|4 counties green, how many more before the 2023 GBG comes out?|
It was time to say farewell to my Portsmouth & Southsea Premier Inn. For nine nights, it had served me well as I ticked a whopping 48 pubs.
As I journeyed north to London on this sunny Sunday morning, I found myself pleased that I was on the slower Victoria route. I had no appetite for a 10th consecutive day of pubbing at this stage. I was, if you like, all pubbed out.
Nothing would give me greater pleasure at this point than being back in BRAPA Towers in York sipping strong tea and weak lemon barley with a small triangle cheese & cucumber sandwich. Sadly, those pesky engineering works prevented me from getting back until the Monday morning.
I'd slept until 10am, had a leisurely brunch, and yet was some still way off the 3pm check in time at a new Premier Inn (hey, maybe I could tick Premier Inns?) in posh Kensington close to Earl's Court.
The heaving District Line was a problem with all my luggage in tow, but I surfaced for air at Hammersmith, fighting my way through the crowds for my first tick .....
I approach the bar in this gigantic yet packed out Wetherspoons, William Morris, Hammersmith (2109 / 3672). A patient barmaid is trying to explain to a hard of hearing elderly Irish chap that his food will be a 30 minute wait. He finally hears her, and suggests that perhaps it won't be that long in reality. Her expression suggests she doesn't share his optimism! He turns, gives me a cheeky wink and a dig in the ribs and says something gentle, Irish and lilting about people being in such a rush these days. I fully expect him to take a pocket book from his jacket and quote me a bit of Seamus Heaney but it doesn't happen. The barmaid maybe overworked, but she's still smiling and tells me it isn't always this busy, but something is afoot at the Apollo. I order a 'Nook of Pendle' for £1.79 with a Mudgie Voucher, but it is dreadful quality. I'd only gone for it because Burnley seemed like a different world ..... I mean, Burnley always seems like a different world, but even more so in the centre of Hammersmith. I perch on one of the tiny 'sad bastards' high stools, facing the bar, which seem to be solely occupied by single men blinking mournfully into the middle distance. I can do that too! Colin and KLO are squashed beneath my washbag and clothes, so they are saved this experience. The carpet is of the washed out William Morris variety, I appreciate the effort, but this pub is considerably less William Morris than the Moorbrook in Preston, and now I think of it, even the Great Northern in St Albans.
It is approaching 3pm as I hit Earl's Court so I decide to walk straight to the Premier Inn and see if I can check in a few minutes early. No chance when I see the queue.
|Checking in selfie woooo|
I dump the vast majority of my baggage, bringing only essentials like Colin, GBG and the Stabilo (I've totally given up on The Works budget seaweed coloured monstrosity by now) and I walk the short distance to a place called West Brompton, my only pub today found under 'South' rather 'West' London.
Although my expectations are always particularly low when ticking in the south/west of posho London, I'd say that in the grand scheme of things, Lillie Langtry, Fulham (2110 / 3673) is pretty decent. Stick it in the Potteries, it might be unbearable. But you know, I've been to plenty worse in SWeverything, and I would later on today too. The green walls help, even if they are closer to The Works than Stabilo if we are talking Highlighter shades. And it is absolutely no surprise that without even being an Antic, they have plenty of pointless manufactured quirkiness going on - e.g. rolling pins for handpumps. The chirpy barmaid is confused as to which ale is which, she might be Australian, or just southern. The final whistle has just blown on the football match behind me - I squint to see Watford 2-3 The Gooners. The couple behind me do the gentlest high five ever in celebration. Even if they'd done this in a Watford pub, no one would've cared/noticed. I soon realise how lucky I am to get the one remaining stool on the other side of their pillar, so many people foiled in their attempts to find seating. A Spanish sounding couple have reserved the table behind me, and a multi lingual barmaid starts getting all multi lingual with them. Impressive, you don't get this in Thornaby. I feel a bit like a fish out of water but at least I'd put a new shirt on, clean jeans and combed my hair! The ale was good, though I'm not a big fan of the ultra London trope of traditional handled glasses.
The map on the floor of the gents inspires me to walk to my next pub rather than Tube it, and it ain't far, a mere 21 minutes to my next pub, the sun glorious in what has been a very hit & miss weather week.
The vast amount of people penned into the tiny outdoor area out front doesn't bode well .....
With a name that sounds like it should be in the heart of the Lake District, Scarsdale Tavern, Kensington (2111 / 3674) couldn't feel further from it. I suspect that on a quiet midweek lunchtime, you could appreciate a nice old pub interior. The Six Nations flags which are ruining pubs the country over at the moment don't help. The pub was used in the 1970's show The Professionals, and Princess Di used to sink a few jars here to get away from it all so definitely assuming it has quieter spells! Did I tell you me and Daddy BRAPA once saw her at the Deva Stadium shouting expletives at Stuart Rimmer during Chester 3-0 Hull City back in '93? How I got served immediately and then spin around to see the nearest small table come free just at the opportune moment, was either incredibly good luck, or 'BRAPA using all his experience'. Whilst Col decides to explore the windowsill board games, I enjoy my well kept Pride and a waistcoated man with an evil sculptured beard who must be an actor / entertainer / local paedophile puts on an impromptu show for some bored children called Jocasta, Hugo, Bijou and Toby. Enjoyable, that thing he did with the balloon and his pockets particularly remarkable.
Back on the Tube, a little bit of jiggery pokery (that's what that bloke said too!) takes me onwards to Chiswick Park where I have two required ticks.
The first is full of promise .......
Leafy peaceful location, some great brickwork and tiling, beautiful curved windows, soothing atmosphere, friendly hard working staff, and a really well kept pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord. Problem is, Swan, Acton Green (2112 / 3675) is a restaurant in pub's clothing. I'm diverted to a table on arrival, and then we have the old #2020 rigmarole of "I just want a pint" "what ales are on?" "let me check" .... long wait for drink .... "can I pay now?" "no, at the end is fine <big smile, exit stage left leaving me unable to protest>" You could tell it was a really well run place but stifled. "Is that a cauliflower?" ask a couple on a nearby table. Well blow me down! Strangers talking to me cross table in London. "You liking this place then?" they ask me full of hope. I choose to tell them the truth. They sort of agree, but I also suspect they are thinking I'm being harsh. The more talkative one is the bloke, intrigued by BRAPA. But can I hear his questions? No way! Do I dare briefly sit at there table? I don't want to, but it is the only way, and this is a London pub first for me. He concedes he's softly spoken. 'And Scottish' I want to add, but don't. Dundee to be precise. I'm painfully aware his other half is losing interest, and wants me to buzz off, don't worry so do I, but he keeps on with the questions til finally he notices too and gives me a sort of 'that's enough' sign, and I gratefully retreat back to my table with a swift goodbye and try not to make eye contact again! Nice moment though, added an extra dimension rare for London ticking. Now to remember to pay without running off first!
|Our Scottish mate in foreground before I got chatting|
Looking back though, I would declare the Swan my pub of the day. I had the BRAPA bit between my teeth now, although it was now dark, I was determined to get my full six quota in before last orders, which can come quite suddenly on a Sunday night so I had to stay focussed .....
Up next, a short walk to the common, I encountered this thing ......
First, I think there's a queue to be seated or reach the bar as people hover about in front of me just through the main entrance at Duke of Sussex, Acton Green (2113 / 3676) . A perky young couple entering the pub just behind me, firmly wedged in the doorway, are equally non-plussed. They realise before me what we've walked into. BRAPA's first Baby Shower! We're at the 'find out if it is a boy or a girl' pinnacle of the night. I thought it was all fluid nowadays. Future Mum n Dad stand atop a stage, relatives gathering around with camera phones out. Some 'pub official / ceremony chieftain' counts down 10, 9, 8, 7 ..... , I have time to guess 'girl', couple behind me guess 'boy', a balloon is popped, blue confetti billows out (blue for boy, pink for girl, are we still doing that in 2022? #WokeSiWithoutIrony2022) and Mum & Dad hug, kiss, there's tears all round and much cheering. Can I have a bloody pint now? After that, the main event over, the pub has a bit of a messy 'last night of the Somme/Proms' /kicking out atmosphere, party guests wandering around aimlessly, ties loosened, shirts unbuttoned. There's still no seats! Again, a nice mosaic floor and grand old wooden pillars make me wonder how pretty this pub could be in different circumstances. Another London pub characteristic, one I haven't seen in a while, the water decanter filled with cucumber. I pour myself a glass or two. Closest I'll get to a free sandwich or party ring. I perch at a table 'Kieran 7:15'. It is 7:05. He turns up 7:13. "You Kieran?" I ask. Sadly he is. I don't have the heart to tell him I've got two more minutes technically speaking. Time I shuffled along anyway!
|Hasn't he grown .... already??|
|Chaos on entry|
|Wondering if Mr Flat Cap is a kindred spirit, just here for a drink|
A few short stops on the District Line in the right direction take me to Ravenscourt Park. Final pub of the day, final pub of my holiday, unless I have an ESB in Parcel Yard at 9am before the train tomorrow. Don't tempt me! (I didn't by the way, not #PubMan enough).
Finally! A totally empty pub winding down uneventfully for early Sunday closing time, I didn't know such a scene could be so joyous to me, but the previous pubs had just been that little bit too manic (as good as that is for BRAPA blog content). Prince of Wales Townhouse, Hammersmith (2114 / 3677). I've been in Big Smoke pubs before, think Surbiton has one? And this had the same kind of decent but boring feel. Their Underworld stout was superb, and I'd just been glad to see any handpumps, having been initially transfixed by a bonkers line of about 20 poorly aligned keg badges. Talking of bonkers, the barmaid is a friendly sort, but seems a bit all over the place, like a bohemian from Count Duckula crashing through doors, tripping on things, shouting 'coo-ee, I'll get it (meaning my pint)'. I take my drink to one of those back breaking low slung Chesterfield sofas, a candle protruding from a wax coated former blue gin bottle, a bit of shuffleboard for the kids, and the occasional lost beardo coming in for a swift half and a hushed conversation with a friend. It somehow felt more London than any London pub today, and if that is Big Smoke's aim, they've achieved their goal.
I could finally reflect on a week well done. 54 ticks, 1 pre-emptive, 57.5 pints consumed, many miles walked, one county greened. But I couldn't wait to get home!
Back to the present day, it should be #ThirstyThursday tomorrow but a combination of dentist, quest to further catch up on blogs, and an old work colleague wanting to meet in York for cocktails (doesn't he know me at all?) mean I'm postponing. Hopefully back on the TT trail on 31st!
Next blog most likely Sunday now as we head to Wolverhampton.
See you soon, Si