Wednesday, 17 January 2018

BRAPA - From Charing Cross to Covent Garden : A London Tale

So, where was I when I rudely interrupted my own blog yesterday?  Ah, that's right, it was 16:12 and I'd just left one of central London's most wonderful pubs, The Harp in Charing Cross WC2. 

I was in very good spirits as I rounded the corner and shaped up to take the photo of my next pub, the Lemon Tree, from across the road.  As I was about to click the button, a text came through from Dad saying "London Pubs are not very good are they?"   I kind of disagreed after the Harp, but was this top foreshadowing from the premier BRAPA wing-man?

1213 / 1959.  Lemon Tree, Charing Cross

Dead.  From the second I entered.  It was the pub equivalent of Cyrille Regis being called on stage to sing a 'Zombie' encore with the Cranberries.  In Maidenhead.  Too soon?  Probably.  The Lemon Tree may have suffered from following on from the Harp but really, there was little excuse.  Most seats were taken, yet the sour faced miserable clientele were fully silent.  There was no one behind the bar.  So a young lady with a shade of lipstick slightly too rouge for her complexion (not that I'm an expert) heaved herself up moodily from a corner table to serve me a pint of HPA.  "You payin' by card" she moaned.  'Errrm no I'm just buying a pint so I'm paying by cash like a proper human being' is what I should have said, instead I scratted around nervously for the £4.45.  As I looked up from checking my 55p change (I had to use a fiver in the end), she was already sat back in the corner.  Call me old fashioned but I like to see the staff behind the bar, not just popping over when they have to.  I sat near a moody dungaree headscarf girl, trying to be all cool and moody staring moodily out of the window like a dog dying in a hot car.  My HPA was in good nick but this was a level of dull that made Stoke Mandeville and Mentmore feel quirky.  Hull City 0-0 Reading seemed the perfect football accompaniment as the twiddly modern jazz played, nothing else happened til our lipsticked friend actually smiled across the room at me, so I couldn't even call her a PISS barmaid in the end!  Dungaree girl had cheered up as a friend and her watched a mobile phone video of a twild laughing, which means I can't even escape the blighters when they aren't in the pub!

Headscarf dungaree girl stares out at nothingness

Couple bored shitless of life, this pub and each other

One of my newest Twitter buddies later told me he'd actually had a really good curry in the Lemon Tree, which is nice for him, but as far as BRAPA's concerned, that's like Hull City losing 0-10 v L**ds at the KComm and someone saying "well, I had the most fantastic meat & potato pie at half time so we can't blame players, manager or Allams too much".  And that everyone, is an analogy you won't find in a pub guide.

Classic Text exchange with B G Everitt
My next pub was a mere 0.1 mile walk according to my GBG App, despite being listed under Covent Garden.  You really have to LOVE Central London in this respect, about time Cornwall & North Yorkshire got an underground train network! 

Are we ready for today's 4th pub? Good, let's go in!

1214 / 1960.  White Swan, Covent Garden

This was a little more like what I expect from your typical Central London pub, with a vibrant atmosphere, the constant tinkling of glassware, and a mass of wide-eyed folk acting like they don't know how to conduct themselves in a pub.  On the way, I was greeted by a busy wirey guy who reminded me of a Mexican Wrestler - in fact, we almost collided, and soon he was behind the bar and I was having trouble being served.  Despite looking straight at me, he served a bunch of dithering middle aged Germans (always the worst sort of German, well, to a point) so I folded my arms and looked at him like "well you messed that up El Chiquacharito didn't you?" but he simply smiled sweetly at me as some sweaty flabby bald dude served me.  I was more sad because the smiley barmaid who looked like a young Kylie Minogue hadn't noticed me, despite serving about 10 people at once.  It soon became clear there was nowhere to really sit (or move to) so I edged to a shelf facing the bar where there was just enough room to balance a pint if you were steady and watchful!  The highlight soon became a crazed bunch of locals led by a yellow shirted dude who were very excited to see ' Black Sheep' on the bar.  I'd simply blanked it, I'm that used to seeing it, but it was pulled pint after pint, til they drank the barrel dry.  It was a wondrous sight, the guy had obviously been drinking ale for centuries and I soon felt ashamed for drinking something probably southern called Parody, which again was surprisingly good quality.  Not a bad pub, but not one to stick in the mind for too long.  

Black Sheep legend.

Instant Pleasures has it's pipes cleaned! 

The kind of strange folk getting served before me

It was time for another, and this one took me further into the dark bowels (I still hadn't had the poo I thought I'd needed on the way to Mentmore but had now subsided) of Covent Garden.

Again, I'd tried to get into this pub on a cold Sunday morning when it was supposed to be open, only to find it firmly closed.  And again, it wowed me.  Harp part two?  

1215 / 1961.  Cross Keys, Covent Garden

And again heaving, proof that the drinking folk are no fools when it comes to seeking out the best places, contrary to earlier comments I may have made about the London drinker!  What set this apart, the people were weird and characterful too.  Did I walk in with a Tourist Information / Happy to Help badge pinned to me?  As I waited patiently at the 3-deep bar mayhem, I was asked if I had the time (which I did), then by a man with strange eyes 'do you have a light?' which I didn't, and then I was told by a man who seemed to be half talking to himself 'no dogs in here!'  Did I look like a dog?  Or a dog owner?  Or was he conversant in BRAPA's views on Twog life?    There was really nowhere to go, once more, as a little 80 year old man the size of Yoda shuffled into the one available corner space I'd seen, so I had to stand behind the door and be amazed how considerate people were when it came to opening and closing it gently so as not to squash me.  Forgot to mention getting served!  I ordered this Brodies thing, hadn't seen it was also on a tall font, so the friendly bar man asked "do you want the proper one, or THIS!" pointing accusingly at the tall font and scrunching up his nose.  Great work!  Twamra legend.  I approve.   Apart from that, I just stared wide eyed at the bright shiny pub, the amazing mirror, copper pots on ceiling, crazy decor.  Really was a great pub, a bit like a larger psychedelic psychotic Harp.  Sad that Long Scarf Babe didn't bond with me over the length of our scarves, but you can't have everything!

A happy pub scene, taken from behind the door

The mirror, and corner where Yoda is hiding somewhere

Long scarf babe fails to bond
One more to do under the Covent Garden heading, breaking my so called 6 pub a day rule but I felt so much more alive, awake and sober than I'd done in Bucks earlier that it was crying out for it.  Especially as no Friday night BRAPA this coming week adds to a frustrating Jan!

1216 / 1962.  Coach & Horses, Covent Garden

As I took advantage of a bit of hesitation from a blousey woman in blue (always the most hesitant of pub specimens) and rested on the corner of the bar, I couldn't see much in the way of ale so went for an Adnams Southwold because it was near me.  In fact, judging by the decor, font and all those whiskeys, it felt a bit like an Irish pub even if whiskey was spelt whisky which I believe is the Scottish spelling so perhaps the Irish theme was all in my head!  There was even fewer places to seat, stand or perch than before so I took my ale down a typically death defying City of London staircase to the gents where I found a proper corridor.  The next 15 mins was spent debating in my head how acceptable it was to stand here and drink.  It felt a bit loo-like in decor, but clean, and I could pretend I was engrossed in the posters.  But when a girl scowled at me, I lost my nerve and went back upstairs.  Just at the moment I got back into the cauldron, the table directly in front became free and I dived in, much to the chagrin of the many groups who'd been hovering for such an opportunity.  But fortune always favours the BRAP at the end of a patient day of pub ticking perching, leaning and hovering!  A satisfying end to one of the nicer London crawls in recent memory! 

The toilet corridor of debate

Hands up if you've been to both better and worse pubs today

See you all in Sunderland on Saturday.  Tyne & Wear is, like Central London, another 'county' I'm getting close to completing without properly trying.

Lots o love, Si

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

BRAPA - BuckingHell We're Nearly Done + HARPing On in London.

So, back in Buckinghamshire for the penultimate time for a good decade or so (hopefully) and it there was a glitch before we'd even reached 7am as I noticed my 7:01am train was only going as far as Peterborough.  This was due to overnight train chaos at Hornsey (not to be confused with the far superior Hornsea, of pottery fame). 

The silver lining to this cloud was that I'd have had a ridiculous amount of waiting time at Euston had everything gone clockwork, now I just had 20 mins or so.  I caught a little electric whirry train, smooth as a baby's bum, and soon we (I) was in Cheddington for the second time in my life.  Once is enough for anyone, but needs must. 

As the crow flies, it was a mere 1.4 miles to the village of Mentmore.  Reality of course, a crazy scary road with no pavement, just an uneven grass verge and lots of drivers you wouldn't want to trust your life with, so as soon as I saw a pedestrian waymark, I bolted into the edge of a farmers field. 

With sodden muddy shoes, damaged crops, and an urge for a number two, I soon realised I wasn't following the intended path.  After wandering into a farm I wasn't supposed to (again), I saw a gate and hurdled it.  Before too long, I was in Mentmore, the pub being the first building I saw. 

Now the nerves started, I'd read about Martin's aborted attempt here.  11:40am, would they open at 12?  A light on was a promising sign (the first Bernard 'Daddy' Everitt rule of 'will a pub open?') so I loitered on the village green with playground, feeling half Midsomer Murderer, half Paedo, so phoned Mum to do our Hull City score predictions.  I said 1-0 win, as we were home to rubbish Reading.
I then gave her 'real time' is the pub open yet commentary as it was now 12 noon exactly.  It was!

1210 / 1956.  Stag, Mentmore   

This was always going to be unashamedly dining, and factoring in the Bucks factor, my expectations have rarely been lower!  So I was amazed when the matronly matron and young bar lad greeted me with the kind of gusto you'd expect to be afforded to the first customer of the day, but rarely is.  Just by saying 'I'll have a pint of Glorious English' (the most exciting of the two ales on), the matron laughed uproariously.  The pub has three rooms so I sat in the most 'traditional' (everything is relative), 'Froggies' bar with it's real fire, beermats on tables (a rural Bucks rarity)  and wall displays to give a nod to things like dominoes and pool, as though they were something people once played in this pub but it had died out when it was gastro-ised.  If it was trying to be a 'pubby' room, it failed hopelessly, but the thought was there, not everyone wants a restaurant or cocktail bar (the other two rooms).   The pub had recently been taken over, so I think I was benefiting from the "trying to make a good impression" phase,    so when I asked our young host to order me a taxi (they must've thought I was a mystery shopper or a Twamspector [CAMRA inspector who is also a twat] by now), he did it with good grace, though he told me he had to repeat the 'Aylesbury' bit 5 times as a twog was barking in the background.  "Holding back the Tears" was playing, as I was "holding back the beers", nursing the last few sips as I waited for the taxi as I didn't want to order an extra half.  "Your taxi is here sir" I was told, and I went on my way.  One of the nicer Bucks Dining Hell Experiences.  Yet if I encountered this place in Rochdale, I'd probably be fuming.  Funny old game innit? 

My taxi driver was called Lee, and the most "Lee" Lee ever, proper excitable southern young man, actually a Leighton Buzzard beer delivery driver who'd hot wired a taxi (probably) and proceeded to slag off the staff at the Tan Hill (highest pub in England) and Grassington (he'll be right) but said Whitby was lovely.  We had a good pubby chat and when we saw a visiting chav family going into Aylesbury prison to see 'Daddy', we both judged them silently.

He dropped me at Aylesbury (another place I'm happy not to go back to for eternity) from where I caught a quick train to Stoke Mandeville, favourite haunt of Jimmy Savile, which explained the dearth of twild action in the next pub, the only good thing about it.  Had Savile taken up a healthier past time like pub ticking, I suspect he'd have gone to the Bull, said "now then, now then, not a lot going on 'ere young man" (or is that Brian Clough?) supped up, and gone onto the next pub never to darken the town again.

And the lesson here is simple, pub ticking is a great healthy hobby.

1211 / 1957.  Bull, Stoke Mandeville

After a desperate dash to the loo in the corridor gave me chance to decide where I'd sit, I chose 'bar' ahead of 'lounge' cos I'd seen 4 blokes stood at the bar and thought they might be amusing.  They weren't.  I wandered in to bewildered looks, and the barmaid admitted (just as in Northallerton last night) that she'd not seen me at first.  Still, this one was particularly gormless.  I didn't think the beer choice could get much worse than Mentmore, but Harveys Sussex Best or Doom Bar didn't inspire.  To be fair, I chose the Sussex and it was good quality.  A sign said "No Food, No Vapour Cigs" and a nervous man called Andy left as soon as I'd taken the obligatory 'shot of the locals'.  A larger than life character with an eye patch that looked like a golf ball behind his specs (it looked ridiculous to be honest) shouted through to the three remaining blokes on my side.  "Tell him he can't come round this side!" they pleaded to the barmaid, and sadly, he never did properly appear in the flesh.  My beer was served in an Adnams glass (the WORST), on a Stella beermat, and it was in general quite a miserable pub experience.  The best I can say is "ONLY ONE BUCKS PUB LEFT TO DO!"

The blokes (Andy, left is about to leave)

Shit glass, decent pint. 

Ticked off my penultimate pub!
It was time to head back to London, and although I don't bang on about it in quite the same way as trying to complete Bucks and Cheshire before the 2019 GBG comes out, I was only 11 pubs away from finishing Central London for a first time.  It'd be nice to feel I'd got this one under my belt for a decade or two as well, so that is where I headed next.

Changing at Marylebone, I took the tube to Charing Cross and after getting lost around Trafalgar Square for not the first time, I spied a pub I'd tried to get in at 10am on a cold January morning last year, only to find it sadly closed, but better luck mid afternoon on a Saturday ......


1212 / 1958.  Harp, Charing Cross

This was one of those "everybody has done this pub apart from me and they aren't even pub tickers, you should be ashamed it's taken you so long Si" kind of pubs I occasionally have the joy of going to.  And I could see what the fuss was about from the second I walked through the door.  Despite the fact this was a tiny pub heaving with masses of bodies, there was a BRAPA shaped hole at the bar right in front of the interesting wide array of handpumps (I went for a Thornbridge just cos hardly ever see it in London) for me to be served by a smiling bald man.  The other staff smiled too, they laughed and joked.  Do they not realise bar staff in Central London have to be shit, miserable and incompetent?  What was this witchcraft?  It got better.  Another BRAPA shaped hole appeared just behind me, allowing me and my bag enough room to comfortably perch.  Sitting would almost feel wrong in here, and I NEVER say that.  I even did a bit of classic man-spreading with my elbows to just give me a little bit more room than I was entitled to.  The good thing about pub goers in the middle of t'Smoke is they are all idiots, so none of them understand bar etiquette, pub etiquette, and all just motored on down to the even busier back of the pub like they were expecting to find a Narnia style vortex they could sit and drink in.  Promise of additional seating areas in London are not worth seeking out, you'll only be disappointed.  This all left the front of the pub relatively comfy, even if a 18th century portrait of a judgey Keeley Hawes kept staring at me.  Couldn't get a proper photo of her cos 'Mark Monk (Mark Robins v Gary Monk) Accountant' kept blocking me.  I also loved the stained glass and array of pump clip decor, this was a pub you could just 'look' at!   They did do food, but it looked reassuringly basic.  What the hell is a sausage on a stick?  A sausage on a stick, oh right?!  A blonde girl and her muscly boyfriend tried to invade my space, and all I could think was that little mole on her arm could easily be vaporised by a Harrogate skin clinic.  It really was that kind of an intimate pub. 

Nice Stained Glass, drinkers shocked by something flying above

View to the bar

MMA blocks off portrait of ancient Keeley, whilst Mr Scarf tries to impress Miss Sockless

There's a clinic who can vaporise that in seconds !
So after two pretty lame Bucks pubs, I was awake and buzzing and positive again.  Only 3pm too.  Plenty more to get done before the train home.  Could they all be as good as the Harp?  Would anything else annoy me today in London?  Surely not!   Stay tuned for part two tomorrow.


Monday, 15 January 2018

BRAPA - Northallerton Nights

Friday is of course, the new Tuesday (no matter how tired I am after a week at work) in terms of 'midweek' pub ticking.  With the 'Northern' strike blighting my South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester options, it was time to head north, funnily enough. 

I had a half an hour wait in York station, time to contemplate the journey ahead.  As I dozed off on a Pumpkin cafe settee which would be to the envy of most Buckinghamshire dining pubs, I vaguely wondered if even premier pub-tickers Martin Taylor and Duncan Mackay had been to tonight's pubs.  Would they mind me getting them done before them for once?   So no surprise when I opened my eyes to be greeted by their minders:

"Taylor & Mackay have sent us"

The chap on the right, representing Taylor most probably, was brandishing a can of lager.  Surely he wasn't going to beat me to death with it, oh how deliciously ironic that may have been.  A GBG (WITH the breweries pages) would've been better of course.  Thankfully, there was a side door and I made my escape to platform 9.  

Northallerton wasn't far enough away, but was still relieved when I exited the railway station with no one following me.

I feel I know this pleasant North Yorks market town like the back of my hand, for in my formative BRAPA year, I spent a lot of time there.  Not just ticking pubs in that area, but using it as a bus terminus to the Dales.

The buses departed from the iconic but very closed looking Buck Inn, who'd have thought that 3 years on, I'd be back here visiting a pub on each side?  The first, just off the main drag very much stood alone and looked delightfully mysterious ......

The John Smith's lantern seemed to bode well

1208 / 1954.  Oddfellows Arms, Northallerton

It did what it said on the tin, a pub called the Oddfellows full of odd fellows!  I felt a bit ashamed I'd incorrectly assumed this would be a micropub, such are my expectations of 2018 pub ticking..... As it was, I entered a bit nervously, this was a proper locals boozer and I wasn't mentally prepared.  A gaggle of 4 odd fellows formed a semi-circle around the handpumps, they weren't shifting for a no-mark like myself, and I had to smile weakly and peer through the gap, hastily choosing the easiest one to read & say.   They were already ribbing the polite, non-local sounding landlord about using his mobile phone and being anti-social.  So much so, I had to wait patiently for Mrs Oddfellow to become available to serve me.  She was nice too, but wore a jumper that was a shade of yellow that makes the eyes bleed, and believe me, I own some pretty bright clothes myself!  The only time I've seen this shade of yellow before was on my school newsletter, the "Fulfordian" circa 1990-93.  Speaking of bright clothing, I'd been told in the week that the colour orange is the most likely to incite violence, which may explain why weird pub stuff happens when I have my orange scarf on.  I sat next to a man who seemed to be doing the pub 'accounts', usually a bad sign for the pub for the last two times I've seen it (Hen & Chickens, Bolton ; Bird in Hand, Princes Risborough) the pub has disappeared temporarily from existence soon after!  He later brought himself into disrepute by playing online fruit machines on his phone, probably spending the pubs money.  A friendly young man said hi as he dashed to the loo, the locals chatted on 'Farage', 'Lady Marmalade' and "that Gino Duh Campio" (sic) and all was well til a starey woman with dry elbows appeared and joined in the local 'bantz'.  "Do you do Prosecco by the glass?" was the least surprising thing she said, and the local semi circle had plenty to say on this issue about the landlord's prosecco pricing.  She wanted some crisps, but demanded to see every box and read every bag cos she had a sesame allergy.  Of course she did.  And it was time I left.  

The semi-circular gang think of something witty to say, note the background jumper

Sesame elbows lady scans the crisps as her man friends try to infiltrate the semi circle of odd-ness
Back around the corner, another look through the window of the Buck Inn (all I could see was dark despair) and to the narrow alley leading to pub two.  As I stood to take the picture, a long queue of people were waiting patiently to get into the restaurant area of the adjoining chippie.  "Sad bastards", I thought, but they looked at me in the same manner as I photographed the pub!

Not brave enough to turn the camera any further left!
1209 / 1955.  Little Tanner, Northallerton 

A bit of an awkward door handle and a smile at some blonde woman made for your much more traditional micropub entrance, but beware, as the GBG tells us "virtually a micropub" so not ACTUALLY.  And to be fair, it wouldn't score much on my bingo card.  I didn't see one twog, it had piped music, the locals hid behind mobile phone screens happily anti-social with no guilt, and not one board game or charity shop book in sight.  The barman greeted me with a peculiar "hi guys!"  I looked around myself in comedic fashion, giving him a 5 second window of opportunity to admit his mistake and make a joke out of it.  Sadly, he didn't take up the opportunity and that awkward "I KNOW WHAT YOU SAID" elephant was in the room for the remainder of my stay, perched against the wall facing the bar under a hot light.   The place had a homely feel, warmer than your average micro, and good atmos especially whilst blonde Mum was here with unspecified aged brunette (fellow Mum or her daughter? impossible to tell) whilst the two twilds were "wired for sound" but not in a Cliff Richard way luckily for them, allegedly, hogging the leather settee, otherwise bored shitless by Mum's boozy Friday session on the sauce.  An old man then touched the brunettes bum (eeeek) and they left with the twilds, but not after the friendly blonde had to down her wine, but told our double sighted barman to wash the glass well afterwards because she had tonsillitis.   My beer meanwhile tasted like a nice version of sick, with a tropical tang.  Soon I was left with the twentysomething blokes, who slagged off Irish racecourses in loud voices which stopped me staying for another half.  

The barman of "hi guys" fame, and a no nonsense local.

A piano to sum up the ethos of this "virtual" micropub

Smiling tonsillitis blonde, flanked by unspecified brunette and a friendly man they might know.

My pint and gloves, plus background twilds wired for sound.
So now I was in a quandry of being half a mile from the station, but once I'm there, I still have about a 35 minute wait for my train, in the freezing cold.  So when I saw this below sign, I had to think "maybe I love the idea of pre-emptives after all"......

Stumble Inn, Northallerton

You can't make it up can you, after slagging off the concept of the "pre-emptive tick" in my End of Year Awards Blog, I have now done THREE in the first 12 days of the new year.  And despite looking like a fried chicken shop from the outside, it was my pub of the night and surely a good bet for 2019 GBG inclusion.  I wandered in where there were smiles and nods from all around, and then a confused barman appeared, he'd heard the door go but because I apparently "blended in" so well, it took him ages to see me.  I told him that's a compliment, especially as I was wearing odd gloves, a biker jacket and orange scarf plus my hallowe'en socks (I did have trousers on).  This'd be a theme that'd repeat over the weekend and begs the question, once you've walked into so many new pubs, do you really start to just blend in?  One for my fellow pub tickers.  My next decision wasn't so clever as I went for a session ale about 3.5% but when everyone else got either of the ales over 6%, the locals at the bar loved them for it, so I was somewhat of a weakling pariah from the off!  A friendly pair of southern visitors had been taken under the wing of the locals too, and you could tell they were loving & completely surprised by the northern hospitality.    A contender for pub pet of the year arrived next in the form of a gorgeous dog, stunk a bit of dog (you can't blame it for that) but very friendly and well behaved.  I also liked the owner, an awkward recluse - not your typical micropub dog owner who simply uses his pet as a vehicle to boost his own shitty ego by basking in the reflected glory of a dog's cuteness.  I hope that makes sense.  I see it all the time in pubs and HATE it, I'm like "get your own personality dude, you're not the one being fawned after".  The locals were ace, great rant on "rip off Britain" and 'where there's a blame there's a claim" culture, and I particularly liked the line "ugh, Barrow-in-Furness is one of those places where the nightclubs only open on a Tuesday and a Wednesday!"   Cracking pub.

Beer probably needs another top up but not going back again!

Description of "Snug", but not very snug-like pub area IMO 

The southern visitors are LOVING it

Bald locals being very amusing

A really good dog
  Unfortunately, it soon became clear I'd underestimated the walk back and before I bloody knew it, I was racing up the ramp only to hear the whistle.  I'd missed the train.  What a dickhead I felt.  I'd had all the time in the world earlier.  80 minutes til the next train to York.  Arrrghhh.

Only one thing for it, another pub.  But on the way, a station taxi driver wound his window down and said "missed your train then mate?"  TOTAL TWAXI.  Grrrr.

And sadly, I'd been to this pub before pre-BRAPA in 2013, but I must say, with my "BRAPA eyes"
on, I enjoyed it a lot more this time around ......

Station Hotel, Northallerton

The reason I didn't like it last time (apart from a furry pint I pretty much expected) was that me and two friends were sat in a room making fun of Liverpool's woefulness on a televised football game.  When ChrisB (Crispy, Krzbi) went to the loo, I (being the loudest obviously) made my 5th consecutive anti-Simon Mingolet comment due to his ineptness, when a previously quiet plastic scouser sat behind us told me to keep my comments to myself!  Having had a good few pints in Tithe, Tickle Toby, Standard amongst others, I was brave enough to tell him it was a private conversation between me and Clare, and (remembering a line used by Tom's Dad, Chris Irvin)  if he cared that much, he'd be at Anfield himself and not sat in a pub in Northallerton.  He actually shut up.  Of course, when Chris Irvin did it, it was even better as we were in Hull's once brilliant, now shit Hole in the Wall when plastic L**ds scum used to come in wearing L**ds colours, and sit there watching their Premier league heroes in the Sky lunchtime kick off whilst we were scratting around in League Two before a home game v Kidderminster or someone.  And you wonder why I hate the White Shite!  

Today was better, despite yet another semi circular gang (must be a Northallerton thing) blocking my entrance, to the extent where an older twild of dubious parentage stared, looked confused, and comments to an old man "we don't know 'im do we?" to which he was quickly told to shut up.  I barged through with a smile on my face, located the one handpump, a beer mysteriously titled "Jennings" and nothing else.  After a few smiles, I sat down by this roaring fire to watch the Shitfield derby, further evidence how poor the Championship is this year, all bluster, no quality, but still both sides better than us on the weekend's evidence I hear.    The pub felt like a proper old skool station pub, huge, sturdy, nice features (loved the loo area), stuff I didn't notice in 2013.  Beer was good too, probably Cumberland though I usually hate it (was not dark enough to be Snecklifter) but had I been drinking a beer celebrating BRAPA they'd brewed on the sly, I'd never have known.  As time went on, the old Grandad Jim introduced himself and we had a chat.  He took it a bit far when he made me add his number to my mobile, so I could ring him for a York drinking session.  Hmmm, and when they left, he did that "call me" hand sign with imaginary phone to ear like a pervy dude chatting up some angry babe from Whitfield.  You know what I mean.

Nice fire

An unspecified Jennings

Nice loo corridor floor 

And that was it, what a good night!  And PLENTY to tell you about Bucks and London tomorrow I have warned you now.


Tuesday, 9 January 2018

BRAPA - No Turning Back in Blackburn

Paige contemplates a pub ticking trip to Blackburn
FA Cup round 3 Saturday, "the magic of the cup", and Hull City had just avoided Crewe to send me to the marginally better (in terms of the pub ticking) Blackburn instead.  I said if we got anything away in a league one or league two town, I'd go, so here I was!

I was never gonna achieve my magic '6' allocation, but 3 or 4 would be a good outcome.

It all started smoothly as me and Dad arrived in sunny Blackburn early enough to get a swift half (which despite what my glossary said, this was a swift half and not a pint masquerading as one) in the Wetherspoons with a post office themed name I can't remember.

The scene so typically 'Spoons

Although the 'Workie Ticket' tasted suspiciously like a 'half o' Wetherspoons' it was in good nick and friendly staff, toothless locals with baggy jumpers, a nice building and the odd  Hull City fan cowering under a newspaper (probably spying on me) made for a positive experience.   I did think before we arrived "in a town of pretty much zero ale options, this Spoons must be diabolical not to get in the GBG!" but it was okay.  Pre-emptive? 

A local train took us out to Clitheroe between 11-12, where the bearded figure of Tom Irvin loomed like a wraith, but a wraith with unpasteurised milk he'd got from a farm shop, because he could.

Clitheroe looked quite a nice place compared with the black painted buildings with white crosses daubed on the doors and green skinned witches (twitches?) cackling I'd been imagining since I first heard of the town "Clitheroe".

1206 / 1952.  New Inn, Clitheroe

This was to be a rare moment of utter joy in a tricky start to January pub ticking, as a multi roomed pub led to a little bar parlour, where a group of curmudgeonly Lancastrian old blokes looked at us with mouths like they'd been chewing a particularly hoppy brand of wasp for the last hour.  I nervously said hello to the room out of the side of my mouth, until one man winked (but it could've been a nervous twitch ..... twitch?  This could get confusing!)   and we ordered some White Witch beers (I told you it was confusing) and a blackcurrant for the princely sum of £6.30ish, but still expensive for Chorley.  We retreated to the gorgeous room, front right of entrance, where sun shone in and bench seating was reassuringly worn with 250 years of Lancastrian arses sitting on them.  Dad told Tom and me an amusing tale about how too much unpasteurised milk causes testicular cancer, we stayed for another drink, a man said 'ow do' on way back from the bogs, and that was that, another surprising gem in the always rewarding East Lancs pubby portfolio.

Milk and blackcurrant, a winning combination

A pub door looking nice

Worn bench seating being the highlight

The second selfie of Tom's life after something about a scary uncle I've forgotten (probably for best)

We weaved our way through the market (Dad expecting to see a "Bob Inn" after recent Chorley and Bolton trips) and the train station was full of idiot twilds blocking the way by sheltering from the cold, on the way to the bright lights of Blackburn.

Trying to keep my calm on a busy twild and twoldies platform

We hopped out one stop early, at Wilpshire where one of Blackburn's three GBG pubs (which aren't actually in Blackburn) were located, seconds walk from the station.

1207 / 1953.  Rising Sun, Blackburn

Another no nonsense classic boozer awaited us, the type that's sadly almost becoming the exception rather than the norm on my pub ticking adventures.  We walked through the pub to the bar at the back on the right where a tall bald imposing bloke gave us a warm welcome and helped us choose between Robinsons Dizzy Blonde and more Moorhouses.   I went the latter as something always goes wrong when I have Dizzy Blonde.  The barman was just about your archetypal northern landlord, the type who'd tuck his old Mother into bed with an extra blanket, before going out and strangling a crocodile to death which is terrorising the local community, which I know sounds unlikely in Wilpshire but you'll have to go with me here.  We sat in the sun again, and I did my Hull City quiz for Dad and Tom, Tom starting well, fading, Dad coming back late on but Tom holding on.  Here's some of the answers if you wondered:
1. Jan 1947 FA CUP AWAY 2.  Andy Payton 3. The Lambada  4. Peter Swan 5. John Motson and his Sheepskin Coat  6. Wycombe v Peterborough  7. Squeaky Aussie Richard Garcia 8. Bloody Meyler.
So there you have it.  I went to order a taxi to take us to the ground as I bought another round, landlord didn't seem to dial any numbers, just summons it from nowhere in his capable manner.  A really lovely pub, could easily have stayed longer.

Model of the pub

Our view of this classic
The taxi arrived exactly when ordered, bit of a shame we hadn't really had time for the 20 min walk to the Hare & Hounds but there'll be other times.  The taxi took ages to get to Ewok park but he didn't charge us much, and unlike Bolton, some fans turned up and we played quite well (in a top half of League One kinda way) and won! 

Post Match Disaster

Buoyed by the pre-match pubs and win, I said goodbye to Dad on the way out of the ground and wandered towards south west towards Livesey to visit the Black Bull.  Now the fun really started.  I got so far down Heys Lane, burnt off the final few homes fans,  when in the puddles and dark, the pavement gave up and with cars whizzing past and not even a grass verge, I decided not to risk my life and try and approach it from Gib Lane, which meant an extra mile walk through Livesey's giant housing estate.

Gib Lane was closed to traffic, good news for me, so in the pitch black, I squinted past road signs and pot holes and crossed a busy road as the GBG App told me to do down a little track.

Past more pot holes, two cattle grids and under some sizzling pylons I went.  "No wonder they call the road the pub is on 'Broken Stone Road'" I thought, but soon, a mad dog barked and I'd entered a farm.  The pub must be plotted wrong on the GBG App!  Noooooo.  I was amazed the owners didn't come out with a shotgun.

I then realised why they hadn't - when I walked back up the track, they sped past me in their car coming back from somewhere.  I jumped into the soggy muddy field and ruined my shoes!  Then I realised the main road I'd crossed had been "Broken Stone Road" and the pub was out to my right.

But with even more pitch black no pavement, cars doing about 70 mph, I thought it wise to give up and head back up Gib Lane and begin the arduous walk back to Blackburn, beaten.  Ugh.

Had I known that the pub was actually on the corner of Heys Lane and Broken Stone Road, I'd have braved the slightly less scary pavementless walk at the beginning.  Arrrrgghh!  To be fair to the GBG, the description tells you where it is TWICE even if the red dot was wrong.

I decided to veer slightly North in the hope I might find myself nearer the other pub, the Hare and Hounds than I thought, but when I saw a Station called Mill Hill with a train delayed just long enough to get me back to the centre, I had to stop and wait.

But then the train got more delayed, and more delayed, and more delayed.  And one man and his mate were banging on to this poor little kid about how well he needed to perform in tomorrow's Sunday league game.  They were AWFUL.  Poor kid gave zero shits, but they were on and on in his ear about tactics, even diving for pens and taking the man before the ball if he needed!  

This plus the fact it was getting 10 mins more delayed every 5 mins meant I decided to try and make the 33 min walk back to Blackburn in time for the 18:57 to L**ds.  Problem was, it was already gone 18:30.  

I'd half given up and was thinking pre-emptives again when I saw the station sooner than expected - it was bang on 18:57, had I just missed it?  Amazingly, it was 3 mins delayed (first bit of luck all evening) and I sprinted up the ramp to get it!  Phew, saved me ages plus a change at Todmorden!  I read a Superdrug magazine for what seemed like hours - "Why Little Mix Love Christmas" and "5 Things You Didn't Know About Your Vagina" being the highlights, as an aggressive Strongbow man fell asleep and shouted at the train for being noisy.

Changed at L**ds, and was home in relatively decent time, starving, couldn't even be assed with York Tap.  Two more pubs, but slow progress so far in Jan and continuing Northern Trains strike on Friday means my Kimberworth plan could be in jeopardy.  

It can only get better!