If you are here expecting a lucid, even-handed, detailed review of my visit to the Railway Arms, Alton (1778/ 3207) , then I must apologise in advance.
As I staggered from the taxi, handing over god knows what extortionate amount of dosh from my 'Hawkley and onwards' pub crawl, a gaggle of gents outside the front of the pub in the warm sun bade me a pleasant late afternoon, and I realised now was not the time for an 'establishing pub photo'.
How I summoned the mental fortitude to take the above photo AFTER my pint as I headed to the nearby train bound for Guildford, I will never know, but I am glad I did. Not too wonky either, and the pub sign with a 3D train emerging from a tunnel is up there with the most pleasing.
I did note the blackboard (bottom left), though I read it as "Well Si, you in May". I spent a good minute squinting at it. "Me in May, what?" I wondered. Now, sober, I see where I had gone wrong.
The details of my pub experience may well be distorted, but I remember entering a lively bar full of fresh faced cosmopolitan funksters, enjoying a laugh, a puff on the old vape, and a shot. Something like this, but with the current restrictions obviously a factor:
"I'm on my own, just here for a pint of real ale" I explain in time honoured lockdown tradition, as a masked brown haired boy who looked like all of Martin Taylor's sons (sorry, I know he isn't Pat Mustard) appears at my shoulder like Long John Silver's helpful parrot.
His brow furrows. "Oh, I will hand you over to my colleague" he says, suddenly sounding stern. Suddenly, I hear a bolt of lightning, and a man shrouded in an ill fitting dark hoodie with a scythe appears. "Follow me" he breaths.
We approach a closed door at the end of a long creaking corridor. "CAMRA Members, Drunks, Dogs and Loners" reads the sign. Well, 3 out of 4 ain't bad I guess, and the room opens up into a bare boarded wooden, large and fairly sparse room, tables spaced well apart.
I push a wall, and three codgers appear in a more secluded sub section.
Not only can I not tell you what this is a pint of, but I cannot even remember how I ordered it. I think it may well have been a laminated beer menu. But it could have been an App. Maybe I saw a bar on the way in and memorised one. Probably not. Actually, a staff member could have read the beers out in a musical sonnet or presented them in Haiku form, and I wouldn't remember. I remember the staff being kind and patient with me.
In my Twitter check in at the time, I wrote that the card reader failed as I tried to pay for my pint. I also wrote that I got told off for sneezing because it sent a dog (presumably the one we see above) 'crazy'. I have zero recollection of these events.
I obviously was quite enamoured with the old fashioned loo, and I'm congratulating myself for finding it and using the facilities in what was presumably a respectable manner:
I love it when you can pull a chain. Satisfying. I wish I could remember pulling this chain.
As I waited for the train, feeling more pie-eyed than a barn owl in Wigan, a friend I had not seen in two years told me I should visit her in Farsley where she had a pre-emptive tick for me. A look back at our WhatsApp chat proves this wasn't the best time for this:
I went one better than crispies and ordered a Papa Johns pizza. But when it didn't arrive quickly, I ran downstairs to see if it was waiting. I saw a young lady holding a pizza box. "Yoink, having that!" and I go to grab it with a "thanks!", but no, she explains she is the daughter of one of the cleaners, this is THEIR pizza, and she is waiting for her Mum to finish work. Her Mum arrives. We have a laugh about it. I'd normally be embarrassed, but I left my self awareness somewhere between Selborne and Lower Farringdon.
A man tootles up. "My pizza!" I make an inadequate cup of tea, get some expensive water from a very modern vending machine, and pop on the old Eurovision. I might be drunk, but even I can see the UK entry is fully deserving of its 'null pwah'.
See you all in Sheffield, Si