Archive for June 2010
America and England are out of the World Cup, but I was always favouring the Netherlands, anyway. Now, with a great deal of luck, my dream match could come true… Holland versus Ghana.
Why, you ask? Simple! My old neighbourhood in Amsterdam Zuidoost (known as the Bijlmer) was in the middle of the largest Ghanaian expatriate population outside of Surinam (where most were taken by the Dutch against their will in centuries past). The Bijlmer will be a gigantic party from Saturday night onward if the Quarterfinals go the right.
Here’s a nice introduction to the diversity of the Bijlmer, and an argument that it has greatly improved as a place to settle in the past decade:
And, here is a clip from a series of stories from the local paper about life in the Bijlmer (this time focusing on one of the 15–that’s right, 15–Ghanaian kings living there):
And, if your Dutch isn’t great, try this one:
Other good match-ups (not necessarily good matches) were:
Spain v. Portugal (the battle of British Holiday Destinations)
Germany v. Argentina (where the Nazi’s fled)
Netherlands v. Denmark (the Herring Cup)
Another abysmal performance at the Thame 10K yesterday…47:24 chip time but the story might be in the gun time of 48:51 since I was still laying on the ground with a splitting headache when the other last runners were crossing the timing mats.
Saturday night, it turned out, became a real session at the house as we spent the evening finishing the bottles of wine from dinner and then making short work of a liter of vodka. I remember saying something around 2:30 a.m. about needing to get up early to drive to the race, then the next memory was crawling up the stairs–not very well either as I smacked my head on the railing–between 4:30 and 5:00. This always happens on “record night” but usually not until we sink as low as breaking out the Stones.
The drive to the race should have been a pleasure as the morning was glorious, sunny and clear and the start of the most perfect summer day one could ask. As it was it was a misery; I couldn’t fully open my right eye without waves of nausea and there was a loud ringing in my ears. Safely in the car park, I leaned out for the first of my tactical chunders which probably saved my race from never starting at all.
The race was full of cheerful, fit folks and I hate them all and hope they contracted a stomach bug from the water stops. There is a special place in hell for that asshole blowing the vuvuzela on the route. And, what was the idea behind NO pubs on the trail being open early for the race?
Toward the end, I had bunched up with several other sad bastards who had also overdone the night before. One of these had dashed ahead of me about a mile back and then proceeded, at full gait, to lean over and vomit every 10-12 yards. This was especially impressive and I’m sure it is a great abdominal workout, but it forced the rest of us to pass him on the left as we came into the finish. He, myself, and the 3 other badly hungover guys all said, “never again,” as we filtered through the goodie bags looking for something with sugar in it.
Of course this was BEFORE the fact, and not like this
and especially not like this:
Halfway to Yarnton I ran up on the Turnpike Inn. This was quite the poncey place inside and they bartender seemed offended that I just wanted to have a beer and no food. But, it was Old Hooky so all was forgiven (even though the ale was served ice cold…criminal).
Name changed temporarily for World Cup 2010
The Red Lion doesn’t seem a very pub-like pub to begin with…mostly a big bar restaurant with some tellies around. A real warehouse. Then, it’s never a good sign when your pint is served in a plastic glass (not to mention it being somewhat shy of a pint).
But, there were some laughs to be had. The beer was Hook Norton Aunt Sally’s and a bitter brew like I like. They have re-named the pub “The Three Lions” in honour of the England football squad for the duration of the World Cup and didn’t seem offended at all when I pointed out that they could tear all that down in a few hours (England, it turned out, barely survived to the Round of 16 later that day in a match against perennial powerhouse Slovenia).
But, the running trail beckoned and I couldn’t linger.
As mentioned in the Turner Arms post, Saturday was a run day and I was trying to hit some new trails and also log another bar, in Piddington as it happened. The place I had planned showed up on Google Street View as Cootz (a wine bar/white tablecloth restaurant) and I found this sort of offensive to the whole Cotswald village aesthetic, but when I topped the hill in the final pasture I was pleased to find that it has since been converted BACK to a village pub. Hooray!
Some of the pathway was knee deep meadow, but only about 3 or 4 miles worth
The couple that run the joint were enjoying a quiet afternoon, but they assured me the place is quite busy in the evenings. It has been a pub throughout most of its 300 year existence and has a very nice atmosphere indeed. An easy drive from Bicester, we’ll probably try to make it down for a pub quiz pretty soon or, this Saturday, for the 1 year anniversary of the reopening.
I did a 17 mile loop Saturday with a couple of beer stops…of course. The first was at the Turner Arms which I have never seen open in the 5 months since moving house (and this is on one of my regular run routes, almost exactly 4 miles from door to door). But, it was open this time and I found it a warm, small bar with a strange little landlady that answered questions not asked and aparently didn’t listen to answers to her questions (following them up with some disjoint commentary between sips of coffee and glances at her newspaper). The walls were covered with regimental plaques (mostly Explosive Ordnance Disposal groups) and I would have lingered except it was cold and windy out and the sweat was beginning to cool me off. Not really worth a return trip but if I just happen to catch it open again….
Rounding the last corner on the way home from a short 6 miler, I spotted the football match through the window of the Littlebury Hotel and decided it was time for a beer, a Wychert from Vale Brewery, in fact. The crowd seemed a bit better dressed than you normally get either watching sport or in a Bicester bar, but (besides the diners, who were very civilised) they had a distinctively nasty edge that I think could easily have turned to violence. This is probably just the luck of the draw, though.
Continuing on from there, I passed Ye Olde Pioneer and shot an update photo for that old post. R.I.P.
Every night around dusk (10 pm-ish, lately) we get a wee visitor in the garden. Very cute little guy, eh?
Oh, here’s the garden since it hasn’t been posted before (Tim the mushroom gnome from Tucson is near the roses):
Beautiful, sunny day outside so I took the opportunity to go for a run, mostly on bike paths, to Horspath where I had a delicious London Pride and watched the New Zealand v Slovakia halftime show with some affable Asians. Their gaff, a curry house, is inside the Chequers.
The couple of old, white guys in there seemed a bit ambivalent about the subcontinent help and it was a little disconcerting how incompetent the kid pouring the beer seemed, but they were trying hard. The run back covered a bit of Shotover Country Park and I found a proper track (beer mile to come?) along the way, too.
This is easily the best pub I’ve gone to yet.
The landlord (Mick the Hat) and landlady (Jean) are potty in the nicest possible way, the regulars are friendly, the beer is Hook Norton and perfectly stored and served (gravity, not pumps), and there is Bob Dylan and Stones memorabilia scattered around the wee public bar. What more could I ask?
I staggered in from the hot, humid fields nearby, 4 miles into a loop run and was greeted by this fine bunch of folks who showed a genuine interest in Atlanta, especially in its music and its place in the South and the greater world. Offered some food, I declined but the place will get a lot of my business in the future.
The really amazing bit is that this gem is in a sort of remote village of only about 250 souls and yet has this fantastic collection of personalities and was hopping at 2:30 in the afternoon during the first weekend of the World Cup (and the radio was tuned to a rock station…no telly in sight!). Make an effort to go visit, and let me know when you do.
The Oxford Hash met in the Lamb to start yet another trail, and I got there in plenty of time to enjoy a pint of Hooky Bitter. This was after trying to get into the place via the door on the street (it had a sign saying to try the door in back), and then finding the door at the back locked noticed a sign saying to use the door at the end of the building (but still in the back). Inside, it was a large, three room (at least) pub and fairly traditional, but I opted to go out watch the car park fill up with the 30-odd (more odd than 30) other hashers and a half dozen bewildered locals.
Speaking of bewildered, if anyone can explain how a quaint little village on the edge of the Cotswolds camed to be associated with Grit’s Ain’t Groceries, it would be much appreciated.
Here’s the Oxford Hash House Harriers ‘Hash Trash’ related to this trip:
On my way back to the car after a run to celebrate its clean safety check at the MOT place, I stopped into JT’s for a pint of Marston’s Burton Bitter, a lovely tipple and just what the Doctor ordered. I had a wee look around the place and spotted the award’s shelf:
and the tastefully decorated dining hall for those of a religious bent:
A steady stream of punters came through and it was obvious that I was the only stranger, but got sucked into a conversation about swimsuit models in a sporting goods catalogue fairly soon after sitting down. This somehow drifted into who was the town bicycle (definition 3), expensive boob jobs, and the pretty/vacant conundrum (ie, how long can you stay with someone physically hot that is dumb as a post).
The original impetus for coming here was in honour of the only other JT I know, but it turned out to be pretty entertaining on its own merits. And, they do food there, too.
I dropped my car off to get the M.O.T. and walked into Banbury to do a little sightseeing. This led to an inevitable stop at a pub, which was empty except for the barmaid. “Pint of Carling,” I requested as there were no ales.
“What a strange accent! Where are you from? Because you said, like, Carling* but we say Carling**. That is sooooo neat.” Mind, this was said in one breath and in less than 2 seconds, but there was no one else to talk to, so there you have it. The conversation continued on to how Americans don’t drink (I offered up the 30 Pack Marathon in defense) and how everyone used to think this was a gay bar, because it was, but now the gay bar is down the street and the owner here isn’t a homophobe like some journalist said because he’s flaming. This went on, I shit you not, for what seemed like the time to drink a whole pint of beer!
Exhausted, I made my exit but I would really like to check out how this place is with a full house.
Continuing up the road toward the train station, I noticed the Red Lion and although I don’t go into every Red Lion I see I do make it a point to stop if it is at all convenient. This one was an especially nice find, too. The landlord is a retired soldier and a gregarious sort of dude from Peterborough, although his wife is a nearly local girl (from Bicester). Their border collie is also fairly friendly and will pester you with a slobbery tennis ball as long as you are willing to tolerate it…although the regulars seemed not to be sucked into his playfulness.
I had a Hook Norton Bitter (I think that’s what it was) and took a look around at the large garden, equally large dining room/lounge, and the smaller but still good sized public bar with a big open fireplace. I’ll have to stop by again in a week or two as they were closing for major refurbishment after the weekend to redo the floors (good hardwoods there) and splash a bit of paint around. Some outside work also appears to be slated (a better photo of the Red Lion without the scaffolding is on the pub’s website).
Blunt signage at the Islip Rail Station
It was a pretty hot and humid day Friday and the run from Oxford to Islip left me very thirsty, indeed. As I crossed the bridge into Islip, I was greeted by the welcome sight of the Swan Inn and decided to give it a go.
On the run to the pub, I had one of those Beavis and Butthead moments as I passed this sign (uh-huh-huh)
The place was abandoned save for the bartender and a single patron, but the Foster’s was cold (I couldn’t face the Greene King selection). I would have thought the Swan would have more goodwill since the lessee has done such apparent good for his other pub up in Tackley, but rumour has it that employees there are not treated especially well–a conversation at a neighbouring pub led me to believe a chef was fired under suspicious terms and that other employees are still awaiting their first pay packet four weeks into their service. I can’t swear to the veracity of any of the sources of these rumours, but the boss’s family have had business problems that made news in the past.
From the front deck of the Swan Inn
The Betjeman Arms is nothing special, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. I wouldn’t think anyone would go out of their way to find it, but it IS right on Euston in St. Pancras Station and right across from King’s Cross Station. The beer is kept well and the prices are reasonable despite sitting in a National Rail site and a historic building.
Having finished the long run, I met Jamie there and we found a place on the porch to have drinks (I had a Betjeman Ale by Sharp’s) and to talk about our day out. She bought me a book on the history of punk rock called England’s Dreaming by Jon Savage (happy birthday to me!) and scouted out a bunch of interesting places near Brick Lane to go on our next visit.
Oh, the Betjeman…watch out for the shifty bar staff. One of them tried to pass off an Isle of Man tenner in my change and then gave me the snake eye when I asked for a ‘real’ one. John Betjeman would be appalled.
Ye Olde Watling was closed until later in the evening so I vowed to hit the next open bar as a replacement stop. The run continued on to Mansion House, Cannon Street, and Bank before I finally spotted the Railway Tavern across from Liverpool Street tube station, a little more than a mile later. Adding insult to injury, the bar was at the top of a steep flight of stairs.
I had a Suffolk Cyder and a large glass of water and then had a wee chat with the barmaid who, it turned out, had been mugged a few nights before. This had obviously been traumatic and she was visibly shaken up. My stories of being stabbed and beaten and held at gunpoint far too many times in Atlanta brought no solace, either: “But, you are from America. It is different when you are from Poland.” Quite depressing, the truth in that observation. I hope she’s okay.
This was a friendly house, and not just because the two Aussies that bought me the Caledonian Flying Dutchman cheered as I entered the door. The bar staff was friendly and efficient in spite of the palce being packed with some royally pissed folk. Off the usual tourist circuit, it seemed to be populated mostly by local residents although most of them seemed to be immigrants or at least not native Londoners. The bar wraps around and there is an upstairs that was closed for a private function on the day. But, with the clock ticking on the run I opted to down the tasty brew, say my thanks, and get back out on the trail.
The Sussex was the
that I’ve had a beer at (pint if in business, can outside if out of business) in just under 500days in England. I knew the 400th was going to happen on this run and if there had been something remarkable about the Sussex then that fact might have presented itself. As it turned out, having just fought my way through several miles of wall-to-wall tourists the best things about it were that it wasn’t too busy and there were four Bateman’s ales to choose from–I had the Spring Goddess.