Monday 23 March 2020

BRAPA in ...... LANZA LOCKDOWN (PART 2 of 2)

What a difference a day makes!

Sunday morning, our third full day on the beautiful Playa Blanca coastline of Lanzarote and all seemed well with the world.  The sparrows twittered in the trees, a gusty sea breeze shook our solitary palm tree, and Dad went 'ARGH' as he jumped in the pool for that first cold shock of the morning.

I'd just had mi Bran Flakes to keep myself regular which somehow always seems more important on holiday, and I was just on my second slice of toast, putting the final touches to my LAPA map in the hope of exciting bar adventures ahead ......

Incredibly makeshift 
Suddenly, my phone buzzed and it was Pablo, 'our man on the ground in Lanzarote' advising us that overnight, Spain had declared a state of national emergency, and good ole' Lanza was on total lockdown, save for food shopping essentials or medical emergencies.

Wow!  Well that escalated quickly, as the kids say.  On the Saturday, all had been open, bustling and touristy, with not a peep out of the authorities in a British "we advise people to stay away from bars and restaurants but won't actually close them yet" financial swindle kinda way, but a sudden spike in Corona cases in the past 24 hours meant they'd had to act sharpish, and sharpishly they'd acted!  (The only two cases we had on Lanza whilst we were there were two Madrid tourists who were isolated in their hotel rooms, though I think Tenerife had a few).

Look at the curve on that!

You had to applaud it, no wishy washy indecisiveness here, we all knew where we stood, and we know where Father BRAPA stood later that morning, in the local supermarket eyeing up the beers like a boss.....

The local cats carried on quite unaffected ........

And where you hear tales of Americans avoiding Corona beer, there must have been a certain gallows humour about our fellow Dino Supermarket shoppers judging by a certain section of the shelf ......

(unless the staff got rid of it, thinking no one would want it / it was too close to the bone!)

BRAPA has helped me develop a sense of fortitude, an ability to adapt and a more positive attitude towards 'change' then I had five years ago, NOT that I'm saying lockdown was particularly harsh on us, what with the villa, seaviews, and generally solid weather.  But you were in effect, a prisoner.  Just an incredibly well treated one!

But our man on the ground Pablo (I don't know his surname) was worried it'd affect our enjoyment of the holiday, so I had to reassure him .......

(I went downstairs after this and told Mum and Dad to ensure they had the same good humour)

They were taking the lockdown seriously.  Police cars with loud hailers telling people to stay indoors (in a spooky robotic American accent) followed, a couple of police bikes buzzed about, and even a speedboat bounced up and down the coastline, though I think this may have actually been dispatched from Newark. 

As each day went by, the measures became stricter by degrees.  Facemasks, disposable gloves, and eventually some police tape went up, not allowing us to pass through the Rubicon area, meaning we had to find a different less scenic route to our supermarket.


And although the days became a bit 'groundhoggy', they were kind of nice groundhoggy.

Lining them up for later (Dad criticised my buying of the Supermarket own brand lager, far right, but Mum loved it)

Standard afternoon scene

Bewildered, and even growing a goatee for no reason
But as I sit here now, reflecting on everything, I'd rather be back there in lockdown than here in York, nice as it is to be back in familiar surroundings being able to understand what's happening first hand!

New look for my North Essex pub ticking later this year

No wonder Mum and Dad looked like slightly manic, as we boarded the plane back to L**ds-Bradford at the end of a rather unforgettable holiday ......

Who knows when the pubs will reopen and the virus will be quashed, or quoshed as they say in parts of Stalybridge, but until then, it's a case of staying indoors, being sensible, drinking bottles and cans whilst cleaning my flat and rolling a dice (check out my #SADCASE on Twitter if you haven't already, it'll never catch on!) and I'll see you in a week's time for a rather limp month end review / April preview!

Thanks for reading as ever, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. 


Sunday 22 March 2020


Could be drunk ..... could be just a bit insane

It will go down in history as one of those 'unforgettable' holidays.  Not in the conventional 'wow, that was utterly amazing' sense although there were plenty of aspects to enjoy.  No, I'm meaning more in the surreal, 'is this really happening?' sense, brought on by the Spanish lockdown three days into our stay.

Back in Oct/Nov, when Father and Mother BRAPA gave me the opportunity to join them, all expenses paid, in a posh villa on the southernmost tip of Lanzarote, it was a no brainer ....  despite 10% of my brain saying it'd mean sacrificing a U.K. BRAPA holiday, where I could've perhaps got 25-30 new pubs ticked off in a week.

On the flight there, a week last Thursday, there was no mention of the 'C' word, as our pilot on the journey home so delicately put it!  Christmas, Cancer and Cunts all have nothing on Coronavirus in the Current Climate.  And if that isn't alliteration, I don't know what is.  

'Our man on the ground Pablo' (brother of the owner, more from him in part two) dropped us at our Villa on the outskirts of Playa Blanca and all was well with the world .......

After a peaceful first evening of crusty bread, olives, tomatoes, cheese, chorizo, red wine, and errrm Toblerone, the following morning dawned with Mother BRAPA and I doing a recce of the surroundings.  I made it clear to her that finding bars/pubs was a top priority, with LAPA (Lanzarote Ale Pub Adventure) in mind, the Rubicon area with all the shops, harbour, restaurants etc. was a good place to start and only a 10 minute walk.

The first sign that 'something might be up' came when Irish music pub, the promising looking The Flagship, hadn't observed the 1pm opening times listed on Google Maps ......

An hour later, I dragged Father BRAPA for our first drinking foray and we started in the Blue Note which appeared on my list of recommended bars.

It was very blue (colourwise I mean, not language or rudeness, not that I'd understand) and again had a strong music theme.  Inside was an impressive grand piano, but we sat out by the harbour and in the absence of any sort of bar or beer menu we did the classic 'duo cerveza please!' English thing, losing confidence as we got to the por favor bit.  Hopeless I know.  An uncompromising lady brought us two Stella Artois glasses filled with beer that was possibly the same, though it perhaps didn't taste strong enough, though I did ask Dad if he was getting an urge to go home and beat his wife.  He merely laughed.  All was well, but as we tried to get two more, she told us they were closing and looked at us like we were drunken English rats when I went "awwwwww", but mid afternoon closures are eerily too rural South Yorkshire for my liking, siesta time or not.  

Just like Armthorpe

We wandered along the harbour, I noticed the Flagship was still closed but in the building beneath it, people looking at us expectantly as we dillied and dallied, yes, it was a sort of outdoor bar, think Claygate or that funny thing in Cleethorpes people love to talk about (not Tom) ......

And it seemed we had hit the jackpot at Bar Terraza, which hadn't even appeared on my 'recommended' LAPA list (pre-emptive?) as they sold local beers which tasted great compared to what we'd just been drinking!

Named after Maurice Malpeis, part of the Dundee Utd team who won in Barcelona in '87

We started on the Jable with the logo reminiscent of a British beer I'd seen before, Dad persuaded me we'd come back for the other (stronger) two at a later date, and they even did their own cider so perhaps Mum could join us too?  Little did we know what would follow.  Anyway, a very pleasant place to sit, friendly staff and plenty of British tourists who looked up when Dad and I made some joke about Accrington I can't remember.  The loos were in an outbuilding, you had to follow arrows around the backstreets, and who should I see having a smoke and a coffee with two lotharios but Uncompromising Lady from the Blue Note.  I smiled and waved, and she sort of spat on the ground, which I assume is Lanzarotian for 'hi there friend'.  The weather had reverted from the sparkling sunshine of day one to the more regular 21 degrees, stiff breeze, overcast with some warm sunny spells.  But Dad was right, time to get back to our villa for a swim and a nap!

There was plenty of life in the Rubicon later that evening as Mother BRAPA captured Dad and I excitedly discussing potential Bass pubs in Bristol on Apr 11th (probably) over what would be our one and only meal out, a pizza way too garlicy and the thick layer of rubbery cheese that wasn't even Mozzarella .... I mean how can you get a simple pizza so wrong?!  Luckily, good staff, a cracking pint of Heineken (trust me) and a caramel after dinner liquor on the house meant we'd planned to go back .......


The following morning (Saturday), things still seemed normal as we explored the 'old town' or 'shithole tourist bit' of Playa Blanca which reminded us of an unholy alliance of Blackpool, Bridlington and Scarborough, but with more aloe vera and less saucy postcards.  

However, I had slyly noted down a few promising pubs (well, bars) and LAPA was taking shape, we (I) figured it'd be nice for Mum & Dad to do their own thing some days, and me to go pubbing, BRAPA style!

A quick note on the cat situation.  Plenty of stray cats about (and I don't mean Brian Setzer hahaha, sorry, that's one for the rockers) but the island had kind of 'embraced' it by allowing you to sponsor them and building them little huts, and putting water and food down for them on the soily side bits of the walkways.  

All was going swimmingly then, but we'd wake on Sunday to find a very different atmosphere on the island.  Join me for tales of that tomorrow .........


Monday 9 March 2020


Welcome back.  Having completed the 'old school' section of Lichfield's Good Beer Guide entries (George & Dragon and Horse & Jockey had both been excellent, not to mention the highly preemptive Cathedral that had 'future 'Spoons' written all over it), we were onto the 'business end' of the day with three more modern sounding entrants to finish. 

I'm sure in the counties surrounding the West Midlands, they make the beer stronger.  A 5% Citra in G&D had tasted about 3.8%, and when I realised even Holden's Golden Glow is 4.4% , I might be slipping into the drunken abyss of the BRAPA mind faster than I could imagine! 

It put me in mind of the time a toothless man from Wolverhampton prodded a dirty old toothbrush in my chest in the Great Western and forced me to down a pint of this loopy juice called Sarah Hughes' Ruby Mild, or the time a characterful West Bromwich man plonked me on a barstool in the Wheatsheaf and force fed me pint after pint of Holden's Black Country Stout without allowing me a word in edge ways as he talked about Arsenal and women with nice bottoms.  I might be exaggerating. 

Like he could see into the future, Father BRAPA sat this next one out, taking the below photo and then sensibly buzzing off to find somewhere selling coffee. 

I think Beerbohm, Lichfield (1750 / 2967) surprised both myself and Tom, in a good way.  It was by no means your archetypal micro, more like a stylish cafe bar beer house hybrid, warm, bright and with a wholly pleasant atmosphere.  It is sometimes in the detail, and the patterned rug (like a classy Wetherspoons carpet) under our feet just added that bit of texture, grip and 'shag' to fool your feet into thinking they were back in a George & Dragon style environment!  A bit of a stretch I admit, but as we happily discussed my post-redundancy plans in the glare of the afternoon sun, I felt like Dad could have very much enjoyed this too, and no doubt got an excellent coffee.  It wasn't lah-di-dah by any means either, our fellow customers were a down to earth friendly bunch, the table next to us excitedly whispering "we're meeting in a lay-by in Solihull later to exchange one trailer for another".  Sadly though, my experience was sullied by the ale I was struggling with.  Cloudy, flat looking, weird acidic sour taste, I assumed it was off and 'finally' went to take it back, confident it had 'gone'.  But she tells me it is 'supposed to be like this', and whilst in most cases I'd be skeptical, she obviously was telling the truth the way she implored on me the fresh barrel, hazy look, and fruity flavour!  Well, I still thought she might offer to exchange it if it wasn't to my taste, but with locals on each side saying "you should've tried before you buyed matey", I went back to our table with tail between my legs feeling a bit embarrassed, and with a beer I disliked!  Her comments helped though, I came to realise it wasn't off, just a very 'unique' taste (I wish I could remember what it was!) which made it more manageable, but on leaving, I took my glass back and thanked her for explaining the beer situation, but told her I still found it disgusting!  It was all very amicable though, even when a bloke listening in added "you should've tried before you buyed matey" but this is the FIRST time in over 2,967 GBG pubs visited I've tried to return and beer I thought was off, only to be proved wrong! 

Tom getting the drinks in

The rug made all the difference

Accurate representation of Hull City's performance at Stoke

I'm not enjoying it!  
Well, we found Dad lurking in the streets after Tom got distracted by a bakery - it kind of reminded me of Lincoln a bit where that creaky tudor pub is, but slightly more gentle. 

Crown Slots and other great businesses 
During Dad's walk around, he'd noticed our next pub was next door to Beerbohm, which was just as well cos Google Maps was trying to send me down a cobbled side street.

Well, the Whippet Inn (1751 / 2968) was the archetypal Micropub I'm always half expecting.  Where Tom had been delighted to have absolutely no problems getting blackcurrant cordial in the Beerbohm, which you imagine probably stocks pretty much every soft drink under the sun, no such luck here.  He had to get a posh ginger beer which looked like an incredibly dank craft murk effort, and with his beard and laboured swagger, I felt that for the first time in my pubbing history with Tom, his presence gave me an extra clout (if only he'd let me sculpt his hair into a topknot).  Of course, I wasn't taking beer for granted anymore, and when I heard a Guy Fawkes lookalike sternly asking for a 'Far Away Cows' at the bar with a tot of gunpowder, I thought 'funny name', realised the Father Ted reference, ordered it myself, and by gum, what a glorious rich stout it was.  Gorgeous.  Probably about 8% but as I mentioned above, you can't control beer strength in this part of the world.  And what with Dad hitting the Dark Fruits (a posh version?), we were a right bunch!  Atmosphere and comfort wise, wasn't a huge fan  Just far too limited, a small box of a room and being by the door, the whole experience kind of felt 'Al Fresco' so glad the weather has picked up over the past week.  "If she hadn't been with her mother, I'd have gone to Milton Keynes via Stockport".  Who said that?  I tried to tell Tom and Dad the latest Hull City embarrassment but they wouldn't let me spoil the moment, so all that remained was to pose with a friendly dog in the window, knowing we just had the one pub to go!

Had I nicked a dog biscuit at this stage, I might've been able to remember pub six!

Incredible beer!

Tom's ginger beer impresses everyone (probably)

Customers hiding behind the open door

Dad getting on the cider
The closest pub to Lichfield City station on our list, so the logical place to end, I wasn't perhaps on top form by now .......

The fact that I forgot to take any indoors photos at Bitter Suite, Lichfield (1752 / 2969) can perhaps be explained by the last photos of the day, above.  But despite hazy memories, I remember being a fan of this pub, it had plenty of depth, bar to the right opening into a larger left side where we sat.  Loos back in the right bit towards the bar.  Friendly customers.  Errrrrm, that's about it!  Maybe Dad or Tom can add something in the comments below!  Oh dear, like Burton's Devonshire Arms all over again, at least I didn't pour half my ale down the urinal in here and laugh to myself (don't worry, it wasn't Bass).  Let's read the GBG description for clues ...... "was a pub 30 years ago" (well, that makes sense),  "service is to your table" (wow, I don't remember that!) ...... "choices from the chalkboard" (ah yes, that rings a bell, how very Bournemouth / Duffield), think it reminded me a tiny bit of that pub with all the washing machines in Hereford?  Well, it was lovely anyway.   And that was Lichfield, a really top pub town.

I was feeling very drunk for the first leg of the journey home, but a sleep and a coffee and Tom's jiggery-pokery befuddling the ticket inspectors with talk of a 'condition 14 split' helped sober me up, I had a nice chat with Dad, listened to some music, at one point got told off for singing too loudly, we bemoaned Hull City's impending relegation with a kind Wolves fan (I was called selfish for saying League One would be good for BRAPA!) and all in all, a top day. 

See you all in a couple of weeks, I'm off to Lanzarote!  I'll do a tweet if I find pubs or ale. 


Sunday 8 March 2020


My seventh year of BRAPA and finally, a debut for Lichfield.  One of those rewarding pub towns with five Good Beer Guide entries, good train links, not to mention a cathedral and a bit of water thrown in to the centre to give non-pubber visitors a reason to come for an explore.

Staffordshire seems to be a great pub county despite my limited experiences so far, and what Burton, Codsall, Stoke, Burslem and Newcastle-under-Lyme all have in common is I've got drunker than expected in all of them.  Could I make it six out of six today?  Father BRAPA was here, Tom Irvin would join us shortly.

Someone's just been for his half yearly dental check up!

The fun began, as fun so often does, under the West Midlands bracket with a train out of suffocating hellhole, New Street station, heading north where a Wetherspoons was strategically placed 'twixt Four Oaks and Butler Road stations for that pre-11am Saturday pint to get the weekend off to a good start.

Mare Pool, Mere Green (1747 / 2964) so named because outer Sutton Coldfield used to have so many pools of water (insert inadvisable public urination joke here).  Quite a bright, airy and probably modern Wetherspoons with those huge bay windows, and a strange sort of fire pit towards the far left which I didn't really understand.  The snaking queues for the coffee machine were a timely reminder what a great invention they've been, when you just want a pint but all the breakfasteers in years gone by (I'm thinking Coventry, 2005) clogged up every sinew of space.  For as we know, you'll struggle to see more than one staff member behind the bar in a morning Wetherspoons scenario, however busy.  Even when I did get served, the Scarlet Macaw became a dead parrot very quickly.  Thankfully, and amazingly, the replacement Platinum Blonde by Byatt's (wherever they are based) was the best ale I had all day.  Father BRAPA found a rare quiet spot, even though it was between coffee machine and entrance, whilst Coronavirus signs in the Gents implored us to wash our hands, which I'm sure will be quite a novelty to some 'Spoons customers and the great unwashed of the outer Midlands.  Conversation was varied, but Duncan Mackay cropped up, and noting that everyone has only good things to say about him, I says to Dad "I hope people say nice things about me."  "They will .... when you're gone" he replied.  Savage. 

Dead parrot

Ale of the day, and two pints for £3.30 with two vouchers!

Apologies for the blur, I didn't want dodgy man in hat to see me taking it

Pub scene, featuring weird fire pit thing towards the far left corner

Good acting from Dad (he'd already done the highlighting but I told him to still look like he was concentrating on it!)

Well, the pub was pretty much equidistant between Four Oaks and Butler Road stations, so we tried to carry on up the same road to Butler Rd, but somehow started going in a circle, and ended up at Four Oaks but managing to miss the train we aimed for.

The fact that the toilets on both the train and in Lichfield City station were out of order didn't help, I bet it wouldn't happen in Prague, Vienna and Budapest, such a third world country this is, is it any wonder perfectly lovely law abiding people occasionally have to exercise their basic human rights and find a quiet place to have a pee?

We'd told Tom we'd meet him at the furthest pub from Lichfield station - BRAPA rule, start at the furthest point and work your way back in. 

Aesthetically speaking, George & Dragon, Lichfield (1748 / 2965) was the most pleasing pub to me and felt very West Midlands, with the choice of left or right doors.  BRAPA always goes left in this situation, and a perfect lounge room with pretty bar area was waiting for us.  Ordering a 5% Backyard Citra this early was probably the beginning of the end for me sobriety wise, already!  As I walked down the corridor to the loo to get the much anticipated wee I so deserved(!) Dad told the landlady what a cracking pub this was, but she just 'hmmmph'd' , no doubt having seen so many gawping appreciative one-time-only visitors over the years, that our platitudes mean jack!   Still, every time she peered out of her hatch down the corridor, I made sure I said 'hello!' really enthusiastically, gotta maintain your own standards.  All the while, we'd suspected Tom was in the right side bar chewing the ear off a local, I could hear his voice and even see a pint of blackcurrant on the bar.  But then he disappeared into the pub garden, and 'Real Tom' arrived ..... had it been Ghost Tom all along?    Speaking of which, the garden was gorgeous and with the weather finally spring like, it was the perfect place to decide it was now or never if we were going to visit the cathedral.

'Real' Tom and Dad sizing up a strike on the nearby Cathedral like the Civil War or something 

My kinda pub (note Blind Sooty)

I love a good Cathedral / Church visit in a similar way I enjoy visiting pubs, and if there's a book with all of them listed that you can highlight in green, it might be what I do IF I ever finish ticking the goddamn GBG.   Sorry, no blasphemy here.

Lichfield's one, a bit black and gothic looking (sootier than sooty?), was one of the nicest I've seen ....

Spot the Dad and Tom

But the extra special reason for the visit was that Dad collects Rummer glasses, and a nice bloke on Twitter called Martin (no not that one, or the owl ..... by the way, the new BRAPA mascot is being shipped in from China as we speak and will be with me in the coming weeks) told me there was a two pint rummer which the vicar used to measure so the choir didn't drink more than two pints ..... poor buggers!

Well, we asked a volunteer who seemed a bit disapproving that we were on a pub crawl but was more than happy to tell us the location of the glass ......

Accurate representation of me on the train home 

It must be around here somewhere .....

Down this way I think .....

Here we go ....

There it is 

In all it's glory

Lichfield Angel?  Is that on our pub list? 
Our next nearest pub involved walking through B&M for a shortcut, as if we needed our new found holiness cleansing!  

Pub of the day in terms of atmosphere, Horse & Jockey, Lichfield (1749 / 2966) was lit like a Christmas tree, whether it was the blokes hovering over the bar half watching the Liverpool game, the lunchtime crowd, or just the elderly curmudgeons dotted about the benches like the fungal infection you can ignore until it starts to itch on a nighttime.   It was exactly why pub ticking in Staffs, West Mids and Warwicks is so often a rewarding experience.  It had been modernised to some extent, slivers of hopbines and shiny prosecco blackboards in evidence, but had fallen short of selling out, managing to retain a true pub aura.  Stick the atmosphere here with the gentler aesthetics at the George and Dragon, and you've got the perfect Lichfield pub.  We'll call it Horse & Dragon, or George & Jockey.  With Jack Rolfe at a posing table trying to recreate those boatyard glory days of Howards' Way, Dad was on his soapbox about some topic we can't remember.  He had mine and Tom's full attention, but was soon interrupted by a loud thudding noise.  We looked over and an old dude was pummelling his bag of pork scratchings with his fist into the table.  Presumably, he was aiming for a salty piggy powder which he could then pour straight down his gullet without need for chewing.  False teeth are a bitch if you've got a scratchings craving.  Absolutely highlight of the day.  Crackling pub this one!

Pre-scratchings smashing

View t'bar

There were still three pubs to go, and I was feeling a little bit 'fresh' already.  Join me tomorrow night and I'll try my best to remember what happened in those remaining pubs, but safe to say, I was enjoying Lichfield very much.