Sunday, 15 July 2007

Chelmsford, birthplace of radio

Good news everybody... we're back! But don't get too excited, as we're probably about to go away again on holiday. But do get excited, because we could well be about to embrace the technology of three years ago, and venture into podcasting! Mr Wilson has a new mp3 recordery thing, and I vaguely remember recording some ramblings outside a pub late last night. If we can record another bit at the ASRA student radio old farts event on Thursday, we might hack something together and put it out on the interweb.

In the meantime, Chelmsford has provided us with two rather fine drinking events recently. The first was the Cathedral Festival. Cathedrals and beer don't - to the best of my knowledge - generally go together. But these are enlightened times, and the refreshment marquee was open to all and stocked some fine ales, including one brewed specially for the occasion, called Celebrate Chelmsford (more of this later!).

The nice location, on the back of the Chapter House lawn, the marquee and the well-dressed people attending the events, made it feel liked you'd crashed someone's wedding. But nothing beats drinking outside on a summer's evening and this was a nice opportunity.

And then came the Chelmsford CAMRA beer festival. I was expecting one tent and a couple of trestle tables. But no, this was a big 'un, taking over a whole field, with long marquees on three sides and catering trucks and toilets on the fourth, forming a square in the middle for sitting in. If one of the bar staff is to be believed, they sold 10,000 pints on Friday - which given that only 60,000 people live in the town of Chelmsford, means some of them were very thirsty!

I got the impression they were a bit overwhelmed at times, which made me feel even more guilty about not having supported my local CAMRA branch and volunteered to do my bit behind the bars. But overall, it was a great day, with good weather, and what beers remained - many of the bars (and even the pickled egg stall) had sold out - were excellent. Particular mentions go to the Farmer's Ales (Maldon) A Drop of Nelson's Blood, which has brandy in it, and the very fruity Felstar Celebrate Chelmsford, while the Brentwood Chockwork Orange (6.5%) had lots of chocolate but not much orange.

Somehow afterwards, we ended up trying three Chelmsford pubs I hadn't been in before. The Rockin' Bay Tree on Moulsham Street, was, er, rocky. I wasn't really wearing enough black and/or eyeliner to be truly accepted in there. The Railway Tavern, which I'd never been in despite walking past it twice a day was nice, if quiet - but sadly the Black Sheep Bitter had just run out. And the White Horse on Townfield Street, which has a good reputation for ales, had a friendly enough welcome for what looks like quite a locals pub, but we ended up having a final pint of mild as there weren't any interesting ales left.

Next it's three beer festivals in one, as Clacton overlaps with both The Viper at Brentwood and the Queens Head, Burnham on Crouch. Hope it's sunny! Meanwhile, the alternative is the "Gentleman's Evening" at Chelmsford City FC, with not one, but two lovely girls!

Parsons Green revisited

When we were young and foolish - before we realised that no self-respecting sloane would have any interest in the likes of us - Garders and I used to occasionally venture down the District line to Parsons Green. Not because the pubs were any good, or that they had an excellent range of real ale (I was a lager boy back then) but because it was rammed with posh totty. There was even a late bar, called Crocs, which had a dreadful covers band, including a man who played one of those keyboards that you blew into that were big in the late 80s (even though this was the early 90s!).

Nowadays, I venture to Parsons Green only when the Ofcom Summer Event (it's NOT a party, for tax reasons!) is held at the Hurlingham Club. And after making our excuses at the end of the staff X-Factor talent competition (I couldn't make this stuff up)

Jon and I ventured out in search of a further pint or two. Our first stop was Aragon House. I guess this is a proper public house, being er, like a country house - well, a country house with big screens showing sport. It's hidden behind a black door in a pretty anonymous but smart house.

I think it was probably because it was a Monday night, but this place wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped - it felt a bit empty and soul-less; and a bit caught half-way between the country house atmosphere, with nice leather chairs, and those big screens making it feel like a sports bar - and therefore not doing either terribly well.

So we wandered across the green to the Sloaney Pony, otherwise known as the White Horse. Even on a Monday night, it's popular, and deservedly so for its wide range of well kept real ale - which I must admit I didn't even realise they did when I was coming here before. Otherwise it's not changed at all, and neither has the clientele - alice bands and pearls never went out of fashion in SW6. Well worth the price of a ticket to Zone 2!