Dave has got in some bacon. I grill a couple of slices and make myself a sandwich. Bacon – what better start to the day?
I’ve a little time before I need to head off and take the opportunity to get the shopping in. Dolores has given me a list. Roasting joints, tea, hot chocolate powder, vinegar and, of course, salt and vinegar crisps for the kids. It’s good to get it all out of the way early.
There’s one downside to staying at Dave’s: he’s off the grid. No internet access in his house. In a way, it’s a relief to be free of the web for a few days. I spend way too much time on it.
I plan getting the bus at 9:35. By 9:50 there’s been no sign of a bus in either direction. I walk to Dave’s office and ask him to call me a cab. I’m quite surprised that he doesn’t say: “OK, you’re a taxi.”
He orders it for his home address. It arrives so quickly, it gets there before me. Ony six quid - bargain. Why was I going to mess around with the bus? Especially as it doesn’t go anywhere near Northgate Station?
I’m very early at Newark Northgate station. I get a posh coffee and sit in the waiting room. Which is decorated with old photographs of Newark. What date is that? Just before WW I, going by the clothes they’re wearing.
Ten minutes before my train is due, I go to see if I can spot Henry. He’s in the foyer. He had come into the coffee shop but failed to spot me.
When our train trundles in I notice that it’s an Intercity 125. It must be at least 40 years old.
“Why did they bother electrifying, Henry, if they’re going to run diesel trains?”
“Welcome to modern Britain.”
Luckily, we find two seats together. Despite all the seats being reserved.
We have to change in Doncaster. I’ve not been here for years.
“There’s quite a good pub on one of the platforms.” Henry remarks suggestively.
“We’ve only got 10 minutes. Too much of a rush.”
“Now there’s a first, you turning down a pub opportunity. Living abroad has ruined you.”
The connecting train to Sheffield is a bus-like two-coacher. It smells of piss. There’s no legroom, just six inches or so. We both have to sit sideways, which is fun.
“It’ll stop everywhere,“ Henry says, “shitholes like Mexborough and Rotherham. It’s so lovely, South Yorkshire.”
“Positive as ever, eh, Henry?”
The pissing rain doesn’t make it look any better. It’s still raining when we get to Sheffield.
“Fancy a quick one in the Sheffield Tap, Ron?”
“I suppose so.” I don’t want to overdo it, though. We’ve an appointment with some brewing records in Sheffield Archives. It is conveniently located right in the station. A magnificent space, lined with colourful Victorian tiles.
“How come the Best Bitter is weaker than the Session Pale Ale, Henry? That makes no sense.”
“These modern brewers call beers anything they like.”
“There should be some organisation making them stick to standards.”
“Like the BJCP?”
“No, not like the BJCP.”
We polish off our pints and head off into the rain. Luckily the archives are only a couple of hundred metres away. We’re still a big soggy when we arrive. I wish I’d brought my hat.
We quickly get reading passes and start trawling through the records I’ve ordered. This is so much quicker with two people. In less than an hour all the snapping is done. Tennant’s, in case you’re wondering.
We head to our next appointment: The Rutland Arms to meet Dann and Martha Paquette, former owners of Pretty Things. It’s still raining. And we’re not 100% certain of which way to go. Which ends up in us making a couple of hundred metre detour.
“Oh look, it’s an old Duncan Gilmour pub.” I say.
“What happened to them?”
“Bought and closed by Tetley. Look you can still see a huntsman there.”
It has a lovely tiled exterior. Though I prefer the inside – due to the rain – which warm and cosy. Dann and Martha are already there. It’s great to see them again. Been a while
I get an Anspach & Hobday Porter. Quite roasty, but nice.
Dann starts to tell us about all his problems finding premises for his brewery. It sounds like the council doesn’t want people to start businesses, which is insane. He’s remarkably positive, given all the bureaucratic hurdles being placed in front of him.
I have another Porter before we decide to brave the rain and move to another pub.
“Do you fancy going to a Sam Smiths pub?” Dann asks.
“Can do. I feel like spending an hour or two back in the 1970’s.”
“We can admire those magnificent little boxes that serve as keg fonts.” Henry chips in.
It rains all the way to the Brown Bear. We plonk ourselves down in the lounge. I wonder if beer is still more expensive here than in the public bar? Maybe they don’t bother with that anymore.
There’s a touch of sharpness to the Old Brewery Bitter. Not exactly off, but not exactly right, either.
“At least it’s only two quid a pint.” Henry observes.
“I had a pint on Saturday that cost over twelve quid. It was a 10% ABV Imperial Stout. And I didn’t pay for it.”
“Time for another pub before we go to the Devonshire Cat?” Dann asks.
“Of course, I reply. There’s always time for one more pub.”
We get rained on some more on our way over to the Bath Hotel. It gets its name from the Turkish baths further along the street.
Once inside, I’m glad we made the effort. It’s a gorgeous old pub, with its original layout and fittings intact. It’s a Thornbridge pub, so I get a pint of Jaipur. Something with a bit of oomph.
We’re running a bit late and only have time for one. I was supposed to be in the Devonshire Cat at 17:30 for a bite to eat before tonight’s event. It’s already past that. And we’ve some more rain walking to do first.
I’m surprised to see that the Devonshire Cat is a new building. I’d assumed it was an old pub. Inside, it’s fairly cavernous, but not soulless.
The Abbeydale guys are there, as is Jules of Hop Hideout. I’m soon stuck into a half of the William Younger 1868 No. 1. Yes, only a half. I’ve been drinking for several hours and still have an event to do. The beer is pretty nice. Perhaps a bit too nice, given how strong it is.
I’m soon getting stuck into pie, chips and mushy peas. Just the sort of grub I like, when in Britain.
The event is pretty low key. To the point of me not really doing anything but sit and chat with Jules, Dann, Martha and Henry. I’ve no problem with that. They’re all lovely people – well, maybe not Henry – and get along well with each other.
We decide to all trek to the Sheffield Tap for a last pint. Dann and Martha go for the unfiltered Bernard. I choose a Stout from the pub’s own brewery. Plus an Islay whisky. Just to set me up for the train.
The train back to Doncaster is classier than the one that brought us. Another Intercity 125.
“Good old British Rail, Ron, Good old British Rail.” Henry says as it trundles into view.
Those things must be like Routemasters. At least we can sat normally. There’s enough legroom for someone over seven years old. Unlike the other train.
“Do you fancy a drink in the bar, Ron?” Henry asks when we roll into Doncaster. “We’ve got twenty minutes. Almost.”
“OK.” I won’t disappoint Henry twice.
It’s the bar that does the disappointing, by being closed. No more beer for us.
Our train to Newark is the surprise of the day: it’s electric. And must have been built within the last 20 years.
Speeding back to Northgate is an electrifying experience. And we have seats. I was slightly concerned about the return journey. This is the last connection. And you never know with British trains. They aren’t exactly what I’d call reliable.
We get a taxi that drops off first me, then Henry.
“Directly behind the chip shop.” I tell the driver. Dave lives in a handy spot. If only they still ran buses after dark in Newark.
1b, Sheffield Station,
Sheffield S1 2BP.
Tel: +44 114 273 7558
52 Shoreham Street,
Sheffield S1 4SP
Tel: +44 0114 203 9395
86 Brown St,
Sheffield S1 2BS.
Tel: +44 114 272 9003
The Brown Bear
109 Norfolk St,
Sheffield S1 2JE.
Tel: +44 114 272 7744
The Bath Hotel
66-68, Victoria St,
Sheffield S3 7QL.
Tel: +44 114 249 5151
49 Wellington St,
Sheffield S1 4HG.
Tel: +44 114 279 6700
8 Aizlewood Rd,
Sheffield S8 0YX.
Tel: +44 114 281 2712
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