This time on Pub Hunters: Phil celebrates a brand new tick, and squeezes in to pubs full of excited footie fans. [I think perhaps this joke has run its course, so I won't mention it again. Unless I get a contract from the production company.]
Today, I directed my attention to the Everton area where I might get some limited opening hours ticks on an LFC match day. I took a train to Sandhills and then joined the throng walking up the hill towards the ground.
The first pub we came to is the rather spectacular Phoenix:
This impressive building has been abandoned and derelict for at least twenty years and possibly longer than I've been collecting pubs, so for me it is a brand new tick. I think it was last year that someone took on the Herculean task of rescuing and refurbishing it. I think it is mainly a residential hotel now but the bar is available to passing drinkers and a large number of football fans were taking the opportunity.
After queueing at the counter for a couple of minutes I got a surprisingly cheap (£3.60 - I was expecting "match day pricing".) Carling in a plastic glass and managed to find a tiny high table with one stool, the last free seat I think.
The decor inside is rather good, dark grey patterned wallpaper, large mirrors, padded counter front etc.
The queue got longer until it was out of the door, looks like I got here just in time!
Next, a little closer to the ground is the Valley:
Inside the splendid building is a plain boozer, with a front room with an L-shaped servery, and a back room with none. Plain clean and tidy, with the odd historical feature, especially some fine stained glass window panels.
Every seat was taken, so I stood at the end of the counter until two lads departed giving me half a table in a corner which was unpopular because there was no easy view of the early kickoff on the tellies, which everyone else was watching. Perhaps one of the teams involved is near Liverpool in the league so the result is "important". Who knows? Who cares?
What a time to get a beer delivery! The crowd parted as a keg was rolled through the room.
The toilets were in the process of being rebuilt, so no urinals and no signage. Of course, I went in the wrong one much to the amusement of the women sitting by the doors who soon pointed me in the right direction.
Just a short distance down Saint Domingo Road is Olivia's Bar:
Last visited in 2000, when it was a standard 60s boozer called the Devonshire Arms, this place hasn't changed very much, although obviously it has been redecorated, probably more than once, in the intervening years.
Again packed with football fans although at a quarter past two they were beginning to depart for the ground.
My Carling came in a San Miguel glass - Don't tell the brewery.
In a large group at a nearby table, one of them managed to smash a glass. It must have been empty because there's was no flood of beer, but he had to put up with the inevitable jokey abuse as he borrowed a dustpan and brush and swept up the debris. I was surprised it had broken in to so many small pieces.
Thinking back, I don't think I've ever smashed a glass in a pub, although I have to own up to knocking one over spilling ale everywhere. Many years ago I had a friend whose party trick was to pick up a pint glass in his teeth and drink the beer, until one day he bit down too hard and was left with a small piece of glass in his mouth and a lot of ale in his lap. He was lucky to be uninjured, I think.
By the time I had finished my pint the place was almost completely empty.
Next, a chance to photograph the former Clock, which after some time boarded up has become a community centre:
I headed further down the road to the wonderful building that is the Mere Bank:
The spectacular building dating from 1881 has been well maintained, and I note that the two statues above the main doorway have been coloured since I was last here when they were plain white. I was going to write "brewers Tudor" here but it isn't really, is it? Too old for start.
I fear the inside may be all 1960s or even more recent, fake beams and all, but the outside is well deserving of its listing.
Hundreds of glasses were being cleared away and loaded in the dishwasher, but at five minutes to kickoff only a handful of customers were left.
After some fiddling with the remote it was decided that they wouldn't have the Liverpool match on. I thought this might result in further departures but it didn't.
It was pleasant to sit in a peaceful boozer after the previous three, the audio here being quiet conversations and Jeff Stelling.
Stockport and Salford moved on to a penalty shootout to get promoted from the fourth division. I won't bore you again, dear reader, with my theories on how football should improve the way they deal with a draw. Except to say that a replay is still the best answer. Stockport won, but apparently there's another match before they go up.
The four staff tucked in to their chippy dinners during the peaceful pause between the pre-match and post-match rushes.
Poor old Everton went a goal down.
Finally, further down Everton Road is May Duncan's:
It's quite busy in here, at half time. There was some kind of party in the rear of the lounge side, can I sneak in and steal some sarnies? I probably could, but I won't. Actually I see it is a "boy or girl" party. Someone knew the answer before they came, and brought an "it's a girl" balloon.
This is a rather impressive pub, with loads of people in both the lounge where I was and the bar side. They are obviously doing something right, with plenty of custom even during the match, which is not on the tellies. The decor is nothing to write home about, but very well done and well maintained. Especially the mural on a roller shutter showing the three graces with a ferry in front.
My notes from 2004 describe this as having "an enormous open knocked through room" so I suspect at some time in the intervening years it has been re-divided into two sides, with the roller shutter between.
Irritatingly I'd got no mobile signal here so I had to use a large screen drowned out by the sunshine to try and see how the football was going.
Time for home, I think, one new tick and four overdue ones is an excellent result. I realise it's only once a week for part of the year but it is still pleasing to see pubs packed with happy drinkers. And it was brilliant to visit the Phoenix, which I had thought was long gone.
Pub of the day: Phoenix
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 2.2
Maybe coming soon: Picton, Birkenhead Park