14 Mo-Vember 2009 (Saturday) - Rye Bonfire Parade

The plan was to have a lie-in this morning as I wasn’t going to work, and the vicar doesn’t clang his bell on Saturdays. Trouble is, the longer I lay in bed, the more my back hurts, so I was up and about and checking emails by 8.30.

Several hundred emails – mostly all spam. One of the few that wasn’t delivered photos from a session that the astro club did last night with a scout group in Folkestone. They’ve done quite a few of those lately. Bearing in mind my rant from Thursday night, I can’t help but think that if this is the direction in which the astro club is going, I think I probably did the right thing in taking more of a back seat with the thing. I’m not saying that doing these presentations is bad – far from it. But it’s just not “me” any more.

Norman Stanley” phoned this morning – he’s managed to lacerate the top of his thumb with a plastic knife. Silly beggar. I suppose that’s his lame excuse to get out of the next basketball game. He also said that whilst he likes puzzle books, he’s not keen on word-searches. I wonder if that’s a tactful way of saying he’s fed up with the impossible crosswords I send him?

To the petrol station to get petrol and some cash. My card again didn’t work in the cashpoints at both Tescos or the one in the co-op. I drove to town to swear at the bank, but couldn’t park anywhere. So I went home to phone the bank to swear at them. Having gone all through the automated fiddle-around, I was just about to get through to someone when I realised I’d been using a card that expired three months ago. Woops. So back to Tesco’s to get some cash. Beer doesn’t buy itself, you know…

And so to Rye for the bonfire parade. The day had so far been an endless succession of phone calls from people backing out of the event. And as we set off, it has to be said that the weather could have been a tad better. However, faint heart ne’er won fair lady. And idiot enthusiasm always triumphs over common sense. It’s rained before – all I had to do was wear a coat. Right?

As it turned out, despite the dire weather of the morning, I didn’t actually need my coat. There was a bit of a torrential downpour whilst we were at the station, but we were under cover. The train was a bit delayed. Apparently there were trees on the line somewhere near Maidstone which was having a knock-on effect, but Brian and I arrived in Rye at 4pm, and started our impromptu pub crawl whilst waiting for everyone else to arrive.

One of the things I like about being a roving reporter for Beer in the Evening is going back to pubs to see if they have changed over time. I see from previous blog entries that it’s a couple of years since I last did a Rye-based pub crawl. So my reviews we out of date, and therefore what might have been mistaken for a booze-up was actually justifiable research.

We made our way to the Pipemakers Arms, which two years ago I rated as 6/10 (average). It’s gone downhill. Whilst we were not made unwelcome, it is clearly a “locals” pub, and the landlord doesn’t seem to actually have the ability to speak. At all. Which wasn’t overly welcoming. We stayed long enough for the rain shower to pass, and chatted with one of the locals about his drink of lager & light ale (never seen that one before) before moving on, having scored it 4/10 – could do better.

We moved up to the Standard which was just round the corner. Oh, the rain had chucked it down whilst we were in the Pipemakers. But we were dry, and that was the last shower of the day. The Standard is somewhere I’ve always included on my Rye pub crawls. Whilst on my last visit, I branded them as average. This time I’m going to knock them up to 7/10, if only for the fact that they (usually) have an obscure ale on, and that the epically bosomed young ladies behind the bar don’t do much to conceal their ample charms. We downed a pint of “Chilly Willy” whilst chatting to a pirate who was selling programmes for the event, and to two ex-locals who now live in Somerset and were back for the festivities. For all that Rye is a very picturesque town, it’s seriously lacking a decent pub, and I think it’s probably fair to say that the Standard is (currently) the best pub Rye has. Were it not for the fact that the high street is rather narrow, we would have stayed at the Standard for the procession, but with the second pint downed, it was time to move on.

We trudged up the hill with (I must admit) heavy hearts. My mobile was on overload with texts from friends and family crying off because of the foul weather. Which was such a shame because the weather was actually fine for the evening. We stopped some passing coppers and checked that we’d be alright to have a beer in the street later, and twenty yards later saw us in the Bell. Rye’s oldest pub (over five hundred years old). This was once a good pub with a selection of ales, but on my last visits, they’d just had London Pride and Harveys. Dull. Another chap on Beer in the Evening described the place as having “a feel like the parents had gone away and left their son in charge”. I must agree with that sentiment. It did come over as something of a “youth club”. (6/10 – average). We downed a pint of London Pride, which wasn’t bad, but was the worst pint of the day. And we admired a strange fellow in a leather kilt whist waiting for the rest of our group to arrive with the chips for tea.

And then up to the Union Inn. Which I’ve raved about in the past, but in all honesty isn’t all that I crack it up to be. They had a couple of barrels of ale on the counter (Jennings Cumberland and Harvey’s Best) and we settled down for the evening. To be honest we use this pub because of it’s location, rather than anything else. It’s just up the hill from one of the widest parts of the procession route, and so makes for good viewing. Whilst here we got a text from Steve who’d made his way to the Bell to meet us, and was wondering where we were. And a text from a colleague who was actually in the pub and couldn’t find us.

Although our group was considerably smaller than it has been in previous years, by the time a load of friendly bonfire boys and a drunken rabble of ex-cub scouts arrived there were over a dozen of us. Having shouted at the procession and done the obligatory cigar, we then moved over to the Ypres Castle for some more beer. Despite having the best ale selection in Rye, from the reviews I’ve read of the place this pub seems to be suffering from a bad landlord. Whilst I didn’t see the chap myself, the place didn’t seem anywhere near as busy as you’d expect it to be on bonfire parade night. I spent a pleasant half an hour in the garden with the bonfire boys. They declared me to be an “enemy of bonfire” and blew up my flashing rabbit ears. Great fun. All too soon it was time to get on a very crowded train to go home.

Checking my photos I see I’ve got a wonderful photo to put on CrackWatch.

Same time next year …..

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