Sunday 13 March 2016


It was a misty start to the day as we left ‘Ketrin’ just after 11:00am, clear evidence of heavy rainfall was there for all to see, the Nene at Irthlingborough has burst its banks with huge lakes stretching away as far as the eye could see. We gathered up Pharp and were in St Ives just after midday; the river flood plains were working well and had taken up the swelling Great Ouse to an even greater expanse. We parked up easily and took the short, brisk trudge to the Oliver Cromwell.
Good news the Oakham JHB was on special offer at £2.50 a pint, lovely. Citra and Fuggles opened up with this and as with most Oakham ales it was incredibly clear, pristine in fact and tasted delightful. This is always popular very pale ale and has won many accolades in the beer world. At just 3.9% a good mouthful of grapefruit zapping across the taste buds, a tight head clinging tightly all the way down the glass. Pharp went for Brass Castle brewery Cliffhanger, slightly hazy single hop bitter coming in at 3.8% with a citrusy taste. It was ok, but not perfect. By now the Weebles had arrived, closely followed by the Cassocks who live close by in Cambridge, Marshall’s family, although considerably less noisy. Marshall was drinking Grainstore 1050, it is suggested that this is in fact a facsimile of the original Ruddles County; the Grainstore brewer once did the brewing for Ruddles in Langham before they were gobbled up by Watney owners Grand Metrolpolitan. Enough said about that debacle. 1050 is a rich full flavoured ale, a delightful chestnut colour, coming in at 5% and was in good condition. 1050 name refers to specific gravity of the beer, the method of measuring the strength of ale before ABV was used. Specific gravity was also the measure of how much was paid to the taxman. It looked so good Pharp went for this for his next tipple, Fuggles and Citra stayed on JHB. It was time to move on to the next pub.  A gentle stroll along the river bank, the sun had burnt all the mist away and we were looking forward to watching a game without wearing a heavy coat, scarf and gloves.
We arrived at the Nelsons Head, owned by Greene King so naturally they had a goods selection of their own ales. But not for the PRATS, we all went for Nene Valley breweries Jim’s Little Brother, nice refreshing pale ale coming in at 3.8% and was in excellent condition. There were now several Poppies supporters in the pub, McGinty’s Goat arrived with Bilbo Baggins and Statto. With our parking ticket timer running down we had just over half an hour to get to the next pub and sling one more down.

Just a very short walk to the Royal Oak, around the corner. This is a very nice pub; one for the locals, several rooms but most importantly loads of ales to choose from as well as 6 ciders. Oakham Inferno was available so it was inevitable we would go for this. Yet another citrusy pale ale from Oakham, 4.2% easy drinking and in good nick. The pub was now filling up with Poppies supporters, Weebles, Cassocks, McGinty and pals. Marshall is always drawn to dark rich porters so with probably the best porter in the country, if not the planet available; Elland 1872 it was a forgone conclusion what he’d be going around the pub telling everyone about it and letting them have a sip. 6.5% of drinking chocolate, bitter and incredibly tasty. This Porter has won national champion ale on numerous occasions. 1872, where have we seen the date before? That was it for our pre-match supping; it was time to move onto Westwood Rd, home of landlords St Ives FC and tenants Cambridge City. A pleasant enough ground, the car park was already full, either a decent crowd or the leisure centre was very busy or maybe both.
The game, well we won again. That’s now 3 of our last away 4 games with only the debacle at Histon spoiling the fun. We were one up inside a minute, 4 up at half-time. The Poppies Choral Society was in full, well lubricated voice, Gareth Malone would have been impressed. Their tone, pitch and complete grasp of the ironic verse were there for all to enjoy. ML duly waved when beckoned, although I didn’t notice how many fingers he held up! We are now on a role, can we make the play-offs. With no away games for 4 weeks, only 7 home games we must have an opportunity.
A quick pint after the game in the clubhouse, this time a bottle of Ringwood Boondoggle, very nice, we had a pint of this a few weeks back in the Fox Inn, Thrapston on our way back from the debacle.

Less than 10 minutes away we arrived at King-of-the-Belgians, in the village of Hartford on the outskirts of Huntingdon. What a delightful pub, we initially went into what appeared to be the lounge-cum-restaurant area, not a soul in the place just a bloke behind the bar. He said are you eating, if not you need to go into the bar, so we did and it was absolutely packed to the rafters. Everyone was watching the rugger with England doing their damnedest to throw away an unassailable lead. Twickenham was equally packed to the rafters but most within clenching their collective buttocks, phew that was close; once again England swung low and almost stayed there. It was a good job the KOB as it is known in these parts had a few decent ales on tap. The Weebles and the Cassocks had already taken up residence in the bar and it was clear Marshall was on another dark ale this time Castle Rock’s Black Gold. It was standing room only for the PRATS. Pharp stayed with the rugger theme and went for Tydd Steam brewery Sweet Chariot, 4.0% pale ale in good nick with a tight head, Pharp looked content and fortunately for all in the pub was emulating those buttock clenchers at Twickers. Fuggles and Citra tried the York Brewery Otherside IPA, what a beauty, we might have to get this for the Poppies Beer Festival. We certainly chose a good beer, full of flavour and in very good condition, 4.5% premium pale ale, marvellous. Next up, Pharp had another Sweet Chariot, whilst Citra and Fuggles had to try the Oakham Beermonster, 4.8% amber ale; this is a seasonal ale from Oakham and is only available during March, so if we miss it now we’ll have to wait for another year. It was packed with flavour, loads of hops, a bit overpowering to be honest but nevertheless a decent ale. The barman gave Parker a free coffee, what a nice pub, thinking about drivers. Just time for one more ale so Citra and Fuggles had to return back to the delightful Otherside IPA.  Well that’s it for a while no away games until April 9th when we travel down to Chesham. That’s it for a few weeks from PRATS. 

Thursday 10 March 2016


This week the PRATS head off back to St Ives for yet another ‘Booze by the Ouse’. This will be the Poppies 6th game by the Great Ouse this season. We started with a friendly against Bedford Town, then St Ives in the FAT, followed by a trip to Brackley Saints in the county cup, two league games against St Neots and Kings Lynn. This time we play Cambridge City, who along with us has collectively played home games at 7 different grounds in the last 5 seasons. Since leaving Milton Rd in 2013, they almost went to Newmarket, but eventually turned up at Histon and now this season at St Ives. In a few years’ time they could be at a brand spanking new ground in Sawston which is about 7 miles south of Cambridge. When Fuggles was a mere Fugglet in the late 50’s early 60’s City were the premier club in Cambridge and could be considered one of the biggest non-league sides in the country often attracting crowds in excess of 3000, so you can only imagine their astonishment when United were voted into the football league within a decade or so.

Spot the bloke in the bar
There are some decent pubs in St Ives with some near to the ground, but it would be difficult not to retrace our steps from our trip here back at the end of October Trouble and Strives. That was a Friday night this time we get a Saturday afternoon wandering through ancient market town. The Oliver Cromwell is a good place to start, 7 or 8 ales available with at least one from Oakham, Citra will be pleased. Next up will be the Nelsons Head, although a Green King pub they do have a decent selection of ales including Nene Valley brewery from Oundle. Just around the corner, or if Citra wants to take a short cut we could walk through the chippy we will end up in the Royal Oak, more Oakham ales here. Elgoods have a pub in the town the Floods Tavern.
Closest to the ground is the Merchant House just a 5 minute walk they have a couple of ales available. Just up the road is the Seven Wives, on driving out of town last October we spotted a SIBA sign on the outside of the pub, this usually indicates a good selection of ales. On the way home, well the 15 hand pumps at the Falcon in Huntingdon are a temptation. The King-of-the-Belgians looks interesting, this is on the outskirts of Huntingdon, we would have to drive past this to get home, maybe we’ll pop in for a couple. Hopefully we will get a game; the pitch here can get a bit boggy to say the least.

Tuesday 8 March 2016


It was just after 4:15pm when the Pharpless PRATS set out to bright lights of Redditch, gateway to enlightenment and illumination. Worcestershire’s centre of excellence for cultural growth especially mushrooms. The Bee Gees were singing a song about Massachusetts on the radio. It wasn’t long after 5:30pm when we started to meander around the town centre looking for a suitable parking space close to our first supping station Black Tap Brewpub.
Eventually, we got into the pub, an old building with high ceilings; a raging fire was being hugged by three locals chatting away with very broad accents. It was probably a Georgian house in its earlier days then becoming offices or a dentist’s surgery, now a pub brewing its own beer. Behind the bar is the brewing area with all the tanks and pipes and suchlike. The young lady behind the bar pulled us a sample of the three ales, all reasonably pleasant. They only had one of their own ales available which was a tad disappointing. Citra and Fuggles went for it Blacktap’s Bon Johnsom, the young lady behind the bar offered us a loyalty card; we chuckled saying we were only here for the day and unlikely to returning any time soon. The ale was slightly hazy golden ale at 4.2%, but with a good head and tasted reasonable but not perfect. These were probably the last two pints out of the barrel as 5 minutes later the girl behind the bar was heaving away on the hand pump. The next customer’s ale was perfectly clear.
Some interesting urinals in the gents, they had been fashioned out of lager kegs, very amusing. We had studied the on-line menu before arriving so eagerly ordered the 3 times champion pork pie and as it was before 6:00pm we requested the BOGOF deal. Sadly they only had one pie; they no longer served the champion pies just some they purchase off the market. We had the one pie and as we were a touch esurient we went for the fresh scotch eggs. Sadly they don’t do them anymore; not enough demand apparently, the onset of malnutrition was now a grave possibility. Fortunately the young lady rustled up the cheese board; however, they’d run out of crackers. So the three of us tucked into a single quartered pork pie, a dozen cubes of various fromage, some pickle and a small bowl of olives, a feast to behold. Parker enjoyed his cafeteria coffee, nice. The next ale was another new brewery for us Ambridge Brewery Best bitter, another slightly hazy golden bitter, coming in at 4.1%, once again a tight head and quite tasty and refreshing. This was quickly followed by the second Ambridge ale Honey Bunny, lovely 4.2% pale ale with a long honey finish, quite tasty. By now a small contingent of Weebles had arrived, Petit Chemise and Marshall, they both went for Blacktap’s Bon Johnsom and it looked superb. It was time to make our way to the ground. We arrived reasonably early and were able to get parked up. As we passed through the turnstiles the lights went dim, then bright them dim again, everyone laughed it off. So we had a nice cup of tea waiting for kick off when half the lights went out, greeted by a small groan from the gathering throng. One or two people started to run about in a panicky sort of way, holding their I-phone up in torch mode, a few more minutes later and we were plunged into darkness, this time the groans were quite audible, one bloke mentioned botox, or at least it sounded like that. The whole place looked a bit like a peace rally with most people holding up their phones in torch mode, although they weren’t chanting messages of love and peace, balderdash and bother was more the tone. Then some lights came on with a lot of alarms ringing, then off again, then on again with more alarms ringing, but alas two floodlights pylons never did regain their glow and so, this, our third attempt to play this sodding game was called off. The omens had been hinting all night that that we would be back here again.
Undeterred, the PRATS, this time with Pharp in tow moved on to the Weighbridge in Alvechurch closely followed by Petit Chemise and Marshall. What a delightful pub this is, sitting by the marina, the local entertainment group were practising in the logia at the back of the pub. This is a three small roomed pub; breweriana adorning the walls, plus a few photos of canal barges and steam trains, the station is just a few hundred yards away. Seven hand pumps graced the small bar, 6 ales and one cider. The bar staff proudly informed us what ale or type of ale always appeared on which hand-pump. Available was Kinver Brewery Bargee Bitter, brewed especially for the Weighbridge, Weatheroak Timmerman Tipple, XT Brewery’s 15, Gloucester Brewery Ankle Tap, Hobsons Champion Mild and Wye Valley Bitter. Citra, Fuggles and Marshall went for Weatheroak Timmermans Tipple, a lovely 3.5% pale ale, quite refreshing and very drinkable, perfectly clear with a good tight head. Pharp chose the Ankle tap, brewed for the rugby world cup, amber ale coming in at 3.8% quite bitter and in excellent condition. We ordered a couple of pork pies, no shortage this time as the bar staff brought out a huge plateful piled high. These were very nice pies, crusty with hardly any jelly and a good peppery aftertaste, very nice indeed. Chemise tried the Kinver Bargee’s bitter, loads of flavour, 4.1% golden ale. So nice Fuggles and Citra finished the night on this one, easily drinkable quaffing ale. Marshall had a pint of the Champion Mild, once again in good nick. Pharp ended then night on Wye Valley bitter.

Although we didn’t get a game to see we did have a good night out, some decent ale in a couple of very nice pubs. We will get to use the loyalty card at the Blacktap, and you never know it could be fourth time lucky. When the hell will we play this game, looks like a 4 match week coming up before the end of the season?

Sunday 6 March 2016


Unusually for the PRATS it’s Monday night footy, hopefully we’ll get a game at the third attempt. We’ve already had two games scratched from the diary; we are itching to get this game played. We should have been supping here in Redditch at the end of November, then again just before Christmas.
It’s not too far away, just over an hour’s journey, so for the PRATS it’s the recently opened Black Tap Brewpub serving their own ales. We’re looking forward to trying some new ales, never had any of these before. The menu looks interesting, traditional, award-winning pork pie gold award last 3 years running or even fresh Scotch egg traditional or with black pudding, yummy, sounds good, we might have to sample some of those, and if we get there before 6:00pm they do a BOGOF on the pork pies.
After the game, well it could be the Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill home to the brewery of the same name? We popped in here on the way back from Paulton earlier in the season, Perhaps a better choice might be the Weighbridge near Alvechurch, less than a 15 minute drive away with ales from Kinver Ales and the other Weatheroak brewery.
Hopefully a good night out, but could be a tough game, the Reds have dropped a few points in recent games and have a few more to lose once their ‘fielding ineligible players case’ has concluded.  They will need all the points they can get if they want to stay in the championship race. We also need the points to charge up the league into a play-off spot.
Did you know that Psoriasis is an anagram of Pissarsio? Quite appropriate I suppose. 

Wednesday 2 March 2016


Here we go again down to Sluff, hopefully second time lucky. Fuggles is feeling as rough as a badgers arse, has a throat like a Shetland pony (a little hoarse) and a tsunami of snot have all contrived to induce Fuggles to consume inordinate quantities of coffee laced with brandy and honey, but to no avail. The opal sludge flow rate goes on unabated. The offer of a chicken Vindaloo for dinner the night before may well have stemmed the deluge; however Montezuma would have had something to say about this. They say that as you get older you become a little less co-ordinated, but that’s not the always the case, coughing and farting become much more synchronised. The fairer of our species don’t really get man-flu, they ridicule us, they chat amongst themselves on the school run with their arms folded and say “aww bless” whilst themselves ridden with red noses. Bunkum, we blokes are made of stern stuff. An old friend once said, “The best cure for the common cold is to become self-employed”. We can add to that, being a Poppies supporter will enable you to overcome anything life can bung at you. So an inordinately large box of man-sized nose wipes under arm with a plastic bag to collect the heavily laden tissues, cold and flu tablets in the pocket and here we go, but not before one last rasping chest wrenching cough just to leave Mrs Fuggles in no doubt whatsoever of the personal sacrifice Fuggles is making to go the footy, albeit via a couple of pubs.
Today’s pick up point for Citra and Fuggles is the Britannia in Northampton. The beer is usually crap here but it’s close to where Parker undertakes his day time activities. The beer was crap again with a very boring selection of standard stuff. Charles Wells Bombardier, Wadworths 6X, Morlands Old Speckled Hen and Bloody Doombar, how very inspirational. We went for the local-ish ale Bombardier, but it went off before the first pint had been pulled so we ended with 6X, warm wazz is the only description on offer. Thankfully Parker arrived just after 4:00pm and we were in our way.
It was around 5:30pm as we crawled through the leafy lanes on the outskirts of Beaconsfield on our way to The Royal Standard of England a very old establishment; in a small village of Forty Green, there’s been a pub on this site for 900 years. A higgledy-piggledy hostelry with small rooms going off in all directions. Very much a touristy sort of place.  Loads of black wooden beams and upright supports, stuffed animal heads nailed to the walls, hop vines draping from the ceiling. Just behind the bar is a wooden carving of the Last Supper, this reminded Fuggles of the Julian Church Brewery ale Last Supper; where the pump clip depicted the image of Michelangelo’s  painting, however the difference was that all the disciples were completely bladdered, whilst JC himself stood there with a tankard of ale in his hand, the last supper. A decent selection of ales on the 6 hand-pumps including one of the home brews Britannia Imperial IPA, marvellous. Citra and Fuggles went for this. A very pleasant ale, amber colour at 3.6% quite tasty with a lingering bitterness, nice and clear with a good head. Parker tried a glass of water, lovely. Next up was Chiltern Brewery’s Chiltern Ale, 3.7% light amber and according to the pump clip it has hints of grape and honey. Not sure about that but it is quite tasty and easily quaffable and once again in good nick. The other ales available were a couple from the Windsor & Eton brewery plus Hardy & Hansons Olde Trip, named after the oldest pub in Nottingham.
That was it for the first pub, next up 4 miles away is the Jolly Cricketers, in the village of Seer Green. Lots of cricketing memorabilia adorns the walls, even the house ale is called Taverners brewed by Rebellion brewery, the gents’ toilet has Lords on the door, we didn’t look at the ladies toilet door.  Five hand-pumps Rebellion’s  Roundhead and Taverners, Fuller’s London Pride, Chiltern Ale and Little Beer Corporations Little Haka, Fuggles and Citra went for this. What a lovely ale, 3.5% an amazing amount of flavour for such a low gravity ale, typical New Zealand hops. We could drink this all night, but we have a match to go to. Besides Citra was getting too excited about the menu. ‘Crispy Cornish squid with Chili, Garlic and Soy Dip’. Only 10 minutes away to Holloways Park home of Beaconsfield SYCOB landlords to Slough Town, until next season that is. Decent enough ground for this level, good clubhouse with 3 mini-barrels of Rebellions ales. We didn’t have a pint this time round, time for the footy; we’ve never lost at this ground, so some optimism.
The game, well, would you believe it, we’re one up after 7 minutes, two  up after 34 minutes, OK Sluff pulled one back but by half time we were 3 -1 up. The second half was all about controlling the game, and we did that well. Slough had a couple of off-side decisions go against them but the Poppies held firm and stifled Slough, yes that’s right we can now say Slough, fully recovered from the play-off trauma of a few years back. We can now preform the posh foxtrot, ‘sluff, sluff, quick, quick, sluff ‘never really did cut the mustard. We didn’t get a ten from Len, but Darcy often admired our fandango.

That was it for the day, time to go home.