|5 seconds of sightseeing complete in Windsor|
|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.|
|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!|
|Has ever a pub name been more apt for BRAPA?|
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?|
|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