Wednesday 3 August 2022



The Four Poppiesmen

Here we are Josiah, middle a winter, coldest winter ever and still no players, fifty quid to get into a ramshackle dump, watching 4 snails, 3 tortoises, a cupla sloth, tectonic Ted the terrapin wearing the No9 shell up frunt, una parrot in goal. Pitch is like the Gobi desert, more hillocks than the Himalayas. Prawgramme scrawled on a single bit uv Izal bog paper, shiny side unawl. No chips, burgers like inside a worn-out shoe leather, drinking gnat’s piss outta toilet brush holder, only 4 super loyal Poppies supporters and we take it in turns to dig hole each week for the cesspit.

Yis, just the 4 on us.

Weren’t like this fordy years agoo, weren’t.

Nothing like it Seth, ent that lung back when we used tev a team be Halloween, proper players unawl, well some were a bit duff. Only a tenner ta geddin. 12-page prawgramme, crinkle cut chips in a cardboard cone, tea in a plastic cup, and we adda replica shirt, wrung size mind.

Thad ent oat, when we were squirts, we adda team be start a season, 30 odd players. luuuvlee, lush green pitch, uva a thousund watching, a fiver ta geddin. In the play orffs every coupla seasons, reached the first round uther cup most seasons. We ad tea in a mug, pasties and pies frum the Poppies Canteen. Shiny stainless steel community urinal, with targets, you couldn’t stand too close cus uv splash back, sheer luxury.

That’s buggrall, when I werra nipper, air ole man told us, we had a team before the end uv the season before, pitch like crown green bowls, tea outta gold rimmed bone china cup. They used to pay us ta geddin. Ground wuz like a palace, cumfy reclining seats with armrest. 15 course meal before kick orff. Free beer, massage to boot. Bidet next to the toilet. Leather bound; gilt edged 640 page prawgramme, printed on the finest vellum. This dandy fella, used to come up from Savile Row every year, to measure us up furra shirt, silk shirt unawl, hand delivered next morning. Won the FA cup every year, won the league before Christmas, be 50 points. Ten thousund watched every game, gates were locked a week before the match.

Those were the days Ezekiel, tell the young’uns that and they won’t believe us.

Think they know it all, know sod all.

Yer right there Obadiah.

Saturday 9 May 2020


 It seems like a lifetime has passed, another world, a different time. 11 years ago, this weekend we held the first ever Poppies Beer Festival, 7th – 10th May 2009. The Tinhat would be heaving, live bands, marquees outside, 3 double rows of barrels, 41 different ales, 3  lagers and 2 ciders across the 3 bars. Food was being served by the Poppies Pantry, hundreds of people sitting everywhere. Live bands every night with 4 on Saturday. It was a new venture, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but what the hell. Sadly we had just recently lost Poppies stalwart Bernard Bennett, Bernard would have loved a beer festival on his own patch, sadly..  The ales were £2.20 a pint, the total bar take that weekend was just over £6,200. Cleary, we like a drink. Phipps brewery had just started brewing again, albeit at the Grainstore brewery in Oakham, and we were the first place in Kettering to sell both Phipp’s IPA and NBC Red Star, we even had a Phipps banner in the bar. The beer list consisted of the following, we even got lager in for Dazza, he didn’t like the warm gnat’s piss.



We had 3 bars, the main bar, another along the same wall as the main bar up to the double fire doors. Then a L shaped bar from the other side of the fire doors, turned right and along the wall that looked out onto the pitch.

Through the double fire doors was the large marquee 12m x 6 m, full of bench tables. Up the steps to the raised area by the canteen were more bench tables and parasols.

Nearby were the toilets and further along was Poppies Pantry, serving all sorts of beer festival snaffle.

The entertainment wasn’t bad, naturally Dr Busker was on the schedule, as were regulars the Seven Sinners, most of the band were Poppies supporters, Mo still come along to Latimer Park.

It was a good beer festival, we all got very, very drunk indeed. The first of many, back then we had 2 beer festivals a year, with the second always around Halloween. We’ve had a festival every year since, finger crossed we’ll get one this year.
Up the Poppies

Tuesday 2 April 2019


Today we take the second longest trip of the season to the nuclear green glowing Sizewell FC, just a couple of miles from the east coast. Deep inside Adnams country, bound to get a couple of those down our necks today. It’s our third trip to Suffolk this season and so far it’s 2 wins from 2 visits, hopefully 3 from 3.
An early start, 8:15am from Casa del Fuggles, the weather was bright but a bit nippy in the air. Bill Withers is wailing on the PRATSmobile car radio ‘luvlee day, luvlee day, luvlee day’ and so on, was this an omen.
Citra, was already sitting in the back of the car with a tiny silk man bag clutched firmly under his arm. “What’s in the man bag Citra?” Fuggles hollered. Citra had a supercilious grin across his face and replied “you know the analgeestring the doctor prescribed, well I ordered a spare”. Citra continued, “unfortunately, they sent the wrong size, they sent a 6XL”. Citra explained that he tried it on for size but it was far too big and just fell around his ankles. So, in a moment of inspiration, he pulled the elasticated sides up over his shoulders, and ‘Voila’ a mankini.  Citra did say it was quite ‘eye wateringly’ uncomfortable, before he realised, he had it on backwards, it was the plum tomatoes at the front that gave it away. Citra proclaimed “I plan to strut my funky stuff up and down Leiston High St, my mankini will definitely show my size well”.
We made our way to Pharpsville, otherwise known as Rushden, a town of much effluence. A few locals were staggering down the main street, arms outstretched in front. The sunken central eye all glazed over, the single toothed, drooling, bottom jaw was dangling to one side just above their barrel chests. Parker sounded the horn, one of them swung round and gave us a ‘W’ sign and immediately walked straight into a lamp post. He was clearly annoyed has he gave the lamp post a Glasgow kiss and collapsed onto the pavement.
Parker was in a chipper mood, looks as though he had something to say. “Tell me Citra, do you have the radiant skin tone to carry off the mankini?” Parker asked in a sarcastic tone. Citra gruffed in retort, “I’ll have you know I’ve just undertaken a Frangipani Monoi Salt Glow”. There was a very loud silence in the PRATSmobile. Eventually Citra continued. “If you don’t know what that is, it’s a rather exotic, full body exfoliation ritual using ‘mineral rich salts’ and hibiscus cleanse and exfoliate. To seal in the moisture, they use an infusion of exotic Tahitian Monoi oil and Frangipani flowers. My skin is now delicately fragranced and positively glowing, So in answer to your rather rude question. YES!” Citra folded his arms in a frumpish ‘mardy’ manner and looked out of the window. We were almost at Pharp’s abode when, eventually Citra snapped out of his strop and started telling us all about his new charity wristband, it was incredibly tight on his wrist. After a couple of days his hand was throbbing, by the end of the week his hand was all black and blue and wrinkled. Citra went to the Doctors, the Doctor said “don’t worry, you’ll be able to shake it off in a couple of days”.
We arrived at Pharp’s around 8:40am, Bill Withers was still wailing “luvlee day, luvlee day, luvlee day”. Now for the long trip eastbound, but not without a return to La hogue garden centre, just off the A14/A11 junction, for a hearty fry up, giant snorkers and all. Citra strode up to the cafĂ© counter and proclaimed, “I am somewhat esurient”, then he went into a rather camp northern accent and said “ooo, I’m all peckish like”, and ordered the big breakfast.
A group of cyclists arrived, usual format skinny legs, pot bellies and the padding in the pants that looks like they’d taken a dump whilst in the saddle. Citra, said, “that’s a clever idea, that one has a map of the motorways tattooed on his legs”. Parker explained, “they are varicose viens, you’re a daft sod, Citra”. Duly fed, we made our way to Leiston. Yes, Bill was still wailing, “luvlee day” and so on.
We arrived at the Engineers Arms just before midday, just a 5-minute wait before the doors opened. 3 hand pumps, Adnams Southwold, Adnams Ghost Ship and Greenjack Trawlerboys. Citra, Fuggles and Pharp all went for Trawlerboys. Very nice, as always, a good premium ale coming in at 4.6%. copper coloured and full bodied. The ale was in very good condition, perfectly clear with the head clinging on to the glass. Just like you tell the age of trees by counting the rings, you could count how many swigs we’d taken to sink this fine ale. Good job we can count to two. Time for another, this time Citra and Fuggles went for a Ghost ship, Pharp stayed on Trawlerboys. Ghost ship is another premium ale at 4.5%, pale and quite citrussy, very pleasant and easy to drink, once again in good condition. Several Poppies supporters started to drift into the Engineers, quite a few had arrived the night before, making a weekend of it. The club chaplain arrived, and promptly starting talking about his flock staring and his ring, with some kissing it. Needless to say, chortles echoed around the bar, with a chorus of “are you sure”? We had a few more ales, by the time we left the Engineers, around 40 Poppies supporters were supping the fine ales.
It was just a short drive to the ground, Bill was still wailing on the radio. A tidy set up, although I’m not sure if they had any turnstiles or just tables by the gate. Nevertheless, the facilities looked good, even an impromptu sprinkler system decided to pop up and rinse the players warming up on the pitch. The game, well it was a slog to be honest with chances few and far between. And, what is becoming almost the norm, an injury time winner sent the players, management team and travelling supporters into ecstasy. With the news that the Glassboys had shattered yet again, the Poppies were now 13 points clear at the top with just 5 games to go.
Back into the clubhouse for a beer before the journey home. Greene King’s London Glory, not to be sneezed at, if on the off chance you’ve been wandering across the Gobi Desert for 2 weeks without a bottle of domestos to quench your thirst. What an incredible waste of water, hops and barley. Time for home, “luvlee day, luvlee day, luvlee day” Yes, you’ve guessed it, how long is that bloody song?
After a couple of hours, we decided we needed a toilet break, lucky for us the George in Spaldwick had a suitable latrine. We don’t like to be rude so we had a pint whilst we were there. Fuggles and Pharp went for Timothy Taylors Landlord, Citra decided on another Adnams Ghost Ship. It there is citrus in the description, Citra will drink it. Parker had a London Pride. The pub was packed with diners, a pleasant village pub, the food looked ok, dressed with the obligatory foliage on the side of the plate. Just the one pint, we dropped Pharp off in Rushden, the local bloke was still giving the lamp post Glasgow kisses. Parker dropped Fuggles and Citra off at the Alexandra Arms, just a for a couple more. We both went for Newby Wyke’s Banquo, 3.8% very pale, bitter and citrussy. A session ale, quite refreshing and tasty, easy to quaff. Newby Wyke ales are always very good, won quite a few awards in their time. Just one more before calling it a day, this time the excellent Marston’s Old Empire IPA, 5.7%, a good night cap and a proper IPA. Pale, citrussy, bitter, fresh and crisp, with a delightful hoppy aroma. Very Nice. That was it, a luvlee day, 3 from 3 down in Suffolk, thanks to Bill that will be going on in our heads for a few days.

Wednesday 13 February 2019


Today we are off to Redditch, “Lucky you” I hear echoing across the land. Redditch reminds me of the story of a bloke who wears a pair of shoes 3 sizes too small, the only pleasure he gets in life is when he takes them off. As it is with Redditch, the only pleasure one gets from this town is when you leave it. The Poppies can count their recent victories at the Valley or the Psycho Stadium as it is affectionately named, on one finger, and that was in the FA Cup. We did beat them when they spent a bit of time in equally endearing town of Bedworth. If Redditch is the gateway to oblivion, Bedworth is the back door. Maybe the 4G pitch will give us a bit of an opportunity to amend the record book.
Once again, we are Pharp-less, today he is attending a wedding and tomorrow he is off skiing in Austria. Already the warning sirens of the Tyrolean Trembler are sounding, the Alpine Horn Society are in danger of being out-horned.
Parker arrived at Chez Fuggles around 11:00am, the wind was swirling around the cul de sac, maybe it was a day for the thermals. We went to pick up Citra, whom clearly had a veritable skip in his step as he approached the PRATSmobile. Questioning Citra on his somewhat jaunty saunter, he explained that the Doctor had sorted his very severe case of haemorrhoids, known in medical circles as ‘the grapes of wrath’. His Doctor had prescribed a powerful pain-killing Analgeestring, cutting edge apparently. He had also got his buttock boil sorted, he went to the very expensive private Lancelot clinic where it was duly poked with a very sharp implement. Citra was splashing out big time. Nevertheless, Citra was chirpy with his new-found sprightliness and at least has got to the bottom of his ailments. It was noticeable that Citra landed onto the back seat of the PRATSmobile with a firm thump, not the usual gingerly lowering himself down. The next pick up was our guest of the day, the Poppies very own media guru, pundit, programme editor, Rioja swigger, statistician and dinkie flasher, Cookie, marvellous.
It's was just over an hour’s drive to Studley, home of the Weatheroak brewery tap. We were able to park up right outside what looked like two small former shop’s, which had been converted into a bar, all very nice and cosy if somewhat chilly. The bar area and adjacent snug were about the size of a reasonably sized front room. Most of the cats in the street were swathed with bandages around their heads, clearly the locals had been trying to prove a point. So, to the ales, a great choice of their own ales plus a guest. Fuggles, Citra and Cookie went for Victoria Works, 4.3%, a lovely straw-coloured ale, quite hoppy and very refreshing. Loads of flavour, tasted very much like new world hops, with a zesty finish, Very nice. Parker went for a coffee. Time for another, so we had another Victoria Works. By now two Ellis’s and one Braines had arrived having been on a tour of 10 football grounds, all in a good cause for the Tinhat Fund Selfie competition. The Ellis's sat next to each other, clearly no Braines between them.Time for one more, Citra and Cookie stayed on Victoria Works, Fuggles went for Keystone Hops, a delightful 5.0% pale ale with loads of hops. One of Fuggles favourite ales.
Time to move on to the Psycho, not a popular place for most Poppies supporters, many will boycott today’s match as a result of previous encounters with the local Neanderthals. Or maybe it has more to do with our poor records here. The game, well, we put paid to our poor results of the past to bed with a resounding 4-1 victory with 4 well taken goals. Onwards and upwards, or maybe, stay where we are wards.
Time for the journey home, we decided not to stop off anywhere but instead went straight to the Alexandra Arms in god’s chosen town, dropping Cookie at home en route.  Citra and Fuggles went for Salopian brewery's Velocity, which at first glance at the ale board suggested it was 4.1%. However, on close inspection the list of ales on the board were out of alignment with the ABV% column. Counting upwards and downwards we finally determined that Velocity was in fact a whopping 5.2%, and very nice it was too. Far too nice and strong to be thrashing down our necks at the rate we were. Very citrussy, so as you can imagine Citra was in heaven. We can’t remember what Parker had, it was a golden ale, his first beer of the day. Time for another, Citra’s favourite brewery, slightly ahead of Salopian is Oakham. So, you can imagine the excitement when he spotted the JHB handpump. It went without saying that’s what he had next. I don’t know what Oakham use in their brewing process but their ales are always pristine clear with an inner glow. JHB, Jeffrey Hudson Bitter, ‘magnum in parvo’, a great man in a small. Also relates to the county of Rutland. Jeffery was a dwarf, but that didn’t stop him achieving great things. Just like his ale, not strong at 3.9% but a powerful hoppy flavour, winner of numerous national awards. Very pale ale, straw coloured, lovely. Fuggles settled for a Full Mash Apparition, 4.5% full bodied premium pale ale. Bags of flavour, preceded by good aromas. Very refreshing. Parker went for a half of Kettering’s Purple Cow Hoof-hearted. We had this at the Poppies Beer Festival 2018, very popular, one of the first to go. 3.9% pale ale loads of flavour. Parker committed sacrilege by pouring it into the remnants of his first pint. Air sucking throughout the bar was clearly evident, followed by tuts and mutterings of ‘sacrilege’ and head shaking. Parker was oblivious to his misdemeanour. Just one more beer before home, Fuggles went for the usual Summer Lightning, Citra stayed on JHB. Another good day out for the PRATS, 3 points in the bag, decent ales and another micro-brewery tap to add to the list. Sorted.

Monday 28 January 2019


The big day is here, we’re going to the town where most of the locals have jowls hanging down below their chins.
Think Droopy the bloodhound, it’s all the glass blowing that did it.
It was going to be a longish sort of day, not because we had a lot of travelling to do, but because we had quite a few brewery taps to take in, as well as a top of the league clash. Pharp was scooped up at 9:50am in Rushden. Pharp is a man of property in Rushden and on occasion visits his tenants. One time he was going around the house with his tenant, Simon Klopps, Si to his mates. He complimented Si on the wonderful gallery of his family ancestors that adorned the stairs. All of whom had done well in life and champions in their own field. However, Pharp was a little embarrassed when Si said it wasn’t the family ancestors but his prize-winning Jerusalem artichokes from the Rushden Horticultural annual show. Pharp was further embarrassed when he recalled previously commenting on the family likeness.  We were back in God’s chosen town to meet up with the PRATSmobile by 10:20am.
We arrived at the first hostelry at 11:45am. The Windsor Castle Lye, owned by Sadler’s Brewery. We were greeted by a long bar with about 10 handpumps all in a neat row. Where to start, Fuggles and Citra went for Peaky Blinders Pale Ale, 4.3% abv of lovely citrusy bitterness, very refreshing and didn’t last long. Pharp went for Peaky Blinder Black IPA, 4.4 abv, a dark richness, as Pharp would describe it ‘burnt stubble’ roasted flavour. The head clung to the glass for both ales and in very good condition. Parker settled for a coffee. There was a sign nailed to the wall, ‘THESE ARE THE GOOD OLD DAYS’ was this an omen? Time for another, Citra stayed with the PB pale ale, Fuggles went for half of Hop Bomb and half of Hop Hut, the latter is a very refreshing session pale ale at 3.6% abv. Once again citrussy easy drinking, probably a weaker version of the Peaky Blinder Pale Ale. The Hop Bomb 4.6% abv was a little sweeter, American Pale Ale, after the previous 2 ales it was difficult to pick up any real hoppy flavour, still it was refreshing. Time to move on to the next hostelry.
Just a couple of miles to Stourbridge town centre, we managed to get into Wilkos car park. Fuggles was out of the PRATSmobile like Insane Bolt springing forth from the blocks. Not unlike a gazelle he almost walked fast to the Duke William pub about 200 meters away, with Citra in hot pursuit. Gasping for a pint or was it oxygen, we entered the home of Craddock’s brewery. What a great pub the Duke William is, wish we could have one like it in Kettering. Unspoilt by time, full of locals, it was the dangling jowls that indicated the indigenous species.
Behind the bar was a tall bloke wearing a Glassboys shirt, within a few Nano-seconds we were trading insults, much to the delight of the punters hanging on to the bar. We asked the bar manager what was his preference, he said he always enjoyed a Crazy Sheep frolicking around his tonsils. We said “we can see that but what about the ales?” More chortling echoed around the bar. Jason, the bar manager pointed to his preference and he pulled one, then another. Fuggles and Citra had gone for a Crazy Sheep, 4.5% abv of pale zesty loveliness. Dangerously easy to thrash down your neck, in excellent condition with the head clinging tightly to the glass. Pharp said he fancied Stout Goat Herder down his throat, nice, but in the end went for a Lion’s Pride, a good premium amber ale 4.5% abv, bitterness with bags of maltiness. With Faggots and mash on the menu it was inevitable that Citra and Pharp would order a couple of platefuls. Time for more beer, Fuggles and Citra went for a Saxon Gold, 4.0% abv, another pale ale for a good session. Some sweetness early on with a good bitter finish. All very nice, the faggots arrived and much to the delight of Fuggles and Parker it wasn’t with mushy peas. Pharp had already unleashed a couple thunder pants, mushy peas would have only fuelled the combustion chamber. We were happy Pharp less so, he’s not a ‘petit pois’ sort of person. By now there were quite a few Poppies supporters in the main bar and the ‘snug’, putting a few shillings into the local economy. Time to move on to the ground. It was about a 10-minute drive around the one-way system then join the queue. There was going to be a big crowd, our reserved parking space had already been re-allocated when we arrived at 2:15pm. Nevertheless, we managed to get parked up inside the ground.
The clubhouse was already heaving, with both sets of supporters mingling together. The War Memorial ground is 3-sided, with the cricket pavilion across the far side. A large covered terrace behind one goal and covered seating down the side. On open end on the clubhouse side behind the goal. It was pouring with rain as the players came out. The early exchanges were always going to be cautious, nobody wanted to make a mistake. A goalless first half, saw the Poppies hit with injuries and forced into a couple of changes. The Glassboys scored first much to the delight of the thousand or so home fans, but last gasp drama swung the result into the Poppies favour with the travelling horde going quite berserk.  The sign in the Windsor Castle sprung to mind ‘THESE ARE THE GOOD OLD DAYS’. One thousand seven hundred and thirty-four people had crammed into the War Memorial ground to watch a very entertaining game of non-league footy. Even the neutrals would surely have enjoyed the 90 minutes of pure drama that unfolded before them.
Time to celebrate at another brewery tap, but not before firstly bumping into the Duke William’s landlord Jason, who invited us back for more excellent ale, but we gracefully declined and instead went to the Badelynge Bar home of Green Duck Brewery. The Badelynge is on an industrial estate, if it wasn’t for the sign sitting outside on the path, you’d miss it first time round. From the outside it’s not much to look at but once through the door we enter the Tardis, a medium sized warehouse cum factory unit.
A dozen or so long bench seats greet us with the brewery at the far end. Then just around the corner tucked away with people milling around was a very small bar. To the right of the bar was the lounge, with its own sign pointing the way towards a corner with duck wallpaper and a few sofas, all very posh. The lounge sign was no doubt ‘tongue in cheek’. There were around 40 or 50 punters enjoying the ales, so we thought we’d join in as well. Fuggles initially went for Duck Blonde, but on sipping Pharp’s or was it Citra’s, Fuggles changed his mind and settled for Duck and Cover. The Blonde 4.2% abv didn’t really taste of much, a bit wishy washy. However, the Duck and Cover was altogether a different cup of tea. Delightful bitterness, pale ale coming in at 4.0% abv. A very easy drinking session ale. Just time for one more before we left for another pub on the way home. This time Fuggles went for Falconers Flight an America Pale ale, 4.8% abv, full of lemony grapefruit zipping across the taste buds, wonderful. Time for out journey home, it seemed to take ages to back onto the M6, so much so that our planned visit to the Red Lion Thorny was abandoned, instead, Fuggles and Citra got dropped off at the Alex In Kettering. Parker and Pharp, the youngsters amongst this band of lushes couldn’t hack the pace. We both started off on Elliswood brewery’s Just One More, oh the irony, a lovely 4.2% abv golden/amber ale with a citrussy zap. The were several Poppies supporters already back from Stourbridge, all excited, all getting pissed, ‘THESE ARE THE GOOD OLD DAYS’. Fuggles and Citra had another pint of something but neither of them can remember what they were. However, Fuggles clearly remembers going home on a pint of Thornbridge Jaipur IPA 5.7% abv of wonderfulness. Probably one of the best ales around. Marvellous.
That was it, Mrs Fuggles has arrived time to go home. A little unsteady on the feet, but a great day out and a hangover in the morning. ‘THESE ARE THE GOOD OLD DAYS’.

Monday 22 October 2018


It’s FA cup day, 4th round qualifying away at Aldershot, will it be 3rd time lucky, will the Shots be firing blanks?
A nice day, pleasantly autumnal, woolly jumper weather along with the lucky boxer shorts and lucky socks. Make sure they’re on the correct feet, the blue sock with the hole goes on the left foot, the other sock, a black one, has to be inside out. It was around 9:30 when Parker arrived, Citra was gurgling on the back seat. Parker has just returned from his holiday, he’s been in Spain on the Costa Latte, strutting along the Playa Del Boy wearing nothing but his poppies red satin thong. He’s a regular strutter, apparently, he never lets a Diego by. Being of chalky complexion it didn’t take long before he turned bright red and blistered, this morning he looks like a roll of pink bubble wrap. Citra, is travelling today, although he’s got the lurgies. Citra says he has a permanent drip on the end of his nose, we didn’t ask which end. At least he hasn’t got one of those tickly irritating coughs, it’s quite clear he’s getting some purchase, by the sound of the reverberating rattle each time he splurts out another black death induced hack followed by a long lingering wheeze. Nothing an ale won’t sort out. Just before 10:00 we arrive at Pharp’s abode, we know this is where Pharp lives due to the pungent yellow haze lingering overhead, there is the occasional swirl of purple mingling with the yellow, looks nice. You don’t see many birds about. Looking up at the flock of Canada geese, you can clearly see a ‘sharply veering wobbly right turn’ in the flight path, before swinging back on course a few miles further on. The lead goose looked quite unwell, I suspect he inhaled the first billful before leading the rest of the flock on a safer course. He crashed into a couple of his chums, they look nervously frightened, goose bumps I guess. 
A decent drive down, punctuated by the obligatory hold ups on the M25, very reminiscent of two seasons in the league below. Egham, Godalming, Ashford (Middx), and all those clubs around these parts, makes one shudder. We arrived at the White Lion in Aldershot around midday. Pharp got in first and proclaimed “we have arrived just in time, the landlady is pulling everything off”, Pharp had a smirk on his face. A very pleasant landlady with an antipodean accent and of south pacific appearance, duly served us our ales. The White Lion is owned by Triffle FFF brewery, from just down the road in Alton, birthplace of Courage Directors, when is was a far better product than it is today.

The White Lion feels like a real town pub with live music at the weekends, quizzes and so on. The scooter club meet here on Sundays, with scooter ornaments on all the shelves throughout the pub. A generally good feel about it. We were the first ones in, but within half hour the locals were perched on their regular stools at the bar.
Citra and Fuggles went for Moondance, Pharp had Pressed Rat and Warthog whilst Parker settled for the Alton’s Pride. Moondance is a lovely pale ale coming in at 4.2% abv. Floral nose, bitterness with a sweetish finish, very nice and very refreshing. Winner of many awards on a national level. It was natural that Pharp went for Pressed Rat and Warthog, for no other reason than its name and hoping that it would add some sort of dead animal aroma to any future emissions. Another national champion, this is a dark mild which is unusual for its hoppiness. Having said that it comes with the usual ruby colour, chocolate, coffee, fruity roasted flavour, with a 3.8% abv. Alton’s Pride, yet another national award winner, CAMRA Supreme Champion Beer of Britain 2008. A good English ale, clean, fresh and hoppy, coming in a 3.8% abv. 

Parker cooked for Queen and country in Aldershot, so he knows is way around, he mentioned a few barracks names, the rest of the PRATS had no idea but the landlord knew where they were. Crash!, Pharp sends his Warthog sprawling, almost soaking the bag of Yummy Yum poppadum’s with green chilli, including dip. Parker’s trousers now have a suspicious looking splash where blokes don’t really want one. Within 2 shakes of a Maori’s tewhatewha, the landlady is out with the bar towels mopping up. Time for another round of ales, same all round. There’s a most unusual sign on the bar, ‘PACK OF 8 TISSUES ON SALE. 50p’. Never seen a sign in a pub like that before, they’d sold out as well, thankfully Citra didn’t need one, he still had room on his sleeve. By now the Weebles had arrived, Marshall, Wort, Petit Chemise and Petit Pantaloons. Full marks to Pantoloons, she drove down, Chemise was driving home, good planning. These girls are slowly catching on with all the bloke’s tricks, don’t tell Mrs Fuggles. It’s also noticeable that since the Petit’s tied the knot, Chemise is drifting towards a Moyen, the marmite and cheese sausage rolls baked by Pants was clear evidence of the culprit. One more round before we had to get parked up in the ground.
Time for footy for Pharp and Fuggles, we had official duties to perform, whilst Parker and Citra thrashed down another ale in the Crimea pub. Which by a strange quirk was “half a league, half a league, half a league onward” just down the road, not quite that far but I had to get something from the ‘Charge of the Light brigade’ in. Time for a Michael Caine moment, did you know that Deene House, the other side of Steel town, is the home of the Brudenalls, the Earls of Cardigan. It was the 7th earl that lead the charge of the light brigade at Balaclava. Not a lot of people know that. As a nod towards the local footy club, the ale in the Crimea was Aldershot Town Ale, 3.8% abv brewed by Marston’s, probably re-badged standard stuff.
The EBB stadium is right in the town centre, with very little room to move. Getting into the car park was a bit of a chore, but we eventually got parked up. We spotted the manky cat club badge on the score board, the chairman of Aldershot was only too pleased to put the right one up. A beautiful playing surface, which received more water than was probably required, it even got another dousing at half-time.
The match, well we did ok, it was one of those games where the opposition win but you’re not sure how they did it. We had our chances, but didn’t take them. A decent turn out by the vermillion horde, made plenty of noise, but it wasn’t to be 3rd time lucky. The club did itself proud throughout, with the players and the supporters taking joint centre stage. Well done all round.
Time to go home, as we left Aldershot, Pharp unleashed a Triple FFF, thankfully he was firing blanks. As is almost always the case when going around this section of the M25 we go to the Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty in wealthy Heronsgate. 
There are quite a few posh pads either side of the road. But not the LOLPP, this is a proper pub, with 10 handpumps, lovely. We always get a welcome from the landlord, who will look at us and proclaim ‘Kettering Town’, we all nod appreciatively. Where to start, you will very often see ales from Tring, Downton, Dark Star, Leighton Buzzard breweries, plus plenty more from all over the country. Fuggles and Citra went for Downton’s Quadhop, Parker had Leighton Buzzard’s Captain Cook whilst Pharp settled for Tring’s Mansion Mild. Fuggles also sneaked in a half pint of Dark Star Green Hopped IPA 2018. We’ve had Quadhop quite a few times, even at the Poppies beer festival. A nice pale ale, as the name suggests it’s brewed with 4 hops, easy drinking, slight citrusy aroma very moreish bitter. Captain Cook, no not the famous sea captain, but Alistair Cook England’s cricket captain. Light bodied, not palette blowing but easily drinkable all day, coming in at 3.8% abv. Mansion Mild, as you might expect with Pharp, it’s brown, his favourite colour when it come to ales, and bizarrely his underpants. A creamy head, with hints of brown sugar, toasted malt and fruits. 3.7% abv. Pharp must have liked this one, he didn’t knock it over. The Darkstar Geen Hopped IPA 20118 was shared around as a taster, coming in at a whopping 6.5% abv, was just too strong to guzzle down on your own. Crikey, powerful or what, very bitter as you might expect with a green hopped ale, alcohol vapours coming off as well, very, very nice.
The Weebles were already in residence enjoying Cornish pasties, brought up fresh from Cornwall every week. Not to be outdone Pants whipped out her radio-active marmite and cheese sausage rolls, they were wrapped in lead lined aluminium foil and glowed a yellowy marmitey brown, right up Pharp’s street, so he duly obliged by woofing one down. Another round, this time Fuggles went for Captain Cook, it was same again for Pharp and Citra, Parker was driving so had reached the limit. The usual post-match debates ensued, Marshall knows best, or was it Pharp. Just time for our last ales of the day. We have forgotten what we had, time for home, we dropped Pharp off around 8:40, as we pulled up, the rats must have got wind of our pending arrival as they were pouring out of the sewers near Chez Pharp. We got back into God’s chosen town at around 9:00pm. Thankfully, bloody ‘strictly sodding come prancing’ was almost over.
 A decent day out, our FA Cup run is over for another season, downed some decent ales in 2 very good pubs.

Sunday 30 September 2018


No Not Ivor Allchurch.
The PRATS are back on the road. Pharp has returned from his fishing trip somewhere north of Scotland, either the Orkneys or the Shetlands. I suspect we’ll get the full unabridged story, Pharp is not known for his brevity, even his farts go on for ages, they even change note halfway through, several times.
Today we are off to a new ground, Alvechurch, the Lye Meadow, but not new pubs, we’ve supped many an ale around these parts over the years. It was around 10:15am when Parker and the PRATS mobile arrived at Chez Fuggles. It was a lovely day, full sunshine although the slightest nip in the wind, it was woolly jumper attire today. Citra was already in the back seat thumbing his Iphone8. The obligatory “how are you doing my old ducks” ensued before we fell silent, punctuated by the occasional ‘bing’ from Citra’s phone. We were en route to the house of Pharp in god’s chosen cesspit; Rushden. Pharp lives there because his anal emissions blend in with the local ambience.
Pharp insisted we go via the A45 instead of the A14, he goes that way 3 days a week. It seemed strange going south when we were supposed to be going west. Nobody told Pharp it was 8 miles further. Nevertheless, it turned out to be an inspired decision as the A14 was at a standstill, it could have cost us 2 pints drinking time. We needn’t have worried about Pharp going on endlessly about his fishing trip, it was worse. Pharp is going for a PL. Now I know I’ve already said Pharp doesn’t do brevity, but he does do acronym’s and all that stuff then proceeds to explain to us what the acronym is, PL = Personal Licence. Pharp does legal stuff, it’s his job, so as you can imagine the detail, detail after detail after detail. Citra was comatose sitting in the back seat next to Pharp, even the perpetual ‘bings’ from his phone didn’t snap him out of his state of comatosity, Is that a word? Who knows what an EMRO is? Was one question. For those interested it’s stands for ‘Early Morning Restriction Order’, we then spent the next 40 miles debating when is morning, day or effing night. Thankfully, we were about to arrive at Alvechurch marina and the wonderful Weighbridge Inn. It took about 5 minutes to wake Citra up. He had those spiralling circles in his eyes, you see them in Tom and Jerry cartoons when Tom has had the frying pan whacked on his head. His bottom jaw was all floppy, dangling on his chest, just a hint of slather fobbing in the corner of his gaping mouth. The words ‘Blue Monkey BG Sips’ hollered in his general direction did the trick. He was out the car and into the bar quicker than the entire underpants department can run out of M&S when they see Pharp enter the store.

The Weighbridge is a real pub, compact with 4 square rooms, one of them is the kitchen. It has a bar area, a sort of lounge for diners and another snug type bar with a serving hatch. The walls are covered with all sorts of breweriana and canal barge memorabilia. There is a sort of smoking tent cum loggia outside, with the toilets further down the alley. There is a beer garden to the side. The Weighbridge is beside the Worcester – Birmingham canal with a vast marina full of colourful barges. The pub has 7 handpumps, always ales available from Kinver and Weatheroak breweries. Pharp kicked off with Kinver Bargee a regular ale here, quite pale for Pharp, he prefers a more chestnut type ale. Bargee comes in at 4.0% abv, late hoppyness with a dry finish, very refreshing. Citra and Fuggles went for BG Sips whilst Parker had a coffee. BG Sips is a lovely pale ale, very refreshing ale and easy drinking at 4.0% abv, always popular at beer festivals and very often the first one to be sold out. Winner of numerous Gold awards. Pharp and Citra went for some solids, it was inevitable they’d go for the Black Country faggots, thankfully they didn’t come with mushy peas, otherwise Pharp would be walking home.

Bloody hell, guess who has just walked into the pub with his entourage? Only JC, no not him, Jeremy Corbyn, Jezzer or Jerry to his mates. He had what looked like the local Labour head honcho with him. A little round chap with a snug fitting suit he bought yesterday, with a permanent Cheshire cat grin across his physog. Another bloke looked like he was looking for a baby to kiss, he must be an MP, he looked like a ponce, smiling at everybody, sincerity personified. You could hear the locals almost silent utterings, under their breathes, “ferck off you ponce” drifting around the small bar. We thought about inviting Jezzer to become a member of the PRATS, but after due consideration we determined that he was over qualified. One of the locals piped up, “can you sort the water shortage problem JC”. His spokesperson replied, if anyone can, Jerry can. A silent snigger tittered around the small bar.
In strode the food waitress person, she hollered “two faggots, chips and peas”. Fuggles chirped up “I’m chips, he’s peas” pointing to Parker “and these two are the faggots”. The bar echoed with a chortle all round. Joking apart the faggots looked lovely, as Dick Emery’s Mandy would put it, “ooh you are offal, but I like you!”.
It wasn’t long before more Poppies supporters started to drift in, The Weebles included Marshall, Petit Chemise, Wort and Betweenthesticks. Marshall was wetting himself about Jezzer in the lounge, so excited he shook his hand when JC left the pub. Marshall said he wouldn’t wash it his hand for two weeks. We suggested he wouldn’t need to use any toilet paper for two weeks either.
Time for more beer, Fuggles and Citra went for Weatheroak Keystone Hops, coming in at 5.0% abv it’s a bit early for the strong stuff. A lovely pale ale and quite hoppy, Fuggles used to drink this at the Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill where it was once brewed. A bit of a tiff, split the brewery from the pub with the brewery now down in Studley, we’ll be in there when we go to Redditch.
The Ellis’s, then the Mitchells, plus a few more Poppies traveling band arrived, the pub was getting busy now with around 18 supporters in and around the pub. Another round of ales, this time is was Green Duck breweries Sitting Duck pale ale brewed with Amarillo hops. Very citrussy although more orange peel than grapefruit. A delicious, moreish, refreshing pint. We could have sat all afternoon thrashing this one down but the footy beckoned.
We finally arrived at Lea Meadow, nestled amongst the rolling verdant vista, on the edge of the Lickey hills. A lovely setting, but this pitch has to be one of the steepest slopes, I half expected to see some kid pushing a bike up the hill flogging Hovis bread accompanied by a brass band. The slope measures a 2.8 metre drop from one corner diagonally to the other, in fact it’s a 2metres from the top corner to the centre spot. (Ref: Ordnance Survey website).  Nevertheless, the pitch is in good condition, lots of grass all over and appears quite lush. The clubhouse bar serves fizzy wazz in most flavours.
The match.
Well, it took just 2 minutes for the ‘Church’ to fall into the almost weekly trap, their defender sent Rhys Hoenes sprawling arse over tit, the man in black pointed to the spot, one up. The new boy and the returning from suspension lad looked a tad match unfit. It wasn’t long before the almost weekly defensive ‘balls up’ led to an equaliser, one each. An unmarked Towers nodded in on half-time, two – one up. The whistle invited the swirling and wielding of handbags, with a couple of names going into the ref’s book. We pretty much dominated the second half. An almighty ‘Church’ balls up saw Rhys Hoenes tap into an empty net, Three – one final score. Three more points in the bag.
Time for more ale, just a very short 10minute journey to the aforementioned Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill, marvellous.
A big pub with loads of rooms, the top end near the car park is mostly restaurant, the middle is the lounge and snug, the bottom end of the building is the bar area. A large, very busy beer garden and a nice little brewery shed, home of Weatheroak Hill brewery.
A great pub with up to 10 ales to chose from, usually 4 of their own, Icknield Pale ale, a lovely light, hoppy refreshing ale, 3.8% abv. Gold, a light 3.5% hoppy session ale, Copton Common a robust 4.9%, based on a Vienna German lager recipe, and finally Impossible Pale Ale, 4,2% brewed with New Zealand hops so you can expect loads of grapefruit. Regular ales include Holdens Golden Glow, Hobson’s Best, Hook Norton’s Old Hooky and Proper Job from St Austell. Two other guest ales also available, including Green Pear from the Malvern Hills brewery.
Fuggles and Citra kicked off with Icknield Pale Ale, very nice, easy quaffing, a good session ale. Pharp went for Old Hooky, a typical ale for their palate, although 4.6% puts it in the premium ale category. Rich and fruity, reddish tawny colour and malty. Parker settled for Hobson's Best, a 3.8% typical English ale.
The bar was filling up, a group of cyclists arrived. Usual shape, scrawny legs, pot belly wearing very tight clothes. It’s that padding at the back of their pants between the buttock cleft that always makes me wonder if they’ve taken a dump whilst in the saddle.
A small group arrives at the next table, the bloke goes to the bar, the wife goes to the toilet whilst Granny tries to sit down. Whoops, she missed the seat completely, in fact there wasn’t one there. She crashed to the floor with a thump. Parker was up like Spiderman to help her back to her feet and get her seated. Granny bent down to pick something up from the floor, Parker shouted “mind your head”. Bang another clout on the back of the head. She looked remarkably unscathed and joked away as if nothing had happened. The bloke arrived from the bar, wife arrived from the toilet oblivious to all the excitement Granny had gone through. Really exciting times down at the Coach.
Another round of ales, this time it’s Impossible for Fuggles, whilst Citra stayed on Icknield and Pharp stayed on Old Hooky. As expected the New Zealand hops bring out loads of citrus grapefruit. Fuggles always enjoys hops from the land of kiwis. Very refreshing.
Nearly time for home, but not before Fuggles thrashes down a Proper Job and Citra goes for the Malvern Hills brewery Green Pear. This is Black Pear with green hops so it is a seasonal ale, very hoppy with loads of aroma, 4.4% abv golden ale. Sounds nice.
Time for home, a good day out, decent pubs, decent ales, 3 points, sorted.