Monday 31 October 2022


Good evening, happy Hallowe'en, Samhain and all that jazz.  

I might still be reeling from that dodgy GBG churn that we don't like to talk about (the new 'dodgy knee'), but I can report a record 66 new ticks for the month, eclipsing the previous record of 61 set in November 2021.  Plus 7 pre-emptives.  3 of which are now in the current GBG.  Ooof, anyone got a spare lizard?

Remember when Rishi got made PM, and reporters shouted  "cheer up pal" and his face remained stoic?  I feel much the same.  Far too much work to do to replenish my numbers and get back up past the 50% mark to indulge in any facial muscle twitching.

At the time of writing, I've clawed it back to 2164 (48.09% completion).  

Important to remember why I do BRAPA.  Best hobby in the world.  Love pubs, love visiting different parts of the country, love not knowing what you are going to encounter when you push/pull open that pub door. And if I must insist on a pint / 27.5 mins a pub in the hope of an 'experience' every single time which you then write about, well I'm not going to make crazy progress am I?  You can't have it all in this game.  If I live another 25 years, then I think the dream is still alive!

But with the dawn of a new ticking year comes plentiful Yorkshire options, stuff in Central London not far from Kings Cross and folk taking pity on me offering my lifts between pubs.  Gotta focus on the positives!

So how on earth do you pick a top 5 from 66 to go through into the New Year's Eve BRAPA pub of the year ceremony.  I'll give it a go (though to be honest, the standard wasn't fabulous throughout the month, Gwent being the exception). 

1. Y Cantreff Inn, Abergavenny

2. Wheatsheaf, Llanhennock

3. Royal Oak, Pencelli

4. Questors Grapevine Bar, Ealing

5. Anchor, Sevenoaks

Plenty of honourable mentions too.  Especially the Greedy Pig in Eccleshill near Bradford, who had closed not long after 8pm on Wednesday due to no customers, but agreed to let me in for a pint when I begged at the window! 

George IV in Sawbridgeworth, McGlynn's at St Pancras, Goose & Cuckoo at Upper Llanover, Kentish Belle Bexleyheath, Kirkstall Brewery Tap, Owl & Pussycat West Ealing, Boat Inn Penallt, Foxhunter at Nant-y-Derry , Beaufort in Raglan, Bridge Inn Llanfoist and Queen's Head Cmwyoy all were a cut above as well.

Foxhunter Inn, Nant-y-Derry

Dishonourable mention for the Westbury at Wood Green/Turnpike Lane, for being one of the most abominable pubs I've visited all year, but it is still in the 2023 GBG so there is that!  Goose & Cuckoo isn't.  Just as a means of demonstrating it really is a 'Guide' and not an absolute definitive best 4500 ale outlets in the land.

Mascot Watch - Colin is having his quarterly wash, but whilst he smells lovely, he'll never be whiter than white again.  But we won't ditch him, don't worry!  Oscar the Owl has been doing some heavy lifting of late, shame he's Snowy and not Tawny but never mind.  And Naughty Little Cousin Pumpy has been enjoying his favourite time of year.  Alex the Apple is on the transfer list, Pedro the Plum is lacking match fitness, too much porter.  Brekkie the Sheep is recovering from a twisted trotter.

Oscar on his way to Oakworth

November Plan - Lancashire and South Yorkshire are my Thursday focus areas.  I'm tantalisingly close to West Yorkshire completion (one pub, we only want one pub) but we have to wait for a chap to become available who wants to meet me there. Train strikes are blighting me yet again (5th, 7th and 9th so far, I suspect 19th will be too looking at trains) , but Daddy BRAPA is on hand to be a be a chauffeuring hero.  I'll be hoping for more Kentish and London progress, and the month ends with my final holiday of the year, in a county where I only have 4 ticks, so that'll be exciting!

Could Daddy B hold the key to November glory?

Have a nice November, and keep visiting the pubs (if you want, I mean I can't force you).



Sunday 30 October 2022


As I dart through the mean streets of Maidstone with #PubWoman and BRAPA debutant, Pauline Sharp in tow, she comments on my fast walking pace.  I try to slow down but fail.  When any GBG tick is on the horizon, it is the most exciting thing in the world, you have to admit.

Olde Thirsty Pig had impressed me, just as Cellars Alehouse and Rifle Volunteer had a couple of days before.  Maidstone might be a bit of a shithole, but it has some damn good pubs.

And it probably helps that the town that it isn't too inward looking.  It is happy to slate its rivals.  Some might call that a case of 'the pot calling the kettle black' but some of the nicknames it gives its neighbours is fascinating.

Shittingbourne, Gashford, Shitstable, BenDover, Chaversham, Cunterbury, Herpes Bay, Twatham, Crotchester, Gizzingham, Poood, Ramshate, Margaylord, Queerness, Jolkestone.   They couldn't think of anything for Rainham so just call it Bollockface.  #BRAPAFact

Pub four was found at the end of a surprisingly attractive street littered with cute terraced houses, standing alone whilst all manner of horrible high rise stuff springs up around it, leaving you fearing for its long term future. 

There she is!

Flower Pot, Maidstone (2402 / 3966 - ah, those were the days!) was a reassuringly basic boozer in the same ilk as the Rifle Volunteers, though this evening at least, it never conjured up the same magic, despite some green walls, a pool table and some pretty windows.   I'm in a dark beer mood, Pauline kindly buys, and the friendly guv'nor tells me that the Musket Powder Burn 'evokes earthy sweet aromas of times gone by'.  I think he's read that somewhere.  He asks my thoughts on it as I return from the loo, I tell him that I'd have to conclude that it evokes earthy sweet aromas of times gone by.  Pauline, ably assisted by Col, gets her debut Stabilo'ing done, and after some amiable chatter, I can tell that she's pining for her tea and home, so I try to force down the porter I'm conscious I've been nursing a little too long due to its earthy sweet evocation.  Passed me by a bit this pub, but if I lived here, I'd return regularly.  Still in the GBG?  Yes, I'd have been shocked otherwise.

Pauline helps me find Maidstone West, her side of town, with a bit of local commentary en route, but my day isn't done yet.  It has been one of those frustrating stop/start types, and I need to work hard to salvage my six tick quota so get myself off to West Malling, where two GBG entries are waiting. 

Autumn is really approaching now, it is suddenly pitch black, and with not another soul in sight, it is all a bit eerie.  The station is a bit of a walk from the town which I'd failed to realise.  At least the train announcement helped me realise that 'Malling' is pronounced 'Mauling' like wot Tigers do very infrequently. 

I tackle the micro first, hidden down a narrow alley like something off Jack the Ripper .....

The smell of paint is the first thing that hits me at Malling Jug, West Malling (2403 / 3967), the weakest micropub I'd go to all week.  I don't know how new it is, presumably not 'that' new if it has made the GBG, so perhaps it has had a recent touch up.  The front door is open, and the cold night air is blowing in, quite gusty out there now.  Perhaps this was to stop the paint smell being overwhelming?  But it doesn't help a pub already low on comfort.  The place is wooden and a horrid shape, so despite only one well-fed group of three middle agers being present, seating options are hard to come by.   I perch by the draughty door.  Thankfully, they know how to keep a great pint, and a Salopian I've not seen before is always a delight.  The young barman is nice too, shame our Salopian appreciation exchange hadn't taken place a bit sooner, for I'd have lingered for a chat, to bolster the chances of a more positive pub experience, but I needed to scoot.  If ever a pub had left me cold, both literally and metaphorically, it was here. Still in the GBG? Yes, no real surprise.  Great pint, CAMRA love a Micro and this isn't the strongest part of Kent for pubs.

And scoot I'm glad I did, because it was becoming alarmingly evident that I'd serious miscalculated the time I needed to walk, have a pint and walk again to catch the final connection to Sittingbourne. 

Not sure if that is connected to my oversight re. the outdoor photo for the next pub, I just took this instead, and we'd need to consult FormerSi to explain why because CurrentSi can't.  Was I considering applying?

Bull Inn, West Malling (2404 / 3968) is the name, and if I was expecting something a lot more sturdy, pubby and dependable than the Jug, I'm afraid to say that I was left disappointed again.  I breeze in with my usual chirpy demeanour, but the landlord and locals seem a gloomy bunch.  West Malling wasn't doing very well by me.  Have you ever been to West Malling?  Was I unlucky, or were you left wanting more too?  Again, beer is the saviour, Pale Ale Mary by Northdown, chosen because there is a tiger on the pump clip, grarrrrr.  I sit on a high stool because this makes up about 90% of the seating in what was probably once a cosy, traditional pub.  A large group of late night cyclists are chatting, saggy lycra bulging where it shouldn't.  They are animated but detached from reality, a bit like the trio in the Jug.  I wonder if West Malling considers itself posh?  Another calculation of my timings leads me to the conclusion I have about 12 minutes left to drink my pint.  Ooops, good job it slips down easily and the pub isn't one for getting settled in.  I return my glass with a flourish, and it probably is my imagination (well, I'm 99% sure it is) but for a split second, I thought the landlord eyed me with a certain reverence.  Still in the GBG?  Yes!  Making it a 'zero churn' episode.  Hurrah.   

As I dash for the train, I now notice it is two minutes delayed.  I know it sounds unlikely, but that takes quite a bit of the pressure off!  Every second counts, as Paul Daniels once said.  

I manage by hook or by crook (I don't mean I changed at North Hants or County Durham) to get myself back to Sittingbourne, and just like yesterday, I marvel at the fact that I took six ticks from what had been a really trying day.


Thursday 27 October 2022


Another one back on the shelf.

Good morning and happy new Good Beer Guide year!

The cross-ticking is complete and I've just got one word for you ..... OUCH.

The Damage

312 pubs lost, bringing me down to 2152 (47.82% GBG completion). A 12.7% loss isn't unprecedented, but it still stings.  Colin (currently having his quarterly wash) has already sent me a "sorry for your loss" card.  

To put it into context, my 'original' 2,152nd tick was achieved in Binfield (Victoria Arms) in Berkshire on 3rd April.  That is nearly 7 months of pubbing to make up.

At least this one is still in the new GBG

I completed the cross-tick on Monday evening, so I've had time, as the football twitter kids say, to 'give my head a jolly old wobble', 'dust worself down'  and 'go again'.  

Good job I do it for the love of pubs, eh (he says through gritted teeth!) 

Churn and the Reasons Why

'More churn than a giant dairy', as one fellow pub ticker with a dreadful love of puns, put it.  Truth is, we were spoilt last year with the minimal Covid induced churn.  I lost 150 or something ridiculous.  I remember even joking that last year's GBG was just the 2021 edition with a different front cover.  

It seems those lockdown shackles are now off, the CAMRA branches feel liberated, have released their inner minx, and spread their wings.

27 down in North Yorkshire and Hants, 26 in Greater Manchester, whilst London has been beastly.

The 'kind' counties this year are Essex, South Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Berkshire and Cambridgeshire.  Well done them.  I'll reward you by generally leaving you alone (apart from SY).

It is unusual churn too.  Sour Cherry Kefir or something.  The big 2015-18 churns were a result of micropubs popping up for the first time in every town.  But what I'm noticing this time is a lot of older pubs that haven't been in the GBG since long before the advent of BRAPA.

I've been waiting for the Goat & Tricycle in Bournemouth to appear since my 2004 visit.  Loved it. Accidentally chatted up a married lady.  Armoury in Shrewsbury was done in 2005 on a holiday with my mate John where we accidentally stayed a few nights in a gay boutique.  Plymouth has popped in loads of stuff I did drunkenly in the mid noughties like Admiral MacBride, Providence and Lounge when Stuart Elliot and Dean Windass were knocking the goals in.  

So really, the cross-tick could've been even worse!

The Vague Plan

So let the world's booziest game of Snakes n Ladders recommence today.  It is Thirsty Thursday after all.  

Filling in the Yorkshire gaps should be a nice morale boosting start.  I want to get Lancashire fully green after failing last year.  HOW many more trips to Preston?  What did I do in a former life to deserve this? Then I'm going to start looking at Notts/Leics.  That's my more 'local' plan for the year.  

Saturday's will still be Kent/London based for the foreseeable future, both WILL be fully green by Oct 2023, of that I can guarantee, but I'll do a 'strategy' update in the early New Year cos it's tradition.

My gross tally has risen to 4057 at the time of writing.  That has been helped by a record number of pre-emptives come good (usually about 10, but 19 I've counted this year).  So we'll end this blog with the roll of honour for those who helped make it happen.  And a few pics.  You like pics don't you?  

Keep it pub, Si 

Pre-Emptives Come Good

1. Magnet, Colchester - So new, it smelt of paint and looked like something off a Dulux advert.  A man on a bike acted very oddly.  I didn't like it til a funny bloke started chatting to me about homelessness in Glasgow or something.  Thanks to the Colchester Twitter person who recommended it, sorry I can't remember your name but you get a point.

I wonder if it has a more 'lived in' feel yet?

2. Woodman, Bishopthorpe - Ah, accidental pre emptives are the best!  I'm awarding a point to Humphrey Smith for this one.  I was on a walk with work mate Karl back in April, I wanted to show him the beautiful Sam Smith's Ebor pub even though he only drinks Smirnoff Ice, but it was unexpectedly shut (like what happens with so many S.S. pubs at the moment), so I chose this because it was next door and the only one in the village I hadn't done.  Wasn't expecting much, but the quality on that Ossett White Rat is up there with the best pints I'd had all year.  Then I started seeing local CAMRA meetings being held here, and I thought 'ey up, that was actually a pre-emptive'.

Accepting a point on Humph's behalf who sadly couldn't be with us today

3. Craft Bar, Scarborough - Think I Whatpub'd Scabby options when I knew I'd have time before a train.  Still, I sounded out the locals in the Welfare Club, who said it was definitely worth a crack.  And even though the barmaid was incompetence personified and no one had cleaned a glass for the past 7 hours, it had that 'future GBG' feel about it.  

Giving myself a point for my obvious genius and forward fashion look.

Can you spot the ghost?

4. Travellers Rest, Meltham - Fellow pub ticker Jim Brunt gets a point here.  He'd heard a whisper, and gave us a clue on Whatsapp that a pub in the Huddersfield area was in the GBG for the first time since 1974.  And being a saddo, I worked out he meant this one!  Jim then drove me and Eddie F on a dark wintry Feb night, I even took my 1974 GBG but the general consensus was that highlighting it green would be wrong, even though my copy isn't a 'plague edition'.

Low key candidate for best loo sign of the year

5. Prop Ur Baa, Ossett - And it is Eddie Fogden himself who gets a point here, I was well impressed, a stark contrast from Jolly Tap in Wakefield (and horrid pub in Horbury I was staying!)  Heaving, funny, crazy drunk locals, there'd been some town beer festival to mark the Platty Joobz celebrations.  I even stayed for another and nearly missed the cake cutting at Eddie's wedding, which would've been his fault for recommending me it the previous January, if indeed, me being present for cake cutting would've made any difference to anything, which obviously it didn't.

Making new friends in the Prop

6. Dog Inn, Belthorn - My mate Ian S. of Blackburn and beermat collecting fame gets the plaudits for this.  I'd seen it in GBG's before, I even got locked out at 10pm one night when they shut early.  Felt as much a village shop as pub with postcards, jelly snakes & tins of beans n stuff.  Lacked something 'pubby', but the beer was perhaps the best of eight I had on this day and as so often in this part of Lancs, the people were spot on. A small girl was going around cleaning the tables, citing 'child labour'. 

Ian looks like a man who knows he's just got a point in the pre-emptive league table

7. Cask & Tap, Blackpool - Oh Blackpool Jane, a bit like Ian Ashbee, she's neither here nor there she is everywhere, recommending me this absolute quality micro mid Rebellion punk festival, and bagging herself a point.  And I met fellow punk and pub ticker Ian/Alfie here too.  So impressed was I, I took Daddy BRAPA the other week and he liked it too.  Staff are incredibly switched on.  Like Admiral Lord Rodney, Criggion levels, but that is an obscure Mid Wales 2016 pub reference.  Everyone will chat to you here too cos West Lancs is like that.

Oooh looks busy, let's blame the punks

8. Thirsty? Alehouse, Blackpool - Felt much less nailed on than C&T, but again Blackpool Jane gets the plaudits, moving her top of the pre-emptive league, with her second point.  Peculiar, a quite unfriendly barman despite our best chirpy efforts.  'Themed' rooms don't really translate.  Fabulous cuckoo clock in the 'Swiss/Alps/Euro' room was the highlight, and got us away from an angry ill punk woman from Batley and her naughty L**ds fan probable brother.  Still, the stout I had was excellent.

Before the Batley/Lds invasion

9. King George V, Brompton

Thanks to the landlord of Rainham's excellent Prince of Ales for the heads up on this.  Walked across a park in Gillingham to get there.  It was a cracking old pub but the ales Daddy BRAPA and I ordered (different ones) were well below par.  Dad took his back and got something drinkable but tepid.  The lady was nice and apologised for our 'bad experience' but no pump clips were turned around at any stage, and the locals didn't care cos they were all on the fizz. Still, delighted it is in the GBG if it means I don't have to go back to Gillingham, although sort of ironically, there's a new one in Rainham!

Daddy B. won't be smiling once he's tried that beer

10. Bell & Crown, Canterbury

A point for Maidstone's finest, Pauline Sharp.  They're sharing the points around today the #PubMen and #PubWomen aren't they?  It was all a bit 'hopeful' when, on seeing Thomas Tallis closed and having time to kill before the New Inn opened on that tricky Queen funeral bank holiday, I saw this pub was on a list of Canterbury pubs she'd enjoyed recently.  It was close to the bit of street I was hovering in.  So I went, the beer was solid, it felt about 40% pubby, I thought "it's actually got a chance of inclusion" and guess what, it did!

Forgot about the almost face-sitters - John Bell and Jim Crown (maybe)

11. Pot Kiln, Frilsham

The lovely Tim Thomas of all things West Berkshire CAMRA helped me celebrate BRAPA's 8th birthday by driving me out to this small, hidden away rural gem.  The road felt like it was going to run out, and we'd fall into the abyss, or Wiltshire as it is sometimes known.  #TeamWestBerkshire.  The Indigenous brews were good, staff welcoming, and this lovely man in a suit who Tim knew was actually helping compile the GBG entry as we spoke, and if that's not a sign of a nailed on pre-emptive, I don't know what is!   

Celebrating BRAPA's 8th birthday in style

12. Bowler's Arms, Wash Common, Newbury

Tim joins Jane on two points (tight at the top!) with a second genius recommendation, not too far from his home.  A recently refurbed cricket club, so a glorious setting, and although you beer experts might not think the range was exciting, the quality on that Tim Taylor Landlord was like being up in peak Keighley.  Colin made a new friend, and that was that.

13. Station Hotel, Abergavenny 

I'm going to give TheWickingMan a point here.  I'd seen this pub in previous GBGs, I was staying in Abergavenny which I thought was a beautiful town, so the pub was in my thoughts, then a few locals recommended it in another great pub, Y Cantreff, but seeing it on the Bass spreadsheet was the final push I needed, as I like reporting back on the Bass.  Gorgeous pub, and this particular Bass was the best of quite a few I had on my Gwent holiday.  I'd have rioted if it hadn't made the 2023 edition.

Low bench or short body?

14,  John Wallace Linton, Newport

Another totally accidental tick, basically I needed a wee (as I so often do late on, or early on, or silly mid on) and had 40 mins til my next train, so popped around the corner to this handy 'Spoons, the first Welsh 'Spoons I read,  but a few locals came on my Twitter and told me in stern Welsh terms that I was wrong.  The quality on the Bristol ale was so good, it made me do a double take like 'wow!', having had a dreadful pint in the Cwmbran 'Spoons the night before.  I still had no expectations for it making the GBG, especially as another local 'Spoons is in, so this was a nice surprise.  I won't give myself a point though as it involved very little skill on my part and I'm beautifully modest.

And 'Spoons carpet of the year contender

15. Weird Dad Brewery Tap, Newport

A point for both the guv'nor of Newport's micropub of limited hours, the Cellar Door, and for Twitter legend Rhys Wynne who had given me the heads up on this earlier in the week..  Mr Cellar Door bonded with me when we both saw each other singing along to Fun Lovin Criminals (I prefer Fine Young Cannibals but he doesn't need to know that).  He thought my plan to go out to Chepstow at this time of day was a bit outlandish, so recommended this, and I deferred to his better judgement, and when I found a well kept Yorkshire Heart beer amongst their own crafty offerings, I thought 'yes, this might have half a chance'.  And it had more than half a chance, it had a full one.

Also contained second smallest loo of the BRAPA year.  I like the sink cistern set up.

16. Nursery, Stockport

I'd heard a few Twitter murmurings months before but ultimately, Pub Curmudgeon gets the point as he said he'd meet me here which gave me the final push to keep my discipline and actually do it, along with Daddy BRAPA and Tom Irvin, towards the end of a long hot day of GMR ticking.  I liked my Hyde's, and the pub in general seemed a good solid multi-roomer despite some obvious modernisations.  A couple of comments afterwards gave me reason to believe it might not be the 'nailed on' entry I'd hoped, so was relieved and pleased to see it had made it.

17. Nelthorpe Arms, South Ferriby

We're going back to 1st Feb 2020, or 'the day I met Duncan' as it is most commonly known, but this North Lincs entry, recommended by our Hull City friend Christine Andrew who was having a big birthday do later on took its sweet time in making the GBG, but we got there in the end.  I liked it, very good pint, Blind Sooty always a good sign, kid in Hull City top, a weird Dad (not the Newport place) and some fascinating photos from the war we didn't understand.  Will this be the pub that lights the blue touch paper on a first concerted Lincs push in the 2022/23? 

The moment a Dad of crazy Hull City kids gets prodded in the side by a ghost

18. Shrewsbury Hotel, Shrewsbury

And if you thought that was tardy, I've been waiting for this giant 'Spoons to make the GBG since 28/6/14 , one of my earliest BRAPA away days before I caught a bus to Baschurch, just killing time.  Didn't recognise it as a 'pre-emptive' til years later cos I hadn't come up with the term then.  Every 'Spoons is pre-emptive, well apart from the Last Plantagenet in Leicester and the Gate Clock Greenwich, and this did nothing wrong on my visit so a nice bonus tick to get.  I won't give myself a point though cos it was a total fluke and I don't deserve to win.

Not my pic cos it is actually good so thanks to Spoons website.  I didn't do photos as much in 2014.

19. Paper Mill Inn, Whitehough

Another historic tick I've been waiting to get in since 2018.  It was one of our summer days out with Tom and his parents, and we'd gone around the Hope Valley, eventually crossing into Derbyshire.  Chinley was the nearby station.  We'd done the GBG regular Old Hall Inn where I'd got into an argument with the staff about indoor seating limitations /dining.  It was summer, so we sat outside, I was finally calming down when a few of us noticed this pub over some greenery in the background.  "Would be rude not to" I remember us saying, feeling Daddy BRAPA and Tom's Dad Chris might've been the main instigators.  But not enough for any point awarding.  It was decent, a bit like the Old Hall but with more pizza and a less green outdoor area.

Not sure if the man in white was with us but he's in all my photos here.   Were Daddy B or Tom taken ill and played by a stand-in actor? 

So there we have it, well done Tim Thomas and Blackpool Jane, a 2-2 draw. Prizes on the way, next time I see you.


Friday 21 October 2022


Well, you could've knocked me down with a feather!  Jury service finished, and I'm sat in BRAPA Towers having a leisurely late lunch, watching 1986 Neighbours, before logging onto work for the first time in three weeks to say hello to Baldwin, Coates, Ninh, and Johnson, and catch up on my 1,000 emails in readiness for Monday.

This new character, 'Madge' (she'll never catch on) is nagging the Ramsay boys, I stuff a third ricotta stuffed pepper into my gob, when comes the gentlest knock at the door.

I answer whilst still chewing, and it is only a man from Yodel who looks a bit like a bearded Yoda.  He gives me a book shaped package.  "But I've not ordered a ...ohhhhh .... ooooooh".  Well, I'd not heard of one other person getting the GBG to date, so I am shooketh to the coreth.  

Despite the temptation, I lay it to one side (sort of) for an hour or two, but I've been ticking and helping my less fortunate ticking chums who've not received it*, ever since.  I'm normally amongst the last to get it, so about time I was amongst the first.

*Even those who've completed the GBG, are in Cornwall, but are still moaning.

As the afternoon has gone on, I've heard that it (the GBG, not RetiredMartin) is popping up in places as diverse as Poppleton, Barton upon Humber, Brighouse and Wakefield.  I've lit a candle for those who haven't got it, I've felt that frustration many times.

Obviously, we are under embargo until next Thursday but here's a few initial thoughts without giving anything away about the contents.

I like the cover and design.  To be honest, just having a 'cover' again is nice.  

People think I'll be upset that the brewery section is now between counties, but I actually think it works better this way, less jarring than having what I see as 300+ erroneous pages clumped at the end, and it is worth remembering I've not errrm 'extracted, hacked, burnt or sawn' a brewery section since 2019 now! 

The one thing I'm struggling to get used to is the counties being regionalised.  I will, but after years of them being in A-Z order, flicking straight to say 'Devon' only to find it half way back is confusing so far.

The 'churn' looks bad this year!  To be honest, last year, we got away with one.  Probably something to do with Covid, but the churn was laughably low.  I made insane progress as a result. This is a return to the familiar heart wrenching churn where you know you are going to lose big!

After Wednesday's Knott End on Sea finale, I declared on the 2021/22 season on 2464, confident I'd remain over 2250 (50%) after cross-ticking.  Now I'm not so sure.  Even in counties where I've built up solid bases over the years, I'm haemorrhaging pubs!  27 down in North Yorkshire, 17 in Cornwall, 18 in Hertfordshire.  Essex has been kind, South Yorkshire not too bad.  West Yorkshire felt bad but wasn't really.  But it is early days.

Oscar the Owl and Daddy BRAPA made history in Knott End with the final tick of the 21/22 season

I'm having a beer break cos my back and head are aching, you get yourself into some weird postures in this cross ticking malarkey. 

A couple of changes to my ticking this year.  I'm using a YELLOW highlighter for my 'legacy ticks' (thanks to my friend Crispy for that term, thanks to Newbury's Tim Thomas for the idea), and will be using GREEN for my new ticks.  If my GBG ends up looking like a Norwich City kit, I'll just have to deal with it. 

Remember, any ticks I do between now and next Thursday should be viewed as pre-emptive and they will not be given a number until I've finished the full cross-ticking exercise, which I'd love to get done by Thursday.  Blogs on hold til then.

And I think that's about it.  Time to have a look at Central London, Kent and Lancashire before bed. 

See ya in a random pub some time tomorrow lunchtime.


Thursday 20 October 2022

BRAPA is .... CHARING CROSS, BIG PIG, PLOP LARKINS : Kenty Was Plenty Part 6/11

 "Phew, back to normality, or whatever normality means in the world of BRAPA lolz!" I cry to my fluffy cauliflower as I rise from my slumber at 8:30am on the Tuesday.  I boil the mini kettle and make myself a thoroughly inadequate mug of PG Tips.  Those removal monkeys from the adverts will be turning in their graves if they knew this once great brand had plumbed to such depths.  The Dark Star Hophead of tea, if you like.

'How do I know they are dead?' you may be asking.  Lugging pianos up and down stairs everyday for an entire decade is never going to end well. 

After a hot shower, cornflakes, blueberries, a pathetic pain au chocolat, fresh orange juice, and some continental meats and smoked cheeses, I was all set for the day ahead.  Pub ticking is about starting the day in the right way.

The now familiar bus service from Sittingbourne to Maidstone was negotiated, and I once again cursed myself for not choosing to stay in the latter, being the hub for all places 'awkward mid-Kent'. 

Following hot on the heels of last night's dramatic 'GBG cover dropping off' in Whitstable, I notice the ink is draining alarmingly from my green Stabilo.  Luckily, Maidstone WHSmith's provides the answer.  In its extensive selection of individual highlighters, I eventually find these two lurkers.

I also bought a WHSmith's own yellow one for when it comes to my '2023 Legacy Ticks' (more on that once the new GBG finally arrives, if ever), ruffled the thinning hair of the depressed elderly checkout cove, and hop, skipped and jumped back into the sunny Maidstone thoroughfare, all set to jump aboard the 10X with a smattering of Maidstonians who certainly won't be alive to see the BRAPA conclusion in 2039.

The driver seems slightly intimidated by my 'Hart Hill Crossroads' specificity, so I smile kindly and tell him I'll press the bell well in advance if he can play his part by putting his foot on the brake.  He agrees that this seems the most sensible course of action.

The 'manoeuvre' (as my old chum Tom 'Clag Monster' Irvin) would put it, goes smoothly, and it is only a 20-25 minute winding walk through some quite beautiful Kentish countryside in the direction of today's first pub, though I do suspect that whoever put the pub in this location was having a laugh at the pub tickers expense.

I suppose an idyllic location, warm sunny weather, the twittering of all manner of finches and tits, a mooing cow and a baaing sheep isn't a guarantee that the greeting you receive is going to be one of chirpy bonhomie, and just as well, because here at the Bowl Inn, Charing (2399 / 3963) the two youthful specimens behind the bar are glumness personified.  Sleep walking through their jobs with all the ease of Hull City sleep walking through another defeat.  No effort, no fight, no vim, no vigour, no personality.  As my latest Canterbury Ale is being pulled, they do spark up a 'banterous' exchange between themselves, which only irks me further as eye contact isn't made with me at any stage.  The pub website has you believe this is the most wholesome pub to visit in Christendom.  So either someone is lying, or someone is not following the 'brand values'.  Within five minutes, the general gloominess, random piles of logs and low slung leather couch is dragging my mood down, so I retire to the benches out front.  A sunburnt local has got the right idea, he is leaning against the pub with his eyes closed, occasionally blindly groping for his nearby pint.  I'm happier after this, the ale is well kept, I can hear nature, and I'm removed from the pub.

I take the controversial decision, in my own head at least, to walk onto Charing village which is twice the distance of the bus stop.  This is because there is a railway station at Charing, and the bus timings are a bit out of kilter at this current hour.

I soon realise my pub options aren't quite as plentiful as I'd been expecting.  Tuesday is not a great day to be in rural climes.  If pubs open at all, it might not be until 4pm.  And if they did open at noon, they may well be closed by 2:30/3pm.  Stymied from many angles (they don't call me StymieSi for nothing) I decide the best course of action is a return to Maidstone and a connecting bus 5 which on a good day, has plenty of GBG ticks to go at.

The furthest point south of interest on this route is a curious little town called Cranbrook.  Not un-Tenterden like in its pretensions of being slightly more special than it really is.  Though slightly reminiscent of Cornish classic Helston with peculiar raised pavements designed to trip up drunken losers who've had too much Spingo Special.

Don't let the jolly bald head glimmering in the sun fool you, Larkins' Alehouse, Cranbrook (2400 / 3964) was the cringiest, most awkward pub I would visit this entire week.  'An award winner!' someone on my Twitter cried.  Jeez, slow year for good pubs in this part of Kent?  A micro of course, you have probably guessed.  But let us be fair, no blame should be attached to the three young men who were running the show.  A zippy trio, not a bungle amongst them, jumping around the pub like their pedometers depended upon it.  I was served with a smile.  "Corr, we've ran out of sausage rolls" is the first thing I heard.  They laugh, they joke, they frolic like lambs in the meadow, the ale was good, the pub did nothing wrong whatsoever.  It was the customers.  As one, they cut a tragic figure.  A more lugubrious, haggard faced, gloomy bunch I've never before witnessed outside of an Ember Inn.  I normally find that in micros, the clientele take their lead from the staff.  So happy outgoing staff rub off.  But not here.  I don't know what to do with myself. I'm conscious of every molecule in my body.  At least wolfman with his wolf howling at the moon t-shirt reading a dark fantasy novel at the front is 'doing something'.  The rest just blink into the middle distance, occasionally staring at me.  The place is narrow and tight.  It creates a pressure cooker of doom.  I'm just about to do the unthinkable and preside over a ten minute long 'live' Untappd check in, when the old bloke I've long since suspected had most potential whispers something at me. Whispering to avoid waking the dead?  Reminds me of the time I upset Dr Phil in Middlesbrough.  I jump at the chance of any chat, though he keeps throwing nervous glances at his sour wife who doesn't enjoy the intrusion.  We soon bond over Tenterden however, and even her face softens from its original granite form.  And then all of a sudden, wolfman stands up and says to me "if you are wanting a lift to Tenterden, I'm heading that way now".  Sadly, Tenterden is about the only Kentish place I don't need a lift to but I thank him.  "So kind!" I say to our whispering baldie, who replies "oh yes, the folk in here are always spot on".  If you say so mate, if you say so. 

Time to head back north on the number 5 bus.  A random Geordie (there is one in every town) pushes in front of me, apologises, saying he thinks he lost his wallet on this bus earlier.  "What does it look like?" asks the driver.  "Brooooon and leatha" says random Geordie.  "Good enough for me, mate" says driver, handing it over.  RG looks so relieved, I'm actually really pleased for him.

Next stop, the Knoxbridge, Frittenden on the main road.  The bus rapidly becomes a school bus, it is that time of day, and no BRAPA holiday would be complete without the dreaded school bus experience.

I press the bell, but I check myself just before I hop off.  "Hang on, it doesn't look very open, does it look open to you?"  I ask the driver.  "HOW THE BLOODY 'ELL SHOULD I KNOW?" barks the driver impatiently.  I resist the temptation to say "errrm, look at it?" but the shutters, darkness and Castle Duckula-esque cobwebs hanging off the closest door and window are a giveaway.  I tell him I'll stay on to Maidstone and decide to research it further tomorrow.

I'm expecting the kids to rip the absolute Michael out of me, but no, as I do the walk of shame back to my seat feeling like a prize turnip, I even get a couple of sympathetic glances off the more studious ones as if to say "the perils of GBG ticking, eh?"  #PubKids 

With Staplehurst and Linton not open today (and Boughton Monchelsea pairing well with the latter), I have no choice but to get myself back into Maidstone and abandon my rural plans.  It has been a lot of effort for very little reward, but hey, it happens! 

Time to hastily message Mrs Maidstone herself, Pauline Sharp, to see if she wants to come out n play (well, meet Colin) at short notice, and I'm delighted and a bit surprised when she says yes.   

There are certain Twitter pub legends who need three months written notice and a specific BRAPA arrival time.  

My third pub today, and final one in Part 6 is this ......

'Gorgeous Tudor fronted old building ruined by a ridiculously oversized comedy pub sign' is my first assessment of Olde Thirsty Pig, Maidstone (2401 / 3964) , a pub of hidden depths (and heights!) though it'd take a trip to the loo to realise.  The tiny front bar is lined with friendly, boisterous folk sat uncomfortably close together on adjacent stools.  You know, 'thighs touching' close.  The barmaid is buzzy and lively, conversation is peculiar and after obtaining what'd prove a very impressive pint of the Tonbridge Ebony Moon, I balance my pint, bag and jacket on the one remaining stool, and go in search of a toilet, with the intention of bracing myself for some overly intimate local chatter (a culture shock after my Cranbrook experience).  But to my surprise and joy, steep steps (enough to make Mount Everest or even a Central London pub blush) lead up to some empty, beautifully vaulted rooms, and it is the same story downstairs, a hidden back room - this was like York's House of The Trembling Madness (Stonegate edition) but with room to swing a Cauli.  I return to the bar to grab my things, luckily the locals are too engrossed in a tale of a child with the body of a cat who has been brought up in a forest (or something) to notice, and before long, Pauline arrives.  Meeting Colin is the highlight, even if he is a bit 'grey' at present he still gets a cuddle.  She tells me how she'd had to nip into 'the club' to tell Mr Pauline ("oooh the wife's here, yer in trouble" the other blokes say) that she was coming to meet the Cauliflower Man off Twitter, which no doubt left him a bit gobsmacked!  Time to come to another pub with me?  Pauline says yes.  A good pub this, another one to add to Maidstone's strong suit of GBG entries. 

Surprise upstairs joy at the Thirsty P.

More upstairs joy in the Thirsty P.

What a fabulous pub room (ignore Mr Nike traffic lights)

Stop showing off for Auntie Pauline, mate


Join me tomorrow for part 7 where we will hear about the rest of my Tuesday in Kent.

Where IS this flippin' GBG?  The official release date is 27th Oct (a week today) so we are already in 'shortest embargo period ever' territory.  It is ordinarily sent out just over two weeks before.  I'm starting to suspect it isn't anything to do with the postal strike and they are deliberately sending them out later this year, which is poor form if so.  Oi, where's mi privilege?!