Archive for the ‘Bicester’ Tag
So it has come to this…1000 posts in less than 3 years (975 days, to be precise).
In that time we have come quite far together: 712 pub stops, 4025 miles running (1740 unique miles in the UK, at that), almost 96000 views of this blog (averaging about 200/day the last few months after slow beginnings) and tons of ridiculous shit that I should bring me disgrace. In that same time, I have only managed my way onto one proper publication (with acknowledgements in a few others, although another paper from the Cambridge work is almost finished) and one patent, and for that meager output I truly am ashamed; but, my big bag of guilt still has a bit of spandex left and, besides, I left plenty of tired, old impropriety across the Atlantic to make room for new experiences so let’s keep piling it in.
One of my favourite pub experiences was early on at the Chequers in Cottenham which I hope has reopened since we left the area. I have some favourite pubs in various places but no one favourite nationwide yet. The map, linked here and over to the left of the page gives you the names of pubs reviewed or otherwise used as a template for my blather in this document and makes a nearly comprehensive reference for planning a pub crawl in Oxford, Swindon, Cambridge, Ely, Faringdon, Kidlington and Bicester; many other areas are covered less extensively but it should continue to grow over the coming years.
Pub count by date...summer surge came late this year
Here are some of my favourite posts out of that ridiculous collection, if you are at all interested or just bored:
Picking on the deceased, especially one’s betters, is always worthy: Arthur Stanley Eddington plaque. Other times, the sciences offer jobs that are hard to resist (but the job has been filled and removed from the HR site since then). Never sure if it was an attractant or repellent, and still don’t understand what the dog had to do with it (unless it was a Cocker).
Many articles about running as tourism have been posted, but some are better than others. Place names tend to be the best for humour…like these here. Or this one. We actually drove about 10 miles out of our way one weekend trip for this hamlet, but the signs have been stolen so often they stopped putting them up. Claims to never having paid for it aside, this was a nice if mistaken sight. Deep in Cambridgeshire you find some good place names, and they seem to treat strangers well on Hills Road Cambridge. Our first trip to Wales resulted in disappointment with this highway’s promise.
The daily Haiku was a feature early on, before I realised just how many pubs were going to be reviewed. The best ones happened spontaneously like this one on a trip to London.
As I write this I am suffering stigmata…okay, I accidentally stabbed myself in the palm with a screwdriver this morning. Still, religion figures into the blog from time-to-time as it did about the ex-masturbators and the fisting-for-Jesus folks. In Italy, it is hard to escape the influence of the Church and so we gave into its temptations.
An eternal Dylan fan and no stranger to public nudity and substance abuse, I felt kinship with these guys. Other times the news is just ironic on its own. Romance is alive and well in Ireland, as this guy proves.
With luck running will continue and I’ll cover many more miles of virgin territory and review loads of worthy races (although my feelings have not changed for the ‘Finisher’s Medal’). Barely 1/10 of 1% into the stock of pubs to visit, I should be able to maintain this pace of coverage for awhile, as well. Best, to all, and here’s to 1000 more of this nonsense.
Regards to ‘Call Girl’ for this photo in the spirit of the joke
It’s not even my joke (I think it might be a Jimmy Carr, although it might be a Frankie Boyle), but it might get me banned from a hash. Here’s what happened…
Several messages appeared on the local hash’s mailing list in rapid succession last night with the subject: ‘BH3 Test‘ and the content : ‘Test Message’ and a name (different each time but apparently from the same location). Since no one else seemed bothered by this pointless waste of bandwidth, I entered the fray with something I considered fairly appropriate to the audience:
BH3 TEST MESSAGE
Tuesday, 21 December, 2010 0:08
The first thing that is required for this joke to work is that you realise I have a massive cock…
Okay? Then we are ready to begin:
Who cares? I’ve got a huge cock.
With the sort of filth I was regularly posting to previous hash groups I was involved with (only to have had all that material chided as tame or too intellectual), I am really surprised at the vehemence of the reaction to this joke I stole from a television comedy panel show aired around 9 pm on one of the BBC terrestrial channels.
To be fair, it is a very old group (mostly pensioners) but they are hashers and you have to be surprised that anything could make them blush. As a reminder, here are some of my milder posters from years past (click on thumbnail for better view…not safe for everyone’s workplace):
Back to new pubs as soon as I can get onto trails to run again (this fucking snow has me stuck on roads and bikepaths).
There was a beer and wine festival in Garth Park Saturday and included a couple of jazz combos (all part of a city wide jazz festival going on this weekend). Quite a pleasant day and I tried out a Summer Glory from Vale Brewery and Marshmellow from the Oxfordshire Ales micro brewery. Both were very smooth rides, perfect for a warm, humid afternoon listening to some standards. Unfortunately, I had a race in the morning and had promised myself NOT to show up hungover (or still drunk from the night before) at this one…first time in years!
Out for a slow 8 mile run I fancied a break and so crossed town to try out Trinity, a bar and restaurant in a converted chapel just off the market square and the Causeway. It is a very nice joint inside and the folks there couldn’t have been friendlier. I had heard that the prices were a bit steep but I had a lovely pint of cider for about £3.20, not an outrageous sum at all.
There were diners in the main room and I was quite literally dripping with sweat, so I opted to move out to the patio and found a seat where someone had earlier had some jam and toast. This was especially useful to me as it gave the wasps something to pay attention to other than my cider. However the staff rushed out and, with apologies, bussed the table thereby taking my decoy away. There’s something to be said for inefficiency, sometimes.
They do comedy nights, have other entertainment, and I understand the food can be very good (but I’ve heard mixed reviews, as well).
The run home last night was intended to take me through Elsfield, Beckley (with a pub stop), Horton cum Studley (with another pub stop), then past the Boarstall Duck Decoy before depositing me in Arncott on roads I’m familiar with and which have bike lanes to jog.
There is this habit amongst landowners here–not all, but a lot of them–of stripping the trail markers off Public Paths and Rights-of-Way in the hopes that it will discourage the legal use of the trails. Of course, they are correct, it does, however most of us that use these paths have trail maps and either a compass or, for the 21st Century hikers, a GPS bothe combinations of which result in us trampling across their farmland willy-nilly.
That’s what happened to me several times yesterday and I wound up following landmarks (pylons, hills, old Army encmpment sites, larger buildings, and farm tracks) to make sure I touched all the bases. This added more than 5 extra miles to the trip and sent me through quite a bit of deep brush, blackberry thorns, and thick forest undergrowth. What a bunch of assholes. The one bright spot in all this was, as I was off trail and in the deepest brush I spotted this bra and pantyhose discarded a few feet over (ouch!):
Anyway, both pubs were closed. It was quite humid and warmer than it has been lately. And, at about 16.5 miles I plunged my foot into a badger hole and this morning my ankle is black and swollen.
23.5 miles total, 3h 10m.
Well, probably more like 3:25, since I stopped the clock when I entered the Plough at Arncott for an ice, cold Fosters. Chat was mostly on the run…they seemed gobsmacked anyone would do something so stupid. Later, it was World Cup chat and as I finished my water (following the Fosters), someone said, “yeah, even the American’s played well this year.”
“I don’t know about that. They seemed pretty much like a club team,” I answered.
“Well, they almost beat England,” the barkeep added in.
As I reached the door, laughing, I replied, “well, that’s not exactly a stunning endorsement now, is it?” It’s probably a good thing I run a lot.
Sometimes at first glance you see something that so obviously couldn’t be there that you run completely past it and then feel compelled to double back to check it out closer.
And, so, it came to pass that I had negotiated the Sheep Street crowds in Bicester and was heading safely out toward the field trails that would take me to Bucknell when I felt the NEED to loop around the block and take a photograph for later…turned out it was harmless afterall.
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):
Yesterday I varied the normal 8 mile loop so I could stop in the Centurion for the first time. I immediately felt at home, which had less to do with the poster of Roger Bannister than it did with the ambiance…very much like the White Dot on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta.
The few customers there all seemed comfortable enough with the management of the place that they popped behind the bar with impunity. It could be that I was the only one in there that never pulled a pint in the joint, but this too seemed familiar. When I got my St Austell Tribute, the first guy I ran into told me I looked like I had put too much effort into getting there. Several border collies tried to get me to come out and play with them and their deflated football in the children’s garden. This was just brilliant.
Likewise brilliant was that, on the first sunny, warm day of the spring we were about a half dozen goobers sitting around having a few. Very, very familiar. In fact, too familiar, and I had to decline a refill and get back out on the road, but I will be back.
This sign has a science fiction-esque, bleak futuristic hellscape sound to it: Play Area 50. Coming soon to a cinema near you. I like two things about this photo, though…some kids have vandalised the age limit to 100 years old and there’s the neighbourhood watch sign that seems to evoke ‘Big Brother,’ from 1984.
There are several websites that take a dismissive tone about the Hundred Acres and an even snarkier tone about the surrounding neighbourhood that supplies most of the patrons. That’s just the nature of the Reader’s Comments sections of websites, I guess, and I can be a bit bitchy about places as well but the Hundred Acres deserves a visit if you want a real feel for native life in a small, south central England town.
I arrived at just before a league final football match on a Sunday afternoon and the place was packed but most of the folks knew one another and were standing around socialising. This allowed me to take my pint of cider and find a seat; there was ale available but it was chilled and the run I had just finished seemed to demand a cider. Besides, it seemed like a Strongbow sort of crowd and I was already conspicuously sweaty and oddly dressed considering it was 6 degrees C with 30 mph winds and I was in running shorts and a tank top.
A group of 3 very drunk guys came in and and greeted the couple at the table nearby, then one of them spotted me and came over and said something that I perceived as friendly and answered with something about the weather and how’re you doing and the like to which he responded with the blank look a dog gives you when you’ve just explained how to put together a piece of flat pack furniture.
We adjusted our accents a bit and had a decent conversation about some public paths through Bicester that cut through the various estates in town and then he needed to meet back up with the other two as it was his shout (invited to join them, I declined as I was already starting to shiver and need to get back home).
Nice joint, though.
From the outside, G’s looks and sounds like a place where a fight is likely to break out for no particular reason at any particular moment. But inside it is actually a pretty hip little bar (at least, early after opening hours). I stopped in Friday afternoon for a well deserved beer on my way home and they had Red Stripe on tap (probably a nod to George’s perceivable caribbean accent, but it was refreshing nonetheless).
The other patrons were a woman, a couple of dudes picking at each other: the tall one kept smacking the short one in the head with a football until he got bored with it and gave it to a couple of youngsters to go out in the alley and kick around (the football, not the short bloke).
Also, along with Red Stripe, the place offers a suite of other entertainments you may or may not be interested in:
The standard rain for a Bank Holiday Weekend started to settle in Thusday afternoon, which is appropriate in Bicester since that seems to be when the weekend starts. I was a bit impatient to get home and cook supper so I went ahead and ran the A.R.C. 8 min/mile route alone and a half hour early. Only a few sprinkles hit me in the hour from my house to the rec center and on around the loop so I stopped in the Plough before heading home to celebrate.
The Plough has one of the nicer–or, at least, more older–interiors in the Bicester pub corral. The bar is in the middle of three rooms and the front opens onto one street while the back garden appears to be an old stable or blacksmith’s work area.
I had a Morris Mayhem which is like the Greene King IPA only a little darker in colour. I took in a frame of professional snooker on tele with a couple of old nutters at the bar then stepped back out into the now pouring rain for the last mile or so back to the house.
Coming back from Bucknell, I popped into the Star to tick off another Bicester pub. The place was completely empty and Mr. Personality behind the bar neither knew nor cared why…perhaps there’s a clue. He is a Greene King place keeper it turns out, and when GK sends out someone to keep a pub-in-transition open and who has this much of a rod up his ass it usually doesn’t bode well for the future of the pub. I left him to ‘read’ his copy of the Sunday Sport and walked about the holding-cell-like venue long enough to finish my Carling (£2.25/pint) and then be on my way.
I ran up to the Angel after an 8 mile loop of the perimeter of Bicester and squeezed past the two guys on the doorstep that seemed unwilling to yield any space. All heads turned as I entered, and I realised the patrons aren’t used to strangers wandering in (even less so, foreigners dripping with sweat).
I had a Wadworth 6X and wandered toward the back but found that it had a drum kit taking up a big part of the room and most of the seating had been pulled up toward the bar so some sporting event could be watched on the small television on the wall. I found a place at the bar and observed the crowd which greeted everyone else that came in with handshakes or kisses and hearty “y’alright’s.”
It seems a friendly enough place, they just don’t appear to get a lot of strangers through. Finished and with about a mile to go, I headed out and slid my earphones back in and noticed the curtains swing open to my right and several heads poke into the window, trying to discern just who their visitor might have been.
I am going to refer to Yates’ as the tardis from now on. From without, it appeared to be just a little storefront (and a crappy one at that), but inside it is huge, well appointed and full of wonders.
Not least among these wonders are questions of sartorial physics…solved, it appears, by women too young to purchase drinks (although they try, repeatedly, with a “I.D.? Oh, just a minute I’ll be right back”). I don’t believe I’ve seen skirts that short nor heels that tall since we moved away from Amsterdam. Bless ‘em.
For those of us who CAN have booze, the beer selection is mostly fizzy but they do have John Smith Extra Smooth on the chilled taps. As this was my post Alchester RC club run, I was actually fairly well satisfied with a Foster’s and a comfortable leather chair by the window onto Sheep Street.
The Shakespeare is on the far side of Bicester from my house so last night’s run through Chesterton and Bignell Park was the first real opportunity to drop in. I had a John Smith’s Bitter and got caught up in the eight-way discussion going on about what you would do with the winnings if you hit the lottery.
The streets in the neighbourhood are all authors: Shelley, Spencer, Burns, Byron, Swift, Browning, Bunyan, Kipling, Hemingway, and on and on. There’s a sports ground behind the pub, a community center in front of it, and a few shops just to the left of the joint…it would be easy to miss if you didn’t know it was here. That’s too bad, because it has the immediate and tangible feel of a community gathering spot. I can see a future wherein I finish many runs with a pint here and then finish the last mile-and-a-half back to the house.
The Swan Inn, Bicester, Oxon After a quick Sunday run looping through Ambrosden and Merton, I finally found my way back to Bicester and opted to try out the Swan Inn. Quite an overpriced place judging from the menu board and my beverage price and although it was dead empty they didn’t seem to want to serve me my Addlestone’s Cloudy Cider (which was not especially good, either…a bit thin and not very, erm, ‘apple-ish’). Anyway, they took my £3.50 and although I was seated at the bar on one side of the cash register the woman placed my glass on the other side just a little more than an arm’s length away. The pounding disco music might have eventually vibrated the glass back toward me, but I was hot and thirsty and opted to walk over, retrieve the glass, and return to my seat in time to hear her make some thinly veiled illicit drug references to the kitchen technician who twice shot her a “fer fuck’s sake, shut up” sort of look…so, maybe they didn’t really need my business after all.
There were two yuppies at the bar that appeared to have escaped from the shopping hell that is Bicester Village (a strip mall full of outlet shops), but they seemed to have found precisely the same sort of habitat here. The BeerInTheEvening.com reviews are often off the mark, but I believe some of the worse ones about the Swan. Even the ones that try to make it sound sophisticated and elegant come off as if they were advertising a coke den (which might go some distance toward explaining the spelling and grammatical errors in those entries). Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Another club run night with an hour in the 8 minute pace group (but still not the 6 minute group) prompted another stop at a local pub on the run back to the house, this time at the Hobgoblin on the far end of Sheep Street from the house (but the near end to the Sports Center). This is a neat old building with beams that threaten the heads of drinkers as short as me as they snake through the place from the small games room bar to the larger bar on the other side.
You can’t go directly to the other bar, though. As the sign says on the door says,”Bands use other entrance;” of course, without the comma I plowed right into the band on the other side and then pointed out the grammatical error by way of excuse. A couple of the musicians came up to the bar with me and I had a well earned Courage Best Bitter under the loud p.a. system playing headbanger music…even the people my age in there (most were around 20-years-old) appeared to be heavy metal dudes or the women that love them (ie, mostly dudes).
There’s a good enclosed garden around back and it is well worth a visit in the afternoons when the atmosphere is probably a little more low key. Or, if you really want to hit some live music, in Bicester, this looks like it might be the best site since Ye Olde Pioneer closed down. Here’s some video of a typical evening there:
Prologue: The day had been like any other except for the unearthly white markings in the neighbourhood. Dormobile had placed these glyphs of powder all over an area east and south of Bicester and for reasons beyond human comprehension a group of 40 or more (myself included) were compelled to follow these signs as though they were some sort of trail (in spite of all the obvious signs to the contrary).
Act 1: The Transformation was swift, though, and many fell victim to Affliction. The Affliction manifested itself as these “Hashers,” let’s call them as I daren’t call them “people” anymore, wandered aimlessly about in meadows crying out plaintively things like “Arryoo” and “Anon.”
Act 2: The only way to kill a Hasher is to destroy its liver, and soon we were at The Nightingale which wasthe nearest appropriate triage facility. A sense of relief fell over many of the faces therein and after our initial medication we felt it was appropriate to perform some rite of Thanksgiving.
Act 3 (or, “and, a child shall lead them”): However, it was soon realised that The Affliction had even affected the Religious Advisor and we were left without guidance until a girl of no more than 14 stepped up to fill his clown shoes. Bumpy, or Reverend Bumpy as she has earned the right to be known, is a veteran of 50 such invasions and deftly handed out curative beverages to the walking wounded circled about her table.
Epilogue: Then, as suddenly as it had started the horror was over…or WAS it? News that another outbreak was imminent in the nearby town of Chesterton had already spread to the congregation and many made plans to travel there, while others were off to set up barricades at Hadrian’s Wall to the north. We can only hope that there will be more medication and a warmer, dryer future.