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