Hednesford might well have been ticked, but if I was succeed in my quest to get a fully green Staffordshire before the 2023 Good Beer Guide lands on my doormat with all the force of a herd of elephants, I couldn't afford to ignore the trickier entries.
And it doesn't get much trickier than Elford. A village so remote, it makes some of my remaining Cornish ticks look like a parade around Central London with Timmy Mallet.
The final bus service through the village was cancelled the same year I first became interested in Staffs, and the topography of the surrounding area makes walking from another village or main road impossible due to the amount of little water inlets, streams and rivers.
There was only one answer. Taxi for Everitt(s)! And we found some waiting outside Tamworth station, where we'd arrived via Rugeley Trent Valley. The worst type of Trent Valley.
Using a familiar BRAPA tactic for the more 'impossible' ticks, I asked the driver if he'd hang around for my required 25-30 minutes in the pub. He agreed, fairly readily, and Dad then got so distracted by the inn sign of this glorious old building, I failed twice to get him to pose.
|"Errrm, Dad, can you pose please?"|
|"OI, THIS WAY"|
But Daddy BRAPA ignored me and wanders inside, the man you can see in the dark blue sitting down notices my exasperation as I scurry in after him and we exchange eye rolls. All is soon forgotten though as I see Dad ordering two pints of Bass. Crown Inn, Elford (2230 / 3792) marks 20 pubs until we reach the halfway point, and it would have been a fitting pub 2250. Most people are insistent on sunning themselves, leaving the small atmospheric main bar free from interlopers, which only added to an atmosphere you could pretty well describe as 'timeless', except of course the Bass clock tick tock ticking on the wall, oh and the occasional background sound of piped Billy Joel. Dad's 'Never Mind the Bass Clocks' joke moved all who heard it to beautiful tears, and the day really peaked here in the Crown. The left hand room I noted, on a trip to the loos , slightly lacked the same level of atmosphere. Such moments of contentment in a BRAPA day usually mean trouble is ahead, what I call the yin and yang of pub ticking.
|"Two pints of Bass, barkeep"|
|Time to toddle off and leave us in peace|
|Bass in stereo|
|Just a very lovely pub|
It had been a very pleasant 27.5 minutes, as we adjust our eyes to the bright sunshine and breathe in the scented honeysuckle air of Elford. This was the life. But where was our taxi? He'd said he'd wait. This was highly irregular. I went to scour the pub carpark. Dad went to the top of the main road and peered over the brow of the hill like a general at Waterloo.
After about ten minutes, it was quite obvious Mr Taxi wasn't coming back.
Never witnessed this before, but I've never had much luck with taxis on Daddy BRAPA days - they always seem to run smoothly when I'm ticking solo, or with another BRAPEE such as Mr Fogden. NOT that I'm blaming the poor man. Even if he is looking at me like "another fine mess you've gotten us into".
Now was not the time to fall out. The barman had seemed a helpful soul so I go back inside the pub and explain our predicament with my saddest face and whiniest voice.
What a star he proves to be. With me lacking phone signal, he rings two numbers he knows off by heart. Nothing doing! He has to keep breaking off to serve customers, most notably an extended family including a spoilt twild who was sulking because he didn't think he liked dark chocolate four fingered kit-kats as much as milk chocolate ones.
His twarents and grandtwarents, who should've told him buck up and stop being an ungrateful little twit fawned over him like he's Little Lord Fauntleroy, whoever he was. I could feel my anger rising.
Our heroic host Googles and then rings 3 more numbers, and third (or was it fifth?) time lucky someone agrees to come for us.
I thank him and rush outside, where Dad is back at his brow of the hill, and signal that it is safe to stand down his men.
Not that the taxi is quick in coming. We feel pretty helpless, the wait feels interminable, and Dad is predicting missing our Birmingham train and stopping the night somewhere local! It should've been idyllic bliss, beautiful sun in a beautiful village outside a beautiful pub. But it was hell. Helpless.
The taxi arrives all of a sudden, as they tend to do, and we are on our way. The complexion of the day changes instantly. Time to fit in my other Staffs outlier?
|Dad wipes his brow in relief .... or is it a nod to Batman Returns?|
Dog Inn, Whittington (2231 / 3793), I never thought I'd see the day! Although buses do run from Whittington to Tamworth, we asked the taxi driver to hang around again. Not only to speed us up and get us back on track, but also to prove to Dad what just happened was a one off. This guy wants paying in full, now! "Not on your nelly" Dad tells him "half now, half later". Taxi driver looks a bit non plussed and says "I'm hardly going to just drive off and leave you stranded. Lolz!" so I tell him well actually, that is exactly what's just happened! Once inside the pub, we vent to the landlady about what's just occurred. She is a sympathetic homely soul, even if she is dressed as a Pink Stabilo, tells us she'd drive us back to Tamworth herself if needs be! We even asked if we could get snowed in here and stay over in the bar as we're still traumatised. I can't tell you much about the pub, I'm too frazzled. It was less rustic than the Crown, but did have a good old heart to it and some nice features. The Tim Taylor Landlord drank soothingly like Ovaltine. 25 mins is up ... I go to the loo quickly, but whilst I'm in there, Dad texts in capitals "TAXI HERE NOW, COME QUICK!" I'm like 'Chill out Dad, he'll have been sat here the whole time'. 'Oh' says Dad, 'is that what they do?'
|The Dog n Bone|
|Mad pool playing technique|
|Col's relief is palpable|
|Ignoring the FBW, a very nice pub|
|Just the gents, the lady is crossed out i.e. not through this door. Which confused one old dear and no wonder!|
Tamworth station is one of those irritating multi-levelled things, there's one in Notts I hate equally but can't remember where (not Newark!) and we even have time for a bit o' food before the train comes.
Back in Birmingham, and amazingly there is time to squeeze a sixth in. I'd never have believed that back in Elford. I've got two central ones still to do. Regular readers will be able to guess one, but I chose the other. Dad declines, saying he'll meet me outside in 25. He might well have been not allowed in anyway, knowing what bouncers are like around here on a Saturday evening. I was easily the oldest person here .....
One of the slightly underwhelming modern ones in the chain, this Head of Steam, Birmingham (2232 / 3794) would've been a bit nicer if there was somewhere to sit, and although I did once go to a Steampunk festival, I'm not sure it is a style that suits pubs, if the GBG is right in its assessment (I didn't see any zombie Victorian gents with futuristic deep sea diving or hot air balloon equipment). I ordered a pint of something Verdant collab that looked like loft insulation but tasted slightly more palatable, took a few selfies with Col to prove what a cool cucumber I was, did a circular tour of the bar, smiled at a few overworked staff, and generally tried not to get in the way. Everyone ignored the 'no service' sign and still got served in that area, so I had to move again. I didn't feel Dad had really missed out by not coming in.
Back on the train home and what a palaver, as we had to change at Derby, Sheffield AND Doncaster! Quite enjoyed it really! And with about 15 minutes at each, just not QUITE enough time for a Brunswick or even a Sheffield Tap.
Shortbread might be the least Keto snack going, but no way I was going to refuse. The Lucozade was actually High Juice in a re-used bottle.
By Donny, after a strange lady from Goole (is there any other type?) did an 'L is for Loser' forehead sign at three blokes she reckoned had laughed at her, our patience ran out and we decided to chance our arm and go for a pre-emptive half at the closest pub we could find. This was it ......
Can't believe I've never been to the Railway, Doncaster before but it was very un-GBG in the sense it felt like a flat roofer! It had one cask on, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted which was really nice, everyone was dancing around on the furniture and reckoning Gordon Ramsay was sat in the corner, as the pub was attracting bigger stars now Donny had been given city status. Everyone was very slurry, the music was boom boom boom, and Liverpool were losing the Chumps final, so it was very hard to hear what anyone was saying. I generally laughed and nodded. "You'll have to tell me what everyone's saying when we leave" says Dad. "I don't actually know. Just laughing and nodding" I reply. But you know what, it was a fun 15 minutes even if we did feel like two York fish out in murky Donny waters.
And that was that, 5 more Staffs ticks done, only ten remain, but only one is remotely near a train station. Still, I'm still reckoning I can get them all done by September!
Take care, and I'll be back probably Thursday to tell you what Rivington is up to.
Bye for now, Si