Tuesday 30 August 2016


A lovely August bank holiday Monday, the weather was set fair, a pleasantly warm afternoon was in store. It was just after 11:00am when Parker arrived, already on board was Citra and Poppy Parker, the chauffeur’s young’un. Poppy doesn’t say much, unless she becomes peckish, then you have a job to satisfy her avaricious appetite. Unfed, Poppy can deliver a low oscillating whine accompanied by the glare from hell, turning most unsuspecting souls to quivering wrecks, fortunately Parker can return a similar glare.

We collected Pharp and made our way via the flatlands to Nelson’s County. It would seem the butchers from this part of the country produce rather competitive snorkers. As we approached King’s Lynn we were greeted by a considerably long slow queue of traffic making their way to the Adrian Flux Stadium to watch Big Banger racing. That old racing sage Lincs Links passed Curly Cumberland on the line, Curly was ok on the bends but struggled on the straight.
We arrived at the Live and Let Live around 1:15pm, the Weebles had already settled in, Marshall, Petit Chemise, Cardiac and Wort had made the trip. This is a decent back street pub, a couple of rooms, we were in the Snug. The landlady was beavering away just as she was on Boxing day last season. This is a pub for the locals, I suspect most of the regulars live quite close by. We ordered some ales, 5 ales and 2 ciders were available. Citra and Fuggles went for Wolf Brewery’s Edith Cavell, a 3.7% pale ale, quite thirst quenching, we couldn’t quite put our finger on the taste, vanilla was one suggestion, in the end we decided that as the ale was named after a famous nurse the taste was medicinal like. It was nice and clear with a very tight head which clung on to the glass right down to the bottom. Pharp went for Wolf Brewery’s Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing, a 3.7% mild. Not as much malt aroma as expected but with a slightly hoppy finish. A rich brown colour, perfectly clear and once again a very tight head. Parker had a pint of Oldershaw Brewery’s Newton’s Drop. A very nice 4.1% chestnut ale, loads of caramel flavours with a decent bitterness at the end. As expected the head was very tight and the ale was delightfully crystal clear. They certainly know how to look after their ales here.

Blasting out from the pubs jukebox was an antipodean entertainer of ill repute, he wears thick rimmed glasses, has a beard and likes blowing his didgeridoo, recognise him yet? It was an odd tune about 'the fascinating witches who put the scintillating stiches in the britches of the boys who put the powder on the noses on the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King Catactacus, who just happened to be passing by'. Or words to that effect. I haven’t got he foggiest idea what that means or who on earth put it on the juke box, let alone put money in to listen to it. Live and let Live I suppose.

The Poppies supporters bus had arrived and just before 2:00pm a load crammed into the pub, mostly into the very snug Snug bar. Business must have been appreciated because within 20 minutes a bowl of piping hot sausage rolls appeared on the bar. Unbeknown to the very industrious landlady; standing at the bar was Kettering’s snappiest dresser, the swarthy, bottle bottom bespectacled, Eli. Eli’s attire put’s an entirely different interpretation to ‘the fifty shades of grey’. It doesn’t matter what colour shirt he is wearing; it will look grey. Eli is also a human food hoover. If there is any food about, whether freshly produced or leftover from some event, no matter what it is, Eli will snaffled it down. We had another round of ales, mostly the same as before although Fuggles went for the Newton’s Drop, this was followed up by a half pint of Grainstore Brewery’s 1050, this is regarded by some ale aficionados as tasting just like the famous original Ruddles County. Marshal has other ‘quite loud’ opinions. Nevertheless it is a delightful mahogany coloured ale a whopping 5.0%. There were a few locals in the bar now, there was one curious moment when one of the locals arrived on his bike. So as to deter the would be bike tea leaf he chained it against conveniently positioned drain pipe, he then hung his shopping onto the handle bars and walked into the pub, doh!

That was it, time to stroll down to the Walks home of King’s Lynn Town FC, they didn’t use the Town in their name until an acute shortage of spondulicks forced out of business back in 2009. They have bounced back well since they reformed in 2010, the stadium is probably one of the best in this league, always a pleasure to attend. One of their sponsors in Woodforde Brewery, with Wherry available in the clubhouse, nice. They also have a supporter who shouts considerably loud. He stands behind the goal unleashing a long bellow, literally bending over backwards in an effort to launch his voice to the other end of the ground. He doesn’t seem to care who is standing around him, he carries on unperturbed whether it be home or away supporters. Well actually not many home supporters stand that close, they know what’s coming. The game, well the Linnets had the best of the first half going in at half-time one up as a result of a super volley. On many other occasions the ball may well have ended up somewhere near Snettisham, this time it almost took the back of the net out. The second half was a different story, a few substitutions and a very influential former Poppy going off injured swung the flow of the game our way. It was clear during the final half hour the game was only going to go one way, the Poppies ended up winning 2-1. Apparently the Linnets haven’t triumphed over the Poppies since 1971, marvellous. Time for home

It was around 6:10pm when we arrived in the delightful typically English country village of Barnwell, former home of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, although they still own the Manor they’ve now buggered off to Kensington Palace. The Montagu Arms, the Montagu’s were a bit chummy with Henry the Eighth. A nice pub, flagstone floors, sandstone walls and low ceilings, considering the association with Henry I’m surprised there wasn’t a ‘Mind Your Head’ sign. They had 4 ales on hand-pump. Adnams Southwold bitter which Parker went for, a typical English session ale coming in at 3.7%. Brewed using Fuggles hops and East Anglian Pale Ale malt barley, quite pleasant but the ale lost its head very quickly. Citra and Fuggles went for 4T’s Pale Ale, 3.7% of very little to be honest, not much flavour at all, quite disappointing, it was also quite flat, the head melted away within minutes. It was clear, if you were gagging you would be grateful, but not today. Pharp got up and made his way to the latrines, whilst we were quietly sitting in the Montagu it became quite evident that Pharp had not unleashed the insidious vapours from the bowels of Armageddon. They’re called the bowels of Armageddon because that’s what people holler when they see Pharp approaching. You can clearly hear “Armageddon” but then all you see is a plume of dust spiralling away in the distance, we never get to hear the “out of here” bit. So why was Pharp dormant, the conclusion we came to was that Poppy Parker’s presence had either nullified the gas production or Pharp was working overtime clenching his buttocks, either way none of us wanted to be around when he released the tension on his left buttock. Most of us regretted not going to the latrines before Pharp, fortunately, Citra managed to sneak in just before him. Why was Pharp walking with his shoes pointing in opposite directions, was this clear evidence of the clenched buttock affect?

Citra and Fuggles had one more pint and went for the locally brewed, not even a mile away, Digfields Ales Fool’s Nook. A quite tasty pale ale coming in at 3.8%. refreshing with a citrusy finish but once again the head disappeared straight away. A shame really, a very nice pub with a great location on the village green, adjacent to an old stone bridge crossing a babbling brook, but the ales fell short of perfection, which was in complete contrast to the Live and Let Live. What is concerning is that this pub clearly like to serve a good selection of decent ales as the ‘ALES COMING SOON’ board suggested. Fuggles may have to bring Lady Fuggles out for a visit just to check and hope this was a one off. The Wednesday £10 steak night looks good.

That was it, a good day out, we won a game, had some ales all bathed in warm sunshine. Next up we go to Leek up in Staffordshire for our first and hopefully not our last encounter in the FA cup this season. There are quite a few excellent pubs in Leek town centre all part of the Locale scheme, Titanic, Joules and Whim breweries all have pubs in the town centre. Lovely, in fact marvellous.

Sunday 28 August 2016


It’s bank holiday Monday, one of the great footy days when the Mighty Red (grinding to a halt) machine play in a local derby, fantastic. Today the Poppies have a nice local game away at King’s Lynn …..screeeeeetch, hang on a minute, King’s Lynn? That’s a 134-mile round trip, what’s local about that? Unbelievably there are 9 other clubs in our league closer to Gods chosen town than King’s ‘bloody’ Lynn. We could have gone to St Ives, Cambridge City or even Biggleswade, OK maybe not BIggleswade, there are limits to our suffering. I guess we are one of the closest clubs to King’s Lynn, a settlement that endured the scorn of stone age NIMBY’s no self- respecting Neanderthal wanted the hermits of Norfolk anywhere near them. Norfolk is the birthplace a couple of famous people, Horatio Nelson inventor of the famous wrestling hold and perhaps the greatest vocalist and songwriter ever to set foot on this planet;
Singing Postman entertaining the hermits
Alan Smethurst, otherwise known as the Singing Postman. His classic
"Hev Yew Gotta Loight Boy" from 1964 is often performed annually during the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall.

Still we must make the best of what’s before us, to be fair there are a few decent boozers in close proximity to the Walks. But it’s very difficult to see passed the Live & Let Live, just 5 minutes’ walk away with a good choice of ales.

Will the Poppies turn up? So far this season we have been very inconsistent, considering the number of players we have from last season we expected a steady start. Far from it.

Palmerston's cellar
On the way home we have some great pubs to choose from, there's plenty of Elgoods pubs in Wisbech, but we have their ales in our clubhouse so we’ll give it a miss. Peterborough offers a great choice, Citra will be hankering for some Oakham ales brewed locally, the Palmerston Arms on the Oundle Rd is a great boozer with all 14 ales served straight from the barrel. But we may by-pass all these and make our way to the delightful Barnwell village pub the Montagu Arms.
They usually have 4 ales with at least one brewed locally.

Hopefully a good bank holiday day out, the ales will be OK, not sure about the footy.

Sunday 21 August 2016


Just after 10:00am and we are on our way to Basingstoke, we picked up Pharp then made our way down the usual route. Every season we seem to have a well-trodden path to away games. For years it was the M6, a couple of seasons back we seemed to be crawling around the M25 every second week. Now it’s the A34, but not for so long this time around. We stopped off in Newbury for our pre-match imbibing. We had expected a bit of holiday traffic, but nothing really, a good steady run down. Easy parking and we were supping in the King Charles Tavern just after midday. On the entrance to the pub is proudly displayed ‘West Berkshire CAMRA Pub of the Year 2016’ lovely. A very nice smart pub, two rooms, one with comfy leather sofas and another with scrubbed wooden tables and chairs. The menu says ‘Fusion food’, probably got a nuclear powered oven or something similar. Not unlike Pharp’s complex internal system, it might not work in quite the same way but the end result is the same. The mushroom cloud bap looks good.
Wells Bombardier and Wickwar Falling Star missing off this list

There was a good range of ales, 8 in total. Fuggles and Citra started with Roosters Californian Common, 4.2% a delightfully refreshing ale. Golden coloured, the head was quite loose and fell away quickly although what was left clung to the glass. The ale is described as a ‘West coast amber ale fermented with lager yeast’. It was malty and fruity with a decent enough bitterness, very nice indeed. Pharp and Parker went for West Berkshire Brewery’s Good Old Boy, this is probably WBB’s flagship ale, at 4% it’s an easy drinking ale. This ale has won quite a few prizes in its time. Amber in colour, well balanced, it held its head better, we drank this ale during our trip to Hungerford last season. Next up Fuggles went for Wickwar Brewery’s Falling Star, a lovely golden ale coming in at 4.2%, quite zesty with some citrusy fruits on the palette. Citra decided to stay on the Californian Common whilst Pharp went for St Peter’s brewery Ruby Red, this had a good nose full of dark bitter chocolate aromas and the richness stayed with it in the taste. Beautifully clear red ale and surprising refreshing and rich, easy drinking. That was it for pre-match supping, across the road from the KCT was a delightful looking bakery shop with an array of crusty bread and other delights on show in the window. Pharp went and purchased a huge Lardy cake, we prayed he wouldn’t tuck into it early, he had a quick munch but thankfully not too much, the internal combustion developed from this could be somewhat thunderous.

Meanwhile, whist the PRATS were here the Weebles got closer to the final destination and popped into the White Hart in the village of Charter Alley. A lovely country pub which now appears to have its own brewery, although it is very difficult to find out any information. On the pub clip is says ‘Secret Brewing Co. Golden Light. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any tasting notes from the
Weebles, they then moved onto the Plough in Little London, another nice country pubs with some ales drawn straight from the barrel, there is also a brewery in this village but sadly none available today.

The match, unfortunately the team coach never arrived at the Camrose stadium home of the Dragons, but fortunately we did have a team of dragon slayers with us so they played instead. Well when we say dragon slayers we actually mean ‘dragonfly’ slayers. Unbeknown to us George had switched sides, he popped up for a couple of goals in the first half. On loan from ‘Honah Lee by the Sea’ was the magical Puff; who frolicked in the barmy breezes then flapped his wings a couple of times before extinguished any flickering flames we may have had. It would seem the Little Jackie paper is covering up the cracks with his sealing wax. We had a quite a few crosses flash across the face of their goal, but just like the Autumn mist, so did we.

Time for home, Pharp fell asleep, but this didn’t stop the Lardy cake from working away and on several occasions we were forced to wind down the windows accompanied by some gasping expletives. This country has no chance of meeting the greenhouse gas targets whilst Pharp is on this planet. According to the scientists, Pharp does more damage than a 200 strong herd of Friesian cattle. The Chief Executive of the Climate Change Committee said, “what chance have we got, I am in the process of lobbying parliament to put a ban on mushy peas and now Lardy cakes”. If only we could harness the energy, we wouldn’t need the French to build Hinckley Point.

 As Fuggles was taking the better half out for some pub snaffle, we returned straight back to our fair county and went to the White Horse in the village of Old, this is where the Fuggles are dining. Joy of joys they have 4 ales on hand-pump, so the PRATS all went for Hoggleys Northamptonshire bitter. When this ale first came out a few years ago now, Fuggles was interviewed by Anglia TV in the Alexandra Arms Kettering, it was shown on the local Monday night news. Fame at last even if it was beer related. This is a nice session ale, very refreshing 4% amber ale, easily drinkable and thirst quenching on a warm summer’s day. Pharp, Parker and Citra went off home whilst Fuggles continued. There were 2 Lacon Ales available, Affinity a powerful 4.8% chestnut ale and Encore a more sensible 3.8% session pale amber ale. Fuggles went for this, a very refreshing and easy drinking ale and in very good condition. That’s what Fuggles stayed on for the rest of the snaffling session.

A half decent day out, the ales and pubs were superb, as was the snaffle. The footy, well nothing more one can say but very disappointing indeed. At least the county cricket team did well winning the Twenty20 trophy. Our next away trip will be to Kings Lynn on bank holiday Monday, I hope we can get a few players back.

Friday 19 August 2016


This Saturday the PRATS are off to North Hants, where we take on the Dragons of the concrete jungle, Basingstoke. There are one or two pubs quite close to the ground but not of any ‘real ale’ note. The Stag & Hounds is a Harvester pub, also close by is the Beacon, you should be able to get a low priced ale in this Greene King pub. However, not for the PRATS, we are going to drop into Newbury.
We will ark up in one of the many car park then pop into the King Charles Tavern, although this is a Greene King pub, they serve 4 of their own ales, which included West Berkshire brewery plus 4 more. They do some decent snaffle for the slightly esurient.
Just a couple of hundred paces away is the micro pub
Cow and Cask.

It’s only half an hour from Newbury to the Camrose Stadium, so a fairly easy driving day. It’s been a while since we last played the Dragons and that was in that wonderful season of ours in the Isthmian league, what a fantastic season that was. We also played them in the FA trophy down there, so inspirational was that game, the PRATS can’t recall the outcome. They were relegated from the Conference South last season, but haven’t started the season as well as some expected. Hopefully the Poppies can take advantage of their poor start. On the way home, well Fuggles has to get home early as he’s going out with Mrs Fuggles, well when we say home we mean dropping off at a pub. So the PRATS may well have to pop into The Piper in Kettering, it’s their annual beer festival. Fuggles and Citra took on the responsibility of undertaking some research. We take these things seriously, so we attended the Friday night session and can say without fear of contraception that they have some decent ales available. We left early on Friday evening so we could prepare ourselves for this weekend’s game. We really didn’t want to leave so early.

Wednesday 17 August 2016


A delightful evening, lovely sunshine just the right weather to watch the Poppies take on Redditch, but not at the Valley. Instead of using our loyalty card at the Black Tap brewery tap Redditch, we’re going to Bedworth, marvellous!

It was just after 5:15pm when we left Kettering, just a short trip tonight with a stop off at the Woodfarm Brewery tap. They had just 4 of their own ales on tonight, they usually have 8 but I’m sure we will make do.

First up for Citra and Fuggles is Webb Ellis, a pleasant hoppy pale session ale and in decent condition, 3.8%, golden with a slight citrusy finish. The tight head held on to the bottom of the glass. Parker went for a Scrum, a 4.0% russet ale, malty and full bodied also in good condition. By now the Weebles have arrived and its good news, Petit Chemise has had is pass signed. We feared that Chemise had hung up his shirt and had become the founder member of the ex-PRATS club. Other Weebles included Marshall and Betweenthesticks. Next up was a new ale from Woodfarm, with their ales now under the Kendricks Brewing banner. Boadicea is a 4.2% golden ale, but this was not in good nick. Citra wanted to take his back to the bar, but decided to persevere, but gave up have way down. Just before we left the changed the barrel, no wonder it smelt like something Boudicca had worn when she was revolting on a daily basis. Now here’s a question, when I was a kid it was always pronounced Boadicea, when did it change to Boudicca? I’m sure Michael Caine would say, “It’s not bloody Boudicca, it’s Boadi bloody cea”. Struggling to down her ale, we decided it was time to move onto Bedworth and a game of footy.

We haven’t done very well against Redditch for a few years and with our start to the season being quite sluggish to say the least we weren’t very confident. So when we were one down after 15 minutes the outlook wasn’t looking good. Then at half-time our manager had a huffy fit, unleashed a barrage of expletives in the direction of the players and hey presto, we play very well and win three one. Not many Redditch supporters made the trip, they were probably outnumbered by a factor of 5 to 1.

So it was time to make our journey home taking in the Wharf Inn at Welford to have a couple of celebratory ales. As we pulled into the car park we could hear a rather loud jazz band strangling a cat, it may well have been a clowder of cats. There, I bet you didn’t know the collective noun for a group of cats, now you do. We hoped the beer wasn’t as flat as the trumpet, thankfully it wasn’t. They had a good selection of ales, but with Citra salivating for something from Oakham ales the Bishop’s Farewell pump clip was drawing him in like a moth to a flame. Both Citra and Fuggles decided to bash the Bishop down their throats, maybe I should rephrase that!!!. A lovely citrusy pale ale coming in at 4.6%, always very refreshing and easy to drink. Very dangerous thirst quencher on a hot summers day. Bishop’s Farewell was brewed to celebrate the retirement of Bishop Bill Westwood, Bishop of Peterborough. Some of the older farts amongst the PRATS more cultured readers may remember him doing ‘thought for the day’ on Radio Four’s Today programme. Parker went for Langton Brewery’s Traction, a typical ale for Parker, chestnut colour, 4.2% bitter. Both ales were in excellent condition. Pharp now arrived, the trombonist from the Jazz band instantly saluted his hero. No one can perform the ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ whilst supping a pint, quite like Pharp, probably the world’s greatest Pharpsophonist. Pharp went for a pint of Marston’s Pedigree, it looked in good condition, lovely and clear. Pedigree has always been a decent ale, it’s been around for decades now first brewed in 1952, often blamed for causing considerably loose bowel movements. Not the ale for Pharp really but as it was close to the end of the day, the rest of the PRATS weren’t in the firing line. Citra went to the bar to get himself and Fuggles another delicious pint of Bishop’s. But a few moments later Citra returned with a face of absolute disappointment, almost in tears. Bishop’s had sold out. He was sent back to get whatever he wants. He came back with Tollgate Brewery’s Talaki IPA, 4.8% pale ale and with a name like that it’s almost certain to have a few new world hops somewhere in the mash. It was very nice, a golden ale, quite bitter at the end, that would be those new world hops kicking in. A decent ale to finish the night off. All in all; a decent night out, some decent ales a good result with a decent performance although I don’t think Redditch will be the force this season as they were last.

Next up we go to Basingstoke, we haven’t been there for a few years.

Sunday 14 August 2016


A football season has one or two monumental highlights, one of which is visiting The Valley home of Redditch Utd. However, this season the PRATS and all other Poppies supporters have been deprived of one of footies little luxuries. Sadly, their ground isn’t ready to host any games yet, although it should be noted that hasn’t stopped it in the past. The despair of missing out at playing a game at this marvellous home of unfettered hospitality has clearly affected our players. Once the news filtered through that we were now playing this fixture at the Oval in Bedworth their heads have significantly dropped, their ability to play footy has completely deserted them. The supporters are moaning at a considerably higher tempo than is the norm, they are also now moaning out of position with their mouths doing most of the talking instead of their arses, although there are one or two exceptions, well maybe more than one or two.

Still, we have to make the best of a bad job and plan where we will indulge in a pre-match sup. So with Woodfarm brewery tap on route it would be remiss of us if we didn’t pop in.
What will the Poppies do tonight, will we have a shot on goal, will we be drowning our sorrows or celebrating on the way home? Where to go, we could return back to Woodfarm but maybe a small detour to the Wharf Inn at Welford might be in order.
They usually have 6 or 7 ales and being a member of the Oakademy of Excellence they are bound to have at least one Oakham ale available. They are also in the Grainy Club so will have some Grainstore ales available as well.

So despite the enormous disappointment we must overcome, we should have a half decent evening out.

Sunday 7 August 2016


It’s here, the first day of a new footy season; and as seems to be the norm in recent years we are travelling down to Dorset. Whilst there is much excited anticipation, there is an edge of nervous tension in the air, butterflies are not only fluttering amongst the hedgerows.

It’s an early start, this time of year we will encounter holiday traffic. Will the game kick off on time this year with the player’s coach arriving late at Poole twelve months ago? It’s a beautiful sunny morning as Parker pulls up outside Fuggle’s abode in his new PRATSmobile, it’s 8:10am, Citra is already well ensconced in the back seat. 20 minutes later we are waiting for Pharp to emerge from the purple haze that envelops chez Pharp. It’s quite noticeable how many dead bluebottles there are lying on the backs having suffered an excruciating demise in this part of Rushden. Thankfully, the next couple of hours travelling were refreshingly calm despite two tubs of mushy peas having been consumed the previous evening. The PRATS sorted out all the world’s ills, we moaned about everything and everybody and whilst Pharp’s back passage was relatively inert, it didn’t stop him using it for most of the discussions on our way to our first port of call. One of the main topics of conversation and source of much debased humour was a new fellatio cafe that is looking to open in Paddington. Citra wanted to know how he could get on the staff interviewing panel. Needless to say the puns were coming thick and fast.

At around 10:30am we arrived at the Apache cafĂ©, which is located within in the Army Flying museum at Middle Wallop. A pleasant set up, old helicopters, tanks and other military stuff across a vast green airfield. Pharp barked, “look at that old Fokker over there”, to which Citra retorted “that’s a bit unkind, just because he’s wearing a Diamonds shirt there’s no need to call him an old F…..” “Noooo” bellowed Pharp “the bloody bi-plane over there”. Silent titters all around.

Time for some much needed sustenance, the all-day breakfast was ordered and duly snaffled down in quick time. Parker went for a quick fag before we set off to the first ale outlet but not before we picked up the Pharp Easy Breathe. A nice journey across the delightful bucolic landscape, but it wasn’t long before we were queuing up through Salisbury, we eventually arrived at the Wayland Sixpenny Brewery around midday.  We managed to order our ales without picking up any fines. The clientele within the minute bar area were the same as our last visit 15 weeks ago, same old banter. We went and sat in the lounge, well when we say lounge we mean an open-ended ramshackle loggia, knocked up from a few recycled bits of timber. All sorts for seats, including a row of seats out of the back of a bus, a couple of garden seats, plus some old dishevelled dining seats all neatly positioned around a couple of 18 gallon aluminium barrels which doubled up as tables. Citra and Fuggles went for Sixpenny Gold, a refreshing gold ale coming in at 4.2%, the loose head dropped away quite quickly but the ale tasted fine. Pharp went for Cranbourne Chaser, not the sort of ale Pharp would normally drink, this is a light pale ale although described as deep copper, it certainly isn’t. Chaser is a real thirst quencher at 3.9%, this also lost its head quite quickly. Maybe the ‘fry up’ is having an effect as Parker’s Sixpenny 6D, also lost its head. This is a typical English ale malty and bitter and in good condition.

Sitting in the lounge with us was clearly a local gentleman, his glazed eyes and permanent grin suggested that he had less gorm than most. He may have been the breweries ‘meet and greet’ chappy. “Are you local”? he asked. “No” we replied, “we’re from Kettering”. There was a lengthy pause, then “do you like the brewery”? “yes, it’s very nice here”. Another long pause, “are you enjoying yourselves”? “yes thank you”, “Is this your first time”? “No, we’ve enjoyed ourselves lots of times” another silent titter all around.

The Weebles arrived, although it was not the full complement, only Marshall, Wort and Filch were in attendance. Cardiac had a good excuse for not being at the first game of the season but we are sad to announce that Petit Chemise may be an EX-PRATS. Petit has chosen to have a house warming party on the first day of the footy season. Petit may well wear the chemise but he appears to no longer be the wearer of the pantaloons, a sad loss. The PRATS are considering sending in a rescue party. Time for another ale, Fuggles and Citra went for the Cranbourne Chaser, Pharp went for 6D. The brewery moves to a new location in September so this will be our last ever visit here. We expect to be dropping in to the new premises on our trip to Weymouth next March.

Time to move on, we are running well behind schedule, it’s 1:00pm so we don’t have time to go to the Tom Browns in Dorchester, especially as we would waste time parking up. So we’ve decided to go to a mystery pub, the first one we come to after we pass Blandford Forum. We hoped for the best that they’d have decent ales available.
And so we arrived at the Milton Arms at Winterborne Whitchurch. Luck was on our side, 3 real ales and decent ones at that. One from Eight Arch brewery in Wimborne, Bowstring, another from Black Tor brewery near Exeter, Raven Session Ale and finally Timothy Taylors Boltmaker, a former champion ale of Britain. Fuggles and Citra went for Bowstring, a pleasant enough ale. 3.8%session ale, slightly malty with a decent bitterness. Pharp settled for Raven, not as dark as he was expecting, more a light chestnut It was hazy, Pharp struggled to get it down his neck, he persevered. The Milton Arms is more a restaurant than pub, grey paint everywhere, the walls, the bar, the window frames, you could say the Milton Arms is a bit sterile.

We arrived at the Avenue Stadium around 2:40pm, guess what the match is delayed, but only by 10 minutes. It would appear the team coach only arrived at 2:25pm. It a nice compact tidy ground, although if you sit near the back of the stand you will get a pillar occasionally blocking you view. The match camera man perches himself almost directly behind the pillar, quite bizarre. If you watch any match highlights from Dorchester the chances of missing a vital tackle or shot on goal is highly likely.

The match, well we won here 4-1 just a few months ago, it wasn’t going to be easy this time around. By half-time it was 0-0, but the second half proved good for the Poppies finally overcoming the Magpies 2-0. The Poppies supporters were in good voice; they’d endured a long journey down now it was time to make the long journey back but at least with a smile on their faces.

The PRATS were heading for the Towcester Mill brewery tap, we were making good progress until we reached the M4/A34 junction and sitting in front of us was a stationary queue of traffic. It would be 8:30 before we got to our destination. The bad news in all these delays is that Pharp’s digestive system has had a considerably long time to ferment. We suggested to Citra that it might be a good idea to put on the ‘Pharp Easy Breathe’, we didn’t realise he’d already got it on. Whatever Pharp had been eating and drinking was now developing into something grisly causing severe discomfort for his fellow travellers. Thankfully we managed to get to Towcester and quench our tonsils. We all went for Mill Race, a lovely refreshing blonde ale, easy drinking at 3.9%. It’s always in good condition here, beautifully clear, tight white head clinging onto the glass all the way down to the bottom, you can count the number of swigs we’d taken to down the ale by counting the foam rings down the glass, marvellous!

Next up for Fuggles and Citra was one of the guest ales, we are suckers for all ales from Salopian, so The Bends a whopping 5.2% American pale ale, was the perfect pint to close the night off. We weren’t disappointed, lots of citrusy grapefruit, a white head, golden and incredibly easy drinking.

Time for home, a good start to the new season, a decent away win, a couple of decent brewery taps serving fine ales. We arrived back in Kettering around 10:20pm. Next up is our favourite place to go, Redditch, but thankfully their ground isn’t ready for the new season so we’re off to Bedworth. Not the best place on the planet but at least there are some decent places to sup some ale.