Day 1 (Oct 4th 2008)
The plan was to make sure that we were outside the first station and into the first pub by 11am. The planned route was going to take in either 19 or 20 pubs. Of course we had absolutely no idea how long this would take, so being at the first pub as the doors opened was clearly going to give us our best shot.
To help us on our way, my good lady, Liz, had offered to drive us down to Richmond to make sure we were on time for the first day. There was even a chance that we would have time to trot down to Twickenham before hand for some casually posed photos.
Not to be, however. My father John, who is for the most part a very healthy young man, had undergone a “minor procedure” on the Friday morning, and unfortunately the hospital decided to keep him overnight. They had been playing around with the vein in his leg, and it seemed that rather annoyingly for him, it wouldn’t stop bleeding. Most inconvenient. Incidentally, the method that the hospital use to try and stop the bleeding is fantastic – they check the dressing to see if the wound is secure, and if not, they get the biggest bloke they can find to come and lean on you to stop the blood flow for a bit until they can try and seal it better. Then they leave it an hour or so and do the whole thing again until they are happy. Brilliant. Anyway, he was finally fully sealed by Saturday morning, but since my Mother was still sporting a fetching plaster cast on her forearm from a double break, the pair of them clearly needed someone to drive them both home – which of course I was delighted to do, although it did mean a slight delay to the launch of our mission. Families come first of course, but beer does come pretty close.
And so it came to pass that at 1.25pm on a bright Saturday afternoon (only 2 ½ hours later than planned), me and Keith stood outside Richmond Station for a photo, before striding across the road to The Bull (only mildly disappointed that this was definitely the closest pub, as I was hoping to get a beer in The Orange Tree, 20 yards further away).
The Bull (Richmond): ½ Amstel and ½ Strongbow (£3.10)
Still, it was a fine place to start – a pub that used to be an Edwards Bar (dreadful), but has raised its game significantly with a makeover. I counted at least seven different types of wallpaper in the room, all of them clearly taken from the “retro cool” section at Habitat. Very pleasant chap called Sean behind the bar, although he utterly failed to grasp the huge significance of being the first man to serve us a beer on our grand quest. We will remember him though. Well, I wrote his name down anyway, I can’t really remember what he looked like.
Large mirrors adorned the back bar, and curious pieces of philosophy and wisdom hung from clothes pegs on a line above the barman’s head (and despite being stone cold sober in the first pub of the day, we still failed to write any of these pearls of wisdom down). Not much more to say on this one, other than the first drink was, as expected, extremely refreshing, and gone very quickly. Oh, and the Gents was very nice, with a big ornate mirror. Onwards. We have many miles to go….
The Railway (Kew Gardens): 2 x ½ Adnams Best £2.80
We knew about this one already, as it is very helpfully right in the station building, and I had seen it pretty much every
time I have travelled to Richmond. I had heard quite good things about the Railway, although God knows who from. The good points – free Wi-Fi, 3 big TV screens, regular poker nights and, most impressively, a menu printed on recycled paper. Eco-tastic. The bad points – 4 handpumps and only one real ale on, 3 big tv screens showing Championship football, the condition of the Adnams (best described as “mediocre”), and the toilets, which are downstairs and fairly dingy. Still, the beer was fairly cheap, and we were thrilled with the rapid progress in our quest. Count ‘em – TWO pubs already!
JBs Bar and Diner (Gunnersbury): ½ Marstons Pedigree and ½ San Miguel £3.10
Three stations in and we had already started to find the flaws in our exhaustive research. We thought we were looking for The Globe, about 5 minutes walk down Chiswick High Road. However, thank God we allowed ourselves to use judgement and eyesight in the rules, because there was blatantly a pub right across the road from the Station.
And what a pub it was too. JBs Bar and Diner. We walked through the door into the Tavern Bar to discover…….a Christening in full swing! There were balloons, decorations and some awkward looking people standing around the dance floor with chicken nuggets in their hands – whilst a DJ played a surprisingly funky version of Chaka Khan mixing seamlessly into Prince. Alas just as I was about to furiously start throwing shapes in the manner of the Funky Purple One, the landlord spotted us, and suggested we go round to the “Music” Bar on the other side of the building. Oh well, their loss.
A large Garden terrace, some half decent loos and spectacular wipe clean vinyl table cloths covered in musical notes all added to the very strange charm of the pub. It should also be pointed out that about 30 seconds before we left, Keith had a sudden moment of clarity and realised that he had been here before – to see a friend’s Band called East of Java play, some time ago (“approx 70 years ago” said my notes, with unnecessary cruelty). At that point the pub was still called the John Bull, and Keith was there at a closing down gig. Incidentally, East of Java are a cracking band – http://www.eastofjava.org.
The beer was fine by the way, delivered with enthusiasm by Eddie the Barman. We drained our glasses and steeled ourselves for the next stop…..