Wednesday, 29 May 2019

BRAPA - Tales from the Tyne (Part 2 of 2)

As I continued in my quest to find pubs open on Bank Holiday Monday, a sign took me down a cobbled bank towards the River Tyne, just behind the Gateshead International Stadium, where I once saw Hull City reserves lose in 2012 on a chilly Monday night for no apparent reason. 

I didn't know about this pubs existence back then, but it stood looking old, majestic, a little bit self important, but most importantly, open!

As I stepped up to take the above photo you see, to my right, a band who must've played here the previous night were shovelling their equipment into a van.  They glanced at me, like they wanted to be the focus of my attention.  I wonder if they were famous, or just thought they were?   Inside the Schooner (1628 / 2597), initial impressions were great as I saw the old carpet, nice woodwork, bench seating, stained glassed screens and the smell of good honest grub.  But this pub reminded me very much of the Rose Villa Tavern in the West Midlands on a smaller scale, because for all the old pub beauty, a feeling they were hellbent on fucking it up by trying to be 'everything to everyone' with gaudy yellow walls, fairy lights, musical decor, and a modern conservatory extension which didn't fit.  And all washed down with poor quality ale, very farty.  Perhaps there was an air lock.  I don't know how these things work.  Staff were pleasant but functional, lacking the personal touch of the Dolly Peel earlier.   The staff and band seemed to be at an awkward farewell stand off (very British!), in a semi circle right by my table.  "Soooo I guess we'd better go then".  "Yup".  "Well, been nice having you".  "Well, good luck with everything you are doing to this pub", "Well, cheers for last night, come again".  "Yup". "Bye then".  This went on in a kind of loop for a good 15 minutes.  The blokes wore hats and had swaggers like folk rock Paul McCartneys giving invisible blowjobs to their better selves.  The ladies all elfin features and ethereal voices, like comedienne Lucy Porter and Dobby from Harry Potter lost in a cave on the Emerald Isle.  Can you believe I'd had less than two pints when I made these observations?  Neither can I. 

Invisible man pulls my dodgy Tyneside Blonde

Stones glass probably the highlight

Some really nice features ....

.....and not.

I carried on my walk through Gateshead til I got to my third pub of the day.  Also open!  Was really cooking on gas now.  Though a bit of a struggle to find, directly under a railway arch, proof that the 'Toon is spilling its guts into Gateshead, looking for a new breed of Split Chimps.  

Train passing overhead as I take this photo - how bloody fascinating!

Looks a bit like an old pub from the outside, but don't be fooled!
Station East (1629 / 2598) was perhaps hard to find for everyone, for despite being well into the afternoon of this Bank Holiday in a central location, I was the only customer for the near on 40 minutes I was in here!  And that is sad isn't it?  And the reason I was here for 40 mins, my beer took so long to drink!  Nothing wrong with how it was kept, but this Tangerine murk from Blackpool was just so errm 'tangy', I found it quite hard to swallow (literally).  The young barmaid just fiddled on her phone (always think when only customer, you might get a chat) and in this respect, it reminded me quite a lot of my experience at the Firkin Shed in Bournemouth, without the crushing disappointment of actually being in Bournemouth.  Actually, as soon as I pressed send on my 'Tweet' to say nothing was happening, a train rumbled ahead and the whole building shook.  More freight trains cos it is a Bank Holiday, she tells me.   That is as fun as it got.  Well, that was until she was relieved by presumably her Mum (no, not like that Russ, don't be gross).  "Do you want anything getting?" asked Mum.  "No" sulked daughter and sloped off in a peak Firkin Shed moment.   But the Mum was a top canny lass, and I don't know how, but in seconds, we were exchanging the most gruesome sunburn stories we had!  Ok, she did disappear to do some vital pub work (probably), returning later to say "apologies for leaving you on your own!"  Did she think I was going to cut myself?  It wasn't THAT bad.  No, really.  

Birds eye view of bar from up where the loos were

Not much gannin' on 'ere is there?

I was pleased to see I could walk to my next pub, in Newcastle centre, in just 11 minutes over the river.

Slightly less pleased to see it was also built into a railway arch, but apparently the Split Chimp started life in this location before up-scaling, and i LOVE that place, so no reason to form too many pre-conceived notions before entering ......

But the Box Social (1630 / 2599) never really did it for me, a shame cos I love a good box, and I mostly enjoy being social!  A functional bar dude served me some liquid fuzz which was top quality and certainly more enjoyable than my last couple if a bit crazy hoppy, and with him also glued to his phone, I was glad to find an upstairs area with the all important 'Lads Netty', a bit more warmth, and three blokes have a natter by the Netty.  Problem is, second they saw me, they were like "Ho'way lads, let's drink up and leave".  Oh dear, I didn't EVEN have a BRAPA logo showing.  Alone again, only a bit of quirky shit beer artwork and a wonder of how anything made solely of scaffolding planks could survive in the next 100 editions of the Good Beer Guide kept me amused for any period of time.  For me, it all felt a bit like being in a BrewDog, with a degree more honesty, a concession to cask and marginally more punk.  

I don't really understand ......

A bit forlorn then as I sloped the 20+ minutes up through toon towards Haymarket to my fifth and final tick of the day.  But I couldn't afford to walk too slowly, I was on a cheap fixed ticket back to York at 5:30pm and had to ensure I spent a good 25 minutes or more here to do it justice.  

Again I saw it was a Micro, and again just delighted to see it open ......

Accidental shot of me crossing the threshold but I left it in anyway to prove my shoes were proper Mackem!
But despite my low expectations after a couple of below par experiences today, I ended up enjoying Town Mouse Ale House (1631 / 2600) quite a bit.  In a sense, the day had come full circle.  For the first time since my opening pub (the Dolly Peel at South Shields), it was the warm welcome you associate from the North East folk (and the main reason I chose Sunderland University back in '97) that really set the scene for a rewarding pub tick.  Barmaid asks how I am, almost like she actually means it, and as I order the stout, the locals go 'coo' and 'ahhh' in an assenting murmur.  I say I must've chosen well and the main protagonist says 'aye' but then turns his back in a kind of 'I'm friendly but I'm not talking to you the whole time' kinda way which suits me fine, cos I could perch by the window and observe.  Barmaid obviously ran the show, and the way her and the locals played off each other whilst those further back chortled felt like a finely rehearsed stage play.  A lot of warmth and gentle humour.  One downside when I went to loo, and a man let me past rather too apologetically, and when I got inside the single cubicle he'd just vacated, I discovered why.  Twitter rascals Lager, Lizards and Quinno tried to blame me for the smell, but I protest my innocence!  But this was a fine atmosphere and cracking stout, meaning I could leave much happier than when I walked in!  Give this one a try if your up in Newcastle looking for a new pub experience.

The kind of bar blockers even I can love

That mucky old church from out of the window

View towards the loo, everyone looking innocent so far

In the loo and not enjoying it

So, that frustratingly leaves 9 Tyne & Wear ticks.  Too many for one day, not enough for two.  I wouldn't mind getting back to do six of them one day before the end of August, but of course I have to prioritise Derbyshire.  

If I do, I'd probably do my remaining two in Sunderland ticks now I know we won't be playing them in the league next season, but leave the Houghton-le-Spring 'Spoons which might combine better with County Durham.   That'd mean four more, so perhaps Whickham and Swalwell as both not bad from the MetroCentre, I'd like to have another stab at the Old Fox in Felling (and am sure the locals would like to have a stab at me), and maybe my one remaining tick in Newcastle (Wylam Brewery).  This'd mean leaving High Spen and Byker's Tyne Bank Tap Room, but maybe its best to see if places like that get in for a second consecutive year as I guess they are both debutants.  

That's the boring science bit anyway! 

Now I have to think do I have a crack at Chapel-en-le-Frith, possibly combined with Blossoms near Stockport on Friday, or summat more Mancy instead like Burnage or Gorton?  OR stay home and admit defeat for May and write my month end review!  29 ticks in 29 days, could I make it 31 in 31?

Decision, decisions.  




  1. I didn't realise when you said 'more on that later in the week' yesterday, you meant today!

    "on a chilly Monday night for no apparent reason. "

    I'm assuming you don't mean to imply there was no reason why that Monday night should be chilly. :)

    "but most importantly, open!"


    "And all washed down with poor quality ale, very farty."


    "like folk rock Paul McCartneys giving invisible blowjobs to their better selves."

    Good thing I'm not eating as I read this!

    "Invisible man pulls my dodgy Tyneside Blonde"

    Was he giving himself a blowjob at the time? ;)

    "how bloody fascinating!"

    What... a train moving on a Bank Holiday or you taking a decent photo?

    "I found it quite hard to swallow (literally)."

    I take it you don't do invisible blowjobs on yourself. ;)

    "(no, not like that Russ, don't be gross)."

    Guilty. I was thinking of the Goon Show episode, The MacReekie Rising of '74. :)

    "we were exchanging the most gruesome sunburn stories we had!"

    And then moved on to wonky knees?

    "a shame cos I love a good box,"

    *cough* - here's me being demure.

    "with the all important 'Lads Netty'"

    I'm guessing from context you mean the loo, and not someone who's fast on the clarinet. :)

    "and when I got inside the single cubicle he'd just vacated, I discovered why"


    "In the loo and not enjoying it"

    For a second there that photo makes it look like you're in a bath!

    "That's the boring science bit anyway! "

    Hang on; I'm still trying to map it all out in my head. :)

    "could I make it 31 in 31?"

    Go for it!


    PS - "about this pubs existence"

    Apostrophe for possession my good man.

    "Give this one a try if your up in Newcastle"

    My 'up' is nowhere near there... and that should be you're. :)

  2. The Schooner, then called the Ship Hotel, appeared in a 1967 film which was later included in the BFI DVD Roll Out the Barrel.

  3. I did the Station East a few weeks back and had a similar experience - served by a morose member of staff (quite possibly the same one) and the only other customer in the half hour I was there was a bloke drinking coffee and tapping away on his laptop. From the pile of paperwork with him I guessed he ran the place. Much preferred the Central next door.

  4. To be fair, that plant in the Town Mouse bogs is a chlorophytum, a member of the asparagus family. So weird smells in the toilet isn't entirely inappropriate.

    1. Hang on. Spider plants (the 'bog' name for chlorophytum) absorb nasty odours; so being in the loo makes sense, but the weird smells should be lessened. ;)