Saturday, 21 July 2018


For our recent holiday in Cornwall Mrs Ken & I stayed a few nights in Helston. On our arrival we walked into town and sought out the local Wetherspoons  ( The Coinage Hall) for something to eat. After an excellent pizza we crossed the street to the pub I was most interested in, The Blue Anchor.

This pub is an early brewpub, brewing Spingo Ales. It features in the Good Beer Guide and other "best pub" publications. It was built in the 15th century and comprises several small rooms and two bars, with a range of handpulls in the front room.  The barmaid was chatty and she pointed out all the beers they brew with recommendations. She also mentioned the beer garden out the back. Now the night in question was a World Cup match night ; when Belgium beat Japan at the final whistle.

So at the back of the pub they had erected a marquee with benches and tables facing a giant telly. Settling down we suddenly heard what sounded like a load of tambourines. Turning round, in had walked a group of Morris dancers. They are surely not going to do their stuff while the match is on ?

One of them, who looked like the main man, walked up and down, assessing the venue,. muttering to himself about "switching this crap off" , pointing at the TV. The game itself was on a knife edge when we noticed it had gone quiet behind us - they had disappeared ! 

At the end of the game I went to the bar for a quick half of their stout so asked the barmaid where  the Morris dancers had gone. " Well tonight is usually quiz night but they are making a special appearance, but decided they couldn't compete with the football, so they are performing outside in the street" Sure enough through the window I could see them doing their stuff. Each to his own.

We finished our drinks the same time as the dancers and walked back up the hill to the hotel, followed by one dancer, still in costume, a human tambourine.  As we walked he kept the same pace behind us. The noise !. There want much traffic and not many people around, but the noise !   Finally, and thankfully, he ducked into a side street and peace at last  descended on this sleepy town.

One more thing; the beer. It was OK.  I personally thought it could have been cooler ; it was a hot evening but even so. Maybe that's what the locals are used to.



Saturday, 14 July 2018


A few months ago there was a news item about a Trappist monastery in Leicestershire that was about to start brewing beer. Mount St Bernard Abbey near Coalville became only the 12th monastery in the world, and the first in the UK, to brew Trappist style beer.  

Now as luck would have it, Mrs Ken and myself have just returned from a holiday in Cornwall and the monastery just so happens to lie in between the A42 and the M1. Seems crazy not to make the detour. Just as well we had satnav as there were no "tourist signs" to direct us.

As we arrived the bells of the abbey sounded ( which I thought was a nice touch) and saw 2 women clutching what  suspiciously looked like beer bottles heading  for their car near ours in the abbey car park. "He's just locked up and will be back in 15mins" I was told. " There are loads of bottles left !" Apparently the monk/brother had gone to midday prayers.

Champing at the bit and looking at the time on my phone every 2 minutes, eventually the shop door opened and the monk/brother waved me in and didnt seem surprised when I said " Ive come for the beer ".

"Are you Dutch ? he said  " Dutch, no I'm from the North East Sunderland ". " Hmm, you sound Dutch - I'm German"
As you would expect the little shop was mostly full of religious items plus some honey jars and stacked on the floor were boxes of the beer, as well as a stash on a shelf.

As I was paying another guy walked in, seeking solace after England were knocked out of the world cup the day before. Soon their was a surreal moment when a German monk, a Leeds supporter and myself chatting about the world cup.

Then in walked 4 more guys. Ive come to buy some honey , one announced, not believing him for a second . Back outside another car pulled up and the male driver was out
of the car nearly before the engine had stopped, followed by his 2 female companions. 

" Here for the beer I presume?" I said to the women. "Oh course, can you see the way he is striding across the car park".

Suddenly, everything was alright with the world, the football defeat forgotten.

And the beer, well I had some last night. Its called Tynt Meadow, named after a field nearby. Its 7.4% and brewed and bottled in the old monastery kitchen. You can buy the beer but not drink it there, they dont have a license.  Its bottled conditioned and has a sort of muddy brownish colour...very quaffable.

Friday, 13 July 2018


For nearly 2 weeks Mrs Ken & myself have been in Cornwall, our first time. The first hotel was just outside Helston, home of the Blue Anchor pub ( subject of another post later). Next to the hotel was a pub called the May Tree, which sold a St Austell beer ( Tribute) and food, so we dined there one night. 

A friendly barmaid came over to take our beer and food order and we got chatting. 

" Have you heard about our 40% of food offer, if you have voucher".
No voucher.

" Its OK, I like you, will take the 40% off when you are ready. Where are you guys from?"

"The North East near Sunderland"
"Ive got friends from there in the Lake District"
" No No, the other side..just below Scotland"
"You don't sound Scottish !"

Had to resort to saying Newcastle and another clue " Geordies ?"

The light went on . " Ah Geordies, was wondering about the accent".
" We come from the same place as the England goalie ?" Total blank. 
" You know, Jordan Pickford, the World Cup" more blank.        " Oh yeah, thats on the telly, heard about that but not being watching it" 

When paying I thought I would try it on with the 40% discount for the next night. She pulls a voucher out of the till, left by a previous customer. " Here, you can have this one"

Next night she said " Thank you for enhancing my geographical knowledge last night"

Saved about £9 over the two nights, so gave her a generous tip !

Tuesday, 19 June 2018


I friend of mine who i first met nearly 50 years ago died recently. He like telling funny stories, all of which were true. The thing is he kept repeating them every 2 or 3 years so this one I have heard several times. I wasnt actually at this games of pub dominoes but i fell that I was

In the early 70s' we used to drink in the Cross Keys on Washington Village Green. One Saturday afternoon four of my mates met up for a game of dominoes. The game was in full flow when one guy ( he's dead as well !) called Ronnie dropped a domino just as it was his turn. He checked the table then underneath but couldn't find it. They moved the table over, being careful not to spill any pints. Still no sign of it.  Each one of them checked where they were sitting even lifting cushions up on the bench seats. Nothing.

Someone suggested underneath the bench seat but , despite fumbling around in the dust and fluff, still no joy. Asking Molly the landlady for help she disappeared and eventually came back with a torch. 

By now the whole bar was watching these goings on as Ronnie knelt down, shone the torch and bingo, found the missing domino underneath the bench right next to the skirting board. Soon order was eventually restored, the table back in position and Ronnie poised with his now complete set of dominoes. Everyone sighed, had a drink and waited . He checked his hand and said :-


Well, the pub was in uproar !. True Story        

Monday, 4 June 2018


The Summer edition of CAMRA Angle , the quarterly magazine of the Sunderland and South Tyneside branch of CAMRA, has  just been published. Copies are being  distributed to real ale pubs throughout the area , and beyond. As usual , this is another full issue and well worth a read. 

The cover reflects the forthcoming summer, with pictures of the Sunderland Air Show, the forthcoming Tall Ships, Marsden Cliffs and the Roker Lighthouse through a hole in a Roker Beach sculpture.

There is a look at the branch pub & cider pubs of the year 2018 awards.

There is a write up about a pub crawls in Harrogate &  Hammersmith, heritage pubs in London and on the North York Moors, and a pub review - the new Cask Lounge in South Shields. Another review, this time a book, looks at The Good Beer Guide Belgium accompanied by a look at two styles of Belgian beer.


A regular section is a news update on beer from the wood, pubs and  breweries in the branch as well as Locale pubs and those that offer discounts.

Issue 52 is rounded off by look back at previous CAMRA Angles and pub quiz. 

Enjoy the read !!

If you cant find a copy, follow this link to download your own,  and for more branch news.
And remember, accept no imitations.  

Tuesday, 22 May 2018


Every year a group of us get together to watch the FA Cup Final,irrespective of who is playing. This involves meeting in a pub about 3 hours before, taking part in a football related pub quiz, and then watching the footy. The pub we have been meeting in for the last few years has gone downhill recently so a change of venue was required.

We decided on a mini pub crawl in Washington. The kick off was at 1715 so we met in Wetherspons at 1130 for breakfast, trying to avoid watching the royal wedding on the screens.

Now the quiz we do is compiled by one of us every year and we compete for a hard fought small trophy which we have used for a number of years now. I am crap at footy quizzes so have never won it yet. This year was a mix of football and general knowledge

Leaving Spoons, we headed down to the Steps for a couple of pints. I had the trophy in a bag on the seat next to me- big mistake. I was sitting in the corner so had to make the guy on my right to shift when I got up to got to the loo. Coming back, I got back into my seat from the other side - another big mistake. Sitting down , I plonked myself down and sat on the bag. I felt a faint snapping sound under my bum. I rescued the bag, opened it and found the trophy had snapped at the thin stem.
Hastily we asked Gary the landlord for some sellotape, and a  temporary repair was effected.

Next we walked along to the Washington Arms and sat in the sun in their extensive garden. Bearing in mind we had now had 6 pints, some of the quiz questions were misunderstood or the answers sometimes total rubbish. Split into two teams, one guy on my team was asked - 

"Name the breed of dog that was named after a priest known as the sporting parson."  

Pondering this as it was worth 10 points, he had a think until suddenly, one of us on the opposing team shouted out, in a voice loud enough to be heard throughout the garden :-

"Jack Russell!!!!"

We all looked at him aghast as if he had grown two heads. My team member said " Jack Russell". Correct - 10 points

Big mouth was stunned. " I was only joking , I was joking !!"
With him muttering to himself, we returned to the Steps to watch the match and at half time, as a result of his cock up, I won the quiz !!! First time for cup final day. Have spent this afternoon gluing the thing back together. 

By the way, after nearly 8 hours of drinking on Saturday , I cannot remember anything about the match.



Friday, 4 May 2018


Last week a fellow CAMRA member spotted, from the upstairs of a bus, that there were two handpulls in the bar of the Guide Post , Springwell Village as the bus went past the pub. Now I have not been in that pub for over 30 years, principally because there was no decent beer on. As it is not too far away , I checked  it out yesterday.

Sure enough, Camerons Strongarm and Theakstons Black Bull. The latter had gone off so had a nice pint of the Strongarm and a bag of Nobbys Nuts from the a la carte menu.

I sat outside and contemplated a few things. My dad was born just round the back of the pub and lived with his 3 brothers. Those three were never out of Springwell Club but dad was teetotal. I really dont know where I got the habit from ! There was none of - "come on son, I'll take you for your first pint !"

Anyone, finishing my pint  and nuts I walked to the front of the pub to take a photo. Behind me was a row of old houses with back yards instead of gardens. A voice behind me said " you can take a picture of me if you want "

Turning round , there was this skinny guy in his early seventies standing there with a paint brush in his hand. I said that he was really lucky living so close to the pub ( it was about 20 paces)

" Not really son, I am teetotal !" Bloody hell, another one !

I  remarked that if I lived where he lived I would never be out of the place. He looked me up and down as if I was some incurable alcoholic and said, waving his paint brush at me like a portent of doom.

" The beer will get you in the end you know !"

I made my excuses and left.