|Sunderland footwear just in case but wasn't necessary, looked more like a Gooner off to lunchtime kick off|
"You should've heard them earlier ...." said my fellow passenger Mick as we rolled eyes at another jibbering anecdote about nothing, "....they were singing the praises of Donald Trump!" Thank goodness for headphones. Mick seemed a top bloke, with links to Dorset, Berlin and Osmotherley (sorry, this isn't Crimewatch) and was pleased to see the Good Beer Guide, as he's just getting into ale himself, his current girlfriend is a pint drinker and previous one was a brewer.
By 10:55am, I was doing what I normal do at this time on a Saturday, lurking across the road from a 'required pub tick', in a particularly leafy area of Walthamstow. After my pub trip here in July, I'd never have believed I'd be back by the year end, but two new ticks meant I needed to get them done. It was a mild and sunny morning for December, and as the sun hit the nice looking pub at a particular angle, I thought this would be the perfect photo opportunity. But then a white van man came and parked directly in front of me. He could've parked ANYWHERE else. I hated him.
|Could've been even better if white van man had some awareness|
1430 / 2403. Coppermill, Walthamstow
A really cosy street corner local with a great atmosphere from the off, and that was with a 'mad Friday' clean-up operation in full swing, poor Henry Hoover was being worked overtime. The landlord seemed a jolly bloke, and served me a London Pride which I'm afraid to say wasn't of the quality you'd hope. Who should be today's second customer, but White Van Man. "Boooooo!" Well, this is pantomime season, and it didn't take him long to mention a party or something that the landlord hadn't been invited to, but he had! Was he just trying to upset everyone today? Whatever, the landlord left at 11:10am, completing perhaps the shortest shift in BRAPA memory. Barmaid Gemma took over, and custodian of Henry Hoover told me to put my feet up so she could get to the crumbs of last night. She wore a hoodie with the inspirational slogan "What if I Can't Do It?" but the 't' on the can't had been crossed out! Nevertheless, she confessed she was hungover "Everytime I bend down and stand up again, I feel like I'm going to be sick!"she tells me, and asks where I'm from, thinking I have an Irish accent(!) I tell her no Yorkshire, and she says she once went to Bradford but found it a shithole where everyone took the piss out of her cockney accent. We then somehow got onto the subject of the Queen's Speech, agreeing it'd be better if she did it in the morning. And that concluded an amusing first pub of the day.
|Landlord during his 10 minute cameo|
|WVM sits down with Guinness and paper|
|Henry is smiling now, but would he be in half an hour?|
It was a straight 15 minute walk to pub two though it was still 10 to when I arrived, so I had to hover round the bustling marketplace, this was peak-Walthanstow which I didn't even encounter in the summer, and with the pub peeping out from behind the stalls, I could only hope this'd be a Boar's Head Stockport style experience.
To pass the time, a Del Boy type was flogging cheap aftershaves, colognes and perfumes to a crowd of impressed onlookers hoping for a late Christmas bargain. For a man who seemed to want to remain, errrm, innocuous ("NO FILMING, FACKING HELL!" he yelled at one point), strapping a microphone to his face to amplify his voice seemed an interesting career choice. Whatever, at least we all learned that 'Mediterranean Blue' was his fragrance of choice when he goes to Torremolinos, the Costas or wherever.
|"BRAPA you plonker!"|
And despite constantly scouring the doorway for signs of 'opening', when I finally burst in at 12:02, there was plenty of blokes drinking in the main bar, suggesting a back or side entrance had opened sooner. Well, remember my recent day in Streatham and how 'woke' it seemingly was trying to make me? More of the same here, as in a BRAPA first, I was served by a transgender staff member - I went for a pint of Speculation Ale, look, don't judge me, it was just there. Nice lively chatty person immediately asks me 'straight or jug?' Glassware of course. Now, I'm no fan of dimpled handled jugs so in normal circs, I'd bark 'STRAIGHT!' but I didn't want to do this so said I was open minded enough to accept a glass of any denomination or preference. Well, this got remarked on too "Some of the locals hate jugs and demand a straight glass!" "Really?, Snobs!" I replied, half wondering whether I was somehow being tested. The pub was a let down after that amazing intro, and despite green tiling, it was all a bit of a hotch-potch of styles, felt a bit messy. Old Dandy and Beano covers in the gents, a very light airy left side, a dark cavernous right, a very weird smell throughout, some snooty Londoners, bit of Victoriana, some dodgy looking lurkers, good ale quality, and some of the weirdest alternative Christmas songs ever, an emo version of 'Walking in the Air' was a highlight/lowlight.
|Speculation in a jug|
|Mannequin Si in gents|
After a bit of Tube jiggery pokery, I eventually got myself to Crouch Hill where I had the first of four North London pubs in my sights, in N19 Upper Holloway to be precise. I found it after walking down a long straight road behind an irritating pavement blocker rucksack bloke who refused to move even though he was lost and kept asking people for directions to somewhere unpronounceable.
1432 / 2405. Shaftesbury Tavern, Upper Holloway
Considering how impossibly London this pub was (when you open the door from the street, the bar is immediately in your face and the news that the pool room had become a restaurant, tsk!) it had a nice feel to it, perhaps because I was about the only customer. The barmaid heaves herself off her arse round the other side of the bar, away from her smartphone, and serves me with a sigh and suddenly, I'm nostalgic for transgender folk asking if I want straight or jug. I didn't fancy the Pride, a 6%er or a cider so I went for that N1 Hammerton shite which I've never liked but really enjoyed it here! A large side room felt pubbier (but a bit chillier), it had a piano and a stage, you could almost imagine Chas n Dave doing a gig here back in t'day, but felt a bit like a storage room now. A bloke popped in for a half, and smiled as I smuggled 3 mini cheeses and some pork pie with mustard from my BRAPA rucksack of delights, literally behind the barmaid's back who had heaved herself back to her relaxing position. A family with an overfed twild presence were drowned out by the Smith's singing 'This Pub isn't Funny Anymore' or something, and as I got up to leave, the barmaid picked up the Mr Muscle, sprayed a bit on the bar top, and scowled at a cloth accusingly.
|The bogs being amazing|
|The side room|
|A nice etched window|
Pub four was up in Ponders End, near Southbury tube station though I made a meal of getting there, ending up lost around Seven Sisters and then walking a longer way around than was needed.
A grand former cinema soon loomed large out of the now murky mid afternoon air, I'd noticed the 9am opening time, spied Doom Bar and GK Abbot on the bar, it was all crying Wetherspoons ......
1433 / 2406. Picture Palace, Ponders End
But you can't assume anything in this game, and as I asked the barmaid if I could use my 4th last remaining 50p off voucher which the kind Pub Curmudgeon sent me, to my surprise, she replies 'no, we are NOT a Wetherspoons'. I ask if I've offended her, and totally deadpan, she replied "well yes you have actually!" so I then say (theatrically looking up to the high ceiling) "oh actually, I can tell this is much better than a Wetherspoons!" to which she purses her lips in a kind of 'stop digging' look. Well, my fellow drinkers are an edgy, rough looking bunch, so I sit closer to the bar than perhaps was strictly sensible. Two blokes, right behind me, keep play fighting, grabbing each other by the neck, but our barmaid star seems to have them under control. An old bloke and his hooped earring daughter seem to be arguing over the rules to some lager drinking game which ends with wet crotches and broken bar stools. And slightly out of earshot, a bloke I think is the Dad of one of the two play fighters is making comments that the staff don't seem to like. I felt a bit uncomfortable, it must be said, and when I go to the loo, who should follow me in but the two play fighters who then start snorting cocaine, which explains their slightly unpredictable behaviour. I have to go back to UK drug capital Ross-on-Wye since I last saw such open drug use in a pub bogs.
|Nice grand former theatre/cinema entrance|
|Was a nice ale from what I can remember!|
See you then, Si