Wednesday, 22 March 2017

BRAPA - Putting West Yorkshire to Bed! Sandbeds. And Keighley.

After a traumatic day at work where I first walked through a blizzard, and then found out in a nerve-wracking redundancy meeting that I WILL be keeping my job after all (almost a shame as Tom had worked out I needed to move to Stoke Gifford), I was ready for a pint, or two (or seven).

And so it got to 4pm and I was ready for the final trip to West Yorkshire (well, until September) and chance to try out a new railway station, at a place called Crossflatts which I'd always thought was called Crossflapps.

After a stroll along the menacing B6265, I was (eventually) confronted by a huge cow made of wire and I'd knew I'd arrived:

1064.  Airedale Heifer, Sandbeds

Although confronted by one of my pub pet hates, those piles of logs which are always for show and never EVER put on an actual fire, the pub had a warmth and friendliness about it despite being vast and suspiciously foodie.  The barmaid was one of those characters, I broke her off in mid sentence as she was about to ask me "what style of beer I liked" but undaunted, she told me the new five pound notes "will never be the same".  I laughed, a bit confused, noted the cosiest pub areas near limp fake fires were taken, so sat on a huge table with a fine array of Amstel beermats in the shadow of a poor cow, that had been force-fed til it was 312 stone by an evil man of the cloth.  I almost collided with three school teenagers, too old to be twilds, but they loved running from one door to the other, opening them, giving weather reports to 'Mum' (barmaid), and then running to the next door to cause a chilly through draught.  "No it isn't snowing, but it might be sleet!" was the general theme.  The one local at the bar nodded sagely, and made a vague presentiment that spring was not quite here yet.  No one cared so he left the building.  As I noted piped Bryan Adams and a specials board offering Rosemary Jus, I suspected this'd be an easy pub to criticise, but the warm feeling and great pint of Bridgehouse left me feeling pretty contented about the place.

Holy Cow!  A great pint.

Appreciating the Amstel beermat domino effect

Quiz : which of these three locals foretells of winter being here to stay?

You fat bastard, who ate all the rosemary jus? 
I got the (obviously delayed) Shuttle bus into Keighley, where each passenger smelt of either wee or weed and had tea cosies or hoodies pulled up over their heads, and a five minute walk down the road from the bus station greeted me with one of Keighley's more picturesque landscapes:

1065.  Lord Rodney Bar & Kitchen, Keighley

So I had a great feeling about this place before I entered, and being confronted with a healthy range of Timothy Taylor beers also added to my sense of Keighley wellbeing, as I was served by a friendly young moon-faced blonde who said "do you want anyfink ewse?" and looked generally happy but vacant.  As I looked around me though, I suddenly realised why it had that horrid "bar and kitchen" tagline - half the "pub" was diners only, and they seemed to be afforded more traditional snug pub seating than the drinkers area - as I witnessed when a group of oddball twenty somethings lurked in the doorway as though they didn't know how pubs operate, before nervously saying they had a table booked.  The place was near on empty.  Then a disturbing ginger slob resembling the Airedale Heifer waddled to the bar, bought a shot for his girlfriend in an obnoxious way, then waved two menus around like he was landing an aeroplane, before ordering food.  Girlfriend looked embarrassed, Miss Moonface remained pleasant and professional.  The church bells next door tolled, but couldn't drown out the piped reggae, but at least a trip to the loo made me realise an almost snug area facing the ale pumps was a bit cosier.  But on the whole, finishing West Yorkshire here isn't to be recommended, and when you think how good Brown Cow and Cricketers are, what is the point of all this?

Trying Tim Taylor's new beer, Knowle Spring - quite springy.

Relocated to my "snug" area, facing the pumps.
I wandered back to the station, half tempted to pop into the Self Publicist Arms and ask for a pint of BEST BITTER to see if I got thrown out / corrected / beaten up, but alas my train was due very soon.

And there we have it, West Yorkshire complete for a second time, and only 3 pubs left in the whole of Yorkshire which I hope to mop up on Saturday (x2) and Sunday (x1).  So see you then.

And what of the future of my Tuesday night after work BRAPA trips, I hear you ask (or is that just the voices in my head)??  Well, I've identified an achievable one in Notts, possibly Lincs, a good few in Greater Manchester, and I'll take another look at Lancs too but suspect they are too rural.  It'll more likely be once or twice a month now, until September where we'll no doubt have new Yorkshire challenges to look at.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

BRAPA - Half of Southport

The NFFD (Non Football Football Day) took us further than ever before, Southport, despite the national weather forecast telling me that it'd only be horrendous if you went to a north western seaside town with at least two GBG Wetherspoons.

Whatever, it was preferable than a trip to Liverpool Crime Street station (thanks Tom!) being surrounded by thousands of baying Scousers in a dilapidated stand with a terrible view, watching Hull City concede their usual shed load of goals here.

Dad prepares to board the train at Southport
We changed at Manchester Piccalilli and Southport for an 11am opener I needed in a place that sounded like a "discount Supermarket chain", Freshfield (quote B G Everitt).  I was determined to cross a road I didn't need to, when the hooded wraith-like character of Tom Irvin appeared, and soon we found the pub.  It didn't look very open at 11:03am but Tom found a side door.

Arriving at our first pub of the day.
1059.  The Freshfield, Freshfield

This was a vast building, with a huge restuaranty area to the left and a relatively (but not quite) pubby area to the right.  It's big pulling point is obviously the beer, with 14 ales to choose from, blackboards explaining beer styles, those taster trays, and serious but friendly staff proving they are "ale men" with t-shirts that said #realaledrinker and "can you see my red squirrel?" (okay, so I may have made one of them up).  The ale was good considering the number on, but due to elaborately sized menus, I could not see my fellow drinkers or the levels of beer to see if I was keeping up / drinking too fast!  In fact, the whole pub seemed to be having some internal crisis, caught between a modern restaurant and a traditional pub with nice features such as air vents in the gents which hadn't been cleaned in 100 years, and a blue acoustic guitar next to a fruit machine,  Yet, in the same breath, a menu offering horrific stuff like kale and pomegranate.  It all reminded me of the Crooke Hall Inn, a pub I'd been told was a classic, almost willed to love, yet still felt all too 'vast restaurant in disguise'.  Quantity never trumps quality when it comes to pubs and ale.  Though I suspect it does for many, York's Rook & Gaskill springs to mind.  So, a pleasant place with great beer, nice staff, clean, but not really my cup of ale.   All that remained was to laugh at Sheffield Wednesday, before heading back to the station.

I finally managed to cross the road that I didn't need to, oh and we never did see a red squirrel.  Can I have my money back?   It was time to see what Southport had to offer.

Grey skies, wind and rain couldn't disguise the fact that Southport was a pretty classy Victorian seaside town, much nicer than I'd imagined though I judge all seaside towns on a Blackpool/Bridlington combination, so my expectations are generally low.  

1060.  Willow Grove, Southport

Though I didn't do us any favours by starting here.  I used to believe a visit to a Wetherspoons could give you a microcosm of life in a given town.  Or, as Dad suggested, it could just be where all the down & outs go.  Whatever, I'd been determined to prove to him after the Leicester debacle a fortnight ago that 'Spoons in the GBG can be very good.  Sadly, this wasn't the place to prove my point.  It was heaving, and the ales were being turned around at an alarming rate.  One lady (hag) was upset to hear a St Patrick's Day 'Irish Red' ale had gone, she panicked, surveyed the remaining ales, and went for a ..... pint of Stella!  The staff did well to get us served to quickly, and as I handed Dad my penultimate 'Mudgie Voucher' for this period, I found a table - moved some disgusting food plates, swept away the crumbs in an angry manner, and tentatively picked up a soiled tissue packed with the finest Southport D.N.A.  Upstairs had it's own bar, and would have been calmer had it not been for a terrifying hen party and twild learning to walk up and downstairs, whilst Tom was nearly mowed down by a buggy.  However, it was a friendly place and the beer was good quality, so it wins 'Spoons of the month so far.  We poured scorn on the new breakfast menu (Tom wrote his own "specials" on the back), the "NEW!  Beans on Toast" made us laugh out loud, and a jolly man who was far too enthusiastic about Wetherspoons food excitedly told us what the 'specials' were and that he was working his way through the menu!  It takes all sorts.

Possibly the most 'Spoons photo I have ever taken.

Fart arsed ponce burger?  Tripple cooked chps?   Half a tomato and chps?  Tom at work.

Dad and Tom fight there way back from the bar.
 The day then really could start improving, and after walking past Southport's answer to the ghost of Chuck Berry, busking, under some lovely old awnings, we hesitated outside the Scarisbrick Hotel complex looking confused until a kind man told us Barons Bar was first door on the left.

Is this the way in?

Dad and Tom tentatively step inside
1061.  Barons Bar, Southport

It all felt a bit clubby, almost like I needed to show my CAMRA card, with plush red carpet and happy old duffers sat on leather chairs chewing the fat, drinking coffee and wine.  Oh, and don't forget the legendary Tetley's which that nice Lizards man had already warned me/told me about.  And now to meet our 'character' of the day, a strange southerner in a knitted jumper - one of those nervous types who couldn't keep still and flitted from table to table interrupting everyone.  He told us he preferred the keg Tetley's (£1.85 a pint or something) to the £2.20 Cask as it was less gassy!  And then like an eager schoolboy, he told me you could take your drink to a different part of the hotel complex to check on the Arsenal score on a big screen!  Although my inner response to him would be "WHY, JUST WHY?" it is BRAPA policy to humour crazy locals so I let him give me a guided tour of the place, he knew everyone, and took me to a low-key Las Vegas type room but it was half time anyway.  It was a bit like an 11 year old Essex schoolboy in 1990 finding the keys to the staff room whilst England play Cameroon in the World Cup.  This tour made me realise the main area of Barons Bar was quite a baronial themed room with mood lighting, a proper bar and the loos - more like the third door on the left, but we (especially Dad) enjoyed the light clubby-esque room we were in.  As our friend appeared to puke on a plant (too much keg Tetleys), and the weird smell of egg turned to burnt plastic, and my 'Top Totty' started to turn a bit sulphury, it was time to go whilst I was still semi-enjoying it.

Our new friend is taken ill at the lamp

View from bar hatch to main baronial style bar.
We carried on in the same direction down Lord Street with the rain teeming down again, and though I didn't have the heart to take Dad in another Wetherspoons, there was another pub across the road ....

Dad and Tom in 'crushed to death by inn sign' possibility. 

1062.  Phoenix, Southport

With gaudy purple frontage and a Carling inn sign bigger than most micropubs, I felt like we'd finally hit the cheap n cheerful seaside jackpot here.  In some ways, it was the first traditional pub we'd been in all day, a massive place full of lager drinkers, twilds playing on the floor (though strangely, I found it more of a charming scene than an irritating one!), really well kept ale, watchful but friendly staff and huge screens showing pretty much every sporting event taking place at this time across the globe!  Or so it felt.  Dad and Tom described it as "a Wetherspoons that hadn't been ruined by being Wetherspooned".  They spied a Mother's Day menu,  "Mum Eats for Free!" it screamed, and Tom wondered whether you could just book a table for your Mum and leave her here alone, in the staff's capable hands?!  It was an intriguing loophole which I hope a Southport resident will trial.   This was the kind of pub where anything goes, so relaxed, like you could put your pyjamas on and sleep undisturbed for weeks, the kind of place you can eat your own sandwiches which we did.  The acoustics were crazy too, the further down into the Gents you got, the louder the sound from the Hawthorns was despite the TV being very much upstairs.  Hearing 'Wenger Out' cries at such decibels whilst draining your bladder is somewhat off-putting.   But why I did enjoy this pub a lot more than, say, the Freshfield, can only be down to it's total lack of pretension.  

I spent ages lining up this shot, though you'd never know!

Table for one please!
There was time for another one, back towards the station on the opposite side of the road, though what surprised us was that Cambridge Walk seems to be a shopping arcade.  Never been too sure whether to trust pubs in Shopping Centres, apart from Southend's wonderful Cork and Cheese, especially ones calling themselves micropubs.

1063.  Tap & Bottles, Southport

But I'm glad to report that I was wrong, as what followed was easily our favourite pub of the day.  I'd not call it a micropub though, felt more like a cosy Euro style cafe bar, plus it failed my two main micropub requirements.  These are - it had blackcurrant cordial for Tom, and it had TWO toilets.  So there you go.  The staff were young and eager, though perhaps not quite all there as when Dad tried to get a half of "Anarachy Sublime Chaos", he ended up with a "Slimline Chaos" which presumably had been diluted with tonic water.  My pint of Kashmir was stunning, but when you have beers of percentages like these, offering seating that creaks, is flimsy and could snap at any moment probably isn't the kindest thing the pub has done.   Oh and then I spotted an upstairs area too just to clinch the 'probably not a micropub really' theory.  The clientele should be grateful I was increasingly "not at my most observant" so could not pick up any conversational bits, not that I can remember anyway!

So that was that, and we'd made great time so managed to avoid too much football traffic on the train back to York.  I'll look forward to part 2 of Southport (really good day out), in the coming months/years but for now, I'm planning another NFFD trip for April, and I'm all booked for three BRAPA holidays later this year.

In the short term, next week should see me complete the last five pub ticks in Yorkshire which is very exciting!  To me anyway.  I'll be in touch, don't wait up. 


Sunday, 12 March 2017

BRAPA - Bucks Part 1 : Outer MK? Yes Way!

Classic train toilet humour
Having completed Berkshire last month, it was time to get cracking on the next alphabetical county in the Good Beer Guide, Buckinghamshire.  I'd already made a solid start with 11 pubs previously, so I'm hopeful I can be done by this time next year.

Obviously, it wouldn't be BRAPA if we didn't have some early morning drama on the trains, and somwhere near Marsden / Greenfield, a 'fire bottle' (whatever one of them is, please DON'T tell me) got dislodged and the inhabitants of Coach B were evacuated.  This had the pleasing result of meaning a stressed out German girl sat next to me, worried she'd miss her flight to Cologne for a funeral.  We eventually started moving again.  "Don't worry" I told with usual BRAPA tact as I handed her a card, "read my blog after the funeral to cheer you up".

Amazingly, I made my connection at Piccadilly and was soon on my way to MK, tempting as it was to jump out at more ale-friendly towns like Stockport and errrm Stoke.  And after being driven mad by an avenger/dinosaur loving twild, I was soon stood at MK's bus rank ready for Emberton.

Milton Keynes gets a lot of (unfair, in my opinion) criticism, but whilst it might not have the 'historic' feel of most British places (I felt a bit like I was in L.A. or Melbourne when waiting for the bus), it doesn't have the miseryguts locals and everyone was so happy, by Newport Pagnall, I felt like I was in a Victorian Christmas scene, on acid.  York for one could learn a thing or two.

Arriving at my first "official" Bucks pub.
1054. Bell & Bear, Emberton

It didn't look very open, but that was probably because I was entering through the post-office esque left hand bar, which looked a bit foody and sterile so imagine my relief when I found a proper pub room to the right, with a fire and one of those Northamptonshire Skittles tables, ah brought back memories of good ole' Bedfordshire!  A lady who might've been called Toni served me some ale so unusual and local it didn't have a pump clip, and I sat down in the window and surveyed the scene which was basically lots of hilarious staff and one other customer who was wearing a Lincoln City top which seemed highly convenient considering their "big day" v Arsenal.  Even more so when the jovial landlord left a voicemail on somebody's phone simply shouting "come on your Gooners HAHAHA".  Maybe supporting Lincoln is an Emberton thing?  Anyway, he soon made himself useful by putting the fire in, singing Prodigy's "Firestarter" in an unsettling operatic style at the same time, and then boasted about how multi-skilled he was by bringing some chopped wood in from outside.  A man in full motorcycle gear appeared including helmet, making pint drinking difficult.  He was referred to simply as "the Stig" but soon removed the mask and looked very much like Lincoln City man - brothers?    He kept telling funny stories about a bloke called "Shaggy", no one had proper names here.  I'd put my Good Beer Guide on the table in a subtle attempt at making my intentions known, too subtle perhaps and I suspect rather like Beds, Bucks folk will need conversation coaxing out of them, though the scene amongst locals and staff was "classic pub bantz".  I was a bit on edge as I needed a taxi, but I finally got a signal, hurrah, and was on my way.  If all Bucks pubs are this good, I'll be in for a very good next year of pub ticking.

Lincoln City man sits at the bar trying to remember the club's nickname.

Drink Good Prosecco with Good Friends

Emergency beer mat needed already, uh oh!
After a nice taxi ride with a jolly man who spoke little English but loved the pub-ticking concept, I was soon at Chicheley and as I breathed in the fresh country air, all seemed well in the world of outer MK pub ticking ....

1055.  Chester Arms, Chicheley

Sadly, my feeling didn't last and I was still outside the pub when I heard the shrieking of the dining twild within.  2 twild.  Awful.  At the bar, there was no getting a smile out of the miserable local man propping it up, maybe he knew something I didn't.  He did keep asking for more ice in his drink, which if it was ale, was very strange.  The 2 barmaids, "brunette sauce grabber" and "occasionally Scottish elder teenage boy moustache" both had the decency to tell me I'd be served in a minute, but were too busy serving diners (mainly taking them sauce!) to actually do so, and I had a good 5 minute wait in a fairly quiet pub.  The pub house beer, when it came, was poorly kept and rapidly on the turn.  75% of the pub was a restaurant, but the left hand side with it's carpet and fire and a bit more homeliness, the fish & chip eating oldies opposite me had chosen to eat in here too, and who could blame them?  A sign did tell me to wait to be seated, but I was never going to observe that.  And following on from the Prodigy incident, one of the barmaids (not sure which) sang Queen's Radio Gaga in the club style, which was a real feast for the ears!  And I realised I suddenly smelt strangely like Sorachi beer (which I dislike) , how random is that, and it didn't last beyond this pub.  And I had to nurse my drink as the bus wasn't for ages, but when I left, the strains of Jimmy Nail's "looking back, over your shoulder" were piped into the pub garden, but I was never going to do that.  If this gets in the 2018 GBG, I'll be thoroughly amazed! 

Sinister rabbit and easter chick

Drinking up the dregs pre-bus.  Beer mats were an unlikely plus.
There's not much of a bus service to Stoke Goldington, but I managed to get one and I really felt I was cooking on gas now, and what a pretty little village it was as I skipped down the road like a spring lamb to the Lamb for pub three .....

Nice tail!  
1056.  Lamb, Stoke Goldington

I entered the pub to find barmaid Alice being laughed at for trying to turn the TV on with her mobile phone, so I joined in obviously to try and fit in, but she soon got her own back on me when I tripped over a step going to the loo.  The pub had a beer range like Swan & Rushes last week, with two classic Oakham's tasting like nectar after that last pint of shite!  What I should've ordered though was what the locals refer to as "half and half", half a Tring Death or Glory with a half of standard bitter.  But no one told me this until it was too late!  I had it in Saltburn once so not to worry and described it as tasting like a Cockney Rejects album, hmmm.  I sat at some low flung table / low flung leather settee combo (who needs beermats when you have this many newspapers?) and noticed the burning embers on another warming fire, and was just wistfully thinking of a joke I could make if an Ember Inn ever burnt down, when the smiley landlord spied my GBG.  My challenge created some interest within the pub, especially from Mrs Lamb, but they'd had those 'Tairstairs' chumps in not that long ago - but I won't dream of criticising them as (a) they do it for 'Charideeee' and (b) they are from the West Midlands which in pubbing terms, makes them almost as uncriticisable as a pub in the north west.   I also defended Wetherspoons against locals criticism which didn't go down well, but I can't see them opening one in Stoke Goldington any time soon.  Was a nice chat though, and I thought the pub dog was coming over to say hello as well, but I was just sat in his seat!  I took the opportunity to ask the pub to ring me a taxi (I had no phone signal, and a 4 mile walk to Hanslope didn't appeal along these roads.  A real cracker of a pub this, my favourite of the day.

My pint of Oakham was a truly wonderful thing.

Alice finally works out how to turn the TV on.

Me and dog compromise, and decide to share.
Eezicabs are a much better taxi company than the name might suggest, and after another top BRAPA chat with a man who'd apparently been waiting ten minutes for me, oops, we set off down some hair raising country lanes in vaguely the right direction cos we had no signal to put in the post code - it was almost like a North Yorkshire chauffeur day, and we made it in the end! 

1057.  Cock, Hanslope

Another great village, and another friendly pub welcome.  I must admit, I hadn't expected to find such characterful places and this one was dominated by tree branches hanging from the ceiling.  I've seen them put tonnes of hopbines up, which can look a bit tacky, but this kind of worked a lot better.  I was served by a jolly man, very dapper in his flat cap, reminding me of if Harry Enfield did a sketch where he was a stereotypical Yorkshireman.  Nice lad anyway, and the loungey feel and old corridor to the loos made me realise I was in a proper old pub.  Seriously, I don't know who writes the GBG summaries for the pubs in this area, but they do not do justice at all, made this sound like some kind of Greene King Sky Sports lager lovers boozer, when it had lots of class.  Hanslope's answer to Dee from Neighbours came in with a puppy that kept biting everything, and she was chatted up by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln in one of those moments which make you wonder if your earlier drink had been spiked with Death or Glory after all!

Dee from Neighbours gets shoe chewed by dog under the branches

Pub men deep in conversation

The ghost of Abraham Lincoln tries his "nice puppies" chat up line.
I hopped on a bus back towards MK but I still had time to do the pub I came here for, being in Bradwell village it is next in the alphabet after Aylesbury (which I'm doing in April) - you gotta have a strategy haven't you?

Ready for the 5th and final pub tick of the day.
1058.  Victoria Inn, Bradwell Village

Not sure how I manage it, but whenever I'm on a Beds, Berks and now Bucks day, I manage to co-incide it with the Six Nations rugby catastrophe.  Absolute cat-nip to the folk of the South East, but posh boredom for most northerners.  And it was England v Scotland, and it's hard to imagine hearing more anti-Scottish sentiment in any BRAPA pub, sadly I was too hazy by now to remember any of the classic quotes, but what you must say, this pub was extremely 'spirited', everyone bar me was on the Stella, and ordered at as "a pint o' wife beater" without flinching.  And that included the women folk.  Another strange quirk, everyone sounded like farmers.  Like I'd stepped into a weird Suffolk or Devon dimension, when this really was the least rural of the five pubs today.  However, when England scored a try, the applause was polite like in cricket, very odd.  No wonder I sat in a dark lower down area away from TV screens. I hope they didn't think I was Scottish.  Whenever a scrum happened, a loud bloke shouted "they are having a bromance on the floor".  But no one laughed.  The toilets were very ornate in here, and it was another nice pub not done justice by the GBG write up.  And just as I was leaving, a large (in every way) family decided to start a burping contest!

I like a pub that arranges it's beermats with a degree of symmetry. 

After another bus, I was back at MK railway station for a sobering hot chocolate and bag of crisps!  The train seemed to take an age to get back to Manchester, and then on to York where West Yorkshire people did what West Yorkshire people do, and displayed a total lack of train etiquette, I will make a 'drinking' game out of train commuter behaviour one day!

But that was a great day, expensive at times, but to get 5 villages done like that bodes well and I'll be back in Bucks on April Fools' Day for part two, further south this time.  And then the "big Aylesbury holiday" later in the month.

The future's bright, the future is BRAPA.


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

BRAPA - A Day of Two Halves in Leiceister (not in the beer sense!)

Why have I never FULLY enjoyed any of my 7 trips to Leicester?  I can't blame them for Hull City's usual inability to 'perform' here, but the pubs and the general lack of warmth and 'giving' from the natives are what we really get my (regimental) goat.

The people of Leicester must have HATED winning the Premier League.  They had to be happy and joyous.  It can't have felt right.  Pub blogger extraordinaire Martin Taylor appraised my favourite Leicester pub Ale Wagon as "perhaps Britain's grumpiest pub".  What he (probably) meant was that it encapsulated the city better than any other.  And that is the sign of a truly great pub.

Why else does Leicester legend Gary Lineker spend every Saturday evening trying to recreate the "Ale Wagon experience" on faux bench seating opposite Alan Shearer, a man with all the charm and charisma of an Ale Wagon regular?  "I'm off home to creosote my fence" MUST be a stock phrase uttered here.

I know a very nice man from Leicester called Richard (no he's not a hunchback who lives under a carpark).  He's a pub man, an ale man, a kind Leicester fan, very humble, supportive of BRAPA too.  But even his helpful local knowledge hasn't helped me get the best out of pubs in the City.

Their lack of shelf life is a problem - "The Pub" was hailed as a wonderful new thing about 5 years ago, by 2pm on same day, the TEN handpulls started running out at an alarming rate, I don't think it ever recovered.  Then it closed and got re-branded.   "The Salmon" supposedly amazing, my 600th BRAPA pub in fact, high anticipation, but a blocked piss-plunging disappointment with dull beer and disinterested staff.  This is why I didn't go with any "pre-emptives" I was recommended today.....they could all be dead within a year!

Dad walks away in disgust
'Twas just my Leicester luck, we'd got in before 11am, the sun was out, the Hull City scum were singing, we ran as far across town as we could to this 11am opener, the Charlotte, but it was shut, and I don't mean "not open yet shut", I mean "CLOSED DOWN PROPER SHUT!"  Peering in through the windows, rats seemed to be nibbling on the landlord's carcass in the middle of the floor (okay, I might be exaggerating) but it had been closed down for 2 weeks, so a ruddy faced man in Leicester Tigers shirt told us in a rare display of 'communicative local looks you in the eye' behaviour.

All my other earmarked pubs were 12 noon openers, but we all know what the saving grace is in situations such as this ..... SPOOOOOONS! 

Dad is smiling!  (for now)
1050.  High Cross, Leicester

A pub tick is a pub tick, is the best you could say about this bustling 'Spoons.  Dad jokes about "a pint of Wetherspoons" meaning they all have that standard stock taste (not gravy, quite), though his friend takes him literally and thinks he thinks there is a beer called 'Wetherspoons' can you imagine?!  I've actually had some wonderful Wetherspoons pints (Maltby, Bury, Castleford to name just three), just never with Dad, so I blame a combination of him and my "Leicester luck" for the fact that both our beers tasted identical, not awful, just boring and tired.  Despite being a huge place, Dad did well to find us a table in the sun, and when a strange bearded creature knocked on the window and waved at us, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a Wehterspoons 'character' until the presence of Tom Irvin was looming large over our table, with his usual greeting "we're going to lose today".  He's rarely wrong these days.  And the poor lad had just come from another 'Spoons, and two seasons ago, we went to ANOTHER one, called Last Plantagenet which had some tardy service in the extreme.  "A second rate king for a second rate Spoons" to paraphrase David Starkey.   Time to move on.

A very dull pint

The pub was full but the locals didn't appear in this photo spookily enough!
1051.  Rutland & Derby, Leciester

We stood outside  pub two and waited down this side street pub, fairly huge and modern looking, at 11:57am until they opened pretty much bang on 12 and we were inside.  I ordered an Everards Tiger because (a) it had a 3D pump clip (b) it might be lucky for Hull City and (c) it seemed the Leicesterly thing to do.  It wasn't really up to scratch.  Young bar chap was friendly with a "this isn't a proper boozer you do realise that?" kind of a smirk and soon we were sat in some hideous leather bench booths in an area called "Pub Garden Kitchen".  Not quite "Bowling Room" is it?   Another neon sign said "Lel" whatever that means.  LE1 perhaps?  It certainly wasn't lol.  Well, until a posho woman spied her posho friend, stared at her drink, said "what is THAT?", the reply "THAT is water!"  Thanks for Tom for encouraging me to use that exchange.  We then scowled at a menu on a blackboard, Tom suggesting this was a contender for BRAPA worst pub of the year but it was more Theale-bland than outer-Wolverhampton-thoroughly-upsetting.  It was utterly dull though. 

Me and Dad pre-opening

Dad appraises the menu of despair (Tom soon dispensed with his straw)

Please make it stop!
It was at this stage of the day where Dad had a "Good Beer Guide" crisis of confidence, denouncing my 'bible' as little more than a selection of pubs entered at random into the GBG.   The real problem, I tried to explain, is that Leicester has been given a WAY too big allocation - probably to give it similar rights to Nottingham and Derby - but about five or six would do.

Even so, I felt like I (as a staunch GBG advocate!) was under scrutiny just as much as Leicester,  the next pub simply HAD to deliver .....

1052.  Swan & Rushes, Leciester

It didn't help matters that Richard who I mentioned earlier, told me (at a Scunthorpe fan's 30th birthday in Hull!) that this pub had gone downhill in recent years.  But as soon as Tom opened the inner door and we walked up to the bar, Oakham ales gleaming, moody looking Leicester old men, a very straightforward pricing policy (see below), carpets, seats, basically, a proper pub, I knew we'd recovered and we'd be here to stay.  So typical then of Dad to say he was almost disappointed it was good and we were staying(!), "just imagine how many pubs we could've got done if we kept hopping from rubbish pub to pub!" And if this was the pub going "downhill", how good must it have been before?  We managed to save a huge table just for us 3 (and Ben when he arrived for a quick one after 2) which was quite an achievement when you think how high the influx of Leicesterites was due to this pub being quite near the ground. I was the only Hull City shirt in here, and was this the reason why, at 2pm when I went for the final round, it took over TEN minutes to get served??  I'd already noticed the staff were a bit slow but the locals, having prodded and picked at me for a few mins before realising I belonged to the same species and they could talk to me (no eye contact of course), wondered if my City shirt was causing the issue and they all went off to another bar like I was some leper!  Anyway, i was served about two seconds later so in yer face Foxes!  It'd been a great pre-match session and the earlier woes were a distant memory.

One of the better staff people pulls a beer in this busy pub (again, Leciester fans don't show up in photos)

I think all pubs should have this kind of thing.

We'll gloss over that little thing called a football match, and it was pouring with rain by now but we had time before the train, and I'd seen a pub between ground and station, with a 'trophy' next to it, meaning it had won some pub of the year award or something .....

My view on today's performance.
1053.  King's Head, Leciester

Ohhhh  yesss, and suddenly Leicester's pub redemption is complete!  This was the pub that Dad rated "even better than the Swan and Rushes" and you know what, I think I may just have to agree.  And a proper backstreet boozer with an Ale Wagon-esque crowd of curmudgeonly old locals - you'd have thought they lost 0-5 judging by their expressions, simply marvellous.  Vintage Leicester, and after craning our necks over the post-match barflies to get served, we shared a table with a sleeping version of the Elephant Man and I noticed a pub cat, totally unfazed like all good pub cats, asleep on the table next to me.  Poor thing though, I think Leicester fans are dog people cos they kept coming in, patting it's head, and scratching it's back like they'd not learnt the art of cat stroking before.  It suffered in stoic silence, yawned, and pretended the outside world didn't exist, you could tell it was a Leicester pub cat.  Before I could breathe, a man we always see after away games came to moan at us about Hull City for about 20 mins.  We were like "chill out dude, you're in an award winning pub, stroke the cat and/or elephant man and relax".  

So only 5 GBG pubs to do in Leicester for now, I don't suppose we'll play there next season and I'm not due to do the county of Leicestershire til the year 2032 but I will be back!