Tuesday 27 March 2018

BRAPA - No Joke-ham in Oakham (Finishing Rutland)

It is no joke.  On Saturday, I went to four pubs.  Two village dining pubs, a Wetherspoons and a Brewery Tap.  I enjoyed the dining pubs the most.  This might be the only time I'll ever say this so read on to see why!

At the beginning of the BRAPA year, two of my main aims were to visit counties I'd never been to before, and also to 'complete' as many counties as possible.  The place that best fitted the bill was the tiny county of Rutland, and after the previous two ticks of Ryhall (boring until Belmesthorpe made me appreciate it) and Belmesthorpe (dull, insular and lame), it was time to finish it off today.

Daisy the cat - her expression says it all as I enjoy a dining pub

With no football this weekend for global giants like Hull City, Dad was with me on a 'mystery tour' but he worked out the venue within seconds.  Mum was glad to get him out of the house, he'd been a man-flu victim all week and he warned me "I can't walk fast today" (in a lame Belmesthorpe style voice) before we'd even left York.

By Peterborough, that all had to change as we had two minutes to leap over to platform 7 to make the connection.  He went like a bat out of hell (as Meatloaf once said), I could barely keep up!  Those max strength lemsips had done the trick.

Stupidly, my tickets to Oakham were dated 11th Jan cos I'm an idiot which the train guard understood rather than charging me with potential fare evasion (why was my face not this honest in South Shields in 2014?)

Anyway, we had to make the most of being in Oakham early, and nothing says 'first pub of the day' quite like this delightful little chain ......

1288 / 2034.  Captain Noel Newton, Oakham

I've been in enough 'Spoons outlets during BRAPA history to know that they can be good, in terms of staff, beer and comfort.  But it seems written in the stars (if the stars had particularly boring things written in them) that when I'm with Father BRAPA, Wetherspoons generally come up with a dud.  And this modern airy and rather uncharismatic place did nothing to change that view.  At least the Ryde, Isle of Wight equivalent is described in every GBG as 'fucking boring as fuck' (not a direct quote) but this was barely even acknowledged as a 'Spoons.  Despite the lack of customers, service was dreadfully slow - and handing a pair of 50p Mudgie vouchers over to our bewildered server only exacerbated the problem.  Some geezer asked if the 'coming soon' beer was on.  A stupid question you may think (I did), but it took 3 female staff members with the same face to finally conclude it wasn't.  Then a fresh faced 18 year old Harry Maguire wannabe came over and politely asked our barman if he and his tween mates could move tables together as long as they moved them back 'at the end'.  After much blinking into the middle distance, the answer was 'yes'.  All the while, Dad was trying to find a table, and despite many free, they were all sticky, full of crumbs, dirty plates and ring stains of Strongbow Dark Fruits (one of your 'five a day' if you live in 'Spoons) from the post-breakfast 'rush'.  He eventually had to pose, at a posing table, like a chump.  Poor Dad,  poor me.  He distracted me slightly by giving me a great fact .... there are 225 Wetherspoons in the GBG.  "Is that all?  I feel like I've been to 2,000" I said, suddenly feeling a pang of respect for that mad Scotch lady who visited every one in the country as a tribute to her dead hubbie.  #PubWoman   I rang for a taxi.  Nothing doing.  Then I rang another.  12:15.  Fine, we nursed our ales, Dad found two old biscuits in the bottom of his bag to nibble on.  A rare highlight. I thought Noel Newton was a journeyman midfield enforcer who played for Exeter, Brentford and Walsall in the mid 90's, but he was a first world war dude instead which summed it up.  Time to go.

Our beer from Vancouver (wherever THAT is) was good it must be said

Noel Newton rides on his horse to sign for Walsall in '93

Dad smiles, but he's probably dying inside, I was
Our taxi was a little bit delayed as Oakham traffic was at a stand still because a train was coming through.  Never mind, when he did arrive, he was a top guy and as promised (because he might be reading this), I recommend TAYLOR'S TAXIS when you are in town, MUCH better than any rival taxi companies!

Okay, now I know my cheque is in the post, we can continue and although North Luffenham is only 5.5 miles as the crow flies, it takes a lot longer cos Rutland has this huge natural disaster water feature slap bang in the middle, unimaginatively called "Rutland Water".  Birds like it.

'Luffers' (as no one calls it except me) was a pretty, sleepy village with no phone signal, so I'm glad I'd identified our taxi bloke as a sound guy and asked if he could take us to Langham next.  He got all carried away, said yes, but got reprimanded gently by a lady on the other end of his walkie talkie for forgetting he had to pick up one of his regular old dears from Tesco.  "I'll be a bit later", he said, but we agreed it was our best (and only) option.

1289 / 2035.  Fox, North Luffenham

Listen, I shall say theeez only once.  "A dining pub that I liked."  Of course, you must judge everything on face value in this game (no prejudice!) and this place managed to confound me from the start.  It didn't try to be a pubby pub either, that's not to say it wasn't cosy, but everything they did was done well.  The beers for example, at the peak of quality, and I wasn't expecting that in posh rural Rutland.  Atomic and Oakham JHB, immaculate.  Our barman.  Personable, helpful, friendly, yet quiet and respectful.  The perfect balance.  The dining families.  Smiling, tanned, nice - like what people from Lymm should be if they weren't stuck up nob-ends.  There was a random pile of logs in the corner 'doing nothing'.  I hate this about pubs.  Yet this random pile of logs seemed to give me a cheeky wink.  The barman saw Dad roaming the pub and suggested the best places two northern drinker scum types could sit.  Then, as we had time to kill, Dad suggested we have food.  'I WAS BECOMING ONE OF THEM - THE DINER!'  Sweet potato fries, roast beef and horseradish sarnie, pointless salad, nachos serving as much purpose as the random pile of logs.  Perfect.  I'd sold out.  I may as well have dyed my hair ginger, put a dummy in my arse, run round the pub crying, and called myself a Twild.  As we started to think about the taxi, a shepherdess with no patience herded in a load of geriatrics.  With no spatial awareness.  A large group this pub couldn't really accommodate.  They stood around like zombies getting in the way.  I could now see how I could hate this place in different circumstances.   There was once an RAF base around here.  An old man called Jerry (Atric?) dressed as a WW2 pilot wandered in, please someone tell him the war is over.  A female runner was lost, and raced through the pub to get back on track.  It was all unravelling.  Time to get out the back door and wait for our taxi before my love for this place subsided!

Foxy things

Man concealing random pile of logs

Jerry and the middle distance runner
Our taxi bloke was bang on time (did I tell you TAYLOR'S TAXIS WERE WONDERFUL?) and he continued his local tourist guide act, back north of Oakham towards Langham.  He talked mainly on Ospreys, we saw a buzzard staring judgily at us from a tree (twuzzard?) and then came quite the revelation ..... one of my Oakham pubs the 'Three Crowns' was apparently closed down!   The brewery who owned it had just gone bust.  Ooops.  More on that later.

Our taxi driver then told us he'd used to be a postman at Langham so he knew the pubs and two local celebs we might bump into.  The first was rugby player Austin Healey, who uses this next pub as his regular but apparently is a bit up himself.  And secondly, Mr Ruddle of 'Ruddles' fame lives here.

I used to like Ruddles beer when I first got into real ale .... but I think it was because I got it in bottles and it had this really satisfying ring pull which made a great noise when you opened it!  POP!  When I finally got a pint of it in a L**ds 'Spoons many years later, I realised maybe the ring pull sound had been the only thing I'd enjoyed about it.

1290 / 2036.  Wheatsheaf, Langham

Another rather lah-di-dah Rutland GBG effort, but as per our previous landlord, a real livewire of a lady was immediately greeting us with open arms (not literally but she was hands on in every other way) as I leaned against the busy bar of this slightly darker pubbier version of the Fox, and ordered us two pints of 'Canary', from some local brewery I'd never heard of and will probably never see again.  Dad had gone a-roaming in search of a seat for the third time today, and for the second time today, our multi-tasking staff member pounced to direct him to a 'drinkers only' settee behind the fireplace.  Great staff effort, and Dad was pleased I'd ordered 'Canary' as apparently that is what that celebrity Jizzard, Ross Poldark drinks.  The exertions of the day so far had caught up with my ill father, who was now slumbering next to me, and I only gave him the odd prod to keep him awake so the attractive barmaids didn't think I was boring.  The girl with a bun in her hair clearing tables (not a currant one) inadvertently squirted some cleaning fluid in my Canary, giving it a welcome hoppy kick!  It smelt like wet dog before.  With Dad half asleep, I had to make my own amusement and was rewarding en route to the toilet when a family with young twild were leaving in front of me, having lunchtime plates cleaned away by our bunned friend.  "ARE WE GOING TO MCDONALDS ON THE WAY HOME?" wails the twild on the way out at the top of his voice.  "SHHHHHH" replies Mum, actually dying of embarrassment.  A classic moment in a classic day out.  Pub itself, not quite the Fox but respected the effort they put in.

Ghostly old man hand gropes at pint of Carling

Appalling bookcase wallpaper, even by bookcase wallpapers low standards

Soothing fire

How sweet.

Dad woke up, and the bus stop was just around the corner as a woman with "I Luv Rutland" basically tattooed on her forehead confirmed we were on the right track to Oakham. 

Now I DID believe our taxi driver about the 'Three Crowns' being shut down, but to the pub ticker, it has to be seen and photographed with your own eyes, and no great hardship as it was close to the station anyway.

Initial signs looked positive for a surprise 'open pub' as a bright light was shining off the side wall of the building, or as a now awake Dad exclaimed " IT'S GOT A DIRTY GREAT LIGHT STICKING OUT OF IT'S ARSEHOLE!"  Lemsip Max + Canary, a winning combo.  

But close up, the pub was very shut.  Sad times, Steamin' Billy is puffin' no more.

Shut pub alert - Three Crowns, Oakham

In a bizarre twist, as I crossed the road back towards Dad post-photo, a middle aged couple got out of a car behind him and shouted to us "IS IT SHUT THEN?  OH DEAR, THAT'S NOT GOOD!" and sped off down the street.  What was this, some weird shadow-BRAPA couple?  Are they behind me every time ensuring I'm really going to the pubs I say I do?  How strange.

No time to dwell, as my most anticipated pub of the day was looming.   Mum and Dad had been here before, brought me back bottles, given me rave reviews, Mum often reminding me she had a required BRAPA tick that I needed, expressing mock surprise I'd never been whenever it got mentioned.   So finally time to lay that ghost to rest.

1291 / 2037.  Grainstore Brewery Tap, Oakham

And on entry, I declared it 'pub of the day', tongue in cheek of course, within seconds.  It had a nice feel, wooden, large yet cosy, good atmosphere.  Except, the longer we stayed, the less I felt that initial love.  As staff said 'hey guys' and wiggled their hips in a 21st century 'i've got a pristine white shirt and a beard' kind of way, Dad did his now characteristic pub roaming, and found (unaided this time) a large table in the corner "reserved from 6pm" or something ridiculous.  He'd asked for a coffee, I went for something to do with Ospreys.  Our taxi driver had said he wasn't a fan of the beers, and as I tried both this and the 1050, I found some remarkably bland and samey, and for a brewery tap, lacking the life of the ales in the Fox at North Luffenham (I'd quite enjoyed their bottled ales incidentally).  A juddery old man and a friendly lady sat beside us, a huge group of crazy youths with bad eyebrows and tans on the other, we were essentially boxed in which had happened to me at Friends of Ham the previous night, and does nothing for my sense of pubby well being.  The place was just too rammed.  At least I had snacks in my bag, but Dad was convinced they'd give us both food poisoning, "nonsense" I said popping a mini 5 day old room temperature scotch egg into my gob, "hmmm, actually Dad, think you are right" I said, getting a very quick stomach cramp.   And that summed up our hour and a bit here!

A cough and a coffee from poor ailing Dad

Getting served by a friendly dude from the modern era

Ales in a hamper, cos why not

Local silently frustrated by lack of glass collecting (perhaps)

Cider and sausage fest 2014 glass (and no beermat)

Finishing the county (as best I can!)

So there we go!  Train back went nicely.  Peterborough's Brewery Tap actually does what Oakham can't and offered some nice Oakham ales and it finished off the day very nicely indeed.  Writing this up made me appreciate how much I enjoyed the day, though in conclusion, I don't really think any of Rutland's six pubs massively pull up any trees, even if the Fox in North Luffers was a great example of when a dining pub can be good. 


Sunday 25 March 2018

BRAPA - Eccles! Monton! Patricroft! Hallelujah!

As the tram trundled slowly towards Eccles last Tuesday night, I tried to assess how much I knew about this place which I'd never been to before.

Firstly, it is full of heritage pubs, four I think.  How wonderful, but the GBG being the bastard it is was only letting me visit one tonight.  Thanks GBG, you are horrid. 

And secondly, they have these little sweet treats called Eccles Cakes.  They are quite nice pastry things, with a sugary crispy outer, but then they spoil them by packing them full of raisins.  And to make matters worse, they then pretend to outsiders that the raisins are dead flies.  Yes, this was the level of humour I'd be up against tonight, and I was terrified.

The pub was visible from the tram stop, but still not as close as the Wetherspoons directly opposite.  In fact, nearly everyone else went in there, I was the only person to walk to the right.  The Ecclesians stared after me like "ooooh, get 'im thinkin' he's too good for 'Spoons".  But I am, obvs.

1284 / 2030.  Lamb Hotel, Eccles

You could tell by the mosaic floored frosty glass entrance that had all those heritage hallmarks right from the off.  It had a corridor with side rooms coming off at each angle (tick!) and I entered the front bar where a welcoming deafish lady served me Holts Mild - the only beer I could see available, and at £2.35, this was good enough for me.  All heritage pubs should be Holts, I don't know why, but it just makes sense.  The taste of that mild just went so well with the interior, and this was without me making it to the brilliant billiards room that my heritage book was banging on about.  Instead, I wandered into a cosy quite big lounge off to the left of the corridor.  As I walked in, a red faced bloke called Dennis was saying "He had it in his feet when he was fucking his nanny"  Well, that goes down as one of weirdest quotes to enter a pub room to.  I sat nervously opposite the three old dudes, the man in black (Geoff, not Johnny Cash) smiled at me apologetically like 'you don't know what you've walked into, lad'.  The third man, the oldest, called Tom, was playing devil's advocate in this 'footballers as intelligent human beings : please discuss' open forum, but when Wayne Rooney was described a few minutes later as a 'good looking lad', all credibility left the room, and the three blokes followed one by one, Dennis actually the only one to say bye to me.   I basked in the quiet heritage warmth for a few minutes longer before leaving myself. 

Getting served

Tom plays devil's advocate behind a pint of Mild

Geoff looks nervous as I try to admire the pub
And that could have been that for my night, but good pub experiences give me new hope for more, and I had the taste of ale between the teeth now, so instead, I walked straight past Eccles railway station, turned left, and headed towards Monton (never heard of it!) in search of a second pub.

I couldn't see it, so stopped to draw out some cash outside the Co-op and get my bearings (I'd not been planning on buying more than one drink tonight!) and noticed dogs were everywhere (as Pulp once probably sang) which was fitting because the next pub had 'dog' in the name.....

Just at the moment I was photographing these above little fellows, a total twunt barged me out of the way so he had more room at the cashpoint.  I knew he was a twunt cos he was wearing a blazer with skinny jeans and shiny shoes, and he had a beard.  Then he got in a Mercedes.  This wasn't a good intro to life in Monton.

I finally saw the pub in the chilly nighttime gloom, it was a Micro and it had no discernible pub sign frontage, bloody typical micropubs, always have to be a little 'off-beat' in everything they do.....

1285 / 2031.  Malt Dog, Monton

After the two blokes in the window glared at me in an incident reminiscent of my trip to the Mounting Stone in Bramhall, I was inside and after a dithery dear faffed with her purse, I could finally be served by the jolly young lady with accent which could've been Canadian or something equally upsetting.  Marshmallow Stout sounded exciting, there were only two ales on surprising for a micro, but it quickly spurted to a stop, and I was left with a choice of one, which I couldn't read cos it was in the dark corner.  But she still tried to serve me from the line of tall fonts.  All the while, I was conscious of a young man behind me jigging around, tutting and sighing, no patience at all.  I turned to smile sympathetically, but he glared back.  He had a beard and a blazer, but not skinny jeans so not the same bloke unless he'd changed in his Mercedes.  It was far too busy downstairs, with raucous blousy middle agers guffawing who all knew each other.  I'd spied a totally empty upstairs room, and whilst I'd normally like to be 'where the action is' for BRAPA purposes, I was happier out of it on this occasion.  And when a pink marshmallow of a lady (not related to the off beer) went to the loo, she told me I looked 'very comfy on my own up here' so I joked dead-pan it was my own private bar (I said bar, but it had no bar).  She seemed to believe me anyway.  Other ladies smiled too, so is it just Monton men who are rude?  Well, perhaps not because at one point, a nice man actually stopped to let me go up the stairs joking I didn't need to rush as he had nowhere to go.  Downside, he reminded me of Paul Hollywood on acid, but it was nice at least to break that bearded run of horror!  And that sums up this cute but odd little micropub,with it's peculiar band pictures.

A weird Malt Dog serving

Blink 182 : the Salford Years

Gabriel Batistuta mid 90's Fiorentina fame

Andi Peters fondles his trumpet nervously

My own private 'bar' and mystery beer
The nearest station now was no longer Eccles, but Patricroft, and you know what was right by the station?  Yes, a required GBG pub which doesn't usually open til after 7pm.  And it had just gone 7pm, and my next train was delayed giving me JUST enough time to drink a pint.  FATE!

1286 / 2032  Queens Arms, Patricroft

With rooms called things like 'snug' and the very north western 'Vault' coming off a corridor entrance, this was like a smaller more basic understated Lamb in Eccles.  'Heritage' in my eyes, even if not officially, this had even more of the 'untouched for centuries' feel about it.  In fact, it was renamed when Queen Victoria visited, and I bet it's not changed a lot since then, and I wouldn't be surprised if she too found Thwaites Original as the only ale on.  I wandered into the vault, realised I was the only customer, the landlady looked friendly so I made some comment about the air turning chillier, and as happens in quality pubs, that led to a relaxed 10 minute chat about the weather!  I did what I hate, and asked if Thwaites Original was the only ale on, she said "I hope that's alright" and I said "absolutely great" as an attempt at recovery.  My mood turned a bit sour when my delayed train had got 'back on time' (which never happens when you are stood on a cold platform waiting for one!) so I then wittered to her my quandry about whether to drink quick or stay here for like the next two hours!  She then swapped with presumably her hubbie, the landlord, so I repeated my babbled train quandry.  He was a typical stoic northerner, friendly but few words, certainly not here for my wittering bullshittery.  I finally said to him "If I stopped babbling on and just drank, I might actually get this earlier train!" and you know what, he almost smiled.  Lovely.  He warned me if I was to stay, the Thwaites original was nearly at the end of the barrel.  He spied three young lads walking past the window "I think they'll be drinking it too" he warned me.  How can you tell what they'll be drinking? I asked him, but too late they were in already.  They had a real air of 'young Twamra' about them, and he was right, 3 pints of Thwaites it was.  He nodded over at me as if to say "told ya, Son!"  #Pubman.  I downed my pint, said goodbye, raced for my train, got it somehow!  Phew.  Wonderful place.

The Carling is calling my name

Landlord pulls 3 pints of Original for the 3 young Twams

Classic basic pubbing in the Vault
I got myself across Manc on foot from Victoria to Picadilly, and was back in York at a decent hour, something that had looked impossible for most of the evening,  I enjoyed all three pubs tonight, especially the first and the third and with 21 pubs done in 21 days of March, the 31 dream is still alive.  Onto the weekend now, as I look to finish Rutland.


Tuesday 20 March 2018

BRAPA - Porridge in Dorridge (and other snowy tales)

It was pub ticking in the West Midlands for the first time since 2nd Jan 2017, and I tell you now, I have missed it.  I honestly don't think outside of the North of England (especially Lancs area), I've been to an area with such top quality pubs, honest folk and proper hearty ales reminiscent of a good mug of Bovril.

I'd put Tom in charge of the day's pub strategy, which always feels a bit like riding a bike with no brakes into a patch of nettles.

But soon, me, him, Daddy BRAPA and Ben Andrew (making his first appearance since Norwich last year) were walking through the biting (and I mean BITING) winds of 'Beast from the East II' through Dorridge to our 11am opener, situated just beyond the sign for Dorridge.  It was open, and still had the 'Merry Christmas' sign outside which is incredibly quirky or lazy.

Tom the true #PubMan is in first

1280 / 2026.  Railway Inn, Dorridge

I was happy enough just to see it open at 11am, what a relief!  Anything else was going to be a bonus.    But in customary West Midlands fashion, it was beautifully basic and homely.  A keen old school barman with an air of the Bob Fleming about him (minus the cough) served us three immaculate pints of  HPA (and a blackcurrant for the Tommy) and we sat round the corner and admired the railway memorabilia, whilst Tom tried to claim the pub were charging at least £190 (or something) for ice cream due to a phantom decimal point.  All I could do was get my porridge out, because why else, it rhymes with Dorridge!  After all, I took Oral B to Thoralby.  I tried to take a Pumice Stone to Penistone (well, that one could've been worse!) and I'm planning on taking a wreath to Keith.  Ben's role at this stage seemed to be to stop us drinking too slow so we could maximise our pre-match potential, and it was all very pleasant as we said goodbye to this friendly unassuming little classic.  

First customers of the day .... let's go!

Me and my porridge

The gang with pre-match optimism etched across their weatherbeaten faces

Because the GBG is annoying, the other Dorridge pub was not only a club, but right over the other side of town, so much so that we actually passed the OTHER sign for Dorridge.  And to make matters worse, there was actually ANOTHER cricket club right near the Railway Inn, but of course this one wasn't the one in the GBG! 

All this meant neither Dorridge pub was strictly within the confines of Dorridge.  And neither of Sollihull's duo are either.  One, a micropub in Olton, the other an Ember Inn at Widney Manor.  Confused?  You bloody should be.

Me and Tom strode ahead and got there first, Tom temporarily slowing to chant 'One Peter Taylor' at a local funeral directors, because he's a lunatic.  

"The problem with these clubs is finding the entrance" said Tom very wisely as we found a cricket pitch but wondered how to get in.  Tom wasn't forceful enough with the door, so the landlady signalled through the window to try a bit harder, which he did.  And we were in.  

1281 / 2027.  Knowle & Dorridge Cricket Club, Dorridge

The two old geezers at the bar (one of whom had a pair of colourful trousers very similar to a pair I might own) looked thoroughly unimpressed with our kamikaze entrance and attempted jokes with the couple behind the bar, and by the time Ben and Dad finally crashed their way through the same door  a couple of minutes later with a snort and blow of the cheeks, the geezers expressions were now set to "why the bloody hell did we allow our club to make it's debut in the Good Beer Guide and allow Twamra scum in?"  But sod 'em both because even without the need to wave my CAMRA card in the face of the staff, we felt immediately at home.  The beer range of two was fun.  One was a 4.0% golden ale from Salopian, and the other was errrm a 4.0% golden ale from Salopian, which was only amusing when Dad asked me to order him the weaker percentage.   It was a cosy set up, looking out onto a windswept icy cricket pitch, and the place started to fill up with local geriatrics who, because we were the first faces they saw on entry, looked ready to keel over in shock.  This place wasn't used to foreign faces.  Ben told us we should try and drink v.quickly to get the next train.  We agreed, so time was of the essence.  Dad suggested porridge was becoming fashionable.  If this was true, said Tom, "I'm chucking my oats out of the window".  It was Quote of the Day, and this quote may have happened in the Railway Inn, but look, it doesn't bloody matter so shut up.  

A trousers and socks combo I can live with

It's all gone a bit Salopian at the K&DCC

It's never too cold for cricket, unless you are watching Somerset lose at Old Trafford with a pint of Fosters.

We made our train easily, and Tom expertly decided we should miss out the more "unknown quantity Ember Inn" and head straight for Acocks Green, a pub of the year contender, where Ben suggested we settle for a pre-match session.  Okay, so he walked us a slightly longer route than was necessary but otherwise, it was the best decision we made all day ......

Tom standing in the "No" seems somehow poetic

1282 / 2028.  Inn on the Green, Acocks Green

If the two Dorridge pubs had been excellent finds, then this ramped the stakes up to '11' on the 1-10 scale of 'How Brummie a pub can be'.  It was large, dimly lit, the bar blockers smelt of centuries unwashed man, a low carpeted area swept left to live music stage and bogs, the right to large screen TV, locals and a modern geeky bottle shop beyond it.  The ale range was overwhelming, but in a good way, and I was soon drinking a pint of this deliberately cloudy orange soup with a hilarious name.  Perfection.  Well, almost.  A distinct lack of seating (despite the large area) said a lot about the popularity of the pub, but also a love of rugby (the sport, not the place - they probably view it as too near Coventry) and the only free seat was under the big screen with the deafening noise of it proving a bit too much.  So after a brief consultation, we moved into the more modern (and slightly 'cooler') bottle shop area with pacman, space invaders and one pseudy looking bloke on his laptop who smiled up at us and started hammering away on his keyboard like he'd used us for inspiration.  It was an excellent pre-match session after that, Ben did his traditional Hull City "on this day" quiz, which I probably won despite Tom's tactics (buzz in first and shout as much bollocks as comes into your head).  Great pub, if it wasn't for BRAPA, I'd definitely look to return one day.

Now, we took the train to Bordesley where we could walk to the ground.  

Now I'm not saying Birmingham City fans are a bit slow in the head, because the ones reading this are very intelligent (no, I'm not just saying that, honest, you are great) but the ones I encounter on matchdays over the years sometimes leave a bit to be desired.  Today, as ALWAYS, I kept being asked if I was a Wolves fan.  Yes, I know my scarf and shirt combo wasn't strictly black n amber but come on guys, I'm on a train at 2:30pm heading to somewhere near St Andrews!  Are they so obsessed by their high flying rivals that they aren't even aware who their opponents are?

Anyway, we finally had a nice chat and when I charitably said I thought Gary Monk was a decent appointment for them, the twild of the group replied by saying "we're gonna stuff your lot today!"  What a little angel.  He was right of course.  His Dad called him a "cheeky chappy". 

And by the time we got to Bordesley, the blizzard was coming down sideways.  

And this was before the match had started!
My fave part of the match was the 5 mins where I couldn't see the players or the ball, as Hull City did we they always do when I go to watch them away, and didn't turn up.  

On the plus side, Dad had smuggled some whisky miniatures in to get us through the second half of boredom.   And even better, our train back stopped at the aptly named Snow Hill, allowing us to do the 'city centre' pub I didn't think would be possible.  

Like a lot of great Birmingham pubs, it seemed to stand alone on an slippy industrial side road.  

1283 / 2029.  Gunmakers Arms, Birmingham

Now this might be the pub where they got me on Twitter once and offered me a free pint when I came to tick it off, but that might have been before the owners went to take on the Woolpack in York (If I'm thinking of the same place).  In any case, I'm not gonna go announcing myself under any circs so instead, I ran my hands under a hot tap to get some feeling back in them, and pushed past some rowdy cockneys at the bar where we were served by a friendly young lady with the kind of good honest fringe you can trust.  Turned out the cockneys were on a stag do, because they kept telling everyone, but no one cared.  I'll never know why cockneys think they are more interesting than any other section of society.  This pub had another excellent feel, how often do you get FOUR quality pubs in one football day, I'd say this was virtually unheard of in BRAPA history?!  It seemed nicely understated, warm, and a top ale from somewhere probably local called Two Towers which was amazing quality again.  

The gang with post-match pessimism etched across their weatherbeaten faces
After a coffee and pasty, me and Dad trained it back to York agreeing it'd been a great day out regardless of the football.  Of course, had we done an NFFD, we'd have surely won 3-0.  But such is life in the world of pub ticking.  

I can't do my Friday night pub ticking, but I'll be back in that Manchester area on Tuesday night, which actually I'll probably have done when you read this.  It never ends.  18 pubs in 18 days as of Sun 18th March.  The target of 31 for the month is still alive, and I've now done 27 pubs in the West Midlands, putting it joint 16th with Durham and Isle of Man.

Bye for now,