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.