Friday, 27 May 2011


Don't ever think about getting a train with Craig!

The plan was simple - Dr Stan, Craig and I would take the short train journey to Peterborough, leaving Bernard in Cambridge to recover from his jet lag. What could possibly go wrong?

I can reveal that March station is not the place you want to spend three hours in - although we were better off than the train that spent 3 hours 200 yards from the station... It turned out that there was a signal failure. This seems to be a regular occurrence for Craig, who recently spent 5 hours on a train just outside York.

Eventually arriving in Peterborugh, our first stop was Oakham's Brewery Tap - highly recommended both for the beer and the Thai food available. Dragging Craig away (I think it's because the Tap is situated in an old Job Centre), we paid a quick visit to the Wortley Almshouses (apparently the model for the workhouse in Oliver Twist - now a Samuel Smith's pub) en route to the Ostrich - where, unlike in Cambridge, the locals talk to strangers!

Dr Stan wanted to visit Charters (a river barge serving Oakham beers), and took Craig with him. I went back to the Brewery Tap to try the Helter Skelter - recommended by those who had sampled it in the Live and Let Live the night before. Another success for Oakham!

Fortunately, the train back was uneventful, and so we were able to return to the Devonshire Arms to meet Peter, brother Gerry, Hector and Marg, who had all arrived in time to visit Norwich tomorrow.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Dazed, Confused and barely coherent

Day 2 in Cambridge eventually dawned. Craig was assured that he had paid his share of the taxi home, and that he was allowed to visit Cambridge again...

After Bernard arrived, dazed and confused from his 6 weeks in South America, we made our way to the beer festival. Regulars will remember that the festival is held in tents on Jesus Green. This is great when the weather is good, but has certain drawbacks when there are heavy rain showers...

Unfortunately, the beers were slightly disappointing - unlike previous years, there were a few that seemed slightly out of condition. Some of the stronger beers were nowhere to be seen either. You can tell when things are not going to plan - Bernard was even disappointed by the range of cheese on offer! Fortunately, however, the foreign bier bar was as good as ever, with the Schlenkerla Eiche Doppelbock making a welcome return. It was good to see Olaf back, recovering from his recent heart problems.

I am told that Craig, Bernard and Dr Stan visited some Cambridge pubs - I thought better...

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

What's that coming...

Or Craig visits the Cambridge Beer Festival...

After the "short" drive from Glasgow, and having checked in to our digs - the ultra-compact Cityroomz - Craig and I set off to meet Dr Stan. The intention was to visit a few pubs then head to the Beer Festival at Jesus Green.

First stop was the Devonshire Arms - rapidly becoming one of my favourite pubs in Cambridge - where the Milton beers were as good as ever. A pleasant place to wait for Dr Stan, who had (for reasons best known to himself...) travelled over from Wales. Sadly, there was only time for one pint before heading off.

The next stop on the tour was the Kingston Arms - sadly, what came out of the tap with the Jaipur clip did not taste overly familiar (an experience repeated at the Beer Festival the next day!) Moving on quickly, we then made our way to the Cambridge Blue - another great pub, let down, on this occasion, by the rather limited range of biers available.

Regular readers will know that Craig is rather selective when it comes to bier - nothing heknows to be under 5% will pass his lips. As a result, he was forced on to bottled Belgian bier at the Elm Tree - perhaps the first sign that plans to visit the festival might fall through.

The next sign came on arrival at St Radegund - a small pub serving Milton beers. Not only did Craig persuade Laura the barmaid to play Joy Division, but he managed to get a local (albeit a student from Sheffield) to talk to us. All was going well - what could possibly go wrong?

All I will say is that our taxi arrived quickly enough and Craig was not barred...

Monday, 3 January 2011

Silvester in München

Thursday, December 30

Craig observed that it took exactly seven hours from the moment he and Yvonne were collected on the South Side (Glasgow) until we emerged from the S Bahn at München Hbf and approached our usual hotel, The Royal (Schillerstrasse). Lord Clive of Crawley and his dear maiden, Maggie had been in town for some hours having caught the pre-dawn flight from Gatwick. Jonathan and David were incommunicado initially being somewhere between their overnight stop in Ieper and the München rendezvous.
Six of us assembled in the hotel foyer, yes Marg was here too in case anyone has lost count, and stepped out into a city which appeared to never have had snow despite the entire region being covered. The city centre streets had been cleared, totally: a lesson yet to be learned by those who are in charge back in Blighty.
A quick stop at Karlsplatz/Stachus to watch the ice skaters, well we did have three ladies, and before we knew it the Augustiner Grossgastatte was before us. We had to enter. Marg had brought no gloves and so disappeared to the nearby Kaufhof. Edelstoff was the drink of choice by the rest of us. The Italians were in town en mass the ones sitting near us were very noisy, perhaps they had been drinking.

Der Pschorr

Hector had arranged dinner for eight at 20.00at Der Pschorr (Viktualienmarkt 15, 80331, München). We were given a downstairs table for the first time ever. Still no sign of the road runners.

David and Jonathan arrived in time for the second order of Hacker-Pschorr Helles, or Weizen as David would consume throughout the trip. The Helles is served directly from the Barrel which is exactly what we want. The Bier prices are higher here than other outlets but the main attraction is actually the food. The food is always superb. The meat content of Hector’s Goulash was the equivalent to that consumed some days before at Yadgar.

Andechs am Dom

Marg and Maggie retired after the meal. The rest of us were drawn as if my magnetism to the Andechs Haus. We went through the usual ritual of asking for the Spezial Hell. ‘Of course we serve it, I shall show you the menu.’ We pointed out to the waitress that they do not. And why not?
Why not indeed? The indifference by many of those employed by Andechs in München to their customers is becoming legendary. When did we last go out to the Kloster? The Nürnberg outlet is far superior.
Having dismissed the ‘Ordinary’ Hell we all opted for the Weizen, simply the best Weissbier on the planet. Hector sneaked in a Doppelbock Dunkles too. Hector was also last out! (... and not for the first time...)

Being a very good boy, Hector went straight back to the Royal Hotel with Craig and Yvonne. The others went to the Sports’ Bar (Schillerstrasse), the foreign branch of The Bad Boys Club convened.

Friday, December 31 : Silvester

Some of us made to breakfast. For Clive and Maggie, breakfast was consumed in their first trip to the Lahori Hajweri where a Curry-Heute Buffet was consumed. Jonathan, Craig and Yvonne were also present. This was the last Hector and Marg saw of the company until we returned late afternoon for a WLD. Craig drinking Raspberry Tea, now there was a sight. All this to ensure that we were not 'over-tired' before the events of the evening.

Steve and Juliet had arrived courtesy of Mr O'Leary via Memmingen. It was at the rendezvous at the Augustiner Brewery Tap where we first met up. Unlike last year, the doors did not open until just before 19.00. There was a crowd.
Somehow Hector found himself being thrust to the front of our merry band to talk us in. This proved impossible as Jonathan, at the rear, had the booking details. The screen on the HTC Desire HD was large enough to show the scan of the booking convincingly. 'The last table on the right.' was our instructed direction: 'Yes, same as last year.' was the reply.
And so with Hector and Jonathan at opposite heads of the table the rest assembled, except David. He had fun negotiating his way in.

Edlestoff, vom Fass, at €2.65 per 0.5l. This is certainly good value. Jonathan of course enjoys the full litre. Marg had a Weinschorle, here we go...

The Buffet is bountiful. We jumped up when the queue had subsided. Not to overfill one's plate when Salmon, Prawns, Roast Beef, Ham, just to mention the meats are on offer, is very difficult. The Salads too were excellent. Hector overfilled his plate.

Craig and Yvonne were pacing themselves, carefully: no Starters for them.

There was an attempt at letting the food go down before the others went up for the main courses. Hector and Marg stayed put. Eventually it was time, a dilemma.
This was solved easily. Rather than overdose of Schweinhaxe et al, Hector asked for Ein Halbe Ente, this with gravy is all that went on his plate: perfection.
There is a lot of bone on the carcass of a Duck. Still, there was a lot of eating too. Hector was blowing virtual feathers from his mouth as he waved the flag of surrender. Enough.

Those who do, had Dessert

Now in previous years, there has been a bit of a lull after 2200, when the food has gone in and the Bier tally is mounting. To entertain us, Marg had smuggled a 'Bomb' on board the flight from Edinburgh. 'Pass the Bomb' has been amusing the various company that Marg has been involved in for the last few weeks. This was to be our stimulus for the next hour or so. Alas, the volume of the music was such that playing any parlour games was impossible. Indeed, the music was more varied than last year and so Marg set the party going by being first up on the bench to do her ritual dance-along. The other ladies accompanied. Hector was pacing himself.

Oh no, here we go again...

Without any warning, Craig went from being his usual placid self to 'the monster' in the space of a nano-second. He was up on the window sill doing 'his dance'. Jaws dropped at our end of the room.

The Stammtisch

The Stammtisch at Augustiner is a magnificnet circular table. This evening it was occupied by a very young group. The offspring of the workers we speculated. A priviledged seat. Amongst them were two stand-out chaps who consider themselves to be the most important people in the room. 'Look at us.' had been apparent for some time.

Craig, the Hero

Craig was dancing away, being filmed and photographed by all. This was too much for a chap from the Stammtisch, he wanted up there too. By this time Management had appeared and Craig was summoned to the floor. He was advised that he was a very naughty boy. The other chap persisted much to the increasing annoyance of our supervisor who did the entire refereeing ritual of calling him down and threatening him with the red card. I think Craig received a yellow.


Robin sent a text wishing us a Happy New Year,before midnight. He was suffering from 'premature congratulation'. Howard was drinking 10% Bier with Tracey and Dr Stan at The Three Judges. This was before he fell asleep, allegedly. Four people who should have been with us.
Next year in Mirfield!

Happy New Year

The music was in full flow. We were all up on the benches when Hector held up his new HTC Desire HD and showed the time on the very large display: 00.00. And so we celebrated the German New Year. An hour later we celebrated the Scottish New Year with Auld Lang Syne.

See you, Jimmy

The ritual headgear had been brought by all. Jonathan had left his in the car. Craig, Yvonne, Clive and Maggie had left theirs in their hotel rooms. We only had three hats: this is not good enough. They should have been sent home to get them!

Night Night

It was approaching 03.00 when Steve and Juliet decided to call it a day. We summoned the waiter to settle up. The individual bills were embarrassing. How could be have spent so little on Bier over such a long period?
We had all paced ourselves! We all deserve congratulations.

The Sports Bar

Hector was given permission to join the Bad Boys and have a Franziskaner. Marg departed. David and Jonathan thought they could sneak past the window, Maggie had other ideas. The party began again.

New Year’s Day

I don’t want to go to Tegernsee

Marg and Hector had a long lie. Jonathan and David had already left for Tegernsee by the time we surfaced. Craig, Yvonne, Clive and Maggie found a later train. Steve and Juliet kept a low profile.
The Englischer Garten for a Glühwein has been the tradition at New Year; well we did this the last twice we were in München for Silvester.

Marg and I maintained another ‘ritual’ and had lunch at the University Café just past Odeonplatz before heading into the park where the winter snow was most evident. A single Glühwein at the Chinesicher Turm was sufficient.A walk along a rather icy bank of the Isar then followed. Peace in our time.
More coffee next door to The Indian Mango, well I had to make extra sure it was closed for the holidays, was followed by the short walk up to Marienplatz.

Time for a Bier
Zum Spöckmeier (Rosenstraße 9, 80331, München) was a perfect location for the first Bier of day-time 2011. Hacker-Pschorr Dunkles became the conscious choice, a rest from the Helles of previous days. Is Hector going back to the dark days? Time will tell.

HTC Desire HD

Battery problems were becoming severe. The battery in my phone was dying fast and I had only been out of the hotel a few hours. Text Marg was the instruction. The Chaps did and a rendezvous at the Löwenbräukeller ‎ (Nymphenburger Straße 2, 80335, München) was conceived.Jonathan and David had left Tegernsee on an early train too and so it was after 21.00 before we were all reunited. Steve and Juliet then emerged from their day of relaxation. Dinner was called for, gosh the service was slow. More Dunkles for Hector! Craig could not resist the Triumphator at a modest 7.6%, though this was only revealed to be in bottles when ordered for the second time. The décor of the Keller has also changed considerably; it appears to be much more of an open space.

This could not be a wild night. No Sports Bar.
David conceived a ‘Top Gear’ style challenge: could he drive to Düsseldorf and arrive before Hector and Marg who would fly up from München to Köln?

Sunday, January 2

First Contact

Hector and Marg had a leisurely breakfast before an equally leisurely S-Bahn journey out to the airport. A rather busy security check was conducted but no Boarding Pass was ever asked for. This is not wonderful security.
A pleasant flight to Köln-Bonn was followed by a very busy train up to Düsseldorf. It was as we approached our destination that the others made first contact. With David at the wheel, Jonathan, Clive and Maggie too were still some 200 miles away.

The Top Gear Challenge was a formality, the aeroplane won hands down.

Having checked into ‘the other’ Ibis, Hector and Marg made their way to Uerige (Berger Straße 1,
40213 Düsseldorf) for an aperitif before moving on to Füchschen (Ratinger Str. 32, 40213 Düsseldorf) to await the others and hopefully dinner together just after 20.00.

Our first waiter at Uerige was an ignorant peasant. On declining a Bier for Marg he more or less muttered that Bier was all they sold. Marg sat and watched Hector enjoy a couple of Alt Biers before a more amenable waiter brought Marg something to her taste. This was not water and so there was no need to throw it over me as happened when one of our cohort had a similar experience some years back.

We took a very visible table at the door to Füchschen and waited, patiently. The Spanish Terrorists had made no further contact and so some tapas were in order. We were then informed that they were now not due until after 22.00, so we ordered our main meal. This was most enjoyable and Hector changed over to the very fine Weißbier.

At 22.30 the Chaps arrived full of tales of traffic, detours, hold ups and no reference to the fact that Hector had suggested they drive in the Baden-Württemberg (Stuttgart) direction instead of heading north through Bayern. Plus ca change. Same-o, same-o.

The party mood was underway after the Chaps had eaten. Hector feels he must confess to being last out of this very welcoming establishment. They do not sell the best Alt in Düsseldorf but they do have a wonderful restaurant.

Bad Boys Club

You will not believe this but the Chaps were sitting in the Ibis bar having yet more Bier. Hector stayed a little while just to ensure they knew their way home.

Monday, January 3

The Monday Club

The shops were open. Hector had to take Marg into town to see the inside of the shops. The question of an imminent birthday and a handbag kept coming up. Marg was persuaded that if she kept this up, there would be disappointment. A much better plan was to meet Clive and Maggie at Schumachers (Oststraße 123, 40210 Düsseldorf). They were seated waiting for us. No Bier was planned as this was the day to fly home. Well, one or two little ones should be ok.

The Goulash Soup is usually excellent. Today it was just very good.

Uerige called, the ladies went for coffee and Apfelstrudel, Clive and Hector imbibed a bit more.

The trip for us was drawing to a close. Clive and Maggie headed for Düsseldorf airport whilst Hector and Marg headed back to Köln-Bonn.

Meanwhile, two chaps were heading for Amsterdam and a ferry…