Monday 7 November 2016

BRAPA - A painful day in the Manchester 'burbs

A bottle of Old Tom and an axe, typical Everitt bonfire fun.
Saturday morning dawned freezing cold and early, as I wanted a good start to the day for two reasons.  Firstly, I had to be back in York for 5pm for the Everitt Family Bonfire (EFB).  Secondly, I was having to play "avoid the Smog Monsters" who were away to Man City and threatened to be passing through York, therefore any trains coming from Teesside were off limits just in case.

Everyone at work had told me what a lovely place Didsbury was, but in the icy wind and gloom, it just felt like a main road with a huge cinema complex - in a word, 'Renfrew'.  Interestingly, the Wetherspoons was positioned inconveniently in the middle of a huge traffic island.  Before the pedestrian bridge was built, I wonder how many people died leaving this pub ..... I was nearly one.

Traffic Island Spoons fun in East Didsbury
 930.  Gateway, Didsbury

10:30am but the pub was in full swing like all good Wetherspoons, mainly thanks to three incredibly jovial oldies, who had a fluffy toy dog as a mascot which occasionally chipped in with a cutting comment about the blonde barmaid, who definitely didn't get her tan in the 'burbs of Manchester.  "Behave yerself John" scolded the wife, "It's not me luv, it's the dog!" was how most conversations ended.  Staff were very on-the-ball, and loved the "bantz" with the locals, so the most confusing "50p voucher incident" since Prestwick was a bit of a surprise.  Firstly, he mumbled something about a festival, so it wasn't valid.  He reconsidered, told me I was lucky, it did count, then knocked me a full quid off so I got my pint for £1.29.  Just as well as my Maxim beer smelt of sick, and my tepid cooked breakfast didn't go down well.  I'd been feeling a bit unsettled, and let's just say I got acquainted with their loos for a bit too much of my time here!  Any gurgling from me didn't put off the psychotic looking young man next to me, who downed three pints of purple Strongbow in about 15 minutes.  The table was sticky, full of crumbs despite being 10:20am when I arrived, and as the locals debated whether it was illegal to wake a sleeping dormouse, I left feeling utterly dreadful!

If it looks nice, it didn't do me any good!
I still felt dodgy when I "alighted" at Burton Road (which is nearer to Withington than Withington, fun fact) and to rub salt into the wound, the self proclaimed 11am opener the Victoria was still shut at half past.  I kept walking and arrived in Fallowfield, but as it was 11:55am, I popped into my second Spoons of the day (called something like Great Central), not for a drink you understand .....

Time for a name change?

931.  Friendship, Fallowfield

A pub with a name like this should at least have staff who smile and say "hiiiiiiii" when you walk in, and "byeeeeee" when you leave, rather than efficient businesspersons who had the air of people who'd make me sign a contract to render the transaction of my L S Lowry beer legally binding.  Still, you can forgive a vast carpetted one room island barred Hydes pub that is this nice.  I sat in the sunny window and started to recover from my earlier malaise, thanks mainly to the quality of ale and a series of freakish customers who seemed unfamiliar with the whole "getting served in a pub" concept.  A ruddy faced simpleton in 1998 Kappa tracksuit struggled to raise the funds for his coke, much to the frustration of the impatient staff.  Then a group of student boys made an exhibition of themselves circling the bar, seeming to think there were 'hidden' ales that they might not have seen on first view.  If I told you they were Derby County fans, it might explain things.  Let us just say I've never seen any group get as excited by Tom Ince and Darren Bent as this bunch of desperado rams.  Yes, from my elevated position in the sun, sitting in judgement on the customers in true BRAPA style made me feel better.  As I left, I took my glass back to the bar and thanked them.  I got a scowl in return from three old men, maybe my almost bondage jeans and walking boots combo wasn't aesthetically pleasing enough.

Lovely pub!

The "men shed" outside looked a bit out of bounds.
A short walk back from where I'd come from took me back to Withington, and with some relief, I noticed the outer pub door open this time .....

When closed earlier on......
932.  Victoria, Withington

From efficient and businesslike staff to downright mournful and exasperated judging by the sorry pair that greeted me here!  Not that it lasted.  As soon as a baby appeared about two minutes later, the pub (barmaid in particular) was laughing and cooing.  Just one of those days when however cheerful I tried to be, I got nothing in return.  Maybe they'd heard about BRAPA.  I was all quite Hydesy again, and whilst this pub wasn't quite so lounge-like, it created a fantastic illusion of making a one roomer feel like a multi roomer with pool area, football TV area (there was no avoiding bloody Wolves v Derby for me!) and the locals chillout room.  I enjoyed an ale "selected" by the locals apparently, which means all the proceeds go to charity which I have to say I was skeptical of.   The multi-roomed feel plus the piped music meant I couldn't hear much local chat, which was a blessing because in the one "break in play", I overheard a diatribe from a young lady about "gardeners cutting hedges in less than pretty ways".   Today was painful, and it was about to get worse .....

The "free" wine turned out to cost the best part of a bottle.

Chosen by you!  But not me.

Get with the times Victoria!

U.S. Politics on the Withington Condom Machine
More cooing at babies at the tram stop, an increase in the number of glowing pregnant females and a vaping bearded pseud giving an awkward student the following motivational speech "You gotta live it, breathe it, feel it", told me one thing.  Yes, I was fast approaching Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

Not hell on earth, as long as you are into shitty faux-Euro cafe bars with one syllable names......

933.  Bar, Chorlton-cum-Hardy

An awkward, twee girl with angelic face and bad sleeves popped up from nowhere, scaring the crap out of me (which didn't take much today!), and I somehow ignored Titanic Plum Porter in favour of a local pale ale by a man called Dan - it had got to the stage where I was now quite happy to torture myself!  I asked her if the extra 20p would help, to which she giggled like a pregnant hamster and disappeared again.  A suspicious ginger bearded man (who I'm sure works concurrently in all of Chorlton's bars) held a mop in an angry way and put a "cleaning slippery floor" sign in my path to stop me venturing out of bounds.  Soon all three of them were busy cleaning and moving stuff around, the third being an old woman called Sheila.  I say old, she was 31, which is approaching death in Chorlton.    Despite getting positioned facing the bar, next to a "fire" in a leather armchair, this was still somehow uncomfortable.  The feeling you were drinking in a large cleaning cupboard combined with people moving house combined with bar more soulless than even Dulcimer or Parlour just wasn't helping my already fragile state of mind.  Two bearded twats on laptops started making fun of Burnley "eee by gum, what is an Ewok?" was one random but memorable line.  They then declared "Burnley is the most analog place on earth".  Had I been quicker, I'd have interjected "take away the 'og' and you get what Chorlton is".   Saviour came in the rarest of forms, an almost twild-like girl with her father.  She shouted him from across the room to the bar "I want the pink drink ..... and gemme some crisps too, NOW!"  "Yes, princess!"  It was pretty clear who wore the trousers in this daddy daughter relationship.

QUIZ - What was the Pink Drink?

Quite a hilly climb to the next pub!

This view sums up my entire day

Ghostly pint of Dan's.
As I reflected in York Tap a couple of hours later pre-family bonfire, I'm not sure why today was so painful but it was.  On paper, it looked a jolly quick jaunt to the usually reliable BRAPA county of Greater Manchester.  But the cold, the dodgy stomach, food stuck in throat at one point, some miserable folk, combined to make this less fun than it should've been.

But them's the BRAPA breaks and happier times were ahead as I finished East Yorkshire the following day, which I will review Wednesday.

And I'm on half day from work tomorrow so I'm going to branch out from the usual South Yorkshire midweeking to something slightly more adventurous, though we've had a snow warning for the afternoon and I'm due to be "on higher ground" so it could be quite an experience!

See you soon if I don't die on the Moors / Peaks / Hills etc.



  1. Given that Chorlton from your reports (when I got my tram shack tick I thought it was just shit) appears a pretentious collection of toss houses inhabited by snobs, I presume the twilds are the same and the pink drinks are similar to suit. I must also consider that by standards of such towns, this actually is something resembling a pub. I would say a good plausible answer is Fentiman's rose lemonade, priced at £2.69.

    I will look out for reports of people freezing to death in the Pennines.

    1. Nail hit firmly on head re Chorlton there ;-)

    2. Well that depends on whether you have a rather restrictive view of what makes a good pub or are more broader minded about it I think.

    3. Tom, this is a perfect example of why you must make entries in your blog.

    4. Very good attempt at logical deduction there Tom, and I feel almost ashamed to say I am a fan of the Fentiman's drinks and am currently enjoying a rose lemonade tea! The correct answer was in fact whatever flavour the pinkest J20 is. I haven't done my research.

      I think there are some very good Euro style cafe bars out there (North Bar in Leeds is one, Pivni in York another) but those in Chorlton have yet to convince. But I do have two still to go so who knows, I may strike gold!

  2. The Gateway is one of my local Spoons and also one of my favourites in the chain, as it started life as a pub rather than being converted from something else, and has plenty of natural light and even some bench seating. I see you found a berth in my favourite corner of bench seating facing the bar.

    Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy the beer or food much, but that sounds as though it was down to your delicate state of health. Still, the clientele made up for it. I hope you used one of *my* beard club tokens.

    Didsbury village itself, which *is* lovely, is half a mile up the road. I'm sure you've been there before for some of its GBG gems like the Fletcher Moss.

  3. Oh, by the way, it *is* illegal to wake a sleeping dormouse, or at least a hibernating one.

    1. Cheers Mudge, yes one of your tokens and the most controversial one yet ;) Think the brekkie was probably perfectly good, but that beer was definitely strange smelling even if looked and tasted quite ok!

      I'd have done Fletcher Moss but for the 12 noon opening and my need to make haste due to the bonfire. I can combine it with Pi and Font at a later date no doubt! It'll be nice to see Didsbury proper.

  4. Well, I'm 56 & regularly drink in Dulcimer, Electrik, the Parlour, the Beech, the Marble Beerhouse & the [Chorlton] Font without feeling at all out of place. The Bar is a bit rough and ready, though. I think mopping the floor during opening hours has to be a bad sign - the last time I can remember that happening to me, the place had closed within a month.

    1. Marble was probably my favourite so far Phil. Not seen Electrik in GBG since I started doing BRAPA, need to try Font and Pi so may have to do it as a pre-emptive - save me a 4th trip to Chorlton!

  5. Interesting that Hydes couldn't make the Gateway work, or did Brexit Tim make them an offer they couldn't refuse?
    BTW there is a stray "should of" in this piece.

    1. In the case of the Gateway, Wetherspoons benefit from having a recognisable brand, which Hydes didn't. They seem to have successfully made it into an extension of the leisure park across the road.

    2. Thanks Malcolm, "should of" is one of my major pet hates so will correct.

      I've seen a lot of Hydes over these last few days and cant decide whether they want to be like Joseph Holt pubs or more like a cosy Spoons!

  6. The Friendship has just changed hands and so is likely (well almost certain) to be de-Guided for 2018)

    1. Might explain the lack of friendliness if the new licensees have not read the "friendship pub manifesto" (if it exists). Maybe a name change really is on the cards....

  7. That will brighten Simon's Saturday even more......

  8. Quite the description,"maybe my almost bondage jeans and walking boots combo wasn't aesthetically pleasing enough."

    That political message was still kinder than most of the discourse during this election.

    I am curious as to the location and importance of the picture which is a permanent fixture at the top of your blog.

    1. You know Richard, that is an oft asked question and I don't even know the answer, I used to think Masons Arms in Lower Odcombe in Somerset but now not so sure. Found it on a very old floppy disk which I transferred to this PC years ago! I'm tempted to say the "Green Owl" which is my Moon Under Water.

    2. I'm glad that question has been asked as I've never thought to question said pub. It is perhaps over familiar. I've looked up the Masons Arms on What Pub and, whilst similar, I don't think they match, the roofline is different and the road is wrong. Unless your phot is a rear view or something. It definitely isn't the Green Owl.

      The sight of the axe has somehow led me to the idea of indoors bonfire and firework displays, which I think will have the edge over the others in the event of rain.

      Is rose lemonade tea normal tea made with rose lemonade instead of water? It sounds bizarre.

      I wouldn't have bothered with the bridge in Didsbury. Going straight over the road is far quicker.

    3. Is it actually a pub? It looks more like a residence. After street viewing Lower Odcombe, it looks like it would fit there.