Or: The retribution that follows a blog.
Transport to game.
I caught the7.54 train from Severn Beach then the 9.16 train to Exeter St. David’s which was delayed by 15 minutes. We arrived around 10.30 leaving a perfect 20 minutes for our group to dribble out of the station in ones and twos then meet up around the corner and walk on to the first pub. In the meanwhile Devon and Cornwall’s finest spent their overtime budget on sheep herding at the station.
The Mill on the Exe
This is a St. Austell Brewery flagship pub. You can tell that it overvalues its food custom with a quick look at its website. There you can find a link to its drinks menu that has no mention of cask ales. That is a shame because this pub serves a good selection of their beers plus a guest ale and it is always of decent quality. In this case the guest ale was a Banks and Taylor Golden Fox. It was followed by a darker, more local, beer. The team had assembled and included Coventry Bob, Ronnie, Mumbles, Random Tim, Denis Law, the Pikestar, Lord Powell, Doughnut Boy, plus John, Phil the Lion and Friends and Nigel C. Just by real ale coincidence we were also sat next to Clive and his family, regular beer hunters at away games. The hot topic of the day was of course the vote on whether to bomb Syria or not. I think the consensus of our small focus group was a definite no to bombing anyone. Random Tim was particularly cogent and adamant that he would be telling Jeremy exactly what he thought in his next email. The Pikestar is more pragmatic about the way the Labour party will tow the establishment line in time. For the moment I am firmly in the “tell them as you think” camp. You (J.C.) are there to represent an alternative view, so do so. The lack of putting an alternative view cost the Labour party so many votes at the last election so don’t make the same mistake again. The people can only thank you for it in the long term. By now the pub had divided into two. Our aging beer drinking group in the larger room while the older still eating classes had migrated to the front bar overlooking the river. Normal opening time was approaching so we set off to town, again deciding to split up a bit rather than form one group. The yellowhammers had arrived outside, so that was probably a good idea. The downside was that we lost the advance party in the town centre. That party apparently had no mobile phone access.
This was an excellent find. Opposite the Cathedral; near to our intended next pub of the Wells Tavern; it is firmly in the micro-pub, shop front style of beer house. A single room, it utilises space well so that some can sit while most stand at the bar. By now this pub had a full contingent of Rugby types from Harlequins making their way to a game with the Chiefs. We settled to a table with a good chap who has a confusing, if impressive, real ale and sport C.V. He follows Harlequins and Brentford as a Rugby and football fan. He plays social rugby for Ealing Trailfinders Extra somethings. He was off on a quest to find the Flying Pig. Should he so wish, he would have certainly been given membership of Lord Powell’s tour club with a special honorary badge. A Great Heck Voodoo Mild was my choice and I feel that was a good one.
We bypassed the Wells Tavern. It was standing room only, very Gas full, and would only have got busier. By now the Banana men had filled the spaces between pubs and were making it obvious that some pubs were no go places. We loved sharply on to:-
The Old Firehouse
This pub has become a regular pre-match haunt. They do their best to hide the names of the beers behind a wall of customers at the bar and a reflective shiny glass board. I settled for something Devonian and dark, the name of which, like its taste, I can’t recall. We moved to the outside area where there was a healthy and friendly mix of Gasheads and Rugger types. Mel and Tim had joined us as part of their weekend break. Somehow we had lost Ronnie, but he would no doubt cope without us. I very much like sitting outside in this pub. I am not such a great fan of the more claustrophobic interior space. By now the more playful members were cocking a snook at the no colours signs. Apparently Rugger chaps are fine to wear shirts, they don’t get drunk. The owners of this pub have never been in a Bristol Rugby bar before, during or after a game then.
The plan was for one of two options to follow. Either head for the ground to meet up with Mick or cross the road to the Oddfellows. The latter would be new to me so we did that. We walked in, saw the beer choice and walked straight back out again. The decision was partly influenced by the newly arrived force of truncheon carrying canaries. They must have some intelligence on the group inside the pub who had a curious mix of fashions. Along with the trendy trainers, smart shirts and not so discrete ECFC lapel badges were Tisdale flat caps. This, I think, was the crew to avoid. We returned to the Firehouse, more to let the others know that it would not be advisable to take their next pint there.
Back in the pub it would be rude not to sample one more and so I had to leave Mick to the club bar and the company of Ronnie and Bob.
Exeter City 1 Bristol Rovers 1 Attendance 5,548 (1,559 Gasheads)
One thing is for sure. Darryl Clark must read this blog and do the opposite to what I suggest. He went to a back three, kept Sinclair and dropped Lines. New Boy Rory Gaffney started up front and we went on to total dominate the game. We scored with 7 minutes to go, of course from from a Sinclair shot, and then deflated the party balloons by letting on a scrawny equaliser in the last of four extra time minutes. Rarely has a 1-1 draw been so one sided as this one. We were soaked to the skin and seriously disgruntled as we left. The plod did their best to be a nuisance by standing on mass just outside the exits thus forming backlogs of people behind the gates. In the following minutes we again found different routes to various odd locations. By now I had sussed that some were playing games. I was fine to be left alone. They others had obviously decided that they would prefer their own company post-match. That suited me just fine.
Entertainment Value 3
Man of the Match: Daniel Leadbitter
I should mention that the Exeter food offering jumped in to 2nd place in my table. It was only let down by the Curry pie being a curry slice.
The Rusty Bike
Mumbles got their first with Nigel C. Their Black IPA was good. They brew it in, and as, John Street Brewery. The Porter was even better when I got to a second. I settled to a conversation with Mumbles. He was in to full garden appreciation mode and pulled yet again with the bar staff. The fellow Gasheads had taken over the pub Table Football, all cheers and shouts as balls flew around the wooden pitch. Sodden coats were given time to dry over family games of whist. We waited for the others to join us. Surely they would. An hour later it was obvious they wouldn’t answer our texts. Sod ‘em then. I have always enjoyed the Rusty Bike but the pub was getting into reserved table territory so we went on to the next.
The Great Western
This large station square pub is the traditional final resting place of tired Exeter beer trippers. The beer hit O.K. ratings and the company was as mixed as always. In this case, we got a full report on Exeter 26 Harlequins 25. “Sounds exciting” I ventured. “No it wasn’t” was the grumpy reply. “A game spoiled by the weather and dull tactics”. A game to play in rather than watch then. The others never did arrive. I wandered back to the station and met the gang on the platform. The Black Horse and the Ship had been their post-match watering holes. Not that they could be bothered to let me know. Ah well, I got their non-texted message.
Best Pub: Beer Cellar
Best Beer: Great Heck Voodoo Mild
Next Up: Wycombe at home Tuesday night.