Ain't Middlesbrough great? I was here yet again in my ancestral home last Thursday, again using it as a handy transport interchange in my quest to complete North Yorkshire ticking for the first time since 2017.
The town had served me well to date, helping me to get to Yarm, Egglescliffe, Ingleby Barbaric and Guisborough. But Great Ayton was a more badly behaved animal. Despite owning a train station and a few buses, it requires an earlier start than those others to get there and back to York in the same evening.
Talking of badly behaved animals, Keane Lewis Otter continued his recent run of form, helping with the pre-match research and a packet of Welsh 'Dragon's Breath' Mini Cheddars.
Such a friendly town is 'Boro, on this sunny windy afternoon I stood in the shadow of the giant Virgin Money and was surprised, like in Wigan, at the number of strangers smiling back at me. You don't get this in Shyteleafe. With plenty of time until the bus (the transport timings meant I had 59 minutes) I considered a pre-emptive in this lovely looking boozer .....
But it wasn't very open, so I retired to the cafe above Copeland's for a hot choc with the old dears, and when I was offered a Flake in it, I thought, well it ain't a pint of banked Cameron's Blackpool Jane style, but better than nothing. I also noticed how small Flakes were these days. An old one would've easily stood in the drink (despite the melting potential), this tiddler needed propping up!
Getting the bus was a familiarly arduous task. Is there a colder more depressing road in all of Christendom than the Albert Road? The usual collection of likely lads and lasses with wheezy lungs and bad eyesight asked me to help identify where their bus was using my 'gizmo' (I assume they meant my iPhone and not KLO).
School chucking out time meant we were stuck in traffic for much of the 40 minute journey, as I listened to the music of Titus Andronicus which didn't really take the edge off hotspots like Nunthorpe and Marton.
I was surprised to have to ring the bell and be the only passenger to hop off in the centre of GA, but here we were, and under the clear skies and afternoon sun, the first pub was across the road waving back at me like a long lost friend .....
Royal Oak Hotel, Great Ayton (2007 / 3570) immediately strikes me as quite a serious, well-to-do sort of place, where you find yourself tip-toeing to the bar so as not to cause any geriatric heart attacks. A couple of off season tourists blink at me from a window seat, as if to say 'I wonder what his game is?' whilst Stern Annette Crosbie pours a cup from an elaborate teapot for a husband who looks on his last legs. Tim Taylor Landlord is one of two ales on, and with one of those 'Champions of keeping TTL in top condition' awards next to it, it's a no brainer. Shame I have to ask her for a top up, second time this has happened of late with TTL, such an expensive beer (£4.10 here), I love a head on my ale but there are limits! The atmosphere threatens to liven up when 'Local Ron' arrives. "Waheyyy, Ron!" says every member of staff, and I'm convinced he's going to 'bring the banter' when he asks who has the longer hair out of both staff members - Mr Twizzle Beard's beard, or the barmaid who failed to top me up. Ron's early promise as a potential #PubMan fails to garner any real traction, as he soon asks for a Latte and a Cappuccino 'to go' like we're in bloody Central Perk, not Great Ayton. In the back room, by a handsome grandfather clock with an actual face, a lady with a clipboard is looking business-like and discussing CO2. I feel like this pub/hotel had more in the locker, but was reluctant to reveal its hand.
|Ron asks TB to compare hair lengths, whilst Elaborate Teapot watches on|
|The TTL that didn't settle|
|KLO gets a taste for the ale|
|Handsome clock chimed at five to the hour, weirdly|
|Edible fungus, NOT Eddie Fogden as I originally read it out of the corner of my eye!|
One bar of signal in the town wasn't ideal when you are trying to use Google Maps to navigate between pubs. But I just had enough to find the unlikely micropub that'd allow me to green off Great Ayton in full. If it initially looked more like it specialised in gassing Jews than serving brews, it soon became a bit more hospitable looking as I rounded the corner.