Thursday 30 August 2018

BRAPA - Boing Boing Baggies in Scab Scab Scarborough

Scarborough reaches peak-Scarborough on murky Bank Holiday Sundays such as this.  So often, I find it a disappointing and unfeeling town.  Not classy enough to be Filey, not delightfully shit enough to be Bridlington.

But when I stepped off the train and walked towards Sam Smith pre-emptive and former GBG entrant, the Golden Ball, dodging dawdling tourists, you could feel a positive energy in the atmosphere I've never felt in the home of the Seadogs before.  People smiled, more people smiled, and even more people smiled.  York residents, it is said (by me, just now), enjoy an annual visit Scarborough just so they can sneer.  No one loves a good sneer more than a York resident.  Not me of course, I've been to Maidenhead.

The Golden Ball was in sight as I got onto the seafront.  As I took the inaugural photo of this pub I'd been meaning to visit for years, my phone buzzed and it was only West Brom's finest Arsenal fan, EL.  He told me to come into the pub and 'get them' and take them straight to Wilson's, the true pre-emptive we'd identified.

So near, yet so far .....

I'm not sure if he'd relayed this information to his gang of four, who seemed surprised this upstart stranger had arrived and was immediately usurping them from their comfy corner seat to go to some unknown mystery place!  Even the jovial table opposite them looked at me like "ey up, what his game then?"

As I apologetically led them out of the side door past the bar, I wouldn't have been surprised if Humph himself had trained his electric cattle prod on me, losing him 5 customers like this, but he wasn't in today.  

In the fresh, damp air as we shimmied the 5 minutes around the corner, and I confessed I'd not been to this pub before but had heard it was restored to ale health, changing it's name from the Leeds Hotel to a non L**ds name can only be an improvement, never mind the 5 handpumps they had on! 

EL's friends were pretty much all called Dave, even 'Stokesy' who told me he prefered to be called Dave, I think.  Oh, apart from Helen, she didn't want to be called Dave.  They were a lovely Black Country gang with links to Scarborough (ooh, sounds like Crimewatch now!), was like I'd known them years within one hour of meeting them. 

As the pub came into view and we climbed a steep hill, a group of Geordie lads sprinted past us shouting "best pub in Scarborough!"  This was a good sign, but they were immediately disappointed when they realised it wasn't about to show their team taking on Chelsea, and left shouting "5 minutes til kick off, howay canny lads" (or something equally stereotypical):

Wilson's, Scarborough

Was me and Helen who arrived first, a chaotic scene at the entrance as two old dears were told off for smoking in the doorway and forced to step out into the rain to let us in, but only after the landlady asked how many of us there were.  "Five" I said, and I murmured something about being well-behaved but she'd already said yes we could come in, but with a warning not to go too far left because live music was about to start.  Oooh, how exciting.  Despite the crush at the bar, a big pub, but a heaving mass, I was served pretty quicksticks, and my Shropshire Gold, whilst not tasting remotely Salopian, was very pleasant in a Deuchars IPA kind of way.  I noticed the lovely tiled bar top despite the many grasping hands laying themselves across it.  The pub was relatively quieter to the forbidden back left so we squashed in the corner, near the bogs, near some old maritime photos of the town.  One of the Dave's teased another Dave (a big Elvis fan) that it was an Elvis tribute, but when he came on, it was Cliff Richard!  (not the real one).  Well, me and EL who were the least bothered about seeing him 'live' could see him on a mini TV screen, he sounded quite good.  I thought he looked like Michael Portillo, but the others said David Cassidy.  I asked 'who is David Cassidy?' and got shocked looks.  I said "what if the real David Cassidy has fallen on hard times and this is him impersonating Cliff?" but they laughed and said he was dead!  Ooops.  Well, I still felt a bit guilty after earlier so I said as soon as we'd finished these, we'd head back to the more tranquil Golden Ball, and everyone was relieved, but a nice pub this, vaguely pre-emptive I'm sure (Scarborough's GBG entries are good but not amazing so room for change) so after a stirring and fitting rendition of 'Summer Holiday' (I also sang the Young Ones version of Livin' Doll), we squeezed our way out through the throbbing throng! 

Golden Ball, Scarborough

I was back here first, perched at a stool with a pint like an obedient little doggy waiting for my owners to return home.  Partly cos I walk fast, partly cos I'm impatient, and partly cos I wanted a pint of OBB, which was okay but am sad to say not one of the better quality Sam's I've had this year.  I can't see it troubling the GBG compilers any time soon.  But of course, no one fucking knows cos no-one's gonna see a new GBG anytime soon! (sorry, bottled up resentment there).   Pub wise though, very nice.  Sadly, their former seat in the raised area had now been taken by the jovial opposite people from earlier, but long thin side rooms, wood panelling, an upstairs loungey bar near weird smelling gents (loos and the real things), this was very Sam Smith this place and to anyone who loves 'old man pubs' that can only be a compliment.  A larger table soon came free, and what better thing to do than get out the ole' 2018 Good Beer Guide and pass it around like a precious gemstone and look for all our fave places - Stourbridge, Muswell Hill, places people called Dave like, and plenty more I'm sure.  Eventually, the staff decided to close the room we were in - booooo, it wasn't even late, so we scrambled, EL and hELen went to smoke so I said goodbye, Helen asked if I got ID'd in pubs ...., she can come on BRAPA trips again with that kind of attitude.  I found the Dave gang upstairs huddled around like Guy Fawkes plotters (if they'd all been called Dave) after I got locked in and had to go the long way around, so said bye to these too and headed off on my merry way stationwards.  

I got back to the station easily for the train I was sure I'd miss, but under the circs of this fine Bank Holiday bonus, I decided to check out another pre-emptive I'd spotted on Whatpub, this one being 10 minutes walk the other side of the station down the Falsgrave Road, where I used to come for football when Hull City were even worse than they are now, which barely seems possible I know! 

Firk Inn, Scarborough

Like it or not, this felt a lot more pre-emptive than the other two, being a micro n all.  I wandered in to find lots of smiling faces, and very unusually for a micro, DOOM BAR as the regular ale with two guests.  I went for a stout, inspired by all the delicious darks EL had been drinking today.   I used the incredibly weird (even by micro standards) toilets, and kind of open intimate trough for two and a sliding door with a rusty not very effective chain if you needed privacy for a poo.  Even I passed this one up.  All the blokes in there were loving it, one encouraged me to pee in a sink which didn't exist, and people kept making micropub platitudes like "no-one's a stranger in here", "you'll make friends for life", "great characters" and other lines straight out of the Hillier script archives.  As I edged to a side shelf with only an old bloke in flat cap dividing me from falling in a cackling 60 year old's cleavage, and that is when I made my main mistake.  I spotted a great Scarborough football sign that evoked memories of those 'Hull City' days and photographed it.  A bloke at the bar saw, nodded his approval and beckoned me over.  He seemed nice at first, football chat, nice and neutral, telling me he loved the club so much, he did unpaid work for them, even though once Hull City fans chanted that he was on benefits when he was earning 50K, still I let this tall tale pass.  But the mood changed when he whispered "but I've got a dark side to me I don't like to talk about!"  So I didn't ask.  He seemed disappointed so he launched into former SAS stories, training men to be robotic killing machines, and how he could kill me in 30 seconds, easy, gesturing his hand towards my neck.  I was a bit scared, I've considered what BRAPA pub I'd want to die in, and a pre-emptive micropub in Scarborough facing a Doom Bar clip was not too high on the agenda.  He was centimetres from my face, one minute he'd tell me if there was ever lairy visitors to this pub, he'd sort 'em out, but the next, would say he wasn't violent and you never get any trouble in here!  I was confused, my stout wasn't neckable, so I felt like I was here hours.  The bloke in the Royal Oak in Wigan, the comedian painter decorator in Wokingham, you get these terrifying folk on occasions, but I am glad to say they are few and far between! 

Well, that was a high octane day and I was glad to be 'ome, glad I had the Monday to recover too!  And now to wait for the new Good Beer Guide to arrive any day......   but errrm, hang on, well problems on that front .... but more on that in my next blog!


Wednesday 29 August 2018

BRAPA - What a Load of Cobblers. What a Pile of Pies. (Hunmanby and Filey)

Newcastle-under-Lyme may've felt like a rather heavy day on the Saturday, but 11 hours of the good old dreamless, and a restorative pick-me-up (well, iced coffee and banana) meant I was as fresh as the veritable Bertie Wooster on Sunday morning as I toddled off to the east coast.

The weather was as British August Bank Holiday as one could expect, and Seamer railway station must be one of the more purgatory-esque places to spend 45 minutes waiting for a connection.

A group of 50 somethings dressed as assorted fruit & veg had already wobbled out at Malton when, on the connecting train, I saw some scroatastic lads on their way to Bridlington.  With no discernible plan for the day ahead.  Pizza Hut, Cinema, Wetherspoons, even 'Titty' Bar, were all mooted as possible suggestions.

The reason I was over this way should probably be clarified now.  EL of West Brom (a lovely bloke off Twitter, AKA Liquid Len, was up in Scarborough on holiday with his mates and having shown me the pubs of Tipton and West Bromwich in Jan 2017, thought a northern meet-up would be nice).

Luckily, and partly due to my reluctance to care too much about the 2018 GBG new entries for North Yorkshire, I had a few 'ticks' I could do outside Scarbs to add a BRAPA element to my day.

And not long after 12:30pm, I was in Hunmanby, which I'd always called Humanby and imagined as some zombie landscape.  It was pretty wild and desolate (or just plain boring) as I crossed two railway lines to find the pub in the heavy drizzle:

1474 / 2220.  PieBald Inn, Scarborough

It'd probably be disingenuous of me to wander into a pub on a Bank Holiday Sunday lunchtime near the coast, which makes no secret of a pie obsession, and start slagging it off for not extolling the full virtues of old fashioned pub life.  I say 'probably'.  Families, buggies, twild-life abound, Grannies were wheeled in, men with sticks dithered, yes, never trust a pub with a capital letter halfway through its name, it may as well have an @ symbol.  Deserves a fair bit of praise in the circumstances though.  I was given a cheery welcome by the barmaid, who seemed to have drawn freckles around her nose to accentuate what I'm not sure, approachability?  Cuteness?  Another barmaid rushed in clutching three limes, whooping.  "It doesn't take much to excite her" said my barmaid rolling her eyes, and I tried to say something witty back but the witty-window had closed and I was left open mouthed with my pint as she served the next punter.  Shame.    I got something pale and Greene Kingy, and actually enjoyed it a lot.   Where to sit?  The bar?  No, I actually found one (and I mean ONE) high stool not geared up for eating, such was its proximity to front door and blackboard menu.  Downside, people kept trying to stare through me to see what was on offer.  Upside, well, I've pubbed enough to know a table like this was a big bonus in this situation.  Let us admire the pies.  A brilliant selection, and not the poncy bullshit dished up by GBG failure Pie n Ale in trendy Manchester (Raspberry Coulis and Lobster Thermidor anyone?)  This was proper.  Beef, chicken, game, black pudding, even fish (did I really see a Seahorse pie?), and the odd veggie one in case my sister walked in.  Peruvian goat would've been my pick, but I was on a timer.  And could we really beat Rotherham's Pukka Beef & Onion straight out of the microwave?  Ping.    Even the Wifi code was a Pie-fi code!  Bit of controversy as one of the many Peroni swillers (this wasn't an ale drinkers pub, not today anyway) couldn't find a table so plonked his order number and pint on mine, so I edged my GBG closer in an attempt to squeeze him out, and glared at him.  He finally pissed off, a worrying moment.  Worried for a second the staff may try and move ME, but they smiled and seemed very happy to have wet-led scum like me in their midst.  So plenty to commend this place all things considered, well done PieBald.

Password : itspietime

Errm, how about pissing off mate?

Fake bookcase wallpaper at end just to upset me

My perspective

Dunno if you can make it out but some funny poster in the gents
To Filey or not to Filey?  Hmmm, did I have time?  I was at a bit of a crossroads, literally.  Ha ha ha.

So yes, I took the bus from Hunmanby church on to Filey bus station, only about 15 minutes, where I had a micro which I really should've done by now .....

1475 / 2221.  Cobbler's Arms, Filey

Northampton Town theme pub, or a former shoe shop?  That was the question on nobody's lips as I tentatively pushed the door to find myself in a thriving Bank Holiday afternoon scene.  Yes, if visiting a pie restaurant on such a day seemed an unwise move, visiting a Micro in a popular seaside resort when it's chucking it down and blowing a cold wind was always going to invite chaos.  It started off manageable enough.  A young Mum had brought takeaway fish & chips in (tick on the micro bingo board straight away)  and three cute West Highland White Terriers were hoping for some of the scraps.  At the bar, the barmaid could barely raise a smile, rare for a micro.  I almost went for a Plum Porter after yesterday's flawed attempts in Newcastle-under-Lyme but it was an imitation by Millstone, a brewery I've never got on with, so I got Acorn Barnsley Bitter, one of my all time faves.  And good it was, though not Plough in Doncaster standard.  Barmaid finally remembered to force one out (a smile I mean!) and all was fine as I squashed between a quizzical looking couple and a tourist rucksack - hate it when people sit on one side of the room, but lay all their bags and coats on a bench elsewhere.  Selfish!  Or is that shellfish in Filey hahahaha,  I wasn't laughing for long.  The peril started when one of three twilds, one bawling his eyes out, rushed in from a hidden side room and he was wearing a full L**ds United kit.  Now there are full kit wankers and there are full kit wankers, and he was the latter.  His Dad was a good bloke.  At the bogs, I asked if he was queuing.  He turned into Chandler from Friends and said "No, I'm trying to control the kids, but they are totally all over the place .... just like their Mom.  Heyyyy, wait, did I just say that out loud?!"   Back in my seat, there were now SIX twilds, a teenager and three more tiny dogs alongside the three Westies.  It was like a cross between a Victorian circus and a zoo.  The Mum tried to get the kids playing dominoes #PubTwild which was commendable, the teen was watching WWE on his tablet, the total plank.  A woman laughed at how my space and 'quiet pint' had been invaded.  I mock complained to her, but knew it was all great blog material really.  And when I left, FOUR people (dominoes mum, chandler, the quizzical couple) said bye to me so I had made 'friends', ha, which I guess is what they claim happens in every Micropub the world over, innit?

Takeaway fish n chips, dogs, people in waterproofs (the scene SO VERY micro)


Westie love

The new dogs on the scene were more twoggy than the Westies

The Mum who tried to get the kids into doms was a good sort, but was exasperated early doors

Granda' got on the whisky, and the kids settled with the doms, as dogs blocked the exit

Phew!  Time to catch that train to Scarborough and let EL know I was finally on my way.....

Join me tomorrow for part 2.


Tuesday 28 August 2018

BRAPA : Newcastle-under-Slyme Part 2 (NuL but not Void)

Paul Robinson is ticking his new GBG, but where's my copy?
Halfway through our Saturday then as local tour guide Matthew 'Seethelizards' Lawrenson navigated us through the mean streets of NuL for the final three pubs in the 2018 Good Beer Guide as I tried to put as much distance between my end of year 2016/17 figure of 1236 and the current 1470 in readiness for the great 'cross-ticking' due soon.

I say 'navigated us through the mean streets', pub 4 was directly opposite the awkward yet strangely great Bridge Street Ale House .......

1471 / 2217.  Hopwater Cellar, Newcastle-under-Lyme

"One ale, you've only got one ale, CAMRA want you to fail, you've only got one ale!"  This was the chant that went up from nobody in particular as we wandered into this friendly airy modern bar, and not strictly true as despite this one ale, it had won a recent CAMRA seasonal award, thus cementing it's place.  And full credit to local CAMRA, for I can tell you it is increasingly rare to find 'one ale' entries in the GBG.  The small handful of Sam Smith pubs (and I bet I'm talking single figures), the thing in High Offley, and that gorgeous old heritage pub not far from Wembley, but usually, it's a case of '12 handpumps you say, quick get it in the Guide, no need to taste 'em!'.  Certainly in my local branch that seems to be the case but I'm being slightly facetious.  A pale from Neepsend of Sheffield seemed a nice neutral thing to have on, but Matthew told me they'd recently had some toffee porter (or something) which may be a more acquired taste.  The owner was a thoroughly engaging chap, even giving Tom a blackcurrant free run down of the non-alcoholic things in the fridge as Dad secreted himself into a corner which actually made him invisible.  We chatted at the bar and the owner tells us how he plans to extended the bar, get 3 or 4 ales on in the coming months, so with the weight of #pubmen across the UK on my shoulders, I felt the need to say things like "sometimes less is more" and "quality not quantity".  Oooh, that Bass was really kicking in wasn't it?  Tom drank something Elderflowery, the Neepsend was top class, and this felt nicely relaxed and unchallenging after certain other pubs today.

Great bloke pulling pints, what could be better?

Tom in his amphitheatre of beer (copyright 2016)

Can you see Dad?  No, neither could we.

Jeez taps, get a room! 

Our next pub if not a cellar, was a vaults, and it is funny I have all these Lymestone pumpclips and beermats at home, but I'm unsure I'd ever tried their beers before.  It was down a narrow side street, felt a bit like going into a bar in Barcelona, if Stoke was Catalan which it kind of is in many ways.

1472 / 2218.  Lymestone Vaults, Newcastle-under-Lyme

Special mention for our young host, who on seeing us eyeing up these new, exciting ales decided the time was nigh to wear his Lymestone heart on his Lymestone sleeve and make a concerted effort to impress.  I'm not sure we were underground at all, it just felt like it to me, but he had those eyes and jaw like one of those deep sea fish who crawl along the darkest ocean floors looking for plankton and stuff.  Me and Dad had asked for a cherry beer, and he didn't seem convinced by our choice, so gave me an additional half which was half of this with half a 'Stone the Crows' bitter to 'let it down'.  "That's what people tend to go for!" he said, indicating these wise Lymestone drinkers who didn't really exist.  I took me long enough to polish off this extra half, that when I did come to my 'official' pint of cherry, course it was suddenly too sweet, and we stayed here a while waiting for me to finish!  The pub itself, despite the obvious modern concessions, was cosy and opened up into a back room where old biddies dressed as Tom, dogs yipped, and middle aged doofus's with better behaved twildlife spilt drinks left, right and centre.  Or just centre.

Cherry Stone - the beer of much controversy

Three old dears who'd come disguised as Tom

Mopping floor drama

The type of folk not to be trusted not to spill their ales
One last push then before the bus back to Stoke proppa, and I was feeling free.

"As free as a bird.  On a wire.  A blackbird that is drunk in a midnight choir.  I've tried in my way, for a pee.  In this bog you can not change.  Fuck knows I can't change (my trousers)."  (I think I might be mixing songs up here but you get the gist).

Time to lock me up

1473/ 2219.  Freebird, Newcastle-under-Lyme

When you are starting to 'feel it' (and I mean, really feel it), the last thing you want is a pub that seems more garish than your own wardrobe.  Bright purple walls, retro games machines, American pool tables, throbbing with the threat of DJ's or live music, hairy leather bikers, more saucy seaside postcards, comic strips, ladies in blue shoes, huge windows letting in far too much light.  It's like someone had been let out of Newcastle for a day trip to Birmingham on a fact finding mission to find out how young people want their pubs to look like in 1978, and he'd come back 40 years later with this blueprint.  I quite liked it, a happy atmosphere under the circs if you think of some equivalents like the Alma in Bolton or the Purple Turtle in Reading, not at all moody or up it's own arse, and a nice little suntrap for Dad to go and play in if he needed to escape the yoof of yesteryear.  Tom must have vanished too, buying slimline oatcakes no doubt, as I can't remember much else apart from me and Matthew playing pool and I played a lot better than I was expecting.  Lynryd Skynryd? Who???

Matthew does the honours with the green pen

"Oi lads, we're on next and don't you forget it" I whisper whilst hiding behind Matthew

So there we go.  I ate an oatcake raw and got chucked out of Stoke in record time.  I ate a pie I can't remember, but a nice coffee in Manchester helped me see the world in a clearer light and it was off back to York well before bedtime.  A fun day, and attentions now turned to a bonus Bank Holiday West Brom themed day in Scarborough.


Monday 27 August 2018

BRAPA - Newcastle-under-Slyme (Part 1 : Tom Trouble and a Scary Greyhound)

'Twas Saturday 25th August, and not too surprised to not have the new 2019 Good Beer Guide in my possession, I headed out to Newcastle-under-Lyme on the suggestion of Matthew 'SeeTheLizards' Lawrenson, as this was the town he grew up in when he wasn't cradling the Preston lamb, and local knowledge is always good in these situations, especially in the Stoke area, which if you are putting it into human body terms, is very much the appendix (sits there quietly harbouring resentment, then gets inflamed and has to be removed). 

Despite Hull City being away to Stoke City, this was very much an NFFD (Non Football Football Day) for us, Tom had considered going but they made it all ticket at the 11th hour.  Just as well as SIX pubs were on our agenda.

Father BRAPA and I bumped into Tom on the train from Manchester Piccadilly down to Stoke, where we were engulfed by a load of Manchester City fans off to Wolves for a lunchtime kick off.  Tom pointed out, rather too loudly, that it could be worse, the Mansfield fans travelling to Macclesfield were bigger idiots.  "TAPS!" Dad declared as they scurried around looking for seats getting in our way, and I thought he'd seen a GBG pre-emptive out of the train window, but it turned out it was an acronym.  'Thick As Pig Shit'.  Now you seen where I get it from.

In Stoke, by the Titatnic White Star and Wheatsheaf 'Spoons, we took a bus to Newcastle where our first pub was in fact just outside in a Stokey suburb called Hartshill, though we didn't get the best bus option and had a 15 minute walk.  Still, we were in the first pub well before noon.

1468 / 2214.  Greyhound, Hartshill, Stoke-on-Trent

Having noticed this was a Titanic-Everards pub whilst on the train down, I told Dad I'd enjoy starting with a Plum Porter, one of your five a day and all that!  But when I couldn't see it, I went for the Steerage.  Dad hesitated, the landlord, who'd I'd already identified as a grump of the highest order, showed Dad the blackboard and explained other beers were in the back bar, including Plum Porter!  "Oooh, I'll have a Plum Porter" said Dad, glancing at me with a mischievous glint in his eyes.  Cheeky!  He did offer me a swap, but damage had been done!  Still, only myself to blame.  When will I learn to look at blackboards?  When will I learn to read Sir Quinno's reviews in advance?  And we settled into a calming early morning pint, few old men dotted about reading papers etc.  Not much going on.  "If you were walking the streets of Mombasa for days and found this place, you'd been pleased wouldn't you?" said Dad quite randomly.  Couldn't argue with that.  But then stuff began to happen, BRAPA stuff, weird stuff.  Two cocky Stoke fans came in and shouted to the bloke with the hearing aid next to us "we'll be happy at 5pm when we have all three points!"  Ugh, they haven't won at home since January and still massively confident of beating Hull City.  Then, the paisley shirted Lawrenson arrived on their coattails, then a man with a button on his throat came in and sat with hearing aid man.  One couldn't hear, one couldn't/didn't speak.  Perfect drinking partners.  But then Tom bellowed "I hate medical professionals!" and the barman gave him such a glare, and stared at him for the next 5 minutes.  Was this chap a former medical man?  After all, Stoke hospital was close by.  To try and ease the tension, I asked Tom to clarify his comment as he'd mean no malice, and sure enough, it was all about fear of being poked and prodded with surgical equipment, but it made no difference.  As we left, landlord stood in the doorway and silently growled as we took our glasses back and tried to say a cheery goodbye.  Not a pub I'd rush back to, though beer was good, yet probably not in the top 3 quality pints today.

Hearing aid bloke and the Plum Porter of controversy

Cocky Stokies are about to boast about being brilliant

Resplendent in Paisley.  M.Lawrenson arrives.

I was actually so relieved to be out of there, I can't tell you!  The next pub was listed under Newcastle despite the fact it felt like we only walked up one street in the same area as the Greyhound.

Tom says "Allam Out" as we enter pub number two

1469 / 2215.  Hopinn, Newcastle-under-Lyme

With the name it had, I certainly wasn't expecting to walk inside to a carpetted old boozer, confronted by Draught Bass, with a friendly landlord with beaming smile saying "Hello gents, what would you like today?"  Beautiful stuff.  Maybe Tom could shout something random and upset him?   As I spied the Bass and thought 'come on Si, keep the #pubman spirit alive', Dad said from behind me "don't believe the hype".  Whoah, what was this, some anti-Bass intervention?  But then I noticed he was just reading out the name of a beer on another clip.  Was one of those confusing situations where they have 8 pumpclips on 4 pumps, something my brain has never quite been able to feel fully at ease with!  Even more Stoke City fans in here, ruddy faces, parsons noses, wild roadie types, I think Newcastle must be the discerning Potters pre-match watering hole.   Matthew introduced me to his new pub mascot, Joule the owl (pronounced Jowl like what the ladies in Doncaster have) and said the gents toilets had saucy seaside postcards, yet Tom and Dad were more impressed with the hallway Lincoln to Boston boat photo, probably because they are modern 21st century men who support the #MeToo movement.  Really good pub this one, possibly my favourite of the day, and the ale (not just my Bass but the others we got) was absolutely top quality.  On the way out, we admitted to being Hull City fans and a Stoke fan said something to Dad but he couldn't understand so we just left.  

We marched onwards, and under the underpass to Newcastle 'proper' where our other 4 pubs lay in a more central location.  

First Bass, now subway street-art?  Taylor's gonna sue. 
Our next pub was the most highly anticipated of the day.  Why, well let us try and find out .....

The Employment Hub Inn .... ooops, I mean the Bridge Street Ale House

1470 / 2216.  Bridge Street Ale House, Newcastle-under-Lyme

Pubs are a bit like comedy series really aren't they?  Some of the best have that socially awkward element, which sometimes spills over into wanting to hide behind your hands, or a cushion, or even crawl behind the sofa, almost glad when it is over.  But then, when you talk about them, you realise they were actually brilliant.  Love them or not, things like The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Brass Eye Paedophile Special.  Amazing.  That's how you'd have to describe this place.  And I say this even with legendary owner Grum (described by the GBG as 'charismatic', by everyone else as 'totally mad') on his 2 week holiday, so you could argue we got off lightly!  We'd barely stepped over the threshold when a cheery young lady of the utmost spirit says "which one of you's from Grimsby then, I went to college there!" and even someone as Tommish as Tom was initially gobsmacked as he admitted it was him.  I'd still not come to terms with the fact it was one of those bar-less micros where the pumps are kind of on a wall, and the staff walk around like customers, always puts me a bit on edge anyway, I like that divide between the two!  I went back for Pork Scratchings, she told me to get proper scratchings cos pork crackling is too lame & easy and I was inclined to agree.  I wanted two packets but was too scared to question only getting one.  We retired to a standy-up stooly area in amongst the mass of pump clips and bright decor.  Tom got onto the subject of mascots, probably inspired by Joule the Owl, and mentioned his own Billy the Tiger, and the time when former Hull City owner Paul Duffen sexually assaulted him.  "Whaaaaaat?" screamed out hostess, for she too was called Billie and when she heard 'billy/billie' and 'sexually assaulted', it alarmed her.  Well, as if I didn't already feel awkward and on edge in here!  So a bit like the Greyhound, glad when we stepped back out into the fresh Newcastle air, but looking back, the pub did have something special and unique about it, great ale, and I probably would go back, but only in disguise. 

They're not Simon's, they're Simmons

Star Wars poster which is probably brilliant if you get that kind of thing

Some more terrific toilet artwork
So that was the first part of the day, hectic!  The final three pubs in part two, but here's where my notes and sobriety end, so expect a vaguer write up on the others.

See you tomorrow for that.