Yet another international weekend meant only one thing. It was ground hop day again. I’ve got to say right now that I take a great but ultimately, inane pleasure in not telling my eldest sister where I’m going to be. My sis likes everything in order, and struggles with uncertainty. She’s always been like that and always will be. Because of the head surfing down the escalator incident, she’s kept a close eye on me. The fact that she really doesn’t need to, is beside the point. The upshot is, her anxiety spreads to needing to know exactly what’s going on in my life. I’m a free spirit. A maverick renegade of a person with a mischievous nature. Although I’m an open and honest soul, I still like to keep a little mystique about myself. It’s the loner in me. I will of course, tell everyone else where I’m going to be going, but my poor, long suffering sister has to put up with waiting until she gets to read my blog. So Chris, I went to Bromley. For once, I’d timed getting to the bus stop just perfectly. I only had a couple of minutes to wait. Instead, it was someone else who was having to run to catch it. She made it ok, and I let her board first. It wasn’t a big thing, but in my eyes, it would give her a little more time to recover. At that time in the morning, and it was early, the bus was entirely made up with passengers heading to work, and me, doing my thing. Saturday mind washing. It was an early train I was catching, and I didn’t need to rush. Touching down at Euston, I resisted the urge to walk at pace, I could relax. I had to get off at Moorgate due to engineering work. I was going to be walking from Bank to Monument underground anyway, instead, I walked overground to the Crosse Keys Wetherspoons. It wasn’t open, closed for refurbishment. That was two things that hadn’t gone right, I got the tube to Victoria and walked the short distance to Willow Walk Wetherspoons. Just as the barman poured my pint, the barrel went. That was three things that hadn’t gone right in a short space of time, surely I’d be ok for the rest of the day. The Willow Walk is in the GBG. It deserves to be. It’s not that big, and there’s no features that catch the eye, but as Wetherspoons go, it’s good. Victoria itself has a branch of Spoons inside the station, but from now on, I will be bypassing that to go to the Willow Walk instead. With getting to Victoria earlier than planned, I took an earlier service to South Bromley.
Getting an earlier train to Bromley turned out to be a good move. It also turns out that South Bromley was just in the Oyster card zone. I was glad I’d done my research. The first on my itinerary wasn’t open as advertised and was table service only. It was no great loss. The Partridge was to be the first place.
Of the bigger pub owning companies in London at the moment, Fuller’s seem to be the only ones who are bothering to maintain a good choice. Both Nicholson’s and Green King are a complete waste of time. The Railway Tavern was next. Bromley has two railway stations. The one I used, is the better South station. The pub was close to the lesser useful and therefore, lesser used North station.
The interior had been somewhat tastefully destroyed by some designer with a lump hammer. It worked, but after seeing the outside of the pub, I couldn’t help wondering how it would’ve been like before the frenzied lump hammer attack.
I did have to pick my jaw back off the floor when I was charged for my pint. Less than £4. I half expected it to come with a plate of chips as it had turned to vinegar, but it hadn’t. In fact, it was a decent pint. Bromley has a couple of micro pubs. The first, Lock and Barrel, is excellent. The other one, I will get to. Not as eclectic decor wise as some micro pubs, but the range of 4 cask ales was not only varied in styles, but varied in breweries. Other than the Kent Brewery, I hadn’t heard of the other three. If I hadn’t been going to the game, I’d have just stayed in there, and tried them all.
With any luck, you might be able to tell from the photos, that it doesn’t just sell well kept cask ale. I can’t see me going back to Bromley anytime soon, and that’s not because I didn’t like the place, but I definitely recommend dropping in on this little gem if you are thinking of going there for any reason. Heading back into the centre, I took in another GBG entry in the shape of the Star and Garter. Another pub that looks better from the outside. At some point in its life, the pub must’ve obviously been a disco/nite club type place. Like the Railway Tavern, it had been stripped back, but unlike the attempt made by an interior designer who was at least trying, this time, it was purely practical. The owner of the Star and Garter is definitely trying their best in what has been, and still are, trying times. There was a small range of cask ales, a small range of key keg, and a small range of both bottled and canned ale and craft beer. It gave the impression of a shop struggling with lack of stock and has spread goods out to make it appear like there’s more. It’s more of a valiant attempt than a forlorn attempt though. Unlike both Green King and Nicholson’s, who could and should be striving to provide a better service, the Star and Garter have been hit by the fallout from the virus. It’s not just been supply issues concerning the variety of beer itself, but also the CO2 issue too. They’ve been struggling with sourcing a product that is a vital component in the pub trade. I couldn’t help eavesdropping on a conversation the owner had with another customer. The company who produces CO2, are at the moment, directing their efforts on production of another gas that is needed for something else. Without actually saying exactly what and why it was, you didn’t need to be someone who could’ve made Steven Hawking look a bit dim. Can people in hospital just stop breathing please? There’s some of us who would like a beer. Of course I don’t mean that. The fight against Covid still goes on. However much I’m outspoken about it. It’s how it’s been handled, that I’ve got problems with.
It wasn’t just the beer that the pub was trying hard with, but the use of the fixtures and fittings too. A supporting steel girder had been covered with fridge magnets of all kinds. As I looked at all the different ones, I spotted both Fulham and Bournemouth emblems. Luckily, I spotted a Leyton Orient one to give it a little bit of personal balance. By that, I don’t mean I felt unsteady on my feet. (Don’t panic Sis, I wasn’t eyeing escalators with trepidation.) I don’t like either of the clubs that have benefited from Premier League parachute payments, but I do like Orient as they have to put up with being in the shadow of West Ham, and they have the best supporters club in the world, bar none. Time was knocking on and I still wanted to take in two more pubs and get a ticket for the game. Luckily for me, both were on each other’s doorstep. I decided to go in The Bricklayer’s first. First of all, it’s a Shepherd Neame place, and because of that, I pretty much knew what I was getting. What I should’ve done, was go in the place next door first. With time running out, I was limited to halves, and that’s what I had in the Bricklayer’s. The pub was full of fans going to the game, including a couple of Torquay fans. I hadn’t actually seen any Torquay fans around the town before then, so the flash of yellow came as a bit of a surprise to be honest. My half drunk, I went next door to the micro pub. After Lock and Barrel, I really wanted to do this place. I’ve got to say now, I’ve never been so disappointed with a micro pub in my life. I wish I’d had a pint in the Bricklayer’s. In the micro pub, they had Timothy Taylor Landlord, St Austell’s Proper Job, and……..wait for it………Doombar. I kid you not. I walked straight back out. I was so disgusted that I’m not even going to give the place its name. If I could name it, I’d call it something like, ‘Move along, nothing to drink’ It came as a stark contrast to Lock and Barrel. Micro pub? Yoo avin a larf? Jeeeeeez, I’ve gone all Cockney. There’s being funny, and there’s talking fanny. Although the review had been written pre-Covid, the entry for Bromley on Football Grounds Guide, had stated that they served real ale. I crossed my fingers that it was still the case.
It wasn’t. They did have beer on key keg though, so I had one. That was after I’d noticed that the game was being televised by someone, I assume BT. As I walked past a banner that took my eye.
I saw that the presenter was talking to his three guests. One I recognised as Grant Holt. I preceded to take the usual sort of photos as I walked round to find a decent view point.
It’s quite a compact little ground to be fair to Bromley, and to be fair to Torquay, there was a sizeable travelling support. They had swelled the crowd to a healthy 2,523. Not that it matters to me in the slightest, as I only need a free Saturday to go ground hopping somewhere anyway, but it was actually designated a Non-League day. I couldn’t tell you how many fans make use of an international weekend and go and watch a local Non-League game, but it does seem that plenty do. It certainly beats doing DIY chores round the house. I settled down to watch the game. Although they could’ve easily have worn their first choice colours of yellow, instead, Torquay were wearing a garish kit of a messy greeny blue shade. I remember the colour as a kid, being classed as turquoise blue. Somewhere between me being at school, (I’m telling you honestly, I really did attend. I may not have learned much when I was there, but I definitely did turn up.) and the present day, someone came up with the word teal. It’s still a horrible colour, but at least it’s easier to spell. All I’m going to say, is whoever believes it’s a great colour for a football kit, has never played football or hates the game so much, it’s their way of playing a practical joke on the people who do love the game. Please, if there’s any kit designers reading this, then stick to colours that don’t have people reaching for something sharp to cut their eyes out with. I suppose I shouldn’t be moaning, at least it wasn’t pink. I’m digressing, as I very often do. Onto the game itself. As games go, it wasn’t terrible. It was on a 3G pitch, but in all honesty, it doesn’t make too much difference. It’s not like its older siblings. (Don’t worry Sis, I’m not going to say something like, the younger brother being so much better.) A 3G pitch isn’t the advantage that the old artificial ones used to be. It’s really only highlighted and moaned about by, losing managers and players. Torquay were playing the slightly better, and looked the more comfortable on the ball. It was almost against the run of play, that Bromley opened the scoring. A good cross was emphatically buried. Bad marking is bad marking, whatever the surface. I’m not sure the header would’ve been as powerfully dispatched, had the game been played on the beach in Devon, but the Bromley lad would’ve still got in front of the nearest Torquay player. There was of course, a response from the away team, but it wasn’t as dominant as they would’ve liked. Again, the second was probably against the run of play. It was definitely poor marking again. To sum up the first half. The second best team were first when it came to finishing. The traditional Non-League habit of fans changing ends at halftime, was honoured. Though there’s seating behind the one goal at Bromley, they still try to get as close to the opposition goal as they can. I’d been able to sit on the terracing with my back to a supporting post. I hauled myself to my feet, so I could get a better view. I’d like to say that the losing side came out with all guns blazing. They didn’t. I’d like to say that the ex-league side completely dominated the second half. They didn’t. I’d like to say that it was a proper ‘backs to the wall’, rearguard performance from the home side. It wasn’t. I’d like to say that Bromley picked off Torquay with some excellent counter attacking football, and increased their lead even further. They didn’t. There wasn’t any of what you would’ve expected. So what did happen then? Come on, don’t keep us in suspense. Ok, ok hold your horses……Not a lot, if I’m being honest. It was a slow burner and even now, it’s probably still only simmering on a low heat. Torquay did exert a bit more pressure on Bromley, and they did get the ball in the net. It was ruled out. Would it have made any difference, had it been scored? Well I can’t say for definite that it would have. I’m not saying the game was really boring, but I’d watched better. I have though, watched worse. I’ve had conversations about ground hopping with my brother. He doesn’t see the point. I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy the game, but on this game alone, I can understand why he’s got that view point. Next Saturday, it’s a different competition, another two different teams, a different ground, and a different place. It could be an even worse game, but it could also be better. That’s the beauty of ground hopping, it’s the excitement of expectation balanced with the unfolding events of the day. (And no Sis, I’m not telling you where that game is.)
Walking back into town, a group of away fans were walking back to the station. It was by no means violent, but a group of Bromley counterparts, noted the replica shirts and targeted the Torquay lot. Pointing out with a chant, that it been a waste of petrol. It was obviously in reference to the distance the Torquay fans had had to travel to watch their team lose, coupled with the fuel crisis enveloping the South East. Walking next to one downcast Torquay lad, I reminded him that he’d still be watching his Torquay next week, whereas the Bromley lads would be back to ‘following’ their Premier League London team, from either their armchairs, or following ‘their’ game on the TV in the pub. I honestly don’t care who you support, just as long as you have enough about you, to travel to watch the club of your choice, home and away. I have much more respect for someone who actually attends games on a regular basis, than I will ever have for people who maintain they’re fans but never ever go. I could rant on and on forever about it. Don’t panic, I’m not going to. All I’m going to say. Even if your club is rock bottom of whatever league they’re in, but you’ve been to 90% of the games they’ve played, regardless of where it was, then push your chest out, hold your head up high, and be proud of yourself. If you’ve only ever seen ‘your’ club play once, and it was a birthday surprise, or you went with a friend of the opposition, and you were in the wrong end, then it really doesn’t matter how many trophies that club’s won and how good they are, take your replica shirt off and throw it in the bin, because you’re a disgrace. Hang your head in shame. You have no right at all to claim you support that club. You’re a fraud. Getting back to Victoria, it took an age to get through the barriers for the underground. Once I’d got down to the right platform for where I wanted to go I could understand why. They were basically trying to squeeze as many passengers on the train as they could. Several people had decided against it. Maybe had I not been on my own, I wouldn’t have attempted to squeeze on. Thankfully, I’m not the biggest of blokes. Sometimes, being a ‘shrimp’ is beneficial. It still took awhile for the doors to close, amongst announcements over the PA system of ‘plenty of space, move along the platform’ I doubt very much that there was, unless you were even smaller than me. Tom Thumb may have been ok, but nobody else. As the doors shut, I made a couple of women who had decided to wait for the next train, laugh by pushing my face and hands up against the glass, and pretending to be squashed. I wasn’t of course, and grinned at them afterwards. I made it to Leicester Square and went to my favourite pub in the centre of London, The Harp. Yeah yeah. Long term sufferers of this blog will be looking at this and think ‘boring’, but I love the Harp, and for me, there’s no better place in London on a Saturday night to ‘people watch’. I’m not going to remind you it’s a Fuller’s place, and it’s always got a great range of ales. I’m certainly not bothering to take anymore photos. Either read some of my other posts, or just go there yourself. In fact, don’t bother reading any of the rubbish I’ve written, just go there and see for yourself, if you haven’t already, and if you have been there yourself, then you’ll know exactly what I mean about the place. I’d got designs of doing the Harp, head up to King’s Cross and the Parcel Yard, walk down to the Doric Arch, and finish up at The Euston Tap. The Harp is too good. I’d got myself settled. Almost too settled. I managed to peel myself away, and headed to the Euston Tap. Yeah yeah, ya boo sucks. Boring. What can I say? I like the Euston Tap. So sue me. Had the Bree Louise still been open, I would’ve finished up there. Now that was a pub I really loved. As I stood at a table outside, I watched the flotsam and jetsome of the world go by, (Homelessness and begging is without doubt, growing. That’s not a criticism of any government in this country in particular, just an observation.) I have a certain sympathy with the homeless and their plight, but with being paid as little as I am, there really isn’t any help I can give. Would I if I was to come into some serious money? Yes. Absolutely yes. I couldn’t say he was either flotsam or jetsome. At first, I thought he was going to ask for money when he joined me, but I was joined by a bloke who was either on some synthetic drug of some kind, or just a natural adrenaline rush. Either way, he was full on hyper. Me being me, instead of being intimidated, I did the usual psychology to work him out and calm him down a couple of notches. As he’d been to a party, it was obvious it was drugs, and he was on the comedown. Talking to him though, it did appear there was a natural high in there somewhere too. Everything in his life was going right, and he was happy. I think he just wanted to share it. I remember when my lad had just been born, a brillo pad wouldn’t have wiped the silly grin off my face. I felt a compulsion to explain to everyone I met, why I was smiling inanely. I left him to his contentment and happiness, to grab something to eat for the train home. I settled on a cornish pasty. The trouble was, the pastry on the pasty, had been cremated. It had lost its taste and disintegrated with every bite. Halfway through, I gave up and left the rest. Earphones in, I drifted off to sleep. It had been a 7 out of 10 day. I’ve now got a double game weekend to look forward to. Guess what Sis, not telling you where.