Having travelled down to and back from London with Avanti the last few times, this time it was on the Chiltern line. Knowing about the London Underground strikes, my itinerary had been compiled around them. Touching down at Marylebone, I headed for the Met Bar with the intention of having breakfast. Unfortunately, not only was there a reduced breakfast menu, but I found myself having to return the first pint of the day. It had turned to vinegar. Not a good start. I made do with a bacon sarnie, before heading down to Charing Cross on the Underground. At least my choice of replacement pint had been ok. Getting off, I ventured into a dreary Theatreland. Even with doing even more extensive research than usual for my itineraries, I’m having difficulties with ale trailing. I’m not only fed up of having to write on here that a place is shut when it’s supposed to be open, but physically turning up to find pubs shut, fills me with an angry disappointment. Why oh why can’t things just go back to being normal again? Guess what? First on the itinerary was shut. Thankfully, The Cross Keys was open, but only had Darkstar Hophead on.
“They even had a deep sea diving helmet that the French government want their unvaccinated to wear”
I went back to the pub that hadn’t been open, and lo and behold, it had been due to positive Covid tests. Apparently, they were fine, they’d just tested positive. The Coach and Horses isn’t an Irish bar, but you wouldn’t know it.
On the way back to Charing Cross, I took a quick look in the Underground museum shop. I was so impressed, that I’m going to go back in there again at some point in the future. I might even get to go round the museum itself. Obviously that’s Coronavirus variant dependant of course. I got the overground to Welling. Arriving, thinking I’d put my hat in my pocket, I went to get it out and put it on when I got off. However, I was to discover I’d stupidly left it on the train. If I didn’t know I would’ve fallen in a heap in one of the puddles that were forming because of the rain, I’d have kicked myself. I’d only got two on my itinerary for Welling. Both micro’s. The closest to the station was Hangar, a place that was trying its best to be a bit posh. It did though, have beers from a local microbrewery and the one I had was excellent. Now Door Hinge, was more my style.
Apparently, Door Hinge was the first micro pub to open its doors within the M25. Thankfully, it’s not been the last. Pub wise, Door Hinge was to be the best of the day. Beer wise, it was to be the best too.
I just wish either the weather had been better, or dry at least, or Welling’s ground had covered terracing. At least the game was on. Jinksy had travelled up to Greater Manchester with the idea of going to Boundary Park, to watch Oldham Athletic. The game had been called off late, and as an alternative, had hastily rescheduled to Curzon Ashton instead.
Sometimes, being a Blues season ticket holder has strange benefits. Welling United has a scheme that if you hold a valid season ticket for a League club and produce it at entry, you are able to claim a discount on your admittance. £3 is quite a discount, and certainly not to be sniffed at. Even if it was kind of embarrassing with having to admit to being a Birmingham City supporter. I really would’ve liked to have stood up to watch the game, but as the rain was pelting it down, and there really wasn’t any cover, I sat in one of the stands. There didn’t seem to be anywhere or anyone to pay for entry into the stand, so just found somewhere and sat down. Fully expecting someone to come up and ask for some money, I was ready. I stayed ready all game. I was never asked. The game itself started really slowly. Welling had a chance, which they missed. St Albans went straight up the other end, and took the lead. Welling took their time in replying, but they equalised. With only 85 minutes left of the game to go, it was 1:1. The game was to be a total slugfest from start to finish. Although with the rain sporadically switching from downpour to cloud burst and a pitch that had been heavily sanded and resembling a beach with the tide coming in, the ball spent very little time in the air. There was the usual gutsy manner that Non-League is played, but both sides displayed a desire to pass to a player in the same colour shirt, instead of just kicking it as hard as they could. It even made no odds that both teams colours were turning various shades of brown, the longer the game went on. By the end, it was difficult to tell who was who. It took both sides another 25 minutes to add to their respective scores. The only difference, was this time Welling took the lead, and then a minute later, St Albans equalised. Given the chances, it could’ve easily have been 4:4 by that point. Even with the rain, it looked a brilliant game to be playing in. In fact, although it was a ridiculously long time ago, I used to love playing in the rain and mud more than I did when the pitch was dry as a bone, and the weather was too. Halftime 2:2. The trouble with sitting outside, soaking wet, is that you grow cold. Oh how I cursed myself for leaving my hat on the train. There’s no real ale in the social club at Welling, but I still went in there to try and warm up. I pretended to watch the halftime scores on the television in there. In all honesty, I don’t think I was the only one in there using that ruse. Second half, and I went back to take my place in the stand. Surely now I would be asked for some money. Nope. The second half was exactly the same as the first but had less goals. Back to when I was a kid, I played in a lot of 17 a-side games up the park in the summer that finished 21:20. 21:20 also seemed to be the time we couldn’t see anymore and one of the older lads would shout “Next goal’s the winner!” I really don’t know how there wasn’t anymore goals in the second half, but there was only one, and it went to the away team. In truth, I was quite happy it went to St Albans. It’s not that I’d taken a dislike to Welling, and it wasn’t that I’d taken a shine to St Albans either, I was just happy it had gone to the away team. Welling is a linear town, for those who don’t know what that is, it means it’s a one road place. Welling United’s ground is at the one end of it, the train station is at the other. The ground is so close to that main road, that I felt compelled to take photos to demonstrate.
If getting to Leamington’s ground had been a nightmare, getting to Welling United’s was really easy in comparison. Getting back to the station was obviously just as easy, and I was able to get the train I wanted, back to Charing Cross, along with a bunch of quite entertaining and happy St Albans fans. Getting back onto the Underground, I returned to Baker Street. I hadn’t been in The Globe opposite the Met Bar, for several years now. At one point it lay empty, but had since been bought and reopened by Green King. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Why do it to yourself?’ But like I said, it had been several years, so indulge me. Ok ok, it was rubbish. The pint was so bad, I left it. Now this will make you either laugh out loud, or completely shock you. Hey, it might even do both. I decided to go in the Allsop Arms. Yeah yeah, I know, another Green King establishment. The thing is, in my defence, I pretty much know it’s going to be ok in there, and I’m on safe ground. Admittedly, there wasn’t the usual pre-Covid choice, but what they have got, is always well kept. Beer quality is always top of any ale trailers criteria anyway. Yep, the beer was up to its usual quality and I was able to end the day out in London well. The journey back to Brum was one of earphones jammed in and sleep. Oh, and Blues? Well they lost to League One Plymouth 1:0 at home in the 3rd round of the F.A.Cup.