Monday, 22 January 2018

BRAPA : Brockley Whins, Hull City Don't (Part 2/2)

Every time I combine BRAPA with a football match this season, I seem to be telling you Hull City have hit a 'new low'.

So if I told you on Saturday, Hull City hit a 'new low', I hope you believe me.

The new low, from almost the back row

Sunderland were a poor side bereft of confidence as you'd expect, but we were dreadful and they picked some lively kids, scored a good goal and fully deserved the win.  At the end, I chanted "you're not fit to wear the shirt" to the players who were the passionless equivalent of an Ember Inn in Maidenhead with the brain power of the people who managed the now defunct Hope in Richmond. 

Our new manager is worse, he said he was surprised how bad it was as we had a good pre-match warm up.  A good pre-match warm up?  And the attitude in the dressing room was spot on too!  He actually said these things. 

But our owners are to blame more than the manager and players by a million miles.  Killing our club.  It is so sad.  I was sooooo depressed (for a few minutes). 

But as Steve Bruce (god rest his large soul) would say, it was time to "dust worselves down" and find post match BRAPA pubs.  He'd actually favour a kebab and a Guinness with Big Sam.

Tom pretended he knew where the Metro station was, and when he fluked his way into the queue (Tom will tell you he knew it was near the giant Tesco so just had to aim for that), we had a bit of a wait with several jolly Mackems and squeezed on the next one.

It didn't stop at Sunderland itself for reasons too boring to remember, and Dad decided he didn't quite have enough time to get off at Felling and join us.  "Why ya gerrin off at Felling lads?" said a jolly group who'd overheard us, "yous are brave, it's proppa rough like" and everyone said "aye" and "marras" and "canny" and stuff as we said bye to Dad & our new friends and skidded down the ramp, avoiding any flashpoints.  Well, it was deserted.

And as we rounded the corner, pub looked pitch black.  Uh oh we both thought, it's closed!  I'd been here before on a Bank Holiday to find it closed, but on closer inspection, a small green glow was emanating from within ........ phew!

Tom lurks by the green glow
1120 / 1966.  Wheat Sheaf, Gateshead

The green glow was a small TV screen in the far corner showing local 'heroes' Newcastle Utd getting rings ran around them at Man City.  The rest of the pub was pitch black, well no point wasting electricity is there?  Perhaps ironical in the circs, all the ales came from the wonderful Big Lamp local brewery.  My Prince Bishop (SBS A-) was perhaps pint of the day.  There were filled rolls and chocolate bars on the bar, Tom swooped for a cheese n onion roll and we sat under the TV, just as reception was failing.  Which should have been a relief to any Mags watching!  Two men fiddled around with reception for an age, even phoning the local TV expert/owner to give emergency over the phone instructions in the dark.  It was all very exciting.  The pub was wonderful, reminiscent of one in the West Midlands we both agreed, outdoor gents as you'd expect in a place like this, and eventually they put a light on (booo) and a jolly babe sat near us with her 'eclectic' friends (remember the CAMRA code, that word means some were not male, white, bearded and over 60).  She thought she'd scared us off but we were on our way any way.  Pub of the day, easily,  All cheered up again! 

My ale settling nicely

A bar twild is bewitched by the green glow

Our view from under the TV

Ghostly men try and fix the TV problem
We rejoined the Metro to Newcastle, where we walked down to the Quayside for the final BRAPA tick of the day, and my final pub in Newcastle in the current GBG.  

1121 / 1967.  Broad Chare, Quayside, Newcastle

The outside photo gives you an idea of what lay within, a bustling bright bar with restaurant area and plenty of over privileged middle class middle aged Geordies with their faces in the nose bag.  It smelt of food, mainly fish, and the sound of rattling cuttlery and champagne corks popping rang around the building.  The upside of this difficult start was the house ale, recommended to me as the ONE reason I should come here by someone on my blog a while back, Wylam Writer's Block simply fantastic (SBS A-) giving the Big Lamp a run for it's money.  Undeterred in our quest for a seat against all the odds, Tom did well to get his arse and bag between a grey pointed oldie and some raucous scroats, and we squeezed into the area.  We sat in silence for a bit, and Tom said what we both were thinking .... "I should hate this place, but it's kind of alright".  Not sure why, but very true.  How I cannot describe.  Especially when a drunken man who looked like a homeless Gazza sat on my knee on his way back to his seat, and was told off by his fellow drinkers for not giving us enough personal space(!) but they left soon after anyway.  A man in the loo saw my City shirt, he was a Sunderland fan (course he bloody was!) but hadn't been today because he was babysitting his neighbour's poorly rabbit - I think that's what he said, the hand dryer was loud) and he seemed a canny lad all the same.  Weird kinda place, but you might want to go during the day if you are planning following in my footsteps for a Wainwright-esque BRAPA documentary when I'm dead.

The pointy grey brigade turned out to be Americans

'Builders bum yet somehow full clothed man' enjoys his meal

We weren't doing bad for time and I'd spied a pre-emptive across the road from Newcastle station, so we popped in for a swift half.  

Newcastle Tap, Newcastle

What with Head of Steam, Centurion, the 'Vomit' and that big Wetherspoons, you have to wonder how many pubs Newcastle needs within a 30 second radius of the station but Jimmy Five Bellies and his mates won't be denied.  And the Pivovar owner bloke told me about this place too so time to pop in to see what was all the fuss about.  Well, hard to form an impression really, very yellow, three deep at the bar, young clientele with no spatial awareness, staff a bit slow, one of those 'cask beers' up here, 'keg beers' over there tiny blackboard tap affairs designed to confuse your average Twamra.  I got a nice half from somewhere good, it tasted of ale, me and Tom stood in the middle and chatted.  Wouldn't mind giving it another chance, but it didn't feel as characterful as York or Sheffield's equivalent, but maybe if you get a seat and explore, it might be better.  Or not! 

My hat is still on in the latest edition to the Tap scene

Me and Tom took the 20:43 fairly trouble free thanks to Tom's uncanny knack for getting in the best coach.  Back in York , I said bye as he was off to Donny to restore his misery quota for the night and popped into York Tap which was spookily deserted for 10pm on a Saturday, I blame the Dryanuary scum.  Someone might have weed on the floor next to me, a barman looked like he was going to hit me with a stool (not a poo), and the regular 'three quarter length shorts' beard was in looking like he owned the place.  His legs haunted me with their paleness.

It livened up a bit and a young man (a Twhat) tried to steal my hat.  "He's been doing that to people all day" said his very tired looking friend, and made him give it back, so it was fish & chips and home at the end of a great day.

Like Central London, only SIX more Tyne & Wear pubs to be had so again, should be a completed county before 2019 GBG comes out and then I don't have to worry about it for a few years.

It's not been a vintage BRAPA month by any means, but I'm planning a Fri pub trip, and the aim is still 25 minimum by month end with Dad's mystery birthday trip on Saturday.


Sunday, 21 January 2018

BRAPA - Brockley Whins, Hull City don't (Part 1 of 2)

When me, the lovely Dad and the mysterious bearded figure of Tom Irvin arrived in Brockley Whins on a cold Saturday morning, we had at least 40 minutes to reach our first pub in West Boldon, only 1.1 miles away (as the crow flies). 

What crows don't have to worry about are icy uphill footpaths, and at one point we found ourselves actually slipping back where we'd come from.  Angry barking twogs didn't help, but we were still at our first pub for 10:40am. 

A light was on and in an exciting turn up for the books, the door was very much open!  Better have look, but despite staff standing behind the bar, they barked at us that they weren't open til 11.  BRAPA pet hate - why open doors if you are not officially open?  As soon as that door is unbolted, the customer should be entitled to be allowed in for a drink. 

So we stood and ate malt loaf and cheese (Tom called me a 'bastard' for eating malt loaf, perhaps the first time this has happened in my 38 years on the planet) but we passed the time and Dad educated on a latin named tree to try and recreate the spirit of Freemantle in April. 

1217 / 1963.  Black Horse, West Boldon

11am on the dot and we were back inside, this time to stay (for 35 minutes anyway).  I assumed what with the colliery-tastic part of the world we were in combined with being first customers of the day, we'd receive a warm welcome but the barman was as much a miserable lame duck as the Jennings Cumberland (SBS C) he served us (Camerons Strongarm was the other option I should've favoured) and other staff came and went without so much as a glance in our direction.  How could a traditional village pub with roaring fire, random hats hanging from the ceiling and nice proper carpets feel so chilly?  It's people innit?!  The signs were there before we entered, quite literally, with a "no tracksuits or football shirts" notice in the window, which could've caused the first ever BRAPA 'barring' as I had my Hull City top on!  Perhaps due to our quality of football, it isn't recognised as a football shirt anymore, for I got away with it which I was almost sad about.  Some OTT food options scrawled in Tip-Ex on a perfectly innocent mirror suggested a pub with a silver spoon up it's arse, dying for a more upmarket clientele than was realistic.  Disappointing. 

A long straight 15-20 minute walk took us east of West Boldon, to the unimaginatively named East Boldon.  We'd done a Black Horse, the next was Grey, so imagine my confusion when in the distance,  I saw a huge black horse sign on a building (if I was Lloyds Bank, I'd sue), and then a white one!  Tom had other gripes, a sign which seemed to suggest East Boldon was the home of the first ever butchers in the world. 

Anyway, it was a 'Grey', and a huge building at that.

1218 / 1964.  Grey Horse, East Boldon

Despite the vastness and unsettling 'Ember' patterned furniture, a friendlier welcome from the barmaid plus some nice ales (I had something called Red Dust from Consett - SBS B+) put this just ahead of the Black Horse, though it lacked the soul to thoroughly convince.  I was getting the impression that Boldon as an area thought it was a bit special, not an attitude you get in Sunderland or Newcastle, so was a bit like a mini republic that's forgotten it's coaly roots.  We chatted on random stuff, including former Hull City keeper turned plumber Steve Wilson, who had the chant "Bransholme's Number One" and I noted how to this day, no-one knows anyone else who's come from Bransholme and don't anything, either in the sporting or plumbing arena!  Hold that thought for later.  The only real pub drama came on the way out.  I was coming back from the loo, but was blocked from getting to my seat by a frail dithering old man with a stick.  When I finally saw me behind him, he looked so scared I thought he was gonna drop dead on the spot!  He regained his composure to tell me that as a Geordie, he hoped we'd win today.  If he didn't survive the night, this blog is dedicated to his memory. 

...and what do you think they'd say?  We'll nip out and get it now?  Pffftt.

Dad looks guiltily at a dodgy train ticket near some nice windows

A taster of the pub

We took the Metro one stop past Sunderland to Park Lane and Tom delighted in telling us we were breaking the law.  Firstly, we hadn't been allowed a 'break of journey' at Brockley Whins, and because our ticket was only to Sunderland, we were breaching the rules again.  Tom hoped a ticket inspector was waiting at Park Lane to 'grip' us and throw us in prison, but he or she wasn't.  

It was nice to be back in Sun'lan, walking down streets I recognised as a student here.  I wondered if I'd been in this pub as it was here in my day (1997-2000) but don't think I did despite some vouchers in my 'Freshers' pack.  

1219 / 1965.  Chaplins, Sunderland

 No matter whether the crowd of the Stadium of Light is 800 or 80,000, you can bet every single city centre pub will be packed on a match day, and this was no exception.  It was a huge maze of a pub, and was my round (Dad's steamed up glasses meant I had to choose him a beer!)  An impressively switched on barman who gave me a loyalty card which I later lost (no one as disloyal to a specific pub as a pub ticker!) gave me some Jennings Cockerhoop  as I seem to be a Jennings slave at the moment.  Plenty of beers on in good nick, but this was a Marstons House, and even by their beery standards, the options were not the most thrilling.  A crazy bald dude was worried he'd pushed in front of me so we got talking, he told me he was a plastic Liverpool fan despite the Mackem accent and he had to cancel his order cos his mates wanted to go elsewhere.  He told me he once dated a girl from Hull .... "she was from Bransholme and she was a nutter!" was his parting shot, so spooky after the recent Steve Wilson chat.  Chances of a Bransholme mention here must've been a million to one!  Dad had located my good friend and Sunderland season ticket holder John Watson so we sat (well I had to kneel on the carpet for 90% of my time here!) and his parents Ken & Margaret joined us for a great pre-match session, in the shadow of Brighton huffing and puffing to no avail against Chelsea.  Time for one more (Bombardier), but Dad wanted coffee so back to the bar me and John went.  After a quick debate, the staff decided they were too busy to do a coffee - a slightly bizarre decision as it looked like putting an empty cup under a machine and pressing a button!  Oh well, I still quite enjoyed this pub as I tore myself away for the Metro to St Peters. 

Me & John in manic selfie time pre-match.
 So, that was all very nice.  Find out in part two tomorrow if Hull City could raise themselves from the recent awful form again a Sunderland club who, as John and parents would have us believe, are worse than us (spoiler alert - clue is in title of this blog)?  And what of post-match?  Could I find more BRAPA pubs, and perhaps a classic?  Stay tuned!


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.