|I arrived empty handed, I left with Leffe and Ullage magazines.|
After drinking in the delights of March and Ely, we arrived at Kings X an hour later than usual. Sunderland fans who'd earlier made coherent and educated arguments about N'Diaye, Middlesbrough's smog and Selhurst Park had been reduced to blithering gurning wrecks, such is the effect of a 24 pack of Budweiser.
I had to run to get my connection in Reading, and amazingly arrived in Newbury at 11:44am where West Berkshire pub legend Tim Thomas had kindly agreed to chauffeur me around my final two Berkshire pubs, and I briefly met other Berks Twitter alumni Sam and (m)Matt(hew) in the carpark.
|Ahh this is all very nice, but bring on the Wickham ....|
|Arriving at the penultimate Berkshire pub|
And I was immediately struck with what a classic this was. Low ceilings littered with pump clips are no problem for a short-arse like me, and added to the cosy feel as I trotted along the wooden floor to the bar area which had a fine range of ales (ignore the jam jars) but it was the InnFormal ones brewed behind the pub which I was always going to try. A couple of tables only were geared up for diners with knives and forks laid out, but most weren't, and yes, I did need my "emergency beermat" for the only time today (point deducted!), but there was really only a positive feel about the whole place. Tim used the experience to do a bit of Berkshire community stuff, putting up posters and assembling cardboard holders to put gig flyers in, and he got this amazing coffee thing that looked like a pint of Plum Porter in reverse. A couple of staff came over (everyone knows Tim) so I smiled and nodded along and tried to look like some important CAMRA person silently judging them (which of course is kind of true) and then a couple came in carrying a baby over their shoulders (too young to be a twild) but nearly knocked it's head on the ceiling which would have been amusing in a cruel way. I got a loyalty card, and had to reflect like with all loyalty cards, I'd never get the chance to use it as BRAPA is a disloyal pursuit!
|InnDeep in Hungerford, Innocence in Wickham.|
|Tim goes to bar to collect his crazy coffee|
|Tim grabs green highlighter and does the honours!|
|We're about to go in!|
|Tim and a view of the road away from Stockcross|
The door was a bit stuck just to add to the tension, but I was in and we were soon chatting with the friendly landlady about Berkshire pub stuff, and of course, the fact this was the last of my Berkshire pub visits. A man to my left with a bald headed that kept shining off the sun was loving this fact, but his wife had an unimpressed toad-like face which screamed "BRAPA Crapper". Poor man, if you are reading this and want to leave her to become my Buckinghamshire chauffeur, I'll pay you in coffee and shiny bald head wax. Sometimes in pubs it's the little things that impress, and what strangely stuck with me here was the TV! It was kind of half propped on a low down side table, like if you were watching it whilst decorating a house, none of this raised Sky Sports nonsense. A lot of customers were present so none of the cosier rooms around the bar really had a seat free, so we went into the duller (well, sunny) more spartan backroom where two annoying American men arrived to loudly order food and try and look impressive for finding a semi-rural pub. Well guess what lads, you ain't BRAPA so no-one cares! Fair to say, I felt quite self-satisfied here. Tim did a bit more pubby maintenance (I don't mean he fixed a shelf) and we were on our way back to Newbs, job's a good 'un.
|West Berkshire brewery etched window|
|Pint on a proper pub beermat|
|Ticking off the final Berkshire pub, hurrah!|
|I am pretty sure this pub is called the Oak & Saw!|
It was time to 'crack on' on with my new 'focus' - Buckinghamshire, and this was a satisfying 'tick' in that I means I've now already done a pub in every page of Bucks, before officially starting! Today was a very good day. I heard an awful lot of commotion from the outside, and I should have guessed, first day of the Six Nations and they love 'Union' done here even though it bores me to tears. A young blonde tattooed barman with shitty quiff served me something suitably Rebellion based, I handed over the customary £4.20 and rolled my eyes, and he looked as terrified as I was of the baying Taplow mob of 20 in the room to my left, getting excited over a game which didn't even involve England. Dare I take a photo of them? Well, a huge woman in an England rugby shirt scowled at me so I retreated and found a curtain to hide behind in a back room. She'd be perfect in any scrum. And if you are reading this luv, that is a compliment okay? My only companion had a fruit machine addiction, my phone signal was zero, all I could do was reflect what a fine proper boozer this actually was if you were to say, exterminate all rugby fans and take 50% off the ale price. I read Terry Wogan lived in Taplow, I wonder if his ghost haunts this place, probably.
|Behind curtain to the left, a baying mob stare intently at the screen, mouths foaming with upper class fury.|
|The only other person in the pub not watching rugby.|
It was one stop to Burnham, the third time I've used this station for BRAPA. Previously, it was Littleworth Common and Cippenham (two VERY different places) so was nice to be actually doing a pub in Burnham. Again, all the Cippenham locals were smoking pot and wearing classic 80's kids TV t-shirts, those from Burnham walking around with their noses in the air. Where's the happy medium?
|The Bee is buzzing (hahahaha .... thanks)|
1021. Bee, Burnham
And with laughter and a really jolly hubbub coming from every corner of this pub, I think it was the 'happy medium' I'd been hoping for in this neck of the woods. Now I'd been vaguely aware that Hull City were 1-0 up v Liverpool and we were in the last few minutes, but too nervous to look, I thought I heard a lady in a red coat at the bar say "Hull have got a second!" I asked the locals if she said 'Hull'. "Holland? Holland? I don't think they are playing mate!" was the reply, so I took my pint of "acceptable Marstons guest" over and asked her myself. Problem was, she was eating peanuts (a killer to nut allergy suffers like me!) so I held my breath and she said something about it being good but probably ruining her husband's accumulator. Good, I hate betting, especially armchair Premier League betting. More plastic than owt. I went to sit down, but 'Holland' man joined a small dog of questionable ownership on the table next to me, and he craned his head to try and watch England who had just started. I told him I could move, but he said no, he seemed to enjoy craning his neck both left and right for the next 30 mins. Why are some people so unintentionally irritating? Anyway, nice pub, the standard was high today.
|Mind the peanuts .... photo taken at point of Hull City revelation.|
|The dog of questionable ownership ... irritating man had gone to the loo. Note lady in red.|
I'll be back on the West Yorkshire trail on Tuesday, may squeeze a bonus Friday one in (one of those pubs that doesn't really suit a Tuesday), and then I'll be on a 'gentle' North Yorkshire day on Sat.
Berkshire has been great, I'll try and write a full review some time this week. Am 11 pubs to the good in Buckinghamshire already and ready to officially crack on with that in 5 weeks time. The 'key' pub at present is the Bricklayers Arms in Aylesbury, but I'll save that joy until April.