Sunday, 11 August 2013


Well, it didn't quite end in a blaze of glory, unless you consider sitting in a traffic jam on three of the country's finest motorways glorious, but it did end and with everyone's patience being tested the fullest, that's probably a good thing.

I think I've already mentioned that the idea for the "GO" square was to "go back" to a few of the favourite pubs we'd covered during the tour, a very fine idea suggested by none other than the Spikey Haired one. I'd done my best to canvass opinion as to what people thought were the favourite pubs, but probably like most things I do, I'd over complicated things, trying to ascertain which were peoples favourite beer, barmaid and tour experience when I should have kept it simple........stupid. 

In the end though, the answer was very clear from those who bothered to respond as two venues were mentioned by many tourists as being worthy of a second visit, so we settled on a simple rendezvous at the best of the "chain" pubs, the Viaduct Tavern in Old Bailey and the best of the "independents" the Hercules Pillars in Holborn. If you want to find out why they were voted the best I can only direct you to the blog posts they appeared in. 

The tour at the Viaduct - just to prove to me they did go there.

Attendance looked to be very healthy as the Payroll girls seemed to whip up nearly their whole department into coming out, including all the regulars of Nicole, Brenda, Gemma, Lucie, Carole and George, those we hadn’t seen for some time, Emma, Sarah-Jane, Charlene and those we'd never seen before at all, Natasha and Nicola (yes I know Nicola isn't in Payroll but for this exercise she is). My department on the other hand were rather scraping the barrel as only Ed, Mickey, Nick and Charlie put in appearances although we too had a new face in that of Charmer Palmer.  

But the full attendance doesn't stop there, my "local" drinking buddies Tim and Steve were also going to make it and even the legend that is NateDawg was taking the express tractor from Norwich for a swift pint or two in London before heading off elsewhere. 

I, just to make things interesting, had actually got a day off work on the day of the tour and this was to take another tourist, my now teenage Reubot indoor skydiving in Milton Keynes. The sky diving all went to plan, but what didn't was the journey home which saw me waste far too much of my life on the M1, M25 and M4 shouting at the SatNav. 

So it was a hot and sweaty and non-too impressed BGC who found himself kicking his heels on Thatcham station platform for the 1/2 hour wait for the 19:00 train to London. Luckily this dark and despondent mood was somewhat lifted by a text from Slowpoke Sam who initially texted to say how sorry he was he couldn't make it tonight having only just got home and was therefore running far too late. Needless to say, as soon as he heard I also was delayed as an apology from the Met Police was more than happy to sling on a very dodgy pair of shorts and join me for the evening expedition to the big smoke. 

Alas due to our late arrival we had to forgo the joys of the Viaduct Tavern and the company of NateDawg who apparently had much better offers of much better beers in Birmingham, so we rather dishevelledly made an appearance at the Hercules Pillars to a half hearted cheer and a demand for the "prizes". 
The only time the tour travelled by bus - and I missed it.

Perhaps this was the real reason why so many people had come out; nothing to do with my company and the beer but instead my misguided advertisement that everyone attending tonight would get a prize for coming on the tour. Well I was true to my word even if perhaps the reality of typing "Monopoly Novelty" into the eBay search engine only produced some pretty lacklustre gifts. 

For everyone who had attended at least one tour but not more than 10 separate pub visits, I'd managed to pick up some splendid packs of Monopoly branded tissues, just right for the handbag or pocket. These were eagerly snapped up by the lower-end tourists with many a comment of "exceeding personal charm" etc etc. 

For the boys who'd achieved more than 10 visits but hadn't made it to the dizzy heights of the top 5 they got a very nice Monopoly badge. It was just rather unfortunate that these people, No-Nickname Michael, Big-J and Munchkin Steve were all no-shows and therefore it was rather like those award ceremonies when the prize is presented by video link or "here to accept the award on his behalf....." except that we had no video link and no-one to accept the awards on their behalf. So actually it was nothing like that at all. 

For the girls who'd achieved a similar status (more than 10 but not in the top 5) I had actually managed to pull off a fairly decent prize. Little Monopoly houses fashioned into earrings. Nicole and Brenda seemed delighted, especially Nicole who favours earrings usually fashioned by Pat Butcher. Gemma seemed a little miffed though as she was the top scoring girl and I'd noticed she never seems to wear earrings I'd decided to get her something a bit more special in a Monopoly bracelet (hand crafted from little monopoly houses and a single monopoly hotel) which would show her scraggy wrists off to their best advantage. Although I think she liked the bracelet apparently she does wear earrings beneath that beaver pelt of a hair-do. But anyway with a couple of spare pairs of earrings (they only sold them in packs of 5) she also got a pair as did Emma who can turn on the charm when there's a freebie on the cards.
An ear - and an earring.

The final 5 all got individual gifts, well sort of as in the case of Charlie and Ney Guy Micky, they both got a luxury Monopoly mug. Aussie Pete, who sadly was another no-show got some Monopoly cufflinks, which were presented on the following Monday. He instantly put them on but strangely I've not seen them since..... 

Buddy Rob never took part in the Cask Marque Cask Finder scanning and so alas never qualified for a Cask Marque bottle opener. Seeing an opportunity I thought such an item would make a splendid gift and could only get a branded Budweiser one of course. 

At the end of it all, there wasn't much doubt about who was the winner in terms of accompanying tours. Spikey Haired Ed, he who'd almost laid his life down in the cause of the tour had made an appearance in no less that 100 pubs. Quite an achievement. But what on earth do you buy the man who has everything, including the best hair-do in London? In my case I bought some Monopoly tour books which I handed over saying "If you don't want them, I'd love to have them back!" I think he got the hint. 

The final prize of the evening was the free to enter raffle where the book of raffle tickets had cost me more than the prize. Anticipation was heightened as bar man Joe pulled out the winning ticket which, perhaps aptly was owned by Slowpoke Sam. To say he was delighted with the prize would be an understatement. Probably best to let his acceptance tweet speak for itself.
Sam - Charming. 

So there we have it. There were a few more drinks to be drunk, a couple more photos to be taken but as people started to slip away the evening fizzled out and the tour ended without any hint of fireworks and certainly not a top hat in sight. Micky and I were the last men standing but even we had packed things up by 10:30.  

Probably the most asked question of the night was "so, what are we doing next?" and although I do have a couple of bubbling ideas, I think it might be best to let it all lie for a while. Anyway if the suggestion of "let’s do Cludeo next" is a serious one, it's going to take me a while to think up how to apply the rules of that game!

The final post reads far more melancholic that I want it to. The final tour was an anti-climax but that's not to say the whole tour hasn't been a success. Leaving aside all the rushing around and lateness which obviously put a dampener on the evening we'd also made that classic mistake of trying to recreate a fantastic evening by revisiting a location. When we firstly stumbled on the Hercules Pillars we'd had a bit of an awful evening, stroppy barmen and barladies, terrible weather and the company of the drunkest man in the universe. To cross into Pat's welcoming domain was a joy that evening and whilst he made us more than welcome again on this night and the beer was in fine form (haven't mentioned at all what I drunk this night) there was a sense we were all searching for something that just wasn't in the air this night.

Perhaps then we shouldn't dwell on this final night but think back to some of the things which really did stand out on the tour. Firstly there were the places we went to; London is such a fantastic location but even there it's very easy to stick to the beaten track of the West End and the tourist sights. Without the tour I'd never have had a reason to go down to Elephant and Castle and see the concrete monstrosity that is the shopping centre there. Without the tour we'd have never have gone up as far north as Camden for an after work drink. Without the tour we’d have never learnt the historical facts about the Old Bailey cells and where William Blake is buried.  

And then there was of course the pubs. There were the splendid, whether that was down to their history or their uniqueness (Olde Mitre, Viaduct Tavern, George) but let us not forget those which are just carving out a living for themselves at just being someone's local and being the sort of pub I feel most at home in (The Red Lion, The Kings Arms, The Cheshire Cheese) and by the same token, even though they're not my preferred kettle of fish, those pubs which are still making otherwise derelict and empty spaces into somewhere for people to gather and talk and live (Tyborn, Rockingham Arms) 

There were also the people we met; how lovely it was to bump into lovely Heike in the Edinboro Castle, remember the photographing artist Helio Teles (still friends on Facebook!), the nameless Spanish & Austrian IT engineers and I'm not sure whether Pete is still in touch with all his male chat up friends.

And finally how about all those things that happened and are the sort of things that will make you say in years to come, "Oh, do you remember when we went to the Red Lion in Angel, yes you do, it was when Ed got run over by a bus" - or "it was when BGC found himself in hospital just 24 hours after posing with Churchill and Roosevelt" or "it was when Aussie Pete let rip on the charity collector" 

There's just one final image I want to finish with, and maybe it's this that sums up what I was trying to achieve all along. When Sam and I walked into the Hercules on that final night, the first sight that greeted me was that of Brenda and Nicole just returning from the bar with pints of ale (turned out it was Hobgoblin) - so that's without coercion and prompting possibly a couple of people who's when next trying to decide what to drink will say, "do you know what, get me a beer....." 
There were some perks to doing the tour.

Now what were the rules of Cluedo...........

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