Or alternatively: A day trip to Southend with the Lord
This morning I crushed the entire crop of grapes from my single vine, stood at the village memorial with Nora for our personal 11 o’clock minute silence and finished yesterday’s crossword. I now have a bin with a paltry, but valuable, two gallons of grape juice to ferment, a full recycling box and a now discarded poppy.
Transport to game.
I then drove to pick up The Real Lord Powell from the gates of his manor at 1.01. The plan was flexible. If you know the Lord this can be a sticky concept. Choices were given. Perhaps we could do as usual and head for Rochford for pre-match beers for him. Option two involved checking out (or ticking off) the unvisited pubs of Leigh on Sea and Southend. Thirdly I could find somewhere that Maaaaaaaaart had not, and would likely not visit in a normal season. There were several prolonged “errrrrs” and, as he was as ever polite, he went into “you decide” mode. We left the decision open to the vagaries of the M25.
By 3 we were well on to the M25 so I made the decision and off we went to do some nostalgic ticking in St. Albans. This is not the usual thought when one thinks of pre-match beers for a game in Southend but, then again, this was not the usual pre-match drinking team.
I should explain that I used to live in St. Albans. It is the home of CAMRA. (The Lord took out a metaphorical new notebook when that appeared on the horizon). St. Albans evokes bitter personal memories but has always been a special place to drink and the Sopwell Lane area should be on everyone’s experienced list.
After the pub visits described below I indulged the spread-sheeted one with a meandering tour of St. Albans. Ignoring the Abbey we found our joys in a trip to the car park of Clarence Park, home of both Cricket and the now tree-less Football Ground. Then we drove past CAMRA H.Q. for a spot of fruitless Roger Protz spotting. Finally I dragged him past my old house and back to the M25 and, “mark my words”, a two hour drive on to the ground. In Southend the Crunchy Crunchy Chip shop proved too great an attraction for the man with the bank coin bag supply. I went on to be delighted, and then disappointed, by the high scoring food at the ground. The excitement was due to having pasty, curry pie, milk for tea, under cover and quickly served. It was heading for a top of the league position but the pasty turned out to be of the, horror of horrors, cheese and onion pasty abomination style and full marks were missed.
The White Hart Tap
This was my personal pub of choice and, way back between 2002 – 04, the nearest to my local. We walked in for a first pint at around 3.15. This pub had an interesting choice of White Hart Beers. I asked who had badged them for the pub only to be told that the Landlord brewed beer out back. The pub had changed, grown in size and now had a back? I couldn’t do the drinking thing so had to rely on the thoughts of the leather-coated one. The Porter weighed in at 8.6%. He (Martin, not the Landlord) bottled it. The locals were in typical Albanian whinge mode. This City has a particularly self-confident and arrogant attitude among its residents. This is manifest in their trolley strewn and line straddled barking bays in the car parks. From experience I know that it is de rigueur to not take your trolley back to a trolley bay because it might “deprive our teenage boy of a collecting job before his gap year.” The line-straddling is the neat way of saving a space in a car park for your mate who will be joining you in the pub. One will sit watching the car park and on cue readjust ones car to fit perfectly between the lines and then welcome your partner as he / she steps out of her car, in the space now made available.
Back to the pub. I sampled his Castle Rock Harvest Pale Ale. It was overly dry, not the best I had ever tasted. The pub was cleaner and brighter than I remembered. It had been improved and I like the idea of it having its own brewery.
*****************************WE INTERRUPT THIS REPORT *****************************
**********FLOOD ALERT FOR MY LOCAL AREA FOR TOMORROW AND SATURDAY********
*************************** TIME TO ROUND UP THE SHEEP *****************************
Sopwell Lane has 6 pubs within a hundred yards or so of each other. Which to choose? I plumped for this one rather than the CAMRA listed Garibaldi at the top of the garden.. The pub was too similar to how I remembered it. It had the same carpet, fixtures and fittings. This was explained by our chat with the enthusiastic new Landlord. He was connected with the folks at the Tap. The pub was soon to have a total refurbishment. The pub was going to be saved and regenerated. The beer list looked good and appealing. The baseball-capped one was off on a full wall photo inspection and by now was planning my summer trip for me. You know he does this. Every summer; he says around the 20th June, I organise a beer trip to somewhere we might not normally visit. In recent years we have wobbled through Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton. I could hear his planning sheet complaining at the extra columns. By next weekend it will be reported, no doubt, that I had decided to take the team for a full day stroll of my former home city. It will be good, should we do so, to revisit the rejuvenated White Lion.
Southend United 1 Bristol Rovers 0 Attendance 3,495 (181 Gasheads)
Gasheads- including Peter’s first spot of Roger Radio
Rovers played well and lost. We are out of both cups within four days. One could argue that we created more chances against Chesham yet the same result was so very differently received. Five one on one chances were missed. Mr Bentley was a good shot stopper. The team was clapped off the field but I ask what the difference was? Apparently we didn’t deserve to win on Sunday yet today, against a team a league higher, we did. Confused, I certainly am.
Southend fans have changed. They have become all happy-clappy. I used to like them for being real fans with similar issues to the Rovers. They were a popular little friend to those who would otherwise go and watch West Ham. They have an annoying time random drummer. Isn’t the point of a drummer that it keeps a regular beat? It must annoy the heck out of the traditional Shrimper fan. It drowns out any hope of the welcome impromptu chanting. And then when they score they go into full American Football mode. On comes the taped music and they all clap in unison to some banal pop tune. It is dreadful and frankly embarrassing. At one time the random folk were given some sort of cue to light up the stadium with mobile phone lights. We did that for a while, AFTER WE SCORED! It felt like the latest version of the Mexican wave, a sort of “look at us, aren’t we clever when we are bored?” sort of wave.
The chances came and went. We trudged off back to my car. We gathered again with fellow Gasheads post a M25 rolling road block, at Reading Services. I dropped off our mutton chops near his Gatehouse and I was home by 1.30 in the morning.
Entertainment Value 3
Best Pub: The White Hart Tap
Best Beer: N/A
Carlisle H on Saturday. We meet at the Post Office Tavern in Westbury-on-Trym at 12.