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):
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!