Thursday 10 October 2019

BRAPA meets ....... The Mermaid and the Angry Scotsman : London (Pt 2/2)

As it becomes increasingly more apparent that my original Good Beer Guide is never coming back, I'd like to thank a Mrs Rooney for suggesting that a certain Rebekah Vardy is the likely culprit.  Top sleuthing Coleen, your Tom Irvin signed photo is on the way, it'll look nice on the mantelpiece alongside your husband's trophies. 

Half way through Saturday afternoon, and I had left one 'Spoons and was bound for another, as is de rigueur in the North London pub ticking game. 

I hopped back off the train at Ally Pally, and picked up a rather pointless bus which dropped me at the bottom of a hill called Muswell.  Muswell Hill is one of those places everyone has heard of, but no one has been to, a bit like Dukinfield, mainly because it is such a steep climb.  You could take a better bus than I did, but nice to experience exhausting local custom. 

By the time the 'Spoons peered out from over a hedge like a peeping tom (not Irvin), I had a thirst that needed some serious slaking.

"Alright geezer, hope you like mi red puffer jacket!"

A bit like the back half of the Railway Bell in Barnet, Mossy Well, Muswell Hill (1567 / 2784) had a light, airy, modern conservatory feel to it.  In Barnet, you could hide in the old skool front, but here, there were no hiding places and I always feel calmer and more assured when my 'Spoons are so dark, no one can see your face.  The people too were a bit more 'cultured', in a fizzy Icelandic yoghurt kind of way, a bunch of curios resembling Victorian butterfly collectors or primary school art technicians.  I enjoyed a pint of Scorcher by Truman's at an extortionate £2.39 less 50p, which took me a shamefully long time to calculate.  Sitting on a posing stool in the centre of the room helped me realise the place needed an injection of life, so thanks to our heroine in full Little Mermaid costume for providing it.  She was soon turning old men's heads like a scene from the exorcist and the poor lady couldn't get to the bar as strangers kept stopping her to pass comment.  "You can 'Flounder' with me honey" "Let's catch crabs together babe, I'll be your Sebastian" and "I'll go 'Under the Sea' with you dahlin'" are just some of the comments the locals probably made.  Sexist filth.   She spoilt it a bit by quickly joining the smokers outside, never thought I'd see a mermaid smoking and I see a lot of things in this BRAPA game.  I've not included the photo on SiWokeness2019 grounds, yet this Ariel brightened up the place.   An okay 'Spoons, but worth the uphill walk?  Not unless you are a pub ticker or a local in need of exercise.

Quite a good pint, but hard to do the maths!

Stella time for potential butterfly collecting May & Greavesie

View towards the bar

The storms are a comin' but some would rather poke themselves knowingly in the eye
And I really was 'floundering' without my GBG as I couldn't think of any more NE London pubs I needed to do, so halfway down the hill, I caught a bus to Finsbury Park and back into the scary Saturday afternoon hub of Central London.

Bit of a BRAPA throwback, you have to go back to my Berks & Bucks ticking days of 2016/17 for me to do chaotic tourist pubs at this time.  Never a good idea, as I found when I fought my way out of Covent Garden to a pub hidden down an alleyway ......

Wholly unsurprising to find a tiny bar area buzzing with folk, three deep at least at Lamb & Flag, Covent Garden (1568  / 2785) - I bet Charles Dickens and Karl Marx never found such a chaotic atmosphere when they were regulars here, but you could tell it could have been a classic dark wood panelled Fullers effort had I chosen my visiting time a bit more carefully, grade II listed n all that.  A crowd swell actually pushed me into the gents, not the plan, but not a bad idea, never miss an opportunity to pee when it is presented to you on a plate!  I splashed my face with cold water, took a deep breath, and headed back into 'battle', using all my experience to find a tiny gap at the end of a pillar between three blokes who'd just completed their order.  Barman was alive to the situation, everyone else fannying around like tourist fannies, and I was in, never expected it to be that quick.  My elation was short lived.  "OI, CAREFUL MATE" growled an angry Scottish voice behind me.  I turned around and gave him a theatrical look of comic puzzlement.  "YE RUCKSACK COULDDA HAD MI PINT OUTTA MY HAND!" he spat, his breath a heady mixture of offal, shortbread and heroin.  I apologised and turned back around to complete my order, rolling my eyes at the two nearest guys.  One, a cockney who seemed like a Jewish costermonger & Gerry Francis at the same time comments "Gorrrr, bit of an overreaction, he acted loike your rucksack had a mind of its own!"  As I reversed out into the courtyard, I warned everyone to beware of my rucksack and an American with a peaked cap laughed hysterically.  I don't think he got the joke, he was just delighted to be in Ye Olde British Pub.  It was almost as manic outside, I kept my head down in case the Scot reappeared, but despite being by the bins, I enjoyed my pint of Dark Star Hophead as much as I've enjoyed this ale in years, so that was something I guess!  

I didn't envisage it being so difficult to get to a sixth and final pub of the day, yet it was, despite having a few Central London options available to me.  

First I started heading towards one called Knights Templar on Chancery Lane (about a mile walk) but then I remembered it closed 6:30pm, and it was 6 already so thought it might be risky.

Then I got distracted by a Waterstones, popped in thinking it might be a good time to buy my replacement GBG, but then remembered I had money off vouchers back in York so abandoned the idea.  

Then back on the Tube, there was a temporary line closure causing chaos so I had to rethink, got back to King's Cross on a different line, and changed one stop for Farringdon, where one of my two Hoops and Grapesies was just a short walk on Farringdon Street.

On the way, Google Maps screamed "PUB PROBABLY CLOSED AT THIS TIME!" and my heart sank (not what the GBG App said!), but a light was on, a door almost open. 

So I gingerly step inside Hoop & Grapes (1569 / 2786) , I'm the only customer which is quite a culture shock in itself after the last pub, and our custodian is in a nook facing the window with his bottom sticking out at a weird angle.  "Errrrm, are you open?" I ask, and not wanting to sound silly, add "I mean, I can SEE you are but Google said you might be closed at this time".  He replies "Well, I can't control Google" and I didn't really have a comeback to that comment, so laugh nervously and order a beer, which was confusing in itself because in 2019, there now seems to be two different 'flavours' of Spitfire which I'd never realised before, so I go for the one on the right simply because I'm right handed.  He serves me, I face one wall, he goes back to exactly his same odd posture as before, and Crystal Palace v West Ham blares out on TalkSport.  I suspect this place might be residential, as two blokes appear from nowhere, have a swift half, enquire about food and bugger off.  Then the guv'nor makes his own evening meal, sits in the middle of the pub and eats it, like a guy 100% confident he's going to get zero customers despite being in the centre of London.  Strange way to end the day's ticking!

Two flaves of Spit' and a bit o' Talk Sport

Me in the mirror trying to enjoy this experience

Mine Host back in his favourite position
I thought it was a race against time to get back for my train up North, but you can forget how easy Farringdon is for King's Cross so ended up having a swift blurry half of London Pride in the Parcel Yard which has been on better form this past year or two, beerwise......

Then a nice jolly train journey back north, avoiding a scary double whammy of Tom & Newark.  All in all, GBG problems aside, a good day.

I'm now up to date with my blogs (I won't say that again for a long time) just in time for my BRAPA Autumn Holiday so if you're on my Twitter, keep an eye on my crazy pubbing over the next nine or ten days!

Bye for now, Si 


  1. I pay my money, now shoe us the flipping mermaid photo.

    1. Martin, I concur.

      Simon, please let me know when you have a photo ready for signing for Mrs Rooney. I will get it sent off or delivered at the lucky winner's preference as soon as possible. Please also give me details of where this Rebekah Vardy character is and I shall retrieve the good book.

    2. Yes, we really need a subscription-only premium version of this blog so we can see the Full Monty.

  2. If I actually find the original GBG buried under the centre circle at Denby Dale FC do I get to see your secret blog posts, Tom?

    1. Yes. How did you work out the criminal has hidden it there?

  3. Hi Simon, it's Mark Crilley (just in case the software publishes this as 'anonymous'). Man, you were firing on all cylinders with this one-- 100% BRAPA from start to finish. Many great lines, but probably my fave was "his breath a heady mixture of offal, shortbread and heroin."

    When I read the name 'Muswell Hill' I thought "Now where have I heard that before," and then I realized it was a line from the Madness song "Driving in My Car." Not sure the locals consider that lyric a claim to fame, but there you go.

    Had to chuckle at the bit about the American laughing at the backpack thing. We Yanks are always eager to show everyone that we got the joke, whether we did or we didn't!

    1. Interesting. I always think of Norman Stanley Fletcher when I hear Muswell Hill.

    2. I can assure Mark that ALL North Londoners love the Madness claim to fame and all wear pork pie hats (backwards).

  4. No love for the Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies?

    1. I'd never heard of that album. Great cover that BRAPA would be proud of.

    2. More musical memories from a magical youth.

  5. I think the pub on the corner of Muswell Hillbillies is the Queens in Crouch End. You might have mentioned Fairport Convention and Rod Stewart. Clearly there was something in the waters of that mossy well back in the 60s.
    You should have caught the W7, that's aw ah'm saying, though if you are coming from Ally Pally the 144 is more use

  6. I think someone has found your gbg. See the Camra FB page for Martin Brammer's post

  7. "As it becomes increasingly more apparent that my original Good Beer Guide is never coming back"

    Blimey. Does that mean I have to go back through the last two weeks worth of posts? ;)

    "as is de rigueur in the North London pub ticking game."

    Fancy talk plus a dig at North London... I like it! :)

    "Muswell Hill is one of those places everyone has heard of, but no one has been to"

    That makes me special then; cos I ain't heard of it at all!

    "when my 'Spoons are so dark, no one can see your face"

    That should be their slogan!

    "The people too were a bit more 'cultured', in a fizzy Icelandic yoghurt kind of way,"

    Slow golf clap; for the yoghurt/culture thingy.

    "which took me a shamefully long time to calculate"

    Pro tip (to a banker! - LOL); add 50p then take off a pound. :)

    "never thought I'd see a mermaid smokin"

    One of the hazards in being intimate with one out of water as it were. Those scales will soon begin to smoke from the friction, let me tell you! ;)

    "Quite a good pint, but hard to do the maths!"

    Tsk, tsk. And you call yourself a banker.

    "but some would rather poke themselves knowingly in the eye"

    Hopefully not with a non-plastic straw. That's certain death!

    "And I really was 'floundering' without my GBG"

    I take back my slow golf clap above.

    "Lamb & Flag, Covent Garden"

    Hang on, Pete Brown mentions this one in his coffee table book 'The Pub'.

    "never miss an opportunity to pee when it is presented to you on a plate!"

    Um, I never consider peeing on a plate, mate. :)

    "everyone else fannying around like tourist fannies"

    Is that the North American fannie or the UK fannie? ;)

    "his breath a heady mixture of offal, shortbread and heroin"

    For someone who has yet to turn 40, you've lived a charm life vis-à-vis olfactory sensations.

    "he was just delighted to be in Ye Olde British Pub"

    Most of us on this side of the pond can relate to that.

    "there was a temporary line closure causing chaos"

    Was it due to XR twats?

    "with his bottom sticking out at a weird angle"

    Personally I think a bottom sticking out at ANY angle is weird.

    "Strange way to end the day's ticking!"

    Can't argue with that!

    "Mine Host back in his favourite position"

    Ah. And here was me, earlier, thinking his bottom wasn't clothed at the time. :)

    "I'm now up to date with my blogs (I won't say that again for a long time)"

    And neither will I! :)