The fourtharch Old Boys Tankard Club
Annual Tour 5th – 7 th September 2014
The Turf Tavern, Oxford
The Sixth Fourtharch outing was held at the above establishment on the afternoon of the 6th September 2014 and was chosen by Dave. For any prospective new members this is an annual event to meet at a favourite hostelry discovered and chosen by one committee member anywhere in the UK.
There is only one rule and that is you must have had at least one pint of real ale in the chosen establishment and concluded that other committee members will enjoy your choice.
The Task [or reason for going]
Once the venue has been chosen and everyone is in attendance or on-site there is only one task to perform, apart from having a jolly good time and that is to decide where next year’s venue will be.
Congratulations and Welcome
Congratulations to committee member Matt and wife Catherine upon the birth of baby Oliver a new brother for young Emily.
Welcome to new member Rhys Morgan brother of Mogi
This year’s Report
Day 1. The Quest Begins
My name is Lu-ap the Great and I am a founding member of the Fourtharch quest, a journey taken annually to seek out interesting pubs, good beer and to tour a brewery with no more than a group of 10 persons, however our quest this year would be a little different for it included the seeking out and neutering of the Blood Stained Axe Hobgoblin of Beer with the assistance of Martin Brewer – but there would be many obstacles in our path including Good King Boo.com and various harpies in the Oxford-shire lowlands.
This year’s quest was to be led by Divad Tibnioc a man of Bris-tol whose excellent personal choice pub was the Turf Tavern in the city of Ox-ford and then to tour the Wychwood Brewery in the village of Witney home to our great leader Noremac. At the time of our visit Noremac was away leaving Ggelc in charge while he did do battle in Scot-land with Xela Dnomlas, a battle that would eventually turn out to be a bit of a push over, for who would believe that the Scots would vote and prefer to be ruled from London by a Tory dominated coalition rather than their very own SNP.
But I digress, so let us return to the story for all journeys begin at Thaeh Hgih Level and I was to make my way to Ox-ford on the Great Western Aluminium Horse alone this year because my usual travelling partner Igom the Jester had decided to travel instead with Drahcir of Good Trading Standards and Ttam the Noble from the great shire in the east called Cam-bridge.
Divad Tibnioc had spent these 10 months since our last quest to Windsor negotiating with Good King Boo.com for a safe and good place to lay our weary heads for two nights in Ox-ford and did secure an excellent deal on a magical circular island rich in pears and trees with not a rubbish break-fast in sight [If you are not keeping up dear reader – that’s 2 nights at the Holiday Inn on the Peartree roundabout – a Holiday Inn with the good breakfast]
Upon arriving in Ox-ford I made my way on the Park & Ride Bus to the magical circular Island rich in pears and trees, Divad Tibnioc did send to me that very morning a secret code or booking number to be presented at the Holiday Inn Good Breakfast so that I may secure safe passage to a twin bedded room. Dear reader can you imagine my horror when the young lady receptionist who would turn out to be the only British person working in the Oxford service industry did type the booking number into her magical screen then looked up to tell me that the fourtharch and all its members did not exist – what sorcery is this, have I crossed into some sort of parallel universe to a world where Marcus Brigstocke is actually funny?
Although Good King Boo.com had promised Divad Tibnioc to provide him with a place to lay eight weary heads for two nights at the Holiday Inn good breakfast the Diputs Sttarp had not actually informed the hotel of the booking and then went on to claim that they had made the confirmation by FAX*
*FAX!!! – This is not fantasy and was the actual excuse used by Booking.com given to the very helpful young lady at the Holiday Inn who spent quite some time trying to chase up our booking, I suggested that in order to receive a Fax from anyone these days you would firstly have to go out and buy a Fax machine from the local Antique shop, however this did give me the idea for the fantasy theme to the newsletter.
Returning to the real fantasy, Good King Boo.com had dropped us right in it for Divad Tibnioc had specifically planned to use the Island of trees and pears as base camp so that we may cross the nearby busy and dangerous divide called the A44 to then roam the Oxford-shire lowlands where we would find many good pubs and the evening meal organised by him at the Trout Inn for the Friday night. I pleaded with the young lady receptionist at Holiday Inn good breakfast that she might help us find room just for the Friday so that we may fulfil our quest to cross the great divide, to my request the only British person employed in the Oxford service industry looked at her magical screen and it said – YES!! But tomorrow night we would have to find another place. I thanked the young lady receptionist but then did warn her that upon his arrival later Drahcir of Good Trading Standards would be furious with Good King Boo.com especially after a similar incident at Adamar these 3 years ago during our quest to visit King Greene. The young lady receptionist upon hearing of this approaching rant did clock off early to avoid it that meant as of 3.30 pm on Friday 5th September 2014 there were no British people working in the Ox-ford service industry. Then came the difficult bit – I had to inform the others of this terrible news and of the Pu-kcoc made by Good King Boo.com so I despatched my faithful Korean messenger Sam Song to take the news to Drachir who by now would just about be setting off in the car on the journey from Cam-bridge, I just hoped and prayed that Drachir upon receiving the news form my Korean messenger might be pacified with a series of very unfunny jokes from Igom the Jester and calmed by the totally unflappable Ttam the Noble. Meanwhile I decided to leave the magical island of pears and trees before the fireworks began and headed back into Ox-ford on the Park & Ride bus to specifically take a look at St Catherine’s college built in 1962, an interesting modernist contrast to the dreaming spires of Ox-ford that we have all come to know.
When I returned to the Island I found Drahcir of Good Trading Standards, Igom the Jester, Ttam the Noble and indeed Project Manager Divad Tibnioc in the hotel reception area giving Good King Boo.com a real what for but also looking into options for a place to lay our heads on the Saturday with twin rooms, breakfast good or bad. Negotiations would continue as remaining quest members began to arrive, firstly next year’s Project Manager Nevets of the Slopes followed by Zeg the Quizzical and finally new member and brother to Igom – Syhr#tag
The good news was that everyone had a place to rest their heads for the Friday so now it was time to set out and cross the great divide called the A44 to then make our way to the Oxford-shire low lands in order to find good beer and sustenance – good job we didn’t ask Good King Boo.com to arrange our evening meal in the Trout Inn as they couldn’t organise a pu-ssip in a brewery.
The great divide is typical of many throughout the land and famous for the Crazies a breed of creature with no thought for others and extremely low in intelligence often referred to as White Van Man, we crossed without incident but little did we know that within the lowlands of good beer and sustenance we would come upon ghosts, harpies and a pub that was totally off the grid.
We made a steady pace through the low country towards our first port of call, the Plough Inn as set out in the quest itinerary of Divad Tibnioc and as I reminisced of the eating drinking, merry making and singing at the same Inn for Drahchir’s Stag party these six years gone, Drahcir did break off his continuing telephonic communications with Good King Boo.com to tell us and specifically your writer that there would definitely be “No singing”……….. I think he meant it.
It was around 8.00pm and it was my first pint of the day sat in the wonderful beer garden of the Plough the place of Siwel & Esrom and after what seemed like a long day packed with excitement already it tasted like the best pint in a long time but there was only time for the one as Divad Tibnioc our Project Manager ushered us up to move onto the Trout for the Friday night meal at 8.30pm.
Someone suggested we take the path across the Oxford canal and then the main line railway that can be heard from the pub beer garden, Ttam the Noble questioned “What cross a main line railway in the dark and after drinking beer?” We took the long way around instead.
At the Trout new member Syhr#tag came upon an old friend called Arron of Oxford [Note – Norra of Oxford doesn’t quite cut it for me] and he did ask Arron if he would join us for our evening feast at 8.30pm and he agreed. It was a good Inn with good beer and they had laid out our table so that Divad did sit at its head to observe all fellow quest members being merry together for the first time and could finally sit back and relax. It was as our food began to arrive that the first harpie of the lowlands appeared in the form of a serving wench tempting me with the home-made west country beef burger that I had ordered and then did throw it, I must admit I have had many a wench throw food at me in the past [and beer] [oh and not forgetting that wine] so having experience in this area I have to say that this was a pathetic attempt at aim and trajectory as the burger just went straight on the floor.
“Go back to the kitchens young wench and get another home-made west country beef burger for I have travelled far today, I have done battle with Good King Bloody Boo.com and I require sustenance at this time as noted in the very extensive quest itinerary of Divad Tibnioc” – is something I could say for the film version of the Fourtharch trips if it ever gets made.
The wench did soon reappear with a replacement burger and we could all then feast, be merry and converse, Arron of Oxford having passed through Cardiff did ask if Richard also known as Tash with his distinctive moustache and Yorkshire accent was still ever present serving good beer at the Albany – we had to pass on the sad news that Richard also known as Tash had passed away a few months earlier and on this very rare occasion I can actually state that he will be missed because whenever the subject of the Albany has come up in conversation in the past everyone always asks “Is Tash still behind the bar?”
It was now getting quite late and unaware of closing times in the lowlands we decided to leg it back to one of the two pubs right next door to each other overlooking the village green in Wolvercote that we did pass on our journey to the Trout. It was now pitch black in the lowlands and as we approached Jacobs Inn and the White Hart both pubs were illuminated by fairy lights entangled in the large trees in the Jacobs Inn car park making the scene take on the appearance of a pub Disneyland for men. It was almost 11pm and soon the great bells would sound all over the land to signify the end to drinking and merrymaking for the day – with seconds to go a decision had to be made and it was Igom and Drahcir who made the choice of the White Hart – this is the pub I mentioned earlier that was totally off the grid but a place where we had absolutely no worries about closing times for as we would find out the pub had been bought and now run by the locals and its licence seemed to obtain another extension every 15 minutes.
As we neared the pub the patrons sitting outside seemed rather flustered at the sight of the eight men of the Fourtharch quest plus Arron of Oxford approaching out of the dark and did suddenly move inside to nervously reposition themselves. Dear reader I knew we had made the wrong choice of pub for as we did enter its doors there before us was the second and most seductive of the four harpies that we would do battle with that evening, a temptress that I had fallen fowl of just before Christmas in the bar of the Hotel Falmouth in Falmouth and her name was Betty Stogs. Suddenly the voice of a third harpie suggested that we might enjoy the beer garden but to beware of the ghosts at the side of the pub, by this time we did not care about the ghosts at the side of the pub or any other ghouls that might be roaming the lowlands we just wanted more of Betty Stogs – it was at some time around now that Arron of Oxford made the wise decision to get out but what were the rest of us being dragged into?
In the beer garden we were told the history of the pub by the harpie who did guide us there and that we had made a good choice in the customer owned White Hart because the Jacobs Inn next door was probably closed by now and that anyway, when open it was usually full of Sbons.
The kindly lady in-between recognising Syhr#tag as a fellow traveller or “tripper” then continued to tell us the tale of how happy she was now that she had divorced her husband, she would eventually finish the evening with a tale of how happy she was now that she had divorced her husband all after an evening of tales of how happy she was ……………… I think you know the rest by now, we certainly did.
Suddenly a fourth harpy and temptress did appear in the guise of the kindly barmaid who had already satisfied our lust for Betty Scogs at the nations normal closing time two hours ago, honestly this girls hands were everywhere, I even thought she had an extra pair towards the end of the evening and anyway, isn’t it the customers who are supposed to grope the barmaid?
I should have been happy really as I had found what Harold Steptoe, Sid James and Robin Askwith had all been looking for in the 1970s – a nymphomaniac that owned a brewery [one for the older readers]
As the license was given its tenth 15 minute extension I noticed the other quest members rising and getting ready to leave – we all ran as fast as we could through the lowlands, across the now quiet great divide to the magical island of pears and trees and were all very pleased to finally rest our weary heads [in twin rooms] We had not yet found the Blood Stained Axe Hobgoblin of Beer but we were all excited about the next day for we were to visit the Turf Tavern in Oxford our featured pub and to then tour, with no more than a group of 10, the Wychwood Brewery in Witney as chosen by Divad Tibnioc.
Day 2. Martin Brewer is found
In all last night’s excitement and re-enactment of the Wickerman I forgot to mention that a new place had been found to lay our heads for the Saturday night and it was to be the Days Inn a little further away from Ox-ford in a place called Wheatley on another Island called the Welcome Break Service Area – sadly the Days Inn offered a really rubbish breakfast but we would find a man from the North who would provide us with a very good breakfast on the Island and his name was Harry Ramsden.
So this morning our first task was to move the cars and luggage from the Holiday Inn to the Days Inn that turned out to be a very successful operation and we were all soon gathered back at the Holiday Inn reception waiting for our carriage at 11am organised by Divad to take us to the Wychwood Brewery in Witney.
Our Taxi carriage was just about driven after a fashion by an Nainabla, a Minotaur come Hydra from the Eastern zone of the great continent, the Minotaur noticed, while yet again not keeping his eyes on the road that I had decided to hang on to the front passenger seat door handle and he suggested that I was worried about something to which I replied “I’ve seen how you Snainabla drive” to which the Minotaur come frustrated Dr Evil did find much humour in between telling us of how one day he intended to rule the world and make it free of Sbara – the only thing holding him back for now was a series of Airport runs up until Christmas.
The Nainabla soon had us in the village of Witney and as we gathered outside the entrance to the Wychwood brewery a bearded man with a well over the average brewer’s tummy did appear at the top of the steps to welcome us, he had a friendly face and the look a little like that of Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon but this man was not Prince Vultan he was Martin Brewer the friend that we were told of and did seek.
Martin Brewer did beckon us inside the Brewery and we were soon sat down refreshed with a sample of beer provided by our new portly friend but before anything could begin Martin made us all read passages issued by the great government of Noremac and Ggelc so that our journey through the brewery might be a safe and healthy one – this piece of completely over the top legislation and being as we were amongst Hobgoblins was called Elf & Safety – Hey! Come on; give me break here, after so many newsletters it’s difficult to come up with new gags these days.Martin Brewer was going down a storm with his beer talk peppered with humorous anecdotes so much so that our own jester, Igom decided to add a humorous story of his own – this went down like a great Iron Balloon and during the silence created that is normally filled with laughter after the telling of a joke we were all able to hear and fully appreciate the sound of the enormous thud made by the great Iron Balloon as it crashed to the ground outside. Martin did then merrily guide us through the truly magical labyrinth of beer informing us of the brewing process peppered with more humorous anecdotes of Prince Charles and the Dogs Bollocks as we followed on behind.
After the tour Martin Brewer sat us back down in the welcome bar area and while providing us with more real beer [not real ale] samples he did ask us to turn around to look at two tapestries [or advertising hoardings] hanging on the wall. The first tapestry depicting a giant bomb-toting gorilla promoting Piledriver beer was a pastiche of an album of music composed by Status Quo, a musical combo that has dragged out a career of nearly 50 years by playing only 3 chords on their Harpsicles. Then Martin did tell us to look to the right and we were all horrified to see on the second advertising tapestry – the Blood Stained Axe Hobgoblin of Beer.
“Martin, we have come specifically on a quest to find and neuter this beast” announced Ttam with wonderful English pronunciation.
“No need to bother” replied Martin Brewer “the US Feds or Federal Trade Commission have already done the job for you, if you look closely the blood is no longer to be seen dripping from the axe”
“Oh yeah” we all collectively sighed.
It turns out that when the Wychwood Brewery initially tried to break into the US beer market using the blood stained axe hobgoblin logo the FTC in the United States considered the blood on the axe too violent for the American market and asked for it to be removed – and what is the body count in your average American action movie???
Martin Brewer thanked us for coming and did reward us with a souvenir half pint glass that did come in very handy later on for a night cap at the Days Inn.
Next was the featured pub, the Turf Tavern right in the centre of Ox-ford where the following year’s featured pub would be revealed by 2015 Project Manager, Nevets of the Slopes, meanwhile this year’s PM, Divad Tibnioc had our carriage arranged for 1.15pm to take us back into town luckily not driven by a Nainabla this time. At last years featured pub in Windsor we were all able to sit in Project Manager Matt’s favourite corner – this year at the Turf Tavern we again found ourselves sat in a special place and we were truly the Knights of the Turf Tavern’s large oval table. After the traditional group photograph, the AGM could commence and I began my chairman’s speech by thanking everyone for ‘turning up’ in my view the only thing you have to do in life – I knew at least one person was listening to my speech this year because Zeg the Quizzical turned up twice.
After the usual formalities we had some disappointing news coming from our equal opportunities program revealing that we have still only managed to tick one box or place one tick in the box, but the good news was that since Windsor the fourtharch website was looking very much healthier and professional these days thanks to the hard work of Igom with help form Drahcir for which there was the traditional round of applause.
After Richard presented his statement of accounts he handed the chair back to me and sitting back down upon it I firstly asked for more contributions to the website blog and then gave a rallying call for British beer to be given the same prestige as enjoyed by that of wine since the arrival of the Normans almost a millennia ago – this gauntlet was picked up by Igom in his Were the Normans all Bastards blog written under his real name of Mogi………..actually that’s not his real name either.
The suspense in the room was now on par with the tension in the belt holding up Martin Brewer’s trousers as Divad Tibnioc handed over the baton of command to his brother Nevets of the Slopes to make the announcement for next year’s featured pub. Nevets the Project Manager for 2015 stood up while slowly opening the closely guarded envelope he had been carrying around with him all day to reveal that next September we would be heading for Londinium and that the featured pub would be the 17th century George Inn near London Bridge and as if that wasn’t enough we would be visiting not one brewery but six, the Bermondsey Beer Mile a series of six breweries under the railway arches.
Nevets of the Slopes had certainly upped the ante with his proposals and did cause much excitement and anticipation amongst the members, so much so and what with the accommodation already sorted someone asked if we could go next week.
The excitement and suspense was over for another year and Drahcir took time to make quiet reflection of our Ox-ford quest and especially of how he wished he could take Martin Brewer back to Cam-bridge so that he could talk about beer with him every evening – the calm this brought to Drahcir of Good Trading Standards did not last long as he left our oval table with Igom to order food.
Dear Reader you may recall that last year in Windsor, Igom had so many food and drink vouchers hidden in his long black coat he took on the appearance of a pantomime villain so this year he decided not to print the vouchers but to present them upon his mobile telecommunication device – to which the serving wench in the Turf Tavern did tell him that this was not acceptable – this made Drahcir of Good Trading Standards so furious that he did speed-say our food order so quickly that the poor young wench could not keep up with him. We needed to calm things down as we left the Turf Tavern our featured pub for 2014 and a spot of punting as suggested within Divad’s itinerary was the order of the late afternoon, we separated into two punts and were soon relaxing along the very animated River Cherwell without a care in the world. Suddenly over St Hilda’s College I spotted a Virgin hot air balloon belonging to Poacher turned Gamekeeper Nosnarb who had gone into self-exile many years ago to a peaceful Caribbean Island called Tax Haven.
After heading out for a while to our new hotel we were soon back in Ox-ford enjoying a meal at the Beefeater and to prove that we are not a group of real beer [not ale] geeks we all had wine with our steaks except for one awkward Ruggub [I refer you again to Mogi’s Were the Normans all Bastards blog]
The Days Inn was a good and comfortable place to lay our heads but its breakfast doesn’t even register on the abysmal scale, however as mentioned we were lucky enough to have a Harry Ramsden amongst many other famous food outlets next to the hotel all housed within the very busy Welcome Break Service Area. Dear Reader, if you have ever wondered where people get dressed up to go on a Sunday morning these days then Service areas off major trunk roads are one of them.
After such a fun weekend together it is always sad to see the group break up to head home and it was Syhr#tag that left first at Oxford railway station while the rest of us parked up and headed towards the Ashmolean Museum for the Tutankhamun exhibition. I Lu-ap the Great was in the Valley of the Kings only last year visiting my close relations but I did not notice a parchment and an example of ancient Egyptian humour brought out of the Boy King’s tomb now on exhibition at the Ashmolean – are Igom’s jokes really that old?
Everyone was now heading off in various directions and as we wished Divad Tibnioc farewell while thanking him for organising such a brilliant weekend we also wished him good luck with his personal compensation battle with Good King Boo.com that he would eventually be victorious.
I must say that everyone pulled together brilliantly to ensure that Booking.com did not spoil our weekend in any way and while our equal ops record may be a poor one – working as a team at the Fourtharch gets a training day health check of 100%.
If the girls at the White Hart are reading this then I hope you can appreciate the humour it is written in and for the record the White Hart was a wonderful surprise find for us on the Friday night and defiantly a highlight of our weekend.
But before I close I must bring your attention to the last thing that Martin Brewer did whisper to me as we left Witney on the Saturday afternoon, that if he ever needed the assistance of the Fourtharch in the future with such things as corporate take-overs by King Greene then he would send to us a single horse messenger – so what was that horse doing trying to gain entry into the car park of the Holiday Inn Good Breakfast? …………………….to find out, tune in next year.
Next year’s venue chosen by Steve
The George Inn 17th century pub, London Bridge. The Bermondsey
For more photo’s of our trip to Oxford, check out our Facebook page.