|"Concessionary" - that's me!|
It was the Birthday weekend of original BRAPA patron Tom Irvin, and it seemed only right to let him be in the driving seat (not literally, that would be terrifying) for this particular day out - to which he also invited Mummy and Daddy Irvin (Bernie and Chris), who don't get much chance to keep tabs on their son's crazy wayfaring lifestyle and use my blog as a source of 'comfort'.
Bury was the starting point, at the East Lancs railway where a diesel gala was going on. I don't really get trains, or understand why I had to pay nearly £14 for the smallest bit of pink card ever, but it was all very jolly and the 'spotters' (a breed of their own) were far more photogenic than any engines:
We'd done a similar day back in the summer of 2012, and once again I was confused by the whole thing, but happy enough as we changed at Ramsbottom to get to Rawtenstall (pronounced Rotten Stall by most Lancs folk, but not a drunk woman who we'll meet later).
|Chris and Bernie ready for a rare BRAPA outing|
|Me with some manky station teddies|
|Tom and his arse enjoy the diesel fumes|
1084. Masons Arms, Crawshawbooth
Bernie told me to run her through the three ales which were on, as she (a) was stood at the back (b) is little and (c) said she couldn't read them, so I did my best, only for the helpful barman (the most Lancashire accented man ever) to re-pronounce everything I said to make it more Lancastrian, so words like "Burnley", "Clitheroe" and "Rawtenstall" (where the ales were from) suddenly had 5 r's and 3 u's in them. I felt like I'd been gently admonished. The pub itself had multi-areas, that dark Lancs brickwork, felt old, yet if you squinted and looked really closely, I think you'd have to say "modern concessions" had been made in a subtle way - though there wasn't much subtle about the blackboard offering Prosecco with a TFIF "Thank Fuck It's Friday" signature . "Practical minimalist", described Bernie, accurate enough, but if you were feeling brave and un P.C., you could say "trying to appeal to all, and a bit female friendly providing the females in question were from the wrong side of the Pennines". Loved the stone flagged floors, and the ale (from Northern Whisper) was spot on (the Reedley Hallows even better), the gents toilets were a throwback to perhaps how the pub really was 30 years ago, and the Old Firm derby was switched for what I thought was Scunthorpe Utd but Tom was tricking me and it was actually West Ham. Nice enough pub, but left me feeling it could've been a bit more.
"A watched bus never materialises" as the phrase goes, and ours was delayed by about 20 minutes or something ridiculous, we may as well have walked back to Rawtenstall.
Tom used a bit of his genius to get us on the next bus to Haslingden immediately and despite losing my bearings totally, I managed to march us up a hill by a country lane with some incredible views below to pub two. And what a pub it was ......
1085. Griffin, Haslingden
It was now that the day had properly begun. I led us to the bar in a bit of flap cos it was my round, I had phone wires wrapped around me, desperate for the loo, and no wonder I pronounced the word "halo" as "hard" and a local old bloke at the bar offered his glasses so I could see properly, the cheeky beggar! To be fair to me, Rossendale Brewery font is like something from a 1980's space invaders game, the O's look like D's, so there. We found out the ales were brewed in a basement below the pub, and I tell you what else should've been in a basement, a twild boy who whined and cried and carried on the entire time we were there. But he couldn't spoil a pub this good. It was a friendly crowd at the bar, the barmaid dropping my money and exclaiming "these new slippery tenners, these slippery fivers, what's next?!" (slippery twenties I assume). We went to a large sweeping (but still cosy) room to the side offering superb views out onto whatever Pendley Witchy country we could see (the Irvin parents did great here in getting the huge table by the window). Ales were incredible, about £2.50 pint at most, the walk here is definitely worth it.
|The views were better than this but I couldn't crane my neck enough to get full glory!|
|Content at last!|
|Tom looks philosophical behind my Halo Pale|
|Bernie points out shopmobility scooter, which as we know, means very good pub!|
A 15 minute downhill stride took us to another Haslingden one, could it too be splendid?
|Trouble is just around the corner (literally)|
1086. Rose & Crown, Haslingden
No it couldn't. Before we'd even got inside, a woman who was already as 'tight as an owl' (it was only 3pm) staggered out of the door asking me and Chris why we were photographing the pub. Chris tried to get onto her level with a "big balls" joke but it didn't quell her for long, and when I told her about BRAPA, she exclaimed "you sad bastard!" which I'm amazed I don't get more often to be honest. Next 5 minutes were painstaking as she drunkenly tried to recall each pub I'd just mentioned to her, with the help of her frustrated but patient fellow drinkers at the bar. "Well, this wasn't quite the reception I was hoping for!" I bravely told her, which sobered her up for 30 seconds so she apologised and said she was only joking, so I escaped with the drinks to find the others who'd wisely gone to a side room - by which point drunk woman was shouting again. The beer choice was Doom Bar or some Pendle Witch Blonde thing. It was ok. People kept opening the back door to go for a smoke. It kept drifting in. Some might like that. I didn't. We focussed on Gillette Soccer Saturday above us. Hull City took the lead. "Don't get excited, it's the hope that kills us" I warned the others. I appreciated the proper rough and ready local crowd (this would be the perfect tonic if you'd had a day pub ticking in London or Bucks), but ultimately, this didn't feel like a GBG pub. Oh, and the artwork was horrific. I waved to drunk woman on way out, but she didn't recognise me!
|The nice upper stained glass bar bit was best thing here.|
|Bernie looks pensive|
|Chris 'really enjoying' his ale.|
We managed to hop on our final bus of the day towards Newchurch (going east of Rawtenstall) for pub 4, this time I knew exactly where we needed to hop off.
|Bernie, me, Tom and mascot about to go in!|
1087. Boars Head, Newchurch
Well, well, well, how good was this? We walked in to this busy, cosy, intimate bar area excited again by the great ale prices, and to see a pint of 'mixed' on the blackboard (their Lancaster Black and bitter half and half), led to much conversation between me and Chris, ending in him getting one partly by mistake, in what proved the most confusing drinks order of the day! But here were the friendliest locals I think in a pub all year, I'd been concerned about a "dress code" sign on the door but a bloke in a red t-shirt and combat shirts told me not to worry! And this time when I found myself explaining BRAPA, I didn't even get called a sad bastard. We sat in the back room, where we were closed in by a group of female cyclists. One yelped as the pub dog Bo (named after the 9th best Hull City goalkeeper of all time) brushed past her leg, and I thought it was the dog that had yelped. "At least it wasn't a cat!" exclaimed one of her cycling buddies. "Haha, yeh" they agreed. I didn't like them after that comment. I span around to take an internal pub photo of the bar area, but was beckoned over by an old bloke. 'Uh oh, I've gone too far with my photos this time' I thought, but he just wanted to tell me about a great pub called the Crown in Bacup (pronounced Bake-up). Maybe next time. "I think it's wonderful thing you are doing" Mr and Mrs Bacup told me, how lovely. This was such a superb pub, I think Chris preferred the Griffin but me and Bernie voted for here, because the people were just so good, and pub experiences are 90% people as far as I'm concerned. Hull City conceded a late equaliser. They'd dominated. But we were too happy to be upset.
|Ales and a pint of mixed for £2.75 on the blackboard|
|Local sat to the left is about to beckon me over for Bacup chat. Red t-shirt was a legend too.|
|Bernie and Bo have a chat about why Matt Duke was actually better.|
"It's just round t'corner" said the locals in the Boar's Head about our next pub. I hope they won't forgive me for saying this, but they didn't look like the most mobile of citizens. So when it turned into a 15-20 minute march back towards Rawtenstall, you could say I felt skeptical about how many of them did this walk on a regular basis.
|Time for pub 5 as the light fades in lovely Lancs|
1088. Red Lion, Rawtenstall
So we wander in and are confronted by women asking us if we want the chance to win a signed shirt by Ashley Barnes or Sam Vokes, Burnley players of some repute. We say no, they look incredulous. The round comes to easily the most expensive of the day, and when Chris "innocently" decides to question it in case we are being ripped off, the barmaid (a little bit overly defensive) directs the response to me - so I'm the bad guy now! (and Chris was looking at me like "Si, you are so unreasonable!") (perhaps). The bar is a busy circular thing, so I wander in a circle looking for seats that don't exist - a woman appears with balloons sticking out of her every orifice ".... you lot Man City fans then?" she asks accusingly, trying to sell us something blue and white. Errrm, no we're not, but just cos we aren't Burnley fans, why must we be Man City fans? Aren't there 90 other clubs in the football league? Then, a weird man with daughter and tiger facepaint appears, looking just like the guy from Phoenix Nights who can't get it off. "He'll be 43 when he dies!" announces Chris, which sounds harsh and specific, though I can't remember the context. Didn't really enjoy this pub, chaotic, chilly, uncomfy, and passed us by.
|The barmaid reaches for a weapon after I criticise beer price (by proxy)|
|Not the best picture I've ever taken.|
Back at the East Lancs railway with plastic halves of black beer from Buffer Stops (which we went to on the day it opened back in 2012 and were "served" by Pete Waterman), we made the painful decision not to 'alight' at Ramsbottom for the Major Hotel because it was nearly the last train of the day and we didn't want to get stranded.
It was okay for me, living central York, but Tom had to get back to his Grimsby slum, and Chris and Bernie needed to get their last bus to Wilberfoss, a little village near York with silly bus service.
So I bid them farewell a couple of stops into the Metro journey to hop off at Whitefield, so I could fulfil my "six a day" pubs I now demand on a Saturday.
1089. Eagle & Child, Whitefield
"Boom boom boom" went the noise from within (not that the Outhere Brothers were here, it was far scarier), and it was hard not to be put in mind of that other sweeping basic Joseph Holt's Saturday night pub, the Park Inn in Swinton. I know the drill now, it's all very simple - you just have to bark "Bitter", "Mild" or (if you are bit continental) "Two Hoots" and hand over about 6p. The man in front of me hadn't read the script, and was having a meltdown at the bar, causing much eye-rolling from the redoubtable barmaid, who looked like she'd been built by Joseph Holt to run his pubs. "I've bought a mild for mi mate, but he wanted a bitter!" he wailed, she wasn't budging, so it was decided his friend would just have to make do with what he had. 5 pints in, I wasn't feeling self-conscious at all, so I went through to where a bloke called Chris was having his 40th birthday celebrations, hosted by the kind of DJ you'd expect, and plonked myself in the middle of the 'party'. No one was up for Karaoke, but our host got himself a bit excited over Kylie Minogue 'I'm Spinning Around' and then failed three times to pronounce Ariana Grande, "she's a bit of a mouthful, waheyyyy" he concluded. I just sat there, nodded my head to the tunes, did some people watching and enjoyed my pint of bitter as much as anyone can in these circs. Amusing stuff.
|The DJ doing DJ stuff|
|"Not another BRAPA photo!" says irritated babe.|
|The most Joseph Holt pub photo ever|
|Knitted cardigan bloke on phone wonders how life ended up like this.|
Back in Manchester, I had time to get wired on coffee before home for some fish n chips (and scraps). It had been a superb day, Lancashire keeps up it's reputation for being a very friendly place, two excellent pubs, two decent ones, and two slightly poor ones. You can't ask for more than that(!)
|Oh dear, wired on coffee again|
It's proving a productive month, it's not over yet, and I'll be back sooner than you think!