Friday, 31 May 2013

Super Tax

Can the last tour have really taken place on the 5th of May? Can it really have been 3 weeks since we last went out for a drink? Could it really be that no-one reads my emails?

Well the sad truth is that's exactly right, although some of the delay in getting this particular square finally completed wasn't all down to a lack of enthusiasm to venture out once again and had a lot to do with scheduling it to revolve around someone's busy diary and permission to go out being granted from their mum.
Just some of tonight's tourists. The biggest tour ever. Come on Jesus, snuggle in - we don't bite!
For those who have lost the plot as to where exactly on the board we are as we limp like a wounded lobster round the final squares of the game, we've hit the penultimate square, Super Tax, that dreaded penalty square that separates the two most expensive properties and leaps up and grabs you just before you hit Go.
Readers may remember that we did a tax square once before when we visited Income Tax although that now seems many moons away in the dim and distant past that a much younger BGC and an infant Spikey Haired Ed completed 3 pubs along the south bank of the Thames.
Determined not just to visit another HRMC office again I was casting around for different inspiration for completing the Super Tax square when Big J suggested that perhaps the "Tax" could be short for taxidermy and maybe there was a pub with a massive stuffed hippo in the front bar. Well they may not pay their own taxes (topical joke there) but the evil people at Google do provide the possibility to type in the words "pub" "taxidermy" and "London" and discover that there's a place just north of Moorgate called The Jugged Hare, which not only is Cask Marque accredited but has a whole back bar full of stuffed furry things. So it was only left to suggest a date and as Big-J had come up with such a sterling idea it would have been most churlish not to deny him the opportunity to attend especially when he had a conference appointment at "The Brewery" which is literally just next door to the pub.
More about "the Brewery" later......
But if they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder then not touring for so long must make the taste buds thirstier as when the date finally came around there was a huge gang full of tourists ready to hit the road once more, and like a massive dysfunctional family we eventually stepped out on a humid Tuesday evening to sample again the delight of  ye olde London Town. You'll pick up who was actually there as we proceed but just a quick mention of a new face in the throng in fresh faced Nick who shall be known as "Jesus Christ Fenton". (This was Charlie’s idea, not mine.)
The Globe
As previously mentioned, The Jugged Hare is not far from Moorgate station so I'd arranged a pub right outside this place that we could visit before we would move on to the joys of the stuffed vertebrates. Moorgate is also not a million miles away from our offices so we took the option to walk there rather than risk the vagaries of the Circle Line during rush hour. The Globe is a big corner Nicholson’s pub and one that Buddy Rob is most familiar with as it's a pre or post match watering hole when's he's going "up the gunners". He promised the place would be rammed and his words proved sadly prophetic even though I thought that a Tuesday evening might promise to be less busy.
By the time the longer than expected walk got us there, we ended up arriving in separate parts as Charlie and Jesus had strode ahead whilst the rest of us waited for menu-collecting (don't ask) and cash point using. Aussie Pete was also making his own way to meet us there as he had visitors over from down under that he was bringing along on the tour.
The Cask Marque certificate nailed behind the bar at the Globe.
As previously noted the place was quite full with drinkers spilling out onto the pavement and it took far too long to get served. When our group finally got the attention of someone (after a tetchy exchange between the Irish barman and me) it was 4 pints of Old Man from Long Man Brewery, 2 halves of Old Man, Becks for Ed and bottle of Peroni for Buddy Rob. The Old Man didn't go down well........amidst comments of how it smelt, tasted and even looked like an Old Man, the bitter coffee roast wasn't winning any fans amongst the girls. Personally I thought it to be a fine brew but I'll give credit to Nicole, Brenda and Gemma all finishing their pints even though Gemma looked to be winning a Somerset gurning competition.
Mmmm, I love Old Man (Men)
The Cask Marque certificate was easily spotted but sadly looked to be nailed to the wall behind the bar and due to my earlier disagreement with the barman I didn't feel like asking to see if we could scan it. Aussie Pete, who duly arrived later along with Aussie Nathan (happy birthday) and Aussie Jodie (not happy birthday) did manage to get it scanned, no doubt by sweet talking anyone who would listen. Due to a very cramped position in the bar, texts from Big-J asking if we were on our way to the Jugged Hare yet and surprisingly no-one wanting a second pint of Old Man, I gathered the troops and left.
BGC outside The Brewery
The route to the Jugged Hare took us past Big-J's work location for the day, The Brewery which is a conference cum events cum hotel centre built on the former premises of the Whitbread brewery. Apparently it’s still possible to see some of the old brewing paraphernalia and this was sort of confirmed by Big-J who'd enjoyed talks and lectures in rooms like "Upper Sugar Room" and "Mash Tun".
Unfortunately for us there were no talks or lectures but just the 50 or so metres to the Jugged Hare, an impressive pub perched on the corner of Chiswell Street and Silk Street. The pub is owned by the ETM group and readers who remember far more than is probably healthy might recall that we went into a sister pub of the Jugged Hare, the Angel and Crown during the Trafalgar Square night. Interesting to note that the beer on that evening was called "Jugged Hare".
The stuffed exhibits at The Jugged Hare
Tonight I couldn't see any Jugged Hare beer but there were brews from Adnams and Otter, so I plumped for Otter Amber which was the lighter, fresher beer I choose to try to win the female taste buds back on the side of beer. Although I can't say I totally approve, the beer was served in chunky iced tankards, produced from the fridge and whilst they might have had a detrimental effect on the beer, they certainly made for a impressive sight. Ed choose to eschew the Otter and instead plumped for an interesting pint of Adnam's Spindrift which I'd never heard of before, whilst Rob bemoaned that fact that we were already on the second pub and neither of them were selling Bud.
The Otter going down better than any Old Man.
By this time everyone had either arrived or been met up with (Big-J it turns out had walked down to the Globe, missed us, then had to walk back again) and we totalled a  very fine 14 which is a tour record for the most people out on any night.
And talking of impressive the Jugged Hare is certainly that. The stuffed animals I've mentioned but seeing the whole walled bank of them is certainly eye catching if not a little creepy. As I said to someone that evening, there's no way I would come down to the bar in the dark to lock up! Again I couldn't see the certificate for love nor money although once more Pete ended up finding it whilst the rest of us scanners all missed it.
Artillery Arms - Almost exactly the same as it was a year ago!
The next stop was something of a "closure" journey for me. Casting your minds back even further than Trafalgar Square or Income Tax, the very second square I did, Community Chest #1 saw me enter the Artillery Arms on Bunhill Row, sneakily take the scan and then leave without buying a drink. I did have the excuse that I was on my own and feeling just a little bit lonely but I've felt guilty about this ever since so here was my opportunity to make amends. Especially as the Artillery Arms is such a lovely pub. It’s a Fullers place which immediately suggests a certain standard but this one has a brilliant traditional little centre island bar and a cosy historical feel to it. It also has very friendly barmaids were seemed to be quite interested in what we were up to and recommended Fuller Red Lion when we visit Mayfair.
So finally I paid my dues and I bought my beer there which was a superb pint of HobsonsMild which Charlie and I voted best pint of the evening. For the others I choose Discovery apart from Ed who had a bottle of Honey Dew (memories of Income Tax again) and poor Buddy Rob who was having to make do yet again with a bottle of something that wasn't Budweiser.
Those who have visited this pub will know that it overlooks the well known Bunhill Cemetery and research had told me that as well as being home to quite a few graves of the famous and well known two of its most renowned residents are Daniel Defoe and William Blake. Ever the one for a dramatic piece of historical interest I thought that an open air recital of a suitable Blake poem might be a interesting item in the evening's proceedings. It was certainly more suitable than the main discussion which centred around whether the word "mott" was more appropriate than the word "gam" (you had to know the context I guess) but unfortunately my best laid plans were scuppered by the big silver padlock adorning the cemetery gates.
Still, never mind, I pointed out the obelisk that is Defoe's grave and promised them all that Blake's is right next door. I'd love to be able to explain that as a scholar of classical poetry I was already familiar with a suitable poem that would be suitable for the occasion but I'm afraid that if I’m to be truly honest it was Mr Google again who assisted me to find "The Little Vagabond" via the words "Blake", "Poem" and "pub".
And over there is buried my dignity. Ed ducks for cover.
I'll let you make of the poem what you will, I still don't think that it rhymes properly but maybe I'm missing the point. The tourists who all had to put up with my dulcet tones labouring through it all seemed to think that it did rhyme so maybe I'm just a poor judge of what makes a good poem. Anyway, here it is in all it's glory and I'm presuming that as Blake's been dead for 185 odd years I don't need to pay anyone any royalties.
Dear Mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold,
But the Ale-house is healthy & pleasant & warm;
Besides I can tell where I am use'd well,
Such usage in heaven will never do well.

But if at the Church they would give us some Ale.
And a pleasant fire, our souls to regale;
We'd sing and we'd pray, all the live-long day;
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray,

Then the Parson might preach & drink & sing.
And we'd be as happy as birds in the spring:
And modest dame Lurch, who is always at Church,
Would not have bandy children nor fasting nor birch.

And God like a father rejoicing to see,
His children as pleasant and happy as he:
Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the Barrel
But kiss him & give him both drink and apparel.

Had we been able to walk through the cemetery as planned we would have found ourselves on City Road and could have walked past Finsbury Square Garden to the final pub of the evening. Alas we rather boringly had to retrace our steps slightly but still managed to find our way to the Flying Horse on Wilson Street without too much distress.
The Flying Horse
It was swirly patterned carpets, a hideous laminate bar and TV blaring with Aussie Rules football that greeted us as did the two smiley barmaids who both originated from south of the equator. Aussie Nathan seemed to get on best with them both especially as he ended up with this classic pub photo, certainly one to impress the boys with back home. I had to make do with the pints of the aptly named Flying Horse ale to impress the tourists with which can't have been that good as as soon as I'd looked away for a minute the ladies were all taking big swiggs of vodka based party drinks in preference to anything barley based.
Who would think that this happy chappy would end his birthday collapsed in a pile of puke on the tube?
We did however break our certificate duck of the evening, well everyone but Pete that is, by spotting the certificate rather crudely blu-tacked behind the bar. The barmaids though were more than happy to pull it down and let us scan it for posterity.
I think it was a combination of Brenda and Rob who suggested tagging on one final pub for the night. It must have been Brenda's thirst for Bombardier and Rob's thirst for Budweiser that did this, but Brenda promised that the Red Lion, just a little further down Eldon Street would at the very least not have unfathomable sport on to distract us all. I must say even my eyes were constantly wandering to the mullet headed muscle bound Gibson lookalikes were running around chasing a bouncing ball.
Seriously pubs, just because you have a TV in the bar, it really doesn’t need to be on!
We found the Red Lion as promised (even passing a Fuller's restaurant looking place (TheFleetwood) which doesn't seem to appear on the Cask Marque map) and although it was a pretty bog standard Taylor Walker pub, it really didn't have any distracting sport on.
The drinks orders really spiralled into chaos now as I joined Big-J in a cola based beverage, Charlie had a nasty cider and lordy only knows what the rest partook in. Rob did finally get his bottle of bad though so to that extent all was finally right with the world and not at all taxing.
Number of Cask Marque Pubs visited = 42
Can you belly dance? = Gemma can. BGC can't.
Will the finale attract more tourists = We might have to wait a bit to find out.
Next Stop = Mayfair




1 comment:

  1. "She'd be dead mucky" - The BGC

    Perhaps should be your epitaph.