When I booked my tickets for Manchester Punk Festival back in December, I thought how nice it would be to forget about silly new pubs altogether and simply relax with three days of deafening music amongst sweaty crusty folk who live out of bins. Bliss.
Sadly, my brain is no longer conditioned to follow plans like this through, and soon I was plotting all manner of pubby jaunts within reach of Manchester, and I'd even held over two central ones deliberately for this purpose. Six was the aim for the weekend.
Lymm was one such place that made sense (said no one ever, despite it's outward prettiness), it didn't really fit in to a full Saturday 'day out', but was perhaps a bit too much of a stretch for a Friday after work. So with my heavy luggage weighing me down (too early to check in at the Premier Inn), I took a bus from Altrincham (puke) which I thought was called "CATS", but was actually the CAT5.
It was the most glorious day of the year so far weather wise, just as it had been on my previous trip to this curious town, where all the men over 50 look like Peter Stringfellow with their blonde hair, tanned skin and white teeth. And all the women over 50 look like, errrm, Peter Stringfellow, but with dogs in their handbags, flowery blouses and hip-centric walking styles. A bit like Peter Stringfellow. As usual, anyone under 18 sprawled themselves across 'Lymm Cross', which they treat as some religious monument despite it's crumbling stubby nature, and look like they are waiting for a god to come and sacrifice them.
My pub was actually a stones throw from t' Cross, slightly sunken just off the main road:
|A very wrong sign|
1323 / 2069. Bull's Head, Lymm
12 noon and open on a weekday, that was the first requirement fulfilled. And I was delighted to walk in to find a traditional old pub, and then surprised to see it was a Hydes pub. In my experience, Hydes favour modern beige pastel colours and swanky cushions which Mr Ember-Fortescue-Smyth would approve of, so I counted myself fortunate to find something traditional. I was greeted warmly by the fantastic landlord, who I was a big fan of (easier of course when you are the only customer) and he was enthusing on this seasonal Hydes thing from a place called 'Kansas Ave', which I assume is Hydes way of trying to modern and trendy. "It's very hoppy!" he warned me, but was pulling it through anyway so I didn't have too much choice. Unpopular opinion coming up : I'd much rather be steered towards an ale than be asked 'what style are ye after chief?' by some airbrushed sycophant. It wasn't that hoppy. Then he came over and said "it's not too overpowering is it, just subtle", I was confused by now. Lymm always confuses me. A bloke with no charm wandered in, grunted ' pint of Amstel' and took it straight out into the garden but not before hitting his head on the ceiling. I sighed (after I laughed), people really need to learn manners and perhaps bad karma wouldn't come back to hit them on the bonce. A very good pub, preferred it to my 'Brewery Tap' experience a year or two back. Lymm is quite nice isn't it? Only FIVE Cheshire pubs remain, hurrah!
Back in Alty then after a bus which really went round the houses, almost literally, every single house, and the plan was to go to their new entry Cheshire Tap but Google Maps, which I am now using more than the updated inferior GBG App, said it didn't open til 5pm on Thursday!
I'd normally be upset by this but bearing in mind Altrincham's chorltonesque recent entries (Pi, Costellos, Jack in the Box), I wasn't expecting a thrilling experience anyway, plus I had to check in, drop my bags off and get something to eat pre-festival. So it kind of helped! Cheers Alty.
Back on the tram then, and it stopped at a place I'd vaguely heard of called Sale where I had a Joules pub to do.
1324 / 2070. J.P. Joule, Sale
But hang on, this looks suspiciously like a Wetherspoons. It's like one inside too. It MUST be a Wetherspoons. But, but, there is Joule's Gold on. But wait, where's the red cross and irritatingly fun riddles and quizzes on the walls? And where's the stained glass and sense of excitement which never quite carries through your entire stay here? No, this was definitely a 'Spoons. I handed over a Mudgie voucher and a little beardo who looked like he was definitely called 'Matt' graciously accepted it, besides this beer was brewed by Brightside, who I actually think are much better than Joules. Despite the huge swathes of floor space, scattered tables, and a spiral staircase offering more, there was a healthy early afternoon crowd in, making it impossible to have any kind of personal space. A bloke of Stringfellowian demeanour (minus the hair) was holding court for a group of five ladies, giggling and loving his 'bantz'. They'd almost certainly travelled over from Lymm. A typically 'Spoons style plaque told us more about J.P. Joule. It said "he was known for his experiments in heat" - Wahey, thought fake Stringfellow, I know ALL ABOUT THAT! A bunch of old blokes on one of those jolly old boys outings sat behind me a bit too close, and wished each other 'Happy New Year' and all ordered burger n chips without even glancing at the menu. A man in a booth started using an app on his phone to try and make his own garage style music, but it was tinny even by garage band standards and when he got evil stares, he desisted and walked out looking cowed. This wasn't quite Winsford 'Spoons joy, but you could see all the elements were there.
|Look on the brightside, it ain't Joules. Haha.|
|Stringfellow holds court, and I haven't started smoking|
|'Spoons life, Sale, Apr 2018, 2pm Thu.|
Back in Manc, I checked in at Deansgate Premier Inn where me and Martin Taylor both randomly stayed when we first met, two years ago this week aaaaah. I did what any self respecting punk would do, and ate a pasta meal whilst watching Neighbours and then had a little snooze.
Then I got my wristband exchanged and went to watch the first band in 'Rebellion' called 'No Matter', a nice little quartet from Belfast who seemed amazed anyone was watching them (people did cos they were the first band on) and it was nice pop punk, the perfect starter. A green haired Rev. Timms from Postman Pat bopped around, a punk Jonjo Shelvey inhaled whatever was expelled from the smoke machine, and it was all very jolly.
But with none of MY gang turning up til tomorrow, I thought now was the right time to do those two remaining Mancy pubs I'd deliberately left whilst I had the freedom to do what I wanted.
The first, just over the bridge in Salford, looked proud and imposing as dusk started to fall.
1325 / 2071. Egerton Arms Hotel, Salford
I'd only just got into 'punk mode' and now it was like I was immediately stepping right back in time to an age before punk, when Rotten was in nappies and the Ramones were little more than twilds being weaned on crack. One of those where you walk in, and the atmosphere is stale sweat and smoke, which might sound disgusting but transports your mind back to nostalgic days that I can't really remember (as an 'impish teenager' obvs!) An old man with no teeth and very little balance was walking around with a cardboard box asking what he should do with it, but as no one knew what was in the box, he didn't really get a straight answer. All the locals took preference over me at the bar, and for once, I was happy to accept this til a quiet chap in crazy shirt finally served me. I'd somehow acquired an Irish fiver (I blame the last band) and this felt like the right pub to dispense with it, though not only did the pleasant sunken bony barman eye it suspiciously but also the locals, leading me to put on a fake NI accent and think nice thoughts about Billy Bingham. My Phoenix ale was warm with that distinct "first one pulled through of the day" temperature despite the fact it was 7:45pm. Still, I'd just paid £4.70 for a pint of a generic American Craft IPA in the venue which tasted like cleaning fluid so I couldn't complain too much. I don't think this was much of an ale drinkers pub. A few old guys nodded and acknowledged me as I went to sit, the pub was great in a barren type of way, and everyone's eyes were glued to a TV programme about having less saturated fat and sugar. They looked like they were paying attention, but couldn't see this bunch popping into the health food store on the way home. The scary man who kept eyeing me eventually rang for a taxi to take him home, so ha, I know your address mate and you don't know mine, so who is winning now?! To my right, a man with the runniest nose seen in pub history kept blowing it, sniffing, scattering a series of snotty tissues across the table. Everyone looked revolted I'm pleased to report, not just me. Great pub this in many ways, but beer bit of a cause for concern.
|I didn't order the Wobbly Bob as it 'affects' me|
|Some of the locals who were served before me cos they're local|
|Warmest pint of the year contender?|
|The pub looking beautiful but bleak like a Jane Austen novel set in Salford|
Back over the bridge, back into Manc from where I'd come from, to complete my remaining city centre tick for the year, something called 'Brink'. Took me an age to spot it, a tiny little doorway and first I thought it was closed down like all around it, but it was okay.
|Back towards the Brink|
|Weird scary entrance|
1326 / 2072. Brink, Manchester
If walking down a steep narrow staircase didn't feel a traumatic enough entrance, to have buzzy bees all over the walls simply made it terrifying. Add to this the slogan "Dinky Downstairs Drinkery" and I was a bag of nerves by the time I crept around the corner to the bar. The ales were by somewhere called 'Thirst Class' which I've seen in Station pubs like that Stalybridge place with chocolate bars I'm never sober enough to remember, and the barman expected me to know what I wanted straight away, so I went for the porter as I doubted I'd see much in the way of dark beers over the course of the weekend. I found a seat at the back of the room, and the clientele were obviously bat-shit crazy, as they spent their time either smiley maniacally into space or having heated debates about topics so irrelevant and obscure, I simply cannot remember the details. Everyone was in their twenties, leaning over tables with chequered shirts and ginger beards (apart from the women) and gesticulating frantically about nothing in particular. Only Poundland-Coren-Mitchell seemed to be a voice of reason, overriding her excitable male counterparts with a fair degree of panache. There was one older man a bit different, he sat alone on a laptop looking stern and untouchable by the Thursday night excitement. Still, his laptop had stickers on saying things like 'Subterfuge' 'Government' and 'Warning'.. I decided to think nothing of it unless my skin started blistering. A little cup contained 'Thirst Class' badges so I stuck one to myself (cos punks love piercings, right?) and a brown haired girl smiled even though I'd not really been brave enough to pierce my skin. And that summed it up.
|Oooh I wonder what colour this porter is, let's have a jam jar to guide us?|
|I Am Kloot were banned from the festival for these lyrics.|
I then went to watch a couple of bands at a venue across town called the 'Bread Shed' which seemed kind of ok, I love Roughneck Riot anyway but spilt my pint cos was too near the 'Pit. But still an earlier night than expected as I had a pubby plan forming for tomorrow morning.
|No queue at the Bread Shed, I'm off in|
|Roughneck Riot, Warrington's finest, the Lower Angel of folk-punk|