|One of the most low-key BRAPA pubs ever (see no.741)|
There's no doubt about it, I'm going to have to work hard to finish ticking off the remainder of Bedfordshire's pub entries after a day (best described as "uncomfortable") yielded only 3 ticks.
My minimum aim setting off was 4, the 3 remaining Luton ones plus Whipsnade, with a leisurely crawl back into London taking in a couple of St Albans ticks, for example. As it turned out, no chance!
Omens didn't bode well from the off as my Grand Central train was crawling with brownies off on some kind of London beezer. Mrs Brown Owl was next to me, constantly moving around, making sure kids n adults were ok, handing out food etc. But she was considerate of fellow passengers so I couldn't hate her, and I couldn't move as almost every seat was reserved.
Then, there was the weather with remnants of Hurricane Abigail or the other one, it was heavy rain and winds all day. And I mean all day!
Still, I couldn't blame Luton for anything that went wrong. The people were smiley, the immediate city centre was refurbished and clean (not sure about the outer reaches) and it shows you shouldn't go into a town with too many pre-conceptions.
739. London Hatter, Luton
A slight train delay and St Pancras was followed by an interminable wait for service at the bar - the type of which only ever seems to happen in Wetherspoons. Seriously, it's match day, Luton are at home to Barnet, this pub is an early opener on a wet day in the city centre, and they have ONE barmaid on?? Not good enough. And then a jolly rugged Luton man told me I should've shouted up, but I knew the Barnet fan to the right was before me. Bar Etiquette it's called. In fact, the clash of various shades of amber and orange football shirts was enough to give anyone a headache. I wished I'd worn my Hull City top for extra clashing and confusion! The atmosphere though was sedate and friendly, as I took a pint of ale from Orkney to the very back corner. Time had ticked along so quickly, I no longer had to think about how to fill in time before the Whipsnade bus. The police wandered in, noticeable because the pub atmos immediately went down a notch, but they had no business here and the two Barnet fans looked visibly shaken by their presence! My beer was typically Wetherspoons in flavour, but better quality than some with the initials TJS in Hull for example. Despite my efforts to "try and get out of the way", a huge group of Luton fans (about 15 including one girl embarrassed by her Dad) blocked me in to the corner so escaping was a struggle!
|Grey, concrete, wet - Luton Wetherspoons time!|
740. Old Hunters Lodge, Whipsnade
In other circumstances, this could have been a cracker - what with a beautiful thatched roof, ancient tudor building and cracking pub garden at the front. Nevertheless, it was still very good and the jolly rounded host gave me a run down of the ales, I asked for a "restoration owl" but he'd actually said "restoration ale" from Leighton Buzzard's newish brewery. Dark, warming, strong, just what I needed at this stage. Helping out with food and stuff was a friendly brunette girl, and had the whole pub been like the right hand side, it'd definitely have had "green owl" (i.e. my perfect pub) elements. I sat in a little snug with a low hanging beam, it was so ancient, I knew I was in the best place. I wonder how many people have hit their head on that over the years. Barmaid kept stealing chips from a plate, which I thought gave her a good dishonest edge, til I realised this was her own lunch. Meanwhile, a blonde girl who I assumed was a barmaid on maternity leave came in, so there was lot of cooing over a baby, whilst the Dad kept singing it a song about "big butts" which amused nobody but himself. Time had raced on like it does in good pubs, and I quickly had to get to the bus stop, saying bye to brunette and her mouthful of chips.
|Thatched Tudor joy in Whipsnade|
The bus was even more tortuous than the journey here, with every traffic light on red for ages, speed bumps everywhere, unhelpful car drivers, and by the time we passed Kenilworth Road, it was nearly gridlock (did everyone leave at half time?) and I felt very much like Aaron McLean - desperate to get off the bench!
There was no way I was going to make my bus connection to Wigmore, whether I stayed on or jumped off, so I again went, and made the shorter walk to my other required pub.
741. English Rose, Luton
I expect this pub had been a hive of activity pre-match, perhaps, as the only thing that excited the elderly landlord, Irishman and other local was the news Luton were 1-0 up at half time. Other than that, the pub seemed to be suffering seriously lull - I've never known such a quiet atmosphere I can recalling in all my BRAPA experiences. They had some fine ales on though, all from breweries I'd never or only vaguely heard of so I had a tasty mild with a hint of chocolate called 'Halfway to Heaven', with my Chas n Dave gig of Wednesday still fresh in my mind, as they do this in a medley. The pub had a pool table (I could've had a game versus myself!) and a local was playing on a fruit machine and getting quite annoyed when landlord tried to engage him in conversation (particularly about French terrorist attacks), but other than that, there was stillness all round. It was quite relaxing, but kind of felt sinister too though I can't really put my finger on why, maybe my pre-conceptions of Luton again.
|Stillness prevails, excellent ales - English Rose, Luton|
I knew that with time ticking on, getting a bus out to Wigmore Lane would leave me pushing it timewise for the train back to London (I was on the 19:11 Grand Central and MUST try and book later trains on days like this, I often regret it and only do it cos cheaper by a few quid). So I walked up to where I'd seen a taxi rank earlier with half an eye on the Park Square bus stop.
And there it was! A bus with Wigmore Lane written on it, it was fate. I jumped on, but the driver admitted he didn't know this route and a particularly annoying woman (who the whole bus hated) ended up complaining to him when the poor man was trying his best to get it right!
What I didn't realise, was that Wigmore Lane is about a mile long and this service (obviously not a 17A unless the driver had got it really wrong) simply dabbled it's feet at the top of Wigmore lane, whizzed North to Stopsley, and then back to Luton in a loop! What a farce, Oh well, I tried and was back in Luton so no harm done.
So at least, back in London I had time for a swift half in the busiest Parcel Yard ever (just to add to the "uncomfortable" theme) and an Italian Upper Crust and juice for the (surprisingly quiet) journey back to York.
|Settle Porter in the hallway at Parcel Yard (sat on a bench like Aaron McLean)|
I'll be back tomorrow with the third last archives edition, I'm off to Headingley on Tuesday, and we've got a bit of Bristol / Bedminster fun to squeeze in around the football on Saturday so plenty to look forward to.