The first pub was, as you could see from the photo in yesterday's blog, inches from the bus stop. It looked more sinister after dark.
1256 / 2002. Albert Hotel, Douglas
In many ways, it had all the hallmarks of what I could now class as a traditional Isle of Man boozer. It had a pool table. It had locals with accents you couldn't understand. It had a man in hi-vis. It had bench seating. I had beer just under £3 a pint. It had a dartboard. It had old photos. It had lots of nice brightly polished wood. It had horse racing on TV. But the one thing, above all, I'd enjoyed in the pubs this week was missing. And that was a happy atmosphere full of jolly crazy people. Everyone seemed so depressed! They gave me nothing to go on at all, maybe they'd heard I was in the area. I even thought about doing something controversial beer wise to spice things up. This was a rare pub selling both Okells and Bushys. What if I invented a drink called BMH 'Bastard Manx Hybrid' and asked for a half of each in the same glass? I wasn't brave enough obviously, probably sacrilege, I'd certainly not be allowed in Rovers Return again. Probably banished from the island. So I just drank in silence, and, unlike their cats, I left with my tail between my legs.
After that melancholy experience, I went to the Co-op which was like a nightclub by comparison, for some late snacks, and then had to summon up the last few traces of enthusiasm left in my being to walk south of my hotel, to my final Douglas pub. I think the week was catching up with me!
1257 / 2003. Samuel Webbs, Douglas
A much livelier atmosphere with a real kind of old fashioned seafront style bar greeted me, a final excellent pint of Okell's MPA, though by the time I settled down, everyone started to disperse which makes me think maybe Thursday is everyone's 'night off' in Isle of Man. A punk rock barman even started cleaning tables, it was barely 9pm, and with no chance to make bastardised drinks (all Okells here), some food 'pairing' was all I could do to keep myself occupied, with Mini Babybels and mango chunks going quite well with the MPA, though I'm not being serious obviously cos it's all a load of bollocks when it comes down to it. Probably. There wasn't even an angry man playing pool like I'd seen through the window of here on Monday night, suggesting I should've gone in there and given myself something to write about. Alas, it wasn't to be.
|It worked, in an ironic way only|
|Douglas complete, hurrah!|
|Don't you be getting cleaning fluid in my pint|
After a good final night's sleep, I did something stupid and forgot to charge either my phone or my charger, and left low on battery! As if today wasn't going to be long and tricky enough.
I took the bus down to Port St Mary again, for the first of my final two pubs. Remember, 12 noon opener on a Friday for this one ..... it was sunny but cold, and I stopped to admire the local humour.
I said hi to a few shivering old duffers who should really have been indoors with a blanket, and made my way north of the 'town' to the pub, which as you'd expect, was right on the railway line. 11:57am when I arrived, no signs of life. So I waited. And waited. I'd have more chance of a train turning up, and the next one ain't due til March .....
12:05, still nothing happening so I tried to ring. Straight to voicemail. The website didn't help:
I decided to wait til 12:30, not that many pubs open then! But I was desperate. That meant I missed the hourly bus back to Castletown and the airport. If it wasn't for a blackboard outside saying there was a gig on Saturday, I'd have thought it was properly shutdown.
I perched on an old railway shed, out of the wind and in the sun with a good view of the pub. A seagull nesting on the roof laughed at me. A jackdaw with the face of Chris Sutton hopped over, and seemed to say "stop wasting your time dude". Occasionally, a passing vehicle would make the pub door shimmer with a flash of sunlight, and I'd mistakenly think the pub was opening.
We wished each other well in our pursuits, and a quick message from Martin Taylor reminded me it's not like I'd never have to go back to Isle of Man, and when I do circa Spring 2039, I'll be able to do this one with the new wave of Hooded Ram micropubs in the 2040 GBG. Heart warming.
Feeling more philosophical, I let the locals press the bell for me and wandered through Castletown to find my other pub, and this one was open!
1258 / 2004. Sidings, Castletown
This pub had been the 'most recommended' on my travels this week, so hopefully a good one to save til last, and I was impressed with the railway feel (though not quite Mines Tavern) and surprised by a huge array of handpumps, easily the most I'd seen, mainly dark brown bitters. It was feeding time at the zoo, so am thinking 'where the heck can I sit?' when the waves part and the most fantastic little seat becomes available by the door just at the right moment. I deserved some luck after the last pub fail, so this was just desserts. It wasn't lost on a Lancs man who came over to say "you struck lucky thurrrr, you couldn't have boooooked a better table!" and he was right. Okay, so my Brains glassware was pretty shoddy, but time was on my side, I thought "I'll have 2 or 3 here before t'plane home". My battery charger just had enough juice to get my through the afternoon, my mood was picking up. I glanced over to see some old buggers with their faces in the trough, and I got a shock, was that Butthead from yesterday's Mitre in Ramsey?? I had an overwhleming urge to stand up, point and shout "BUTTHEAD!" but to do that to a very frail old man eating sausage egg n chips with his mates, two walking sticks and two hearing aids, may seem wrong out of context. Most diners were to the right, leaving this part of the pub very pubby. I could see the attraction though best pub on the island, hmmm, not for me. Think some people get way too starry eyed over 'beer range' as a category for deciding their fave pubs. I'd been told by Laura in Sulby to look out for her friend "Mad Jenny" who worked here, but when I asked a local, she'd recently left. As I hummed along to such early afternoon classics as "Down Under" and "You Can Call Me Al" , I went back to the bar and got chatting to a weird old dude who insisted on giving me a guided tour of the pub. He stunk of booze and fags of centuries past, and showed me his fave part of the pub, the Ballasalla Talliban Corner, which I didn't really understand though he claimed it was 'classic wordplay'(!) He didn't have a great grasp on personal space and prodded me in the chest or grabbed my arm if he thought I wasn't concentrating 100% on him, which was hard when his friend with the most sentient nose ever (it had it's own gravitational pull) appeared for a chat. I decided it wasn't Butthead over yonder, far too smiley and nice. And I left to usual handshake and cheery bye. Fitting end to pubbing on IOM.
|Plenty of ales to choose from|
|Butthead in orange? No, far too smiley.|
|Sooty and the Talliban|
The plane then got undelayed, and the flight was just as smooth back as it was going, AND we made up the time we lost. The kid next to me was no twild, in fact he behaved better than me.
After a VERY expensive bus back from John Lennon airport to Liverpool South Parkway, I realised I had just over an hour to kill.
Now, I'd be a pretty poor pub ticker if I wasn't looking for a cheeky late one, and I found one! Question was, could my battery hold out, was now down to 10% zig zagging my way through these Garston backstreets, trying to make mental note where'd I'd come from. I was like Theseus in a maze with a very scouse Minotaur.
The pub looked very dark from across the road, not at all lit up, nooooooo, but amazingly, it was very open!
1259 / 2005. Masonic, Garston, Liverpool
I'd been thinking Isle of Man had been so good and friendly, this was England's chance to show it wasn't second best. And it took the opportunity with both hands. Proper homely community hive of activity, two men playing cards in the corner, and a lovely landlady took one look at me and decided she'd pull me a pint of the only ale on, from the local Big Bog brewery. The pub was busy, and as I keep saying, my phone was almost dead. So what would have been ideal would be a comfy seat with perhaps a table and a phone extension lead on it. I turned around. It was perfect. I seriously couldn't have written it any better. I think this was still yin and yang working in my favour after the bad luck at the Railway Station Hotel earlier. I got chatting to the man sharing the table, he had about three devices plugged in, a lovely chap called Tony. He told me the slightly rowdy nature of the pub was that everyone had just returned from a 'Big Bog' brewery tour and were still going strong! A younger chap called Roger arrived, so we chatted Isle Of Man, Pub Ticking, Big Bogs, York and stuff. I felt properly welcomed into the fray. Time dangerously sped on. I could've easily missed my train, so I handed around the BRAPA cards, and said goodbye to almost all the people. This was Rovers Return-esque and will long live in the memory, if I had a 'top 100 pubs' this could well be in it. A gem. They even, unprompted, slagged off Altrincham and Chorlton. Superb.
|The highlight of the day!|
|Tony and some of the 'back wall' gang|
|Card playing gents|
Thanks for reading,