it was nice to hear our blonde staff discussing pub/beer  strategy rather than relationship issues - take that Wraysbury!  Inevitably, a pub with such a fine range of both cask and keg beers is going to attract that vilest of customer, the BEER SNOB!  He slimed his way in, barmaid hated him from the off, he scanned everything for an age before sneering "hmph, well I'll try a Lime Dissection V2.0 Sorachi (I made that up) as it is the most interesting thing you've got on in THIS place!"  How NOT to endear yourself to folk.  He had a 'taster' before declaring it too interesting even for him.  He then slimed off again.  He didn't belong.  Superb pub.

Locals discuss the darker nights closing in.

My Shiny Pail, the background shows businessman and the blonde staff.
After a walk back in the general direction of the station, hurdling as many 'don't cross here' points as possible, I'd found a fairly short route to my second and final pub of the evening.

951.  Old Queen's Head, Sheffield Central

The overly wordy GBG description told me this was the oldest residential building in Sheffield still standing, and only just, judging by it's delightfully warped and creaky exterior.  I was a bit surprised to see a huge Thwaites sign as I wasn't in Blackburn, so I entered with caution and it was a bit of an anti-climax, with a modern interior, lots of shiny fonts, fruit machines, and a huge screen where a top heavy woman was gurgling because Northern Ireland were somehow only losing 1-0 to Germany.  I ordered the one Thwaites I didn't know, Summer Solstice, nice enough but not a patch on the Shiny pint.  I perched uncomfortably at the bar for two long minutes before retiring to a side room, so modern identikit it looked like a Lancastrian farmer had tried to follow an Ember Inns remit and gone slightly awry.  With the excitable strains of Jonathan Pearce echoing round the building, the football finished and Sheffield's answer to the Hairy Bikers arrived with what seemed to be fishing equipment.  They also possibly became the first people in the world to describe Robin Williams as "that chap off of Mork and Mindy".  It really was that kind of pub.

Promised a lot, delivered little. 
Train journey back was lacking in any kind of air, and a man with shades ate an apple very loudly in my ear'ole.  But I've got a taster for Sheffield now (yes, I need to do Hazlehead still!) and plenty more outer pubs dotted in impossible locations a couple of miles from the station, so may crack on with that over the next few Tuesdays.

See you after Saturday for my latest foray into Greater Manchester's mini towns of ill repute.


Waiting for the Edinburgh train.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

BRAPA - Berkshire (Windsor, Eton, Datchet, Wraysbury) and South London

5 seconds of sightseeing complete in Windsor
As I arrived at the front of my first pub in Windsor just off the main drag, it really hit home just how many people are pub ticking these days .... at least seven Chinese girls vying with selfie sticks to get the best shot of themselves outside a Good Beer Guide pub, well done girls!  Strangely, they didn't go into the pub straight away, perhaps gearing themselves up with a 'Spoons breakfast first.....

Going in on my own then!
The photo the tourists didn't take.

943.  Carpenters Arms, Windsor

So it was up to me to take one for the Beijing team and enter alone to find that familiar morning pub scene, a barmaid complaining about her dreadful hangover, whilst a miserable old local man listens unsympathetically.  After the tourist crowd outside, it was a reassuring scene.  I was delighted to see Hopback Citra on, a great beer in Reading's Hop Leaf, but sadly it was of farty, fizzy variety here, which is harder to take back than a pint of vinegar.  I moved down to the darkest and lowest point of this wonderfully historic Nicholson's pub (say what you like about the chain but they have an eye for owning good buildings).  It really played up to it's visitors, York style, with tales of Charles II and Nell banging in the secret tunnels, and a headless soldier wandering around whilst his red tunic is neatly displayed on the wall (or something).  The tunnels were dripping with water, the place smelt dank and fusty like a pub should, like you could catch your death at any given second.  The impressive range of beer and pub literature was disgracefully 'un-thumbed'.   You might think piped music might spoil such a scene, but it was the most self-aware playlist ever with songs about marching soldiers and ghosts of our past, echoing through the building.  So a bit of a tourist pub perhaps, but a damn sight finer than York's historic Nicholsons pubs.

Ghostly cellar fun in the Carpenters.
It was purely down to poor forward planning that I'd chosen to have my first dabble into Windsor on the weekend that the Queen was 90, but she'd buggered off to the capital and perhaps Windsor is this touristy anyway, I decided,  as I jabbed the umpteenth dithering elderly woman in the back with my GBG en route to my next pub.

The mad men are running the asylum, at the Windlesora
944.  Windlesora, Windsor

From Nicholsons to Wetherspoons, Windsor you are really spoiling me!  But this 'Spoons had the calmest most sedate atmosphere since the Hatchet in Newbury.  Quite a culture shock after 4 days in Glasgow 'Spoons I can tell thee!  I tiptoed to the bar and whispered could I please use a 50p voucher to order a pint of something obscure but delightful from a place called Tillingbourne?  No hassle, no argument, English 'Spoons are the best!  Having said that, as I sat in my booth, it wasn't the usual drunkard clientele letting the pub down, but some bizarre staff who seemed to act like 'meeters and greeters' though it felt a bit more like 'care in the community'.  A jolly little Italian style Super Mario chap with a Frank Spencer laugh kept wandering around making people nervous (one skinhead looked ready to throttle the poor chap) and then his female equivalent asked me to check if the Gents was empty so she could clean it!  I did (without knocking on cubicle doors) but a weird request nonetheless, I had been in but 'Spoons loos are huge and I try to just look straight ahead!  I did contemplate ordering a breakfast, but by the time the staff slammed some 'hot off the press' EU referendum beermats down, I was a nervous wreck and ready to leave.

It was time for a detour to Boots on the high street as strangely, whilst my left armpit smelt like roses, my right one smelt like a decaying damp corpse of a sheep on the North Yorkshire Moors (I blame the secret tunnels in the Carpenters, not that I rubbed my armpit against them) so I went to buy some roll-on.  It was chaos as some wet leaves had got stuck in the roof and the place was flooded.  

Such drama was too much and it was time to walk across the bridge to Eton.  I still have three Windsor pubs to do but as you know, that was never going to be today's focus.  I can combine them with Slough (yippee) later this year.

945.  Watermans Arms, Eton

This was a cracking little riverside pub, and I entered to find one of those intense angular middle-aged women snapping at the staff that she'd come to collect a purse she'd left here last night.  "Oh I may as well have a drink whilst I'm here .... 2 bottles of corona .... no glass!  now!  yes!" and half an hour later, her and her partner were on bottles 5 and 6 and you had to ask the question, "did she leave her purse here deliberately and was the same thing going to happen 11pm tonight?"  I meanwhile was so enchanted by the lovely smile of a barmaid with the air of Eni Aluko, I promised her the additional 15p (pint was £4.15, I gave her tenner) which I didn't have and ended up wasting everyone's time.   Everywhere you looked, you could see Windsor & Eton "Oar-gasmic" signs.  Maybe if they put it in enough places, the joke will become hilarious??  It was very muggy so I sat outside where angular woman was, and then a friendly French couple appeared.  But then a few spots of rain appeared (and I mean about two) and everyone just fucked off indoors as though they'd forgotten human skin is waterproof.  I even took my jacket off to prove a point and was nearly skinny dipping in the river by the time everyone decided perhaps they'd made a mistake and returned to the beer garden.  Hurrah.  Idiots.

I hopped on a train from Windsor & Eton Riverside and before I could blink, I was in Datchet.  And then something strange happened, everyone seemed to be Scottish, both on the street and in the pub.  Did they get Datchet confused with Blackpool?

946.  Royal Stag, Datchet

A better pub-man than me will tell you that the GBG says "ring counting of the roof timbers dates it to 1494".  Wonderful.  I once climbed onto the roof of Milton Keynes' Slug and Lettuce and when I failed to identify one roof timber, I decided it probably wasn't 15th century,  If Rod Hull had been counting roof timbers instead of trying to fix a Sky box, his death would have been more honourable.  I digress.   So I'd built up this pub in my mind and with so many flabby Scottish faces in the nose-bag, I initially felt it was an anti-climax.  However, once I'd taken my superb pint of Windsor & Eton Knight of the Garter (beer of the day) to what was undoubtedly the drinkers area, I started to appreciate the more olde worlde nature of the place.  Glad I'd decided against the outside, one of those horrible B&Q style adult play pens.  Indoors, I noticed the Queen might be coming here for an 'after-party' at 8pm when a meat raffle was on.  All good pubs need a meat raffle at least once every 12 hours.  Then, they had a Brit-Pop style music fest, the 1996 nostalgia was overwhelming as they played Supergrass-Pulp-Sleeper-Lightning Seeds-Suede-Echobelly-Elastica all in a row.  Wonderful!  I could live here.

Pint of the day in the Royal Stag

Key pub of the day complete, "page 9" done!
Another short train journey and I was at Wraysbury, and I had a 10 minute walk along a road in a very nice leafy area so you could say this was my "hardest to get to" pub of the day.  Strewth, I wish all BRAPA days were this easy!

Has ever a pub name been more apt for BRAPA?
947.  The Perseverance, Wraysbury

I walked in to find a burly Prince Harry type being 'relationship counselled' by a porcelain blonde, these were the bar staff in an otherwise quiet pub.  "But I'll never see her again!" wailed PH.  "To be honest bae, your ex's have all been awful!" replied PB, to which PH  replied that she hadn't met them all so couldn't possibly know, before storming off the the cellar.  Crikey, is this an episode of Made In Chelsea or is someone going to serve me ale?  A local stopped me walking into the ladies loos, take that Partick!  I was soon outside under an umbrella admiring one of the finest beer gardens you could hope to see, it was raining again (properly now) and a little girl started racing around the garden chanting "rain. rain rain!" in the spirit of Father Jack.  As two serious Irish men stood behind me discussing a potential problem with the cellar, our concerned ginger barman returned to ask if it was broken, the curly haired one replied "no but you're face will be if you don't shut up!".  Poor burly PH, certainly not his day.  It was quiet again and I'm sure one of the statue fountain things changed her expression, so I went to investigate and decided I'd been drinking too quickly.   Just when I was relaxing into a perfect slumber, one of those odious American families appeared.  The son, Sam, was a whining brat, the water drinking daughter almost as bad, another daughter revealed she hated cheese with a passion, it says something when the Dad (a gentle Fred Durst) was the nicest of the bunch.  But even they couldn't spoil an excellent pub effort.

Pub garden pre-Yanks

Note the statue that looked at me funny.
After a short walk back to Wraysbury station, I was on a train by mid afternoon and after last months "Kings Cross connection missing farce", I decided to be ultra cautious and make it all the way back to Waterloo where I'd been meaning to visit a pub for ages ......

The pub man outside wasn't representative of the clientele
948.  Kings Arms, Waterloo

Great pub it has to be said (would love to go on wintry evening), only the clientele who just didn't seem to belong in a pub spoilt it.  It was a strange selection of middle aged women, tourists and it lacked edge as a result.  I tried to make up for it after accidentally slagging off the Welsh in this little exchange:
Me : I'll have a pint of the 'Phonics ..... as in 'Stereo'? .... I don't like the Sterophonics though.
Barmaid : I think it is definitely connected
Me: (noticing Brains clip) Oh dear, does that mean it is a WELSH thing??
Barmaid : Sorry, should I have told you that before?
Me : (half under my breath) I'm not a racist.
It probably wasn't wise to therefore atone for this by listening in to two Italian backpacker lads conversation, they were discussing a perfect seat for two in the corner.  By gum, they were right!  The perfect spot!  I was straight in there before they got chance to collect their drinks & change.  Snooze you lose boys!!   After that, I hid in the corner for the rest of my stay admiring the pub but scowling at those jolly folk spilling onto the street.

Perfect pub view (courtesy of two Italian lads)

Nice pub but the people weren't pubby enough (though nicer than me)
I then did something revolutionary (perhaps) and walked to a different part of SE1, right next to Blackfriars bridge where I'd spied another pub I needed to visit .....

949.  Doggett's Coat & Badge, South Bank

This was such a huge pub, it took me ages to find the right entrance which led me to the actual bar!  It was full again, though this time it was because Wales (whom I love of course) were on TV about to prove they are the best team in the world with a jammy scuffed winner having been second best the entire time I was watching.  Scum.  I'm joking obviously.  I think.  Anyway, the staff were very friendly and I was served this fantastic IPA called Mad Squirrels which at 5.2%, was supposed to finish me off for the day.  Except I had a second wind and was soon laughing and joking in Euro 2016 bliss with any Euro tourist who would listen.  It was heartening to see a series of pub visitors arrived from various angles on various pub levels, totally relieved to see the bar exists.  It is basically the Edinburgh Waverley railway station of pubs.  The day had come full circle, this, like the Carpenters Arms in Windsor was a Nicholson's house though this was just too chaotic to share the former's charm.

Slice of complimentary lime with your IPA? 
I crossed the bridge and contemplated a return visit to the wonderful Black Friar but caught the train from Blackfriars to Kings Cross instead, and still I was ultra early so popped into my favourite pre-emptive of 2016, Scottish Stores for more first class staffing and beautiful pub surroundings.

Finally a view of Scottish Stores without any busses in the way!

This is why i love this pub.
Train journey home was pretty straightforward, it set off 8pm like the football so I put my headphones in to avoid the live England v Russia score so I could watch the highlights excitedly when I got home!  (I did go to the loo and thought I heard someone say "it's Dire", it could have been "it's Dier" as it turned out but it didn't really matter).

Next month, we'll be in South Berkshire and slithering into Hampshire.  And in the short term, BRAPA returns on Tuesday in South Yorkshire (beer festivalling yesterday so no ticks).

See you then, Si