Wednesday 25 October 2017

BRAPA - A Battle of the Hills : Malvern v Richmond

If one beacon of light had shone on our damp squib of a Thursday in Great Malvern, it was venturing into the railway station where Dad noted "you can get directly to Paddington from here!", knowing I had a Bucks/London trip planned for the following day.

And after all, would it really make sense to drive back up to York on the Friday, have less than 15 hours recovery, and then have to be on a 6am train down to Kings Cross?  No of course it wouldn't!  After all, I had my overnight bag.  So after a bit of hotel booking jiggery pokery, I said farewell to Mum and Dad in Malvern on the Friday morning at 10am and went to get a ticket to Paddington.  It had been a great holiday.

And I wasn't done yet, I pleaded with the ticket lady to put me on the 12:36 (she seemed reluctant to let me stay in the town any longer than possible due to cancellations on the trains both before and after "Listen to me!" she boomed  "I can get you to Snow Hill where you change."  "But Miss, I don't wanna go to Snow Hill, I want to stay in Malvern for a bit!"  I got my way in the end.

But did I head straight for the 10am opener?  No, I dillied and dallied for half an hour like a chump taking in the town sights and hills around (looked nicer on a dry day), buying food n drink for the journey, and this would ultimately cost me.  I got to my first pub just after 10:35am.....

1120 / 1866.  Great Malvern Hotel, Great Malvern

It's usually a little bit daunting wandering into the hotel at this time, heading straight for the bar, praying they'll give you the pint you need (no questions asked) to get your 'tick' in.  But for once, I found the bar easily in the room to the left, there were no shutters across it, and no sooner had I chosen a Malvern Hills Ale (SBS B-) when a wiry whippersnapper of a lady put down the Pledge, flung the Brasso to one side, wheeled Henry Hoover into the corner, and ran round to serve me.  She was soon back on with the morning chores, and I was left alone in the bar (they should really know better!) where I breathed a sigh of relief at finally having a pint alone in my pure BRAPA state, but also stared through the window into the street, hoping to catch a last glimpse of Mum and Dad coming out of an antique shop so I could wave goodbye.  A wistful moment.  A bearded man who looked important walked into the bar to answer the phone, looked shocked at seeing me sat there in my lime green anorak smiling at him, he then fiddled with a tricky handpump, and made a call which I'm sure included him saying "it's my head which is the real problem here!"  Music played for old fogies like "Strangers in the Night", "Love Me Do" and "Runaway" (the last easily the best) and although it was cosy and well done, the total lack of customers made it duller than it might've been.

Pint of Green Pear was nice and didn't taste like pear.

They seem to love their Morgans in Malvern so perhaps they are made there.

My view of nothing much going on.
I'd really needed to be arriving at my next pub very close to it's 11am opening time to stay on track, but it was a fair trek north of centre, and the old tunes and solitude meant I'd drifted into a state of relaxation in the hotel.  It was after 11:20am when I arrived, rubbish Simon!

I always wonder how strict these pub 'no swearing' rules are!
1121 / 1867.  Nag's Head, Malvern

Having waved at a Phil Jupitus beer delivery driver on the way in, and wondered why anyone had dropped their headphones in the carpark, I walked in (careful not to swear), and thought "ahhh, this is more foookin' like it" as I found a quiet creaky wooden bar area with friendly staff, good beer (Dragon's Blood, SBS B) but irritatingly, they were all saying farewell to a young visitor chap, wishing him "good luck on your quest, great to meet you, thanks for the card" and all that nonsense, if he's a new BRAPA, he's a dead man walking.  He saw me arrive and obviously knew it was time to skidaddle.  Bet he was going to the Morgan for opening time, the utter bastard.  Ooops.  Eject me now!  I realised this pub opened up into a rabbit warren of snugs and side rooms, I hid behind a glass panel and all I could hear were ales being pulled through (thanks Mr Jupitus).  This was until an old local walked in and asked how he was "oooo arr, too busy for moi loiking!" was his reply.  Classic Malvern Bantz.  "Ha ha" replied the landlord.  I chuckled to myself, and finally was joined by someone, not a pub goer, but a pub window cleaner.  He seemed a jolly chap, even if I did have to crane my neck so he could do the window behind me for the first time since 1685 by the looks of it.  Top pub this, in keeping with the standard of the whole week.

On the way back from the loo

Random pile of logs, but wasn't complaining.

Dragon's Blood, bit dark for 11:20am, so what?

The window cleaner doing his thing.
I'd really needed to be at the 3rd Malvern pub (the Morgan) at 11:59am ready for opening, but it was a mile walk just the other side of Great Malvern station, so leaving here about 11:50am, I'd ultimately left myself too much to do to get a pint in, 25 mins, and back on train for 12:36.  It was 12:10 by the time I got back to Great Malvern station.  Especially annoying when I found out it was Duncan Mackay's Dad's local.  Rubbish Simon.  This is why your numbers never improve!

For now, I decided in light of all other trains that afternoon to Paddington being either delayed or cancelled to just get myself to London, check in at my Hounslow Travelodge, and do the rest of my pubs from there. 

It was about 5pm when I got to Hounslow Railway Station proper, and although for about the 15th time in my life, I seemed destined for Feltham's Wetherspoons, I blindly hopped on the first train I saw and realised I was on a totally different line.  After some hasty GBG cross checking, I hopped off one stop after Richmond, at a place with a funny name called North Sheen, which reminded me of cleaning lady co-owner from the Great Malvern Hotel.

A short walk later, I was FINALLY at my third pub of the day......

A bike outside a pub in London is like a shopmobility scooter outside a pub in Lancs
1122 / 1868.  Mitre, Richmond

If the location seemed gentle backstreet classic London boozer, and the pub had the appearance to match, it was spoiled slightly by a cacophony of noise on entry, not helped by overly high ceilings and a circular typical London bar playing havoc with the acoustics.  Of course, the people were to blame.  Only 4 groups and an exuberant barman, but you know how it is early Friday evening, everyone turns their voice level up to 11 for no apparent reason apart from perhaps 'weekend exuberance?'  And you know how it is, one group raises their voices and laughs, it has a domino effect, and I'm not talking Fats Domino either, god bless his soul.  Another thing I'd noticed since my foray into South West London was how anti-social my lime green rain mac was now viewed.  Acceptable in the Malvern Hills, but looked at like I was offending people's eyes around here!  I should've sat on the back wall ..... remember me telling you how in recent micropubs in Brighouse and Peterborough they've had forest/wood/nature murals on one wall to maximise space, make you feel you are out in the country?  Well here they took it to the next level with a video version, moving pictures of rolling hills, forests, tree close ups, it was rather odd but the old people migrated to this part of the pub, especially an old man in shorts and socks, worn just to compete with me.   But don't get me wrong, this was a really nice pub, top beer (SBS rating B+, chosen because it had a deer on the pump clip), good service, and ok yes I had to get the emergency beer mat out, and some students tried to be cool,   but as London pubs go, it was worth the Fri evening clamour.  

Beer, look I could've had one from Stalybridge to impress Quosh!

Boisterous men and barman laughing at stuff loudly

Old man takes heat off my lime green raincoat

Students who can't quite just sit still and enjoy a relaxing drink
As the sun disappeared over what was probably Richmond Hill (despite being chilly and nearly pitch black, loads of couples sat on benches opposite the pub overlooking nothing eating pots of pasta, kissing, or in one case, trying to unfasten tricky zips - I didn't stay to find out what it was all about!)

My camera was luckily pointing the other way across the road, where pub two of the night loomed in sinister fashion ......

1123 / 1869.  Roebuck, Richmond

The overwhelming female-male ratio was the first thing I noticed in this grand but homely pub, it's still so rare that I feel rather outnumbered and took solace in the fact that one of the only other males, an old man with saggy cheeks, was at the bar eagerly ordering a pint of Greene King IPA like it was the first time he'd witnessed such a 'delight'.  We were both served by a statuesque Irish girl, imagine if Robbie Coltrane slipped on his Hagrid outfit one last time, and had a lovechild with Andrea Corr, this would be the result.  If I'd expected this pub to be slightly foody middle class dining boredom, I was very wrong as I wandered around the back of the pub and I found a totally empty area, as pubby as you could imagine.  But I wasn't cut off from the pub, oh no, a crazy group of middle aged prosecco drinkers saw to that!  They were like something from a Martin Taylor pub nightmares scene, the loudest one (quite an achievement amongst these five) commented "my son actually calls me Prosecco Gob!" as a friend poured her another glass, which then led her having to explain the word 'gob' to someone who'd never heard of the word!  Female power ballads like Mariah and Whitney blared out of the speakers, reminding me I was in some psycho-fanny apocalyptic vision.  The woman was at it again, telling them her son (he of Prosecco gob fame presumably) "is probably half German, we may as well stick him in the England football team!"  Not to be outdone, her friend told them about the 'Night Manager' at her place of employment.  "He fought in Papua New Guinea against the Japanese, now he hates anyone from Japan, he's brilliant!"  This group were the BRAPA gift that kept on giving, but I had to go, but not before a blind (not really) German tourist tried to intimidate me, and Andrea Coltrane congratulated her chequered shirted blonde colleague for catching a falling plate.

My view of the pubby part of the pub, I couldn't quite see the prosecco ladies.

The blind German tourist bonds with me over bright raincoats in SW London.
It was an even longer walk through Richmond, back to the centre, and just the other side of the station across about 4 busy roads to get to the next pub.  It felt like an effort, would it be worth it?  I was feeling pretty good about the world, last two pubs had been good, and Richmond on a Friday night had a real happy friendly feel to it, "I could live 'ere" as Dad might say .....

Trying not to get run over

Phew, finally made it across!
1124 / 1870.  Hope, Richmond

So it's obviously busy, the staff seem pretty clueless, especially a wide-eyed Spanish waiter who seems to have ended up behind the bar.  So I manage to use "all my experience" to muscle in between two wet farts, make eye contact, and I'm in!  Pretty sure it was my turn, or "I just wanted it more!"  Anyway, to my left, a bald ginger moaner (they are always bald and ginger, think Gary Megson but less cuntly) tells our Spanish waiter he believes he was next, and is winked at and told "you must be quicker next time mate!" which annoyed me, because bald ginger wasn't even looking at the bar, he was mooning over a blonde girl with nice legs and slutty shoes, like the other blokes in her gang, and the term "Girl with Legs Gang" was born.  I sat down, found my ale a little too chilled n boring (SBS C) and glared at the gang, taking the odd pic - for the blog narrative, not to be a pervert, you must understand(!)  And then Spanish waiter (who now thinks wearing a back to front baseball cap will make him look more business-like) comes along and tells me I'll have to move in 15 minutes cos a live band are setting up in this corner.  Girl with Legs Gang go outside to smoke.  I tell Spanish waiter, "ok, I'll move now" but he says "non non non, not yet, you've got 15 mins" but I've only drunk about 2 sips of my pint and I'll be buggered if I'm going to be pushed out in front of Girl with Legs Gang, so I 'jump' instead, and sit across the other side of the bar.  So now, I hate the band almost as much as I hate the Girl with Legs gang.  I'm determined to stay here until they start, so I can walk out midway through their first song.  It takes them 25 mins to get going, more tuning up than Metallica at Donington, I've been seriously nursing my pint.  The backing band turned up with a twog with a better haircut than any of them, and the main girl was like a shit Adele with a limp.  Then a bearded bloke sang the first song anyway, and Girl with Legs foot tapped with her slutty heels whilst the bald ginger smiled at her longingly and wondered why he'd lost his place at the bar again.  I walk out midway through the first song.  Hope?  I'd call it Hopeless.

My pint and a background view of Girl with Legs Gang

Girl with Legs, two of the gang, and the Spanish waiter

At the other side of the bar

A woman with trousers I approve of watches the band
I couldn't visit another pub after this, my faith in pubs had been destroyed for one night and although I still needed one more to get my "six quota" I was aiming for, it was 9pm, I was cold, I had 5 episodes of Neighbours and 2 Podcasts to catch up on before I went to sleep, as I was meeting some Neighbours fans tomorrow as part of my BRAPA day, so for now, it was back to Hounslow to recuperate.

But on reflection, I wasn't expecting to do any pubs on Friday two days previously, so rather than see it as one lost, perhaps it was "five gained".

I'll write about my Saturday trip this Friday (I'm out with friends tomorrow), so look out for it as it features BRAPA anecdote of the year so far!



  1. Too much here really, most of it a very guilty pleasure.

    For one terrible moment I thought you were writing about the Hope when you were writing about the Roebuck, those one word Richmond pub names merge into one. Hopeless is kind.

  2. "moving pictures of rolling hills, forests, tree close ups,"

    But Si, your green anorak would have fit right in with this woodland setting. :)

    "or in one case, trying to unfasten tricky zips"

    I'd comment, but then Martin would just remote site ban me.

    "My camera was luckily pointing the other way across the road, where pub two of the night loomed in sinister fashion ......"

    Tsk, tsk. You must have a bloody good camera! Google Maps shows it as a 20 minute walk from The Mitre to Roebuck.

    "Girl with Legs"

    More like "Girl who lost half her bloody skirt!" :)


    PS - Looking forward to the anecdote of the year.

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