Friday, 22 October 2021

BRAPA is .... MARCHINGTON TOGETHER (WE'RE GONNA SEE YOU .... BOOZE!)

It was one of those typical Saturdays.  You know the kind of Saturday.  Where your Dad opens his fake football fixture list, which tells you to go pub ticking in Wigan and the surrounding area.  But then you realise you've only bought train tickets as far as Manchester.  And then you think that you aren't really 'feeling' Greater Manchester as a pub ticking region in 2021.  But then you remember how much you enjoyed Staffordshire recently, and how easy Stoke is to get to by train from Piccadilly.  And then you think 'oh well, if I'm going to Stoke, I may as well go to Uttoxeter'.  And then you think 'oh well, if I'm going to Uttoxeter, I may as well go to those two villages just outside'.  BRAPA logic.  

It would prove to be a particularly messy day.   The master of our own downfall from the word go by shunning a coffee in Stoke station for a return to bod for a swift Titanic Iceberg (drinking the SEVENTH pint first is never going to end well) before the connecting train.  I justified it by suggesting that entering at 'street level' rather than from the station side, we might get a totally different experience is this strange split bar.  Perhaps it is only a 'pub tick' if you've been in both sides?  Just saying. 


But once again, it failed to excite.  Guessing what football team various punters supported, and wondering if anyone was going to hurdle the divide to get closer to their mates were the only points of interest.

The football heavy crowd all jumped on our Uttoxeter train to our shock, bound as it was for the bright lights of Derby and Nottingham, and by means of a change, Leicester and Sheffield.  

A local with an air of an unholier Frank Zappa then misinformed us about our bus, and in my moment of indecision, one of today's heroes, Staffordshire's finest taxi driver Chee Seong Lee swoops down on us and offers us an easy way out.  I've taken too many taxis of late, but was never going to say no.  Got us to pub one a lot quicker.  I hint that he might like to hang around for 27.5 minutes and take us to Marchington, but his surprising response implies it is not far to walk, and I should stop being lazy'.  


We walk in and to my amusement / horror, the staff are all mimicking my above BRAPA pose and ask if I'm going to do the same as I order my pint!  Welcome to Roebuck, Draycott-in-the-Clay (2006 / 3435) , a pub which looks insufferably gastro both online, and from the outside, but this bar we were in at least had enough pubby qualities to place it third or fourth out of six in today's final rankings.  Their own onsite brewery too, that'll keep it in the GBG for eternity, says the cynic in me, but we were well impressed with the ales.  As Dad wees, I quiz our barmaid and a local on walking to Marchington, and despite arguing over which direction we should walk in, both seem to think it is a walk we should undertake, chiming in with the views of our taxi driver.  The loos in here are great, they play piped Only Fools and Horses episodes and have framed pictures from the show.  Not since Hemingford Grey's Blackadder have I heard piped comedy in a pub loo.  Am sure a second pub also did this today, but too drunk to remember which one.  After this, the pub experience all went a bit Paul Simon Graceland, as in this man walked into the room and said his whole life was on fire.  After the staff agreed he'd made some terrible life choices, he got a big hug.   Then the end credits rolled, and Daddy BRAPA and I were outta here!





So I plug Marchington into my phone.  41 minutes it says!  Ooof wasn't expecting that, but barmaid, local and taxi driver had all spoken, so all we could do was march it out and stop being York softies.

Daddy BRAPA in the distance, having stopped for a widdle

It was more like half an hour in truth, though sweating buckets by now in my quality new red leather jacket (NOT PVC!) and a roaring fire in the next pub I'd normally admire didn't help.

Here it was ......




It looked like a pub, it felt like a pub, it was my second favourite of the six today, welcome to a fabulous pub experience at Dog & Partridge, Marchington (2007 / 3436) .  When you see an ale on called Clever Colin, you know you are in for peak BRAPA fun.  Sat at the bar, our two favourites of the day, Sharon and Barry.  Nothing more heart warming on BRAPA days than meeting lovely strangers, and these were two of the best.  Sharon explains Barry is working his way through the ales left to right (Dad orders a 'Handy Andy')  Was Bass on?  I don't think so but I only had eyes for the Colin.  I get chatting with Sharon, loves a good pub ghost story like me.  We bond over Derby and Derek Acorah which is probably a line no one has ever written before.  I'm just getting into full BRAPA explaining mode, but Dad, keeping me grounded, reminds me I need to ring a taxi sooner rather than later with no bus for 50 mins.  With Uber refusing to play ball as it always does when Daddy B is in town, I go outside to ring Alton Towers taxis and hope I don't HAVE to go to the theme park.  Barry comes outside for a smoke, eschewing the virtues of pubs in Gwent, a county I admit I'm wholly unfamiliar with.  He is one of life's characters, you could say a bit bonkers in a good way, former military, freemason, he once diffused a potential war in Finland by introducing the locals to his 'Nargle' - a sign you do where you raise your hand to the centre of your face and waggle a finger,  A lot of fun, give it a try!  Back inside, we all sit down.  Sharon even gives us her number for future awkward Staffs trips.  The Loch Ness marathon is among the hot topics of debate (sponsored by Baxters Soup, funny what you remember), as Dad spies our taxi on the horizon.  Time to drink up and go.  Fabulous pub, lovely people.





Could that be turned around Bass to the right?

Hopping in the taxi, who should it be but only the legend himself Chee Seong Lee!  He doesn't even look at all surprised to see us.  Outer Uttoxeter here we come.

And because my memories got pretty hazy very quickly, I'll tell you about the other four pubs on Sunday in a slightly briefer way (he says now).

Take care, have a lovely weekend.

Si 

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

BRAPA in ..... STOP THE CLOCK (I KNOW HOW TO TICK, BUT NOT HOW TO TOCK)

 


Careful what you wish for.  I remember actually thinking that, in my own head, as I waltzed down to York station, 4pm on Thursday last.  'Oh, what a shame my ten minute connection at Donny doesn't allow time for my now regulation pint in the Draughtsman - my station tap of the moment'.  

Once on the train, an anxious voice from beyond tells us that the electronic booking system is down, hence the reason for no seat reservations showing ('does it really matter?' was my view), and we would be delayed whilst they performed the dreaded 'full system reboot'.

"Have you tried switching it off and on again?" jokes a jokey bloke.  "That is exactly what they are doing!" snaps a hoity toity floral blouse lady, who didn't look like someone who'd ever watched an episode of The I.T. Crowd in her life.

"BRING BACK STEAM" bellows a beard, rising up from his seat, quickly shrinking back down when the rest of the carriage look at him in an 'alright mate, settle down' kind of a way.

At least I had my BRAPA snacks and fun reading material ..... 


We didn't have to wait too long to set off.  Ten minutes to be precise.  Just enough time to arrive in Donny at exactly the same minute that my connection to Rotherham was due to depart.  I ran beneath the underpass and up the steps, but it was a vain attempt.  It was well and truly dearly departed.

I look at the station clock.  Then the scoreboard.  Then my watch.  Then my phone.  57 minutes until the next train to the home of the Merry Millers.  Draughtsman?  Oh go on then! 






It was another great Draughtsman experience, even if I had to make my debut on the posing stools up to the right.  Because of the small space, it is a uniquely intimate station tap.  At one point, six people (all strangers) commented in quick succession on the availability of Stilton pork pies.  Two young commuters in the corner got talking, strangers, in their 30's, of the opposite sex, in 2021.  It just doesn't happen.  The George Wright drank superbly.  I got chatting to a lady with an air of Frances de la Tour about agonisingly missing train connections.  A mad bloke with tattoos drank a pint of lager in two seconds.  I offered someone a seat. He said no, but the thought was there.  You don't get this in York Tap or Parcel Yard.

They talk about the huge percentage of your life spent asleep.  For me, the stats on my lifetime spent in Doncaster station feeling cold and bored must be frightening.  Even with this lovely pint interlude, I still had twenty minutes of terminal boredom before the train to Miller land arrived.

After that journey, I walk to Rotherham bus station where I have another 25 minutes to wait until the Brinny Express.  Rotherham bus station is a labyrinthine marvel:


Half the town were in tonight, having a laugh and a smoke and packet of quavers.  Decent night out in Rotherham this.  Smell wise, you should always bear in mind the three W's - weed, wee and watermelon vape.  

I was the only paying customer aboard the slightly delayed 73 service.  I was willing the bus to speed up knowing I'd only have approx 25 minutes in the pub, otherwise I'd have to wait another hour.  

It was dark as I stepped off the bus behind Mr Watermelon Vaper, the man sat closest to me in the bus station.  He crossed the road, I stayed on the left, and the pub came into view .....


It may look much like your typical poxy micropub on an unassuming row of boarded up shops and outlets, but Stop Inn Time, Brinsworth (2005 / 3434) deserves all the praise one could bestow on it.  They came up with a theme, 'time', and ran with it!  No expense spared.  Wanna do something well, do it properly!  Clocks of all shapes and sizes abound, tables with clock motifs, and an elaborate warren of covered outdoor drinking areas, some pubbier than most micropub interiors.  The grass was real, and during my brief 25 minute stint, I must have sat / stood / loitered in four or five different areas.  A three deep queue at the bar on arrival was NOT ideal with the time constraints, and the great preponderance of time pieces only added to my anxiety!  'Tick tock, tick tock Si, not long til the bus!' they silently mock.  Some 'happening' has obviously 'happened' involving the large group of garrulous lads to the front left, all eyes are them, some lady even wants a photo, did I just miss pure BRAPA theatre?  Despite the clamour and number of bodies, when it gets to my turn, the landlady asks if it is my first time in here, where I've come from, directs me to a few parts of the pub I might find comfortable, and says she hopes I enjoy my time here.  You can't teach hospitality this good.  South Yorkshire folk are born with it.  I end up chatting to a bloke in the 'Moment in Time' covered bar.  His Mum lived by York's Victoria Vaults pub.  Very close to me.  But she's dead now.  He's just started asking me about other Nunnery Lane boozers when his mate arrives, and after ten seconds of standing there mouth open, eyes expectant, I realise I've served my purpose and my presence is no longer required, so I slope off to both of the other two indoor/outdoor areas to wield the green Stabilo.   Then to the illuminated outdoor smoking area, ending back inside by the classically micro 'only' loo.  For all this praise, I sadly have to tell you my Abbeydale Heathen had a weird tang and the beginnings of a vinegary smell.  Nevertheless, when the landlady pokes her head through a crowd of locals on my way out to ask how my visit was, I tell her I've really enjoyed myself, which is sort of 95% true if you think about it.








As I stride purposefully in the direction of the Poplar Drive bus stop, I'm relieved and slightly surprised to see a large gaggle of ladies waiting in the dark, one is trying to apply eye shadow.

Before long, we are back in Rotherham and guess what, a train towards York left 3 minutes ago, and I have nearly an hour before the next one!  It feels like Saturday's bad train luck in the Horsham / Littlehampton area was spilling over into tonight.

Oh well, time to pay a visit to an old favourite (but not visited since 2019), not as celebrated as the glorious Cutlers or New York Tavern, but it never lets me down ......


Name me a pub with better drippy classic urinals than the Bridge Inn, Rotherham (which were unchanged much to my relief), as walking in to a red and black painted 'rock pub' was something of a shock to me.  There was even a gig on.  And all the old codgers I used to see quietly supping their Stones had suddenly donned The Damned tee shirts, Stetsons, chatted casually on Buffy and Stranger Things, and supped Old Mill instead.  Not much surprises me after 7.5 years of ticking, but this was a weirdly addictive fascinating pub experience.  Glad to note the pub layout remained unchanged, and still that nice old carpet leading to the side areas of the pub.  I order a Styrian Wolf.  The young barman is way too happy and enthused for a Rock Club Vibe.  "Great choice, a lovely ale!" he chirps.  "I thort it said Syrian Wolf and was thinking ooo errrr" adds bloke in a hat.  A cropped haired lady with a name like Rachel randomly sits with me.  "I'm a bit deaf so you'll need to speak up" she tells me above the din.  But she doesn't give me chance before launching into "I hate what the smoking ban has done to pubs ..... you DO agree don't you?" she implores.  I'm half expecting her to whip off her mask to reveal Old Mudgie at this point, but she's talked herself into craving a cigarette, makes her apologies, and leaves for the outdoor area, never to be seen again.  The kids are coming in now in their droves (well, three of them).  Looks like a band are about to start.  I kind of really want to stay, but as has been the problem all night, the clock won't stop ticking.  







Back on the train, another change at Donny, another painful wait (Draughtsman long since closed), and back in York for 21:30.  So that is 5 and a half hours I was out, for a rushed 25 mins in my required BRAPA tick.  Pub ticking folks, a mugs game.

See you on Friday for tales of the darker side of Staffordshire.

Until then, cheerio.  Si 

 


Monday, 18 October 2021

BRAPA in ..... 2001 : A SUSSEX ODDITY

As I bade farewell to pub 2000, there was no looking back, there never can be in this pub ticking game.  Onto pub 2001, infinity, and beyond.

I marched Dad and Tom across a road we didn't need to cross, then down the wrong street.  Nice to see that 2000 pubs and 7.5 years later, my navigational skills are still terrible.  And as for my left from my right?  Don't have a clue mate. 

It was easier to cross back the other way, so no harm done.  As I loiter for the outdoor photo, an approaching lady lingers at the edge, not wanting her BRAPA five seconds of fame.   


She overtakes us and goes in first.  "My 2001st pub visit!" I tell her.  She looks at me like a world weary worn woman who is sick of random weirdos quoting pub stats at her.  But fear not.  King's Arms, Horsham (2001 / 3430) supplies further evidence that the town is managing to keep it traditional.  The sun streams in, the atmosphere is happy, and without being multi-roomed, there is a 'split' feel to the place, offering the feeling you can 'get away from it all', not a bad thing when the boisterous Horsham F.C. fans are in town.  I look to see which opponents are making them so giddy.  Potters Bar Town, home of my recent joyful 'Spoons experience.  "You're getting taught by the Scholars!"  On a day of fabulous bar staff, this woman is my favourite, her sense of humour drier than some dry hopped something or other.  She agrees that it is reasonable of me to assert that if I'm going to be the spokesperson for our little trio (i.e. shouting out the drinks order), I should be absolved of ever having to buy a round.  Sadly, Tom and Daddy BRAPA didn't share her view.  Our beer was a puzzler.  As in, I thought it was dreadful.  Not the quality.  Just the style.  A Black Cherry mild by local Kissingate.  Presumably an ancient one.  I know mild is, by all accounts 'mild', but this was just like sweet cherry water.  I thought I'd picked up Tom's pint by mistake!  Perhaps a centuries old recipe that just doesn't translate.  In any case, yuck.  Still a fabulous pub.  My fave today overall.





Into the bowels of Horsham for our last two pubs, by which I mean the town centre, a welcome relief from the utterly depressing concrete ring road main drag.  

Colin said hi to a few old rellos:

...and a second nod to rhubarb in quick succession 

A risky cut through, right through the middle of an indoor shopping centre rarely ends well on BRAPA days, but I emerged from this one fairly unscathed.  Tom, who likes places with amplified acoustics for inappropriate football chanting purposes, managed to hum a few strains of the classic "Shopping Wankers" (B-Side to 'BRAPA 2000').  I was about to tell him off, but the way that a woman with young children moved to the side for us as a result, letting us pass, really helped with the BRAPA progress. 

Shopping Wankers of Horsham / I wanna pass, they say 'ov course son'

In fact we were hampered more so at the other end as the ShopMOBility Mob closed in on us .....

Horsham Mobility Mafia Mob

A random donkey then tried to look important and historic, but ultimately got in the way ......


So you can imagine it was a relief when the narrow side lane to pub three emerged .......



Pirie's Bar, Horsham (2002 / 3431) is not going to take home any BRAPA awards, but I was mindful not to sneer at it quite as much as my two travel companions.  After all, there's was something very 'York' about it.  Difference is, because we are in Horsham rather than York (city?  don't care) , people will be less inclined to be all dewy eyed and dumbstruck over it.  Having said that, a giant moth-inducing Corona font dominating the poky, dark bar area is not a good look for any CAMRAery codgery ale drinkers gaff in my book, and what a book it is!  Only in the hapless Bell in Reigate have I witnessed similar.  There, it was positively celebrated.  At least here, as I poked fun at it, a barmaid chuckles along and looks sort of sheepish.  I like her.  The bogs were nonsense here too.  Three urinals in the same space as one actual toilet and sink.  But one lock encompassing all!  So if you are a selfish shitter, you can conceivably lock three innocent pissers out of the whole equation!  That can't be right can it?  We sat in the 'covered' outdoor area as the inside was busy and stifling and narrow.  Stickiest table in a BRAPA pub this year!  Why are empty gin bottles hanging on pieces of string, suspended above Daddy BRAPA's head?  I was nervous for his skull the entire time.  The ale, another local offering, from a place called Long Man, is a pale cool fizzy thing I just cannot get along with.  Maybe everything is piped up to that all encompassing Corona?  Time for my Hull City quiz (as is tradition on Tom days - "buzz!") and before long, the most impassioned Junior Lewis discussion ever is being had.  The poor bald bloke who's just across the bench from us must think he's walked into the Junior fan club!  He's a very friendly chap anyway and says hi to me about ten times.  You know at the beginning where I said I was careful not to sneer at this place too much?  How's that going?

Corona world domination

Tom n Dad at the bar

Odd outdoorsy bit

Funny, I thought I quite enjoyed Pirie's til I started writing that piece.  Now I'm not so sure.

One Horsham pub to go, or so we thought, until we got there.  

Dry your eyes lads

SHUT PUB ALERT!  Anchor Tap.  Google had suggested this would be the case, peering in through the window showed that this wasn't just a 'isn't open', but more a case of 'if they open again this century they'll be doing well'.  I'd seen conflicting info on social media in the build up, but honestly thought we'd be in luck, sounding like it had been taken over and done up.  But I was wrong.  And so are you. 

So now we have the added conundrum of needing three pubs rather than two to get the magic BRAPA six.  Tom debated over trains to Amberley, then Faygate, but not one train to the latter today.

Back at the station, a Littlehampton bound train coming in shortly.  'Let's hop on!' I said, having earlier been the one most reluctant to go too far and get stranded.

We were further surprised to learn that Arundel had no GBG ticks, and no brewery (Arundel brewery is in Ford, down by Littlehampton).  The castle and town looked lovely from the train window and it might be cos the cricket team play there, but I always thought it was a major town in the Sussex scheme of things.

And further analysis of this much neglected BRAPA county (Burgess Hill my only tick before today, back in 2014) shows what a beer desert it is.  Look how much of it I've been able to colour in, despite having completed only Burgess Hill and Horsham.

NINE in Worthing though, so it'll probably even itself out

Littlehampton then, and I soon had us marching down to the furthest one, a mile south east of the station close to the coast.

Dad suddenly tells us he's going to give this pub a miss, and go down to the beach instead, which from what I gather, was one of those pebble strewn little numbers like Brighton, lacking sand, but he had a lovely time so that was the main thing.



The manky old saloon door promises great things at the New Inn, Littlehampton (2003 / 3432) and I wasn't to be disappointed on this occasion.  It felt like exactly the kind of pub you tend to find in those under appreciated, oft neglected English seaside towns, slightly down and out, but maintaining a real sense of yesteryear, the 'old country' if you like - not dissimilar to a Harwich or a Clacton or even, on a cold winter's day, a Weymouth.  But never a Portland.  I make a fool out of myself immediately by pronouncing the Frigate ale as 'Fry-gate'.  Despite the fact there's a massive Frigate ship on the pump clip.  Tom and a local (described as a 'know-it-all') both make fun of me, but the barmaid is more sympathetic, having made the same error the previous day.  You think there'd be two G's in Frig wouldn't you?  Don't answer that.  She still looks slightly perturbed though.  "Wot is yor accent?" she asks me.  Funny, as when I chat to my Dewsbury/Wakey mates at work, they act like I'm Brian Sewell and Philip Mould's lovechild, but down on the Sussex coast, they have me pegged as bloody Tubby Lard from the Boulevard.  So I'm sat with Tom, musing on this pub of the day contender, when the door crashes open, Nanny from Count Duckula style, and Daddy BRAPA appears "cooey BRAPAboos", and starts loudly saying "what a shame they've ruined this pub by taking out all the inner walls .... it'd have been a multi roomed gem back in the day!"  and yes, he has a point, but this pub has plenty character besides, especially as you go towards the loo and see the back games room split with what seems to be a mortuary / ladies loo.  Friendliness though was the main thing I'll take away from here, and the Frigate was one of the day's best pints!





It is evident long before we get back into the centre of town that achieving both remaining ticks is going to be out of our reach, and this was the problem all day.  

No matter how we twist and turn to try and achieve the six ticks, it is always just beyond us.  Does make you wonder if West Sussex is just a bit much of an ask on a day trip.  But I think we are returning in November to try again!  More confident as we are booked on more 'generous' trains.

One pub is beyond the station, but the other, we are passing en route, is just about achievable.  

Shopmobility scooter outside - beats a Cask Marque sign any day 

George Inn, Littlehampton (2004 / 3433) and as I turn around as we approach the bar, Tom informs me that Dad has decided to give this one a miss too!  Not sure if he wasn't on drinking form, or whether he has a special clause written into his BRAPA contract that forbids him from visiting Littlehampton boozers, but whatever, he'd gone to explore the town.  A dreary range of beers is cheered up 1% by Adnams Broadside, one of those strong ales I can drink easily for some reason.  They say (well, BRAPA says) if you want to gauge what a town is really like, a trip to the Wetherspoons is your litmus test.  As Tom and I spy the one empty table in a sea of insanity, as two pubbers who've seen quite a lot over the years on our travels, it is fair to say we are left pretty well speechless at the general atmosphere here.  It isn't a criticism, it was fantastically rugged.  There's this young kid just sat alone at a table for ages.  He has the face of a much older man.  A bunch of other kids come n go, occasionally murmuring a few words to him.  I'd pitch this piece about half way between Oliver Twist and Bugsy Malone.  I'm scared to go to the loo in case the massive ten year old Sumo steals my lunch money.  A "responsible adult" finally appears.  About my age, I'm shocked when the kid calls him Grandad.  Balding, but not Claire.  I'm even more depressed when 'Dad' arrives, a tracksuited  scrawny tattooed 24 year old.  If this kid is 8, and Grandad is 40 .... I'm trying to do the maths.  Eventually feeling brave enough to go to the loo, my progress is blocked by two ladies who look like they could knock me unconscious with one punch.  "How's ya kids?" asks the first.  "I don't 'av kids, I have 4 dogs" replies the second disturbingly matter of fact.  "Oh, well I 'av twins!" says the first.  I have a full bladder.  I didn't say that.  Wasn't brave enough.  Dad texts, he's waiting outside.  If only he knew what he'd missed.




Back on the train, waving to the Littlehampton pub we have missed (Steamboat or something), I'm still half thinking of ways I can achieve the elusive sixth pub.  Crawley would be an option, but the train doesn't stop there.  

I'm wondering about getting back into London, Clapham Junction has a 'Spoons I need.  But is there time?  

Maybe my travel companions can come up with a solution?



OH FORGET IT!

Besides, there is one very pleasing plus point about getting back to King's Cross with over half an hour to spare before the train isn't there?  It begins with an E and ends in a B.  






An exhausting, but weirdly very fun day.  Thanks to Dad and Tom, and the folk of Horsham and Littlehampton.

I'll be back either tomorrow or Wednesday to tell you about the time I went to Brinsworth, in South Yorkshire.

For now, sweet dreams, and I'm off to watch Prisoner CBH episode 451.

Si