Sunday 5 February 2017

BRAPA - Finishing Berkshire, and a bit of Bucks

I arrived empty handed, I left with Leffe and Ullage magazines.
It was a very painful journey down to Kings Cross on my now regular 07:01 train.  For some boring train engineery reason, we took an hour long tour of Cambridgeshire, a county so permanently flooded, even York's residents send them food parcels.

After drinking in the delights of March and Ely, we arrived at Kings X an hour later than usual.  Sunderland fans who'd earlier made coherent and educated arguments about N'Diaye, Middlesbrough's smog and Selhurst Park had been reduced to blithering gurning wrecks, such is the effect of a 24 pack of Budweiser.

I had to run to get my connection in Reading, and amazingly arrived in Newbury at 11:44am where West Berkshire pub legend Tim Thomas had kindly agreed to chauffeur me around my final two Berkshire pubs, and I briefly met other Berks Twitter alumni Sam and (m)Matt(hew) in the carpark.

Ahh this is all very nice, but bring on the Wickham ....
 The pale yellow Fiat Panda bounded eagerly into the countryside, and I realised that had I got the number 4 bus as far as I could and then walked, I'd have been taking my life into my own hands.  We parked in the steep driveway and the pub was open .....

Arriving at the penultimate Berkshire pub
1018.  Five Bells, Wickham

And I was immediately struck with what a classic this was.  Low ceilings littered with pump clips are no problem for a short-arse like me, and added to the cosy feel as I trotted along the wooden floor to the bar area which had a fine range of ales (ignore the jam jars) but it was the InnFormal ones brewed behind the pub which I was always going to try.  A couple of tables only were geared up for diners with knives and forks laid out, but most weren't, and yes, I did need my "emergency beermat" for the only time today (point deducted!), but there was really only a positive feel about the whole place.  Tim used the experience to do a bit of Berkshire community stuff, putting up posters and assembling cardboard holders to put gig flyers in, and he got this amazing coffee thing that looked like a pint of Plum Porter in reverse.  A couple of staff came over (everyone knows Tim) so I smiled and nodded along and tried to look like some important CAMRA person silently judging them (which of course is kind of true) and then a couple came in carrying a baby over their shoulders (too young to be a twild) but nearly knocked it's head on the ceiling which would have been amusing in a cruel way.  I got a loyalty card, and had to reflect like with all loyalty cards, I'd never get the chance to use it as BRAPA is a disloyal pursuit!

InnDeep in Hungerford, Innocence in Wickham.

Tim goes to bar to collect his crazy coffee

Tim grabs green highlighter and does the honours!
The pale yellow fiat panda then bobbed about a bit on the road back to Newbury, where Stockcross is located.  Bit nervous, was it open?  Yes, it was.  High drama for all of 0.002 seconds.  Here was a moment I'd been working towards since 20th Feb 2016.....

We're about to go in! 

Tim and a view of the road away from Stockcross
1019.  Rising Sun, Stockcross

The door was a bit stuck just to add to the tension, but I was in and we were soon chatting with the friendly landlady about Berkshire pub stuff, and of course, the fact this was the last of my Berkshire pub visits.  A man to my left with a bald headed that kept shining off the sun was loving this fact, but his wife had an unimpressed toad-like face which screamed "BRAPA Crapper".  Poor man, if you are reading this and want to leave her to become my Buckinghamshire chauffeur, I'll pay you in coffee and shiny bald head wax.  Sometimes in pubs it's the little things that impress, and what strangely stuck with me here was the TV!  It was kind of half propped on a low down side table, like if you were watching it whilst decorating a house, none of this raised Sky Sports nonsense.  A lot of customers were present so none of the cosier rooms around the bar really had a seat free, so we went into the duller (well, sunny) more spartan backroom where two annoying American men arrived to loudly order food and try and look impressive for finding a semi-rural pub.  Well guess what lads, you ain't BRAPA so no-one cares!  Fair to say, I felt quite self-satisfied here.  Tim did a bit more pubby maintenance (I don't mean he fixed a shelf) and we were on our way back to Newbs, job's a good 'un.  

West Berkshire brewery etched window

Pint on a proper pub beermat

Ticking off the final Berkshire pub, hurrah! 
Having said bye to Tim, I sat in the waiting room and ate my Dairylea Lunchables and read Ullage (a classy combo) til the train back to Reading was due.  I changed for Taplow and suddenly came over all drowsy like I'd had six pints, not two!  Even the walk through Taplow to the pub, I felt totally off my face (I hadn't even started the Leffe) but sobered up once the pub was in sight ..... 

I am pretty sure this pub is called the Oak & Saw! 
1020.  Oak & Saw, Taplow

It was time to 'crack on' on with my new 'focus' - Buckinghamshire, and this was a satisfying 'tick' in that I means I've now already done a pub in every page of Bucks, before officially starting!  Today was a very good day.  I heard an awful lot of commotion from the outside, and I should have guessed, first day of the Six Nations and they love 'Union' done here even though it bores me to tears.  A young blonde tattooed barman with shitty quiff served me something suitably Rebellion based, I handed over the customary £4.20 and rolled my eyes, and he looked as terrified as I was of the baying Taplow mob of 20 in the room to my left, getting excited over a game which didn't even involve England.  Dare I take a photo of them?  Well, a huge woman in an England rugby shirt scowled at me so I retreated and found a curtain to hide behind in a back room.  She'd be perfect in any scrum.  And if you are reading this luv, that is a compliment okay?  My only companion had a fruit machine addiction, my phone signal was zero, all I could do was reflect what a fine proper boozer this actually was if you were to say, exterminate all rugby fans and take 50% off the ale price.  I read Terry Wogan lived in Taplow, I wonder if his ghost haunts this place, probably. 

Behind curtain to the left, a baying mob stare intently at the screen, mouths foaming with upper class fury.

The only other person in the pub not watching rugby.
As I left, bells were tolling and confetti was flying - and a bridge and groom were emerging from a church to much applause.  The bored looking wedding car driver vaped in my face and said "alright mate" so I nodded and headed back to the station, almost colliding with a neon pink horse lady on the way.  

It was one stop to Burnham, the third time I've used this station for BRAPA.  Previously, it was Littleworth Common and Cippenham (two VERY different places) so was nice to be actually doing a pub in Burnham.  Again, all the Cippenham locals were smoking pot and wearing classic 80's kids TV t-shirts, those from Burnham walking around with their noses in the air.  Where's the happy medium?  

The Bee is buzzing (hahahaha .... thanks)

1021.  Bee, Burnham

And with laughter and a really jolly hubbub coming from every corner of this pub, I think it was the 'happy medium' I'd been hoping for in this neck of the woods.  Now I'd been vaguely aware that Hull City were 1-0 up v Liverpool and we were in the last few minutes, but too nervous to look, I thought I heard a lady in a red coat at the bar say "Hull have got a second!"  I asked the locals if she said 'Hull'.  "Holland?  Holland?  I don't think they are playing mate!"  was the reply, so I took my pint of "acceptable Marstons guest" over and asked her myself.  Problem was, she was eating peanuts (a killer to nut allergy suffers like me!) so I held my breath and she said something about it being good but probably ruining her husband's accumulator. Good, I hate betting, especially armchair Premier League betting.  More plastic than owt.   I went to sit down, but 'Holland' man joined a small dog of questionable ownership on the table next to me, and he craned his head to try and watch England who had just started.  I told him I could move, but he said no, he seemed to enjoy craning his neck both left and right for the next 30 mins.  Why are some people so unintentionally irritating?  Anyway, nice pub, the standard was high today.

Mind the peanuts .... photo taken at point of Hull City revelation.

The dog of questionable ownership ... irritating man had gone to the loo.  Note lady in red.
I'd have thought it'd have been well early enough to squeeze in one London pub, maybe two but the various waits for trains and tubes meant I really did need the full 'hour to cross London' which I now always allow for.  It was 19:20 by the time I made it back to Kings Cross, train went in 25 minutes so I stood and ate takeaway pizza before another painful tour of the Fens with my happy Mackem buddies (apart from one who was carted off by transport police at Peterborough for suggesting a season in the Championship might be more joyous).

I'll be back on the West Yorkshire trail on Tuesday, may squeeze a bonus Friday one in (one of those pubs that doesn't really suit a Tuesday), and then I'll be on a 'gentle' North Yorkshire day on Sat. 

Berkshire has been great, I'll try and write a full review some time this week.  Am 11 pubs to the good in Buckinghamshire already and ready to officially crack on with that in 5 weeks time.  The 'key' pub at present is the Bricklayers Arms in Aylesbury, but I'll save that joy until April. 




  1. Always a pleasure to meet up with Si. Although the Redchurch Brewery mixed bottles wwere in a Leffe carry box they have tell tale RB caps on! Hope you got them home safely. NB Bottle conditioned.

    1. Cheers Tim, was a great day and thanks again for all your help getting to Wickham and Stockcross and being there for the magic moment of a county completion!

      Never tried a Redchurch beer before, very excited now. If I'm feeling okay post-Bradford tomorrow (unlikely), I may even crack one open.

  2. Man, you lost me at loud and proud Americans...

    1. I'm sure you'd be a very demure and discrete visitor to the rural BRAPA pub, Dave.

    2. The pride part should not be in evidence these days. A furtive look could have quieted them!

  3. Given that Blunderland were in the south, you did well getting the beer north - they like their alcohol bans and searches on the platform.

    I quite enjoyed the diversion via Cambridge last night, a couple of bits of winning track, one of them rather tasty and the opportunity to bellow at Waterbeach whilst recovering from a signal check. You even got a clearer run without staggering behind a collection of local units. 24 minutes early into Kings Cross shouldn't be sniffed at.

    Funnily enough, I enjoy betting, there is entertaining mathematics in there. The Premier League is overdone though, the markets are to heavily populated by idiots dragging odds down. My last punt was on Leyton Orient losing at home to Morecambe. I don't get accies though, although I do enjoy spoiling them.

    1. It never occurred to me that I was harbouring illicit alcohol, I had somehow squeezed it in my bag - glad cos a Sunderland fan was practically sat on it for the Donny-York leg of the journey, and you can't tell me he'd not been drinking on the train.

      It is Chatteris that really depresses me in Cambridgeshire. Just why?

      I can understand the appeal of gambling to your mathematical brain but nothing is bigger turn off to me, especially the "laddish" pub accumulator betting culture we currently have - it is up there with Top Bantz and armchair fans to create a kind of shitstorm of Premier League disillusionment with football. Can we get relegated soon and play Yeovil?

  4. Conveying illicit hooch is a straight byelaw breach. Down with the Ken Bates, you're going down with the Ken Bates (but only for three months - he'll get far longer when caught).

    The railway doesn't actually pass through Chtteris, but gets fairly close in Manea. I think to put your mind at ease we should organise a BRAPA excursion to the area.

    Anybody placing money on accumulators is an idiot. The vast bulk of premier league matches, aside from the odd obscure market like own goals and penalties, have utter crap odds. I am far more drawn to proper lower league games. Indeed, I can see nothing less attractive than gambling on your own team. I hope we never play Yeovil again, that day is one of the greatest memories I have of supporting Hull City AFC and like Wembley I don't want to tarnish it by returning, losing 3-0 and seeing some oafish striker like Billy Paynter score against us.

    Allam Out.