Tuesday 2 April 2019


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

Wednesday 13 February 2019


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

Monday 28 January 2019


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