Thursday 7 May 2020


Pub ticking.  It is a terrible obsession. Once you pop, you can't stop, as that guy with the moustache on the tube of crisps says.  And when I bought that fateful Good Beer Guide in 2014, took a train to Kings Cross, walked to Euston, took another train to Bedford, caught a chaotic bus, and highlighted that first pub (The Albion, Ampthill, Bedfordshire), I should really have predicted that I could not be at peace in life until the other 4,499 followed suit!

It was obvious to me from an early stage that the only way I could mentally cope with the challenge, was to break my ticking down into the counties listed in the book, tackling one at a time.

All good in theory, but it doesn't quite work like that in practice. Despite my best endeavours to get Bedfordshire bottomed out first (and it took a fair share of 'bottoming' I can tell you), it was my home county of Yorkshire that, perhaps inevitably, would 'fall' first.

Those rare moments when you can hold aloft your magic sword and shout "BY THE POWER OF BRAPA" because you have just highlighted the final pub in a county ('the county clincher') makes it all worth it.

So let's go back in time, to that magical night, 25th August 2015, when I first completed a county.  It was East Yorkshire, the bit of Yorkshire with fewest GBG pubs, and with Father BRAPA having grown up around there, the place he is most enthusiastic to get his chauffeuring game on.

Having said that, it wasn't some obscure rural village 'twixt Withernsea and Hornsea which was causing me the problem, but a pub in Hull itself!  How can that be, you might ask.  Did I leave it deliberately, strategically?  Well no, it was due to an opening hours headache.  8-11pm all week.  AND in the backstreets.

The former me takes up the story ........

"At 10:20pm on Tuesday August 25th, BRAPA history was made following a painful league cup win at home to Rochdale.  Dad drove us up a deserted De Grey Street.  There were only two small lights on, one circular illuminated sign showing A.C. (Adelphi Club) and a vague light coming from behind a door.  Dad's first instinct was that it was closed.  "Nooooooo!" I exclaimed, but we decided to get out of the car and explore......

Getting out of the car at the New Adelphi Club
739.  New Adelphi Club, Hull

And after Dad's ridiculously lame 'knock on the door', I pushed it and it creaked open, leading us into a typical gig venue entrance with unmanned table (it was a non gig night so we didn't have to pay) and loads of gig and band posters adorning the walls.  We entered an also deserted room where we found a bar serving three real ales and plenty more, and a friendly young woman (up there for 'staff of the year' contender) served us two fantastic pints of pure grapefruit juice masquerading as a Dr Morton's ale from Abbeydale, Sheffield.  We explored the 'venue' and we were both blown away by the simple, yet brilliant 'dive' style atmosphere and decor.  The beer was £2 a pint too, so that helped and the barmaid was soon chatting to us about the music playing which Dad loved despite the risque lyrics, "Hamel" or somebody?  We could see why punk poet legend Atilla the Stockbroker declares this his favourite gig venue in the land, and we heard how the owner is a passionate real ale man which really came through, as we sampled a local Atom beer called Schrodinger's Cat.  They had a Great Newsome ale on too, both we tried were perfectly kept.  We promised to come back here for a gig.  The Club has seen many bands starting out who've got onto big things, and even has it's own biography called "One Man & his Bog"!   Quite an institution.  

What a superb way to "tick off" my final East Yorkshire pub (for a week or two at least - the new GBG is out in September!) and fitting it should be with Dad who has made some of the more tricky places easy with the driving and country walks etc.  At the start of 2015, I rated East Yorkshire my most neglected county so a good achievement to complete it.  

Me and my grapefruity pint in the wonderful New Adelphi Club

I needed a boost like this, having heard a worrying BRAPA tale that Christine and her West Brom friend Aiden know a man called Duncan (now living in Glasgow) who is doing his own BRAPA combined with British football grounds called "OCD" and only has 29(?) pubs left to do!  I am a bit skeptical of the exact details and need to know more but can only assume he doesn't cross tick the Guide's or just focuses on football towns - I hope anyway, I want to be unique."

So that was amusing wasn't it?  And trust this Duncan character to end up being genuine.  For heaven's sake.  Good job Martin Taylor didn't tap me on the shoulder on the same night, or I'd have probably just admitted defeat then. 

I continued to chip away at the stubborn Bedfordshire stone, on a purely monthly basis (I lacked commitment in those early days!) but perhaps again unsurprisingly, it was West Yorkshire that fell next.  Working in L**ds, I'm able to do this county quite easily after work on midweek nights.

This time, I had a different chauffeur.  It was Tuesday 12th Jan 2016, the former me is back again to take up the story .......

780.  Graziers Inn, Stanley

Finally, I ticked off my final West Yorkshire pub in the 2016 GBG.   There were no party poppers, balloons or guard of honour.  But it wasn't that kind of pub.  And I'm glad.

I was joined by Karen L from work, who used to live in Stanley and 'volunteered' her long suffering hubbie Kevin to drive me there (saving me much bussing and training), and she gave me a commentary of all the local landmarks from Rothwell's slip road to Oulton Hall Golf Club and their scandalous 'points' system driving (driving!) the members away.  It was all very instructive.

Despite having lived here, they'd never been in the Graziers before (scandalous as it turned out) and decreed that I should enter the pub first because, in Karen's words "if the local scroats kick off, we can scarper first!"

Me arriving at the Graziers, ready to take on the scroats
I was confident going in first, having heard positive reviews from fellow blogger retiredmartin.  No scroats here, though the first thing I saw was a pool table, which doesn't normal scream "classic real ale pub".  It was being commandeered by a young man with the type of hairstyle that hasn't been fashionable outside of Stanley since 1972.  He's been playing against himself for ten years now, and is yet to lose a frame!

A tardis like effect was evident here as the pub snaked round to a cosy main bar, with a real fire (there was another at the front), some snazzy wallpaper to match the hairstyle, quirky decor, old photos of Stanley, proper pub bench seating, oh and well kept Abbeydale Moonshine was on so it's fair to say I was in my element, especially as some kindly locals apologised for blocking my view of the ales which emphasised just how far we had come since the Crown and Shuttle in East London.

There were some nougat chocolates in a bowl on the bar with a "help yerself" policy, someone had brought too many back from a holiday in Eastern Europe - mine was called "Michalki Kokosowe", very nice!  I did ask if it was cheese at first, so was actually disappointed.

We sat by the fire admiring the above view, and Kevin was in the chair to buy round two, a darker but very drinkable Beauty Hills from somewhere in Shropshire.    This pub was a microcosm of all the classic aspects of WY pub ticking which I've been enjoying on Tuesday evenings since April 2014, and it was nice to have some BRAPA debutants to enjoy this monumental event.

I even got a lift back to Westgate station which was above & beyond the call of duty, but my luck obviously evened itself up as I missed trains at both the Leeds and York ends by a matter of seconds.  So it was time for a pretty dreadful Big Mac meal and to reflect on a good night, I just wish I hadn't had "Perfect Moment" by Martine McCutcheon in my head all the way home.

And looking back, that was a special pub and am surprised it doesn't make the GBG every year.

Just four days later, Bedfordshire completion was finally upon me.  Now I was really cooking.  A bit like finishing East Yorkshire in Hull, it may surprise you to hear that it was a pub on the outskirts of Luton rather than some random village up the arse end of Biggleswade.  I'd actually tried to get a bus here back in November '15, but it had gone round in a circle, stopped nowhere near, so I had to do an entire circuit of the bus route, sheepishly pretending to the driver I was a bus enthusiast and I'd done it deliberately.

Mid afternoon on Saturday 16th Jan 2016 then, and the former me is back again for the final time this evening .......

783.  Wigmore Arms, Luton

If there was a BRAPA award for "best pub which is part of an Asda retail park", then this would win it.  I had serious reservations then on entering, especially as a mean looking couple eye-balled me as I took the BRAPA photo.  I couldn't walk in and bask in the "having completed Bedfordshire" glory either as the pub was packed of middle agers drinking, laughing, covering the floorspace and watching the football scores coming through on Sky Sports News.  Actually, I'd heard this pub screens 'Luton Town TV', perhaps the subscription has lapsed or the thought of watching them at present is enough to empty an entire pub, because there was no sign of it.  The landlord was the third impressive one of the day, one of those larger than life tall fellows whose very presence seems to fill the pub.  His arms were like Mr Tickle's, meaning he could pull pints from separate ends of the bar.  It was busy so this was 'handy'.  The pub had looked like a horrific Hungry Horse/Sizzler thing from the outside, so the fact it felt like a WMC inside could only be a good thing.  The array of pump clips stuck up behind the bar was ultra impressive, so why then was Bombardier (minus raspberry jam taste of Clophill) the most exciting beer on?  I sat on a strange two seater that seemed to have been nicked from a local cinema and squinted up at the football scores.  This was directly above a seat where Luton's answer to Ronnie and Roxy from Eastenders were sat (sexy but deadly!) and I think 'Roxy' thought I was eyeing her up though I was actually just amazed to see Hull City were 4-0 up before half time, which makes the Wigmore the luckiest BRAPA pub to date aswell.  The ladies were joined by two men, an ageing Olly Murs and southern Mick McCarthy, it all looked a bit awkward, so I went to get a bus (delayed again!) back into town.

Not as bad as it looks - the Wigmore in Luton
So with Hull City 6-0 up and Bedfordshire completed in great time, life was pretty good.  BRAPA being BRAPA, the good fortune couldn't last as I took the train to Harpenden for an unresearched bonus tick minutes from the station."

Yes, of course the golden rule of BRAPA is soon as you relax and think everything is fine with the world, it goes wrong.  The Harpenden pub was closed for a refurb, it started snowing, and getting home was difficult.  But no one could take away I'd finally completed Beds and could get cracking on Berkshire where I already had trips booked for my Bracknell and Aldworth debuts.

And I'll tell you about the Berks county clincher and two others in part two.

One point of order, I do return to counties to 'fill in the gaps' of course (I'll need to eventually to have the whole 4,500 'greened off'), but it is the 'first time' I complete a county that I'm talking about in this little series.

Thanks for reading, Si 


  1. Brilliant stuff. And i hate nostalgia, but needs must.

    Did you remember i actually finished East Yorkshire in the Adelphi just a fortnight earlier. Think I was convinced it was shut and nice guy opened up specislly. Weird.

    Interesting to see how both our blog styles became more expensive and descriptive after that.

    And yes. The Wigmore was a corker.

    1. Thanks Martin so much! Agree re nostalgia but getting itchy for pubs now so have jumped on bandwagon, but tried not to just do the obvious pubs.

      As you know, the true beauty of UK pub ticking is in your unlikely Halifax types of this world.

      I actually remember you telling me that after the event (probably drunk in Ellington or Abington Pigs or somewhere!), but not sure we were in contact til the 2016 season.

      Yeh I see that, and also, that I didn't feel obliged to take so many indoor photos in early days which I might think about in future, cos sometimes I feel the pressure of good indoor shots leads me to not 'living in the moment' during the half an hour I'm in the pub.

      Wigmore, yes! Kinda pubs that don't often get in GBG so when they do, it is a rare treat.

  2. Don't worry, you're always going to be unique.

  3. Six nil. Hard to believe now, but a check if the records confirms. Charlton were the victims, with Hernandez the hat trick man. The Aldephi was arare treat indeed.

    1. Incredible! I think I'd predicted 7-0 in Prediction League and was walking through Luton Shopping Centre, chatting to Mum, furious we'd stopped going fwd at 6-0.

  4. I had a bit of a lump in my throat reading about the Adelphi as it has become an important part of my life since I moved back to Hull. I was last in there on March 14 to see a Leeds-based band called CUD. The visit of John Hegley, which I had been promoting and publicising for several weeks, was scheduled for the following Saturday but we had to bow to the inevitable and call it off. It seems you heard Hamell on Trial! I have a rude, sweary,opinionated drinking buddy from Brooklyn called Dave. Seeing Hamell on Trial live is like an evening with Dave set to music. Beer at the Adelphi (if and when it reopens): the bad news is that it is a bit dearer. The good news is that it is frequently very well-kept Landlord.
    Fancy you ending up in the Graziers! As it is but a five minute walk from my sister and brother-in-law's house I often pop in there when I'm visiting. Boxing Day before last there were a few L**ds fans having a bit of a gloat after a jammy win. Wakefield is a Rugby League city; I got the impression that they were tolerated rather than actively liked by much of the clientele. I'll bet they weren't gloating four days later after being mauled by the Tigers!

    1. Nice one Chris, a really special place the Adelphi, and yes, I finally tracked down Hammell on Trial months after my visits and have a few albums by him. Some great tunes on each album, but some rubbish too! Would love to meet Brooklyn Dave, haha, all the Americans I meet are simply lovely and I know that can't be everyone. A great pint of TT Landlord is a great pint, often expensive but worth it.
      Wonder if your sister lives very close to Karen I work with then! L**ds fans gloating?? Surely not, haha. #VoidTheLeague
      Yeh, always found it strange a town the size of Wakey has never really had a football club of any decent standing, but a good honest place.
      Great stuff, thanks for reading. Got to see your comment eventually!