Sunday, 19 June 2016

BRAPA - Berkshire (Windsor, Eton, Datchet, Wraysbury) and South London

5 seconds of sightseeing complete in Windsor
As I arrived at the front of my first pub in Windsor just off the main drag, it really hit home just how many people are pub ticking these days .... at least seven Chinese girls vying with selfie sticks to get the best shot of themselves outside a Good Beer Guide pub, well done girls!  Strangely, they didn't go into the pub straight away, perhaps gearing themselves up with a 'Spoons breakfast first.....

Going in on my own then!
The photo the tourists didn't take.

943.  Carpenters Arms, Windsor

So it was up to me to take one for the Beijing team and enter alone to find that familiar morning pub scene, a barmaid complaining about her dreadful hangover, whilst a miserable old local man listens unsympathetically.  After the tourist crowd outside, it was a reassuring scene.  I was delighted to see Hopback Citra on, a great beer in Reading's Hop Leaf, but sadly it was of farty, fizzy variety here, which is harder to take back than a pint of vinegar.  I moved down to the darkest and lowest point of this wonderfully historic Nicholson's pub (say what you like about the chain but they have an eye for owning good buildings).  It really played up to it's visitors, York style, with tales of Charles II and Nell banging in the secret tunnels, and a headless soldier wandering around whilst his red tunic is neatly displayed on the wall (or something).  The tunnels were dripping with water, the place smelt dank and fusty like a pub should, like you could catch your death at any given second.  The impressive range of beer and pub literature was disgracefully 'un-thumbed'.   You might think piped music might spoil such a scene, but it was the most self-aware playlist ever with songs about marching soldiers and ghosts of our past, echoing through the building.  So a bit of a tourist pub perhaps, but a damn sight finer than York's historic Nicholsons pubs.

Ghostly cellar fun in the Carpenters.
It was purely down to poor forward planning that I'd chosen to have my first dabble into Windsor on the weekend that the Queen was 90, but she'd buggered off to the capital and perhaps Windsor is this touristy anyway, I decided,  as I jabbed the umpteenth dithering elderly woman in the back with my GBG en route to my next pub.

The mad men are running the asylum, at the Windlesora
944.  Windlesora, Windsor

From Nicholsons to Wetherspoons, Windsor you are really spoiling me!  But this 'Spoons had the calmest most sedate atmosphere since the Hatchet in Newbury.  Quite a culture shock after 4 days in Glasgow 'Spoons I can tell thee!  I tiptoed to the bar and whispered could I please use a 50p voucher to order a pint of something obscure but delightful from a place called Tillingbourne?  No hassle, no argument, English 'Spoons are the best!  Having said that, as I sat in my booth, it wasn't the usual drunkard clientele letting the pub down, but some bizarre staff who seemed to act like 'meeters and greeters' though it felt a bit more like 'care in the community'.  A jolly little Italian style Super Mario chap with a Frank Spencer laugh kept wandering around making people nervous (one skinhead looked ready to throttle the poor chap) and then his female equivalent asked me to check if the Gents was empty so she could clean it!  I did (without knocking on cubicle doors) but a weird request nonetheless, I had been in but 'Spoons loos are huge and I try to just look straight ahead!  I did contemplate ordering a breakfast, but by the time the staff slammed some 'hot off the press' EU referendum beermats down, I was a nervous wreck and ready to leave.

It was time for a detour to Boots on the high street as strangely, whilst my left armpit smelt like roses, my right one smelt like a decaying damp corpse of a sheep on the North Yorkshire Moors (I blame the secret tunnels in the Carpenters, not that I rubbed my armpit against them) so I went to buy some roll-on.  It was chaos as some wet leaves had got stuck in the roof and the place was flooded.  

Such drama was too much and it was time to walk across the bridge to Eton.  I still have three Windsor pubs to do but as you know, that was never going to be today's focus.  I can combine them with Slough (yippee) later this year.

945.  Watermans Arms, Eton

This was a cracking little riverside pub, and I entered to find one of those intense angular middle-aged women snapping at the staff that she'd come to collect a purse she'd left here last night.  "Oh I may as well have a drink whilst I'm here .... 2 bottles of corona .... no glass!  now!  yes!" and half an hour later, her and her partner were on bottles 5 and 6 and you had to ask the question, "did she leave her purse here deliberately and was the same thing going to happen 11pm tonight?"  I meanwhile was so enchanted by the lovely smile of a barmaid with the air of Eni Aluko, I promised her the additional 15p (pint was £4.15, I gave her tenner) which I didn't have and ended up wasting everyone's time.   Everywhere you looked, you could see Windsor & Eton "Oar-gasmic" signs.  Maybe if they put it in enough places, the joke will become hilarious??  It was very muggy so I sat outside where angular woman was, and then a friendly French couple appeared.  But then a few spots of rain appeared (and I mean about two) and everyone just fucked off indoors as though they'd forgotten human skin is waterproof.  I even took my jacket off to prove a point and was nearly skinny dipping in the river by the time everyone decided perhaps they'd made a mistake and returned to the beer garden.  Hurrah.  Idiots.

I hopped on a train from Windsor & Eton Riverside and before I could blink, I was in Datchet.  And then something strange happened, everyone seemed to be Scottish, both on the street and in the pub.  Did they get Datchet confused with Blackpool?

946.  Royal Stag, Datchet

A better pub-man than me will tell you that the GBG says "ring counting of the roof timbers dates it to 1494".  Wonderful.  I once climbed onto the roof of Milton Keynes' Slug and Lettuce and when I failed to identify one roof timber, I decided it probably wasn't 15th century,  If Rod Hull had been counting roof timbers instead of trying to fix a Sky box, his death would have been more honourable.  I digress.   So I'd built up this pub in my mind and with so many flabby Scottish faces in the nose-bag, I initially felt it was an anti-climax.  However, once I'd taken my superb pint of Windsor & Eton Knight of the Garter (beer of the day) to what was undoubtedly the drinkers area, I started to appreciate the more olde worlde nature of the place.  Glad I'd decided against the outside, one of those horrible B&Q style adult play pens.  Indoors, I noticed the Queen might be coming here for an 'after-party' at 8pm when a meat raffle was on.  All good pubs need a meat raffle at least once every 12 hours.  Then, they had a Brit-Pop style music fest, the 1996 nostalgia was overwhelming as they played Supergrass-Pulp-Sleeper-Lightning Seeds-Suede-Echobelly-Elastica all in a row.  Wonderful!  I could live here.

Pint of the day in the Royal Stag

Key pub of the day complete, "page 9" done!
Another short train journey and I was at Wraysbury, and I had a 10 minute walk along a road in a very nice leafy area so you could say this was my "hardest to get to" pub of the day.  Strewth, I wish all BRAPA days were this easy!

Has ever a pub name been more apt for BRAPA?
947.  The Perseverance, Wraysbury

I walked in to find a burly Prince Harry type being 'relationship counselled' by a porcelain blonde, these were the bar staff in an otherwise quiet pub.  "But I'll never see her again!" wailed PH.  "To be honest bae, your ex's have all been awful!" replied PB, to which PH  replied that she hadn't met them all so couldn't possibly know, before storming off the the cellar.  Crikey, is this an episode of Made In Chelsea or is someone going to serve me ale?  A local stopped me walking into the ladies loos, take that Partick!  I was soon outside under an umbrella admiring one of the finest beer gardens you could hope to see, it was raining again (properly now) and a little girl started racing around the garden chanting "rain. rain rain!" in the spirit of Father Jack.  As two serious Irish men stood behind me discussing a potential problem with the cellar, our concerned ginger barman returned to ask if it was broken, the curly haired one replied "no but you're face will be if you don't shut up!".  Poor burly PH, certainly not his day.  It was quiet again and I'm sure one of the statue fountain things changed her expression, so I went to investigate and decided I'd been drinking too quickly.   Just when I was relaxing into a perfect slumber, one of those odious American families appeared.  The son, Sam, was a whining brat, the water drinking daughter almost as bad, another daughter revealed she hated cheese with a passion, it says something when the Dad (a gentle Fred Durst) was the nicest of the bunch.  But even they couldn't spoil an excellent pub effort.

Pub garden pre-Yanks

Note the statue that looked at me funny.
After a short walk back to Wraysbury station, I was on a train by mid afternoon and after last months "Kings Cross connection missing farce", I decided to be ultra cautious and make it all the way back to Waterloo where I'd been meaning to visit a pub for ages ......

The pub man outside wasn't representative of the clientele
948.  Kings Arms, Waterloo

Great pub it has to be said (would love to go on wintry evening), only the clientele who just didn't seem to belong in a pub spoilt it.  It was a strange selection of middle aged women, tourists and it lacked edge as a result.  I tried to make up for it after accidentally slagging off the Welsh in this little exchange:
Me : I'll have a pint of the 'Phonics ..... as in 'Stereo'? .... I don't like the Sterophonics though.
Barmaid : I think it is definitely connected
Me: (noticing Brains clip) Oh dear, does that mean it is a WELSH thing??
Barmaid : Sorry, should I have told you that before?
Me : (half under my breath) I'm not a racist.
It probably wasn't wise to therefore atone for this by listening in to two Italian backpacker lads conversation, they were discussing a perfect seat for two in the corner.  By gum, they were right!  The perfect spot!  I was straight in there before they got chance to collect their drinks & change.  Snooze you lose boys!!   After that, I hid in the corner for the rest of my stay admiring the pub but scowling at those jolly folk spilling onto the street.

Perfect pub view (courtesy of two Italian lads)

Nice pub but the people weren't pubby enough (though nicer than me)
I then did something revolutionary (perhaps) and walked to a different part of SE1, right next to Blackfriars bridge where I'd spied another pub I needed to visit .....

949.  Doggett's Coat & Badge, South Bank

This was such a huge pub, it took me ages to find the right entrance which led me to the actual bar!  It was full again, though this time it was because Wales (whom I love of course) were on TV about to prove they are the best team in the world with a jammy scuffed winner having been second best the entire time I was watching.  Scum.  I'm joking obviously.  I think.  Anyway, the staff were very friendly and I was served this fantastic IPA called Mad Squirrels which at 5.2%, was supposed to finish me off for the day.  Except I had a second wind and was soon laughing and joking in Euro 2016 bliss with any Euro tourist who would listen.  It was heartening to see a series of pub visitors arrived from various angles on various pub levels, totally relieved to see the bar exists.  It is basically the Edinburgh Waverley railway station of pubs.  The day had come full circle, this, like the Carpenters Arms in Windsor was a Nicholson's house though this was just too chaotic to share the former's charm.

Slice of complimentary lime with your IPA? 
I crossed the bridge and contemplated a return visit to the wonderful Black Friar but caught the train from Blackfriars to Kings Cross instead, and still I was ultra early so popped into my favourite pre-emptive of 2016, Scottish Stores for more first class staffing and beautiful pub surroundings.

Finally a view of Scottish Stores without any busses in the way!

This is why i love this pub.
Train journey home was pretty straightforward, it set off 8pm like the football so I put my headphones in to avoid the live England v Russia score so I could watch the highlights excitedly when I got home!  (I did go to the loo and thought I heard someone say "it's Dire", it could have been "it's Dier" as it turned out but it didn't really matter).

Next month, we'll be in South Berkshire and slithering into Hampshire.  And in the short term, BRAPA returns on Tuesday in South Yorkshire (beer festivalling yesterday so no ticks).

See you then, Si


  1. I read Vikram Seth's 1500 page "A Suitable Boy" once but this post feels much longer. Worth persevering for the League of Gentlemen-esque "I'm not a racist", and stealing seats from Italians.

    I know what you mean about people not being pubby enough. Just finished Oxfordshire and wished I had a cardboard Sir Quinno to take for those posh places north of Reading.

    Talking of Quinno, well done putting Bales in their place after fluking past the Slovaks.

    1. Of course, I meant to say "Well done Quinno and your plucky team of heroes".

    2. Oh look at Wales in quarter finals about to put us to shame and go all the way once Iceland have knocked us out!

      Lessons on pub behaviour run by us should be a in a new "how to act more British" syllabus but it could be a controversial suggestion in the current climate.

      Am always aware my blogs are too wordy but what can I do? Apart from write less.

    3. Iceland knock us out ! Pigs might fly !

      Better late than never.

  2. Enjoyable read, as always. I know quite a few of these pubs but do need to check out the Scottish Stores. Windsor was the place where I paid more than £5 for a pint for the first time (Royal Oak, by the Station).... an event I always promised to mean giving up drinking.

    1. Oh thanks Mappiman, glad you enjoy reading them. I definitely think Scottish Stores is my 'pre-emptive pub the year' and was getting bored by Parcel Yard and nice to have a classier alternative whilst waiting for train back home.

      Royal Oak I don't think is one of the 3 GBG pubs I need in Windsor, but I know there are about 15 pubs because the Royal Gallon pub crawl say you have to have a half in each (they don't mind me calling the tourists scum though!!)

  3. Your sightseeing in Windsor appears to have taken far longer than mine. I took the photograph of the walls from the platform at Central station, photted the stuffed and mounted kettle on the station forecourt and boarded the train about 4 minutes after arrival. I then watched Hull City lose away (I think, last season aside I don't remember anything different happen) at the Maddellyeski Stadium.

    Is it possible that the Chinese girls were taking their photographs as they leaved the pub?

    Nicholson's buy good historic pub buildings in the main, I agree, unlike Witherspoons who in the main create new pubs (I say in the main because there are exceptions like Exeter and err, Grimsby). I would say that when the pubs are open, Nicholson's is essentially an upper class Spoons.

    The reference to music about marching soldiers inadvertently (I hope) made me think about Marching on Together and therefore L**ds United. I may have to seek counselling, as this happened the day after I past Bellend Road on the train.

    If the queen is buggering off from Windsor to London, I do wonder whether she has a Senior Railcard. I suspect she will have something to learn. Bring her to me once I have finished with the woman who buys York - Manchester SORs on the train.

    Counting rings of the wood timbers will tell you how old the tree was when it was felled, assuming that isn't an urban myth, and even if it isn't you are assuming that the full circumference of the tree trunk was used to make the timbers. To tell the age of a pub from a wood timber, if it really is that old then I suppose you could use carbon dating but that is becoming less reliable with all the crap in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. And of course, when you take the sample to do the carbon dating you could accidentally knock the pub down. Back to Frank Spencer I suppose.

    I do not understand any of Supergrass-Pulp-Sleeper-Lightning Seeds-Suede-Echobelly-Elastica. I did at first read Supergrass as Snodgrass and wondered if he was doing karaoke. Is it some form of Police informants evening?

    For your Slough and Windsor day I recommend a cheap day return from Finsbury Park to Windsor Central. This is valid for break of journey at Slough.

    For your South Berkshire and Hants day, if you show me what you want to do I am happy to advise.

    1. Hi Tom, I was only sightseeing for 5 seconds so no chance!

      Had the Chinese girls been in for a very swift pint before I got there, hmmm, would have been about a 3 minute pint so possible.

      Yes, there are some splendid old Spoons conversions. The one in Bracknell was ace, one south of Brum I hear is excellent and I don't get 50p vouchers in Nicholson's so whilst I agree in the main, I'd like to be loyal to Tim.

      I suspect you could teach the queen and the prince something about train travel. I may get arrested if I try to bring her to you.

      I'll get some carbon dating done on the Milton Keynes pub next time I have to go there.

      Thanks for advice, I might do the Slough & Windsor day in Oct now we know dates for our matches and had our nice little recce of the fixtures.

      For the South Berks day, Sandhurst is the main train place but I need to try and get a bus to Eversley if possible. If Wokingham can be achieved too, so much the better.

    2. I'm not sure my sightseeing lasted that long.

      If you were to be arrested whilst helping people I would be proud of you. However, I think if you are clever then you don't need to be in this instance. Think of the 'Kicking Bishop Brennon up the Arse' episode of Father Ted. You simply need to tell old Lizzie that I have a framed photograph of Mohammed al Fayed shagging a corgi which I am willing to donate for evidential purposes and I'm sure she'll come to see me.

      Eversley is served by the Stagecoach service 8 between Farnborough and Reading but it doesn't run on weekends and is timed for people going to school / college in Farnborough. I reckon the best you will do is to get the Stagecoach service 3, which runs every 15 minutes and takes 10 minutes, from Sandhurst to Yateley and hoof it for the last couple of miles.

      Sandhurst to Wokingham is an hourly direct train service.

      On the advice of my legal team, I must stress at this stage that at no stage do I have any knowledge that Mohammed al Fayed has had any intimate relationships with any canines and that such reference are intended to be fictional. Unless it has happened.

  4. It has come to my attention that you may very well be better off getting the train to Blackwater for the Yateley bus.

    Ticket wise, I'd get a cheap day return from Finsbury Park to Blackwater, route +Any Permitted, for £13.00 (Sandhurst would be the same fare and is one shack up the line). This is valid via both Paddington and Waterloo, and also allows break of journey at Wokingham.

    The day return on the bus will be a bargain £5.20. A £5.50 Blackwater Valley Day Rider is available but I don't think you'll need any further Stagecoach bus journies.

    As a matter of interest, which trains are you booked on? I'm just wondering if I will get to wave at you at some stage.

    1. Glad you came to that Blackwater conclusion Tom cos I also did earlier this week.
      Having said that, I have now got a "reverse" route where I taxi from Sandhurst to Eversley and then work my way back towards Blackwater, due to pub opening time logistics.
      Glad you also confirmed no Eversley busses, I saw the same but never sure if I've missed something.
      £5.20, jeez! I bet the beer costs that too....
      If you want to stalk me / wave, am on 7:01 from York and back on the 19:11.

    2. The bus single fare from Yately to Blackwater is £3.60. I presume that if you pay the astronomic return fare you actually get to keep the bus.

      I should in theory be at Retford, most probably on the up platform, when you pass. I hope to be at Doncaster, when you pass on your northbound trip.

      We're going down you know.