Wednesday, 17 February 2016

BRAPA - Awkward in Auckley

Elaborate tilted jam jar fun at the Eagle and Child
After a rubbish day at work, I needed my South Yorkshire midweek evening BRAPA to be kind to me.  Like all good "SY" places beginning with the letter "A", it required a bus from the lower reaches of Doncaster's depressing Frenchgate centre which I got to see at rush hour for the first time.

Donny bus station had a slight air of menace and think the lack of soothing bus station muzak (see Keighley and Huddersfield) may have been the cause.  It is also worth noting that 84.3% of Donny girls aged 14-21 have greasy hair.  Not my opinion, a scientific fact.  Bus 91 then confused me by turning up earlier than the scheduled Robin Hood airport one.  

All I knew about this pub prior to arrival was that Mark from work (my Donny area contact) once played in a football match away to the Eagle & Child on a pitch behind the pub but despite pressing him, he could not remember the score.

25 minutes later, and with dusk well and truly falling on a cold night, I was trying to cross a busy main road with a friendly couple who'd 'alighted' with me, with Tom's idea of me wearing fluorescent strips and bright colours  ringing very true.  We made it across eventually, the couple also going into the pub to 'have a meal' (spit!)

Note the silhouetted bus couple just ahead of me.
814.  Eagle & Child, Auckley

In the confusion of after work drinkers and diners (and a 'restaurant' i,e. side pub room which no-one wanted to use), I didn't spot the guest ales but luckily a £3.30 Tim Taylor Landlord went down a treat.  The staff were all smiling friendly young females, and really put in the effort with the customers, one who mostly stood out reminded me of a pretty version of WWF legend the Ultimate Warrior.  I found a totally empty side bar with bench seating and the guest beers, it was a no-brainer to sit in here, but even then there was a sign saying that your own food cannot be eaten on the premises - thanks Adolf!  As has been discussed recently on pubby Twitter blogs, the 'jam jars' used to display the colour of the (cloudy version of) ales were the largest and most grand I've ever seen.  Interestingly, or not, whilst the Abbeydale Moonshine and (gorgeous) Stancill India Ruby had them, the John Smith's Cask did not.  The locals as well as staff had seemed a friendly bunch (I was facing the door so was a glorified meeter and greeter) but one older man who came in with wife and daughter told me to "get back in the kitchen!"  I realised not having had time to change from my white work shirt and suit trousers meant I looked like one of my most despised race of people .... the pub waiter!!  I protested my innocence, I mean would they really sit there with a GBG and highlighter pen on their breaks?  One of the local drinker men stood at the bar then couldn't find a barmaid, so nimbly leant across to pour his own Smith's Smoothflow and no-one batted an eyelid.  Proper South Yorkshire, but I'd like to have seen him look so nonchalant using a hand pull.   It was bus time. 

View of the bar.
Except it wasn't.  30 mins later and it still hadn't arrived!  No phone signal meant my plan to ring for a taxi was thwarted, so all I could do was return to the pub for a slash and a swift half of Moonshine.  I vented my spleen to the barmaids but it was an old couple behind me who heard and informed me there'd been an accident and huge delays - nightmare.  

Ever the optimist, I acted as though the next hourly bus 19:36 would be on time and luckily, it turned up bang on schedule.  And who should rush to get on at the last minute but the couple I'd arrived with, full up from their meal and blissfully unaware of the traffic and 18:36 heartache?!  Life isn't fair.

And back at the Donny end, I had further delays getting back to York, eventually home about 9:15pm.  A lot of effort for one pub, but it was a good one & good experience.  If this is a blueprint for all Berkshire pubs (which isn't logical I know), I'll be well away!  

My private secluded drinkers room in Auckley.
Pub Survey

I recently did an unscientific survey on my blog to try and find out what you all think is the most important factor to enjoy a pub.  In a slightly surprising but pleasing result, STAFF came out on top and I certainly think good, friendly staff are an underrated factor in pub enjoyment.  Beer Quality, Pub Hubbub and Atmosphere were runner up categories.  Interestingly, nobody who responded thought Beer Range or having FOOD or games in a pub significantly enhanced their enjoyment.

In my next survey, I'll be asking about the people you drink with in a bid to find if the type of company you keep during your pub time makes a difference to your pubbing experience.  Results at the end of this month.  



  1. It is surprising staff are so important, but the two Notts pubs I'm writing about today had staff who stick in the mind long after you get the slightly off pint out of your mind. A better pint and I'd be back there next week.

    You really should press Mark on that score Simon; use hypnosis or whatever they call it in Donny.

    My Auckley visit was a decade ago, remember a boisterous Saturday night, and an OK John Smiths from when that was still good.

    My theory on those jam jars is that they actually contain discarded thirds from beer festivals that beer tickers have left behind.

  2. It's an interesting one, I really think good staff stick in the mind like that guy in Gerrard Arms on Saturday who stopped a food pub becoming a restaurant, and my off pint in Armthorpe so nicely dealt with by the staff, it became a positive. I'll look fwd to reading about Nottingham.

    He seems like a guy who may crumble under hypnosis, he thinks they won but couldn't be sure. I told him the blog depended on him, but he just looked confused.

    Good theory! It would explain why it looks like it's been hanging around, swilled around, been in the open, for about 5 weeks. Smiths was still the best seller from what I saw.

  3. Doncaster bus station is indeed a shithole. I've been there many a time when there have been long term rail replacements, I've also been known to cut through Tesco before said giant realised Donny was too small a shithole (but still shit all the same) to support things like supermarkets.

    I've never studied young Donny girls that closely but I trust your research, which was all done in the interest of science I'm sure.

    Were any of the smiling friendly young females potential award winners? I really must visit some of these village pubs, but I don't get to these South Yorkshire villages nearly as much as I used to.

    I can't imagine you in a formal white work shirt. I've always assumed that not being public facing, you just turn up wearing bright green every day. In fact, I'm sure that's what you used to be wearing when I occasionally bumped into you in L**ds to be told things like 'Phil Brown's been sacked, Alan Curbishley is apparently coming in'.

    I propose an alternate bus theory which is that the 19:36 bus is just around the corner now and you were actually on the delayed 18:36. Did you have a Plus Bus ticket? I'd call the train delays you found minor.

    I like the addition of lids to the beer display jars. This at least stops the beer getting dusty as well as cloudy, which I have seen before. Still not the best conceived idea around though.

    1. I think the smiling females were too blonde and 'part of a team' to qualify individually. Maybe we need a team award!

      Yes, despite not facing the public, we have to wear quite smart stuff apart from Friday when I can unleash the green machine! Well, I guess I must always have bumped into you on a Friday.

      Good point re 18:36, I wonder if 19:36 has made it round the corner at my time of reply? I had a Plus Bus ticket. Yes, the train delays were minor but compounded the bus misery.

      I think most beer display jars do have lids from my experience, but it hasn't made much difference in terms of it going cloudy quick smart. I found it funny the John Smith's didn't have one!

    2. It must have been earlier in the week than Friday when I bumped into you and you told me Phil Brown had been sacked because it was the week before the 3-2 defeat at Portsmouth. I went south on the Friday afternoon, having spent the lunchtime and early afternoon in the Old Bar with my logician friends due to a cancelled examples class.

      Well done on your Plus Bus ticket, you are making progress my young friend. Let me know if you do another Donny day both ways from York, I have recently made a discovery.

      I have seen beer jars without lids before that not only have they gone cloudy, but they'd developed a layer of dust where the head should be.

    3. Calling me "young friend" will sure help your BRAPA man of the year award 2016 chances! I will most likely be doing Donny from Leeds but back to York so if you have any cunning plans to save money on that, let me know! It's a pain!!

    4. The cheapest way would be to get an advance single in each direction, but that would lose you all flexibility. I'm not sure what you're currently paying, but the following would be fully flexible:
      York-Wakefield, route Leeds cheap day return £13.80
      Change of route excess on the return portion to any permitted £5.40 (this is calculated as (£24.60-£13.80)/2
      Total £19.20
      All available from York booking office. I'd suggest doing it the night before.

      If you are willing to be restricted to the Leeds-Donny stoppers and don't mind the possibility of an argument on the way back, then email me.

    5. Thanks Tom, useful stuff. I do a cheapo L**ds to Donny stopper that was something ridiculous like £3 and then Donny-York was ridiculously expensive like £16-18. I miss the days when my York-Leeds pass (possibly) covered Donny!