Tuesday 30 July 2019

BRAPA in ...... Staly-bridge over the River Die

Two and half years since my last visit to Stalybridge, and the two Good Beer Guide entries which made the 2018 edition had 'stood the test of time' to remain in the 2019 edition, so I felt it was high time I return to this magical town full of some of the more peculiar folk you're likely to witness in the UK.

A quick consultation of the BRAPA IOW (Index of Weirdness) tells us that where Altrincham is 1, Falmouth is 5, and Preston is 8, Stalybridge achieves an unhealthy 9 (crazy and obsessed with death). 

Compared with recent Friday night jaunts to Alfreton and beyond, Stalybridge was straightforward, only a hair raising sprint along the underpass at Huddersfield to make the connection.

Seven bearded young men with posh voices and rolled up trouser legs shared one 330ml can of Beavertown Neck Oil between them.  Overheard snippets of their chat included lines like "I don't like ale that much, I buy it more for the conversation", "I'm look forward to a G & T" and "Best thing to do is order a scotch egg and a half".  I was convulsing, for I scarcely believed a stereotypical craft ale twat could have such an accurate real life depiction.

They did at least alert me to a strange incident on Marsden station, where a lady in a Micky Mouse top filmed a small insect crawling around a post for what seemed like an eternity ...... is Marsden really so boring?

Once in Stalybridge, glad I could remember the general layout of the town.  Like so many unfashionable north western towns, it IS friendly, but the friendliness seems to be tinged with something else.  Is it a mild sense of peril?  A reservation when it comes to strangers?  A curiosity?  Perhaps it is just fear.  It is quite unique anyway.

A short walk took me to the first of the evening pub duo, down a piss stained alleyway into a cobbled precinct stood, you guessed it, a micropub.

Bit of a weird set up for the first time visitor to Bridge Beers (1698 / 2671) with a makeshift bar which was actually a bench, all that divided our lugubrious host from his customers with the ale casks in the main room.  Took me a while to fathom it out, especially as that common micropub feature of 'dog on lead hampering your progress' needed careful negotiation.  Eight ales were listed, but he tells me four are on.  "They are all pales" he barks.  "Ah, probably wise in this recent heat" I remark, trying to 'offer' something.  "NO!  Just a delivery mix up!  We always have a dark on!" he bites back.  Jeez, sorry I tried!   Perhaps no surprise a few minutes later that a local says to him "I came in here for cheery banter, and you are sat there reading obituaries!"  It made sense.  If my initial impression here was of a rather uninspiring micro, I realised I'd been harsh once I'd had chance to settle, with some nice old furnishings, beermats for beers you'd ordinarily find stuck to walls, and quite an authentic pub atmosphere.  The star of the show, and very much my saviour, was a quirky old lady with a shock of dyed red hair.  Receptive to any route into conversation with the locals (unlike the blokes at the 'bar' who'd closed ranks), she's telling me how to keep cool on nights in this recent heatwave.  From putting a towel in the freezer and then wrap yourself in it, to wearing wet socks in bed, she had all the answers, and was soon on about the loose morals employed by her previous workplace Brighthouse (where druggies and students buy sofas for £1 and pay it back at 7,000,000% APR).  She gave me the lowdown on my next pub, and sent me off in the right direction .......

It was only a five minute walk in truth, and was a really long building reminding me a bit of the old school next to where I live.  It had a Bass sign, and a chippy attached on the left hand side ......

And you know when you cross a mosaic threshold to get into a pub, it is going to be good n proper!  Yes, the Wharf Tavern (1699 / 2672) was a characterful no-frills boozer, so much in the mould of what you'd expect from Stalybridge, perhaps only the nearby White House beats it for insanity.  £2.60 for one of the best pints of Copper Dragon Golden Pippin I'd had in years, one of three beers on, "let it settle!" she warns me, and I wasn't sure if she was planning on doing something, or I was just to stare at it like a weird beery lava lamp for the next 5 minutes.  I did the latter.  Ah yes, Dad had told me about his visit to the pub where he was sure the attached chippie was a cover for some drug dealing ring based on the amount of shady shifting between the two.  "He could be onto something" said the red haired old lady when I mentioned his theory in the last pub.  Friday is very much fish day, and there were lots bringing their food in here from next door.  It caused one family argument as one lady in a flowery dress says to her husband "Yeh, but if I get mushy peas and you get chips, you'll want some of my peas, but I won't want any of your chips.  Arrgggh!" and when he leaves the room, she says "ugh, men!" and the 58 barmaids squashed behind the bar all agree.  Another thing our old crone from the last pub said was that this place had a bit of an obsession with death (which felt a bit pot calling kettle when you think back to 'obituaries' gate).  Next thing I'm hearing, a lady telling a bloke "I were with her when she died, I'd been putting cream on her face and arms".  Always good to be moisturised in the moment before you snuff it, I guess.  "But I'm only going to her funeral if I get properly asked!" she warned.  I sat by a mirror observing most of this pub behaviour in reverse, which seemed right for a pub experience such as this.

A train back towards York was imminent so no time to call into the Station Buffet Bar for a 4th time in my life, a shame because I might've actually been sober enough to enjoy that wonderful place properly the first time.

Still, I had a heavy day in Newark planned for Saturday which I'll tell you about in a rushed hazy one parter, so perhaps best that I did get an early night.


Monday 29 July 2019

BRAPA has .... Gone For a Burton (like, REALLY Gone!)

No words are really needed for the third and final leg of pubbing on Sat 20th July 2019.  I could just show you this photo, with no caption required ...........

But I've got to at least try to do Burton-Upon-Trent justice, my third pubby visit here.  It never fails, a nice tribute to it's beery heritage, and even after tonight, I went away with two new recommendations.  So I will be back, unless I'm barred from the town of course.

Having just completed the superb Elms Inn out Stapenhill way, I was in jubilant if slightly worse for wear mood as I walked across town to the Travelodge by the railway station, to dump the heaviest of my luggage, downing a quick bottle of water, and walk back from where I'd come from where my two remaining Burton pub ticks were.

Of course, I'd normally have called it a night by now but the late Lullington opener (let's not contemplate the wedding meaning the pub may've been actually open all day!) had forced my hand, and I felt that I could only justify the overnight stop if I pushed through the pain barrier, to do something I'd decided to call 'BRAPA After Hours'.

As I stepped up to the first pub, a bouncer was stood at the door (typical bouncer behaviour) staring at me inquisitively as I stepped up to take the photo, at what I hoped was a safe distance ......

He eyed me up and down, a mixture of pity and disgust, but I tried my sweetest toothy drunken smile and he said 'alright pal' and moved to let me in.  So here I was, the Crossing, Burton Upon Trent (1696 / 2669) and as per the 'bouncer presentiment', I found a loud, bright, 'drinks before clubbing' type environment, which means I didn't enjoy it as much as I may have done had I visited on a damp Tuesday afternoon in November.  It felt a bit like one of those crafty modern pizza emporiums, a London version.  An army of staff buzzed around and I was somehow still surprised to see Bass on, and a very pleasant barmaid pulled me a pint of it, which again I enjoyed very much, my 5th Bass today in 7 pubs!  Scroll down to the picture of the poor young lady  (reminiscent of A.B. in Eagle & Child in Whitefield a couple of years back, I didn't mean to take photo as was trying to take a selfie of me with some weird photo/mirror behind me but don't expect you to believe that!). But her expression is instructive, as it is symptomatic of how the whole pub viewed me, as I shambled over to a table with rucksack, quite worse for wear.  Problem is, I was coming towards the end of a heavy day.  These guys were all young, vibrant, only just getting started.  I fitted in here about as well as Megan Rapinoe trying to park her car on the narrow streets outside the Falstaff, Derby.  Also, everyone wore yellow, a nice nod to the local football team.  A large space seemed to form around me, I was given a wide berth.  That bottle of water I'd downed hadn't made much difference!  But Bass is more sobering anyway, I lied to myself.

I continued to search for a former clarity as I approached my 'final' pub of the day, as I knew how highly anticipated and well thought of this next pub was and it deserved my full concentration!

And this pub was much more in-keeping with my general feel, and quite the opposite to the Crossing.  Yes, Coopers Tavern (1697 /2670) to my relief had a real 'winding down towards last orders' vibe, customers were scattered across the pub, behind various walls, through archways, tucked into nooks and crannies, laughing, gargling, the odd strangulated cry.  I guess it was a bit like being in a haunted house.  I just had enough wits about me to notice Bass was on here too, but in barrels like in the Seven Stars at Falmouth.  But unlike there, the staff here smiled warmly, looked at me with a sympathy I probably didn't deserve, for I was trying my best to hold it together.  Joules beers also featured prominently, 'that's weird' I thought, but then remembered I was in Staffs so probably made sense.  I don't mind Joules, but you'd never get it over a Bassie, surely?  I perched on this barrel like table and staff laugh n joked in that kind of 'last orders / another job well done' mood.  Under other circs, I'd have conversation snippets for you as I remember them being quirky.  I was in restless mood so kept taking my Bass for a walk around the pub, a little bit too timid to go into any of the rooms where the shrieks and gargles were coming from, but at least I had just enough in the tank to realise I was in yet another of Burton's special pubs.

Some evil person on Twitter had alerted me to a non GBG pub called the Devonshire Arms and being an impressionable drunk, I said if I saw it, I'd give it a try, despite it being 10:55pm by now.  A man of my word, I was almost annoyed when it loomed large out of the night sky like a giant creamy sex pest ......

I was half hoping the friendly baldie would turn me away (due to 'last orders' or being too drunk, I didn't really mind which) but he served me with a friendly gusto as enthusiastic as any staff member had displayed all day.  I ordered a beer called 'Ale of Two Cities', that much I can remember by zooming in on below pic, thus breaking my amazing Bass run which I doubt'll ever be beaten in BRAPA history.  Yes, from nine pubs, I'd had 6 pints of Bass.  Only Melbourne, Newton Solney and here didn't have it on.  Nice to have a change. I got a bit upset with the Purity beermats which were a silly shape.   I vaguely remember thinking 'yes, good recommendation, really nice pub, says a lot for standard of Burton that it ain't in the GBG' but a third of the way down my pint, I finally 'hit the wall'.  Next thing I know, I'm slyly taking my pint for a walk to the gents, where I tipped the next third down the urinal!  I walked back, smiling, past the remaining customers, trying to make it look like I'd just wanted a nice big swig while I'll pissed, pretty sure they weren't that gullible, and then drank the final third of this enjoyable 'pint' with a new found love!  Think I'm going to need to come back here, and if it does make the 2020 GBG, I won't be highlighting this in green 'just' yet.

Well, the hangover wasn't too bad - just extreme tiredness hit by the time I was delayed at Doncaster.  I'd slept incredibly well with a loud fan right next to my face on full blast, though I accidentally left the TV on til 5am.

But I am already plotting a 2020 return to Burton, whether it be with Dad, Tom n co, work friends or something else.  As well as doing the Devonshire again, I also saw a cute little place by the Travelodge called Weighbridge which is rejuvenated and gaining good reviews.  And in modern terms, I passed a good looking pre-emptive called Brews of the World(?) which must be a good shout, it can't be as dull as Last Heretic can it?  Ooops, did I say that out loud?  Anyway, I may also need to give Coopers another go, obviously the Dog Inn is one of the best, I'd love to take Dad to the Elms.  And don't forget my understated fave, the Derby Inn, which no one ever seems to mention but I absolutely loved before the Hull City game a few back.

Plenty to think about, but believe the hype, any pub lover has gotta love Burton.


Sunday 28 July 2019

BRAPA in ...... Surely Bassey? (South Derbyshire Pt 2/3)

So here I was, BRAPfinger, the pub ticker with the Midas touch, striding out on the afternoon of Saturday 20th July, from the excellent Brickmakers in Newton Solney to a bus stop in Burton Upon Trent, where I needed to catch a rare 22 bus to a village called Coton-in-the-Elms for some tricky early evening ticks.

The highlight of the walk was coming into Burton over a bridge, and climbing down into this overgrown grassy area to have a wee, only to see a heron staring judgily at me!  Oh well, better than a guy who looks like Jesus with olives & Spanish ladies, as once happened in Paddington.

I walked through this twice before realising it was a nod to the town's brewing history!
Just to confuse everyone, the 22 bus turned up at EXACTLY the same time as the 21, both bound for Swadlincote.  All the 22ers looked at me with a note of respect, this was the more discerning of the two routes obviously.  It was only about £2.20 for a single. Amazing.  Big spender eh? 

BRAPA fact - if you ever talk to a bloke from Derbyshire, they are guaranteed to mention 'Swadlincote' in the first ten minutes.  I don't know why they are all so obsessed with it, but they are.  It doesn't even have a GBG pub!  I think they might just like to wrap their lips around the word.  And they give it cute nicknames.  "Swaddie"  "Swadders", just plain old "Swad" are some of the variations I've heard whilst pub ticking Derbyshire.  

The bus unceremoniously dumped me in Coton, but instead of tackle this pub first, I decided to walk the 1.7 miles to the trickier Lullington, remember a 5pm opener hence why today got so 'epic' so quickly.  It was about 5:10pm when the pub came into view, and I immediately thought "uh oh .... beer festival!" when I saw a giant marquee in the garden.  Time to investigate ......

So I tentatively entered the Colvile Arms, Lullington (1693 / 2666) with a real sense of trepidation.  All quiet.  Of course, they were all outside.  Were they going to shoehorn me this way?  How could I explain I merely wanted a pint of Bass in a real glass, I wanted to pay by cash, no I didn't want a glass or programme or vouchers.  But then, a sweaty man pushed his head through a small hatch like a friendly foetus, and exclaims "HIYA!  YOU HERE FOR THE WEDDING?"  Ahhhh, Wedding, NOT beer festival.  Better or worse?  For better or worse, haha.  Sorry.  "Noooo, just for a pint!" I replied, asking what was on (I'd obviously not come in the main way) and soon I was given the Bass I'd been expecting!  I noticed through the hatch a larger, welcoming room, so spent the next five minutes going outside and back in, down corridors to toilets, smiling at bridesmaids, holding doors for flustered father-in-laws in ill-fitting suits, giving the odd page boy a kick in the head, and finally, I was sat alone in the corner.  Quite an interesting pub, it seemed to be 'upholstered' in a modern, yet wholly traditional pub room style with bench seating and the works, a cracking place to have a pint.  It was far from perfect though, far too stuffy (had Dad been here, he'd have had to go outside!) and a weird slightly sulphurous smell dominated the air which my brain tried to tell me was the Bass, but definitely wasn't!  Yet it lingered.  What made this pub most great and will most stick in my mind were the staff.  The sweaty guy who seemed in charge, and the more hipster young one.  They were so busy, kept having little pep-talks between them like "right, we've got through the first hour, look out for when the speeches end, as they might all come down here!"  And later on, "don't let them use the toilets in the pub , they'll only block them up!" which made me wonder just what they feed these wedding parties.  And sure enough, a loo visit had me colliding with another shambolic father-in-law with a sheepish look on his face, he'd snuck in and somehow blocked the urinals!  One man did finally arrive at the bar and whispered, highly confidentially, that he wanted a can of coke and a coffee, as though he didn't want it known he was struggling with the booze.  I drank quite quickly, for I was now paranoid re 'the end of the speeches'.  "Sorry your visit was in such strange circumstances" said our friendly staff (isn't it always?) and whilst they were right I'd probably not seen things at peak-Colvile, the fact they took the time to chat and make me feel welcome when they were so stressed out was the true mark of the quality of the place. 

I walked back to Coton-in-the-Elms with a smile on my face after all that, but it must be said I was sick of walking by now!  Still, only one Derbyshire pub to be done today and then I could start to relax so this was the last push in many ways ......

That better say Black Horse!

But I couldn't quite relax yet, as the local weirdo 'pounced' on me from the second I got into the lovely Black Horse, Coton-in-the-Elms (1694 / 2667), the standard of pubs really was so high today, though I couldn't really appreciate this one until I thought about it retrospectively.  "YOU'VE DONE THAT IN THE WRONG ORDER LAD!" barked the weirdo next to me, referring to the fact I'd ordered my pint of Bass and THEN removed my rucksack.  Picky or what?  The other locals edged away, pleased to see this poor unsuspecting visitor in the clutches of this 'character' rather than any of them (a fact they later admitted to me when he went out to smoke!)  He criticised pretty much every aspect of my day, slagged of Lullington and said I was 'soft' for getting a taxi back to Burton rather than walking 7 miles (though he'd never consider walking himself, obviously!)  But on the plus side, he gave me a taxi number which proved good, they answered immediately and told me they'd be here in 25 mins.  Just right.  And they meant it this time, unlike at Hartshorne earlier!  The Bass here I thought was the best one so far today.  So, our new mate goes outside and the locals immediately apologise for 'throwing me to the wolves', slag him off, and tell me he is called Junkie Brian.  "Do you know why he's called Junkie Brian?" asks a lady.  "Errrm, is it because he is called Brian and he's a junkie?" I hazard.  "Wowww, you are GOOD!" she replies.  Randomly, there's loads of cakes on a table in the side room and I'm offered to take "as many as I want", proper village local this.  One more point of order though for me to attend to.  That nice bloke on Twitter called The Wicking Man (a bit like the Wickerman but made of Bass instead of demonic straw)  told me his old school chum was the landlord, so I should try and say hi to Ade.  I ask the pub where he is.  Upstairs resting, like all good Derbys landlords.  He finally appears, so I'm introduced, and though he doesn't know who Wicking Man might be (I don't know his real name), he appreciates the sentiment, so I get him to do the honours with the highlighter pen just as Junkie Brian walks back in.  And right on cue, the taxi pulls up.  Great stuff.  

Ade does the honours

A well dressed man (not a junkie)

Ladies loos and a Joules mirror - what could be better?

Friendly locals and staff alike

Random cakes

Bass twinning with Junkie Brian

Local knowledge from the Coton massive led me to ask the taxi driver to actually drop me off at this pub called the Elms Inn (which no one seemed to have heard of, or so I thought!) which was actually on the route back in to Burton anyway.

Well, it certainly looked impressive from the outside .... seemed I'd be able to get a Bass here too. 

If the Black Horse at Coton-in-the-Elms is perhaps the most memorable "5th pub of the day" this year, the Elms Inn (1695 / 2668) was perhaps the first where the odd memory blank started to come into play, though I'd done well.  As I clambered up the steps and into the pub, I was totally blown away by the brilliance of it.  On a day of great pubs, this was the greatest.  It had a near magical atmosphere, was quite old and grand, and the two barmaids who greeted me and served me as a duo were so welcoming too.  I think they were surprised, despite now being 40, nearly everyone in here was a proper old codger.  The Bass quality, if possible, was even better than that in Coton, unless it was just the power of positive thinking.  My 4th Bass in 6 pubs, and third consecutively #BassStats  
I sat in a room to the front right (I think it had a few) and just basked in the simplistic perfection of it all, the beer kicking in by now.  So funny, I'd told so many people on my travels today what my pub agenda was and the Elms got the most minimal reaction, yet Twitter reacted very positively to my visit but when that lovely young bloke called Quosh said he'd never heard of it, I believed him cos neither had I!  I have now.  Wow.  I think I got talking to a couple eventually, but really not sure!  Time to get checked into my Travelodge and drink a bottle of water I think. 

Join me for part 3 tomorrow, #BRAPAAFTERHOURS was almost upon us, and it was about to get very messy!


Friday 26 July 2019

BRAPA in ..... My Achey Breaky Hartshorne (Part 1 of 3)

Crunch time in the BRAPA Derbyshire quest, with only EIGHT GBG pubs to go at the start of play, five on my radar for today.

All were in difficult(ish) locations, nearly all had 'creative' opening times which didn't match the paper edition of the GBG, so thank the lord I checked WhatPub because I usually forget.

Lullington was the toughest place to get to.  A 1.7 mile walk with no pavement from a very irregular bus service, and this one opened 5pm.  As a result, I decided to stay the night in Burton Upon Trent as I feared a late finish.  And as a consequence of staying in Burton, I wanted to do EXTRA pubs, which meant drunker BRAPA than usual.  And even then, the Burtophiles still felt I could and should've done more!  Never satisfied.  So yes, in short, blame Lullington for everything.

At least their summer hours are more accommodating(!)  *Rolls eyes theatrically*

So yes, it is saying something when the MICRO PUB is the one with the most sensible opening hours, as this isn't a feature you'd associate with the brand.

Bright sunshine one minute, pouring with rain the next, the weather seemed symbolic of this craziest day of Derbyshire 'ticking' yet, and the bus ride from Derby to Melbourne was a strange affair.....

Derbyshire people have the dirtiest feet in the UK I once read, and that is a BRAPA fact.  
It felt like the bus ride from Peterborough to Ramsey, and I wouldn't wish that one on anybody.  Bumpy , flat, remote, swathes of water surrounding, it was 'hold onto your hat missus' stuff.  But Melbourne seemed a pretty little town and at 12:03pm, was relieved to see the pub open ......

Buoyed by the fact that Chip & Pin, Melbourne (pub visit 1690 / 2663 gross) seemed to be situated in a normal old building, I pushed the door, 12:03 remember, and was surprised to see my progress immediately hampered by two greyhounds, attached to a man of similar build, which also reminded me I had a pack of Cheesestrings in my bag.  I like greyhounds, they are docile, intelligent, quite clean, I could never describe one as a 'twog'.  Not as good as a cat, but you can't have it all.  I teetered around the edge, finally located the 'wall of beers' and I confused the kindly owner cos I ordered a very nice 'Two Four' (which was Beer Three on the wall!)  They'd just run out of the Black Country Plum Porter that everyone wanted (not Titanic, but just as good according to West Brom EL who of course is in no way biased).  Yes, Mr Greyhound had got in early for the dregs.  #PubMan, and we had a nice chat about Plum Porter price discrepancies in the local area.  The owner noted my GBG on the table, asked if I was a CAMRA, I reluctantly admitted it, and he brought me 10p change for the discount.  A small but quality detail as to why I favoured this place over many other micropubs I've visited this year. After Mr G and Owner had some serious ale chat, Mr G left with his hounds to be replaced by an indecisive couple, she also wanted the Plum Porter and ended up with one of those wooden 'taster' trays with three thirds.  Editorial note - I think anyone who orders these taster trays should be taken outside, shot, brought back in, made to rate all the beers on the NBSS, and then taken outside and shot again, just to make sure.  Joking of course, this couple were smiley and pleasant.  I just don't think it is in the 'pubby' spirit to hedge your bets like you are encouraged to do in more modern outlets in 2019.   I think you go into a pub, take a chance on an ale, there's that sense of peril, sometimes you'll love it, sometimes you won't, but you are stuck with it, a whole sodding miserable or glorious pint of it, and you live and learn for next time.  And a bit like visiting a pub for just 10 mins as opposed to 25-30, how can you form a lasting impression from such a small measure?  I drink thirds at festivals.  I never remember any of them! (though there could be other reasons for that too....)   Anyway, it was also quite fun watching the owner through the little window using this old fashioned pulley system to bring his barrels up from the basement, trust me, it'd be beer porn for some.  Also, he really got into the BRAPA concept - a real natural - he says "you are so close to the Leics / Warwicks borders, have you considered places like Elford and Polesworth?"  I hadn't.  In fact, I thought Elford & Polesworth were a pair of rude animated cats on a late night HBO show voiced by various people called Seth.
What am I on about?  I've only had one pint at this stage .......

My view on arrival

Stared at this for ages wondering where the ales were!

Mr Greyhound and his chums

Nice pint of Beer Three, 'Two Four'

The couple struggle to make a decision, my highlighter pen looks frustrated
Waiting in the pretty market square for a bus with a few sleepy looking locals, I noticed a shop called Birds Confectioners.  And if you've never had a deep fried Cirl Bunting dipped in Green & Blacks, then you've not lived.  

My next pub, on the same bus route, was just about 10-15 minutes further south.  Arriving at 13:25, I thought I might have to loiter for five minutes as Whatpub listed the opening hours as 13:30, but a sign on the door said "go round the back, we're open...."  Bonus!

And what I wasn't expecting to see was a cricket pitch, and a game in full 'swing' quite literally, as the visitors were pulverising the poor Hartshorne seamers with 4's and 6's galore, some of the cars parked by the pub were in a very perilous position indeed!  

I walked through the gate, nodded to a man who looked like Derbyshire's answer to Nelson Mandela, and walked into the sweeping but quite homely Admiral Rodney Inn (1691 / 2664), where I was delighted to see Bass on as a guest so I kept my Derbys theme of "if I see it on, I'll get it" and a kind bald bloke served me.  A quick pub exploration showed the cricket lunches were laid out nicely, and by gum those sausage rolls looked enticing.  Took some will power to remind myself I had a full rucksack of snacks and didn't need to pinch one.  Anyway, I retired to the outside area surrounded by blinking coffee drinking geriatrics who didn't seem to know what day it was, smiled sweetly and supped my Bass in the blustery wind as the visitors continued to pile on the runs. It was early days and they did get a speculative lbw decision (a mere hopeful strangulated cry from the bowler), which seemed to be given more as a sympathy vote than anything else.  Maybe the umpire was worried he'd be frozen out of the lunchtime sausage rolls?  All the home team captain could say was "come on boys, keep working" AFTER EVERY SINGLE BALL.  It was pretty uninspiring captaincy.  Mike Brearley would be turning in his grave if he were dead.  Which he probably will be now I've written this.  An old bloke lamented he'd be umpiring today, but for a recent bout of pneumonia.  From where I was standing, he was doing well just to be alive!  I knew I'd need a taxi if I was to get to my next pub, and when the company I phoned couldn't assist, the kind landlord was at my shoulder to give me a better number, then he had a cheeky peak at my GBG, the taxi co. said '25 mins' so I settled down to sup my Bass slowly, but after 10 mins, they arrived, and I had to neck it, much to the amusement of the old boys, who suddenly had a glint in their eyes I'd not noted previously.

Told you I was drunk already

Soap dispenser of the year contender

Evil Derby shirt sending me a subliminal message.....

No evil Derby shirt, I WON'T DO IT!

Bass and cricket, can't be bad!  Look I even brought a beermat outdoors.

Hartshorne CCC cheerleading squad goals

End of another miserable over, probably
The taxi driver didn't speak a great deal of English and I must admit I was worried we seemed to be headed straight for the centre of Burton at one stage, but he assured me all was well and after what seemed like an age (though he only charged me a tenner) we arrived at pub three.  As I sized up the outdoor pic, the heavens opened - hard to think just twenty minutes ago, I was watching cricket in the sun!

Pouring down, trust me

In terms of pub aesthetics, the Brickmakers Arms, Newton Solney (1692 / 2665) was a contender of pub of the day with a gorgeous old multi-roomed interior, dark, homely, presided over by a lovely couple.  Exactly the sort of country pub I'd imagine there being loads of 'back in the day' long before I was spawned to become the UK's most evil pub ticker.  'Twas all Burton Bridge beers, so I opted for the bitter which seemed the most Bass-like as I knew I'd get more red triangled goodness in the pubs to come and thought I'd be kind to my palette (listen to me eh, Si Sommelier!)  Obviously, the conversation with Mrs Brickmaker was weather based, but I thought I did a good job of making it entertaining!  Anyway, rare for BRAPA, I plonked myself at the bar expecting to be the only customer during this half hour or so, so was surprised when a giggling group of idiots (in two separate factions to add to my misery) arrived and I was almost like "oi, get outta my gaff!" despite having only been here ten minutes.  They were on a crawl where they took it in turns to choose an ale, and they all had to have a pint of it.  I approved of this aspect at least!  One bloke wanted to talk weather with Mrs Brickie, and guess what, SHE started repeating all my best lines verbatim.  Can I sue?  Fuming.  His main contribution was living next to a farmers field, and when the crow scarer goes off in the morning, he shits himself.  Regularly, and literally I assume.    With Mrs B now going the full Sharon Stone Basic Instinct (crushing ice furiously with an ice pick I mean, don't worry), it was obvious our convo was at an end but luckily Mr Brickie appeared, spied my GBG, and we chatted Derbys pubs, me missing a bus and the type of customers they get.  Lovely pub this, a MUST visit. 

Crow scaring shits and nicked weather stories

I was a bit blasé about the walk from Newton Solney to Burton, expecting it to be a mile or two max, so was a bit surprised when Mr & Mrs Brickie had raised a skeptical eyebrow or three, but they were right, it was just over three hours!  Still, at least it was dry again and I had to get a rare 22 bus to Coton-in-the-Elms, so all I could do was crack on.

And I'll tell you about pubs 4-6 in my next blog, it was about to start getting messy!