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