Thursday 9 January 2020


Saturday 28th December, mid afternoon in Ferryhill, and I'd just equalled the yearly BRAPA pub record of 447 in the wonderful Surtees Arms.  As my new hero Tony Blair once said "I can feel the hands of history on my shoulders" as I headed to the record breaking 4th pub of the day. 

Father BRAPA was in tow, the light was just starting to fade as we headed to the bus stop, reflecting on the fact that not only the Surtees, but the Dun Cow in Sedgefield and the Cross Keys in Bishop Middleham had both been above average pubs too. 

Yes, as long as I didn't do anything silly, there was absolutely no reason why I couldn't blitz the record, and get three more pubs in to take us up to a pleasing year end 450.

So it was rather bloody silly to stand on the wrong side of the road for the bus!  Father BRAPA was pretty understanding, but I knew I'd been 'frog stupid' (as they probably say in the pub trade) as we sheltered around a brick building for the next half an hour. 

The bus was on time at least, and I'd been champing at the bit all day to say my next line "Single to Doggy please!"  Doggy being the local nickname for West Cornforth, where the next pub was.  Luckily, the driver knew exactly what I meant and didn't think I was barking ...... (thanks) .....

Dad looks sinister in the dusk, probably desperate for a pint after my bus mistake

Square & Compass, West Cornforth (1676 / 2893) then, record breaking pub but there was of course, no fanfare on my arrival, no glass raised, no party poppers popped.  In fact, it is hard to think of a more deliciously low key pub to achieve a target on.  They've been selling real ale for 40 years here, and I bet they don't shout loudly about it, and it seems like an even bigger achievement being in a part of the world where you still expect lager and smoothflow to dominate at times, or at least that was the Doggy impression I got.  There were proper bar blockers, an old carpet, a cute little fire in the corner where we sat.  Locals talked loudly about Mexico as a holiday destination to rival Whitley Bay, whether Rolex watches were all they were cracked up to be (but don't crack 'em, lol!) and whether, if you did indeed go to Mexico, you could wear your favourite pair of sandals without repercussions.  It was the kind of pub chat that East Berkshire struggles to find and whilst in many regards, the pub didn't 'grab' me as a classic, there was something endearingly enduring about it.  

I was a bit nervous now as we took on a bit of an unknown, potentially hairy walk towards pub five at Metal Bridge, only about 20 minutes but I couldn't guarantee a pavement.  Thankfully, there was one, though they called it Thinford Road for a reason, it was so 'thin', we had to walk single file and at times I felt like a circus act on a tightrope, carefully glancing around to make sure Dad was still behind me, giving him timing updates, whilst trying not to lose my balance!  

Dramatic, but not really, and yet I was not surprised to see our next pub was quite a posh dining destination venue .......

Spooky zoomed in silhouette means we cannot really get a true sense of the exterior, but it was pitch black by now anyway as we arrived at Old Mill, Metal Bridge (1677 / 2894) , a tinny clamour of knives and forks and gargling laughter the order of the day, as I forced my elbows on to the bar and waited patiently for a human waistcoat to serve me a pint of 'Christmas Everyday'.  I explained to Dad that rather than get annoyed that we weren't exactly in the pub of our wildest dreams, we could turn it into a positive.  I find the posher and dinery a pub is, the more you can demand of the staff so I got this young lad to phone us a taxi for half an hours time which he did in the sweetest most subservient manner you could hope!  For after the walk and bus faux-pas, time had become a bit of an issue for us again, and no way you'd want to walk back down Thinford Road into Doggy anyway.  We found a table, and sat amongst the chaotic candlelit brightness, blousey women and baby highchairs, and people from County Durham trying fruit and veg for the first time.  It was perfectly fine, but to compare it with today's similar pub, the Dun Cow in Sedgefield, it just lacked a bit of the human touch, taxi ordering wunderkid aside.  

Dad living his life, very much like Princess Di,  like a candle in the wind

I liked her shade of yellow

Dad's gone, and so has the flame.  Coincidence? 

Getting my elbows in at the bar

The taxi arrived on time and was that efficient, we had plenty of time to do a SIXTH pub after all which at times today, hadn't really looked on.

The good news being that in Durham City, two of my remaining three pubs required are very close to the station.  It took us far too long to negotiate our way to the Northbound platform, but once we got, I took a photo of the blackboard .......

.... and shame we don't actually read such things, because after taking the below photo including my NEW Christmas scarf for the final time (YES, I've lost TWO scarves in TWO months!) ...... 

..... Dad told me he didn't fancy a pint and was off to find a coffee place, which what we didn't realise at the time, was clearly displayed on the blackboard at the Waiting Room, Durham (1678 / 2895).  I thought this was a really canny station pub, expertly refurbished Grade II listed former Ladies' Waiting Room from 1872, the GBG tells me, and even at this late stage, you could tell you were in a tasteful atmospheric remake of something from the past!  I lingered around with my pint, waiting for a seat to come free, and Dad soon returned realising coffee here was his best bet.  The barmaids were great, and warned him the coffee machine had been 'knocked off', which apparently meant it might not be as hot as it should be.  Dad blamed his dicky tummy the following day on it, and definitely not the ale, and certainly not the homemade sausage rolls or I guess BRAPA Mummy would have his guts for garters! Anyway, 'twas all a nice pub experience to end the year 2019 on.  We'll leave Dad and our bench cameo lady to have the final word of the year ......

Yeh, thanks for that contribution guys
So there we have it!  Join me tomorrow so I can tell you why 2020 has started pretty dreadfully from a pub ticking perspective, I know you enjoy it when I suffer.  

Take care, Si


  1. The barman in Metal Bridge should have given you walking directions instead.

    I don't suppose you have the contact details of bench cameo lady?

  2. YOU'VE had a bad start to the year ! What about lovelorn Tom ? Bet you don't have those contact details.

    "I find the posher and dinery a pub is, the more you can demand of the staff". Very perceptive. Ask for an iron in your next Brunning & Price. Then drink your pint and ask for a full refund as "the Simcoe hops aren't coming through".

    1. Poor lovelorn Tom (no sorry Tom, seeing as I can't remember her existing, I def don't have contact details and if I did, I'd probably keep them for myself hahahaa).

      Yes, I'd said to Dad well in advance of arriving that if it was posh dining as I was predicting, it should be easier to get a taxi rung for then in say, Board Inn Skipsea, where they'll take you to a dark corridor, pass you a green olive telephone from 1970 and say 'good luck mate but don't fancy yer chances!'