A.J. Walker

writerer

real ale

Second Angus Open Mic

Went to the second Angus Open Mic Night last week. That makes me an ever present. There were more performers this week. I got there after it had started and there was already a list of people to play and I added my name to the bottom. Every performer seemed to have bought their own guitar rather than use Ali's. Just me then that turned up with only a plectrum.

As I watched the performers play one by one I had a couple of Cross Bay '
Zenits.' I was hopeful that one or two would be poorer than they turned out so my playing wouldn't stand up next to them too badly. I was disappointed as each was bloody excellent and briefly considered going to cross my name off the list. In the end I did play and was the last one on (bar Ali).

Ended up playing three of the songs I did last week at
Head of Steam:

AngusTakeTwo

‘Somewhere Down the Road’ (Chuck Prophet)
‘Down By The Water’
(Decemberists)
‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’
(Felice Brothers)

It went pretty well really despite not being up to the standard of the other guys and gals. Roll on the next one.

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HoS Take Two

Last night I went to Jack's second Head of Steam Open Mic. It was a rush to get down there after a cycle ride home in the cold dark, but I made my way there; helped by the anticipation of a few pints of the Thornbridge/Neptune collaboration American Brown Ale ‘Beacon.’

Was a different crowd than the first one and probably a bit busier. The position of the musical gear was the other side of the room from last time. So I ended up, after moving from one table to another, sat in my usual corner of the pub to watch and listen to the music.

There was top music from multiple guitarists and singers. And then I was asked if I was going to play. I agreed that I would. It was after all my initial aim: even if everyone else was more accomplished than me. I’d said over the intervening month since the first Open Mic that I would play different songs than I did at the first one. Not sure it was an entirely good idea. After all it was an entirely new crowd from the first one so I could have played the same songs and (other than Jack (the host)) no-one would have been any the wiser.

Anyway – as promised – I ended up playing different songs than the previous Open Mic with:

‘Somewhere Down the Road’ (Chuck Prophet)
‘Down By The Water’
(Decemberists)
‘The One I Love’
(REM)
‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’
(Felice Brothers)

HoSTake2

It largely went okay with the exception of fooking up Down By The Water. Need to ensure I play and play these songs at home so that they become almost muscle memory. I ended up messing it up a little and instead of playing through the mistake I got a bit flustered. I could have tried again from the start but made the decision to move on to a definite muscle memory one (The Swan Song).

I considered playing another song but volunteered to leave after the fourth. There were better people to follow after all.

Later on two Americans told me as they leaving that they really enjoyed my set. It was nice to hear, even if it was just down to my Americana choices. I’ll take that.

Oh and the Beacon was lovely and flowed very easily.

Of course this morning I got up and played Down By the Water straight through a few times without even trying.
C'est la vie.
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A Walk To Neptune

Neptune Brewery opened up their taproom on Saturday for the first time this year. And so I had to go up to show my support and to get a great beer. As I’m behind with the walking this week I decided too that I would kill two birds with one stone by walking there from my house. It was 5.5 miles. It proved a good walk and actually despite being slowed down by having to doubling back at one point where a path wasn’t clear and then having to cross the infamous Switch Island (where the map was trying to direct me on a footpath which didn’t exist).

There was a footpath shown both on the map and on signage by the A59 too for a cross country bit (former railway line) but this proved to be not as nice as it could be as the path was periodically inundated by brambles and other vegetation. And the narrow cut of the path meant it would be very easy to twist an ankle or two. Anyway I persevered with it and got through to a better path and then roads less than half a mile to the brewery. And then I was there!

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A nice afternoon stroll

As I walked up to it I was overtaken by a couple who I know and then when I got in I bumped into several friends and acquaintances. The taproom’s reopening was definitely something that people had been really looking forward to. They do so many great beers and the service from the staff is boss too.

Ezili
Ezili time

They only had one cask on, but it was Ezili which is an easy drinking favourite so I had a few of those. But I had some keg too. Shocking but true. Had good chinwags with several friends and the last few beers with Neil (who I last bumped into when I’d also walked to a brewery (Liverpool Brewing Company - how spooky). We walked to Maghull Station and caught a train, in Neil’s case to go to my ‘relatively local’ Jaxons Micropub and in mine to town for the Head of Steam so I could watch Emma Raducanu win the US Open. And how fabulous was that!

In summary though it was great to see Neptune reopen their bar and to see so many familiar faces. And it was great for the brewery too as I’m sure they weren’t too sure what to expect on the first opening. Well played, people.

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The Tooleys and the Local Historians

The Tooleys and the Local Historians (and Pringles)

Met some lovely people the other day in the Lion Tavern including a couple of old regulars and we talked about so many topics. Three others followed who sat next to me. One of the guys asked if it was okay to earwig as he was enjoying our conversation. Of course. Pubs are social places where interactions of all sorts occur both with strangers, acquaintances and mates. It turned out the three of them were on a wee pub crawl, though not a beer one (well not in the sense of ale anyway). They’d used a book to outline a walk around some historic pubs. They’d already been in the Poste House, walked to Ye Hole in Ye Wall (which was closed) and found themselves in the Lion. I was to leave them to walk down to the Pig & Whistle next.

Everyone was really laid back and enjoying a couple of hours (even with their chosen glasses of lager and wine in the case of the historians). They were all relatively local; coming from areas between Crosby and the Wirral. It was nice to talk about local history and the lovely pubs and breweries in the area - and music too as one of the guys was a session bass player with some excellent acts. Cool conversations all round.

I went on to meet a couple of mates half a mile across Liverpool in the Bridewell. They’d chosen to sit inside and were in one of the cells. As well as my two mates on the table at the back of the cell there were three others on the second table. We didn’t know them but chatted to them a little as it was impossible to get in and out of the cell without dislodging at least one of them so conversation always has to break out a little other than pleasantries. Then the power went out for a couple of minutes (I know not why - maybe there was a jail breakout) and we got talking a little more as you usually would. Lots of toilet humour in case the lights were down for too long. We wondered if there was bucket in the cell and I pointed out that a packet of Pringles would do the job too. They were nice people - and I’m sure they’ll always carry an empty packet of Pringles with them in future just in case. It was just the usual chit chat and banter we’d get involved in (or I would at any rate). They left not too much longer after that (probably to get to the Tescos before it shut for a certain cylinder).

Wouldn’t normally mention such chit chat but what came next was a bit of surprise to all three of us: the barman came around with a tray of drinks for us. ‘It’s from the Tooley’s.’ ‘ Who?’ ‘The people who were in here before wanted to buy you a drink.’ Well blow me down. It was the Pringles that did it I am sure.

So thank you, The Tooley’s. We raised a glass to you.

Anyway, pubs are social places. Treat them as such. They are not places to just drink and get drunk. Get involved if you are in the mood to. Put a song on the jukebox, chat to the barman, chat to the people on your table - or sharing your cell. And just enjoy it. Cheers!

——-

PS if you are camping and using the Pringles packet to avoid heavy rain and mud during the night don’t do the trick my mate did the following morning and knock it over in the foyer of your tent (or worse inside!). It was he who told me about the handy trick and then showed my the hazard too. Such a teacher! (The lad will remain nameless)
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A Liverpool Brewery Stroll

A Liverpool Brewery Stroll

Was very lucky on Saturday that after the wettest morning I can remember in a long time somebody suddenly turned off the tap. And it coincided with a day that Liverpool Brewery were having one of their open days with beer and BBQ. So I decided to risk a walk to Bootle.

It was about 3.5 miles and a bit of a risk in terms of fluid in the clouds if not the glass. I put it on Google Maps and set off. I was soon provided with an issue as a mile and half from my house it took me to a path at the edge of a housing estate which was no longer a path and fenced off. Argh! So had to have a bit a detour to find another access point to the path into Walton Hall Park. Oh well, more steps was positive; even if I was worried about the additional time giving rain more of a chance to catch up with me.

It was an interesting walk going along roads I’ve never walked along. A mix of semi-detached and terraces, but largely the latter. Bit rough in some places with lots of waste spilled along the street and others spick & span. Ended up in the industrial estate where the brewery was located and got there without a drop of rain falling on me. Result.

As I got to the brewery I bumped into Neil, a fellow ale fan (it is a brewery after all) and we spent a pleasant couple of hours together with three casks from
Liverpool Brewery (Big Juicy, Tropical Pale, and Modern Bitter) and even one keg (Armstrong Avenue) from Team Toxic. Even managed to sit outside for three of those before the rain returned.

They had a BBQ on whilst there, which smelled good - though I didn’t partake. There had been music planned but the awful weather which hit the most of the day put paid to that. Next time!

Recommended to pop down there when you can: and maybe mix it with a couple down at the
Top Rope Brewery if they are open at the same time. Then again it’s next to Bank Hall so a visit to nearby Waterloo or town could easily follow too.
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All Hail

I still haven’t decided whether to put up a section on the website on Real Ale or (more likely) or Real Ale in Liverpool. It needs a little bit more thinking about.

I think it would be quite nice, and would be quite easy for me to do. It would fit well with my second Twitter account “RealeLiverpool” too. But I am conscious that I don’t want to create much work for myself. Ideally if I was going to do it then I wouldn’t want it to take much more than an hour or so a week to keep updated (it’d obviously take longer to set it up originally, but that’s okay if the later thing works). So I would need to think about the form of it to make it work. I write flash fiction regularly e.g. for #MidWeekFlash every week and that is a circa 750 word fiction story based on a photo prompt. In some ways if I set myself a similar target purely in terms of word count it should be easier (i.e. I would not have to go through the process of coming up with a fiction story from scratch in my head and then moving it onto a page).

But then if it was to just be a weekly 750 words what would it be about? What would it take for me or a reader to be invested in it? I mean I wouldn’t want to read (much less write) that much about any particular week of mine. So it would have to be about the pubs, the breweries and the beers - and even more something about the people. It couldn’t be something like a Pub of the Week or Beer of the Day. It’d need to be sincere yet fun, and not a monologue or diatribe. So maybe it would be closer to a diary - or at least influenced by it - than I currently think. Arhhhh, what would it be?

Okay, basically it needs some thinking about. I also need to consider what it does to my website. The most obvious thing would be to get rid of the “Class Song of the Day” pages and replace it with the “ale” page (but not Class Beer of the Day: promise). That’s a crying shame for me, but it’s not like those pages are getting visited anyway. It’s so sad that the effort and my heart that went into creating CSOTD can simply be dispensed with by the act of pressing the Delete button once. It will be a sad day. And ultimately if no-one is any more interested in the Liverpool real ale scene (or my version of it) than they were in brilliant songs maybe it’s a waste of time.

But it will not be a complete waste of time as if I do go for it then every act of writing something new will be a creative act and help me (if not the reader) in becoming a better writerer; and I didn’t do that with the CSOTD. Maybe I’ll write the fucker, even if you won’t read it. Well that’s the theory.

Watch this space…
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The New Normalish

So on Monday the times are changing - apparently. Things are returning to normal-ish. And to be fair it really is a bit of a mess. I can’t tell whether it is by genius design or manic ineptitude. I mean the Government have all the data and advice they could possibly ask for. So you’d have to think it is more by design than accident. Next week restaurants, bars and nightclubs can open “as normal” (along with everything else like theatres and cinemas etc) and not require scanning in, table service and the Rule of Six: just as the UK have the highest rate of Covid-19 infection in the world. Due to the opening up next week this can only accelerate.

It looks like the Netherlands will briefly overtake the UK tomorrow. And why? Because they'd opened up fully a few weeks ago and this damn Delta Variant has done its thing.

Covid-Cases

The vaccinations have been going well, which is great. But many of the people who have been vaccinated seem to think it gives them 100% protection and that once you’ve had it you’re okay to carry on as if the virus doesn’t exist; that they are walking around as if in some Iron Man protective gear. It doesn’t protect you 100% and you wouldn’t expect it to. Estimates of protection of the different vaccinations range between 60 and 80%. To put it another way if your group of four people at the bar or in the club on Monday are all exposed to the virus then one of them could be anticipated to contract the disease. It should make you think.

Of course the vaccination should make it much less likely that you would contract it with
serious effects and you are less likely to pass away or end up in hospital. Whoopee! That is great news. And all the data shows the deaths have continued to be low despite that major rise in the virus.

It is nice to know we are less likely to die. But the complacency about the virus now seems to be endemic. Cultivated by the Government’s attitude and push to open up. I of course can’t wait to be able to buy a pint at the bar rather than the whole “wait to be seated” and then be served at the table thing. And it’ll be great for the businesses not to have to employ more people to do the table service - just when there are fewer people in the place than they’d normally have.

Hopefully as everyone gets vaccinated the disease will fall away substantially, but that is not going to happen next week. In the meantime a lot of the younger people - including many of the staff who work in the hospitality sector - wont have had two jabs yet so will be more exposed than us old uns.

Then there is Long Covid. I actually don’t directly know that many people who’ve had the virus. But of the few I do know there are two who have bad Long Covid symptoms involving either losing their taste completely or worse still having an awful taste & smell replacing what they should be sensing. Neither of these two had severe Covid at the time (six months ago) but have now been suffering for months - and one is in their twenties.

Apparently other symptoms of Long Covid includes brain and heart damage. I mean both of those sound like things you don’t want. The Government seems not to want people to avoid the virus. They don’t want you to die (always good for a government I guess), but they are happy for you to go out and catch something which could be permanently life damaging (apparently okay for a government and seemingly okay for the majority of the electorate - go figure).

I for one don’t want the disease. And I don’t want anyone else to get it either. I’ll continue to try and drink outside or in the better ventilated or larger rooms of the pubs: and in the quieter pubs. I’ll be continuing to use a face mask too. Of course, wearing a mask is supposed to reduce the chance of you passing an airborne disease on; it is not the point of it to protect you
per se. So if I’m the only one in a mask then it really won’t be much use. But I’m expecting a lot of people will continue with them despite not needing to legally.

I really feel for the business owners and managers themselves. They've got horrible decisions to make now that they can legally not wear masks or ask others to. They are responsible for the health and safety of their staff - and themselves - and the government has now said legally they don't need to wear them, but the advice is on ever shifting sands. Being told you should but don't need to do something is a nonsense. How is a manager of a restaurant or bar going to feel exposing themselves and their staff right now to the virus when it's rising so precipitously? It's very much a Catch-22 situation for them with the Government washing their hands (or not washing them) of the whole thing.

Personally I think the Government should continue to persuade people to reduce exposure through wearing masks on public transport and in small and/or busy venues (especially in places of poor ventilation). I don’t want Long Covid and the Russian Roulette of what it can deliver to you. That said I'll be glad that all venues will have a better chance of getting a few more people through the door: a better chance to survive. I'll continue to venture out as I have been. But I'll also continue to try and make appropriate decisions too.

In the meantime get vaccinated as soon as you can AND remember it is not a 100% effective barrier to you getting the disease. Maybe think about wearing a mask - especially if you're ever on the No.17 bus into Liverpool. You don't want a damaged heart or brain damage because Boris and our representatives don't care. Stop and think a little.

Good luck to everyone for the duration of this medical emergency/experiment. Be good. Be careful. Support your local businesses as best you can.
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Frank Turner at Top Rope

Last week was busy. There was a semifinal and final of the Euros for a start and our annual camping trip to Bishop’s Castle to fit in-between. But the highlight had to be Thursday’s Frank Turner gig at Top Rope Brewery. I mean my favourite current singer songwriter playing in a local brewery. I couldn’t have really designed a much better idea of a perfect gig if I tried.

There were to be two support acts from the same label appearing as well. When I was told who they were (Berries, and Pet Needs), I didn’t know them, but of course I looked them up. They were both punky alt rock types (sorry if that is an incorrect classification). I enjoyed a couple of the songs I heard from both of them when I saw their vids on YouTube. Not completely up my street, but music is elastic and it is not one size fits all. I was pretty sure they’d be good. I wasn’t to be disappointed.

I’d met my friend earlier who was coming to the gig too. She’d tried to win tickets on the basis of if she’d won she’d have given me a ticket. So when I ended up with two how could I not reciprocate? We had a bit of scran down South Road at the Liver, then headed to her guest house so she could sort that out. Then we went straight to the brewery.

With the Covid rules in place it was one way in to the brewery and one way out. It was of course inevitable I headed for exactly the wrong side of the brewery to get in first off. Sod’s Law is the strongest of the Laws. I’d headed to the side where I’d previously picked up the beer rather than the fire exit at the back. But to be fair it made sense in hindsight. We only had to go through that door the once to get our wrist bands and then we were in. It was such a select bunch of people that were there: apparently over 3000 people had tried to win tickets for the gig (there were no paid for tickets available) and there were only 60 tickets available. Every one of us felt extremely excited and privileged I’m sure - bloody hell I’ve been spouting on about it for weeks (even before I found that I was lucky enough to be one of the lucky ones).

We picked a table on the second (of two) rows directly in front of the middle of the “stage.” It was a spot on position. But even if you had the worst seat in the house (no idea which that was), you’d have been fine with just 60 people there.

The first thing to negotiate was scanning in a QR code and then go through some painful registering process before being able to purchase a beer. But at least once that was out of the way it became easier. I just stuck to the keg stuff that was on, though plenty of others (including the bands) were downing plenty of cans. I went for The Gathering (of course, it was the Frank Turner beer after all) and a Papa Mango; basically, why change a winning formula?

Berries
Berries

The first band who played were Berries. A threesome from London who signed to Xtra Mile in January this year. The three members of the band were Holly on guitar and vocals, Lauren on bass, and Lucie on drums. They were all brilliant. There was only Lauren playing on her usual instrument (electric bass), with Lauren on acoustic guitar and Lucie on a box drum (cajon). Their usual punky songs translated surprisingly well to the night’s acoustic performance. Holly was absolutely brilliant on the guitar covering an impressive territory of the fretboard from song to song. As someone who just strums open chords from time to time I was in awe. The trio looked like they really enjoyed it. Let’s face it gigs have been such a major miss over the last year or so; and they were playing a brewery in Liverpool - so how could they not?

PetNeeds1
Pet Needs giving it some welly

Not long after they finished the second act of the night arrived on stage:
Pet Needs. Again it was largely acoustic bar the bass (including another cajon). The four lads threw everything into the gig; and that was a lot. A really enjoyable performance from the four piece punk outfit from Colchester.

FrankAndI-1
Frank and a grinning loon

Then it was time for Frank Turner. He gave us little time between the last chords from Pet Needs until he played. In fact I had to listen to the first song and half from the small queue for the two toilets. It wasn’t far away so I didn’t miss a note. I don’t know what to say about Frank’s gig to be honest. It was just perfect. He has such a back catalogue of songs I could have picked a different twenty songs than he did and been just as happy - that said I’d have probably have picked many of the same songs too.

FrankT-1
And so it begins

There was no backing band. It was just Frank and an acoustic guitar. For the majority of the set he followed a chronological catalogue. In fact sod it; it’d be easier to just provide the set-list wouldn’t it? So here it is. Let’s face it if you know Frank and read this list you’ll nod and be a) happy to see it and b) really really wish you’d been there. Like I said, it was perfect:

The Ballad
I Knew Prufrock
Long Live the Queen
The Road
If I Ever Stray
Plain Sailing Weather
The Way I Tend To Be
The Next Storm
Love 40 Down
1933
Be More Kind
Sister Rosetta
The Lioness
Punches
The Gathering (it’s a beer and a song)
Get Better
Recovery
Photosynthesis
I Still Believe
Polaroid Picture


Finale1
Finale

Members of
Berries and Pet Needs came on to join him for the finale which was fun and beautifully chaotic - just like an encore should be. The first time I saw him was in the Wembley gig in 2012 he got himself a tattoo between finishing the set and coming back on for his encore. When I saw him at Glastonbury he had to make a sharp exit to play a fete at his old school after going against his mum by getting a tattoo on his hand. This time, in sunny Bootle, there was to be no tattoo action. Which is funny… because I said I’d get a FTHC tattoo if I won a ticket. I haven’t so far. But I have many more weeks in my life to get that sorted - all things being equal.

After the gig I managed to get to talk to the maestro himself after a quick elbow bump. He was an absolute gent. My friend Ken, who passed away in January, had given me the book, '
The Road Beneath My Feet' and he kindly signed it for me too. I couldn't have asked for a better memento for the day.

ElbowBump
Elbow bump

FrankAndI
Meeting the man himself.


I really don’t know what more to say about the gig. I DO feel marvellously lucky to have got a ticket to go and to be there with a friend. I was smiling for days before and for days afterwards about it.

FrankSignature
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Bishop's Castle 2021

Bishop's Castle '21

What a busy week. Started of doing stuff down at me dad’s old house. Then there was the semifinal game on Wednesday, which I watched in the Head of Steam in Liverpool with Ste and Toe. This was followed on Thursday by an epic - and much looked forward to - day at
Top Rope Brewery watching the brilliant Frank Turner gig with my Twitter/Flash Dog buddy, Sal (will report that in a separate blog piece). And to almost top it off it was the annual pilgrimage to Bishop’s Castle on the weekend that would normally be the home of the annual Real Ale Trail. The camping in Foxholes campsite at BC on Friday and Saturday night was then to be followed by a return to Liverpool - and back out to the Head of Steam - to watch the Euro Final with many of the usual crew: yes, we did get six who managed to make it on the same day at the same time. Miracles do happen even after a tiring few days.

Didn’t leave Liverpool on Friday until almost one and the roads turned out to be a bit of a nightmare with roadworks aplenty - and several accidents as far as I could tell (four ambulances passed me at one point). But I got to BC before 3:30pm, so not too bad in the grand scheme of things I guess - about twenty five minutes longer than it should be.

BC1-21
Bishop's Castle being Bishop's Castle and the last of Steve's pants

All me buddies were already there, either with their tents up or working on them. I ended up doing a pretty rare thing: I sat down with some of them and had a beer BEFORE putting my tent up. A most unusual occasion. It was perfect start with it being dry but the ground softish. I didn’t even require my mallet (which this time I remembered to bring with me). The tent went up pretty quickly and once Carl had turned up on his motorbike (his tent already kindly erected for him) then everyone was there.

We listened to some tunes and headed down to BC in piecemeal fashion. We weren’t sure what the situation would be in the village. There was obviously not going to be the festival due to the restrictions and the inherent doubts about things coming up to this month. Last year as we came out of one of the lockdowns only two pubs were open on the same weekend: The Three Tuns and The Castle, and both were trying to get to grips with what the H&S rules were at the time.

This year all the pubs were open. Of course it was still constrained by the current Covid-19 rules. There’s still the scanning in or writing out your contact details at each pub, the six per table rule and the table service. There was no festival. Some pubs had three or four beers to choose from - as opposed to the usual festival of choice. One pub just had the one beer on. And of course there was no music. On Friday we managed a pint or two in each of the
Three Tuns, The Vaults and The Six Bells.

There were twelve of us there on the Friday and eleven by the Saturday - due to one of the lads having a ticket for the Men’s Final at Wimbledon. Not sure whether that’s lucky or unlucky; depends how much of a tennis fan you are I suppose. With the six person rule we couldn’t all sit together which meant the get together in the pubs was not quite the same; and the possibility of flitting between groups was limited. But at least we had more options than last year AND it remained dry during the hours we were out. There was some rain over the two days but it thankfully relented to just appear while we were in our tents in the early hours.

A lot fewer photos were taken than in the usual years as the socialising was more constrained. And we got together more back at the campsite than in the village. We had tunes playing each evening and got some scran down - including an epic chilli provided by the hostess with the mostest (that’d be Jeanette). It had to be calm in terms of spice as Steve doesn’t do hot chilli. But it was tasty nonetheless - and needed. I managed to snaffle a second portion a day later. Yes, two of us had the cast iron stomachs to deal with three day old chilli without refrigeration.

Some of the guys were a little lost without the usual pilgrimage to the chip shop at the top of the village. The owners were apparently away for a week or so for a wedding apparently. So the usual fish or sausage & chips was swapped for a Chinese - not far away down the road. I never made it to the Chinese and can’t say how good it was, but there didn’t appear to be any complaints.

BC2-21
Cool day in Bishop's Castle

The morning butties were provided by the
Hungry Fox within the campsite. The bacon & egg butties are a lovely start to the day.

The drinking as far as I could tell - and certainly from my perspective - was a lot less extensive than usual. You are not drinking with the same kind of group or whilst watching bands, and you are waiting for everyone on the table to be ready before putting in an order. The result was a pretty sedate affair compared to some years (especially in The Vaults).

It wasn’t as dynamic by necessity in the village. Around the fire pit and stereo at the end of the day there was some more relaxed fun and a little wobbliness from certain people - and even the apparently now annual
Burning of The Shorts: last year it was Tony, this year it was Steve's turn. Despite some unsteadiness and an incident with Dexter the Dog's sharp incisors there was nothing that quite necessitated A&E, which is always a bonus. There were some surprising moves on to shorts in the form of whisky (Haig Club and Glenlivet) no names, no pack drill: don’t worry Jeanette I wont tell anyone about you two timing gin with a night on the whisky. And separately a bottle of rum also seemed to evaporate on Saturday night - despite no one admitting drinking it.

BCteam3-21
At the end - The BC21 Team

Sunday was dry again when we got up. There was a quiet, orderly start to the day: just a butty and tents down then an early dart to get back home to catch the football. Before that Jeanette suggested we had a team photo. It was a good call. We normally have one at the start of the weekend down in the
Castle or the Three Tuns but that was impractical this year. So this year’s team photo was a more raggedy affair as an early morning “After” as supposed to a lunchtime “Before”. But it is good to have the photos to look back on. For the years ahead when we can’t remember who was there and who wasn’t as much as anything else.

Everyone got back in one piece. And six of us got back into Liverpool and the
Head of Steam in plenty of time for the football. We had a good evening there. We shared a couple of pizzas just before the match. Maybe we should have picked something a little less Italian. Sorry.

In summary, it was a busy week topped off by the as usual excellent
Annual Bishop’s Castle Bash. It was a lovely and most welcome affair. Roll on next year. Hopefully by then we may even be able to go into a pub and buy a pint at the bar. How mad would that be!?
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Glory Hallelujah

Glory, Hallelujah!

Well bloody hell, I got a great email: won tickets to see
Frank Turner in Liverpool. Now as you may well have spotted, or if you know me even a little, he’s been my favourite singer songwriters for heading towards ten years now. And I’ve been lucky enough to see him several times including the sold out Wembley Arena gig in 2012, Liverpool Academy, Bath, and two sets at Glastonbury Festival.

Strummerville-FT
Watching Frank at Strummerville, Glastonbury (day before his Other Stage appearance)

And this gig in Liverpool is at a top local Brewery. Literally top:
Top Rope Brewery. They have a beer out now with Frank Turner all over it. It’s called ‘The Gathering’ which is Frank’s recent release celebrating all things about the end of lockdown and singing and getting together and having a good time and all that. It’s honestly the first time I’ve drunk a beer out of a can: and then kept the can. Hell, I told you I’m a fan.

It’s a gig by my top singer songwriter playing at a brewery. I mean come on “If Carlsberg did gigs...” well, not Carlsberg. But you know what I mean. Funnily enough last time I saw him in Liverpool it was the Academy i.e. the Carling Academy and there was a Frank Turner beer out then: '
Believe' a wheat beer brewed by Signature Brew. Because it was the Carling Academy they wouldn't stock it, so we were directed to Mojo to grab a bottle there before the gig - which I did of course (and it was Movember).

MojoBelieve_FT
Believe (Signature Brew) in Mojo (with a Movember tash)

The Gathering is about the end of lockdown and we’re not quite there. Things won’t be normal until all restrictions are gone. Not sure when that will be now. But hopefully we are heading that way. The location and the restrictions means there will be fewer than 100 people at the gig. I mean that will mean I’ve seen him play at a packed Wembley Arena first and my latest time seeing him will be in front of 100 people. How bizarre is that? He loves gigging more than any other band or person I’ve seen. He itemises all his appearances: yesterday’s show at Download Festival was show No.2562. That is A LOT of shows. And it must have been such a release for him to perform in front of a crowd again.

TopRope-FT
At Top Rope Brewery with a can of 'The Gathering'

Wonder how many bands and singer songwriters have winked out of existence because of not being able to play live for over a year? In an industry where time is of the essence we could have lost a lot of seriously good artists. They don’t make money from plays on
Spotify or YouTube, they need gigs and merchandise to survive in these days of no longer selling physical albums.

This will be my first gig since seeing
Romeo Stodart at the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room in March 2020 (I’ve also got tickets to see The Magic Numbers in Liverpool in September), and I can’t fucking wait!
Comments

Covid, Bars, Risk and Reward

As many of you know I do have as couple of Twitter accounts, namely: @zevonesque and @RealeLiverpool. And the latter one is almost entirely Liverpool and Real Ale related (there’s a clue in that name I think) whilst I mention beer and beer related trips on this website from time to time I haven’t really blogged about it much for years. Though if you look in the previous couple of months I’ve done a couple of blogs on the pubs that were open in Liverpool City Centre, both when it was outdoor opening only and just afterwards. I’m wondering whether to do a more regular blog, however short, on related subjects. Perhaps it’d need another section heading on the site to keep things all together; like my Health section - which I only introduced after my MS Diagnosis earlier in the year. We shall see. Could get a bit “samey’ though unless I come up with an effective list of subjects and plans for it. Or if samey turns out to be called for.

We are living in strange times and there appears to be such mixed views and reaction to the virus and all that it entails. This range of lockdown and post lockdown strategies has been messy. And of course it is warranted. There are too many people who happily write off ‘only the old’ or ‘at risk’ in the community. Bloody bastards the lot of them. And of course in reality we still don’t know what the actual long term affects of the disease will be - we can’t know what damage
Long Covid will leave us: people of all ages. Incidentally I know a couple of people (including fit people in their 20s) who got over Covid-19 in a few days: then Long Covid came out of nowhere around the corner and hit them and has left them with severe currently life affecting issues. But we can’t know how long these effects will last, nor if the current impacts will go away and then be replaced with different ones. The NHS could very well be dealing with this impacts of this pandemic for decades. In short, whatever age you are you don’t want to catch it and risk your long term health (including as yet unidentified impacts); or risk passing it on to one of your friends or family members

In the UK the currently rife
Delta variant has rapidly changed the situation here from one of finally being all sunshine & light to one of doom & gloom. The opening up of shops and bars & restaurants and the improvement on options for other social occasions beyond your single “bubble” has surely been a positive thing for people in terms of the return of some normality. But things haven’t returned to normality - and looking at how the current stats have been going (in the North West of England in particular) nor should they. Each step does need to be risk assessed on a global level right down to the individual person. You don’t cross a road without assessing the risks and addressing them and nor do you stand in traffic. And if you cross the road without doing what you should it’s not the government’s fault: it’s yours. Much of this is not “rocket science” but common sense. And while much of the UK has been vaccinated - particularly the older bastards like yours truly - not everybody has.

The opening up has in particular been good for the oldies who have been isolated to one extent or another: finally they can go out and meet & chat to other people (not everyone had or wanted to use Zoom). Meanwhile the youngsters who feel indestructible (we all did once you know) are certainly meeting in larger groups and without socially distancing AND without masks. I’m not saying that to get at the youngsters. I was young once and there are things I did when I was younger that I would think (and were) risky now (racing up scaffolding anyone?). But it is these very “indestructible” people who are told they don’t need to wear masks at school and then go on public transport without masks, then go shopping in Primark or in Next, then head to Maccy D’s and hang around town for a few hours before heading home on public transport unmasked again. Honestly I’m not getting at them. They’ve been told they don’t need masks in school with hundreds of people in: why would they think that they need one in an airy bus with twenty people on it?

Now the graphs for Covid-19 in Liverpool (for example) look horrendous in some ways - the very illustration of “exponential.” This largely comprises the younger people and either unvaccinated or “only vaccinated once” peeps. Us oldies aren’t getting it anywhere near as much - thanks to vaccination - but maybe also because we’re still trying to keep doing the distance thing and are following masking rules too (less so the over zealous sanitising hands and all that: it’s airborne and it’s indoor air, people). Hopefully these youngsters aren’t going to get too ill from it - either right now or in the months or years to come (but we can’t know). We should do all we can to limit the potential for this damnable virus to spread, whilst at the same time allowing companies to survive and ultimately flourish (or at least allow people to make a living out of it). Which leads me to pubs (yes, this was supposed to be a blog about pubs)...

My experience since pubs have reopened indoors has been good and bad in very different respects. Firstly the good: it’s good to go back to places that have been shut for five or six months and see (some) familiar faces. Been great to drink some nice beers; both local and national/familiar and unfamiliar. Been nice to increase the options of going to other places and having the different experiences on offer from them. And boss to have increased the options for meeting mates. All the real ale pubs I have been going to in town have been brilliantly run in terms of getting people to scan in to the NHS App or fill in contact details; wear masks when traversing around the pub; not letting too many people congregate or stand up in groups; and decent table service under difficult circumstances.

The bad: people... in terms of some robbing bastards either running away at the end of the night having accrued a bill on their table (horrible bastard chancers) or even lowlifes stealing glasses; these businesses (in your local community) don’t need another expense due to your obnoxious thievery. Then there’s the not letting too many people congregate or stand up in groups, and decent table service etc. Hold on, that was above in the positive bit, wasn’t it? Well yeah, it’s been good from a risk and fear factor and all that for potential customers. But the other side of that coin is that these things (just as much as stealing bastards) have significant costs for businesses just when they don’t need them (or can’t survive them):
you won’t be catching a virus in an empty pub, but they won’t be making money to survive either.

Quiet pubs may be good for me and others in the short term at least in terms of risk and getting served, but these hostelries and their suppliers can’t survive on almost empty “
but safe” rooms. The virus needs to be beaten by vaccination and short term sensible, risked-out, options, and ventilation (and maybe even masks for kids hey!?). But surely in the short term hospitality businesses need to be FULLY supported by the Chancellor. A business that can’t open fully can’t survive for long without it. There is no business model for an empty pub.

I can’t have a car accident if I don’t have a car, I can’t get a virus in an empty pub: I can’t get a drink in a pub that no longer exists: and the people who own the pub, the people who work there, and all their suppliers are out of a job too. That’s not risk management: that’s insane.

The government needs to support all these businesses. Meanwhile if you can, and are happy to, get yourself down to one of your favourite hostelries - or at least give them with good messages about going back when you are comfortable to do so. They need every bit of support you can give. Cheers and beers, people.
Comments

In and Local

Well the pubs are open now for people to sit inside. Still waiter service and max of six and all that but it’s better than none at all I guess. May had been cold and wet so anyone having an option to get inside to survive the onslaught is positive. Now we’ve had some good weather this week so the inside or outside question can be asked for those few Liverpool pubs that had outdoors as an option. And in the meantime pubs that didn’t have outside as an option have had the chance to open their doors for the first time this year.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve called in at the
Sanctuary, Lion, Denbigh Castle, the Angus, Head of Steam and the Fly in the Loaf. It is good to have them all back: walls, roofs and all.

One of the best things in this reopening has been seeing how many of the pubs are selling beers from the local breweries. There’s been plenty of excellent cask ales on offer from
Neptune, Top Rope, Chapter, Carnival, Brimstage, Black Lodge, and the like. This has to be good for the local breweries after this horrendous year; and it’s also good for the customers.

It’s amazing how the local beer scene has changed in the recent years. It really wasn’t that long ago there was Cains and nothing much more in Liverpool. And while the mild, FA, and raisin may be missed they have been more than replaced by the options from these breweries.

So whenever you’re back in (or out) the pub then raise a pint of local beer and drink to the brewers as well as to the pubs (and all those that work at them).

Cheers.
Comments

'In'

Are we ready for 'In'?

If there’s one thing the last couple of weeks has shown us it is that we have neither the weather nor the infrastructure for year round outdoors drinking in the UK. Okay that’s two things, but I’ve bundled them together like a beer with a scotch egg.

AJW Cheers
Cheers! from the Key Stone

OutOut
Cheers! Cheers!! at the Coach House (nee Hard Times & Misery)

Of course the virus is still here albeit happily currently decreasing. It’s just over a week until the pubs can actually let people inside. Oh happy days; a beer with friends without feeling unduly uncomfortable. When the pubs and restaurants first open it is with restrictions in place: seated at tables, and table service, and the fabled Rule of Six and all that. But at least we’ll be protected from the vagaries of the British weather.

NeshSte
Bring your own insulation if the sun's not round your way

TheBridewellWritersGroup
The Inaugural Meeting of the Bridwell Writerers and Twitterers Group
(under cover and with a heater)


I am a little concerned that people in general will be too relaxed about the rules. Not just in the hospitality sector but with public transport in particular. Yesterday when I went into town on the bus it was school kicking out time and the driver let far too many people on the bus. He didn’t seem bothered that all the seats with the crosses and Not In Use signs were well in use. I’ve already witnessed several people close bus windows whilst they watch their TikToks and Facebook too.

Stagecoach17X
The Stagecoach #17 was a little overcrowded at school chucking out time

Like most of my mates I’ve had just the first (AZ) jab so far. It was about seven weeks ago so I should be getting my second jab in the next few weeks - I can’t wait.

Yesterday the CDC in the States finally announced what most people suspected/knew; that the virus is airborne and can be passed through the aerosols i.e. way in excess of 2m. It is not just close contact that results in passing on the virus: it is Enclosed Spaces that it loves. While we are outside getting soaked and wind blown we’re more likely to get a chill and a little annoyed rather than pick up Covid. But indoors is a different proposition. Most pubs though are fairly breezy affairs with doors opening and closing and people moving about. Air changes/ventilation really shouldn’t be a major problem, particularly while the pubs not at full capacity. Come the end of June though it is expected that the brakes will come off and the pubs can be full once again.

PhilharmonicDoor
Philharmonic pub door. Won't be shut much longer

I’m cautiously optimistic in the main. Hopefully come June the figures will continue to be low. But the sooner everyone is vaccinated the better for everyone. Yeah, what I’m saying is: Get Vaccinated when you can, people. And in the meantime ‘Don’t be a tit.’ Wear a mask, follow the rules (even if the bus driver doesn’t shout at you), and keep your distancing. We’re so nearly there it would be a shame to fook it up now.

TheUsualTable
My current usual seat in the Key Stone is Table 7. Perhaps soon it will be inside…
Comments

Ale M. Banks

It’s a little bit beyond Limboland for some hostelries now. Well for those that have outside areas to utilise - and in cities that is not many. That said the weather for the last few days has not been inviting to all but the hardiest punters and on Monday the rain and wind was so bad many bars and restaurants sensibly decided to shut up shop for the day. During the last few weeks some places have been able to provide heaters which is nice - as the sunshine has been intermittent at best and not exactly cracking the flags. It’s a shame heaters have been needed from the point of view of the bills for the bars (like they need another bloody expense right now) and from the environment. But it’s England not the Mediterranean Riviera so heaters it is.

I’ve managed to get to many of the very few city centre places that sell cask and have outdoor spots. When I say many it is a relative term with so few real ale places able to open at all. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag in some ways but largely those that have opened have been very good. My particular favourites have been the
Keystone (on Hope Street), the Coach House/Hard Times (on Maryland Street) and The Bridewell.

If I’ve been on my tod I’ve been happy to let someone come to sit at the table of course: who wouldn’t? And I’ve met some lovely people either as ‘guests’ on my table or others on adjacent tables. To be able to have a chat and a laugh has been quite liberating for a lot of people I am sure.

One of the most surprising outcomes over the last couple of weeks is how many
Iain M. Banks fans, and fans of SF in general, I have met. I have been attempting to read a book of essays and interviews about the Iain M. Banks SF books in these places and the amount of people who have commented on the book and then about their love of the books has been incredible.

Banks and Ale

Obviously fans of real ale are discerning individuals anyway, but it turns out they are even cooler. I’ve not managed to finish the book yet partly due to ending up being in happy conversations about The Culture (and none Culture) books. Looking forward to finishing the book and reading re-reading some of Banks’s books. But I may have to carry this book around with me just to see how many other fans come out of the woodwork.

Here’s to real ale outside of a pub: and even better IN one. And here’s to Iain M. Banks and the fans. You rock!

In the meantime if you don’t know Iain’s books or only know
The Wasp Factory, the Crow Road or Whit or anything from the telly then do yourself a favour and dip into The Culture - apparently all the best ale drinkers are (and me too). These are his Culture books in chronological order. But there is no need to read them in order:

  • Consider Phlebas (1987)
  • The Player of Games (1988)
  • Use of Weapons (1990)
  • The State of the Art (1991)
  • Excession (1996)
  • Inversions (1998)
  • Look to Windward (2000)
  • Matter (2008)
  • Surface Detail (2010)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (2012)

Happy reading.
Comments

Pubs Pubs Pubs: Closed/ Outside/ Inside

Pubs. Pubs. Pubs. Closed pubs - outside pubs - inside pubs. God, they are such an integral part of my life. It’s not a daily thing or anything like that. And it’s not bad ones - these days anyway. No, it’s real ale pubs. I suppose many youngsters would call them “old men’s pubs”. Hell sometimes I do too. Generally though it’s just pubs that sell real ale. Ale on hand pulls. So the last year has been a wee bit disappointing on that front.

They’ve been closed several times over this pandemic year. The last time they were open the rules rather (completely) arbitrarily required you bought a main meal with your drink. Like the virus would go for you if you didn’t have a burger, but would avoid you if you did. Ludicrous ill thought out concept. Of course at one point that was partly in conjunction with the “
Eat Out to Help Out” idea too. I’m sure there were good intentions there somewhere. But maybe not much in the way of thought.

During those strangely open/not really open time I was out every so often. And asking questions of whether the guy or gal serving me thought a) was a plate of chips classed as a “substantial meal” and b) how slowly could I eat them from a legal perspective i.e. could I get in two or three pints with one plate of chips. Nonsense of course. If you watch any "end of the world" dystopia films there’s never been a scene in it when people are seeing how little they could eat in order to get a pint in. But hell, it was dystopian.

CloserToThePub
One step closer to normality. So close but so far.

That ended on the run up to New Year when the pubs were closed for the next lockdown. And here we are over three months later before they could open again. This time the requirement for eating with your drink has been removed. Instead the rule is that you can only drink outside a pub. With April weather that is full on roulette territory. On April 12th this limited opening came in, with the next change pencilled in for May 17th. At that point the inside of pubs can open, but still with restrictions like the ‘rule of six’/two household thing and such like. The unrestricted opening is lightly HB pencilled in for June 21st. Oh my, how good that will be?

As I say, I like pubs and pubs and pubs. It’s a social and aesthetic thing. Drinking at home for me doesn’t do it. Don’t get me wrong I do buy beer regularly. It’s just that I’m more inclined to have one or two bottles or cans rather than the pintage I would get to whilst out and about. I’ve lost weight during this pandemic and that’s partly down to work being mad but I mainly down to fewer beers passing my lips and getting to my hips.

Dizzy1
First pint up was an Oakham 'Citra' at the Dizzy

Ale for me is very much a mix of the taste of the stuff, the environment and the people I’m drinking with - including the sometimes fabulous staff (hey, I'm not gonna say they all are). Maybe the ale will get me drunk, or happy - or into whatever mood it wants to get me to - on a particular day, but getting drunk is not the be all and end all for me. I’d rather read a few chapters of a book with a couple of pints in one place, then chat to someone in another place, than get drunk. If I just wanted that I’d be happily drinking cheap plonk or vodka at home and not going for mini pub crawls in town. It would be less hassle too without messing about with buses.

But no, for me, having a pint is about going on a wee pub crawls to take in various beers available in different places and seeing a few people. I’m quite happy whether I meet people I know well or not: happy to do a spot of a people watching with the best of them. Most real ale drinkers I know prefer to visit three or four pubs on a night out rather than go to one. But flexibility is key. After all if the first pub you’re in has your favourite beer on and some of your fave people in then there’s no need to roll that dice for the next place. Like going to a music festival you've got to enjoy where you're at and not worry about what you're missing.

CoachHouse2
Not so Hard Times at the Coach House with a Neptune 'Mosaic'

Can’t wait to get back to doing a few mini crawls. The Fly, Roscoe Head, Dispensary, and Grapes. Oh yeah! Then there’s the Lion, Rigby’s, Denbigh Castle, Excelsior, and the Ship. Or how about Baltic Fleet, Bridewell, Head of Steam, Hard Times, Belvedere, and the Caledonia. Or how about the… well you get the picture.

We’re going to have to wait until June until we can do these properly. The May reopening will be constrained in terms of numbers and therefore the ability to wander between pubs and expecting to get in. I mean the demand for the Grapes... it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Right now the reopening this week has allowed pubs with outdoors to give it a go. For city centres this means many pubs can’t even try or those that can have severely limited options for customers. In Liverpool many of the best pubs will not be reopening until May.

I made it to a couple on Monday after first getting a rather crucial haircut. First up was a pint of
Oakham 'Citra' sat outside the Dispensary, which had a nice circularity to me. My last pub pint was in the Dizzy between Christmas and New Year where I was rung at 7:30pm in the pub by my GP to be told to go to A&E to get an MRI scan; it was not the usual night out. As it happened I wasn’t to get an MRI for another couple of months. I’d had to eat a portion of Scouse with my drink that time, this time no food was needed - but a coat was definitely required: the early afternoon sun doesn’t get to the outdoor area. Brrrrr.

CHcheers
A pint in the sunshine at Hard Times

Second pub up was the Coach House. I’d seen the managers working on it on Saturday when I walked into town. I’d sat outside with them in the cold - without a beer. I suppose it was a dry run. It’s the third name for the place and like anyone I dare say I’ll stick with the original name: Hard Times & Misery. In between it was called Dickens and King. They’ve created a nice seating area outside and I think the capacity out there is more than inside the place. I was one of the first customers and it became busy in no time - but not overly so with the whole rule of six thing at the tables and all that. Had Neptune ‘Mosaic’ on which meant nice options all around - especially as there was sunshine on me too.

HotchPup
Hotch having bar snacks - even though now they aren't a requirement of entry (beware those sharp teeth)

Met some people I knew and chatted to some I didn’t too (and met a puppy I’ll see again over the coming years). It was great. But it’s not normality yet. It won’t be until all the pubs and bars are open and you can get inside without significant restrictions. I can’t wait. Though I rather suppose I must. Roll on June 21st -
HB pencil notwithstanding.
Comments

Ale and Poetry

I’ve been getting involved with #ReadMeSpeakMe since mid November last year. The first poem I read was ‘Arrival to the Sea’ by Juan Antonio Garcia, who is on Twitter @NoosferaMedia. My first attempt took me about eight takes. Since that time I’ve been recording the ReadMeSpeakMe poem almost every week - most are done on the first or second take now.

On the first poem I did chat a little before the poem - mostly to say it took me eight takes - and have continued to prelude the poem with a little chitchat; if nothing else just to say what drink I’ve got in my tankard. I recorded the early ones on my phone and posted it direct to Twitter. A couple were longer ones and harder to fit on a Tweet so I decided I needed to put the longer ones on
YouTube I decided I'd put them all on there, whatever the length. for consistency.

I've not had too much negative feedback from this way of doing it (that's not to say people are thinking such things of course) and it will probably continue. Even if it is just to say 'Cheers,' - and what I’m drinking that week.



ReadMeSpeakMe 136: 'Across the Table' by Rob Taylor




I’ve never tried embedding a YouTube video on my website... until now. I'm trying it now to see how it works, or if I can do it. So future poems could well be on here, but the YouTube channel will remain the primary place to find them. Consistency.

It’s amazing that it's only been four months I’ve been involved. In many ways it feels a lot longer. Love seeing all the community getting together for it each week: and it’s a mighty fine excuse to get out a bottle opener.

If you’ve never given it a go, and you fancy it then give it a try. Many of the poems are short enough that they can fit on a twitter video (particularly if you don't give it a preamble ramble like I do. But if you don't fancy giving it a go then just come over and say, 'Hi'.



HLBmag-2

The blog in the new Health section, on my MS diagnosis & travails, together with the poetry with beer thing has revealed that there is a gap in the market for a Health, Lifestyle, and Beer magazine. Am sure it could be a big seller. Then again it may just be pictures of beer and the odd limerick.

Incidentally I have updated the Health section so that
Disqus now works on it. So it is open for comments for anyone interested. Like the Comments in this section they are moderated so don't be surprised if they take some time to show up on the page. But they will eventually (assuming that they are appropriate of course).
Comments

Voice Activation 5: RMSM 127

It had snowed overnight in Liverpool and it looked all very Christmassy. Not much like. It was not like it ended up with estates full of snowmen or snowball fights breaking out everywhere. Just enough snow to comment on and cause consternation for walkers and drivers alike. Later in the day some snow was still here whilst I was trying to get to grip with this week's interesting 'ReadMeSpeakMe.' RMSM 127 comprised a poem put together expertly by RMSM chief Meg @megwaff by slotting together first lines from dozens of poems from previous ReadMeSpeakMe poems and actually included poems from 44 writers.

As previous few poems I've put it up on the
YouTube channel. Had one annoying issue as I got to the end of a recording the device informed me it was full and just stopped recording. I very nearly shouted out 'Flipping heck!' or something akin to that. But I stayed strong and only minor work will be required to fix the head shaped hole in the wall's plaster. Got the recording done with only a couple of stutters and one wrong word (I think). Don't be too critical.

RMSM127
ReadMeSpeakMe 127


Read more about the poem on Meg's web page
www.megwaffling.wordpress.com/2020/12/27/the-rmsm-beast-of-a-poem/ and you'll realise what a big job she had on her hands to compile the poem. Great work, Meg. Kudos.

As ever my lovely pewter tankard makes its appearance. This time it has a bottle of '
Platform 6.1' from Wickwar Brewery. A decent pint at a decent price from B&M (£1.60).

________________________

Twitter:
@megwaff
@ReadMeSpeakMe

Website:

www.megwaffling.wordpress.com
Comments

It's Not Just Ten

The Government’s decision to bring forward the closing time for bars and restaurants to 10pm this week is a non-thinking disaster. It is wrong-headed in terms of reducing the health risk to people in the towns and at the same time couldn’t have been much better designed to make it impossible for these businesses.

Let’s be clear, it’s not simply a reduction of one hour in drinking. For a start it is 10pm chucking out time as opposed to last orders – so it is more like an hour and a half. But it is not a case of having an hour and half less out drinking, is it? In the media they keep playing Vox Pops of the people saying ‘well people will just go out an hour earlier’... Who the hell are these people? Most people have a job of work to do one way or another. Going out an hour earlier is not an option or something they would want to do.

In my case, which I can’t see as uncommon, I get home at say 7pm or so. There’s no pub near me worth a dime, so I go into town. Even if I just have to grab a bit of beans on toast and slap on a fresh shirt I’m not getting into town until 8:30. Last orders is an hour later! So ninety minutes waiting for and getting buses and the same for a couple of pints: basically it’s not going to happen. 8:30 till 11 would be fine for an evening, but 8.30-10 is just a no-goer. 


Then there’s the football. Games kicking off at 8pm will be finishing of after last orders. And god help them if there are any significant injuries, then you’ll be chucked out of the pub before it finishes. Ho hum. Even if things run to time there will be no time for post match chit-chat with mates about the game; that’s half the fun of watching the footy.

So, instead of going out for a night or two on working days for a quiet pint that ‘one hour’ change means people with work won’t be going out at all – unless they are lucky enough to have  a pub nearby. How many people are making the same decisions? Plenty.

The problem bars are those that are busy, with extended hours, and little or no regard to Covid securedness, so why not just say 11pm closing to give the pubs, bars and restaurants a chance of pulling in some coins, then concentrate any policing on the problem places? I’m sure they haven’t done this maliciously but boy they’ve done it unthinkingly. One would hope they’d reconsider it at some point. I’m assuming they are being approached constantly by representatives of the industries, so hopefully this awful decision can be pulled. Let’s face it looking forward to December they are going to have their worst Christmas ever with no Christmas work parties possible etc. They need every quid they can get.

At the same time it shouldn’t be forgotten that as well as the risk to the businesses there is the mental health side of people getting out of their houses and spending some time out and about and having some interaction with real people - friends and strangers – socially distanced of course.

Personally it looks like unless I get unusually early finishes at work I wont be out on working days – whilst the government say they want us out keeping the economy going. I may be able to go out ‘an hour earlier’ on days off I suppose. In short: what a fucking mess, what a nonsense. Let's just hope things are different in a week or two (let's face it things change from hour to hour). Lastly, follow the Covid secure rules. Keep your distance (all day, not just in the pub), wear a mask when you have to, and wash your hands with soap and water and/or use hand sanitiser when you can't. It's not that difficult.
Comments

More Pub Distancing

The last Open Mic got cancelled and I was away camping at Bishop's Castle for the one before so I was looking forward to this one. Picked up some excellent ‘White Rat,’ ‘Cold Stone Cream Austin’ and ‘Aiwass’ from Craft on Smithdown on the way home and that was my preparations done –apart from some quick strumming for fifteen minutes. As it happened OM was to prove a low key affair with only four of us on it; with Bobo and Nette, Matt and myself.

There wasn’t too much in the way of singing. Matt started of with a story then Bobo did a couple of songs. I did three in the end and having decided to do new (or very old) ones I went for ‘Half A World Away’ (always contentious doing Oasis - sorry), ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and ‘Wild Rover’. Bobo did another and Matt gave us a longer story.

Said to Matt he should try and write for the Seedling Challenge and use all seven of this weeks prompts -  a tough one this week - and that we could then read the resulting stories out at the next OM. We agreed to give it a go.

Then after lots of interlinked chitter chatter about all things travel, pubs, and Covid-19, we went on Jackbox to play some games. Suffice to say funny as fuck – but you would have had to be there (and probably have had a few beers) to appreciate it. Apparently OM is going to go to fortnightly now, which is a shame but I guess a sign that now that things are opening up a little bit people have less time or need for it. Anyway, I am looking forward to it; whenever it is. At least two weeks gives me more time to learn some more new old songs.
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Not That Strange I Suppose

On Friday I drove down to Shropshire to the beautiful village of Bishop's Castle. As I said in my last blog I was a little apprehensive but broadly looking forward at the very least to being out of the house for a few days.

The drive down was uneventful and was the usual 2 hours or so, with just a couple of roadworks there to slow the day down–they do seem to be everywhere at the moment. I was the first to arrive and was surprised to see how busy the campsite was. I paid the £9 per day and set up exactly where we camped last year. But last year there were thirty of us there, partly due to the 'stag' nature of some of the attendees prior to Paddy's upcoming wedding. I wrote up last year's fab weekend in a
blog of course. This time there was to be ten of us, which given the Covid-19 pandemic seemed quite a few people. Especially as I haven't been seeing anyone–no bubbles for me.

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First drink after putting up your tent is always one of the best

Tony K and Jane came next with Jane's son; then Tony and Jeanette, quickly followed by Rob and his cohorts. We all managed to camp close together (socially distanced, of course). Uniquely for a Bishop's Castle camping weekend we didn't go down to the village for a beer or two. It didn't seem necessary as we had lots of beer between us and it is not like there was any entertainment down in Bishop's Castle. Jeanette fed us with a homemade chilli and then we got in with drinking and chatting. All with some tunes from playlists by myself and Jeanette. It was pretty cold and got colder as the sky cleared. But of course that meant with clear Shropshire skies we had a beautiful view–which even encompassed satellites and shooting stars.

Social distancing was pretty well done in the main. The folding chairs and dark night keeping everyone together around a fire pit. It was a nice night.

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Group drinking in the Three Tuns. Wonderful.

The next day started with a sunnier forecast if a little cloudy. Breakfast was sourced either at the Greedy Fox from the Foxholes campsite we were on, or cooked by the various volunteers in the group. And then the final member of the group, Ste, arrived. He'd had to delay due to doing a good thing in terms of looking after a neighbours dog. We then finally headed down into BC around 1pm–again around 2 hours later than we would normally have. On the basis of only two open pubs rather than the usual five or six this seemed to make sense.

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Sunshine pint in the Three Tuns

We first headed into the Three Tuns. There we were asked for one member of the group to scan in a QR code and provide details through that before going in and getting seated. We headed outside to one of the two benches in the yard. Normally during this weekend of the year there would be a music playing and a barbecue going, as well as the Three Tuns brewer selling beers straight out of the barrels there. This time: nothing. Of course. We ended up staying there for about four hours or so before heading up to the Castle. The only issue I had was someone squeezing in between me and someone else on a bench. I shot on up and out of there and left it to the girls. Social distancing guys (and gals)! Went through several pints of Solstice, XXX and Cleric's Cure (which I settled on for a few).

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The Shropshire Way walk into Bishop's Castle

In the Castle the garden was full. Most having being booked in advance. No-one was in the garden on the grass, they were all seated at tables. We stayed in the tables outside at the bottom of the steps. Here the staff all wore visors, which was visibly different to the Three Tuns, where the staff concentrated on limiting touching the glasses (using trays and asking us to load them with empty glasses etc). Like Liverpool last week, every establishment is having to find their own way with the reopening.

Most the boys and girls of our group went into the BC chippy for sustenance. I kept away: just not hungry. Then we all went back on up to Foxholes for the evening. It was spent drinking beer (or wine in the case of Rob and Co.), chatting and listening to tunes. I even got my guitar out and played a few songs–it would have been Open Mic tonight if I had been home. There was no WiFi available to log into Zoom on the campsite. Tony talked loudly all the way through most of the songs. But to be fair that made my 'gig' more like an Open Mic than if he'd kept quiet. There's always one. The night was a clear as the day before and again we saw shooting stars. It closed around 1:30am or so after some surprising spoons and a collapsing chair and table incident.

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Playing in the sun to an appreciative crowd (me)

Sunday brought us even more sunshine. The forecast was it would be there for the day. And boy, it was. I ended up getting a little sunburnt on my face, mainly on the nose and forehead. Steve got off early, as did Rob and the boys, whilst I wasn't sure whether to stay or go. I was torn, as I was off on Monday and was thinking I'd do some writing if I got back on Sunday, but then again another night relaxing whilst away for the first time for months was very attractive. In the end I decided to stay. Tony K took the rest of the intrepid group on a truncated walk (basically adding a few hundred metres to getting into BC and then walking along the road rather than on the Shropshire Way. Most surprising. Not.). They all heading into Poppy's (where we normally go for breakfast on our last day camping) and had a Sunday Roast.

Meanwhile I was still at the campsite listening to the screeching of a couple of the red kites what whirled above the countryside, whilst strumming the guitar and burning my face; before walking down to the Three Tuns. Had a pint of Solstice and three of Cleric's before heading up to the site with a takeout. I began reading '
The Psychology of Time Travel' (Kate Mascarenhas) which seems really good.

The evening was its by now standard form. A couple of beers, some music and bed. But this time finished much, much earlier. Everyone was getting a bit more tired which after a few days trying to sleep in a tent is par for the course.

And then it was Monday and time for me to go. The remaining five stayed in BC to do a walk along the Long Mynd from Church Stretton. I got home at 1pm and it didn't take me long to fall into some serious napping.

All in all the weekend had been excellent. There hadn't been much in the way of any rain and we all got into the two pubs that were open. Clearly the logging in, the directional information, the toilet occupancy, and cleaning stations (as well as staff methods and PPE) make the pubs a different proposition to the BC real ale trail. The lack of entertainment, and a hog roast or two, being an obvious miss. It is hard to see how and when this can come back prior to a vaccine. It really is a worry and I really wonder if even this time next year the real ale trail will be back. That said, even if it isn't I expect we will be. Camping is great. So is Shropshire, the village and the campsite. And of course, most of all, our group of people make the event the success it always is.

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Three Tuns quieter than usual.


Cheers!
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A Strange Return to the Bish

I've been looking forward to this weekend for a while now. But I've got to admit it is going to be a strange one. For years now a group of us has been going to Bishop's Castle for their annual beer festival trail. It's always one of the first things in the calendar. And we camp at a great campsite on the Shropshire Way called Foxholes just above the village. There is always lots of great beer, good food and fab music. And all round good craic.

But this year… well until last week the campsites were closed, as were the pubs. The real ale trail was obviously cancelled ages ago and so it should have been. Normally the entire village is bustling for a day and a half. This year I'm not anticipating many people there at all. And indeed I hope not.

There's a much smaller group of us going to Foxholes. I think most will just be glad to get out of the house for a day or two after over three months staying in the same few rooms. I'm only expecting two pubs to be open, but we may find another one. Both the
Three Tuns and the Castle have decent outside areas where we can do our distancing thing. I'm taking a lot more beer than I normally do as I'm expecting we'll have much less time in the village–it's not like there will be any entertainment on either.

So it's going to be quiet. Fewer beers. No music. Limited food choices. Not sounding like a great advert, but hell, like I say, a weekend away may well be the closest thing I get to a holiday this year. Forecast is dry weather too, which after a couple of wet weeks is a bonus. Let's hope next year things will be more normal – though I'm not convinced it will be.






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Liverpool: Reopening Crawl

So over three months after all the pubs, bars and restaurants (and hairdressers) closed pubs were finally allowed to open again to sell beer to people to drink at their establishments. This has become a thing of dreams to some, but no doubt a thing of nightmares to some people. I wrote a piece previousl about the closure of pubs back in March which you can read here.

The media called it Super Saturday along with other crass headlines. Personally I was looking forward to it with the understanding that it would not be the same and I was intrigued how it would work. But more importantly my hair really needed seeing to as I was looking like a cross between Michael Hestletine and Alan Partridge. I hadn’t booked anything. As I go to a little barbers I wasn’t sure how they’d do it.

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Ready for the bus

First up after putting up the Seedling Challenge page was to get ready to go. I had my bandana of course. It was strange putting jeans, a shirt and my leather on. I don’t think I’ve left the house not in shorts and T-shirt for a couple of months (though recently with hoody or other top due to all the wind and rain). Then it was of to get the number 17 into town. It was my first time on a bus since March 19th.  From the seven people on the bus the only two who didn’t wear masks was what appeared to be a granny and grandson. She seemed mortified as we got on and she realised they had nothing and she told the boy to pull his hoody down over his face.

With stickers on the window indicating which seats were open for use and which weren’t it was interesting to see. I saw a couple of women sat next to each other which wasn’t in accordance with the rules. But in the main it wasn’t too bad and the windows were ajar too.

Got some cash out at a machine on London Road with the intention to walk down the hill past my usual barbers. If it was quiet my aim was to get a haircut. It wasn’t and the customers waiting were sat elbow to elbow in there: not for me!

With a haircut put on hold I was ready to head into a pub or two to see what was going on and to support them. I walked past the Crown towards the Dispensary first. There was a last minute adjustment being made to a rope barrier by the front door, and I asked when it was opening. I was told “Now” if you want. And so it was that I went into the Crown as my first pub for reopening. But as I looked across the floor to see the markings on the and was guided to where I should go and sit I couldn’t see any cask on. “Any cask on, mate?” “There’s only Doom Bar–you’ll be lucky to find any cask in town today, mate.” “I think I know a few places...”

And so it was, my first pub post reopening was left before I got 2 metres from the door, let along 2 metres from another customer. 

I reverted to my original plan to head to the Dispensary, but had to pause to take a photo and genuflect in front of the Sanctuary. Very depressing.

First thing at you spot at the Dispensary are the smart new (and large) tables and umbrellas. A great addition for an outdoor drink or two compared to the ad hoc wee table and chair arrangement they had previously. Indoors I was directed to a single chair to sit at near the fireplace and told before I could order I needed to text a phone number and then when I got a reply text my name. For groups of people only one person in a group would need to do it. It was an interesting way to do it and I wondered how much texting I’d be doing after another few pubs. Service was at the table.
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New Dizzy Seating

There were only three cask on, which is fair enough given the unknowns and the smaller number of people they can get in the pub–with no standing. So my first reopening pint was an
OssettSilver King’ and my second was a RatWhite Rat’. Other than the signing in the only issue I had was the seating. Drinking alone as Billy No Mates you of course don’t get offered a table but a standalone chair without a table. The chair was rickety, so I moved to a second chair. A group of three sat on a nearby table which eventually became six. Once there were six there then they were right on top of me (not 1 metre) so I had to return to the first chair again. Ultimately everyone is on a learning curve. The landlords, the service staff, and the customers. 

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First Reopening Pint: a Silver King in the Dizzy


Bumped into a couple of CAMRA guys who were similarly looking to support the pubs and see what was happening.

Next up I’d decided to head down to the Bridewell. The service is always great with Dom works so table service would be right up their alley anyway. And his ale is always good too. This time the pub was pretty full and I ended up sat outside in the mizzly rain. Not ideal but not the end of the world either. This time there was no texting. Just write down your name and phone number on a record sheet by the door. Less messing about.

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Bridewell Pint: note damp (and long) hair

Read a couple of pages of a book on my Kindle but the rain wasn’t helping. Ended up with two pints once more, this time KirkstallThree Swords’ and ‘Pale’.

Third up was another pub I knew from Twitter/Instagram was open: the Baltic Fleet. Here I picked my beer at the bar and then it was brought around to me. I didn’t fill in any sheet or text anything. At least I got a table inside this time. Had a BrimstageTrapper’s Hat’.

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The Baltic Fleet

I decided I’d head into town. I knew the Ship & Mitre, Rigby’s and Dr Duncan’s was open which were all worth a go. But as it happens I saw a couple of people walk out of the side street by the Cornmarket and found it open. Here I bought the beer at the bar and took it to a comfortable leather sofa by the window. Again I wasnt asked to fill anything in. The pub was quiet, the moment: nice.

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Cornmarket beer, Alan Partridge hair

Just had the one and headed next to Rigby’s. Incidentally I’d heard earlier that they’d laid of the manager of the Fly in the Loaf which I was incredibly disappointed to hear. The Fly has always been run very well since Dom and beyond. Not sure who or when the Fly is reopening, but it is strange that one of the Okell’s pubs was opening and not the other.

As it turned out I had a mixed blessing at Rigby’s. I was told to wait by the entrance while they found a table for me. I could see an empty table with one chair in front of me. The pub was quite busy though. Whilst I waited some guy came in and walked straight in and sat at the table (there was a couple behind me too). I was then told there was no room at the Inn. I was not a happy puppy. After a bit of a harrumph I left only to find it had been a wonderful conjunction of events, for I walked past a barbers a few doors down which was large and empty. I ended up being the last person in getting a haircut. No issues with social distancing: in and out, and a bloody great haircut. Hallelujah!

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Forget Accidental Partridge, I got an accidental haircut!

Having calmed down I thought I’d try Rigby’s again. I failed to get in again (and the bastard who’d taken my table was still there reading some crap tabloid... grr). Like I said; we’re all on a learning curve. Deep breathe.... ahhhhhh.

After finding Cornmarket was open the next one I found that I hadn’t spotted on Social Media was the Vernon–I knew the Lion wasn’t open yet. Was directed to an uncomfortable position in the back room. Definitely an issue for solo drinkers: if you don't get the choice you’re gonna get given the worse places to sit.

Nearing the end of my Reopening Crawl I headed into the Excelsior. It was pretty quiet. Picked an okay seat and had a Titanic 'Plum Porter'. It was dearer than the last time I was in there–when they were selling it off at £2 a pint on the last day I’d been out before the lockdown closures. It felt symmetrical. The Ship & Mitre had an early closing (and was closed on Sunday to evaluate how it went) so I never made it in there.

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Titanic Plum Porter once again in the Excelsior

When I’d gone out that day (19th March) Dr Duncan’s had been closed. It may have been a bit early closing but it was open again the first chance it could. Hence my last pint, back by Queen’s Square buses, was Dr D’s. Had a nice chat with the staff and a couple of customers. Suitably distanced off course.

All in all a nice crawl and good to see so many pubs open.

Key findings (other than the actual beer):

  • Everywhere is doing the name taking (or not) differently (it is currently guidance, not a legal requirement).
  • Fewer beers on (fewer customers and fewer beers available so no issue with that).
  • Prices had gone up considerably in one pub (I’ll let you discover which one). That may be a difficult balancing act with drinkers used to drinking at home now, but these guys have been shut for ages and need to make money with a smaller number of customers allowed in.
  • A bit random getting seated. And being on your tod, or maybe in a group of two, you can anticipate being hidden in a corner or in an awkward area of the pub where they cant fit a group.
  • It’s not the same having to be seated and not roaming around as and when. But you can still socialise a little with the nearby customers and anyone you spot from your seated positionwhich after over three months not seeing anyone is bloody marvellous.
  • Everyone is on a learning curve - us–the drinkers– and them–the guys and gals serving the stuff. Be good, be calm, be patient.

I had no issues with social distancing other than having to move myself away from a group in the Dizzy, but that was easily dealt with. Everywhere staff were cleaning regularly and there was hand sanitizer available.

Great to find these pubs open–and for me to drink in seven of them:

  • Crown
  • Dispensary
  • Bridewell
  • Baltic Fleet
  • Cornmarket
  • Rigbys
  • Vernon
  • Excelsior
  • Ship & Mitre
  • Dr Duncans

Looking forward to the Grapes, Head of Steam, the Lion and the Fly reopening: when they are ready.  Still absolutely gutted about the Sanctuary

And the best thing about Super Saturday? Accidentally getting a haircut. Get in!
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A Pilgrimage To A Real Sanctuary

Note: This article was featured on the GetIntoThis website which I've reposted here following the closure of that website. It is about the last visits to the Liverpool pubs as closure approached in late March and a dream of a crawl after reopening. It is made even more poignant following the news that the Sanctuary is to close:

A Pilgrimage to a Real Sanctuary

I don’t know about you, but I rarely remember my dreams or my nightmares. Sometimes I wish that I did. You know those cinematic ones that you can kinda control in some way? It’s like going to the cinema for free - and with you as one of the main characters. Still, if it’s a nightmare maybe it’s best not to remember, hey? But in all my dreams I have never had one where all the pubs were closed for days, then weeks on end. I mean I’m not sure I could sleep if I knew there was a risk of that. 
And here we are. In that real life nightmare. The pubs are shut. The beers are getting flushed down the drains. And it’s already weeks in. Forget the lockdown bollocks, I want lock-ins.
Of course we could see it coming. Each day, each meeting, the Government reeled out their stats and their methods: how we’d beat Coronavirus. Meanwhile Italy, Spain and the like all closing down. It couldn’t happen here, could it? Damn straight.

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In the final week of open hostelries, as the inevitable approached, I had to go out to support them: to see them one last time. So it was that on the Wednesday and Thursday, before Boris and His Boffins said social distancing needed to be extended to the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants, I went into Liverpool for beer. I really did go out without wanting to, just so I could say my farewells; and cry a little into a pint glass in-situ. On the Wednesday evening I went into the Head of Steam. It was only 9pm and tellingly they’d already rung last orders to the six people there. I headed up Bold Street next to the Dispensary - for a White Rat of course, then a quick one in the Roscoe Head before heading up to the Fly in the Loaf. The Fly was already shut for the night; it was ten o’clock. My heart was heavy. I ended up with two pints in the Caledonia before the bus home. As crawls go it felt a wee bit painful. It was like someone was lying in bed for their last hours and we were waiting for the inevitable (sorry, bad analogy, but it was).

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I’d only visited a few pubs and there was a couple of telling omissions. I wanted to go into town even less on the Thursday. But felt duty bound to show my support. Or was it to hold the hands of the grieving? I headed a different way this time, around Dale Street. The Ship was quiet, with barely double figures in there: social distancing was not going to be a problem and the Excelsior was quieter still, despite selling their cask off at stupid pence a pint. I helped them out by getting rid of one of their pints of Titanic Plum Porter I’m nice like that. I chatted to the bar man as he wiped the bar with disinfectant. The pub was pristine. Too clean. Any worse and it’d have stung your eyes. Third up was across the road to Dead Crafty. Now I’m a cask man, but I recognise good beer and good people, and Dead Crafty have both, so it had to be visited. Besides, it was clearly open and there was no telling how many other bars would be. The Lion Tavern was open but deader still; Liverpool’s only just crowned CAMRA Pub of the Year - what timing for the award. I had a pint but wasn’t even in the mood for the free juke box. I needed to head to the Sanctuary on Lime Street. It’s one of my regulars and I didn’t want to miss it in case the pubs would be closed before I made it out again. The staff and regulars are friends; even if I do my best to put them off with the odd open mic performance. On the way I noticed Dr Duncan’s was closed, so I popped in the Crown instead. All this talk of social distancing and responsibility was getting to me. Was I being reckless going to pubs in a time of the virus? It’s less than four weeks - aka ‘a lifetime’ -ago and I didn’t feel so, though I still felt a bit guilty. They kept saying the youngsters were ignoring it and would get the oldsters killed. Well hell, I’m in my 50s and in the Crown I was the younger demographic that night (apart from the stoic bar staff). And so it was that I made it finally to the Sanctuary for a couple. There were three of us there, plus two bar staff. A suitable end to my two day wake.

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And so iIt came on Friday. The 20th March: the announcement that all pubs and bars would be expected to close that night. It still sends shivers down my spine. All those lovely days and nights; the great people who work in the bars and make the beer. All those empty buildings. It’s haunting. I didn’t go out on the Friday, I’d done my bit. One landlady contacted me via Twitter to ask if I wanted a cask which would otherwise go to waste. I turned it down. I couldn’t drink it in a week - not without taking the week off anyway. Me turning down a cask of beer? Strange times indeed.

The two day pilgrimage around some of my favourite (and even the not-so-favourite) pubs of Liverpool was an unusual affair. Not exactly uplifting. But I was glad I’d done it. It was like my own version of ‘Last Chance to See...’.

I’ve hardly mentioned the beers. And of course they are integral to the way of life of a real ale fan, but they are not the be all and end all. I’m not a ticker. I love the pubs, the ambience, the people - customers and staff alike. AND the beer. I’m of the view that if I’m spending a few quid on a beer it’s got to be nice. Like many ale drinkers every time I go out it is not to go to one pub, it is to got to three or four. And boy, I am missing them. I’m still working as usual. My job has not been affected by this virus yet, but my social life obviously has. Jeez, I feel for anyone who is properly locked down. At least I get out five times a week to work. I’m going crazy just missing the damn pubs.

As I say I love beer. Anyone who knows me probably has that as a (the?) defining feature of me - I’ve got a damn Twitter and Instagram account devoted to it. But it’s not the beer I miss. It’s the pubs. I don’t drink much at home at all. A bottle here - and sometimes these days - a can there. It’s not the same drinking at home. It’s probably a good thing for me that I feel that way. 

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Well that was my pre-closure pub pilgrimage, what will the return be like? Firstly, let’s really hope that all the pubs survive this. Margins are tight at the best of times, and this is as far from the best of times as I could have dreamt. But when they do reopen I for one will be taking a couple of days off to undertake the return pilgrimage. It’ll be difficult as I’m sure they’ll be heaving - though many will be nervous about being in crowds again. And of course, when they first open it could be a 2m distancing thing. And a one in one out. Who knows? But all things being equal my first days back will take in the Head of Steam, Dispensary, Roscoe, Grapes, Fly, Dickens & King, the Caledonia.... and the Sanctuary. I can’t wait. Then maybe on the second day I’ll return to the Dale Street for the Ship, Excelsior, Dead Crafty, Vernon, Lion, Hole in the Wall and Rigby’s. They’ll all need supporting when they come back and I for one will try and do my bit. 

Look I can but dream - I just wish I could remember them.

Finally, that’s just the pubs, what they sell to us is the beer and we are lucky in Liverpool now to have so many good breweries on our doorstep. If this had happened a few years ago we’d only have had a couple to miss, but these days there are so many great little ones around Merseyside and the Wirral. My favourites are Neptune, Chapter, Top Rope, Black Lodge and Peerless, and then there’s; Brimstage, Love Lane, Melwood, Rock the Boat, Scrapyard, Southport, Parkers, Red Star. I mean with these breweries you are spoiling us. Sorry if I’ve missed yours off, but you get what I mean, we have so many good options to keep it local - beer and pub wise. 

So whilst I don’t drink much at home I will do a little bit and there are local supplies of local beers for lockdown. So whilst you are waiting for our locals to reopen, if you want to go beyond Oakham Citra from your B&M (which ain’t a bad option though), there are some options out there to slake your thirst. It’ll have the bonus of supporting local businesses too, so you can feel good twice. Here are a few: 


Black Lodge - Delivery only. Online order: www.blacklodgebrewing.co.uk

Carnival - Cans via online store: www.carnivalbreweing.me

Cask micro pub - Bottles and Cask cartons. (Deliveries 5-7:30pm). Check out their Twitter feed: @LiverpoolCask

Craft Taproom - Online store: crafttaproom.myshopify.com

Dead Crafty - Online order for delivery. Check twitter and Untappd for menu. Orders via email: deadcraftybeer@gmail.com

Londis, Penny Lane - Shop. Get yerself down there. (Check stock updates on their Twitter account: @LondisPennyLane

Love Lane - Online shop for delivery or click and collect: lovelanebeer.com/

Red Star - Range limited: www.redstarbrewery.co.uk

Rock the Boat - Boxes available for delivery: www.rocktheboatbrewery.co.uk

Scrapyard (Wallasey) - Beers in a box (£20 for 5l). Check out their Twitter feed @scrapyard_bar

Top Rope - online shop for deliveries: www.topropebrewing.com 



Happy drinking. See you on the other side. Sweet dreams.
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The New Normal (Not So Much)

What's the new normal going to be like? Clue: it’s not.

So this weekend, on the 4th July, a normality is to return. With pubs and restaurants to reopen. And almost more importantly... barbers. I for one can’t wait. 

Or can I? It’s been over three months since the pubs closed the door because of Covid-19 and one of my major pastimes was given the heave-ho. Have I got into drinking at home instead? Will I stay in and save money with a few bottles rather than going down the pub for a couple? Will I hell.

I love my beer, don’t get me wrong. But beer comes with the pub, it's not for watching the TV. Not in my book at any rate. Can’t wait to get back to doing little five or six pub crawls around Liverpool city centre. Or getting on the train for the Southport run, or a CAMRA coach trip to Derby or Leicester (?).

Apart from it’s not going to be normal yet at all. If you live in a village with a lovely old coaching inn with big gardens then you’ll be okay, maybe you won’t notice much difference at all. But for the 99% of us who live in an urban area–particularly a city–we are going to be buggered. Or, more importantly, the pubs are. 



The rules are such that there can’t be more than 30 people in a pub–however big it is. I mean one size does not fit all. Asking pubs to serve outside where it is safer is all well and good, but how can a little pub on a city street accommodate that? Taking names and details from all the customers is going to be fun. Minimise contact with the staff, but take their life story (okay, not life story–and it does make sense). No live music, or football to be shown: nothing to get the customers excited lest they spit out their germs everywhere. Then there's the PPE, the hand-washing and the one way system and one in/one out to the toilet. No standing at the bar chatting to the staff. No... well no anything.

So pubs are reopening and normality is returning. Apart from the pubs can’t attract enough people to survive. Can’t generate atmosphere. Can’t entertain. Can’t make their customers feel comfortable. Oh yes, definitely back to normal.

How can the pubs survive with so few customers? Without the joy of a group of friends out for the evening? How can the music economy (the proper gig economy) survive this? It's all a matter of time before more and more establishments fall at the wayside. This will damage individuals who work or own these businesses and harm the towns and cities we live in. The impact of this virus is going to go on for years even if a cure falls into our laps this year.


We put a lot of faith in everyone not to catch and spread this most strange of viruses. And seeing the recent footage from parks, beaches and of course our Pier Head, that faith is not held tightly. If we look at what happened in the US where hardly anyone wears masks, and they opened up businesses as if there was no virus, it is rampant like never before. Trump's inability to say 'Wear a mask' has fucked them. They opened bars like they were normal in many respects so it was no surprise what has happened, and we are not doing that so maybe we will be a lot better of in terms of the virus. But in terms of the business it is untenable without government support.

Whenever you do go out, be sensible. Follow the guidance. Because if the Covid-19 numbers get out of control or even just take longer to come down then it'll be a longer time before the new normal becomes the old normal. It's simple folks:
keep your distance; keep your hands clean; limit touching your face; wear a mask in enclosed areas or in close proximity to others. That's it. It ain't rocket science. Be calm and patient and be very, very nice to all the staff looking after you.

______

So far I’m not sure which if any pubs are open on Saturday–obviously when I say pubs I mean real ale pubs and not the Concert Square or Wetherspoons variety. I want to give my custom to my favourite pubs that I used to go to: they deserve it, even if I don’t. I am going to head into town first thing though to see if I can find a barbers to deal with my problem and then I’ll see if I can find a pint in an environment that doesn’t make me want to cry.  I may well come back with no luck on any front at all. Watch this space.
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There Is No Sanctuary Anymore 

Well this weekend brought the news that the Sanctuary on Lime Street is to close its doors permanently. One of the first confirmations of pubs in Liverpool to be closing as a result of the damnable pandemic: it won't be the last.

It goes without saying that I wish the owners and all the staff all the best at this time.

It has been a great little boozer for the last few years for me. One of my most regular haunts. Often I would pop in at the start or the end of a wee crawl–or even both ends of one. It was always laid back. There was always music on (I’m not saying it was always to my taste, but hell yeah. Music!). The decor was ‘interesting’ if built-in distressed is your thing. From outside if looked like it could be a wine bar with the logo on the window, whilst inside it was spit & sawdust. It was a contradiction in many ways.

Beer choice could be a little up and down, but usually there was one or two–sometimes even three–that were worth staying for–or else I wouldn’t have, would I?

There wasn’t a big turnover of staff. And all of them were friendly and outgoing. Going out of their way to look after the customers (even giving me control of the music on several occasions. Yeah, an evening of Frank Turner, Wilco or Magic Numbers anyone?). One of last year's highlights was going in there for a few pints whilst waiting for the parade for the European Cup. We watched the progress of the parade on my phone so knew exactly when to leave to catch the buses, got some fab photos and then went back into the Sanctuary within about twenty minutes or so. A perfect afternoon, which unfortunately we won't be able to repeat for any parade for winning the league.–more's the pity.



Best of all I was in one Thursday evening reading a book when I noticed someone walk upstairs with a guitar and found out it was Open Mic. I popped up to watch, telling myself if they weren’t all shit hot I’d get up and play a song–partly on the basis that I didn’t know any of them and I need not show my face again if it all went tits up. I nervously strummed a couple of songs in super fast time and sweated like a pig… and since then I’ve hardly missed any. I hadn’t played in front of anyone for about twenty years. Unfortunately I hadn’t been practicing much either. But rediscovering the guitar was great and it has been the highlight of many a week since.









The continuation over recent weeks of the Open Mic online has been a lovely way to break up the week, especially the monotonous evenings (so much TV watched). Our little Zoom Sanctuary has been great, but it’s not a pub. It’s not the same.

It won’t be the last pub to go and I’m fearful for which of my other favourites may not survive this most painful of years. I’ll miss meeting up with the Open Mic crew at the Sanctuary. I’ll miss the banter with the staff and customers. I’ll miss sitting there reading or writing. Hell, I’ll just miss the Sanctuary.

RIP The Sanctuary. It was good to be in you.
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Planning on Planning

The last few months - and longer - have been difficult one way or another. And I have not bothered with New Year's Resolutions. Then again, there shouldn't be a time for resolutions. If you decide you need to do something don't wait til January 1st to get it into motion. Anyway, it's the well into the second half of January and I ain't doing resolutions, but I am doing planning. In that I am planning on planning with respect to all sorts including; work, writing, reading, guitar, and fitness.

Will put some of the planning up here and then track progress as the year goes on.

But now I've got to get some of these plans down. Catch yer later…
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The (New) Dispensary

HaircutMe

It's been an interesting couple of weeks seeing how the Dispensary transitions after the long reign from Pauline and Dave came to a quite abrupt end. It is understood that the tenancy came to an end on the 15th September and they decided not to renew it. The Dispensary under their stewardship won the Liverpool CAMRA branch Pub of the Year on multiple occasions and the beer choice and quality was never less than exceptional. They kept their decision to leave pretty quiet and it was only in the last ten days of their rule that it became common knowledge. Wherever they end up going and whatever they end up doing I wish them the best of luck.

In the meantime the new managers of the Dispensary require luck and hard work to maintain the tradition of the excellent cellar here, lest it become just another pub. I've been in a few times since the change of the guard and although it's very early days things are looking good. There have been a few changes which are mostly positive or at least neutral. The board with the beers on now has prices on it which is always handy in decision making and getting your money ready at the bar. And talking of money they have entered the 21st century and like many of the other nearby pubs now take card payments. Yay!

The beer choices so far comprise the same breweries that Dave and Pauline took, including Titanic, Ossett and Rat. Definitely a great big plus. Got to be good to have White Rat still available.

DizzyBoard

WhiteRat

There is now no fear of the answer at the bar if you ask for a coke (not that I ever would) but sometimes people require a soft drink. Here is my mate with half a coke…

Coke

They still have TVs and the footy channels (BT and Sky) for those interested. And Liverpool are still winning. They've retained the bar staff too.

They also now sell Guinness. It is a drink from my past, but I have often heard people ask for it here and been disappointed not to find it. Not a big fan these days but hey, at least they've got themselves a nice old school pump display for it. They also have a small heater perched at the end of the bar for pies and whatnot. Food in the Dizzy! What next…?

Guiness

… well, toilet roll in the toilets for a start which is nice.

In the last few days there have been returning customers who were previously banned or at least felt unwelcome. No doubt the customer base will settle down in the coming weeks when the novelty value has ended.

So, in summary, a positive start for the new guys. The key to its continued success will be all about the cellar and the bar staff.
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Neptune Saturday: Beer & Footy

Saturday was a nice day weather-wise, beer-wise and footy-wise. First up I went up to the Neptune Brewery Tap in Maghull, for the first time since going on the opening weekend, for a couple of beers with my good mate, Tony. It was Tony's first visit.

King Jester
'Jester' and 'King of the Sea' in the Neptune Brewer Tap

Started with a couple of cask ales, which were 'Jester' and 'King of the Sea' (they have two cask lines and then the rest in keg) and then I went for their collaboration beer with Brass Castle 'Bozza Don't Surf'. So that's why there's a rare pic of me with a half pint glass. The ale (7.3%) is gorgeous and I thoroughly recommend getting your mitts on some if you see it around.

Neptune_Tap_B4
A rare event for me… a half AND it's a KEG! (don't tell anyone)

Neptune_Pumpclips
Pump clips for some of the many beers Neptune brew - one of each please…

Neptune_Tap1
Merchandise, branding and snacks in the Neptune Brewery Tap

As it was a Bank Holiday weekend they had food on from The Great British Chip Shop on the Sunday and Monday - not on the Saturday. Nice to see companies working off each other that way. Les and Julie and the rest of the crew have done a fab job creating the tap and I'm sure it will be a brilliant success. If you are ever in the Maghull area over a weekend you should check if the Tap is open and get your chops around a few of these guys beers. You won't be disappointed. The brewery is at Unit 1, Sefton Lane Industrial Estate, Maghull, L31 8BX. Easiest way of getting there is usually just to get the train to Maghull Station and from there get a taxi - Blueline taxis have an office opposite the railway station.

Neptune_Map1

Had a problem waiting for a taxi to return back to Maghull Station (should have booked it earlier: I blame the taste of the beer making us want to stay longer). Julie very kindly volunteered to run us down to the station. A star!

Got the train back to town and went to meet Ste in Fly in the Loaf where we watched the Liverpool v Arsenal match. Well, what can I say. Another nice ale or two in the Fly and a fab win from Liverpool (3-1). Happy Days!

Like I say, it was nice weather wise too. But largely it was spent indoors. Enjoyable nonetheless.

If you wanna check out these guys on Twitter they are:
Neptune Brewery - @neptunebrewery and neptunebrewery.com
Brass Castle Brewery - @BrassCastleBeer

Fly in the Loaf - @FlyintheLoaf

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Eight Pubs

On Saturday, as I mentioned on my previous post, I decided in the absence of the North Wales CAMRA coach trip to go on a local jaunt around many of the Liverpool hostelries I enjoy. Here is how the afternoon transpired.

I got the infamous No. 17 into town and got off on London Road. My route for the day was undecided at that point, but it was best place to get off and get some cash out by the Tesco. I took out thirty quid and then made the happy mistake to go into Henry Bohn's - a wonderful second hand bookshop at the bottom of London Road by the Empire.

Twenty minutes later I came out with a much heavier bag (and eleven quid lighter) having bought two Terry Pratchett's: The Wee Free Men and Nation, and an Olaf Stapledon: Last and First Men. However the day transpired this would make it a good one.

8 Pubs1

I was in the process of reading 'Moscow Drive' by a local guy, Mark Porter, who I'd met on the aforesaid infamous 17, in which he name checks lots of Liverpool hostelries I have been know to frequent, including the Raven at Walton Vale, and in town the White Star, Lion, and Ma Egertons (which I'd just got up to in the book). Ma Egerton's is behind the Empire so it seemed the obvious place to start in a way. Unfortunately it hadn't crossed my mind that it was only around an hour or so before kick-off and Everton had their first home game of the season at 3pm. Egerton's was an obvious meeting place, being next to Lime Street Station and a taxi rank. So it was packed. I walked in and then out. Ma, I'll catch you another time. Instead I went to the Crown. It too was busy with a fair few fans, but I'd timed it to perfection as far as service was concerned. Sizing up the selection I went for a beer (and brewery) I hadn't had before, a 'Sunshine IPA' from Wooha Brewing Company. A decent, hoppy, low abv pint for the start of a session. I drank it in the backroom, the only place I could find a seat, and perused my new old books surrounded by people eating massive coronary inducing platters (looked good).

Next up was only a hundred metres down the road and one of my regulars, The Sanctuary. Here I bumped into a Twitter friend I've never met before, but knew was a regular at the Sanctuary, Stephen Ackers aka @beefynets. He has got into doing VSS365, which - as well as liking ale - makes him mighty fine. Here I went for an Adnams 'Mosaic'. Whilst it is a bit of a large brewery for me I do like the single hop brews, and it was a nice (hoppy again) choice. After bidding farewell to Ackers, whose bags were heavier than mine thanks to Lidl's 'beer festival', I went on to number three. The area of attack was now clear - I couldn't be out for too long (having work on Sunday) and I never want to miss the Grapes, when I have the choice, so basically I knew I was bound to continue around the Hardman group of hostelries. Therefore next up was the Dispensary.

Say what you like about the Dizzy (and boy people do) the cellar is the best kept there is. They had White Rat and King Rat on from Rat Brewery. Whilst not ideal for a session I went for the stronger (5%) King Rat for the extra oomf. Was not a mistake. Gorgeous. Got into conversations with Dave, the landlord's husband, about things football and CAMRA related. We agreed to disagree on some and agreed to agree on others. Liverpool scored against the run of play whilst I was there (not on telly) whilst Archer was beating the daylights out of Steve Smith (also not on telly).

TheEightPubs

Next up was the Roscoe Head, one of only five (who knows, maybe fewer now) pubs in the entire country to have been in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. I'd bumped into Carol (the landlady) on Wednesday in the Fly and said I'd pop in soon. She wasn't in, but I bumped into a couple of people I knew. After the heavier abv. in the Dizzy I went for another light one and the Red Willow Brewery 'Effort Less', whilst I continued to read some more of Moscow Drive.
8 Pubs 2
(the Strawberries and Cream was from a different day - these images are from my @realeliverpool Instagram account)

Got a quick bite of something and nothing from the Co-op before heading on to The Grapes. It's a wonderful pub and one of the most improved over the last couple of years - just be careful if you are visiting Liverpool not to mistake it for the aberration (at least from a beer perspective) for the Grapes on Mathew Street. Here it was time for a local brew from Neptune Brewery (I think the best brewery on Merseyside, but there are lots of great ones these days) and another new beer for me, the Cabo Baja Sur. Sat in the bar on the right I got chatting to another reader (she was reading the Time Traveller's Wife, but was not over enamoured with it). Good beer, nice chat. Excellent. But I couldn't be resting up, as I'd intended to make eight different pubs and time and beer was of the essence.

I headed next back over Hardman Street and up to the Hard Times & Misery, which is now called the Dicken's and King. I was happy to see they had another Mosaic on and, even better, it was from Neptune. It was lovely. Probably my Beer of the Day, if I was handing out awards. Again bumped into a couple of people for chats about things beer, football and writing related.


EP_cover

The late kick off was Man City v Spurs and as a Liverpool fan I had a little interest in it, even if it is so bloody early in the season (Liverpool had beaten Southampton in the 3 o'clock kick off, after apparently playing pretty poorly). Anyway, it made sense to head next to the Fly in the Loaf and catch a beer and the end of the game there. It was 2-2, then Man City scored in injury time to get the winner. A big cheer went up as there were Evertonians in the house post their game and they already want City to win the league - can't think why. Thankfully VAR stepped in (ridiculously) and disappointed blue noses of several persuasions. I enjoyed it muchly with an Ilkley Brewery 'Summer Golden Ale'.

That was pub number seven. So where for eight? There were plenty of good local options including the Pen Factory, the Belvedere, even the Phil, but I went for the Caledonia. They've had an Americana festival on all month, and there was a chance I could catch some music. As it happened I did catch a couple of tunes from Alex Gavaghan all accompanied with another local brew a 'Session IPA' (words that really shouldn't go together in my view) from Liverpool Brewing Company.

Good beer, fine music, interesting conversations and reading. All in all a damn good crawl.

AlexGavaghan
Alex Gavaghan in the Caledonia
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Pub Crawl

Time has been a bit short this week, with the new routes in Wales I've been given one of the short straws with Llanwrst and Trefriw. Bugger of a route with narrow roads, one ways, wrong geocodes, named houses and some very isolated properties – even deeper into Snowdonia, past old lead mines, deep in forest and into hiking territories. With up to 80 drops a day a single drop that takes 30 minutes is very frustrating - however beautiful the locality. I was lucky to just get back in time to watch the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday, which has been the highlight of the week.

Isolated
Isolated walking territory, Snowdonia

Hafna
Hafna Lead Mine, Snowdonia

Maenan
Maenan Hall Folly

Gwydir
Gwydir Castle, Llanwrst

Was originally hoping to be on a real ale trip to Conwy and Colwyn Bay today with the Wirral Branch of CAMRA, but the coach was booked up. Meanwhile my usual couple of cohorts went on a last minute holiday up to the Isle of Bute, which looked lovely. So I have been left to my own devices. Um'd and ah'd about going to Manchester, or doing the Southport Run or maybe Chester or a Wirral trip. But hell I've opted for closer to home and a go-with-the-flow wander around Liverpool hostelries. Will try to get to a few more than usual, which means shorter stops and quicker drinks. Unfortunately I'm working tomorrow, which means I can't be out this evening.

Will see how it goes. Will try and take some photos and make a few notes to turn into a blog - partly because I haven't done any blogs this week. I'll also try and do my
Seedling Challenge.

Have a good weekend folks.
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Shrewsbury Pub Walk

As I was down in Atcham, just outside Shrewbury for the wedding, I thought it was a nice idea to stay for another day to spend a day wandering the streets of Shrewsbury popping in a few decent boozers – I\d been to the town a few times before but it had been a while.

I walked from the Ishmore to Shrewsbury, which is around a five mile march, but I had a pit stop at the Mermaid and had a farewell chat (and cider) with the Lee's (and newly named Rachel Higham) before plodding on.

I ended up visiting eight pubs, which in order were:

  • Wheatsheaf
  • Three Fishes
  • Coach & Horses
  • Albert's Shed
  • The Armoury
  • Shrewsbury Hotel
  • Salopian Bar
  • King's Head

The best pubs were the Three Fishes, Coach & Horses, and Salopian Bar – though I enjoyed watching a singer-guitarist in the King's Head, called Luke Day.

First up after the somewhat sweaty walk in was the Wheatsheaf. At least I could sit outside to cool down. Had a pint of Ringwood (can't recall the actual beer unfortunately). It was okay, then again after the walk in anything would have been.

Wheatsheaf
Pub 1. Wheatsheaf. With a Ringwood. A little hot and bothered.

ThreeFishes
Pub 2. Three Fishes with a pint of Thornbridge 'Twin Peaks'

CoachHorses
Pub 3. Coach & Horses with a Salopian 'Oracle'.

AlbertsShed
Pub 4. Albert's Shed with a Salopian 'Lemon Dream'.

Armoury
Pub 5. The Armoury with a Three Tuns 'XXX"

ShrewsburyHotel
Pub 6. Shrewsbury Hotel (a Wetherspoons) with a Tring 'Colley's Dog'.

SalopianHappy
Pub 7 (and 9). Salopian Bar with an Oakham 'CItra' and HappyToo and HappyTwoToo

I may have had a five mile walk in, but I was always going to get a taxi back to Atcham. It didn't break the bank at £7.40.

All in all a relaxing and rewarding afternoon.
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Did I mention the cheese?

Just had a cracking weekend down in Shropshire once more. I'd booked a camping spot in a National Trust site at Atcham (Ishmore Camping Site) and got down there about 8:30pm thanks to the high volume of deliveries on Friday from Prime Week. Having set up the tent last week for Bishop's Castle it was an even quicker process this time and it was sorted by 8:45pm when I had my post-put up pint of BrewDog 'Instamatic'. There was only one other tent there when I arrived and another started putting up their family sized teepee whilst I was finishing off. Turned out the first tent there was for a couple also going to Rachel & Paddy's wedding the next day. I followed them down to Atcham to go to the Mytton & Mermaid pub – it's the only pub in the village and many of the bride's side were staying there. The walk was about a mile through grassland first then along a busy A-road. Fifteen minute walk and a nice pint awaited. Or did it?

Not initially, no. The Mermaid had a Summer Ball on and in their wisdom was closed to the public; only the people of the Ball or guests could get a drink. We were told that we could sit in their garden, but we couldn't buy a drink. The other two set about finding where the nearest alternatives might be; over a mile further on. I called Chris, the father of the bride, who was staying there. They were on their way (they'd had to drive elsewhere to get something to eat of course, 'cos the kitchen was focused on the Ball). Bit of shoddy treatment for a wedding party really. In the end they arrived on mass and finally I got a deserved drink about half an hour later than anticipated. The staff were then happy to take our money once w'd been served with the guests – *sigh*

Left the Mermaid around midnight after a most pleasant evening with many of the Lee's, including the bride, parents and Sam, and some of the lads who had been at Bishop's Castle the week before.

Thankfully the wedding was relatively late on the Saturday (2:30pm) so there was plenty of time to relax before getting ready. The campsite was very basic – two composting toilets and a sink with a cold tap. Washing my hair in the morning was very cold and surprisingly refreshing. I can't believe how many people thought I'd have trouble getting ready in a tent – I mean, why on God's earth would I take my suit into the tent. I dressed in the car park of course. The weather proved to be better than anticipated, in so much as showers were forecast but seemed to miss us. The rain on Friday daytime had been very heavy but the campsite showed no evidence of it at all, thankfully.

ColdWash

Shropshire Camping

Ste and Tony were staying in a Holiday Inn east of Shrewsbury, quite close to Atcham and they headed to the Mermaid (which handily is adjacent to the church, St. Eata) and I met them there for one pint in the sun before going to the church. The bride looked stunning in her dress and the bridesmaids weren't put in the shade either. All the boys in their tails looked very different from the week before in Bishop's Castle. Some of them scrubbed up surprisingly well. And of course there is always someone in a kilt – I'm half Scottish so I just wear tartan underwear for the occasion. Or do I?

The service was lovely – although the digs at the scousers by the local vicar felt a little uncomfortable (to paraphrase 'put something on the plate, don't take the money off it' – I ask ya!), but overall he was fun and largely a hit. The Lee's had kidnapped their own priest to come and do a cameo, which was nice (and he didn't have a go at the locals in retaliation). After a bit of miming to hymns I didn't know, with occasional bursts of words coming forth by accident, and then the vows getting done without incident (no mobile phones went off at all) I managed to get a shot of the couple after signing the book, then it was time for throwing some confetti and taking some photos before heading up to the house for the reception. It was a bit disorganised about how people who weren't driving were to get up there (the ushers need some retraining), so myself and the other two amigos headed up on foot. Thankfully Chris and Sue were driving past and picked us up.

The Ladies

vows

signing

confetti

I won't talk about the house – I'm sure it's not the done thing – but boy, what a house and grounds (end of). The reception was in a massive marquee (I think there were 128 guests) and on arrival we were attended in the grounds by a myriad of lovely ladies and gents who plied us with champagne and canapés. It's hard to pick a favourite canapé - the monkfish was nice, the cheese and asparagus thing was beautiful, the mini-beef and Yorkshire puds were lovely and the wee Scotch Eggs (quail, I assume) were spot on. Meanwhile the harpist was playing cool pop songs, but acoustically the harp isn't really made for outdoors gigs. It was then an hour or two of canapés, champagne, ales and chatting to friends from Bishop's Castle and friends we hadn't met yet and all that malarky. The Higham's had laid on a couple of casks of local ales from Salopian: 'Oracle' and 'Darwin's Origin'. The Higham's, with the Lee's, basically put on a perfect event.

Three Amigos

Harpist

Ales

RachelChampers

The speeches were great from the three boys – all funny, with no meanness. Then the meal was spot on - no starter - just main course, a venison Wellington, with second servings ('Want some more?' 'Er, go 'ed.') and a dessert of Eton Mess. Tony liked that so much he decided to eat Sue's. I rescued his and did a swap. Oh my, I almost forgot the wedding cake. CHEESE, CHEESE, CHEESE and some pork pie. Did I mention the cheese? The blue cheese from the Lakes (not Shropshire Blue, surprisingly) was lush. Let's say that again… they laid on real ale and cheese. If I should ever meet the right person and one thing leads to another, it will be ending in ale and cheese too.

cheese

Marquee

Then that was almost it bar the shouting, avoidance of dancing (apart from 'Sweet Caroline') and lots of good natured chats and banter. The three piece band were excellent. Oh, and there was the small matter of a mahoosive fireworks display before getting the minibus back to the Mermaid and a happy stagger back to the tent.

In summary: Congrats to Rachel and Patrick Higham. It was a truly wonderful wedding. Did I mention the cheese?


That's enough for now, I'll do a small follow up blog about Sunday and the pub crawl in Shrewsbury.
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Camping Weekends: Part 2

Of to Atcham today for a wedding tomorrow. Camping at a National Trust site beside Attingham Park, less than a mile from the church - St Eata - where the wedding will be; and handy for the one pub in the village (the Mermaid) where some of the friends and family of the bride will be staying; so all in all a handy location.

Weather poorer than last week with rain a lot of today and showers tomorrow. Ho hum. I've remembered to buy a gas lighter for my Triangia stove - just need to get hold of some more meths today.

May go and see the Roman ruins at Wroxter on Monday, or even tomorrow morning before the wedding? And a Shrewsbury pub crawl on Sunday if I'm up to it. A busy weekend all in all.

Van packed. Just need to get through a day's work first.

See yous later…
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Another Fab Bishop's Castle

The weekend brought my first camping trip of the year at the lovely Foxholes campsite in Bishop's Castle. As I said in the previous blog, it was my ninth Real Ale Trail here in succession - and I think sixth time camping.

Tent Up
Tent up: celebratory pint

Most of the gang got there well before me, setting up early afternoon, but I put in a day at work and travelled down straight after finishing. Got down there about seven and put up my (new) tent and, after the traditional celebratory bottle of beer (you can't drink a bottle until your tent is up, but you MUST have one after doing so), I headed down to the Vaults to catch up with everyone. Some were more well oiled than others, but it was not a night I needed to play catch up - the festival is officiallly the following day.

There were plenty of Bishop's Castle newbies (and young ones), as one of the Shropshire Lads was taking the opportunity to use the event as his stag do. There were many members of his old cricket club from Shrewsbury - I reckon a few of them will be back next year. Patrick (the stag) did sterling work keeping hold of his teddy AND his faculties over the two days and nights.

Had a few in the Vaults, listening to the music and enjoying the mood of the peeps, then popped down the hill to the Six Bells for a couple and some more live music. After that it was time to walk up the hill back to Foxholes, thankful that I'd remembered to bring my headlamp for the walk through the field of oats (which is split by part of the Shropshire Way).

In the evening there was a fire, which went into the early hours, where I brought out two things for such a moment - a bottle of Bowmore Islay Malt and a guitar. Ste and Tone had already gone bye-byes and Ste was providing his own background music, much to the amusement of the campers who hadn't witnessed such a noise before.

All in all a long and excellent evening.

3Tuns
The start, in the Three Tuns

In the morning the grass was damp from some light overnight rain - it was time a bacon and egg barm (the campsite brought in hot food last year - they must coin it in, but it is worth it). Before too long it was time to head on down to the Three Tuns, which is the traditional start of the crawl/trail. We always take it in order from there to The Castle, then down the hill via The Vaults, Kings Head and the Six Bells. This year the Boar's Head was staying out of it for the landlord's own spurious reasons and actually closed on the Saturday (an odd business decision, but hey). There was also a small addition, in the form of Mr Whittingham's Gin Emporium, which had three local casks on.

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Group shot in the Castle garden

It proved a dry day, often cloudy, but when the sun came out it was very warm and required some slapping on of sun lotion. There was music everywhere and it was a fab and (largely) uneventful day (I won't mention burning of stag-do hats or pants…). The Castle had a nice new stage in their garden and the beer was in a different place to accommodate the new layout. Apparently there is some concern from a planning perspective with it being in the area of some archaeological interest (overheard, I can't be sure - I'm no journalist), notwithstanding this it was substantial and looked good for its purpose.

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Sun is out in the garden of the Castle

There were free bottles of water spread around the town, which was provided free to the festival by Montgomery Water. This was requested by the police during the meetings for approvals of the festival. It certainly seems a very good idea - especially how hot it often is when this festival is on. It must have helped as everyone lasted the day pretty much in tact (barring the burnt clothing) and much fun was had. Another one to add to the memory banks.

Oh, and I stayed for an additional day. Everyone got off by eleven and I wandered down to the Bish to see where I could watch the cricket World Cup Final. Turned out the the Three Tuns was shut. I didn't fancy the Castle for the match or the Vaults, really, so I headed down to the Six Bells. The pub didn't open until noon. I sat on the bench by the church and downloaded the Channel4 App and watched the match there until 12:20 before heading into the pub. They had no telly. But they had ale, and I got myself a pint of something local, light and pale: it was also £3.30 instead of £4 per pint, which was the blanket price the day before across the festival. I found a corner and set up my phone to watch the match in the company of the two dogs, who's space I was evidently invading. The pub was very quite, with the landlady basically moving the plastic glasses out and bringing back the glass ones. I was, happily, informed that the cask ales out the back were being sold off for £1 a pint to get rid of them. I was very happy to help.

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Clearing the Six Bells. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it

I commandeered the corner for the game, and reported the incredible game progress regularly to the landlord, regulars and other customers, whilst continuing to 'help' the pub in the slow clearance of liquids. In the end I was in the same pub from 12:20pm until 7:30pm. Pretty much a full working day. Went back to the campsite via a pint each in the Vaults and the Three Tuns (where there was a relaxed Celtic session on). No whisky or more beer was drunk (there was a little guitar).

And bloody hell, that cricket match was one of the best sporting events I have ever watched. Brilliant stuff.
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Camping at Bishop's Castle (Again)

This weekend it is my now annual pilgrimage to Bishop's Castle, in Shropshire, for the Real Ale Trail Festival. I think it's my ninth in a row as ten years ago I was at T in the Park, in Balado, this weekend in 2009 watching bands including; Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol, Blur, The Killers, Regina Spektor, Mogwai and Squeeze (incidentally, looking at the band list I note that Mumford & Sons were playing in the King Tuts (first on, on the Saturday) though I didn't see them).

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Once I stopped going to T in the Park with my music festival buddies (after 2009) I began to go to Bishop's Castle Beer Festival with my ale drinking buddies instead. So basically this weekend has been a big one for fifteen years or so, albeit with very different festivals. Both involve camping though and I very much enjoy it. Every time I do it I wonder why I don't do it more. It will be my first camping trip of the year and will be swiftly followed by camping the following weekend where I am camping for a wedding! I dare say there won't be too many people leaving their tents suited and booted (although I believe there will be at least one more doing the same).

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Last year at the festival it coincided with England doing rather well in the World Cup. There was a lot of sunshine, lovely booze, boss people and all round good vibes (these peeps in the photo are all looking suitably in the pink). Incidentally, Rachel in the front there, behind her dad on the right, is the lovely lady getting married next week - and the groom is lurking there on the left too.

It's nice to get a new Eurohike tent for this year - even if it is the same design as I used to use. It served me very well (including back in T in the Park).

Roll on a couple of weekends of fun camping, lovely beers, decent bands (largely in the Vaults), and good people & times.
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Steeling Myself

Going on my second Wirral ale trip tomorrow. Back to the great Yorkshire beer city - Sheffield. Looking forward to it. Know my way around the city's boozers pretty well by now.

Yesterday I played at the Open Mic in the Sanctuary once more. I was back in a checked-shirt (green). As well as being back in a proper garb, we were also back were we were supposed to be upstairs with a microphone and PA. Huzzah! We were down one Bobo though, who was home with Delhi Belly or some such. Shame. Hope the evening's rest did him good.

I was first on (always good for me, as following Dave Jones is a killer!). Played six songs, including an encore (well the next guy had gone for a smoke) and got asked for a request ('Couldn't Get Arrested'), which I played. A request… that's a first!

Yesterday's set;

  • Sweet Carolina (Ryan Adams)
  • Somewhere Down The Road (Chuck Prophet)
  • Take Me Down to The Infirmary (Cracker)
  • Whiskey in My Whiskey (Felice Brothers)
  • Save It For A Rainy Day (Jayhawks)
  • Couldn't Get Arrested (Green on Red)

Couple more newbies turned up later on, who were both great.

Si supplied some nice beer including a new local one from Tyton Brewery and the famous Beartown 'Creme Bearlee'.

A good evening, as ever.
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Buxton Beers

Had a very enjoyable trip to Buxton on Saturday, on a real ale trip arranged by the Wirral branch of CAMRA. Visited some lovely pubs and had a few great pints — including my beloved 'Jaipur', and another Thornbridge 'Crackendale' and some great Redwillow 'Faithless 108' (in the Redwillow Tap, surprisingly).

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Cheshire Cheese

Buxton is an attractive town, quite similar in appearance to Harrogate — which I guess shouldn't be surprising given the location and age of the towns (and of course the similar geology). It's not a big walk around the town centre, but there are plenty of nice pub and bar options. I went to eight pubs.

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Thornbridge 'Jaipur'

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Redwillow 'Faithless 108'

If you're considering visiting the town I can thoroughly recommend it.

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Thornbridge 'Crackendale'

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Redwillow Tap
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Open Mic & a Return to Ale Trips

It was Open Mic again yesterday in the Sanctuary and once again I made an appearance. We were shifted downstairs, as upstairs was occupied for some Light Night shenanigans, and just being in a different room makes it feel like a different 'gig'. In another effort to make it different I was not wearing a checked shirt for the first time here. In a shocking turn up I had one my 2012 Frank Turner Wembley T-Shirt.

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Ollie was there again, so I made it up for my songs second again.

I ended up doing five songs:

  • Somewhere Down the Road
  • Heart Breaks Like the Dawn
  • Whiskey in My Whiskey
  • Down By the Water
  • The Flushing Song

The first two by Chuck Prophet, the third by Felice Brothers and the fourth by Decemberists… and the fifth… yep, that was the one I wrote last week. So I've performed a self penned song for the first time in over two decades (the last one was a similarly daft ditty: 'Stood Up, Deffed Out and Desperate' which I don't remember all the words or the chords for. It was a Saw Doctors style pastiche with some interesting lyrics). Anyway, The Flushing Song went down pretty well, and I was glad I gave it a go.

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Afterwards one of the regular attendees commented that she was becoming familiar with my songs, after not knowing them previously, and that she enjoyed them. That was nice to hear. My next task, other than practicing the damn guitar, is to try and write a song that's not just tongue in cheek. Then again a few Loudon Wainwright III style songs wouldn't be a bad destination either.

Onwards and upwards.

In other news, tomorrow I am going on my first CAMRA real ale trip for many months. I used to go on every Liverpool branch CAMRA coach trip, which are undertaken on a roughly monthly basis, but have stopped going as a stand against their move to booking through Eventbrite. That decision was frustrating as it disenfranchised so many of the regular trip goers - who maybe didn't want to start paying for things online (put it this way, I am part of the younger demographic on the trips). So tomorrow I am going on a trip to Buxton with the Wirral branch, who in any case pick up at the same place as the Liverpool branch (only difference is that it's 15 minutes earlier).

Looking forward to the trip. Buxton is a nice place and, as it happens, one of my favourite beers I've had this week was Buxton Brewery's SPA on cask in the Grapes.

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Of Mics and Men

Open Mic at the Sanctuary last night actually had a mic and multiple guitars. Huzzah! There were multiple singers as well as poetry and short story readings. Excellent, as ever. Not sure why but all the open mic'ers are men. Come on ladies, bring your plectrums.

I didn't play Shed a Tear, which I was working on this week, in the end I went for my current favourites:

  • You Couldn't Get Arrested
  • Somewhere Down the Road
  • Sweet Carolina, and
  • Heart Breaks Like the Dawn

I sing most each song with my eyes closed. Don't know why or how I stop that - or even whether I should. That said a brief video has emerged on Instagram showing that maybe they're not quite as closed as I thought they were... click on the photo.

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Couple of mates turned up, including one who doesn't have a musical bone. Not sure he'll be back often unless it's just for the beer (didn't like the stories or poetry either). It takes all sorts to make a world.

I was made 'spare' on Friday so at least it meant I could have a couple of drinks. Unfortunately there weren't extended drinks in the bar so had to settle for one in the Fall Well (Wetherspoon) here I had a lovely Peerless Oatmeal Stout whilst I waited for the bus (not even the last bus).

Plans re the guitar playing include in order: work on strumming patterns; write some songs! Then maybe get into scales and riffs. Strumming and songs very much first though.

In other news I have a beta reader of my first six chapters of the 'book' I wrote for NaNoWriMo in November and it's getting to the point where I should get on with writing the rest of it. I reckon it should be another 30-40k words. If I did 50k in one month then I should be able to do that in a month too should I? It's all about motivation and getting in the groove again with it. Having not touched it since getting to the 50k at the end of NaNo I need to finish reading where I'm up to and get writing.

I'll give myself six weeks (I have the guitar to work with too - which I wasn't playing until the second part of November). So watch this space. Could I finish my first whole book?
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Over All Too Quickly

This weekend was hot hot hot in on the Welsh borders of Shropshire but being in Bishop's Castle it at least meant there was plenty of liquid options to keep hydrated and cool with. This year rather than just the three usual suspects camping (Toe, Ste and yours truly) we were accompanied by double figures of top ladies and gentlemen from Liverpool and beyond. Pop-up tents filled the Foxholes campsite almost as much as the snoring.

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The festival actually seemed a little quieter than usual. Not sure if that is with people staying at home and having home made BBQs and wee festivals while the World Cup was on. The England match was shown in a couple of pubs and we watched from the car park of the Castle Hotel. It was a cauldron in Samara and seemed at least as hot in the tarmac bowl. The result made it worth while.

Saw several good bands in the Castle Hotel and The Vaults over the two days. Hats of to them for their work in the heat.

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Saturday evening inevitably ended up with regular renditions of Vindaloo and Three Lions between the bands playing in the Vaults. Top night.

The weather, the music, the company and even the England match all made it a top weekend. The beer wasn't bad either. Not sure whether it was the footy in the middle of the day or the size of the group we were with but boy the weekend absolutely flew by. See you again, Bishop's Castle. You always deliver.

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Have put a selection of photos up from this weekend in an album on Flickr.

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Bishop's Castle (Again) 2018

It's Bishop's Castle Beer Festival this weekend. I've lost count of how many times I've been now, but I'm of there again camping on Friday and Saturday at the fab Foxholes campsite. There's a shed loads of us going this year from Liverpool. Well, well into double figures anyway. It's always a cracking day (or two if you go camping) and usually the weather is wall to wall sunshine. Of course with the way the weather has been in the last few weeks this won't be different this year.

There's always loads on at all the pubs and a great atmosphere (my fave is the Vaults for the live music). As well as plenty of lovely beers there will be great food and loads of bands on. What's not to like?!

This year this is happening at the same time as the World Cup Quarter Finals. Not sure how easy it will be to find anywhere to watch the England match on Saturday afternoon. But shouldn't have a problem finding room to watch the Brazil v Belgium match on Friday night I expect.

Need a decent weekend. So roll on Bishop's Castle.

Lots of photos next week I predict and a wee blog.
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It's The Caledonia Americana Fest

Caught half the set last night from the always excellent Nick Ellis in the Caledonia. There was a good appreciative audience in there and it is nice set up for the upcoming music festival.

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It's good to see the return to the Cali of their Americana Fest, which this year runs from Monday 31st July until 13th August. There is no pub better in Liverpool to see (always FREE) great quality music. Always a good bunch of people in there and they sell real ale there too (other drinks are apparently available too). So what's stopping you?

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The schedule (9pm start unless specified):

Monday 31st - Hannah Aldridge + Louisiana
Tuesday 1st - Donkey Hokey
Wednesday 2nd - Cajun Session
Thursday 3rd - Speakeasy Bootleg Jazz Band
Friday 4th - Blind Monk Trio
Saturday 5th - Dirty Cello
Sunday 6th - Martin Smith Quartet (4-7pm)
Sunday 6th - The Desperate Measures (9pm)
Monday 7th - The Big Easy
Tuesday 8th - Yellow Belly Stragglers + Swampcandy
Wednesday 9th - Howlin' Ric & the Rocketeers
Thursday 10th - Rosenblume + The Whisky Situation
Friday 11th - Marley Changes
Saturday 12th - Amanda Brown & the Common Ears
Sunday 13th - Loose Moose String Band (8.30pm)

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Keep up to date on the Caledonia website.
Follow @thecaledonia
Tweet #calamfest


www.thecaledonialiverpool.com

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Another Year Another Bishop's Castle

2017 at Bishop's Castle for their Ale Trail weekend and it was another cracker. The forecast two days of grey proved wrong, with just a smidge of rain on Friday evening and some very hot sunshine for much of Saturday. Dehydration was a risk despite the ale on offer.

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In case you aren't aware of the place it is in Shropshire on the Welsh borders near Montgomery. For the last 21 years they've had this real ale trail where most the pubs in the village get involved and put on extra beers, food and entertainment. It is thoroughly recommended. I think I've been nine times now. Our local branch of CAMRA (Liverpool) until recently had the trip as the first one penned in every year and has even run two coaches on occasion due to the high demand. But for the last couple of years they haven't run the trip. I think people have been Bishop Castled out. It's a shame it's gone but having it as an annual trip probably was over the top with all the other options out there. Not that it matters if I can camp there and make a couple of days of it anyway.

Three of us went this year. It was almost four, but let's not go there. And thanks to Tony getting in early and booking it we got our place in the always excellent (and always full for the weekend) Foxholes campsite. The site is fab and at £8 a night including showers etc is a bargain. It is just a short walk downhill across a field (along the Shropshire Way) into the village. Usually the field is full of barley or wheat but this year was a desert so there were no people shaped holes in the barley this year where people inevitably fall off the path on the way back to the campsite after a few beverages and realise they've forgotten to bring a torch.

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About five years ago, when the Liverpool branch took two coaches of thirsty Scousers to the village, there was an issue at the festival. Nothing to do with them though. Two coaches of Brummies arrived who were supposed to be attending a music festival that weekend arrived after that festival was cancelled. In their wisdom with the coaches booked they'd found the nearby 'Bishop's Castle festival' and put two and two together and come up with a triangle. Needless to say when they turned up mid afternoon and found the village full of CAMRA types enjoying ale and music from covers bands it was not what the youngsters wanted. And after they'd drunk what they could of bottled and canned lagers on the street they started fighting amongst themselves. A few cars were apparently damaged in the fracas which was kicking off as the Liverpool branch coaches left.

Of course local journalists being what they are (lazy stereotypes are always right aren't they?) well when they heard there was trouble at the festival and there was coach loads of Liverpudlians there then it was surely obvious who the troublemakers were. And the 'journalist' actually called up the branch for comments about it. Sigh.

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The following year the festival was altered for good thanks to this and we could no longer drink from glass, but have to use plastic glasses. Booo! Still, they are pretty good glasses. And have been very handy to take to End of the Road and Glastonbury festivals ever since. The plastic glasses have remained a fixture as part of the permissioning to hold the festival. Ho hum.

Friday this year was the usual three pub effort. A pint in the Three Tuns. A pint in the Castle Hotel and then down to the Vaults for the rest of the evening where they always have a good band and good vibe. No change this year.

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After a night ending kebab it was back to Foxholes. A relatively incident free night ,bar some 'sexy dancing' by someone who will remain nameless.

Waking up at 4am I was lucky enough to see a beautiful sky developing and it heralded the lovely day ahead.

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Saturday was perfect. Bacon butty. Real ale. Sunshine. Bands. Sausages. Real ale. Music. Real ale. In addition to the three pubs from Friday (which we did again of course) we went to the Boar's Head and the Six Bells (the King's Head was understaffed and beer choice underwhelming so we walked in and walked out). In addition there were beers available in the Town Hall which made a nice change - and gave us a fab view down into the village (pic at top of page). Ste was suffering a bit at this stage from the heat but soon seemed to improve thankfully (going back to red faced from red faced via a very pale grey one).

Sunday, and I was met with a snapped tent pole. I have been totally underwhelmed by the quality of this tent (it's a Gelert Chinook 2-man). My last tent (a Euro Hike) survived ten years of festivals (multiple Ts, Vs, EOTRs, Glastonburys and Bishop Castles) and was easy to put up, this one is not as easy to put and to add insult to injury (fibre glass through fingers) has survived - just - three years and three festivals. Bloody awful.

Never mind. It didn't really spoil the weekend. I never got to like it so retiring the tent will not be painful to me.

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All in all a top couple of days with Tony, Ste and me. Smile!

Bishops Castle Flickr

A selection of photos have been uploaded on to Flickr (click on image above).


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Bishop's Castle Real Ale Trail

Yeah! Off to Bishop's Castle in a couple of hours for their annual real ale festival. I'm not sure how many times I've been now, but guess this will be my eighth or ninth time. It's my fourth time camping there too so I get to enjoy a relaxed Friday as well as the Saturday. Always enjoy a cool pint in the Three Tuns before the most of the evening in the Vaults for their music (and last year... mucho Jaipur!)

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It's usually sunny or at least dry and it's lovely that all (or nearly all) the pubs in the village get involved. Live music, great food options, interesting people, pretty village and lots and lots of real ale choices. What's not to like?

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Some good stories from previous trips, usually painless. The most eventful year involved the hottest day for years several years ago and walking back to our campsite through a
midnight car rally stage - scary! Perhaps that story will make it into one of my Memoirs pieces... I'm over due a new one.

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Even managed to get some writing in first with a quick Microcosms this morning... now where's my tent?


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Day Twenty Six: Na No Yes Yes

Day Twenty Six and it's my one day off for the week. The only days I haven't written at all on have been two days I had off work. Today though, so close to the end, I intended to lay down some words and I have done so I'm that bit closer to the finish now.

It was Chapter 9, the last of my cunning plan chapters, which took me to Birkdale Golf Course and a bit of hiding in the woods with a homemade lethal weapon, I've all but finished the chapter now. Will complete it quite quickly tomorrow (after work) and then start either the last chapter or go back to the problem Chapter 6. It'll probably be as well to carry on to the last chapter and then go back and fill in Chapter 6 at the end, as I've got momentum and direction which can run on into the last one.

With the chapters averaging at around 4-5000 words then even if I do shorten them it will take me over the 50,000 words aim somewhat, which is fine. I just need to make the writing time fits with the time available: 4 days left after today.

Because of the chapters I have to finish I may not actually finish the novel until the last day, although I should hit 5000 a day or two before that.

Anyway, to any of you guys doing this; good luck!

I've found the experience interesting and seeing how quickly (just) writing 1667 words a day mounts up its great. Clearly some times it's about momentum but you should never get down about missing days either. We all need to have breaks, reset and recalibrate. After writing so many stories between 100 and 500 words this has been eye opening. And I know now I can do it. Again - so, thanks NaNoWriMo!

Now I'm off to reward myself at Beer Street, a beer festival at the wonderful Tap & Bottles in sunny Southport.


Today's WC: 2132
Total WC: 46,192
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Day Twenty Five: A Silver Celebration

Day Twenty Five was a working day of course. I was delivering parcels in Deganwy again on a beautiful sunny day. It truly was lovely. Cold though, but let's face it, it is towards the end of November so put on another layer and get over it.

I was working on the first half of Chapter 9 - 110% for the Gaffer and got down 1868 words, which again was spot on. Anything between 1500 and 2500 words I'm happy with now. And that leaves me with just 6000 words to go. Four days of 1500/day or three of 2000: Absolutely Fabulous!

Then it was down town for a pint in the Fly, Hard Times & Misery and the Dispensary. A good Friday. Though it did become a black one too.


CHEERS!


Today's WC: 1868
Total WC: 44,060
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Day Twenty Four: Hours from Deganwy

Day Twenty Four was another working one, and one with not a bad day at work. Got back okay to do some writing mid afternoon, which was good 'cos I wanted to meet me da for a pint or two. Huzzah!

After four successive days writing more than 2000 words a day the pressure was off a little, but I needed to finish off Chapter 8, if I could. And I did.

I've now got three chapters to go until I finish - Chapters: 9, 10 and yep, 6. With six days left that's two days per chapter, which is certainly doable. Thankfully I think the last chapter will be shorter - we'll see - so should fit okay.

Today my suspect Google searches were largely confined to 'ketamine' and 'roofies' - such larks!

Ended up completing Chapter 8 with 1877 words this afternoon and in the process creating mayhem in the straight at Cheltenham racecourse.

Racing 300


Today's WC: 1877
Total WC: 42,192

241116 NaNo
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