Wednesday 31 October 2018

BRAPA - School Bus Blues : Dorset Tales of the Unexpected

When I was doing my research into how to get around the more difficult pubs of Dorset, I was amused to note that for some of the most remote outposts in the north west of the county (Evershot and Chedington being the two prime examples) list a bus in the GBG and when you look it up on Google, it runs twice a day, at approximately 8:30am and again about 3pm.  Then you realise, it is a school bus!  The only means of public transport to get to these pubs.

Are you allowed on these?  Would you risk it?  Have any of you hopped aboard a rural school bus to help you achieve a difficult pub?  Please comment below if so.  "Joining us on the bus today kids, Simey BRAPA Everitt, he stinks of booze and is 39 years old, he has a red book and a green highlighter.  But just act like he isn't there".

Now I know what you are thinking.  I'm not thinking it, but you are.  NW Dorset TWAMRA are actually a very sophisticated paedophile ring.  I know it is 2018, and the world is a harsh scary place, but you shouldn't be having these thoughts, it is wrong.

So let's carry on and pretend the above paragraph never happened.  For your sake.

I was halfway through my adventures on Thursday 11th October, and it hadn't been the success of the Wednesday or even 'Portland Tuesday' so I was determined to get to three more pubs to salvage something from the day.

The bus from Charmouth to Burton Bradstock was no school bus, but may as well have been, so I squashed on uncomfortably next to a gaggle of teenage girls amazed that some girl they hated had commented on their Snapchat story, or something, and I was glad of Bridport Interchange (a bit like being in communist Russia) where it emptied out but an old lady with a beard and a woolie hat got on.

I arrived in B.B. about 4:45pm.  The pub had been doing what so many Dorset pubs do midweek and closing mid afternoon, til 5pm.  I hovered in the car park where a moody couple with dog were sat outside the bench waiting for it to open too, they didn't return my smile.

Then a crazy old lady started chatting to me.  Then she started flagging down any car that passed and asked for a lift to Bridport!  And only the SECOND car actually agreed, I could not believe it, they definitely didn't know her.  And as I stood there opened mouthed as she sped off, she waved and indicated the pub was open, so I was about the sixth person inside cos I'd got distracted.  Unbe-bloody-lievable this whole last 10 minutes.

Cheer up you two, it is nearly 5pm!

1355 / 2328.  Three Horseshoes, Burton Bradstock

It had to happen eventually, a dining pub, if you can in fact, call it a pub.  I'd been spoilt up to now, even the Lyme Regis duo I hadn't been a fan of could at least be classed pubs or bars.  It was Palmers led, for the third time out of four today, four out of five if you include the closed one first thing!   And I only had one ale to get, the strongest of the lot, called Tally Ho!  Well that caused a kerfuffle, the young barman looking at me like I was some piss head Northern scroat so I explained my little quest.  Apart from the small bar area which was one settee by a non-existent fire, and about 4 tables with stools, taken up by moody dog couple, everything was either dining reserved or had knives and forks galore.  Everyone coming in was after a feed, and the main man, who cut an impressive professional figure, always opened with "have you got a dog?" rather than "are you eating with us today?" or "what would you like to drink?" and in my weird mind, it came across a bit like "if you've got a dog going spare, can we bung it in the pot for our brown red soup?" but this wasn't rural Cambs.  I perched on the last of the 4 high stools, which actually was like a 'pub introductory' table full of menus, newspapers and leaflets, but I had little option otherwise.  And it wasn't long before a middle aged couple from Sussex were hovering painfully so I invited them to join me, I somehow knew they were nice.  And after exchanging neutral 'pub' platitudes, I leaned in and said ".....but it's not a pub is it?" and thankfully, they were swift to agree.  One of the four stools it turns out, has a permanent 'reserved' sign on it, and is for the three old boys who come in here every day just for drinks!  We chatted a lot, I properly nursed that Tally Ho medicinal goodness, had a long wait for next bus so the perfect pint.  A really well done place for what it was, welcoming, quality staff and ale, but just not a pub!

And the Palmers challenge is complete

Tally Ho!

Dog with same expression as owners
The next bus was going on the more southern route to Weymouth rather than Dorchester, but this was good news, as it stopped at a place en route where I needed a tick.  Reading the GBG entry, it sounded more of a dining nightmare than the last place, how is this possible?

1356 / 2329.  Turk's Head, Chickerell

But whether it was the time of the evening, the fact it was midweek, or just that the Weymouth area is one of the most down to earth in the UK (as we'll see tomorrow), the GBG claims of food orientation, children, chickens, rabbits and holidaymakers was a world away from the fairly basic locals pub that greeted me, and what a relief that was, I was impressed.  I left my Dartmoor Jail Ale (which they put in their pies) at the bar whilst I went to the loo, where a load of tween lads who smelt of Lynx deodorant were guffawing and talking Fortnite, boobies and acne (probably).  Suffice to say, my Jail Ale when I took it to a side table smelt like piss.  They wouldn't have done would they?!  Across from me, a loud Scottish man seemed to be aware he was very much on the South Coast for he tried to be as Scottish as possible, giving his Southern lady companion quite a learning.  No one needs to be that Scottish.  I eventually picked up Guess Who from the pile of retro games (what was this, a micropub?) and chuckled at all the characters, used to love this game!  Quite a nice pub without being thoroughly convincing.

Almost inspired me to apply for a job here, brilliant!

Pashmina draped over bag to protect contents (a good spot by beer Twitter legend Pauline Sharp)

Scotsman astounds southern lady, foreground pissy Jail Ale in shot
If I'd been unlucky with that pub closure in Whitchurch Canonicorum first thing, the flipside was that the bus I was waiting for turned out to be the LAST out of Chickerell this evening so I'd have to take that as a stroke of good luck, or it'd have been long walk/taxi time.

From Weymouth, I trained it back to the Dorch where remember I still had two pubs to do.  One tonight, one tomorrow.  Tonight, I headed for the Micropub down a very Micro-esque alleyway, bit confusing address wise as they'd just moved to a larger premises across the road ......

Just down the alley .....

Must be down here somewhere ......

Here we go ......
1357 / 2330.  Convivial Rabbit, Dorchester

Though it might sound like it is themed on a pleasing sex toy, it soon became clear it is more 'rabbit' in the Chas (RIP) and Dave sense, you know the ole' Micropubs "encouraging you to talk schtick.  It had a great atmosphere from the off, the kind of perfect 'last pub of the night' when you are feeling mellow, jolly and everything is more amusing than it should be.  This was micropub at its very best.  Took a while to get going though, I've got a bit of a knife phobia and the fact that one was pointing at me as I tried to pay for my pint was as close to being mugged as I've ever been, so I left the cash on the chopping board and took a few steps back!   I couldn't stop looking around n chuckling to myself.  We had Bill n Ted by the piano, a bloke having a breakdown into a takeaway pizza and half a tree in the middle of the room which apparently contained termites.  I waited for ages for the lady to move her head, but in the end got impatient, so took photo anyway, maybe she wanted a termite hair infestation, who knows, see below!  Things took an even better turn when I got the ole' green highlighter n GBG out.  "We've got one of them!" said the barman, meaning GBG, not highlighter, and soon, and partly because I was dead centre of the room, it was like an impromptu BRAPA Q&A for the pub, does happen like that occasionally, always best on my sixth pint!  Even pizza breakdown chipped in with a couple, termite lady smiled too.  Great place, I told them it was "and I'm not just saying that!" so hope they believed me!  Good end to what'd been a tricky ticky day.

I didn't even spot the GBG peeping out from behind bar at this most traumatic time!

Pizza breakdown man, pre Q&A

Bill n Ted too cool to jump on the piano

Picture so amazing, it is blocked so no one can see it!

Termite head moment
One more day to go in this fine county!  I'll tell you about that in two parts in the coming days, but I got too much Hallowe'en celebrating to be enjoying now so I'll be back on Friday evening now, I need to do the month end review too but can't decide whether to finish off reviewing Dorset first.  Let me know if you have a preference, I bet you don't care!


Tuesday 30 October 2018

BRAPA - The Palmers Won't Harm Us : Dorset Tales Continued

I was up early on the Thursday morning (11th Oct), with the intention of getting myself right across to furthest point west in the county, Lyme Regis, where the pubs open early like all seafront places seem to.

But I soon changed my mind (again) when I noticed one of my rural ticks with no train, no bus, had the opening hours of 12-2 and 6:30-11.   Now or never if I was to do it this holiday.  So I hopped off the bus at a place called Morecombelake, crossed a scary road, and walked 20-25 mins to a village called Whitchurch Canonicorum.

It was 11:50am when I reached the pub, but was horrified / saddened / slightly miffed to see this:

Ah, that famous water damage problem that blights pubs til 2pm but definitely dries out for 6:30pm!

An old dear trying to walk a dog which wanted to be indoors saw me hovering, just as the rain started to fall, and asked what my game was.  Well, she tried to be diplomatic about the pub, to which I asked "are you trying to say they're a bit lazy when it comes to opening hours?" and she said "you haven't heard it from me!"  She told me they sell Palmers beers which her hubbie hates, and that she once ran the 'best pub in Kent'.  I liked her.

"I'll try ringing them and see if I can just come in for a pint" I decide, but I could hear the pub phone ringing out.  "She's gone shopping with her daughter,  I saw them leave earlier, you're wasting your time" she told me, village life eh, nothing is sacred.  So that was that, I sloped back to the bus stop and got myself to Lyme Regis wishing I'd stuck to my original plan!

I will be back (unless it disappears from the GBG!)

The lonely walk back to Morecombelake bus stop
It was similarly squally when I arrived in Lyme Regis, and from the bloke who sold me a rip off bottle of Lucozade to sort out my dicky tummy, to the doggie (not dogging) couple on the pier, I felt it was the least friendly happy place of all the Dorset towns and villages I visited this holiday.

Still, some nice views and bracing sea air and I was more than ready for my pint when I finally arrived at the seafront pub.  It was probably 1pm or something late by now!

1352 / 2325.  Royal Standard, Lyme Regis

So I walked in through, what seemed like the back garden, where netting hung across the whole thing which might've been to stop those pesky seagulls swooping down on all that yummy Palmers beer.  Or so I assume.  Yes, it was Palmers heavy, a pool table, tiny yappy dogs everywhere, crying twild life in buggies being tending to by lumberng big bosomed Mums (all at the far end of the building I was glad to see) whilst old blokes with fisherman hats on made bawdy comments and lauged raucously.  You could imagine Beryl Cook's ghost having a field day in here.  Always have felt seafront pubs are a bit shit, but at least this one had a bit of life to it, and the Palmers was on decent form.   "Arrrrghhhh, I'm going to have to leave, I'm skint!" said a twenty something bloke.  He paused, expecting someone to offer to buy him a drink, but instead, they all said "oh never mind, bye".  A couple of the old dudes, who had an element of Portland about them, murmured something to me about my Good Beer Guide which I think was funny, but I couldn't tell what they said cos it was just a lot of vowels, so time to move on.

Pool table acting as twild buffer

Back along the prom, and into town, was the other GBG entry, a small little place which had quite a temporary air to it .......

1353 / 2326.  Lyme Regis Brewery Tap, Lyme Regis

Not sure my whole body actually got inside the whole building here, so hope I'm allowed to count it as a pub 'tick'.  Nice to see some ales that weren't Palmers for a change, though had the nice lady who served me looked a little bit less serious, I may've joked "these are just Palmers rebadged aren't they LOLZ?" but get the feeling she may not have appreciated it.  Besides, she had her hands full with a group of lively walker types who'd secreted themselves in all corners of this tiny building, and some of these microbrewers do have a tendency to take themselves a bit seriously at times like they forget they aren't Glastonbury headliners or A-list film stars but am sure that wasn't true here!  I'd been served in polycarbonate, so felt obliged to sit in the little courtyard where there was a pottery, cafe and a couple of other twee bullshit places.  Tourists kept wandering into the space, looking like there should be something exciting to see, realising there wasn't, and moving on.  Few times after the walkers left, I thought about going to talk to the lady, but she looked a bit stern and the only time we interacted was when I asked where the pissers were and she sent me across the way.  Beer was quite nice, and a poor man kept staring longingly at my pint cos his wife had made him get a coffee.  It made me think of my own parents, so I rang my Mum in lieu of any pub excitement and had a nice chat!

The walkers finally unsecrete themselves from pub orifice 

Let the poor bloke have a pint!

Charmouth would've probably been walkable under other circumstances (nice weather, a better knee) but I found a bus stop going up a narrow street and hopped on for the short ride.  The street was very steep, but the pub seemed good old fashioned and sturdy so time to give it a try ......

1354  / 2327.  Royal Oak,  Charmouth

Really friendly locals feel to this place, with the St George's flag and poppy tributes, I had a feeling it was going to be a bit more down to earth than Lyme Regis before I got inside, which I guess is more of a tourist spot.  This is right on the coast too, but you'd never know, you could've been in Brum!   I was 'Palmers' focused again, but you know how I like ticking things of a list, right?  Well it was becoming apparent I could get through the full range (plus seasonal guests) this week if I played my cards right, and working my way up in strength.  Only two to go!  As I was analysing the ales carefully, a local took it upon himself to give me a run down of each ones characteristics.  So I got the 200, and he was basically told by the others to stop being a show off.  At which point, a rogue Dorsetian (Dork?  blame Martin Taylor for coining that one) squeezed in behind me, did a similar analysis of the options available to him, and ordered a pint of San Miguel (pronounced Miguwelllll, rather brilliantly).  And I didn't know whether to laugh or feel cheated!   I sat by the window, nursed my 200 (cracking pint), tried not to get too freaked out by the picture of all the locals at the beach a few decades back, and in an understated way, I think this was probably my favourite pub of the day.

Still, three pubs to go if I was to get my full six allocation in I craved, and I had to run for the bus.  Little did I know it'd be full of schoolkids.  More on that next time ......



Monday 29 October 2018

BRAPA - A Better Brid than Bridlington? (Is that even possible?)

Just to briefly allow you a glimpse into the fragile mind of the pub ticker, I woke in a cold sweat, 4am on the Wednesday morning on the eve of my first full day of Dorset ticking.  "I NEED TO GET TO LYME REGIS ON THE EARLIEST BUS POSSIBLE IF I'M GOING TO ACHIEVE TODAY'S GOALS!"  screamed my brain, and before I knew it, I had all my books, maps, google out plotting a revised schedule.

It was almost 6:00am when I finally got back to sleep, and then I'm not sure what happened to my alarm, but I was woken by house-keeping at 10:30am,  I'd missed breakfast and both morning buses.  Oh dear.  Oh dear.  Oh dear.  As the late Barry Chuckle might've said.

Revised plan two, no time for Lyme Regis or the surrounding places so I went as far as Bridport instead.  Still determined to get a 'difficult' tick in, I got a connecting bus up to a funny little village called Melplash where the local ferret had escaped:

A 30 minute walk down slippy country lanes on my dodgy left knee I don't like to talk about was far from ideal, but soon we (well, me) were out in the village of Waytown where my pub lurked behind a hedge like a nonce .....

1347 / 2320.  Hare & Hounds, Waytown

This was my first introduction into how 'Palmers heavy' this part of the world was.  Beers that obviously hold a novelty factor for me, but chatting to locals throughout my hols soon revealed how sick to the back teeth the majority  of them seemed by it!  I started on the Gold here, quality stuff.  Not too much room in the farmhouse style main bar, and although it isn't ideal for pub observation, it was such a glorious day that I took my pint out to the garden with stunning views.  Soon, a lady called Linda was shouting over at me, and seemed quite taken by the BRAPA concept, being a bit of a swashbuckling spirited outdoorsy type of gal, so she came to sit with me, and do the all important 'green highlighting'.  She told me about her favourite pub, called the Drewe Arms in Devon, but I told her Devon was untapped territory to me unless you count Plymouth n Torquay.  She told me to walk back to Bridport with her, it'd only be half an hour if we're quick (she had a special map), hmmm didn't quite believe her so used my knee as an excuse and said farewell.  Bearing in mind I'd not had brekkie, I was snacking from my bag (I'd been to Boots in Bridport where I'd also bought nail files to sand down a tooth I'd mysteriously broken in Portland, classy) feeling quite happy to do so as outside the pub, but as much food was being brought out, I'm not sure the serving woman was too happy with me, but she didn't say anything direct.  The air was fresh, the views were grand, the ale was good, my holiday really felt like it'd started here in Waytown.

The walk back to Melplash was nowhere near as long as it was getting here, amazing how often that happens!  And then the bus turned up on time, which you can never quite believe in areas such as this, though the bus shelter kept me amused .....

The bus dumped me back in Bridders, as I'm now calling it, right outside one of my pubs, where incidentally Linda used to work ......

1348 / 2321.  Ropemakers, Bridport

In many ways, this was your classic lazy weekday afternoon drinkers pub.  A calm nautical theme, a few old codgers dotted about looking miserable but presumably smiling from the inside, it remind me a bit of Saltgrass in Sunderland or Star Inn at St Just but that bit more cavernous than both.  The Wi-fi didn't work, but I didn't care.   But it was far from perfect.  The barman knew I was waiting, seemed to be making a point of being slow to serve me!  Perhaps I was still mentally in demanding  'London mode', and although this was annoying,  I had to admire the horizontal nature of Dorset life, not just in here, but throughout my stay.  A lonely looking old lady brought her empties back to the bar and tried to shout 'good bye'.  "She'll think yurrr bein' rude" a barblocker joked to the barman who hadn't heard her.  Would he shout goodbye or run to the door to say bye?  I would've done.  But no, he just rolled his eyes and polished a glass.  Seemed a bit rude, but when a bloke went to sit up at the top, he told him "I call this the captain's table cos it has the best view" and made a real effort with him.  Soon some crazy barmaid with loud voice came along, and they were all talking about which locals n staff they liked, or not!  Interesting, but rather than get enveloped in the snoozy atmosphere like I was expecting, I grew more and more restless and was glad to eventually leave, which really went against how I'd felt in those first five minutes.

Next, I decided to go to the pub further from the bus stop, trying to think strategically for later, so walked towards the Tiger.   As I did so, I spied Linda outside the third pub I'd be due to go to chewing the fat with some local, so wonder if she'd really got back to Bridport in her mythical half hour.  I'll never know.

Just off the main drag round the corner I found the pub ......

1349 / 2322.  Tiger Inn, Bridport

I don't know about you but I've never found pubs called 'Tiger' very convincing.  I don't know if it is being a Hull City fan, but they seem to promise lots and deliver little.  However, this one was different.   Linda hadn't been too complimentary about it, and whilst it was nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as the Ropemakers in terms of 'proper pub', it had a happier more genuine feel to it.  The barmaid was a quirky lass, as we encountered problems pulling my pint of Otter Amber (KNEW I should've gone for the local stripey cat one!)  "I'm not sure if it's getting near the end of the barrel or it's just that this tap is shit!" she revealed as the beer took ages to pull and settle.  Hmmm, well if she didn't know, neither did I. Still, it didn't taste or look too bad, so despite trying to hint I'd be happy to go for another ale, she kind of encouraged me to stick with it!  As I admired the fishing tackle on the ceiling, the locals soon arrived (they love their daytime drinking in Bridders which is great to see!) and a stripey topped man with the voice of Arthur Smith brought in some mini veg ornaments, including a sweet potato which most impressed the barmaid.  "It's a small holding" quipped another bloke, to many groans, but I was enjoying this.  On the way out, I thanked my barmaid (now outside having a pint with her boyf) and as she opened her mouth to say "bye", a bug flew into her mouth!  I bet she was glad to get rid of me.

One other GBG tick in Bridders then, it was our first foray into Dorset's micro scene .....

1350 / 2323.  Pursuit of Hoppiness, Bridport

In true micropub style, I hurdled a couple of dogs and their leads as I shuffled on through to the bar, of this surprisingly glorious sunny little pub.  A friendly man sold me this murky orange thing that looked like mango J20 (if that's a thing) but was my favourite pint of the day, whilst an old dude, proud he still had hair when all his mates had gone bald, was showing off a new haircut which gave him that Derek Acorah edge which we all strive for at this time of year.   Bald or not, they all laughed at him but I thought it was very smart.  Buoyed by my inward appreciation of his haircut, he came to sit next to me (that's all it takes in a micro) but not before a student with a Corbyn t-shirt and huge art portfolio and laptop had plonked himself the other side of me and put some huge headphones on.  My new friend looked at him like "the youth of today eh?" so I KNEW it fell on me to be sociable.  I kicked off with "I assume this beer is supposed to be cloudy" which was my micropub equivalent of talking about the weather.  He told me I needed to be more open minded!  Anyway, he was a nice chap.  "Sorry I keep effin' and blindin'!" he told me at one point  "....but I grew up in Croydon".  A classic line, one of the best of the holiday.  Still, a lovely chap, one of many people I met who came to Dorset on holiday and loved it so much, they settled here.  And I was rapidly beginning to see why!

My new mate and his new hair

Yes, the seat to my right is free too.....

Art we can learn to appreciate
Time for the long bus ride back to the Dorch, where of course I shouldn't forget I had 3 GBG pubs here to visit just like Bridport.

The nearest one to the bus stop was the Wetherspoons ...... there's not too many Dorset 'Spoons in the GBG so I concluded this one must be superb ......

Say bye to my bus, and hello to 'Spoons

1351 / 2324.  Royal Oak, Dorchester

First thing first, dying for a wee.  Now as those of you who are as familiar with Wetherspoons as me will be able to testify, they often enjoy making their bogs into climbing expeditions in a deliberate move by Timmy to help the regulars lose the odd calorie or two, or to give them a craving for further victuals once back downstairs.  And in the Royal Oak in Dorchester, you won't find a much longer or steeper climb.  Finally back at the bar, I was shocked to see the sheer number of people waiting, it was three deep!  And the reason was clear, ONE member of staff serving.  And you couldn't blame her, she found the situation as amusing as those waiting, but it led to great comradeship with people watching for who was next, helping each other out, and joking about the ridiculous staffing levels.  "I only want a pint of real ale!" I whined, twildesque, "well I only want a pint of Fosters!" said the bloke next to me like this was some kind of 'getting served Top Trumps'. Eventually, I was in and took my Acorn Old Moor Porter to a high stool where I observed a man practising his apple bobbing for hallowe'en to impress his extended family.  I soon got chatting to a couple who'd been queuing next to me, and can't remember what we talked about (the pubs of Dorchester I think) but they were very pleasant.    I couldn't decide whether to go to Convivial Rabbit or Blue Raddle next, so I ended up doing neither cos Barnsley's finest beer (along with Gorlovka and Barnsley Bitter) had finished me off!

It was like Sooty was takin' t'piss at my failure to get served

Pointless moody shot of the window

Apple bobbing practice, probably, or probably not.

In any case, if I was to wake up on time for the early bus to Lyme Regis and not make the same mistakes as this morning, I had to get to bed early!  

Would I make it?  Would the pubs be any good?  Would anyone annoy me?  Or would it all be lovely? 

Find out tomorrow, Si