"As for Maidenhead, the conga (which was amusing) aside, quite a strange bunch really – some the oddest chants I've ever heard at a football match" ~ localboy86, Amber Planet forum, 26th April 2015

Friday 16 March 2012

Last Orders

There was an interesting thread re pubs on the Bristol Rovers Alternative Forum this week (I would link to it, but you have to be a member to view). It started off with a question about the nearest beer joints to the proposed new UWE Stadium and soon turned into full blown debate about the decline of the Great British boozer.

It seems a lot of the Anchor-esque pubs (i.e. proper old-school boozers frequented by football fans and old blokes drinking from 'their' tankards in 'their' seat; as opposed to chain-pubs serving teenagers cheap alcopops and micro-waved meals; or over-priced glorified restaurants popular with your other half and her girlfriends) are closing down, in Bristol, as they are across the country.

The latest to go in Bristol is the Fellowship in Horfield, the local of some of my mates during their first year at University (they were rather callow back then, so only went in once). It is to become a Tesco Express - as if they're aren’t enough already - and apparently closed last Sunday, with over 300 crammed in for a farewell lock-in that ended at about 4AM on the Monday morning. This follows the notorious John Cabot undergoing the gastropub treatment ... indeed it even has has a children's playground in the garden these days!

Sign o' the times.

Anyway, there were some superb anecdotes on the thread about various other gone-but-not-forgotten hell watering holes, and these prompted me to enter 'I remember the time' mode ...

I immediately thought of the afternoon when Gav Villa and I went into the Robin Hood's Retreat on Gloucester Road (when it was a 'run-down, spit-and-sawdust boozer', rather than a 'thriving neighbourhood hostelry with honest intentions') and some bloke in there was selling cheese that he'd just half-inched from the nearby supermarket!

Then there was the time, early on during the inaugural Conference South season in 2004/05, when a few of us (below - don't we look fresh-faced?!) were in Weston-super-Mare town centre trying to find somewhere to drink and watch the lunch-time TV kick-off prior to, it would transpire, Maidenhead's 2-1 defeat at Woodspring Stadium later that afternoon (I distinctly recall Craig O'Connor slapping Rob Saunders during the on-pitch post-match warm down!). Scouse Mick and Gav Chelse entered one pub, only to come straight back out before the rest of us had even made it over the threshold, because this particular place had no wallpaper and looked - and this was coming from Mick and Gav, don't forget - decidedly dodgy! :-O

This, in turn, reminds me of the time when, a couple of years later, Merthyr Tydfil fans - the majority of whom were presumably residents of the reigning 3rd worst place to live in the UK - refused to go into the Anchor because it looked 'too rough' :-)

Other 'interesting' pubs that the KSG have visited in recent seasons include - off the top of my head - the Swan Hotel on Cinderford High Street (which didn't sell Guinness; in fact, they'd seemingly never even heard of Guinness!) and two places in Berwick-upon-Tweed - the White Horse (the  'review' here is pretty much spot on) and the King's Head (below) - which, essentially, were converted front rooms!

Given the choice - i.e. when I'm not with the wife! - I would much rather drink in the Nag's Head, or the Grapes, than in the Dog in the Pond. The sobering truth, though, is that in real life the Nag's Head would probably now be boarded-up and derelict, recently demolished to make way for 'affordable' housing, or re-invented as a gastropub called the Cockerel's Plumage/ something similarly ridiculous.

Saturday nights in the Anchor - post-match debate, banter and multiple jukebox plays (0408, 8815 etc.), in a pub packed with friends and family - is one of the things I miss the most, now that I no longer regularly attend MUFC Ltd games (for a time, the atmosphere in there, after home games, really would be buzzing). The way things are going - throughout the country as a whole - I might be missing the Anchor full stop, before too long...



Craig McDowall said...

Was that first photo taken through a fat reducing filter or something

Lenny Baryea said...

Scary isn't it?!

And check out Willie in his club tie!

"Yes, Dennis"

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