Tuesday 31 October 2017

BRAPA - October Review / November Preview (2017)

The Obelisk, Herefordshire (I don't know why, it just is)

Good evening weary travellers,

Only two months left of the pub ticking calendar year, where has it gone?

39 pubs visited in the month (plus one pre-emptive and one 'bonus' pub) sounds like a great success, sure it was THREE times than number of pubs I visited last year, and also eclipsed the pathetic October average of 19.

Having said that, there were missed opportunities (the Morgan in Great Malvern, Sunday lunchtime ticking in Central London) and with the kind of dedication I showed in September, I should have been more around the 45 mark.  Never mind.  I currently am on 1135 pubs, so the aim by 11:59pm on New Year's Eve has to be 1200 which looks fitting in a way.

If I can stay disciplined on the 'six' a weekend theme (not always strictly possible) and 1.5 pubs per midweek, plus the odd little 'bonus', it should be achievable.  Though sadly no more time off work before January.

I visited some incredible pubs, had some amazing experiences, and met some great folk on my travels over the last month, so choosing a "top three" was very difficult so here are 5, in no particular order .....

1. Plasterers Arms, Norwich
2. Farmers Arms, Birtsmorton
3. Shepherds Arms, Whaley Bridge
4. Wyche Inn, Upper Wyche
5. Pump Room Micropub, Halifax

Enjoying a pint of Hook Norton in Birtsmorton.
I guess I'll have to start thinking about the "worst pub experience" of the year, so here are three we'll put in the hat for the 'year end' awards (I should've done this all year to be honest):

1. Tilted Wig, Warwick
2. Derehams Inn, Loudwater
3. Hope, Richmond

Even this pic couldn't inspire the Hope at Richmond to greatness.
So what have we planned for November?  My aim is going to be 35 as I know December can a complex month as people like to invite me on their "yearly pub outing", and by that, I mean to pubs I've already been to, which can be frustrating, plus people block the bar, don't observe pub etiquette and wear silly jumpers but that's another blog!

It all starts with one of final remaining West Yorkshire ticks, before a trip to Sheffield to take on Championship leaders (at time of writing) Sheff Utd, with all their passing and movement and Chris Wilder and Billy Sharp and blah blah blah.  Pubs before AND after is the order of the day to numb the pain, as I look to knock off my remaining 5 in Sheffield, one of which I've tried THREE times to get to but to no avail!  4th time lucky?

I then look to finish West Yorkshire and we have a special guest BRAPster from work joining me for that, then a bonus trip to help Martin Taylor get a pub tick done, before Sat 11th sees Dad join me on the second of our mystery train trips.  But where will I take him this time?  Clue,  not Warwick.

I'm then going to see what of North Yorkshire is achievable on a Tuesday night before starting on the South Yorkshire massive.  Places like Harrogate, Hensall and even Northallerton look do-able.  Skipton may have to wait til June for reasons I won't go into here, Acaster Malbis is so close by it is painful, but buses just don't run late enough.

Sat 18th comes with a nice little bonus trip to London the day before, a "work trip" but I'm going with a bloke from Rotherham so no doubt a bit of Stones and Wards will be drunk in Smithfield and Cannon Street on the Fri evening, well I can hope!  I'm actually staying over in Milton Keynes (yes, I did just say that) basing myself there for joys like Woughton on the Green which Martin so enjoyed, Newport Pagnall and Stoke Hammond also on the agenda.

And Sat 25th sees me back on the Cheshire trail.  Like Bucks, it is slow progress limping towards the finishing line as I keep wandering into other counties (North Wales, Derbyshire on my last 2 visits).  This time Barthomley is the tricky pub required, but I may be able to combine it with a bit of Crewe or Congleton or the like, which now need return visits since the 2018 GBG.

And if I need a cheeky bonus Fri or Sun to help me get towards that 35 target in that final week or two of the month, then so be it.

Happy pubbing all, and rest your livers on your days off (but not tonight obviously).


Monday 30 October 2017

BRAPA Hallowe'en Special - All(Hallows)Greave

Meanwhile in Hull ......
It is that spooky time of year once again where the pint of ale draws closer to the veil between life and death, pubs bring out their dead old folk, and black pubcats heads are put on spikes by twog lovers, whilst zombie twilds chant songs about witchCraft and sip from colourful 330ml cans.

On the train, a group of 4 middle agers from Teesside told an inane anecdote.  Their friend ordered chips in Wetherspoons by mistake.  He wanted mash.  Not monster mash.  The guy on the till had to ring through the order as chips, but did indeed bring him mash.  End of story.  Purgatory.  A Doncaster fan sat next to me drinking Stella.  "It's a must win game today!" he exclaimed.  "Well, it's a must not lose game anyway" said his friend.  Would this journey ever end?  They thought I was one of them.  I can cope with being mistaken for Wrexham, but not Donny.

I changed at Stockport.  There were no trains over the Pennines.  Very mysterious.  An old man in a cap looked up at the grey wet sky.  "It was sunny in Stoke this morning, I don't believe it!" he says to me.  I didn't believe it either, it's never sunny in Stoke.

The train wound it's way through the misty Peak District, stopping at a load of made up places like Furnace Veil, Chapel in the Froth and Shark Crossing.  It was all a bit strange.  Eventually we made it to Buxton.

The first pub required a taxi.  An ancient bloke wound his window down.  "Allgreave?" I shouted.  "Your grave?  Hop in!" he replied.  Close enough.  10 minutes later, I realised we were going the wrong way.  Turns out he thought we were going to Youlgreave.  Back on the right track after fiddling with his SatNav, the fog descended, we passed an ice cream factory, a few sheep, the road got more winding, finally we were there.  He let me off most of the fare.

No signal, how would I get back?  "Would you mind waiting, I'll only be 27.5 minutes?" I asked him.  "Ooh, it's a new pub for me too this one, I wouldn't mind a pint.  I'll park up and join you!" he says.  Great news, and a BRAPA first, a BRAPA motivated taxi driver.

1130 / 1876.  Rose & Crown, Allgreave

Whilst our taxi legend went to park 'properly', I strode in to find a deserted pub with the beautiful woody smell of real fires, three nice local ales (Headless Something, SBS B), but took me a while to locate the landlady to serve me who was amazed to have a customer before noon on a day like this.  I sat on a low settee and taxi driver came and joined me with a bitter shandy, upset all the newspapers were dated Friday, so we talked foreign holidays and tasteless lager instead.  The pub managed to perfect that combination of having quite a posh extensive menu whilst still retaining the comfort of a traditional rural pub, it's a hard balance to get and the landlady told us she'd worked hard at that, and slagged off another in the area which had overdone the gastro and ruined itself.  It was heartwarming.  Totally unprompted, she said "there's a place called Youlgreave we get mixed up with".  "YOU DON'T HAVE TO TELL US THAT!" barked me and taxi driver (Richard) as one.  Richard's boss rang,  Awkward moment.  "Errm, I am working!" he claimed, took some coins out of his pocket, and jangled them close to the receiver.  The landlady was so interested in BRAPA, she gave me a free pub pen.  A quality item.  Richard wanted one. "No, you only get one if you have a blog, you get a card instead" she replied.  Brilliant.  Richard sulked all the way back to Buxton though admitted begrudgingly he'd bring his wife here for Sunday dinner.

Having told me this stretch of road is "the second most dangerous in the UK" (glad he had shandy, as it didn't stop him answering his mobile) Richard dropped me at the pub of the three furthest from the railway station so I could work my way back in gradually......

1131 / 1876.  Cheshire Cheese, Buxton

Titanic ales, cobwebs in the window, a hunched witch with green skin, a dead eyed zombie, bloodied hands on the mirror, a huge spider, and a collection of skulls on the mantelpiece?  This was uncannily like being in Stoke's White Star at 2pm on a matchday.  I'd have to go back to BRAPA-ween 2014 to find a pub that has so gone to town on cheesy (excuse the pun) Hallowe'en decor, that was the Horse & Farrier at Bentham, North Yorkshire, and that seemed acceptable due to wide-eyed twilds running around and loving it.  When you've just got me and one old curmudgeonly zombie at the bar,  it just seems quite ridiculous.  I couldn't work out if the barmaid was in fancy dress, or whether she was just emaciated and liked having her hair in this weird elaborate 'devil bunny ears' style.  She asks the hunched over guy (John) if he'd carved a pumpkin yet?  "Carve?" "Pumpkin?" "What?" he replied, a guy obviously unaffected by this time of year.  I sat in the front room, where one of many real fires was being maintained by a roaming staff member who's sole purpose was poking the fire!  Little details like that I love, for the pub otherwise lacked a bit of something.  "Soul?" "Spirit?" it was hard to say, but it just didn't convince, and I love both Hallowe'en and Titanic beers.


Great fire

Top spider action

John makes the acquaintance of a pumpkin
Pub three wasn't far, though a bit of a "blink and you'll miss it" style entrance.  It can only be micro, despite generous opening hours and fairly standard name.

1132 / 1877.  Ale Stop, Buxton

So if I'd not been able to mark off any Micro-Bingo squares so far, it all changed on arrival as an enthusiastic hound jumped up at me, licking my crotch and generally blocking my route the bar, whilst a group of friendly old dudes said "ha ha, he's very friendly!"  The youngest bloke in blue hat commented "Cleethorpes is a great day out", some things you think you'll never hear in a pub, and then you do.  Must go myself, I thought.  My ale was lively, and mine host (another Richard) was a lively chap too, and we had some forced awkward chat about whether it'd need topping up.  It did.  He was watching streaming Premier League football on a laptop behind the bar.  Must add it to the bingo card.  I wondered if the bar deceptively sloped downwards, but turned out Richard was just very small.  Soon he disappeared altogether, and I was just staring into the middle distance when I got the shock of my life, when he appeared from a secret trapdoor, just like in the former kids TV classic though he was no berk.  More like bony.  This pub had a real spider, weaving a web over some untouched books on beer.  No one reads books about beer do they?  Apart from GBG's, and they are about pubs so don't count.  The pub smelt like a European Airport lounge.  Like all good pubs, a 'Scottish Character' was amusing everyone else.  He told a Scottish tale about a bloke called Neil who delivered cars to England.  Thrilling.  "On his day, Fellaini can cause anyone problems" said our younger friend who'd finally got over Cleethorpes and was channelling the ghost of Paul Merson.  My ale, I didn't enjoy that much as it went down.  Bit hazy, left me with a furry tongue (SBS C-).    I hope micropubs aren't just getting in GBG for sake of it, that'd never do would it?!

People and twog thinking nice things about Cleethorpes

People hover as mine host sticks his head in an oven to end it all.

Pumpclips, pumpclips everywhere.  Note the secret trap door.

Beer books, look out for spiders weaving webs.

Helpful amusing hidden blackboard points "Beer" and "No Beer".  How micro!
Just up the road was Buxton's final pub in this year's Good Beer Guide.......

1133 / 1878.  53 Degrees North, Buxton

The large glass windows and modern frontage gave way to a very chilled out long thin bar, a bit like an eighties wine bar in a coastal town, but with added euro cafe style and a fair dollop of food thrown in for good measure.  It was one of those where they probably opened it with younger clientele in mind, but an older crowd has gravitated here.  It felt very 'Harrogate' if I had to place it.  At the bar, not for the first time this month, I accidentally jumped ahead of an old bloke waiting to be served, but why do people not concentrate, look away and dawdle so much?  This guy was too busy petting his sleeping bulldog so how was I to know?  What's worse, I called the beer "Wincle Waller" pronouncing "Waller" as in 'Fats Waller' (who might've played for Leicester City in the 70's) when it was actually 'waller' as in a local man who is famous for building walls.  "Where are all these PEOPLE coming from, it's never like this on a Saturday lunchtime?!" said the barmaid to one of her colleagues.  Nice to know I'm just another number.  The pub didn't really have proper seating, so I found a side bench carved out of some warped wood and smuggled my scotch eggs, always tastier when so much food was going on around me.  A second dog slept under a table near me, and it's owner seemed to be having an 'unsaid' competition with bulldog owner for who could get the most "ahhh isn't it cute" comments from visitors.  In a problem I'd seen coming a mile off (despite the fact I was almost drifting off to sleep in this most relaxed atmosphere), the second dog owner took his dog to the bar, where bulldog was sleeping.  Unsurprisingly, all hell broke loose.  Bulldog came out on top, the peace was shattered, it was a good time to leave.

Time to hop on the train out of Buxton, and 'whip in' a couple on the train back towards Stockport.  Firstly, I hopped out at a place called Whaley Bridge...... the pub was only about 5-10 mins walk.

Now do I have to jump over this hedge?

Slippy cobbled uphill path was quite a challenge ..... 
1134 / 1879.  Shepherds Arms, Whaley Bridge

Well, this was all a bit fabulous wasn't it?  Stoneflagged floors, wood burners glowing in the dim light, a moody local on the left eyeing me suspiciously, a barmaid who looked like she'd just chewed a wasp and had worked here far too long, but 'owned' the pub in that very capable manner.  Too much love for sheep I noticed, both in the gents and the pub as a whole, sheep pictures and photos were as prevalent as bikini clad models would be in a student flat.  Phwoarr.  Look at the wooliness of that little beauty?  The ales were very Marstonsy, somewhat anticlimatically, and I sat on the far wall, remained respectfully silent, and tried to look like the local that everyone knew I wasn't.  "You are United fan then?" says one cockney spying my red and white trim.  "No, the only team for me is BRAPA!" was my surprising, untrue (sorry Hull City) and slightly cheesy reply.  Where had that come from?  Wainwrights affecting my brain?  Anyway, it led to more chat, revealing this bloke used to work in the Porterhouse in Bournemouth.  Finding out I'd been there was too much for him, and he excitedly told moody local and chewy wasp landlady, both gave a combine total of zero shits.  After making sure he wasn't the guy who ID'd me on 19th March 2005 having already served me TWO pints (NEVER FORGET!), it was time to get back on the train.  Top pub this.

Lots of sheep love

Keeping warm

Mr Moody and wasp chewer unwittingly helping to make this a classic experience.
I'd misread the train times slightly, so had an extra 10 minutes lurking on Whaley Bridge station than was strictly necessary, and although it was impossible to know where the train had pulled into next, I took a chance on getting out and sure enough, it was 'New Mills Newtown' and the next pub was a steady, soggy 5 minute walk.  My last one of the day, just as well, I was shattered!

1135 / 1880.  Beehive, New Mills

Memories hazy due to my alcohol consumption up to this point, but I walked in nervous of pubs called the Beehive since a bad experience in my last Beehive, at Droylsden.  Luckily, despite the modern interior being a slight comedown from the outside, and last pub at Whaley Bridge, I received a very jolly welcome from a brunette who could've been up for an end of year pub award had I had my wits about me more.  Again, the beers were Marstonsy so I had the one I'd almost ordered in the last place (it had an orange pump clip and looked exciting but wasn't - SBS B-).  I tried to find the loo, and noted the building seemed like one of those houses of mirrors with backwards stairs, weird shapes and stuff (but it could've been me!) so slightly lost, I turned it into a "exploring the pub for BRAPA purposes" which didn't fool anyone and the whole pub called me back from some dark upstairs bar, which was quite embarrassing really.  Had I cared.  There was a bit of 'love my dog or you are no friend of mine' behaviour going on that bar, love it when people use dogs as a route into their selves cos they have no social skills on their own.  So yeh, I think this was a nice pub, maybe one to visit in 2043 when I'm doing my 'cleanse' I didn't take enough care over!

Love me, love my dog

He definitely only appeared after I looked at the photos the next day!
So back on the train, the key here was changing at Stockport.  I fell asleep and woke up with a jump .... phew, only at Hazel Grove.  As long as I stay awake for the next couple of min....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Next thing I knew, I was in Manchester Piccadilly.  Damnit!  Oh well.  No harm done.  Well actually, there was cos no trains direct to York, or even L**ds!  So after a nice sobering coffee, I squashed into a two carriager taking millions of people to Sheffield.  It was carnage.  How I got a seat after Stockport was a miracle.  Hull City decided to lose to Notts Forest as Dad gave me live commentary.  And back in York, I bought ingredients for Pumpkin Soup on the way home for no real reason.


Sunday 29 October 2017

BRAPA - Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

I'd slept in!  5 episodes of Neighbours, 2 Podcasts, I hadn't got to sleep til 2am, despite the abrupt finish to pub ticking in Richmond the night before.

It was 9:30am, I was supposed to have been on a tube out of Hounslow no later than 8:50am to make the connection at Marylebone to take me to High Wycombe to get a good 11am start on the new South Buckinghamshire pubs, arrgghhh!  (Good job I was in a Travelodge and not a Premier Inn with it's Lenny Henry snooze-tastic beds, or it may have been lunchtime).

After dodging a few judgey chambermaids looking at their watches in a "BRAPA waits for no man" kind of way, I picked the sleep out of my eyes and managed to get to High Wycombe (a dreadfully dull place, let's be honest) for just after 11, from where I took a bus to somewhere rural near Penn Street called "Mop End" which I'm sure the bus driver made up just to confuse me. 

Storm "Brian" (terrible storm name, what's next, Storm "Chris"?) had replaced Ophelia, and was swirling around my ears as I walked along the village green of this serene little place, which screamed "South Bucks" as much as any place could.  The pub looked 'country dining central', but let's not judge before we've gone in......

1125  / 1871.  Squirrel, Penn Street

So, the quarter of the GBG complete (again) but not quite the fanfare of the Red Lion in Marsworth this time.  On the surface, this pub represented everything that was wrong with Buckinghamshire pubs.  Almost every table reserved for diners, people looking like they have a stick up their backsides, no beermats, not even any pump clips (beers written on little chalkboards), no drinkers area to speak of, high chairs for incoming twilds, jam jars showing cloudy real ale samples.  Yet, it won me round despite all this!  A posh old man at the bar seems to be eyeing up the ales, he sees one called "Hoppit" and says to me "that's not a very friendly welcome is it?"  I chuckle politely.  I assume the Salopian Lemon Dream being pulled is for him, so when a young bar-lad asks who's next, I jump in, only to realise Posh Bloke isn't on the Salopian so I quickly apologise for pushing in.  "Oh, it's quite alright!" he booms, "I'm waiting for my wife, she's bringing the dog, I have all the time in the world .... you look like you are in more of a hurry!"  So I admit that's true as I'm trying to tick off every pub in the Good Beer Guide.  This kinda kills the conversation, and I find the best seat in the house, this leather thing perched on the other side of the bar giving me a good vantage point for BRAPA observation.  I hear my posh friend telling a barmaid his wife is bringing the dog in, "it might be wet & muddy, I hope that's not a problem!"  She assures him that's fine.  I'm meeting my 'Neighbours' friends later, the guy reminds me a bit of Hamish Roche, the new posh evil villain, I wonder if his wife will be more like 'Louise' or 'Sheila', I think vaguely.  Storm Brian is pelting it down, blowing the door inwards, the rain is sideways.  A little woman wanders in with a dog and a hood, so this is the wife ..... hang on, it's only MARY BERRY off the tele!  Meanwhile, the sun comes out, a huge group of young Mums and twilds arrive.  One bloke is a proper #PubMan noting how painful this incoming twildery is for me, smiling sympathetically.  They all whisper "Mary Berry is sat around the corner if ya look!", but no one bothers her as everyone has such a high opinion of themselves, asking for a selfie in presumably her local whilst she's having soup would be uncouth.  I need a taxi to speed me up to get back on track after sleeping in, but no phone signal.  I wander out onto the village green, still no luck.  Btw, I love how this pub has an old historic cricket theme despite all the gastro nonsense.  I go to the bar to ask if they can book me a taxi, I feel a bit bad considering how rushed off their feet they are with twildery foody reservations, but the girl I speak to is first class and sorts it all out.  However, Berry is staring at me opposite the bar with those glinting blue eyes, bloody Hubby has only gone n told her I pushed in at the bar (probably) so now she's looking at me like I've baked some pastry with a soggy bottom!  Taxi driver wanders into the pub to ask for "Simon" just as I'm swigging my last dregs of the ale (SBS - a solid B).  Crazy scenes in the world of BRAPA.

See what I mean about the ales?

At my leather perching area, note Posh Hubbie Berry on other side of bar.

A couple enjoy some cricket bat lunch fun

A microcosm of evil twildery, but bloke holding twild was a classic  #pubman in disguise.
 Taxi driver didn't exactly convince despite being friendly on the surface, all felt a bit fake.  Surely we could've gone more direct than a drive right around Penn and Tylers Green, which I'd been to earlier this year as part of my April BRAPA holiday.

Anyway, we finally got to Loudwater, I sensed whatever I experienced was going to be a come down, so it may as well be proper shite.  It was.

1126 / 1872.  Derehams Inn, Loudwater

I walked in to the strains of a loud woman behind me congratulating her son on clearing his plate, and then raising a toast with the several other people in the group to Diwali, she was posh and white and before I'd left the bar, she'd managed to mention 21st century buzz words like 'inclusivity' and 'multiculturalism'.  The bar was strange in that it was split into two down the middle, so I had to straddle the middle sections to order my limp and increasingly sulphury ale (SBS D+).  Although the children conducted themselves with decorum and panache (as I wrote on the day!), the parents didn't so I sat in the quieter back bar.  I was joined by one of the scariest couples in BRAPA history, man with face and neck tattoos and his spiky haired haggard wife, both looked like Crimewatch e-fits.  The pub twog kept doing circular laps of the pub, getting locked out, scratching to come back in, so at least I could bond with Mr Tattoo Neck on ignoring the damn creature and not letting it back in.  But Mrs Tattoo had other ideas and kept bending to the dogs needs, for which her hubbie called her "a fucking idiot" at 3 minutely intervals.  I wouldn't have gone that far, even if I'd thought it.  She accepted the assessment with good grace.  But overall, I really wondered how this pub had got into the GBG.

Keeping the Diwali gang at a safe distance

I'm not letting you in!

Mr Tattoo Neck pondering life (and death) behind my limp ale

Personalised toilet decor

I thought this was a West Berkshire beer magazine?

Old pound coins still accepted in these parts.

I took a bus back to High Wycombe and I should really have gone to the bus station to catch a bus out Marlow way, but was a bit paranoid about storm Brian cancelling trains and being late to meet my 'Neighbours' gang so instead I hot-footed it back to Marylebone, and took an underground train half-heartedly towards South Ealing where we were meeting, stopping off at a few pubs on the way of course ....

1127 / 1873.  Queen's Arms, Gloucester Road

A quiet location, a nice street corner local, but hectic inside, this was the Mitre in Richmond all over again but with even more amusing clientele.  You could tell I was back in that area, as my lime green rain mac was being sneered at again, so spreading it across a vacant table of four when no one else could find a seat really rubbed salt into the poshos wounds.  Ok, so the table was reserved by it was 3pm, and Jake had it reserved from 12 noon, Lucy had it reserved from 6pm, so I had made the most of a rare interlude of non-reservation.  You could say a good pub knows it's clientele, and it must know how vain and vapid they are as the 'tip jar' reads "how attractive are you on a scale of 1-10?", signifying attractive people give £10 tips rather than £1.  The jar, reassuringly though, was empty.  A few blonde people stole my other seats because they were forming an Aryan race group behind me (allegedly), before a girl who'd bought a peacock feather for a ridiculous amount of money realised she'd been conned when you could just go to a park, find a peacock, and pluck one out (if that doesn't sound too wrong).  Then a prototype Prince William and his girlfriend did duck impressions and wondered if I'd drink up so they could nab my seat, so I drank my final third ultra slowly and also did a duck impression.  Funny pub for people watching, beer v.good (SBS B) and a very nice building too.  Visit, but make sure you wear a lime green rain mac.  They'll love you more.

I walked to the next pub because let's face it, Londoners are lazy and jump on and off tubes 'just because they can' when if this was say, rural North Yorkshire, I'd have about 500 required pubs within 'walking distance'.  The walk took me from SW7 to W8, the GBG App made me walk into this weird courtyard where a woman was crouched down smoking, but turned out pub was on main road .....

1128 / 1874.  Elephant & Castle, Kensington

For an M&B Nicholsons pub, this seemed very small and intimate but all the cosier for it, a judgey man with a blue coat was sitting outside pretending it was summer and scowled at me as I took the pub photo as though he wanted a fee for being involved.  So I ended up taking a better one (above) without him in.   The staff were a tiny bit snooty and stand offish, the guy serving me looked like he stepped off a boat in Howard's Way, he screamed late eighties and probably had a wife with shoulder pads and frizzy hair locked in the back.  Every seat was taken around the perimeter so I had no choice but to perch on a posing table with my Adnams Herbalist (a beer, not a man - SBS C+, better in York's Cross Keys last year and that doesn't reflect too well on this pub!) I felt a bit like the centrepiece, especially in my lime green rain mac so no wonder a bald Chris Moyles and his botoxed girlfriend, who appeared to hate each others guts.  He kept staring over at me (she fell asleep).  Taking photos didn't help.  I went to the loo but went the wrong way, a common theme you veterans will know, but ended up walking towards the barstaff, who told me "well it's not over here!" didn't actually then tell me where it WAS.  A BRAPA first in unhelpful staff.  I've written "strong candle wax" in my notes, but no idea what that means.  

Go on then .... judgey blue coat man.

A French woman pours tonic into her gin - the most London pub thing ever.

Basically my view for 90% of time spent in the pub
Although I was well early, I thought it best to get to the South Ealing pub in good time, so after getting cash out and some food, I was walking in almost an hour early......

1129 / 1875.  Ealing Park Tavern, South Ealing

The pub had that 'gearing up for a big Saturday night' feel about it, the staff were wide-eyed, friendly and on the whole, a bit manic, and a group of red and white football fans stood up en masse at half hourly intervals, clapped and went "ooo, ooo, la la la" like some weird version of the Hakka and the pub went silent and 'appreciated them' like they were a rare prehistoric species of fish.  People speculated that they must be Brentford fans, but it all seemed a bit too European to me.  Only one of the 5 real ale handpumps had anything on, and that was a 5.5% Long Arm stout which was very nice (SBS B+) but not what I needed at this time of day, and after 3 of these, I went onto a colourful 330ml can for about £7 and ended on a shot of vodka bought for me by the Neighbours lads without my knowledge.  They were a jolly gang, Daniel, Ben and Rob P, I learnt a lot of Neighbours off screen gossip I've now forgotten (though I can't un-remember Cody and Pam Willis having a fling in real life ewwwwww!)  Before they arrived, I made it my aim to try and get us a good table, I had to stand at the bar for 15 mins, upgraded to a barrel shaped thing which seated 2 or 3, and somehow commandeered a table for about 12 and held onto it.  The pub was nice, obviously recently refurbished and gastro'd up, but a good place to meet your fellow Neighbours fans!

Time for a weird ritual chant?

One ale, you've only got one ale (and this wasn't rectified between 6-11pm!)

Barman about to be eaten by a moose.

So that was that!  

The plan was to steadily work my way back through London on the Sunday morning hopping off for a few early openers, and despite a splitting headache, I tried to rouse myself at Piccadilly Circus, only to find the Crown at Soho very shut (it was supposed to open 10am, it was now 11am), it wasn't just me as 2 lads, a group of Chinese tourists, and a maintenance man were all looking as confused as me! Plus the wind was freezing and my lime green mac wasn't very insulating.

After helping direct a woman who's phone had died to Jermyn Street, I wandered to Covent Garden where I'd spied another 11am Sunday opener called the Cross Keys, but this looked even shutter than the Crown (11:25am) so I decided fate was telling me to give up, rest my liver, and go home!  So I did. 

The Crown, Soho.  Lights are on, but they aren't letting us in!
In the most boring stat I'll ever tell you, 22nd October is one of 42 days in the calendar year where I have NEVER ticked off a pub that has contributed towards BRAPA, past or present.  And that trend continues when it really should've been broken.

The 12 noon Kings Cross to York was chaos, and I had to get a "woMAN-spreader" from Aviemore to move her bags, which she didn't want to do.  I didn't like her.  Shame, cos I want to know if the "Winking Owl" is as good a pub as I am imagining, cos I like the name!