I had been working in Lymington since June 2008 on Wightlink ferries which take only 30 minutes to get you from Lymington in Hampshire to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. My drive to work would range from 23 minutes to over an hour depending on traffic, time of day and roadworks, so I never had a lot of time to explore the town or its pubs. Simon Eatwell who worked with me lives in Lymington and we had planned all summer to have a Lymington pub crawl, taking in the town’s 14 or so pubs. I liked the town of Lymington, with its lack of over commercialisation, a church still managing to eclipse most shops on the main street and a gorgeous harbour full of boats only I could dream of affording. It really is a pretty little English town, and moreover it has not been infested by an influx of foreigners; they couldn’t really afford to live there. In maintaining its Englishness, Lymington also maintains its traditional pubs and real ales, unventured territory for your Wetherspoons, Yateses or Jumpin Jaks. Real pubs where real people drink real ale with real friends. So the date was set – Wednesday 1st October 2008 for the Lymington Pub Crawl. Simon did the organising and there it began…
Simon and I were on an early turn on the boats that day which meant we started at some ridiculous time like 5.45 am, and finished around 1.30 pm. The plan was to get on the pub crawl as quickly as possible after work. It was going to be knackering as I had worked the previous two early mornings on boats and the previous three nights in bars in Bournemouth. After we finished on the ferry boat that day we went straight to the Waggon And Horses, the work local, and self advertised as “the last stop before the ferry.” The staff in there know most of the Wightlink workers who have frequented it over the years. I can’t say I’m a regular or that it’s even my local, but I do pop in for the odd quick pint after work, so I class it as my “work local.” Its a lovely wee pub, and in there I enjoyed a pint of Malt & Hops before heading back to park my car at Simon’s place where I would stay the night, so I could finally enjoy more than one pint on the streets of Lymington. We dandered from Simon’s round towards the Yacht Club on the other side of the harbour. Home of 2 Olympic Gold Medals this year, no less! There we had our second pint in the Mayflower Inn, a tidy wee pub with a massive beer garden and which does big summer barbecues. Simon knew one of the chefs in there, Stuart and we spoke to him for a while as a rare October sun beat down on my pint of Fuggle De Dum. It was actually the first time I’d ever tried Fuggle De Dum, an ale brewed on the Isle of Wight, and it met my taste satisfaction. Simon had strategically planned the pub crawl so that we would work it in a sensible order so as to end up back in town, from the outskirts. This meant a leisurely stroll to the next port of call…The Checkers (or is it the Chequers?).
The stroll to The Checkers took a wee bit longer than expected and this involved typical English countryside where people still say hello to each other. How refreshing in this modern day and age. Our route also saw us walk by a classic car and a photo moment, before Simon’s new phone and gadget (an Apple iPhone) came in useful as directing us straight to The Checkers via two dog walkers. Once inside The Checkers I opted for a Ringwood Best, while Simon was on the 49er. This was a lovely wee pub, simplistic untarnished decor with coins and banknotes on the wall, friendly staff and yet more people that Simon knew. We joined them for a drink in the even nicer beer garden, which included its own bar at the back. One could imagine massive countryside parties in here during the height of Summer. It was a relaxed pint in a pub you could also imagine Jonathan Creek drinking in during one of his mystery solving moments.
After that it began to spit a wee bit and we headed back towards town via The Fisherman’s Rest. We didn’t see any fishermen in there, but plenty of resters including me and Simon who nestled down onto the bar and ordered two swift bitters. We got talking to Frank a Scotsman from Motherwell in there and without prompting he ordered us in the next round of beers, even though the original plan was to have only one pint in each pub and complete the pub crawl. We bought him a Scotch whiskey back before he headed off and we chatted away to the barman and barmaid, one of whom was about to head off to work on cruise ships. A dream job I’m keen to pursue some day. Better sooner than later with that plan really. After that we left The Fisherman’s Rest and back onto the main road into Lymington from the Everton/Downton area, where nicely poking out on the corner stood the traditional White Hart.
I actually remembered at the time my old mate Chris Ragg (who I sometimes called “Chainsaw Chisel” or even more bizarrely “Chisel Massachussets”) as I used to stay at his house in Londonderry during the year 2000 and the walk reminded me of the walk to one of his locals at Eglinton/Maydown. That pub though was called The White Horse, this time it was The White Hart. In there the lady at the bar seemed quite the strict and obnoxious type. While we had been welcomed into all the previous bars, this lady asked for identification and then contradicted Simon when he suggested that they used to sell Timothy Taylor’s Ales! That turned out to be a very quick pint of the day in the end. “Don’t stay where you don’t feel welcome” and all that, so for some reason this became my least favoured pub on the crawl. On into the darkening sky and to The Thomas Tripp.
I had driven past The Thomas Tripp many times before on route to work. It is on the corner at the busy junction in Lymington and looks much bigger from the outside than when you’re inside. Still I had a lager pint in there, possibly Carling and by now the photos were becoming very blurred and the memories began to get more and more hazy. Pub crawls are great in theory, if your head didn’t get so mangled so early it would be even better. The bar man in there noticed I had a white AFCB shirt on, which of course is Bournemouth’s football team, The Cherries and he said “my mate plays for Bournemouth.” Immediately engrossed in conversation I was to learn that it was young Josh McQuoid who was his mate. Josh is not only an AFC Bournemouth player, but also plays for Northern Ireland under 19s, due to his grandfather being Northern Irish, I was to learn there and then that Josh was from Lymington! I had met Josh in April 2008 in the Inn Off The Bar bar at Dean Court, where I got a photo of him with my Northern Ireland fleg. That pint flew down fairly fast and soon it was across the road to The Fusion Inn.
By this time I didn’t know what time it was! We needed something to eat, but decided just to have a pint in The Fusion Inn and then grab a greasy burger or kebab. I opted for a bitter in The Fusion Inn which as I recall was a bar which went round in a square/circle, and looked much better inside than it did out. Simon again knew some of the staff in there and at this point we were also expecting another workmate to meet up with us after her shift. We had organised the pub crawl quite late notice as we had been paired together that week on the Stewarding Department of the boats, and the Monday we had worked with young Jo Weguelin, short for Joanna, mind, and not Joanne if you will please. Jo is also a local lady, and the sort of girl that you’d have to be stupid not to like. She has looks, smile, charm, humour and personality in equal portions and still found time of day to meet with me and Simon. Quite a rare attribute really, as as we ate greasy burgers, we waited for Jo to join us in the very next pub…
Which turned out to be The King’s Arms on the main street heading towards the sea. I really must admit that I was very drunk at this point, not too drunk to keep drinking but I was losing my ability to remember things. According to Simon I was pestering the bar staff in there quite a bit, which I do not remember, though I moved on to Guinness, as I drink it much slower and knew it would curb my drunken-ness. And in walked Jo to the bar with a scarf and jeans rather than her Wightlink attire. She had obviously got changed after work and had driven down, but lived nearby, so when we finished that drink in The King’s Arms she drove her car to somewhere where she could park overnight, and then as night was fading and bars were probably getting close to last orders, it was suggested we should go to Lymington’s ONLY nightclub (I believe…) which was called Long’s and I have no idea where it was, and couldn’t find it now if I tried. I was drunk and we headed into Long’s.
I can’t remember if we had to pay to get in, but I remember being a bit worse for wear and drinking Blue WKDs and Gin and Tonics instead of pints as my stomach probably couldn’t handle them! It was a karaoke night, and of course like an eejit I volunteered myself for the usual round of crap cover versions. Simon, Jo and I all sung at various points, often hogging the microphone. I did the usual array of Common People by Pulp in the worst ever working class Sheffield accent you’ve ever heard, an altered lyric version to the Manic Street Preachers ten year old hit “If You Tolerate This”, I certainly wouldn’t tolerate much more alcohol and was probably the most heavily intoxicated I’d been for a while, this just a week before the carnage of the AYCD club in Birmingham. Jo and I even joined in for what must surely have been one of the worst duets of all time, we tried to sing “As Long As You Love Me” by The Backstreet Boys. A classic song, which was probably ruined forever that night in Long’s. Recounting the night with Simon some days later, even Simon couldn’t remember every song that he had sang, and only on a chance Wave 105 radio play on board the Wightlink ship, Cenred did I remind myself of that zany zany walk to Dire Straits lost classic “Walk of Life.” Simon and Jo also did a duet, I believe it to be a song from the filim Grease! The pub crawl ended in Long’s with a few pubs in Lymington omitted (such as The Angel and The Bosun’s Chair) and they’ll be left for another day. I left some kind of mark on Lymington and it one on me, by the start of Novemeber my short stint working in the town was over and life could become normal again, well kind of…
Date – Wednesday 1st October 2008
Location – Lymington, Hampshire
Pubs Visited in order – The Waggon And Horses, The Mayflower, The Checkers, The Fisherman’s Rest, The White Hart, The Thomas Tripp, The Fusion Inn, The King’s Arms, Long’s.
Who went – Jonny Blair, Simon Eatwell, Jo Weguelin.
What song charted at the time – Oasis – The Shock Of The Lightning (I’m over my heart’s desire)
British News that day – Credit Crunch mayhem…
Quote of the crawl – “You do the walk; yes you do the walk of life…”
Something you didn’t know about Lymington – Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits owns a bar there.
The worst karaoke version of Champagne Supernova you will ever hear: