Wednesday, 18 April 2018

BRAPA - If the Twild is United (Sandbach to Winsford)

Cheshire loomed large for the umpteenth time in BRAPA history as I looked to chalk off a few more to bring us down into single figures.

Eleven to go at the start of play

The blog title is a nod to fellow pub bloggers Mackay and Beermat, who have managed punk efforts in recent weeks, and as someone who's going to Manchester Punk Festival on Thursday, it'd be an embarrassment if I didn't join in.  The title does make sense, but you'll have to read / scroll down to the middle.  

Sandbach (pronounced Sandbatch, and not Sandback) is a lively if slightly irritating little town on a sunny spring morning, and nowhere near as far a trek from their anti-social railway Elworth station as I remember last year.  Back then, I was off to a Brunning & Price.  This time, it was a micropub.  Sandbach sure knows how to 'bring the fun'(!)  As I tried in vain to avoid leaflet giving Brexit campaigners on every corner of the market, and a woman who chased after me with a dud train ticket I'd dropped, it was a struggle to find somewhere to perch and eat my pasty.  

11:59am found me stalking the pub from across the grottiest street in town, which smelt of arse.

1319 / 2065.  Beer Emporium, Sandbach

There was no doubt about the warmth of reception I was afforded by mine host, Liam/William/Ian, who in true 'first customer of the day in a micropub' asked me the ole' "style of beer" question.  When I ordered a pint of the brownest drabbest looking thing on offer like the honorary old man I am, it did not massively surprise me when this engaging bearded ginger dude told me he didn't drink pints, only halves or thirds, of the strongest beers he could see.  I did at least concede that this made sense from a bladder point of view on bus journeys, thinking about my coming day!   As in the Dog Inn in Burton, he told me my beer was at least "a good place to start" so I thought it expedient to explain BRAPA now so he didn't wonder why I wasn't staying for an alldayer.  He was a great guy despite the fast talking, and dealt with his only other 'customers' swiftly.  First was a local pie man who came in to ask him to sign something on a clipboard.  And then a joyless young couple came in and scanned the bottles (yes, it started life as a 'beer shop', how micro!) in silence for an age, finally buying two Salopians (beers, not livestock), grunting and leaving.  As this was BRAPA, something had to give.  And it was Liam's girlfriend's back!  Oh no!  Oh yes, a panicked phonecall, she was hyperventilating being unable to move, and he had to turn first aider, ring various parents (presumably ones he knew), in-laws and eventually his boss to try and restore calm to the situation, which he did expertly.  The various instalments from each phonecall kept my interest for a bit longer, until the bus was due, and I told him thanks so much for his hospitality, good luck with the back, and I left post-haste.  

What followed was a sweltering bus ride at the top of a double decker to Winsford, a place I'd only been to once before for a pre-season friendly (Hull City lost 4-1, obvs) and all these years on, it retained that slightly Wild West feel.  

I actually hopped off the bus early, when I saw the huge pub from across a car park of Blackpoolian vastness and misery.  But it was a Wetherspoons, hurrah!  I think.  (Well, Dad wasn't here to ruin it).

1320 / 2066.  Queens Arms, Winsford

And sure enough, like flies round shit, the locals were using the first day of 2018 with any discernible warmth in the air to pretend they were in Torremolinos.  The scene was pure 'Spoons joy, tribal tattoos, surf n turf coming out of the kitchen quicker than you could blink, three quarter length shorts, crazy carpets, 18 year old chavs who don't know bar etiquette, tans belying the weather to date, all washed down with a mixture of Carling, Koppaberg and Strongbow Dark Fruits.  Say what you like about posing tables, I mean I don't approve of them any more than the next man (the 'next man' being Pub Curmudgeon in this case) but as a pub observer, they make me feel that little bit more king-like, looking down on my subjects!  I was disappointed though by one factor, as a friendly barman tried to engage a local into entering the Grand National Sweepstake.  He'd never heard to such a concept!  "Sweep Steak?  What IS THAT?" he ranted, like he was expecting a squeaky dog friend of sooty to be brought out carved on a plate.  Speaking of which, a girl with gravity defying eyebrows was cutting up her disabled grannies lunch, whilst on the other side, a young man brought his tiny mother to a posing table.  "I can't get up there!" she complained, and a bloke in denim shorts turned round and gave her a fireman's lift onto the stool.  This was glorious stuff.  And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, a claret and blue full kit wanker twild ran in with his dad, desperate for an emergency toilet stop.  And who did he support?  Scunthorpe Utd. I recognised that SUFC and Iron steely logo anywhere. They were away to Charlton!  It was 1:45pm.   I don't understand.  Then again, I don't understand anything about this weird and wonderful place.  

Because Winsford feels like one of those deliberately difficult places, it wasn't shocking to find they'd plonked my other required tick at the far end of town on the edge of a scary roundabout.

I should've mentioned back in Sandbach, our friendly hero of the day Liam recommended two 'pre-emptives' for me, one being the Red Lion in Winsford.  I trust him, and if I was starting a county like say Cambs, I'd take such advice on board, knowing full well I'd still be ticking this county in the next GBG.  But in the case of Cheshire, we are getting so close to the end, I can have it done by the time the new GBG comes out so pre-emptives aren't so priority at this stage, as I might not 'hit' Cheshire again until, say, the 2030's! 

Anyway, stop waffling Si and get in t'pub lad......

1321 / 2067.  No 4 Bar, Winsford

This part of the country seems to like it's Euro style bars more than most, I've realised. Some work, some don't.  It's life.  The weather was right for some continental style outdoor drinking, and the 'Chorlton Rejects' (possibly the worst punk band ever) were at least  creating a facade of pure enjoyment.  My stripey (albeit grey and black) trousers had been getting the odd glance all day, and it went up a notch here as two young lads by the door (one pictured far left) tried to find something amusing to say, but ran out of time, for I was in.  Four bar blockers, and I mean blockers, were guarding their territory, but edged outwards by 1%, to allow me the faintest sliver of real ale pump coverage, and they did the barman's job for him and asked the age old 'what ya after?' question.  As I saw one called 'Free Beer', I made the obvious joke "is it really free?" and despite hating myself inside, it went down reasonably well with all but the young barlad, a kind of 21st century Noel Gallagher who'd hopped in a Radox bath with Ian Huntly.  In the end, I went for a "Azacca" cos I wanted to say the word out loud.  I considered that decorating your fairly spartan bar with a few La Chouffe and Leffe empties doesn't necessarily mentally transport you to Brussels, and whether it was Winsford itself or what, this place didn't quite nail it like say North Bar in L**ds or that Cask place in Manchester does.  Any GBG entry with a number in it's name is viewed with suspicion on my part, so perhaps I was prejudiced before I went in, but my overall feeling was this place didn't quite 'fit' with Winsford.

Alreet cockers, time to negotiate the blockers


I really shouldn't have complained, three pubs done in fairly good time.  The day could easily go drastically wrong, but I'm sure you don't want to hear about that.

Oh you do?  Well, okay, join me next time to hear about the second half of the day and my misfortunes.


Monday, 16 April 2018

BRAPA - Partying Hard Like Richard Burton

So, I was halfway through my Tuesday pub crawl before Hull City's probable embarrassing defeat at Burton Albion, the worst team in the division unless you count Sunderland which you shouldn't cos I need to go back there soon to catch a bus to somewhere else.

Despite only having had three pints, I was already swaying in the wind a bit as I headed to pub 4, snarling at the likes of Coopers and the Devonshire which people told me were great, but not in this year's GBG for change of ownership reasons - and I certainly had enough to do without thinking about 'pre-emptives'. 

Anyway, my next pub was on a corner looking rather austere and self important, sadly I've lost my photo of it so instead, you'll have to make do with a tiny local man growing out of a pint of Bass .......

The most Burton pub photo ever taken (perhaps!) as man grows out of Bass pint

1316 / 2062.  Roebuck Inn, Burton on Trent

Despite the perceived austere self important outlook, this pub was perhaps the most ridiculous of the day.  I wandered in and a professional barmaid who had the face of someone who'd been born to serve in a pub eyed me watchfully, three locals did the same.  The beer range, unlike in the Dog Inn, steady (some might say 'old fashioned') and after ten seconds longer reflection than I'd have liked, I again plumped for the Draught Bass.  And unlike in the Dog, a look of respect shimmered briefly across the faces of the onlookers, who breathed again, and carried on their chat.  I was carrying a carrier bag with my food in, and it felt like the kind of pub where that was 'the right thing to do'.  As two young Hull City fans tried to look relaxed and a man kept looking over his paper at me, a loud lady joined the local blokes, lamenting on the fact that she spent so much time in the pub, she didn't feel she'd brought her kids up properly.  "Still" she concluded, "they are old enough now to look after themselves, so I may as well spend more time in the pub!"  This was EXACTLY WHY I'd come to Burton, to hear stuff like this.  Aware I was flagging already, I tucked into my horrid shop bought sandwich and mini cheeses without a second's thought despite being in full view of the bar, that's how proper down to earth this pub was.   You can't do that kind of thing at Old St and Angel.    Just then, my buddies Christine and Chris D walked in having escaped the S.S. (I said I'd be lurking here), I told them Bass was the thing to drink if they wanted to 'fit in' but Christine got a coffee as driving tonight, and told me Coopers was ace which was expected but still annoying.  Flippin' GBG trying to spoil my fun!  I liked this pub, a real grower, but it wouldn't be everyone's cuppa.

Just around the corner, we came to my penultimate pub before the match .......

1317 / 2063.  Last Heretic, Burton on Trent

So, as you can see, 'away fans are welcome' which was morale boosting but surely should go without saying in a friendly Staffs town like Burton.  Fair enough, these things don't go unsaid in knuckle-dragging holes like Stoke or dare I say the otherwise lovely Ipswich, but as we walked in, the full quota of S.S. (Southern Supporters) were already there meaning we had to hurdle them to get to the bar.  No wonder the two locals in the window wore a constant pained expression of  'outnumbered in our own local' throughout our time here.  The smiley blonde landlady had to be quite patient as we peered to see what beers were on and what we could have.  When we finally got sat down, I reminded myself "yes, we are in a micropub".  As my thoughts formed slowly, the atmosphere just went up a notch of the Hull City scale of infestation when Tom crashed through the door like a cross between Swampy and the Creature from the Ginger Lagoon.  Did he manage to get a Blackcurrant cordial?  I doubt it.  Christine put into words what my brain had been trying to think "This place is a bit dull really isn't it?"  Yes, it was, boring as fuck to be precise, but she wouldn't put it quite like that.  I'd been becoming something of a micro-lover after experiencing Tutbury's superb Cask & Pottle and Ely's vibrant Drayman's Son, but this was the other side of the coin.  Like all pub types (apart from Ember Inns OBVS), some micros are enjoyable, some aren't, and there was no reason why I'd like the others more than here, it's just how the complimentary doggie biscuit crumbles.   

A micropubby bar scene

"It's not your local anymore!"

Members of the S.S. probably being highly intelligent

Landlady who gave us good service

The others went in search of food, so me and Tom headed for our final pub, on the way up to the ground, and again, they felt the need to tell us 'away fans are welcome' so I posed like a hooligan, but not a Gooligan:

1318 / 2064.  Derby Inn, Burton on Trent

The Derby Inn was on Derby Road, one of those long busy main roads which only exist in wet murky weather in the counties of Staffs, Derbys and South Yorkshire.  You know the type.  Every other building is a lock-up garage, every person is an old man in a blue rain mac and half mast trousers, every dog is aggressive, and occasionally a  terrifying tattooed lady will shout at a twild called Jake to stop playing in the road.  The reason I tell you all this, is because inside, this pub was a total sanctuary.  Is it silly to say it was almost farmhouse-esque, as we entered to the left to this deliciously bare bar room with the friendliest, or at least most genuine, welcome of today.  In fact, when I went to the outdoor loo (outdoor loo = quality pub, always) three jokey members of staff all seemed to fight over each other to give me that "One True Path" to the bogs.  I've written in my notes "Mr Boring is going for a cheese & tomato topping".  I have no idea what this meant, but I expect it was funny at the time.  After a pint of something this time non-Bass, I took out what was left of my food and drink from my bag and sobered myself up pre-match.  This seemed to turn me into a doting dog waiting for it's owner, because Dad was finally close to arriving!!  Yeayyy.  He'd hot-footed it down from a pensioners lunch at Clayton-le-Moors 'as you do' and am sure Tom will testify to me constantly racing to the window and whimpering, every time a bloke in a blue rain mac walked past.  We had a half/pint/blackcurrant and then it was match time .... what a great pub to end on! 

And then for the match, where something weird happened and Hull City won 5-0.  Wow, I didn't see that coming.  Safe to say, it was more Burton's ineptness than our genius, but a rare chance to stand on a terrace too, perfect end to a superb day out.  

Turns out it was our club record away win since we won 5-0 at Glossop North End in 1915, in front of just 500 people cos they were all signing up to WW1 and it was kind of frowned upon to go and watch football unless you were old, a twild or a 'lady'.  Of course, the BRAPA man of his day was there, drinking a quality pint of OBB in the excellent Crown Inn but that's a tale for another day.

Getting home was a nightmare, poor Dad, nearly every road back north seemed to be closed but still, it justified me taking next day off work to sleep in til noon and recover!  

I went to Cheshire at the weekend, it was annoying, and I'll tell you all about it next time.....


Sunday, 15 April 2018

BRAPA - Tutbury Hassle, Downward Dog

Pub ticking at the Dog Inn, Burton on Trent
'What percentage of micropubs in the UK are open on a drizzly grey Tuesday lunchtime?' I wondered, as I arrived in the Staffordshire town of Tutbury ahead of Hull City's exciting away game at Burton Albion, easily the game I'd been most anticipating all season.

All I'd heard about Tutbury is that it has a castle, and if I'd looked up, I might have seen it.  And got rain in my eye.  But my eyes were firmly fixed at street level, looking for a small unassuming box like building, and sure enough, there it was.  And it was open!  This was worthy of a celebration in itself, whatever followed.

1313 / 2059.  Cask & Pottle, Tutbury

So I walk in and see one Gandalfian bloke sat alone, reading a newspaper.  Was he the only customer?  Or was he the boss?  Do I dare ask him for a pint?  Will he laugh, shout or cry?  The stress of entering a pub for the first time!  It never gets easier.  There was no bar, just a blackboard, so one of those micropubs where they pull your pint out of sight in a back room.  He finally looked at me with a degree of helpfulness in his eyes, so I ordered a Damson Porter by Burton Bridge.  The reason for this was deliberate for one, as on my only other trip to the Burton area (20th July 2005!) I remember drinking plenty of these.  So nearly 13 years on, it must've been good for me to remember.  Well, it was as good a pint as is probably possible.  We got chatting but it took me a while to tune into his accent.  He'd been born in Scotland, raised in the North East, then opened a micropub in Kent, and then come back up here!  No wonder.   Anyway, he was a great chap and told me he only really opens on lunchtimes for beer deliveries, and any custom is just a bonus.  He passed me a book showing all the micropubs in the country, with a picture of him on this page, and told me when he browses the book in Waterstones, people next to him do a double-take and say "that guy in the book .... IT'S YOU!" and he nods at them sagely.  Probably.  He then told me CAMRA have changed the rules so a micropub can't win pub of the year, which seemed wrong to us.  I mean, I know I joke about the unique quirky characteristics of a 'micro' (one loo, dribbling dog, no cordial, board games etc) but at the end of the day, important things like 'staff' and 'beer quality' and 'pub hubbub' are comparable in any pub, whether it is micro, 'Spoons or anything in between.  I can't put my finger on what made this place so special, but it's easily one of the best micropubs I've been in, and here I was, only customer on a chilly grey Tuesday lunch.  When one my other fave micros, Grocers in Cadishead told me they used this as their prototype, it made total sense.

"Careful, she's a funny fucker" said our genial host at the Cask & Pottle when I told him which pub I was going to next.  "Her husband was actually worse!"  "Oh, has he left now?" I asked.  "He's dead!"  Today was turning very BRAPA already.  I decided I'd be best to keep an open mind, suspecting this could just be 'healthy' Tutbury pub rivalry.  I walked quickly, for although the pub closes mid afternoon at 3pm according to the GBG, he warned me "she closes when she feels like it". 

1314 / 2060.  Cross Keys, Tutbury

So I walked in and found a woman on the floor, frantically moving 'Star Bars' from a box into a pantry attached to the side of the bar.  I tried to be cheery, but she just looked up at me with watery eyes and nose and grunts when I decide what beer I want.  The other customer, on my left, actually said hello, but he was drinking up and left, leaving me as only customer.  I sat around the corner, and she got back to her Star Bar shifting, the pub had a lovely real roaring fire in emitting that brilliant woody smell, and the pub had a carpetted cushioned loungey feel, yet the atmosphere was somehow a bit chilly.  If I was Derek Acorah (I'm not), you could even class it 'malevolent' as I went through a couple of doors into a dark back room to find the toilets.  Only Clare Balding and her Commonwealth coverage were keeping me sane, and that is never a good sign.  Back at my table, I temporarily lost my green highlighter pen - cue frantic rummaging around bag til I found it.  This seemed to force landlady to come and sit at right angles from me, and I wondered if she was checking to make sure I wasn't eating my own food.  Still, I was probably paranoid by now.  Damn that nice Cask & Pottle dude for saying anything about this!  Finally, an old regular came in and she had something of a friendly weather conversation with him.  Perhaps she's just shy, or not got great people skills?  I took my glass back and said thanks and farewell, and got what may have been a murmur of assent, or just a slow burning log cracking on the fire.  So, a peculiar experience but not one I'll necessarily forget easily.  A bit like that time I went to Salisbury's Mill pub and a strange baldie called Vladamir bought me a Doom Bar but said he wanted to watch me drink every last drop.

Lovely Clare keeps me company .... wait, is that a noose? 

The bus did what was expected of it, and turned up on time to take me back to Burton, and just over 20 minutes later, I was heading towards one of the few pubs which opened before 4pm on a weekday.  It also had a 'pub of the year' sign in the GBG, which made me optimistic, for to win the award in such a renowned pub town MUST mean it is good ......

A man inexplicably walks his dog PAST the Dog - shameful.

1315 / 2060.  Dog Inn, Burton on Trent

Just like every Wellington pub is good, every Royal Oak is terrifying with at least one murderer at large, I find any pub with the word 'Dog' in the name manages to be a bit crummy in some way.  But thankfully, the second I stepped over the threshold, one of those extreme 'waves' of pub quality struck me.  It doesn't happen often, but it's a thrilling feeling (for me anyway!), and part of the reason I persist with this pub ticking nonsense, last time I had it this strongly this year was at the White House in Peel on the Isle of Man.  Immediately to my right, I was acknowledged by a Hull City fan Paul who always seems to make his way into similar pubs with me.  I headed to the bar where the choice was ridiculous, so the young barman did the whole 'what style of beer do you go for?' spiel so when I unhelpfully said I just like beer, he persisted on reeling them all off to me like when you get introduced to someone's friends at a party and just know you won't remember their names or faces in 15 minutes time.  I then surprised him by going for one beer he hadn't mentioned, Draught Bass.  He looked disappointed and said 'oh, a good solid place to start' which I interpreted as 'you boring old bastard'.  I felt a bit sorry for him, having been waxing lyrical about all these magnesium sulphate salted caramel raspberry sours and the like.  You'll know that unlike the legendary #PubMen of Twitter, I've never been enamoured by this ale (normally cos I've had it in rubbish non GBG pubs), but this was definitely the most I've ever enjoyed a pint of it, was great quality.  'Should I sit with Paul or does he wanna be left alone?' was my next predicament.  But he started chatting to me whilst I was still stood at bar so I joined him.  He's a member of the S.S. (that is the Southern Supporters) and since 2004, it has been mine and Dad's tradition to find out which their designated 'away' pub is and avoid at all costs.  Not that they are horrible, just clever devils with slightly big egos.  Paul is one of the best, and our chat was broken off when the psychotic bald Polish looking barman came in, but immediately said "What happened to my hand cream?"  We laughed and I told him that's exactly the kind of BRAPA moment I need to record.  Soon, the full S.S. quota had appeared so we moved to the darker bowels of the pub where more seating was available.  Like the Bass, this was my best experience of the S.S. who were friendly and funny, but I explained as amazing as this pub was, I couldn't linger as I had three more pubs to tick off.  I said goodbye and scurried off.

I'll be back with the write up of those other three pubs tomorrow, don't wanna give you too much in one go!


Thursday, 12 April 2018

BRAPA - Getting Those Ely Feelies (Part 2/2)

So, the day was going well.  In a sense.  I suppose you could say that having the whole of Cambridgeshire's pub scene staring you in the face had been so intimidating, I'd spent most of the day lurking around Suffolk or a Wetherspoons of hidden depths!

It didn't get any easier once I got to Ely, a place I'd always been looking forward to because passing through on the train, it's one of those Knaresborough or Durham's which make you want to hop off and explore. 

There were two ways of approaching it.  Either do the two Ely pubs first, and then get the 5pm bus out to Little Downham for the pub there, which would mean a taxi back.  OR get Little Downham done first by taxi, try and get a bus back, and then do the two Ely pubs.  I did the latter because there was a sunglassed Polish man with a proud hooter beckoning me into a taxi on arrival.

But disaster struck when I realised the Plough was closed before I'd even got out of the taxi, but so embarrassed I was, I still got out and told him to come back for me in 40 mins.  There was no bus. 

The times on the window were clear : 12-2 and 6-11.  This is NOT what the GBG or WhatPub said.  I tried to peer in but all curtains were closed.  The ancient heavy inn sign creaked in the wind, it looked a lovely pub which didn't help!

Turns out the new owners are Sunderland fans and perhaps closed out of embarrassment (local knowledge)

So, what to do for 40 minutes?  Well, a village walkaround made me realise what a quaint sleepy place this was.  At least it was a mild day for once, it could've been my first outdoor pint of the year, so I sat on the pub bench, tried to psyche out the pub into opening, and ate my snacks and drank my juice. 

I only saw one person in 35 minutes.  A man walked across with two horses so I crossed the road to pat them and say hello.  "Are these the local grass cutters?" I asked, and he laughed a bit too heartily.  I told him my predicament, but he told me he was from March so didn't really have an opinion on anything, which seemed odd behaviour. 

I returned to my bench, and Little Downham and the Plough continued to be as dead as dead can be.  It was a bit like having a seat ticket for a Mumford & Sons concert, and then realising you're sat next to Ray Wilkins, who offers you a breadstick.  With no dip. 

My Polish buddy turned up after 35 mins which was good of him, so I confessed all as I obviously wasn't embroiled in pubby delights. 

Back to Ely, I tried to make small talk about the scenery as we passed the Cathedral, but he told me he hated it cos he drove past it so many times every day.  Ouch.  I thought out loud and said "living in York, I sometimes take York Minster for granted so I can understand that!"  He glared at me with eyes which said "don't give me your cathedral empathy bullshit psychology" (or however you translate that into Polish).  I liked him.  He dropped me at an open pub, thank god.

1311 / 2057.  Prince Albert, Ely

This pub had a cosy homely atmosphere from the outset, even if the locals looked very much like they bossed the place and practically lived here.  One ruddy faced bloke even seemed to be in his pyjamas.  After a hospitable welcome at the shallow bar, I was told about all these extra beers on this 'specials' board and how they'd do 'tasters' but after the last hour or two, I was like "not interested mate, gimme a pint, and gimme it quick" but I was sadly politer than that.  Why do people faff?  I love real ale, but jeez people get a bit precious, as any old man at the pissers in Rotherham Spoons would tell you, they all come out the same colour in the end, indicating his worryingly rusty wee wee trickling down into the trough, the sound of it almost Chucklebrothersian.  I sat to the right, and a nice healthy cross section of society came and went to and from the bar, so I played a little game of "guess what they are drinking".  Play along with me, I've captioned either their true order or what I guessed and got wrong.  3 are true, 2 are false:

Robinsons Fruit Shoot and Red Wine

Gin, gin and more gin

San Miguel

Pinot Grigio

Lager & black 
With such excitement, I was a bit zoned out of the two characterful ladies across the bench from me and their conversation.  But as with so many conversations I try not to overhear and then end up relaying, it all became a bit too impossible.  They were friends of 16 years, and the bolshier one of the two was admonishing the quieter (but not quiet) one for holding back details of a man she was seeing on the sly:

BOLSHY : "We've been friends for 16 years, why are you holding out on me?"
LESS BOLSHY : "I'm not ..... it's just that I don't want to make a big deal of it"
BOLSHY "But what if he tries to get into your knickers?".
LESS BOLSHY "I'm not sure I'd be able to get them off".
BOLSHY "Is that cos you aren't wearing any?"

Anyway, they must have seen my BRAPAesque faux awkward expression for they apologised for their brusqueness, but I told them at was what good pub chatter was all about and proceeded to bore them with BRAPA and gave them a card so hope you are both reading this ladies like you said!  They are off on holiday to Morpeth soon so I directed them to a micropub in the GBG and it was a nice chat, as they tried to work out what was the one trigger factor which made me start this crazy adventure.  Impossible to answer.  I said goodbye, was a nice chat, but I had a micropub to do.

I got to walk past the Cathedral to get to this micropub, and a man who was either an intellectual Dad or a weekend teacher was asking some grassy twild what they thought about Queen Victoria.  "She gets cross very easily!" replied girl twild.  Queen Vic would have appreciated my view on the Twild problem, they should be seen and not heard, but not seen or heard in pubs.

Approaching the Queen Victoria haters

I then rang Mum to boast that I'd got Hull City's 4-0 prediction spot on, but she claimed I'd said 3-0.  Good job I'm 25 points clear at the top of the prediction league or I'd be fuming.  In all the confusion, I walked straight past the pub, and when I did see it, a member of staff was doing some weird pose with a bucket just in time for my arrival:

5 seconds of fame
1312 / 2058.  Drayman's Son, Ely

It was heaving!  And no sooner had I got through the door when a guy sat near the door saw my hoodie and exclaimed "oooh BRAPA, I know you from Twitter!" and though I'd not heard of him and he admitted he didn't post much, I stopped to chat.  He was called Bert, his other half I can't remember her name, but a lovely young couple.  I fought my way up through the bar, where the guy in front had just ordered SIXTEEN drinks, ugggh.  Luckily, the locals had been reading that classic publication "How to be locals in a micropub and be kings of our own domain with our own brand of hilarious 21st century bantz".  They made me welcome with a series of weird comments and half jokes, and finally Mr Selfish Sixteen toddled off without even a trace of guilt and I was served by 3 people at once.  A full pint?  Not a half?  Not a third?  Not a little paddle tray of tasters?  Well that put the cat amongst the pigeons as I gave myself away as being from 'The North' immediately.  I looked up, all the locals had little knitted characters made of them, looking down on their real selves drinking.  This was slightly crazy voodoo.  Visitors were taking the knitted dolls off the shelves and asking locals "is this you?" to them.  But my beer wasn't presented to me immediately, oh no, it was so busy, they had a little ticket system going like when you get a Kebab down by the river near York's premier shitehole, the Lowther.  Where are you sat?  Well, stupid question, I'm not, so to get out of the way, I indicated in the direction of Bert and Mrs Bert.  I apologised for gatecrashing their cosy drinks, but they seemed genuinely happy to chat (I hope!) and eventually I was presented with this glorious local milk stout, bit sweet but udderly my pint of the day haha.   "We're actually working" said Bert non too convincingly, as work was judging micropubs in Ely, Cambridge and Peterborough against each other.  We had nice chats on things like Durham, GBG entries in Cowdenbeath v York, and other shit I can't remember.  But considering how busy this place was, with twilds playing on the stairs, a 'family feel' and very limited toilet options (obviously), I went away thinking this was one of the better micropubs I've been in.   

Some of the jolly locals who made me feel welcome at the bar

Family fun day in a micropub?  I've seen it all now!

Bert and Mrs Bert (I should really call her Ernie, oh well too late now) walked me back to the station as they headed for something called Calverley's in Cambridge which is incidentally the FOURTH most pressing pub in my Cambridgeshire future.

After a few minor delays, I was in Peterborough with just enough time to spare for a quick half in the crazy but Oakham-tastic brewery tap.  But disaster struck for the second time this afternoon as it was 'ticket only' due to some Sue Ryder event!  Selfish Sue, selfish.  But seriously, ticket only, full huge pub, on a Saturday evening, however good the cause, no wonder Peterborough CAMRA have lost patience with it and binned it off.  Can't be the beer?  Can it??

So down the road to the next nearest decent pub I knew, the Bumble Inn.  Ironically, as I'd been slagging it off to Bert & Ernie who were trying to stay tight lipped on their pub award winners.  Problem with the sum of Peterborough + Micro, I think, is that Peterborough folk are weird.  Easier to avoid / accept in a chain pub where you can get into the bowels of the building and hide, but not in a tiny micro.  Dad and me had found it uncaring, moody and soulless.  You couldn't say that tonight, as the men-folk wanted to chat to me, but they either shook my hand too tight, smelt of raw meat and cigars, or I couldn't understand them, but it was all very well meaning I'm sure!  And I didn't have to drink Blue Cheese stout this time.

Anyway, that WAS quite a fearsome introduction to Cambs pub ticking.  Four ticks was disappointing, but I had a bonus Tuesday coming up to keep on track.  I won't get complacent, but see you back there next month for more rural delights, this time in the south west of the county, ooo arrr.