Pub visits this week: 5
It feels like more than five! This week I’ve probably been ‘binge drinking’, in that I’ve only had two days of drinking but possibly compressed a week’s worth of alcohol into them. First there was a midweek evening here in Sheffield, then a whole Saturday around the football (and a party at my mum’s) over in Cleethorpes. In 2010, the sort of recreation I’ve just enjoyed is supposed to be a very bad thing. For an hour on Sunday morning I’d have agreed. Now it just feels like the key to an altogether richer way of life.
Of course, it’s always worth pointing out that this stands in contradiction to the habitually sensationalist and misleading coverage given to drinking by much of Britain’s media. Like an enormous majority of sometime ‘binge drinkers’, I’ve never once in my entire life had a fight, smashed up a kebab shop or ended the evening in A&E with a bloodied head. I did spill a bit of Black Sheep on my mum’s carpet, but it’s quite a dark carpet so it didn’t show up.
The Broadfield, Abbeydale Road, Sheffield. This time it’s not the tasty Abbeydale beer that charms me most about the Broady. It’s not the cheese sandwich and chips or the diverse smattering of lunchtime drinkers. It’s not even the great service. And it’s certainly not the silent horse racing on the telly. It’s the ELO compilation playing over the speakers. I’m not being in the least bit sarcastic here. I bloody love ELO. And I bloody love the Broady for cheering me up a treat on a grey weekday afternoon by randomly choosing to play an album of songs recorded 35 years ago by some men from Birmingham with terrible hair.
Sheffield Tap, Sheffield (featured here). The Tap is heaving with after-work drinkers and railway travellers, and with a great many non-Irish people celebrating St Patrick’s Day by drinking whatever they normally drink while wearing oversized green woollen hats. It’s been a bad day to forget my camera.
With an hour to pass before my friend Si arrives at seven o’clock, I’m on a stool at the corner of the bar: a seating location which fans of the 80s US pub-based TV hit Cheers will recognise as the Cliff and Norm Position. Drinkers seated in the Cliff and Norm Position invariably feel empowered to hold forth on a range of topics ‒ not merely to talk, you understand, but to hold forth ‒ often with complete strangers. And so it is that I find myself discussing pubs, beer, work, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derbyshire with a bloke called Craig who’s waiting to meet a couple of his friends. At length they arrive. They’re both called John. Our random discourse continues, all the more stimulating for its randomness. One of the Johns is about to go and live in Uzbekistan for a bit. And you really can’t get much more random than that.
Bath Hotel, Victoria Street, Sheffield. How easy it is to neglect a favourite pub. The Bath is one of the best pubs in the city centre, with a rapidly changing and imaginatively chosen roster of ales, an attractive two-room interior with loads of character, and an interesting clientele. And it’s the first time I’ve been in since at least the turn of the year.
After a couple of pints of a lovely, smoky, butterscotchy Thornbridge stout at the Tap, I’m reverting to the same Abbeydale brew I keep enjoying at the Broadfield but forgetting the name of. It’s not quite hitting the spot this time, though (my tastebuds still reeling after the veggie kebab I troughed between pubs was slathered in hot chilli rather than sweet chilli sauce), so I take a pint of dark mild from Tom Wood’s brewery. Cara, Dan, Jono and I then spend five minutes trying to decide what defines a mild, and I glow in quiet satisfaction at having fulfilled one of my immutable Rules of Pub. I’m not a great one for patriotism or anything, but if there’s a Lincolnshire beer on, I always have to drink it.
Rutland Arms, Rutland Street, Grimsby (featured here). There’s a school of thought that a man’s time at the football is a sort of sanctuary from both work and family, after a hard week of, um, doing work and family stuff; a necessary chance to be with other men so they can all swear, belch and scratch their bollocks together. There’s another school of thought ‒ mine ‒ that all this gender stereotype stuff is as hideous as it is stupid. However, it feels very strange indeed to have my girlfriend and son with me at the pub before the football today. My girlfriend, of course, visited here many times before my son gave her the perfect excuse not to come and watch Grimsby any more and just watch her own team (Tottenham) on the telly instead.
We’re late and I drink quickly. Before I know it, my son is dancing on the pool table. This gives rise to two distinct feelings: an immediate concern that we’ll get told off by the landlady, and a vague embarrassment at the recollection that I might have once done the same thing my son is now doing, except he’s dancing on a pool table at the age of one, and I was about 28. Still, as strange and disquieting as it may be to have my girlfriend and son at the pub before the football, and to be reminded of occasional drunken episodes in my past, they pale beside the outright fantasticality of then watching Grimsby win a game of football. If this is the effect it has, they might have to start coming all the time.
The Imperial, Grimsby Road, Cleethorpes. So noteworthy, in fact, is the occasion of seeing my team win that I mark it afterwards with a first visit since about 2004 to the Imp ‒ the big, rowdy pub dead close to the ground. I’m still so shocked, as it happens, that I’m going to make it the next featured pub on this website. Look out for the extended write-up sometime soonish!