2006: A year of Archers, radio, thunder and a heart attack

Friday 3rd March 2006

A full day of writing today. Started at 9 and got drafts for Leeds and Bradford done by lunchtime. Nipped down the Bird for a beer with Woody and back to finish off Huddersfield in the afternoon.  Quite happy with the Leeds page but have decided not to bother with much in the north of the city centre. Decided that it is more likely I would have a drink away from the station and definitely not near the ground. I really don’t like Leeds as a place. The people are really tribal and quite threatening when they talk of football and match days. In total contrast the folk of Bradford and Huddersfield were really friendly and there is always a good feeling in their pubs. Huddersfield has some great pubs in the centre and you don’t have to walk too far to the ground. In Bradford Glyn and Phil have become good friends through the Corn Dolly. The pub scene there is a bit limited but I would definitely go to the Fighting Cock and Corn Dolly before a game.

The Beer Diary timetable

28/02/2006 01/03/2006 02/03/2006
Hotel Ibis Train to Bradford Train to Huddersfield
Scarborough In Cock and Bottle IN Head of Steam IN
Duck and Drake IN Corn Dolly IN Kings Head IN
Whitelocks IN Shoulder of Mutton IN Slubbers IN
Grove IN Castle IN Rat and Ratchet IN
Cross Keys In Fighting Cock In Star IN
Victoria Train back to Leeds Train back to Leeds

Finished for 6 and went to join the gang at the Bird. A couple of games of crib with Woody before the others arrived. For the record I won 3-2 as is usual. Back to Woodies at closing time for a small whisky and opening of his sweet tin. No problem with football as the game tomorrow is only in Oxford although the forecast is pretty bad and the weather is seriously freezing. Won’t be surprised if the game is off.  Late night Perudo didn’t happen as the others didn’t fancy it.

Example of text for one pub written that day.I had visited with Jessica and her friend who were students at Leeds, Jess being Fiona’s niece.

The Cross Keys in Leeds.

As city centres are redeveloped there is usually a trend whereby the old pubs are demolished and replaced with glass fronted warehouse bistros. The Round Foundry is an area of Holgate undergoing such a transformation and the Cross Keys is a remarkable example of how pub destruction need not happen. This pub has not been open for 70 years. The décor is simple, consisting of exposed wooden beams, and brick walls, plain paint but not in trendy pastels. The ales are from an ever -changing beer selection, ideal for real ale enthusiasts. It trades to the local office workers as a gastro – pub. This food also passed my own student appreciation test when I revisited on a typically busy Friday lunch time. The feel is very continental; this will become more evident during the summer months when the pub spills out into the enclosed quadrangle. While chatting to Jenny it was evident that they are very proud of the spotless, warm and cosy nature of this brand new pub. The competition to real ale is more likely to come from the wine list than the lager selection, although it includes some impressive world ales. Those who were doing so sat in the refectory style bar area, while I joined the ale drinking regulars near the open fire. This pub was recommended by those at the Grove, cheers Shane a good choice. RS

The next day was indeed cold and the game at Oxford was postponed leaving me with a very rare Saturday free. I thought of watching Bletchley play Rugby but the game was called off… There wasn’t a Six Nations game to watch so I had a day in Princes Risborough. It ended with a curry and a stroll around the pubs in town.

2006 had a lot of events that were new to me and not repeated since. We did radio interviews in Derby, Leeds and Bristol. We did promotional events in pubs in those towns with book selling appearances in pubs and beer festivals wherever Glyn made a contact. Glyn Watkins is a self-styled showman, poet, writer and now event publicist. Now he can be found talking about Hogarth in London or walking in the footsteps of St. Blaise or Priestley in Bradford. Back in 2006 he became a co-writer on the guides, describing each town through the eyes of a tourist football fan. He would drive friends mad with his enthusiasm for Pylons, J.L Carr or red headed footballers. I appreciated that enthusiasm for getting things done, eventually.

This year was also the start of my connections with Archers Brewery. Liz Coupe and John McEvoy became good friends in the next few years because I had casually ran a poll with the landlords of pubs I visited. The simple question was “What Brewery is your favourite for supplying beer”. The winner was Archers, no doubt due to their competitive pricing and variety of beers on offer. They were well ahead of the game and led the way towards the real ale pubs of today. I told this to Liz when we briefly met at the summer GBBF. It sparked an idea and Liz put her marketing hat on to create an opportunity to work together over the next few years. I was asked to run some promotional nights for the brewery. We took their beers for a Brewery “takeover” in the pub. I would host some book sales, run a quiz and talk about beer. The Landlord would get to sample a full range of their beers and the locals would get beers at promotional prices. Ruth Shepherd, now of XT Brewery, became a regular co-host and good friend. If she was not available then the legend that was Rossy would add his particular charm and late night drinking prowess to our adventures.  I did some other bits and bobs including starting the database for their Archers club, where members could join and get advanced sales of beers. It was good fun and I thought we were both benefiting from the fun we had. I knew very little of the background to the Brewery going out of business within the next year. It was a great shame for me as they gave a promise to support the next edition of the guides. They went out of business with a pub in Lancashire as their remaining asset and some friends who had the record of being in charge when the business went under.


August was a particularly busy month. On the 4th I had the main book launch at the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court. The poster shows I had last billing but it was a slot where I could get plenty of publicity. All I had to do was be there with a few boxes of guides and a pen to sign some books. Friends came to support the event and we then set in to sampling then beers.

A few weeks later I decided to set up a marquee in my back garden and invite the world to join me in sharing a few barrels from Chiltern Brewery. The plan was to go to the Rovers game in Milton Keynes and then go  back to my place for a party in the garden. Rovers fans will remember that day as the one where the heavens opened in an almighty thunderstorm and the stadium had no shelter for away fans except for a metre square of commentary box at the top of an open terrace. The party became a similar wet event and we huddled under Woodies tent and eventually gave up to the cold and went to the pub instead.

All was pretty good with things in 2006 but in December things went backward at full speed. After a fairly typical night in the pub I went home but couldn’t sleep. By about 3 I was downstairs having another cup of tea to counter what I thought was just dehydration. By four I was in full panic mode and my hearty was racing. A call to NHS direct was a full blown visit in an ambulance to Wycombe Hospital. I later described it as a panic attack. The doctors at Wycombe general diagnosed a heart attack and suggested a trip to Oxford to have a Stent fitted if necessary. In the company of Mr Khan and with visits from a lot of good friends I was out a week later with a lifetime prescription for medication but no surgery. I apologise now to those fiends who had to witness the convalescing one.  The days of 800 pubs a year was well and truly over. I had to take their advice. My panic attack was real and I had to change a lot of things.


The Guide as reviewed by Swifty in the Bristol Evening Post


1979       Southampton V Arsenal 2-0

1998       Fulham A 0-1

2001       Luton A 0-0

2007       Amersham and Chiltern V Bletchley

2012       Macclesfield H 0-0

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