Thursday 29 July 2021



"Croeso I Fangor" bellowed Bangor Railway station on the morning of my second day of  North West Wales BRAPA pub ticking.  Creosote my fangs?  What?  I'll never get the hang of this lingo.  

My debut in this famous town, I was half debating getting a bus out to Anglesey, this little floating bit of The Wirral which came loose in the 1970's and settled just outside Bangor, but sadly, there weren't enough pubs on it opening at noon.   

What's more, England had their Euro Semi Final at 8pm, so I wanted to be back in Chester for then, and didn't want to overdo the outlandishness and risk getting stranded.  

There weren't many folk about town on this Wednesday morning, a few paint stained overalls walking around with ladders, a few old ladies with dogs and balls of yarn, and younger ones blinking out from behind facemasks in nail bars and spray tanning establishments.

I got off to a great start.  A pre-noon Wednesday opener which isn't a Wetherspoons, a GBG rarity.

Blink and you'll miss it down the narrow side alley, but Blue Sky Bar & Cafe, Bangor (1857 / 3286) was very Thunderbirds are go, or  Caffi Agor as us Welsh language experts say.  a funky little 'breakfast forward' place where you are as likely to pop in for a bag of Ginseng as a pint of Real Ale.  The atmosphere was helped immeasurably by the laid back, approachable Mr Blue Sky.  Can't say the one cask, a New Zealand style beer from Mold, was quite to my taste (or, on top form), but the experience was positive nonetheless.  Quiet when I arrived, he was struggling to keep up with the constant stream of customers arriving at the door.  From groups of young ladies wanting poached eggs n wheatgrass, right through to Grandparents with whiny kids wanting chocolate, to dogs that can't blink because they've had a stroke and are in need of eyedrops, this place catered for all.  He almost yawned when I told him I was a pub ticker, FOUR in last week, plus a Duncan Mackay waiting in the 'to be sent' folder, it is always in the GBG debutants where you are reminded that you aren't as uniquely special as you'd like to think!

Up this knackering hill, which would prove to be good 'pre-season' training for what was to face me in Colwyn Bay tomorrow, to this sort of sub-section of Bangor where the people got a bit smilier and the paint stained overalls with ladders looked a bit more sweaty, my other GBG tick in town .....

Whether we are talking GBGs, Stabilos or frogs from the muppets, there is no denying one fact.  The best things in life are green.  As was the case at Patrick's, Bangor (1858 / 3287) where the main man of the piece, Patrick (his real name, unlike Mr Blue Sky, probably) is waiting to greet me, having said on Twitter last night I was due.  Martin Taylor had waxed lyrical on this place, and as usual, he proved to be a good judge.  Patrick had suffered a tricky morning, delayed beer delivery, waiting for me, looking for a gap in proceedings just to have a quick shower!  I don't think in all my BRAPA history has a landlord explained to be the intricacies of running a pub, the hours that go into it etc in such depth.  It left me glad I just drink in the things!  The fresh on Young's Special was drinking superbly well, as he gives me a visual tour of the place.  Even the little jokey quotes on the walls are positioned in specific areas of the pub where they are relevant.  It was the attention to detail I loved, shame I saw it at its quietest, can imagine how boisterous it must get on an evening.  Top bloke, great pub.  

Only the best get to highlight the GBG

Conwy does have trains, but annoyingly they don't seem to be very frequent, so I took the bus to a town where THREE GBG ticks needed a good greening.  

I was relieved to hear everyone pronouncing it it 'Con-way', and not trying to do some one syllabled effort like I'd read on Google - Cweee or something.  

Little did I think that I'd find a pub to rival Patrick's for pub of the day, or holiday, but iesgob dafydd this was bloody brilliant!

Albion Ale House, Conwy (1859 / 3288) had the sort of atmosphere that transcends time, and maybe even space if you drink one too many, but I'm kind of glad I did this whilst semi-sober.  Had the main bar been the only room, it would've been special, but from a narrow central corridor, it opened out all over the place into a myriad of unique drinking areas.  A group of locals sat to my left with a huge lazy dog that looked more content than I've ever seen a pub dog.  Like all the best pubs, conversation between strangers flows naturally - from the friendly couple to my right, later replaced by two ladies, of course it was the kind of place where a cauliflower, green Stabilo and Good Beer Guide was always going to evoke interest, and soon I was explaining all just as Clarissa did in the early nineties.  And for all the life, there was also a total stillness to the room, punctuated only by the occasional tourist enquiring about food, which the pub I'm glad to say, didn't do - the in joke being they could get a takeaway coffee from across the road, expertly told by mine host, who reminded me of Honey from Eastenders, think it was the eyes.  A truly fabulous place, and the reaction on my Twitter suggested it is a pub which has had a similar effect on so many!  

Conwy was such a pretty town, I went for a little explore.  I looked at a big castle in the distance, and then the smallest house in the UK.  Having been to the Signal Box in Cleethorpes and Platform 3 Claygate, it failed to wow me as much as it did the majority of people in the queue.

The bloke with his arse hanging out (and passers by unsure whether to tell him) by the ice cream van was of more interest, as were the historic town bogs.  En route to my next pub, a lady looked determined to recreate a famous BRAPA shot of our past but looked far too friendly .....

.... but it was time to escape the tourist hustle and bustle and get into our next pub. 

After two dyed in the wool classics, it was perhaps inevitable we'd have bit of a 'coming down' period.  I'm not saying that the Bank of Conwy, Conwy (1860 / 3289) was dislikeable in any way, it was perfectly fine, just a little bit underwhelming.  To be honest, so many visitors in town meant that the place was fairly busy, and like a good station tap, it was very much a 'passing through trade'. many of whom seemed determined to make the whole arrival, sit down, get drink and get food process, as difficult as possible, much to the chagrin of the staff who looked seriously fed up throughout.  Stand out customers being a ruddy hybrid of Malcolm McLaren and Harry Redknapp, whose wife must've shouted "I don't want cheese" at least five times.  

Just a few yards away, hidden behind a bin and looking two dimensional like it had been hastily erected as a prop for BRAPA : The Movie, was our final Conwy GBG tick. 

International bright young staff greeted me and Col with wide eyes and beaming smiles as we enter Erskine Arms, Conwy (1861 / 3290) but when I explain I just want a pint, brows are furrowed and I'm whisked outside into a chilly courtyard, where I'm then left to 'think about my actions' in what seems to be a five minute vetting period, before I'm allowed to order.  And paying for it at the end (WHY CAN'T PUBS TAKE PAYMENT UPFRONT?) , well the struggle was real.  Regular readers will know fifth pubs of the day are always difficult for me to remember, but this was something else.  If it really is the sister pub of Llandudno's Cottage Loaf, then it serious lacks the character of the former, on my 2013 visit at least!  Eventually, a young 'Made in Chelsea' (Made in Conwy?) group appeared and injected a bit of life into things with their nails, gin and welsh dragon vajazzles, but it was all a bit too little too late.

No vajazzles from these two
I missed my connection at Llandudno Junction by seconds, am sure the guard could've let me on, but he was a pig.  Like most people who work on the transport network, but not you if you are reading.  So I had about an hour to wait, and stop Colin getting attacked by an overly familiar seagull called Ieuan. 

Back in Chester, the pre-match atmosphere was building but I was still determined to get a sixth pub in before retiring to my shitty Travelodge where I'd have to watch the game on my phone, cos the TV had zero ITV reception, my complaints falling on deaf ears, despite my suggestions they could go up on the roof and adjust the aerial.  'Didn't do Rod Hull any harm did it?' not the best argument here.

Luckily, my remaining Chester ticks don't do TV's, and although I was picturing this next one right out of town on the Welsh border by the Deva Stadium, it was very close to the station.  Deva means Chester apparently, which really hits home how lacking in imagination everyone is.  Chester Tap then .....

Deva Tap, Chester (1862 / 3291) was a more enjoyable tick than the last two, it had a bit of vibrancy, quirkiness but at the same time, a reassuring 'locals' atmosphere, helped by my visit coinciding with the 90th (well, she may've been 85 I guess) birthday celebrations of this elderly lady, and I hope when I'm that age, I'm 'kicking craft goals' as the kids probably don't say.  The Tiny Rebel Cwtch drank very well, another opportunity to practice my Welsh, not that it impressed our fiercely eye-make-upped hostess, but she was down to earth and managed to remain more Deva than Diva throughout.  Then two balding blokes who seemed to know our ancient party goer deflated some inflatables, which I hope was her one person birthday bouncy castle.  I reminisced on Stuart Rimmer, Graham Abel and David Flitcroft, ordered a pizza for the match, and reflected on a very successful day's ticking.

Bit of fun and games stood outside my Travelodge, hoping each delivery driver that turned up had my pizza.  Of course, my bloke got lost on the other side of the road and I had to run the gauntlet of 'Popcorn' and 'Off the Wall' to intercept him and bring it back.   

Says a lot about my hatred of pubs when England are on that I'd still rather watch it on a tiny phone screen than go to a pub/bar!  

Oh well, let the party commence.  The giant bottle of Orange Fanta was drinking well , but let's not get too carried away, as my most physically demanding Welsh ticking day yet was coming up tomorrow.

Join me for tales of that next time, maybe Sunday, as I'll be drunk tmw and Sat!


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