Late drama on the Friday night as I arrived home late and drunk from a work 'function' (well, they cancelled the summer barbecue so about eight of us went to that much improved 'Spoons Hedley Verity in L**ds for 'breakaway' drinks) to find the GBG waiting on my doorstep.
The excitement was tantamount to the tooth fairy leaving that first quid under your twildy pillow, and soon I was drunkenly, blissfully hacking away at the brewery section with my blunt Stanley knife. What could go wrong? More on that in Part Two anyway, for now, a good night's sleep was required as Dad was driving me around County Durham in the morning......
I awoke from a restless sleep where I dreamt I was chasing after a little yellow book that kept saying "ya can't catch me Simey!", my legs moving like I'm in quicksand. No idea what it meant.
I dressed in yellow to compliment my new arrival, and Dad was outside BRAPA Towers 9am sharp for the chunky drive north along the A1(M), up to Scotch Corner, out through the glory hole of Barnard Castle, and up through the kind of wild and windy moors that Kate Bush once approved of.
The weather, which had started bright, effervescent and astringent in York was soon spotted with large blobs of rain, an unexpected gusty wind hammering fiercely into the car's bodywork, making the bleak, barren yet beautiful setting for our first pub all the more magical.
"I'll take the picture outside but I'm not coming inside just yet, I'll join ya for the last ten minutes", said Dad, in a last gasp move that evoked memories of the golden age of Taylor's Cambridgeshire.
Always a bit concerned pubs in isolated rural settings like Langdon Beck Hotel, Forest-in-Teesdale have potential to be lame dining locations. You know, no beer mats, polished tables, artificial flowers, baby's puking milk over Mummy's shoulder, buggies, more buggies, a glass of wine here, a cream tea there, an artisanal gin menu over yonder. No such problems here, a place remaining about as pubby as it possible to whilst doing what it has to in order to survive. The guv'nor was cleaning out the fireplace, a young lad hoovered and landlady was busy doing behind the scenes stuff. I almost felt bad interrupting and asking for a pint! But not quite, especially as Rivet Catcher from the former Jarrow (as good as ever, now GNER or something) was available. Must be a contender for my all time favourite ale. I sat in the right hand room under the dartboard, it had an 'atmosphere' all of its own. 'Whatcha doin'?' asks landlady, appearing suddenly as I'm wrestling with the new GBG, but not highlighting it green obviously, as for as all you know, there may be NOTHING to highlight. We get talking 'the CAMRA embargo' and she tells an amusing tale where she returned from holiday one year to her 'You Are in the GBG' pack and, missing the embargo slip of paper, in her haste blissfully starts putting stickers in the windows. Shortly after, she receives a phone call. It is CAMRA. They have heard she's put the stickers up too early. They are mad. She is told off. Wow! What a network of spies that organisation is. Gotta love 'em, haven't you? Haven't you? Dad, who has finished the last 16 pages of his novel, arrives Hitchcockian style for his late cameo, the landlady chat continues. She tells us she's struggling to shift three cask ales in the winter, and thinks perhaps a 'craft beer' ("they are all the rage") might make sense as being dead anyway, it is easier to keep alive - a bit like a pet zombie, I guess. Lovely pub, lovely folk, what a positive start to the unofficial 2019/20 season.
I s'pose, 2019/20 is going to be dubbed (by myself) as 'BRAPA's Official Campaign in the North of England' (catchy eh? #BOCITNOE) with Cumbria, Durham and even a cheeky little bit of Northumbrian cleavage (I mean non gender specific builders bum cleavage if you were wondering) the 'focus' of my ticking venues.
A sudden urge meant I no longer wanted to stop at the home of England's largest waterfall (the usual urge I get when I hear running water transports me back to Newark Northgate Station) so instead, we meandered back to Middleton-in-Teesdale and down a country lane into pretty chocolate box village of Holwick for our next pub, Strathmore Arms.
Few nerves as at 11:55am, the pub looked dead as a doornail, but at 12:01pm, the door sprung open like a randy lamb on a hot summer's morn. Dad decided to keep the same formula going as in the Langdon Beck, "as long as you are happy" I told him stroking his fragile lined face, and I bravely swished my yellow coat through the front entrance, tears in my eyes.
There's a line in North Yorkshire, somewhere between Thirsk and Northallerton, where everyone north of it is just so much more friendlier than those in York and the like. And once again, a young duo were all effortless charm and warmth as I selected whatever ale it was I went for. The bloke told a tale of having to roll gas canisters uphill into the pub. Sounded like hard work, wasn't sure if it was supposed to be amusing anecdote, so I laughed and said 'ooooh' and 'ouch' simultaneously. I explained BRAPA and Dad's anticipated cameo later on, but after a quick widdle (in the loo if you were wondering), I was sort of glad to see dining families arriving who'd booked tables because I'd run out of small talk. My one criticism of this lovely pub was the lack of space for drinkers. The main room was pretty much all dining, and as I wandered into the 'pool room', the bloke says "not much to see here!" but glad he turned the light on cos I'd much rather perch on the edge of a pool table than amongst knives, forks, and by now, an overfed twild wailing uncontrollably with the six young adults seemingly not making any effort to shush it. An opportune moment then for Dad's appearance, he'd been planning a potential 'Teesdale Trail' for him and Mummy BRAPA to do around here next year. "They should get rid of the pool table so they can utilise the space better" he quickly observes! YES, OF COURSE, WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT? Never before have I ever ever thought a pub would be better losing the pool table, but here, so true, so blindingly obvious. Make it into a cosy drinkers room. That is the Hitchcockian genius of the cameo man.
|Shocked and appalled|
Our third pub, and final one for this part you'll be relieved to know, was just around the corner in Middleton-in-Teesdale, the Teesdale Hotel to be precise. This would be the third and final time today that Dad popped in for the late cameo.
I walked over the threshold, obviously some sort of unlikely tribute to two-tone and ska, a stupidly posh dining room on the left, but straight ahead, a reassuringly dark wooded soothing hotel bar with a beautiful bit of stained glass offering a bit of glimmering light, and a door out to a patio people kept reassuring me 'is good in the summer'. It reminded me a bit of a hotel bar in Isle of Man, but with less one-eyed men poking each other with sharp sticks. It reminded a bit of a rural West Dorset country inn, but with less folk getting excited about manure and draining the lower field. And I had a bloody long time to order these weird thoughts because staff were nowhere to be seen. It must have gone on nigh on ten minutes, no word of a lie. The guy who'd walked in after me had double exasperation, for when his tiny dog sat with his wife in the corner gave out the merest of yelps, two old codgers complained "urgggghh, THREE dogs bluddy barking now .... shut 'em up!" What miserable buggers, good job they'd not heard wailing baby in last pub. You know I'm no dog lover, but this was hardly intrusive dog behaviour. Finally, a member of staff saunters in, no apology, and I doubt I'll have as long a wait for the rest of the year to get served, very poor. Still, I'd bonded with him sufficiently to sit with him, wife and dog. They were on holiday from Knottingley which they claim is pronounced 'Not'ley' and told me I was too posh. My pint of Zephyr went down a treat, and I was in the loo when Dad arrived our Knottingley friends asked if he was looking for a guy in a bright yellow jacket. "HAHAHA, well, there's only gonna be one person dressed like that" they were all piss taking as I returned! Thanks 'friends'(!) So it was all in all a lovely place, nice couple, great ale, but I can't get past that terrible wait for service.
|The Knottingley family|
|Must be an event on - posh dining room|
So there we go, three down and at least two to go, perhaps three but that'd be dependent on Dad and time. Three really good places though, GBG entries or not, and I'll be back on Thursday for part two.
See you soon, Si