Or: Short changed on three fronts.
Lord Powell excelled himself with our travel plan. How is this for a journey? One should note the use of our as the man himself was not in our party. Rather, he chose a trip by car with Peter de Meteor and Geoff “Don’t tell him your name” Pike.
An 8.30 train from B.T.M. Nothing unusual in this. Change at Didcot Parkway for Oxford. Then, the new bit. Get a bus from Oxford Station to Oxford Parkway. That was very frustrating in itself. Furthermore, we beer thirsty fans, could only point to, with considerable regret, the following good pubs.
Oxford Retreat, Four Candles. Red Lion, Wig and Pen, Eagle and Child, Lamb and Flag, Dewdrop. Any would have done to start the day.
Oxford Parkway will in time, be a brilliant addition to our travel routes. Opened in October last, it will become essential for our getting to the likes of Milton Keynes and further East. As yet, however, the simple act of getting four connecting trains was testing our combined coffee drinking resolve.
Coffee and elevenses?
From there we had the joy of a new line and new stations to see as we glided our way, via Bicester, in Chiltern Railway style, to High Wycombe. We arrived, exactly on planned time, just before 12.
Today’s team was the travelling four of myself, Ronnie, Bob and Mumbles plus, joining us, on his own from Leeds, was Paul. The key here is on his own for, as you may or may not know, Paul is blind yet comfortably makes such journeys without apparent fuss. Paul was completing his personal ninety two list but, as is the way with him, no fuss was made re completing this milestone. He was at the bar when we arrived but hadn’t got a round in. Spilsbury was the sixth member of the party.
The Bootlegger has a fine list of mostly hoppy beers. It also offers some traditional style bitters. Cask keg is available, drain style, off the back of the wall, and a fine selection of fridges complement the list should one wish for a bottle. It does not offer the full range of cask beers so our usual plan of going through the Porters and Stouts was limited to taking bottled ales. I decided to try the beers on hand pump and a choice of eight was more than ample.
We let Spilsbury go and sample the local Wetherspoons. Wycombe didn’t tempt this man to wander. We decided that for once we should stay put and go down the beer list. Three beers later and we were ready for the taxi to the ground and a plan for a last pint in their convenient car park marquee.
Now for some Maths. Five people drinking three pints each is 45 pints. Every single pint, at 90 -95% full, had to be topped up. I will go further. For every pint served, yes every pint served, we had to ask for the pint to be topped up. I would guess that across the 15 pints, should we not have done so, we would have been short changed by at least one pint, or £3.50 at average costs. The pub was busy but not madly so. We thought nothing of it as the beers were topped up when requested. But, hold that thought. There were five or so groups like us in the pub. In our two hour stay the pub would have been trying it on to the tune of £18.50 in short measures. Do this throughout the day and even with modest custom a ten hour opening yields £185 in frothy head takings. There was Rugby all afternoon as witnessed when we returned. On this day alone the pub could be short changing the customers by numbers in excess of £300, just by serving 90% of a pint rather than a full measure. The pub stands accused, I feel disappointed and let down to have to say so.
The Tent was a Carlsberg only zone. The burger on offer was mediocre and cold. The queues for food inside the ground predictably long so I went Bovril less to my seat.
Wycombe Wanderers 1 Bristol Rovers 0 Attendance 4,759 (1,629 Gasheads)
A selection of the rich and famous Gasheads at the game.
This was the most frustrating performance of the season. The high tempo passing side of a few months ago is now long gone. I sense, from looking back at the previous Wycombe report that Darryl Clarke has a grudging, over respect for the methods of Gareth Ainsworth’s team. He made four curious changes. Mark McCrystal has not played for an eternity yet was in to the side. Easter and Lawrence both raised the combined age of the team considerably. His post-match comments talked of us winning the second and third balls and working to a plan that should have seen us nick a point. That is a serious underestimation of the ability of our side. The lad behind wanted to educate me in the joys of playing the ball to Row Z. He seemed unable to understand that a few months ago we would play well by clearing that ball to channel A or B where a willing and able youngster with some legs held it up.
Wycombe are nothing, if not predictable. They play for free kicks that can be thrown into a box where runners are making odd and unusual runs. To do this they will “play” for free kicks. To beat them you need a strong referee. We did not have one today. He was bad for both sides. I suspect the local Chairboys are all too familiar with their own style and are voting with their feet when asked to fork out their whittling wages to watch their synchronised falling on grass. They mustered 3,130 fans to make a drum supported atmosphere of sorts. Forty or so, couldn’t even be bothered to go and watch, preferring to arrive after the game to form some sort of coach corralling posse on the road out of the ground. Any team needing a drum has no respect in my ears. I do have some dwindling admiration for the loyal few who are holding the faith until presumably Ainsworth goes on to darker fields elsewhere.
Entertainment Value 2
Man of the Match: Steve Mildenhall (again)
The crawl out of the ground to a predetermined taxi pick up left us with just one option.
We hadn’t made a fuss at lunchtime. I had hoped it might just be a staffing issue and a novice might by now have been trained up. The first beer at the crowded bar could hardly have been 80% full. The request for it to be topped up was met with an accusatory comment from the bar person that one must have taken the top off, it was so short. We most definitely had not and grudgingly the pint was eventually served. I now had a metaphorical bad head on, it left a bad taste in my grumpy, 80% foaming, mouth. In the time it took us to down our one pint, i.e 25 minutes or so, I watched 20 plus pints be served. All but two were under measure and only half were returned to be topped up. I left disgruntled. They no doubt carried on, vindicated by a lack of complaint. I will not be returning here. This is a shame.
The timings of the return journey were tight. That 5.30 pint had to last through a 5 minute change at Banbury, 18 minutes at Oxford, 8 minutes at Didcot and 20 minutes by No. 70 bus in Bristol. At 10.20 I sat down in the next pub for the final few.
Andy, Bob and myself settled for a later than usual pint. A guest beer was unmemorable other than I managed to knock it all over the floor in the squeezing of my frame behind the only available table in the pub. I replaced it with a” flat Bass” and spent the next hour or so chatting with Mumbles and people watching as club land spilled down the Centre of Bristol.
Rose arrived at 12 midnight from her altogether happier day with friends in Chipping Norton. A long day was over. I had drunk 6 pints in 12 hours. In the same time The Bootlegger had probably served 1000 pints. Their Stock taker will know how much that is worth.
Pub of the day: Bootlegger. It was the only one in Wycombe we visited.
Beer of the day: Kent Altered States American Brown Ale.
Next up: Hartlepool H Tuesday 1st March. (Thank you David)