Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Prog Rises Again!

Well according to this article, it does. And who am I to argue with the Guardian?

I do like a bit of prog now and again, especially the unfashionable ELP who did get a bit tedious towards the end and who the punks regarded as boring old-farts before they themselves then disappeared up their own fundaments instead of just concentrating on the music.

Dutch rockers Focus - known for their strange yodelling and slightly avant-garde albums, have recently re-entered the charts after Hocus Pocus was selected for their Nike World Cup ad.

And of the new breed, my pick of the bunch is the mighty Mastodon whose last album, Crack the Skye, was a breathe of fresh air to my old ears - just check this out.

However the main reason for linking to this article is for the wonderful caption by Jiro Bevis that accompanies it:

As you can see it features a bevvy of stereotypical prog fans (some of them doubling up as CAMRA stereotypes too it would appear).

Can you spot me, dear reader?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

London Millers Treasure Hunt 2010

It's the middle of July and absolutely roasting hot so it must be about time for the London Millers Treasure Hunt.

Liz and I worked on this last year and this time around we enlisted the help of one of the other LMs, Chris, as he has an abundance of pub knowledge.

The task mainly involved wandering round north-east London to find pubs which had good beer but which also had items of interest that we could turn into questions.

Pickings were quite surprisingly slim - quite a few pubs with decent beer but too few had much of interest on the walls.

And some that did were just a bit too up their own arse - The Scolt Head in De Beauvior town being one example. They were not keen to let us sit drinking in their dining area - "it's for diners only" - but apparently it was OK for diners to sit and eat their food at the bar - wankers.

The Treasure Hunt started at the Wenlock Arms once the LM AGM in the upstairs function room has finished. Teams of two set out with maps, questions, a list of bus routes and a spring in their step.

Liz was happy to stay behind with the entry money and go get some prizes from the Pound shop in nearby Hoxton and then just sit in the pub reading her book. So easily pleased...

The first pub was in Hackney - the Globe in Morning Lane - which had Youngs beers. The landlord of the pub has a connection to Rotherham comedian, Sandy "Can You Hear Me Mother?" Powell, which is very appropriate.

(left) The Pembury Tavern

I never actually made it there as Argyle chum, Geoff, and I headed straight for the second pub, the Pembury Tavern.

We know this place very well and it always has an excellent range, especially from Milton Brewery.

It was here that the front runners caught up with us, found the answers to the clues and then wandered onto pub number 3. Very professional.

Meanwhile we just had another beer and waited for the stragglers to arrive and do their bit before we all followed Jenny & co. to the wilds of Stoke Newington via the 276 bus.

The pub here is the Daniel Defoe - quite a nice pub but with an average choice of beers, St Austell Tribute being the pick of the bunch.
(right) The Uncivil Civil Servant in the Jolly Butchers
Whilst the front-runners did their stuff and then headed off to the Angel for the remaining pubs, a number of us took a detour to the Jolly Butchers on the High Street.
This has recently been done up and whilst it has a good range of beers and ciders - Dark Star American IPA and Thornbridge Hopton the pick of the beers - it was bereft of clues which is why we couldn't include it in the treasure hunt.
The pub itself has a decidedly yummy mummy feel to it, quite reminiscent of the Greenwich Union which often resembled a creche.
It also serves pints in those heavy old dimple glasses which I regard as affectation (much like the Southampton Arms and we wonder if they are indeed connected).
It is at this point that some of those teams that are lagging behind - the usual suspects from south of the river - realise that they don't stand a hope of winning.
Wisely they decide to call it a day and simply enjoy the booze. So we savour a few more beers and then we take the 73 back to the Wenlock.
Those teams that nobly carried on with the quiz had the luxury of three pubs in a short stretch just south of the Angel.
Two of these pubs were on Arlington Street - the Shakespeare's Head and the Harlequin.
The Shakespeare's Head is a modern estate-style pub just a few yards from Sadlers Well theatre - in fact it is close to the stage door and s a result the walls are covered in posters and autographed photos. The beer is Courage Best and Directors which is no more than OK.
There are two Darlington connections as part of the questions - an autographed picture of Wendy Craig on the wall plus a newspaper mock-up to celebrate one of the regulars being a great grandad. His name? George Reynolds...
(left) The Harlequin

The Harlequin is just a short walk away - a small pretty pub which is also full of acting memorabilia but this is all much older, much of it concerned with Joseph Grimaldi who trod the boards in the 19th century.
The beer is again OK but nothing fantastic - Landlord and Black Sheep.
The Old Red Lion is the last port of call on the treasure hunt -a pub has been on this site for 595 years and the current incarnation incorporates a small theatre upstairs. Photos of many of the up-and-coming stars who started out here - such as local actress Kathy Burke - festoon the walls and made perfect clues.
It's quite a nice pub - five beers on offer usually with regulars including Harvey's Best, Landlord and London Pride and the odd guest. Chris Turner and I were here a year ago on one of our close-season rambles and the Landlord was about the best we'd had in London but in more recent visits though the beer hasn't been brilliant.
As well as answering questions, there were initiative and bonus rounds to sort out the winners from the losers.
These included finding the best mis-shapen vegetable or fruit during the crawl (a huge misshapen cassava) and coming up with the best celebrity story (which involved John Inman on the Edgware Road - you don't need to know anymore).
By 7:30pm or so, everyone was back at the Wenlock Arms - Liz totted up the scores and declared the winners to be Alice and Tess - champagne for them - with Jenny and Jim close behind in second place.
Katie and Robert, Liz's niece and brother respectively, were unable to take part fully as Rob took Katie off for a ride on the tube. They still got a classy prize though...
(right) Liz presents a prize to Robert and Katie

There were cheap runner-up prizes for all the other teams - piggy banks, gardening gloves and scented candles - so everyone was a winner on the day!
It goes without saying that the Wenlock Arms provided the best beer choice of the day so it is slightly worrying that the place is up for sale and there is talk of redeveloping this area.
Some beer folk regard the place as dirty and run-down and to a degree they're right but it is a pub where everyone is welcome and left alone to enjoy their beer or have a chat. Long may it continue to be so...

(above) Alice and Tess - winners of the 2010 London Millers Treasure Hunt thingy