Tuesday 31 July 2018

BRAPA - Wear and Tyne, Feeling Fine (Part 2 of 2)

'Twas midway through my Saturday pub ticking extravaganza, as I looked to complete the fake county of Tyne & Wear for the first time in BRAPA history, my last chance in this area before the 2019 GBG is released next month. 

I didn't feel that I'd seen the true 'heart' of Washington yet, despite having visited three pubs which the GBG lists under the town.  It's like Stroud or something, if that isn't too controversial to say.  But a walk to the bus station took me through the Galleries Shopping Centre, where like all good Shopping Centres, I got totally lost trying to find the way out.  If I ever get to appear on Room 101, it would have to be a 5 hour special, and I'd definitely choose Shopping Centres.  I had a panic attack in the one in Melbourne, and in Doncaster I lost a part of my soul.

The West Herrington pub ticking crowd wait patiently for the bus
I pressed the bell too early on the bus, and despite having told the nice lady bus driver I was going to Stables and she totally understood what I meant, she still 'hoyed' me out 5 mins down the street.  Not good when you have a poorly knee which you don't like to mention. 

The pub location was confusing, in a strange modern housing estate and hidden between a gap in the hedge.  I heard pubby noises, like clinking glasses and fake laughter, so I decided I must be close, so I snuck in through the bushes and saw some signs to confirm it. 

Might be a pub?

Does that say 'Stables'?

Definitely the right place!

1446 / 2192.  Stables, West Herrington

I thought this was a real cracker, in spite of myself, for it was in many ways a posh dining pub!  But it was so dark, low roofed, strangely decorated (piano, violin, phantom of opera mask, deer, trilby, ice skates) and full of happy positive staff led by Gillian, who served a great pint of Tim Taylor Landlord (not quite Whalebone, Hull, that's the benchmark, but still above average).  I actually felt quite under-dressed with my long shorts, t-shirt and knee support, this was a far cry from Wetherspoons, and one thing I disliked was the attitude of my fellow customers, who eyed me far too judgily for Wearside, I'd go as far as to say they had that 'Ember Inn Superiority Complex' about them, and I can't be much more insulting than that.   Yet every time a staff member walked past, it was beaming smiles and indecipherable comments about working hard in a pub.  One nice customer was found totally by accident when I walked the wrong way to the toilet.  To the right of the bar at the front, there seemed to be a hidden second bar, and a man with a tube sticking out of his face with a terrible cough pointed me in the right direction.  It was an ethereal moment, to match a pub that had an almost Narnia-esque air about it.  But it was the dark that held me, like a reassuring hug, and thinking back to some of my earliest happy pub experiences, many were at the New White Bear near L**ds, that same dark comfort as I played with fuzzy felts and ate scampi & chips as an 80's twild, in slightly grottier surroundings.  That pub was demolished recently, no tears were shed*, but it shaped my pub love.  Back to reality, and it is worth noting that recently knighted World Cup hero Sir Jordan Henderson (a modern day Sir William de Wessyngton) is a Herrington lad, and you could imagine finding him moisturising his face in the mirror here, with Nivea of course, the superior brand of men's moisturising products.  I had a bus to catch.

*A local counsellor called it a 'heap of junk with no historic value', so bang goes my pub twildhood!

New White Bear in the 80's, when I was a twild roaming free with my fuzzy felts

The Steps in Washington needed this more than here.  But when it 'slips out'?  Surely more than F words??

The height of sophistication

Never trust a bloke called Dann.  Dann?  DANN??
The most depressed old man in West Herrington helped me stand on the right side of the road for the bus up to Sunderland, home of my University days 1997-2000 and I still have a lot of love for the place, as we approached down Chester Road where I lived for the last 2 years of my stay.

All the hot spots were on my UCAS application (Luton, Middlesbrough, Ormskirk, Salford & Leicester) but when I ordered fish, minty peas and chips upstairs in Sunderland Littlewoods with my Mum and sister and got treated so nicely by the staff, I knew this was the town for me.  (And I say 'town' because 'city' doesn't do Sunderland justice).  Great people.   

In '97, my first year,  Freshers vouchers saw student after student visit William Jamesons Wetherspoons for a Spicy Chicken Burger and  pint of Fosters special offer between 3-5pm every weekday apart from Fri, if I remember correctly.  Me and my flatmates came here about 6 times before Jane (who later stole our washing machine!) learned the staff were getting sick of it, and tried to put a premature end to the deal.  So when I started seeing this pub in the GBG after BRAPA started, I was conscious that whilst I could 'tick it off', I'd never had a pint of ale in here.  Hell, I didn't even know it was a Wetherspoons   I didn't actually know what a Wetherspoons was til I went to Northwich Penny Black in 2001.   So I had a wrong to right today!

William Jameson, Sunderland

My first impressions were 'I thought the decor was more blue' (and I mean literally blue, not rude), but today, it was the more traditional Spoons deep red colours.  I guess they could've had a refurb, but more likely my Fosters addled brain can't remember 21 years back.  I perched right on the edge of the bar by a pillar and ordered a Daleside to keep the Yorkshire theme going, in vain searching for my 'Spoons vouchers, alas not this time (I later found them buried in my GBG, in the Luton page actually!)  so I paid full whack.  Ouch(!) I was just trying to gather myself, bag, knee, pint, charger, phone, when I was aware of a pair of middle aged nob heads to my left where the pillar was.  Despite the huge swathes of empty bar to my right, they waited impatiently til I moved so I took my time and glared at them as they ordered Strongbow over my head, like the twats they were.  My Daleside was finely kept, but not a nice beer, had that weird 'over hoppy not in a good way' thing going on, and behind me, a trio of 18 year old chav Mums failed to control noisy twild.  One had hooped earrings so impossibly large, a budgie could balance so happily on there, animal rights would commend her on offering said budgie such a high quality of life.  I unslyly ate a cheese ploughmans sandwich from my bag, a couple noticed, and I felt like the biggest pikey in this 'Spoons, which made me sort of proud, sort of ashamed.  I went for a piss and my phone buzzed, 'twas Father BRAPA, I took the call as he wondered what the trickling water sound was, it was half time at Oakwell, and Hull City were 1-1 in a pre-season friendly at Barnsley.  I relayed all he said at the sink to try and impress my fellow Mackem pissers, but they didn't seem to care. 

Time to take the Metro up to Newcastle, from where I needed a Neville St bus to one of either two locations, and I decided it would all depend on which bus turned up first.  It was actually the 'least regular' of the two, and soon I was on a steamy double decker out to Newburn to the west on the banks of the Tyne. 

Thank goodness for the little blue dot on Google Maps, for I wouldn't have had the foggiest where to press the bell otherwise.  This bus driver stopped in the right place.

And to my surprise, the heavens had opened, even more than earlier in the day in Washington.  As I turned right down a side street, the wind lashed the rain with force right into my face.  Luckily, I'd found a grey hat in my bag, to (sort of) compensate for my total lack of jacket, coat, sleeves etc.  It took my breath away, was like jumping into a cold swimming pool. 

But BRAPA has made me a natural optimist, and for all this temporary pain, I thought the state I'd look when I strode into this pub would at least cause an amused reaction amongst staff & locals.  But in my mind's eye, I was picturing a pub like the Wheat Sheaf in Felling, i.e. a proper pub. 

And then I saw Big Lamp brewery, never had anything other than a cracking pint from Big Lamp, and as if fate read my mind, Wheat Sheaf in Felling is a Big Lamp pub too! 

From the outside then, and perhaps a few warning signs were flashing by now, it looked a little bit 'nice' and had a few people milling around the entrance who were old blokes with missing teeth stinking of old fag ash. 

1447 / 2193.  Keelman, Newburn

And sure enough, my soaked to skin big hatted entrance hardly caused an eyelid to bat, even though the change I handed over for my typically gorgeous straw coloured crystal clear Big Lamp Something or Other   was soaking wet.  There was not a seat in the house, and no way I was off to explore the conservatory at the back which was little more than a family fun area.  No, this was like a brighter flashier version of Rochdale's Healey.  All I could do was stand at the bar, next to a fan which I wasn't sure whether it was drying me, or just making me colder.  A few photos did the trick(!) and the two tables nearest me departed within 10 minutes of my arrival and I had a decent amount of leg room, as other standing people decided they'd rather block the entrance to the bar area rather than create space for other customers and sit down at empty tables.  I did look a bit like a serial killer though with my hat complimenting my knee support, it's almost like I now go into new pubs like Humphrey Smith does in his pubs, just to see what my shabby appearance will bring!  And then, just when I thought the customers couldn't get much more irritating, they QUEUED.  The ultimate insult.  What are they doing?  Even the staff looked a bit confused, especially as a whole empty area of bar was available immediately to the right where I'd earlier stood by the fan.  Good job the beer was ace and the barmaid occasionally smiled, for I'd have been apoplectic otherwise.

Prince Bishop ale was the one I got, lovely stuff

In the pubbiest part of the pub, the main bar area

Terrifying everyone

This blackboard made me want a coffee actually

Don't queue you utter bunch of saucepans!

Taken at same time as above shot.  LOOK!  Loads of room. 

Back at the bus stop, I had a nice chat with a Jamaican lad who'd just finished a shift at Walbottle recycling plant.  He loved BRAPA concept but thought I was mad, lovely bloke.  Even if he did think York was about 5 hours from Newcastle.  

Back in the 'Toon, it was now obvious I wasn't gonna squeeze in my sixth and final pub, the Sun Inn at Swalwell, but I don't mind cos it gives me an even better excuse to come back to this superb part of the UK when the 2019 GBG throws up a new selection of micros and craft kitchens listed under Wear & Tyne.  

I thought 'perhaps the Centurion is better than I remember' so wandered in looking for ale, but it looked disgusting, so I walked back out and got a very happy coffee that looked like something on the Big Lamp blackboard, kind of. 

And then I saw a Sainsburys across the way, so decided to drunkenly do my weekly food shop before the train which was a lot of fun.  Balancing six eggs all the way home and dodging racegoers was like something off Krypton Factor, never mind Crystal Maze.  

Getting the eggs home!

So, Blackpool begins tomorrow.  I'm not taking the GBG as my bag is too heavy, but in between punk rock, I have a list of TEN pubs I'd like to get to if time allows.  I've packed a green highlighter and a hand written mini GBG!


Monday 30 July 2018

BRAPA - Airing my Dirty Washington in Public

Accurate representation of drinkers in Washington 'Spoons

It is 'laundry' I know, but I was desperate for a blog title so you'll just have to accept it.

So here I was, ready to complete Tyne & Wear.  Six pubs left to do.  But can we call it 'Wear & Tyne' please?  After all, Sunderland is better than Newcastle.  More on that in part two.  And also, as the famous saying I've just made up goes "Wear before Tyne, leaves you feeling fine.  Tyne before Wear, leaves you sick of beer".  Snappy, eh?

Washington was the key morning destination.  I was hungover from a night on the Coors & Corona at a Work's Do, my knee (which I promise not to mention) was improving now I had a knee support on, but as a bloke from Rotherham commented, walking around with shorts and a knee support gave me an element of the Keith Lemon in my demeanour.  Not a look I was going for.

Having said that, as I took a bus from Heworth Interchange (hey Rochdale, some Interchanges are where they are supposed to be!) to Concord bus station (a new northerly bit of Washington) in the pouring rain, I looked like a proper Tim Martin devotee as I hobbled in at 9:30am .......

It's raining, it's pouring, Wetherspoons is calling

1443 / 2189.  Sir William de Wessyngton, Washington

So the week had it's second 'Spoons, and another nice low roofed unpretentious effort, just like they all should be.  My health giving pint of Workie Ticket was served with a big head, which I didn't feel the need to ask to be topped up.  I'm in the North East, I'd paid £1.49 and been called 'darling'.  I'm no southerner, I know the drill.  There was a buzz about the place not just caused by two old blokes slipping into comas at regular intervals, but a selection of racegoers off to Blaydon or wherever modern day Geordies and Mackems do their horsing.  The suited men were fairly standard clones of York and Chester, but the ladies were something else.   Fashions and styles you applaud in 'Spoons, but would never make the Channel 4 ladies day at Ascot televised cut.  It filled up too, a man with headphones sang dreadfully to himself, a twild in full frog costume hopped past me ribbiting in 'cameo of the day', and a succession of elderly gents failed to get to grips with the complexities of the coffee machine, which allowed self service and unlimited re-fills.  A fine invention by Timmy lad, as we all remember the days where you could be queuing in 'Spoons  for hours for a pint because the coffee breakfast scum monopolised the bar space.  So who was Sir William de Wessyngton then?  Well, he was a Norman knight who loved a bit of crack in 'Spoons, an ale drinker, but his ancestors moved to the U S of A, because they preferred Bud Light to Big Lamp.  Sad but true.  Probably.   A good week for 'Spoons then after the Regal Moon success, another good example in the chain.

Spot the non racegoer

Blokes try to work out the coffee machine

Headphones man loved a good sing song


Gin scrabble and even though it is 9:30am, I'm not the first person to sit here

Ashamed of his ancestors probably

I'd had to nurse my pint in the Sir William, for pub two didn't open til 11am and although it was a good 40 minute trek, I thought in light of the weather and knee I don't like to talk about, a quick bus ride down through Washington to an area called Biddick or something, where the Arts Centre is.  Yes, it wouldn't be a Tyne & Wear BRAPA day without a trip to some kind of Arts Centre or other.

It is this-a-way
 10:55am when I arrived, and turned right under an archway to the errrm Courtyard area, where the fittingly named 'Courtyard' pub was.  It was as dead as a door nail.  Across the yard, I spied a potential micro pub .....

I knew it wasn't really a micropub, but use of the word 'crafty', a comedy cow, some misjudged artwork within, and the poky building which housed it meant it had many of the hallmarks of a Hiller Award Winner.  The staff who were supervising some painting twild life looked a bit concerned by my presence, but seeing from their point of view, I'm probably lucky I wasn't placed on the Wearside Sex Offenders register (the worst sex offenders register to be on) by now. 

After a few more minutes sheltering under various awnings, I peered in through the front door of the dead looking Courtyard hoping it wasn't a 12 noon opener (Whatpub actually said 10am!) when a lively pink haired lass appeared and unlocked the door .....

1444/2190.  Courtyard, Washington

I apologised if I'd appeared to be impatient to get in (even though I was, yet still only 11:04am I noticed!) and I was handed over to a rather stressed out colleague of hers, puffing & panting, who, through endearing braces on her teeth, told me she'd had a bad morning but was amazed the place wasn't already full of pensioners demanding coffee & cake.  I nearly told her they were all in 'Spoons struggling to operate the machine.  She was amazed just to find change in the till when I came to pay with a £10 note.  True, Twitter legend Matthew Lawrenson had an incident today where a pub actually lost the till and had to reimburse him from the tip jar, so you can't take these things for granted!  Eight ales were on, mainly micros so I scanned them for a brewery I'd been recommended by a Mackem mate, but couldn't see it, so got something with a North East sounding name.  Sadly, my ale was on poor form well before the midway point, poorest pint of the day by far and really should have exchanged it, vinegar by the end.  Speaking of which, as much as I appreciated the cosy, friendly, laid back set up here, it didn't quite recreate the 'Exchange' in North Shields for arty real ale joy.  A complex wander to the loo was interesting, as a bloke was stood in the foyer simply staring at a blank wall, but smiling.  I'll never understand art!   I was then recommended a Geordie comedian who's on tour, described by Ross Noble as being a bit like Geoff from Byker Grove.  Back in the bar, a plasma screen proudly displaying the current GBG was leaving me feeling conflicted.  The quietness allowed me to listen in on anecdote of the day, between the two barmaids.  An old woman in a local Metro station had taken a twig from her bag, started waving it about, and then told everyone it was Harry Potter's wand.  My brain couldn't take much more.  Time to go.

Great BM, shame about the ale.

The only other customer was an old man, here we are chillin'

Note GBG on plasma
 It was a 27 minute walk in a straight line north to my final Washington pub.  I was flying low.  I realised when an old man and his greyhound scowled at my crotch.  And then, all at once, my phone started ringing and it was only Twitter's own 'John Depeche Modem'.  He sounded like he was being attacked by seagulls, but explained he was on a beach in Sussex, Wittering (appropriately enough!) and had tried to like my Tweet about the fake micropub incident, but it hadn't worked, and was worried the Russians had intercepted it or something.  Anyway, after a nice chat including Luton, Rotherham and me being on the right side of the Pennines for once, I told him I was lost and had to go so I could look at my map.

I was only a minute away, I'd walked straight past it, but here we were, and it looked not like a Wetherspoons or an Arts Centre, but an old pub.  How novel. 

Look at its cute little face!

1445 / 2191 Steps, Wahington

And what a beautiful pub this was, situated on Spout Lane, I think it should keep the pre 1976 name of Spout Lane Inn, it'd suit it more.  It had the classic features, a green toilet door that looked like it was made from human skin, some gorgeous tiled flooring, stained glass, multi rooms, and just a few moody looking old married couples who'd long since ran out of conversation.  But something had to irritate me, and it was the young barman.  A floppy haired upstart from the get go, one of those punchable faces that seems to permanently smirk in a "I'm winning at life, you ain't" kind of way.  I'd been tempted by some interesting local stouts in pubs one and two, so I finally caved in and ordered one.  Well, I don't know if he'd had the Guinness 'good things come to those who wait' training, for he left it half poured, and went off to chop limes, to the point both me and the big lad next to me thought he'd just absent-mindedly forgotten.  Finally, he walked back past it, smirked at me, stood behind a door and chatted for a few more seconds, and eventually topped it up.  It probably only equated to about 3 minutes, but it felt like an eternity.  My mood was lifted by three blokes, the only voices in the pub, one, the chief raconteur was the sweariest bloke in BRAPA history, beating a guy in Seven Stars, Stithians, for the most 'fucks' in a ten minute period,so to speak.   In between all the 'gannin', 'ayes', 'alreets' and 'hoying stuff into the back of a Land Rover', it was fuck this, fuck that, culminating in him falling into a ditch (in the story, not in the pub) and everyone taking photos of him where he, you guessed it, called them all 'fucking fuckers'.  The fact it was all told under a music video of Freddie Mercury camping it up in 'The Great Pretender', followed by a skin tight Rod Stewart, just brought the whole thing into disrepute.  Marvellous pub this one. 

Great, but was it worth the wait?

Human skin probably

If you fell drunkenly forwards, but also in reverse, this might be the last thing you see

The lads who really brought the party to the Steps
Well, the day was still young.  Plenty to do, and I had a bus station which was about 20 mins walk away to get to.  How big was Washington anyway? 

Join me tomorrow night for more crazy tales of North Eastern pub life.


Sunday 29 July 2018

BRAPA - Blogchdale

I was feeling a bit ill / being a hypochondriac when I arrived in 'beautiful' Rochdale on a balmy but reassuringly grey Tuesday evening, for about my 20th trip to the town.

I had a limp from a recently twisted left knee, and could feel a bit of the dreaded 'man-flu' taking a hold.  But on the bright side, hobbling away from the railway station hacking my guts up with snot dripping from my nose can only lead to respectful nods in a town like Rochdale.  'It's okay, he's one of us' thought the locals.

Even if I'd been singing a Lisa Stansfield / Gracie Fields medley with a Co-op carrier bag swinging from my arm, I couldn't have felt more accepted as one of them.

Confusion reigned as I knew I needed to get a bus from the 'Interchange', which in most places means a bus station / railway station hybrid, or at least some stops just outside.  But not Rochdale.  I discovered an extra 9 minute walk was required which I'd not been expecting.

Pub one was a good 2 and a bit miles north of the centre, and the bus driver was one of those crazy chatty blokes, who told me with some regret that he'd have to sell me a day ticket even though I was only doing one journey.  "You might be a mystery shopper for all I know!" he commented quite randomly.  Jeez, had I been spending too much time with sometime BRAPA devotee, Tom Irvin, the worlds most transparent mystery shopper?

Anyway, I'd been looking forward to this pub for a long time, it always just evaded me on Hull City football days of old, but being in the GBG for 36 of the last 40 years had to bode well, didn't it?

1440 / 2186.  Healey, Rochdale

It might well have been the high sense of anticipation, but this pub just fell a bit flat for me.  Early signs were good, a bunch of old blokes with big bellies, tank tops and medallions carved into the walls which they presumably never move from, smiling reassuringly as I walked to the bar in the way Lancastrians do better than anyone.  The bar was small, and just three ales were on - and about as North West Robinsonsy as it comes, Trooper, Unicorn and Dizzy Blonde.  Unicorn it was, cos a bloke before me got it.  The young barman was far too softly spoken to work in a pub, couldn't hear a word he said and could only make out the 'fifty' when he told me how much my ale cost.  I guessed £2.50 was most likely here, perhaps optimistic, was actually £3.50 so he had to come back to me for the extra quid.  There was nowhere to sit in the bar area and the voice of twildery emanated from a bright conservatory infested with Mummys and Buggys.  So I compromised and sat in the corner, opposite two Mums and Tweenage Girls eating Chocolate Cake with ice cream and cappuccinos.  It may have contained a hidden ingredient too judging by the insane laughter and jukebox singalong.  Jeez, this was a bit different from my typical classic Rochdale pub experiences of old in places like Baum, Brittania, Albion and Cemetery.  This was vaguely 'gastro', well for Rochdale anyway, it still had things like Beef Rag Pudding on the menu which you presumably can't find in South Kensington.   And I was quite rushed for time, having to spend exactly 25 minutes here before rushing outside to flag down the bus going back the other way.

Peachy and full bodied ..... the Unicorn I mean, stop being inappropriate!

Either very similar to above photo or background bloke is stuck in this position

Right on cue, our same legendary bus driver sped around the corner and picked me up, with a look of either guilt or regret in his eyes, I couldn't quite work it.

The 'interchange' was right by pub number two, so at least saved my poor knee any more trauma.

1441 / 2187.  Regal Moon, Rochdale

By contrast to the Healey, I never 'highly anticipate' a trip to a new Wetherspoons, because you generally know what you are going to get, and that is possibly why I'm often surprised with how much I enjoy the experience.  And before we get into the weird detail (and there's plenty of it), I want to let you know this is a fine example of when the chain gets it spot on.  Low roofed, spacious, comfortable, cracking hubbub, toilets not requiring a 5 mile hike to reach, friendly.  It is no surprise the best 'Spoons I go to are in towns like Rochdale, Maltby, Runcorn and the like.  But like I say, weird stuff happened.  It often does when I'm in pubs.  I blame pubs, not myself, and this allows me to sleep at night!  At the bar, I spy a JW Lees stout for only £1.49, and with a 'Mudgie' voucher, I was aware this was gonna be my cheapest pint of the year!  "I'll only be able to give you it for £1 cos we can't go below that" says Katie and her amazing eyebrows.  "Shame, I've always wanted a 99p pint!" I replied, but secretly impressed she knows the 'Spoons Vouchers terms & conditions.  I sat at a posing table, which I've started CHOOSING to do in Wetherspoons, for it affords better views for pub observation though I'm against the things really as they leave me dangling.  I notice my beer is distinctly sulphur.  And I'm just debating whether to take it back, I know I should, when I spot the pumpclip has been removed already.  Bingo!  So no need for explanation, you'd think, but the gormless bloke who serves me still pulls himself a bit and tries it, the fool, grimacing as he realises it has gone.  All the other ales cost £1.99 I can see so go for a Hawkshead Pale (fantastic by the way) but then Mr Gormless is all like "oooh oooh, Katie, this one costs more, how are we gonna do this?" and I'm thinking 'no way I'm paying the difference' but she snaps "Just give him it!" and Mr Gormless is like "yes mistress" (not an exact quote, but obvious she's the boss).  While all this was going on, she was removing some Stroke Association Charity Box collectors, and good, for charity collecting in pubs is a massive pet hate of mine.   Then, all is calm for the next 15 minutes with just a gentle hubbub and nothing happening til a man in the raised area leaps up and shouts "I DON'T CARE ABOUT THIS WHOLE FUCKING SITUATION!"  Like fade-out on your fave 70's hit, the pub turned as one to see what the commotion was, apart from one young group in a booth behind me who were absolutely wetting themselves.  All I could see was an 80 year old woman reapplying her lipstick, and within seconds, the hubbub was back to normal.  I loved this place.

The ale of controvsersy

Organist bloke above the bar

'Spoons life

'Spoons life 2

Grainy footage of Stroke lads being told to leave
Well, that was a pick-me-up I needed, and with the Metro station just outside, I had just enough time for a cheeky third pub before the long trip back to York.

Four stops later, I was at Milnrow.  I'd accidentally got a single instead of a return, and forgot about this on the way back.  What is it with me and Metro/Tram accidental fare evading?  I just can't help myself.

The pub was a bit of a walk down a couple of streets, shame for my poor knee which I'm trying not to mention, but soon enough, it came into view .....

1442 / 2188.  Waggon Inn, Milnrow

Milnrow was a bit like Rochdale but with a joviality 'add-on', though my initial impressions here were not hugely favourable as I saw Marstons advertising everywhere and a room of old duffers, wall-to-wall with their faces in the nosebag with the smell of pie and stewed veg.  The main bar area had a much better feel, and what with the Wainwright conditioning in the cellar, it was Jennings Cumberland or Banksies bitter.  Well blow me down, I hadn't seen Banksies since about 2005, used to be a regular in my early real ale days, though my excitement at seeing it wasn't matched by West Midlands woodland folk on Twitter who came back with a load of their language like 'yow', 'bab' and 'bostin'' which made little sense, but made me feel I'd made a poor choice.  A bloke was acting rather OTT to my right, he'd met an old friend he'd not seen for years, and the amount of back slapping and bear hugging that went on was irritating, and probably left the other quieter bloke bruised from head to toe.  And then wandered around the pub asking blokes for their wives phone numbers, and then spoke of St Margarets, Hounslow and Isleworth like most people would about a Greek island holiday.  He had another friend with hair that belonged in 1975.  Milnrow, I was deciding, was a true bastion of old and I was loving it after the slow start.  The barmaid had been a bit over communicative, if that was possible, at the point of service. "I'll top it up soon, but not yet, I'll give it a minute, might need another minute etc etc."  (JUST GET ON WITH IT!)  There was a little side room called 'Terraza'.  It looked shit.  It was totally empty.  People in Milnrow don't want rooms called Terraza, they want rooms called 'Tobacco & Mushy Pea Room', 'the Brexit Lounge' and the 'Whippet Hovel'.   A lesbian couple came to sit at the bar directly in my eyeline.  One was smiley, but the other hopelessly self conscious, and kept glaring at me every time they held hands (jeez, I wasn't even taking my photos!)  I felt like saying "Look, I've ticked the pubs in Brighton AND Hebden Bridge AND Kentish Town so get over yerself!"  Then, there was a slight murmur of discontent from Mr 1975 Hair, the Backslapper and co. as they discovered this week's karaoke had been cancelled because the owners were going on holiday.  "Awwwww" they whined.  Full of life this place, in many ways the perfect example of a PUB.

Woman with bag made out of her dog chats to some of our legends

Rochdale Twild beermats and a very nice Banksies

Terraza looking empty cos it is
Tyne & Wear coming up soon!