The Central Manchester Slow Pub Crawl - Day 9
Day 9 - Monday 28th April 2003 (Map)
Pub 62 - The Jolly Angler (Ducie Street/Pigeon Street)
Small, smoky place, which is hushed save for a TV up in the top right corner behind the bar, broadcasting the Beeb, as four locals sit in reasonably stony silence. We stand awkwardly by a dilapidated jukebox as two pints of Castlemaine XXXX are slowly poured (which seems to be everywhere at the moment, as the new Heineken is being relaunched after a brief hiatus). We hand over the required £4.20 (well, spaceman does) and we move over to some seats in the opposite corner, by the front window, and slowly the locals begin to chat (not to us, though) as, presumably, the alcoholic beverages begin to loosen their tongues (but hopefully not minds).
We had tried the White House first but it was shut, the sign in the door telling us that it doesn't open until 8pm most nights, seemingly just to bugger up our carefully laid out plans. They so are (buggering up our plans). Barney spotted, with glee, the appearance of a pigeon outside the pub. On Pigeon Street. A pigeon. On Pigeon Street. Do you see? (Yes, we do barney.) As is customary, barney launches into pint and chat with gusto as spaceman nods and scribbles rapidly. Barney points out that the pool table, bizarrely, is at an angle to its surrounding walls, but at the same angle as the overhanging light. It looks a bit stupid, but appears to be in order to avoid cue obstacles (a doorway, and a central pillar thingy).
We decline the pool, however, 'cos we'd like a sit down after all that walking around trying to find a pub that's open, thank you very much. This is actually barney's local but it's the first time either of us have been here, barney having "walked past" once or twice. Barney reaches past spaceman and lovingly feels the curtains, which may or may not be made of human skin (they're browny-pink, if that's possible). "Suede" says barney, though, spoiling things somewhat.
Spaceman confesses to having had a piece of toast while at home before coming out. Not exactly protocol but the last meal spaceman had consumed was an early lunch at noon. Barney tuts loudly and points at spaceman as if to say that a small piece of toast (and two grapes) is just as bad a crime as an omelette and two pieces of bread. (See Day 6, pub 46.) We discuss at length the possibilities for further pub crawl routes. Earlier, on email, we brought up the idea of having an all-dayer to nail Canal Street (um, so to speak) and the surrounding area. If we live to tell the tale, we'll be proud...
Pub 63 - The Crown and Anchor (Port Street/Hilton Street)
We find out that, to our mild dismay, Cuba Café is also shut and a sign on the door says that it is for "members only" (which may discount it from our list - see the Rules of Engagement). Whether this is just to put people off or not, we cannot find out. Not yet, anyway. Apparently this place has topless dancing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights (so says barney, the dirty old man). So, anyway, we continue onwards on our (once more hastily redrawn) path, which takes us next to the Crown and Anchor. Two pints of Heineken substitute, Castlemaine XXXX, again for £4.20.
Very spacious pub, with relatively few people in. (Certainly, the Jolly Angler had a much higher person-per-square-foot ratio.) We see the corner of a pool table in a room to the far right, past a jukebox, and we decide to play this time. It's quiet in here, until a girl makes a break for the jukebox and suddenly the place starts vibrating with the loud bass of a Manics song (which spaceman correctly guesses as Motorcycle Emptiness). Then the Stone Roses come on, with I Am The Resurrection. Sheer class. This then prompts spaceman to say how good it would be to have this song's bassline as a mobile phone ring. Spaceman sneaks the first frame with a bit of a comeback.
We have a whole room to ourselves and the pool games cost a mere 50 English pence. Life can be good, can't it? Barney draws the frame score level with another comeback before spaceman nails the third and dashes to the toilets. A faded memory precludes any useful description. "Urinal?" prompts barney, gently. As Blue Monday by New Order comes on, spaceman starts dancing ridiculously, cue in both hands, by the window (the street, luckily, is deserted). Ah, the heady heights of a 2-1 frame lead and one and a half pints of weak-ish lager. Barney, however concentrates on the game.
In between shots, barney notices small shakily sketched portraits on the wall, rather bizarrely entitled "Manly Games and Exercises". The first covers golf and is entitled "Driving", while the second two depict snooker with the taglines "The position" (oo-er, missus) and "Using the rest". Doh! Barney squares the match at 2-2 while Badly Drawn Boy plays on the jukebox. We drain the rest of our pints and head out the door, bidding the barman a cheery goodbye...
Pub 64 - Wetherspoon's (Piccadilly Gardens)
A journey back onto Oldham Street and we find out that the Late Lounge, which we missed out last time, is shut tonight. A man behind the bar shakes his head vigorously when we mouth "are you open?". The same goes for Fridays In The City, which doesn't look promising. So we settle for Wetherspoon's on Piccadilly Gardens. where two pints of Fosters cost £3.78. It's not on the special offer drinks list, but it's still cheaper and weaker (and less tasty) than Kronenbourg (which is £1.99 a pint).
Barney hasn't been here before either, but spaceman has a few times. Typical Wetherspoon's pub, i.e. cheap drinks, no music, just the happy chatter of smoking alcoholics, or is it drinking smokaholics. It's a large pub, made up of one long room. There are plenty of fruit machines and quiz machines, and Curry Club is on Thursday nights (dammit, we've missed it again!). However, we consider Spice as a tempting alternative. We finish our beers and move along the road to...
Pub 65 - Piccadilly Tavern (Piccadilly)
This place is big. Very big. Vast in fact, and deceptively so. Spaceman dashes immediately to the toilets, which are spacious, if a little heavy with graffiti. One particular favourite was "Mo Mowlam loves C3P0", a bizarre accusation if ever there was one. We settle down on relatively comfy chairs near a pool table, which proves unplayable (due to a lack of cues) without consulting the bar staff, which neither of us are prepared to do. What could be a jukebox blasts out "classic" tunes, i.e. old, crap ones.
We're still reeling at the price of the beers, as barney takes advantage of the 'Monday Club' - Carling, Tennents, Worthies, Reef, Becks and Pepsi draught all 99p each - with the round costing a mere £1.98, equalling the record held by Brook's. Another deal is £3.95 for a pint and a cheeseburger. This probably makes the cheeseburger quite bad value on a Monday night. Some jokers start playing pool, god knows how, to barney's raised eyebrows, and we leave in mock disgust...
Pub 66 - The Brunswick (Piccadilly)
This time the Beer Keller was shut, so not a good night overall. This place used to be called Finnegan's Wake, which barney remembers as dark and dingy, but spaceman quite liked it. The Brunswick seems alright but spaceman can't help feeling that its been a bit sterilised - it's like a clean-looking Wetherspoon's pub. The old place had a bit of (Irish) character. Standard fare food and beer on offer but is in a "different league to Wetherspoon's" says barney. Not sure what we had to drink here (notes are sketchy).
We spend most of our short visit here playing 'Pharoah's Treasure'. We manage to win a few quid, but as always only after putting in a few more. The naff touch screen doesn't help (not quite a 'touch' screen, more a 'rub and thump incessantly before anything happens' screen). The desire for a curry has passed a little, as we discuss the possibility of late night bacon sarnies at barney's gaff. Whilst at the quiz machine, barney steps back and sort of stumbles down a short flight of stairs, much to spaceman's amusement. A touch embarrassed, barney blames it on spaceman having said "something gay". After all this hilarity, we decide to try one last place (it is a Monday night, after all)...
Pub 67 - The Waldorf (Gore Street/Roby Street)
So this is our last place before barney's delicatessen and it's a familiar place, for barney anyway. Spaceman takes a while to get some bearings (possibly because an alternate entrance was used) but realises quickly of having had a few lunches here (which are good value). Two pints of Castlemaine (our official sponsor of the night) set us back £4,20 - it's all standardised, says barney.
Spaceman, weak-bladdered this night, disappears for another toilet visit, the 3rd of the night, as 'Iron Bladder' barney resists a first visit until spaceman has returned (thank god). Suitably relieved, we settle down in a corner and take in the surroundings. It's quite a cosy, little place, hidden off Piccadilly Gardens, towards Canal Street (quite near the tram route), as a TV blares out Channel 4 in the background. Our appetite gets the better of us as we hurriedly finish our beers and head for the local Spar to get some extra provisions. Fantastic bacon and Lancashire cheese sandwiches (a very much under-rated combination) follow...