Well hello there... it's been a while! This is due to a greyhound and a digital radio station both being far more work than you'd think. But enough of the excuses and on to the pubs.
So last night I finally managed to prize myself away from the poopscoop and the Blackberry (there's a joke somewhere about both devices being full of something, but we'll leave that) for just long enough to join Big Garders for an evening of beer in the Jodie Marsh-land of Brentwood.
There's been many changes since I lived here ten years ago. The White Hart is now "Sugar Hut Village", and the legendary Sam's Nightclub is now a swanky bar called Eclipse, which claims to be "taking pleasure to another level". But the High Street still makes for a fine crawl, and it was time for Garders and I to inspect.
We'd planned to start in the pub closest to my arrival at the railway station - after all, why waste a minute of VDT - Valuable Drinking Time. But while on the train, I got a call from Garders to say he'd been in and it was "a bit lively" as "there's some sort of football thing on". He demonstrated a similar mastery of Association Football to mine I'm sure you'll agree - and given the pub in question was Murphy's Sports Bar, the "liveliness" was not entirely surprising. So next nearest up the hill from the station is The Brewery Tap.
As far as I could see, this was not actually a brewery tap - but was a nice, friendly traditional locals pub. It was busy, but not crowded and Stoke v. Liverpool was just finishing on the flat screen tellies that seemed to be on every wall. I think they'd got a bulk-buy discount at Currys. Anyway, it served its purpose - a nice warm-up pint of Spitfire before setting off for the High Street.
So to The Swan, which I think is a Greene King pub. It's a nice pubby place, with cheery staff and the usual GK real ales supplemented by beers from barrels behind the bar - I had a couple of fine pints of Olde Trip. Sadly however, no sign of a Wetherspoon-esque 99p pint here yet.
And it's by far the best of the High Street pubs, although that's not a particularly challenging task, particularly given it's next door to the hideous Litten Tree, known locally as the Litter Tray - which is precisely the polar opposite of The Swan, swilling out alcopops to hoodies who look barely old enough to drink legally.
The final stop was the good ol' Slug and Lettuce. Not normally my bar of choice, but it's always worth a visit when in the 'Wood. This is where the orange Jodie-alike girls and cashmere-sweater-clad Mark Ronson-wannabee boys come to warm up before Sugar Hut and is always worth seeing (and just staring).
You don't come here for the beer (John Smiths for me, Becks for Garders) - but amazingly for these supposed credit-crunch times, despite having plenty of hard-working bar staff, they just couldn't serve it up fast enough for the thirsty people of Essex, and the bar was crowded with people waving notes.
Then on the long walk of shame back to the station, here's a sight that I though best captured what it means to be English in 2009 - a mighty old oak tree next to a traditional red post box. With an empty Cobra bottle (which, I hasten to add, was not mine!) perched on top. Makes you proud.
To see all the photos from our Big Brentwood Bash, push the red button now.