|One of my 'required 9' from the bus stop in Douglas|
Wednesday had been painful in every way, no doubt about it. But with an air of Nigel Adkins at the height of positivity, I stepped out into the fresh sunny air, breathing in the winds blowing in from Ireland, the Wirral, North Wales, and wherever else winds might blow to Isle of Man from.
Nine pubs to go, one and a half days to do them, the dream was still alive. Nothing definitely shut. Yet. Though angst was building with each 'pub approach' that went by.
At my now all too familiar Douglas bus stop, a thin grey faced man told me he wasn't well and was going to the hospital for injections. Had he drunk ale all his life, I doubt he'd be in this condition, though that cannot be verified. I wished him well, the poor chap needed it. It started raining.
The bus took me through Peel, and around the North West of the island, on the road used for the famous TT Motorcycle race which happens here in the summer for two weeks. The terrain was very leafy and wild. I approved. I reached my first pub shortly after it's 12 noon opening time. I pressed the bell on the bus with the confidence of a man who'd settled into Manx life. The pub looked open, I was relieved ......
1251 / 1997. Raven, Ballaugh
Pronounced 'Balaff' btw (who knew?), I walked into the Raven and was greeted with the kind of surprise that told me that Mrs Blonde Barmaid and Mr Odd Job Man didn't expect customers at this time. I always feel this shows a lack of confidence in their own pub, for if they aren't going to believe in themselves, how can they expect the punters to? Having said that, I wasn't the first. A couple were propping up the bar, but they left quick smart as soon as I said 'hello'! Notorious you see. The key point here was ordering the 'house' Okells beer "Raven's Claw" which you won't get anywhere else. It was dark and malty, a nice one to nurse on your 4th consecutive day on the ale when you have an hour to wait for the next bus! Being on the TT circuit, most of the decor was blokes on bikes, which might excite some visitors I guess. The pub was just about warm, cosy and 'pubby' enough to please the purist, but if truth be told, a bit of a snoozefest, and in my secluded corner, all I could do was my own private George Michael karaoke (Careless Wispa, his fave choc bar) followed by a bit of jigging around to Karma Chameleon to keep my own amusement levels up, I just hope no one saw the embarrassing sight. I could've 'live periscoped it' but thankfully I didn't.
The bus raced over Ballaugh Bridge like it wished it'd been a motorbike, and I just managed to flag it down in time. "Do you stop near Ginger Hall?" I asked the driver. "Yes, just press the bell as we are going over the bridge" he told me, as though I knew all about this second famous bridge of the day. Oh the stress of Isle of Man bus bell pressing was very much still alive. I managed it, and crossed the road and walked down where this grand looking pub was situated.
1252 / 1998. Ginger Hall, Sulby
My heart gave a nervous flutter as I saw a very shut door with a notice on, but it was merely telling me to 'use the other door'. DON'T DO THAT TO ME! This was an exciting tick for me, for in the Good Beer Guide, it is actually the LAST pub listed in the British Isles, on page 684 - even more satisfying if you've removed the brewery section (sorry Angela). I walked in and was immediately greeted by mine host, Laura, a blonde lady with the positive aura of someone who's properly in charge, though she told me she was just a lackie. This pub was everything the Raven had been lacking, and one of my faves this holiday. A huge TT racing map on the ceiling, shiny fittings and mirrors, warm roaring fire, odd Thai Green Curry smell on way to loo, and I'd told Laura a ghost story from York's Golden Fleece within 5 minutes, and let her highlight the GBG entry, which probably is the highlight of her 2018 to date. Of course. A cheeky old retired Irish farmer came in to drink Guinness and tease Laura for not polishing the pump clips carefully enough(!), he told me despite being retired, he'd somehow ended up with more sheep than ever, and was working harder than ever. I tried to empathise! "Sheep eh, what ya gonna do with 'em?" I said. Thankfully, it was a rhetorical question. Then a jolly young man with a determined look in his eyes came in. He was called Ben, and as luck would have it, he was off to my next pub, the 'Traf' in Ramsey and if I hung on he'd give me a lift. I said yes, the downside being it was a long wait as he had to drink the tallest fizziest looking pint of Carlsberg ever, as Laura explained BRAPA to him, and they discussed pub strategy. He ran the 'Traf'' now but was taking over Ginger Hall in Apr/May time. He's taking on a good one, you gotta love Ginger Hall.
|Failed attempt at ceiling map photo|
|Laura reads GBG entry, the highlighter is within reach .....|
|DONE! Top highlighting there.|
|Cosy fire and red walls make for great atmosphere|
|Nice mirror as mentioned in GBG description|
|How lucky that I chose to go on Thursday then??|
As Ben drove us to Ramsey, we chatted what makes a good pub and it was great to hear him say he'd consider getting the CAMRA Pub of the Year award as the best accolade going. He was a really focussed young chap with a vision, and am sure he'll make a great go of whatever he does. He'd bigged up the 'Traf' so much meanwhile, that by the time we parked opposite, he was nervous as to whether I'd be so impressed! Only one way to find out ...... GO INSIDE.
1253 / 1999. Trafalgar Hotel, Sulby
But I knew what he meant. One of those happy warm community pubs which envelope you, draw you in, and kind of hold you there - I could feel it straight away, and the relaxed nature of the clientele. I wonder if I could be a 'pub whisperer', a bit like that programme where Derek Acorah chatted to haunted antiques about their past. I could make a fortune. Ben bought me a pint and swiftly disappeared, what a gent! I went for my second house beer of the day, the Trafalgar Bitter - excellent quality, SBS A- if truth be told. Pub was overseen by Ben's brother in law, the kind of dude who always looks like he's just got out of bed and can't quite remember if it is morning or night. But he had an endearing quirkiness which wasn't deliberate. I got chatting to a lovely local called Dave and stood at the bar with him the whole time I was there. He told me his wife was on holiday so he had no option really but to spend all his time in the pub! We had quite a deep chat about the relaxed way of life on the Isle of Man, giving a damn about your fellow man and the like, so I made him have a selfie with me because his granddaughters are always asking him for one normally! No truth of the matter is, I'm doing this "Si Selfie Challenge' to raise money for Mind UK Mental Health Charity, 100 selfies with 100 different people. I'm up to 43 at time of writing. Feel free to donate. Great pub the 'Traf', and make no mistake about it!
|Ignore the jam jars, time for a superb house beer|
|Me and Dave having fun at the Traf|
Jeez, this was reminding me of when Woodies in Headingley, Leeds moved 30 miles off the coast of Ghana. Or the time when a Crosby micropub was relocated to the Louisiana / Texan border.
No, it was right there on the front ......
1254 / 2000. Mitre , Ramsey
If this really was my 2000th ever pub listed in the GBG (it probably isn't, but as close as I can get with the info available to me!) it lacked a certain celebratory fanfare. Up some steps of the 'Harbour Bar', into a gloomy shallow carpetted hotel style bar which swept around to the windows out onto the sea and the bar area, where two old blokes (Beavis & Butthead), chattered incoherently, sniggered, made random rude comments, acting very much like schoolkids with sticks and hearing aids, was bizarre! "Huh, huh, dude, he , like, said, 'Bushy' hur hur". Mine host was a young lad I think called James, am sure Beavis said he was 18 at one stage, he looked older to me, but I asked him about my third house beer of the day "Jough", thought he was gonna chat to me at one point, but he didn't so I took it to the bench seating overlooking the sea. It was warm and pleasant enough, a bit of a come down after the last two pub experiences, but sometimes you need a bit of boring 'downtime' to reassemble your thoughts for the next push - pubs I mean, not toilet going.
|Possible James pulls my pint of Jough|
|Beavis & Butthead, Manx style, enjoy their ales and some rude chat|
|According to the GBG Ap, the pub is actually out there in the sea|
There'd been a traffic 'incident' near Laxey so for the first time this week (causing a wave of excitement for all on the island), the buses were running a bit behind schedule so I waited patiently with the schoolkids and coffin dodgers for one to arrive.
I was off back to Laxey to try and'tick off' that first pub that had evaded me on my travels, as it had now gone 4pm. Back in Laxey in the daylight, I could really appreciate it, with it's famous wheel, snaking road, heritage railway stop, I think it's my favourite part of the island I got to.
Hard to describe it's uniqueness, imagine if Falkirk bent Scarborough over the photocopier at the Christmas party and Knaresborough accidentally walked in on them, blushed and ran out, only to collide with Falmouth who's brandishing a tray of vol-au-vonts. Yes, that's Laxey.
1255 / 2001. Mines Tavern, Laxey
They say good things come to those who wait, and this was certainly true here. A jewel of a pub with that heritage railway feel, the smell of the roaring wood fire in the corner, and another very impressive landlady. She could feel the beginnings of the flu coming on, and as she was off to Portugal soon, she thought it was just bloody typical bad luck! After my routine "bore them with BRAPA for 5 minutes", she chatted with the locals about a horrid man she used to work for who didn't like powerful women being in charge, before a crazy dude (Tony?) wandered in and everyone asked him how come he hadn't been barred yet, which would've been a world record if he'd been barred there and then. He seemed a good fellow though, and asked the question I'd been expecting all week "what bike ya riding?" in reference to my very bikery leather jacket, which I thought was a nice IOM tribute but probably just confused everyone. I had to admit I didn't understand motorbikes and sloped out, a beaten man. Honestly superb pub this, almost worth the flight/ferry over on it's own.
As the bus amazingly stopped in time (I wasn't taking anything for granted), I hopped back on knowing I'd best doing my remaining two Douglas pubs tonight so I had less to do before my flight tomorrow. There were 4 pubs in total to do ..... things were getting exciting.
Would I manage them? Stay tuned for part 7 (the final part, what a relief!) tomorrow.