Sunday 18 July 2021

BRAPA gets a ...... KIRBY-LE-SOAKING (And a Return to Clacton)

Essex was greening up very nicely, I mused to myself over my cornflakes, pathetic instant coffee and fizzy mango chunks as I prepared for Day 4 of pub ticking.

I had to play it safe today.  England were playing their latest Euro 2020/21 match against Germany, and it was annoyingly a 5pm kick off, which meant I wanted to be back in my Premier Inn room by then, before heading back out into Colchester for some evening pubs.  

Clacton-on-Sea wasn't far on the train, a place where as a twild living in Saffron Walden, my parents would take me to the fairground, well either here or Walton on t'Naze.  I was obsessed with ghost trains.  Probably the ride which is most like being in a pub.  

I didn't see a ghost train during my little explore, Colin was absolutely furious when I had a go on those rip off grabby machines (did somebody say new mascot?  Surely not!)

As I approached my first pub, the always reliably early opening Wetherspoons, a scrum of elderly tourists made a bee line for the door at the same moment .....

Knowing that all this online track & tracking / Wetherspoons 'Apping' is perhaps more of a struggle for this generation without wishing to sound at all patronising (OF COURSE!) I manage to hurdle a few tackles, hold off the odd elbow, and fling myself into the gap, pinging the QR code with aplomb like something in The Matirx, and sat at the closest free table to the door, where an old bloke who's wife has gone for a widdle says 'ow do' (or Essex equivalent) and I get my beer order done as I observe the staff patiently assisting this motley crew in a manual way.  Phew!  Welcome to Moon & Starfish, Clacton (1828 / 3257) .  The noise levels increase to 'where are my headphones?' levels as a double buggy, full of screaming twildery, enters, being pushed by two shoulder tattooed mummies with booming voices, a bit like Bitterns but less ability to camouflage sadly.  I love 'Spoons, it offers a glimpse of actual life.  Nothing sanitised here (I don't mean literally, obviously .... though now I remember, my table was of the sticky post-breakfast type).  The Durdle Door at 5% was a brave start, but a nice malty number that relaxed me at a time when my teeth had been on edge!

Getting the bus trip out of the way, and then returning to Clacton makes sense as the clock ticks towards 12 noon.  Of course, the eccentric old boy with red trousers, a fantastic old watch, and a habit of muttering to himself whilst looking directly at you, elects to sit next to me.

I observe him closely, convinced that this will be me one day.  If any lady stands up for her stop before the bus has drawn to a halt, he gently admonishes them for not taking due care 'madam'.  I like him, an old fashioned gent, but I am glad to be in the fresh air and off the bus.  A short walk takes me to the pub.

Ship, Kirby-le-Soken (1829 / 3258) isn't the most rugged of Essex boozers, what with its perspex bar screens, fake bookcase toilet doors, bare boarded clomp clomp clomp of staff shoes, and food orientation, but 25+ mins in its company, and you realise it can hold its own in the world of good pubs.  After all, it is busy.  Busy pubs are good pubs.  Good pubs are busy pubs.  Or something.  Open only half an hour, on an overcast Wednesday, and plenty of people are in, or sat outside drinking.  My beer is an absolute cracker, Black Berry Porter and it tastes like licking a hedgerow whilst smoking a packet of John Player cigs.  The landlord/barman spies my Good Beer Guide, which gives me a good excuse to tell him how good the ale is, as if I'm some kind of expert!  We have a good humoured chat and apart from an awkward moment where I go to the loo in the ladies by mistake (I'm blaming the fake bookcase doors), all is well.  Then a bit of an atmosphere 'shift' and next thing I know, a lady is standing in the middle of the floor laughing, drenched from head to foot!  She'd been having a wine outside, I glance out and the most torrential downpour has taken everyone by surprise!  A bloke nearby comments that these shifting weather seasons are designed at getting us in line with Australia.  Everyone raises a collective eyebrow (the 'don't you hear some top tier shite in pubs?' variety).  The rain has subsided as quickly as it started, and I have a bus to catch.

He's forgiven me after the earlier grab machine incident

The loo I should've used

Locals, diners, and coming in from the rain

The bus back is a lot more straightforward, despite having to dodge being splashed by passing traffic careering through puddles whilst I wait by the post office.

Back in Claccers (as I'm sure the locals call it), I had one more pub before heading back up to Colchester. 

I could kind of tell this one was going to be a salty sea dog old school boozer before I entered, but I'm still surprised to see the vast numbers of faces that turn to stare.  Silence falls as I enter the Old Lifeboat House, Clacton (1830 / 3259).  An early days BRAPA may have run out screaming, but seven years in, I'm made of sterner stuff.  "Hello!" I say to the room in general.  Bit of an echo.  A lady smiles, a man in hi-vis sighs, picks up his San Miguel (or Saint Michael, as they say here), takes a long glug, and the pub continues as though I've never arrived.  Phew.  A stoic Scottish old boy behind the bar is a reassuring presence, and says he'll bring my beer over, I'd loitered as I wasn't too sure what rules apply here!  Characterful boozer.  Inevitably, a lot of chat is around the football / drinking logistics.  When to go home?  Keep on drinking throughout til kick off?  Is stopping worse?  They start banging on about Pogba's wonder goal last night.  'Means bugger all, France are out but you lot are so southern, you are practically French' I'd love to say, but don't.  Give me 7 years more of BRAPA.  A bit like 55 years of hurt innit? 

Absolutely bricking it

 There's a nice Hull City reference, before I get the train back:

And I tell you what, Cambridge can keep its cows, cos Clacton has Octopussies.  

By the time I get back into Colchester, it is about half three, and with the pubs near me not open or heaving already, I get a local pizza and can of my fave lemon San Pelli ordered, dig out my infamous tunnocks teacakes, and psyche myself up for the match.  

Colchester ticking post match is the plan.  Hmmmm now is it better for me if England win or lose? 

Ready for kick off

Join me tomorrow for news on the total mess I made of Colchester ticking!  

Until then, take care.  Si 

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