Monday 30 November 2020


EIGHT new BRAPA pubs ticked in the month of November, and if we were to try and put a positive spin on that, we could note that it eclipses my total for March, April, May AND June combined (6). 

And yet November's second lockdown felt more painful than the first.  Any novelty factor I felt in March was gone, cold dark nights, and that sense that it was little more than a token gesture anyway.  Frustration too, the 2021 GBG had officially been out for one week.

We need a pub of the month to push forward into the 'year end awards' which will probably be the next blog I do, late on 31st December amidst the Scunthorpe Party Poppers for one and dreadful Jools Holland.  The best beer was at the Aldwark Arms in rural North Yorkshire, the best pubbub (pub hubbub) was found at the Bishopthorpe Sports & Social Club, but strongest overall was the quite unique Disappearing Chin, Harrogate so good on 'em, especially as when I walked I thought 'what the bloody hell is this dark insanity all about?!"  

So, we come out of this Lockdown on 2nd December, so Wednesday.  Even though in York, I'm one of the few Northerners privileged enough to come out of it in Tier 2 rather than the strict Tier 3 (AKA every pub shut), it doesn't make a great deal of difference from a BRAPA perspective.

For Tier 2, unlike before the lockdown, you have to order a 'substantial' meal if you are to order a pint in a pub.  This is the real killer.  As you might know if you read regularly, BRAPA is a 'smuggled bag of mini cheddars there', 'bite of sausage roll and cherry tomato when staff aren't looking here' kind of operation.  

Six pubs a day, can't be dicking about ordering a meal in each, can I?  Maybe I'm not hardcore enough.  They have to bring the meal to you as well, so I can't just say "donate it to the village tramp" if tramp is an acceptable term in 2020, probably not.  Homeless Solutions Expert, or something.   What about taking six Tupperware containers around with me and scraping the contents in.  Slosh 'em all together in a pan when I get home, massive fry up with a bit of fresh cream, late drunken supper.   You need that after an ESB.  Oh hang on, Parcel Yard nearly forgot, that's a seventh meal isn't it? 

No, think of the expense, and trouble for the staff if you're just going to push the food to one side.  In the Pub Ticker WhatsApp group (yes, such a thing exists), someone today had heard a Scotch Egg could perhaps constitute a substantial meal!  Intriguing.  But I'd need by Good Scotch Egg Guide to know which GBG pubs have Scotch Eggs on the menu.

Tier 2 ticks might work better for those pub tickers in the Autumn/Winter of their careers, not myself who's a little spring lamb still.  Imagine the scenario, you've 'pinked' up Wiltshire in full, save for one posh rural dining venue, Michelin star at that.  It is in Tier 2. "Get in the camper van" you tell your long suffering pub wife.   "I'm treating you to an expensive slap up meal and overnight stay at a particularly beautiful looking place in rural Wiltshire."  "Oh what a delightful husband you are!" she trills with joy. Winner winner Michelin dinner.  You get to pink up Wiltshire, away trip for both to the break 2020 monotony, gorgeous countryside. Jobs a good 'un. 

Tiers for Jeers 

In advance of the Tier announcement, I'd been sent a list of each part of England and how many recent Covid cases they'd had.  Now, I've been focussing on Essex recently and out of 315 areas, Maldon was 309th and Colchester 306th so was thinking they were Tier 1 bankers and BRAPA could carry on largely unaffected.  So what a shame! 

Only Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly (310th) and Isle of Wight (313th) were placed in Tier 1.  I bet Mid Suffolk (315th) were spitting feathers, but then again, Hull (2nd) played Ipswich in the interim so maybe they got pushed upwards after Hull breathed on them.

So Tier 1 ticking then?  Transpires Cornish folk don't want the English in at all.  Even less than usual!  NOT that it is that easy to get to from York for a day trip.  Doesn't the fact I've been drinking their tea all month make me an honorary Cornishman?  

As my work chum Emily suggested, I could've renamed it CRAPA (Cornish Real Ale Pub Adventure), alas it looks not to be for the month of December.  Isles of Scilly?  Only 1 GBG pub, not much point.  Isle of Wight?  Hmmmm.  

Look, I don't want you thinking I'm waving the white flag and admitting defeat, it ain't the BRAPA way, but even if I do go somewhere, I'd be very careful how much I advertised the fact on Twitter / blogs until the dust settles and the world is a bit less fraught.  

Anyway, BRAPA should be Tier 1 in that everything within a few metre radius of me is considered Tier 1.  Think I do this for a pub ticking malarkey as a hobby?  Cos I enjoy it?  No, I do it solely for your entertainment, so you can judge me and laugh at me.  It is a public service, and the government and health officials need to recognise it as such.  

So unless the Tiers are revised on 16th December, meaning a mid-Essex trip is back on the cards for Sat 19th , I'll next see you for my usual drunken year end review.  

Ta ta for now, and a very merry Christmas if I don't blog til then!  I'll be mostly drinking red wine, eating Wotsits and watching Westerns.




Saturday 28 November 2020


Wednesday 4th November, the final night before 'Lockdown II : And This Time It is Pointless'.  I logged off my work laptop bang on 4pm, and my bubble buddy Daddy BRAPA arrived to help me move a pool table and fiddle about with some electrics.  

Then it was off into the North Yorkshire dusk for what I hoped would be three valuable November pub ticks to bring the total to a respectable eight under the circumstances. 

On the mini Good Beer Guide map, these pubs looked merely a stones throw from home, in a sort of Harrogatery direction, yet very tricky to achieve by public transport.  

One of the three was listed as opening all day.  This was the White Swan, Wighill.  SHUT PUB ALERT!  Lights were on, people were at home, doors were open, fire pits were being lit front and back of pub.  Dad swings the car into the gravelled car park but the expression on the woman's face means I know what is coming.  "We're not open til half 5" she shouts.  "Oh.  We'll be back!"  I reply, not giving her any timescales on this, which is just as well, as it wouldn't be tonight.  

Little bit mean of them I thought in the current situation that she couldn't just let us in for a drink, but it is what it is, or rather, it was what it was, and if hadn't been what it hadn't, then what she'd just told us would've been hugely misleading, if you think about it.  Lockdown is getting to me, can you tell?

Wish I'd taken a photo anyway, all those fire pits were quite a nice sight.  Games of Thrones-esque, probably.  Never seen it.  

So anyway, Aldwark and Nun Monkton were both 5:30pm openers too.  It didn't look far as the crow flies, but we aren't crows, and even the BRAPA-mobile can't fly.

Soon, obscure backwater bumpy roads were being negotiated in the pitch blackness.  We had to go all the way back on ourselves to the ring road, and then there was the question of the 'famous' Aldwark toll bridge.  Would it be open?  Dad had doubts.  I told him to believe. 

But even I was surprised to see a little bloke manning the toll booth, 40p each way, Dad scrambles for coins, I'm no help,  nice bridge though, proper wooden and rickety.  It felt more Troll than Toll.  Thanks, I'm here all week (like literally, can't get to a pub can I dudes?)  

So 23 cars crossed the bridge in the time it took us to have a pint!

'Please be open pub' I prayed, feeling a bit guilty for this had been a bit of a traumatic drive for Dad.  Thankfully it was.

We're greeted hyperactively but a masked barmaid with one of those modern names like Chloe, Liv or Megan at the Aldwark Arms, Aldwark (1720 / 3147) , impress on her that all we want is a pint and then we'll buzz off, and she leads us on this mazey, convoluted route to a semi outdoor tent (marquee?), despite the vast indoors looking very free of people.  Next to us, a jolly spirited old lady and her humongous black lab and it is easy to tell which one is more eagerly anticipating the arrival of food.  As we shiver, the barmaid reassures us the heaters have just come on, but it is only 15-20 minutes later that a generator seems to kick into life.  The ale, a blonde by the same people who do Hambleton Nightmare (so Hambleton then) is the best quality pint of November, Colin rating it a NCBS of 'banging'.  Dad goes Tim Taylor Landlord, as he is "sick of local insipid blondes" which upsets the majority of passing waitresses, but he reports the TTL is of similarly high quality.  Lady and Lab get their food, we drink quick, and after a few pleasantries are exchanged, we say goodbye, Dad already conscious he's going to be late for tea with Mummy BRAPA. 

Oops, this beer really is good

That's better!

Back over the toll bridge, Nun Monkton should be really easy from Aldwark but someone built another river in the way, with no bridge, so you have to go all the way around back to the A59 Cattal, Kirk Hammerton way.  Poor Dad, he really is too good to me!  

If the Aldwark Arms seemed like a vast North Yorkshire dining pub, this next one made it look like some community Bathams boozer in Tipton where wheezing men eat faggots. 


Adjacent to the car park, all these little outdoor guest rooms, like posh bunk houses, and then in the time honoured South Essex tradition, find the most unlikely door at the back to get inside Alice Hawthorn (1721 / 3148) .  The place seems deserted, but when 'mine host' appears, she taps an electronic room plan screen, then tells us no room at the inn!  Nooo, we protest on the basis we just want one drink and promise not to linger.  And she relents, and gives us a 20 minute window on a tiny table to the side of the bar, not the type you'd ever seat a diner at!  It is a pint of Boltmaker (Tim Taylor Best Bitter) for Dad, and a TTL for me, but Dad's is vinegar and one of those situations where the barman is so totally unsurprised and quick to react, it is like he knew!  He swaps it for Landlord.  They even put a fresh barrel on!  At this time on last day of lockdown.  Save for one couple beyond us, there isn't a soul in here.  When it this influx of diners turning up?  It is getting on for 7pm by now, last orders what 9:20pm.  Very odd! The TTL is good, but not a patch on the Aldwark beer quality.  I'm a bit anxious re this 20 minute window, but Dad reassures "no way they are going to kick us out", and he's right.  I go to the loo on 20 mins, still plenty to drink.  On 25 mins, the guy even asks if we want another pint!  Barmaid who gave us 20 minute window is stood in same bar area, doesn't react.  When we say "no, we need to be off" he asks if we are doing anything nice this evening, to which Dad replies "having an aubbergine surprise with my wife!"  Bloke does his best to remain professional, but as I cringe in embarrassment, the couple by the door are practically wetting themselves.  Dad oblivious, time to drag him out before he causes me any more pain.  Great end to otherwise dull pub experience!

Someone's ready for an aubergine surprise, and it ain't the cauliflower

Our view on arrival

Reminds us, better ring home to tell her we've been delayed but Dad's on the way back now.  

As we missed Wighill, I ask him to drop me in Bishopthorpe, sort of on the way back anyway, and being the nearest GBG tick to my home, I can get back from here even if I need to walk.

I say bye to Dad and thanks for a good if slightly stressful evening, and let him get back for his aubergine surprise.  Time for Colin and myself to go it alone ........

A world away from the posh dining pub atmosphere of what had gone before, Bishopthorpe Sports & Social Club (1722 / 3149) has a really gratifying old fashioned Yorkshire hospitality feel to it, no nonsense female staff having cheeky 'bantz' with blokes watching the Champions league, it is warm, carpetted and I'm indicated a nice swathe of bench seating to plonk my chilly arse down on.  I'm almost not at all surprised when she tells me they've run out of real ale and no point putting any more on now, so I go for a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale (hideous stuff, burns as it goes down) cos it felt the least lagery or cidery thing on the menu.  There's something a bit perilous about the blokes near me, and it makes sense when the gobbiest reveals himself to be a L**ds fan.  He has heard a rumour they are going to sign Messi to bolster their European hopes, and it never fails to amaze me how deluded that lot are, but all I can do here is sigh deeply into my Good Beer Guide and roll my eyes at Colin, who being a Yeovil Town fan, simply blinks sweetly and mutters something about combine harvesters and Terry Skiverton that I can't quite catch.  Most interestingly, a bloke arrives with a similar accent as Peter Taylor, sounds Essex, knows nobody in here, but has a tiny bit of  chat with the lads about goalkeepers, drinks a lager, and tells a barmaid he's happy as long as he can see a screen.  I was getting 'ticker' vibes, but he didn't react to me putting the GBG on the table, so who knows?  Why else would a southern stranger be in a GBG newbie on the night before lockdown?  

I walked back so far, and then realised buses were still running back into York so I managed to hop on one, so even better.  

So that was it for November pubbing, hopefully not 2020 as a whole, but it won't be easy.  I'll be back Monday night for my month end review/preview, as pointless as that might be.

Blogging on a Saturday night, what a sad little life!  


Thursday 26 November 2020


Penultimate night before 'Lockdown II'.  It was Tuesday 3rd November, and if you think I'm dragging my heels a bit with writing up these blogs, then you'd be right.  Somewhere, in a psychological recess of my brain,  it feels that whilst I have pubs to write about, they aren't quite as closed!

Spreading my wings after last night's mini-success in Harrogate, I took the train up to Darlington which had two new GBG ticks in the 2021 edition.  Ahhh remember the golden days when Tier 2 meant you could just go to a pub for a drink?

Once in the town that time nearly forgot, I had the usual arduous exit from the station which always feels like you are walking in the wrong direction, even though (and tonight I specifically asked a ticket barrier lady), you don't have a choice.

Less than two minutes walking in the freezing Darlo air, when four boisterous young lads on bikes come careering behind me.  Three overtake me on the pavement, the fourth little chubster actually says  "EXCUSE ME MUSH".  Peak Darlington already.  'Mush?'  Off a kid?   Only time I've ever been called Mush is by Daddy BRAPA when I was younger, in a cajoling way.

I have a soft spot for the town, some cracking boozers, friendly folk and proper down to earth / down at heel (doesn't really matter which).  

Here was tonight's first with some sexy neon lighting ......

Looked a bit like one of those high street amusement arcades, but no doubting once inside that this was a recently refurbished boozer.  Done in the 'modern way', but in a Darlo modern way, meaning it still managed to smell of tobacco, sweat and have a semblance of the old school, which is why I could enjoy my 25 minutes in Bondgate Tavern (1717 / 3144).  £2 for an excellent pint of Yorkshire Legend by Helmsley.  NCBS = Yum.  "Wow, that's good" I tell the friendly landlady re the price, who explains it is extra cheap because they are trying to shift as much ale as they can before lockdown.  My card declined twice, it was possibly confused having last been used to buy a pint for over £5 in Knaresborough the previous evening.  An electronic sign whizzed across the top of the bar area "Sunday Soul Night isn't Happening!"  Well, no real surprise there. 

I already had designs on a late night bonus third pub tick in Chester-le-Street so at this point, I am rushing to get to the second Darlo pub to allow myself 25 minutes in there, to still have to time to get to the station and get the last train to CLS.  Getting stuck in a tiny shopping arcade by trying to take a short cut didn't help.

Two slices of luck allow me to achieve all of this.  Firstly, the CLS train is delayed by just enough time to take the pressure off, and secondly ....... wait for it .....

House of Hop (1718 / 3145) wouldn't ordinarily open on a Tuesday, and they only have done, today at 6pm, you've guessed it, with the idea of getting rid of their surplus ale.  She tells a confused local couple this, looking pointedly at me whilst doing so like "BRAPA, you lucky fucker" and she's right.  18:01 when I took the above photo.  After Miley in Rochford Saturday, it felt like the gods were taking pity on me with this forthcoming lockdown about to stymie my progress.  Explains why, despite having had to press a doorbell to ensure I could get seated without a reservation, I only find one customer, a young lad tapping away on Untappd.  He does have friends, he later claims, but they couldn't make it.  I must try that line when sat alone with Cauliflower.  A £2.50 pint of Three Brothers stout is perfect on a cold evening (NCBS = tasty).  She really pushed me towards it though, must be the beer they had most left of!  Lack of phone signal had me constantly paranoid the train might make up ground (after my Harrogate experience last night, hardly surprising).  All was dull until afore mentioned couple arrive.  "IS THAT A CAULIFLOWER?" shrieks Mrs Confused from across the room, and soon we're all chatting mascots, pub ticking, lockdown and stuff.  Even our new Untappd friend, we'll call him Matty Johnson cos that was probably his name, according to my Untappd stalking efforts, joined in.

No problems getting the Chester-le-Street train, but I immediately realised there were no more direct trains back to York tonight.  There was one involving a change, but it didn't get me in til after midnight and not like you can sit in a pub til 11pm anymore. 

Therefore, I spent the journey frantically Googling buses to Durham which would then allow me an easier connection and a much earlier return to York.

It didn't help that the pub was situated well off centre, but being in a cricket ground, well what did I expect?  In fact, I could have already 'technically' ticked this one, but to my mind, it was just a bit too tenuous.

Back in about 2000 when it was called Austin's, I came to watch the mighty Sabres take on Durham Dinosaurs, but we got rained off and retired indoors for probably polycarbonate pints of Guinness and lager, or whatever I drank back then when real ale didn't exist in my world.  Apart from it being busy, I have zero memory of it.

The first street I walked down tonight was truly terrifying.  Red lights flickered from behind upstairs curtains, then a huge crash as someone throws an electrical device (toaster?) out of an upstairs window. Rock & roll.  Dogs bark in unison.  I pass an 18 year old Dad, smoking on the porch.  He inhales deeply, looking totally relaxed, when the door flies open, his girlfriend/sister shouts that little Jayden and Ebony need putting to bed, and then I hear a tumbling down the stairs, then a child screaming, Dad stubs out cigarette, mutters something under his breath, and races inside.

Moment of the evening?  Possibly.

A bit like the Broadwood Stadium at Croy, Durham Cricket Club is situated off an awkward roundabout designed to kill you if you cross at the wrong time.  Zero traffic at this time of night means I live to tell the tale. 

I'm not drunk you are

Sticky Wicket, Chester-le Street (1719 / 3146) was a vast soulless echo chamber, more like a large function room / bar style venue.  More plasma screens showing sport (mainly cricket of course) than your brain can take.  On arrival, I'm shuffled around the first corner, so I'm almost blocking the screen that the bloke behind my fat head is watching.  He scowls at Colin, but settles down when his supper arrives and loses himself in pie and gravy.  I ask her what real ales are on, and she furrows the upper part of her face like I've asked where Aristotle hid the Golden Chest of Babylon (plot twist, the answer is Babylon).  She returns to tell me Camden Pale or Neck Oil are "both very nice".  Hmmmm, that doesn't sound darren casky to me, but gotta roll with punches in these 'difficult times' so I get the Beavertown.  Behind me and gravy bloke, towards the loos, quite surprisingly are three kids spinning around, dancing, whilst eating huge ice cream sundaes. Their Dad laughs like he means it.  He won't be when their puking later.  Time to run for the bus.

Even with a slight jog, I hadn't quite given myself enough time to get the bus I was aiming for, but in another slice of BRAPA luck tonight, the buses were coming back in the direction I was walking from, so was able to pick it up at the Black Horse stop instead.  Only two mins, but made all the difference!

All aboard the Angel 21 for a games of Snakes & Ladders ......

.... and I might've even had chance for a last orders half before the train to York, but the Waiting Room was totally shut.  I walked round to the lovely Station House, but even though drinkers were in, they'd put a sign up, so I just loitered in the bushes for a bit(!) until my train was due.  

Successful evening, one more night to go, and with Daddy BRAPA at the wheel, surely it'd be a straightforward night of ticking?  Right?  Wrong.  Join me on Saturday night to find out exactly what happened.  

Cheers Si 

Monday 23 November 2020


Monday 2nd November 2020 and it was now a race against time to bolster my pub ticking numbers before 00:01 Thursday when nationwide lockdown would shut everything down for a month.

I'd contemplated a Sunday 1st trip, but Essex paralysis hit hard.  With no time off work, all I could do was run down to York railway station on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as soon as I'd logged off at 4pm.

Of course, I had to avoid Tier 3 regions, make sure I could get done what I need to before 9:20pm last orders, and check the pubs were actually open, which on a Monday especially, isn't a given.  It really did feel as though the net was closing in, and I tell you this now so in 100 years time when historians are remembering this period in time, this blog will be of special significance.  

Historically significant 

The clock is ticking

I kept it as simple as I could, and Platform 8 took me to Harrogate and Knaresborough.  

Harrogate first up.  A town where locals walk around with pursed lips, firm jaws set to grim satisfaction, noses tilted upwards to indicate fine Georgian architecture.  Peer into a workshop and you will see a middle aged cat lady weaving a purple hemp cardigan whilst her Beard distils elderflower gin.  It is unbearably 'nice' and strangely arcane.  The inhabitants are like characters in a managed stage production.  Every county has a Harrogate.  Stamford, Dorchester, Hebden Bridge, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Ely, maybe even Falmouth.

If you are of the same mind as me, heaven help you, Harrogate is best visited on a weekday night between the months of November and February.  Pitch black, rain sheeting down in torrents, as it was tonight.  Pull your hood up tight, light a Woodbine, you could almost be in Dewsbury.  

'Blink and you'll miss it' barely does Disappearing Chin, Harrogate (1715 / 3142) justice outwardly, easily the most impressive of Harrogate's plethora of recent dull GBG debutants.  I'm always on the look out for a pub to challenge my prejudices, and this one achieved it with a strange aplomb.  If we are handing out awards for 'darkest pub' of 2020, this would be the winner.  Give me a dark pub over a bright one any day.  The staff are impressively personable, and a barmaid with a sort of hurtling inertia greets me warmly.  I'm plonked into this ridiculously elaborate window seat you can see above.  I'd have only been slightly surprised if an African Tribal Leader had appeared, and decanted a litre of Um Bongo into a ceremonial cup, this was the kind of vibe I was getting.  One ale on, she laments.  "Good with me" I reply, channelling my inner Martin Taylor.  Of course, no point putting fresh casks on this close to lockdown.  She starts talking me through the keg alternatives, but then suddenly halts and says "do you even drink keg beer?"  I must be turning into a peak CAMRA type, oh the shame.   She also has a reluctant puppy that, unlike me, will not 'sit' when instructed.  Conversation amongst the barflies is seriously beery.  The affable barman told this tale "I recommended the marshmallow peanut stout to this one guy who wanted something dark ...... and then he went for the whisky cask cider!"  Cue much guffawing and probably eye-rolling, it is dark remember.  The place smells sweetly of rotting pumpkins and incense, a heady concoction when you notice your train in delayed by 40 minutes, order half a crafty ale (to defy the doubters!) , notice train caught up 20 minutes, so you've missed that, and have to order a THIRD beer.  Yes, circumstances meant plenty of time to get comfortable.  Conversation turned to more accessible topics like Mini Cheddars and L**ds Utd. The nicest barfly then dons surgical gloves to inspect a fridge of craft cans at my feet.  We have a few nice words.  Barman joins in.  This doesn't feel like Harrogate any more.  As the blokes talk about the perils of "massively over dressing for a beer festival, tee shirt and jeans would've done!", a group of loud young ladies by the bogs get smashed.  Harrogate is a rare northern example of Tier 1, and it is suddenly very noticeable to me.   I've rambled on enough, though I did stay here for much longer than planned.

Colin in this most incredible window seat

Chilling with similarly semi spherical items

View to the bar

My fridge friend saw himself on my Twitter check-in, and was glad of his 5 secs of BRAPA fame!

Slippery rail alert!

Let's get experimental!

Pub needed more characters like this

The next train is delayed too, and suddenly, I'm in some doubt as to whether I'll make it to my Knaresborough pub tick before the last orders gong reverberates around the pub (or in post lockdown world, a timid mouse scurries between tables whispering 'we're calling last orders now, squeak, would you like any final drinks, squeak squeak?')  But then again, I guess people can't pile to the bar!

I'm amazed by the sumptuous interior of Harrogate Station's waiting room.  I cannot stress how unusual it is to find an indoor one open at this time of night, let alone anything other than a cold metal bench and a bin.  This had leather seats, a book case, plants, a heater.  What does it say about a town when your station waiting room is pubbier than 80% of your GBG entries?   Truth.

Before I could get too comfortable, the train was upon us, though Mummy BRAPA chose this moment to ring me about Christmas present ideas! 

As I skidded down a cobbled steep path from the station, the rain was still absolutely pelting it down and I had to tell the Mumster that whilst it had been a lovely chat, I had a pub to tick.  Here it was .....

Their most recent Facebook post had Colin quaking in his cauli boots ......


I love cauliflower cheese.  But this year,  I guess Christmas dinner could potentially be a bit awkward.  It'd feel like cannibalism.  Anyway, Six Poor Folk, Knaresborough (1716 / 3143) didn't leave anywhere near the impression on me of Disappearing Chin.  It was identikit loud, bright, jolly. Formerly a restaurant, you could slightly sense that, certainly had that 'craft kitchen' feel.  Left me a bit flat.  Most notable perhaps was the sheer volume of people inside (numbers AND noise), all socially distanced of course.  Upstairs, which I wasn't allowed to see, the occasional flash of a neon light, a boom boom boom, I think this area was reserved to those with a 'special' HG5 postcode.  "Monday night, November, pissing it down, freezing cold, and we're nearly full .... this isn't normal!" shrieks a barmaid careering past me.  She's right there, but nothing normal about this particular Monday night.  Did make me reflect how many people would've been in here, had I come on the corresponding evening in 2019.  As if to underline this point, a couple called Mr & Mrs 'S' (she had my trainers on) arrive, they've even booked a table.  I'm under the stairs like a house elf, or that is how it feels.  A man beyond eyes me nervously, then takes his pint to the disabled loo, presumably in case I date rape him.  Alright mate, you aren't at a beer festival now!   My clothing seems to have come apart, vest is low cut, got an owl emblem on, I look like a shit(ter) Russell Brand.  Not a bad 'pub experience' but the tick was the main thing.  As last orders is sounded, I pay my extortionate bill and head back out into the gloom.

See what I mean?

Alright Mrs S, can you go home and change your shoes?

I mean, really!  Wasn't even that strong.

And there we have it.  No problems getting back to York.  Still felt a tricky evening, and I've have to spread my wings further if I was achieve something similar on Tuesday.

I'll be back on Thursday this week to tell you about that.

Cheers, Si