Saturday 30 May 2020


May Review 

Greetings from another damp squib of a pub ticking month, absolutely no surprise to learn I have achieved a grand total of zero pubs for the month of May, and quite frankly, there'd be more of an inquest if I was telling you I'd snuck in an unexpected cheeky one somewhere, probably Barnard Castle eh?  (LOOK at me trying to be topical).  

Yes, as I glanced out of my window on this sunny morn as spring strides confidently towards summer , I saw a baby Blue Tit pecking at something furiously.  It was an acorn, almost half the size of our hapless feathered friend.  I'm not sure what the silly little bird was trying to achieve, but after five minutes of pecking, getting absolutely nowhere, a grey squirrel with the face of Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, emerges, banzai style, from a nearby shrub.  The bird hesitates for a second, and in an instant, gone are both acorn and squirrel.  

Now that never actually happened, but if it had, it would have been the near perfect analogy for my impact on the Good Beer Guide at present, I'm the Tit obviously.   Someone on here once described my humour as 'laboured at times'.  I can't think why. 

So when to the next pub then?  I was hearing July 4th as the absolute earliest, but now a few whispers of late June (or did I just dream this?), let's just say I'll still be surprised if I'm sat here at the end of June telling you about all manner of pubs I've visited.  And quite frankly, part of me is dreading hopping back on public transport to get to such places.  Can't the pubs come to me?  Six at a time?  That's the rules right? 

Today should have marked the beginning of my epic two week Nottinghamshire pub ticking holiday.  I should be waiting for a bus that isn't showing up in somewhere like Blyth or Lound right about now.  Best to push such thoughts firmly to the back of mind! 

Most people are missing the pub, same as me, they claim when I ask them.  But then they usually spoil it by saying "oooh yes, it would be lovely to be sat in a BEER GARDEN right now!"   But I'm missing the cool musty bowels of the pub interior, where everyone is pale and interesting, and your ale is just a couple of degrees colder than your blood, and a hiking couple with a dog come in and invade your space but get away with it by chirping 'hello, lovely day!' as they sit down, his identikit navy Superdry cagoule brushing my leg, just enough to set my teeth on edge.  

Grey Horse in Consett, exactly the type of pub I'm missing

Brassica'd Off

But it isn't all doom bar and gloom bar, I've been working 'effortlessly' behind the scenes so 'when we do come back, we come back stronger' as optimistic people keeping saying. 

And I can exclusively reveal the new mascot, replacing Cockermouth's adopted son Martin the Owl, is Colin Cauliflower.  It was between him and Alex Apple, but Twitter was unanimous in their love for the slightly more peculiar Cauli.  

Colin and Alex, at their 'interview'.
Colin and Alex, at their 'interview'

'Are you seriously telling me you'll get this out of your bag and put it on a table in a pub like the Cheshire Ring in Hyde?' asked disbelieving Stockport beer guru John Clarke.   Yes John, I am.

And on a totally unrelated note, as soon as my new baking dish arrives, I'm going to be making an apple crumble.

Merch and Refocus

With more money than sense at the moment due to lack of extortionate train tickets, Greggs meal deals and overpriced Travelodges, I've spent near on £150 on BRAPA 'merch'.  Badges, stickers, beermats, keyrings, bags, you name it, all the usual tat, which I can leave in pubs to 'intrigue' people, bit less pretentious than a calling card. 

Funny how a bit of time off gives you chance to refocus and hone your goals a bit isn't it?  One example,  reading back through old blogs circa 2014-15 has made me realise how I used to just take one photo outside, and one inside, whereas more recently I've been taking like 5 or 6 of the interior!  I'm going to get away from that, as I've realised it makes me anxious when I enter a pub to 'get a good photo' which sometimes detracts from my enjoyment of the pub and ability to live in the moment.  Just the kind of little detail which I suspect wouldn't have occurred to me if it wasn't for this lockdown. 


Finally, and skip this bit if you're just here for the pubs (or lack thereof), but I've been trying to find novel ways of amusing myself during lockdown.

SADCASE (Si's Ale and Dice Cleaning Adventure Social Exclusion) has been 'fun', picking an ale using a roll of dice, and cleaning something whilst drinking it, but it's come to end, yes sorry, I can hear your wails of despair, but am trying something new, starting tomorrow, again using dice ......

A typical SADCASE shot

Yes, WWWSi (Wine, Westerns, Wotsits, Stayin' In) is my chance as someone who hardly ever watches films to get stuck into a genre that really speaks to me, Westerns (I don't know why, might be a BRAPA walking into a one horse town with tumbleweed blowing around kind of thing, lots of bar scenes), enjoyed with a wine (cos beer doesn't begin with a 'W')  The rules are I roll a dice to see how many bags of cheesy Wotsits I consume whilst watching/drinking, whilst the film will also be randomly selected using two dice rolls using the list of 'Top 100 Westerns' on the Rotten Tomatoes website (there's only 79 of them).  Thrilling stuff eh?  Think this lockdown might be getting to me.

'Andy' - integral in WWWSi planning

Take care, stay alert and all that jazz, 'til we meet again,


Wednesday 27 May 2020


Such was my determination to finish the pub ticking of Cheshire (26/5/18), I had an unplanned overnight stop in Oldham the day before, and then got lost crossing fields to try and find the canal path which led to the pub!  Finally, having enlisted the help of two walkers in a similar predicament, Ian & Dr Laura, not a real doctor she admitted, I got back on track.  Former Si takes up the story .....

"We crossed a field diagonally and my phone reset itself, hallelujah praise the lord, we'd reached Grindley Brook.  "Off you go then!" said the good doctor, worried I'd come for lunch with them and they couldn't get rid of me.  'Don't worry babe, I'm as independent as a free bird' was what I wanted to reply, but I didn't wanna punch and they seemed a nice couple so we said our goodbyes and I carried on north.

Looking back along the canal .... what a relief to finally be here

I couldn't relax totally though, still a good yomp up the canal and I knew the pub closed mid afternoon even on a Saturday on though it was only 1pm, you can never really trust such pubs.

Canal walks are often interactive and jolly, and soon I was 'ahoying' and waving at all manner of weirdos though this canal man was more anal than can, judging by his flag, he'd got a bit lost ....

"Wrexham is the other way mate"
Finally, I saw I lot of men with hankies on their heads looking studious and pretending they knew what canal locks actually did.  Some were more camera shy than others as I went in ......

Peak-a-boo you little scamp!

1370 / 2116.  Willey Moor Lock Tavern, Willey Moor Lock

If you can ignore all the 1 star trip advisor reviews and a 20 year old tale of woe from two Stockport pub heroes, I'm here to tell you that this was a fine end to ticking in Cheshire.  (I say 'end', of course I mean 'end for now').  Canal pub + Cheshire + 1:05pm on a Summer Saturday didn't exactly fill me with glorious hope, but our landlady masterfully handled the stream of tourists wielding leather bound menus ready to order their smashed avocado and squid baguettes.  I got served alongside a gorgeous southerner, disappointingly called 'Sarah', but her tribal tattoo which may have said 'BRAPA til I die' and hidden boyfriend was a shame.  When it came to my round and I simply asked for a pint, landlady was like "anything else?", the customers looked shocked too, as if there must be a catch and I'd forgotten how to say 'quinoa asparagus cous cous pasta bake'.  I hadn't.  The pub felt nicely old and tumbledown for something 'est. 1978' and I went to a backroom where I perched at a table that was 'reserved for 4 Danes' at 1:30pm.  "20 minutes to neck it!" joked a gammon-faced old southern bloke, with greyhound and wife in the background adjusting themselves.  But I was planning on lingering beyond 1:30pm, waiting to see how I got kicked out of my seat, and whether these were Viking longboat bearded Danes, or actress Claire Danes and family.  'It'll all be fun for the blog write up' I thought.  The food looked good, my ale was good, service seemed friendly and efficient, but the atmosphere remained somehow sleepy and relaxed.  As I gleefully highlighted my final Cheshire pub, Mrs Greyhound suddenly exclaimed "what does fortitude mean?"  Hubbie didn't know, and the other two couples within earshot couldn't help either.  'Jeez!  Fortitude, fortitude, you are looking at the pubby personal embodiment of fortitude' I wanted to say, but didn't,  it may've sounded big-headed, slightly.   It was 13:35, still no Danes, time to move on.  "You got 5 mins extra there!" said Mr Greyhound.  I told him shame I didn't get to see what they looked like, but he just looked confused, like a man who knows no fortitude.

A disappointing no show from the Danes

Peering through to the bar area

A greyhound named Fortitude, possibly.

Four months later, I was in Central London armed with a shiny new Good Beer Guide (red cover, miaow!), away from home for the best part of a month working on this nightmareish work project called 'Project Calypso' where every day was worse than yesterday. 

Every evening, I went to two or three new pubs in Central or North London, putting it all on expenses of course (£5 a pint?  It'd be rude not to), and I was joined by Project Leader and all round superwoman Cathie West, who said she needed a large glass of wine ......

"After a bit of Tubing, we ended up walking up a stone staircase onto Essex Street, where the fun had begun all that time ago (well, a week the previous Saturday) at the Temple Brew House.

This pub was perched on a corner, looking nice and old, very much the stereotypical 'nice' London pub:

1316 / 2290.  Edgar Wallace, Temple

It was immediately obvious that this pub was a cut above your average central London pub, offering as it did, a homely atmosphere, great old signs and mirrors, and a general cheery feeling with people smiling and looking like they were actually enjoying being there, rather than posing, and you can't say that too often in those listed under 'Central'.  A bit reminiscent of another pub I'd been in with Cathie, the Old Coffee House in Soho, perhaps she was a lucky charm?  The barmaid was a kindly matronly soul, more Tandle than Temple (not that I've Tandled yet, just what I'd imagine!) and gave Cathie a house wine which she said was the best wine she had the entire time she'd been in London, and if there was a Good Wine Guide, this pub would be in that too.  Despite the usual busy post-work bustle, a nice sized table remained free for us, we couldn't have reserved better, but you wouldn't reserve table in a pub this proper!  No time for Cathie to get too relaxed, as I told her this was her chance to tick off the all important final Central London tick for me in the 2019 GBG, my first county completion (it is normally West or East Yorkshire so a real sign of my recent times!), she handled the pressure well.  As I surveyed the Edgar Wallace novels (all looked a bit old and boring but probably secretly amazing), I noticed Cathie staring at the wall behind me looking horrified.  What was it?  A floating ghost twild?  A demonic twog?  No, she'd seen a sign saying 'CALYPSO'.  "There is no escape from this project!" she wailed in terror, and I escorted her out to put her on a Tube back towards Angel.  The poor thing.  We'll laugh about it in 10 years, but too raw at present.

Our final trip this evening takes us to Cambridgeshire.  It was a sunny winter's morn, 2nd Feb 2019 and I'd just completed my final two Cambridge pubs, the Mill and the Castle, and was now ready for my final pub in the county further north in the suburbs of Peterborough.

Martin Taylor, so integral to my Cambs completion, was sadly missing in Sheffield on student duty, but we had a debutant in the owlie shape of Martin the Owl ..... whatever happened to him?   Like Central London and Cheshire before it, it'd be a winning pub to end on .......

1477 / 2447.  Woolpack, Stanground, Peterborough

"EYORE!  EYORE!  EYORE!" chanted the locals as I squeezed in at the bar, ordering a good pint of Tim Taylor Landlord from a reassuringly small selection of standard bitters.  Oh yes, Cambridgeshire was going to go out with a bang and not a whimper.  No, so it wasn't me who was the donkey but one of their local old bloke mates called Mick/Michael.  Not sure what he'd done to earn this nickname, but they were lovin' it.  The one sensible bloke at the bar rolled his eyes at me like teenagers do in that "oh god, you are so immature, so embarrassing!" kind of way.  I says to him "wow, this is quite an introduction to the pub" and I sat at the far end as the donkey themed chat continued.  "Next time I go to the seaside, I'm gonna name every donkey Mick!" said one.  "It's horses for courses!" laughed another.  Oh dear.  It soon died down as the football results ticked around on Sky Sports News and they all started randomly slagging off Lincoln City and Notts County which was pleasing to see.  "Danny Graham!" screamed one of the blokes, and I tell you, that guy is haunting my 2018/19 BRAPA season, for he'd scored again!  As always happens in a real ale pub of good honest standing, a smug Bristol Rovers fan walked in.  They were winning too.  "I bet you are pleased .... but it won't last!" commented the donkey ring leader.  Then "Spirit in the Sky" by Dr and the Medics came on and everyone got a bit worked up by it.  Although the 'donkey' stuff had died down, it was revived just before I left when it became apparent Mick was the frailest deafest bloke in the group. "Don't worry Mick, the new nickname won't stick!" reassured one bloke, in a rare moment of Stanground poetry.  Poor Mick was now being teased for having some rather trendy Nike trainers, but undeterred, he schooled the others in Greek mythology as a result.  After the nice landlord and local helped me find the loo, I put my coat on, glanced up, and Hull City were winning!  What a pleasing end to my Cambridgeshire adventure, great little boozer this. 

Not a fan of the Adnams glass, but good ale, Mick is nearest the camera

Celebrating my final Cambs tick with Martin the Owl

So there you go, three good pubs to get yourself to on 4th July.  

Take care, there might not be a part 5 cos Derbyshire and North London were quite recent, but I've got something called SWANVESTA coming up so look out for that, not to mention the all important 'month end review' so we can talk all about the lack of progress made!  


Thursday 21 May 2020


The main problem with this pub ticking lark is that you really are in the lap of the gods.  You can plan meticulously - trains, buses, chauffeurs, long walks, and do everything in your power to get yourself to the place at a reasonable hour, but if a pub isn't open or showing any sign of it, and they aren't answering the phone or their social media, there isn't much you can do apart from trudging off, tail between your legs, waving an angry fist behind you, vowing that you'll be back one day and that they can't hide forever!

This happened to me on 9th Feb 2018.  I'd spent a fantastic 4 days in Isle of Man, and despite the biting winds and short, sharp snow flurries peppering the Douglas coast, the pubs had been bustling, sometimes rowdy, friendly and very open, even on a midweek lunchtime.

28 were listed in the GBG that year, I'd done 26 (6.5 a day, pint in each at least, 25 minute minimum) and it got to the final morning, and I had just two left before the flight back to Liverpool.  Of course it was going to go wrong at the 11th hour ........

"I said hi to a few shivering old duffers who should really have been indoors with a blanket, and made my way north of the 'town' (Port St Mary) to the pub, which as you'd expect from the name, was right on the railway line.  11:57am when I arrived, no signs of life.  So I waited.  And waited.  I'd have more chance of a train turning up, and the next one ain't due til March .....

12:05, still nothing happening so I tried to ring.  Straight to voicemail.  The website didn't help:

I decided to wait til 12:30, not that many pubs open then!  But I was desperate.  That meant I missed the hourly bus back to Castletown and the airport.  If it wasn't for a blackboard outside saying there was a gig on Saturday, I'd have thought it was properly shutdown. 

I perched on an old railway shed, out of the wind and in the sun with a good view of the pub.  A seagull nesting on the roof laughed at me.  A jackdaw with the face of Chris Sutton hopped over, and seemed to say "stop wasting your time dude".  Occasionally, a passing vehicle would make the pub door shimmer with a flash of sunlight, and I'd mistakenly think the pub was opening.  

13:15 I finally accepted defeat and headed back to the bus stop, even shorter on phone battery.  At least I got talking to a nice man with no teeth who cheered me up with the line "You've been stood there waiting for the pub to open for nearly an hour and a half?  I'm an alcoholic and even I've never done that!"

I think that 78 minutes is still a BRAPA record for waiting for a pub to open!  Could I have been sure that the pub was properly shutdown, deleted from the GBG or even closed for a refurbishment, I'd have put a nice big cross through it, and counted that this year at least, I'd completed the county.  But my overriding suspicion was it was likely to open 5pm like Mon-Thu in some wintry change to opening hours. Oh well, I went to Sidings in Castletown so at least I got 27 out of 28 done, so had to count the trip as an success, one of my favourites ever, pure Manx magic.

And 'joy' was just around the corner a month later in Buckinghamshire, which I'd been working on for the past year since completing Berkshire.   Former Si is here to tell you all .......

I'd been making a bit of a meal out of getting to the end of my Buckinghamshire pub ticking challenge, but on Saturday 10th March at 12:10, it was finally over!

Relief the overriding emotion, it hasn't been a thrilling county to complete, a bit like Bedfordshire with less Greene King.  Of course, I will remember the pubs I really enjoyed.  The Stratton Arms in Turweston for example, the Black Boy at Oving, the George & Dragon at Quainton, the Wheel at Naphill.  I could go on,  but there were still more Olde Swan's at Woughton on the Green, Eight Bells in Long Crendon and Pointers in Brill for my liking. 

And this final pub sadly fell into the latter category.  It was like everything I disliked about Bucks pubs had come together to 'see me off' for one final time.  I was behind schedule too, having booked today's tickets thinking I was going to Cambridge, so hopped in a taxi to make up some ground from Marlow just north of town to Burroughs Hill, past the Rebellion brewery.  I'd have been killed trying to walk it. 

My taxi driver told me he liked this pub, so when we arrived, I lied and said it looked 'lovely' (all the while thinking what Matthew Lawrenson would say about the pub font) in the hope he let me off the fare - he didn't:

1271 / 2017.  Three Horseshoes, Marlow

Once inside, I had to wait to be served as two women with a huge buggy asked after their reserved table in the name of 'Lizzie'.  "Oh, a table for six?"  "No, a table for two".  Confused looks followed.  Was the buggy so big, it was really the equivalent of four people?  Probably.  The beer range was healthy and very Rebellion as you might expect, and very good quality, thus (somehow) justifying it's inclusion in the Good Beer Guide(!)  The lad who served me seemed shocked when I said "no I'm not paying by card, I'm paying by cash".  He looked at me with contempt, and as I used a tenner, he delightedly gave me a fist full of change with no apology.  Those coins have probably been in that till untouched for the last decade.  Orkney's favourite adopted son Sir Quinno tells me there'll be a 'card only' pub in the GBG next year, what is the world coming to?  I turned to sit near the door so I could make a quick getaway.  In the room next to me, fake bookcase wallpaper.  In front of me, random piles of logs serving no purpose.  Ember Inn style patterned cushions blocked every seat.  There was a plaque beyond with the inscription "Reg's Corner", probably a tribute to some old local regular character who's now carked it.  Sure he'd be horrified to learn his corner is no longer a corner, just a seat in the dining area.  A twild called Rhys came in with his grandparents.  He spied the dog bowl next to me, and decided he wanted it to be his new paddling pool.  He was told to behave.  A couple sat opposite me and almost smiled, the lady with good skin told her bald Greg Wallace style companion about her Mum's nervous condition, causing her to freak out over some lambs lettuce earlier that morning.  I had a bus to catch.  Bucks complete.

My final Bucks pint til at least 2035

Random piles of logs 

How ghastly darling

Bucks is all greened out
And a fortnight later, I was really cooking on gas with the completion of another county, after just two visits needed for Rutland as hardly any pubs, so it was, what at work we describe as a 'quick-win'.

Daddy BRAPA was with me, our task made even easier by the fact that our penultimate remaining pub, the Three Crowns in Oakham, had just closed down, so this was the last .....

"Mum and Dad had been here before, brought me back bottles, given me rave reviews, Mum often reminding me she had a required BRAPA tick that I needed, expressing mock surprise I'd never been whenever it got mentioned.   So finally time to lay that ghost to rest.

1291 / 2037.  Grainstore Brewery Tap, Oakham

And on entry, I declared it 'pub of the day', tongue in cheek of course, within seconds.  It had a nice feel, wooden, large yet cosy, good atmosphere.  Except, the longer we stayed, the less I felt that initial love.  As staff said 'hey guys' and wiggled their hips in a 21st century 'i've got a pristine white shirt and a beard' kind of way, Dad did his now characteristic pub roaming, and found (unaided this time) a large table in the corner "reserved from 6pm" or something ridiculous.  He'd asked for a coffee, I went for something to do with Ospreys.  Our taxi driver had said he wasn't a fan of the beers, and as I tried both this and the 1050, I found some remarkably bland and samey, and for a brewery tap, lacking the life of the ales in the Fox at North Luffenham (I'd quite enjoyed their bottled ales incidentally).  A juddery old man and a friendly lady sat beside us, a huge group of crazy youths with bad eyebrows and tans on the other, we were essentially boxed in which had happened to me at Friends of Ham the previous night, and does nothing for my sense of pubby well being.  The place was just too rammed.  At least I had snacks in my bag, but Dad was convinced they'd give us both food poisoning, "nonsense" I said popping a mini 5 day old room temperature scotch egg into my gob, "hmmm, actually Dad, think you are right" I said, getting a very quick stomach cramp.   And that summed up our hour and a bit here!

A cough and a coffee from poor ailing Dad

Getting served by a friendly dude from the modern era

Ales in a hamper, cos why not

Local silently frustrated by lack of glass collecting (perhaps)

Cider and sausage fest 2014 glass (and no beermat)

Finishing the county (as best I can!)
So, that was all hilariously miserable and low key wasn't it?  Good job part 4 next week is that last, perhaps Cheshire, Central London, Cambs and Derbys could come up with some winning pubs for me to complete their counties in!  But don't count on it.

Until next time, Si

Wednesday 13 May 2020


Hello and welcome back to Part Two of my reminiscing on that most joyful part of 'pub ticking', where you complete a county (until the following September of course when the new edition hits my doormat with the force of a thousand wildebeest).

Having completed Bedfordshire in Jan 2016, attentions swiftly turned to the next alphabetical county in the Good Beer Guide, Berkshire, whilst 'back home', South Yorkshire was my new 'after work extra curricular' focus, having finished West Yorkshire, also in January.  North Yorkshire, my home county, was making good progress too thanks largely to the chauffeuring of BRAPA Dad.

We actually have to fast forward all the way to New Year's Eve 2016 for my next county clincher., which was South Yorkshire.

Former Si wants to tell you about 31/12/16 is here to tell you more.  The day had begun at 10am in Worksop's staggering Unicorn, a rare north Notts visit, so incredibly lively, it sadly meant I was in for a bit of an anti-climax for our key pub of the day ......

"The bus was inevitably delayed by 10 mins but a bunch of us, including an ultra annoying woman who nobody seemed to like, hopped on.  The best fact I learnt was that Barry Harris is always moaning.  Not sure who he is but I'd like to meet him.  I jumped off the 19A at Woodsetts where the pub was just over a crossroads .....

This is how you finish South Yorkshire
977.  Butchers Arms, Woodsetts

Celebratory moment it certainly was, I'd promised myself back in February on my first trip to Armthorpe that I'd finish South Yorkshire by the end of 2016.  I left it late, but I did it.  Having said that, this pub fell kind of flat.  Even from the outside, the whole 70's Estate pub stuck onto old building looked a bit rubbish.  Raw Brewery Tap I hear, loved their beers when they had lots on in Barnsley's Old Number 7 on a football day, so why then, would they only have 1 on out of 5 pumps?  It could just have easily been Black Sheep, Dukeries, Tring or Imperial brewery tap.  As I was getting served, a cute elfin Asian barmaid shouted "you've got that coat on again!" I was about to comment it was my favourite, when I realised she was talking to an old man.  It would prove a bit ironic in that the pub was FREEZING COLD and I (and everyone else) kept coats and scarves on for the duration.  Something to do with "Raw"?  My Dad always judges how good a pub is by how long it takes him to remove his coat, he'd not have been a fan.  I then caused a minor stir by refusing to accept a 'loyalty card'. "One off visit" I explained, before hastily adding "unfortunately".  A blatant lie but at least I got a warm smile off elfin barmaid who by now was wrestling a cash register.  The music was shit, pub was dull, experience was quite drab all round as I used my STABILO highlighter to finish highlighting South Yorkshire.  One overheard conversation to end on:
LOCAL : "What is going on in here tonight then?"
BARMAID : "It is New Year's Eve." 
And it really was that kind of pub.


Wonky tree and late presents
I got chatting to a lady at the bus stop who had once complained about the temperature in the Butchers Arms when she had a meal there, so I wasn't alone."

Wow, back to the present day and you'd not find #WokeSi2020 saying things like 'cute elfin Asian barmaid', and also, why was I was moaning about what beers were on what handpumps, like it matters?!  If a pub is open and brown stuff is coming out of a handpump, count yerself bloody lucky, shut up and drink it, that would be my 2020 view.   As long as it ain't vinegar or lines fluid.  But that could be the lockdown talking.

Fast forward two months and I was down in Berkshire for the final time for now.  My Berkshire experience had, like South Yorks, started in 2016 and really given BRAPA fresh momentum after the relative drabness of Beds, and Sir Quinno (Reading) and Tim Thomas (Newbury) had been perfect hosts on my epic spring holiday, where I did six pubs a day for a week and my liver was crying.

And it was fitting that Tim was my chauffeur on that sunny winter's morning, 4th Feb 2017 - both of my remaining pubs being in his 'speciality' west of the county, where trains and buses are scarcer, and it all gets a bit more rural.

Again, the second pub of the day was the county clincher, called the Rising Sun in Stockcross which I think closed down not long after, as so many pubs seem to do after my visit.  Hope it has, or can, reopen.

Former Si takes up the story .......

"The pale yellow fiat panda then bobbed about a bit on the road back to Newbury, where Stockcross is located.  Bit nervous, was it open?  Yes, it was.  High drama for all of 0.002 seconds.  Here was a moment I'd been working towards since 20th Feb 2016.....

We're about to go in! 

Tim and a view of the road away from Stockcross
1019.  Rising Sun, Stockcross

The door was a bit stuck just to add to the tension, but I was in and we were soon chatting with the friendly landlady about Berkshire pub stuff, and of course, the fact this was the last of my Berkshire pub visits.  A man to my left with a bald headed that kept shining off the sun was loving this fact, but his wife had an unimpressed toad-like face which screamed "BRAPA Crapper".  Poor man, if you are reading this and want to leave her to become my Buckinghamshire chauffeur, I'll pay you in coffee and shiny bald head wax.  Sometimes in pubs it's the little things that impress, and what strangely stuck with me here was the TV!  It was kind of half propped on a low down side table, like if you were watching it whilst decorating a house, none of this raised Sky Sports nonsense.  A lot of customers were present so none of the cosier rooms around the bar really had a seat free, so we went into the duller (well, sunny) more spartan backroom where two annoying American men arrived to loudly order food and try and look impressive for finding a semi-rural pub.  Well guess what lads, you ain't BRAPA so no-one cares!  Fair to say, I felt quite self-satisfied here.  Tim did a bit more pubby maintenance (I don't mean he fixed a shelf) and we were on our way back to Newbs, job's a good 'un.  

West Berkshire brewery etched window

Pint on a proper pub beermat

Ticking off the final Berkshire pub, hurrah! 
Having said bye to Tim, I sat in the waiting room and ate my Dairylea Lunchables and read Ullage (a classy combo) til the train back to Reading was due......"

Well, the bald man never did become my Bucks chauffeur.  Was a great experience, Tim is so lovely, and whilst I think I preferred the earlier pub in Wickham, this one was still quite good.

And speaking of American interlopers, if you do the (INCORRECT) American date convention to 4/2/17, it becomes 2/4/17, and yes, it was on this date (2nd April if I've confused you all now) that my next county was clinched.

North Yorkshire.  What can you say about North Yorkshire as a pub ticking county?  Vast, near impossible, and probably a little bit unrewarding, lots of bland rural dining pubs lacking a warm welcome.  And I live there.  Well, in the City of York anyway.  And yet, I needed Father BRAPA's chauffeuring generosity to get it done, and even then it took us me three years, July 2014 when I started it off!   I hope there isn't a southern North Yorkshire equivalent or I'm screwed!

The due finish date had been the previous Saturday, but that old chestnut of opening hours which differ from those published in the GBG had stymied us.  Father BRAPA, being the awesome Dad he is, saw the pain and anguish etched in my every facial feature, and said we'd come back the following Sunday.  All the way up near Darlo.  Never-ending roadworks on the A1.  Legend.  Mummy BRAPA came along too for a rare outing, her first BRAPA visit since Llansillin, and THAT pint of York Guzzler .......... and it was her who spoke first as we got out of the car ........

"You're nervous aren't you?" she correctly observed, having known me for almost 38 years.  This was Anchor Anchor levels of "you'd better be bloody open" pub anxiety.  Mum strode confidently up the steps, crashed through the doors like Oliver Reed on a stag do, and we were in after the obligatory photo opportunity.

1074.  Black Bull, Melsonby

Phew, my round I think under the circs!  Though I sadly remembered I couldn't show off my new £1 coin I'd squandered yesterday which would surely have been massive news in a Darlington postcoded outpost like Melsonby.  It's a bit of a cliche to say "it's like walking into someone's front room" in the world of pubs, but this actually was, and so front room-esque, it lacked a bit of pubbiness (bench seating, a log fire, and some pointless beams would've been nice though bold leather seats, daffodils and a turntable had to do.  It was a real "grower" this place though, the foundations laid by superb jolly friendly staff and a good job as a local man came in muttering something about his mate being beaten up at football in Blackpool, or something.  But there was no time for sympathy in his direction, as his wife was delayed on account of holding a watery funeral for her dead goldfish.  Sympathetic eyes abound when she arrived, though the landlord kind of killed the mood by asking if she'd flushed it down the toilet.  My subsequent "Finding Nemo" joke was met with blank stares.  Oh dear.  I'd checked the ales three times to ensure the Ward's Best Bitter was real and not a mirage from circa 1998, Mum was on her customary pub lemonade, and Dad decided to be a little angel and have J20 which surprised all.  "Absolutely any flavour will do Sime!" he told me, before adding from the corner of his mouth "anything with orange in it",  Errrm, so the orange flavoured J20 then Dad!  So awkward some people.  As we sat and admired the old Vaux mugs and Mum wondered if I'd find anything to write about(!), landlord brought us some complimentary snacks - cheese on sticks, pieces of sausage, Yorkshire pudding and pickled onions in a little white boat thing.  You know when a pub wins you over, and you worry you've been easily 'bought'?  This was me in here!  I had a 50/50 decision to make as to where the bogs were, so obviously I went the wrong way and had to be retrieved from a smokers area, but this was a fine pub experience to finish NY in.

Mrs Goldfish contemplates her loss.
So there was have it.  Thrilling stuff.  And hold onto your hats because in part three next week, we have Buckinghamshire, Rutland and Cheshire.  I may also mention Isle of Man, which I completed bar a 'technicality' at the 11th hour. 

Looks like pubs won't open til at least July, so expect to see more boring blogs like this over the coming weeks.  And keep dreaming of how nice that first sip of pub ale will taste when we are back.