10am Delirium Tremens and a tricky crossword could only mean one thing. Me and Dad were with our old football friends Ben and Christine as we navigated the flat Fenlands from Peterborough to Norwich on a surprisingly warm mid-October morning.
Norwich always seems a surprisingly big city, and being famous for ale, I still had an eye-watering 19 GBG pubs to tick off - and not being Alan Winfield, was unlikely I'd get them all done today, and for once, the plan was to actually go to the football match too!
Tom appeared in Norwich station like some enchanted fairytale character from the middle ages having a had "a night on the Tube", and after a bit of a meandering walk involving a bridge across a river, pub number one was here:
|The crowds gather to welcome BRAPA to town (probably)
So called because a former landlord was a murderer, I think his spirit was channelling the current incumbent, friendly yet slightly manic as he talked as through the local ales (see below pic), he even said the picture had 'slightly aroused him' which was way too much information. The pub had a lovely old fashioned feel, a proper atmosphere, some nice wooden beams, blood red curtains, and not even the sight of Jimmy Bullard (the new Helen Chamberlain, yes they do look similar) on Soccer A.M. could ruin it. The pub was decorated with famous murderer photos and news articles, but all a bit 'old fashioned and therefore 'safe'. Surely Steve Wright from Ipswich or even Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr would have provided a bit more local relevance, but my fellow travellers looked at me like I was being distasteful when I suggested such a thing. Tom revealed the latest details of his 1p accumulator, before 'handing in his lines' to Christine, as he'd used the word 'less' instead of 'fewer' in a recent message. The gents toilets had TV's. the beer was great, this was a really strong start today, proof Norwich doesn't do bad pubs, though I'm willing to revisit that statement later on if I see fit.
|'Blimey!' is the word at the Murderers
|German football whilst you pee - perfect.
|"I will try to be wrong on fewer occasions", genius.
|Ben captures the moment me and Tom disappear out of view
We weren't planning on doing this pub second, but when we saw it open for business at 11:50am, 10 minutes before it's scheduled opening time, it was a no brainer to go inside, and this wasn't the only great thing about the pub which became one of my favourite pubs in Norwich so far, and that is saying something. It was light but traditional and bare-boarded, more great ales and welcoming staff as Tom bought the round and the others caught us up and realised we'd popped in here. We sat in a lovely little side room with a billiards table and lots of bottles, and the fact I've got nothing to say for this blog probably says something about how near pub perfection it actually was. How boring(!)
|I had to go back outside pub after buying pint for this photo due to surprise it was open
|Our little side room
|Tom and Dad contemplate Yorkshire Relish
|Action shot of Tom buying a round
|Time for Ale in the pub of the day!
Although it wasn't a long walk to pub three, I had something troubling my mind and that was why aren't 'Leopard' and 'Leotard' pronounced in the same way. Both should be more like 'Leotard', so with it's new pronunciation, we were at the Leo-paaard.
1109 / 1861. Leopard, Norwich
The first thing that was very noticeable, before we even got inside, were these huge OTT candles in the windows, causing Ben to tell me "you'll be waxing lyrical about this pub, Si!" Before I could recover from 'pun of the day', it was clear this wasn't going to be 'pub of the day' as the main bar room was light, airy but modern and lacking any kind of character that'd make you want to 'get settled'. Having said that, we got the friendliest welcome of the day from locals, and yet another supremely helpful barman who told us the ale we'd ordered was from Tombstone in Great Yarmouth, the Uncle Roger funeral pub we never quite got to! It was my round, and thanks to Christine, I got a nice CAMRA discount too. I never notice these things. The weather was glorious so we sat out in this cute little courtyard, which felt more like the pub indoors than the pub indoors, if you know what I mean! A little dog ran past, and I was just explaining to the others it was a dog at this stage, and not a twog, when it had a ridiculous barking fit to make us all jump out of our skin. It was quickly upgraded to Twog status. The tables were graffitied, most notably a cock n balls in front of me rather off putting. Tom got a pen out to add his "Allam Out" graffiti, but then moved his pen nearer my side of the table, causing me to exclaim too loudly "you are not colouring in my penis!" which echoed across the neighbourhood. If this wasn't bad enough, our pub umbrella had a sign on it "do not erect in the wind", so the chat was quickly changed to the apostrophe and 's' on the gents toilet which was thrilling. Not my fave pub, but quite okay.
|Graffiti I can do without
|The "S" didn't seem to fit with the Gent
|The gang enjoy the October sun
|Tom looks mischievous as I stroke my chin
1110 / 1862. Cottage, Norwich
We seemed to have stumbled into a rather 'well to do' suburby area of Norwich, the type where you might expect to find quite a poncey bar, which is exactly what we did here. No doubt it "serves the community" well as the phrase goes, but not a community embedded in reality, well not pub reality anyway. The barmaid was a cute little black girl, friendly and smiley but I didn't get the feeling she was really in control, happier selling grazing wings and prosecco to Olivia, Jake and Jocasta, guffawing behind us and reminiscing on a Mumford & Sons gig of 2010 when Jake broke his ankle and ended up being cured by a shamanic ritual in rural Wiltshire (probably). The pub saviour was a vocal little cat (never a twat), but when it jumped on the bar, it freaked out our barmaid like an order for four Grain ales and a blackcurrant cordial, she was presumably more a twog girl. Nope, not for me, very much the Tilted Wig of Norwich, but actually reassuring Norwich has GBG pubs like this and they aren't all as spectacular as I'd thought! Oh, and Tom told me off for not bringing emergency beermats so napkins (sorry, serviettes) had to do.
|"Get out now son, whilst there's still time!"
|"You WILL pose with me!"
|"I'm watching you!"
|Nice pair of pints.
|Tom and his sentient arse find this pub all a bit too much
Ben had kept us disciplined in terms of drinking times, so we had time for a half way stop between here and the football ground, so we gave the chance to a pre-emptive pub we'd seen earlier on.....
St Andrews Brew House, Norwich
The barman had a full ginger beard, the clientele were young and hip, the meats were smoked, the decor was knowingly shabby chic, but now was not the time to care about such things, as Ben had located us a seat for two which I had to 'climb' to get onto it, like a kid on a climbing frame - it was great though being practically on the ceiling looking down at the pub, it made me feel like a king overseeing my subjects, all of whom probably needed the chop. Dad, Tom and Christine had to perch along the bar, it was a busy place but had a nice feel about it, I'd rank it somewhere between Murderers (2nd) and Leopard (4th), in third place out of our five Norwich pubs today. Beer was high quality. I wonder if it'll get in the next GBG, we can only hope! I'd say it is deserving on this visit.
|Yes, I know.
|Obligatory rubbish drunken selfie time
Not that I was bitter.
I got inverviewed outside the ground for a local away fans football web channel which I'll send you the link for if it gets broadcast. I then realised we'd not have enough time to visit the Kings Arms before our train, so we had to give that a miss too. FML as the kids say!
All was not lost, we met up with the gang again for the train journey back to Peterborough, said goodbye, and if Peterborough isn't a weird place in daylight (it is), it is positively terrifying after dark. Despite the short walk to our final pub of the day, I felt like I was going to get stabbed about 20 times en route.
1111 / 1863. Bumble Inn, Peterborough
Ah, in the year of our lord 2017, a pub ticking day would not be complete without a trip to a micropub, but this one lacked anything of the charm of the two in Halifax in midweek. The barman failed to give us the 'hail-fellow-well-met' welcome which I expect in such places, preferring to flounce around with man bun and hairy chest puffed out, generally loving himself. We both eyed up a 'Stilton' flavoured ale but decided against it. Like Brighouse's forest scene, this had a wall dedicated to woodland scene, perhaps this is a micro pub device to maximise the space. The door onto the main street was open, a man with a very colourful e-cigarette and a label that needed tucking back into his t-shirt sucked on his cig and peered balefully into the middle distance of Westgate. We bravely took on half a Stilton (to share), it was disappointingly not like a porter or Stilton, did I want it to be?
Just a few minutes down the road is the wonderful Brewery Tap, not currently GBG listed, but with wonderful Oakham ales, we nipped in for a swift half/coffee, finding it packed with Saturday night revellers so slightly less lovely than usual. But the fact Bumble is in GBG and this isn't is symptomatic of what a fad micropubs currently are. I wonder how many have opened and never got in? It can't be a percentage much over 1. My Inferno was crystal clear, and a Posh shirted Steve Evans chatted up two impressionable ladies at the bar in possibly a very fake Scottish accent.
|"Did I tell you about the time I fiddled the books at Boston?"
The journey back to York was straightforward, it had been 'race day' so there were a few raceists milling around in suits trying to be drunk and threatening, but it passed easily enough.
It had been a truly wonderful day, regardless of the Hull City disappointment, 15 pubs done for the month so far means I'm a tiny bit behind schedule, but we can go into the 'mystery holiday week' fairly relaxed even if Mother BRAPA does limit my ticking, as next weekend could be a decent bonanza down in the south east.
My next blog though, won't be for at least a week so try n keep up on Twitter @StymieSi