Monday 23 December 2019


If I was to beat my all-time BRAPA record for number of pubs visited in a year (447 back in 2018), I'd need to think 'out-of-the-box' and not rest on my Friday and Saturday laurels (the worst type of laurels).  After all, Mad Friday wasn't a day I'd want to be in a pub anyway.  Monday was my friends Christmas do, around York, where I finally got the highly preemptive Market Cat ticked off.  I also received this appropriate card .....

Note the BRAPA shirt!

So that left Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as potential nights.  A pub a day keeps the doctor away?  Probably true, though the stats show it is more than a pub a day in my case.  Oh well, 4 remaining in West Yorkshire.  Three this week, one on Monday 23rd Dec.  That's the plan.

Day One - Tuesday 17th Dec  

Tuesday found me in Keighley bus station.  Sad to report zero GBG pubs in Keighley this year, what happened to classics like Brown Cow and Cricketers?  Where's the overrated but popular Boltmakers Arms gone?  Or the 'Spoons?  And the Lord Rodney was kicked out for bad beer quality AFTER the 2020 GBG went to print.  Quite rare that.  

But at least you can rely on that Bronte Country area just outside town to bung a new one in every year, a bit like a football manager who doesn't quite know his strongest starting eleven.  

With the bus increasingly delayed and the queue now snaking around the bus station like a human centipede, a man in a Christmas jumper and santa hat knocked over one of those 'dangerous slippery wet floor' yellow signs, and when confronted by the staff, refused to pick it up.  Then there was nearly a fight and a man just ahead of me in the queue at Stand K warns "leave it lad, he's travelled over here from Moss Side!" and hangs back to make sure there's no further trouble!  

After that drama, the bus to the quiet village of Oakworth, famous for having the railway station used in the Railway Children, had a Club which was either making its GBG debut, or hadn't been in since BRAPA begun.   'Twas looking rather festive under the night sky, well it had a Christmas tree halfway up the roof .....

Always a bit more anxious about entering a GBG 'club' than a pub, as traditionally, there are more eyes on you, there might be an intercom and difficult entrance to fathom, sometimes a guest book, and the whole peril surrounding 'can I just get a pint or do I have to show my GBG, CAMRA card or pay a small fee?'   First relief was seeing the door ajar at Oakworth Social Club (1663 / 2880), and I entered a bright, comfortable welcoming sort of atmosphere and breathed a sigh of relief.  The barmaid was excellent, chatty and hospitable though there was the constant threat of a set of fake eyelashes ending up in my pint of Saltaire White Christmas, which was on top form!  She started telling me that Sky Sports was playing up, which was putting pressure on her as the lads in the back room wanted to watch the Liverpool match.  "You think I'd be bothered too, cos I'm a Liverpool fan" she concluded slightly unconvincingly, but it kept up the current theme of 'too much Liverpool in BRAPA pubs' over the past month or two.  Still reeling from this, she was soon confronted by an old guy who'd returned from a fruitful toilet trip.  "It's red hot in there, you'd burn yourself if you fell over!" he said, making it sound like a scene from Chernobyl.  Again, she explained there wasn't much she could do, but nonchalantly fiddled with the thermostat for good measure.  Last thing they needed with all this going on was more complications, but she was joined by more staff for a 'Christmas decorations' chat, and sadly, many were electric.  "The dog's a pluggie innie and the snowman is a bugger!" explains the elder barmaid in a late contender for BRAPA Quote of the Year.  Road Rage by Catatonia played, followed by Africa by Toto, then we had Men at Work, with Hull's finest Roland Gift belting out FYC's 'She Drives me Crazy'.  Really nice club this, a worthy GBG entry in the Worth Valley hahaha (sorry). 

All very pleasant

View t'bar (note the Sam Smiths beermats)

Another page done, three West Yorks ticks to go!
Back at the station, I'd just missed a train and was waiting under a heater for the next one when a lost bloke came in and I helped him work out how to get to Bradford via Shipley, or was it the other way around.  So grateful was he, he gave me four chocolate eclairs and told me to come in to his barber's shop next time I was in the area!  Lovely stuff. 

At the L**ds end, I missed my train too by seconds and was eventually back in York for about 20:10 which wasn't too bad really.  I bought my train ticket to Pudsey for tomorrow whilst I was there.

Day Two - Wednesday 18th Dec

I thought this pictorial clue was easy, but some still thought I was off to Beartown, Teddington or Bearstall. 

The trains have been absolute bullshit all year, and these new Christmas timetables just seem to have made things worse. 

I was sat on this train (final destination Chester, quite randomly) all settled, ready for New Pudsey when the guard announced "because we can't arrange a party in a brewery, we are delayed and passengers bound for Bramley, Pudsey and Bradford should make their way to platform 15...."

So half of us got off, ran across to Platform 15, to join an already thronging platform and when the train does turn up, it's a rickety 2 cart pacer.  Even with everyone "moving down inside the carriage", it was hopeless, and me and many others got left behind.  To add salt into the wound, that Chester train had departed around the same time! 

Now, we had to wait for the 17:12.  I'd left work over an hour ago.  An angry man and a nice Spanish lady told me they did this commute every day, and expected absolutely nothing other than this utter shambles.  At least the train was there, the doors weren't open yet though.  And at 17:12, the lights went off inside the train.and everyone groaned.  Engine went off and on again, lights back on, we got on, and finally set off 17:28.  Farcical. 

New Pudsey station was a good 25 minute walk from the pub in the centre of town.  By an underpass, a cat with mumps looked at me funny.

Opposite the Wetherspoons which has never been GBG worthy, was this Beer Guide debutant and good, cos Pudsey has been under represented over the years for such a nice, honest W Yorks town.

And true to previous Pudsey form, all were smiles and 'hello' as I gingerly stepped foot inside the Manor Inn, Pudsey (1664 / 2881) which ran the gauntlet between working man's boozer and high end modern bar quite nicely, never really committing to either. It worked, and when a bloke in a L**ds Utd bobble hat smiles kindly and stops being a bar blocker and asks how your day has been, you know you're in a decent place.  "You CAMRA?" asks the switched on barman, and I got a pretty hefty discount without even showing my card.  I ask him how he knows he can trust me, to which he replies "People just go 'huh, wotz CAMRA?' if they aren't in it!"  Groping around for change in my pocket, I was surprised to find a pair of scissors I'd accidentally brought from work when cutting the label off a potato peeler at lunchtime (don't ask!  And yes, I really do still work in a Bank, just).  Dotted around the comfortable leather sofas are a series of lone old men staring vacantly at football, their faces lit green by the pitch like I've coloured them in with my highlighter pen.  And to my astonishment, bloody Liverpool again!  How can this be?  Two consecutive nights.  But turns out they are in this World Club Cup thing.  They really are haunting my BRAPA at present.  A friendly interloper shuffles over to ask me "if I'm on tour?"  Huh?  Oh, he's seen my GBG.  I start BRAPsplaining away, but his wife's waiting at the door so I cut short my ramblings.   Music was great in here, we had Dune Buggy by PUSA, then a bit of The Interrupters and then Tilly and the Wall so think it beat Oakworth.  Nice little place, deserving its GBG entry.

Another page done.  Just two West Yorkshire entries to go.

Again, I got back to York about 20:20, bit later than yesterday which showed how annoying the trains were because Pudsey should be much easier than Keighley, AND didn't involve a bus.  Oh well, and back in the Booking Office to book my South Elmsall ticket for tomorrow.  Knackered but gotta keep going in this crazy week of burning the candle at both ends! 

Day Three - Thursday 19th Dec

Work had been laughing at me for being 'posh York' as I'd pronounced South Elmsall exactly as is written.  But it isn't, it is "Emsall" said Rotherham Dave and Crofton Meg as I made my way to this 'tick' which was South Yorkshire in every way apart from the county dividing line.  

The pronunciation was confirmed by the train announcer, but it makes little sense to me.  I mean, when you go for a pint in Durham, you don't go to the Em Tree.  When you want a gorgeous Bass in fine surroundings in the Stapenhill area of Burton, you don't say 'I'm off to the Ems'.  That'd be silly.

But at least the 16:21 set off just a few minutes late, as I'd not really recovered from the Pudsey travel woes of yesterday. 

GBG and new orange scarf (not appropriate dress in S.Elmsall) in my bag)

Two blokes who didn't know each other sat opposite and were talking ale within seconds!  One was returning from a Beer Festival at Sowerby Bridge and was 'feeling a bit fresh'.  I put my GBG on the table to enhance the chat, and though the first bloke got off at Outwood, Sowerby Bridge man told me I'd enjoy tonight's pub if I was a fan of 'proper' pubs.  Behind me, a woman on the phone gave clear instructions to her daughter to get a Cottage Pie out of the freezer. 

Of course, it'd be too simple for the pub to be close to South Elmsall station, no it was an uphill walk to an area called Minsthorpe, nearer North Elmsall which I didn't even know was a thing!

The pub came into view, looking fairly hospitable and Christmassy for something with Barnsley in the name ......

Though the inner door had a sign suggesting anti-social behaviour had been a problem in this pub, even Sam Smith's houses seem chilled on the swearing front compared with this .......

Reinforcing second sign below this one
It struck me that Barnsley Oak, South Elmsall (1665 / 2882) is one of those pubs now run to high standards by caring people, when perhaps it hasn't always been the case.  I got the feeling they knew they couldn't 100% control the rowdier elements of their clientele, and partly didn't want to curtail them too much for fear of losing the soul of the pub.  You see, train timings meant I was here over an hour (for two pints rather than one) so I got to build up a clearer picture of the place than my 27.5 minute visits would!  Two ales on, both Black Sheep, one the standard ale I had second, and first a seasonal Blitzen.  Enjoyed both, especially the first, and I'm no fan of B.S. generally.  The main downside an incredibly drunk woman behind me who sounded like Karen Matthews with a voice that carries.  Bad combination.  She was in that flip-flopping "you are my best friend you, I love youuuuu / leave me alone, you are a beast!" phase of drunkenness and when a group of old men shouted at her to shut up, she luckily didn't hear them.  For the twenty final minutes I was here, she suddenly went silent.  I daren't turn around for fear of making eye contact, but I suspect she'd fallen asleep.  She'd earlier accused the pub's chips of looking like slugs.  It felt a more edgy pub to sit alone in than Oakworth or Pudsey, but then again, I was there longer, it was probably all that one woman, and looking around me, most folk seemed in friendly party mode or just in for a quiet pint.  Wonder how 'mad Friday' would compare to 'bat shit Thursday' here, but I'll never know.  I bet SHE will be awake by then though!  Nice to see pubs like this in the GBG.

Settling down early on with my Black Sheep Blitzen

At the bar

 Bit blurry but this was when I was sober

Rare second pint footage late on

So there we have it.  A timely three pub boost.  One West Yorkshire pub to go, which I've just done tonight (23rd) and I also need to tell you about my trip to Penrith on Saturday.

I was so close to finally getting caught up on my blogs for the first time since my Lake District bonanza in October, but Christmas is now gonna get in the way and slow me down, unless I can find some down time between the mince pies and charades!  

Have a lovely Festive time, and I'll be back before the end of 2019.


Sunday 22 December 2019


Of course, the title would only make sense if fellow pub-tickers Taylor & Mackay hadn't visited the two Good Beer Guide 2020 pubs at Parbold, and I'm pretty certain they have, probably back in the 70's.

If they both had easily achievable ticks like these, they wouldn't have spent this weekend driving around 15 obscure Welsh micros, spending 7 minutes and drinking half a 9.5% leek & lamb DIPA in each, which is almost exactly what they have been up to.  Oh, and Happy Birthday to Martin while I'm here.

Rewind to a week last Saturday, and having smashed Burscough (technical term), Father BRAPA and I huddled under the inadequate station facilities, and as I keep saying, by gum, the air was bitter.  'Colder than keg' to borrow a phrase from a local York CAMRA friend called 'GK Smooth' (I promise I'm not making this up).

Once in Parbold, we had a bit of a problem at the station underpass ......

I'll swim if I have to......
Luckily, it wasn't the only way out of Parbold station (remember when I damaged a toe wading through a stream barefoot in Grosmont in 2014 in my attempts to get to Beck Hole?  Neither do I)  but the watery theme continued as some very committed fishermen were having a competition ........

Dedication's what ya need

We walked on to the furthest of the two pubs first, on a main road out of town and so cold was I, no outdoor photo pose was demanded.

I often write about pubs where my experience improves as each minute goes by, so it is interesting for once to tell you about a pub which initially impressed me, but by the end, I couldn't leave quickly enough!  We entered the peculiar Wayfarer, Parbold (1659 / 2876) to a sort of hybrid reception area / Aladdin's cave, before realising the bar was beyond.  Problem Child was the name of the on-site brewery, and with ales called amusing things like Good Spankin' , Tantrum,  Little Punk and Big Girls Blouse.  I've had them before and always liked them.   They even advertised it as a place where the 'problem child' (me in this scenario) could buy nice Christmas gifts for the Father BRAPA's of this world.  And although there was an obvious dining bent, you felt that the real fire, low roof and rugs made it a wholly welcoming to the drinker who wants to have a good sneer and natter.  But as time ticked on, and a previously 'tart' beer slipped into 'on the turn', more and more posh pashmina (poshmina?) Mum's with buggies and the problem twilds of the future, the scales fell from my eyes and the whole thing felt a bit of a posery ramshackle mess we were glad to see the back of.   Shame as it had been a promising start.

Exciting intro

Problem child, problem Dad

Knew I'd done my Xmas shopping too early!

The pub at large

If something ultra-traditional, boozery and unpretentious was what we needed, then Parbold's next act was more impressive in what was probably my pub of the day.  

Mine's a cosy cask!

Where is Father BRAPA?

There he is!
With a roaring coal fire, three different drinking areas, bench seating, zero food, a pool table and Nigel Pearson in duplicate bemoaning the first of many defeats under his Watford tenure (how long before he goes mad and shoves a microphone up a reporter's bum or something?), Railway Hotel, Parbold (1660 / 2877) was the exact epitome of why I love pubs.  Funny really that if one of these pubs were to feature in the Good PUB Guide, it would be the Wayfarer.  This place was almost deserted too when we entered, proof either people in general have no taste whatsoever!  Unless it is just me!  Our barman was a personable blonde man-bunned young chap, in Hull City terms, very much Jackson Irvine and Tom Eaves combined.  Calling him Tom Irvine would be far too 'problematic', so Jackson Eaves it would have to be.  On seeing two Tetley's pumps, I told him and Dad that my theory in pubs is that if a beer is showing twice, it must taste doubly good!  After West Ealing / Greenford last week (London Pride pumps x2 x2), I'm not sure this is a 100% proven way to order beers, but in any case, I loved my pint of Tetley's and Dad loved his Prospect Silver Tally or something.  And once the post-football clamour died down and a quiet moment of reflection set in, you could listen to the pub and you know what, it was purring like a contented cat! 

Nigel and the fire

Nigel and the Christmas tree

"Everton.  Drive Carefully".  Brilliant.

Now for the tricky part of the day, the 'long walk'.  We reached Atherton a few hundred stops up the line, a place I've been to several times in the course of BRAPA history but each year, it likes a to add a new random GBG entry (always a proper basic boozer that has had a recent makeover and 'new life' breathed into it).  

From the comfort of my York flat, Google Maps suggested a 1.2 mile walk but if you've been to Atherton, you'll know time & space work differently here than anywhere else in the UK, so that walk became 0.8 miles when we got off the train, which was a bonus.  

Atherton also has a tendency to drain battery out of mobile devices, probably because it is still 1982 in Atherton and isn't compatible with modern technology.  Therefore, my outdoor photo doesn't exist.

But not to worry, all the life was indoors at Wheatsheaf, Atherton (1661 / 2878) which felt, as the kids say 'lit' from the off. Okay, so I suspect we didn't quite reach Martin Taylor levels of entertainment here (he took an amazing video of a punter randomly performing karaoke on his recent visit), but keep your wits about you when you come here, cos it really does feel like anything could happen!  We were getting close to full time in the football, and with BRAPA regular Jeff Stelling keeping us abreast of events, a Bolton fan farted unashamedly and the neighbouring random Geordies claimed they supported the 4th biggest club in europe and made small talk with him.  Blokes in Hi-Vis blocked the bar, winked and said 'alreet' to me as I edged my elbows in the get the Blonde Witches in.  Top quality.  Dad produced two packs of Mini Cheddars from a magical pouch like some special festive kangaroo, and we didn't even try to eat them on the sly!  With L**ds fucking up a 3-0 lead and more Stock, Aitken and Waterman playing than you'd ever thought would be possible, you had to admit you were in quite a special place, with extra emphasis on 'special'.  

A few stops further on was the looming city of Manchester, which 98.7% of pub goers like more than me (and that is a BRAPA fact) but at least it had a couple of new entries to chuck at me this year.

We had briefly contemplated a trip to Rochdale's Medicine Tap (whatever that means) but as i still have the Oxford to do, I thought they twinned better as a Friday nighter, so a short walk from Victoria station it was.  

It looked like a temporary Christmas shed where Santa's elves might be making wooden toys ......

Quick, someone old is going in .... follow him to make us not the oldest people in here .....

Actually, I should mention that on the heaving train into Manc, we got chatting to two young ladies who were off to watch a band which I thought were 'The Cortinas' but why would a Bristol Punk band who split up in 1978 be back and popular with the Manc kids of 2019?  A bit of research told me it must be the Courteeners, very much the Indie Rock Tandlemen of their day (well, they are from Middleton and must love their John Willie Lees).  Anyway, I was given a can of Raspberry Mojito that they hated so that was a nice chaser before my final pint of the night.  In the Pilcrow (1662 / 2879), it was my round so Dad, just wanting an OJ,  sat at a surprisingly free table near the entrance as the place was absolutely rammed.  I fought my way to the bar and I was next said the barmaid and people around me, which seemed an amazing result!  But the guy getting served ordered three more pints of the house lager, then three more, then a glass of wine!  "Oh he is taking the piss now!" complained Focused Kamil Grosicki (FKG) to my left, with Respectable Gallagher Brother (RGB), behind me to the right, agreeing.  I was beside myself when the round finally ended and with the barmaid suffering temporary memory loss, and served a Chubby Robert Peston (CRP) before me!  RGB told me it was 'utterly farcical', FKG let out a small wail and looked ready to stab someone.  Furthermore, the House Lager chump and his mates had booked out the front of the pub so Dad was usurped, so I thought he'd given up and left the building until I noticed he'd got a bench behind me.  You might think in all this chaos, and being a modern style drinkery, that I'd not enjoy Pilcrow, but it had a really good atmosphere, the folk actually cared, beer was ace, punters really nice and I can imagine it'd be worth a visit on a quiet weekday afternoon, though probably a bit less fun! 

Still waiting to be served

"I Smash Mosaic" was great, but don't let me breathe in the complimentary nuts!

Pilcrow and Mojito!

So a great day out, six pubs achieved, which means the dream to keep the BRAPA record of 448 pubs this year alive goes on.  True, I'll have to do a bit of extra-curricular BRAPA though if you follow me on Twitter, you'll see I've done just that last week.

But up to 434 as of 14th December, looks now like I definitely should make it despite Christmas likely to slow me down a bit (no time off work, rubbish transport, dodgy hours etc.)  

Join me tomorrow hopefully for tales from three new West Yorkshire venues.



Saturday 21 December 2019


There aren't many times in the calendar year when BRAPA would prefer NOT to be in a pub.  But 'Mad' Friday (tonight) is one of them, just the thought of busy pubs three deep at the bar, ticket only in some cases, full of 'once a year' pubbers with no idea how bar etiquette works, wearing their shitty Christmas jumpers, pissed up since lunchtime, well it kind of fills me with dread! 

And 'dread' is my middle name, apart from Roger. 

So that is why you find me here at home, 11:15pm on 'Mad' Friday with a cuppa and a brace of chocolate digestives, writing this blog, listening to celtic punk rock, avoiding the gaze of Robbie Williams across the room on Graham Norton (not literally).

Rewind to last Saturday morning and an ill wind blew across Manchester Victoria station, made colder as trains were delayed and cancelled left, right and centre.  I was with Father BRAPA, Hull City's Charlton away game had been moved to the previous night, and Tom Irvin was unavailable due as he'd been roped into some extra curricular activities  .....

Nothing to see here

So we'd been creative and come up with a Lancastrian / Greater Manchester rail adventure.  I was bursting for a pint when we finally reached our first pub, three quarters of an hour late at 11:48am, chunky little hailstones falling from the sky, by gum, it were proper brass monkeys ......

NEW orange scarf makes a BRAPA debut

And what an absolute force of nature the Hop Vine, Burscough (1657 / 2874) was, deservedly thronging with festive folk.  The tone was perfectly set by what seemed like an army of vivacious young barmaids buzzing from bar to bar, really hospitable and when Dad commented how many older gents seemed happy to sit at the bar and not seek out a seat, I think I could understand why, the dirty old dogs!  I got in the Hoppy Blonde, a cracking ale which seemed to be brewed by the pub itself, pump clip a fairly accurate representation of the staff except most were brunette, or ombre at least.  Dad sought a seat, and thought he had located a comfy looking raised area 'twixt Christmas tree and dining area, but he was intercepted by a busy bloke who instructed him to sit in the 'back bar'.  Turns out, this meant 'at the back bar' as in perched on the bar in an empty dining area.  Could've been an unsatisfactory outcome in a lesser pub, but was fine here as all was jollity, and we perched as a series of misshapen lemons, oranges and limes were chopped with a ferocity you don't get in a southern Brunning & Price.  "It's like a Whitehall farce!" commented Dad looking superior like the lord of the manor surveying all from the bar.  No idea what he meant, but it is probably definitely a keen observation.  It'd be nice to witness last orders here, for they had a horn rather than a bell.  "Was that the gents or ladies?" I confusedly asked Dad returning from a loo visit before we left.  "You cannot assume gender in this day and age" he smoothly replied.  This pub had changed him, and you can't say fairer than that.  Great way to start, worth the wait. 

Dad in his element

View to the gender neutral bogs

Great ale, and quite accurate representation of our time in here

The air was bitter but at least the sun was now out as we came to the second of two GBG 2020 listed Burscough pubs, standing on the edge of a canal on one of the scariest roads to cross of the year - honestly, so frustrating than not being to get into your GBG tick because the road is so difficult to cross.

Dad felt the sun ruined this photo, but the boy done good

Top barrier leaning, even if I do say so myself

Old Packet House, Burscough (1658 / 2875) was a decent pub, but lacking the spark and pzazz of Hop Vine, yet in some ways quite similar with the bare boarded Christmassy entrance to the bar, and careful balance between attempted upmarket dining pub and honest drinkers pub. Quite the music venue too, the Shamones sounding the most fascinating of four upcoming gigs!  The ales were Bowland, mine was Gooseberry, I'd never have picked it if I'd not seen the beer clip, cos beer tastes like beer to me.  Apart from when it doesn't.  And you won't get any more sense out of me on that particular subject.  'Throw your beer blogs in the sea, just read BRAPA' (new slogan for 2020).  At the moment, it seems a weekly BRAPA theme is 'smuggled sandwiches/arrogant armchair Liverpool fans',   and as we settled into the hidden front of the pub by a lukewarm radiator, the booming commentary of Nigel Pearson's Watford v Liverpool at Anfield rang out.  And as Nigel himself might say, the barstaff were ostriches as Dad and I were able to eat our sandwiches undiscovered.   I guess one could argue that Burscough is near enough Merseyside to suggest these LFC fans are more acceptable than some, but they were still utterly unbearable.  So a 'nice' pub, but it won't be one I'm telling the grandkids (not MY Grandkids ...... errrrm steady on Mr Savile!) about on my deathbed in 2057.  

Shades of gooseberry, hints of bitter beer

Oh look how pretty (and every so slightly unatmospheric) it is

Dad in possible tribute to David Bellamy

Next week's gig

I hope those elves actually accompany Mr Luke

Jon banging out the tunes on Xmas Eve

Shamones ...... Muthafucka!  (that's a Bo Selecta reference if you wondered)

And join me on Sunday for tales of Parbold, Atherton and a chaotic bit of Manchester.