Friday, 23 June 2017

BRAPA - Who's a Jolly Nailor then?

It was one of those ridiculously hot no-chance-of-getting-to-sleep nights, probably last Sunday, 11pm, and I was sat on my bed in just my pants (try not to picture the scene) listening to the Aussie girls chatting Neighbours on the brilliant 'Neighbuzz' Podcast, like any normal 38 year old male would do, when I wondered what else I could do at the same time......

So with my attentions still mainly on Vaya, Kate and CJ (plus that singing girl from Oldham who pretends she's from Manchester to sound more urban), I pulled out my trusty Good Beer Guide, turned to Greater Manchester, and over the next hour worked out that the vast majority of pubs were do-able on a Tuesday night, providing I didn't mind getting home at 10pm for the sake of 27 minutes in a pub!  A BRAPA revelation.

Fast forward to Tuesday evening and the first step of that GMR dream (unless you count Castleton) was underway as I took the train to Atherton via Manchester Victoria for my next alphabetical tick.  The heatwave had ceased in Yorkshire by now, but being a step behind the rest of humanity, those crazy Lancastrians were still basking in it.

A 15 minute walk down a main road, surrounded by funeral parlours, dog surgeries and abandoned garages followed, and although the side door looked very closed, the front was angrily shouting "come inside you soft Yorkshireman".

The Sky Sports sign was a bit of a turn off

Probably a less threatening view of the pub
 1154.  Jolly Nailor Inn, Atherton

I'd been to Atherton before, and it'd seem lazy to compare this pub to the Atherton Arms with side rooms, but it really did feel like it, perhaps a bit more homely and comfy.   Traditional, yet newly refurbished, the first person I saw was a man at the bar with a St George's Cross tattoo on his lower leg.  He turned to look at me, scowling and growling like that MGM Lion when he realised I wasn't a person he knew.  But his female companion apologised for blocking the ale pumps, which is more than I could've hoped for.   Martin Taylor had joked that he'd sent someone to track me, and when I saw a man on a shopmobility scooter ridiculously facing the wall (in the same way my blind cat used to do), I wondered if it was true!  I ordered a Fyne Avalanche beer cos it sounded 'cooling', though it was nice and well-kept, it seemed slightly warmer than I like and wonder if, even with the best will in the world, it is hard to keep ale cool in this heat.   I sat in a nice bench seating area facing the bar, the barmaid was one of those chirpy moon-faced 18 year old girls who's heads are full of boys, make-up and fidget spinners rather than whether the Thwaites Cask is drinking well.  Despite the ominous Sky Sports banner outside, all that was on TV was the local news reporting from the Royal Cheshire County Show, but this just descended into farce with the female presenter perving on a French man selling cheese.   A band called Asis were playing soon, they are a bit like Isis with a better bassist.  There seemed a love of live music here.  Then, a friendly looking chap appeared and said hi.  To my total horror, he then murmured that he was Martin's cousin!!  He wasn't, but he'd seen the Twitter comments and thought he'd play a joke on me - it worked, totally gullible I am.  So who are you?  I said, turning to my "Twitter Pub Men I-Spy" Book.  Well, it was Deeekos, so I turned the imaginary pages to find him located 'twixt "Curmudgeon" and "Erlangen".  He solved my query on the lack of Allgates beers here, told me how to pronounce Atherton (it's "ATH-erton" not "A-Therton", hope that clears it up!)  And he also half-assured me that his CAMRA branch hadn't just changed all their pubs to piss BRAPA off, which was nice.  So I took my glass back to the nice young lady, said thanks, stepped outside, and Deeekos had already disappeared down a side street like the pubby enigma he is.  Good stuff, all that in 32 mins.  Back in York for 9:10pm, job done!

Looks like the most air-brushed pint ever!

Shopmobility man facing the wall for no reason

The "outlook" is good at the Jolly Nailor, ha ha.
So where next Tuesday, I hear you all desperately asking.  Well, the next alphabetical one, in Billinge , is pretty much impossible on an evening, and Bolton I'm leaving due to Hull City / NFFD potential next season, and with me on 9-5, I'm having a look at the likes of Broadbottom and Bromley Cross (wherever they are!)  but if not, something a bit more direct on that Castleton line (Rochdale, Mills Hill etc.).  The GMR world is my oyster.

But before that, Hartlepool tomorrow with my York friends.  Monkey suits at the ready, it is going to be fun!  


Sunday, 18 June 2017

BRAPA - Blog on the Tyne : Newcastle Summer Adventure

With a seemingly endless supply of quality real ale outlets, Newcastle is a great place for a boozy day out, and under the circs, it is no wonder Ant (PJ from Byker Grove) has had to check himself into rehab.

It was the 4th annual 'work' summer day out, and with Yorkshire now complete, we had to think beyond our comfort zone.  Oldham just didn't appeal enough, and I ended up moving the day to Newcastle, a bit controversial as the L**ds lot had a longer day, and a potentially more expensive ticket than me.

At one point, it looked like we'd get a record number of people of a BRAPA day out, but inevitably, people made their excuses and we left with a nice manageable group of 5.  Joining me were ever presents Rich Ellis and Jason "Angry Arnold" Garrett.  Piper Corday made her 3rd appearance, and Chris Hastings his second, a special mention to him for his sheer enthusiasm considering he's a Sunderland man.

They joined me on the train after breakfast, and before long we were in Newcastle itself.   As my GBG App led us uncertainly to our first pub, I had to put up with the usual "are we there yet?" whinging from Rich and Chris, Jason commenting to me it was like taking kids on holiday.  And there was no Mossley-esque hill climb this year.  It was still before 11am and we stood outside like a bunch of idiots, not realising the pub had secretly opened already ......

Me, Pipes, Chris and Rich ready for pub one.
1149.  Fitzgeralds, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

Although it didn't look too exciting from the outside, some of my favourite pubs in the North East are Fitzgeralds owned, and they must be one of the better chains out there.   We were surprised to walk into this incredibly well kept, brassy, polished front area, which sloped down to a bar - it was almost gentleman's club, you could imagine Phileas Fogg discussing a wager with Lord Guinness over a game of billiards whilst Bertie Wooster fires breadrolls off a badminton racket into a chandelier.  Piper commented we'd have dressed up if we'd known how posh this place was.  Down at the bar, a great range of quality NE ales to choose from, but considering we were the first customers of the day, the barmaid was uncommunicative and not exactly welcoming.  Would it have been different if I'd been on my own?  Do groups scare staff?  Due to the nice weather, we sat on some tables out the front of the sloping Grey Street (I was worried I was drunk already!), and the gang (three of whom had never been to Newcastle before) were surprised how quiet it was, expecting the place to be full of loud, tanned pissed-up slags and men with vests and whippets, even at 11am, which shows you shouldn't judge a place on what the media tell you!  

Walking in, feeling under dressed

A classic North East pale ale

Jason's shirt looms large on Grey Street.
Rich was already moaning we were drinking too slowly (it was 11:20am) so Chris downed his pint, and we walked just around the corner to our next pub, a mini landmark......

1150.  Old George, Newcastle 

Although it looked like we were walking into a pub, we first had to negotiate a cobbled alley with an old record shop and a gift shop called the 'Glamorous Owl'.  The pub itself was obviously a very old building, and up the stairs we went to a low ceilinged bar area.  If the barmaid in the last pub had seemed a bit unfriendly, they were practically hostile in here - again I suspected they just thought it was a group of pissheads on tour (which of course, BRAPA totally isn't - usually) but jeez, a smile or anything shouldn't be beyond them.  Thought people were friendly in the North East?   I ordered a fitting ale called "Heatwave" and I'd mentioned earlier how it'd be nice to find a courtyard similar to the one at Cricketers in Horbury.   Well, this had exactly it and with no other drinkers still to be seen in Newcastle, we had the place to ourselves.  Just as well, as is the way when Rich Ellis is around, conversation soon turned quite un P.C. and I was soon describing how BRAPA would deal with a terrorist threat which seemed to involve holding a GBG in front of my chest and saying "alroight mate" to my assailant.   It was only just 12 noon, but time for pub three.

A myriad of steps in the Old George

In the courtyard

Dummies - closest thing so far to seeing other drinkers in Newcastle
What I reckoned was the longest walk of the day was a lot quicker than I thought, back down Grey Street, past the wonderful Crown Posada, and located in the shadow of Tyne Bridge (or at least a big road bridge that might or might not have been Tyne Bridge, it was all very confusing), was our next pub.   Not to be confused with the Bridge Hotel, or the New Bridge, though does suggest the city has a bit of a bridge fetish.

Says Newcastle Arms, but am sure it was right pub!

One of about 20 photos Jason took, problem when you are holding a fag at same time!
1151.  Bridge Tavern, Newcastle

More good ales, a proper bookcase containing proper books, but perhaps the trendiest pub of the day in terms of food menus, reserved tables, a 'roof' terrace, etc etc.  At least the staff seemed a bit friendlier, and there was a fair few clientele already supping their prosecco and eating their horse burgers or whatever Geordie's do in the 21st century.  Jason tripped down a step, and despite having a reputation for being the angriest man in our office, he took it with decent humour and only semi-threatened to twat everyone in the pub and then burn it down(!)  We found an outdoor area again, this time under the Tyne Bridge and squashed in behind some middle aged hipsters to 4 of those rickety silver chairs which no one's ever got comfortable on.  I spied a separate bar upstairs where the loos were, with a roof terrace, and a young barmaid smiled in a bored way as she realised everyone already had their drinks.  It was a bit of an anti climax, I interpreted roof as "you'll be on the top of Tyne Bridge" but it wasn't the case, and we sat at Mr & Mrs Holstein's table who weren't arriving til 3, and the amount of trendy beards up here was enough to make North London blush.  Luckily, my ale (brewed on site - Tavernale) was my pint of the day or I think I'd have been a bit frustrated by this place.

Beer of the day

Bookcase shot - note how the customers hide their faces from the BRAPA lens

Under the bridge shot, looked better in real life.

Jason's shirt upsetting background hipster hitman, probably.

My 'edit' would've been funny if I'd spelt "Pils" properly.
It was boiling hot by now, too hot to be debating which bridge was which, I was concerned about how I couldn't see the next pub despite being stood at the pushpin on my GBG App.  But then I turned around and it was there, one of those old but non-pubby looking building without a proper inn sign, do I expect too much? 

Shit pub sign, but finally located it!
1152.  Hop & Cleaver, Newcastle

We ambled in to find a dimly lit front bar area leading to an airier modern bar and courtyard, one of those where you have no idea whether they were trying to appeal to the young crowd, or the curmudgeonly older drinker, or everyone, and just fell a tiny bit short on all counts.  The assembled company were complimentary of it I must say, it had a lovely old atmosphere like something that'd been refurbished but they couldn't erase the centuries old history of the building - a faint whiff of pretension hung in the air.  At the bar, our barman looked like he'd just woken up under the bar and started serving, rubbing eyes, yawning, seeming to forget beers, prices etc - the poor lad was suffering but tried his best.  I then struggled with that age old BRAPA problem "where the hell are the loos?" and a wide-eyed European lady oozed out of a gap in the brickwork (possibly, "most helpful foreign BRAPA ghost of the year" 2017) and told me it was through the courtyard, in this other building which seemed to house a brewery and several other rooms, possibly a former stables it felt like to us, as I took the others on a "guided tour" of it later on.  So, all in all, a bit of a confusing place but I can begrudgingly see the appeal.  

Sleepy barman pulls the ales.

I thought bourbons meant biscuits, but I was wrong.

Bricked up toilet fire place

The spooky stables 
4 pints in this heat and a walk up those legendary steps from the Quayside back towards the station was quite an effort, I tell ya!  Again, the pushpins on my GBG App were trying to embarrass me in front of my work friends, but the next pub was closer than we thought.....

1153.  Split Chimp, Newcastle

Despite three different people recommending this place to me, I was still a bit skeptical - but it was healthy micropub skepticism, you know the type where you know that due to the 'micro' aspect, it could be a bit limited, especially arriving in a group of 5.  Not a bit of it, this was easily PUB OF THE DAY!  And what made it, from the off, was the first proper good barstaff experience of the day.  Such a good chap.  I'd seen one of my all time fave ales, Titanic Chocolate and Vanilla Stout.  "But dare I have it on such a hot day, 4 pints in?" i debated out loud.  "It depends if you are weak willed!" said the barman, the kind of "pubby bantz" that had been missing all day.  Of course I had to have a pint of it now!  He then told the others the ales come from wooden casks, and if people come in asking for Fosters or Carling, he tells them where to go!  It was heartwarming stuff.  As a group, we all turned to each other and said "pub of the day" as one.  We can't all have been wrong.  We sat on some colourful cinema seats, the loos had some great Viz cartoons, Jason inhaled two pork pies and enthused on their quality.  This is going right up there with my favourite Toon pubs of all time.  I even got a Split Chimp beermat.

Legendary barstaff photo.

Jason enjoys his pies on sticks (perhaps)

I'd promised the others a "Si Secret Bonus Pub" and I thought it was quite a good clue to tell them it began with a "B" and ended with an "A".  But this just led to everyone thinking Id opened my own Micro pub called The BRAPA.  But of course, if I did, it'd have a zero tolerance on all people so wouldn't do very well business-wise.  I'd maybe allow cats in though.

No, of course you experience blog readers know the pub I'm talking about, the wonderful Bodega which went down well with my 4 BRAPsters, as I knew it would.  Before that, there was time to recreate a former Newcastle Utd fan incident.....

Although I'd had enough beer by now, the hardened drinkers wanted another one (at least) so we popped in the Head of Steam just across from the station ......

The main point of that experience seemed to be for the yearly ritual of Rich/Jason telling me off for leaving early, but am glad I did!  

On the train back, I had to change at Darlo' because my ticket wasn't valid on that train, and back in York, I felt sober again once the drunken hoardes of racegoer scum joined me in KFC for a cheese and bacon meal.  

Another great day on the BRAPA trail, and I'll be back on Tuesday night for something outlandish as work are actually letting me leave at 4pm!   Greater Manchester here I come.


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

BRAPA - Blue Pits Inn, Castleton

For the first time in almost three months, Tuesday night midweek BRAPA returned as I figured, if I'm going to stay over that magical 1,125 number when the new GBG comes out in late Aug/ early September, I need to give myself every chance (it looks a very tall order).

Sadly, I finished work at 5pm so was on the ridiculously heaving 17:23 to Manchester Victoria via just about everywhere in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, but luckily everyone lives in Morley these days so it wasn't packed for long.

An hour and 24 minutes later, I was kicked out at a place called Castleton in the shadow of Rochdale, and I saw the pub looming large just across the road.  Perfectly placed.

Greater Manchester is a real Jekyll and Hyde (no pun intended) place for pub ticking.  You have all those wonderful untouched basic boozers from Holts, Robinsons and JW Lees - not sure Hydes quite have the same appeal, not done many.  And then you have the hipster urbanised outer Manc shitness, places that really make you want to cry into your defunct Credence Cloudwater v.9.33 recurring.

1148.  Blue Pits Inn, Castleton

It was obvious before I'd even crossed the road that this was "good GMR", I could practically see the ghost of John Willie waving to me through an upstairs window as some burly men in the chippy next door laughed at me for photographing the pub, but in a good natured way, so they said!  I walked in to a dimly lit, traditional pub, that kind of looked multi-multi-roomed even though it wasn't, such was the trickery of the walls and the light.  A few pubmen looked expectantly at me, and in my best Manc accent (think Kevin and Perry), ordered a JW Lees guest ale so frothy, I was a bit alarmed until the no nonsense barmaid told me the invisible barstaff "hadn't pulled it through properly earlier", a new barrel and a wonderful ale at £2.80.  As I sat on leather benches to the left and got ready to see what I could observe, a bald man called Jonathan brandishing a bag of top quality bread said ow do and sat down next to me.  And stayed there til I left!  He was very quick witted and used long words, too much for me after a tough day at work, but said some great things.  Like "you are looking better on the ale than those hipsters do on the fizzy stuff", recalled meeting beer writer Pete Brown, and said "after Uni, I never dreamt I'd get chance to move back to Rochdale .... thought I'd have to live somewhere like London!"  I bought him a Strongbow Dark Fruits to be polite, and he got onto music history, putting tunes on the jukebox, and making me analyse the lyrics of Abba's Fernando, suicidal pop stars, and told me that while he was in the loo, I should Google "interviews with Brian from The Sweet" but when he returned, his mind had raced on and I never did learn what the significance was!  He then helped me try and work out the best way to one of his fave pubs, the Tandle Hill Tavern (from here or Royton?) - it was all hypothetical anyway as my GBG said closed Tuesday.  If only I knew a man from Tandle who knew Tandle pubs.  Oh well ;)  So that was that, I had stayed for a second pint, but preferred the first.  I said goodbye, and headed back for my delayed train to L**ds, finally getting to York 10pm for sake of one pub.  Tough life this pub ticking lark!

A pint of something widgetty.

Jonathan and his bag of bread - at a distance

Nice loos.
Am determined to keep "wrong side of the Pennines" midweek pubbing going, and plenty more to do on that train line and I get to leave at 4pm next week so perhaps a bit more scope for adventure.  

Before that, I've successfully got Oldham moved to Newcastle (so to speak), it's the work gang summer trip so I won't be at my observant or sober best, but I'll tell you all about it anyway as best I can.


Monday, 12 June 2017

BRAPA - Bucks V - North West of the County

Was pub 1146 the pub of the day?  
I was quite anxious on Saturday morning as I set out for the only county that really matters in 2017 BRAPA-world, Buckinghamshire.  Although I only had a modest 4 pubs on my agenda, trains and buses weren't exactly high in abundance and I knew I'd have to rely at least partly on that most evil of transport methods, the taxi.  But I had to achieve these pubs today, it'd be my last chance before the 2018 GBG is released in September.

My nervous mood wasn't helped on the York-Manchester train, as a man called Abdul (so said his Starbucks cup) decided that he wanted to sit next to me, probably trying to prove a point as I was accidentally taking up two seats.  With a smirk, he pulled out a book called "Social Intelligence" just to confirm it.  Then he pulled out the Qu'ran and read it for two minutes.  He sneered at my own reading material, that is the 2017 Good Beer Guide.  So I put a song on called "Go Fuck Yourself" and made sure he could see the title.  Not so clever now are you Abdul?

My mood brightened when I arrived in Milton Keynes, a pleasing sunny modern town of straight lines, smiling people, and the feeling that you are in central Europe.  Perhaps a bit airbrushed, but I personally like it.  I'd worked out my first pub closed at 2pm, so no time to faff around with buses, straight in the first evil taxi of the day.....

1144.  Two Brewers, Thornborough

I won't tell you how much the taxi cost, or how panicked I was on seeing the unpromising creaky 17th century door looking locked.  But as so often happens with doors, you just have to turn the handle and you are through them.  Wonderful inventions.  The pub was empty, a delicious old traditional effort with only slight hints at modernisation, in a beautiful village miles from anywhere (well, 3 miles from Buckingham on a horrible road unsafe for pedestrians - I did check).  After a bit of exploration, I found the landlady outside watering plants and cleaning benches so I tried not to scare her, but she was an incredibly unflappable, unimpressed woman not remotely curious why I was here - which is kind of great.  I ordered my new fave Bucks tipple from errrm Tring "Side Pocket for a Toad" but two Labradors were working as a tag team to block both me and landlady off from going anywhere, she told me they always lay in the most inconvenient places.  I sat over to the right in a window seat, both dogs came over and tried to sit on me - they smelt of dog (urrrgh), but weren't twogs by any means.  Lovely dogs, and I don't often say that.  It all reminded me a bit of the Swan at Three Mile Cross, perhaps even better, quite a compliment.  A posh woman came in, shouted "Val!", and just to remind myself I was in the posh south, I heard most upsetting comment of the day "I don't like sausage rolls, to be honest, I'm not keen on any pastry".  You'd get barred for saying that in Leigh.  ANIMALS.  Not the dogs, they agreed with me.   A couple of ambling tourists came in and asked if they did food, and were soon redirected to somewhere shitter.  On the way out, hubbie said "Phwoar, nice looking pub this!"  Wife looked annoyed, and didn't let him stay for a drink.

No way back from the bar

Feel the quality

Pub pet of the year contender
I hadn't planned on walking to the next pub, 2.8 miles as the crow flies, more like 4.5 in reality.  But the gorgeous weather, huge overspend on taxi, zero phone signal, and lovely countryside made it quite an easy decision.  My neck is still sunburnt now, and apart from a terrifying 2 minutes getting across the A422, it was a good but gruelling walk via Leckhampstead and Foscote into Maids Moreton.

1145.  Wheatsheaf, Maids Moreton

The thatched roof and the lack of words on the inn sign (it looked like a sheaf of wheat, if that's a thing, so assume I was in right pub!) made me realise this was going to be another village classic, and I wasn't wrong.  I have to say though, I felt more conspicuous than usual as the locals all said "hi" out of the corners of their mouths when I arrived, but were incredibly watchful and appraising of my BRAPA t-shirt, without ever talking to me.  I just smiled nervously and the ringleader didn't take his eye off me for more than a minute, and am sure when I went to loo to cool down my blotchy sweaty face, the six main locals all closed ranks and said "don't say anything idiotic, BRAPA is in town" though I may be paranoid.  A spindly blonde sweetheart appeared from a gap in the bar to serve me, her clumsy but aggressive brunette counterpart whistled, slammed furniture around, and eventually went to cellar to take her anger out on the beer barrels.  "You're making a lot of noise there", observed one local who eventually hit his head on a fire exit sign, probably, "IT'S THESE BLOODY BARRELS GRRROWL" she said.  The oldest, frailest local, then asked her what the lovely smelling food was.  "BAKED CAMEMBERT AND I COULD EAT A WHOLE ONE GRRRROWL" she replied, almost killing the poor chap.   As the locals chatted on steam turbines (please guys, gimme something to work with here!) Jon Parkin escaped from the kitchen, and I realised this pub had no beermats and I forgot my emergency one.  Then I rang for a taxi just to make me even more of a pariah than I already was.  He was there within ONE minute.

Frail baked Camembert (right) and head hitter extraordinaire

"Mind your head" haha.  And checked shirt ringleader watches me throughout.
So great news Maids Moreton had it's own taxi service, as getting to Turweston was the key moment of the day now.  But no time to relax, as following on from my train journey, the taxi driver was an incredible enthusiastic Muslim young man, so passionate we nearly drove off the road about five times as I told me to look on YouTube about this dude called "Mufti Menk" and about this local Catholic Girl who'd been converted.  He spoke a lot of sense though and charged me HALF of what the MK shyster had, for more mileage, so I was happy.  And funnily enough, we got lost, pulled up and asked at the local church hall where the pub was.  Seriously, it sounded like a joke!

So moment of truth as I stepped out of the taxi, convert to Islam or tick off the next one......

1146.  Stratton Arms, Turweston

"We're closed!" shouted the landlord as I entered.  "WH..AAA...TTT?" I stammered in despair, thinking back to Bucks mid afternoon closures like Thornborough, Lacey Green and Tylers Green.  "HaHa, only joking!" he boomed, making the couple in the corner laugh as I told him not to scare me like that.  He'd seen the taxi, he'd seen my "British Real Ale Pub Adventure" shirt, and thought he'd wind me up.  Anyway, soon I was chatting BRAPA and he was very interested - he didn't want just ONE card, but TWO to pin up on the bar so he could show both sides.  Sex Pistols "God Save the Queen" seemed an unlikely Bucks pub village song, but it summed up the brilliance of this place, even if it was just on the radio, and soon I was approving of this amazing Hook Norton beer and he told me how the Cask Marque scum (my words, not his) had arrived unannounced recently and given all the ales top ratings.  I could see why, cut above in terms of quality.  He told me about this mythical regular bus service every 40 mins direct to Buckingham, but it didn't seem to ring true to I finally got him to ring for another taxi.  But not before I'd soaked up the joy of the pub, where a twild was introduced to bacon for the first time, and made to go to the bar by Daddy.  "What would you like?"  "FIZZY!"  Ugh, don't you hate these keggy twilds?  The gents were outdoors too, this is a special pub.

Beer of the day


My BRAPA cards now hanging up in the Stratton Arms

This next taxi driver didn't have a clue where he was going as the pub wasn't in the centre of Buckingham, and he thought I was off to University anyway, so I went with it, used the GBG App, and despite charging me a fairly hefty sum , was dropped at this lovely looking pub.

1147.  Mitre, Buckingham

A fourth brilliant pub in a row, it couldn't be surely?  Not on a BRAPA day?  Well, no, it couldn't and it wasn't.  It looked the part, the oldest in town, well off the High Street apparently teeming with crap bars, but it just didn't sit right.  Main problem, poor beer quality on my Old Hooky, very warm and limp, turning sulphury near the end.  I walked in, and got a friendly but weird greeting from a young man with a ginger man-bun and denim shorts.  But he scared me so I hid round the far end, the young barman tried to be friendly but he had dead eyes, and a middle aged man with the air of an even fruitier Christopher Biggins was trying to chat to any young man who'd listen.  A loud lady leaned on the bar and shouted in southern, some bearded hipsters and tattooed girlfriends appeared from the dark depths, and three men - one of whom did the smelliest fart ever in a 2017 BRAPA pub, acted boisterous for two seconds before calming down.  A blonde twild was doing what twilds do, being watched over by a stern Ryan Moloney in a Barcelona top, well the whole thing was a mess and made me appreciate how wonderful the other three pubs had been,  I'd had two people tell me this was great too.  Shame.  But it was key pub of the day, great to get it ticked off.

I managed to get a bus back to MK quite easily, and though I'd harboured brief thoughts of getting Stony Stratford ticked off which would've made sense, I looked up pre-emptives instead.  And found one I considered had potential due to the fact MK has nothing in GBG at present, and when it did, it was things like the Slug & Lettuce, Premier Inn extensions and the 'Spoons.

This, in some ways, just as soulless, yet also, something a lot better.  It was a nice straight 10-15 minute walk down Midsummer Boulevard (MK is perfect when you've had a few and want to check you can walk in a straight line).  Reminded me a bit of the type of bar I was finding in Melbourne.

Nearly asked if there was a hidden thatched roof.

Draft House, Milton Keynes

Bright, shiny, glassy, young crowd, brisk friendly service, two light ales on, one coming soon, ale drinkers served in irritating handled glasses cos presumably that's what they think we like, lots of metallic posing tables, sun streaming in.  It might sound like a nightmare but an altogether more enjoyable experience than the Mitre.  People watching was fun.  Such a strange crowd.  England v Scotland was on, but nobody was too interested.  Even the big group of lads, including pervy young Sutcliffe who liked his lips at any single young lady who walked by, and excitable young Pardew, who seemed to be struggling to keep his friends on the straight and narrow but still wanted to have a good time, and had forgotten to wear any socks.  Then there was a MK Johnny Depp, in Jack Sparrow role, who arrived with girlfriend, and got a round in, and then inexplicably sat down to a business meeting with his suited financial advisor (if I hadn't got 4 photos of them, I'd assume I'd been hallucinating).   Beer was ace, the Dark Star Hophead and Adnams Ghost Ship are two of my faves anyway.  Only piped Clive Tylesdsley was upsetting me.  MK's answer to Rob "Millsy" Mills, complete with psychotic stare and vest so he could show off his muscles, completed a scene of crazy well being.  Scotland scored two freekicks, the pub didn't flinch.  Kane equalised, suddenly everyone jumped around like they'd been watching it.  Am sure this'll get in a GBG in future, and good.

Ales and a fancy menu

The Pards gang clearly not watching the match

MK Depp and GF meet financial advisor

Artistic Shot from the Toilets!
I got the train back to Manc but after a delay at Stockport, I missed my connection so went to check out the often talked about Piccadilly Tap.  Sadly, I couldn't see any handpumps and it just felt like a Brewdog, and I paid £5 for a pint of something cold, fizzy and flavoursome.  Impossible to drink against the clock, especially with Hipsters pouring out of the taps and walls, so thank the lord for that nice man from Trumpton on Twitter who'd sent a video of these two Scottish blokes going into a pub on something called "Still Game" so I put my headphones in and forgot where I was!  V.funny.

The train back to York was notable for sitting in the end of First Glass and chatting to two muddy festival girls off back to Huddersfield but were coming back tomorrow, but all talk was about what the weird stains were on the floor.  And when they left, I got chatting to a man coming back from his 1st anniversary piss-up with his wife. "Drunk Lady in Red" who slept the whole time.  He apologised for Doncaster, totally unprompted by me, but I accepted it and told him I'd been waiting a long time for someone to do that.  A perfect end to a cracking but expensive Bucks day out.

Me with Doncaster apologist and drunk lady in red (possibly a mannequin).