Or: Ronnie’s Revenge
Way back in June of last year, this fixture was the one that stood out. It was to be a last ever visit to the Bootham Crescent ground, a celebration of them getting a new ground and hopefully the final away trip of a relatively successful season. I didn’t think for one minute that automatic promotion might be on the cards, that York would already be relegated and the last visit to their ground might be delayed again and be taken off the cards by the difficulties of their playing in the National League. There was plenty to recommend this trip. It did not, however hit the wish list of our usual crowd of beer travellers. While we booked up a hotel for three nights the rest decided on a day trip that included a 6.30 start from BTM and a post 10 return to base.
Our pre-match therefore started on Friday evening.
Our hotel was in Fulford Road and an 8 minute bus ride from the city centre. We wanted to try some recommended new pubs over the weekend but also fancied some simple retracing of steps from our last visit. I should put a “Yan warning” on that statement. Our last visit include a Pilkington (Yan) guided tour and left a wake of misty memories as to where and when the pubs were visited. He was missing from action this weekend but might meet up at any time.
The Blue Bell raises heckles in my beer pub recommending body. It is small, therefore cosy, and popular. It has a couple of small rooms and plenty of good beer choices. It has a Landlord who is confident of his pubs pulling power to the point where he usually very unwelcoming to any faces he doesn’t recognise. I have never managed to get in here on a match day and have felt his particular warmth when describing beer drinkers from outside as possible customers. The Great Newsome Frothington Best (8) was excellent. We managed to squeeze on to two stools with a back to a door. The pub was perfectly fine but I couldn’t get out of my head the feeling that I wasn’t really welcome. The Landlord wasn’t there but it just irked me so we drank up, created our own seat leaving vacuum for the next folk to fill and plopped ourselves, liked squeezed toothpaste, onto the street outside.
Last Drop Inn
By total contrast we found the Last Drop Inn along the road to be as welcoming and helpful as a popular pub should be. They helped describe the beers with genuine regard for the style of beer we fancied. The pub had a table with locals who were all too willing to share a smile and give up a valuable stool or two. The bar staff engaged in a discussion as to how a Blackcurrant Wheat beer might have turned out so golden and not perhaps as expected. So too was the thought that Off the Wall might be a cover all name for “never to be tried again”. As it was the Off the wall Black and Weiss (7) was pretty good and well worth the punt.
Next stop was this gem of a new age bar. Rose and I recalled our time in the upper floor seats, late at night as clever Yan foisted a god damn awful Saison beer on me as his choice of the night. Well that was a style confirming beer. Tonight the pub had space for us to sit near the bar, take in the early evening buzz and see the pub for its real drinking potential. The Untapped Brewery Dry English Stout (7) is “a Chrissy Lines Beer” i.e.one of their own. We commented to ourselves how the high beard quotient is “so last year darling” but appeared to still be the thing for this place.
By now the pubs were being fully bouncerfied. This is my clue to think about calling it a day. Door men are everywhere, in all pubs whether they are needed or not. So too were the fully decked hen parties. When the white shoes and short skirt quotient gets too high I want to be on the phone to the young ones parents. We decided to find some food and found it at Lucia’s, around the corner. Notice the lack of comment from me.
We had a quick look at the House of Trembling Madness and the Evil Eye Lounge. Both have off- licences down stairs. As both were full we decided to get a nice bottle of Auchentoshan Single Malt and sample ours at the hotel. Taxi for two it was then.
Rose and I took the No. 7 and walked to the prearranged 11 o’clock meeting for 10.30. The chaps had similar ideas of claiming watch tapping rights so an honourable draw was declared as we entered from opposite doors at the same time.
I must now claim idiot’s rights. I am an idiot. I made a stupid error. One that will live with me well beyond any chance to reclaim credibility. I discussed our Rovers Supporters Club quiz third place with an assertion of how we would have gained a better result by playing our joker on a different round. No problem there but I overestimated the Mathematical impact of a different joker choice and compounded this error by stupidly trying to explain it simply on paper. In doing so I only proved Ronnie to be correct and I had to live with the humiliation for the rest of the day.
Back to better things. The assembled group was large and multi-factioned. The Northern crew had Roger Right Hand and Clive. They were waiting for Paul, Nigel and Craig to join them. Then came Phil the Lion with a large group of mates from somewhere in Derbyshire. The usual crowd was now assembled: They were the now labelled Righteous Ronnie, Coventry Bob, Mumbles, Tangent Tim, The Lord Powell and Geoff the Pikestar. The pub had its usual wide selection. I made a poor choice of a Wandle Sambrook Ale (3) that, from the score given will tell you, disappointed.
The others left with a promise to text me where they might be next. I commented to Rose that the reality would be that they would walk along the road asking each other to make a decision, not make one, then spot the Maltings and go there.
We strolled hand in hand, enjoying the York sun shine without a care in the world to the Maltings. Sure enough in the back room was the full team in fine chat mode and the Norm from Cheers like comments of “Stedders” drifted to the bar as I ordered my Half Moon Masquerade (4) The Landlord Shaun gave me a knowing look, we go back some way, and I shrugged my shoulders and went in at the deep end for another round of Ronnie’s retribution. A miracle then happened to distract the crew. The back room became infiltrated by not one, but two, groups of marauding women drinkers. The chaps suddenly smartened up and to a man looked somewhat startled by potential cross gender chat. Mumbles of course thrives on this. Some others do not. Ronnie called the five minute warning and they all shaped up to leave. We had a choice, let them go first or run on ahead? The former was determined but the latter actioned by their group tardiness.
Lamb and Lion
Solitude was found in this excellent and surprisingly capacious pub under the walls of Petergate. From our window seat we could play spot the Gashead friends walking by. Another game was to guess the time of the anticipated thunderstorm. When the flow of Gasheads turned from right to left to left to right it was time to think of moving on to the match. The Saltaire Cascadian Black (7) was an excellent choice as was the pub. The pub was so good I sampled a second in a York Guzzler (7). The others were apparently along the road in the Wonky Donkey. We spotted a gap in the clouds and went for it so as to get to the ground for 2. En route we crossed paths with Peter de Meteor in Petergate doing Peter de Meteor type things. The reason for the early arrival is in the away fan figure. With 2000 plus Gasheads we felt it important to secure a barrier and half decent view early on. We were not alone as the gates opened at 2 but we confidently bagged a valuable bar for essential support. To join us were Damon and our media Star friend Carol. We exerted some social pressure on Damon and not so now little Jonny to join us next week on our annual Clifton crawl. Only time will tell if we were successful.
York City 1 Bristol Rovers 4; Attendance 4,525 (2,000 Gasheads)
There is a suspicious attendance figure if ever there was one. Exactly 2000? Rovers needed to win. They did so with some style. The score could have been far more convincing and the results elsewhere might have been kinder. We have to feel confident now that given fate being unkind next week then this team will win through the play-offs. O.K. I am making stupid assertion number two of the day. We jumped around and hugged as the goals went in. We booed and hissed at various points, usually at fellow fan chants. Unfortunately one muppet spread a false rumour in the hope no doubt that it might be funny. Trust me it was not appreciated. We clapped the boys off but the atmosphere was now very tense. We retired to the pub with thoughts immediately focused on next weekend. Stevenage to draw with Accrington and / or Wycombe with Oxford plus a win at home for us. What is not likely there?
Entertainment Value (Out of 5): 3
Man of the Match: Chris Lines. I don’t care what anyone else thinks. He was magic, magic, magic! So too were Bodin and Mansell but Chris Lines worked with Rabbits as well as wands. So there!
This is our expected post-match pub in York. Ronnie and Bob joined us ahead of what we thought would be the others. They must have missed the turn and ended up in town. The Thwaites Wainwright (5) deserved its score. Ronnie bought us a second, perhaps he was now feeling more charitable. We dissected the game in seconds and felt content. The chaps had a 6.15 train to catch. We stayed on only to be enveloped with disgruntled York fans who were in murderous mood. I should say this was directed at their club and not us. I like this pub, the staff went into friendly mode after the initial rush. We made a resolution that we would now seek out only new pubs to drink in.
So it came that we strolled in to town. We tried again to get into The Evil Eye. They had a queue to get in at seven in the evening. Really? The centre was taking on the persona of a poor man’s Newcastle. The Hens and Stags were getting the upper hand on pub volumes and space demands. Our target now was Walmgate and the new Brew York Bar.
We were however diverted by an excellent Chinese Restaurant. You know I don’t recommend such places very often but The Hong Kong Chop House on Walmgate certainly hit the right spot for me.
The Brew Bar would have to wait till tomorrow. The whisky was now calling and a taxi was there to take us back to our hotel.
This was to be tourist day at last. So often we have done the pub thing and not fitted in the obvious tourist bits.
Our day was:-
- Clifford’s Tower.
Enjoyable as a simple castle can be. It has interesting, if not spectacular views over York. The G.C.S.E. level explanations on the boards left me a bit flat. We got in to more political conversation on the status and power games of Church and the State, provoked by the small scale of the tower and castle compared to its national importance.
- The Walls Pt 1
We walked anticlockwise around the walls to the Minster. What are the chances of meeting people you know? For me, given that the gas were in town, pretty high. So it was that I missed an opportunity to knock Tony the Till Watola from the wall into an imaginary vat of boiling oil at the bottom of the slope. As you know I am particularly awkward and slow walking at the moment. I give space and time to people walking faster in such restricted space. At one point I stood aside for a rapid walking threesome coming up in our rear view mirror. The chap could have walked by without a cursory glance but no, he looked across, and exclaimed with a confident level of affirmation “ROSE! How lovely to see you” Simon and Rose had not met for at least 25 years. It bears testament to how well she must be wearing that when hatted up against the wind she was instantly recognised from a 1990s memory of life at OUP in Oxford. A chat followed with promises of meeting again in the near future. I just wondered at fate, again!
- The Minster
We did the full tour that was capped by the organ belting out for the final few minutes of our visit. I particularly enjoyed a more detailed explanation of the East Window restoration. As Cathedrals go this one fits again with our wonderment at the power for the few through religious iconography. Rose helpfully completed some feedback and I found ample opportunity to think and reflect of worthy friends lost to us all. It’s what they do to me and one of the reasons I now rarely darken their doors with my presence.
The Walmgate Ale House
This became our first new pub of the day. We almost passed by but the list of beers shouted come on in. Once set upon we had discovered the local city pub of the year. It was comfortable, modern and simple. It had rather simple references to its rope merchants past but in time no doubt this will become less of a relevance. The Great Heck Dave (8) beer was outstanding and the company of fellow drinkers comfortable.
We were really looking for the Brew York but a quick check on the phone said it wasn’t open on this day. We had already passed the street festival outside the Blue Bell and I was not in the mood for retracing steps. I was also in reminiscence mode. This part of town was the area where a very young teacher and his newly wedded bride would stroll preparing thoughts for her forthcoming school trips to the city. In return for my input we would return to the then excellent next pub.
Back in 1990 this was the best on offer of York Pubs. It specialised, as now, in Marston’s beers and had a unique food offering of Chip Butties to die for. I kid you not. People would travel miles for a pint of Pedigree and one of their doorsteps. Time has left this pub behind. They are swamped by masses of better real ale venues and they cling on to the hope that tribute punk bands might create their new notoriety. The Marston’s Bitter (4) deserved this below average score. The pub left me sad and somewhat disappointed.
- The Walls, Pt 2
From Walmgate back to the tower and then a bus to the hotel.
Sunday evening in Fulford means only one thing apparently. Most of the village and its hotel population was in the pub wanting something to eat. Could we wait a bit for a table? Could you serve me a pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord (3) came my stupid boy reply?
Fifteen minutes later we were tucking in and as you can see from the score the decision to change to the alternative Black Sheep was considered and rejected. Masons Gin, a local speciality, came in to play with my tonsils. The atmosphere in the pub was surprisingly good. The food met expectations and beyond. The place had a pleasant buzz. One can only hope it was just too busy on this occasion for the beer to reach a better standard.
Pub of the weekend: Last Drop Inn
Beer of the day: Great Heck Dave in the Walmgate Ale House
Next up: Dagenham and Redbridge H Saturday 7th May 2016
P.S Sorry Roger but only just got home. Written a.s.a.p. Hope you enjoy. Up the Gas.