Sunday, 18 March 2018

THE FLIRTYBABOON BECKONS


The Flirtybaboon beckons.

It was just after 10:30am when Mrs Fuggles hollered “They’re here”. Trepidation, the thermometer was reading zero, the forecast was for gusting winds. Nothing to do with Pharp, these were coming from the east. Fuggles stepped out the front door as the Siberian wind howled around the cul de sac. Minus 6 was the resulting blast, thankfully Fuggles was wearing his thermolactic gonad hugging, passion killing, long-johns. Smug or what, could have been minus 2, God’s dandruff was swirling around on the road surface.

It’s been 3 weeks since the last footy match, bloody weather. Today we have the relatively short journey to Stratford Upon Avon, visiting the, wait for it, MoodChimp Stadium. Unbelievable, what or who the hell is or are MoodChimp. Time to google, MoodChimp is a chat app with a flirty side and a dating app with a friendly side! Isn’t friendly a general pre-requisite for a successful grapple with a stranger. Who the hell came up with that name, MoodChimp, are you sure?

As we are on our way to the Bardlands, Pharp regaled us of his years of Upstart Crow thespianism. He was often criticised for his over exuberant unleashing of Bottom and Coriolanus but was always encouraged not to dump his Richard the Third.

Pharp let’s rip!
Hark! what yonder baboon’s arse does break, this scarlet peach that stirs a quake.
The rumbling bowel spews forth a bellow, the pungent air of mustard yellow.
These gasping throats that we do clutch, these wheezing lungs that rattle much.
Briny tears well bloodshot eyes, the face contorts in stricken guise.
The curse of each damned inhalation, we succumb to Pharp’s evacuation.

Just over an hour’s drive as we make our way to the Boar’s Head in the quaint and clearly wealthy village of Hampton Lucy, which sits adjacent to the River Avon. The tall white signs with numbers 1 to 6 told us we were on the flood plain. You could see Pharp’s brain working overtime, he had a smirk on his face, trying to come up with some lurid pun that included Hampton and Lucy. The Boar’s Head is a nice old country pub just off the main drag, we arrived at around 12:25pm. As we approached the pub we spotted two blokes in Poppies regalia, it was TailbyOO and Vlad the Impaler, they were duly pamped at, accompanied with a vigorous waving of two handed ‘V’ signs and mouth snarling “feeeerrrkk oooofff” in their general direction, like you do.
On entering the bar, we were surprised to see a whole gang of Poppies supporters already in there thrashing down the ales. The mini-bus in front of the pub had ferried a whole load of familiar faces, clearly out for a long day of ales, footy and curry. With us four, TailbyOO & Vlad and their 8 we were up to 14 Poppies faithful contributing to the Hampton Lucy economy. Five handpumps adorned the bar with 4 in operation, we ordered our ales, bugger. Suddenly the pump clips were being turned around, the beer had run out on 3 of the pumps. Pharp and Parker managed to get their ales Ringwood Razorback, Citra and Fuggles were waiting for Ringwoods Boondoggle to come on. Five minutes later we were all swigging down our preferred tipple. All in good condition, the Boondoggle is a delightful citrusy pale ale. Razorback was a fairly typical English style session ale, Pharp and Parker were content. More ales became available, Citra let out an excited shrill as Phipps IPA came on. A few minutes later 5 Weebles came into the bar, we were now up to 19 Poppies ‘on the road’ faithful. We outnumbered the locals 2 to 1. The place was getting noisy, the telly was showing Italy vs Scotland rugby. All in the bar were ridiculing the Sweaties who were getting a pounding from the Azzurri, bugger it, the lucky sods get a last-minute penalty. A couple of hours boozing and it was time to move on to Stratford, as we leave the pub two more Poppies supporters wander in, the Silver Fox and his mate. Crikey, that’s 21, it brings back fond memories of when we used to travel in large numbers all over the far-flung corners of this country.
Nothing better than seeing a horde of fellow Poppies faithful in a distant pub on their way to a match.

Citra is still gorping at all the local wenches hoping to catch a glimpse of Hollywood babe Anne Hathaway who has a pad around these parts. Daft sod, no Citra she doesn’t wear PRATS, it’s PRADA, for goodness sake.

Once more unto the Flirtybaboon.
A desolate place that brings forth famine and dearth for the vermillion horde.
Thrice we have cometh upon this barren place.
Thrice we have departed without succour or solace.
But we are a merry bunch, befuddled with mead, awash in ale, we arrive with faith in our hearts and belief between our ears. This time we shall smite this wretched foe upon the field of the Flirtybaboon.
The sign greets us, THE FLIRTY BABOON ARENA, country Bumsnots and Fartlingtons most welcome.

The match.
It was cold, bloody perishing in fact. I saw one desperate chap running across the terracing, he was leaning forward with his arms outstretched before him, chasing a couple of meatballs. He was screaming at the top of his voice, “bolingbrooks! bolingbrooks!”. Some chap a few yards in front of him was getting ready to help him catch them. His foot was raised in readiness for a stamp on the meatballs. “Nooooo! bolingbrooks!” echoed across the ground.
Despite the weather, occasional snow flurries and gusting wind, the match was very entertaining. Long hoofs up the field from Whitey would often be on their way back to him before they touched down. You could see players shivering, stammering as they uttered “f-f-f-f-f-f-ferk th-th-this”. The lads played well, very well in fact. They handled the conditions in a dominant and commanding manner. The curse of the Flirtybaboon was swept away with a resounding and convincing 4-0 win. Well done lads.

Time for home, we made our way to the Royal Oak in Naseby. Parker chirped up in a, ‘listen to me I know something’ manner. “Did you know the River Avon rises as a spring just a few hundred yards away?” Citra nodded, “did you know Avon is the ancient Saxon word for cosmetics and toiletries?”
The Royal Oak is owned by the Towcester Mill Brewery, so it came as no surprise to see a couple of their ales amongst the 5 handpumps. Black Fire, a 5.2% black IPA and Crooked Hooker, 3.8% amber session ale brewed for the six nations. Also available was Deuchars IPA, Fullers London Pride and Fuggles favourite Oakham Ales Bishops Farewell, 4.6% of citrusy loveliness. Pharp and Parker went for Hooker, Citra and Fuggles went for Bishops. We hung around here for a good hour, thrashing down the ales. Fuggles sampled the Black Fire before returning back to bash another Bishop. It was 8:20pm when we got back to gods chosen town. All in all, an excellent day out watching the Poppies, great pubs, great ales, great company, excellent Poppies support again and a great result. Sorted.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

KINGS & QUEENS

After the footballing hiatus, or was it a lacuna, never sure, maybe both, oh bugger it. After the footballing gap, we are back, back from a summer of beer festivals, loads of them, terrorist attacks, disasters and a prime minister shooting herself in the foot. We’ve had a flurry of friendlies; the lads look promising. The big fella got some sending off practice in, marvellous. We now have a few tenacious terriers in the squad, able to constantly snap at the heels with a bit of class thrown in for good measure, we could be in for a good season.  PRATS have done most friendlies, only the Coalville trip getting the elbow. We had a few decent pints as you might imagine and went to a few new pubs to plonk on the list. The Priors Oven in Spalding is an exceptional little micro-pub, all the ales served straight from the barrel, with enough room for about a dozen drinkers. The return to Rushall saw us pop into the Manor, one of the oldest pubs in the country, a pub with no bar. So now here we are two weeks into the new season. The first day saw us triumphant at Arbour Park, the new home of Slough Town, last season’s play-off finalists. On that day Citra proclaimed he had put on his new lucky underpants, two weeks later and winning our first three games Citra has still got them on.
It is possible that the third fermentation is well and truly underway. A mumuration of bluebottles dance a merry buzz within close proximity of Citra’s crotch, although one or two have dropped out of formation and are gasping desperately on their backs, legs akimbo, flailing skywards. Citra seems unperturbed although the occasional yet vigorous scratch might suggest the yeast is working well.
So, today we are off to Kings Langley. Hands up all those who know the connection between Kings Langley and Kettering, well Geddington actually, hands up? Bloody hell, surely Geddington narrows it down a bit. Well Queen Eleanor, built the palace around these parts, she also used to have a shoe factory in Kettering and her old man put a sorry excuse for a cross in Geddington. Cross, more like a spike, but I suppose Eleanor’s Spike doesn’t a have the same ring to it.
Kings Langley is not a big place but has plenty of pubs. Last year we popped into the Saracens Head, a nice boozer with 4 ales on pump, and If we recall quite inexpensive, worth a visit, just 10 minutes-walk from the ground. Across the road from the ground is a Toby Carvery, easy for the coach travellers to pop into. The PRATS are probably going to Abbots Langley just a mile or so away, the Royal Oak looks very tempting with potentially a good range of ales, despite Bloody Doombar being their regular.

Kings Langley are unbeaten so far this season, so we’re in for a tough game. Will Citra’s pants be flying from the flagpole or will the fermentation continue further. On the way home, well the Cuckoo in Toddington is always a temptation, however, there is a beer festival at the Green Dragon in Higham Ferrers, not too far from Chez Pharp. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

ONCE MORE UNTO THE BARDLANDS

This weekend the PRATS travel just an hour away to Stratford Upon Avon, our penultimate away game. We are without Pharp who is once again on holiday, this time on the piste in Austria. Not much snow about apparently, which isn’t surprising considering all the warm vapours drifting about. No! that is not an Alpine horn, it’s Pharp. Hopefully, he has honed his technique of the local, silent ‘Tyrollean Trembler’ thus minimising the risk of avalanches.
 It was Wednesday morning this week when news reached the Bard’s province of this sceptered isle; Kettering Town FC had won the Hillier Senior Cup. The shock waves rippled up the river, like it’s very own Avon Bore, homes, shops, pubs and restaurants all shook violenty. In the Sushi bar, Japanese tourist, Igota Ichinaka struggled to control the sea cucumber wriggling between his chopsticks. He proclaimed “I feers rike hom I dowtow Yokohama”. Australian Shakespearian drama student Nick Bottom, equally aghast uttered forth “Struth, for this wretched earth duth shudder, likened only to this demonic mob of tyrant mother roos, bounding forth upon Billabong Boulevard in furthest Wollagong, cobber”. Igota asked Nick why such a caramatus event should occur in Bill’s backyard, a place of serenity, peace and heavenly tranquillity. Nick unleashed a reverberating Sir Toby Belch, before once more unto his breach did he scratchethed, and replied. “Crikes, haven’t you heard, it’s all over the news, Kettering Town won a cup”. Igota fell off his stool and rubbed his head in wonderment, “broody herr, must be clap opposition”. Nick informed Igota that it was in fact the puny sporran wielding Corby infidels whom the ‘Poppies’ had pummelled into the blood drenched earth of Sixfields. “Ah” Igota bursting with excitement, “I know this Corby, rook at me trouwers, vewy ni crease yeh”?
So where to sup a couple of ales, as usual the micropub Stratford Alehouse  has to be a favourite, we’ve been here a few times on our travels. However, maybe a jar before we get into town so perhaps we could nip into Hampton Lucy and pop into The Boars Head, always serve a decent range of local brews. There are of course loads of pubs in the area, so plenty to choose from. Close to the ground The Crown Inn at Tiddington is worth a visit, usually 4 ales on tap and is just a 10-minute walk, no more than half a mile.

So, onto the footy, we’ve been here twice and lost both times, once on the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Add the pasting we received at home this season, then we owe the ‘Town’ one. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

WILL THE CHIPS WILT


We find ourselves returning to Chippenham on the same weekend as last season, the weekend before Valentine’s day. Just like last season we are without Pharp, once again he’s away for a romantic weekend at Center Parcs, probably windsurfing. Pharp has asked the remaining PRATS to pay homage to one of his ancestors, a Saxon nobleman who went by the name of Ethelwynd the Unsavoury. Ethelwynd was famous for developing the scorched earth policy, especially when he was running away from his arch enemy the Viking eunuch Ivar the Boneless. Contrary to popular belief, Ivar’s helmet never had the horns.
Ethelwynd the Unsavoury’s boss was King Alfred who spent some time hanging around this part of Wessex, but he buggered off from Chippenham around 878AD when the Vikings besieged the town. Ethelwynd followed Alfred, most people preferred to have Ethelwynd behind them. A few months later Alfred and Ethelwynd kicked seven shades of Valhalla out of Guthrum and the Viking horde, forty miles down the road in the Battle of Ethandun. One day when Alfred was doing a bit of baking; Ethelwynd came into the kitchen, bent over to stoke the grate and the rest, as they say, is history. Why Alfred took the blame remains a mystery. Ethelwynd the Unsavoury was a literary giant in his time, credited with the epic manuscript the Anals of Anus Horrobilis. Many tales from this renowned verse were used in the classic mediaeval folk songbook the Backside of the Moon. Often performed by folk band Pink Haemorrhoid in the boozer they used to hang around in, the Bunch of Grapes.
We won’t be going to the Grapes, instead we will make our way to the Three Crowns, we came here last season and an excellent boozer it is too, having won the NW Wilts CAMRA Pub of the Year 2016 & completed the double by winning the NW Wilts CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year 2016. The beer list looks interesting, we could be in for a good couple of hours. There a few decent pubs in the town with the Old Road Tavern probably the best for ales and within reasonable walking distance from the ground.
We are in for a tough game this season with Chippenham sitting on the top of the pile. They were doing quite well this time last season but completely folded going from the top end of the league to completely missing out on the play-offs. Will they do the same this season? Our record against the top teams has not been good so far, hopefully we can put that right.
On the way home, well we haven’t stopped off at the Towcester Mill brewery tap since he first day of the season, maybe it’s time to pop back in.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

DOWN THE DUNSTABLE DEMONS


This week we mosey on down the M1; to a place we have been well and truly spanked in both of our previous visits, time to put the Dunstable demons to bed. The PRATS are hopeful of a decent result, in recent weeks the frequency of sphincter oscillation has been reduced, just the occasional twitch these days. When you’ve got Pharp within 20 metres that is very good news indeed. Recently Pharp has been pretty volatile, Christmas food being the main culprit, pungent to say the least. Even Pharp’s has been struggling to deal with it, he has been heard coughing and spluttering through his very own rendition of Toni Braxton’s ‘Unbreak My Fart’.

One or two decent pubs in Dunstable, Banks and Taylor own one, the Globe, sporting ten handpumps, including 5 of their own ales, plus a few ciders, sounds good but the parking is atrocious so expect a bit of a stroll. On our last visit here we popped into the Victoria, a nice pub with four ales. There is parking in front of the pub if you’re lucky but you may have to go around the corner. A nice pub, with soul or Motown music playing in the background. Sport on the TV if you want to catch the early game, food looks good as well. Further down the road on the opposite side is the Pheasant Inn,
six ales including our favourite from Cornwall, but amongst the others will be some good local brews. Once again sport on the telly and good food. Parking is around the back, it’s in the 2017 Camra good beer guide. There are plenty more pubs in the town centre worth a visit.

After the game, it’s hard not to head off to Toddington and return back to the Cuckoo, a lovely small two room pub with eight handpumps, 6 ales and 2 ciders. They also do a half decent pork pies, whilst not from Melton Mowbray this Yorkshire cousin is OK. Another temptation is to get nearer to home and pop into a new pub for the PRATS. In fact, a new pub for everybody, it only opened at the end of October 2016.

The Saxon Tavern in the village of Earls Barton. Six ales to sample usually brewed locally, all served straight from the barrel. Could be a good day out, especially if we can put Dunstable down.
You might recognise the Saxon, that's Pharp's ancestor Ethelwynd the Unsavoury

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

BOOZE ON THE OUSE AGAIN


It’s the annual day after New Year’s Day fixture, and this year we are at relegation doomed Cambridge City. The Lilywhites have been nomadic for a few seasons now, currently plying their trade at the home of St Ives FC. The bright sun blasting through the living room window was disguising the fact that it was bloody cold outside, just 3 degrees centigrade. So on with the thermal vest, gonad hugging long johns, thick shirt, woolly pullover and so on, you get the picture. It was just after 11:00 when the PRATSmobile pulled up outside, 20 minutes later we were picking Pharp up in Rushden. Just as Pharp was getting into the car, another car pulled up, the lady driver wound the window down and asked “Have you seen a little dog”? was this some sort of ‘Carry on Spying’ password? Pharp replied “No I’ve just come out”. There was a little titter in the car, Citra nervously moved away from Pharp on the back seat, the lady drove off. On our short journey, Citra told us all about his weeping wound in his abdomen. Not to be outdone, Pharp told us all about his exploding elbow, leaving a nasty stain on his shirt sleeve. It sounded quite awful, Pharp thought that perhaps he should write a book all about his experience, certain it would be turned into a Hollywood animation blockbuster or a maybe a Christmas pantomime. We let him down gently, suggesting that had it been his ankle and not his elbow, he might be in with a chance, but ‘Puss in Sleeves’ doesn’t really cut the mustard. I will never have mustard on my ham sandwich again. We took a slightly different route to St Ives, as we approached the town, Pharp said ‘we’ve come in the opposite end’ another titter in the car, Citra nervously moved further away from Pharp on the back seat. After a few minutes driving around St Ives town centre up a one way street to a dead end, we ended up almost outside our first pub the Oliver Cromwell. Citra and Fuggles leapt out of the car like gazelles and sent Parker and Pharp off to meander their way back through the town to the car park. It wasn’t long before Citra was thrashing down his first pint of Oakham Ales JHB, Fuggles had the same, although a bit pricey at £3.80 a pint it was in good nick, quite bitter with lots of citrus 3.8% very pale ale. 10 minutes later Pharp and Parker arrived, and Fuggles was soon on his 2nd of the day. On special offer was Hopback’s Summer Lightning at £2.75, which for a 5% ale that’s not bad. Often regarded as the Summer ale trendsetter when it was first brewed a few decades back. A straw-coloured ale with loads of hoppy aroma and a refreshing long lasting bitterness, lovely. Pharp went for Great Yarmouth brewery Lacons Legacy at 4.4% a delightful blonde ale, not at all what you would expect Pharp to be drinking, loads of lemon and grapefruit aromas with citrusy flavours once again in excellent condition. Parker settled for a coffee. By now Poppies supporters were starting to pile in, the Keystone Hops closely followed by the first wave of Weebles, Cardiac, Betweenthesticks and the Petits, Chemise and Pantaloon. A few minutes later Marshall, Wort and Filtch made the Poppies baker’s dozen, swelling the Cromwell’s coffers.
The Weebles were all of a quiver, they had spotted a Male Waxing Specialist boutique in the town centre, the website address was the main culprit for all their fluster. It would seem that Filtch and Cardiac are no longer hairy arsed brutes. Wort was waxing lyrical about the whole experience. Pharp was getting all of a dither and is planning a visit sometime this week, assuming they can find a volunteer waxer. No dates set as yet but you’ll know when he is there, large wax bubbles will be floating around outside. Pop the bubbles at your peril. The bedding shop next door has a lovely range of bumfluff pillows. We had another round of ales, Parker had another coffee, then it was time to move on. We wandered along the river bank up into the town to the Royal Oak. Always a favourite boozer with a decent choice of ales. Naturally Citra and Fuggles went for Oakham Ales Inferno, 4.0% golden ale with a fruity dry finish, a good thirst quencher.
Pharp went for Tydd Steam’s Arctic Fox Polar Beer, a 4.3% Winter Ale, a bit paler that you would normally expect for a winter ale. It looked in good condition, Pharp offered us all a taste and it was very difficult to find any great taste, it was just about OK. We had just a couple of pints in here with Citra and Fuggles staying with Inferno, Pharp sampled Timothy Taylors Landlord, always popular and winner of many champion ale award. Parker settled for another coffee, the bar lady needed to fetch some more coffee beans stored in the rabbit hutch, time to move onto the ground.

We’ve had a decent run of results here, 4 games with one draw and 3 wins, so hopes were high. Cambridge City are wallowing in a relegation battle and should be easy fodder for us.

Within 15 minutes we were 2-0 down, yet to wake up, making dreadful defensive mistakes and as penetrating as a eunuch. We managed to pulled one back before half time to offer a glimmer of hope. The Poppies young faithful supporters always enjoy a good day out at St Ives regardless of who we are playing. Standing and generally hollering on the steps right in front of the clubhouse, needless to say, they were all well-oiled with pint glass in hand. When we were 2-0 down the young Poppies faithful could easily have turned on the manager and the players, but they didn’t. They hollered louder, supported harder and encouraged further, always convinced we would win 3-2. And so we did, when the third and winning goal went in they went quite berserk, along with almost all other Poppies supporters including the Poppies bench. Anyone would think we’d won the FA cup and not just beaten a team destined for the drop. A memorable moment and credit must go to the team for showing great character and determination in turning a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 victory. But credit must also go to the Poppies young faithful for keeping the faith.

Time for home, and as we did last November, it was off to the King of the Belgians in the village of Hartford just outside Huntingdon. The Weebles had arrived earlier, unfortunately Marshall, Filtch and Wort had got lost, they were half-way down the A14 before they realised they’d gone passed the pub, it would be another 20 minutes before they arrived. Pharp kicked off with a pint of Caledonian Flying Scotsman, 3.5% of chestnut nothingness. A powder puff of an ale for such a prestigiously named and powerful railway engine, shame. Citra and Fuggles tried Woodforde’s Once Bittern, 4.0% copper coloured/golden ale, a touch of citrus fruits with some maltyness, quite pleasant, we had a couple of these, then that was it for the day. A few decent ales and a sort of entertaining game. A good day out.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

PRATS REVISITED


PRATS REVISITED

It’s been a few weeks since the PRATS were last on the ale trail, St Ives was our last outing and on that trip one of the guzzlers was in the first days of spending almost 7 weeks, quite unwell, hospitalised. It didn’t seem appropriate to do a write up without Citra. The good news is that Lemonhead is now home and is almost back to his hogswilling best. Oakham ales have been through a torrid time with sales plummeting, coinciding with Citra’s arid spell. Visiting Citra during his period of tonsil dehydration in Northampton general, it looked as though he had a secret supply hidden beside bed No12093. The plastic bag looked to be containing a rather putrid Watney’s Red, it was flat, hazy, a slightly fizzy head, warm, with a sort of yellow golden glow, we don’t have tasting notes. In the early days, Citra had all sorts of tubes connected to him, entering his carcass through far more orifices than he was born with. There was a strange looking bag dangling from his nose. Apparently, it was a new green looking product from Bird’s Eye, bile in the bag, lovely. Citra was back in the pubs before Christmas, keep an eye out for the brewer’s stock market prices, they’ll soar over the coming weeks.

It seems fitting somehow that we start back in St Ives, albeit playing against Cambridge City. St Ives is a good place for a few ales with loads of good pubs within easy walking distance. We have to visit the usual places, The Oliver Cromwell, serving half a dozen ales. A stroll along the river and up into the town we come across the Nelson's Head. A Greene King pub but it also has other ales available usually from Nene Valley brewery. Just around the corner is the delightful Royal Oak, another half dozen ales with Oakham Ales always on tap. If you like your Elgoods then along the Broadway towards the ground is Floods Tavern.
Perhaps the closest pub to the ground is the Merchant House, they give discount to CAMRA card carrying members. Worth a try, just a short walk away from the ground leaving town is the Seven Wives, also known as the Husbands Nightmare, Summer Lightning is usually available as is the ever popular Bloody Doombar. The clubhouse at St Ives always have a half decent selection of bottled ales, a reasonably lucky ground for us, fingers crossed.