Wednesday 8 May 2019

BRAPA - Last One to the Bargate : Derbyshire IV (Part 1)

Spotted Cow themed mirrors in Holbrook

It was time for my last round of pub ticking as a man in my thirties, as mid-life crisis loomed larger. I escaped a twild-laden train at Belper to meet our genial host, Martin "RM" Taylor, who just so happened to be in the same county for his final pub tick. 

No sooner had I found him and said "hello old friend" when I got immediately distracted by the station cat ........

'Allo Kitty.  What pub are we off to then?!'

"You want me to follow you in the opposite direction to Martin??"

Martin waved me back in the right direction (I'm glad he has patience with me) and we headed for his car.  And if there was a 'Chauffeur Martin drinking game', then 'Parking Up a Hill about a Mile from the Station Just for the Exercise' would probably be a double shot of DIPA.  But let's not be ungrateful, even if today's pubs were all in villages pretty much on top of each other.  In fact, is there a higher quality concentration of village pubs anywhere else in the UK than here in mid-Derbys?

He told me we were off to meet a chap in the first pub who reads our blogs, lives locally and had a Bass pump clip (a heavy high quality one it would turn out) for him, just to add extra spice to that first tick of the day ......

Black Bull's Head, Openwoodgate (1603 / 2572) was that first pub and 'cor, smells like a swimming baths!' was my first comment due to the overpowering chlorinated arrival.  Still, better a clean pub than a shitty one, as Chaucer probably once said.  My fave barperson of the day was found here, a slim blonde lady with an element of Willow Somers from Neighbours.  As we all know, if the person serving you looks like a Neighbours character, the pub is instantly 2% better.  She sadly informed me the Bass wasn't on today, tried to steer me in the direction of Tim Taylor Landlord, but I went Oakham Citra and any hope of her marrying me were immediately gone.  I really liked this pub actually, perhaps my 2nd fave today, multi roomed, basic but airy, very traditional, had a really nice feel.  We met Mark, the man with the Bass pump clip, who was drinking half a craft-murk in the side room.  Martin asked if he was enjoying it.  I asked him what it was.  "Not enjoying it ...... and no idea what it's called".  Me and Martin smiled at each other approvingly,  We'd found one of our own, a pub lover over a beer one.   Really nice no nonsense Derbys chap, I let him highlight the GBG too.  We chatted local pubs and the like, did he want to join us at our next pub?  Hell, yeah!

The closest I'd get to a pint of Bass all day

Mark and his murk do the ticking

Look what a lovely pub it is

Me trying to give you an idea of the multi-roomed nature of this pub
En route to pub two then, and I got an added birthday boost as my Mum messaged me a picture of a BRAPA Birthday Victoria Sponge she'd just created ........

One point off for lack of BRAPA mention 
But back to business as we enter pub two of six ......

White Hart, Bargate (1604 / 2573) was the key pub of the day for me, being as it was my last remaining one on the first page of Derbyshire (gotta have a system!)  Despite seeming like the current local award winner, I didn't enjoy this one as much as most today and that's not to say it wasn't a solidly good pub, just the standard of Derbys is so high and something about the atmosphere in this low roofed left hand bar that felt a bit disjointed, uncomfy and chilly.  Three locals stood at the bar didn't help, I'd have expected them to be a bit more 'giving' and 'generous' somehow.  I contemplated the local Hardy & Hansons bitter, Martin whispered I'd be lynched by the locals, so I got something else, but then when Mark went for the H&H, he was almost paraded as some local legend who knows his stuff!  Cruel game this BRAPA.  Martin did well, he ordered a stilton pork pie with more English mustard than I've ever seen anyone use in one sitting, and what looked like a great non alcoholic ale from Thornbridge, but his expression when I asked him how it was told its own story.  Mark waved at someone in the street, a 'nice young lady', and then in Quote of the Day, declares "I'm not waving at this next one, she's about 12!"  Soon they were making me feel younger than I deserved by trying to get me to name vintage album covers stuck to the wall.  I even struggled with Sid Vicious.  Call yerself a punk Si?!

Some ale or other (not Pride)

Martin's exquisite dinner

Locals and a bit of Mark

BRAPA anthem 'My Way' (MUCH better than the original)

Pub three approached and Mark was still with us as we enter Holbrook, next village down (I think) and just as well, as Martin revealed the bombshell - this was to be his remaining tick remember, but he'd already sneaked it in a few days before (#PubMan) so he went off to some dodgy gaff called Old Blokes Corner or something where you apparently can get a Bass from the barrel in the company of 90 year old curmudgeonly blokes with webbed toes ....

If the outdoor ceramic cow, and diners and twilds Martin had found on his visit didn't seem like a threat enough, it was when Mark pointed out the "May Bank Holiday Beer Festival" sign that I truly baulked and took an uneasy step backwards into the road!  Yes, as a pub ticker, the LAST thing you wanna have to do is walk into a pub with a beer festival on as a stranger and explain you are here 'by chance' and simply want "a pint of Pedi from the barrel" (Martin had instructed me to say this) served in a proper glass, paid for in proper money, no programme, no vouchers, no bollocks starter pack, just a 'normal' pub experience!  But that was the situation that greeted me and Mark here at the Spotted Cow, Holbrook (1605 / 2574).  I strode up and, like Clarissa before me,  explained all to the barmaid, who murmured something about 'all handpumps lead to a barrel' and served me a perfectly serviceable pint of Pedigree.  She inevitably told us about the beer festival despite my BRAPA protestations, and showed us an empty downstairs area where a bored bloke fiddled on his phone amidst beer kegs covered in spangly silver jackets like camp 70's rockstars.  It may've been too early, but it spoke for itself, everyone was here for lunch / a normal pub experience like us and there was zero appetite for the Fest, which I'd say was fucking funny if I was being malicious.  But I won't cos I'm not.  It wasn't too bad atmosphere wise, and Mark explained from the shithole that this pub once had been, they'd done a sterling job to make into a nice pub, and pub-like it did feel so yes credit where it is due, yet still, perhaps the least convincing of the six today.  

This dog wanted to be our friend throughout, and was in no way a twog.

Including one of the least appetising 'jam jar' tasters I've seen this year

Beer festival in full swing

View to the bar (it was busier than this)

But as Martin popped in to say 'your 27.5 mins is up' and drink my rather disappointing dregs, it was time to say goodbye to Holbrook and 'helllloooooo sweeeeetie' to Makeney, and 'now then duck' to Horsley Woodhouse and 'ey up old chum' to Smalley.  But I'll save those ones for tomorrow if you behave.  


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