I'm not telling you this to gain retrospective sympathy, though I don't mind if that is what you want to offer, but it was 'mind over matter' as I wrote my BRAPA Year End Review on 31st Dec, forcing down two cans of out of date Elvis Juice, a few beige party bites, some whangee Pringles, garlic dip and half a glass of Bucks Fizz after midnight. We know how to party in York City Centre.
|I'd felt better|
We were a bit unlucky Sheff Utd have disappeared, and the Sheff Wed game was on probably the worst pub bank holiday of the year - though i didn't realise quite how bad until today. The three of us (Dad was here of course) had no intention going to Hillsborough, the ticket price is ridiculous, the view is often terrible for away fans, and as Dad says, it should've been knocked down long ago (1989 to be exact). And it's not like Hull City would win, would they?
But as a pub city, Sheff is up there with the best in the business so hopes were high as we circled our first pub of the day. Inevitably, the GBG had incorrect opening hours we couldn't even blame NYD for .......
|Tom and I ill prepared for first pub photo of 2020|
A wander around the building found another closed entrance, the Hull City team coach parked outside. Could it be possible they'd booked the place out for a pre-match snifter before the trek north to Hillsborough? Grosicki on the Old Peculiar, Lewis-Potter on the Panda Pops?
Well, no actually, we found them in a posh hotel by that weird conservatory/butterfly farm opposite the Crucible where Hazel Irvine gets Ken Doherty to do trick shots whilst John Parrot gargles something incomprehensible and Terry Griffiths belts out Green Green Grass of Home. I miss Dougie Donnelly, is he still alive?
|New year, same old Allam Out poster|
|Throwback to when Elephants ruled Sheffield (not as good as Hull's toads, mind)|
At about the fourth time of asking, Dad found a door ajar at Head of Steam, Sheffield (1679 / 2896) and we weren't the only desperate chilly folk looking for hair of the dog in a city of shut pubs. How identical it was to the new L**ds vehicle was super depressing, but to take it at face value, you can't exactly dislike these places (there aren't enough of them), problem is you can't exactly 'enjoy them' and what they actually add to the Sheffield real ale scene is pretty negligible if truth be told. When I was cross-ticking back in September, I noticed newbies in Liverpool and Birmingham too, suggesting CAMRA rate them at least. Northern Monk is a top brewery isn't it, and the ale was on good form served by an excellent barmaid - Tom bemoaning the wokeness of BRAPA meaning a lack of 'Brunette of the Year Award' in the modern day, and probably wondering what her contact details were. She specifically asks him how strong he wants his blackcurrant, touch of class! A local Twitter lady told me off for coming here when Sheffield has so much better to offer, but (a) you have to understand BRAPA isn't about going to nice pubs, it is about doing what a book tells you and (b) would anything else be open? I can't add much more, to be honest, Tom had a coughing fit to try and prove he was poorlier than me which is what the kids call a curve ball, Dad said "for heaven's sake", and I said "let's get to Fagans".
|Hope springs Eternal|
|The many HoS moods of Father BRAPA #1 (strangled by own collar)|
|The many HoS moods of Father BRAPA #2 (finished my pint too quickly)|
I was confident Fagans would be open as it opens all day every day as a rule, and we were getting on for 1pm, if not later, by now. It is one of those pubs I used to notice in the GBG when Craig Fagan played for Hull City and we first started enjoying Sheffield for football circa 2005-2011, it looks like GBG 2010 might be the last time it appeared, and I never quite made it there.
A Tetley's lamp, a traditional outlook, and some typically quirky fantastic 'street art' promised good things, and with a light on in the main corridor, Dad confidently jiggled the handle, but no joy! Noooooo! A European dude from Barton on Humber told me this was one of the few days of the year the hard working Fagans couple have off, fair enough I guess but no good for the humble pub ticker!
|Dad gets a hasty blurry one in before|
|This is top shelf erotica for the folk of South Yorkshire|
That was the start of a club record three consecutive shut BRAPA pubs. We may as well have walked to our next one, the busy tram to Shalesmoor (the second lowest point of the day!) was a poor move on my part, and the Riverside was so shut (I couldn't even see the name of the pub displayed anyway), Tom & I suggested maybe it was shut down, but Dad noticed some Christmas trees lurking around the door, so it must've been fairly current!
|Probably the Riverside|
The third shut pub was less of a surprise. If Fagan's and Riverside really SHOULD have been open, Bar Stewards doesn't actually open til 4pm Wednesday, and someone had done the wise thing and called the police to stop a BRAPA break-in ........
This was actually my second Bar Stewards failure, it was also closed when it was considered for a preemptive of my legendary crawl with Taylor, Protz and Coldwell.
In desperate need of a wee, not to mention a drink, we popped into the (amazingly open) and very pleasing Shakespeare across the road. So caught up was I in an argument with Dad about whether NYD was usually this bad or not, I nearly didn't notice a BRAPA reader perched at a side table. I'd met him in the Stag in Broom on the outskirts of Rotherham, my 1,183rd tick so I had to think back. Here's what I wrote at the time ...... "As I got the GBG and green highlighter out, a nice man called Richard stood behind us was like "you BRAPA innit?!" (to paraphrase him) and said he follows me on Twitter which is nice. He was a Sheff Wed fan the poor thing, as Wolves were looking a class above already, but I had a bus to dash for, the band I noticed were finally setting up but the entire pub seemed to give zero shits, perhaps this changed later on....."
Anyway, was nice to catch up though Martin the Owl chose this moment to reveal that he too was a Wednesday fan. Awful timing from the BRAPA mascot.
|You may well hide behind that pint you silly owl!|
I like the Shakespeare, and it'd waltz into any town or city's GBG allocation, but on this, my fourth visit, I DO feel it could have friendlier staff and a slightly happier atmosphere. Always feels a little bit detached and aloof to me when you compare to some of Sheff's other jewels.
Deflated and beaten, and with next to no bus service, I hope you can understand why I gave up on my two required micros to the West of the city altogether, especially as Tom had suggested an elaborate tram/bus interchange which involved going up to Hillsborough.
One last look at Fagan's in case it had opened at 2 or something ......
When Belinda Carlisle sang "Leave a Light On", who knew it was an allegorical tale of a 1988 New Year's Day pub crawl to Sheffield? #BRAPAfact
So, as nobody in the history of the world has ever said before or will ever say again, it was up to the Doncaster ale scene to show Sheffield how it should be done. Or at least, double my number of BRAPA ticks.
The rickety train was standing room only for Tom and I all the way, and looking back, it was the lowest point of a low day. I felt proper ill. Even Dad, the only well man amongst us, seemed to have hit a slump, brought on by having to negotiate the horrific Frenchgate Shopping Centre, the gateway to a town which must be one of the shittiest stains on the UK landscape.
'Funny if it is closed' observed Tom. Yeh, thanks for that!
We did wonder for a second, but we were in luck. In fact, walking around, every pub in Donny seemed to be open. I guess they need to service their army of functioning and non-functioning alcoholics.
|Ever wondered what me walking through Doncaster looks like? Now you know.|
|The last of two pubs today!|
No frills at Hallcross, Doncaster (1680 / 2897) and a cracking pint of £1.99 Tetley was exactly what was needed under the circs. They even had a ridiculously high bar, perhaps a nod to the White Swan across town, which was famous for having the highest bar in the UK until it got ripped out in a refurb. I craned my neck whilst I was being served as the staff and locals were gossiping about someone who'd attacked someone / been barred from somewhere, possibly naked with a glass bottle / in a gimp mask, it was hard to hear, but if there was a Donny Drinking Game, this'd be on the card. Dad and Tom had shuffled into a corner behind the Christmas tree, Dad looking rather nervously at the bawdy, edgy gang circling the bar area. I got stared at when I went to the loo, but I didn't get started on, ID'd (Corner Pin), dribbled on by a happy drunk (Leopard), or told I was posh, gay (Plough) or a nonce (probably all three), which makes it better than 87.5% of my previous trips to the town!
|The Penguin book you never had as a child|
|I couldn't reach the bar|
|Dad and Tom wary of the evil elf hiding behind the tree|
|Tension is the word!|
Lessons learned, I'll never try and tick on NYD again!
Back in York for about 4pm or just after, that MUST be some sort of record. Could York Tap save us? No, it was shut too.
At least Brigantes was open, and on good form as per usual, Dad said I'd perked up a bit by now, and even more so as we looked in amazement to see Sheff Wed 0-1 Hull City. Incredible!
|Dog had exact same jacket / fur as woman but it hid under table so I couldn't do it justice!|
So at least we ended on something of a high, and they say every cloud has a silver lining. And unless we count Saturday's self enforced BRAP-less trip to Rotherham, I can say I am caught up on my blogs for the first time since 10th October! Hooray.
Si' thee Sunday after what I hope it a successful Fri & Sat to get 2020 back on track.