Pub visits this week: 7
Some weeks are just bad weeks. But they’d be even worse without pubs.
The Broadfield, Abbeydale Road, Sheffield. One of the many tributes to my adopted home city is the number of people who come here from elsewhere and stay around. People not just from abroad but, like me, from elsewhere in Britain. We’re watching a televised game of football between a London team and a Manchester team in a Sheffield pub. The place is rammed with supporters. And not just rootless gloryhunters, because it’s Tottenham and Man City.
A City fan with a ripe Boddingtons accent has got the whole routine down perfectly. The rest of the pub quietens momentarily when he yells instructions at the players through the screen. He leaps from his chair at moments of drama, interjecting and gesticulating, and refers to Manchester United as “the scummers”. Worryingly in terms of his cardiac health and psychological well-being, his left foot vibrates furiously under the table throughout.
University Arms, Brook Hill, Sheffield. The last time the Conservatives won a general election, in 1992, I spent most of the following day in the Barge nursing a consolatory bottle or two of Newcastle Brown. OK, so nobody has really won the general election this time round. But we still feel the need to mourn.
Hallamshire House, Commonside, Sheffield (featured here). Reasons I should have started Get to the pub.com five years earlier, part 158: When I first moved up to Sheffield, I would sometimes take a detour home after a night in the pub. A detour which was at least semi-drunken. Sometimes I might stop and talk for half an hour to the people on the corner of our street, who always had a bonfire and tea on the go. Sometimes I’d go to another pub, sometimes one I’d never been into before, and get talking to strangers, and watch as the horizons of my little world spread sudden and wide, like ripples in a pond. Tonight I reprise this random pub call. I’ve often wondered what the Hallamshire is like on a Friday or Saturday night and it’s too early to go home to bed, so I take the chance to find out.
And it’s a thronging, delightful mix of older locals and young students. Half a dozen of the latter are playing long, chess-like frames of pool. The country has swung politically towards the right (albeit tentatively) and it’s an age when nearly all students seem to aspire to nothing more than good jobs and a pre-airbrushed Cameron face. So it’s reassuring to see a group of them who look gawky as anything, all lumbering limbs, teeth and shirts and jumpers much too big. They all look about 14, in fact, and the adage about policemen appearing younger is still more telling when it comes to students. I, therefore, am quickly getting old. Much too old for the students to talk to, but still too young for the older locals to talk to. I feel marooned between continents. For a long time. And, in fact, quietly devastated.
Coopers Tavern, Cross Street, Burton-on-Trent, Staffs. I have just watched my football team lose its Football League status for the first time in a hundred years. But in the process, reader, just before the game, I have also discovered the greatest licensed premises in the known galaxy. Look out for the Coopers becoming Get to the pub.com’s next featured pub, sometime in the next week or two.
Sheffield Tap, Sheffield (featured here). All the pubs back in Burton were closing after the football on police advice or something. So we take the path of least resistance between us and the beer that our souls are weeping for. It’s the first train outta Dodge and straight to the Tap. After two hours of standing on a terrace packed to capacity, I feel the need to not do crowds. Unfortunately, the Tap is like a Virgin Voyager leaving New Street two carriages short at a Friday rush hour when the one before was cancelled. Friends have come out to console me and we round a table that’s occupied by two people, after asking their permission, and then perch uneasily on the edges of the seats so as not to crowd them out. (Now there’s a vital entry that’s always missing from those online guides to British pub etiquette for Americans.) It’s all a bit much for one emotional wreck, so we take a short walk to the…
Rutland Arms, Brown Street, Sheffield (featured here)… which is just as busy as the Tap was. The evening is starting to remind me of the last time we were relegated, when I was sick outside the Flapper & Firkin. Still, at least this time I’m in a decent pub and I’m getting a lot of hugs. Fortunately, too, my companions load me into a taxi before I meet with any serious misadventure.
I promise to stop talking about the football for a bit now. Well, after I’ve blogged about the Coopers in Burton, anyway.
Walkley Cottage, Bole Hill Road, Walkley, Sheffield. A sunny afternoon and a family day out in the grassy, child-friendly environs of the Walkley Cottage beer garden. Just the thing to get my head straight. Four of us grown-ups enjoy a quiet, restorative natter over a gentle pint of Spring Daze from the Rugby Brewery while our two kids roll around the grass. Then one of our kids runs into something and gets a bloody nose and it’s twenty minutes of tears. It’s like a microcosm of this entire bloody week, in pubs and out of.