Day 13 1/2 (24th September 2009)
The Red House (Croxley Green) 2 x ½ Ruddle’s Best £2.50
As we tore ourselves away from the pub quiz and on to Moor Park, we considered the task ahead. We were looking for Stanley Lodge golf club to see if we could get a beer, since our research was telling us that the nearest pub was over a mile away. When we arrived at the station there followed one of those moments of blind panic as we tried to work out which way to go from the entrance. In desperation, we asked a sensible looking local, who quite reasonably suggested that we follow the direction indicated on the large “Sandy Lodge this way” sign that was virtually in front of us. Alright fella, don’t be smug about it.
Full of renewed vigour, we followed the indicated direction, only to very shortly be confronted by a small and unwelcoming looking clubhouse wreathed in absolute darkness. Bugger. It also had signs all over it declaring it a private club, which meant that try as we might, we couldn’t in good conscience allow it as a venue under the stringent TOMB rules.
“Looks we’ve got a new starting point on the final day”, admitted Keith, looking forward to yet another trek.
Slightly deflated, we decided we had to press on to Croxley Green, where we headed for the Red House – a pub we had already viewed a couple of times from the mobile showroom that is the 724 bus which, we had decided, looked pretty good.
Appearances can of course be deceiving.
It was a Greene King pub, and despite the external promise it was a fairly dull and listless affair inside, which is a description which could be equally applied to the beer we had. There were a couple of pool tables and a dart board in the room, along with various big screens showing nothing of interest whatsoever.
The strangest part was, there was obviously another larger part of the pub on the other side of the bar with a sign adorning the closed partition saying “Restaurant – No Smoking”. Odd given that surely there is no smoking anywhere in the pub since the ban a few years back. And even odder because the area didn’t even remotely look like a restaurant. The final nail in the coffin for the Red House as far as we were concerned was the state of the loos, which were small and dirty, and as Keith reported, had “3 urinals, one of which was blocked and full of horribly pungent wee. Somebody really isn’t well.” Indeed.
The Horns (Watford) 2 x Pints Bombardier, 1 x large glass of Merlot £10.75
It had only in reality been a half day, but given the distances covered and the diversity of the drinking holes tonight, it felt like it had taken a lifetime. And just to ensure that we didn’t feel too comfortable at the end, we were presented with the joy of Watford tube station, a place thoroughly embedded into the heart of suburbia, where if you don’t know where you are going it could be dawn by the time you actually find anything resembling a pub.
Fortunately we had actually anticipated this for once, and had conducted some thorough research into where we could actually go – even to the extent of measuring distances on a map of the area. We had about half an hour to go before last orders, and we were headed for The Horns, an almost legendary music pub on the other side of Cassiobury Park.
Cut to ten minutes later, two men stood outside the doors of The Horns, hands on heads, anguish etched into their faces at the prospect of another crushing defeat when so close to the finish line. Our extensive research had of course completely failed to take into account the fact that because The Horns was a proper music pub, they had gigs on every night and usually charged an entry fee. 8 bastard pounds in fact – a disaster considering our stringent rules in this area.
We had two choices – find another pub equally close by in the next 6 minutes, or work some magic and blag our way in. It’s at testing times like these that you see the true measure of a man, and so naturally I just went into full on sulk mode, virtually stamping my feet in frustration and muttering things like “What are we doing here anyway? Bloody Watford’s not even in London.”
Keith on the other hand was all the while chatting quietly to the monster on the door – a man who looked like rather than going through all the trauma of being born and growing up, had simply been carved out of rock and provided with the bare minimum required to operate as a human being.
No chance, I thought. And yet, with a patience that belied the pressure of the ticking clock, Keith continued to gently cajole and encourage the beast before him. It was rather like Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer – if Robert Redford was a Welshman in all terrain shoes, and the horse wore a bomber jacket and an earpiece. Eventually (I think I was grumpily inspecting my nails at this point), a rather glam lady appeared and had a quick chat with my learned friend, before giving him a smile and a wink, and then issuing a nod to her giant doorman.
“What the hell was that about?” was all I could manage in a slightly incredulous tone.
“Well I told her what we were doing and why, and she thought it was funny. She said we could come in as long as we bought her a drink”
Freshly euphoric in the wake of this prime blagging display, we bowled into the pub and took our places at the bar, purchasing the traditional end-of-night pints for ourselves and an impressively expensive glass of merlot for the landlady. She was never going to have a half of mild I suppose.
So shabby were my notes at this stage, I have no idea who the band were that were playing. Suffice to say they were a fairly tidy if generic rock covers band, and we settled in to soak up an intensified atmosphere of nostalgia. The pub itself is great by the way, as long as you like this sort of thing – a big old barn of a room with plenty of bar access, a stage in the corner and a hugely impressive sound system. We chinked glasses in acknowledgement of just how close we were getting to the end of our quest. The penultimate day was finally complete, and a number of logistical banana skins had been successfully avoided. Then we turned to the much more important game of trying to guess which rock cover would come next on the set list.
We knew it was going to be Bryan Adams. All together now – “I got my first real six string…bought it at the five and dime….”