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.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

NOT SO SWEET FA


It’s Saturday and is FA cup day, however, it was full steam ahead in the Fuggles kitchen, Mrs Fuggles was making the Christmas puddings, not for the coming Yule time but the one after. She always makes them 15 months in advance, they taste better apparently, well that’s what Delia says anyway. The whole process started on Thursday, Fuggles had to fetch the alcohol that goes into the giant mixing bowl, this year we used Elgood’s Scotch Ale, coming in at a whopping 9%, we are using this instead of the barley wine. For the stout we are using Guinness Export with a strength of 7.5%. Now Mrs Fuggles only uses 125ml of each which means Fuggles has to swig down what’s leftover. Mrs Fuggles pours the bottle remnants into a pint glass and hands the brown foaming concoction over to a reticent Fuggles. My god, it was like drinking a pint of Covonia, it took a bit of getting down, but a man’s duty is a man’s duty. Early Friday morning there was a bit of turbulence in the air, the motion sensors were in over-drive and by mid-morning all hell let loose. It was like the siege of Moscow, the 1812 overture, such was the emotion it brought tears to Fuggles eyes, it’s fair to say the whole experience was a pain in the arse.
Parker arrived at around 11:00, the PRATS have travelled to many delightful parts of the country, but for every Ying there is a Yang, today we go to Solihull. Is it solly or sowly? we much prefer Charley. Damn and blast our pre-match plans have been scuppered, we had planned to go the micro-pub the Pup & Duckling in Solihull but they don’t open until 5:00pm on a Saturday, 5:00pm on a Saturday, are you sure?



Instead we went to the Bulls Head Barston a nice village local which has been in the Good Beer Guide for 24 years and winner of the Solihull CAMRA Pub of the year 2016, the 7th time it’s won the accolade. $ hand-pumps in the bar, Adnams Bitter and Purity Mad Goose are the regulars, the guest ales were Hooky from Hook Norton and Bootleg Brewery’s Lawless. Fuggles went for the Lawless, a pale ale with a hint of citrus. Traditional session ale coming in at 3.8%, it didn’t have a lot to say for itself. A very slight aftertaste, refreshing but that’s about it. It was in decent condition, nice and clear with a good head. Pharp and Citra went for the Mad Goose, a delightful blonde ale coming in at 4.2%. a very slight haze was the only thing we could find wrong with it. A zesty ale, loads of Citrusy notes, right up Citra’s street. Parker went for a very large mug of coffee. Within a few minutes the Inbred Village Idiots Faction arrived, Vlad, Vladling and Broughton’s most inspirational half-wit and model railway enthusiast Tailby OO entered the bar. For the next thirty minutes we solved all the problems on the pitch, easy really. We had another pint each, this time we all had Mad Goose, Parker had another very large mug of coffee.
It was time to move on, our target pub was the Vaults in Knowle, only a couple of miles away. After a few minutes of driving up and down Knowle High St we finally came upon our destination, but drat and double drat is was closed, no lights on, doors shut and a for sale sign adjacent to the building. Soddit, so we quickly scanned Whatpub on the Iphone and came across the Acres just a few miles away and near the ground.



As we approached our new destination we received a text from the Weebles saying they were in the Vaults, treble drat and quadruple drat, it wasn’t shut. Several expletives later after driving through a 60’s housing estate, we came across a pub, where on earth were we? We gingerly walked into the bar, a large room which could easily double as a night club with the lights on. Tall flowers in thin vases on every table, a few chaps milling at the bar and there in the distance, leaning on the bar was a bloke in a Poppies shirt, it was Gretton Poppy. According to Whatpub they have 4 hand-pumps with a good selection of ales. A quick scan up and down the bar, then a second scan up and down the bar. Aaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhhh, it suddenly dawned on the PRATS, only one hand-pump had a pump clip, 5-tuple drat and six-tuple drat. Bloody Doombar is the only ale available. The Poppies match against a team 2 leagues higher is not the greatest challenge to be undertaken today. We ordered the stuff, held our noses and sipped, It reminded Fuggles of the dentists, although there was nothing to spit into. At least the pub and the landlord were pleasant, a huge tray of hot spicy wings was placed on the bar for all to enjoy. We didn’t indulge, we just sipped quietly with accompanying grimaces. The stuff was duly consumed and we moved on to The Automated Technology Group Stadium. Not a bad ground I suppose, although probably needs a bit of work doing to it if the Moors intend to stay in the National Conference for long. There was the merest hint of kerosene in the air, Brum airport is just a few miles away, aeroplanes can be seen and heard jetting off to exotic idyll’s, such as Barbados, Antiqua, Isle of Man. Citra asked if there was rain in the air, Pharp pointed to the 747 passing nearby and suggested someone had flushed the toilet, Citra hoped the macerator was functioning correctly, splat! oh dear.
The game, well the Poppies were clearly second best, not on effort but purely on class. The Moors had more time on the ball, rarely hurried and made very few errors. They will probably consider their day as a professional job well done. We didn’t let ourselves down, we had our moments and could have scored more than just a solitary goal. But that is the cup run over for another season. Hopefully next time we come here it will be as equals in a league game.
Time for home, we decided not to go to the Pup and Duckling and chose instead to go to the Woodfarm Brewery tap, we arrived just before 5:45pm. Hang on, what’s afoot, no ales whatsoever from Woodfarm or Kendrick’s brewery. 7-tuple drat and 8-tuple drat, the brewers have moved out and gone to the Pig ‘n’ Muck a few miles away in Claybrooke Magna. Still there were 4 ales to choose from, 2 from Dowbridges, brewed just down the road in Catthorpe, one from Milesone brewery of Newark and another from ‘we forgot’ the name of the brewer but it was called Howler and Pharp went for this. A red ale coming in at 4.5%, it certainly looked rich and fruity, it was clear and a very tight head. Fuggles and Citra went for Milestone’s Pekko, a delightfully refreshing pale ale, just 3.9% easy drinking. Quite a good citrus aroma, slightly sweet with a bitter finish, very nice. Parker had another cup of coffee, he’ll be awake all night. Next up, Pharp and Citra stayed with what they had whilst Fuggles went for Dowbridge’s Ratae’d, 4.3% a golden-pale ale, quite tasty with a hoppy aroma. Served in good condition, very clear with a tight head. That was it for the night, we were home around 8:00pm.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

POPPIES GO FOURTH


The PRATS are back on the road in the FA cup, this time it’s the 4th Qualifying against Conference side Solihull Moors. A newish club formed in 2007, an amalgam of Moor Green and Solihull Borough.

They thought about calling themselves Moor Solihull, but were advised against it, who the hell wanted anymore Solihull. The ground is called the ‘H’ stadium because it’s in the middle of nowhere. Less than on hour away so we should see a decent turn out from the Poppies faithful.

Last time we were here in a competitive game was during our Conference North championship season, it was on Boxing day 2007 and we sung ‘Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to see Kettering win away’, we won 3-1.
Fuggles remembers this game well because his mate Sphericals ate for the world that day. We called into the White Lion Inn in Hampton in Arden, (I’m sure there a joke there somewhere) Sphericals chomped down a huge plate full of faggots, mashed potatoes and mushy peas, on arriving at the ground he thrashed down two gigantic jumbo sausage hot dogs, by half-time he was munching on a couple of Mars bars, only to eye up the burger van for further sustenance before the end of the game. Now you know why he is called Sphericals.

Not many pubs near the ground, the closest is the Acres, it’s about a 10-minute walk away, they boast a decent selection of ales so might be worth the trudge. However, there is a micro-pub in Solihull the Pup and Duckling, for an up to date ale list you’ll need to refer to their Facebook page. They have 6 ales plus 5 ciders so should be a good pre-match sup.  UPDATE, THE PUP & DUCKLING DOESN'T OPEN UNTIL 5:00pm. After the game, well we may pop into the White Lion mentioned above or maybe pop into the Greyhound Inn just off Jct. 3 on the M6, they serve local ales from Bryatts brewery which is just a mile away from the pub.