Thursday, 15 March 2018

BRAPA - West London Boosters (Part 2/2)

When you're a fledgling twild, having your booster jabs is a necessary evil you just have to deal with.  In adulthood, if you have grown into a Good Beer Guide ticker, the equivalent is West London.

I left you in part 1 hot-footing it back across the M4 from Harlington into Hayes for my third pub of the day.

This was my second trip to a Hayes pub in my life, the first being a random Irish pub before an FA Cup tie on 20th November 1999, and I was a Guinness drinker at the time.  The slowest walking frailest old pub man ever was in, the landlord helped him to his table and warned him "... and no foighting ya bugger!"  It's something me and Dad remember to this day, I described the experience as "BallyK : Late" showing the pub blogging gene was already there 15 years before BRAPA! 

Surely this unimpressive looking 'Spoons on the High Street wasn't going to be so memorable?

Looking a bit moody and gloomy
1273 / 2019.  Botwell Inn, Hayes

Of course it was going to be memorable, what was I thinking?!  This is BRAPA, where weird shit happens.  (That could be my slogan).  I entered to find a semi-circle of people, with camera phones out, laughing anxiously.  "What's going on?" I said to the nearest person, a bearded man who replied in a reassuringly thick Irish accent something about 'head shaving for charity'.  A lady who obviously worked there and claimed "I don't like being the centre of attention" was about 40% of the way through the procedure.  I skirted around the bar and used a Mudgie voucher to get a 5.1% Black IPA for £1.75, and gorgeous it was too, though I note my Mudgie vouchers are scrutinised a lot more closely than my own batch - like they have a strange Stockport infrared dye on them that only Wetherspoons staff can see.  I took my pint to a table as far away from the head shaving gang as possible, though I was roped into the raffle draw.  "But I live in York!" I exclaimed, remembering those Scousers in Newport Pagnall who won a cow-load of meat a few months back.  "It's okay luv, check our facebook page later for the results".  I did.  They didn't appear.  I obviously won.  Nice cosy community 'Spoons atmosphere here, I may have been seeing it at its best but the lowish roof helped, ale was top quality, and apart from my ridiculous sneezing fit (I've never produced so much snot in one pub sitting), this was another good Hayes pub experience, over 17 years later! 

The aim now was to get back on the train and head towards Paddington, hopping off where needed for various pubs.  So I jumped off at West Ealing, but then disaster struck as the old style Good Beer Guide App finally stopped working, and had to be replaced by the new one.

It was a day I knew had been coming for months, that dreaded 'upgrade' to something that looked more complicated.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  App developers have never been taught that valuable lesson.

Suffering a crisis of confidence, I cut short my attempted walk to the Grosvenor at Hanwell (something the pub's twitter account picked up on and told me off about in a jokey way!), recovered in the loos of Waitrose, and hopped back on to Ealing Broadway where the North Star was at least, virtually unmissable.

1274 / 2020.  North Star, Ealing

I must confess my initial thought was 'oh no, I've been here before' when I entered this bare boarded cavernous loud vibrant youth hole, with bar through to the right, but no, I was thinking of the Ealing Park Tavern at South Ealing.  Am sure an Ealing regular could tell me they are nothing alike, but for a hazy (or is that Hayesy?  hahaha, sorry) one-off visitor, they seemed to have many similarities.  At the bar, more confusion as the ultra popular Doom Bar had been turned around leaving a gorgeous Kirkstall ale on, but the southerners were treating it with the disdain anything from Yorkshire deserves.  Speaking of which, wherever I went, a large clearing seemed to form around me.  At 38 years old, I was the oldest, most haggard, snotty creature in the building.  The plus side of this was a huge table for about twelve was available just for me, but not before I'd seen the surprising sight of glamorous young ladies dressed up to the nines, playing cards.  It made me look twice (at the cards of course), jeez, I wonder when they got their dominoes out (don't say it Russtovich, just don't!)   Some Welshmen seemed to be challenging each other to drink as much as possible but I'm not sure that's particularly note-worthy.  Anyway, the majority of the pub did what I could never do and got excited by the Six Nations egg-chasing, only when I went to the bogs did I realise there was a quiet room free from the clamour of the front two rooms.  It was all a bit too much mid-afternoon!

Onwards and upwards then, or North Acton to be precise.  I've been to an interesting pub in Acton once before, but I won't bore you with that story today having already done the Hayes one.  

Not far from the station down a slope, as I was still getting to grips with this silly new App, was what would turn out to be my fifth and final pub of the day.

1275 / 2020.  Castle, North Acton

A bit like the White Hart in Harlington, the second impressively sturdy Fullers house of the day and again I walked in to see a choice of either London Pride or the 'Spring Sprinter' which I had in Harlington.  With it being an island bar, and a thankfully quiet calm one after the trials of Ealing, I decided to have a wander, see if anything else was on.  It was no Falcon at Clapham Junction, but after a short trek, I found a line of three pumps, this time including 'Under Current' by Siren Craft.  "Oooh that sounds different, I've try that!" I say to the barman who has walked over with a nervous look on his face.  "Sorry, it's just gawn orf" he replies rather too quickly with a hint of the Dot Cotton.  Now for all you 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' fans, this was where I channelled my inner Larry David and stared all around his face, finally convincing myself he wasn't being entirely truthful.  He should really have said "it's not on yet", I mean why else would the handpump not be turned around?  Don't get me wrong, my Pride was "drinking well" as the experts say, and from my raised seat, a 'punk wall' offered some comfort but everything was soured as I constantly glared at the bar, waiting for the local Twamra woodland folk to waltz in with their Morris dancing garb and sci-fi t-shirts and get free pints of the Under Current and look all bloody superior.  Am sure I've been in this situation before, just not sure where or when.  But it ruined an otherwise okay West London pub experience.

"It's just not on, is it?"

Punk wall offers solace

Raised area allows me to peer down and be judgey like jesus

I then made a total mess of trying to get back to Kings Cross, and I don't know how.  I knew I had to jump off at Oxford Circus to change, which I did quite comfortably, but then all I could see was 'Central' Line, where the heck was the Victoria line?  Eventually, a member off staff told me "go up to street level and come back down again".  Well, that's not going to work is it?  But it did.  And I don't know how.  

I got the train to York with minutes to spare, so I had a quick half a Plum Porter in York Tap to celebrate with a chap called Leon who is called 'Sloppy' by everyone else!  

He told me he was quite new to real ale but was getting a taste for it, but couldn't really handle it like he could all other alcohol.  His gf worked at the GBG listed Falcon Tap so he told her what I did BRAPA-wise over phone, she said CAMRA was 'all old men', I said 'oh well', he said 'do you want a pint?', I said "oh you don't have to .... oh go on then!" he left, nice chap, I drank it and reflected on a good day, shame I didn't get my six quota, but I'd be back in London sooner than you think so join me for Tuesday fun! 

Oh, and what I forgot to tell you, at beginning of the day, 11am, I tried to go to this GBG entry:

It wasn't open when it was supposed to be, I wasn't too sad as I'd only have 19 mins to enjoy its charms, bonus points if you can identify it.  



Wednesday, 14 March 2018

BRAPA - Farewell to Bucks & a West London Boost

I'd been making a bit of a meal out of getting to the end of my Buckinghamshire pub ticking challenge, but on Saturday 10th March at 12:10, it was finally over!

Relief the overriding emotion, it hasn't been a thrilling county to complete, a bit like Bedfordshire with less Greene King.  Of course, I will remember the pubs I really enjoyed.  The Stratton Arms in Turweston for example, the Black Boy at Oving, the George & Dragon at Quainton, the Wheel at Naphill.  I could go on,  but there were still more Olde Swan's at Woughton on the Green, Eight Bells in Long Crendon and Pointers in Brill for my liking. 

And this final pub sadly fell into the latter category.  It was like everything I disliked about Bucks pubs had come together to 'see me off' for one final time.  I was behind schedule too, having booked today's tickets thinking I was going to Cambridge, so hopped in a taxi to make up some ground from Marlow just north of town to Burroughs Hill, past the Rebellion brewery.  I'd have been killed trying to walk it. 

My taxi driver told me he liked this pub, so when we arrived, I lied and said it looked 'lovely' (all the while thinking what Matthew Lawrenson would say about the pub font) in the hope he let me off the fare - he didn't:

1271 / 2017.  Three Horseshoes, Marlow

Once inside, I had to wait to be served as two women with a huge buggy asked after their reserved table in the name of 'Lizzie'.  "Oh, a table for six?"  "No, a table for two".  Confused looks followed.  Was the buggy so big, it was really the equivalent of four people?  Probably.  The beer range was healthy and very Rebellion as you might expect, and very good quality, thus (somehow) justifying it's inclusion in the Good Beer Guide(!)  The lad who served me seemed shocked when I said "no I'm not paying by card, I'm paying by cash".  He looked at me with contempt, and as I used a tenner, he delightedly gave me a fist full of change with no apology.  Those coins have probably been in that till untouched for the last decade.  Orkney's favourite adopted son Sir Quinno tells me they'll be a 'card only' pub in the GBG next year, what is the world coming to?  I turned to sit near the door so I could make a quick getaway.  In the room next to me, fake bookcase wallpaper.  In front of me, random piles of logs serving no purpose.  Ember Inn style patterned cushions blocked every seat.  There was a plaque beyond with the inscription "Reg's Corner", probably a tribute to some old local regular character who's now carked it.  Sure he'd be horrified to learn his corner is no longer a corner, just a seat in the dining area.  A twild called Rhys came in with his grandparents.  He spied the dog bowl next to me, and decided he wanted it to be his new paddling pool.  He was told to behave.  A couple sat opposite me and almost smiled, the lady with good skin told her bald Greg Wallace style companion about her Mum's nervous condition, causing her to freak out over some lambs lettuce earlier that morning.  I had a bus to catch.  Bucks complete.

My final Bucks pint til at least 2035

Random piles of logs 

How ghastly darling

Bucks is all greened out

After a jolly little bus ride, a change at evil Maidenhead (which I could talk about at greater length but won't), I arrived at a stop called "Hayes & Harlington" which I'd been vaguely thinking about for a while because there's a required pub in each place.

Harlington looked furthest away, and a good 25 minute walk crossing the intimidating M4 followed, but thankfully the pub was at the 'north end' of the town saving my legs further punishment (my ankle which I don't like to talk about is almost 100% again now I'm glad to report).  

The pub was standing there, larger than life being all Grade II listed and Fullersy with some quality evening entertainment coming Harlington's way:

1272 / 2018.  White Hart, Harlington

"One step behind" could also go to the staff, as I had the longest wait in a BRAPA pub this year, and yes that does include any Wetherspoons.  But that's unfair of me.  I did myself no favours, standing behind a particularly chunky wooden pillar.  The barmaid, the only member of staff on a busy bar, was doing her level best, but didn't have x-ray vision, and even if she did, this pillar would surely still get the better of her.  When a twild wailed from beyond out to the left of the pub, I thought nothing of it but a miserable old git at the bar told the barmaid to 'get something done about THAT' which she promptly did, the child wasn't heard again!  Would love to know what she did, but she returned to the bar to be told "good girl" by the MOG which am sure was a great boost to her confidence(!)  By now, I had that pleading "please please pour me a pint, anything, Pride'll do it!" look in my eyes, I ended up with some guest thing, and walked over to the right hand side where everyone was European and had big bags - perhaps waiting for a flight from nearby Heathrow?  I quite liked this pub, it straddled 'foodie and proper local' as well as anywhere probably could in West London, and I was impressed.  As two smiley men from Spain and Poland called Jerry Vasquez-Grabowski (I made that up) admired each others footwear, I necked my beer as I had an even longer walk back to Hayes and the clock was already ticking, and I needed to!

A pint of something Fuller's

He's got lime green on the soles of his shoes (and I'm jealous)

Another landmark had been achieved in all the chaos, my 2018th pub that had ever been in the Good Beer Guide, one for every year since Jesus carked it. Cheers JC!  Back to Hayes then, which I'll tell you about with the other pubs I visited, tomorrow at the slightly earlier time of 6pmish.



Monday, 12 March 2018

BRAPA - Si's Kitchen Nightmares Day 4 - Shipton

It seemed very strange getting a bus from outside York station to a BRAPA pub, just a few miles away.  This was the GBG pub closest to my house I'd still to visit, having of course done all the York ones, Bishopthorpe and Acaster Malbis. 

A crazy morning snowstorm had threatened to call the whole thing off, but it was melted by 2pm and the sun was still out as I waited for the delayed X31 to arrive. 

Proving what a small world it is, iconic 'outer York' legends got on the same bus in the shape of a mother & daughter duo, once dubbed "the saddest bitches in York", I believe by an Australian woman.  They seem like they should have their own cosy crime drama on ITV, and today they said that their day had been so hilarious, that if they were stand-comics, they'd have a lifetimes worth of material  But they aren't comedians, and the bus rolled their eyes and gritted teeth as the guffawing carried on interminably until an old man pressed a bell which stopped right outside the pub.

1270 / 2016.  Dawnay Arms, Shipton-by-Beningbrough

This pub has remarkably limited opening hours for a pub on the busy main A19 north of York, and had only just opened at 17:30 when I walked in.  This was a real "monkey off my back pub tick", closed on both of the two previous occasions I'd tried getting in.  And on the evening of Friday 28th August 2015, I was all set to go the following day, only for a GBG privilege club member to get the new Guide before me and tell me it was no longer in, so I changed my mind last minute.  There was already an old local with an air of Roy Orbison about him (if Roy had amazing taste in jumpers), asking the friendly landlady for a second pint of Budweiser, I'd forgotten how pissy that beer looks.  He must've drank his first in about six minutes.  The ale choice was either John Smith's Cask or a local Treboom, so I went latter.  To the landlady's credit, she came over 5 minutes later to check if it was okay, as was bottom of the barrel, but it seemed fine (you could be cruel and say 'hard to tell with Treboom ales').  Where to sit was a toss up between a dark chilly looking raised area to the left (complete with that most horrific pub feature, 'fake bookcase wallpaper'), or the more dining right hand side, with a fire, so I went for the latter though the fire wasn't as roaring as it initially looked.   I suddenly thought I smelt vinegar, uh oh, but it was actual vinegar on the table rather than my pint.  Suddenly the peace was shattered as four young lads came in, with their Peaky Blinders hairstyles and Millennial Premier League Bantz culture.  You'd think pubs would suit them, but it took them all of 5 minutes to decide how to order a round of drinks.  "Shall we all order steaks?" said the small one excitedly.  "I think we should 'go through' first" said the cautious burly one.  By 'going through', they meant three side steps from bar to ''dining area' where they sat opposite me and bitched about a work colleague called Liam who'd apparently been skiving work saying he had a bad cold, but he'd had a window open next to him all day.  Damning stuff I'm sure you'll all agree(!)   They all left, just before me, not one steak was harmed in the ticking of this pub, and personally if you must go to a Dawnay Arms, pick the Newton-on-Ouse version ahead of this. 

The pub seems to have turned me into a Zombie

A fire emitting a small amount of heat

The bus turned up like a well-behaved little bus should, and back in York, I walked to one of my faves the Swan, to meet my friends for a swift half or two.  I sat in the heritage room which is less good than the non-Heritage room!  As always, the pub was blighted by bar blockers of the highest order, but the 'West Riding layout' makes it a bit of a classic.

I left them early to go home and check on the kitchen progress, and was amazed to see it finished!

So no need for a 5th BRAPA evening in a row on the Friday, just chance to get settled back in and rest up for my Bucks/London day on the Saturday which I'll write about soon.


Thursday, 8 March 2018

BRAPA - Si's Kitchen Nightmares Day Three - Hyde

I didn't have that sinking feeling in Hyde
I'd never been to Hyde before, though I had driven through it shortly after the Shipman news broke all those years ago.  All I remember was passing a dentist surgery with red flashing neon sign, it was a mouth with flashing neon blood spurting out.  It was the least welcome dentist I'd ever seen, and both me and Dad have never forgotten how bizarre and brilliant it was. 

What I most took from that was that Hyde had a sense of humour, though my first human contact in Hyde on leaving the Central station and crossing a road was an Asian version of Shipman (well, he had a white beard) silently mouthing 'hello' to me as we crossed together). 

Walking through the market past a few scary looking pubs where men with missing teeth were spilling out into the road, I was almost reminded of Doncaster, but I'd hate to be cruel to Hyde before I'd even visited my first of four pubs I need to do here (two tonight, two another time). 

Two wheezy women drawing money out at Lloyds Bank made each other laugh, and one said to me "pardon my French" but had she been speaking actual French, I'd have more idea of what she'd said.

My first pub was in sight, just next to Morrisons on the main road, note the hidden smoker cameo in my photo ......

It's amber for "ready to go in!"

1268 / 2014.  Sportsman Inn, Hyde

As soon as I walked past the two gurning smokers (who winked at me) through the left hand door, I knew I'd struck BRAPA gold, as the pub opened into a large partitioned room, beyond which I'm sure a well-behaved baby was having it's bum wiped by an old lady on a table, hopefully not the pool table (maybe the poo table, haha - sorry).  A redoubtable friendly old landlady served me this majestic Rossendale Porter for £2.60 despite it being 5.1%.  She was also having to deal with a Scottish guy called Scottie (aren't they all?) who was giving her plenty of lip, so she told him that he was a Scottish twat and he needed to shut up, and he seemed to accept the charge with good grace.  An honest chap.  All good pubs, like shopmobility scooters, have a random Scottish man at the bar trying to be amusing, so it boded well.  A hi-vis Aston Villa fan walked in and was congratulated by all for a 3-0 win last night, the funny little man in green attempted a Brummie accent which didn't really convince.   I went to sit in the main room which had reassuringly little furniture and bench seating, where a dog lay so still, I suspected it was dead.  Turned out it was acting, the fact he was called Oscar seemed appropriate.  The amusing little green man (possibly an alien) says to the well behaved baby "what do you think of this mad, mad world eh?  We are ALL mad!"  It was enough to finally make the baby cry.  So I left.  

Scottie gives the landlady a tough time

Hi-vis Villa bloke and little green man, making the pub special

An 'Oscar' winning performance
Table sharing with a local dude
I walked back towards the station, where just across the road was tonight's other pub, though I had to hide in the shadows to take the outdoor photo as some teenage chavs were screeching and being a bit lairy.  

1269 / 2015.  Cheshire Ring Hotel, Hyde

The screeching teenagers had obviously been heard through the walls of the calm sedate front room, for when I entered, a few petrified looks greeted me, but a flash of the orange scarf and GBG soon put their minds at rest (not really, that'd make things ten times worse).  This had that fantastic north west old school pub feel, where you enter through a corridor to tiles and high ceilings, with a bar that goes right around the corner, with a piano at the back, lots of carpet and shiny brass fittings.  The kind of pub Beds and Bucks sadly lack.  A young bar chap called Ashley, described as "new blood", was being trained up by the landlord who was drinking on the other side of the bar.  I ordered a stout and was initially charged £1.50, but he sadly upped it to £3.    Ashley wanted to make an impression, so gave me a soundbite with my pint and change ..... "violence should not be tolerated unless it is absolutely necessary."  No idea if there was any context behind the statement, but I told him 'cheers and amen to that!' just to encourage the youngster.   The landlord told everyone he had a 7% mild in the cellar which "isn't too mild".  Dire Straits played, another sign of a quality pub, though a less obvious one I've discovered by accident over the years.  Ashley was introduced to an old local called Martin who was described as "easy", but he had a tricky moment when a young lady asked for a vodka and tonic.    "It's his first day on spirits" warned the landlord, probably called Lee.  A five minute lesson on different tonics and fridge lights ensued.  The pub busied up in the front bar, and got very friendly and jovial.  So much so I was worried I'd get trapped in, so I squeezed by glass back on the bar counter, said goodbye to all, and wandered off to the dark railway station.

Ashley meets Martin

Probable landlord and lady give Ashley some tonic training

A room with nobody in

Hallway and toilet area very gorgeous
So two utterly cracking pubs I must say, two of the best I've been to this calendar year.  I reckon Cheshire Ring would probably be the populist choice if people had to vote, but personally I'd go Sportsman which had a quality which was rarer and harder to define.  

But it might be easier to recommend Cheshire Ring.  It's kind of like if someone says "I want to get into this band, I know they've got 10 albums but I've got no idea where to start"and some helpful fan who has every album advises them to get the most populist 'radio friendly' one first, and if they like it, get the obscure cult fan fave later down the line.

And if that sounds like rambling nonsense, it probably is.  

Back to York before 10pm, the kitchen is coming on well and has a nice lime green feature:

Back in North Yorkshire for day 4, I'll si thee for that one ya buggers.



Tuesday, 6 March 2018

BRAPA - Si's Kitchen Nightmares Day Two - Harrogate

After the slight nightmare that was Gatley on Monday night, it was time for something a bit more sedate on Tuesday, as my kitchen started to take shape in a shabby chic London 'Spoons sort of way, not really reflected in the below photo:

I was ready to forgive tonight's pub, for two months ago, I'd found it closed.  Despite an active Twitter account, there'd been no mention of an early Jan closure period, as they preferred to only focus on 'good news' stories.  Upset at the time, but pub ticking has no room for holding grudges.

I'd been in a 4 hour meeting with two Scottish men so was quite tired anyway, though when one mentioned he lived in Inverkip, I burst into life and told them I had a required pub tick there which led to everyone calling me 'sad'.  The highlight of the meeting almost, but superseded when they said they were staying overnight in L**ds and what pub did I recommend, one their wives wouldn't choose to go to(!)  We went Templar and the Duncan, just to keep them grounded.

Harrogate, the town I love to hate (well, you could say that about many places in the UK) didn't take too long to reach on the rickety 17:29 stopper, and the former 'Little Fail House' wasn't far away.

1267 / 2013.  Little Ale House, Harrogate

I squeezed in to the post-work Micro crush which involves bar blockers with superiority complexes, an overweight crotch-sniffing black dog taking up about 50% of the floor space, and a mousey woman looking like she wanted to break centuries of pub etiquette ruling and form a queue.  I asked her if she wanted to go first (I still have nightmares of the Mary Berry husband incident), but she told me to go first as she had a 'question for the pub which might take some time'.  Ominous, and I'm ashamed to say I never lingered to find out the nature of this query, but in my mind, she was telling them off for closing over New Year without telling anyone.  A smiling young man called me buddy and sold me the nearest beer I could see, a gluten free effort which I was delighted to see came from Shiny in Derby, one of my modern faves.  Even better quality than Gatley yesterday, if that's possible.  Which it was.  It was fairly busy but I didn't want to be drawn into the "additional upstairs seating" in case it took me away from the 'action'.  By the front door, I spotted the most Harrogate thing ever.  A spent candle, in an empty 'handcrafted' hibiscus and pink peppercorn gin bottle.  It was eventually re-lit by a friendly beardo, who also called me buddy.  I had to protect my flame, as a series of idiots left the pub but held the door open for 5 mins as they chatted to Mrs Popularity just beyond me.  It occurred to me that despite dog and lack of space, this felt very non-Micro, more like a Euro cafe bar.  Perhaps something to do with the clientele, as Harrogate folk give so few fucks about their fellow human beings (as long as they are happy with their pashminas, pearls, Mumford & Sons playlists and upturned noses), it was perhaps the least intrusive micro ever.  No doubt the quality of staff though, I went back for a cheeky half and was called buddy for a third time, as he sold me half a Gemini porter I hadn't even asked for 'because it is a new barrel'.   I had to neck it, and a sign said bring your glasses back to the bar you lower class scum, so I did, and was told 'have a good evening buddy' by mine friendly host, a 4th 'buddy' tonight. 

The folk of Little Ale House

My candle of destiny

Half in a silly glass and background Mrs Popularity
Back at the station, my train was delayed (course it bloody was!) so after making a mental note not to let any passionate Saddleworth silver surfers drive me anywhere weird, I popped into the always reliable Harrogate Tap for a swift half, which had a friendly almost WMC vibe to it.

The train journey home, some fish & chips and news of Hull City's lowest ebb yet  (I say that every blog) followed.

I've booked some tickets to Manchester for tomorrow's trip, back over t'hills to GMR again for day 3, who knows where I'll end up (I haven't even decided yet, may even squeeze two in!) so see ya on Twitter 6ish tomorrow.


BRAPA - Si's Kitchen Nightmares Day One - Gatley

Hallway chaos!
About a year ago, I had my bathroom refitted and without an actual pot to piss in, I did what any sane pub ticker would do and checked into a Warrington Travelodge and visited most of the pubs in the area.

Now, I'm having my kitchen done and it is an equally chaotic scene at BRAPA towers:

More chaotic than it looks from this

So what to do other than stay out after work all week and get my drink, food, warmth and comfort in the name of BRAPA?  Not that I need an excuse, but after a very dry spell ever since Liverpool, it's about time I got back on the horse, as we say in the trade.  

Tonight the problem was finding a 'midweeker' that actually opened on a Monday, nearly everything I had left in North Yorkshire that was achievable didn't, so it was over t'hills to dark Manchester with the weather and my ankle (which I don't like to talk about) both on the mend.

A broken down train at Batley threatened to derail my progress (haha) but then the announcer man said "you know the train in front of us I said had broken down?  Well now it's not broken down and we'll be going to Huddersfield the normal way!"  Hurrah.

After a quick sandwich, drink and change at Piccadilly, I found myself shinning south of the city, Airport bound, where I came to Gatley, just before 6pm, which is always great progress.

And just down the road (not quite as near as the GBG App pushpin claimed) was a big black & white fronted pub.  It's astroturf garden exterior screamed "HYDES" at me, in the way Rose of Lancaster in Chadderton did last year (even though that's JW Lees!), but some nice lamps and a mosaic pub name threshold had me feeling optimistic:

1246 / 2012.  Horse & Farrier, Gatley

I'd always thought Hydes pubs were quite expensive from my limited experience, so £2.55 for a good quality pint of 1863 made me wonder if this was some kind of Monday early doors happy hour style arrangement.  I was served by a big square bloke probably called Fran, both he and Mrs Fran had that no nonsense 'effortlessly good at what we do' air about them that you like to see in your pub staff.  As a twild started gurgling to the left of the pub and a small blonde woman smiled in a curious way, I was drawn to the right hand side which was more dining, so I just sat the otherside of the 'divide', the 'last line of drinker' if you will. It allowed me to gurn at the diners, all of whom were eyes deep in mash potato, or talking about it - from the family with teenage daughters, moody mash man on his own, or the wide boys at the back of the room who yawned and seemed to have dressed in Hydes decor and colour scheme, which manages to combine some dazzling headachey patterns like tartan and chessboard, yet still managing to 'bland it out' with some pretty insipid colouring.  Hard not to think of Ember Inns in this regard, but perhaps an Ember Inn that's been given a good talking to by Liam Gallagher.   Not much else to say, one of the teenage girls walked into the chair opposite so I made sure she felt foolish (just for the narrative I hope you understand) and my extreme orange sweatshirt and scarf combo got the weird looks it deserved.  I stayed for another half of a guest dark ale called 'Prague' (£1.70 a half!), funny cos apparently Fran loves talking to people about ales from Prague.  But Mrs served me this.  I said bye, returned my glasses, but the pub didn't respond.

Moody Mash Man beyond my pint past the dining divide

Men chatting about mash potato, or Man Utd & Man City.

Blokes dress in the Hydes style.  Loyal.
And as I walked the 5 mins back to the station, that would have been that for any normal pub ticker.

But there's nothing normal about BRAPA.

As I glanced up to see my train back to Manchester Pic cancelled, an oldish couple clocked my pained expression and the bloke says "do you want a lift to East Didsbury tram station?" 

Seemed random, but was willing to go along with it, even though they told me they were from Saddleworth, they weren't living together, and he wasn't parked nearby, probably with a few Nazi manuals in the boot, she with bleached peroxide (or was it grey?) hair, and we ended up walking about 15 mins to his house where he drove a posh car out from round the side of the house!

The woman sang along happily and loudly to his mix CD (Sloop John B, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes etc.) as I cowered in the back wondering what would become of me.  He dropped us at the station but then insisted on parking up to make sure we got on the right Metro tram thing!  (East Didsbury is the end of the line so not sure how even I could fuck this up?)

Soon became clear as they told me to "go ahead and get on the tram" and as I turned back, they were having a passionate snog, tongues and everything, ugh, and eventually she joined me and we got chatting on 'Saddlesworth BRAPA'.  She taught me Saddleworth wasn't really a place, but lots of little places together I'd been to like Greenfield, Dobcross and Uppermill where I have BRAP'd.

She even told me there was a bus to Delph which was a revelation re a difficult pub I need, so she gave me her bus timetables, very kind, and we said bye at Chorlton-scum-Vardy cos I was desperate for the loo, so popped into the Chorlton Tap (formerly 'Bar') and used it the purpose I think it's most fit for. 

Eventually back in Manc, train delays to York so coffee, twix, my phone died and back home for 10pm to kitchen chaos.  Phew! 

I'll be back tomorrow for another random after-work pub tick in either Greater Manchester or North Yorkshire, so stay tuned for that.  I'm here all week!