Thursday, 13 May 2021


Welcome back.  I'm writing this whilst drinking a beer (Dartmoor Jail Ale).  This is only notable because I normally write BRAPA blogs completely sober, which I suppose might come as a surprise to you.

Where were we?  Oh yes, Bradford.  I'd had my first Covid jab, and the effervescent Martin Taylor met me outside the vaccination centre, with the view to drive us to two or three new Good Beer Guide pubs.

And he wasn't lying when he told me the car wasn't parked far away.  Not up a hill five miles away, de rigueur in my experience of the golden age of rural Cambridgeshire ticking with the man.  

The car itself, not the typical Martin mobile, but the sleeker, svelte, sportier @Christinet50 mobile.  No wonder the gentle folk of Bradford (probably) doffed their caps on every corner as we powered north towards Otley.

Ah, Otley.  It is has been a while.  June 2014 to be precise.  BRAPA in its infancy.  A 2 month old sniveller.  

Having no railway station is a fact I cannot quite accept about the town.  Feels so much like it should.  It probably explains why Otley feels like a town 50% comfortable in its slightly old fashioned, unspoilt West Yorkshire splendour, the other 50% casting a nervous eye in the direction of Burley-in-W. and Ilkley, wonder if it should embrace blousy, flouncy, nose in the air posh 'prettiness'.  You are great as you are Otley, trust me, don't change.

As we walked towards our designated pub, Sylvanian Family figures stood in a gleaming toy shop next to a throbbing Chinese takeaway called Dragon City.  It just felt, you know, kind of proper.

Black Horse, Otley (1740 / 3169) is an impressive old coaching in which we could get absolutely no sense of the grandeur or scale of due to the current outdoor only regulations.  It was huge.  The courtyard which we were funnelled into, a long way from the entrance in the above photo, had the original stables and seated many.  The blackboards all screamed at us to put on masks whilst stood up, do Track & Trace religiously blah blah, but the one thing it omitted was how the bloody hell you get served.  As the pair of us scour the landscape helplessly, wondering how the many jolly couples gathered around us ever got a drink. Martin is first to realise the tiny QR code on our table (913, just how big IS this pub?) can be scanned and used to order drinks.  Owned by Kirkstall now, whose beers I adore, I go for a post-vaccination restoring Black Band Porter.  The lad who brings it out is so lovely, he simply does not get Martin's gently barbed comments about whether the App is really worthwhile when actual human beings might be quicker.  The 'jolliest man in the world' sat behind us is apoplectic in his rage/laughter.  Black Band Porter wasn't on when he ordered, and now it is.  His favourite too!  "I'd offer you a sip normally but not in these times, ho ho" I tell him, obviously lying through my teeth.  Having such a dry sense of humour, Martin tells me the music I can hear is by a band called ELO (?), a punk forerunner to the UK Subs where a young 52 year old Charlie Harper first cut his teeth.  I think he might be joking, but I cannot be sure.  A great 'tick' but if I wasn't already chomping at the bit for 17th May indoor BRAPPING, this pub would've tipped me over the edge!  Frustrating.

Onwards and upwards, well uphill anyway, through rush hour traffic to the outskirts of Keighley, where we find the village of Riddlesden.  One minute, the rain is teeming down in buckets and spades, and the next the sun is out.  

This makes us nervous as our next pub's Facebook page is a constant flow of 'just started raining, we're shutting!' perhaps a bit too reactionary for a pub tickers liking.

The scenery feels to both of us, more East Lancs than West Yorks, I'm put in mind of Mossley with the stone buildings and winding, snaking roads up steep hills.  The blackbird above sounds more like Quosh than Chris Dyson.

The sun is out when Martin crunches the gears, and the car comes to a stop opposite the pub.  Three locals under an umbrella glare at this strange incursion into their town.   Martin doesn't notice, for he has lost his phone!  He's not panicking though, he's SURE it isn't still in Otley.

He instructs me in the meantime to go and work out the craic and order the drinks (tactics?) 

A quick loo trip (gosh I was busting!) allows me to walk right through the pub, so at least I feel I had some appreciation of the indoors of the Yew Tree Inn, Riddlesden (1741 / 3170) and Martin isn't far behind, clutching his phone triumphantly.  I order a pint and a half of something 'Airedale' and tell her we're going to sit down in the 'lower' beer garden, 'twixt running stream and jagged rocks, a young cat frolicking around nervously in the sun.  This is a quite wonderful backdrop.  The staff are attentive and friendly, shouting through the trees, over the stream "are you two okay for drinks?" like a cowboy bellowing into the canyons (or whatever).  So why the charlie dickens has this pub never appeared in any of the previous Good Beer Guides whilst I've been doing BRAPA?  Oh yeah, the beer is poor quality.  Bit of a drawback that for a GBG entry.  "Hmmm, honey & thin?  On a bit too long?" muses Martin, making an early play for Beer Sommelier of the Year 2021.  He is encouraging me to drink up in the politest way possible, I have been nursing this I must admit.  I notice he's on the phone.  I assume he's asking Mrs RM to ensure his tea is on the table when he gets home.  (Errr, nope, that'd be brave/foolish).  He's actually ringing the Hanging Heaton Cricket Club to ascertain whether they are open.  Legend!  I never ring pubs.  Or Cricket Clubs.  Far too sensible!  A second loo trip before I go.  My jacket scrapes against the wall where the young cat is now sat, terrifying it.  I apologise and glance at those men.  Two of the three men finally smile, one almost chuckles.  The third remains frowny and starey and pointlessly intimidating.  I'd forgotten how rude random shit strangers can be.  It's kinda life affirming.  More evidence the BRAPA 'roadmap' (roadbrap?) is tantalisingly close to returning full time.  4 'sleeps' all, we've got this!


The phone has been found and all is well

Best outdoor seating area yet?

94/95 away kit if you wondered

Nervous cat wants me to leave Riddlesden and never come back

Top musing

So, we'd vaguely looked at a nearby North Yorkshire GBG tick in a place called Sutton-in-Craven but after his Heaton heroics, it was time for a 19 mile drive that would take 45 mins, pray for the BRAPA bladder!  

Back down through Bradford, we passed all those weird places my work colleagues live like Birstall and Batley, did some weird arcane chicanery underneath a monumental railway viaduct, reversed up a hill, got scowled at by Mrs Miggins in no.22 having her tea, and crossed the road to the cricket club, high above Dewsbury.

You could have imagined yourself being anywhere in the world.  Apart from Dewsbury.

State of the art motors

After fathoming out the fastening on this giant metal gate where the loos were lurking, I relieved myself readily and went around the corner where I found Martin at the bar hatch chatting with the wonderful 'mine host' who didn't even mind appearing in my photo below.  Farmers Blonde is a cracker when kept well, crystal clear quality, and this was an example of a place that knows how to do GBG worthy ale.  "How is it?" he later came over to ask us.  To which I replied "lovely nice", not sure what I was trying to say but it wasn't that.  Hanging Heaton Cricket Club (1742 / 3171), I'd recommend it muchly.  A fact I learned on 12th April is that Martin has a bit of a knack/reputation for the sun coming out wherever he goes.  We'd had so many storms forecast today. I really think he might be some kind of sun god.  He's even seen the sun in Manchester, he claimed.  A bold claim.  I'm still waiting and I've been 57.5 times.  Facing out onto the cricket pitch, simply glorious, even if the air was turning a bit more chill as we reach 8pm.  Fluffy Hoody Ladyy, behind us with Hubby, had already smiled a few times and finally asked what my Good Beer Guide was.  "It looks an important book, that one!" she shouts into the wind.  And she isn't wrong.  So I gave her quick run through of our West Yorkshire progress.  It was a nice ending to a fantastic Monday's pub ticking, I cannot thank Martin enough, and glad we saved the best one til last.

Martin drops me back at Dewsbury station, where an outdoor West Riding Refreshment Rooms revisit couldn't quite tempt me, and before I could blink, I was back in York where I quickly had to remember to jump off, before I woke up in Oban or Wick Academy again (jeez!  these Transpenine trains, so misleading). 

I thought I'd avoided any vaccine side effects, for I woke up at 3:15am for a wee, 12 hours since the jab, feeling fine.  Logged on for work 8am, telling everyone how well and indestructible I felt.  Mocking my sister who'd suffered flu like symptoms for a day.  And THEN, about 1pm, I'm training a staunch L**ds Utd fan on a new work process and I start feeling achey.  Then shivery.  Then chest pains.  By 4pm, I'm a mess!  Straight to bed.

So I wonder, just wonder, did those three pints stave off the side effects for longer?  If so, I made one vital mistake.  I stopped drinking,

Thanks very much for reading.


Wednesday, 12 May 2021

BRAP-STRA ZENECA : Vaccination & Pub Ticking (Part 1/2)

 "Just walked past!   Don't scream"  

Not exactly the most relaxing thing to hear when you are enjoying a leisurely pre-vaccine pint of bitter in the Bradford sunshine.

But the chief stalker in question, RetiredMartin, is far too lovely and fluffy to pull an "I know what you did last summer" on me, nearly as lovely and fluffy as that cauliflower who is currently hibernating.

And the only time 'slasher movie' and myself have appeared in the same sentence is when the police tried to film me getting caught short on Newark Northgate station.

Anyway, Jacobs Beer House, Bradford.  A superb GBG entry when I ticked it off back on (let me just consult master spreadsheet .... ) 4th November 2014 in front of a roaring fire with a pint of stout and cheese & onion roll.

And even in the wild, windy downpour one minute, bright sunshine the next, tucked in beneath a main road, just above a subway, on a soggy bolted on bench with no shelter with an empty giant pack of mini cheddars at my feet, it still felt kind of brilliant.

I could smell damp apples and birds twittered in the trees.   Two pink haired ladies smoked roll ups, old blokes lurked under brollies with their mates, and the Abbeydale Deception was drinking well.

"Same again mate?" says the reassuringly facial fuzzed barman who am sure I recognise from 2014, you can just tell some chaps are good blokes.  "I'd love to stay, but I've got my Covid jab just around the corner" I reply.  He smiles in a way that seems to say "Okay BRAPA, I didn't ask".  

I leave and bounce down the cobbled lane towards the vaccination centre.

Which takes us back to Martin, now leaning on a wall in the sun at the entrance.  "Hello, fancy seeing you here!" I say, but no time for small talk he tells me, or I might miss my slot.  Good point, you have to be dead on time for these things. 

I needn't have worried.  A bit like a Surrey gastropub at 11am, I am one of two customers.  The Ballad of a Charmless Man in front of me is being rather charmless so I go in all breezy, like I would a pub.  It works.  I get the nice lady, although my retro Hull City top is too tight round the upper arm, so as we say in Glasgow it is 'taps aff' (good name for a new micropub?) so she can get to the vein or whatever.  I don't do science.

"I can put a screen up?" she offers.  But no, am not shy despite my flabby lockdown tummy, let's just it done.  I barely feel a scratch, and am out within about five minutes. Ready for round two at the end of July.  Indoor Jacobs Beer House return?   Yes please.  

Martin tells me the car is parked nearby (which with him often means 5 miles up a hill in Ely), let's go pub ticking! 


Of course, when I booked my vaccine, BRAPA potential was in mind.  Despite living in York, the nearest location that came up on the website was Elland Road, L**ds.  No way!  I'm allergic.

The second choice was Wakefield.  But when I clicked on the Wakefield link, it simply disappeared.  That felt a very Wakefield thing to happen.  Look, I live in York, I can't help it.

And third choice was this, Jacobs Well, Bradford, where I knew a GBG pub was next door.

The fourth choice had been Scunthorpe.  No address, just Scunthorpe.  Like if you just stood in the middle of Scunthorpe. someone would eventually jab you.  

BRAPA planning had been hopelessly poor, I must admit, kinda embarrassing after my recent "pub tickers guide" blog.  But Monday, outdoors only, in Yorkshire, oooof.  

My one required Bradford tick was very much closed, which I should have realised sooner.

My second plan was to get three Sheffield pubs done (hence why I contacted Martin the day before to tell him of my plans in case he and Christine wanted to trot down and join).  Ale Club (Eccleshall Road), Itchy Pig Ale House and Wisewood Inn seemed hopeful.

BUT being the world's premier pub ticker, Martin noted the Wisewood had put an 11th hour post on Facebook to say they wouldn't be opening on Monday after all!  Wow, you really do have to check daily at the moment.  What's more , I'd failed to notice Itchy Pig was takeout only.  'Takeout , straight out!" as we say in BRAPA circles AKA 'don't buy a takeout beer cos it doesn't count as a tick anyway'.  Catchy eh?

"Not worth your while coming to Sheffield" Martin correctly surmised.  "I tell you what, I'll come over to Bradford and we can drive to some West Yorkshire ticks".

Music to my ears .... and he already knew of two or three likely to be open that we both required. Legend.

More on that tomorrow, take care all, Si 

Saturday, 8 May 2021



Working from home has provided so many plus points over the last 12 months that I almost missed the one big negative.  I'm no longer within striking distance of those after work GBG pubs in West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire, and even Greater Manchester!

Back in the faraway golden past of 2019, I'd simply toddle down to L**ds train station after work and instead of going to Platform 15b, I'd stand on a different platform of my choice (I could even roll a 17 sided dice to decide), rest my weary eyes, and before I knew it, I'd be waking up in Todmorden, Shipley or Dronfield.  Of course I always had a valid ticket!

Nowadays, I have to physically push myself up and away from my cosy flat, get down to York station, and invariably change at LDS to have that same wholesome range of evening pubby options.  

And this is what I did on Wednesday night, for my last BRAPA trip as a youthful 41 year old.  

I still have a slight 'fear' of the many variables involved in outdoor only pub ticking, and despite the gleaming Sunshine on Leeds (was the a Proclaimers song?), I took triple layers of clothing, gloves, hat, scarf, fluffy hood.  I was sweating by Castleford, though it is the kind of town that makes you sweat regardless.  

A student opposite had a clear pencil case containing two Stabilo highlighters, neither of which were green, so I admonished her silently.  Then, a shady bloke who looked like he belonged on a wild camping channel on YouTube stole a phone charger that someone had left behind when he realised it fitted his device.  I admonished him silently too.  I've missed being disappointed by strangers.

Darton was our destination, just north of beautiful Barnsley, where I lived from 1982-1984 when it was very hard for the 4 year old me to get a pint of handpulled and start BRAPA early .....

"Beer desert"

Long time readers might remember my last trip to Darton was memorable for the reason that I'd left my phone at home, so became the last person in history to buy a disposable camera from Boots for the benefit of blog photos.  It wasn't the most discrete thing, the way it clicked, flashed and whirred.  The results?  Even worse than tonight's uninspiring little collection.  

The 27 minute uphill walk to Mapplewell (achievable in nearer 20 mins if you stride it out) was a path I'd trodden twice before.  In 2016, I'd found the Talbot very food orientated but was struck by the old fashioned South Yorkshirey warmth of staff and clientele.  A contrasting atmosphere at the Old Bakery in 2019, a particularly uncaring and in my opinion, pointless, micropub.  What would tonight bring?  

With the sun still out, I certainly had a dab on, as they say in these parts, puffing and panting as an old bloke outside the Talbot acknowledged me with a strangled 'now then!' resembling a strangulated hernia.  I carried on around the corner to see the very long pub I failed to photograph properly.  Out of practice you see.

A blackboard outside confirmed exactly why I'd chosen this pub tonight, it looked a very safe bet for being open, available and having plenty of outdoor room .......

NO-RAINER?   Haha, genius, I've just got it!  Seriously.  So here we are, Wentworth Arms, Mapplewell (1739 / 3168).  My first BRAPA trip of the month,  meaning I've surpassed my May 2020 total (I'm taking the 'wins' where I can at the moment).  A further blackboard instructed me to 'make yourself known to the staff so you can be seated and served'.  But when I pushed the main entrance door and stepped INSIDE the pub, three startled meerkats shooed me away, promising they'd serve me if I found a seat in the garden, eyeing me like I was baby sparrow that had dropped out of the nest head first.   In front of the pub on the gravel, sitting atop what looked like sharp wooden steaks, the average age of the punters was about 70.  They smoked and glanced at me furtively, I tried a smile.  Didn't work.  But as I stepped through the archway onto the carefully manicured lawn, plonking myself on the one remaining picnic bench in the sun, everyone here was nearer 30 years old, eating pizza and drinking craft beer.  Two cosmopolitan young chaps within earshot are bemoaning the lack of wedges on the menu.  Their faves of pre-lockdown apparently.  They opt for skinny fries ("we'll be good and just get one to share" they giggle) before moaning about a bloke they'd met who was just 'VERY Barnsley'.  Get you Mapplewell!  Google Maps had suggested I was actually in a place called Staincross, but no way the folk in this beer garden were going to admit to living anywhere with 'stain' in the name.  I found myself getting anxious re serving (Station Inn, Blaxton flashbacks), but I'm served fairly promptly by a jolly pink haired boy.   'Chinook' is the beer.  'Don't ask what brewery, don't ask what brewery' I'm shouting at myself in my head, and I resist.  A bit of research tells me it is Nailmaker, but had it been Goose Eye or Elland or Mallinsons or unknown, I'm sure I'd have survived.  It is very pleasant anyway, and wielding the green highlighter was incredibly satisfying, on this, my first solo BRAPA outing since 12th April.  A gust of wind blows across us, the sun went in, young Grant McCann instructs his assistant (who didn't look like Cliff Byrne) to order more beers, and goes to the smoking shelter, as more pizzas arrive, and I struggle with my double zip, Arsene Wenger style.  Another pub down, my 67th in South Yorkshire, edging it into 5th place above Derbyshire in the BRAPA 2021 league table.  

I sauntered back down the hill towards Darton, and such complacency nearly cost me, especially when I realised I was on the wrong platform and there was no footbridge.  But I sprinted round the corner, and soon I was back in York via LDS, home for 20:30.  Job's a good 'un.  

And may I add, the most GBG-worthy of the four I've been to since 12th April.

Where next I wonder?  I'm enjoying this little South Yorkshire after work thing suddenly.  I nearly went to Barnsley first thing this morning, but I was feeling a bit fragile after all-day birthday drinks with Sister BRAPA yesterday (in York's wonderful Fox where I've done about 80% of my recent drinking, so not a pub tick, boo).  

Hatfield and a few around the outskirts of Sheffield (North, West and South) are my other 'open' options, but I get my first Covid vaccine on Monday so depends on side effects, but as the annoying kids says "only nine more schleeps" til pubs open indoor, so I'll definitely be back on it like a car bonnet from 17th and I cannot wait!  Feel like a coiled spring.  Is 12 pints a day do-able?  

Take care for now, Si 

Monday, 19 April 2021



There are nights when I think that RetiredMartin was right.  Pub tickers in America. It would be such a difficult endeavour.

Logging off my laptop at 4pm in York, I can be on a train in just over 7 minutes, be in Doncaster 20 minutes later, and after a 2 minute walk to the bus interchange, be in some rural out-in-the-sticks location a few minutes after that.  27.5 minute pint, nice and relaxed, and I can be back home sober with enough motivation and energy for a nice healthy Sicilian style sausage spaghetti concoction. 

But America is so big, that if you logged off your laptop at 4pm in suburban Minneapolis and your nearest tick is the Faultline Tap & Waffle House in San Luis Abispo,  odds against that you'll make it home by 8pm for your pizza pie, double fries and triple cheeseburger with twelve salted caramel doughnut dessert.  I hope that is an accurate representation of what the average American eats.  Correct me if I'm wrong.   I think I forgot the melted Monterey jack.  

Next week, I'll tell you about how to tick the Moomin Tavern in north Finland and Santa's Christmas Inn at the North Pole on the same night.  


Anyway, by last Thursday I was restless once more despite my ongoing claims that outdoor pub ticking is not something BRAPA would wholeheartedly embrace.  I had a strong desire to moo-ove (thanks) and see if I could capture another South Yorkshire pub tick without booking.  

Fellow pub-ticker Eddie Fogden (he's younger than me, but has done 500 GBG ticks more but doesn't make it into a three act tragedy like I do) had read my mind, and asked when I was doing the Station, Blaxton.  The answer was 'tonight'.  He said he'd join me.

The key point in the journey I described earlier was managing to get the 17:01 57f bus rather than wait for the 17:31 one.  I saw it quite by chance, expecting it to depart from stand A1, it was actually at A4. had lied to me. 

15 minutes into the bus ride, I realise Eddie is one of my fellow 4 passengers on the bus.  After all, he is the King of Hi-Vis and has worn it on each occasion I've seen him (Parcel Yard twice, Volunteer Arms in York, train from London) but it wasn't until he craned his neck curiously in the direction of Auckley's Eagle & Child that I realised Eddie was in fact Eddie.  

I crept up behind him, said boo, and we had a socially distanced masked chat.  He was off to do a post-emptive tick first, the Harvey Arms, Finningley, which had appeared in an old GBG I don't care about.  He'd catch me up, so I said 'farewell for now' pressed the little bell, and hopped off at Blaxton, saluted, and walked down towards the pub, and that is where the above cow at the garden centre was situated.

When the pub came into view, I liked how its colour scheme seemed to resemble Hull City's 1998/99 kit.  Had Mark Hateley's head popped out from an upstairs window, it wouldn't have seemed at all weird.

Uncanny isn't it?

Station, Blaxton (1737 / 3166) and with the clear blue skies, sun, and the fact that Doncaster folk are far too hardy to feel a 'chilly wind', it was no surprise to see the place bustling.  Time to employ BRAPA tactics and do something I know I'm not allowed to do, step indoors.  Two reasons for this, I like to 'announce' my arrival so the staff know I want a pint.  And also so I can say I've been inside (I could spy the bar in the background) and had my feet on the floorboards/carpet/slate/16th century tiling.  Sure enough, three alarmed young ladies swarmed round me like masked wasps, I ask 'wot iz occurring?', and they tell me quite predictably that if I sit down outside, someone will (eventually) serve me. 24 tables are available outside this pub.   Only 2 were left (thank goodness I didn't come on the Friday!), one wedged dead centre between a gang of six young gin drinkers, a stretched out sleeping dog, and two pizza lads.  This looked very unappealing.  So I went far end, on some 3G 'grass' that would make the Falkirk Stadium blush.  Next to a play area.  Behind me, a possible bus ticker sipped Guinness and 'red penned' a notebook.  Beyond me, a lairy business man with a pressed white shirt amused his lady friend with bawdy tales from Bawtry.  Problem was, the staff never got as far as me without being summoned.  Stranded.  No drink.  No way of getting their attention.  And the whole bloody pub could see my predicament!    "You never get anywhere in life being pleasant mate!" said Mr White Shirt eventually, when I say I could see how busy the staff were and I didn't want to go over and pressure them!  He's right though.  Was a bit lame of me.  "See these little plants on the tables?" he continues, warming to his task,  "They are not for decoration, in Doncaster we throw them at the staff to get their attention, ha ha hee hee ho!"  His lady friend hits him playfully in the arm (I bet he's a perfect gentleman underneath the bravado, I got that impression).  Finally a staff member comes over.  I ask what the real ale situation is.  "We just have one on, 'guest beer'" she tells me mysteriously.  I ask what it is.  'Hmmm, shall I go and find out?' she asks.  I practically plead with her "NO, DON'T LEAVE ME, I MIGHT NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN!" and I order one for Eddie as well who is pretty much finished in Finningley.  Another interminable wait for said pints to appear, when they do, I have been sat here 20 minutes!  Lockdown ticking.  It can be limiting.  More curious glances from those around (say what you like about Donny, but people are interested in their fellow man) thinking I've strategically ordered myself two.  Eddie arrives right on cue, the mystery ale is delicious we both agree, he does the highlighting but confirms my worst fears, the green Stabilo is nearly out of ink!  What trauma, but ultimately worth it for another good tick in the right direction.

The buses and trains go like clockwork (we even get a double decker bus back to Donny, which excites Eddie more than me) and I'm back home for a very reasonable hour.  

13 more South Yorkshire pubs to go, and I know at least 5 of them are open so who knows, there may be more similar after work midweek trips in the coming weeks, but the thought of doing this kind of stuff on a Friday night, weekend or Bank Holiday still doesn't entice.  We'll see.  1737 means I am only six away from my 2019 tally, 164 off my 2020 figure.  The struggle is real!

Thanks very much for reading, roll on 17th May.


Wednesday, 14 April 2021


Swinging a left around Blossom Street to Station Approach, the sun on my rucksack, an icy wind on my face, there was that same palpable electricity in the air that I'd felt on 4th July 2020.

Pubs were back!  Albeit outdoors, but as decreed by the BRAPA 5th amendment, 'it counts as a tick as long as you take a leak' (in their facilities).  (And tick is pronounced 'teak' to make it rhyme, think Speedy Gonzales).

A woman smiled at me and said 'good morning'.  In York.  In the street.  This was a red letter day.

Boarding a train for the first time since 15th December felt peculiar.  And yet I felt kind of 'alive' again after four very long months of simply 'existing'.  An old man's phone rings.  He can't locate it in the bottom of his bag.  He has one of those 2003 Nokia ringtones.  I grit my teeth.  I've missed this.   I take a swig of my aptly named 'Arctic' coffee.  The drinking mechanism is faulty.  It now looks like I've weed myself.  Plenty of time for that later.  

I forgot my breakfast and phone charger, so a bit rusty, but otherwise a happy familiar scene

Then the obligatory announcement.  We are the third train in a queue to leave the station.  Slight delay.  Hopefully won't be long.  Ah, nice to see things haven't changed.  I have to change.  At Doncaster.  Even that can't dampen my spirits.   A mad dash to make the Sheffield connection ensues.  Made it! 

A student behind me asks her friend if her Dad is still stuck in Burma.  Conversation quickly jumps to British colonialism, and then becomes a critique of inbreeding in Spanish royal circles. A bloke across from me smirks, so I theatrically and deliberately pull my headphones from my rucksack and put them in my ears.  We exchange nods.  I've missed this kind of thing.  

In Sheffield, the famous wall of water outside the station is switched off because as we all know, Sheffield water is the single biggest spreader of Covid in the western world.  That is a BRAPA fact.

At the pick up/drop off area, my lift arrives.  Martin Taylor,  ladies and gentlemen!  Sporting long lockdown locks and an excitable expression, conversation seems disjointed until I realise he's speaking to wife Christine on loudspeaker.  She's seen off a root canal procedure, and wants to join us.  Bonus. Which allows us a steep climb towards north Sheffield where she is sheltering like a blonde alpaca, and I drink in Martin's pre-emptive local pub knowledge en route.  Waterbeach must seem a long time ago.

East of Sheffield, South of Rotherham, we find our first pub, it is just gone 12 noon.

Letters on pub sign missing was first sign this pub was going to feel 'real'

Roland Arms, Aston (1736 / 3165) will be remembered longer than many due to the unique circumstances.  The fact it had so many shortcomings that it didn't feel anything like a GBG pub was neither here nor there.  "I'm camera shy" says the landlady as above photo is taken (or did she mean CAMRA shy?  In any case, you may be able to spot her in the window reflection).  We plonk ourselves at a bench in a modest marquee, the majority of locals and dogs look like they'd be here on a Monday at 12 noon regardless of any pub reopening hype.  Our young hostess is stumped by the 'what real ales are on?' question, admits out of side of her mouth from behind her mask that she's never heard of real ale so she'll have to go and check.  The answer is negative, so John Smith's Smooth, Carling or Fosters.  I go Smooth, as does Christine.  Martin asks for a diet coke, but after much umming and ahhing, it is discovered 'the pressure ain't working' so he asks do they do J20.  Luckily, yes, but they end up picking the flavour!  Us three can't stop chuckling at this sequence of events.  And Christine makes an intelligent point about how lockdown has perhaps allowed folk more perspective, and not to take things for granted so much, hence why we are all so joyful despite the pubs opening day limitations.  The biggest rule of sixers ever, young ladz, order much Carling, and many shots.  One of the funny blokes with big dogs has a rude sea shanty as his ringtone.  Salty Dick?  Check him out.  More laughter.    A toilet trip gives an indication of 'what we could have won'.  A pleasing pubby interior.  Deep wood panelling, pool table, swirly carpets, stained glass partitions, fluffy owls.  A bloke weeing along side me asks me how fooking great it is to be back.  Very fooking great. I'd forgotten about chatting to dangerous strangers whilst urinating.  Life affirming.


So nice to just hold a pint glass again in a pub setting!

Great photo courtesy of Martin Taylor photography ltd

Onto pub two then, heading out further east not too far from north Notts to be honest, this next pub was part of my 'Mansfield Holiday Plan' that got cruelly cancelled last March.

Martin had been before, and challenged me to find anything interesting to write about this one.  Hmm, he wasn't wrong.  Greene King dining pub if you were wondering.  No chain during lockdown pushes quite as hard for a pre-booking, eating or not.  Indoors or out.  It really is irritating to the point you get paranoid.  I'd originally booked for 1 person at 13:45.  Then changed it to 2 people 13:15.  Now, here we were , 3 people 12:57!  

No wonder our brusque hostess was sweating from behind her mask.  I stepped forward for the obligatory photo, and she told me to get back behind the (imaginary) line.  I hadn't crossed it, or had I?  VAR?  Surely?

Little Mester, North Anston (1737 / 3166) was the name, and we were growled at to each do the Track n Trace, masks on, indoors, to get to this side door where they'd put the dregs (i.e. us and a couple of other pasty faced diners) in this grim side bit with a grey wall, the strong wind blowing the laminated menus away so Christine had to pounce on them, as a couple of local ladies shouted across some jokey south yorkshire bantz which we had no idea what they said.  The beer choice finally allowed us cask.  Yey!  Greene King IPA or Black Sheep?  Oh hang on, the Black Sheep isn't on!  GK IPA it was.  For the first time in my life, I enjoyed this beer.  After the JS Smooth, it tasted a bit like Oakham Citra.  How odd.  And then, nothing happened.  Glad I'd brought my thickest winter coat, scarf, gloves and hat though.  An indoor loo trip reminded me what every GK dining pub looks like indoors, making me feel less bad about this 'outdoor ticking' business.  

Colin makes his return to pubbing , supervising Christine with the serious ticking job

First pint of cask back in the pub!  

So that was all very delightful, as Martin and Christine dropped me back outside Sheffield station and  I made my way back to York.  I'll do a part two at some point to tell you how I've found York so far.

Now I would like to tell you how Monday was a 'sign of things to come' for BRAPA over this next month, but I maintain things won't really kick off until 17th May (if that date holds of course).

In South Yorkshire, I have 14 pubs left to do.  Only 5 of those are definitely open/opening at some point during April (just 3 currently, one a micro so presumably very limited space).  8 are almost certainly waiting til May.  With 1 unknown that is probably not worth the risk.  So whilst there's the chance I may travel for the odd sporadic tick, it'll be few and far between.  Roll on indoor opening!

Thanks very much for reading,