After a chewy toasted teacake and an over elaborate hot chocolate served by a hyped up Spanish lady, we took the bus uphill out of Swansea to the cute suburb of Cockett, a place you'd never think of going to unless you were a 'pub ticker', most probably.
We weren't expecting the pub to open til 11:30am and the wind was colder than ever, belying the late April date. "Maybe we can take shelter in that little village hall next door to the pub," suggested Dad. "Good idea, we might get a cup of tea!" I replied. But it was a funeral parlour. Ooops.
In happier news, the pub was already open (11:10am) with a few customers already supping Brains, the zombie wannabees .......
The Cockett Inn (1598 / 2567) was the strongest of our pre-match pubs, and the second best of the five we visited today. This was in no small part due to the quality welcome given to us by the two young gents behind the bar. I was even offered a pub loyalty card. I'm the LAST person you should give a pub loyalty card to (well third last after Messrs Taylor and Mackay). Sometimes, I explain BRAPA at this point, but today, I thanked him gratefully and wondered if I could drink ten pints in here without going for a Rev James, a beer I've never really liked, possible cos it reminds me of Ember Inns. The other ale on was Brains Bitter, and like the staff, above average quality. Can't remember ever enjoying it this much even in Cardiff, but then again I've been enjoying so-called standard bitters a lot more this past 12 months. Dad got a J20 'topped up with lemonade' and a blackcurrant and tap water as we awaited the arrival of that Force Of Nature, Tom Irvin, a bit delayed by transport issues. Anyway, all this gentle positivity turned what may have been a quite average pub into a good one. "I'm going to the loo .... don't mention it in your blog!" said Dad suddenly. Notorious you see. Tom shambled in soon after, and then in one of those classic pub moments, an old bloke practically came to sit on our knees despite having the whole large pub to aim at. It was obvious we were in "HIS SEAT", and he wanted us to know it as he read his paper passive aggressively, huffing and puffing, even when I tried to say complimentary things about Mark Williams in the overhead snooker.
|Wetherspoons called. They want their carpet back.|
|"Treats for your furry ....... FATHER??"|
|Oh, and don't forget the tiny Rev James beermats.|
A brisk 20 minute walk cleared the last cobwebby remnants of my hangover as we arrived in Uplands, a suburb a bit closer to Swansea centre, but still a small bus ride away. Here lay my final two pub ticks for the city that, let's remember, lost out to Hull in a bid to become City of Culture. that must've hurt. A bit like the time me and Rose West entered the 'Gloucestershire Person of the Year' contest, and she won, and I later find out we'd been the only two entrants.
Dylan Thomas was born in Uplands apparently, and our first pub here was keen to make something of it even it meant pretending he was some sort of Liam Gallagher style character ........
Hmmm, I suspect I was a bit generous towards Uplands Tavern (1599 / 2568) whilst we were there. It felt very 'Head of Steam', and I don't mean old school Newcastle 'stuffing pouring out of the bench seating' HoS but new school Hull 'tiled kitchen' monstrosity. It also felt a little bit Brewdog, and had a central island bar like if you were in civilised Scotland. A stage at the back suggested live music, but it seemed to be a proper townie pre-clubbers venue as I discovered to my cost later in the day when I popped in for a wee. And neon, so much neon lighting, I felt like I glowing Sellafield style. Even at 12 noon, a loud group of Egg Chasing shirted twenty somethings seemed to be eyeballing us, they love their Rygbi down here, and there was some event on with 3 matches or something confusing. It was comfy enough, but my Gower Gold (fake name for something else) which had started well, got very tired by the two thirds mark, very much like this whole experience.
|Just imagine the carnage ......|
A few minutes down a side road, we came to our third and final pre-match tick. It was actually very close to the Westbourne Hotel I'd visited in 2003 on that famous day Swansea needed to beat us to stay in the football league and did due to two very dubious penalty decisions.
It was hard to believe we'd like a pub less than the previous one today, but the Bryn-y-mor Hotel (1600 / 2569) did everything in its power to be shit. It ain't a good sign when I go for a piss and frantically check Whatpub to make sure we're not in the wrong Bryn-y-Mor! To be fair , the barman of questionable crew cut and earring was a livewire, the beer was decent quality, but it was when all said and done a Greene King Sports Bar with large portions of food and an overcomplicated App to download. It felt like something you'd find on the seafront in Morecambe or Blackpool, but with less charm. Oh well, 1600 was a landmark pub tick so there was that to celebrate at least!
|The Abbot drank perfectly ok.|
|"Non Gluten Containing Gravy?" What ARE they on about?|
|Should perhaps be changed to "Pubs With CharacterS"|
Tom, who wasn't coming to the game as he (correctly) refused to pay a £30 admission charge, helped me and Dad get a bus up to the Liberty where 250 Hull City fans watched a first hour of total boredom as we went 2-0 down and didn't really try. When the second goal went in, a mass exodus of our fans occurred which baffled me, because for the majority (non pub tickers I presume), they'll have come all this way solely for the football, and then leave 30 mins before the end? Bizarre!
So it served them right that the 150 or so of us left got to witness an unlikely fightback as Swansea mentally went 'on the beach' and we got it back to 2-2, a nice end of season boost.
Even better, we ran for a bus right outside the ground and crawled back to Swansea bus station in time for a connecting bus out to Killay, where we'd been recommended that pub in Mumbles yesterday.
A short walk from the bus stop took us into a surprisingly isolated location by the river, where the road runs out. You just kind of suspected it'd be a classic from the moment you reached the pub ......
|"Smile mate, you're in BRAPA!"|
Railway Inn, Upper Killay (1601 / 2570) was a late contender for 'pub of the weekend' as we spent a crazy half an hour or so amongst the kind of open, friendly, 'what you see is what you get' locals, which Colin the Spurs supporting barman from Victoria in Mumbles had promised us yesterday. I'd prepared myself, but was still quite surprised how insane it was! The main bar was wall to wall with jolly folk, so as instructed, we ordered the "strong" 5.2% Wood ale (which we can apparently handle as we're from Yorkshire!) and a great drop it was. A quiet side room the other side of the corridor randomly had tomato plants for sale, and something about it all reminded me of the Swan With Two Necks in Pendleton, yet this was much more basic, and not a sign of dining in sight. I know people say rural pubs have to do food to survive, but places like this with big local reputations built over many years / centuries do exist, and suggest that if you are good enough, they'll come to the pub regardless. We thought we'd found refuge in the gorgeous long back bar, full of railway memorabilia and local photos of old. Dad thought he'd take this opportunity to phone home and say 'all is well', perhaps a bit naive in a pub like this, it was always going to attract attention and a lady I'd already identified as the pubs 'I'm Welsh and I'm a bit of a nutter' was shouting over "OI! HEY! YOU!" Uh oh. A terrified Dad responded as any civilised man would to a wild Welsh woman, and smiled whenever she looked over at us. This didn't work either! "OI, is that yer Da', I think he fancies me!" she shouts over to me. Poor Dad decided to just tranfix his gaze on the old railway photos after this, as she claimed I had an 'aura' about me so I wove this into a BRAPA tale of how I'm 'at my best' when I'm in a good pub and it seemed to help, for the whole room joined in and we chatted local pubs, another local lady constantly amazed we knew the names of all these local pubs despite me explaining how the Good Beer Guide worked. Dad got us another half, we needed it, and then we made our getaway, a swift 10 min uphill walk to the bus stop. What an experience! BRAPA at its finest.
|The Original Wood - beer of choice for visiting Yorkshire folk|
|Tomato plants. But glad we didnt stay in this room|
|Even I was too terrified to take a photo that might include background locals in here!|
A few minutes back along the bus route towards Swansea, we came to our final pub of this mini weekend break ..............
Not too much to say about the Vivian, Sketty (1602 /2571) , it was very much like the Woodman in Blackpill from yesterday except it was Brains rather than Greene King, but it was still a sprawling large main road pub with pretensions of dining in a pub where most people just wanted to sup a pint of lager and see if Norwich could clinch promotion to the Premier League, mainly cos the sound of the commentary reverberated around the pub at a thousand decibels. Tom was back with us for his final appearance of the season, and had very kindly bought us both 8p doughnuts to celebrate the occasion, which I wish I'd had with my Brains SA looking back, which was pretty good.
The five pubs today had, on the whole, not been anywhere near as good as the pubs yesterday, yet the day itself, just as enjoyable. Perhaps a lesson to me I need to cut my BRAPA limit down to 5 in one session rather than 6. Am getting on a bit you know now! Seriously, I do kind of feel I owe it to the pubs and myself to have a (fairly) clear memory of where I've been for blogging purposes. Though if St Neots day was anything to go by, you enjoy it when I get so pie-eyed I don't know where I am, so swings n roundabouts I guess!
Anyway, I felt like I saw Swansea in a whole new positive light this weekend, and it is all thanks to the Good Beer Guide getting me around places and pubs your average visitor might not see. And that, is why I can now approach May pub ticking with a new sense of optimism and relish!
See you in Derbys,