Thursday 24 February 2022



A warm welcome from the locals in Shildon

Thirsty Thursday became Wobbly Wednesday for the second time this year, as work asked me to change my day off so that somebody called 'Louise' (actually her real name so not sure why the inverted commas) could embark on her own Thirsty Thursday.  Possibly.

After a jog, and a few weights, I made my now traditional English Breakfast.  It was okay, but again I did too few mushrooms and my poached eggs this time were underdone, one collapsing all together in a gunky splodge. 7/10.

Postman Pat was trying to catch up with the Reverend Timms whose sister was coming over from Australia, her train had been diverted from London to Manchester, and his van got stuck due to high winds so had to reach him on some roller skates that Ted Glen had just finished mending, Pat having already trashed Miss Hubbard's bike.   There was a Jess the Cat song too which was lovely!

Back in real life, the winds of Storm Franklin may not have received the same coverage as the recent Eunice or Dudley, but they were pummelling the train windows as we journeyed up to Darlington, changing for a BRAPA debut town, Shildon.

Keane Lewis Otter was back, Alex Apple dropped, Colin is resting for the weekend.  

KLO wasn't at his liveliest, having been in Hull the previous night, keeping up his record as my unluckiest mascot ever after a 0-2 defeat to bottom side Barnsley.  Or do we blame the hat, formerly of Blackpool Jane, still yet to see a win, or a Hull City player score a goal?  She did warn me about it.  Or, third scenario, Hull City are just quite rubbish.

After listening to two blokes share stories of the most famous people they've done 'work' for (Roger Taylor from Queen and Alan Shearer's wife were the eventual winners), I arrive in Shildon.

On first glance, I'm worried it is another Newton Aycliffe with undulating bits of greenness surrounding barren wastelands, but unlike N.A., Shildon did at least start to look like a proper town when I got into its centre.

My third last Co. Durham tick was a bugger to find, I had to walk around the back of this catch-all building, where a pointy arrow was helpful .....

And then an unlikely backdoor took you inside near another arrow .......

Past the loos, through another door and we're in!  Today was all about 'timing'.  This place only opens for a lunchtime sesh 12:00-14:30 today.  "She's got to pick the kids up from school" a lady later explained.  But my other required tick didn't open til 16:00.  And I didn't wanna be hanging around for ages drinking pointless ales or coffees.

So arriving at 13:30 seemed about right.  Canteen Bar & Kitchen, Shildon (2059 / 3622) felt quite unique as GBG entries go, and low-key classy to boot.  Words like 'canteen' and 'kitchen' are bandied around like it's going out of fashion these days, usually yielding lame results, but I only had to look at the photo on the wall displaying the canteen at full capacity in the days of yore to see its history and integrity.....

On-site brewery George Samuel provide the ales, only the second time I've seen them, after the Draughtsman in Donny.  Again, I go for a stout, again it is superb.  Sweet, strong, rich, fulsome. I'd not have been brave enough on a six pint (+ESB) Saturday, but Wobbly Wednesday's have different rules.  The lady who serves me is referred to as 'daughter' by a local lady, whilst 'Mum' is behind her wondering just how many more teacups she's going to have to clean today!  There's a smattering of customers, and being the North East, everyone is salt of the earth.  Not long before an eagle-eyed old chap, who I thought had been eyeing up KLO, comes over and asks if he can have a look at my GBG.  Him and wife have southern accents.  I ask if they are visiting, but they are Londoners who've moved here, possibly missing having people say 'hello' to them in the street.  In fact, even though they've been poised to leave for ages, takes them ages to get gone!  Once they do, I'm the only customer, chatting with the staff, but not for long as a young beanie hatted Compo Last of Summer Wine crashes in, just gone 2pm and asks if he's too late for a breakfast and a coffee.  He isn't, and before long, a freshly made brek, toast n coffee are brought out.  Had I not eaten earlier, I'd have gone for the Mince & Dumpling Stew & Veg with a bit of Orange Aero Tiffin.  As it is, about 14:15, I balance my empty pint on a thin ledge and thank them for their hospitality.  A really fabulous GBG debutant.  

KLO and our soon to be new friends in the background

Harvey, not Harvey's

Traditional basic and homely, with cheap freshly made scran.  What more could you want?

KLO thought he was pushing it, but Young Compo gets his late breakfast

The wind is howling through the building as I go for a quick widdle, and the outer door nearly blows off its hinges when I leave.  I'm surprised to see a man in a cap stood there smoking.  I say 'areet'.  He bows his head and walks around the far corner.  Ghost of one of the blokes in the old photo? 

The sun is out as I head towards the buses, passing a gorgeous park with bandstands and raised areas a bit like in Dukinfield if you've ever been, but you probably haven't.

In the bus shelter, a gummy man cryptically tells me 'nowhere's safe' so I just chuckle nervously.

They don't make centre halves like him anymore

Bus 99 arrives to take me to Spenny, about half an hour, and all seems calm despite the 'cash only' thing giving me a slight heart attack.  Come on Shildon, 2022, get with it!

But quick as a flash, this bloke leaps on, says "can you hold the bus for one minute while I nip home and get mi pass" and the driver kindly agrees.  He actually waits two minutes, and the absolute nutcase makes it just in time, resting his 2 litre bottle of Irn Bru and a takeaway coffee on the side whilst he struggles for change!

OF COURSE he comes to sit with me.  OF COURSE he's on all the way to Spenny.  His face, hair and teeth suggest a young chap who's had a hard life, done more than a few drugs.  He alludes to his time 'inside' and bad decisions he's made.  He's a bit shocked I've come to Shildon 'for a day out' but there we go. He's been to Hull and liked it but found Harrogate 'posh' so he's okay in my book.  He pulls out a bottle of Vodka (pairs well with the Irn Bru) wants me to join him, saying "I hate drinking alone" but I refuse, and before long, he's telling off a voice in his head.  "Slow it down Peter!" he admonishes.  Which makes me wonder which Peter he hears?  Mudgie?  Tandleman?  Purves?  Halmosi?  Sutcliffe? Hopefully all would give him sound advice.  For all his problems, I warm to the guy, but was relieved when he got off before me, all the same!

With 45 minutes to pub 4pm opening, I decided to kill some time by visiting my favourite Spenny pub from my previous visit, across that awkward giant roundabout. 

It was just as good as I remember from 'ticking' the Frog & Ferret, Spennymoor with Daddy BRAPA a few months before lockdown.  Sure the same guy served me.  They even have Bass on, possibly just a guest, but I could be wrong.  It came in a Tim Taylor Landlord glass, I was wearing a Tim Taylor sweatshirt, so all good!  Everyone who was in was a bit of a character, and plenty o' local drama to discuss.  Not just that Marston's are trying to build a dining pub next door, but there's been loads of police in Spenny due to some 'incident' which everyone could only speculate on.  I just grinned along from my corner, and on the way out, this lady says "awww, you shouldda come n sat with us!"  "Maybe next time" I reply.  Will there be a next time?  Me visiting a BRAPA pub THREE times?  Now that really would be crazy, but never say never, and it worth the walk out of town.

It was bang on 4pm when I reached my penultimate GBG 2022 County Durham tick.  But the shutters were still down.  Boo!  

I walk around the block, half hoping to find a public loo or maybe a secluded area I could wee in, but nothing doing, and after visions of sharing a cell tonight with my friend from the bus, I decide to Beautiful South it (keep it all in).  I try the pub door handle, 16:05.  Nothing doing still grrr.  

But I think I see movement within, loiter around the side trying not to look like a desperado, and at 16:07, a man brings out a board!  Hurrah!

And we're in!  Little Tap, Spennymoor (2060 / 3623) and he immediately apologises for the late opening.  Of course, I want to say "after nearly eight years of GBG ticking, it is what I've come to expect, especially from micropubs" but not wanting to sound snippy, I keep that all in as well!  Speaking of which, urgent loo needed.  After that, I can appreciate what a top tier little boozer this is.  Three things make it.  The ale, Toon Broon by Firebrick (who you often see in micros up this way) is superbly kept.  The carpet - not many carpetted micros, and as we spoke about last week in Beamish (despite that being otherwise quite poor), carpets make a huge difference.  "We nearly went with carpet tiles" our hero of the (half) hour Dave tells me.  I'm glad they didn't.  Dave is a great bloke, really easy to chat with, my kinda person.  I even let him highlight the GBG, as you know, the 'Hollywood Handshake' of BRAPA.  We remember the various stages of lockdown, tier systems, scotch eggs, outdoors only, how it affected the pub.  Interesting to think back, it already seems so long ago.    Time has absolutely flown, and my bus SHOULD be around the corner.  Another really good GBG debutant this, and good beer today after last week's struggles.  

The buses are all delayed, but I can't complain too much as there are plenty of post-work lined frustrated faces who've been waiting longer than me, and haven't been in any Spenny pubs today!

I hop off at Bishop Auckland, the still pre-emptive Caps Off is shut so I can't go in for a THIRD time but on the plus side, a bus is due in about ten minutes anyway.  Then it is back to Darlo, and after a few more delays and speed restrictions due to the wind, back in York at a reasonable hour.

So that just leaves evil Cotherstone!  I'm gonna have to bite the bullet and just get it done.

A Sunday is most likely, the only day it opens daytime (3pm) so bus to Barnard Castle (there is one!) and walk 3.8 miles along a (hopefully walkable) grass verge.  I've done plenty worse!

OR wait til the height of summer when sun is still out at 6pm, and do it on one of the weekdays it opens (Mon, Wed or Fri).  Open on a Saturday 6pm too but that'd feel a waste of a day, unless I did it on the way back from say, a Tyne & Wear Metro day, which'd just be too much.  I can get an evening bus there if I did it this way, but not back.  Ticking eh?  Don't do it lads!  

Anyway, thanks for reading.  Won't be another BRAPA blog now til Mid March (sad face) but if you are a Twitter user, look out for me in some very southern locations in the coming days.

Bye for now, Si 

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