Thursday 18 July 2019

BRAPA in ..... Ill Gotten Gainsborough Pt 1 (More Poisonous Than Alfreton)

This tale of highs, lows and the kind of quirks which defy normal society begins in Alfreton, late on Friday 5th July.

I'd seen off Ripley with varied results, Swanwick had been fun, but back in Alfreton, I realised I had over an hour to wait for the next train back to L**ds - the last train of the night no less!

Thanks to RuRAD (the Rural Real Ale Drinkers mag for Derbyshire), I was aware of a couple of pre-emptives in the town - both Micropubs, it is the safe way to go in the current day and age so headed for the one closest to the bus station.  It was 15 years to the month (21st July 2004) since I visited an Alfreton pub before a Hull City game, I'll tell you about that another time, so it was long overdue........

What's Your Poison (no question mark on the pub sign) immediately displayed that classic Micropub behavioural characteristic of being friendly as long as you don't try to speak to the locals.  They all turned around, gave me expectant watery smiles, like a midwife expecting me to dilate any minute, but as soon as I opened my mouth and said 'hello', they all closed ranks and looked like 'steady on son, what d'ya think this place is, a pub?'  When I pointed this out on Twitter, Martin Taylor said "friendly as long as you don't talk to strangers is actually the legal definition of a micropub" which gained him about a billion 'likes' though one guy used it to wax lyrical on the Dodo in Hanwell, which actually DOES have friendly locals apparently.  Matthew Lawrenson meanwhile didn't recognise the pub font, Liquid Len made an obscure poison/poisson joke, and I thought we were perhaps getting away from the here and now!  So I went for a piss, and the bogs were bigger than the bloody pub itself.  My Dancing Duck beer was served in a Bass glass, that'll irk the purists.  And it's a reet good laugh.

'Ay up', this ain't right!

Bigger toilets than 97.4% of UK micros, and that is a BRAPA fact

Encapsulating the 'joy' of the micropub in one photo

I know how ya feel lass, zzzz.
Yup, she weren't wrong duck,  it was time for bed (well, once I got back to York) and after what was more like a long power nap than a sleep, Dad was soon knocking on my door and we were on our way to Gainsborough, via the always excellent Draughtsman, Doncaster where we met our ole' 'Welly' gang Hull City friends for the bi-annual Lincolnshire pub ticking expedition.

Ben, Christine and Chris Irvin (that is 'Tom's Dad' to you, so av some respect) were in Draughtsman, and Tom was already on the rickety little train which, when we joined him, felt a bit like being stuck in a packet of Pringles, only saltier.

I kid you not, the 20 minute walk from Gainsborough Lea Road to the centre of town is perhaps one of the dullest most soul destroying BRAPA walks ever, and I've been to Wrexham, Donny AND Maidenhead (in the same year).  Even with good company like we had today.

One recurring quirk I noticed in Gainsborough was that it had a lot of blue plaques, but they were all tenuous links like  'the brother of a writer you might have heard of having a wee against the wall of this building in 1814, before going somewhere better like Lincoln', that kind of thing.

The four GBG listed pubs were at least all central, and we started with the 'Spoons as much to get it out of the way as much as it being an early opener.

Sweyn Forkbeard (1677 / 2650) was presumably the local viking chief, fitting as this was a potentially Viking-esque cauldron of aggro, for on the journey, Ben and I had discovered that Lincoln were away to Gainsborough in a 'friendly', and the Imps fans were one of the most aggressive set of supporters we witnessed in our Hull City League Two days all those years ago, and those million defeats at Sincil Bank still scar us!  The few red and white shirts shambling about looked far too immobile to cause any trouble today, and I ascended 51 flights of stairs to find the bogs in classic 'Spoons style.  The ale was well kept, but the pub left very little impression on me.  Dad rated it quite favourably, for being a 'newer build' (possibly) made it cleaner feeling too, but I prefer those lived-in 'ancient' North London 'Spoons from the late 80's where I just feel they took a bit more care and craft over the design and features.  Anyone who has been to the New Crown in Southgate, and THEN been to the Hain Line in St Ives will know exactly what I mean.  You know how 'Spoons menus slightly differ depending on the part of the country you are in?  Well Ben spotted a good Lincolnshire breakfast option here - MDMA Porridge, now that is a new one on me!

5 consecutive years.  Watch it drop out now in typical BRAPA luck.

Ben and Chrissy put a brave face on proceedings

The pub at large.  Not sure if that bloke is praying or on the Spice.

Onwards and upwards then (we hoped) and with that football fixture on the cards, we thought it wise to do Blues Club (1678 / 2651) next as it is actually attached to the football ground and we thought it might get busy later.......

Who said BRAPA has sold out?!

Me, Tom and the promise of some enticing beers (fun fact .... Corrs always makes me sneeze)
Called the Blues Club because Gainsborough (Trinity?) play in blue, and not because everyone in the town is fucking miserable (though it helps), I'd rate this cosy sweeping traditional club bar as my second favourite place of the day and had me vaguely wondering if any bars at the KComm Stadium might have pre-emptive potential (I suspect it is a resounding 'NO').  As is the case with so many clubs visited since BRAPA began, you got that multi-generational feel with doddering grandparents, twild-life giving themselves carpet burns, and lazy fat parents on the fizz all living in perfect harmony.  It was a vast place, huge function rooms to the back where the bogs were.  It wouldn't be a classic 'Welly Gang' day out without a Hull City quiz, which I'd like to think I won for knowing we beat Gainsborough 5-1 in 1910/11 season, but it probably wasn't enough.  No, I was more excited by a photo showing Gainsborough had won the Bass Cup in 1982 at Main Road (not Maine Road) Manchester, so I did my own quiz.  And if you get a chance, please look up one of their heroes from this game, Ian Bennyworth on Wikipedia.  I recognised his name, as he'd played one league game for us, but his Alan Partidge-esque self-written Wikipedia page is a thing of beauty.

Stood 4th from the left

Dad approaching

Pre-match training for the modern day Bennyworth in flats above the ground

Well, I can't give you too much Gainsborough all in one go (you might burst with excitement). 

Join me for part 2 (or is it 3?) tomorrow night for more fun n frolics, the best pub was yet to come, and don't forget a cameo from Retford's pub of the year.



  1. The Gainsborough blue plaques just look like a local initiatve rather than the national scheme.

    1. That would explain why they have quite flimsy links to fame, I guess!

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