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
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!