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Ay Up, Me Dancing Duck....

Chesterfield may be best known for having a church with a crooked spire, but the north-eastern Derbyshire market town is also home to some fine pubs....

We spotted the twisted tower as the train from Leeds approached Chesterfield. We had just seen the floodights of the Proact Stadium, the home of Chesterfield FC, who Town were playing later in the afternoon. We disembarked from the train and walked up into the town centre, past the delightfully-named Pomegranate Theatre, where around the corner was the church of St Mary and All Saints with its amazing crooked spire which leans and twists almost 3 metres from the perpendicular. This has been attributed to various causes: the use of unseasoned timber, the lack of skilled craftsmen at the time, and insufficient cross-bracing. Whatever, the reasons, it makes for a spectacular sight as it sits proudly overlooking a town with an unexpected number of attractive buildings and streets with historic names like Steeplegate, Glumangate, and West …
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All Aboard for Manchester Central....

It was the Manchester Beer Festival last week, and it remains one of the best beer festivals around. Here's my thoughts....
Years ago, when I lived in Manchester, I used to park my car in the former Manchester Central railway station. Draughty and leaky, back then it was a crumbling relic from a bygone age, when the train was king and the car was the privilege of the few. Over the ensuing 40 years, times have changed dramatically so that buildings shoot up at an alarming rate in the city, but more positively, many old, often iconic, buildings have been given a new lease of life. Buildings like Mackie Mayor and the former Mayfield Railway Station have been re-invigorated recently, but long before that, the old Manchester Central morphed into G-Mex and became the home to many trade fairs, exhibitions, and other events.

A year or two ago, it reverted to Manchester Central, and for the last few years, every January, it has hosted the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. And so I was ba…

Hillhouse Blues....

A return to a pub I have not visited for a while, plus an enjoyable evening in the company of a fellow blogger....
I was in Huddersfield the other day. A friend who is a Huddersfield Town season ticket holder was unable to go to their home game against Manchester City, and had kindly lent his ticket to me. It was the early Sunday afternoon kick off at 1.30, so I decided I would head over early and check out the Slubbers Arms in Hillhouse, which like the Shoulder of Mutton across town in Lockwood, was a Good Beer Guide stalwart for many years. Neither had been in for a number of years, but the Slubbers is back in for the 2019 edition. It bears an unusual name, and whilst I am not sure exactly which is right, it is almost certainly taken from the textile industry which has traditionally been a major employer in these parts. One view is that it is taken from the name of the job whereby bobbins were removed from the spindles in the mills, but another view is that with the word 'slubbe…

Arches and Palaces....

More tales from the North East, with forays into Gateshead, and some more excellent places across the river involving railway arches and a palace by a lake....
I was watching Town take on Gateshead at the International Stadium, the athletics stadium which doubles up as the home ground of The Heed, and where the away side had scored an early goal to take a 1-0 lead. That pleasing scoreline didn't detract from the feeling of cold. Open at both ends, the International Stadium has, I am convinced, its own micro climate, where the winds blowing in from the Tyne and the steppes of County Durham meet to reduce the temperature by at least 10 degrees to that outside the stadium. To make matters worse, Gateshead equalised through our former player Scott Boden, and we played out the last freezing half hour unable to regain the lead. Still, a good away point, and as we marched past deserted car parks and buildings on our way to the hotel via the Millennium Bridge, we were warmed by that score…

A Good Day for The Blues....

A day out in Harrogate to watch football, along with some good beers and a couple of bars, with the game providing a welcome but unexpected outcome....
Boxing Day.
There's Football. Usually away. And you have to drive. Normally. And you don't want to, after the fun of Christmas Day....
So... up stepped, Pete, one of the guys I see at the football, who a few weeks before Christmas had said he was organising a bus to go to Halifax Town's away match at Harrogate on Boxing Day. So with no trains, buses and a general reluctance to drive, it made sense. So I enlisted my brother, our Tom, and most of the lads I normally go with.
We met at the Old Post Office in Halifax, a friendly pub near the bus station in Halifax used by the Town Supporters' Club. They had put a breakfast on for us, there was the opportunity to try a beer brewed for the team (brewed by Bingley, I think, although I didn't try it), and from where the bus was leaving.
Breakfast consumed, 31 of us set off …

The Best Music of 2018....

It has been another great year for music. Here's my review of the year's best, plus a few memories of some of the musicians who sadly left us this year....
Whilst 2018 probably didn't have any real stand out albums and tunes that were head and shoulders above the rest compared to some years, the overall standard has been very high across so many genres. Picking just 10 albums that were the best didn't I think reflect the quality of music around, so I upped it to 12 (which I have done before, and in any case I make the rules!). And then picking just one album that stands out has been very difficult. Ask me tomorrow and it may be different! Individual tunes were a bit easier, but even then, I slipped back into DJ-mode to some extent and listed what I felt would sound good when played next.

I saw some excellent live music, both free in the pubs and bars around Halifax and Calderdale and the odd one in Newcastle, and ones I paid for mainly at favourite spots like the Brude…

Real Ale, Real Music's Golden Pints, 2018....

It seems customary these days to give your end of year review of all things beer and pub-related a title involving 'Golden Pints'. So in a shameless lack of originality, here are my thoughts on whether it has been, to almost quote Elvis Costello, a good year for the goses (other beer styles are available)....


I have drunk some mighty fine beer in some mighty fine pubs and bars over the past 12 months. From Canterbury to Cumbria, from Bristol to the Borders, I have roamed the land, often blogging about it, sometimes not, and have met some lovely, interesting people along the way. I have drunk cask, I have drunk craft, out of glasses, and out of cans. And to pick the best out of it all and fit it into a few hundred words is an impossible task (Well, you decided to do it! - Ed).

So, here are a few highlights....

The Beers
Maybe it's because I'm more discerning these days, and maybe it's because I embrace craft with the same enthusiasm as I do cask, but I honestly think…