Me and Dad landed in Manchester Victoria railway station in good time to get a pre-emptive tick in, and what a strange station Victoria is, looking like it's been cobbled together from bits of station Meccano that Piccadilly and Oxford Road didn't want.
Beer House, Manchester Victoria
The pub is similarly unconvincing. It looks nice enough on the surface with shiny mirrors, some nice tiling, an attempt at something along the lines of Huddersfield's excellent King's Head. That is sadly where the similarities end, but for anyone still crying into their British Kellogg's cornflakes over Brexit, a heart warming scene followed. Macho Italian's with echoey voices ordered pint after pint of Peroni, the coffee machine chugged espressos out until almost breaking point, a smiling Polish girl struggled to cope with demand, and a Jaegermeister device looked a bit like an old cash register. 20 minutes later, we were finally sat down on an uncomfortable bench with half of a bland "Beer House House Beer" which was almost certainly a re-badged Greene King, served in a dimpled half glass for no apparent reason. As the rain bucketed down outside, Dad had serious toilet trauma as he couldn't find the "code", then Polish barmaid said it was unlocked, he still couldn't get in, one of the macho Italian's said his friend had been in but it was free now, then a pub plasma screen (always a bad sign) told him it was definitely unlocked(!) until he gave up and found one in the station. Not one to be troubling the Good Beer Guide compilers anytime soon I'd guess.
|Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder, and I'd say this place lacks inner beauty.|
|Waiting for the 1st (proper) pub of the day to open|
952. Pendle Witch, Atherton
We found the first pub hidden down a little side street, and as Tom mentioned (he'd appeared at Walkden), it did look like a former residential house, albeit with a strange conservatory area built onto the front. On the list of "things not to say to me on entering a pub", "You are not scared of dogs I hope?" would definitely make the top ten. I clung onto the bar nervously, but luckily the dog in question was a bounding headless chicken which didn't know where it was, so I could just about deal with it. I scanned a fine range of Moorhouses ales, and went for Premier just cos it's one we don't see in York at all. (I did have their Burnley Premier-ship 2 seasons back, and it slipped down as easily as the two teams I was watching that day!) As the barmaid complained about her stiff pumps, we sat in the corner and discussed next season's away games, quite animatedly at times, which seemed to exhaust the one local man who'd come in for a quiet pint. A caterpillar randomly appeared on my arm in a vain attempt to win the "pub pet of the year award" but apart from that, all I can report is that this is a little cracker and you should all go there now.
Ever been to the Crown in Horwich? Well, turn up the Lancastrian pub concentration dial to 11 and you will get the Atherton Arms, wow, this was some place. As Dad said, this was just the kind of place you'd come in the 60's for a pub disco all nighter (perhaps not his exact words). The pub was very Joseph Holt's and my pint of hattrick tasted just like the kind of proper bitter you don't get in Spitalfields Crown & Shuttle. A few locals watched England beating Australia (again) on a giant screen, but most sat around the perimeter moaning about life in general and had I been on my own, I may have picked up more of their conversations than "eff this, and eff that" but perhaps it was for the best. Just when you thought the pub couldn't get any crazier, there was a massive back room with a full sized snooker table. The third one this BRAPA year. A very sociable fly joined us (trying to compete with Mr Caterpillar for BRAPA insect of the year no doubt). An old man in the toilet seemed to be speaking to me, but he may just have been loosening the phlegm from his lungs, it was that kind of pub.
|Arriving at pub two.|
|As close as I dared get to photographing the locals|
|As Lancastrianlly brilliant as a pub could probably be|
After that experience, it was time for a bus to Tyldesley, probably a slightly more charming town than Atherton but I suspect that may just be because the sun had come out, and friendly locals helped us get off the bus at the right time. One feature of this part of the world has to be the fantastic friendliness of folk. Spring Deer Chinese also looked enticing if it really sells deer.
|Dad enters pub three, note the Elton John tribute act chalkboard drawing we admired.|
954. Mort Arms, Tyldesley
Another Holt's pub, this one was a bit cosier and close-knit with loads of decor, I have never seen so many England and UK flags in such a confined space! As me and Dad eyed up the beer range (Holt's bitter or Holt's bitter), a jolly old local told us "that'll put hairs on your chest!" I nearly told him that at 4%, it was hardly likely to have the same effect as a 9% bottle of Cloudwater DIPA V3 but I think he might have just been very confused. Tom decided to see if he could use a £5 note to buy 2 pints and a blackcurrant cordial - no problem. A great feature of this pub was a model football ground, it had a pitch and Joseph Holt advertising boards, I think CAMRA should implement a rule where all GBG pubs have to have their own model football stadium which reflects the pubs nature e.g. this like Accrington's Crown Ground as it was a very traditional pub. Hull FC were on TV boring everyone to death with some more egg-chasing, but the mood was a fantastic friendly hubbub and all that was missing was my third pub insect of the day.
We decided to walk to our next pub, in Astley just 1.2 miles as the crow flies but sadly, we are not crows so it was considerably more. Still, sun was out, pubbing was going well .....
It had to happen, SHUT PUB ALERT. Nooooo! All that walking, AND alphabetically the next pub in the GBG for Greater Manchester and you know I like doing things fairly alphabetically. It looked a cracker too, the Old Boat House being refurbished until mid-July. Had I done my research properly, I could perhaps have saved us the walk but their official website didn't say! Never mind.
Tom helped us to get a bus back to Leigh after I stood on the wrong side of the road, and the next pub was pretty much part of the bus station.
|Relieved to get in a pub!|
955. George & Dragon, Leigh
I'd never been to Leigh before (and will have to return here for 2 more) but from a pub in the shadow of the bus station, it was just as I imagined, bustling with bored scroats using Euro 2016 extra time boredom between Poland and Switzerland as an excuse to get pissed on Fosters. Not to say it didn't have it's good points, a 12 year old bar man randomly burst into a rendition of "we all hate Leeds scum" (or was it Leigh scum, perhaps that would have been a bit too brave) propelling him to the top of my 'barperson of the day' list. When I finally got my elbows in at the bar, I was amazed to find two pints costing £3.88 (gorgeous White Witch and unidentified Three Lions ale) plus 35p for Tom's blackcurrant, a total of £4.23, trumping his early Mort Arms effort. Dad was hovering and some toothless old men asked if he wanted to be served next, I think they were friendly but wondered if it was a euphemism. We took drinks outside where the ash trays were full, and a scary man in a tracksuit put his lager on our table and glared at me. I nearly told him the correct etiquette is to say "sorry lads, may i just put my pint on your table whilst I readjust my nylon Kappa tracksuit from 1997?" but I decided against it. It was that kind of pub.
The nature of our train tickets and route meant frustratingly, I could not get any more ticks in but lessons have been learned for future trips in the outer Manchester area. Had a cracking pint at York Tap as a night cap, and a nice and fairly sober end to proceedings.
On Tuesday, I'll be cracking on with my Sheffield 'mop-up'. Ta-ra for now.
p.s. 2016/17 Hull City Away Game Conclusions (unless Sky change kick off days n times)
GOING TO GAME .... Burnley, Bournemouth, Sunderland, West Ham, West Brom, Leicester, Stoke, Southampton, Crystal Palace.
GOING TO PLACE/GENERAL AREA BUT NOT GAME .... Liverpool (Crosby BRAPA day), Chelsea (London BRAPA day), Arsenal (North London BRAPA), Everton (Southport BRAPA day)
TOTALLY AVOIDING .... Swansea, Watford, Middlesbrough, Tottenham, Man Utd, Man City (most of these will be substituted by BRAPA pub days in Greater Manchester).