Fast Trains and The Fat Controller

Day 13 cntd (19th September 2009)

Fox and Hounds (Rickmansworth) 3 x ½ Bombardier £4.50

We turned and headed back towards London, with a quick stop in leafy Hertfordshire on the way. Rickmansworth was the station, and The Fox and Hounds was the venue. It was just a short stroll round the back of the station and on to the High Street, and a very unassuming place it looked too. It was fairly small, a sort of split level affair, with one TV set up in the front (Super Geoff Stelling on Soccer Saturday), and two in the back room (strictly nag racing only). They also had a dartboard to one side, and the first hint we got that this was a bit of a local’s pub was when the dart stopped in midair as we walked into the bar.

Ignoring the looks we were getting, we took the plunge and ordered ourselves a drink.  Some more ale was definitely the order of the day here, but bizarrely it was served to us from out of a small jug rather than from one of the two handpumps on the bar.

“It’s straight from the barrel – we don’t sell that much, and we like to try and keep it fresh for the weekend” said the barmaid by way of explanation. Er, ok. Still, she had asked if we minded first though, bless her.

They were advertising an 8oz Burger and chips for the bargain basement price of £2.95, but it has to be said we were all slightly dubious regarding the quality of the meat that would go into such a dish. Would it be real cow? We weren’t sure.

Despite the fact that it was obviously a football fans pub, they were also doing their bit to bring rugby to the people in a highly tasteful fashion – the front bar was positively festooned with bright yellow flyers showing stockinged legs and brazenly declaring “Hookers Wanted!” (Small print: “And, props, wingers and flankers”). Classy.  The Fox and Hounds was a bit of a mixed bag overall, and we couldn’t decide as we made our way back to the station about whether it constituted a charming local boozer, or alternatively an insular den of hostile gambling addicted basket cases. Still, at least it had decent beer, albeit served in highly unusual fashion.

The Fat Controller (Harrow-On-The-Hill) 2 x ½ Batemans, ½ Aspalls £4.70

Expert Photography at the "At Controlle"

Another hugely impressive piece of work from the boys at this point as we managed to accidentally get the fast train to Harrow on the Hill, thereby completely bypassing several stations including Pinner, where the ladies were currently making their food-stop.

Still, Adaptable is my middle name, and Unflappable is Keith’s apparently, so we smoothly altered our plans to visit the pub at Harrow as if it had been our intention all along, before planning another swerve and heading back North once more.

The Fat Controller is what we found, marginally closer to the station according to our crude foot based measurements – and hopefully marginally more interesting – than the Wetherspoons which was the other nearest option. It looked like a fairly tidy pub from the outside, but then looks can be deceiving can’t they?

When we eventually get round to bestowing official ratings and honours on the huge range of venues we have visited, the award for Most Disappointing and Pointless Waste of Space on a Bar is a shoe in for The Fat Controller.  Ten handpumps. One ale. Seriously what’s the point? Just having Bateman’s on (in pretty mediocre condition) in amongst a forest of empty beer engines is never, ever going to encourage anyone to drink your real ale. You might as well not bother, frankly.

The rest of the pub didn’t offer that much more. Lots of tired looking wood panelling around the room, menus and drinks lists were crumpled and stuffed into lever-arch folders, presumably to remind people about their filing.  There was one telly above the fire place with the horse racing on, and a total of half a dozen people in there including us.  They were obviously trying to compete with the Wetherspoons over the road as there were all sorts of two for one offers advertised around the room, and they were advertising their house wine for just £7.00. Seven English Pounds! “I bet that’s delicious, at that price” was Keith’s only comment.

We supped up our beer as we waited for Gareth to finish his bag of crisps, all the while advocating his latest ill fated suggestion for our next pub conversation – namely what are the most pointless forms of transport ever?  It started off promisingly with talk of unicycles and Sinclair C5s, but the whole issue was done and dusted when Gareth told us a story about attendants on Segways roaming around the decks of cruise ships checking that people were ok. An immediate double whammy, giving us not one but two of the most pointless forms of transport linked together. The prosecution rests.

The King George (Pinner) 3 x ½ London Pride £4.20

Hello Ladies: Mob-handed at The King George

Time to get reunited with the ladies! And where better to do so than round the back of a great big soulless pub under a railway bridge in Pinner.

True to form, the pub was a cavern, the service was bad and the TV screens were numerous – Arsenal were currently 2-0 up against Wigan, to most of the customers delight. There were posters around the walls advertising WKD Blue for “Just £3!”, and for the life of us, none of us could work out how that constituted a good deal for the customer. We eventually got served our London Pride and moved out towards the “Riverside Garden Area”, which turned out to be a bit of scruffy lawn next to a stagnant canal.

Still, the relative mediocrity of the surroundings was forgotten in an instant when we heard the welcoming, if slightly shrill, calls of our hugely bolstered Lady-based support team.  All happily lined up they were, along a couple of long trestle tables liberally decorated with flute glasses and bottles of fizz. No food, however – apparently they had already been waiting for nearly an hour for their order to turn up, which didn’t bode well for the ham sandwich that Gareth had requested (brilliantly, Greta – the ladies had named him as an honorary girl, poor sod – had eaten something in every pub we had visited so far, and was determined to keep this going for the entire day if possible).

The girls had been joined by reinforcements in the shape of our friends Nicky Binning (small beanie), the glamorous Spence sisters, Kim and Kerry (spectacular woolly skiing hats), and Lou Clout who had not only brought a hat (grey flat cap worn backwards, gangsta style), but also a fella (by the name of Pete, who seemed to be a cheerful chap). The new additions wasted no time in telling us firstly how they had joined the girls at Northwood Hills, but they all decided not to eat there because the pub had a knife amnesty bin outside, and secondly just how many pub conversations they had already knocked off. Most of them were based around men, and contained the words “would” or “wouldn’t”. More of that later.

Given that most people were only just starting their food it was decided that the chaps should see off their beers (the London Pride was rank by the way), and get back on the tracks – picking up a couple of the stations that we had so skilfully missed by picking up the fast train earlier. We even took Pete with us to save him from the frenzy of “femaleness” that was loudly threatening to take over this part of North London. The idea was that we would then pick up with them again in about an hour’s time. They even promised to bring Gareth’s ham sandwich along for him (he had to content himself with some stolen chips as his food quota in the King George).

As we left The King George had one more surprise for us when we were bestowed with the spectacular site of two pub regulars – both rough as you like and smoking roll ups, one of them shirtless – who were obviously tired of watching the football and were instead having a passionate argument about whether “red wine reduction” and “jus” were the same thing. Utterly brilliant.


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