Tuesday 29 December 2015

BRAPA - Finishing East Yorkshire, Preston, Lancs & End of Year Appraisal

Through the looking glass : curved mirror fun in Preston/
Hope you all had a fine mini holiday celebrating the birth of Isaac Newton.  BRAPA was low key over the festive period, as I'm still trying to get my ankle fully recovered for 2016, particularly my final trip to Bedfordshire on 16th Jan which will be it's first major test.

Boxing Day was a great day though, and with "2015 Chauffeur of the Year" Dad in the driving seat, I finally got that East Yorkshire monkey off my back .....

767.  St John's Hotel, Hull

Yes, after Dad's elaborate 9 year long April Fools trick finally expired, we finally made it to the correct pub on Queens Road, NOT the Queens itself but this more homely, pleasing Marston's effort.  Christine was outside looking like an autumnal owl, also awaiting the 'grand opening' at 12 noon which would see me complete a county for the first time since I previously completed East Yorkshire back in August using the 2015 GBG, at the New Adelphi.  Sadly, this moment lacked the same feeling of anticipation, excitement and magic and I think that's because nothing really happened.  We walked in, it was multi roomed, I confirmed I hadn't been here before, we picked some stereotypical Marston's beers from a stereotypical squash-nosed barman, whilst a stereotypical friendly but nervous local shivered at the end of the bar acting polite, and a rugged woman briefly came into to say "ey up" and then disappeared again.  A locals corner pub for local Hull people, good they've slapped an ACV on it because you could just picture a pointless mini supermarket on this very corner.  I liked it in a vague kind of way, the snuff on the bar was the quirkiest feature.  Even getting Dad to "tick off" this final pub was a lame duck because of course, I'd erroneously highlighted it before.  Oh, and if Marston's think "Christmas Pudding" is a plum flavoured beer, they seriously need to pay a visit to Titanic brewery.

By 12:30, we were heading for the rest of our pre-match session in the Whalebone, now there is a truly brilliant Hull pub.

About to make the East Yorkshire GBG clearance in Hull.
Two days and a lot of water later, we were mercifully in Preston on time for more Hull City based fun...... I have a soft spot for Preston since I used to use the premise of visiting my sister at Uni to explore the GBG pubs around 2003/4 time.  Classics from then like Black Horse, New Brittania, Dog and Partirdge and the Market Tavern still seem to be around, but like everywhere (apart from Durham), the pub landscape has changed in 10 years so I had plenty to do.

768.  Grey Friar, Preston

I'd walked past this depressingly modern looking JDW house several times before, but now it's in the GBG, I could ignore it no longer.  It served the usual pre 11am purpose, and we entered a vast typical Spoons with a real post-Christmas lull feeling, as if Preston had taken one huge collective sigh into this one building.  Getting served and sat down with two pints was as excruciating as only an early morning 'Spoons can be on a Monday.  Dark Star Hophead seemed the obvious choice, but it had just gone, and then Otter Claus was bottom of the barrel so Dad had to have a Tinsel Tits or something suitably Christmas themed.  The barman was a lively jolly chap, telling us he lived in Blackpool and still didn't know how to get to work here, needing a friend to drive him.  Worse though, some familiar voices behind told us Hull City fans were present, it was no other than Mr Sparkler and his mates!  To give you the background, we see Mr Sparkler at most away games.  Down south, he'll withdraw a sparkler from his pocket and demand the poor bar staff put it on (Colchester postponed game being the prime example),  Up north, like he did here, he asks for the sparkler to be removed!  It makes me cringe and laugh, but mainly cringe.  Pain in the bum.  When we finally sat down with our drinks, we'd been in the pub for almost 20 minutes!  We watched some more rolling news on the floods and soon it was approaching 12 noon.

Good job I wasn't thirsty!  Arriving at Grey Friar.
769.  Moorbrook, Preston

Wow, just when you think you can start working out 'pubs of the year', an 11th hour contender comes along to ruin everything!  This was a splendid pub from the moment we walked in, Dad's initial pleasure was possibly at the lack of other customers, mine was for an interesting beer range including Colchester, First Chop, Blackjack and a magnificent house beer which was as classic pale as you can get.  The barman was a quirky guy, reminiscent of a young Elton John with his cowboy hat and shades, whilst brunette barmaid was smiley and they both had a toy gun fight just to reinforce the fact that we were in a fun and quirky environment.  Dad alluded to the 'Not Going Out' Christmas Special but barmaid hadn't seen it yet, I'm sure it would've been classic Brunette 'bantz' otherwise.  We found a fantastic side room with William Morris-esque wallpaper and some fine etched glass, through which you could watch a high class heritage version of Bolton v Blackburn and the loos were above average too with the nice curvy mirror (see above), I definitely try and pay attention to architectural details since i got my GBG heritage book.  A classic pub in every way.

Moorbrook - my dream pub set up!

Arriving at Moorbrook

Had my ankle (which I'm not mentioning), been able to cope with the longish walk between railway station and Deepdale, Ale Emporium would have been a good shout either pre or post match but as it is, I'll save it for next season as I'm sure we'll be coming here.  We briefly sampled the "delights" of the Unicorn Hotel, pre-emptive in a loose sense, but the Doom Bar was decent, the landlord was very good, and whilst our drinks were settling, he took us to the corner to point out the corner of the football ground - now that is customer service!   

Post match we simply cut our losses and joined some friendly Preston fans who (half) sympathised with our scandalously disallowed goal for more Moorbrook fun.  We even got sat in the comfiest seats in the pub despite it heaving with football fans.

End of Year Appraisal

So there we go, 2015 has been a fantastic first full BRAPA year.  My aim was 750, I've managed 769 and that was allowing for a 73 cross-ticking shortfall.  Gotta be pleased with that.

I'd barely considered East Yorkshire a year ago, now I've finished it.  And only 2 more in West Yorkshire and 3 more in Bedfordshire, all 5 achievable by the end of Jan.  I should be able to continue stumbling on with impossible North Yorkshire, whilst really getting stuck into both Berkshire and South Yorkshire for 2016.

My aim is 950 pubs by the end of the year.  Nice and conservative estimate that, but the 'ticking' will get harder as the Yorkshire options run out. but I'm hoping September's cross ticking will be a bit more kind than the last 2 years (less than 50 please!)  

As the year has gone on, I've really had a glimpse of how the power of social media can assist, especially Twitter, and I must make this more of a routine and 'get my name out there'.  My new iPad will help me to be able to do more "on the move".

900 will be the key pub number as that is 2/10 of the GBG completed so I'm expecting Party Poppers, free beer and balloons at whatever pub that turns out to be!  

Plenty of plans in place for the start of the year, plus I have two "overnight" away days in mind for Spring/Summer time.  Jan will start with an East London knees-up, then a bit of North Yorkshiring with my chauffeur, before we finish Bedfordshire, a trip to Twickenham (6 to do!) plus more midweek mayhem as and when my ankle is back to 100%, but I'm no Richie Appleby.

I'll also be releasing the "BRAPA 2015 Awards Ceremony" blog in the next week so stay tuned for that, 

See you soon, Si


  1. You had 539 at the start of the year, so a net gain of 230. You need a net gain of 181 to get to 950. I'm not sure what the September damage will be, logic dictates you will lose more than this year by virtue of having done more pubs, but the majority of pubs that have gone out of the guide over the years are effectively pre-emptives so you have more of those too.

    Any reason for expressing 900 as 2/10 of pubs visited rather than 1/5? It isn't wrong, just a little unconventional. If you let me know when it is likely to be, I will happily buy you a pint, just so long as you promise that it won't be an overpriced pub in Mayfair or similar.

    I was going to send an email but this will do. If Stanbury is difficult as a midweek, but you don't want to burn a Saturday on it, then the KWVR Oxenhope beer festival features evening trains, which could help. The downside is that you would have to wait until October. The galas, one of which is in February, sometimes but not always feature Friday evening running.

    I look forward to discussing Twickenham. I certainly consider it a sensible Fulham move so will be cooperating fully. However, I hate to be the harbinger of doom, but Clapham Jn - Barnes is shut which will mean there are no trains to get from Twickenham to Putney for the ground and also getting from Kings Cross to Twickenham would be harder than usual. Sorry to disappoint. May I suggest anywhere on the western branches of the District and Piccadilly lines or the Kensington area.

    I look forward to the awards ceremony. I have some Ribena and a year old bottle of Big Tom in the cupboard. One of those will be the accompaniment for such a big occasion.

  2. Hi Tom, some good points there.

    My logic states I will lose fewer as each year goes by, we will see.

    1/5 sounds better. I used 2/10 cos I referred to 450 as 1/10. That's all. I like more bitesized chunks.

    Thanks re Twickers, will the tube problem still be there in mid Jan? I will reassess in areas you have said.

    Thanks re pint offer, will make sure it is a Sam Smith or Wetherspoons! Stanbury isn't hard, bus from Keighley etc seems ok but good advice.

    What is Big Tom?


  3. I think you will lose more each year (because you have been to more) but also gain more because you will have been to more non guide pubs. I'm not sure what the net result will be. Of course, there will be some luck involved. I shall ask Emily tomorrow as a statto my have more of an idea on this.

    The engineering works (BR not Underground) are that weekend only, the problem isn't there at present. It should produce a feast of crossover action, which will probably help you in the SiTom League as I will distracted and slowed down in building up a lead.

    My Stanbury plan could probably actually work as you arranging a nice evening out and then hijacking it for BRAPA purposes. I'm sure you can trick somebody into inviting you to a beer festival.

    Big Tom is a spiced tomato juice.

    See you tomorrow for the Green Owl New Years quiz with whatever else is arranged.

  4. I was actually at both the Greyfriar and the Moorbrook on the same day as you. Though after you in both cases. I tend not to go on match days as it's generally heaving and hard work to get served

    Saw plenty of Hull fans in Preston's other Wetherspoons on Monday though. I thought "Brave people go to a pub wearing orange on a football day in Preston. 'We're not Lashers, honest mate' etc. "

    1. Cheers, are Lashers Blackpool folk? I go to a punk festival there once a year but is quite a lashy place!

      If so, Hull City fans would like to think Preston folk notice the difference between Amber and Tangerine. Subtle orange diff even after a few Moorbrook pints!

      I agree pubs are better on non football day, in East London on Sat but both Liverpool and the Mags in town to spoil things, grrr.

  5. I'll think I'm being parodied if you keep doing the toilet shots. May have to start my own pub toilet blogs (actually, already been done).

    Lovely pics of the Moorbrook; I agree with Matthew on the qualities of that, but there's other gems.

    NB I "lost" 467 at the end of August when GBG16 came out,
    which is about par for the course, meaning I need to do at least 500 in-year to increase by 1 %. The last 15% are going to take decades.

    Where's your last Bedfordshires ?; I'd buy you a pint unless that mucked your system up.

    1. I'd be interested to see the pub toilet blog, Martin. I do like a good characterful bog, preferably unaltered in years, be it in a pub, football ground (non league ones can be good) or preserved railway station.

      Was your loss of 467 net or before gains? Presumably you gained some pubs that had previously gone out of the guide but came back in for 2016 and I suppose some pubs you have been in but have never been in the GBG.

  6. The Vetch and Layer Road (RIP), Exeter and York live on as classics.

    One art deco pub in Napier NZ had live fish in the toilet bowl that looked like they'd be flushed away; not as scary as some of North Manchester's Holts pubs though.

    467 is net (3,686 at end of GBG 15 to 3,219 at start of GBG 16) - dunno how many oldies re-entered but guess a couple of hundred plus a dozen pre-emptives. That's a lot of new pubs each year, not many of them Spoons and micropubs.

  7. Wow, that's quite a big average drop! And if the new pubs aren't just Spoons and Micros, that does surprise me. Could get quite demoralising. I always have an August wobble, and that after only 2 years losing 73 pubs each time!

    What year did you start doing your challenge Martin, in terms of deciding you actually wanted to finish ticking the whole GBG?

    I agree York City toilets are great, my highlight of a Bootham Crescent trip. The Royal Oak pub in York recently discarded it's outdoor loos and all character has gone. Minster Inn still has good ones.

    Not quite the same as NZ but have you been to the pub in Hipperholme with fish swimming in the bar?

  8. I hadn't realised that so many completely new entries get in, I had always assumed that the majority had previously been in at some stage in history. I think it just shows that every pub, no matter how bad, is potentially a pre-emptive.

    The bogs at Kit Kat Crescent are superb, I think the highlight of the ground, though Si accidentally leaving the ground and being locked out whilst I nearly started a riot with the home supporters over them not getting a stonewall penalty during a reserve match runs it a close second.
    Best football ground toilets I have come across are behind the goal at Frickley Athletic.
    Little Plough at Donny is a good one, I was impressed by Combermere in Wolves also.

    I'm intrigued by the Napier pub. I've never had much desire to go to New Zealand, but that and some of the diesel locos to make it slightly enticing.

    1. Tom, you might be right re every pub being a potential pre-emptive but not in their current state. This is actually where pre-emptive ticking generally falls down because if, for example, the Unicorn in Preston or that pre match Bristol becomes good, I'd still Be keen to revisit as I'd have missed out. A bit like what I've said about Ivy House Sunderland or what even you said, Black Lion Plaistow. I may change my mind when at Martin's pub levels though!! Happy NY equivalent of Newtonmas!

    2. I think I can sympathise with that point of view. It is a bit like me with certain proper locos, D7076 for example, they have received the attention of my red pen but I wish to have them over and over again, yet there is some plastic stuff I am happy to have the shortest distance possible and be done with.

      When you complete BRAPA, subject to me still being physically able, I will happily push you to the likes of Ivy House in your wheelchair. Assuming they haven't gone out of the guide again by then. I often wonder whether in some of the one year wonders, ie the pubs that get in the guide for only one edition of which I'm sure there will be several, the best to visit is shortly before they get in the guide. I suppose this is where intelligence from local CAMRA websites and magazines comes in for pre-emptives.

  9. The issue of pre-emptives that have changed character is clearly worthy of a Uni thesis of some sort. Quite a few rubbish pubs I'd been in before they became good (e.g. taken over by Ossett) I felt I had to do again, mainly because I love Ossett.

    Combermere in Wolves is best tree in a pub - you wine. I don't recall Hipperholme fish - the Steam brewshed and Ossetts are what I remember there.

    I started my big spreadsheet in 2002 when I'd done about a quarter of GBG 03 pubs, so guess I got serious about then (that's also when I got a job with lots of travel and overnight accommodation which helped !).