My decision to seat myself and Daddy 'Chauffeur' BRAPA in the flip up seats at the end of the First Class section of the train spectacularly backfired when a young Mum and Ginger Twild (the original, and still the worst) joined us at Northallerton to cause mayhem all the way to Newcastle. He'd shout "A Carrot!" as he was flipped upside down, we had to respond, and Dad even had to pretend to be a ticket inspector.
Things didn't improve at Newcastle station, when a scary swarm and green and white hoops started gurgling in Scottish, and we ran for the Metro, as one Geordie local lifted up a stray Sunderland fan and attempted to use the poor young man as a human shield. Although Celtic were playing Sunderland, they seemed more intent on upsetting the Black & White striped ones.
So after those traumas, you could safely say that despite the pre 11am hour, we were ready for a pint as we landed in the "Marlow of the North East". As so often happens, that first pint would take place in a Wetherspoons.
I thought nothing of it to see the pub full of dressed up raucous Tyneside folk, I just thought this was par for the course before 11am on a Saturday morning. I'd apologised to Dad, it seems he's borne the brunt of some rather questionable 'Spoons GBG entries over the last 12 months, Leicester and Louth both springing to mind as pretty awful experiences. The GBG entry for this was brief, and using terms like "they strive to offer a range of ales" suggests even the local CAMRA had misgivings about this entry. They needn't have worried, this was a timely reminder of how good Wetherspoons can be when they are done well. Dad didn't even get his famous "Pint of Wetherspoons", the Mordue something something was easily one of the nicest 'Spoons pints ever. And this, despite a functional stodgy baldie barman trying to scare me by only pulling a frothy quarter of each pint, before turning the pump clip round, ripping off the price tag, and frowning at the world. "Is it off?" I enquired. "Errr no" he replies, as though I'd be mad to think it(!) Dad moved us outside into the overcast and imposingly high walled courtyard, where we were joined by some bulbous nosed local drinkers and two suited dudes, one with terrible ponytail and earring and one with terrible beard and habit of talking into the base of his iPhone. "The stables .... are full .... of hay" enunciated Mr Ponytail carefully. Was this a drugs drop? Then it started raining. We all got up to go inside. Mr Ponytail turns to me and says "Why aye, is this going to last all day? I'm devastated like!" Errrm , do I look like a weatherman? Inside, we got to see the pub was clean, polished, and there weren't even any of the now famous Wetherspoon queues. A good way to start the day.
|Eventually getting the final three quarters of my pint.|
|Dad, before the rains came.|
|Some locals, pre-Ponytail and Suit man.|
Walking in through a tiled corridor past stained glass windows and locals nodding in a "Ho'way Bonnie lads" kind of way is always an encouraging start. The bar looked shiny, the staff were nice and the ales looked riveting (Rivet Catcher to be precise, ha ha ha, and amazing quality again) as long as you ignore the jam jars. I'm sure pub jam jars are getting bigger. The right hand side of the pub looked cosier, benchier and superior and we sat near a canny group of locals - one with excellent bright socks - and a strange knack of managing to use the term "trousers snake" in most conversations, and then nodding sagely like they'd just split the atom. We watched the cricket, exciting moment as England tried to get the wicket so South Africa followed on. Two seconds later, they hit a 4 and the anti-climax was complete. Two more strange suited guys in shades loitered outside, eventually coming in, and the penny finally dropped there was horse racing at Gosforth Park (which I thought was a film), which explained a sign saying "the Premier and Prosecco package has sold out", trying to throw this wonderful pub into disrepute. Not just any race day, the Collingwood Insurance Beeswing Raceday! Ignore that though, this is a truly excellent pub.
|Good ales, ignore the jam jars.|
|Socks, trousers snakes and cricket.|
1212. Gosforth Hotel, Gosforth
So this was funny, trying to be airy, modern and cool, but inhabited by tiny-headed 80 year old hardened drinkers, standing in resolute defiance as if to say "this was our pub in 1950, and it's still our pub today". The barmaid was a chirpy young thing, and offering me a CAMRA discount was both a superb touch, and slightly insulting. I hadn't shaved, but I certainly wasn't wearing my white socks and sandals combination so not sure how she identified me. T-shirt saying "British Real Ale Pub Adventure?" Hmmm, surely not. We smiled sympathetically at the unwavering locals, and sat down in front of the cricket again where England were now batting and this hopelessly nervous character called Jennings (with all the substance of a pint of Cumberland) stayed on the back foot, terrified he'd get like a 4th consecutive duck, so more tensions for about a minute, til he got a run from an overthrow and even he had a chuckle. I did too, at the Viz cartoons in the bog, and as another man with a small head sat on the seat just along from us looking determinedly at insect graffiti on a wall , deliberately avoiding eye contact (weird bunch in here), it was time to get back to the Metro.
|Workie Ticket - another Geordie classic superbly kept!|
|Man tries not to be brought into disrepute by the creature behind him.|
|Another local of stoic, unswerving qualities.|
Just outside the Metro station was The Chillingham a great pub I went to in 2003 to watch the Groovie Ghoulies in an upstairs room, where female guitarist Roach failed to 'get' my deadpan English humour, and thought I was really upset about the merchandise on offer. Little did I know that 14.5 years later, I'd be walking past it saying "that was a great BRAPA pub to get done!"
The pub was a bit of a walk, Dad was dawdling like a 70 year old, but soon we were there and the sun was out again .....
1213. Northumberland Hussar, Heaton
Large pub this, as I soon discovered when looking for the loos and doing the usual "it's in the last place you look, to the amusement of the locals". Despite this, Dad still hadn't seen a member of staff to serve him by the time I'd returned, and when a spindly young man with long hair did appear (reminiscent of a Pirates of the Caribbean extra), he appeased me by telling me "good choice!" for the beer I selected. Though it's warmness suggested he'd said that because no one else was drinking it! We sat to the right, it was comfy, but to be brutally honest, more than a bit bland. No pub characters, beermats hidden under huge menus, but "nice" enough. That is to say, if this was your local, you'd be rather pleased I think. You could happily come and here, sit in a quiet corner and read a book. Or come in here with a group of mates, have a bit of "bantz", wax lyrical on "La Liga" and accumulators, even though if asked, you claim to be a die-hard Newcastle Utd and Blyth Spartans fan despite having not seen either in 5 years. But as a pub for pub lovers, not really. The Hussar on the ceiling was noteworthy, smuggling our own snacks was delicious, and it's better than the Brewers Fayre in Great Yarmouth.
|The beer they WANT you to drink.|
|Not much going on here|
|A rotated hussar!|
1214. Free Trade Inn, Byker
And once inside, you could feel the quality straight away with the old interior, and it was even busier outside with most people wanting to stare at the million bridges crossing the River Tyne amidst this surprise mini heatwave. Perfect for us, more space inside as Dad went down some steps to locate a seat. At the bar, a young man with Rory Delap's nose and arms was trying to tell his girlfriend a story about his mate who told a taxi driver he'd bought a round, but then kept forgetting to buy his own drink, and ended up drinking 2 pints all night. As you can see, a truly awful anecdote but girlfriend just walked off mid sentence! This knocked the poor blokes confidence to the extent that he started to "fade out" so I looked at him encouragingly and nodded, and he wound the story up to me. "2 pints? That's crazy!" I replied, though it really wasn't. I took our amazing pints of something Northumbrian (quality of ale incredible today) over to Dad, who was closely inspecting the nicotine stained wall - "carefully manufactured" was his skeptical conclusion, and he was right. The pub also had chipped paint on the banisters, not to mention humourous toilet graffiti, and for all the shabby basic feel, you felt this pub knew exactly what it was doing. A twild looking startled asked if I'd seen his sister, 'errm there's a girl behind you with the same monobrow' was about to be my reply, but thankfully he turned around and saw her. Dad worked out the jukebox was free, but nothing was played, so how bad was the record choice? Coldplay or Rod Stewart only? Certainly no Dire Straits or I guarantee I'd have been up there! Punk rock. And that sums it up. If you have already visited, well done, give yourself a pat on the back, now go to Souldrop and stop bleating.
|Bearded lumberjack in 'confused by handpumps' possibility.|
|Dad and his nicotine wall|
Dad worked out it made sense to walk from here into Newcastle along the Quayside, it was 'move' of the day, a really lovely walk.
Time was on our side, but not on the right side of town for my final city centre tick so I took him to the pub that most impressed me on my summer day out, the Split Chimp. The barman who reverse psychologicalled me into ordering a Titanic Chocolate and Vanilla Stout was lurking menacingly, so I had to order the Titanic Cappuccino, if that sounds logical. Now Mother BRAPA has been using my blog to spy on Dad's drinking so she can tell him off, so here is proof of him "enjoying" an Orange Juice instead and being a good boy:
|"Oh, where art thou, Cappuccino Stout!"|
Anyway, this was still as great as I remembered it, and time ticked on so we got back to the station, got an actual coffee, and sauntered back to York without much fuss, avoiding York's more evil racegoers at the other end. Another solid day.
Will I BRAP pre-punk festival? I said I would, but depends how organised I am with my packing etc.
Stay tuned, Si