Wednesday 4th October 1989
A rather run of the mill day today. Fiona had a Harvest Festival at school so it was a car load of guitars and tin cans this morning. She also had a school P.T.A. A.G.M at 8 so I decided to nip down the Albert while she was out. No one in particular was there so was home again by 9. Call from David re Saturday. Refereeing at Wycombe. Again Wycombe Vets V Aylesbury Vets. Not sure that this will last long as don’t seem able to shake off the old boys asking for me to do their game. Fiona back at 10.30.
In 1989 lots of things were changing. While the Berlin Wall was coming down I was deciding to shuffle the sporting and job pack. I was quite keen to get out of teaching and applied for a few alternative jobs. They were never totally committed applications but I wanted to see if there might be some alternatives. I couldn’t really see myself writing training materials for the Air Traffic controllers but I did get an interview at Bletchley Park and met some impressive film makers. I left unwanted with a feeling I had been there to make up the interview numbers. I would have been much better suited to another application to run education programmes for the National Trust, but that came to nothing. The third job I thought of was to run a pub and I looked into some training courses. Fiona did rather point out the obvious that she would end up cooking in a pub and that was just not going to happen. Underneath all this restlessness was our own personal angst. It was becoming increasingly obvious that having our own family was going to be far from straightforward. I was now 31, Fiona 29. We were at the testing stage to find out what wasn’t happening. It took several more years to get to the root cause but the upshot was that we would be having a lot more time for our own personal leisure. It was not wanted in particular but that was the way it would be. I have always been a bit restless and looking back now, this was a bit more than the usual “visu” as Fiona called my inward looking moods. I had no right to be bored but I was wanting more for us than harvest festivals and a lonely pint in the local pub.
Bletchley Rugby Club was also at an end for me. I was now refereeing for the Bucks Society. I thought I would enjoy it and for the first year it was good fun. I was graded pretty well but fell into the trap of being popular with the old boy teams who would score me highly until the time I was promoted to ref a higher level team. They would see me arrive to ref their seconds and suddenly a week later I would have been given a 4th XV or vets game despite a good score. Fiona, in all honesty, wasn’t particularly happy because having retired from playing it appeared I was spending even more of my Saturdays travelling away early and getting home late and sober.
Looking back at the years playing for Bletchley I should have accepted that it was purely a social experience for me. Some in the club loved the game, the club, the way of life. They talked about the structures, the history and the traditions of the game that left me cold. I just wanted to play the sport, win the game and have a lot of fun drinking with my mates. In reality I couldn’t really care if that was for the fourths or firsts. I didn’t get the training, the team talk and aggressive mentality. The” we are all in it together” mentality on the field passed me by because I played with my own arrogance of thinking I, and my team, was always better than the opponents who were there today. Resorting to fighting on the pitch was a sure sign that things were not going well. My answer would always be to up my game rather than expect others to throw a few punches for me.
For the record:-
Games played for Bletchley Rugby Club:-
All games P 153 W 94 D 6 L 53
1st XV P 38 W 21 D 1 L 16
2nd XV P72 W 40 D 3 L 29
3rd XV P33 W 24 D 2 L 7
4th XV P 10 W 9 D0 L 1
And just to prove a point. The one game lost in the 4ths was at Old Albanians away. It was one of the very few games that Fiona came to watch us play. In fact she came to watch because we were going on straight after the game to Tunbridge Wells but I digress. We were winning but suddenly a line out call was made, probably an apple call, and everyone started throwing each other around. Rick Townsend was dumped into an adjacent hedgerow. The referee was blowing his whistle but no one was talking any notice as haymakers were sent and largely missed. When peace was eventually restored both sides spent five minutes, surreally, as if in penance, looking in the grass for Rick’s contact lenses. Old Albanians had disrupted our game and went on to win. Fiona asked if it was always as rough as that and I had no hesitation in saying it was hardly ever as coarse as that. In the bar afterwards all was sweetness and light but we should, in my mind, have stayed aloof to the roughty-toughty stuff. Sid Wheeler’s marauders hardly ever lost or, in my mind, needed to fight.
Of another record. Should I have written a real ale guide for Milton Keynes in 1989 it might have looked a bit like this one below. These were the pubs where I had a beer as recorded in our diaries in 1989. It would be even more boring should I describe all of them so I have picked out some of the best then, with others as to try also. The pictures are modern versions as I wasn’t quite so sad as to take photos of pubs then
THE STEDDERS IMAGINARY REAL ALE GUIDE TO MILTON KEYNES 1989
This is the after school haunt of the discerning Denbigh School teacher. It is a single hotel bar room and feels, as it is portrayed, as a bit of a club for Bletchley oddments. It has a curious circular pool table. It is best to join the group at the bar and talk rubbish. Do not, whatever you do, attempt to do the crossword at the bar. It will belong to Mr Dolan and he will not be best pleased.
Shenley Hotel as it was.
The Park – Handy for the nearby nightclub and Duncombe Street Indian Restaurants. It is a classic beefeater pub that hasn’t moved on from the 70s. A pint of Courage Best is about all you will get and, as a result, Guinness sales are high. Whatever you do avoid the temptation to join the Bletchley Rugby Club going to the club in the Shopping centre next door. Instead head for a curry with them. Be prepared, however, for the ritual “stitch up the guest by doing a runner” gag.
Eight Belles – Sometime home of the Rickley Park singing club. To be avoided after 9 on a Saturday night. How does it go? “Rickley Park are out on the piss again…….”
George – The pub for the under 18s and B.T. Engineers
Old Swan – Loud lager drinker’s pub.
Three Trees – likes to think of itself as a family pub. In Bletchley that is a thing to avoid, especially if you have children.
The Prince Albert
A comfortable local in the centre of the village. It has two separate rooms and a small snug. This snug has a rather large fish tank that provides a wall between it and the main bar. Beers are from Charlie Wells and there is usually at least two real ales on offer. There is a high quota of old boys chatter in the bar. It has a large car park and garden that is rarely used except for live music or parties.
The Victoria Inn – A Mann’s pub – No real ale.
The largest selection of real ale in the city is found at this purpose built real ale and restaurant pub. Designed and built by the Victuallers Society, it has large multi levelled drinking areas and a conservatory for summer dining to the rear. The beers are well kept but expensive for the city.
CENTRAL MILTON KEYNES
An Aylesbury Brewery Company pub that also offers occasional Brakspear beers. Small and cosy it can get very busy early evening or during Market day lunchtimes. It is a single room bar with ABC pub furniture.
The City Duck was in the space behind the right hand tree
Town centre pub with a very mixed clientele. At lunchtimes expect to find crossword solving teachers escaping from the local school for a bit of peace and quiet. In the evenings it is the home of local football fans and occasional Rugby players heading to and from training for a recharging pint. Real ale can be a bit variable in here but at least they have something on offer, usually from Courage or Marston’s.
The Chequers – Very Irish in attitude
Bull and Butcher – Good ABC beer
Bull and Butcher – The locals can be a bit feisty with strangers.
Small friendly country pub in a pretty city village. The bar is low beamed and dark. The pub is a rare outlet for real cider and popular for a decent pub meal.
A large friendly pub that is the local’s choice of pub. It will usually have one real ale on offer. Handy for those travelling up the old A5.
The Fountain– A large farmhouse style pub that does food.
Part of the Cock Hotel it is the leading pub in Stony Stratford. A single long and narrow pub it always has at least five real ales that includes a good pint of Bass. The home of folk clubs, teacher groups, lost Rugby players and town characters, it is always the place to get the local gossip and meet old friends. Check out the gig posters on the bar ceiling and try to avoid the long trek to the distant toilets. Better to use the main ones in the bar across the courtyard alley.
The Vaults Bar
Bull Hotel – The other half of the Cock and Bull story – very much a hotel bar.
Old George – Overpriced hotel pub.
Plough – Charles Wells’s pub with a good pool table
Fox and Hounds – Good for music but no good beer
White Horse – Friendly pub with a useless Sunday football team.
Crown – Grim Greene King pub
Foresters – Good for darts and a bit of a ruck
Queen Victoria – Best pub for live music in Milton Keynes. Can get very lively and beer is variable. It will be either very noisy or mind-numbingly empty. Not a pretty pub.
The new Queen Vic
Excellent for a pub lunch after a walk along the Grand Union Canal. There is always at least three real ales on offer often including Everards Tiger. It has a large canal side garden and low beams inside. Very popular with all ages and genders it has an openly gay landlord.
The Navvy at Cosgrove
The best pub in the area if you like food with your real ale. It has low beams, open fires and a friendly atmosphere. The menu doesn’t go much further than the excellent steaks. The beer is usually good but at a country pub sort of extra price. The pub does accommodation and I often recommend it as a place to stay when friends visit.
The Lowndes Arms
ON THIS DAY:-
1966 Darlington H 3-0
1986 4ths Bedford Queens A W 18-3 1t
1995 West Ham A 0-3
1996 Crewe H 2-0
1997 Wrexham H 1-0
2003 Doncaster A 1-5
2008 Colchester A 1-0
2014 Dover H 1-1
2015 Wycombe H 2-0