Monday, 21 August 2017

BRAPA - Sexual Ealing

When first dates go wrong ..... "wing it" mate!  (See pub 1230)
Irlam seemed a lot further away than four days and a few hundred miles as me and the good ole' father strode alongside the leafy allotments of West Ealing in search of our first pub of the day.

Yes, the football season has returned and I'd made the bold decision to combine BRAPA with an away trip to see the Taaaargers at dQPR (Drama-Queens Park Rangers, the most sensitive emotional supporters in the football league, but a nice old stadium if you ignore Mr Sombrero).

I was feeling a bit dodgy, in need of 'hair of the dog', after one too many 6% ales on Friday night in the very good but suspiciously name changey beer outlet  "Mr Foley-Okell-Baroque-Slightly-Change-Our-Name-Every-Year-Tap-Cask-Ale-House".

It had just gone 11am and our first pub of the day stood there looking nice and pretty.  It was on a corner in the sun with hanging baskets and the promise of "heritage" awaiting us ......

1227.  Forester, West Ealing

But what is heritage without humanity?  Much like a pretty girl with no personality, a P.I.S.S. barmaid in pub form, you can spend two minutes admiring Edwardian mahogany, gabled porches, stained glass and bell pushes, but when the two barmaids scowl, shiver, and one pulls her hood up over her head and closes the door as she pours your non-descript Fullers summer guest ale and charges you £3.90, you're not going to "feel the love".  True, there were other nice features in the other bar but this was a 'restaurant' area, but why would you go in there as a drinker?  Ben (who came up with the winning title of this blog) and Tom were already perched on a posing table in the sun.  The only customers were a mute man with a strangely shaped dog blocking the floor watching some foreign egg-chasing.   Tom saved the situation by amusingly revealing the details of his 1p football bet - he stood to win £1,000,000 if he won, sadly Sheff Utd beat Barnsley before we even got to 3pm and the rest was history.  I almost unwittingly had two 'Neighbours' fans joining us for a pint, but the details of how this occurred are too convoluted to repeat here.

A weird shaped dog

Tom and Ben living the heritage dream

My view of the pub

Tom's bet.  "Good luck!" it says.

A pint of West London

After a decent stride out back into "Ealing Proper", pub two was looking particularly impressive across the road with a red lion on the roof and a lovely exterior.  Once those horrid cars finally let us cross the road, a couple with a buggy and some horrific twilds were trying to get in before us.......

1228.  Red Lion, Ealing

Luckily, Dad repeated a trick he I remember him learning in Whitechapel in Jan '16 and somehow elbowed and trod on enough posho and twild interlopers to get himself to the bar first.  Our joy was short lived as the barmaid who put in a particularly below par performance topped up Ben's Castle Rock Pilsner with the ale I was having.  He didn't tell her, and she looked totally unaware.  Now, was it controversial to say I preferred this pub to the last one?  Well no, in spite of the shaky start, it had a lovely old fashioned curved London pub feel, like the ones you find more central, nice Ealing studio photos up, and we all agreed.  If hearing the boy twild was called Hugo, Dad then heard his younger sister was called Jocasta.  Ugh, Twaddy was even worse with his voice that goes through you.  Still, with one morose local and suicidal barmaid the only people in our side of the pub, we started to dominate and after Ben confused Tom by telling him "Brucie's dead!" (Tom quite reasonably thought he meant the Aston Villa manager), I added another layer by mentioning Fiona Bruce.  This was so I could explain the premise of my SECOND favourite programme 'Fake or Fortune'.  That lead to Tom's accidental quote of the day "Does Fiona Bruce ever fake anything?"  Comedy gold, and any pub with people of warmth and humour (let's use Rose & Crown in Hoylandswaine as an example) would've been joining in.  Not here.  By the way, this pub is 50% proud of it's Red Lion heritage, and the other half wants to be a pizza place called Santa Maria.

A Meyler-esque performance from our barmaid

This pub was almost very good, almost.
A bit further into Ealing was our third pub of the day.  On the face of it, it looked like it'd be worse than the last two with it's harsh and cynical terracey gastro feel but could it surprise us on the inside?

1229.  Grove, Ealing

And as we walked in, came the overwhelming smell of mashed potato.  So I had the Bodger and Badger theme in my head before I'd even chosen a beer, so I hope it was filmed at the Ealing Studios across the road because it deserved to be.  It was after all, very much the Passport to Pimlico of kids TV when I was growing up.  I then saw a BRAPA first, a 'jam jar' taster thing, for a beer that was not only "coming soon", but also had no pumpclip or label!  What the rationale behind this was I've no idea.  But the friendly kindness of the barmaid (especially after the last two pubs), plus by the far the best quality beer yet - went a long way to making up for the pub's various gastro shortcomings.  The magic eye wallpaper, a sign in the toilets championing things like twilds and a "social media jukebox" (yes, I know), and even labelling the loos up with a simple "G" for "Gents" and L for "Ladies" was slightly jarring at my BRAPA spidey senses.   Tom again saved the day with hilarious tales of being a "mystery shopper", but occasionally going in and telling the staff "today I'm not here in my mystery shopper capacity".  And on Hull City games at the old Boothferry Park, "do you remember Helen Chamberlain banging that drum?"  No wonder we stayed here for another, deciding to do the Wheatsheaf another day.  I need Questors too due to it's silly opening hours.

Coming soon taster

Upsetting sign apart from point number 2

Just why?
There was then a break between approx 2:30pm - 5pm which was akin to torture and made you realise why NFFD's (Non Football Football Days) are such a relaxing experience.

After the match, there weren't really any queues at Shepherd's Bush station because dQPR aren't really a proper football club (what?  I'm not bitter!) so it was nice to get on the tube, even if we were joined by the kind of local toothbrush brandishing folk who hop on at Notting Hill to go drinking in E1.  

After an interesting backstreet walk through the city from Bank to Tower Hill, and a bit of getting lost, I found the pub I'd decided we should do (I sometimes have to remember I'm in charge of BRAPA when Tom is around!) because it was my last one on the first page of Central London.

"Fish and Chips" sign brings Tom into disrepute
1230.  Draft House Seething, Tower Hill

Of course, another bonus of coming here was that I could do an easy 'seething' about Hull City joke even if I do look delighted in the above picture in my 07/08 top, oh when Frazier Campbell could play football ..... sorry, I digress.  This place was SO modern, I had to check about 4 times I was in the right place, Ben who'd travelled on his own was already here, and soon we were at the bar where despite some chirpy young friendly staff and a relative lack of punters, service was a struggle.  Ben tried for a cider, it spluttered and both of us knew it had run out about 10 mins before the staff.  It all felt a bit 'Spoons re service.  I'd enjoyed the pre-emptive Draft House in MK in a strange sort of way, but this had ramped what I believe is referred to as "Utilitarian Modernity" up to 11.   11 being code for "quite shit".  Luminous signs saying "Yolk, Smoke,Poke" and "Wing It" just felt upsetting.  It made Drygate in Glasgow seem down to earth.  My London Crate Ale was limp and lacking much life.  A couple appeared to be having an awkward first date here - he face-planted his palm as he realised she was probably day-dreaming about the Boar's Head in Stockport (see top photo on this blog).  No wonder Dad went for one of his legendary post-match walks.  This was not an easy place to debrief of subjects like the mental state of Ehab Allam and I had a headache.  On the other hand, it was quite appropriate.

Yolk, Smoke and Poke
Dad goes for "some air" (even though pub doesn't have a front door)
Ben wondered if we could squeeze in another pub before my 8pm train home, the kind of BRAPA challenge I like, and after a few seconds research, I found one just up the road in East London.  

The walk there was weird, there were lots of young dudes pulling wheelies on BMX's, flipping skateboards, wearing double denim.  It was a bit 1980's and a bit Mad Max, in a Hipster way.  Could I really expect much from our 5th and final pub? 

Time for the last tick of the day!

1231.  King's Stores, Spitalfields

I quite like pub ticking in this part of the world as I've read so many Jack the Ripper books, but I guess that for your slightly deranged lunatic Londoner, Greene King Metropolitan pubs are a likely tipping point.   This pub was buzzing with the evening 'double screen event' of Stoke v Arsenal, a fixture that had drawn in plastic Gooners from all over E1 and apart from one strange guy with a top hat who no-one could see apart from me, faces were glued to screens as far as the eye could see.  At the bar, I'd ordered first and then pushed the others forward, which confused a young Asian bar fellow who then forgot to pull my pint altogether.  I brandished my BRAPA logo and eyeballed him sternly.  He cowered apologetically, waved, and pull me his best ever pint.  Or so it seemed at the time.  Under the circs, we did well to find a table and standing space for 4 people towards the rear of the building, though Ben had been accosted by two men who weren't watching the game either.  Tom ate cake through his beard and looked content with his own thoughts (insert joke here), so me and Dad, realising there was nothing exciting about the pub, controversially took our pints slightly outside onto the not very wide Widegate Street, where we saw an old 1890's picture of the area and a plaque which didn't add up "out of 95,000 Londoners in the 1890's, 250,000 of them lived in Whitechapel".  A tramp slimed up to us and complimented my shirt on the proper Tiger badge before our current owners ruined it.  I was thinking "cut to the chase, mate" so his voice went all quiet and pathetic and he did his "I'm a poor cockney wastrel" routine.  Having already declined the offer of giving him cash, we looked down and saw he was brandishing a huge KFC box meal!  "You've got more food than us!" exclaimed  Dad, and we snuck back inside.  Ah, the homeless of E1 in the 21st century.  Back inside, a huge roar as Arsenal scored.  DISALLOWED!  The 5% of us non Gooners cheered wildly, a posh woman looked suitably cowed so I gave her a friendly thumbs up, the poor plastic bint.  Quite a funny experience, cos Londoners are funny without realising, but not a pub I'd necessarily bring my ripper victims to if I was Jack.  

"We're gonna score in a minute!" think the "Arsenal fans"

Can you see the ghostly guy in top hat who looked other wordly?
Just time for me and Ben to sneak in a quick half of ESB in Parcel Yard back in Kings Cross.  Three QPR fans leaned over their pints looking emotional.  4 Hull City fans with no shame chanted "Slutsky" at me but looked aggressive.  I went to the loo.  A Sheffield Wednesday fan "booed" me and said "bluddy Hull City innit?!",  his friends laughed and I was too scared to dry my hands.  Then, a Walsall fan leaned a long neck around a dark doorway and eyeballed me.  He had about six eyes and a forked tongue.  Finally, two bald Barnet fans appeared at the bar and looked at me and Ben like they were embarrassed on our behalf.  The beer was warm.  I'm going to Scottish Stores next time.

So that was fun.  Depending on your definition of fun.  My first 5 southern pubs of the month, and first in West London in the 2016/17 pub ticking year.  Better late than never.  A productive day.

Back in GMR on Tuesday evening for one or two ticks in another probably odd place.  I won't spoil the surprise.  See you Wed night for that write up.  



Wednesday, 16 August 2017

BRAPA - No Posers at the Grocers

When I stepped off the train at Irlam into the breezy warm evening air, something became immediately apparent.  I had to alter my expression from "wide-eyed happy pub tourist" to "commuter who is depressed beyond tablets" to fit in with the crowd.

Having said that, I did get stuck behind a wide chirpy cockney Del-Boy type in Adidas, who kept saying "somefink and anyfink" and  blocking my path.  It wasn't lovely or jubbly.

Irlam was reassuringly close to how I'd imagined outer Manchester in my mind's eye before I started this challenge.  A million miles from the ASSpirational betty swollocks of Chorlton (and more recently Altrincham, bits of Bury etc.), more like outer weeping Ashton-under-Lyne, the bowels of Dukinfield, Rochdale in the winter etc.  And you know what?  I feel a lot more easy and comfortable in places like this.

After all, where else will you see a closed down pet boutique called "Hair & Hounds"?  Beautiful.  I wanted a photo but a man looked at me funny.

Under a railway bridge and a reminder not to get too comfortable, I was now in Cadishead and the 'threat' level had been turned up a notch as a gang of screaming mutant tweenagers with roller blades for feet scooted across the road cackling, not in the least bit intimidated by oncoming cars.

The pub was in sight, and I tried to recover myself quickly to take the obligatory outdoor shot, where I was immediately photobombed accidentally by a man probably called Bob:

Probable Bob says "ow do, hope you didn't get mi beergut in!" (seems slimline to me)

1226.  Grocers, Cadishead

So I walk in to the little square micro pub, say hi to the assembled crowd of 2 or 3, but where is the bar?  Ahhh, it is one of those micropubs where the barman brings the beer from the kitchen area so I tried to hover in the hallway and not look too impatient.  Now, we all know beer blogging is boring (as I bravely announced to the pub, luckily they agreed), but this Wishbone ale from Keighley was stunning.  No sooner had I sat down when a kind blonde lady told the pub how a man from L**ds had arrived at her A&E with a chopstick up his arse!  "There's a joke in there somewhere, I dunno what it is", said a local - probably Probable Bob who'd returned with some takeaway chips to taunt poor lovable dog, George.  You know I'm not a dog fan, but this was no twog, and an unlikely candidate for BRAPA pub pet of the year.  Another punter was still thinking 'arse chopsticks', and said "probably a health professional from Yorkshire!"  As the pub laughed raucously, I tried to dissolve into a corner but that's impossible in a friendly Micro.  "Don't tell me you're from Yorkshire?!" says A&E lady, and soon I'm admitting not only that, but I'm a pub ticker.  "Aaaah, is it Simon?" says mine affable host who's now sat down.  Fame at last!   And what a lovely chap, soon we were chatting BRAPA, heritage pubs, Liverpool, and my burning question, is Cadishead really part of Salford?  The GBG said so, but if I was to walk from my fave Salford pub the Eagle, it'd take 3 hrs and 23 mins!  Conclusion, there will be a Salfordshire in the GBG soon - county sign "Twinned with nowhere : best bring a weapon with you".  Probable Bob admitted he was the vice chairman of the local CAMRA, two ladies who looked like slimline beetroots arrived and asked if there was a dress code as they'd been at a "Meta-fit" session, whatever that is.  There was no ice to put in their wine.  Good!  Another reason to like micropubs, and seriously, if they carry on being as good as this and the wonderful Chiverton Tap the other week, I'll have to start being properly nice about them!!  I left to handshakes and goodbyes, I even let A&E lady highlight the entry in the GBG, she had an A&E steady hand.  I was smiling as I left.  Then remembering where I was (on the mean streets again), I re-set my expression to fake-glum.  A must visit.

Top quality ale as I fail to hide in the corner

Mine host thumbs through the BRAPA GBG

Another friendly local and pub view.

So that was worth it.  Felt sorry for Dad watching the Taaaargers losing 2-3 at home to Wolves instead.  I had a snack at Manc Oxford Road, one of those stations you feel you need to breathe in at just to stay within it's confines.  And I was back in York approx 22:35 for a late tea, the only lowpoint when a load of L**ds fans got on heading to their NE homes when they could be supporting a nicer team like Northallerton or Darlington.  

Onwards n upwards, well probably not as me, Tom and Dad return for football fun in West London on Saturday.  I'm on 8-4 next week so am gonna try and squeeze in TWO after work Greater Manchester pubs next Tuesday.  Watch this space.

Til Sunday, have a good rest of the week! 


Sunday, 13 August 2017

BRAPA - The Democratic Republic of Congleton

After a late decision to totally rearrange the order of today's pubs, I found myself in Congleton for about 11:30am, the home of bear cruelty and also family homestead of delightful work colleague and serial pouter, Katie B.

Although the GBG said both pubs only open at 12 noon, it's always worth checking out if you are early because as they (well, I) say, "no lookie, no gettie innie".  Especially as pub number one was just outside the railway station.  It was a swarming mass of activity outside, and I could see a few bald headed silhouettes in the window.  A promising sign.

But experiences such as Hambleden and Robin Hood's Bay mean that just because a pub looks very open, doesn't mean it is.  So I cowered outside like a scared stray dog, until a chirpy looking gent bounded down through the car park, so I asked if it was open.

"Yes, if you go through that main door, walk to the bar, and ask for a drink, they will serve you!" he said in the most unintentionally patronising way ever.  (Cheers mate, I know how pubs work).

1221.  Queen's Head Hotel, Congleton

And as I walked around the perimeter of the pub to the bar, I was aware that this pub probably hadn't shut from Friday night, full of raucous middle aged blokes - the kind who appreciate "top bantz" eating bacon sandwiches too enthusiastically, taunting a hungry barmaid "do you wanna bite?" with them as she served me a Moorhouses ale from a reassuringly standard selection of best bitters.  Behind me, a man picked up the pub acoustic guitar and played the Jaws theme, to a round of applause from all.  Under these circumstances, it was important I didn't stray too far from the bar in case of more excitement, so I wedged in between blokes and the one man who looked like he was having a thoroughly miserable time - he left when I photographed him in a "my wife doesn't know I'm here" kind of way.  The pub would have been big enough to sit in a quiet area away from the bar, but where's the fun in that?  As jaunty MOR tunes played and barstaff bopped up and down, one of the ringleader blokes started randomly shouting "Sports Mixture, Sports Mixture" and jumping around and shaking and pointing.  But then they all left, turns out this was the pre-cursor to some jolly boys outing to a football match.  And then, in the solitude, the old-skool pub veneer slips a bit, and you start noticing the odd specials board, and the fact that the hand dryers have a drip tray, and you start to wonder what Congleton is really all about?!

Entrance hall bric-a-brac

The kind of dudes I had to put up with early on in here.

Contemplative misery man knows he shouldn't be here

If you try this diet for a week, you'll be shitting fruity liquid.

Hand dryer drip tray - a BRAPA first (not counting those wrong Dyson things).
Like most railway stations in Cheshire, the town is nowhere nearby but a nice 20 minute walk in the sunshine was quite pleasant and I like a bit of exercise between pints.

Dad text to ask if Congleton was another poncey Cheshire town, but the further in I got, the more I'm convinced it's suffering from an identity crisis.  Part of it screams "I wanna be no nonsense, Stoke style" (it has an oatcake shop doing a roaring trade for heaven's sake) but the other part is a bit flouncy Nantwich twee.  An old man said good morning from across the road which was lovely.  The place is just confused, a view shared by a man I'd meet in Bollington's Vale later.

After all, what in the lord's name is this monstrosity they are advertising?

We gonna rock down to Ale Avenue (or not)
Around a corner past some weird florist with a poo fascination, our second pub appeared....

1222.  Barley Hops, Congleton

And pub number two was symptomatic of the town, feeling like a bottle shop micropub, but actually preferring the title of Beer & Gin Cafe which you'd simply not be able to get away with in South Yorkshire.  I was the first customer today, about 25 minutes after opening time, and the flustered female half of this couple run 'cafe' was apologising for not being better organised as they'd had an incredibly busy Friday night - as she pulled beers through and disinfected surfaces in an impressive display of multi tasking.  "I owe you a fiver", she says as I paid for my beer, but in a top example of teamwork, hubbie appears on the scene and hands me it out of his back pocket.  You don't get that in Wetherspoons.  I'd envisaged one of those situations where I stand at the bar, and we chat on BRAPA, gin, bottled beer and the like, but as they seemed busy, I took a seat near the door and tried to act like the pub flag bearer for unsuspecting interlopers.  And people did arrive.  And they chatted.  And they sampled pub gin.  Waaaah, why was I the loser in the corner no one wanted to dance with??  Well, that's how it goes.  When I said hi to one highly strung baldster, he said "HELLO MATE I DIDN'T SEE YA THERE!"  Errrm, you don't know me mate, I was just being friendly.  The pub turned to look, and they confirmed this with a sterile glare, the type their ancestors used on dying bears, writhing in agony, having just been tortured.     My ale was a bit warm.  I left, early for the bus.

Own beermat was a plus point

A couple arrive and get chatty

Gordon's (gin) alive!!

Nice view of this bottle shop gin micro style thing.
It was raining now at 'Bay 2' of Congelton's loosely termed "bus station" so I sheltered and ate sausage rolls along with the other people ridiculously too early for the 38 bus towards Macclesfield.  A Macclesfield town junior was the star man, smiling with a warmth in his eyes that the other inhabitants lacked.  (I hope Congleton doesn't have a new pub in 2018 GBG, I'll never be allowed back in).

The bus driver floored it towards Macc, I was getting off before at a place called Gawsworth which unbeknownst to me was just a bend in the road so I pressed the bell a bit too late, and an old man's shopping went flying.  Ooops.  But no one minded, silly place to stop a bus on a crazy grass verge.

The pub was a minute down the road opposite, sun was out again .....

1223.  Harrington Arms, Gawsworth

"Ahhh, a heritage pub - feel the quality and that unchanged centuries old feel..." I told myself for about the first 5 seconds on entering the long thin hallway, only to have my dreams shattered as a wedding party oozed out of the cracks, making the bar area an awkward  experience.  A girl apologised and moved "I'm not in the queue", (well it's not a queue cos we are at a bar in a pub, I almost said), but they had plenty of staff on to ensure I was served in surprisingly quick time.  Good, cos an awkward silence has ensued, a stand off between locals propped on stools, and crazy wedding goers.  I bellowed "Pint of Unicorn" in my best Cheshire accent and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, am sure one farmery looking chap from the 1860's had tears in his eyes and was ready to shake my hand.  I had a quick nosy in each of the beautiful side rooms, but all full so I looked wistfully like "what might've been" and headed outside into the sun.  My table was soon shared by scousers with bad teeth, but a funny blonde lady joined me and loved the idea of BRAPA despite branding me a "total pisshead".  Nice.  We had a wasp invasion, so I watched them all cower in fear and got out the GBG.  Sadly, removing the breweries section means it doesn't quite carry the same heft for wasp extermination these days!  I told my new friend I thought having an afternoon wedding was weird but she thought morning ones were weirder cos you can't get drunk before.  I managed to kill an elderly wasp that landed on me, although my "I blew it off" comment didn't turn out like I'd hoped.  As if to illustrate the similarities between dangerous irritating pests and errrrm ...wasps(!), the wedding party hopped into taxis and left me in peace.  Too late to go back inside.  Great pub and my experience hadn't been spoiled by the circs.

Chaos at the bar

The groom says goodbye to pub freedom as he steps into the scary outdoor light forever

The pub being good from the outside too

Drink with wedding lady

Take that wasp, not a bad place to die. 
Without wanting to sound arrogant, I'd decided that bus stop was ridiculous so made my own rules and stood further along at a clearing.  Unfortunately, this wasn't the bus stop, so again, the bus driver had to break suddenly and I had to run along the grass verge to catch it up.  He told me off.  Well, praying we never get a micropub at Gawsworth, don't wanna use this bus stop EVER again!

Back at Macclesfield bus station, a dull and dingy affair which makes Doncaster look like some kind of fun factory, I didn't have time to breathe (but did have time to pee) before I was off on the number 10 towards Bollington.  Phew.  I went all the way to the termination point, as this seemed closest to pub 4 and I found it just down the road .....

1224. Poachers Inn, Bollington

Make no mistake about it, today wasn't really about Congleton or Gawsworth, it was Bollington that brought me to this part of the world as it was next alphabetically in the GBG for Cheshire.  From the stained glass entrance door to the old lady faced down on the first table I saw, this was always going to be pub of the day.  It took me a while to locate a member of staff, but I could breathe in the calm carpetted cosiness of this amazing pub.  I ordered a pint of Storm Beaufort, the young friendly barman with element of Prince William if he gave up on the royal life and decided to do something useful, telling me the beer was a new barrel and was very lively, which probably helps explain why this was such a good quality ale too.  The only other customers were a friendly young couple over to the right, wrestling for some strange reason with two dogs bigger than them - not Twogs, but the fact that one of them was called 'Andy' seemed pretty peculiar.  At one point, the girl almost rode on the back of the non-Andy dog just to keep it under control.  After they left, I heard voices and Mrs Faceplant had woken from her slumber and was now chatting amiably with P.William like she'd been fully coherent all day.  WHATEVER luv, I saw ya.  On the way out, I said bye and thanks but made sure I looked at the old lady as if to say "I KNOW" but she looked blankly like "You must be confusing me with my drunken twin sister".  Hmmm.  Classic pub.

The entrance door impressed me

Almost totally out of it.  Even brave enough to take a piccie.

View to the bar

My pint and great beermat slogans

Across town, if you can call Bollington a town it felt like a sprawling village, was the next pub.  But not before I'd realised I couldn't get a bus to Poynton for pub six cos they stop running about 2pm or something stupid.  A second aborted Poynton attempt!  Am going to leave well alone now til I see whether it is in the 2018 GBG.

Boring BRAPA stat of the day ..... This next pub was key in that it was number 1225, 100 above the quarter (1125) mark, which makes me feel psychologically like I do have a chance of staying above the 1125 come with cross-ticking in early September.  It was also my final tick on page '35' (not counting the closed when I visited Sandstone in Broxton) so finally feel like progress is being made in this tricky but not ridiculously difficult county.

1225. Vale Inn, Bollington

As I crossed the road and heard the excitable strains of Jeff Stelling (he wasn't on the loo) coming through the window, you knew the football season was back.  But as I walked into the pub, there was no screen so must've been coming from a neighbouring house.  The interior felt like a bit of an anti climax, I'd imagined a 'pubbier pub' and having been to the Bollington owned pub in Macclesfield, am sure that was more cosy and lounge-like (though I was rather drunk at the time).  It was all a bit too high wooden stools, bare boarded clinical, and it was saved in the main by a healthy band of happy jovial locals, all choosing to stand in the vicinity of the bar area rather than space out and use the full room - why people do this, I don't know but it must be some weird social thing, body warmth, pack mentality, who knows?  The old boys at the bar were a particularly chirpy bunch, helpfully advising that their favourite ale "Long Hop" had just gone back on, and although the pump was still turned around, I should go for it anyway.  I did, and best quality pint of the day.  Cheers chaps!  I got talking to one guy in particular, nice man but a bit "my views on pubs and ales are definitely correct even though I probably spend 95% of my life in the same seat in the same pub".  His 5 all times faves were this pub, York Tap, plus Waters Green, Wharf and Park Tavern - all in Macclesfield which is convenient.  The Poachers is "okay depending on the beer" and Bollington and RedWillow are the 2 best brewers.  Poynton has nothing worth visiting (though I later read Bollington own the GBG pub in Poynton so comments seem even more bizarre). I feigned a loo/phone call scenario as our conversation had gone on long enough, and perched behind him hearing lots of people talking about Burnley in an excitable way.  An decent pub, but no way anywhere near the Poachers for best pub in Bollington.

Even though it was only 5pm and I felt relatively well and focused, I had so many ideas floating around in my mind (mainly Stockport based) about where I could go to for my sixth and final pub, I ended up doing nothing and was back in Piccadilly by 6pm with a coffee on the train back to York - ooops, how did that happen?  

The highlight had probably been seeing the Bromley football squad get a respectful round of applause from Macclesfield's station guards, presumably for working out how to cross a bridge. 

Another step in the right direction for Cheshire, I'll be back in the county in a fortnight, and I'll be back in Greater Manchester on Tuesday night for the latest leg of that.  I've been put on 9-5 so again it'll need to be something not too taxing.