To get home by early afternoon and still have time to take care of some time-sensitive paperwork while in Trowbridge, I took the first #49 bus out of Swindon at 6 am Saturday. It was kind of a melancholy morning riding the bus through the north Wiltshire farmland as the sun peeked through the clouds. I realised, later, that I was also listening to an especially bleak edition of Last Word, an obit show on Radio 4.
In Devizes, the bus stopped to pick up the freak pictured above. When I hopped off at Trowbridge to start my run, he alighted as well. We spoke for a while and I discovered that he was heading to a psychics’ gathering at Glastonbury to sell jewelry he has refurbished from charity shop finds. We traded a few tourism tales from our personal experiences of the area and then bade each other safe passage.
Since this was to be my last run in the area, I kept alert for a souvenir. Buried in the mud, a cliché for the new house attached itself to my shoe; here it is sans the nails and filth:
I arrived at the George at 8:50, twenty minutes behind schedule. The bartender asked if he could help then promptly refused to pour a beer. “Not till 10 am, mate.” Trying not to argue, I replied, “oh, that’s disappointing,” but the fucker wouldn’t let it go. “This is a pub, mate, not a Wetherspoons.” “Pubs and ‘Spoons serve beer when they’re open. You appear to be neither.” I left parched.
Or, rather, drenched as I tend to sweat all-to-be-damned. The t-shirt retirements have resumed as I shed the last vestments brought with us when we refugeed out of Ameriqa. This one is from the Bisbee 1000 Stairs race ten years ago and now in a park in Frome.
From the same era and similarly in tatters, the Shirt I got from Modern Drunkard after writing some dive bar reviews was no longer fit for purpose and came to sweaty rest in a canal side beer garden in Bradford-on-Avon. RIP.
I arrived in Trowbrdge with plenty of time to complete my bureaucratic crap but the device required was out of service following a power outage. Every disappointment should be considered an opportunity and I knew from the CAMRA website that the Courthouse was serving from 10 am.
Then, I spotted this sign in the window:
The day ended as it began (albeit with 23 more running miles logged and a .333 beer batting average). I was just beginning to wonder if I would square the circle by spotting another freak on the return trip when we pulled into Avebury and a bunch of hippies were gathered drumming and stinking and awaiting the solstice after the weekend.
We had already noted the 7 Stars having spotted it and the sign of the plough down an alley a few months earlier. Then, the Hairy Bikers (Dave and Si) did a series on Britain’s Historic Pubs and gave a bit of the history of this one: seems that the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson allied himself with the publican using the house as a centre for anti-slavery political actions. Most importantly, it is a proper bourbon bar (rare in this land) and serves up a wide range of this nectar of the gods.
We took our beverages to the Jazz Corner and listened to the chatter of the regulars overlain with the spectacular musical picks of the hosts. The place smells a bit but it has a heart of gold.
We have not been disappointed by food in Bristol in years and a lot of it is down to getting the lunchtime set menus at places we otherwise couldn’t afford. At Aqua Italia, we got a bottle of wine then started sifting the primi and mains and I settled on a trout salad with watercress, walnuts, and horseradish sauce to start (truly spectacular). Then, I ploughed into my secondo of sea bass with chorizo, roasted potatoes, and black puddings when I realised that this technically qualified for the “fish and chips” count.
Sure, it is an insult to call it such since this was so much nicer than anything a sane man would call fish and chips. Apologies to the chef, and he is welcome to spit on my plate when I hasten back for another meal.
(Note: this post is a continuation of the 2014 Chippy Challenge, with all related entries linked to this map)
Jackie’s site visits took us to the University of Bristol the morning of Friday the 13th and left to my own devices for an hour I toured the campus then drifted into the Berkeley for nourishment. CAMRA promotes May as Mild Month and I usually don’t have a problem finding several on offer; but, alas, I settled for a not-so-mild-but-still-dark porter that I paid a pound more for just two days earlier (so this one tasted at least 25% better):
The house was overrun with lads from the building trade having group breakfasts. I don’t find the concept strange, per se, but it was after 10 am and I distinctly remember starting work around sunrise (or earlier) when I was a carpenter’s apprentice in 1979-81…these guys hadn’t even rolled into their job sites, yet. Fucking lay abouts (and not one of them was drinking a proper pint).
I’ve been popping these stickers in pubs where they will be found, eventually, and noted corrugation on the under-surface of my table. The photo shows some gum; the tables fold, so there’s no GOOD excuse not to clean them.
The thin, brindle-and-white pit-bull surprised me down in Stockwell by nipping at the hat I was carrying. The run had been fairly solitary to that point and I could easily have done without the company. But, she was eager to play and I thought if I killed a couple of minutes with her the owner would emerge. However, there was always the danger that she was just running free and now I would be stuck with her (which I was) as we ran together toward Wells Road. I figured I could always just return the way I came if we got that far.
At the busy road, a skinny, middle-aged guy whistled and she ran toward him. “Alright, Nadja? Who’s your friend?” I said my name and told him about the puppy encounter. “Piotr lets her roam. No worries…I’ll get her home. Fancy a pint?” Of course, and so the three of us wandered up to the Yeoman.
It’s a fizzy bar, full of lagers and carbonated ciders and as part of the Sizzling chain it is kind of a diner, as well (but no one was dining at 11 am). I had a Blackthorn which is sort of an industrial cider and we talked a bit about the neighbourhood and the Trump candidacy for President but soon, like everyone else in the place, started focusing silently inward.
I surveyed the crowd of 6 other punters at six other tables and realised they were all wiry, mean-looking little fuckers. “Is this a jockey bar?” I asked and my partner shot me a look that said in no uncertain terms that I should probably refrain from following up on that line of inquiry. That the hardened hoodlums in this area are also diminutive made me smile so broadly that my mouth felt like it was going to crack. “I really need to get back on the trail, anyway,” I said, downing the rest of the cider and giving our Nadja a quick cuddle.
The start and end of the run was in an industrial park but there was one fairly interesting piece of architecture…not for the structure but for its decorative conceits. Lindo makes fairly nice guitars and ample amplifiers so if you find yourself in Bristol with a few hundred quid burning a hole in your pocket and some fret callouses going soft, maybe you should stop in:
With a 10:30 flight, I was at the Bristol Airport at breakfast time. Or, with the 40 minute wait for food (note: there were only a half-dozen or so other customers), continue-to-fast time. I ordered a breakfast Fosters and watched as my flight was delayed by 40 minutes…poop.