Thursday 31 May 2018

BRAPA - Grindley Brook has me shook, Whitchurch makes me lurch

Some of you may have heard of #CanalMan James Brindley.  He built canals and stuff.  And he loved it.  He was a great bloke too, always having cracking banter with the lads over a pint of Burton Bitter or six on a Saturday night.

But how many of you know his evil nemesis, former classmate turned bad, Jason Grindley?  Jealous of his friend's success, our Jase comandeered himself the last available patch of free canal and made Grindley Brook, a real Poundland version of Willey Moor Lock (which you'll need to believe James Brindley built for my tale to work).

What I'm trying to say in a round about kind of way, is I didn't enjoy my Grindley Brook pub nearly as much as Willey Moor Lock.  It's not even on the canal for heaven's sake!  You have to cross this intimidating main road.  Luckily, there was a plastic Liverpool fan crossing at the same time so I used him as a human shield, cos they need to be useful for something.

And I followed him into the pub, what I assumed to be the pub anyway, for there was no visible sign to this depressing looking grey mish mash of a roadside pub.

Not the most photogenic

"There was something in the air last night, the pub was shite, Fernando"

1371 / 2117.  Horse & Jockey, Grindley Brook

Apologies for the ABBA reference, have I gone Peak-Mudgie already?  I'm only an impish 39!  At the bar, a gaggle of summery tourists who looked like they'd spent last week in the Jeremy Kyle audience all jostled for position.  Three barmaids were serving, people wanted food and coffee, the til was a modern iPad thing that didn't work properly, it was all rather chaotic.  I managed to make eye contact with the two brunettes very early on, and got a hand on the counter, this was boding well, but I knew my place, and didn't want to push in, but more wanted the blokes next to me to show some initiative, something they were sadly incapable of.  The staff were doing their best, but it was near on FIFTEEN minutes til I was served, not very happy AT ALL!  Sweat dripping down my back.  I ordered a house beer from Wood's of Shropshire based on the pub dog name (Blaze or Blazer or Blazes) because the cute brunette had recommended it to a man and I thought it might impress her, but she was fiddling with the iPad so I was served by the other one.   The pub had some nice decor I noticed in between the lame seating, dogs everywhere, twilds and too much food.  I needed entertainment so sat right in the centre of the room, in the heart of the action, and waited.  I realised I was facing a family of two grandparents, mum, dad and two young daughters.  First thing I heard was the elder daughter shout "CAN I DROWN MY SISTER IN THE CANAL .... SHE'S SO ANNOYING!"  Grandparents and Mum and Dad all laughed and said "that's a bit harsh darling" but they didn't actually say that she couldn't.  Plus, as an older child myself, she was right, her younger sister was annoying, though the older one was reaching her 'Kevin the Teenager' years and was rather irritable.  My doggie beer by the way was going down a treat, pint of the day annoyingly, though the Ruddles glass it came in was a clunky abomination.  Back to the family, they were playing 'heads or tails'.  Why?  To decide whether she was going in the canal?  No, just for the hell of it.  That led into Mum's magic trick, making the two pence coin disappear, but she had it trapped between her fingers and even the daughters sussed out her incompetence.  Suddenly, another scream from older daughter who leapt out of her chair!  "A SPIDER, A SPIDER, IT IS HUGE, HELP DADDY!" "Kill it, kill it, kill it" chimed in the younger sister (glad just to be still alive herself).  Older sister shone her mobile phone torch on it, and despite Grandma claiming "the spider has done nothing to us" she was outvoted and, I believe, though I turned away out of respect, the spider was squished.  And that summed up the pub.

Ready to play 'Granny Wheel of Fortune'?

Horrid glass, great pint.  Daddy, Mummy and Grandad are just visible.

A couple with two too many dogs
Next, I walked the 40 mins or so back into lovely Whitchurch, a town I do like with all it's crazy half timbered buildings and I find the people friendly too.  Plenty of pubs in last year's GBG, but only one this time round.  I hadn't done it, but I was about to ......

1372 / 2118.  Black Bear, Whitchurch

It's hard to remember a pub in BRAPA history that so attempts to walk that tightrope of the olde worlde pub with the modern namby pamby pub quite as much as this one.  You had your old rusty beer signs, sexist old adverts, a village pitch fork, and creaky old internal beams and wonky ceilings.  But, to use the table I sat at as an example, you had a mini tea cup with a tea light in it, on a wicker doily with a flower in a pepper pot.  Even the village pitchfork had an ornamental flower hanging from it.  The bear behind the bar (not real, but there's one in Maidenhead Wetherspoons I've heard) was wearing a Hawaiian garland (Lei?) and looked thoroughly pleased with himself.  There were six staff in matching t-shirts behind the bar, most just praying for a customer to serve - 'get yourselves down to Grindley Brook' I couldn't help but think.  It was a bit like being in the Dog & Partridge at Yateley and the Appleton Thorn Village Hall all at the same time.  The customers were fairly dull, an 18th birthday party was winding down and 18 year olds were doing menacing thing with helium balloons behind granny's back.  I've had better pints of Salopian, one of my fave breweries.  The toilet was the highlight, a 'Dudley Duo Flush', 'twice the power at half the effort' was the slogan.  The slogan 'Because West Midlands folk are full of shit' was rejected early on.  An interesting pub this one, some might say 'very pleasant', but lacking little furry bear balls.

So that was that for May 2018 BRAPA.  Join me tomorrow for some exciting month end review madness, unless I decide to go on a random BRAPA trip at the last minute, but have probably got too much to prepare for my hols.

See you then, Si

Wednesday 30 May 2018

BRAPA - Tales of Fortitude from Willey Moor Lock

One more to tick off!

So there I was, waking up disorientated in a Premier Inn on Saturday morning thinking 'where am I?  what have I done?' with the empty Big Mac meal remnants next to me,  before the dawning realisation I was in Oldham.  I felt dirty.  Am sure this wasn't how I imagined BRAPA in my mind's eye back in April 2014 as Bedford's gentle songbirds sang my name.

After a quick shower and exchanging pleasantries with a hotel receptionist on the value of a good night's sleep (not at the same time), I toddled off to the nearest Metro stop, which by now was called Westwood, from where I got to Manc Piccadilly via Victoria.  A man was walking his pet ferret through the station and a policeman helped him with directions.  I wondered if it was going to be 'one of those days' again.

I only had one focus in mind, and that was to get my final Cheshire pub done.  But to do that, I had to go to Shropshire.  Of course.  Whitchurch to be precise.  The trains were heaving, I had to change at Crewe, Chester Races were on.  It was like all the elements that had 'made' my time in Cheshire painful/brilliant (delete as appropriate) had come together for one final huzzah.

I boarded that one carriage monstrosity through agony inducing places like Wilmslow and Alderley Edge, past populist fake request stop Wrenbury, and was soon in Whitchurch.

Now the main drawback of having not returned to York last night was not having my 'Sandstone Trail' booklet with me, which included a three mile canal walk from Whitchurch to the pub.

Naively, I thought Google Maps might be able to pick it up, but a mile in, it became evident it was trying to get we to walk along a major A road with no footpath.  Naughty Google Maps!

Luckily, I saw a stile and a pedestrian footpath sign and a couple disappearing beyond it.  I knew if I could get directly west, I'd at least get to Grindley Brook (home of today's second pub) and pick up the canal path north into Cheshire.

I caught the pair up, they too were trying to get to Grindley Brook, but as I marched ahead, the signs soon dried up, and trying to follow a blue dot on your phone in this situation is impossible.   And when I got to a gate with a bunch of cows beyond it, I had a serious confidence crisis and turned back!

But luckily, the couple were still around and their vague directions they'd got out of a newspaper article said it was indeed 'onwards past the cows' so we had to limbo under this fence.

The couple were called Ian and Dr Laura Barton ('not a real doctor' she admitted) but she was scared of the cows trampling her.  "I can't look, are they running after us?" she asked.  "Nah, they're just jogging" I replied.

We crossed a field diagonally and my phone reset itself, hallelujah praise the lord, we'd reached Grindley Brook.  "Off you go then!" said the good doctor, worried I'd come for lunch with them and they couldn't get rid of me.  'Don't worry babe, I'm as independent as a free bird' was what I wanted to reply, but I didn't wanna punch and they seemed a nice couple so said our goodbyes and I carried on north.

Looking back along the canal .... what a relief to finally be here

I couldn't relax totally though, still a good yomp up the canal and I knew the pub closed mid afternoon even on a Saturday on though it was only 1pm, you can never really trust such pubs.

Canal walks are often interactive and jolly, and soon I was 'ahoying' and waving at all manner of weirdos though this canal man was more anal than can, judging by his flag, he'd got a bit lost ....

"Wrexham is the other way mate"
Finally, I saw I lot of men with hankies on their heads looking studious and pretending they knew what canal locks actually did.  Some were more camera shy than others as I went in ......

Peak-a-boo you little scamp!

1370 / 2116.  Willey Moor Lock Tavern, Willey Moor Lock

If you can ignore all the 1 star trip advisor reviews and a 20 year old tale of woe from two Stockport pub heroes, I'm here to tell you that this was a fine end to ticking in Cheshire.  (I say 'end', of course I just mean 'for now').  Canal pub + Cheshire + 1:05pm on a Summer Saturday didn't exactly fill me with glorious hope, but our landlady masterfully handled the stream of tourists wielding leather bound menus ready to order their smashed avocado and squid baguettes.  I got served alongside a gorgeous southerner, disappointingly called 'Sarah', but her tribal tattoo which may have said 'BRAPA til I die' and hidden boyfriend was a shame.  When it came to my round and I simply asked for a pint, landlady was like "anything else?", the customers looked shocked too, as if there must be a catch and I'd forgotten how to say 'quinoa asparagus cous cous pasta bake'.  I hadn't.  The pub felt nicely old and tumbledown for something 'est. 1978' and I went to a backroom where I perched at a table that was 'reserved for 4 Danes' at 1:30pm.  "20 minutes to neck it!" joked a gammon-faced old southern bloke, with greyhound and wife in the background adjusting themselves.  But I was planning on lingering beyond 1:30pm, waiting to see how I got kicked out of my seat, and whether these were Viking longboat bearded Danes, or actress Claire Danes and family.  'It'll all be fun for the blog write up' I thought.  The food looked good, my ale was good, service seemed friendly and efficient, but the atmosphere remained somehow sleepy and relaxed.  As I gleefully highlighted my final Cheshire pub, Mrs Greyhound suddenly exclaimed "what does fortitude mean?"  Hubbie didn't know, and the other two couples within earshot couldn't help either.  'Jeez!  Fortitude, fortitude, you are looking at the pubby personal embodiment of fortitude' I wanted to say, but didn't,  it may've sounded big-headed, slightly.   It was 13:35, still no Danes, time to move on.  "You got 5 mins extra there!" said Mr Greyhound.  I told him shame I didn't get to see what they looked like, but he just looked confused, like a man who knows no fortitude.

A disappointing no show from the Danes

Peering through to the bar area

A greyhound named Fortitude, possibly.

It was back south down the canal, crossing the border into Shropshire, for my final two pubs of the day.  Which you'll hear about tomorrow night if you can be arsed to read my blog again.  Thanks.


Tuesday 29 May 2018

BRAPA - Carrion Oldham

So I'm on the 350 bus heading back from the chaos of Delph to Oldham, and even then, a man in hi-vis stops us to divert the bus down a different road.  "Noooooo, THIS IS MADNESS!" says an outraged woman behind me.  I braced myself for some pot holed country lane not at all suitable for buses and breathed in, but it was just a normal road and nothing happened.  I think she was the woman who Gordon Brown called a bigot.

My first Oldham pub was happily along this main bus route back into town.  Now having been to as many pubs as I have, it takes a lot to intimidate me but this dark forbidding looking Marstons house with outdoor smokers and a huge black crow outside spooked me a bit.  A wolf howled from the moors, though I couldn't hear it.

1367 / 2113.  Carrion Crow, Oldham

At the doorway, a man in hi-vis (a theme of today) blocked my entrance, blew smoke in my face, and grinned a toothless smile at me.  When he let me past, I thanked him profusely (for what exactly I'm not sure) and he even had the temerity to say "you're welcome pal".  The bar area was a hive of Oldhamites swarming around, whilst hardly any seats were taken in the wider pub.  A bloke turned around and said 'arite', this was one of those places where you must tackle it head on and look everybody in the eye to survive.  A bar-boy smiled sweetly but made no move to serve me, I actually suspect he was underage.  A new barmaid was learning the art of pint-pulling and was struggling with the latest module "Topping Up".  This all led to a chaotic "is anyone actually serving?" scene.  Finally, 'Topper Up Tutor' and large hipster beardo (not a hipster Peter Beardsley, that'd be a horrific concept) saved the day.  There was a Marstons beer festival on, well about 12 beers over 3 days from non-Marstons breweries.  The person who'd vacated my table had ticked off Holts and Wadsworth #pubman, according to the 'beer menu'.  Can't remember what I drank but it was the only pint in Oldham I was to enjoy tonight!  In the loo, I bumped into my hi-vis friend again.  We nodded like old friends.  At least I didn't thank him.  "Oooh Matron, look at you with your long beak and your black plumage, all puffed up!"  You know what that is?  That is a 'Carry-on Crow'.  I decided not to try this line out on the locals.  Quosh, Martin Taylor and Cooking Lager all 'liked' something on Twitter at the same second.  This caused my phone to form a green and red tartan background and crash.  It was very odd.  Like this pub, which looking back now from the safety of York, I quite enjoyed.

It was time for the 20 minute march back into Oldham Centre where the other two pubs were. 9pm Friday evening in Oldham, I was a little bit anxious, but the streets were surprisingly quiet.  A bit like being in the eye of a hurricane, occasionally a group of loud drunken tweens would appear out of a back alley just when I'd thought it safe to relax, only to fade away into oblivion again.

I should've brought a pair of scissors.  No, not for my own protection, but I was trying to extract a 50p off voucher from my sheet, for my next pub was a 'Spoons, and of course, they STILL haven't perforated them ......

1368 / 2114.  Up Steps Inn, Oldham

So how many steps do you have to climb to get to the bar of this Wetherspoons?  Well, less than two and a half.  Are there really so few famed Oldham residents and inventors that this is what they have to resort to?  Probably.  Or just an in-joke?  I was expecting a chaotic booze fuelled Victorian gin palace-esque atmosphere and it promised so much early on, when I did actually have to go 'up steps' to the loo, though this is hardly unique in 'Spoons.  An apologetic Welsh man was crouched down next to the hand dryer, arse in the air, explaining it was wet and needed drying.  His moustache and terrible taste in jumpers just made the scene that bit more ridiculous.  Obscure reference but he reminded me of Tobias Funke from Arrested Development.  But this was as entertaining as it got, apart from an old man with green trousers I approved of, for this was sleepy dull 'Spoons rather than Wombwell, Maltby and the like with their electric evening atmospheres.  Most ales were from Elland, a brewery I came to love during my West Yorks ticking, but this one tasted strangely metallic.  I noticed this when I first came to Oldham (well Royton to be precise) but this is one of the few parts of Lancs where people just don't smile.  Carrion Crow had offered something of an hi-vis painted olive branch, but this and the others including Delph were quite moody.  And when you get that type of crowd in 'Spoons plus poor beer, there's not a lot left!

One thing had become clear during my boredom.  At 10pm on Friday with still one more pub to do, I'd not be getting back to York til 1am best case scenario, and needed to be up at 7pm to come back over this part of the country!  It made no sense to go home, so I booked an impromptu Premier Inn online.  It said Oldham Central - it really wasn't - but am sure I'd done the right thing!  Now I had more chance of enjoying my final pub .....

1369 / 2115. Ashton Arms, Oldham

There was something very 'lived-in' about this pub that I noticed from the second I walked inside and walked up into the raised bar area.  Bar man was very attentive, but again locals were looking wearily at the outsider.  So I'm a little bit torn between calling this a 'cosy comfy community local' and a 'shit tip dive'.  You ever been to the Crispin in Wokingham?  Well, a bit like that but green rather than red, better staff, and slightly more 'knowing'.  The smell of chip fat grease lingered in the air, even though the pub deep fat fryer was decommissioned in 1981.  My ale had flavour, but was tepid, but a glance around me suggested a pint of ale hadn't been pulled in here all evening.   I sat next to huge fireguard, so rusty, I could feel tetanus coming on just by looking at it.   It was a pub you could feel wrapping around you like an evil octopus with a fungal infection, but it kind of gently stroked you and held you there.  Jeez, my pub descriptions are getting weirder, but if you go, you'll know what I mean.

Should've gone Smooth like the others!

View to the bar

Tetanus times
I grabbed a MaccyD's as I couldn't see anything else open, and walked the 25 mins to the Premier Inn where the man told me "Ah, Mr Everitt, we've been expecting you" in a half Russian, half Oldham accent and checked me in as the final customer.  At least this took the pressure off tomorrow, as I had one aim in mind, to finish Cheshire!  Join me for Part 3 Tue or Wed.


Monday 28 May 2018

BRAPA - Brass Bands Are Bad For Your Delph

L**ds to Rochdale.  Rochdale to Oldham Mumps on the Metrolink.  Bus 350 from Oldham Mumps to Delph.

It seemed a relatively simple Friday night formula, and one which works better in the endless heavy rain, whilst the sky was murkier than a beer brewed under a Deptford railway arch by a level 24 cicerone called Jezzz.  

I’ve never seen the sun shine in Oldham or Rochdale.  No one has.

Livin' La Vida Rochdale

I was at the back of the bus surrounded by schoolkids slagging off Simon Armitage.  They all stunk of a heady mixture of cannabis and Lynx Africa.  Saddle yourself up for Saddleworth, you could tell this was going to be ‘one of those’ evenings.  BRAPA evenings often are.

We hit ‘traffic’ just outside Delph, and when I wiped the weedy condensation off the grimy bus window, I was surprised to see not roadworks and temporary traffic lights, but the much more Lancastrian sight of a bunch of fat blokes with trumpets, trombones, those massive drums, and god knows what else, getting off a series of coaches.  The bus had to be diverted around Delph so I jumped off quick-sticks with a sallow faced urchin who looked like he wanted to complain about this invasion of his home town, but had no-one to cry to.

...or here's a thought, you could postpone this til better weather and LEAVE ME IN PEACE!

The rain was teeming down by now under a leaden sky, 'twas horizontal and vertical.  The streets were lined with expectant onlookers.  Yes, I’d managed to combine my once in a lifetime trip to Delph with the Saddleworth Brass Band Festival.  Just my BRAPA luck! 

A band from Brighouse and/or Rastrick were tuning up, a burly bloke was lubing up a giant tuba with Brasso and making post-watershed comments in the direction of young mothers.  My phone screen was too wet to press or zoom in on Google Maps, so it took a while to locate the aptly named Dark Lane.

Ascending Dark Lane
But I found it, and climbed.  And climbed some more.  My Adidas Gazelles weren’t up to these slippy roads.  Halfway up, a scary harridan puts her bins out and nodded at me, possibly out of respect, or so I told myself at the time to boost my own morale.  What WAS I doing?  Was BRAPA worth this?  “Oh well, it’ll be good for t’write up!” I said to a sheep who was eyeballing me. 

"Ewe'll do well to find a Baaa up here!" (sorry)
I could hear the out of tune brass banders from down below, now in full swing, and the sycophantic applause of the crowd mingled in with the bleating of sheep and patter of the rain on my hood.  'Good pubs come to those who wait', I hoped. 

Finally, the pub came into view.  No wonder they called it Th’ Heights.  Aching, out of breath, like a drowned rat.  I shaped up to take the photo.  A man with a gentle Durham accent appeared at my side with a duvet.  “Yous the landlord?  I’m coming in for a pint in a minute.  Am sleeping in the church so just going to drop my stuff off, see you in there!”  I’d barely had chance to say a word.

Durham's favourite sanctuary seeker disappears, duvet in hand, around the corner, never to be seen again

At last!

1366 / 2112.  Royal Oak (Th’ Heights), Delph

I pushed the door and an enthusiastic little dog (Poppy) started jumping up at me.  “Get away Poppy!” said a man, as I tried to joke Poppy wouldn’t want to go out in this weather.  But it wasn’t so much a ‘get away so this gentleman can get inside and have a pint’ as a ‘get away, we don’t  know him, he’s not one of us!” For however much I was to love this pub, there was an (understandable) insular standoffish nature about the locals.  The landlady was welcoming though,  and by gum a pint has rarely been so welcome as I sat on the greenish bench seating opposite a fire and some old brewery mirrors.  This was a ‘hidden gem’ in the truest sense of the phrase.  You never hear pub enthusiasts mentioning it that ‘finest pubs in the land’ breath, but it was immediately evident it was up there with the finest.  An old bloke at the bar, who was about to leave to make an improbable posh Italian sounding dish for one, told the assembled crowd he had a wardrobe malfunction every day.  This was when I was getting served.  “It’s easy for men” replied the landlady, “All you have to do is throw on a shirt, a pair of trousers, some socks ….. and some clean knickers!” she concluded, passing me my pint at that moment.  I wish 'knickers' was always the last word before I am passed a pint.  The rain typically stopped about 5 minutes after I’d arrived at the pub, and two women talked in outraged voices about the Delphie things that annoy them.  Things like eggs from the farm shop being cracked, community newsletters containing snarky comments about parking restrictions and village fete jam of poor quality (not exact examples, only the middle one is!) ….. it was easy to scoff, but I was secretly jealous of the ‘simple life’.  Poppy wanted to sit with me but kept being told ‘don’t mither’.  Now that’s a word you don’t hear down the Anglesea Arms in South Kensington.  Any bits where they slagged off brass band folk, I chuckled along with in case they thought I was a Twass Twander who’d taken a major wrong turn!  I added up that this pub opens 30.5 hours a week, and it had been in GBG 25 years consecutively, this felt like a valuable tick all round.  Wonderful pub.

Landlady being masterful

Wardrobe malfunction bloke seems suitably attired (for now)

Describe a more iconic pub scene.  I'll wait. 
Now for the fun bit, getting back down the hill and getting a bus, presumably the hourly 350 service was totally out of kilter due to all these diversions.  Outside the pub, a teenage boy was doing a weird robotic dance that his Dad was filming.  Mum and younger brother were laughing.  Simpletons.
The rain really had eased but getting back down into Delph was slippy, and I almost broke my neck 3 times.  Had it all finished there, on the hills above Delph with a shit band from Mexborough playing 'The Last Post' out of tune, it’d been a fitting way for BRAPA to end. 

The festival was still in full swing, the roads still cordoned off, and Brass Bands were marching down the main road blocking my path to the bus stop, the biggest culprits being from Silkstone, which is so typical of Barnsley folk, I wasn’t surprised.

The vital work she does

Ok lads, can you do this jogging please?  I've got Oldham pubs to tick off

Although it seemed sensible to get back to the main bus stop at the crossroads, a sign said no buses from here, go to Oldham Road stop, but I couldn’t find it, so walked down to the next one.  It was 6 minutes before the next one was due but was sure times would be all over the place, so imagine my amazement when a bus came around the corner.  I hadn’t been stood there a minute, wonderful stuff.

I always say luck evens itself up in BRAPA, so maybe the bad luck of the pouring rain and brass band chaos had been counteracted!  Has anyone ever been so delighted to be heading to Oldham?  Probably not.  But three pubs were on the horizon and they all needed a good ticking!

More on that in part two tomorrow.


Tuesday 22 May 2018

BRAPA - A Cheshire Twap and a Stockport Two (Part 2/2)

Saturday evening, three of my remaining Cheshire pubs done, and my train wound itself north to all those places which probably don't really exist like Hale & Ashley, until we came to Altrincham, a place that has spent the last ten years trying to change itself from Rochdale into Chorlton cum Hardy.

I don't think there's a pub in the Good Beer Guide I was less enthusiastic about visiting on paper, but a tick is a tick is a tick.  Whether it is a modern sounding 'Tap' in Alty, or the Blue Anchor in Helston, they all count as '1' at the end of the day, when the scores are on the board etc etc.

It was with this attitude that I shaped up to take the photo only for a Des Tutu lookalike to accost me and ask whether we were on Railway Street or Stamford New Road.  After much zooming in on my phone, I assured him Railway Street, though he couldn't fathom how walking along the same street, it could change into a road of a different name.

What more could I say.  Oh Altrincham, why do you insist on punishing me like this?  I wanted him to pose as the frontage was predictably drab, but he'd long since sped off.

1363 / 2109.  Cheshire Tap. Altrincham

I was met with expectant, almost pleading looks from a series of pained looking middle aged and older men.  What was all this about then?  I'll tell you.  The BRAPA kit-man had been reinstated and done his job, and I was once more wearing the 'red' home kit.  With the Cup Final blaring out of a series of screens most of which were positioned strangely behind the bar, a quick glance and I looked like a Manchester United fan in this very 'United' pub.  But the BRAPA bit confused them, was this some middle eastern oil company who'd sponsored their heroes without them realising?  As one old bloke realised I wasn't one of 'them', his wife clutched his hand in a 'stay strong' gesture as tears welled up in his eyes.  The bar was long, thin and wooden, I was relieved it wasn't a micropub and despite the typical GMR 'half Eurobar/half tiny Brunning & Price' effect, it wasn't as unpleasant as I'd feared, and one of the better pints I'd had today.  No one smiled, especially bloated 'Xander Armstrong and Harry & Meghan, seemingly having a break from the madness of Windsor but not even standing at the bar together.  A little dog was almost baptised in premium lager.  And you know you are in a Man Utd pub when someone shouts "Ashley Young is just SO good at winning that type of decision" when he's dived for the 15th time in a row.  In truth, I sat around a corner so I didn't get embroiled in the boring game and could people watch, much more fun.  The place smelt of coffee which surely was wrong, unless someone was trying to keep themselves awake.

Harry and Meghan in post wedding Alty blues

There was only one sensible place to stop now for pub action between Altrincham and Manchester, and that was Stockport.  I had toyed with the idea of befriending a homeless person and asking them to join me for two pints in Marple just so I could call my blog 'Beggin' Marple' in honour of the wedding day but it seemed a bit extreme.

Do you know what else is extreme?  Pubbing in Stockport, though sadly I hadn't given the Pub Curmudgeon enough notice but Heaton Norris is on my agenda for a summer Friday soon so watch this space.

Tonight I'd see a different side of Stockport.  Before Saturday, it's always made me think Liver n Onions in the Tiviot, weird Twin Peaks gurners in the Pineapple, balancing an OBB on a stool by a fire in Boar's Head, moaning Man City fans in the Crown or a pint of Old Tom in Swan With Two Necks whilst staring at a weird rooflight and a dying man.  But now was time for the 21st century, and it still managed to do it really well which I actually almost find annoying!

1364 / 2110.  Remedy Bar & Brewhouse, Stockport

You see what I mean?  Sounds shit, looks a bit shit, followed in a 70 year old prostitute with fag hanging out of her mouth teetering on platforms, and yet it still manages to be a great experience!  Even the beer wasn't that amazing.  Hard to know what style they were going for, but comfy armchairs and freakish art work gave way to a modern bar area, with brewing equipment showing through the glass.  A bit like Sheffield Tap crossed with Victoria in Birmingham City Centre, with a bit of Drygate Glasgow thrown in just to drag it down a notch.  A woman propping up the bar who looked like the twildcatcher glared at me like I'd escaped.  I ordered the only Remedy beer I could see, a stout.  'Unfined'  (as if I'd be able to tell!)  "THE STOUT? .... THAT ONE THERE?  REALLY?" said the barman as though I'd made a mistake, he didn't trust their own ale, or perhaps like so many, he thought in warm weather, stout will never sell.  Which is why I make a point of drinking it on hot summer days just to be contrary!   Two blokes with crazy hair appeared from the brewery side.  The brewers?  Or members of a Scandanavian metal band?  It was hard to tell.  But both smiled and appraised my pint as it slowly disappeared as if to say "Living Proof that Dudes can Drink our Beer and Survive" (which incidentally is track 8 on their debut album 'Stockport Stockholm Syndrome').  A steady stream of young punters came in, plus thankfully a grey Louis Theroux who proved to be the Twildcatcher's new focus, for she eyed him longingly.  As my barman and the two rockers taught a young barmaid how to 'bang' tequila properly, I realised I was properly in the midst of a Saturday night out and it was time to move on, or die!   But just time for Martin Taylor to remind me to go into the loo and admire the Manga artwork, which spoke to me in a pubby way.

Classic graffiti as Stockport hits the 21st Century

Scandanavia Stockport Stockholm Syndrome Brewer Collective

An owl on a grumpy maiden on a horse with clock innards.  So typically Stockport.

Brewery is through here if you give a fuck, which I didn't.
Me trying to get to six rural Cornwall pubs in one day

Me explaining why I'm not going to a pre-emptive, before it then gets in the next GBG

I somehow got lost on the way to the next pub even though I reckon it was pretty much on the same street visible from remedy.  But I did see one I'm sure was in a recent GBG looking a bit worse for wear so glad I dodged that one. .......

Lovely skip though

Pub Curmudgeon had told me of the next place "good luck in getting a city on a Saturday night .... mega lolz" (I paraphrase him slightly) but as I approached in the Stockport sunset, my initial feeling was that he was going to be right ......

The most beautiful Stockport photo ever taken

"Flies around shit"

1365 / 2110.  Bakers Vaults, Stockport

One thing was clear, this wasn't going to be the grimy backstreet boozer I'd expected in my mind's eye, but an altogether more fashionable square high-ceilinged effort with racks of wine hanging from every upper orifice, like they too had been on the phone to Messrs Brunning & Price.  But best of all, everyone was outside enjoying what was left of the sun and the warm air, so PLENTY of room within.  As my sister once said of outdoor pub drinkers "like flies around shit" and although the pub wasn't shit, you can see where she was coming from.   And those who were inside seemed to be attracted to the spotlights / candles like stupid drunken moths (no offence Mr Mackay) so I had plenty of room.  Not that service was that quick, I still had time to think "ooh I'll get a Unicorn cos it is 'tradition'" before remembering that's my Preston tradition, so I could actually drink what I want!  So I had a Nottingham Brewery Bullion and by gum, strike me blind.  Pint of the day by a mile, and one of my best this year, absolute nectar.  Who'd have thought it from a place with such dodgy acoustics and gin love?  I turned to see two women trying to engage a 50's jukebox in conversation, presumably not used to seeing one of such quality, and had mistaken it for an alien being.  I managed to get a prime position in a slightly raised area all to myself, overlooking the whole pub.  The 'Remedy' crowd started to appear one by one, including Stockport Catherine Ryan and friend, 'The Woman in White', but I remained undisturbed, even when the lairiest man started a 'Sit Down' by James singalong and demanded the whole pub join in.  They actually did, I did!  The man who served me seemed to be turning into Kid Creole, and kept boogieing past me and winking, though I'm not sure where his Coconuts were (no, don't Russ!)  In the loo, a man was drying his groin on a hand dryer with some ferocity.  "Spillage!" he barked bitterly at me with an air of regret.  A pub that had no right to be so good.  Wonderful. 

"Hello, who are you and what planet are you from?"

A handled mug I actually didn't mind too much

James Sit Down singalong idea is forming in a certain someone's head....
And how had I remained sober and focused throughout?  Was getting hammered on Friday night good for me?  Or was it the two litres of coconut water (hipster me!) I drank from Northwich Aldi?

It was the first time of the big train timetable changeover, and chaos struck in L**ds when the driver didn't arrive, although they changed the excuse to "trespassers on line" which was a pointless and blatant lie as every other train was moving towards York.

I missed the one 5 minutes later because I helped two old dears with their luggage, and there wasn't room for me to get on!  Proof it never pays to be kind, I thought, but as I sat on the original defunct train, my sister randomly hopped on having been out on lash in Brighouse.  Serendipity!  A nice end to a great day ..... Cheshire ALMOST done, and the Greater Manc march continues.

See you Fri night for some more BRAPtastic action from the North West.