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  • Writer's pictureSi Everitt


Welcome back to the second half.

To recap, it was 1-1 at half time after Kent snuck in a lucky late equaliser to cancel out Charnwood's early dominance. Both sides have made wholesale changes at the start of the second period, so let's get straight into the action.

Tankerton Arms, Tankerton v Felix Holt, Nuneaton

A good stride out from Whitstable train station, but not as bad as the Herne Bay to Beltinge walk, as we approach what I'd probably say was the largest and least intimate of today's North Kent six. That has its advantages because all of this forced super sociability / sharing tables with strangers can be a bit exhausting and overwhelming after a while. Not that it wasn't friendly, I bond effortlessly with the barman as my card is declined and I have to remember my PIN. Paying by cash would've been easier. I'd made a mental note in Beltinge that if I saw 'Tonbridge Old Chestnut' again, I'd order it. THAT Old Chestnut. I did, so I did. Glad my mouth kept my promise to my brain. But where the heck was Daddy BRAPA? He'd dashed off to the loo and been a while. Dodgy Kent beer? Alas no, he returns nipping his nose with a bloody tissue. He normally saves his nosebleeds for Catholic clubs so I can only assume this pub was built on haunted Catholic ground. Try as he might, he can't get it to stop. Poor lad! He says the contrast between cold air outside and warm air in causes it, I think alcohol is a factor too cos he only gets them on BRAPA days. Meanwhile, a nice bloke shouts over to me. He's seen my Royal Engineers 1875 FA Cup winners (you'll never sing that!) jersey and he's a Royal Engineer himself! I've had this top since 2005 and never had a comment before so this was great. Dad's wodged enough tissue up his nostril now that it finally stops. He necks his pint like a pro. Time to get ourselves back into Whitstable, via a bus to speed us up a bit.

Royal Engineer gang in background, Colin very happy, his pub of the day

A week later, pre-Coventry, we arrived in Nuneaton. A town which appears to be an curious hybrid of Brigg and Pontefract, but happier and more severely populated. Wetherspoons gets any ticking day off to a good start due to early opening hours, but what was this, a queue? Why always 'Spoons? It is a weird contradiction to me. 'Spoons are popularly (unfairly?) known for having a less salubrious clientele than most, and yet I associate the British art form of queuing as being particularly civilised. Used to queueing in Post Offices n Poundland, for JSA, tins of Fray Bentos? I'm being facetious now, probably. I love a Fray B. However, and this is a big HOWEVER, for I never thought I'd EVER say this, so listen carefully, the queuing system actually works! The reason for this is that the staff are controlling it, three of them spaced evenly along the bar shouting the next person to come forward. The reason I've never seen a pub queueing system work previously is that the punters take it upon themselves to form one, leaving the staff confused and exasperated like 'is this really necessary?' In this relatively tight 'Spoons (don't believe the GBG claims of it being massive) with breakfasts all around, it makes sense. Ok, so one Northern sounding bloke (hopefully not a fellow Tiger) hadn't read the script and had to be called back by his three more aware mates. Dad does well to grab a table in the raised area. The Oakham Bishop's Farewell drank well, after a shaky start adapting to it due to my morning coffee. There was no room to swing a cat, and if you tried, you'd take out about ten Full English breakfasts. The smell of fried eggs and greasy hash browns was all around. When a booth came free near us, a disbelieving old lady asked me if it really was available. 'Seems too good to be true doesn't it?' I tell her.

It remains 1-1.

I was edging Tankerton, I think it'd win this tie 80% of the time, but the nosebleed, plus how well the queue was managed in Nuneaton in trying circumstances, plus the quality on that Bishop's Farewell, means I simply can't separate them on the day. Let's keep going.

Twelve Taps (Whitstable) v Rose Inn (Nuneaton)

Another BRAPA first (to my knowledge) is a GBG pub deliberately having zero cask ale available. Twelve Taps it is called, and it does exactly what it says on the tin! Key-keg is acceptable to the CAMRA folk, something to do with the beer's ability to breathe or something. Problem is, when someone tries to beersplain to me, I get so bored, I yawn so hard that my ears pop, and suddenly I can hear a Meadow Pipit three fields away, and wander off to try and see it, totally losing my concentration on the beery matters at hand. But once you've got over the lack of cask, this is a great little place. Staff were lovely, a buzzy atmosphere dominates, and Daddy BRAPA and I both agree that despite the extra chill and fizz, this is still superior to much of the beer we've sampled today. So what's it all about eh? Having said that, I'd still choose cask (apart from maybe on one of those 30+ degree days where its rarely kept well).

I had a No.2 (so to speak)

And whilst we're on the subject of CAMRA, the Rose Inn was where the very first AGM was held back in 1972. The fantastic barmaid confesses that this is very much a lager drinkers pub when we note just the one handpump, Banks Amber, on. They simply can't shift the stuff. But as I say to her, much better to have one well-kept ale on than six poor ones. It took me until I was in my 40's to figure that one out! However, this Banksies isn't so great, and the whole place feels a bit tired and gloomy, despite our host pogoing around to her customised pop-punk playlist (Jimmy Eat World, Sum 41 etc.) which even Dad notes is 'accessible' to his ears. Speaking of which, my main moment of satisfaction in here is when I pull a long grey hair out of his ear! It was glimmering in the sunlight and annoying me. I took a photo but he doesn't want me to share it. One for the year end outtakes? All that remains to consider, would this pub really be in the GBG if the first CAMRA AGM hadn't been held here? I have my doubts.

Kentish Micro North End 2-1 Charnwood & Nuneaton Casuals

Yes, the pressure has been building and Kent deservedly goes in front. What a turnaround after the Midlanders were better in the first half.

Didn't think I'd be awarding a goal to a caskless pub, but it was a great place, combined with the fact the Rose was sadly a bit lame, meaning there's only one winner here. And now I think about it, the Tankerton really could've got a goal earlier.

Onto the final phase of the game, and a serious upturn in quality was upon us. Can Kent hold out, or will Nuneaton grab an equaliser?

Handsome Sam (Whitstable) v Lord Hop (Nuneaton)

Not enough pubs are named after dead cats. I've often thought that, tossing and turning in bed at night, and I'm sure you have too. Sam died in 2010, and four years later to the day, this pub opened. But even if you are of a dodgier doggier persuasion, you've got to love this place. Remembering his immediate post-retirement days as a magistrate / JP, Daddy BRAPA climbs up above these court like benches, a bit of friendly chatter with the couple next to us ensues, the nice landlord brings me a cracking Wantsum Mild, and looks sympathetic when I bang my knee on the bench corner. Dad is soon getting into his stride, looking down on the filthy commoners, declaring everyone in Whitstable "GUILTY!" Order, order. Otherwise, there's a gentle thrum of wellbeing about the place. It was my sixth and final pint so my faculties may not have been at their razor sharp finest, but I know a flippin' good pub when I'm in one, and this cat was certainly that.

And it was a similar story over in Nuneaton a week later. A bit of a miserable pub town I thought, but I'd say that out of the 4 GBG entries this is the only one fully deserving of its place (though to be fair the 'Spoons was decent). Lord Hop was the nickname of this unpopular lord of the manor who used to come into the town, get drunk and throw his weight around. When he died, he decided to haunt the town as a ghost so he could keep drinking in the pubs (something I've considered if I die before I've done the full GBG) before the local vicar finally exorcised his spirit into a glass bottle and put a cork in the top. The landlord was a top bloke despite the pre-match hubbub building, taking the time to ask if it was our first visit and generally be welcoming. The stout was great, and we both grabbed a cheese & onion roll (or cob or whatever nonsense term they use in Nuneaton) and rare for a micro, there's a large loungey upstairs area which we found solely inhabited by a Hull City fan whom we vaguely recognised. So we chatted to him about pressing issues like the Whalebone, then the place really filled up, like great pubs tend to do. Nuneaton joy at last!

Kentish Micro North End 3-2 Charnwood & Nuneaton Casuals

Full time, and Kent makes it two wins out of two despite a late flourish creating a goal for each side in that final section, such was the scintillating quality on display from both. Kent was really on the ropes early on so a fine come back, although Nuneaton generally struggled to match Charnwood's first half form.

Thanks for reading, and I'd love to say I'll see you in Reading (well Maidenhead), alas not because of train strikes, so join me over on Twitter tomorrow for a more localised Daddy BRAPA chauffeur day with a special guest or two joining us.

And I'll be back on Sunday or Monday where we'll pit eight pubs (Anker in Nuneaton, Greyhound at Sutton Stop and the six I do tomorrow) against each other in a knockout tournament slightly different but similar to this format.

Bye for now, Si

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