Monday, March 31, 2008

The Bluebird

The Bluebird is the closest pub to my parents' house so I noticed something about it that others may not: here's something missing from this pub ~ no pub sign. There used to be one. It showed a painting of Sir Malcolm Campbell's land speed record breaking car of the same name and the fact that it is missing is a little sad. I wonder where it has gone? I guess the name must date the building of the pub, too. Campbell was the first man to break 300 mph and set a new land speed record at the Bonneville salt flats in Utah way back in 1935 and in doing so cemented his place in British lore as a lengendary, and classic stiff upper-lipped, National Hero. He got a pub named after him (or his car at least) anyway!!

Altogether Campbell set 9 Land Speed Records before his death in 1949:

25th September 1924 (Pendine Sands) 146.16 mph

21st July 1925 (Pendine Sands) - 150.766mph

4th February 1927 (Pendine Sands) - 174.88mph,

12th February 1928 (Daytona Beach, Florida) - 206.95mph,

5th February 1931 (Daytona Beach) - 246.09mph,

24th February 1932 (Daytona Beach) - 253.96mph,

22nd February 1933 (Daytona Beach) - 272.46mph,

7th March 1935 (Daytona Beach) - 276.71,

3rd September 1935 (Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah) - 301.12mph.

The final version was 28 feet long and weighed 5 tons!! It is massive and if you are ever in the New Forest I heartily recommend a trip to The National Motor Museum to see it. It's a wondrous thing of great beauty and it's shape is echoed in many designs emanating from that era. It really is a design classic in it's own right and looks totally unlike any modern vehicle.

The baton was picked up by his son Donald. Who set several new records himself and was the first to break 400 mph on land and 200mph on water:


July 1964: Lake Eyre, Australia. (403.1 m.p.h.)


July 1955: Ullswater, Cumbria. (202.32 m.p.h.)

November 1955: Lake Mead, U.S.A. (216.2 m.p.h.)

September 1956: Coniston Water, Cumbria. (225.63 m.p.h.)

November 1957: Coniston Water, Cumbria. (239.07 m.p.h.)

November 1958: Coniston Water, Cumbria. (248.62 m.p.h.)

May 1959: Coniston Water, Cumbria. (260.33 m.p.h.)

December 1964: Lake Dumbleyung, Australia (276.33 m.p.h.)

His story had a tragic end with his death on Coniston Water when he crashed at a speed of over 300 mph. The boat was salvaged and his remains finally found in 2001.

I'm sorry about the song. It's awful but the video is good. Watch it with the sound down is my advice.

Still none of that tells you anything at all about the pub. It is under new management and it's about a 2 mile walk to the ground from here and to be honest he bus link isn't much good so a taxi could be in order if you overstay and overdo it. It's quite handily located for access from the A38 and sits right next to a #28 bus stop. It is also located rather handily next door to a Friary Mill Bakery which gives it much credence as a pasty buying opportunity. For those so inclined there is a Bookmakers across the road too. Generally speaking gambling isn't for me though. You can either win (in which case you always wish you had staked more) or lose (in which case you wish you hadn't bothered) ~ either way the end result frustrates.

As you go through the door to the bar you might notice the number of signs on it. It must have more than any other pub door in the city (watch this space!!). Is there anybody left who needs to see a "No Smoking" sign as they go into a pub these days? Well if they do then there are 3 here. Count 'em!! The pub itself it opens out into what is essentially a large roughly horseshoe-shaped bar with the Lounge area to the left and the Public Bar to the right although there is no division between the two sections. The pub is a bit like the Golden Hind in terms of it's character and function. It doesn't excite or inspire but it serves it's function well. It's a largish pub with a small beer garden at the back. It serves bar food which includes Hingstons Pasties (which are very nice and, in my opinion, far better than the ones from next door) and bacon butties. The pub serves real ale. There is also the possibility of catching a band there from time to time. I'm not sure how often but there was an advert outside and it looks like a regular thing. On top of which there is Sky TV which was showing the early game, a pool table and darts for those that way inclined.

We got there fairly early. It must have been around 12:30 and the pub was very quiet. We got served immediately by the young lady working there who was very efficient. Even if she wasn't I would have hesitated to tell her. She was actually what might best be described as a "strapping lass". I don't mean this euphemistically to suggest that she was over-weight or in any way unattractive. That would be both untrue and unfair on her. She was very powerfully built in the athletic sense and, for a woman, surprisingly tall. Probably best to leave it at that. Our pints of guinness arrived with shamrocks carved into the head. It's only a small thing but why do barstaff bother with this? I'm not Irish and I really don't care about bloody shamrocks. Still it relieves the tedium for them I suppose and even though I don't actually want a shamrock on my pint I don't actually mind if I get one.

As we left it was just starting to get a bit busier and people were obviously meeting up for the game and the pre-match buzz was beginning to build. Finally an observation that is hugely in favour of the place: it had an Argyle scarf on the wall and you can't say fairer than that!!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

6000 Hits

Scroll down to the bottom and you'll see my hit counter. So far there has been 5914 visitors to this blog. The 6000th approaches!!

If you are #6000 then take a screen dump and email it to me too prove it. There's no prize as such but if you could let me have some details as to who you are I'll give you a mention ~ unless you request that I do not.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ivor The Search Engine

I have added a search facility to this blog. It only searches this blog although it does not say so.

If you use it it offers a "more" option at the bottom which if you click will allow you to google the net. It also has a nice little avatar which will make perfect sense to Janners everywhere and none to anybody else.

If anybody knows how to put that on the front page in place of the "Google Customised Search" then I'd be delighted to know how. The CSE is all set up within Google so I just need the HTML code to add it. Any help would be much appreciated just email it in.

There are pub reviews for The Bluebird and The Rising Sun to follow when I get around to it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Here's a little something for those fans of the TV gameshow.


You can alter the time limit, target and everything else if you ferret around a little.

Happy number crunching.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Vine

So we left The Butchers Arms and headed to the Artillery. Down the road we went. Past the VOT (a schoolboy error we'll not make again and routes will be planned with more care in the future) and onwards when we spied The Vine. "Can we actually walk past a pub?" Silly question.

So in we went.

The Vine is a bit of a legendary pub in my mind. Back in my younger years there was a crowd of drinkers who used to frequent The Dolphin on the Barbican when I worked there. I guess we're looking at about 1985-87ish. Should I name them? Why not? I think that several of them are dead now so they won't mind but these names will surely be recognised by some: Graham Gambaccini, Michael Ede, Jack Lang, Hong Kong John... There were a few others too but I forget their names. A strange bunch. They drank very, very heavily and never seemed to work and were nearly always in The Dolphin of a lunchtime. Well when they weren't in The Dolphin they were in The Vine. Their reputations lent The Vine something of a mystique and some Arfur Daleyesque sleazey glamour in my mind.

On top of which my parents actually ran the pub on the odd occasion. My Mum and Dad did a bit or Relief Landlording there (and in The Rising Sun too) at around the same time.

So bearing all of that in mind it's surprising that it was only relatively recently that I actually discovered exactly where it is!! The Vine is, of course, at the top of the slipway where the Cremyll Ferry docks as it plies it's trade between Stonehouse and Mount Edgcumbe. When I was a kid and we went there I would not have been interested in the pub in any way at all. Then a long, long time passed and I didn't even go near the place. My parents acquired a dog about 15 years ago and I used to take him over to Mount Edgcumbe for a walk and it was around then that I discovered the exact whereabouts of The Vine.

By now we had downed a few pints. I wouldn't say we were drunk, or even tipsy for that matter, but we had begun to enjoy ourselves and had a taste for the ale. A few laughs had been had and we were just congratulating ourselves about what a good idea it was to come to Stonehouse. I was feeling nicely mellow whilst at the same time being invigorated by the salty sea air and the defining smells of a sea-shore at low-tide which were washing liberally over the whole area in a most pleasing way. So it was with some relish that we went into The Vine for the next, and last, pre-match beer.

Life!! After what I have to admit had been a very quiet lunchtime sesh there was suddenly a pub with some customers in it!! Not loads, certainly, but a few. So far we had seen a couple with a dog arrive as we left the VOT and a bloke doing his crossword at the bar in The Butchers Arms. The Vine was a different proposition altogether and although again there was a couple of blokes with their noses stuck in a newspaper there were other customers there too.

Everybody must have heard the theory that dogs end up looking like their owners (or is it the other way around?) well when we reached The Vine we encountered proof positive that this is not true. Just leaving as we arrived was an old boy and his dog. Nothing very remarkable about him (well not that was immediately obvious but I could only speculate as to what hidden depths he may possess or as to whether he leads a Bruce Wayne/Batman styled secret double life. Put it this way I doubt very much that he was a "sleeper" who had infiltrated Stonehouse society with a view to subjugating the local populace in some way... but I digress); he was just an old man leaving the pub but his choice of dog was odd. I might have expected a small terrier or spaniel. A Jack Russell would have looked about right but I just don't associate greyhound-owning with old men. Maybe I should. Anyway the old man kind of shambled out of the pub and his faithful pooch padded along obediently behind him with not an ounce of fat anywhere to be seen on it's body. I swear that there is no way anybody would ever put that dog and owner together. I wish I had taken their picture!!

The internal geography of The Vine is not unlike The Hyde Park; the bar forms a kind of island and the pub effectively has just a single bar but it seems to divide the pub into 2 sections and the back section had a handful of guys playing pool and I suspect that there was a dartboard around there too. The Vine was by far the biggest pub of the three we visited. We got nattering to these blokes and they were very friendly and up for a bit of a laugh and showed a little interest into our little adventure. I started scanning the place to check out it's decor. "No knots" I said. "Eh?" said one of the pool players. So I explained about the displays of knots in the VOT and The Butchers. A few minutes elapsed. "Hey!! What about this one?" and he pointed to a knot in the wooden panelling which adorned the walls.Lots of those signs with pithy sayings on them "You don't have to be mad to work here ~ but it helps!!!!!!!" and the like. Always a sign that nothing even remotely zany has ever happened to anybody there or if it did they were far too serious to realise it. I guess that brings me to Claire behind the bar. An attractive young lady studying up at Marjons and working as a youth worker who was happy to chat to us but seemed a bit bored with being there and to be honest was a bit on the earnest side.

I suspect that The Vine is by far the busiest pub of the three that we visited and probably does a roaring trade. It is well-placed to take money on sunny days with people going to and from Mount Edgcumbe and has Stonehouse Barracks which houses the Royal Marines 3rd Commando nearby which must supply some regular trade. The Vine also benefits from being at the heart of a network of streets and has a car park nearby.

All in all the 3 pubs had offered us a most pleasurable lunchtime. I'd recommend doing what we did to anybody but we were somewhat lacking in pre-match buzz. It would have been very easy to have just stayed in the pub and not leapt into a cab and gone to the match. We did though.

I'm not sure where we are going next time. We've not decided yet. Stonehouse before the Sheff Utd game exceded expectations. Will Southway do the same before Watford? If you want to find out or have any other comments to make then do so via the comments option, please.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Butchers Arms

Now this is the real deal. The end of the line. After this there really is Nowhere To Go. The very end of the line as far as Stonehouse is concerned. All that lies beyond here is Royal William Yard and it's
Urban Splash
yuppie flats where money is clearly no object and apartment prices start at around £350k and go up to £1.5m!! Clearly there is unease, "conflict" would be too strong a word, here between the local traditional residents who live close to one of the most deprived parts of inner-city Plymouth and who are excluded from owning property in their own neighbourhood despite having lived there for generations and the newer residents who live in an enclave only glimpsed from outside.

The Butchers Arms sits at the heart of this dichotomy and nestles, almost unnoticed, immediately adjacent to Royal William Yard's main entrance and almost out of shot but just showing on the left of this picture which utterly dominates the area with it's immense granite (?) buildings and 18 acre peninsula site creating what is in effect a sealed village protected by high stone walls. To be honest there can hardly be any more secure real estate in Plymouth ~ well if there is I'm not aware of it. These Tamarside buildings were built by order of King William and designed by eminent Victorian engineer Sir John Rennie between 1825 and 1835 and built with the help of convict labour for the purpose of supplying the Royal Navy's ships with provisions of all kinds. It must, once upon a time, have been an incredibly busy place and remained the RN's stores until the early 1990s, when the Government decided to close it.

Royal William Yard Gallery (BBC)

Royal William Yard Feature (BBC)

RWY surely contains some of the most impressive Naval and period architecture in the country and has been used by TV companies as a backdrop for costumed dramas. I actually "starred" as an extra in the Hornblower programme entitled Frogs and Lobsters (catch me in the guillotine unloading scene if you can!!) which was the last, first and only time that I ever went to the Butchers Arms ~ you just don't have much call to go down there unless visiting RWY and I'm not sure that casual visitors are even allowed and looking at the imposing entrance they are certainly not encouraged ~ the naval architects did their job very, very well after all they did not want all those precious supplies going astray, did they?

Which brings us to the Butchers Arms. Obviously, like the VOT, it takes it's name from the naval butchery that would surely once have been nearby. The pub has been gutted inside too since I was there and the single bar has moved from one side of the pub to the other and I rather preferred the older version. To be honest I would not have recognised it as the same pub that I went in before. As pubs go I'd give it a big "alright". Despite the flagstoned floor and impressive rough stone wall and bare timbers, and more naval knots displayed on the wall (was a theme developing?), the place looked a bit fake and seems caught between the two stools of new and traditional Stonehouse in a rather uncomfortable fashion. Does it want to be a cosy little local boozer or does it want to be a minimalist, trendy gastro-pub? It offers food, and quite an up-market selection, too, and a couple of real ales but my pint of Guinness was a definite second best to the one I had had in the VOT.

The main strength of this pub was the woman behind the bar, Sarah. She was quite chatty and, as it turns out, an ex-steward at Argyle ("why did you stop?" "20 quid? Would you do it?") and we had a good laugh with her in exactly the way we did not with the girl in the VOT. Maybe they could arrange a job swap?

As pubs go this one was perfectly pleasant but in all honesty nothing to write home about. If you want to sit somewhere and have a quiet beer whilst watching the 4x4s tootle in and out of RWY then this is definitely the place for you although it's prime quality for me was that it was a very short walk from the VOT.

Next: The Vine.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Victualling Office Tavern

What can I say about this pub? Nothing bad that's for sure although it almost certainly wouldn't be everybody's cup of tea. Small, perfectly formed and tucked away all the done the end, but not at the very end, of Stonehouse. Almost, but not quite, next door to Royal William Yard.

Why did we choose to go there? Well after the frankly rather safe and predictable football pubs we had been to so far it was time to get off the beaten track as it were. There is also a preponderance of pubs in Stonehouse, Devonport and the City Centre so we have decided to go there every other time. Once we had settled on Stonehouse I chose this one because it used to sponsor Barry Hayles ~ and let's face it one good turn deserves another!!

I'd only been to this pub once before but I remember the occasion quite well. If you are a Plymouth-based paintballer then you will probably know Steve Brien fom the Sparkwell Paintball place. Well I used to work with him years ago and when he left there was a party at the VOT. There was no late opening in those days (it was the night that Croatia beat Germany 3-0 in The World Cup (so Summer '98?) and he reckoned the VOT was a good place for a guaranteed lock-in and so had a do in the back bar, used as a restaurant now, there. Since then little has changed. In fact it is one of those places that has probably never changed and, to be honest, I hope it never does. It has a small framed display of nautical knots adorning one wall and horse brasses on another. I wouldn't go so far as to say the pub had developed a theme but given it's name and it's proximity to Royal William Yard the decorations were at least a nod to the days when Stonehouse would have been a place teeming with horses dragging loads to and fro the various ships that were loaded up there. To be honest despite the industrial nature of much of Stonehouse that could not apply less to this sleepy little corner and the days of bustling industry have long since departed probably, and I'm guessing here, along with most of the locals who once would have made this the hub of a busy and thriving community.

My only grump would be with the bar maid who was working at the time. She did not want he photo taken, which is fair enough, but she was a bit on the touchy side and to be honest was a bit lacking in the sense of humour department. No such problems with the Landlady though who was happy to be pictured dsepite having only just walked through the door having done a spot of shopping. "I don't look my best" she apologised rather sweetly but we aren't here to judge people on their looks alone ~ who would be so shallow? Sadly I forget their names which is rather unfair of me, really.

It seems to have moved with the times though. It had a large screen TV showing the 6 Nations Rugby while we were there and the beer was good and reasonably priced. There was also a good selection of meals available on the menu and the Lamb Shanks were road-tested and found to agreeably good. There was even a couple of real ales on. Doom Bar was one. I forget what the one one was now (I think there was another anyway).

A quick scout about soon revealed a small but adequate beer garden with a sea view!!

As we were about to leave a couple arrived with a small dog, so dogs were obviously welcome and, on enquiry, we discovered that kids were welcome too.

It is a proper honest, little boozer and if I lived locally one I would be happy to call my local. Give it a try one day. You won't be disappointed but if you are looking for somewhere that will add to the pre-match buzz then this just is not the place ~ a bit too quiet and a bit too far away from the ground; look on the bright side though ~ you'll have no problems getting served and a #34 bus will avoid parking problems and take you from door-to-door (almost)!! It's worth noting that a Day Rider bus ticket costs only £3 so from your house to Royal Parade, thence on to the VOT, up to HP, back into town and home again all for £3 ~ you have to say that's good value!!

Next: The Butcher's Arms.

Mickey Evans Tribute Video

This is the work of Pasoti's Sweet Molly Malone all I've done is blag it and blog it!!

It's brilliant stuff. Click below and enjoy. It could be the best 8 minutes or so of your life!!

If you enjoyed that then you might like the link here too. It's back to my blog entry made when Trigger retired.

Have a look at the next month too and that goal v. Swindon is there with a German commentary.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Pennycomequick Hotel

This is only the third time I have ever been in this pub!! I guess it's just in the wrong place for me because it served it's purpose rather admirably and I popped in before the evening match against Colchester which we romped to a 4-1 win in. I'm getting a bit off the point here but we seem to have a history of besting Colchester in promotion seasons!! Way back in '75 Mariner's Mob won promotion by beating them 1-0, Warnock's lot beat them 3-1 in a play off to get to Wembley in '96 and we played them at the end of the Div 1 Championship season under Williamson. Could it be significant?

Evening matches are always a problem timewise. There is just too little time pre-match to get things done and this one proved to be no different. I had hoped to get there at around 6pm and suspect it was closer to 7pm when I arrived. I had hoped to catch a darts match during which bragging rights could be settled between Lostwithiel Green and Argyle Andy. "Great blog material" I thought to myself. Well it may have been but I missed it. LG won several legs of darts 4-1 and 4-1 to claim the trophy (if there is one, which I doubt) or the beer (which is far more likely). To be honest LG has a physique which has clearly been honed to dart-hurling perfection over many years and Argyle Andy was a slip of a lad who really needs to invest the time and money that LG obviously has over the years. The meeting was noteworthy not just for the darts ; it was also the first time that I had ever seen LG not wearing a hat and I had no idea that he was an eggshell blonde!! It was also nice to put a face to a name when I met Pasoti's Charlie Wood.

All 3 pubs blogged so far are also the closest ones to Home Park from their respective directions with the PCQ being south, the GH north and the HP east. To the west the nearest pub would be The Britannia which we'll get to in due course. Funnily enough this leaves a rather huge swathe of Plymouth almost entirely publess and none of them are close to Home Park in a way that anybody that has ever been to a pub close to Brentford's Griffin Park would understand. At Brentford there is a pub at every corner of the ground and I mean right there as in next door. The PCQ is again a tidy walk from HP and took around 20 minutes, I guess, up a rather unforgiving and steep hill. I don't mind admitting that I was glad to reach the top of the hill and it's a far more strenuous walk than from either the GH or HP.

Apart from being familiar to roundabout lovers the PCQ is also the only pub that you'll encounter if you travel by train to Plymouth
and then go directly to the ground. This, I would think, makes it a fave with away fans and Cornishmen. In fact there is no reason why it should not be a fave with anybody. It's a 2 bar pub with darts and pool in the public bar. In both bars there is satellite TV. The beer was fine and reasonably priced and kids were welcome. There is even a beer garden. Not the plushest beer garden you'll ever see but it has a small area for seating and it serves it's purpose. I have no idea at all as to whether it serves food and I wasn't there long enough to check out the facilities beyond noting that the toilets were in doors. I don't recall the bar staff at all which rather implies that they were either men or women who, shall I say, do not linger in the memory.

That said the evening did have rather a racy ending!! I have been asked what I'll do if we end up confronted by a pub full of strippers and prostitutes... Well the first taboo has been broken!! I met up with Norm who just that day had been to see his doctor for a check up. While there he had an ECG and that entailed parts of his chest being shaved. He couldn't wait to show us and so, to my complete amazement, Serendipity actually goes topless and the first nipples blogged are here for all to see. I must admit I did not expect that to occur in the PCQ and I did not expect it to be Norm...

I have to offer apologies here too. To be honest I am a bungling incompetent with the camera and have next to no idea how to work it. Due to a mixture of lack of preparation, flat batteries and carelessness I managed to record some dodgy sound files and the odd bit of useless video when I actually intended to take a snap or two. I actually meant to take several more photos than this of various people but they are lost forever now I am afraid so if you were expecting to see yourself: sorry ~ there's always next time which will be in Stonehouse at the Victualling Office Tavern at 1pmish and quite possibly a few others, too!!

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Hyde Park

We went to the HP after the Burnley match. So perhaps reviewing it here is a little unfair. My remit is to review pubs which we go to before a match after all. Still never mind.

I've been going there for years and years. Once upon a time it was my "local" and I even used to play darts there with some regularity. I am not a great dart player but I have managed to score 180 twice and one of those occasions was in the HP!! Sadly I did not need that many and so busted but once the first 2 darts had hit the treble 20 the third had to have a go too ~ and in it sailed as clean as a whistle. There can't be many that have approached the oche needing 150+ and have deliberately scored too many!! Still that was long, long ago and the dartboard has long since moved from where it was then around to the "back" bar where the pool table is.

For those unfamiliar with the geography of the pub a picture may help:

It looks like a Scooby-Doo pub, doesn't it? Couldn't be further from the mark really.

The pub itself sits in the middle of a roundabout at one end of Mutley Plain. It is the nearest pub to the ground if you approach from this direction and it will take you around 20 minutes to walk up to the ground from here. Along the way you will pass Hyde park's Friary Bakery where you can get a pasty to keep you going or at the Barn park Road entrance to Central Park you will be able to get an Ivor so the walk is not all bad.

Inside the pub the bar itself is an island too!! This is rather pleasing and there is a main bar which shows Big Screen TV. The HP is a fine place to watch big matches in and makes, or used to any way, every attempt possible during World Cups and the like. I watched England beat Germany 5-1 in there and that was just about the wildest night ever. It is quite a big pub with quite a small bar. This can lead to long delays if you try to get served when it is busy

Kids are welcomed although it isn't particularly child-friendly.

Food, I believe, is served although I have never eaten in there and so can't vouch for it. It would also appear that they do a curry night a couple of times a week:

Pricewise it is kept "honest" by the nearby Wetherspoons pub The Mannamead but it is not as cheap. Mind you it is far more of a traditional pub than the Wetherspoons and I much prefer it.

The bar staff were great while we were there. Up for a laugh and good fun. I asked which barman was the most attractive and this one one (the landlord, I think) was nominated and the young lady works there too and was there as a customer in her own time which tells you something about the camaraderie amongst the staff.

There is also an upstairs bar which can be used for various functions. I think a Jazz/Folk/Blues Club meets there once a week and they get a good few Celtic fans turn up when a game is televised and I think the pub might also be the semi-official home of the Celtic Supporters' Club.

The one criticism of the place is that it used to be horribly smoky but since the smoking ban that is a thing of the past.

On football days it gets very busy just after a match as the hordes wind their way home and then gets filled wit h people out for the night as they meet up. Once they have they move on the place empties almost completely.

A good solid proper pub and one of three (along with the Fortescue and the Junction) that are proper Mutley pubs and it wasn't so long ago that they were the only three which is hard to believe nowadays!!

Finally it was the HP where we saw this poster which in all honesty is the inspiration behind this little pub-orientated odyssey.