Sunday 30 December 2018

BRAPA - Good King Walthamstow & Something to Ponder

It was the Saturday before Christmas, and I'd taken my eye off the ball in my fear of being swamped with Sunderland fans on the Grand Central heading down to Pompey via London.  No, I should know by now, middle aged female shoppers are a much more terrifying breed!

Sunderland footwear just in case but wasn't necessary, looked more like a Gooner off to lunchtime kick off

"You should've heard them earlier ...." said my fellow passenger Mick as we rolled eyes at another jibbering anecdote about nothing, "....they were singing the praises of Donald Trump!"  Thank goodness for headphones.  Mick seemed a top bloke, with links to Dorset, Berlin and Osmotherley (sorry, this isn't Crimewatch) and was pleased to see the Good Beer Guide, as he's just getting into ale himself, his current girlfriend is a pint drinker and previous one was a brewer.

By 10:55am, I was doing what I normal do at this time on a Saturday, lurking across the road from a 'required pub tick', in a particularly leafy area of Walthamstow.  After my pub trip here in July, I'd never have believed I'd be back by the year end, but two new ticks meant I needed to get them done.  It was a mild and sunny morning for December, and as the sun hit the nice looking pub at a particular angle, I thought this would be the perfect photo opportunity.  But then a white van man came and parked directly in front of me.  He could've parked ANYWHERE else.  I hated him.

Could've been even better if white van man had some awareness

1430 / 2403.  Coppermill, Walthamstow

A really cosy street corner local with a great atmosphere from the off, and that was with a 'mad Friday' clean-up operation in full swing, poor Henry Hoover was being worked overtime.  The landlord seemed a jolly bloke, and served me a London Pride which I'm afraid to say wasn't of the quality you'd hope.  Who should be today's second customer, but White Van Man.  "Boooooo!" Well, this is pantomime season, and it didn't take him long to mention a party or something that the landlord hadn't been invited to, but he had!  Was he just trying to upset everyone today?  Whatever, the landlord left at 11:10am, completing perhaps the shortest shift in BRAPA memory.  Barmaid Gemma took over, and custodian of Henry Hoover told me to put my feet up so she could get to the crumbs of last night.  She wore a hoodie with the inspirational slogan "What if I Can't Do It?" but the 't' on the can't had been crossed out!  Nevertheless, she confessed she was hungover "Everytime I bend down and stand up again, I feel like I'm going to be sick!"she tells me, and asks where I'm from, thinking I have an Irish accent(!)  I tell her no Yorkshire, and she says she once went to Bradford but found it a shithole where everyone took the piss out of her cockney accent.  We then somehow got onto the subject of the Queen's Speech, agreeing it'd be better if she did it in the morning.  And that concluded an amusing first pub of the day. 

Landlord during his 10 minute cameo

WVM sits down with Guinness and paper

Henry is smiling now, but would he be in half an hour?

It was a straight 15 minute walk to pub two though it was still 10 to when I arrived, so I had to hover round the bustling marketplace, this was peak-Walthanstow which I didn't even encounter in the summer, and with the pub peeping out from behind the stalls, I could only hope this'd be a Boar's Head Stockport style experience.  

To pass the time, a Del Boy type was flogging cheap aftershaves, colognes and perfumes to a crowd of impressed onlookers hoping for a late Christmas bargain.  For a man who seemed to want to remain, errrm, innocuous ("NO FILMING, FACKING HELL!" he yelled at one point), strapping a microphone to his face to amplify his voice seemed an interesting career choice.  Whatever, at least we all learned that 'Mediterranean Blue' was his fragrance of choice when he goes to Torremolinos, the Costas or wherever.  

"BRAPA you plonker!"
1431 / 2404.  Chequers, Walthamstow

And despite constantly scouring the doorway for signs of 'opening', when I finally burst in at 12:02, there was plenty of blokes drinking in the main bar, suggesting a back or side entrance had opened sooner.  Well, remember my recent day in Streatham and how 'woke' it seemingly was trying to make me?  More of the same here, as in a BRAPA first, I was served by a transgender staff member - I went for a pint of Speculation Ale, look, don't judge me, it was just there.  Nice lively chatty person immediately asks me 'straight or jug?'  Glassware of course.  Now, I'm no fan of dimpled handled jugs so in normal circs, I'd bark 'STRAIGHT!' but I didn't want to do this so said I was open minded enough to accept a glass of any denomination or preference.  Well, this got remarked on too "Some of the locals hate jugs and demand a straight glass!"  "Really?,  Snobs!"  I replied, half wondering whether I was somehow being tested.  The pub was a let down after that amazing intro, and despite green tiling, it was all a bit of a hotch-potch of styles, felt a bit messy.  Old Dandy and Beano covers in the gents, a very light airy left side, a dark cavernous right, a very weird smell throughout, some snooty Londoners, bit of Victoriana, some dodgy looking lurkers, good ale quality, and some of the weirdest alternative Christmas songs ever, an emo version of 'Walking in the Air' was a highlight/lowlight.  

Speculation in a jug

Mannequin Si in gents

After a bit of Tube jiggery pokery, I eventually got myself to Crouch Hill where I had the first of four North London pubs in my sights, in N19 Upper Holloway to be precise.  I found it after walking down a long straight road behind an irritating pavement blocker rucksack bloke who refused to move even though he was lost and kept asking people for directions to somewhere unpronounceable.  

1432 / 2405.  Shaftesbury Tavern, Upper Holloway

Considering how impossibly London this pub was (when you open the door from the street, the bar is immediately in your face and the news that the pool room had become a restaurant, tsk!)  it had a nice feel to it, perhaps because I was about the only customer.  The barmaid heaves herself off her arse round the other side of the bar, away from her smartphone, and serves me with a sigh and suddenly, I'm nostalgic for transgender folk asking if I want straight or jug.  I didn't fancy the Pride, a 6%er or a cider so I went for that N1 Hammerton shite which I've never liked but really enjoyed it here!  A large side room felt pubbier (but a bit chillier), it had a piano and a stage, you could almost imagine Chas n Dave doing a gig here back in t'day, but felt a bit like a storage room now.   A bloke popped in for a half, and smiled as I smuggled 3 mini cheeses and some pork pie with mustard from my BRAPA rucksack of delights, literally behind the barmaid's back who had heaved herself back to her relaxing position.  A family with an overfed twild presence were drowned out by the Smith's singing 'This Pub isn't Funny Anymore' or something, and as I got up to leave, the barmaid picked up the Mr Muscle, sprayed a bit on the bar top, and scowled at a cloth accusingly.

Barmaid relaxing

The bogs being amazing

The side room

A nice etched window

Pub four was up in Ponders End, near Southbury tube station though I made a meal of getting there, ending up lost around Seven Sisters and then walking a longer way around than was needed.  

A grand former cinema soon loomed large out of the now murky mid afternoon air, I'd noticed the 9am opening time, spied Doom Bar and GK Abbot on the bar, it was all crying Wetherspoons ......

1433 / 2406.  Picture Palace, Ponders End

But you can't assume anything in this game, and as I asked the barmaid if I could use my 4th last remaining 50p off voucher which the kind Pub Curmudgeon sent me, to my surprise, she replies 'no, we are NOT a Wetherspoons'.  I ask if I've offended her, and totally deadpan, she replied "well yes you have actually!" so I then say (theatrically looking up to the high ceiling) "oh actually, I can tell this is much better than a Wetherspoons!" to which she purses her lips in a kind of 'stop digging' look.  Well, my fellow drinkers are an edgy, rough looking bunch, so I sit closer to the bar than perhaps was strictly sensible.  Two blokes, right behind me, keep play fighting, grabbing each other by the neck, but our barmaid star seems to have them under control.  An old bloke and his hooped earring daughter seem to be arguing over the rules to some lager drinking game which ends with wet crotches and broken bar stools.  And slightly out of earshot, a bloke I think is the Dad of one of the two play fighters is making comments that the staff don't seem to like.  I felt a bit uncomfortable, it must be said, and when I go to the loo, who should follow me in but the two play fighters who then start snorting cocaine, which explains their slightly unpredictable behaviour.  I have to go back to UK drug capital Ross-on-Wye since I last saw such open drug use in a pub bogs.

Nice grand former theatre/cinema entrance

Bar blokes

Was a nice ale from what I can remember!
There were still two pubs to come, and plenty more weird London intrigue to come, and for tales of that a bit of Preston, join me some time next week!  But first, we'll have the month end awards, 'live' written on NYE with much ale and snacks for added weirdness.

See you then, Si

Sunday 23 December 2018

BRAPA - Driving Homerton for Christmas / Wanstead Beyond (Part 2 of 2)

Bloke pretends to be shopmobility scooter in hope it'll make pub more amazing

1426 / 2399.  George, Wanstead

Alas, it was more 'smells of rear' than 'sounds of Chris Rea' as I yanked the door open to the huge well established Wetherspoons, which felt rather grubby, on Tuesday afternoon last week.  I'd already seen a bloke sat in the floor outside, scribbling in a notepad, hood up, flask of weak lemon drink in bag.  With the pub directly opposite the station, I wondered if this was some elaborate trainspotter who liked having a back rest.  There are so many London 'Spoons in the GBG, I always feel it is a good idea to get at least one ticked off on each visit, two if you are feeling brave.  Unless you designate yourself a 'Spoons day and do six, and whilst I don't dislike the chain as much as say, Tristan Fortescue-Smyth, I'm not about the organise a day like that!  As a smiley barmaid served me a vanilla cream festive ale which just tasted like a pint of smooth, a bloke next to me patted his beergut and exclaimed "it all goes here by the time you turn 40 .... my wife let herself go, so why should I bother anymore?"  MERRY CHRISTMAS!  The bloke he was telling shuffled off in the other direction, I did the same, to a raise area which smelt suspiciously of wee and stewed veg.  Tempting to try and make a connection between this and the pensioners Christmas dinner happening in the main floor space, but it smelt stronger in the area where I was sat (no it wasn't me!)  A new mousy barmaid was being shown the ropes by a scary giant one,  but I couldn't see much due to Xmas decorations blocking my view.  There was a demonic old chair, one of those I think you get pregnant in just by sitting in it.  There's one in Nottingham, and Scunthorpe I believe.  Still, I guess for post-dinner entertainment for the oldies, it beat the usual charades.  

Time now for one of the harder remaining East London ticks.  In fact if you extrapolate London pub ticking into Cumbrian terms, this was very much Near Sawrey.  Not sure I did it very sensibly either, going on this long winded bit of the Central Line which took me past fictional places like Chigwell and Grange Hill, when I'd probably have been better going back one stop to Leytonstone and straight up.

Woodford station was about a 15 minute walk from the pub, and it was dark and raining by now but on the plus side, there was a nice church and some green bits so I could have a pee in the bushes, a rarity for London and a sign how Essexy it was all getting.  

1427 / 2400.  Travellers Friend, Woodford Green

The weakest pub of the night, and the week, this pub managed to offer a 'worst of all worlds' in trying to make the classic pub faux pas of 'catering for all'.  All a bit galling when you rarely have to work so hard for a London pub tick!  Loud local nobheads to the left had voices which echoed around the soulless building, the barmaid of advancing years was a real Columbo, acted all dithery but was probably the most switched on person in the whole pub. I ordered a pint of 'Spiv' cos I wanted to say the word, and it was exactly the reason why people sneer at London beer - tepid, half dead, increasingly cloudy, shite glass, it tasted of sweaty socks and self righteousness.  A dog which I named 'Frazier Campbell' slurped it's way through a huge bowl of water, and then its jolly owner with sight difficulties demanded it had more, and it got better service than any human.  Greedy bastard!  I sat towards the back of the pub, where I series of non smiling staff appeared through a back door.  The pub smelt either of a really underdone pastry, or play doh.  I tried to see what a couple were eating just near me, but accidentally made eye contact so smiled weakly, strangely hearing the voice of Martin Taylor in my head telling me off for watching people eat.  This pub had a strange effect on me!

Still regretting my ale choice 5 days later!

Trying to kill me with brazil nuts I see

Frazier and owner having a slurp

Probably eating play doh, and a really dull pint
I battled my way back across Woodford for the Tube station, and changed at Stratford for Homerton where my remaining two ticks of the night were, and my last on page 290 of the GBG if you have your Beer Guide and highlighter pen ready, and are ticking this interactively with me - a fun game for all the family!  

1428 / 2401.  Adam & Eve, Homerton

Well would you Adam n Eve it?  My pub of the day was this one, a really grand interior and all dark and smokey within.  Very young and trendy, busy for a wet Tuesday evening, but experience tells me that often leaves room for welcoming staff and good ale, and that's what I found here thanks to afro-dude (who even asked me if I was having a good day and seemed to mean it!) and Five Points, their ales never seem to let me down.   Because I'm secretly young and awesome, I joined some Christmassy beards and Twumpers in this raised area, but a young lady arrived, somehow wedged herself in behind me, and when her friend arrived with the most giant rucksack known to man, or woman (it put the BRAPA bag to shame), there was much seat rearranging and awkward stilted apologies and suddenly I was pinned between seat and railings.  I think one of the barmaids tried to respond to my S.O.S. , as she passed a tealight through the railings.  Errrm, extra atmosphere isn't really  what I need in this situation!  So I just accepted my fate and thought, if I die here, it isn't a bad way to go.  I did finally manage to prise my battered corpse from the depths, and went in search of my final pub of tonight. 

Just down the street, I arrived, but just as I squared up to take the outdoor photo, the battery on my phone went and this was to set the scene for a bit of an unlucky pub for BRAPA .......

I had to go back outside mid-pint to take this photo!

1429 / 2402.  Chesham Arms, Homerton

Not that I'd have particularly enjoyed this pub even in prime circumstances, it was your classic London pub in many ways, had more of a North or Central vibe than an East one if I'm being honest.  It was heaving, took me a good while to get my pint of that sweet Milk Stout from Bristol, but I was in the mood for a dark one and couldn't see too clearly what else was on.  A quick reccy of the pub told be space was at a premium, somehow there was even twildlife playing amongst their mothers feet to the left, which seemed even wronger than usual in a busy evening pub situation.  So I edged back towards and perched on a radiator next to a long haired lover from Liverpool Street and tried to take what us pub blogging photo experts call an 'establishing shot' into the middle distance, nothing in particular, just a pub scene to capture the essence,  but too crowded with bodies (but not Boddies) so gave up.  But then LHLFLS tells me off, not cos he's on a moral crusade, just he's worried he'd be in it.  Told him I'd not taken even one (if I had have, he'd not've been in it anyway!), explained my blog, but he didn't believe me and demanded to see my recent photos.  When he'd satisfied himself I was being truthful, it was too awkward for him to remain and he left stage right with his remaining half pint, but did have the grace to say 'good luck with your blog' out of the corner of the bitterest side of his mouth, and I never saw him again.  Suddenly I had a seat!  Hurrah.  Okay, so Spaniards kept barging in to me and apologising, and a rubbish Milk Tray man vaulted in with a huge pizza for some ladies to my right.  If I stare longingly at it, will they offer me a slice?  I'd finished my snacks and was famished.  But then I heard that ghostly RM voice again "don't watch people whilst they are eating!"  And THEN, to top it off, I realised my train was at 19:27 and not 20:27.  Nooooo! A traumatic experience.

The type of shot I was trying to take pre-bloke

Gizza bit .... pleeeeeeeaaaase!

Strategically placed highlighter to look like I've finished page, but it's covering Limehouse

Oh well, I got home eventually!  A mixed day but five more good ticks, only nine left in East London and two of these will be done Saturday (just gone), two in early Jan.   That'll leave just 5, two Wetherspoons, the closed Gidea Park micro, Upminster and Rainham. 

Probably won't get chance to tell you about Saturday's adventure until after Christmas so have a great one all, thanks for reading, oh and of course we've got the "BRAPA Year End Awards" coming up on NYE night so look out for that one, I promise to write it drunk.


Friday 21 December 2018

BRAPA - Getting a Bit too Gidea This Christmas Time Makes You Ill(ford) - Part 1 of 2

If there is one day of the year I'd choose not to venture to the pub, a pub, or any pub, it is tonight.  "Mad Friday". Friday before Christmas.   So instead, I sit here with a nice cup of Earl Grey (tea, not a Bergamot IPA, I'm not a monster) and two fig rolls (I know how to live) trying to piece together last Tuesday in East London from a series of drunken scribbles and fuzzy hasty photos. 

It all started gently enough, as I headed to Gidea Park from Kings Cross via Stratford.  As I swiped out at the station, a cat who I named Oyster, was perched, arse on card reader.  The two guards, who'd obviously not been on Twitter in 2018, were trying to assign it a gender. 

Well this gave me reason to smile, and a walk down a leafy suburban street past some cheerful old ditherers and signs like the below were giving me reason to believe that the micropub I was aiming for was going to be a great experience, full of well being:

After all, I'd been to Gidea Park once before and visited the delightful Ship with Dad and Tom a couple of years ago.  Soon, I spied the pub just around the corner:

Hmmm, doesn't look too lively, but then these places never do Tuesday lunchtime!
 But my early sense of well being was shattered as the pub had recently changed opening hours to open later Monday-Wednesday.  Nooooooo!  How unlucky can you get? 

Nothing to do but take a deep breath and walk back to the station, where I passed the cat trotting behind an old bloke.  Had it been waiting for owner to return?  As it went into a different driveway to sniff around, the man shouted 'KEVIN'.  Kevin?  Not even Oyster?  Oh, my Gidea Park dreams were totally in tatters by now.

Much later in the day, the brilliantly always on the ball SE London CAMRA had seen this on Twitter and alerted the Gidea Park micropub to my misfortune, and I received such a nice reply and apology.  AND the bloke was called Trevor.  I know 3 Trevor's, all very likeable chaps.  And let's be honest, a schoolboy error on my part not to double check WhatPub which HAD been updated.

On the plus side, Ilford was only a few stops away where it had a fabled pub Martin Taylor had been telling me weird and wonderful things about. 

Despite the train being about 500 carriages long, a crazy bloke with a bad cough and a local radio station blaring out of a stereo came and sat right near me.  All the young ladies including Polish Sally Phillips and Romford Rebel Wilson got up and moved, leaving me alone with him.  Though I must admit, when 'It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year' started playing from his stereo, his menace diminished somewhat.  He got off at Ilford, he'd have fitted in perfectly in the next pub.

Seems fitting the pub is right next to Paddy Power

Not enough Irish pubs in the GBG!
1425 / 2398.  Jono's, Ilford

And nothing to do with an iconic beer blogger of the same name I hear a lot about, Jono's was a delightfully dark and dingy boozer with a top atmosphere, nice dark wood, mirrors, tiles, that sort of thing.  Even on a Tuesday early afternoon, it was choked to the gills with cockney lager drinkers saying facking mappets so I hid at the end bar where the two beers, Castle Rock Harvest Pale & St Austell Tribute (now a seasonal guest in the most exciting ale change in here probably witnessed in centuries) were.  As if it display her barmaidly credentials and the no nonsense nature of the pub, she shouted across to me and a Fosters drinking German local, served us in conjunction, took money off us together, gave change together.   I was determined not to linger here so I could get back on track after a slow start to the day, but this was easily a place you could get settled, even if I was back to back with a very stern bulbous nose who went to the bar 3 times in the 27.5 minutes I was here!  All that could pacify the locals was piped Johnny Mathis doing 'When a Child is Born', though I must admit I can only hear the Amateur Transplants version of it* now!    Finally the day was up and running, and I headed back to the station, bound for Wanstead.

And a decent pint it was too

View to the bar inc German on right

Guinness ceiling decor

As close as I dared go to the scary main bar!

* "A baby boy, pops out caked in shit
And Mary screams, it feels like something split
The wise men come in, and confirm she's badly torn
That's what you get, when a child is born."

And I'll get part two of my blog to you, featuring Wanstead, Woodford Green and two Homerton pubs, hopefully by lunchtime on Sunday.  For now, to prepare for tomorrow's London return, where I'm doing two East London pubs and then 4 North London ones all being well.  But a bit scared cos on the Grand Central with Sunderland fans travelling to and from Pompey so that should be fun.

See you on Twitter tomorrow morning, or here on Sunday.  Happy weekend all!