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). 


  1. I feel better about missing the Mitre when we were in Buckingham! Love this sentence: But as so often happens with doors, you just have to turn the handle and you are through them.

  2. Cheers Dave! Something I've thought a lot and on Saturday, decided "must put it in my blog write up". Doors are quite a wonderful invention aren't they?

    Really disappointed in Mitre, I'd guess it is normally a lot better but I had been spoiled by three crackers before.

  3. I'm not sure how we lived without them.