Monday 30 April 2018

BRAPA - Walking the Wirraly Way (Part 1/2)

Saturday then, and time to add to my April pub haul of 28 for a final time.  It was also chance to put another nail in that Cheshire coffin, my 5th last pub to visit in this year's Good Beer Guide.

York station was on top form early on, you know that awkward feeling when you're the only one who forgets your clown outfit but joins in anyway?

But before long, I was in new territory in that sliver of England just south of the Wirral but above North Wales.  The train arrived in Neston at 11:45am, where I had a good 50 minute walk south to the 'key' pub of the day.

Little Neston felt, at first glance, like a friendly little housing estate like so many others (but with added cyclists).  Knowing recent Cheshire visits like Daresbury (Daaahsbury) and Davenham (Dave-un-um) Little Neston is probably pronounced Lil' Nostril, but I never got chance to find out.

As I turned the final corner, where a young boy was playing a game of fetch with his excitable mutt (both ran off back to their mud hut as soon as they saw me), the pub came into view, with amazing views of the River Dee and probably a woman being sick outside Flint Wetherspoons.

She's over there somewhere.

1333 / 2079.  Harp, Little Neston

I didn't take for granted the fact that it was open after recent events, but it was, and I stepped into the kind of traditional gem I'd been expecting, all beams and nautical & local decor, more a pub you'd go to drink than eat.  And you can't ask much more than that in 2018.  I was greeted by an interesting scene, as a lively barmaid was apologising to two locals for her accent - half Dutch, half Wrexham apparently.  "I met a man with a Dutch daughter and she was a very nice girl" one of them reassured her, before they had a very staged but serious conversation about daffodils being a cracking flower.  I could only stifle a laugh (as could she) as I ordered by Peerless something or other and took it to the corner.  True, her accent was as close to Jan Molby's legendary Scanda-Scouse as I'd ever heard, but she didn't look like him in her defence.  Before I knew it, two ladies had come into the other bar asking about food. "I must firstly tell you ...." she warned them ".....I'm half  Dutch if you don't understand my accent!"  Jeez, this girl had it bad.  A trio came in, and the man, another local friends with the Dutch sympathisers, wanted a Balti curry.  "Ask her in the kitchen to make it as hot as possible!" before the blind lady did her impression of the 'Jaws' theme speeded up and how it loses suspense and terror.  So, a cracker to start, where the character of the pub matched the characters within.

My pint and background lover of the Dutch

Barmaid sensibly hides behind blackboard, I liked the pub ceiling.

View through to other room, just before local trio arrived

The plan now was to get back towards Neston station, and do some pubs on the Wirral.  But if a 50 minute walk back wasn't bad enough, I'd realised Raby (the next nearest pub) was still closer to Neston station than Heswall, so I carried on walking, which amazingly for the most part was suitable for pedestrians, only a dodgy little "breathe in for oncoming traffic" bit just before the pub. 

I'd obviously walked in the back way through the car park, as there was no inn sign on the building, but that just made the entrance that little bit more exciting, in case I'd just walked into a house.  But not many houses have 'gents' in corridors so I think I got it right.

Probably the Wheatsheaf
1334 / 2080.  Wheatsheaf Inn, Raby

It's quite nice walking in the back door and nodding at people nonchalently, you can almost convince yourself that you are a local and know all the shortcuts.  I eyed a few diners with the kind of surety that comes from visiting 2,080 GBG pubs, and swung a right to the bar and ordered some pale muck from Brimstage named after a bird.  A sinister looking bloke with shorts and open legs swung his stool around so he was facing me (there was something almost Sharon Stone Basic Instinct about it), which intimidated me into struggling to locate the correct change - it was a delightfully dark pub which I always approve of.  The short haired barmaid was patient and pleasant, understanding my struggles - the feeling of being a local hadn't lasted!  I walked back into the pubbiest room and was eyed as something of an interloper, the only seat available being a perched stool facing a wooden screen.  Despite the amount of food going on, the pub got away with it with it's nice tiled floors, wood burner and all round ancient feel.  The GBG tells me this isn't 'manufactured ancient', as we had a pub ghost called Charlotte and a 1611 fire to 'prove' it!  Seriously though, you could feel the quality.  The wood burner wasn't needed in my opinion, but not many people had built up the sweat I had, and not only had my Mum and Pub Curmudgeon claimed it was a chilly day, but a punter later said the same thing.   All that was left to do was mildly observe the blonde Mums and daughters quartet, a woman with loud trousers (I approve) who couldn't keep still, and a fake Harry Gration who kept spinning around on his chair like the bloke at the bar (Harry Gyration?)  I felt a bit like a neglected antique left on the shelf, not dusted in years, til someone from Antiques Roadshow comes along and realises the true value it possessed.  But isn't that the life of the poor pub ticker?!  Sob.

Waiting for my beer to settle.

Sharon Stone bloke is now intimidating 1980's Henry from Neighbours instead
Back out in the car park with phone signal, it was time to plan my next move.  Thornton Hough looked close, and it kind of was, problem was the pub was through the village, all the way around to the other side - AS IF my walking hadn't been hard enough today.   But on the plus point, it was only 35 mins and there was a pavement!  Thank goodness for small mercies.

As I realised the pub was set back from the road 'in its own extensive grounds', my recent trip to Worsley popped into my head.  I saw the grand huge frontage and a few poshos going in.  The warning signs were there, but I still hadn't thought "hey, could this be a Brunning & Price?"   How dim am I?

Entrance to pub and relief Beer Festival wasn't on today

Maybe the lack of mock Tudor frontage confused me

1335 / 2081.  Red Fox, Thornton Hough

My dimness continued into the pub.  As with the Wheatsheaf, the loos were on the way in so decided to go now, where I acknowledged their grandeur and vaguely smiled at some 19th century cartoons.  Up a few steps and a similarly grand building with shiny bar was infront of me, though I had to avoid a twog's tail wagging so vigorously, it nearly tripped me up.   Above the bar, masses of red wine bottles lay sideways in wine racks.  An attractive barmaid with zero eye contact hopefully due to busy early afternoon swell of people wanting food served me briskly and efficiently.  The ales were listed on mini blackboards.  And yet still, nothing was twigging in my simple brain.  I turned around to see a huge table unattended.  "Perhaps they have just left and I've been lucky" I thought to myself, and sat down.  And it was only when I reached for a beermat, and saw the Brunning & Price ale description, that I realised the truth.  All the hallmarks were there.  I felt ashamed!  Eventually, a girl in a bobble hat (not B&P dresscode I'm afraid buddy) says to me "I assume the table of ten who had this reserved 15 minutes ago haven't arrived so can my party of five join you?" she said.  "HUH?" I replied, totally blank, and before I knew it, two lasses, two lads and a very B&P dog which knew no boundaries had joined me, managing to totally ignore me which was both good and annoying.  I should mention before this how friendly and smiley all the clientele had been - take that Worsley!  Even the 1980's radio DJ bloke at the bar nodded respectfully, and if it wasn't 2018, he'd probably have a young girl sat on his knee and been too busy to acknowledge me, so you can see how times have moved on.  Brunning & Price pubs are also a product of our time, but they do amuse me in a "you've gotta laugh or you'd cry kind of way".   As they go, this one was a fine example.

As punishment for my ineptitude, I made a Brunning and Price bingo card (this ticked EIGHT)

When the realisation dawned on me!

Spot the dog - easy level

Spot the dog - harder

As at the Wheatsheaf at Raby, I found a picnic bench outside (in the "extensive grounds") and suddenly realised I was not only 3 miles from Heswall station, but I was also 3 miles from Barnston.  Ugh, I vaguely considered taxi or bus, but in the end, decide to go for yet another longish walk.

Still three pubs to do, time was 'ticking' (haha) on.  But it'd all be worth it to get some more pub ticks in.  Join me tomorrow for news on them......


Friday 27 April 2018

BRAPA - A Nice Little Urmston : Manchester Punk Festival Day 3 of 3

I'm officially getting old.  Day three of the punk festival.  I'd not seen many bands, stayed in the comfort of a Premier Inn, paced myself, and yet I was still feeling that 'final day of the fest' burn which you only used to get for camping out at Temple Newsam or Bramham Park for 4 nights.

Urmston seemed a nice simple way to begin the final day, with three GBG entries and just a short trek from Deansgate station.  Matthew Lawrenson would be joining me, motivated by the need to avoid an exciting sounding 'domestic situation' at home, as much as my wonderful company.

I was in Urmston first, on another scorcher of a morning, and was immediately struck by the wonderfully 'Lancs' feel of the town.  You know, lots of little independent shops, cafes and markets, and smiley folk with greasy hair and lice leaning against walls smoking, chatting and laughing with their gums flapping in the breeze.

It made sense, as ever, to start at the furthest one out and work my way back in.  This was actually called Flixton Conservative Club, and Flixton has its own station, but there is one in between called Chassen Road which is even closer.  Crazy times!  If I was a modern day Dr Beeching, I'd recommend to the more evil bloke merging these three into one, and opening two replacement ones in rural Cambs (Upware) and Cornwall (Manaccan) respectively.  Random I know.

Anyway, I soon saw this old building looming large and it really did have that sinister 'haunted old hospital' feel, though I didn't get a proper picture of it:

1330 / 2076.  Flixton Conservative Club, Urmston

The outer door being open told me it was open, but it was one of those 'press the button' and wait for the 'door to be released'.  This place is CAMRA club of the year at present, so they weren't going to make it easy for any Tom, Dick or Twamra Harry to get in were they?  Didn't help that I spent five minutes pressing the wrong button because I can't read.  Soon, I was in and a lovely bloke (not the main 'steward') asked me to sign a guest book - not because I looked dodgy but because he was 'interested' to see which CAMRA branch I came from - or so he told claimed, but it was certainly giving me serious Cambridge Analytica vibes.  He then indicated a fine list of beers on the board, and predicting everyone today would drink Abbeydale Moonshine, I disappointed him by ordering something Pictish which he seemed impressed with.  Next he showed me the huge snooker room, this is where the old hospital ward was, and he indicated a mortuary, but when I asked if it was haunted, he looked at me like he's the man in Scooby Doo who has a rubber mask pulled off him in the final scene.  Anyway, I could see why it had won an award, I've been to some cracking clubs in the GBG and this was up there in terms of having all the elements that make a club good.  M.Lawrenson arrived, without the same door issues I had, with his customary Booths shopping bag and dressed for the winter 'because you can't trust Manchester weather' which led to a nice 20 second chat about cotton spinning and the wettest places in the UK (Preston is third).  I put my GBG on the counter so Matthew could highlight the entry, and our friendly barman commented on what a sorry state it was in compared to their copy!  Well, it's been around, and by late August, I predict it'll be properly falling apart.

The six ales on

Snooker tables - shhhh, they are sleeping

Pint of Fosters?  Background Lizards is going for Moonshine.

Lovely clubby room

We walked back towards Urmston and after some debate about our strategy re which pub we should do next, we went to the furthest one away, which allowed me to learn how much you can actually fit up your arse in prison.  Don't say a day out with Matthew isn't enlightening.

Our next pub, looked exactly as I expected.  Solid, stodgy, Holtsy.  Excitement was building. 

Nonchalant pub leaning from the Paisley one

1331 / 2077.  Lord Nelson, Urmston

And the main reason for my excitement was the line in the Good Beer Guide, declaring "not so much wet led, but completely soaking" which is a colourful way of saying "definitely not a food pub".  More humour and creativity in GBG descriptions is certainly welcomed by me, I've mentioned it before, and only North Bucks told me they'd take it on board when I told them they weren't doing their pubs justice with their dull textbook descriptions of unexpected gems.  Maybe it was all the prison/drugs talk, but this place really did feel like someone had injected you with a Holts OD on arrival - I thought the Morning Star in Wardley was a good example earlier, but this was up there with the Atherton Arms and a small number of others for unadulterated Holts bliss.  The barmaid was friendly, in a colourful haired no nonsense way, happy hour drinks were £2.22 and blackboards made you realise there was a 'Happy Hour' around almost every corner.  Other customers were so ingrained in the fabric of the building, they were effortlessly camouflaged.  Yes, the pure minimalism of this place seemed to stir a degree of creativity.  The GBG description made sense.  (Say any of this bullshit out loud whilst in the Lord Nelson, you will be rightly called a wanker and told to shut up or piss off).   Oh, and although they had Holts Bitter on both keg and hand pull, she didn't have to ask which one we were after, and it was top quality.  

What a pleasing scene

There's 10 locals in this photo but you can't see them

A window probably being amazing

M Lawrenson reads some poetry, probably.
Well, that was a heart warming experience.  Could it last?  Well walking past a Sports Bar just at a time that someone equalised against Liverpool to a big roar from the scary punters suggested it wouldn't.  We were back on the main drag, and for the third time in the last week, outdoor drinkers were scattered outside a micropub trying to make photo opportunity difficult:

1332 / 2078.  Prairie Schooner Taphouse, Urmston

"Ffffnnnnneeeuurghhhh"  Can that just be my review for here?  I didn't dislike it outright as such, though Matthew can probably testify to my bleating for the entire time we were here.  It's just when you're in a micropub of fairly unremarkable micropubbiness, there's a constant gargling of a twild in the front bar, the staff are straight faced but 'pleasant', and the only other customer of note is an old woman's illuminated big face grinning into a phone, that you don't exactly feel you've recaptured the magic of the Lord Nelson.  Even my ale which had started off so well seemed to be declining rapidly as I got to the final few sips.  "He gave me a top up without me asking" said Matthew when I asked him for a positive I could stick in my blog.  I suppose the best thing was the depth of the place, much bigger than your average micro and brilliantly cool, and was particularly wary of Matthew melting as he'd come dressed as a guy who'd come to mend your boiler, albeit in a paisley shirt.  The decor was quite nice back here too, corner cabinets and stuff like something your gran would've had in the 80's but on the whole, a forgettable experience (for me anyway).

So, it was farewell to Matthew and back to the punk festival where I saw some great bands and drank some great beers, this was the worst one I found.....

Ten festival pubs then, four more than I was hoping,  and I'm now giving myself a BRAPA rest til Saturday which will be tomorrow when you read this.

Now, to the Falcon Tap in York to meet my buddies as it is CLOSING DOWN for good in the next few days (short notice), so you can cross that one off your GBG.


Thursday 26 April 2018

BRAPA - Loosely Worsley : Manchester Punk Festival Part 2

The two pubs I had planned for Friday morning both seemed to be on the fringes of the 'pretty village' of Worsley itself, so you could say they were 'loosely Worsley'.  Lucy Worsley is a quirky historian modern day legend.

You know, it really is tiresome to explain my amazingly clever blog titles, but I'm aware 'foreigners' might be reading so you'll just have to 'bear with' :)

Anyway, after a good 25 minute trek from Walkden station, I came to pub one.  I'd avoided the angriest leaf blower in West Manchester history, ignored Google Maps idea for me to walk straight through the centre of a roundabout, and as the church bell roughly tolled 11am (or was it noon?), I was in and ready for action ..... Greene King action.

I walked through the car park, past all the prosecco & burger offer signs, nodded to an old woman who was sweeping up outside, she squinted back through the surprisingly hot sun and inside into the kind of interior you could have predicted a mile off .....

1327 / 2073.  John Gilbert, Worsley

I said 'good morning' to the only other customer, a hunched over old man who had his flat cap next to his pint, and had attached his walking stick to the table.  If this was the Bell in Aldworth, he'd have fitted in perfectly and probably slagged off my hairstyle (as they like to do in said pub).  Sadly, this wasn't the Bell in Aldworth.  And he cut a forlorn figure and I wanted him to know he wasn't alone!  At the bar, the 'turgid' Greene King IPA was staring at me but despite the quick attentions of the botox lipped blonde and her Cowell-esque waistband, I recovered quickly enough to order a Prospect blah, which I know is local from past experience and good quality in here.  That and the hard working staff, rare redeeming features as I sat behind the old man, staring up at two empty birdcages amongst the dried flowers and assorted cushions.  Then Coldplay came on.   Should I go over and give the old man a hug?  I think I was struggling more than him, especially as ABBA came on next, and as we now know as a BRAPA fact, the older you get, the more you appreciate ABBA.  I later mooted this point at 11:30pm in a Punk Festival queue for the Zombie Shack.  No one quite believed it here, but they were all younger than me.  I realised I'd missed out on the CAMRA discount, a shame you might think.  I wondered how sexy it was to ask for a CAMRA discount.  'Phwoar' I could imagine the barmaid saying 'show me that flimsy grey card before it gets upgraded to the new blue one with the pointless circle logo'.  This pub made you lose yourself in odd thoughts, either that or your mind protects you from harrowing experiences.

Old man and his stick enjoying it more than me

"Black turgid drinks", top bantz there from Benny Greene

Terrifying and out of place cubicle door design!

Back from where I came, was the other Worsley pub.  And this one had an even more elaborate grandiose entrance, situated as it was, in the grounds of a country park with spa, golf course and gym.  Finally, a mock tudor frontage came into view and I knew exactly what sort of place this was ....

1328 / 2074.  Worsley Old Hall, Worsley

Yes, as Spinal Tap said in their Real Ale Pub remake, "turn the Brunning & Price up to 11".  Yes, it's been a while but rarely have I been in a Brunningier, or Pricier (not that it was too expensive) version of one of their pubs, many of which seem to be in the North West.  I have to say, it was hard not to be impressed walking in and in my 'Spoonsesque three quarter length shorts, I hoped I wasn't going to be thrown out for failing to adhere to a dress-code.  But I immediately felt more at home here, staff a bit more down to earth, I just felt 'comfortable'.  My ale was okay in that average way Brunning & Price ale is, and the toilets were so good, they had an armchair and you could conceivably sit in here and enjoy a pint - I don't think even I have EVER said that in a BRAPA pub review before.  The problem was, which ultimately spoiled the experience, "hell is other people", as M.Lawrenson told me less than 24 hours later when he channelled some dead French dude's spirit.  It started when I tried in vain to smile at a Mum with buggy trying to rock a baby (am I'm not even saying Twaby) to sleep.  But she was a total RBF.  A toddler (and I'm not even saying Twoddler) was in a high chair being fed by a patient Mum.  I tried to sit as equidistantly far away from them as possible in case they started bawling.  They both did.  Simultaneously.  Then to make matters worse, buggy lady moved to the seat RIGHT NEXT TO ME!  And bear in mind, this place was HUGE.  So I moved to the Rowley Birkin armchair area she'd vacated.  And felt better.  Well, apart from the endless stream of loud suits and plastic WAGs wanting prosecco and access to the outdoor barbecue.  You know what they say "freaks come out at night?"  Well, try "freaks come out in the sun".  The fact that the man I felt most affinity with came in, needless craning his neck to see beers on mini blackboards (a little Brunning & Price hallmark which is pointless) when he could have just looked at the pump clips, whilst wearing socks and sandals, said it all!  

Looking lovely with only one man in the corner

Holding a candlelit vigil for myself before the seat move

It's not a winning combo

So good, you could bring yer drink in!  There was even an armchair, far right corner.
The next question was a good little test for my new GBG App, which has been struggling to convince.  "Where is the next nearest pub and could I get to it without going all the way back to Walkden?".  

Well, fair play to the App, it seemed to think I could get to Wardley in just over 40 minutes if I bore right and crossed a few death defying roundabouts.  

And all looked good walking through a place called Roe Green til I hit the A580 / M60.  Luckily I saw a bus heading the right way.  "Are you off to Wardley, or even Swinton?" I asked, but he claimed it was the opposite direction, and I should hop on, change buses, and go somewhere else!  So I said thanks but no thanks and soldiered on, hoping I'd get some good luck.

And I did!  I saw a pedestrian footpath and followed it's muddy trail through woodland, with a golf club on my left, and the crazy M60 directly on my right.  Madness.  Where would I come out?  

Just then, my sister messaged me.  Her and her boyf were en route to the punk festival, and wanted to know what venue I was in.  So I had to admit I'd errrm, gone a little bit off piste!  My prayers were answered when the path came out at the A6 and an easy little underpass allowed me  just a short 5 minute walk to the Wardley pub, what a relief!  

A shadow of me resting a songbird on top of my phone

1329 / 2075.  Morning Star, Wardley

With a mass of people outside enjoying the sun, I marched in total buoyant as I thought I'd never make it here without a massive struggle.  Like all good sturdy Mancunian Joe Holt pubs of proper filth, I had a 'left' or 'right' doorway choice.  The left hand side said 'Vault', so because it is my new favourite name of any NW pub room, I chose this.  I was the only customer in, in fact all the action was either outside, or around the other side in the more lounge like room, but a glance in there told me there wasn't much in the way of spare seating so I stayed put.  A redoubtable old harridan served me a quality pint of Holt's Bitter.  Her softer faced colleague peered around the corner, they both seemed hot and bothered.  The Saddle Inn in Blackpool came to my mind when I took back a pint of vinegar Summer Lightning and they told me if I wasn't happy with the replacement, I could bloody well piss off.  No such problem here.  A Dad and daughter briefly appeared to look at some pub sports trophies and probably get a Fruit Shoot.  But otherwise, the scene was dominated by rolling Sky Sports News blathering on about Arsene Wenger.  I was suddenly craving a prawn sandwich (I'd left the snails and frogs legs in the hotel), and with the evil staff watching me like a hawk, it was fun to try and eat unnoticed.  Sure, the stonier faced one could see me chewing, but I just pretended I was really getting into the bitter!

The classic Holt selection is available

Very nice vault room and trophies

The plan now was to carry on walking, and get to the Cock & Swine in Swinton, but surprisingly, Google Maps was flashing and reckoned it was 'closing soon'.  3pm to be precise,  It was 2:35pm.  I'd been so slow in the Morning Star, annoyed with myself.  Apparantly, even on a Friday, it closes 3-7.  GBG didn't say so, not sure WhatPub did either.  I couldda gone and had a look, but probably a blessing in disguise with Punk Fest starting at 4:30pm and people wondering where I was, so back to Manc I went, to tell them all about the ABBA theory, and vaguely plan a Saturday trip IF I was feeling up to it!

Me & some fellow drunkards queuing for a fake version of Green Day at 11:30pm


Wednesday 25 April 2018

BRAPA - Evil-Lymm and Salford Skeletor : Manchester Punk Festival Part 1 of 3

When I booked my tickets for Manchester Punk Festival back in December, I thought how nice it would be to forget about silly new pubs altogether and simply relax with three days of deafening music amongst sweaty crusty folk who live out of bins.  Bliss.

Sadly, my brain is no longer conditioned to follow plans like this through, and soon I was plotting all manner of pubby jaunts within reach of Manchester, and I'd even held over two central ones  deliberately for this purpose.  Six was the aim for the weekend.

Lymm was one such place that made sense (said no one ever, despite it's outward prettiness), it didn't really fit in to a full Saturday 'day out', but was perhaps a bit too much of a stretch for a Friday after work.  So with my heavy luggage weighing me down (too early to check in at the Premier Inn), I took a bus from Altrincham (puke) which I thought was called "CATS", but was actually the CAT5.

It was the most glorious day of the year so far weather wise, just as it had been on my previous trip to this curious town, where all the men over 50 look like Peter Stringfellow with their blonde hair, tanned skin and white teeth.  And all the women over 50 look like, errrm, Peter Stringfellow, but with dogs in their handbags, flowery blouses and hip-centric walking styles.  A bit like Peter Stringfellow.  As usual, anyone under 18 sprawled themselves across 'Lymm Cross', which they treat as some religious monument despite it's crumbling stubby nature, and look like they are waiting for a god to come and sacrifice them. 

My pub was actually a stones throw from t' Cross,  slightly sunken just off the main road:

A very wrong sign

1323 / 2069.  Bull's Head, Lymm

12 noon and open on a weekday, that was the first requirement fulfilled.  And I was delighted to walk in to find a traditional old pub, and then surprised to see it was a Hydes pub.  In my experience, Hydes favour modern beige pastel colours and swanky cushions which Mr Ember-Fortescue-Smyth would approve of, so I counted myself fortunate to find something traditional.  I was greeted warmly by the fantastic landlord, who I was a big fan of (easier of course when you are the only customer) and he was enthusing on this seasonal Hydes thing from a place called 'Kansas Ave', which I assume is Hydes way of trying to modern and trendy.  "It's very hoppy!" he warned me, but was pulling it through anyway so I didn't have too much choice.  Unpopular opinion coming up : I'd much rather be steered towards an ale than be asked 'what style are ye after chief?' by some airbrushed sycophant.  It wasn't that hoppy.  Then he came over and said "it's not too overpowering is it, just subtle", I was confused by now.  Lymm always confuses me.  A bloke with no charm wandered in, grunted ' pint of Amstel' and took it straight out into the garden but not before hitting his head on the ceiling.  I sighed (after I laughed), people really need to learn manners and perhaps bad karma wouldn't come back to hit them on the bonce.  A very good pub, preferred it to my 'Brewery Tap' experience a year or two back.  Lymm is quite nice isn't it?  Only FIVE Cheshire pubs remain, hurrah! 

Back in Alty then after a bus which really went round the houses, almost literally, every single house, and the plan was to go to their new entry Cheshire Tap but Google Maps, which I am now using more than the updated inferior GBG App, said it didn't open til 5pm on Thursday! 

I'd normally be upset by this but bearing in mind Altrincham's chorltonesque recent entries (Pi, Costellos, Jack in the Box), I wasn't expecting a thrilling experience anyway, plus I had to check in, drop my bags off and get something to eat pre-festival.   So it kind of helped!  Cheers Alty. 

Back on the tram then, and it stopped at a place I'd vaguely heard of called Sale where I had a Joules pub to do.

1324 / 2070.  J.P. Joule, Sale

But hang on, this looks suspiciously like a Wetherspoons.  It's like one inside too.  It MUST be a Wetherspoons.  But, but, there is Joule's Gold on.  But wait, where's the red cross and irritatingly fun riddles and quizzes on the walls?  And where's the stained glass and sense of excitement which never quite carries through your entire stay here?  No, this was definitely a 'Spoons.  I handed over a Mudgie voucher and a little beardo who looked like he was definitely called 'Matt' graciously accepted it, besides this beer was brewed by Brightside, who I actually think are much better than Joules.  Despite the huge swathes of floor space, scattered tables, and a spiral staircase offering more, there was a healthy early afternoon crowd in, making it impossible to have any kind of personal space.  A bloke of Stringfellowian demeanour (minus the hair) was holding court for a group of five ladies, giggling and loving his 'bantz'.  They'd almost certainly travelled over from Lymm.   A typically 'Spoons style plaque told us more about J.P. Joule.  It said "he was known for his experiments in heat" - Wahey, thought fake Stringfellow, I know ALL ABOUT THAT!   A bunch of old blokes on one of those jolly old boys outings sat behind me a bit too close, and wished each other 'Happy New Year' and all ordered burger n chips without even glancing at the menu.  A man in a booth started using an app on his phone to try and make his own garage style music, but it was tinny even by garage band standards and when he got evil stares, he desisted and walked out looking cowed.   This wasn't quite Winsford 'Spoons joy, but you could see all the elements were there. 

Look on the brightside, it ain't Joules. Haha.

Stringfellow holds court, and I haven't started smoking

'Spoons life, Sale, Apr 2018, 2pm Thu.
Back in Manc, I checked in at Deansgate Premier Inn where me and Martin Taylor both randomly stayed when we first met, two years ago this week aaaaah.  I did what any self respecting punk would do, and ate a pasta meal whilst watching Neighbours and then had a little snooze.  

Then I got my wristband exchanged and went to watch the first band in 'Rebellion' called 'No Matter', a nice little quartet from Belfast who seemed amazed anyone was watching them (people did cos they were the first band on) and it was nice pop punk, the perfect starter.  A green haired Rev. Timms from Postman Pat bopped around, a punk Jonjo Shelvey inhaled whatever was expelled from the smoke machine, and it was all very jolly.

But with none of MY gang turning up til tomorrow, I thought now was the right time to do those two remaining Mancy pubs I'd deliberately left whilst I had the freedom to do what I wanted.  

The first, just over the bridge in Salford, looked proud and imposing as dusk started to fall. 

1325 / 2071.  Egerton Arms Hotel, Salford

I'd only just got into 'punk mode' and now it was like I was immediately stepping right back in time to an age before punk, when Rotten was in nappies and the Ramones were little more than twilds being weaned on crack.  One of those where you walk in, and the atmosphere is stale sweat and smoke, which might sound disgusting but transports your mind back to nostalgic days that I can't really remember (as an 'impish teenager' obvs!)  An old man with no teeth and very little balance was walking around with a cardboard box asking what he should do with it, but as no one knew what was in the box, he didn't really get a straight answer.  All the locals took preference over me at the bar, and for once, I was happy to accept this til a quiet chap in crazy shirt finally served me.  I'd somehow acquired an Irish fiver (I blame the last band) and this felt like the right pub to dispense with it, though not only did the pleasant sunken bony barman eye it suspiciously but also the locals, leading me to put on a fake NI accent and think nice thoughts about Billy Bingham.  My Phoenix ale was warm with that distinct "first one pulled through of the day" temperature despite the fact it was 7:45pm.  Still, I'd just paid £4.70 for a pint of a generic American Craft IPA in the venue which tasted like cleaning fluid so I couldn't complain too much.  I don't think this was much of an ale drinkers pub.  A few old guys nodded and acknowledged me as I went to sit, the pub was great in a barren type of way, and everyone's eyes were glued to a TV programme about having less saturated fat and sugar.   They looked like they were paying attention, but couldn't see this bunch popping into the health food store on the way home.  The scary man who kept eyeing me eventually rang for a taxi to take him home, so ha, I know your address mate and you don't know mine, so who is winning now?!  To my right, a man with the runniest nose seen in pub history kept blowing it, sniffing, scattering a series of snotty tissues across the table.  Everyone looked revolted I'm pleased to report, not just me.  Great pub this in many ways, but beer bit of a cause for concern.

I didn't order the Wobbly Bob as it 'affects' me

Some of the locals who were served before me cos they're local

Warmest pint of the year contender?

The pub looking beautiful but bleak like a Jane Austen novel set in Salford

Back over the bridge, back into Manc from where I'd come from, to complete my remaining city centre tick for the year, something called 'Brink'.  Took me an age to spot it, a tiny little doorway and first I thought it was closed down like all around it, but it was okay.

Back towards the Brink

Weird scary entrance

1326 / 2072.  Brink, Manchester

If walking down a steep narrow staircase didn't feel a traumatic enough entrance, to have buzzy bees all over the walls simply made it terrifying.  Add to this the slogan "Dinky Downstairs Drinkery" and I was a bag of nerves by the time I crept around the corner to the bar.  The ales were by somewhere called 'Thirst Class' which I've seen in Station pubs like that Stalybridge place with chocolate bars I'm never sober enough to remember, and the barman expected me to know what I wanted straight away, so I went for the porter as I doubted I'd see much in the way of dark beers over the course of the weekend.  I found a seat at the back of the room, and the clientele were obviously bat-shit crazy, as they spent their time either smiley maniacally into space or having heated debates about topics so irrelevant and obscure, I simply cannot remember the details.  Everyone was in their twenties, leaning over tables with chequered shirts and ginger beards (apart from the women) and gesticulating frantically about nothing in particular.  Only Poundland-Coren-Mitchell seemed to be a voice of reason, overriding her excitable male counterparts with a fair degree of panache.  There was one older man a bit different, he sat alone on a laptop looking stern and untouchable by the Thursday night excitement.  Still, his laptop had stickers on saying things like 'Subterfuge' 'Government' and 'Warning'..  I decided to think nothing of it unless my skin started blistering.   A little cup contained 'Thirst Class' badges so I stuck one to myself (cos punks love piercings, right?) and a brown haired girl smiled even though I'd not really been brave enough to pierce my skin.  And that summed it up.

Oooh I wonder what colour this porter is, let's have a jam jar to guide us?

I Am Kloot were banned from the festival for these lyrics.
I then went to watch a couple of bands at a venue across town called the 'Bread Shed' which seemed kind of ok, I love Roughneck Riot anyway but spilt my pint cos was too near the 'Pit.  But still an earlier night than expected as I had a pubby plan forming for tomorrow morning.


No queue at the Bread Shed, I'm off in

Roughneck Riot, Warrington's finest, the Lower Angel of folk-punk