Friday, 13 September 2019

BRAPA ...... Honour Whickham (& Other Tales from the Toon)

Snack options from Felling

The origins of last Friday's trip to Tyne & Wear can be traced back to 4th May, in the Black Bull's Head in Openwoodgate, one of Derbyshire's more understated gems. 

"Have you done Whickham?  How on earth do you get there?" asks Derbys premier casual pub ticker Mark Daniels.  It was a question I'd been wondering myself since the previous September.  Experienced pub ticker Martin Taylor took a long slurp of his Bass (or equivalent J20), sits back, pauses for dramatic effect, clears his Fenland throat and replied "you can walk it from the Metrocentre, only a couple of miles".

Martin always has the answers of course, but the GBG is misleading here, as the only 'symbol' it displays is the 'dog friendly' one, giving the impression Whickham is some isolated hamlet with no transport links, probably a pub on a hill on a rural area!

But nothing could have been further from the truth.  It has cars, buses, housing estates.  Hell, it even has a Greggs in a little shopping precinct, and in truth, isn't that all people north of Durham really care about at the end of the day?

And after what seemed like a constant 35 minute uphill walk, I was in need of the sustenance.  It'd also give the 11:30am opening pub a chance to open, which it managed successfully, just three mins down the road .......

Post box and tropical trees - a bit like being in Tenerife

You don't get this in the Holly Bush at Makeney

So, here we are, One Eyed Stag, Whickham and still no pub number at this stage, as the GBG hadn't been officially released.  I'm unsurprisingly the first customer, greeted by our smiley hostess Megan and a glorious pint of something pale from Blaydon's Firebrick slipping down a treat after that long walk and Greggs saviour.  "Are you the business owner?" I asked her, still scarred from Burnage two weeks previously, but she replies she's just temporarily in charge whilst female business owner (no idea on hair colour)  is in America, harvesting some special new hop from Louisiana's dust bowl, or whatever micropub owners do with their spare time. I explain my strange line of questioning, and she says owner wouldn't object to 'blonde lady barmaid' though no idea of actual hair colour, of course, I only see the person within #WokeSi2019/20.  I'm amazed that the Metrocentre isn't on the Metro, and inevitably, I then witter on about pub ticking for 25 minutes, Megan's only respite being the arrival of a beer delivery from Stockton on Tees.  Eventually, a smiling red faced local arrives for a cup of tea, but I'd gone on for long enough, so I bid farewell, Swalwell bound ........

"Pint of Stella".  Oh how I LOLLED!

Megan gets the ticking done

The pub looking like a lunchtime micro

The bar and stuff
Only a 15-20 minute walk to pub two, this next pub was the only pub that stopped me 'completing' Tyne & Wear two years ago and is a GBG regular so a nice one to get chalked off ......

A nice looking imposing corner Marstons pub, Sun Inn, Swalwell, offered another warm welcome, this time thanks to mine host Dave/Davey.  His accent was quite strong, took me a few mins to adjust to, and being a former Sunderland Uni student, I'm conditioned to view a Newcastle Utd shirt with some amount of fear, dread and loathing, but again, once I'd seen the man within (no, I don't mean I'm picturing him topless) he was a canny bloke.  We soon get onto GBG related topics, and his other pub 'Owa the Road' (that means 'over the road' in Geordie) is errrm, 'over the road'.  Problem is, as Megan already identified, Google's 4pm hours are the correct ones, and Davey has no idea where the GBG has got the 2pm opening hours from, whilst it says this pub is 11am when it is actually 12 noon.  I'd have similar problems at Leeds Slocken a week later, so I hope the 2020 GBG isn't gonna be blighted by terrible opening time listings!  Not with Cumbria in the offing, imagine?!  Well, he tells me his new venture is because he doesn't get the freedom from Marston's so that is understandable.  A lady in the far bar smiles wryly then leaves, and the only other customer is a surprisingly mute taxi driver drinking half a coke, leading me to think they do so much time gabbing, perhaps their downtime is often spent not talking!  It makes sense.  The ale is quality, the pub has atmosphere and different rooms, but Davey reminds me by bus is imminent so after a rare 'BRAPA handshake'  I have to rush for it and catch it with seconds to spare. 

Mine canny host studies the GBG

I'm on the Head Point, and good stuff it is

The pub at large

The bus takes me to Gateshead, and a couple of stops on the Metro to a place called Felling which some Sunderland fans once told wasn't a safe place after dark for a friendly Hull City fan.

On that day, I did the neighbouring Wheat Sheaf with the good Tom Irvin, and just like that pub, I'd been foiled here earlier by 4pm Bank Holiday opening times.  Relief this time then to see the pub nicely open .......

Old Fox, Felling, Gateshead like the Wheat Sheaf is a proper no nonsense old school boozer, deathly quiet, soothing carpets, and swathes of empty space, some of which is converted into a stage as it seems to be a popular live music venue.  Third time I walk in as only customer, but our host, a genial but quite shy long haired lad reckons I should go for this insane chocolatey stout which sort of knocks my socks off a bit, but about time I cut the 'safe pale ale' apron strings and challenge myself!  After sitting in the corner with my GBG, I see he is bored so go to join him at the bar for what must be a record third consecutive chat with staff.   On the same lines as the Sun Inn, he tells me they have a 'sister' pub now in the GBG, 'Beer Street' in Newcastle so I vow to make sure I get that one ticked off later.  His brother, he says, spends most his time running that one now.  We get talking spirits and novelty gins for some reason, and then a shady guy comes in for half a coke but only for about 5 minutes.  The action only really ramps up just before I'm about to leave, as a lady and young lad (is this Mam and Bro?) crash through the door, and our host has to transport what I count is 24 bottles of Jack Daniels to the cellar depths.  Again, seems like my cue to go so after a quick pee and nearly colliding with Mummy Old Fox, I'm on my way again.

Sometimes you order a pint and think "a third would've done!"

Our host gets the ticking game on

The pub looking lovely

Ghostly acoustic set in progress

Would you drink these?

Fox shows me the nuts

So three pubs down, three to go!  Time to do what I always seem to do when a new GBG is forthcoming, and head to South Shields ...... (I'll tell you about that on Sunday).



Thursday, 12 September 2019

BRAPA - Good Beer Guide 2020 Released Today! What's the Damage?

Happy official Good Beer Guide Day everyone!

Yes, the embargo period is over as the GBG hits the shops today, Thurs 12th Sept.  The cross-ticking is complete, the green highlighters have almost run dry, and I can reveal I've lost 201 pubs from last year's total, which for once, hasn't demoralised me too much......

The Science Bit

I'd 'declared' on 1743 with my last tick being on 24th August in Horwich at the Bank Top Brewery Ale House, a good one to end the 2018/19 season on though the Grim Reaper on the pump clip may have been an omen.

And with the help of 19 new ticks during the embargo period (30th Aug-11th Sept), I find myself starting again on 1542 with a first ever working lunchtime tick a possibility today to make it 1543.

Percentage wise, I've lost more in the previous couple of years and the main thing is I've stayed firmly above that magic 1500 figure which represents one third of the GBG.

So what went right?  Well, it was a particularly good year for preemptives so HUGE thanks to all who contributed to the record breaking 16 (you know who you are!) - some very good stabs in the dark, some random chats with locals, some  'insider knowledge' and the odd bit of WhatPubbing or just walking past a 'promising' looking place on my part.

Those pubs were as follows - Three Guineas, Reading.  Alexandra Arms, Cambridge.  Blisland Inn, Blisland.  Marlpool Ale House, Marlpool.  Hops & Cheese, Hartlepool.  1887 The Brewroom, Blackpool.  Albert's Ale House, Blackpool.  Tap & Vent, Kirkham.  Northumberland Arms, Marple Bridge.  Donkeystone, Greenfield.  Oscar's Inn, Newark.  Rising Sun, Mossley.  Pint Shop, Birmingham.  White Hart, Hull.  Wilson's, Scarborough.  Darton Tap, Darton.

Plenty more I'm kicking myself for missing despite being told to go, Newsroom in Matlock really stands out as FOUR different locals told me to get up there, and I never did!

Another surprising factor is the inclusion of 13 'new' (old) pubs I've visited in the past, but either not associated with BRAPA, or done before BRAPA started in 2014 and not seen in a GBG up until now.  I will write about my distant memories of these in two or three parts in the coming weeks in what I call 'the archives'.  Every year I think 'I won't be having any more of these to do' and then these pubs pop up from nowhere!

Perhaps I should focus on my gross number too, which is now 2758 so 2020 will see me hit the big 3,000 and I'll be very intrigued to see if it is a classic, something terrible, or something in between.

But 201 pubs is still a big chunk to make up, and to put it into context, my 'original' 1542nd pub was achieved on 14th March, so you could say I've lost six months (half a year!) of BRAPA.  Ouch.  King's Arms in Norwich the morning after a Hull City game with Dad & Tom if you wondered.

Whatever, it is a real case of two steps forward, one step back.  I can live with that.  I have to.

Strategy for 2019/20

The coming year will be all about BRAPA's 'Campaign of Northern England' (#CONE as the kids will hopefully be chanting by New Year's Day) so if you are a GBG 2020 pub in Cumbria or County Durham, or even Tyne & Wear or Northumberland, be very afraid!

The aim by next August is to have completed Cumbria, Durham, Tyne & Wear and got a slight foothold in Northumberland.   Very much a blank canvas though so it might be an overly ambitious aim, we'll see.

Associated outliers like Lancaster & Silverdale might also be achievable too.

Not that it'll be all north, Hull City away days will allow me a few varied trips to exciting strongholds.  Luton springs to mind!  And I'm almost not joking.

And I 'need' to have two more trips (at least) to London before 31st Dec as I have train tickets.  This is good as I really am knocking on the door of completing 'North', 'Central' and 'East' regions.  'West' also doing well, 'South' still requires a lot of work.  Yes, I could use them to officially start Essex, but that's more one for 2021.  (Oh look, Andrewsfield Airfield is back for the 500th consecutive year!)

Next summer's trip will continue in the vain of the previous three, with a real push on Cornwall though looking where the new gaps are opening up, not sure I'll be completing it this time.  I'll probably stay in Plymouth this time and focus on East Cornwall, but it'll also mean scope for some Devon, so I might get some valuable rare ticks down there too.

All this sadly means one of my all time faves, Dorset, might have to be put on hold til the 2020/21 season, a bit of shame as all the really awkward ones I didn't manage have been binned off anyway, and replaced with a slightly more achievable selection.  Chaldon Herring has updated its hours though, which I'd like to think is my doing!

So lots to do, but the main thing is, to enjoy each experience however lame, take it for what it is, don't rush that pint of ale, smile at strangers, chat to folk, listen to the 'local knowledge', observe all, don't get caught short (no new ticks at Newark this year thankfully), stay hydrated, stay disciplined, and eat during the day so I can remember those 5th and 6th pubs.

Happy Pubbing for the 2019/20 season folks.  It's gonna be a good year I can tell.


Wednesday, 11 September 2019

BRAPA and ..... The Sisters of Mirfield

Disclaimer - any pubs visited today should be viewed merely as 'pre-emptive' (note the lack of pub number) and any resemblance to those included in the forthcoming 2020 Good Beer Guide must be viewed as entirely coincidental.  

Inspiration for The Corrs?

Begorrah!  It was a welcome return to West Yorkshire after work pubbing, and for the benefit of the narrative, I'll ask you to believe that a mysterious old bloke in L**ds Tesco whispered "ey up BRAP, got a couple of preemptives for you to enjoy in t'Mirfield area" before picking up his whippet, concealing it surreptitiously inside his coyt, and shuffling off into the distance with a pack of Woodbines.

I'd not Mirf'd since November 2015 so the nostalgia was almost making me misty eyed, or was it the traffic fumes under the railway bridge as I left the railway station for the 20 minute march towards Battyeford, a place that work colleagues tell me isn't 'real', merely a CAMRA construct, which tied in with Duncan Mackay's memories.  He told me that when this first pub was in the oft overlooked 1954 GBG, it was listed under 'Mirfield'.   Life was simpler back then, they tell me.

Up the Huddersfield Road, it happened upon me rather than the other way around, though I had to squint into the low sun to be sure I was in the right place ......

Looks nice.  Let's go in shall we?

The scene that greeted me at Pear Tree, Battyeford was so typically West Yorkshire after-work, it made me smile.  A bloke in paint stained overalls was telling an anecdote about screws or nails or something to a keen audience, and I had to fight my way through the crowd to the bar, almost apologetically.  Some turned to half smile, to welcome this first time visitor, but most were so captivated, their eyes were firmly on Mr Paint Stain.  The pub opened up into a more high-brow dining pub than I'd been expecting on first glance.  The shimmering fishtank was the highlight, fish looked well fed and four women all blinked from behind the bar expectantly.  I went for Farmers Blonde, one of my 'go to, always going to enjoy' ale options.  Very well kept, B+ on the Simey Beer Scoring System (SBSS).   An electronic screen perhaps was a bit excessive, though it showed a nice photo of the riverside beer garden on a summer's day, which saved me from going to look for it in real life!   The music was shite, a restaurant menu offered posh oozy scotch eggs with dippy ciabatta soldiers, but hidden bar snacks like pork pies reminded me that this was at the end of the day, a good pub.  Nevertheless, it was almost inevitable my calming pint was interrupted by a Twildo family arrival.  "Who would like to play a game with me on mi tablet?" asks the young girl.  "I'll never support Halifax Town, NEVER!" says her Dad shortly after, which made me wonder which football management game she'd actually downloaded.

There was no point rushing to the next 'pub'. even at this time I had to saunter on the 22 minute walk according to Google Maps.   This was because it was a 7pm opening club.

I still had an experience where an old bloke with a limp stopped to let me overtake.  "I saw a shadow .... I just didn't know where it was coming from!" he explained, to which I laughed uncontrollably because I had no idea what to say.  Some of my critics in Greater Manchester say I don't actually have a shadow cos I have no soul, so I wished I'd recorded this incident as proof.

I arrived at the Club at 6:55pm.  I had hypothesised in the build-up that club hours are a lot more generous than those often listed in the GBG (or Whatpub in this case, phew!) they just don't like visiting riff-raff clogging up their clubs at all hours.

It was a relief almost then, to see this place firmly locked up.  I found a small ginnel down to some parkland, so stood in the middle of it for 5 minutes, breathing in that freshish Mirfield air.

When I returned 19:01, the club now had a gaping friendly door to walk through ......

The Custodian of Knowl Club, Mirfield, one of those stoic, wry West Yorkshire folk of yore, was immediately confused as I ordered a pint of 'Old Mill' when they had two on, so I had to be more specific.  Despite being first customer, within the next five minutes, about ten people arrived and I realised this was going to be a more popular place than I'd anticipated, especially as it was Thursday, rather than me usual Friday outing.  This was a quality club, the building a pleasing shape like the nearby Hartshead Club, bench seating, a down to earth easy-going atmosphere abound, plenty of humour and companionship in every corner, and the early focus was on the cricket.  'Live' Ashes cricket, last couple of overs of the day and plenty of gallows humour as England toiled with a nightwatchman in.  Soon got chatting with this lovely couple next to me, Lesley and Gary who've asked me to mention they are 'young', which of course they are, inverted commas or not.  A bloke walked in with some gas canisters, I wasn't ready for a g.c. follow up so soon after Holwick last Saturday.  "You remind me of a young Foster & Allen" someone (possibly Gary) said to him in a surprise change of pace, but turned out it was cos the young g.c. lad was in a band, not because Foster & Allen carry gas canisters around with them.  Lesley was warming to her cricketing views, and after some debate about whether Boycott was brilliant or not, she tried some optimism.  Stokes did at the end of that last test match was amazing" she enthused, and just as I was about to agree, the guv'nor says "He needn't have bothered.  It's just prolonging the agony!" which was perhaps the most Yorkshire thing I've ever heard anyone say.  "Just don't get her started on politics!" said Gary.  Uh oh, too late!  After some BRAPA chat, Gary was properly into my challenge, the guv'nor almost bought me a pint.  But then he forgot,  so Gary did.  What a gent.  And this is why I love going into Clubs, they offer a different type of homely spirit rarer in pubs.  I'll remember this one for many years, great experience.

I could've easily lingered (as the Cranberries, very much the Sisters of Mercy of their day) almost said, but with an early start for Tyne & Wear pencilled in for tomorrow and a Friday off work, I thought I'd better try and at least be semi responsible! 

I'll tell you about soon but tomorrow, we've got the little matter of the official release of the 2020 Good Beer Guide so I'll do a special blog on that one.

Thanks for reading, Si


Monday, 9 September 2019

BRAPA ..... August Review and September Preview (2019)

At the beginning of August, I told myself that we needed a period of calm in the world of BRAPA.  A non controversial, quiet month of stoic pub ticking.  After all, July had been a bit insane.

What with 'Drunk in Burton', 'The Newark Station Incident' and 'The Phantom Ticker of Sidcup', I was worried I was becoming even more of a parody of myself than usual.  So yes, a call for August calm was top of the agenda.

So, how do you think that went then?!

It all started with the completion of Derbyshire, which had looked like a race against time before the new GBG was published, but ended up being comfortably achieved on the 3rd.  But nothing comfortable about that final pub experience, a vinegary Bass in a pub that'd stopped caring.  A sad end to what had probably been the most rewarding county I'd completed to date in the name of BRAPA.

....and it all looked so promising
Less than a week later, an insane night around Greenfield, Mossley and Stalybridge with Quosh, Chris Moran and Chris Dyson.  The preemptives at times better than the actual ticks.  But great company and a hazy night to 'remember'.

Quosh gets his debut BRAPA tick done.  Chris looks so proud of him.

A return to Hull City away day 'fun' saw a great day in Brentford, well (T)wickenham to be precise, and trips to the Bury and Bolton areas were equally rewarding with great pubs and folk.  Another highlight was Middleton where I got the meet 'The Tand' (or Peter as great mates like me call him), what a gent, four super pubs, JW Lees galore, and more top folk.

Peter ticks - possibly the highlight of his life so far 

But as the temperature increased and the Bank Holiday weekend drew to a close, the heat also was ramped up on BRAPA, as we went from 'Ambre Solaire' to 'I'm Ombre, So There'......

Having already upset Stalybridge's most sensitive cask-free pub (and been threatened with bum rape if I ever return!), I had even fewer reasons to be cheerful as a Burnage business owner took exception to my 'blonde lady barmaid' comment (a thoughtless description at worst on my part, but 'offensive', really?!  Never the intention!), not to mention criticism of their blue and grey colour scheme.  The Twitter pitchforks were soon pointing in my direction, first time I've witnessed this kind of thing first hand, leading to a bloody terrifying Bank Holiday Monday arvo!

BRAPA flashpoint .... little did I know then what was to follow as I blissfully ticked it off

Yes, Twitter Analytics from Yate-Boston-Harvard University in Illinois Vermont contacted me to say only Jim Davidson (no relation btw), the Brazilian President who hates rain forests and people who think pineapple on pizzas is acceptable received more Twitter hate.

Next day at work when my boss asked if 'we could have a word', I thought it was gonna be about this!  "Look, I didn't mean to objectify anybody, please don't sack me ..... ohhhhhh, you want to talk about tailoring a LIBOR business loan to set quarterly capital repayments over a monthly interest profile?  Fine!"   Paranoia had truly set in!

Thank goodness then for the GBG dropping onto my doorstep Fri 30th.  Now I could re-focus  - yes, that double-edged sword of 'cross-ticking' that pesky GBG, and on 12th Sept (official release date, end of embargo), I'll tell you exactly what the damage is! I've been through three green highlighters, two Stanley knives, a guillotine, so you can say we've been on a journey already!

39 new pub ticks and 4 preemptives I'm reckoning is a pretty decent result.  Hard to pick my faves, but Dungeon Inn,Tottington and Imperial Arms in Chislehurst  kind of stood out as quite magical.  Wonderful to get to Tandle Hill Tavern, finally, and every bit the pub I'd hoped and expected, whilst Rising Sun in Mossley was an exceptional preemptive which deserves a GBG place.

Locals hug the bar area at Dungeon Inn, Tottington

On the downside, poor quality ale blighted Hole in the Wall, Long Eaton and Millgate, Failsworth though neither were bad pubs in other ways, I found Long Pond in Eltham quite a soul destroying place on my visit, Hackney Carriage not massively better,  but the standard of August pubs (and ale) was generally above average.

September Preview 

Well, I'm a bit late with this blog so I've already had a couple of cracking trips to Mirfield in West Yorkshire, and up on Tyneside, both of which I'll write about this week, plus a special 12th Sept GBG release post.  I'll also have done a Shock Sunday London (SSL) by the time you read this.

Sun Inn, Swalwell (a long overdue tick)

Plenty to discuss on 12th Sept official GBG release date (I feel a four-parter coming on!  I can hear you groaning already)

I'll finally get the Cumbrian ball rolling next week, though I suspect it really will be just one pub as I cross a border into 'another world').

Luton is always a tough place to go and get a GBG result, but am looking forward to that with Tom and Dad on 21st, and a week later, am thinking about something ambitious, Cumbrian and overnighty, but cannot quite decide if that's a bit too ambitious!  Is Barrow a friendly place on a Friday night?

Oh, and I've just booked the BRAPA Autumnal Festival for October, was originally going to be Dorset, but with my Cumbrian need greater alphabetically, I'll be up in t'Lakes so that should be a productive time.  Having spent yesterday researching buses, trains and walks, I can say I'm champing at the bit to get stuck in to the county I've neglected for too long.

Re Friday night / after work trips, back to focusing on West Yorkshire for now, then moving onto South Yorkshire, a tiny bit of North, one in Durham before a GMR return in the spring/summer of 2020, if they'll have me!

Take care & happy pubbing,


Saturday, 7 September 2019

BRAPA in ..... Bernie's Burneston Bonus Bonanza / GBG Autopsy

Disclaimer - any pubs visited today should be viewed merely as 'pre-emptive' (note the lack of pub number) and any resemblance to those included in the forthcoming 2020 Good Beer Guide must be viewed as entirely coincidental.  

August was finally (and thankfully) at an end with three late ticks, in rural County Durham, in the car with Father BRAPA last Saturday.

Our fourth pub was perhaps the most nerve-wracking for me, having a mid afternoon closure even on a Saturday, and being in such a rural location, it definitely had a feel of the 'now or never' about it.  Relief then, to see it looking open, and nice too, that for the first time today, Dad joined me from the outset ......

Four Alls, Ovington, to explain the name, we have "I govern all (the queen), I fight for all (the soldier), I pray for all (the parson), I pay for all (the farmer).  Rumours that after my visit, it was being renamed the Five Alls with "I judge all" (the BRAPA) are unfounded.  Now you are always hearing about pubs being extended, widened, opened up etc. so a refreshing change as that Woodpecker once said in a similar accent to the locals here, to find a pub being 'shrunk' due to neighbouring cottages or something.  I'd rather it that way, gotta love a smaller, cosier pub.  The landlady is all-action, as friendly as you'd expect from rural Durham, apologising for the disorganisation (they bought the place a year ago but are still moving in!) and we're soon chatting 'number of ales and evil hunting print above fire'.  Best of all, Rivet Catcher is on again, and I just had to go for it.  The Draught Bass of County Durham?  i.e. if I see it, it is my default order.  I think that could be a nice rule.  Anyway, the chatter had been quite intense so Dad motions us to a table with some nice bright scatter cushions to irk the purists, but it was nice to get sat down whatever.  About five minutes later, she apologises for 'leaving us' but she has to bind up a tree outdoors or something.  Homely pub, great ale, lovely staff, and if this is a sign of rural Co Durham to come, I'll enjoy it an awful lot.

The Six Alls?  Carlsberg (it burps you all), Tetley's (it Yorkshire's you all) errrm sorry (laboured humour on my part!)

Back on the Rivet Catcher

Even got an apology for the Banks's glass!
Next up, pub five and what I believed would be the final pub of the day - in the relative heaving metropolis of Barnard Castle.  And talking of relatives, my auntie, uncle and cousins live here so suddenly, my bright yellow jacket wasn't as conspicuous as I liked (didn't want to be spotted and get in trouble for not 'announcing' we'd be in the area).  

It didn't help that locating the pub was a struggle, finally finding it hidden down here ......

I'd stayed the night in the Old Well Inn for a serendipitous accidental GBG tick on my 34th birthday, as I was up for a wedding in Greta Bridge, so it was just the micropub I was after today .....

With shopmobility scooter outside and a delightful carpet off-shoot of Wetherspoons, perhaps, not to mention a warming red colour scheme, Firkin Alley, Barnard Castle was what you'd call 'a micropub done perfectly' and with the warm welcome of my previous four pubs today extending into this one, the sense of well being was 'real'.  "You'll be attracting wasps wearing that!" said the affable young male business owner of lengthy beard, to chuckles from the locals at the bar, with a few comments like "fair play to ya for wearing it, lad!"   About time my jacket got the recognition it deserved.  When I wore it for a match at Selhurst Park, Hull City fans simply thought I was a steward.  I've never directed so many people to the bogs and pies in one afternoon!  I digress.  I did wonder if the guv'nor's beard may double as a beehive, but it might've been a weird 'comeback' so I held my tongue.  Our initial love of the indoor cosiness was tempered as about four dogs arrived on mass.  As individual hounds,  all were cute, amusing and loveable but the sum of the parts was a clusterfuck of twog insanity.  Like Dad read my mind, he considered sitting outside,  and being the legendary host he was, our bearded friend helped us get settled at a table in the sunny breeze.  Much nicer.  Dad spied the pub was hosting a beard competition (I think!) to coincide with National Beard Day (hmmm, wonder who'll win that?  I ask with sarcasm) and Dad struggled with the phrase 'bejazzle' so I hypothisised it might be based on 'vajazzled' which was a fun one to explain to him five pubs in.  Quality place, this, get yourselves down. 

Bloke struggles to achieve the right level of yellow

That is the carpet you want to see in a pub

Locals and lovely stout

Oh, it is today!  Wonder who won?
 As we drove back down the A1 (M), I admit I dozed off but when I came to, Dad had turned off for the bonus pub I never believed we'd manage, back in North Yorkshire, a preemptive of the highest order in a place no one has ever heard of (think Dukinfield or Lydgate) called Burneston.  

Despite being painted a hopeless shade of grey from head to foot, it complimented the jacket and we pulled up in the car park, and wandered around the front ......

Woodman Inn it was called, and we followed in a couple who were stopping overnight here.  "Just bear with me a minute gentlemen" says the personable American owner with sculptured tache'/beard.  "We've never been described as gentlemen before!" sobs Dad, almost with tears in his eyes, and for a second pub in a row, staff and locals comment on my jacket which I claim is a tactic to help me get served first even when it is three deep at a given bar.  No such problems here, and the American returns for some classic hospitality, reminded me of everything good about North America.  Russ, Mark Crilley, the Southworth's, a bit of Nick Bruels (not sure which bit), and a dash of Captain Jackson from Ripper Street, with fewer autopsies though cut me open and I'd bleed yellow.  Something to do with my liver I guess.  Pub wise ,homelier than I'd been expecting from outside but didn't hold up hugely against our rural Durham classics, yet nice enough.  

GBG Alien Autopsy  

After a nice meal of minced beef, cheesy mash and peas with Mummy n Daddy BRAPA, I required their assistance.  

For when I'd extracted the brewery section of my new GBG the previous night, I'd made a bit of a 'hash' of it.  Now I'm not blaming the two pints of Saltaire Blonde and three pints of Shipyard Pale I'd had in Hedley Verity, L**ds , I think the binding is a lot better this year! 

But the upshot was, I'd not got the pages out 'right to the spine' leaving a horrid clump of 300+ page ends.  Luckily, Dad had the kind of multi-purpose tool selection you'd expect from a handyman 71 year old legend, and Mum had a special guillotine (ooh la la) and a keen artistic eye.  

I wish I'd taken photos, it was quite the scene on the Everitt living room table.  Dad did amazing extracting the clump, but Mum said there was nothing could be done for the back of the book, she had to take it off with the guillotine and reattach it with sellotape.  Fine job, I felt like an exasperated parent hoping their twild's tonsil removal went hitch free.  

Would it stand the test of time?  Or would further surgery be needed?  Find out in a forthcoming blog.  Join me tomorrow/Monday night for the long overdue August Review / Sept preview.