Pub visits this week: 6
Just the two nights out this week, pub fans: a midweeker here in Sheffield to watch me some World Cup, and a tremendous popshow in Nottingham on Saturday night.
Thrilling pub news from S6! The gaffer responsible for the Sheaf View over in Heeley – one of the finest licensed premises in Sheffield, where I had a kind of pub epiphany one Sunday afternoon – is to reopen the Blake. The Blake has been standing empty and boarded for some time, but the aforesaid gaffer has managed to overturn some kind of covenant placed on it by the brewery that closed it down, which stipulated that it wasn’t allowed to be reopened as a pub. What are they all about, by the way? Most importantly of all, it’s about five minutes’ walk from my house!
Last week, you might recall, I made it to the Springvale for the first time since moving to this side of Sheffield a year and a half ago. This week Dan and I head out there again for the first half of South Africa v Uruguay. And we realise that this is a pub with serious layout issues. There are about three other people in here, and it ain’t a small place – but to see one of the screens and sit down at the same time, we have to start rearranging the furniture.
When a band starts setting up in front of the screen, we resolve to watch the second half down the road at the Hadfield. Again, there’s barely a soul within these walls. This is a shame because, in diametric contrast to the Springvale, there are dozens and dozens of places to sit and see the match.
A chatty antipodean behind the bar gets us playing a quiz thing where we have to make words from the letters in ‘northwestern’ (we reach 100 and then retire). So, maybe we’ll give the Hadfield a try for England v Slovenia next Wednesday. It’s easy to imagine a good atmosphere here. And if I’m nostalgic for the unassuming good-time feel of watching England games down the pub in the mid-1990s, what better place to try and rediscover it than a pub that feels like a throwback to the Firkin chain?
Up at the Hallamshire House it’s the same as always: never heaving but never lifeless. Three or four sexagenarians at the next table are sitting back and bantering waggishly. The talk turns to a list of things you need to take with you when you go out walking. The obvious sticks, maps and water are quickly exhausted. “Defibrillator,” adds one of the old boys, as deadpan as you like.
Before the train to Nottingham, there’s time for a swift quart in the Rutland Arms to say cheerio for now to our friend Jono, who’s just finished his degree in Sheffield and can’t come back until he finds a job here. The Rutland is one of his favourite pubs, so it’s an apposite venue. Just a shame the whole affair is compressed to allow us loads of time over at the station to queue up and buy tickets before we get on the train, rather than more conveniently buying them on board. This is because it is now necessary to disprove on a case-by-case basis East Midlands Trains’ apparent starting assumption that all its customers are criminals.
Over in Nottingham I’m visiting the Bell for the first time. It’s just off the vast Market Square in sunny downtown Nottingham. I arrive expecting simply to pass an hour or so with some friends before we go up to the Chameleon, where tonight’s popshow is happening. But besides that, I get talking to a very interesting man and receive a lesson in local history which has nothing to do with Robin Hood. This extraordinary turn of events convinces me that the Bell should be the subject of the next feature article on Get to the pub.com, so look out for that sometime soon.
Rather than a pub, the Chameleon turns out to be one of those ‘spaces’ Nottingham seems very good at creating, where you’re served a pint by a smiling vegan, stand and drink it in a room that reminds you of the bedsit where you used to make toast for dinner using a candle, and by the end of the night you discover you’ve become an anarcho-communist by osmosis. I can’t wait to come again.