Monday 4 September 2017

BRAPA - Brillo Pads, Roof Kittens, Zizzi and Arron.

"Any pubs visited in this blog should be viewed as merely 'pre-emptive', and any similarity to pubs listed in the forthcoming 2018 Good Beer Guide is purely co-incidental."

There was no weekend bus service to Brill, which wasn't very brill, but I found a Portakabin full of stern Asian men and one put me in his Mercedes and sped off down country lanes, so I was relieved when we arrived and I was dropped at some temporary traffic lights, disturbing an otherwise tranquil rural village.  I sat on the village green and waited for 12 noon, but the grammar on the bench was a poor tribute to one pair of deadoes, unless it was a deliberate gag I was missing:

Anyway, it was 11:59am and as a sycophantic family Dad set up a market stall behind the pub with his family (nice carrots), I turned the door handle and it was already open ....

Pointer, Brill

I walked in to the unusual scene of smart bearded barmen in grey patterned shirts trying to kill flies with those electric shock tennis rackets, and were doing it perilously close to the spirit bottles behind the bar.  "Are you open?" I asked, out of common courtesy - "We are now!" said chief fly murderer, as though I'd triggered the opening by asking.  The most imposing guy (he had the fullest beard and strangest walk and a European accent) looked at me curiously, like "what's his game?" as I took my pint of something from Vale (based in the village even though the house beer is from XT 5 miles away) to a low table and chair on the right.  This place was unashamedly upmarket gastro, and apart from incredibly low beams and some creakiness, it had serious issues with "accepting it's a pub".  As "Tracks of my Tears" played, a crying Twild entered and asked where Mummy was?  Me and a beardo looked at each other like "this is outside our remit" when thankfully, Daddy and sister appeared and explained a blonde lady should've come in and booked a table.  She was hiding in the back drinking gin, I didn't tell him this of course.  She appeared and asked if the kids could have non breakable cups - suspect they might've been for her.  Next, a posh rugby man appeared from the back, he was being taken for a walk by his huge dog, and hit his head on the beams in process of trying to control it.  My pint had finally cleared (15 mins in) and a woman picked up a folder and asked if it was the menu.  "No it is a guest list!" barked a beardo, "do I order drinks here?", she reasonably asked at the bar "No, you go outside and we'll come and find you!" was the strange reply.    Another Dad/Daughter combo had arrived, she was whining so Dad gave her a bite of a sausage roll in a paper bag that looked suspiciously Greggs (surely not in Brill?) and the staff looked horrified.  She then asked Dad if she could carry the drinks tray outside.  "No, it will be a little bit too heavy for little girls like you" said Daddy the patronising twat.  No wonder she sulked, so did I.

The pubbiest part of the pub!

I was still sulking as my second (and final) taxi driver of the day managed to charge me £14 just to go to Long Crendon (I'd paid £15 to get from Haddenham to Brill, this was half way back, he'd admitted Long Crendon to Haddenham would be £7, so surely this should've been £8?).  Still, he didn't like that I worked in a bank.   And he'd got into BRAPA and told me I should do the other Long Crendon pub as a pre-emptive cos how would I feel if it got in the GBG next year?  I ignored his advice. But knowing how much luck I've had with this year's pub ticking, it probably will!  Not that I'm bitter.

Eight Bells, Long Crendon

I liked this pub from the moment the friendly bar-lad told me "Mioung" was 'probably German for miaow'.  Not as random a fact as you think, it was the beer I was ordering.  Despite this pub having that rural Bucks 'commitment to dining' ethos, it felt like a pub, had plenty of areas for drinkers, beermats, and you can't ask any more than that from Buckinghamshire!  At least the Micro revolution hasn't hit yet, maybe I could become all nostalgic and teary eyed about gastro pubs by 2020?  In the loo, a man who'd stupidly blocked my entrance on the pavement and had to apologise profusely, had to apologise again for blocking me off at the sink.  This time, he was teaching his toddler son that kelp was seaweed.  That doesn't happen in Castleford.  A full-kit Chelsea twild asked for a bottle of ketchup, but I thought I was in for a peaceful yet not very blog-friendly next 20 minutes.  But I was handed a gift when a family of 4 sat at the next table.  Mum seemed nice n smiley, Dad was lovely but a bit of a try hard, young daughter Zizzi (presumably named after the Italian restaurant she was conceived in) was more mature than her older brother, "Kevin the Teenager" actually called Arron, eyes constantly glued to a game on his phone.  Dad asked what they all wanted to drink.  Arron: "OH MY GOD DAD, YOU ARE SOOOO ANNOYING.  DIET COKE!"  Zizzi commented rather randomly, "it's not a snake, it's a dead worm" before Dad asked me if he could close the window cos the draught was chilly.  I was like 'don't mind me, I'm just making notes on your dreadful family for my blog'.  (I didn't say that).   Zizzi ordered an adults scampi and chips, and went up for crisps whilst they were waiting - legend #PubGirl, Arron had a kids meal.  I left to glares from previously friendly Mum, was she on to me?

Settling down for quiet drink?

The family are here to save my blog!
Once a year, Google Maps is kind to me and works me out an adventurous "off road" way of getting to the next pub, so I was quite chuffed to find it telling me Haddenham was only 2.3 miles through some fields (though I must confess, I'm still scarred by 2015's Eversholt to Toddington walk).

Despite hurdling a few stiles (and sheep), an electric fence alongside a river, a bit of crazy pavement-free roadwalking, I was only semi knackered and sweaty when I reached pub three.

Walking in Bucks

Pub is here

Worst Pub Sign in the UK?
Green Dragon, Haddenham

If I'd thought the Pointer in Brill was a bit posh gastro, this took it to a whole new level, so light and airy, it was in effect a restaurant with a bar serving two real ales.  Oh, and no staff.  I waited, and waited.  Eventually, I went in search of one, by which time, a man had got in front of me and was leaning on the bar.  A barmaid arrived, but stopped to take photos of Chinese tourists, even though she could see she had two people waiting at the bar.  Irritating.  Finally I got a drink, by which time I'd changed my mind to the "Hullaballoo" which had Hull in the name, and was a fresh barrel.  It was, pint of the day, and if this were to get in the GBG, I guess you'd begrudgingly say it deserved it on this basis.  I took my pint into the sun, and hadn't even had a sip when an old lady said "Are you on some kind of giant pub crawl then?", the BRAPA top giving the game away.  She was from Scarborough, her male companion ran a pub in Thame called the Swan but I found him a bit charmless and disinterested.  He softened a bit when I told the woman off for suggesting beer range was more important than quality - his pub had recently gone down from 5 to 3, and he wants to go down to 2, so at least we bonded over that.  A smug local, who looked like he could be friendly if he wasn't looking down his nose at me, sat opposite taking it all in.  The barmaid came out to chat to him, she tried to be friendly to me but I was still peed off by photography-gate so stared upwards.  That is when I saw a kitten (Coco) in an upstairs window - who came out onto the roof, got to the drainpipes, changed her mind, went back inside, poor little thing ..... living here I mean.  The toilet had a wicker basket full of clean flannels, yet there was no soap - that sums up the pub in a microcosm.

Stop taking photos and serve your customers!

Mrs Scarb and Doctor Swan enjoying the sun

"Nice day for a wander out onto the roof"

"Hmmm, it's a long way down when you're a small kitten".

"Oooh, this wasn't such a good idea!" 
A bit closer to Haddenham & Thame parkway was another pub I'd had my eye on for a while..... and was glad to finally get here as it intrigued me .....

Here we go for pub 4 
Rising Sun, Haddenham

The reason for my intrigue is the GBG 2017 description - the most brilliantly passive aggressive piece of writing in that edition of the Guide.  If you have a copy, read it now.  If not, I'll paraphrase "We've got rid of a lot of old pubby stuff and modernised it, and if the miserable locals don't like it, too bad because they've not got anywhere better to go to".    I needn't have worried though, the main bar was dark, full of moody old men (one burped approvingly as I ordered my ale in the murk), the pub's own branded snacks were at the bar, so it's either been re-curmudgeonised since the GBG 2017 went to press, or they were simply meaning the back bit had been made lighter and foodier, but this was easy to ignore.   Time for a bag of my own BRAPA snack of choice, Mini Cheddars to celebrate being in a proper pub.  Okay, so the loo signs were little bit OTT (Bonnies and Clydes?) but even a headless twild and a dog that could hear mini cheddars a mile off couldn't dampen a very solid pub.

Pub Snacks

Strange signs

The legs of a twild

The dog that knew too much

Having a wee
After a 20 minute walk back to the station, I was soon at Marylebone a little bit unsure which London pubs would be "nice" to visit but as I had plenty of options and wanted to do two in a desperate attempt to claw my terrible BRAPA numbers back (if indeed, these pubs do get in the 2018 GBG) so I hopped on the first one I saw and ended up at Piccadilly Circus.  It was like Piccadilly Circus.

I instinctively tried to walk the opposite way to the crowds which actually took me to a pub listed under "duh duh duh ..... SOUTH London"  but it looked nice and I'd tried to go last Sept but found it closed on a Sunday so always that bit more satisfying to get such pubs ticked off ....

Red Lion, St James's

So not only was the outside flowery and ornate, but I was greeted by a smiling brunette barmaid of some note, in amongst all the dark wood panelling and shiny mirrors, truly beautiful and no surprise to later see it was in my Heritage Guide.  Still, there's always a 'but', and though I'd already decided to pay using a fiver, I was not prepared for 'my' brunette to say £5.05.  I still dumbly handed her the fiver, I knew what she was saying - IT WASN'T ENOUGH, but my brain couldn't quite register .... she looked at me like "you poor simple northern fool".  Suddenly, she wasn't attractive, she was a penny pinching harridan, and no longer was I describing the pub interior in glowing terms, "opulent London idiocy" to quote my notes at the time.  The pretty hanging baskets outside were "shit party wigs like a Doncaster man-clown would wear at a kids party". Tourists did what they normally do in London pubs, fail to realise they can move around and fill the 'few' empty spaces.  I went around to the back of the bar, where a Canadian who looked Australian wore a hat very well, and told a New Zealand ex-pat back on holiday, that the Brits were more laid back than Canadians.  Brits laid back?  Jeez, remind me never to go to Canada.  They talked about pain killers and gin in San Francisco, trying to outdo each other, my beer was superb quality, but I still couldn't get past the £5.05.

It's Canada v New Zealand in the Red Lion

Queen's Head, Soho

Back towards the busy central area, this was the nearest next pub on my GBG App (which incidentally, I'm really hoping they don't ruin when it is "re-launched" on 14th Sept as it is perfect as it is).  I was unimpressed from the outset with this pub as Tom Huddlestone disguised as a bin-man blocked my entrance, didn't say, and then it turned out he worked here cos he served me this piss weak vegan ale for a 'reasonable' £4.50 (or something).  Despite not giving me the time of day, he was soon chatting to his bar fly mates at the bar.  Everyone in here when I entered was both under the age of 30 and a dickhead, not a winning combination.  A barman with a man-bun who managed to out-irritate even Huddlestone stripped down to a vest, and moved some stools around aggressively, whilsy the barflies, most of whom had ginger hair (the offensive deeper shade) did 'head-laughs'.  God, maybe £5.05 in the last place was worth it.  "What Do I Get?" by the Buzzcocks played, the answer was 'not very much'.

Pub looks lovely, but looks can be deceiving

Head in hands time for one poor twenty something dickhead

Bring back 1855 Canine Meetings in this pub, I say.

The 1855 me would just be complaining about Twogs though.
So there we go, time was of the essence but still got back to King's Cross comfortably enough, delighted I'd done six pubs that didn't include Parcel Yard, Scottish Stores or York Tap - no, those days must come to an end!  New pubs all the way.  The journey back was straightforward enough, the scariest bit happening on the tube so I'll leave you with that, and see you tomorrow for the "Tuesday Trio" as I return to West Yorkshire for the first time since 21st March.

Sweet dreams, Si


  1. "Brits laid back? Jeez, remind me never to go to Canada."

    Tsk, tsk. He is, of course, referring to Canucks living in the big cities (which is just as true usually wherever you go). Get out into the country side (or towns under 100,000 people) and we're as laid back as the rest of them. :)



    1. I'd love to go really, my Mum and Dad loved it near Vancouver. Mother BRAPA was really worried about being eaten by a bear, but it didn't materialise!

  2. What was the beer for which you were charged £5.05, btw?

    I see what you mean about the description for the Rising Sun at Haddenham. All they needed to add was "and removed all the previous smelly customers". I wonder if it will be toned down for 2018...

    1. 'Twas a Castle Rock Session something - first nice Castle Rock had in ages (used to love Harvest Pale but feel like it has changed).

      Just a hunch but I THINK the Rising Sun entry will be toned down for 2018 .... ;)

  3. FYI the lines on the bench come from Ogden Nash, albeit he used "you're". Still a bit odd, but hey ho.

    1. Thanks, I thought it sounded strangely familiar - "your" cannot be right, glad Ogden did it properly.