Sunday 4 August 2019

BRAPA - Do the Newark of Life (I'm in Dire Straits By the End)

For the fifth summer in a row, it was time to take friends from work on a BRAPA adventure and this year we opted for Newark-on-Trent, a town I'd visited with my Dad in 2013 but it had three new pub ticks, a few very vague pre-emptives, and chance to revisit one or two I did on that day.

I'd done a map (sober, believe it or not) ............

I received confirmation that 'Mr Angry' Jason had his famous 'dead babies' t-shirt on and was enjoying his legendary six sausage breakfast (he famously once fell into a 'sausage coma' in Mossley in 2015 which we still talk about) in a local 'Spoons and was looking forward to my company ......

He's cuddly really

With an eggy smell in the air (nothing to do with the brekkies I don't think) and pouring rain, just two days after a ridiculous heatwave, I met the gang at Newark Northgate at 11am, most ridiculously attired in t shirts and shorts only.....

Along with Jason, we had regulars Richard and Piper, plus debutant Lewis who was a great addition to the group with his chirpy chatty ways.

"Good news, first pub is only an 11 minute walk" I revealed, only for them to all moan 'ohhhh Siiii, let's get a taxi!'  They weren't kidding, these weren't a gang who'd walk from Blisland to St Mabyn, but I shunned the request and said 'follow me'.  "It's like half a mile!" said Jason.  "Yes" I replied.

Fox & Crown (1700 / 2673) and I do like myself a good Castle Rock pub.  I wonder if Notts real ale drinkers are bored of them, but I don't see them enough, and when I do, they are often great like the VAT & Fiddle, and I'd add this one to the list.  Basic but with an inner quality.  Jason later commented it didn't do much for him, but I don't agree.  I saw a Castle Rock ale I'd not seen before and when I seemed like I was expressing an interest in beer (heaven forbid, I have a reputation to uphold), the excellent barmaid starts telling me all about it, from conception to glass.  And a good drop it was, shame I got no idea what the name was.  I tried to instil in Lewis the fact that his debut pub coincided with the 1700 landmark, and let him do the highlighting.  So excited was he, as I regaled him with BRAPA tales of our past, he went for a poo to set himself up for the day.  So long did he take, Jason had to go to investigate and there were fears of both getting lost down this mystical U-bend (Castle Rock pubs ALWAYS have the most complex U-bends, and that is a BRAPA fact) before we'd even reached the next pub.  We returned our glasses to a cheery goodbye from the staff, an impressive start.

Shopmobility scooter indoors .... a sure sign of quality

Lewis - top highlighting from the debutant
I didn't tell the gang our next pub wasn't a GBG entry, but a recommendation by Martin Taylor (who is never wrong ..... apart from Bay Horse in Burythorpe, hey guys?!  Guys?)  It was a little bit 'off the circuit' so tiny bit of a detour south east.

Jason's legendary t-shirt makes beeline for pub

Me like a lime green Emperor

Oscar's Inn was a tribute to the owner's dog or some shit judging by the inn sign, but had bars named after famous Oscar's like Wilde, the Grouch, Pistorious (probably) and I too was all ready to shoot a beautiful blonde lady through a bog room door as my Citra immediately went off.  "Why is it always my ales which go off on our trips?" I whined to Piper, who patted me sympathetically, but my Flying Pig was a decent replacement.  Again, I liked this pub, Martin was right, and I could see it getting in a future GBG for sure.  They even had a gnarly nosed old friendly bloke who's sole job seemed to be to open windows as it was particularly humid (shame Colvile at Lullington doesn't have such a person), even if it did mean we got rained on through the open windows.   Another good one.  Again Jason said it hadn't 'grabbed' him, he was in uncompromising mood today!

Next up, our furthest south point (keep following the homemade map) was actually a GBG entry......

I've been to Blue Monkey Organ Grinder (1701 / 2674) pubs in both Loughborough (monkey mural too big to feel comfortable in its presence) and Nottingham (man told me Scotch Eggs were best food to stop yourself getting drunk) but this was my favourite one so far.  I don't know, it just felt like more care had been taken to give it a 'pubby' atmosphere with nice polished mirrors, dark woods, and the clientele, mostly old men, were extremely friendly, so much so we could hardly get away from them!  'Ohhhh .... Starzan Stripes as in Tarzan!" I squealed about 5 mins after ordering this American IPA, "I get it now!" the barman looked embarrassed by me, so did the others.  Jason made friends in the smoking area, whilst the rest of us contemplated how the Blue Monkey looked like someone we knew.  It was difficult to leave when an old bloke started giving us detailed instructions as to what pubs we should be going to, so in the end, I just had to walk off.

I really didn't understand this mural

Old local tries to join in, Rich n Jason look unsure
Our fourth pub was the third and final GBG tick of the day, even though it felt like we'd only been in Newark about an hour, probably cos Richard kept making us drink ultra quickly.  

Flying Circus (1702 / 2675) was the popular choice for 'pub of the day' amongst the gang, being a bit brighter, younger and more vibrant than the other pubs, which I'd thoroughly enjoyed (probably because I am 40) but Jason and Piper felt this was better as it evoked memories of some of the classics we'd done in Liverpool a year or two back - Grapes I think is the one they were thinking most nostalgically of, but the feeling was Newark wasn't quite wowing in the same way as the 'Pool.  I was perfectly happy.  Seemed to have a bit of live music going on, lots of Monty Python quotes obvs, good staff, nice atmosphere, and think we ended up back in here later but bit hazy by then!

Across the road and under an archway to a pub I'd visited in 2013 and not particularly enjoyed, could it wow me this time?  

Just Beer seems to get a lot of positive reviews when people tell me about pubbing in the local area, but in June 2013, me and Dad described it as total bollocks.  Martin Taylor thought it was rubbish too, and we can't all be wrong can we?  I guess if you take it "as it says on the tin", it is good.  For the beers are top quality, and come from different areas, and I don't know if they still do but their website used to claim they could get you an ale from anywhere in the country.  I wanted an Orkney Skullsplitter, but thought the van might take a while to arrive so went for something I could see.  Problem is, despite being quite a large micro, it has zero atmosphere, stand offish locals who are more excited about visitors dogs than fellow humans.  We were saved in some part by a small annex room I hadn't noticed back in 2013, which had an almost 'farmhousey' feel, nicer atmosphere.  In it were Tamworth CAMRA, a jolly bunch on a crawl who had a professional printed version of my mat, and tears formed in their eyes as I shouted out random words like "Hopwas", "Elford", and waxed lyrical on Burton upon Trent.  When I said to one man "you'd never choose Joules ahead of Bass would you?" he leaned forward to shake my hand!  They made the Just Beer experience for me markedly better, and a good job.

Two of the Tamworth gang being amazing

The day got a bit messy after this, so I may as well crack on til the painful end.   A recommendation called 'The Vaults' which was supposedly rejuvenated was closed, Tamworth reported, so we went with my 'joke' choice of the Pound Pub.  

Ugh, well we soon found out it was now a £1.90 pub, and take away the novelty factor of buying a pint for £1 and everything fell away.  Suddenly, Just Beer felt like The Elms Inn and  it was so dirty, Piper despite needing a wee refused to use the loos.  The atmosphere was like being in a shit student union at about 8pm with mild peril, and my little 'joke' pub had backfired.  And whatever you think of Mel Sykes, this Boddingtons (not cask) just wasn't good!

Piper needs a piss, but isn't going in here!

Rich and Lewis having a dance, or something

I think this was when we returned to Flying Circus, but our next pub, Queen's Head, wasn't much better than the Pound Pub!  It had one cask, serving pretty lame Sharp's Atlantic or something (I'd tried to shoehorn everyone into Prince Rupert for a return visit, but they thought it looked a bit too restauranty which in truth it did, plus it served the worst cooked breakfast I've ever had apart from Met Bar 'Spoons in London).  Jason did manage to find a guy who was a bit like a local action man and more drunk than us, and unpredictable, and kept getting barred and getting let back in!

This all caused a few arguments in our increasingly drunk gang(!) but things were smoothed over by the time we reached the bar at the Sir John Arderne Wetherspoons next door, probably a much better pre-emptive shout, and I thought my Oakham JHB was excellent quality and drank it all which was quite an achievement at this point!

I implored the others to drink up and get marching, as the L**ds train left before the York one.

And I finished my pint thinking "phew, got through the day!" (I like to think I'm the sensible one and it is Rich and Jason who are the bad influences!)

The Only Bit Worth Reading

So what happened next was all a bit embarrassing.  Back at Newark Northgate, the loos were shut for cleaning (I THINK!) so I totally unslyly just relieved myself all over the platform (I didn't even try to hide behind a building or pillar or anything!  What an idiot).  Next thing I know, two station guards are shouting and chasing me over a bridge and out of the station.  "We suggest you leave and don't come back or we will ring the police" they tell me at the bike racks.  

Uh oh!  Well, half an hour to my train so I lurk on a side street and sober up with a pork pie and a cold juice.  In my addled mind, I believe they won't remember me after half an hour if I change my top, restyle my hair, and put on a posher voice.  

I return, but at the staircase, a staff member stops me.  "And why, may I ask, can I not get through when I am showing you a valid ticket?" I say, trying to maintain eye contact.  "Public urination is an offence under blah blah blah...."  Wow, these guys are good.  I traipse off with my tail between my legs, not literally, I don't think.  It wor a fair cop.  No complaints.

Luckily, my taxi driver is a punk rocker of old called Simon and tells me he hates the authority and iron-fisted ways of Newark station staff.  Just what I need to hear at this point.  "The only mistake you made was getting caught" he tells me.  Hmmmm, generous.  

He takes me to Retford for £34 or something crazy, but at least from here I can get back via L**ds and Sheffield.  "Careful though, you might be on a watch list but probably not!" he tells me.  Cheers for making me paranoid.  So with hood up, I skulk around Retford Station before a stopper to Sheff appears.  Lime green?  Why did I wear lime green?  

At Sheffield, I make it back to L**ds and then on to York where a silly student girl who seems to think getting back to Durham is the hardest thing in the world gives her spare shortbread to a member of staff on the train. "You've probably had a really difficult journey too!" she says to her.  What about me?  Hate her.  I want consoling shortbread.  The whole experience sobered me up but after Burton last week and now this, this is EXACTLY why I need to stick to my limits which I vow to do from now til Christmas.  Felt guilty ALL Sunday.  


Trying to look remorseful on way home as I listen to bit of punk rock (ok, Dire Straits) 


  1. Now that was a terrible pun.

  2. You should get Mark Crilley to do a spoof 50s Crime Comic splash page spoof "I WAS NEWARK'S PUBLIC URINATOR! - I PASSED WATER ON THE PLATFORM! - WOULD I EVER LIVE DOWN THE SHAME?"

  3. The Northgate staff are the problem. The staff at Newark Castle would have let you piss in their pockets.

    For future reference, if you put one hand on the wall and the other on the train track and say something (forget what) it's legal to wee on train stations. Or anywhere. Tom will know.

    Or just piss in your pint pot you nicked from Just Beer.

  4. For someone with a weak bladder, you've chosen an unfortunate hobby!

  5. Desecrating a station in my home town! Shame on you!

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