Tuesday 16 January 2018

County Road

And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor lost walrus shall stay this ticker from the swift completion of his appointed round. [1]
Not a good start as I walked most of the way to the bus station in a brief sunny window in the weather and then realised I'd forgotten my Walrus[2], so had to return home to fetch it, getting shot-blasted with hailstones as I did.  The bus cheered me up by arriving at the stop at the same time as I eventually did, then the bus connection also worked well so I was soon on County Road contemplating my first target:
At first I thought the Black Horse might be shut, but in fact they'd just closed the larger half of the pub, the remainder being enough for a winter Tuesday.  This also helps them to keep the place nicely warm, I think.

There were plenty of customers, of all ages, mostly dining.  I stood at the bar and waited a good five minutes before a barmaid eventually emerged from the kitchen with a couple of meals.  Once she'd delivered them to a table I got my Guinness.

The bog standard chain pub decor is rather pleasant in here.  I sat on a high bench seat - It's very unusual for my feet to dangle! - and swigged my pint, while more diners came in.

Actually, I'm surprised more pubs like this don't close one side at quiet times, it must save staff, heating and cleaning costs and it also avoids that empty pub atmosphere.

On in the teeth of an icy gale to the Stuart Hotel:
Hidden on the back streets, this imposing building contains a rather fine pub which retains many original features including some excellent ceramics and most important of all, the original layout with a drinking corridor served from a hatch in the bar back, with lounge rooms beyond.  In the bar, something bugged me about the carved wood counter front and gantry.  Could it be a modern replacement?  It's a different colour to the rest of the clearly original woodwork.

Just three other customers, actually one of them was staff I think.  Two with me in the comfortable bar, the other sitting in the corridor at the hatch.  Another pub that's warm in cold weather, I'm pleased to report.  As I consumed another Guinness, the sky darkened ominously, but then cleared again.

The barmaid emerged from behind the bar to fiddle with the jukebox.  Her comment to one of the regulars received the reply "I don't give a **** what you put on as long as you don't turn it up".  She didn't, and the music continued at a pleasant background level.

On to number three, which I knew as the Glebe, but it's now Bernie May's Bar and Bistro:
My notes from 2004 say "The plain bare-brick interior does not live up to the impressive exterior".  The inside had been very well re-decorated in modern style since then, but I still think it's a disappointment after the outside, although certainly a significant improvement on the previous version.

Anyway, no sign of "bistro" on a Tuesday afternoon, a couple of menus was the only hint that thay do food at all, and I didn't like to examine one in case they thought I wanted to eat.  Just a handful of  regulars on lager chatting at the bar.

Pleasingly, yet another comfortably warm boozer.  Mind you, I was sitting near the wood stove.

Whatpub.com lists this as having real ale but I couldn't see a hand pump so I guess not.

The weather didn't seem so cold as I moved on, possibly three pints were keeping me warm.  I passed the tinned up County, which was Hot Pants and decorated inside with glitter paint in 2004:

Next came the Chepstow Castle:
This place is basically the same as last time I was here, in 2004:  An island bar surrounded on all sides by a pleasant plain pub.  Since then it has obviously been well cared for and re-decorated, it's spotless.  Quite a few mainly older customers were in, and a gentle hubub of cheerful conversation provided the background noise, along with the usual muzac.

They were economising on heat here a little, everyone was keeping their coat on, but it was still warmer than many pubs I've visited on previous cold days.

[1] Who'd have thought it!  A Laurie Anderson reference. [3] 
[2] For readers not from Merseyside, this is our equivalent of London's Oyster.  (Or Hong Kong's Octopus.)
[3] Yes, I know.  She got it from the US Postal Service, and they got it from Herodotus. 

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