Thursday 30 April 2020


I wouldn't normally 'declare' my monthly pub ticking total quite so early (22:53 on last day of the month at the time of writing). 

There's always that late chance in that final 67 mins that a man in a suit and dark glasses (probably Father BRAPA) will knock at my door, and say "your car awaits for the Three Hares in Bilbrough, sir ..... they are open until midnight and are expecting you".  Stranger things have happened in BRAPA.

But not this month, April in the year of our lord 2020, where for the first time in my life I have to admit a grand total of zero pubs have been visited.  I'd never have believed, back in April 2014 when I started this unhealthy hobby/obsession/lifestyle that I'd sit here saying that!

Strange times indeed, and after coping strangely well for the first three weeks of April, I'm just starting to get a increasingly nostalgic (and a bit impatient) for the good ole' British pub.  A pint of bang average handpulled bitter in a nonic, some sweeping bench seating, a random pile of logs doing nothing, some fake bookcase wallpaper, a twild to sneer at, a twog to cower away from, some awkward bar chat with local I can't understand, the anxiety of leaning on the bar hoping the staff will make eye contact with me next, it all feels like something from a distant chapter in history.

What happened to the days when PPE was simply pub ticker shorthand for 'Perfect Pub Experience'?

And when the NHS was simply something Martin Taylor used to do in his spare time to stop him visiting over 99 pubs in the month? 

The only time I witnessed people standing in their driveways applauding at 8pm on a Thursday was when I'd finally vacated their pub and was waiting for the last bus of the night to take me away from their village.   I think they were applauding anyway. 

And the only time people looked on, awestruck, as a 100 year old man shimmied his zimmer purposefully in front of his frail skeletal being, was when old Jack Shaw of Dewsbury went back up for his 15th morning refill at the 'Spoons coffee station. 

How to keep yourself occupied in these times of crisis?  Well, #SADCASE (Si's Ale and Dice Cleaning Adventure Social Exclusion) is still chugging on (it stopped being 'funny' about 5 weeks ago), and I'm still yet to roll a '1' meaning my bottle of Marston's Pedigree is officially out of date when we get to midnight.

#SADCASE does some ironing
#WANKYPUBS (Walks at Night 'kross York Photographed Unprofessionally By Si) threatened to be a good idea, but not sure it is going to get a sequel!   Gonna finally look at the comments after this.

The Knavesmire - rediscovered York pub to visit some time in the future

May, the GBG and Me 

I should have been in Cardiff tomorrow for an overnighter pub heavy end of season Hull City extravaganza.  Sad.  Oh well, I've got the day off work, a bottle of red wine and a long straw.

Hard (well impossible) to imagine when I sit here in a month's time, I'll have got to a pub, but am still holding up hope for end of June, which might be hopelessly optimistic!  Most people I notice are a lot more negative than that.

I have not touched my GBG since lockdown, not that I think it is infected by Covid, I just suspect that looking at all those non-greened pubs will just make me anxious and depressed! 

Lots of chat around when pubs will re-open and the fate of the 2021 GBG, which would normally be out approx 31st Aug.  Will publication be delayed?  Will they just skip a year and go onto 2022?  After all, how many pubs will actually re-open at all, it will surely take months in many cases, especially the more micro ones.  And that would leave the GBG deletions/amendments page on the CAMRA website looking redder than a Jack the Ripper crime scene, so is there any point? 

I'm being selfish really - the absence or delay of a 2021 GBG wouldn't impact BRAPA greatly as it would say our 90%+ completists like Mackay and Taylor, I'd just crack on with my battered 2020 edition. 

I've also had a few thoughts around changing my 'strategy' i.e. not focusing on completing specific counties in the short term, but we'll see where we are by the end of May. 

Stay safe and 'see' you in a month, bonus lockdown fashions content below


Thursday 23 April 2020

BRAPA presents ....... #WANKYPUBS (Walks At Night 'Kross York Photographed Unprofessionally By Si)

Dusk, the chosen time for my government approved daily exercise.  With the clocks now full sprang forwards, I like the way that the different blues hang in the sky at this time of year - from about 8-9pm in mid April.  Combined with this lockdown life, it gives York a serenity you very rarely witness.

So in this new series, with the reopening of pubs unlikely to happen anytime soon, let's go an evening walk shall we?  And the great thing about York, we'll see some pubs along the way.  You don't even have to seek them out, there are that many, you just happen to stumble upon them.

It is Friday evening last week, I should really have set off at 20:11 as that is when dusk set in York tonight, but I'm faffing about with my green gilet (the best a man can errrm, gay?) and my 'training belt' in case I break out into an impromptu jog, so it isn't until 20:30 when I leave my flat. 

This early part of the walk is the 'flashpoint' for encountering undesirables (AKA fellow human beings) as it is quite a narrow walk way, 50% bike lane, 50% pedestrians.

Along here this week, I've encountered dog walkers aplenty.  They seem to treat dog ownership as a free pass in these lockdown times.  We also have awkward students with bad teeth and Slayer tee shirts.  What's their game?  And most frequently, old blokes having a good ole' chinwag, standing so close together that they could practically lick the covid spittle off each others cheeks.  And no, I haven't specified which cheeks for a reason.

Tonight, I see no one on this stretch, which is perhaps due to the much cooler temperature than previous days.  To our right, we have York's Crown Green Bowling Club .......

To the left, the fabulous Hogwartsian old Victorian School, 'retaining many of the original features', as us serious pub bloggers might say ........

Straight across the road at the end, we start ascending Scarcroft Hill with the beautiful old terraced houses.  This week I've seen an old couple watching Family Guy, a girl getting piano lessons, two men having beer in their driveways from behind a giant (talking:?)  plant, and best of all,  a family playing charades in the most wholesome of lockdown scenes yet.

I finally see someone, I'm walking in the middle of the road confident of no traffic, and he shouts 'hello' and tells his dog to stop at the corner, which has a stick in its mouth so huge, it can't see where it is going!  I wasn't quick enough to get a photo, out of practice you see.

It has been very noticeable how much more friendly passers by have become in this last month.  I often accuse York residents of being amongst the most miserable I encounter anywhere in the UK, but that 'spirit of togetherness' has had people shouting 'HELLO!' left, right and centre.  It's like being in Todmorden, and I'm loving that aspect of life.  You have to find the upsides in these peculiar times!

At the end of Scarcroft Hill, we swing a left and walk for five minutes with the park/cricket/pitch/green space to our right, and more grand old terraced houses to our right.

On the corner at the bottom, is a pub I'd criminally forgotten until I spied it by chance during a previous lockdown walk.  I'd no idea I lived this close to it.

It looks more open than most West Dorset pubs did last year, but sadly it isn't, and is called The Knavesmire being the closest pub to York racecourse, as this rather battered sign indicates just around the corner ......

Ashamed to say I've only been to the Knavesmire pub once, March 2005 to be precise, and only because we needed a pub beginning with 'K' to complete a York Pub A-Z!  It was okay from memory, they had Tetley Cask or Tetley Smooth so you had to specify 'cask', else the landlord's default was to give you the smooth flow.  It was quite sporty, a bit chainy, and a bit too far out of town (or so I thought until tonight) to make part of my Tuesday night York pub crawls with friends.

About 5-10 years ago, it started getting mentions in local CAMRA circles as having really upped its game on the real ale front, we said we'd go, never did, and then people quickly stopped talking about it again.  One of my first post-lockdown pub trips is to give it a try.  Ten mins walk from my flat?  Can't ignore it really.

I'd roll a barrel home if I knew it had ale in

Anyway, no time to linger, might get arrested, so we renter to the 'park with no name' from the bottom, which host Ovington Cricket Club in the centre, but has football (Hamilton Panthers FC) and lots of green space.  I came down here on Easter weekend in the middle of the day, and an old bloke was just booting a football up in the air over and over again.  He said hi, and nearly passed to me, but I strode on quickly.

The only time I usually come out this way is each September, when York Beer Festival is on, just over to my left, wonder if that'll happen this year?  You've gotta hope so.

Time for a quick selfie to remind me my hair is getting very long on the top ........

At the top end of the park, we come to Hamilton Panthers clubhouse which looks a bit like a Cumbrian micropub in this light.

I assume Duncan Mackay has seen them play away to a Latvian Electricians youth team in a pre-season friendly, but has he ever been to a home game?

"You're getting mauled by the panthers"

We carry on up to the top of Knavesmire Road and turn right, immediately crossing to avoid an oncoming bald jogger who looks full of snot and spit from this angle but I might be paranoid.

We are on the home straight now as we ascend Mount Vale back towards the City Centre.  It is here where the lockdown really hits home, as this road would normally be fairly chocker even at this time on a Friday, but amongst the posh boutique hotels and B&B's, all you can hear is the rustle of the leaves on the trees and you can smell fresh air rather than traffic fumes.  It isn't all bad is it?

We reach the Mount five minutes later, and come to a pub, unimaginatively also called The Mount .......

The Mount was a pub I was told to avoid on the grounds of it being 'rough' when I started visiting York pubs 'properly' (i.e trying to do them all) circa 2005, but I've never found it in the least bit threatening, even when I actually walked through a darts game and nearly got an arrow in the back of my skull (but I mean seriously, who puts the dartboard right across the walkway to the bar?)   I almost found it quite hospitable on my last few visits, that was until my 2019 visit when it had no ale on at all, but with no one remotely looking like they wanted to serve us, it was easy to walk straight back out!   You'd think Marston's pubs would at least have a couple of ales on, even if they aren't that amazing, wouldn't you?

In 1902, one of my all time heroes, York's Chief Constable, went on an epic crawl of every pub in the city, the BRAPA of his day, and tells us it used to be called The Saddle til 1892, and when he popped in, he just really listed each room which was a bit boring of him, but sounds like he liked the two smoke rooms, and trust me, he did have his moments.  And here's a photo of it from a 1935 pub ticker for comparison cos I know you like that sort of thing .....

If today was a 'shopping day', I'd stay on this side of the road to visit Sainsburys but I've got enough in, despite my milk anxieties, so I cross over easily and am less happy with my final pub photo because there's  load of people parked outside the neighbouring takeaways for some reason and it psyches me out ........

Classic BRAPA end of night photo that one!  Disappointed in myself, not on a Newark/Drunk in Burton scale, but a mild 3/10 disappointment, a bit like the time my electro-pop concept band "The Gravitational Pull of David Boon" failed to chart with the track 'Lager Clout' including the line "Get on the premiums, cos they are premi-yummy, gotta have Grolsch and Stella in my tummy" (the B52's were my lyrical inspirations at the time).

But the Bay Horse is an incredibly frustrating pub.  It feels like it should and could be good (carpets, beams, small and cosy), but rarely gets close.  On my last visit, 22:15 on a Friday night after a gig over the road with my sister, she tells us they've rang last orders already and 'taken the till off'.  22:15 on a Friday.  Amazing.  Still, it can have a nice 'locals' feel which is rare for York, and once we witnessed a game of bingo where, in the absence of knowing any bingo caller terms (you know, legs 11 and all that jazz), he just says stuff like 'no.24, oh that is Audrey's house number', and '64, last two digits of Ted's credit card'.  Was quite wonderful, even if my pint of Black Sheep tasted like sweaty salty bitter old farts.  Some might say it's supposed to taste like that.  I couldn't possibly comment.

Better photo from 1935 - frontage remarkably similar now, but you'll have to take my word
Anyway, our old mate the Chief Const said it was a neat clean house suitable for purpose, and he didn't hold back when he thought a pub was proper shite, so we have to take that as a plus.  It is Grade II listed and was named after Lord Rockingham's horse (not a rocking horse, haha! Sorry)  and in 1969, John Smith's architects (!) restored it. So now you know.  Bring back BRAPA and put me back in my comfort zone is what I say.

As I looked longingly at my chippy which might be open for all those iUberJustFood things ......

..... 'twas time to head home n call it a night.  Was hoping to show you my one constant of this lockdown, 'Hissing Sid' , the neighbour's cat, but he wasn't out tonight.  31 minutes that walk had taken me, and back for a cuppa before bed.

I might do another one next week from a different angle, as I might need to change my shopping habits if Blossom Street Sainsbury's can't get their milk situation sorted out, so we'll see.

Have a good week, and thanks for reading/skimming/getting to the bottom of the page.


Sunday 5 April 2020

BRAPA ...... March Review / April "Preview" 2020

Good evening all,

You may have just seen Her Majesty the Queen addressing the nation, so seems only right that BRAPA follows straight after .........

6 pubs visited for the month, I thought perhaps I'd struggle to reach my minimum target of 31 anyway, but circumstances EVEN beyond the control of the pub ticker meant it'd be a record low.  Well, until we reach the end of April anyway! 

Rewind to Lichfield on Sat 7th for my only pubby outing of the month, and a great one it was too.  The only Covid concession was actually, you might be interested to hear, found in the Wetherspoons at Mere Green, my 'slightly' blurry photo (didn't want the old man pissing near me see me taking a photo!) proves it, this at a time remember when everyone thought washing your hands for 20 seconds whilst singing Happy Birthday would make it all go away ........

Lichfield was a wonderful town though, ace cathedral too, and now has the BRAPA distinction of being the first place to claim all three pubs of the month ........

1. Horse & Jockey, Lichfield
2. George & Dragon, Lichfield
3. Bitter Suite, Lichfield

Oh how I miss scenes like this!   George & Dragon, Lichfield
Had someone told me in that last pub of the day, Bitter Suite, that'd it'd my last pint of real ale in a pub for a few months, I'd have never believed them (NOT that I was in any fit state to be told anything by anybody at that stage of the day) ......

Last known BRAPA photo as things currently stand

But things were building, and by the following midweek, it wasn't so much my 'Bitter Suite Symphony' as 'The Drugs Don't Work' as work decided to split us 50/50, sending half of us to work in 'THE BASEMENT' as contingency.  I was NOT a 'Happy Man'.

Of course, I became a 'Basement Dweller' - two theories to how they selected the people.  One was they were choosing their most valuable members of staff to go into the basement (i.e. me).  The other - they were choosing based on length of public transport commute (i.e. we were the ones most likely to catch the thing!)  Believe the latter if you wish, it is true that York-L**ds commute isn't pretty, and I know, I've seen things no one should see, I've been to Portland.  

A Lanzarote holiday with Daddy & Momma BRAPA followed, and although things were normal at the start, the island went into lockdown on the Sunday as the Spanish death rate started to escalate.  

Back in the UK, it sounded like it was a confusing situation whereby pubs were still open but people were being encouraged not to go!  How does that work?  I was due in Cumbria the following Saturday, and despite one of my due pubs having this sign outside according to their Facebook .......

..... it was pretty obvious travel and pubbing by now were strongly advised against, so it' was a definitive 'no' from BRAPA towers! 

We landed back at Leeds-Bradford the following Thursday, our taxi driver theatrically announcing "you are coming back to a very different UK from the one you left a week ago!" though he had kept us shivering in the cold with our luggage for half an hour whilst he ate fish n chips around the corner.  

I woke the following day at lunchtime and within hours, it'd been announced all pubs were officially to be closed at midnight on that very same day!  

I was given 'key worker' status at the bank which surprised me, but luckily I can work from home.  Has been really really busy but pleased to be able to make a difference to small businesses who have loans they are inevitably are struggling to pay off, by stopping their 'capital repayments'. 

And yes, that was about it!  Phew.

April 'Preview' 


Sooooooo, this is nice isn't it?  (hears faint tap drip in the distance). 

Shall I torture myself with how the April should have looked?  Okay, here we go.

"4th ..... West Brom away .... nahhhh, let's go to Tamworth .....   Hopwas?  Is that an actual real place?  5th.  BRAPA's 6th Anniversary.  York CAMRA AGM.  Popping down, meeting a few folk.  Tim Thomas is up from Newbs, wahey!   Fri 10th, Bristol Easter double overnighter and football, whoop whoop, Jesus died for this.  National Bass Day!  Wear my tee shirt.  Where can I get a pint of it in Bristol, hmmm?  Cheeky bonus trip to South London on way back for six pubs.  Easter Monday to recover!  18th, up to County Durham with Dad ... will he drive?  Tick off a few more complex ones.  Edmundbyers.  Ugh!  Errm we couldn't do Hesket Newmarket while we are there could we please Dad, it's only another 100 miles or so?   24th Manchester Punk Festival.  Oi oi!  Gorton?  John Clarke told me to tell him.  Whalley Range?  Ooooh, bit near Chorlton for my liking.  Still, Lizzy meet up?  Other pub possibilities between the punk Droylesden?  Monton?  Prestwich?  Romiley?  Month end, cold compress to head, catch up with blog writing".  


Oh dear, I feel sad now.  Anyway, if you are following #SADCASE on Twitter (Si's Ale & Dice Cleaning Adventure Social Exclusion), that is going well.  Young's brewery described it as 'Genius', and they are a proper old quality brewer so they should know!  My flat has never been cleaner, but my beer supply constantly needs a top up.

Here's some rather low-key highlights .......

Whatever the next month holds, and it probably isn't very much, please take care and stay in and stay safe, and I'll see you (on here) at the end of April or beginning of May to review the zero pubs I've been to! 

Happy isolating, Si