That Time I Accidentally Had a Shit in a Wetherspoons Women’s Toilet

This post is literally toilet humour, nothing horribly descriptive but from now on I’m talking shit more than I normally do.

 

 

In the UK, before the advent of “24 hour drinking,” the only place to go for a drink after time had been called at 11pm was to a club.

I hate clubs, I craved a lock-in or to go back to a mates house but it was always insisted, usually be the females in the group or the singles, that we go clubbing it “just for a short while.”

I’m reminded of my time in Bradford, in a club called Maestros, the men’s toilets the cloakroom in, luckily hidden around from the eye-line of the actual bogs but enough so the attendants could keep an eye out for any tampering with the fountain of the fish it contained.

That is almost as irritating as going to the loo only to find some poor soul there waiting with a selection of fragrances and pre-torn hand towels.

For me going to the toilet is a private activity but one I’ve learnt to deal with as not solely being unaccompanied if you are in a public place.

Plus pub toilet banter is almost as funny as pub toilet graffiti.

But that is having a pee and having a pee is fine, for me at least, I still have one shy-peeing/cubicle only mate but horses for courses.

Why bring up clubs? Simply because this was my first introduction to the brassy “don’t worry lads, I’ve seen it all before” type of women who, because the facilities in women’s club loos was so inadequate that the only option was to brave the blokes.

And quite a few did, with the usual complaints about the smell and the general state.  Still, it was another source of toilet banter.

Fast forward my continued attendance at music festivals.  The long queues, or perpetual free-for-all of getting a loo at peak periods.  The fear of what awaits as you open the door of an empty one, or the worry that the next person out of the one you are queuing for will be a boy and not a girl.  Or the bigger worry for me, the fear that when I leave the portaloo it will be a girl waiting to go in after me.

Lucky them, as I leave them in a better state than I find them (within music festival toilet reason) but it is still with due deference you make that fleeting eye contact and sheepish knowing look that we are all in this together.

“Spotless” used to be my boast if I was particularly drunk, the hopefully allay worries, while also realising that this sort of toilet banter isn’t best done in an open field to complete strangers.  Meh.

And so we find ourselves with micro pubs and micro bars and the advent of one, singular shared toilet facility (because as I understand it, to have two or more would require the place to be suitable for disabled access, don’t quote me on that, this blog isn’t about accuracy, just entertainment).

Again; I leave the toilet better than I found it, though it has to be said toilet in micro bars are generally of a better standard that a regular pub, probably because of the far less work required in cleaning just the one, but I still leave the cubicle with the dread of a woman waiting to use it.

However, regardless of sex, if they’ve been the type of person that persistently has tried to open the door when it is clearly locked, then I don’t care.  These are the same people that press both the up and down buttons on a lift and then wonder why they go in the wrong direction when they get in the first one that arrives.

Patience.  All good things to those who wait.

Which brings us to the title of this piece, which must have happened a good decade ago now I think on it.

There is nothing worse than knowing, on a night out, that you need to poo.  In unfamiliar surroundings it is just potty luck, in familiar surroundings it can be worse knowing just how limited your options truly are.

There are times I’ve gone home to use my own loo or, for the price of a drink, borrowed the key to a closer by friend’s house to use theirs.

I’ve gone back to pubs to use better toilets and I’ve gone ahead, leaving drinks behind, in order to get a more comfortable shit somewhere else.

Loo roll is a must.  Then a toilet seat.  Then a door that locks.

In a Wetherspoons I was, or rather thought I was familiar with, I got caught very short and went to use the gents.  In my solitary defence, I was desperate, rather drunk and the entry doors are more or less next to each other.

I flew through the door and briefly acknowledged that the toilet was completely empty as I found a suitable WC.

I was not more than 20 seconds into my ablutions than, very much like the ending of “The Usual Suspects,” all the evidence fell into place.

This place smelt nice.  Did I just walk passed sofas and comfy chairs? And a table with magazines on it?  Wait, where were the urinals?  Why is most of the floor I walked in on still carpeted?  Why were there so many cubicles?  Is that…is that women’s voices I hear?

This would seem like the least stressful way out of this.

I tensed.  Somehow trying to control my releasing of both sound, smell and anything else that could possibly give me up to the new and rightful entrants to the toilets.

Not that shit smells any better out of women but let us not take chances here.

I finished up.  Tidied the toilet to within an inch of its ceramic life and then waited, poised for my escape.

The doors closed.  Silence.  I gave it 5 seconds for the previous occupants to reach minimum safe distance and then I moved.  Quickly ran my hands under the tap in a show of some cleanliness and then just hoped that then next few metres to me and the relative safety and embarrassment free zone of the men’s toilets would not be spoiled by the face of any other person witnessing the horrific mistake I made.

I made it to safety, unseen, unspotted.  Soaped my hands and washing them properly looked at my suddenly very sober self in the mirror.  Dried my hands and rejoined the group.

Somewhere I get the feeling that there is a staff or security member who watched this unfold live.  I also get the feeling this did not go as smoothly as I thought it did and have relayed here.

Still, the past is the past, onwards to being confused by foreign toilet signs.

 

Thanks for reading.

My Love of Holt’s Pubs

Subtitle: Oh great, if my grammar wasn’t bad enough I’m going to struggle with possessive apostrophes.

Search Holt’s Pubs

Only 12 Holt’s pubs are Cask Marque apparently.  Good, ignoring those chancers is one of my fanciful whimsies I get when I go drinking.

I don’t treat Holt’s pubs the way that some would a Hard Rock Cafe, then again if each pub did their own pin badge then I might consider the pilgrimage to every one, I’ve already got their “bee glass” and my Untappd history seems to suggest I’ve had every beer they’ve done (give or take).  Make it happen Joey.

Now I can’t say I’ve been in a vast range of Holt’s pubs and as my previous post alluded to, the city centre pubs, like The Old Monkey and Ape and Apple just don’t do it for me, not because of the pub itself but because of the location.

If you want a list of my main visitations then it would be:

Tamar (Leigh), Mort Arms (Tyldesley), Atherton Arms (er, Atherton, pronounced a-THE-er-tun), Cart & Horses (Astley), Rosehill Tavern (Daisy Hill), Edington Arms (Hindley), The Crown (Horwich) and a few others more out of the way (i.e. not a simple bus/train ride).

I used to go in The Park in Monton, replete with fish tank and bench seating.  Then they gutted it and made it a mimic of the micro bars that sprung up in “the new Chorlton,” way back when every little enclave just outside of Manchester was “the new Chorlton.”

Now I could bang on about another of my whimsy annoyances which is purely of Holt’s own making and that is their pricing.

They are cheap as chips across the board for all their wares but don’t expect a menu saying 4.5 or 3.0 as a price guide, just some well trained bar monkey going £2.57 or £9.52 all together.

Yep, you’ll be coming home with pockets bulging of coppers to stick in your empty, over sized Bell’s whisky bottle.  Unless you wish to tip the weird amounts “no, you keep the 8p, luv.”

The beer isn’t half bad either but this isn’t about the beer it is about the pubs. “Always a warm and friendly welcome;” carpets, except around the bar area, strategic coat hooks (or full on hangers/stands), bench seating, the right temperature, nice toilets, very well trained staff, TVs at the right volume that can still be easily ignored if need be, cubbyholes, etched glass, etc.

You get the picture.

To conclude this post, I’ll finish with two quotes which sum up with brevity what I’ve drawn out to pass the time; one from Martin:

A TOAST TO SIR HUMPHREY IN THE BLUE BELL

Sam Smiths pubs most easily convey that sense of peace and contentment that justify getting out of your sofa to visit pubs…”

Except at Holt’s you can still use your electronic devices, should you so wish.

The second from my mum:

“If you’re old and can’t afford the heating, just go and sit in the Athy Arms.  You wouldn’t really have to buy anything and you’ll be as alone or as talkative as you want.”

 

Thanks for reading.

Not Tired of Life, Just Tired of Manchester (pubs)

I’ve never liked crowds; or being honest, people in general, the thronging masses of homo sapiens and their need to get wherever they are going and quickly as they can and fuck everyone else. Or the opposite of this, who toddle along or stop and chat on stairs or outside doors and are a general nuisance to everyone trying to get somewhere. Misanthropy can make you view things in extremes but all I see it common sense not being that common.

When I stopped working in Manchester I stopped having to commute through Manchester and I stopped having to go to pubs there to console my time wasted as another train or bus home was late, delayed or cancelled.

I started working and therefore drinking, in earnest, in Manchester some 15 years ago, not long in the scheme of things but a lot has changed in those years and I suspect a lot of people who communicate about beer probably weren’t old enough to drink back then either. For a point of reference it was a time before Port Street Beer House existed, then during, when it opened and became excellent and then further down the line, when it went on to become arrogant and shit.

During the past few weeks I’ve drunk in many towns and cities on extended holidays, especially in London, a place I have also seen change over the past decade or so I’ve made regular trips down there for drinks and the purposes of entertainment and relaxation (get your mind out of the gutter).

I note how the first stop is the Euston Tap and they just seem to be coasting along, resting on their laurels and the captive audience they have but at least that place was deserving of a pedestal at one time, unlike its Manchester Piccadilly counterpart which has always been a hollow shell.

I entertained finally going to the Bermondsey beer mile, if only to indulge my love of Kernel Brewery beers but they don’t open apart from to sell bottles and seeing as very few of the micro (call them craft if you so wish) London breweries are actually much cop (Weird Beard being one rare exception), it wouldn’t be worth my time or money. Full marks to Kernel for not being a slave to trends which now seems to have convinced people that drinking in industrial units under heavy neon lights surrounded by a bit of art is tip-top entertainment. I like Fox’s Biscuits and Heinz Beans but you wouldn’t see me clamouring to get to the a taste of those wares in the factories at Batley and Kitt Green, far better to consume them at home, in the warmth, away from notice-me-wankers (and probably Greg(g) Wallace).

London as a whole has changed, always a heaving metropolis, the description that opens this piece fits it best, though I’ve always respected the seeming fact that London centre pubs are treated as iconic and as necessary furnishments to the economy, something that Manchester, in its clamour to look exactly like London spectacularly loves to ignore and destroy. The personal epiphany though was that all the pubs in London I went in to were havens from the gaggling hordes, something I can’t say for Manchester.

That my opening gambit in every pub and bar I went into was “do you still take cash?” and only once was the answer a “no” still heartens me.

I thought it was just city drinking I was dulled to however not only tolerating but actually enjoying recent trips to Leeds, York, Edinburgh and Sheffield and a whole host of small towns coupled with the London excursion showed that maybe its a case that familiarity breeds contempt and it is well possible because every time I’ve been back to Manchester it has just been a bit meh.

I speak for me, this is my “Rekall moment,” and not to slight the pubs, old and new that are there or the drinks that are on offer.  I am fully aware I’m the factor here.

This piece seems to be acting as a nice intro into another small bit I’m working on called “My Love of Holt’s Pubs” which will be published, when I can be bothered.

 

I’m Linus van Pelt and pubs, except for those in the centre of Manchester are my security blanket.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Oh, of note in London pubs.  Cask beer was significantly improve over recent years (I don’t take my own thermometer though).  Sam Smith’s pubs vary in whether they bother in enforcing their “no mobiles” rule or not.

CAMRA MUPpets

After the Revitalisation project CAMRA started, whenever, no one really cared, they voted on many things.  Needing 75% approval but only achieving 72%, the organisation failed to recognise that all beer was equal, or something like that.

Cask was the ultimate and keg was secondary.

I’d agree but as we have learnt with voting…well as the Simpsons put it

 

You never get the results you want and most appreciate that and with an organisation such as CAMRA you can simply cancel your membership and leave and in all honesty that decision won’t impact on you enjoyment of beer and where to have it, well pubs may continue to close but CAMRA aren’t really trying to stop that, no one can except those who wish to continue spending money in those establishments.

Quote Joni Mitchell…

Many left CAMRA at that moment and bragged about it in a show of pure virtue, the stay-and-reform-from-within group looking slightly bemused by the whole process.

You pays your money, you takes your choice.

The insidiousness of the public health lobby groups coupled with an authoritarian nanny state is leading to us responsible adults being forced into to take numerous hits no only to our personal freedom and the appreciation of the fact we are responsible for our own well being, but also being hit in the pocket.

Tax, tax and more tax.

Which brings us onto minimum unit pricing, or MUP, and quite frankly I’ve just waffled on enough when the title of this piece would have been enough.

Like all CAMRA proposals, it won’t really have any impact as MUP will be steam-rollered in by far more powerful and of-the-zeitgeist organisations than the sandal brigade ever were.

Slow. Hand. Clap.

Just when voices against were required.

Fuck it.  I’ll just drink beer under my bed covers, locked in my own home, that way I might get some peace.  The stockpiling begins now.

Democracy – so good the Simpsons did the same joke twice.

Thanks for reading.

They Fear Cask Beer Round Here

Subtitle: Anecdotal evidence on the continuing tribulations of cask beer.

Yes, the title is used for the rhyme and not for casting any aspersion on the drinkers I observed.

 

A few years ago I was in my local chippy when the bloke in front of me requested a chip barm* in his order.

“We’ve got no barms left I’m afraid” came the response from the server “but we’ve got bread if that’s OK for you?”

“It’s not brown is it?” came the worried follow-up from the customer.

I still vividly recall the trepidation in his voice, I pictured that after a hectic week his Friday treat of a chippy tea was about to get less rewarding as it would feature non-white bread.

Let’s be honest, brown (and wholemeal) is fine for toast and sandwiches but for a chip or crisp butty it is both pointless and akin to those people who order lots of food in a take-away and then insist on a diet drink (not that you get much choice of avoiding the bitter, chemical drek the sugar tax has forced the big chains to make).

No one likes the taste of diet soft drinks really; just like no one likes the taste of highly processed bread that isn’t white, and thick, doorstep thick.  If you’re going to treat yourself, do it right.

Sunday just gone I had the pleasure of travelling to York (visited many times before) to watch Leigh lose by 1 point in the championship division of rugby league.  I’ve travelled far further to see Leigh lose by 1 point (and by far more) but I’d never been to the Bootham Crescent ground before.

 

As a side note, it should be noted the Leigh’s home ground now only serves bottles and cans (poured into plastic cups) at the ground on match days, the time of even keg beer has passed it would seem.  To be fair all grounds I’ve been to only serve keg beer, with the exception of The Shay in Halifax.  Though all the grounds to make an effort to re-badge known brands as their “own” – so if you’re a ticker or are on Untappd, maybe trek along on a match day.

It should also be noted that drinking can still occur on the terraces of rugby matches and on the supporter coaches too so go fuck yourselves, South Ayrshire Police (and nanny Scotland in general).

 

We had arrived not in enough time to get to any pubs in the centre but in enough time to grab a few at the closest venue which was York Burton Lane Club it is always gratifying to find a Whatpub entry that is incorrect as they were serving cask beer, so York branch may wish to update this page sometime and look after your clubs as much as your pubs.

Paying a £1 entry as a non-member I clocked the rather obvious poster, which were also behind the bar, highlight that they had A Knight’s Ale by  local microbrewers Isaac Poad for only £2 a pint.  They also had John Smith’s (bitter) on cask too as well as a variety of Sam Smith’s keg amongst the usual standard lagers and ciders.

I’m always slightly trepidatious myself about cask beer at a certain price; it is on the turn and they are just trying to shift it and being in a strange environment with a horde of other piling in behind me I wasn’t about to ask to try it first (not that I actually do anyway, just go for a half, that’s a taster).  So a pint was ordered and very good it both taste and condition it was too.

But the conversations I heard around the bar reminded me of the aforementioned chip shop incident.

“Pint of bitter please” was a regular cry (other than “pint of lager” of course).

“Cask or smooth” was the barmaid’s reply, not even attempting to ever push the guest ale (which I suppose wouldn’t count as a bitter per se but still…)

“Smooth…smooth” were the numerous, convulsed replies.

Stick with what you know I suppose, price isn’t really an object in a rushed environment when you’re on a day trip.

Scanning the busy drinking area there were a few on the cask, I’m not going to put a number on it, nor what the average age of the clientèle was as this is just anecdotal.

 

But if you can’t shift cask beer at £2 a pint to the thirsty; then really, is it a premium product that can attract top whack and are those breweries that sell it for less really creating a rod for the backs of themselves and every other brewer?

 

Thanks for reading.

 

*barmcake, bap, cob, roll, batch, muffin, teacake, etc.

Opening Times (CAMRA) Poynton Pootle – Addendum

No, my name is not Graham Privett and I did not write this rather good piece about Poynton.

Link to all issues.

http://www.ssmcamra.co.uk/OTfiles/402jan19.pdf

Having picked up the Jan/Feb 2019 edition of Opening Times, the Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA branch magazine, I was at once happy that someone reviewed Poynton, saving me the effort but also a bit miffed they’d missed a few things, though I expect this was due to time constraints and the shit public transport in and out of it.

The main jist of my piece would be that Poynton offers a pub/bar for every drinking occasion, even the Acoustic Lounge for live music and later night drinking (that still manages to keep and turn over 2 cask lines).

I’ve written about Vine Hop before but the piece missed out (The) Bull’s Head.

But before I get on to that I’ll just talk about the Poynton Wetherspoons called The Kingfisher – another good Spoons pub which has the neat trick of showing off the casks in a windowed, sealed off room visible to the whole pub.  A nice gimmick, until you realise just how far from the bar the casks are and just how much pythonage must be going on and condition that could be lost from the beer pulling it through those long lines.  A minor quibble, but beer blogging lore dictates that a Spoons establishment must be mentioned in all pub related posts.

So on to (The) Bull’s Head

As you can see from the above link this is a pub that still very much has “older pub times,”  closing in the afternoon and reopening in the evening.  It is a bit of a way out of Poynton, on the way to Hazel Grove and the new, and refreshingly dangerous junctions with the new A555 bypass taking up to High Lane, Disley and beyond.

But I digress, there isn’t much I can add to the beer choice, local in its range (Red Willow, Storm Brewing, etc.) very much a Macclesfield-Cheshire and beyond feel rather than the “oh, another Manchester brewery again, how different” selection you can get in many of these “highly recommended” pubs that fall in the Stockport postcode.

It is just the feeling I got when I walked in the place, it makes it worth the walk out from the main bulk of Poynton pubs, it feels warm and friendly, the kind of pub you’d like to be snowed-in in.

The beer is always well kept, the only downside is the soft drinks/mixers are poured out of pop bottles but that doesn’t really affect me.

Most off all they have quite a few awards from the local CAMRA branch, which I can’t ever read because they store them behind their spirit range.  Who needs awards when people know the pub is good.

 

Thanks for reading.

Cloudwater Can’t Save Cask Beer, But…

….ooh dramatic ellipsis after a click-bait title…

Choose your own subtitle, it was either going to be:

…they can save themselves.

or…

…neither can CAMRA.

Now, on reflection since I started penning this I’ve thought is might be…

…they could destroy it.

I should hasten to add that this piece is not anti-Cloudwater, they are just an exemplar of the perceived problems with cask beer, or not as the case may be.

In fact the initial subtitle was only based on reading an interview with yon mon Jonesy in Brewers Journal (Vol 4. Issue 6, July/August) before reading the October blog post but then that is how quickly viewpoints change within a business and when looking in from the outside.

 

 

I’m impressed with the health and safety of the glasses, less so about the pose, anyway…

Cloudwater’s Launch (2015 blog)

It was Tandleman’s post that piqued my interest, rather ironically the last blog post I read from the Manchester Messiahs was when they talked about themselves binning off cask.  How times change.  That post also feature some rather childish political epithets and where I’m obviously never going to suggest people just “shut up and brew” (or “shut up and stick to business” in this case) as that isn’t a ringing freeze peach endorsement, you should never be surprised when nailing your colours to a mast when it comes back to butt fuck you.  Which it did.

Still, upon reading Tand’s post my first thought was “they must be desperate” (*cheerfully withdrawn by request*) – but to be fair there may well be gaps in the market for premium cask beer.

What is a premium cask beer?  Well personally I’m only going with a price band.  There is talk, most of it with some merit that the advent of Wetherspoons has forced the hand of other cask pubs to demand a lower price for their cask, couple this with SIBA and their tied trade pubs and don’t it becomes increasingly difficult for a brewer to make a good profit on cask.

There is in general a lot of smoke and mirrors about what JDW actually pay and, just how fresh the actual product is but truth be told, there is a fair whack of cask beer that is sold off cheap just to get it out there and not be ullage.  The hard point of this is that regardless of what “best before date” is placed on a cask of beer by the brewery there is still little reason for it not to be in good nick when it is on the bar, because most obviously as with many products a “best before date” on any foodstuff is not a science and it really is up to the customer to use all sense to discern whether the product is fit for consumption.

Of course the difference between short coded food items reduced in a supermarket, that bit of cheese you find that is 3 weeks out of date but you know if you cut off the blue mould it will be fine and cask beer is quite vast.  The latter being that you are being served it from an establishment you expect to sell it to you in at least some respectable state.

So let us talk price points (exclusive of VAT in all instances). £50 seems to be the general figure banded about for Wetherspoons cask.

I know of many breweries that can and do sell their beer at around this price and up towards £69.  That is a stock price, across a range, with little variation when it comes to ABV.

Though the beer duty escalator does have an influence on the price once the ABV goes over, what was it, 4.2-4.5%, some breweries do have the capacity to keep their prices lower.

Of course it is a total joke that I know of one Manchester pub that pays no more than £60 per cask. Now with line cleans and lost beer even if you were only getting 60 pints out of a firkin but charging Manchester centre prices of £4+ you can see just how much profit some pubs can make on cask beer.

So, again what is a premium price for beer.  Some prices I’ve seen are clearly not based on ABV but clearly the cost of the ingredients needed to make it, so these beers push around £100-£120.

But as the launch of Cloudwater cask comes around I noted that one cask of their 5.5% beer is being sold to pubs at *cheerfully withdrawn by request/correction*.

I’ve written about the difficulties of cask beer previously and really though it all falls on the brewery, it really is the pub that should bear primary responsibility.

It is said that a rising tide carries all ships, that Cloudwater seem to only wish to sell their cask to reputable pubs with excellent cellaring is logical and sensible, though I do wonder if they are going to send out staff to check, a Cloudwater Marque if you will.  Given the customer facing nature of the brewery I expect them to know full well if a cask of theirs isn’t up to par and that should make for interesting bantz between punter, pub and Paul.

Therein lies another strange schism that could develop but this is the second day of writing this post and I’ve realised I don’t really care that much.  Something about pubs willing to pay for big premium cask; something, something, turnover, something, something would people pay £5+ for 2/3rds of a session strength beer; something, something, beer goes off regardless of how much you’ve paid for it.

As an aside, would a punter solely used to keg know any minor faults in a cask beer, would the general, natural differences between cask and keg delivery of beers cause confusion.

Do people even fucking care?

CAMRA could of course be trying to do more for the sale of cask beer and its quality but they seem to be rather confused at the moment, where press releases don’t really seem to match the general feeling at a branch level.

Plus Manchester Beer & Cider festival organisers are shedding a tear now they can’t trumpet their own festival as having “last Cloudwater cask,” for the 3rd year in a row.  Shame.

Of course cost is not equivalent to quality, it can be said and I will say it too, that people are quite happy to pay over the odds just to be seen to be paying the price along with what they are drinking and where they are drinking it.  It is a status symbol to some.  I bring it up only so I can post this line from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (time stamp, 7 mins 50 seconds)

 

 

Thanks for reading.

 

06/11/2018 – Post edited on request – I’m now in the odd position as to whether to approve the comment with the request in for full transparency or keep it anonymous out of respect for the poster, in this instance I’ve chose the latter as it would then seem to undermine the request, but that is their choice and can be changed if need be.  Still it is good to know my blogs are still be read by the great and powerful.  Go me.