With Essex complete, I had my little party for one on a bench in Bures station, with my posh M&S snacks, Colin drunk on life and Mini Cheddars .....
.... before realising that I really needed to decide what today's other three pubs would be.
So focused had I been on completing Essex, I'd left it as an open-ended question in my mind. My main thought had been get back to London, see how the land lies, get on the Tube, and do three at random.
But what if I went the other way? Up the line one stop to Sudbury, which had two ticks, and one more a good stride out of town. Actually made a lot of sense!
Suffolk as a county does not rank very highly on the 'BRAPA Need for Completion' league ladder currently, beginning as it does with a later letter in the alphabet ('H' is where it's at in the 2021/22 season kids, note that in your copybooks now).
In fact, my Suffolk to date had involved a few away trips to Ipswich, and a day when Retired Martin kidnapped me in Cambridgeshire, drove me across the border, forcing me against my will to sample the delights of Exning (very nice) and Newmarket 'Spoons. I DID stay overnight in B.S.E. circa 2011, using the GBG, but annoyingly have no recollection of the pubs I did.
My legs couldn't take much more today after the extreme Bures-Pebmarsh-Lamarsh-Bures walk, but they'd have to just play through the pain barrier. Time for the walk first a 1.4 mile yomp down the main road to Great Cornard which felt more like an extension of Sudbury than a village in its own right. The GBG entry was annoyingly the furthest of three pubs I could see in G.C.
The locals gathered outside the back door of The Brook, Great Cornard (1933 / 3362) were so welcoming, I thought maybe they'd mistaken me for a local they know! But no, I came to learn this was a super friendly place, and if this is a sign of Suffolk to come, eff Hants, eff Herts and eff Herefs, I'm signing a one year BRAPA deal on the dotted line as we speak! The pub had an old fashioned uniqueness, I tell landlady 'Probable Kay', who in sync with the locals, is speaking to me across the room, asking me about myself etc. and although she's had 'tickers' in before, sounds like they don't tend to linger like the bad smell (probably literally today!) that I am. The pub has a sort of dim luminous afterglow, almost 1970's, a bit akin to Victoria in Colchester. I comment on the 'vintage' ashtrays on every table. Mine is Hoffmeister, Colin keeps sitting in it cos he's weird. "Oh, they've been there since the smoking ban, was only 2007" she reminds me! True , I suppose, feels like a lifetime ago to me, but 14 years is nowt is it? Two very cute pub dogs amble in, not often you'll find me speaking positively about pub mutts. They seem to compete for my attention. Bless! Probable Kay has bought a local lady some new spin on the Dairylea Dunker, "was in the shops, saw them and thought of you". Lady is touched. I love a good Dairylea product as you know, am quite jealous. Just nice little touches like this that make a pub 'local' and special. My fave so far today, even over Bures, a low key classic.
|Our hero of the hour pulls me a Zestival|
|Even the loo sign oozes class|
I'd been in a bit of a flap cos my train App said everything was 'delayed until further notice' going out of Sudbury, but on the walk back up again, I refresh the screen and everything is back to time. Phew, now I can relax and enjoy my Sudbury duo. First up, this side street boozer .....
Nearly tripping over the duck was the first sign that I was in for an 'experience' at the Bay Horse, Sudbury (1934 / 3363) and my preconceptions that Sudbury was another genteel yawny south eastern town seemed to be well wide of the mark. Service was annoying, the type where they don't even look at you because they are too busy having a laugh amongst themselves. Oh well, at least they shouted to me "oi, it is broken mate!" when I peered into the elaborate amusement arcade machine. "Oh don't worry, I'm just taking a photo for my pub blog" I replied casually like it was the most normal thing in the world. That got a few smirks. I sat by the pool table, sweet dispenser, pinball machine(?) and classic 80's jukebox. It was that kind of pub, the kind that is more likely to play 'I'd Rather Jack' by the Reynolds Girls than Fleetwood Mac. I'm well into the pool game that has just started, and with mobile phone distractions on both sides, both players cheat at various stages when the other isn't looking and tell me to keep schtum. I put a finger theatrically to mine and Col's lips/ Real good bunch of locals in here, and Sudbury's female answer to Tony Drago comes from nowhere to claim a surprise victory. Great stuff, but if I was to catch this train, it really had to be a strict 25 minutes per pub.
I pretty much run to my final pub of the night, phone at jaunty angle as I take the outdoor shot, we need to catch this train, no time for heroics .....
Brewery Tap, Sudbury (1935 / 3364) is the home of Mauldons Brewery, from where I'd had the delicious Silver Adder in Bures earlier but I was in the mood for the Black now, a stout felt like a celebratory way to end the night. Zero head, it looked like flat pint of coke but tasted delicious (when in Rome and all that ....). You'd think a bare boarded long thin bar with a curved foody area might provide a bit of an uneventful experience, especially 8pm on a Sunday night, but you didn't have to be the world's best pub observer to notice that most people were either a bit bonkers, very drunk or a bit of both. Sudbury was starting to remind of Weymouth, Isle of Man and Bridport, for sheer volume of manic pissheads, and I mean that as a huge compliment. Lady recognises a bloke from school or something, demands a selfie, a bald bloke is falling asleep with hand on groin, another guy nearly stabs me with a pool cue outside the Gents (I don't think the pub even has a table), a family start shouting to Colin and when I reply, they look disappointed. And when I return my glass and then trip over the threshold in my haste to leave, I turn back to smile sheepishly but everyone is looking at me approvingly like "thanks for getting into the spirit of things matey". Sudbury - a satisfying pub town.
Back at Aldgate East, there is still time for highly dubious pre-emptive, this one across the road from last night's Black Horse .....
Leman Street Tavern is the name, though branded LST for the kool kids, though LSD might be more appropriate when you consider whoever it was came up with the design spec, a myriad of sparkling lights, and low slung sofas with a cacophony of scatter cushions of every pattern under the sun. The sun probably less bright than the walkway to the bogs, where staff and cleaners are having a late night conflab, reminding me it is probably closer to last order than I think. I did spy a handpump, Young's Bitter, hiding behind a menu looking a bit unloved, the Proper Job pumps have 'On Furlough' tags around them which might the most irritating way ever to say a beer is off. I went for a Neck Oil just cos it seemed the safer (but bank balance breaking) option. Staff are lovely, smiling from a distance throughout, the customer's are bearded look like they took a wrong turning off Shoreditch High Street, a weird smell of blue cheese emanates from some kind of duct or vent. It is a lot more pre-emptive than the Black Horse last night, but I'll still be the 4th cousin of a 5th monkey's uncle if it makes the GBG in 2022. Here's hoping eh?!
So there you go, a BRAPA lesson in how to make the most of your August Bank Holiday weekend.
I'm off for some Thursday Ticking (TT night, get it on a T-Shirt) tomorrow, so join me on Friday for tales from South Yorkshire.