As I walked the 'mean streets' of Falmouth on Friday morning, it was hard to believe this was the same town where last year I visited three pubs, the Seven Stars, the 'Front and the Boathouse. It just didn't quite feel like the same town!
Falmouth doesn't really leave an impression on me as a place, 'nice', 'lovely', 'gentle', 'scenic', not proper Cornish rugged like Helston and the like, yet not as gorgeous chocolate boxy as some places I've seen like Fowey and Mevagissey.
But I was excited about my pub, the last one down in Cornwall this year, as it doubles up as a bookshop, which must be fairly unique. So how would it fare?
1395 / 2141. Beerwolf Books, Falmouth
As you can see above, as I climbed the forboding wooden stairs and was confronted by books, I was getting 'bookshop' a lot more than 'bar' at this point and thought I might have to push a secret bookshelf to reveal the bar, or at least a toilet. They've missed a trick there, for I turned right and saw the bar just behind me. A selfish stripey woman and her Mum were ordering coffee and you could smell it and here the rumble of the machine. I forgave them on the basis they both smiled, and being 10:48am, coffee probably seemed a more sensible choice than real ale at this time, well for novices like them!! I was pleased to note a range of mainly Shiny beers from Derbyshire, a great brewery and I was sick to the back teeth of seeing the likes of Doom Bar, Tribute, Badgers Arsehole, Potion 9 and Trelawny by this stage. The bloke serving kept pretending to read a book to keep the bookshop illusion alive, and had the hair and expression of a man who ran a relaxed set up, but still wanted to be considered something of a philosopher. I paid him in exact change, and not wanting to be 'loaded' with it as I went through airport security later, he got some serious shrapnel. He look quizzical from the moment I started paying with coinage at all, something that seems an increasing theme when I buy pints in pubs down south. I went to browse the books, and was sad to not find a copy of the 1975 Good Beer Guide, which I am almost certain doesn't actually exist. I then spotted some weird retro games machines (note - the Creature from the Black Lagoon says no to drugs, very much the Zammo of his day). It didn't seem in keeping with the atmosphere created otherwise, so I can only assume they'd paid a trip to York Brewdog, thought "what a hilarious and quirky idea", and recreated it down here. After all, the soothing hubbub that this place had was rather special, for reading, drinking a pint, or both. A fitting way to end a serious week of Cornish pub ticking!
|Our barman merges into a handpump|
I won't bore you with the details of my flight back to L**ds Bradford or my weird taxi driver who tried to panic me by saying the 'Royal Cornwall Show' at Wadebridge might mean I'll miss my flight (yeah, okay hun, I DO watch BBC Breakfast News with Minchin and State and that Geordie bint). I didn't ever come close to missing it, and for a 4th Newquay-L**ds Bradford journey in a row, the flight was delayed.
But no sooner had I got in and eaten and slept, but I was meeting Daddy BRAPA the following morning to finish South Yorkshire, in one of those "you'll need a car to get there" locations.
Nice to have some human company, and nice to breathe in some fresh Yorkshire air after that muggy Cornish stuff. Eee by gum. We pulled up to the pub about 11:50am and waited ......
1396 / 2142. Old George, Sykehouse
But before 12 noon, an excitable group of Brummies (always the worst type) on bikes started hovering and eventually knocked on the car window and asked me if the pub is opening at 12. "That's what mi book says!" I tell them, using my battered GBG to swat them away from our personal space like naughty flies trying to land on a dead animal carcass (that's how rough I felt by this stage of my hols!) It got to 12 noon, and still no massive attempt at opening was made by our South Yorkshire patrons, so the Brummies started getting agitated and impatient and knocking on doors whilst we sat back and waited like seasoned campaigners. And when the door was unbolted and flung open at 12:02, the Brummies surprisingly hung back, and let us go first. They obviously didn't want first pint out of the barrel, very Tayloresque. The pub was pretty large, so were the jolly staff, and I got a pint of something from Butcombe (proper Northern brewer, none of this Cornish muck!) and looked dubiously at the fish on the food blackboard (see below) and remembered my bowels weren't in the best of conditions. Stock, Aitken and Waterman hits played, they are still "all the rage" in Sykehouse, the only place left on earth where Jason Donovan is still top of the "hit parade". I could tell Dad was preferring a bit of Rick Astley, who gets far too many mentions in BRAPA blogs for a man who isn't dead yet. Although you could say the pub was 'prepared' for diners, it wasn't 'geared' for it (subtle difference) with a subdued carpetted Yorkshire feel if you could ignore the many Carlsberg St George flags - yes we know the World Cup is nearly upon us!
|Poo and Peas?|
|Dad completes South Yorkshire!|
|I HAD to have this one!|
I only had 24 hours to unpack from Cornwall, pack again, and plan my strategy for the second part of my holiday in Cambridgeshire. Ugh! If it hadn't been for the hospitality, taxi service and fine company of Martin Taylor (oh plus the fact I'd spent a fortune on hotel and train travel), I'd simply spend my second week in York with a cold compress to the head catching up on Neighbours and these now criminally overdue blogs!
But by the time I sent RM my rough agenda (see below), my appetite for Cambs pub ticking was back.
Because of the cold Monday morning in York contrasting with the hot summer lunchtime in Cambridge, Martin had the air of an Ibizan holiday rep when he met me just outside the station, and walked me to my nearest pub to kick things off ......
1397 / 2143. Flying Pig, Cambridge
Quite a 'cute' little pub for starters, I couldn't quite pick what kind of style it was going for. On one hand, it felt like a European cafe, on the other, a giggy music studenty bar, and judging by the odd assortment of folk dotted about the room, a miserable old man's pub. The best outcome of the three of course, the latter. With me and Martin both at a bar at the same time, our approachable barkeep wasn't going to have an easy ride, and after Martin made him sweat with some "give me your best beer or else you are OUT of the GBG" style questions (not a direct quote), I asked nicely how the effin' hell a pub could open 12-11 on weekdays but only 7-11 on Sat & Sun? He gave me some gubbins about the owners liking to 'do stuff with their twilds on weekends' so I nodded in a 'you have passed the test' kind of way, and we went to sit down. "I have no concept of space in pubs" says Martin, as we almost sat on a blokes knee in the window. The bloke didn't mind the invasion though, for when we moved to another seat also near him, he blatantly eavesdropped for the next hour. We were only talking 'shop' (i.e. intricacies of GBG entries in Cambs and Cornwall) but he rubbed his knees in that way Vic Reeves did whenever Ulrika appeared, whenever we said something like 'Trengilly Wartha', 'Chorley is ace' or 'Great editing by Protz'. Bet he was a CAMRA spy. An old bloke opposite got smiled at by me, immediately crumbled and left, and then a young man with a guitar on his back (no need for that) kept walking around as though people might be impressed. He was in the wrong place, which says a lot for this pub, it lacked the pretentious air I first feared when we came in. A good start then, beer was just about above average.
(Si Beer Score : B- = Pleasant but needs a bit more life, poor glassware).
|Note the little piggy heads on the pumps to make the beer taste like bacon|
|Bloke spots the hidden BRAPA CCTV on the ceiling|
|Bloke who had to leave when I smiled politely at him, but he was just drinking condiments.|
|Just never quite convinced, glass didn't help, Adnams!|
|You enjoying our conversation mate?|
|I'm sure you're a cool dude but you're impressing no-one here|
Well, good to get the first one under my belt. I said farewell to Martin until Wednesday morning, I had plenty of pubbing to do before the sun set over Cambridgeshire......
Join me for tales from Grantchester, Fulbourn and co. next time.