Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Waterloo

On previous visits here I've used Conan Doyle and Ray Davies references for the blog title, what to do this time?  I couldn't think of any Abba puns, and my woeful ignorance of history means I can't say anything clever about Napoleon or the battle itself.  My next attempt was to use the name of the first pub, liver and onions perhaps, or maybe it's an offally good pub, but nothing funny enough came to mind.  Oh well.

I headed inland from the station and reached the Liver just before the rain started.  The busy road junction makes it hard to take a good photo of this pub:
Why do I like this pub so much?  Fine old building, pleasant interior, quality ales, friendly staff, but it's not the only place that can claim those attributes; there's something extra I can't put my finger on.

On a Tuesday lunchtime there were very few customers, and most of the gentle chatter I could hear was amongst the staff.

The karaoke team (judging by the amp and box of CDs) arrived to set up while I was enjoying my excellent pint of Fab Four from local brewery Rock The Boat.

Just round the corner is the Ferndale:
A very nicely decorated former member of the Oak Lodges chain, this.  Back in 2011 I used the word tatty, certainly not applicable now.

Surprisingly, they've got a bank of four handpumps on the counter, but not in use so I stuck to Carling.

Two customers, one chatting with the barmaid, the other sat on his own, plus me, were the only trade for the pub at one on a Tuesday, and I don't think my half is going to add much to the profits!

One more customer came in while I drank, to report that the rain had stopped.

Back towards the middle of Waterloo, and Stamps Too:
I'm not a great fan of tasters of real ale because (a) I can't really judge a beer on one sip, and (b) if I don't like it it's a bit embarrassing to say no.  However, when I saw a beer from Wigan infused with tea I was intrigued so I asked for a sample, and it seemed great so I had a pint.  It was a standard pale hoppy ale but with just a hint of something unusual in the flavour, and it was very tasty - highly recommended.  The landlord had said it was very popular, and then "I could have predicted that" when I ordered the pint.

I think I was the only customer, unless one was hiding round the corner.  Oh yes, there he is.  Towards the end of my pint three more came in.

The folding doors were open at the front, creating a pleasant open atmosphere, cleverly they've got a little porch at one side of the frontage which can be the way in in colder weather.

Admirably, unlike some real ale pubs, they had an "ordinary" ale on as well as the unusual stuff, in this case Butcombe Gold, which I seem to recall is very good.  No cask snobbery here either, they also offer Tetley Smoothflow.

I surveyed the display of pump clips, including Cains 2008, possibly my all time favourite English real ale, what a shame it's no longer available.  There's some other favourites such as Hawkshead Windermere Pale, Dark Star Hophead, and Oakham Citra.

Next the never visited Parnells:
The windows all plastered with cheap drink offers didn't bode well.  However, inside was not the down market dump I had expected, but instead a very well done room with comfortable-looking booths with their own tellys along one wall.

No real ale, of course, so I had a Carling.

Just one or two other customers, chatting with the barman, and then while I wasn't looking they disappeared out the back leaving me alone in the room.  Free top-up anyone?  (No, I didn't)

On to the Railway:
Possibly the most down-market of today's calls, but still well cared for and spotlessly clean, with a handful of regulars sitting at the bar keeping the place ticking over.  One of them shouted to summon the barmaid for me.

The whole place seemed a bit untidy, with a stack of chairs in one corner, and a large telly leaning against the wall, but the bench seat I sat on was clean, comfortable and well maintained, and there are lots of other places where you can't say that.

Next, the Alexandra:
I've not been in here since 2003 because it spent some time closed and boarded up in the intervening years.

Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to have changed much behind the boarding up, and still has a rather fine interior with dark wood panelling.  There's some great ceramics behind the counter.

Definitely the busiest of today's ticks so far, the place was a hive of chatter and my ideal, a seat alone in a quiet corner, was impossible although I did manage a table to myself.

The three handpumps on the counter were purely decorative (And could do with some Brasso by the way) so I had a lager.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Cains Brewery Village

I waited at home until England had won the cricket (What an exciting match!) and then headed into town to visit what I expected to be a lot of pubs I'm not going to like.  But let's not pre-judge, they could all be great.  Cains Brewery Village is a complex of bars and restaurants in the former Cains brewery.  I started in Peaky Blinders:
Very different to the Southport branch, this one has the converted warehouse feeling you expect in the Brewery Village, with the original iron beams exposed, and a concrete floor.

I didn't like the look of the handpumps, I bet they don't sell much, so I plumped for a Hoegaarden for a change.  Is it me, or has it been dumbed down over the years?

The place was ticking over nicely, I imagine it'll be packed later.  I managed to find a quiet corner with a very comfortable high-backed chair.  The clientele were all younger than me, I think, and I was certainly the only one sat on his own typing on a tablet!  Not my sort of place, in theory, but actually I like it.

I could see people in the other corner of the room putting on and taking off coats and hats.  What's going on?  I eventually spotted a sign "Peaky Blinders Photoshoot", so I guess fans of the show can dress up and be photographed.  Never having watched it, I can't really comment.

Luckily there is one proper pub here, and the Brewery Tap is as wonderful as ever:
I was a bit concerned by the hen-party crowd in the street, and the fact that all the outside tables were occupied, but inside I found an oasis of calm and real ale.  I selected Reverend James, and it was just what I was looking for, a perfect pint of "best bitter".  The atmosphere, quiet music and gentle chit-chat, was great.

Even in this "proper pub" half the drinks served seemed to be giant goblets of strangely coloured drinks with bits in - I mean gin.

Is it that time of year already?  There was footie on the telly.

Now the complete opposite, the Baltic Market:

A large high converted warehouse with a bar counter in the middle and a number of food stalls round the sides.

I selected their house lager which came in one of those high grade plastic glasses that feels like glass until you lift it and nearly throw it over your shoulder because it's so much lighter.  I wonder how much these cost, they might be the future.  Depending on whether they're as recyclable as glass.

The place was extremely busy, background music drowned out by the chatter of hundreds of happy customers, most eating.  I managed to find the corner of a table to sit and type this, while people buzzed around me.

I noticed they've got those vibrating hocky-puck gizmos to signal that your food is ready.  Last time I had one was in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Again, not my sort of place, and certainly not a pub, but rather fun nonetheless.  I was the oldest person in here, I'm sure.

Where next?  How about Dock Leaf:
One high room plus more seating upstairs, and a roof garden above.  In the tiled wall of the ground floor room there's a gap in the tiles to reveal the original stone laid by Robert Cain in 1902 when the brewery was completed.

They've kept some of the brewery pipework along the wall as part of the decor, roughly cut off where it turned to cross the room.  I hope the pipe insulation wasn't asbestos!

I had something from Open Gate Brewery here, that's part of Guinness in Dublin, I think.

It seems to be the theme of today; not my sort of place but actually I like it.

On to the Old Gas Station:
Located just up the road from the main Cains complex, this is apparently a music venue, although it seems too small, but at four in the afternoon its a great place to sit outside under the shade of a giant umbrella and enjoy a half of lager, named Alhambra which I thought was another bar somewhere here?

There's a wafting smell from the barbecue place next door, but I resisted!  The fairly loud music mixed with the cries of the gulls overhead.

One more call, the Tank Room:
One very high ceilinged room plus a number of tables outside make up this bar where their main output seems to consist of real Czech lager, I had a pint of Krusovice in a proper glass.  The decor is the inevitable faux-industrial lights in a room full of modern-looking steel beams.  This being part of a modern extension to the brewery, the beams don't look nearly as old as those in Peaky's next door.

In the sunshine, most customers were at the tables outside, so I was able to sit in splendid isolation inside and enjoy my lager, while a steady stream of drinkers came in and out.

There are a number of other places for me to visit here at the Village, including Alhambra and Black Pearl:


A couple of final thoughts about Cains Village:  The whole place was busy with happy customers sitting outside all the bars on this sunny Saturday afternoon, but I wonder what it's like on a damp chilly February day.  The ability to easily move on to another bar would be less attractive if you need gloves and an umbrella.

On a more positive note, one common theme to the bars I visited today was the quality of the staff.  Without exception they were cheerful, friendly and efficient.  Often, while my drink was being poured another one would ask if I was being served, and in the busier places my order was taken while the previous customer was being served.  You can't ask for more than that!

Another common theme I noticed was the trend towards American-style toilets, i.e. not nearly enough for high-volume drinkers.  I've been in large American bars which only had one unisex toilet where the English equivalent would have a large gents and ladies.  That seems to be the standard here, although since I never had to queue today I can't really criticise.  Perhaps I'm out of date about this, maybe people don't drink as much on a night out as they used to.  I certainly saw plenty of halves, even among all-male groups.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Purple Baize, All In My Brain

A veritable Cook's Tour on the 472 bus eventually brought me to Heswall. 

I started with a Good Beer Guide tick, the Jug and Bottle:
This large house contains a rather good food-oriented pub.  It is mostly knocked through inside although there are some strange interior walls with windows in.  The decor is mostly pastel colours with a few areas of dark wallpaper and bare brick, and a stone floor.  Overall, a pleasant ambience is created.

I took an excellent pint of Brimstage Trappers Hat served in a Brimstage glass, and sat down on a church pew.  A few groups of happy customers filled the room with gentle chatter.

Next, a walk down steep hills.  I enjoyed the scenic views of the Dee and Wales beyond, thinking they won't be so pleasing when I have to climb up again:
Eventually I reached the Black Horse:
Curses!  It's shut.  I couldn't tell for certain whether this is just Tuesday afternoon or something more permanent, but I suspect the latter, I'm afraid.

I trudged back up the hill as far as the Dee View:
All the regulars, who were sitting at the counter, looked round as I came in.  Only two of the six handpumps had clips, and I chose Trappers Hat again.  It didn't seem quite as great as the previous one, but still good.  Once again, it came in the correct glass.  I noticed none of the locals were on the cask.

Sound in here was a quiet commercial radio station, and chit-chat of regulars and the staff.  Then, the music switched to the selections of a young lady who proceeded to dance and sing along, to the amusement (or possibly embarrassment) of the regulars.  I think she belonged to the pub?  After a couple of numbers she left, and peace and quiet was restored.

The decor in here, wooden beams and the occasional horse brass, is exactly the same as last time I was here, nine years ago.

Next, back towards Heswall town centre, and the Exchange:
Inside I found a sort of sports bar, deserted on a Tuesday afternoon.  The decor, grey and purple, is actually rather good, and I was particularly impressed by the pool tables with matching purple baize.  Isn't that a Hendrix track?

I must say the Trip Advisor reviews of this place are pretty mixed, to say the least.  I can only report that service was cheerful, friendly and prompt and my seat was comfortable.

Having worked in the industry for many years I was intrigued to learn that the building is a former telephone exchange, hence the name.

Across the road is the Otto Lounge:
One big open room with large windows onto the street, some of which were folded back.  The standard naked air conditioning ducts and retro industrial lighting is mixed with some 1930s glass lampshades.  As well as the eclectic selection of the pictures on the walls, they've got a collection of mirrors, including some wonderful art-deco examples.

I couldn't see anyone eating at four on a Tuesday, but the menu of standard pub fare plus tapas looks good.  As soon as I'd typed that, food appeared and before long I was nearly the only customer not dining.

The trouble with open windows is that wasps can get in.  One annoyed me for a few minutes, but when it tried to steal some of my lager it had crossed a line.  I squished it!

My next port of call was the Paradox Bar:
Not really my sort of place, this poncy cocktail bar, but it still has to be done for my researches.

The friendly barman gave me a pint of the house lager, even though I think I asked for a half.  It was more flavoursome than a Carling, anyway.

I sat at a table right in the middle of the deserted room, lowering the tone I fear, but with more staff than customers, forty minutes after opening, who cares?

Two girls came down the stairs and were immediately served with food.  Did they order it in an upstairs bar?  Presumably.

I must say the slightly quirky decor in here is rather attractive.  On the Paradox theme, they've got some Escher works, a favourite of mine.  As I say, not my sort of place and definitely not a pub, but nonetheless very pleasant.

My eye was drawn to one of the TV screens.  It was showing the cooking methods for items on the menu.  What a brilliant idea, I was soon keen to try their food.  I'm surprised more places haven't used this clever promotion, although I suppose "Take bag from freezer, 95 seconds in microwave, empty onto plate" wouldn't be so enticing.

I headed onwards, committing the cardinal sin of walking past a never before visited bar called Barcode, I'll save that for my next time in Heswall, and so to the Harvest Mouse:
Cor!  That's a hard to beat exterior.  Inside is a slightly disappointing bog-standard pub interior, not as exciting as the outside suggests, but nevertheless very pleasant.

My pint of something from Otter was not bad, but not the best I've had.  I couldn't see anyone else drinking real ale.

The place was ticking over gently, mainly with diners, it's a member of Greene King's Time Well Spent chain.  The sound here was quiet chat mixed with the background music, which as I typed this played the Eagles' Desperado - You can't do better than that.

It was time for the long bus ride back to civilisation, and then a train home.

Coming up:  How about Cains Village on Saturday?

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Kensington

Would my luck improve after Tuesday's disappointments?   Once the rain stopped I headed for the Kensington area of Liverpool and began my researches in the Olympia Hotel:
I had thought this place was closed, it has looked tatty for a long time, but passing by on a bus earlier in the week I had seen it was still open.

Inside the rather scruffy building is a beautifully cared for three room pub.  Both lounge and bar were populated by plenty of cheerful locals.

The lounge, where I sat, is completely covered in Everton paraphanalia, I didn't check whether the bar side was "red".

The conversation here was about town (That's Scouse for the city center, by the way.) being too crowded due to the Pride festival.

Across the road from here were the famous Grafton and the Derby, both closed now:

I headed for Boaler Street, a road which at the time of my first visit had umpteen operational pubs, possibly the last back street in Liverpool which could still claim to have "a pub on every corner."  Would any have survived into 2018?  It was time to test my luck.

The Alexandra Lodge is now something religious, a reversal of Wetherspoon's trick of converting a Methodist Hall into a pub:
Next, the Bourne Arms has completely disappeared in what is now an industrial estate, and then the Cumberland is housing:
When I reached the Newsham Park I was surprised to find it open, my Streetview researches having suggested otherwise:
They've knocked through into the former back room since I was last here, I think, creating a plain friendly one roomed corner house.

Once again, Saturday afternoon means a significant number of regulars, and the background chatter was louder than the music.

Unknowingly, I was sitting in Tommy's corner, so when he turned up I had to talk to him - The landlady warned he might sit on my lap because I was in his seat!  Actually, he was a useful source of info, telling me the next target was open - "I've just come from there".  He was keen to buy me a drink, but I explained it was one per pub, so we shook hands and parted.

So, on to the Sir Walter Raleigh:
A plain beautifully kept boozer this one, with half a dozen regulars keeping it ticking over.  One of them was driving the juke box, which was slightly louder than the background chit-chat.  (His taste in music was not the same as mine.)

The immaculate interior includes a classic plain early 20th century fireplace with original ceramics.

While I was drinking my lager, a man arrived with a parcel which was six inches by six inches by about ten feet, labelled Projector Screen.  When he came up to where I was sitting I said "It'll never fit".  "I told them, but that's the size they wanted" he replied.  Surely the time to install a giant screen was before the world cup?  Although it's just in time for the new football season, I suppose.

I should confess that I swigged my lager more quickly than usual in here, to make sure I escaped before Tommy joined me - His last remark had been "I'll see you in there, get me a pint of Carling!"

That's it for Boaler street, so I moved on, passing the closed Molyneux:
The weather, sunny so far, spotted me with rain, although the sun was still shining.  On to Kensington - the road, where my first call was the Vinebrook:
Once again, a well cared for boozer, one open room partly divided by odd lengths of wall.  One area is raised two steps above the rest, this feature seen in every Oak Lodges house, is a subtle way of creating an area that feels separate without blocking visibility.

A hubub of locals' chatter muxed with racing commentary in here.

Last time I visited it was during an England match in Euro 2004, and all the regulars had painted faces, hats, and hooters.  I wonder if they did the same in the recent world cup?

As I drank my fourth Carling the sky blackened.  Would I get soaked?  Only a short walk to the next pub, and thence to the bus stop, so probably not.  A brief downpour threatened to spoil that prediction, but by the time I'd been to the gents it was almost over, so I just caught a few spots on the way to the architectural splendour that is the Kensington:
Still a miniature gem, this three room classic has the lounge served via a hatch in the leaded glass bar back.  There's also a back room with a "stable door" to the servery, but I think you're required to walk to the lounge's hatch to get served nowadays.  In 1999 I enjoyed waitress service in this room.

Back in 2009 I noted this place was closed, thank goodness it wasn't permanent!

The sound here is purely the hubub of cheerful chatter from the large number of regulars.

As usual, I was monitoring the activities of the other customers:  I'm sure "Excuse me!  Landlady!  Two halves of lager" is not the way to ingratiate oneself with the staff.  Mind you, it seemed to work, maybe I should try it instead of waiting patiently to be served!  Oddly, the two halves were for someone else, and the purchaser left them on the counter and disappeared.

Another strange sight, a bloke came in carrying a bar stool.  He moved another stool out of the way so he could sit on the one he'd brought.

Time for a bus home.  Coming soon:  With the resumption of normal-ish train services, somewhere over the water, maybe Heswall?

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Out Of Luck in Earlestown

I have always known I was taking a risk doing pub surveys on Tuesday afternoons:  With it being the quietest time of the week, pubs might not bother to open.  So far, I've generally got away with it, but my luck had to run out some time, and today turned out to be the day.

With my choice of destinations limited by the closure of the railway at Lime Street, I decided to mop up a few places in Earlestown that I'd not visited for fifteen years, or in one case, never.

Outside the station is the Railway, which was closed as expected:
This place has closed down and re-opened a few of times over the last ten years, but I think it's finally had it this time, although you never know.

Next, I headed for the Houghton Arms.  Hidden down a residential cul-de-sac as it was, I had guessed this would be long gone so I wasn't very surprised to find it converted to housing:
I wandered to the Old Crow:
Looks like it's still an operational pub, but not open at two on a Tuesday.

Now a long walk (Made much longer by a failure of my sense of direction) to the Griffin:
Once again, an operational pub but not open.  What a magnificent building!

My thirst was really building now, and I headed back towards the centre and, at last, an open pub, the Wellington:
Behind the rather scruffy exterior is a clean and tidy plain two bar boozer, with a handful of regulars chatting and watching racing in the bar side.

As usual, no-one took any notice as I typed on my tablet, but for some reason I can't explain I felt a little uncomfortable here, so I quickly tucked it away in my bag.

I've not been in since 2003, so at least I got one desirable tick today.

My next target was the never before visited Rosie's Bar:
Despite the sign outside saying it opens at 2pm on a Tuesday it clearly hadn't.  I suspect it might be closed forever.

I was running out of targets now, not fancying the long walk to Wargrave and Vulcan Village, and I dithered about catching a bus to Saint Helens and doing some pubs there, but I decided to stick to Earlestown and tick off a couple that I'd done "only" four years ago.  So, on to the Newmarket:
Last time I was here, in 2014, it was in the middle of being redecorated and we were squeezed into one small room.  Today the whole place was in operation and the interior is plain and well cared for.

As usual, I went in the wrong door and joined a couple of racing fans in the bar, while there was quite a bit of cheerful chatter audible from the lounge.

What a pleasant, comfortable, friendly pub this is.  For some reason I just felt at home here.  All it needs is some real ale to go with the handpumps!

The shortage of open "target" pubs is not all bad news, it gave me an excuse to have a pint in the Wetherspoon's Nine Arches which would normally be disallowed because I was here only two years ago:
Hidden down a back street in a former Methodist Hall, this is a rather fine member of the chain so I was glad of an excuse to go back.  On my previous visit, in the first weeks of opening, it was absolutely packed; today was a lot quieter, but still doing steady business in drink and food.

I was particularly chuffed to see one of their international collaboration brews called "Anti-hipster-min" on the bar, having enjoyed four pints of this gorgeous beer yesterday evening in my local branch, so I had another today.  It's brewed at Adnam's, by the way.

Next, back towards the station to finish in the Ram's Head:
This plain boozer has kept its historic layout with the two room lounge side served from three hatches at the back of the servery.

The decor in the bar is plain but well cared for, clean and tidy as everywhere is nowadays.  The "bare brick" wallpaper in the lounge looks ugly, but that's only my personal taste.

I watched Tipping Point on the telly at the end of the bar, blimey the questions are easy (Angleterre is French for which part of the United Kingdom?) but it's a fun gameshow for afternoon TV.

Time for my train home.

Coming soon:  Kensington and then further afield once the trains are back.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Wavertree

I began today's perambulation with an attempt to finish off Smithdown Road, starting at the Evil Eye:
This converted shop has the now-standard bare brick walls and retro light bulbs, and seems to carry off the style better than many.

Two handpumps but no clips, so I had a rather tasty pint of Goose Island IPA, served in the correct glass.  Mind you, at £4.80 a pint, it's not cheap!

The place was ticking over at two on a Saturday afternoon, a group of people at the back of the room were quietly chatting, over some food I think. 

The music, a good selection, was at exactly the right volume for the time of day; the giant speakers and audio gear being set up around me told me the "DJ and alternative karaoke" later on will be a lot louder!

I studied the posters.  How come it's "Liverpool Beer Week" and I've never heard of it?  Is that why a group of twenty or thirty people, some carrying bottles, have just walked past?

Next, the Craft Taproom:
I'll simply repeat what I said last week; what kind of a pub isn't open at one o'clock on a Saturday?  There wasn't even a sign showing opening hours, so I didn't know if it was worth waiting until three.  Whatpub says it opens at one, facebook says two.  I wonder if it's actually closed for good?

On to the Brookhouse:
A bit of a change from last place.  Maybe a hundred people in, but this enormous place is still not crowded at all.  Some were eating, others here for the beer, customers ranged from groups of youngsters through families to the old codgers in the corner.  (I don't like to think where I fit in that progression.)  There was a fifty-fifty mix of diners and drinkers

The knocked through interior retains a hint of its original splendour, mainly the high ceiling plasterwork and a few leaded glass panels in the windows.

Should I go back to try the Taproom again, now it's three o'clock?  I can't be bothered, it's their loss.  So, forwards to Hill 16:
The full name is Hill 16 Grog House and Kitchen, a bit of a mouthful!

No real ale, of course, so I had Heineken.

Inside there's a bit of an Irish theme - the gents is labelled Fir - but this is no "plastic paddy" bar, it's much better than that.  Chit chat between the barman and subsequent arrivals told me they're moving from Irish to more of an American dive bar feel.  Anyway, I couldn't really say why but I liked it.

A gentle stream of customers kept the place ticking over while I was there, some had food.

Golf was on the tellies, the commentary mixing with chatter and rather good background music.

Something that always causes me to cringe: One part of the wall was decorated with 12 inch records.  Although my own collection is tiny, I feel that any vinyl is precious and it's sacrilege to glue it to the wall.  Perhaps my (limited) exploits as a pirate radio DJ influence my feelings on this matter; I would only take enough records for one show into the studio, just in case we were raided and I lost the lot!  (We never were.)

Next, a stroll across the park to Picton, and the Prince Alfred:
A busy lively boozer, with plenty of friendly locals filling the place with chatter and drowning out the gentle background music.

The decor is fake traditional, the large wood beams and imposing fireplace are all fairly modern, I think, but make for a pleasant feel anyway.  Regrettably the stag's head and collection of chamber pots seem to have been lost in the years since my last visit, in 2003.

Un-surprisingly there was no real ale so I had another lager, Carling this time.

I couldn't get over how lively and busy this place was, perhaps I need to do more Saturday and less Tuesday researches?

Finally, the Thatched House:
Now this is a true down market boozer, loud music and louder regulars, a very drunk one of whom moved a table so I could sit down more easily.

The inside has bog standard plain decor, as always nowadays well maintained, clean and tidy.

I noticed the local who moved the table for me was drinking cans of John Smiths, not the draft Tetley.  Odd.  He turned out to be the nutter of the pub, dancing to the music and generally messing about to the amusement of the other customers.

One of the regulars had a little dog which everyone made a fuss of.  It was obviously used to being in the pub, and lay down at its master's feet.  I was worried that someone drunk (Possibly me) would tread on it but thankfully no-one did.

Time for the bus home.  Coming soon, possibly:  Kensington and Earlestown.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Around Woolton

I started today's outing in the Brown Cow in Gateacre:
In contrast to the half-timbered exterior, the inside is modern.  A pleasant plain boozer, knocked through into one open room, and very well looked after.

Three hand-pumps on the bar, but all the clips were turned round (NBSS 0).  This is probably why we don't come in here any more on the Woolton Pub Crawl, which this year started just round the corner in the Black Bull.

The sound was some daytime TV rubbish, mixed with cheerful chatter from the three or four locals.

On to what used to be the English Rose, now the CookHouse:
Inside the unusually curved building, the English Rose retained a few original-looking features, but they have now been swept away in the comfortable pleasant modern interior.  They concentrate on food, and there's a large carvery counter at one end of the room.  At two on a Thursday no-one was using it, although there were a number of diners about the place finishing their lunches.  I wonder how long a joint of roast beef can sit under those lights before it goes dry and leathery?  (Not a complaint since I didn't try any, a well run place would throw it out before that happened.)  There were nine chickens rotating in the spit-roaster so they are obviously expecting some more custom later.

I risked a pint of Deuchars IPA from one of the two handpumps, it was a bit tired but just about drinkable (NBSS 1.5).

I see from the TV screen displaying their adverts that there's an electronic pub quiz here - "no pens, no paper, just download the app".  Makes me feel old!  If you're doing the quiz on a smart phone, what's to stop you looking up the answers on Google?  [Other invasive data-gathering search engines are available.]

A bloke who had been sitting outside brought his lager back because a wasp had landed in it.  He got a free replacement!

Next, an awkward border-line pub, is it in Halewood or Woolton or Hunts Cross?  Whichever is correct, plotting the pubs on a map shows it's not far from the CookHouse, so off I headed.

The Grenadier is housed in an unusually-shaped 1960s building:
Apart from being beautifully maintained inside and out, this doesn't seem to have changed much since my first visit back in 1999.  It retains what could be the original layout, and probably the original matchboarding.  The lounge side looked out of action so I sat in the bar, the only customer.  There's a smaller room off to one side, I don't know what its original function was, perhaps just a snug, but with no windows and the lights off it wasn't in use today.  I've no idea what the sticking-out upstairs is or was for, I couldn't even see a way up - perhaps staff accommodation?

Unusually, when I ordered my drink "Carling please", I was asked "half or pint?"  I stopped saying "pint of" a few years ago and this is the first time it hasn't worked.  (NBSS 0)

I was about half way through my drink when another customer came in.  I always think it's great if the landlady knows your name, and Brian was so honoured.  Another one (Jack) joined us later.

On to the Waiting Room(s):
The signs outside names this "The Waiting Room", but the fake etched glass in the windows says Waiting Rooms, so who knows what the correct name is?  The nit-picking pub collector's nightmare!

Anyway, whatever the name, inside is a partially knocked through pub surrounding an island servery.  Most of the interior is in the original station building but the front part is an enclosed area outside the original late 19th century walls.  This makes for a fun, quirky layout.  It's strange to have an old stone and brick wall complete with windows across the middle of the pub!

No real ale so I had another Carling, with no question as to the quantity this time.  (NBSS 0)  I reckon this would be a good place for a real ale pub, similar to the ones in Irlam and Urmston on the same line.  Mind you, I would only come in once every five years so who am I to comment?

A number of regulars were chatting, the only other sound was racing on the telly.  The large speakers implied it would be a lot noisier later or perhaps tomorrow evening.