The rains of Saturday cleared to give us bright sunshine, a hopeful sign that the BRAPA gods were shining on me for an important day of pub ticking with Pub Twitter royalty, Coxy AKA Stephen Pie.
I'd like to say the birds were twittering in the trees, but this being Hatfield, the grey desolate sprawl that it is, I'm confident the last bit of nature died out last century. I used to go to Hatfield Forest as a child, but I assume that is elsewhere.
Today had first been mooted by Coxy as long ago as 2017, volunteering to drive me around the more awkward outliers in that outer Stevenage area. At that time, Hertfordshire was not really on the BRAPA radar. But in the 2021/22 season, Herts is flashing like Bob Holness on a gold run. Sounds like me in Newark.
Perfect preparation prevents piss poor performance. The 6 p's BRAPA lives by. Even applicable when being chauffeured.
My quandry? Being on this freebie Grand Central, the last train of the day goes from Kings Cross at 18:22, meaning I really need to get the 17:03 out of Hatfield. This meant about 25-30 minutes per pub strictly, allowing about 15 mins driving between each as a general rule.
A lesser quandry, but still a quandry, food. Harder to smuggle snacks in pubs on a Sunday, eating in Coxy's car might be anti-social, eating when you are with a new BRAPEE also anti-social, so I ordered from a local cafe, squashing down this breakfast roll jam packed with black pudding, sausages and even hash browns. Ooof, it'll be worth it, I tell myself, sustenance for the day ahead.
|Last minute planning in the Hatfield nerve centre|
Coxy texts to say he's on the way, with an 11th hour curveball which would help make the day extra memorable. "Do you mind if I bring my small dog along?" he asks. Well of course not, instructive for me, so often on the receiving end of dogs in pubs, to be part of the 'entourage' walking in with one. How would it change my perspective?
He is here early, Travelodge car park. I pass my key back to the receptionist and lie about what a beautiful stay it has been. Nice to get off to a good start, all my 'pub timing' issues would be resolved if somewhere let's us in before noon.
I get acquainted with the dog of the hour, Lulu, a gorgeous little Cockapoo. "Don't stroke her, she doesn't like it, she's more like a cat" Coxy tells me. I can tell me and Lulu are going to get along just fine in that case, being more of a cat lover myself. She shares the front seat with me, up on my knee one minute, down the next! That bonus hash brown gurgling around as she steps on my stomach.
Coxy is trying his best to get me a pre-noon opener, knowing the gaffer of the pub most likely to let us.
|Note the horse walking past for added rural joy, this was a tough photo for Coxy to take on grass verge with Lulu on a lead!|
We intercept the gaffer in the car park at Strathmore Arms, St Pauls Walden (1994 / 3423) it is only 11:30am, and although Coxy explains the BRAPA concept, the guy obviously has no intention of opening before 12. Instead, we toddle off for a very nice rural walk along a track behind the pub garden. Good exercise for Lulu, and both of us need the fresh air, Coxy admitting he 'caned it' the day before. I of course, did my regular Saturday six. The scenery is tranquil, only the proximity to Luton bastard airport keeps you grounded, in an airborne kind of way.
Back on a bench waiting for the pub to open, as so often happens when you are early, two wily old locals still manage to beat us to the chase!
|Finally allowed in, through the back door, not just the ladies loos honest|
It is a glorious pub, first pub being pub of the day, which is a bit of a trend of late. The New River Upstream is as good a quality as anything I'll drink, and we sit round to the far side, in the sun, occasionally exchanging words with the two blokes and guv'nor. One staff member is late, making him late to go darn to London for the football. Spurs I think. This is a gorgeous building standing alone in the countryside, feels as much like an old farmhouse as it does a pub, a uniqueness that adds to the charm. Regular in the GBG since 1981? Hook it to my veins. Behind me, an impressive selection of GBG's. The current GBG says they date back to 1976, but I can only see back to 1981. Have they hidden the other five as they are rare (I found 1979 a right bugger to get) or has someone already purloined them? Coxy doesn't want to do the inaugural Green Stabiloing (I tell him I'll ask him in every pub until he cracks .... he never does) and he doesn't want a photo of himself either, but does set Lulu up for one as a compromise. Towards the end, a couple of tiny yappy dogs run over, threatening to disturb the peace. Lulu remains pretty well behaved considering. Cracking pub this one, a must visit if you haven't.
I notice we are ten minutes behind my 'split time agenda' so I need to ramp up my drinking speed a notch if I am to achieve my six pubs.
|Hideous fox mural first sign something was afoot|
|Struggling to bond!|
|Interesting set up|
|Looks like coke from this angle!|