Day 12 cntd (Sept 5th 2009)
The Coach and Horses (Ickenham) 3 x ½ Young’s, 1 x bt Budweiser £5.95
A gentle stroll from Ickenham Station in the vague direction of West Ruislip, and we found ourselves outside The Coach and Horses – another part of the huge Ember Inns division of Mitchells and Butlers, which boldly declares itself (on its website) to be “Ickenham’s most relaxing pub”. We’ll see. The mere fact that they had a set of old wooden stocks out the front of the pub seemed to suggest otherwise. Annoy the bar staff at your peril.
As with most other Ember Inns in the world, it was fairly ordinary, but not altogether unpleasant (apart from the slightly psychedelic and disturbing orange carpet). It was clearly an old pub that had been moulded into the Ember ideal – quaint pub fittings and ambience with a few modern touches and the standardized corporate menu (including the by-now ubiquitous Curry Night meal-and-drink-for-£5.99 deal). Another point towards the positive was that the ale was in very good nick, although I can’t vouch for the bottle of bud.
Still, Shirt may have a distinctly bland taste in lager, but at least his memory is still in full working order, as he stopped me from wandering straight off up the road after we left and reminded me that we needed to take a photo. Twelve days and God knows how many pubs into the mission and I still manage to forget. Thankfully my comrades resisted the urge to put me in the stocks and throw rotten fruit at me as a punishment, although I think that was probably only because Nigel though it would be too much of a pain in the arse to find a grocer.
Photo opportunity duly taken, we put on our most purposeful stride once more and headed towards West Ruislip, pausing only to shout “Good Luck!” as loudly as we could to the wedding that was just about to start at the Church across the road from the pub. “Bride scrubs up alright” said Shirt in a gentlemanly fashion.
The Soldiers Return (West Ruislip) 3 x ½ Courage Best, ½ Fosters £5.80
On we strolled, basking in the hazy summer sun, and talking great reams of bollocks as we went, as we had indeed been doing whilst “relaxing” in the Coach and Horses. With such egg chasing noblemen as Nigel and Shirt with us, we were always going to end up talking about rugby today, but even I was astonished by the sheer volume of tosh that we were spouting already. We will come on to the detail of the actual questions discussed later, but suffice to say we were only four pubs in and we had already used up 45 minutes of voice notes – almost all of it impassioned drivel.
So busy were we, facing off over English and Welsh rugby and generally abusing everyone in the Southern Hemisphere, we almost walked straight past The Soldiers Return. Not clever. We were also on the wrong side of the road, and such was the level of traffic charging up and down Ickenham High Road, we were forced to take our life in our hands trying to get to the pub. I was sure we had lost Nigel at one point, under the wheels of a marauding Citroen Zara Picasso. Which would have been both tragic, and at the same time, slightly embarrassing. Always use the Green Cross Code kids.
The pub itself looked distinctly more “independent” than The Coach and Horses, which is another way of saying “Lived in”. Still, they had a nice seated area out the front for catching some rays, a pool table in the back room for a bit of nine-ball action, and a dartboard in the main bar area which had electronic scoring for those that can’t count backwards from 501. It was probably the most modern thing in the pub. They had a couple of TVs of course, and a couple of lady Brentford fans were currently watching their team play Charlton.
As we made our way to the platform at West Ruislip, we had the joy of seeing real live, genuine trainspotters on the bridge above the tracks. We can only speculate what they were there to see, but you can be sure it wasn’t the next Central Line service.
The Bell (Ruislip Gardens) ½ John Smiths Smooth, ½ Strongbow, 2 x ½ Becks £5.70
Every now and then abeerintheevening.com comes up trumps with a group of wildly differing and often hilarious opinions about certain pubs, and The Bell in Ruislip Gardens is one such place, offering a collection of gems including one review that was downright scary:
“The locals seem unnecessarily angry” was one of the milder comments
“When someone gets shot in a pub…..it tends to diminish the pub’s likeability factor” That was the scary one.
Brilliantly, one chap tried to defend his favourite local by including the brilliantly thought out line “In the two years I’ve been visiting this pub I’ve only seen one scrap – and I started that!” He should be captain of the debate team with logic like that.
In truth, the Bell wasn’t all that bad at the time we visited, although there was a very strange outside drinking experience to be had behind what looked like giant plastic bus stop windows – we weren’t sure whether they were there to keep the locals in or the police out.
Otherwise, it was a vaguely normal local pub, with a huge pool area towards the back and seemingly countless TV screens around the building showing variations on the Sky Sports theme. There was also a fairly simple bar menu, although today there was also some fine smelling barbecue action coming from the bus stop area outside. Various fruit machines, and a dartboard completed the “community local” feel, although a slightly more unusual touch was that they appeared to have brail signs leading to the toilets – presumably to help the blind drunk find their way.
The barmaid who served us was lovely – all her tattoos were spelled right – and she was inexplicably wearing a huge belt buckle which simply said “Hulk”. She was fairly petite, so she couldn’t have been talking about herself, and it didn’t say “Hunk”, so I guess she couldn’t have been talking about any of us…..