Tuesday 11 October 2022


Rewind to mid September, and Kenty was plenty as I took myself down to Sittingbourne of six days of morale boosting pub ticking.

Sorry I'm so far behind, Gwent and jury service are to blame.  At least I can console myself in the fact that I'm still a few years ahead of RetiredMartin.  Tomorrow, I believe he'll tell you about the day he had his first wet shave, which I'm really looking forward to.  

After resting my bad back (which I don't like to talk about) having unwisely wrenched a heavy rucksack up from a high stool in Sittingbourne's Yellow Stocks, I dragged myself 200 yards to the train station, Isle of Sheppey bound.

I had been up IoS way before, back in 2013, during the precursor to BRAPA, "Si's A-Z Aleway Adventures" where 'Q was for Queenborough'.  Micropubs hadn't exploded onto the GBG pages back then, so I had to make do with a gentle stroll around town at 10am before settling in a quirky pub with good ale called the Red Lion in Sheerness which has never been in the Good Beer Guide since because CAMRA hate me. 

Queenborough was looking beautiful in the evening sun.  Who said north Kent was a shithole?  Not me.  Definitely probably never.  Or very rarely anyway.

And as decreed by the 2014 law that states all north Kent towns MUST contain at least one micropub, I found this little place disguised somewhere between a Thwaites diner, takeaway and out building for Captain Birdseye.

But it was unmistakeably micropub once inside Admiral's Arm, Queenborough (2384 / 3948).  They'd gone for a nautical theme, which being modern, could've been a total disaster, but it had been done with due care, attention and money spent, so as Linda Barker used to say, 'it worked really, really well'.  The staff were cute and gentle, a bit like sparrows with porcelain wings, and when they weren't blinking dolefully at me whilst I swallowed down a Gowers Wolf, they were apologising when walking down the side corridor, even though it was my clown feet which were to blame for any trip hazrds.  There seemed to be a foodie sub-section to the left which I was thankfully unaware of, had it not been for some gushing thirtysomethings.  A few wheezy old farts and couples dressed in Blue Harbour and North Face kept it real in the bar, making for a thrumming but not throbbing Saturday evening atmosphere.

But the true reason for this Saturday night trip to Sheppey was my next pub.  Sheerness was jumping by comparison to calm Queenborough, there was something slightly 'animal' about the hoards of kids arriving in the town on my train, and I mean something a bit more threatening than a sheep. 

Opening a stingy twelve hours a week (7-11pm Tue, Fri & Sat), Flying Sheep, Sheerness (2385 / 3949) was in my bad books before I'd entered, but I'm relieved to see it open.  "Can you shut the door?" cries the landlady from the bar, before so much as a 'hello' so I've really got a dim view of the place now.  When Mr Sheep serves me, I'm uncharacteristically grumpy and monosyllabic.  I go to the loo, splash my face with cold water, and give myself a good talking to.  "Come on Si, give it a chance!"  And then everything is lovely.  A fluffy little rat of a mutt called Tia gives me the once over. "She's deaf" her owners explain.  Suddenly the door shutting anxiety made more sense.  Getting a deaf dog killed wouldn't be BRAPA's worst moment, but I'd feel bad.  And although a silent book Robert Lindsay is reading a book between me and pub, I'm soon contributing to the chat with Mr & Mrs Sheep and deaf dog couple.  What did I learn?  Cyprus hated the Queen.  Someone will only drink red wine if it has three spoonful's of sugar in. Bloik! Hallowe'en is popular in Sheerness.  No surprise there.  I'm now confident enough to tell them I once visited a pub in Huddersfield that opens more hours a day than this does a week.  "Alright Si, jeeez!" says Mrs Sheep, before Mr Sheep adds the immortal words "we are a hobby pub" which I commend for honesty.  
I leave satisfied, almost misty eyed, the power of good people can't be denied.

Remember those heady days when my GBG had a cover?

I take myself back to Sittingbourne, determined to squeeze in a sixth tick for the day, which wouldn't be a bad result considering I arrived in Gillingham quite late and had a three hour kip in the afternoon.  I can't even feel my bad back now, but that might be the ale. 

One of the scariest moments of my six days down here was entering the Paper Mill, Sittingbourne (2386 / 3950) - most people's favourite micro in town.  An 'intimate' box of a room, no bar, a series of faces lining three of the walls all smile expectantly back at me and welcome me in.  10/10 for friendliness, and horror .... who to ask for a drink?  Suddenly, a young quirkster (not Pauline) arrives behind me and awkwardly but quite endearingly has to go and check what the latest cask ale is called.  A craft clipboard menu is being passed around, and the lady holding court gives me a go on her 'Where Can I Find Friday?' or is that the one I was drinking?  A very interactive place.  The chap nearest me once had a free feed with Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson, one of his happiest life moments.  Craft lady realises we've met before.  Of course, we checked in at the Travelodge together and bonded over the absent staff.  I should've remembered because she mentioned her invisible disability within seconds of meeting her on both occasions.  But does 'being from Weymouth' really count as an invisible disability?  It was all very companionable, but a bit intense, and I think on balance,  I'd opt for Yellow Stocks if I ever moved to Sittingbourne to live, which I won't.

Right, it has gone 9pm so I'll call it a day there.  Might try this 'fewer pubs per blog' thing so at least I'm keeping things ticking over.  Same tomorrow hopefully.

The 2023 GBG is imminent, so my blog catch up will have to be abandoned once the cross ticking begins anyway, so I'll keep you posted. 

Laters, Si 

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