The Fourtharch Old Boys Tankard Club
Annual Tour 9th – 11th September 2016
The Lady of Mann Liverpool & Crewe Rail Ale Festival 2016
The eighth Fourtharch outing was held at the above establishment on the afternoon of the 10th September 2016 and was chosen by Rhys. 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 Cath upon the birth of third child and new son George and welcome to new member Paul II and a delayed congratulations from last year upon your engagement.
Apologies were received from Chris next year’s PM on holiday in Morocco and Steve
This year’s Report
Eight lads who broke the rules and Beer Kitty Armageddon
Including Dave’s Alternative Weekend
All Fourtharch weekends begin at Heath High Level and it was just before 8.45 as I approached the station steps that I noticed a rather over excited Mogi already standing on the platform above, the Fourtharch annual outing is like a weekend full of Christmas days to Mogi and even the disappointing news that he delivered when I climbed up to the platform that Steve would not be able to join us this time was not going to spoil any of his presents waiting to be opened under the Fourtharch outing Christmas tree. I thought I was in plenty of time for our scheduled 9.04 train into Cardiff Central station where we were to pick up our connection north to Liverpool but Mogi was so eager to get the weekend started that he literally pushed me with luggage onto the 8.49 that had just pulled in – we were to be joined by Paul Ebbens from Norfolk this year a train enthusiast who very much speaks in terms of 4 minutes, 7 minutes and my personal favourite 13 minutes past the hour so I saw this change of schedule as tempting fate and a very bad omen for the weekend and I didn’t think Paul Ebbens was going to be impressed with an 11 minutes to the hour either.
We were soon back on schedule and boarding the 9.21 out of Cardiff Central heading towards Chester via Shrewsbury on one of the most scenic railway lines in the country but first we had to pass through Newport famous for the last large scale armed rebellion against authority in Great Britain when 10,000 Chartist sympathisers marched on the town in the Newport rising of 1839, I noticed that the Chartists were referenced in the current Sunday night drama Victoria and Chartism was certainly in the air in the form of our train guard who along with colleagues at Southern trains was facing extinction in the coming era of the driverless train but unlike the Newport Chartists our over-friendly guard would not be using violence as a weapon of protest but instead he was going to be especially nice to passengers all the way to Chester.
As the train guard moved painfully slowly down our carriage apologising to each individual passenger for having to disturb them in order to check their ticket, Mogi got out a comprehensively typed and well-presented guide to the best pubs in Liverpool including ones to avoid [lager only] all compiled by a work colleague that we found very useful and it was also encouraging to have friends and colleagues outside the group engaging and supporting the fourtharch project – we would award a fourtharch gold badge for this comprehensive guide to the pubs of Liverpool, if only we had one.
The talk moved back to rules and border changes as we weaved our way along the Welsh Marches and considered the irony of Wales losing Ludlow to England and gaining Newport instead, this talk of stepping across borders could have been another warning of things to come over the fourtharch weekend but I had no time to think about it as the train guard now went completely over the top by announcing that he hoped passengers already on the train would not be disturbed by new passengers boarding the train at the next station, I began to wish that like the Newport Chartists this man could be transported to Australia.
It was a relief to change trains at Chester and board one with no guards and we soon found ourselves leaving Birkenhead station to travel under the Mersey onto the final destination of Liverpool, I was reminded of the time a few years ago when sailing above on the Mersey after a very interesting cruise along the Manchester Ship Canal but especially of the bowl of Scouse that I enjoyed on board ship, Scouse is a Liverpool version of yer basic stew but if we ever realised our dreams of opening a chain of fourtharch pubs we might consider a lunchtime menu inspired by the food enjoyed on our many fourtharch outing destinations beginning with Scouse then Windsor soup from Matt’s weekend, Turkey sandwiches from the first trip to Norfolk, customers then presented with the Portland Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill etc.
We emerged into Liverpool, the once second city of Empire from James Street station and although our hotel the Britannia Rooms was right next door to it took us a good 15 minutes to find it, when we eventually managed to check in Mogi revealed his neatly displayed box of homemade fourtharch merchandising that included bottles, badges, keyrings, bottle openers and his balsa wood scalded models of pallets to be used as beer mats inspired by his “palatable” joke from last year’s outing in London, a photograph of all his hard work is displayed below and for any psychiatrists tuning in who might find him and interesting subject to study.
We now had the afternoon free before everyone else would begin arriving and we had lots planned, first stop was Mogi’s choice and a bus ride to Anfield a football stadium on the outskirts of the city, I have visited Liverpool on many occasions and have always been struck by the warm welcome and friendliness of its people and would you believe our bus driver and the first Liverpudlian we came across [staff in the hotel were all Eastern Europeans] would prove my point, Mogi had pressed the bell a stop too early for Anfield and as we were about to step down from the bus the driver advised us that we probably needed the next stop for the football ground, he told us to hang on, shut the doors and moved off again – perfect.
Anfield originally built in the middle of a Victorian terraced estate in the late 19th Century is forever expanding, today leaving only one terraced row left of now highly desirable properties, for a self-declared atheist Mogi seemed to look upon Anfield as his Cathedral even stopping to worship at the shrine of the “Shanks” the prophet who once said that football was more important than life or death, we were soon in the Park pub opposite and ready for our first pint of the weekend where the choice of beer was lager, lager or lager – we had to take the hit as Mogi had planned to snap one of his famous selfies in front of the Anfield stadium holding a pint bought in this very pub, we quickly got the feeling that standing on the street with a pint of beer and the best place to take the shot was not a particularly good idea mainly because we couldn’t see anyone else doing it. The selfie would have to be taken inside the pub where holding a pint of beer is perfectly legal [at the moment] we found a good spot next to the window overlooking the stadium and Mogi began framing up the snap on his camera phone but just could not get the correct focus so out of pure desperation he asked me if I could take the selfie with my camera instead, thus breaking our first rule of the weekend within an hour of being in Liverpool – the omens were coming true.
Selfie Rule Violation
13.19pm Friday 9th September 2016
Selfies must be taken by one of the persons appearing in the Selfie
The selfie I took of Mogi turned out to be the worst photograph I had ever been responsible for, the pint and Mogi’s head blocking out the word ‘Kop’ on the stadium façade leaving only the definite article in view but Mogi was “over the moon” to quote the football pundits. I was hoping we could slip out of the pub without anyone noticing the selfie rule violation situation but as we were about to exit the door the barmaid shouted in her wonderful Liverpool accent “See youse tomorrrow lads” it seems that when Liverpool football club play at home it is almost like a religious celebration and is assumed that everyone in the city is there to take part, not being a sports fan and before I could work out an appropriate and polite response to the barmaids farewell such as “Up with the Toffee men” Mogi whisked us away in an Uber cab heading towards our next stop for the afternoon and your writer’s choice, the Empress in the Toxteth area of town, the pub near the birthplace of the Beatles best drummer in the band – Ringo Starr.
I was determined to prevent any Ringo Starr joke opportunities Mogi may have planned for the Empress and I was certainly not going to give him any open goals such as “Welcome to the Empress Mogi, once the local pub of the Beatles talented drummer” for him to then say “So where did Ringo drink then” Luckily any jokes Mogi might have had planned about Ringo were immediately made redundant because when we walked into the pub it was completely empty, Liverpool has gone through one incredible rejuvenation over the last 30 but it is still a work in progress especially the empty and boarded up “Welsh Streets” that surround the Empress, the pub having had a recent chequered history itself but I hope the area can be aided by its association with Ringo to help make these well-built Victorian houses and the pub as new again as the highly desirable remaining row beside Anfield. As for Ringo who remains as cool today as he was then, his use of the English language made him a kind of people’s poet laureate coining phrases such as Hard Day’s Night and his cheeky Liverpudlian wit creating interest in the band for an initially hostile US press core who were determined to close the long haired Fab Four down when they first arrived stateside in 1964.
Beatles first US Press Conference.
“Aren’t you afraid of what the American Barbers Association is going to think of you?”
“Well, we run quicker than the English ones, we’ll have a go here.”
After raising a glass to Ringo in the Empress and especially to his mum who used to be the barmaid in the pub we were away again back into the city centre as other members were now beginning to arrive, our Uber cab driver was the usual person of North African heritage who during our journey used his fingers to list the three key attributes of a good taxi driver that were “To be courteous ” raising a first digit, “To be knowledgeable” raising a second digit and I can’t quite recall the third one for now but maybe it should have been to keep your hands on the steering wheel instead of waving them around in order to emphasise points to passengers sat in the back. I don’t know if Mogi saw an opportunity to swing the spotlight away from his selfie rule violation onto our driver by pointing out a possible right turn misdemeanour as we waited at traffic lights but while correcting Mogi and explaining that as a taxi he could take the right turn our driver reminded me of that third attribute of a good taxi operative – patience, something needed in buckets for any fourtharch project manager. If Mogi was looking for someone to distract attention from his rule break then he wouldn’t have to wait long as all fourtharch members would systematically break the rules over the whole weekend right up to the very last minute – extending the weekend by one whole hour for three members.
Our courteous, knowledgeable and patient Uber driver dropped us off near the hotel giving us the opportunity to walk through a very busy Albert Dock towards our first official pub choice of the weekend the Baltic where Richard and Matt were the first to arrive quickly followed by Gez. The Baltic has three Ghosts, 2 Secret tunnels one leading to the docklands and another leading to the old red light district, a microbrewery in the cellar and has been graced by Michael Portillo filming for his train journeys program on Sea Shanty evening – what is there not to like about this pub and it seems that it is the duty of every good Liverpudlian to visit the Baltic at least once during a lifetime, a lot of local first timers were in that night proved by the amount of times we were asked for the directions to the Gents – just under an hour in the pub and the fourtharch already look like seasoned regulars.
The Baltic with a good choice of real ales was the perfect place to kick off the weekend but as we said our goodbyes there was now only one thing on member’s minds – food of course, I suggested the Albert Dock now buzzing with many different restaurant choices and while members pretended to look interested and study the window menus there was only ever going to be one choice – Chinese. While waiting for the inevitable Chinese decision I as unofficial Liverpool tour guide pointed out to Matt that the Albert Dock was once the home to Fred the weatherman, Fred had recently appeared in a different kind of dock of course and instead of having the whole of the UK to bounce around on now has only an 8 foot by 6 foot cell that he is currently banged up in, poor Matt’s face dropped with the thought of yet another fallen and disgraced celebrity from his childhood while I was hoping and praying that John Noakes and Shep would not be the next to fall.
We had to walk back into the city centre for the Chinese restaurant that no doubt certain members had already seriously researched, but when sat and gathered around the table everyone looked very very happy and especially when the inevitable duck was brought to the table and the waiter began pulling the meat away from the bones – we were later complimented by the staff for being the only group of blokes in the restaurant on a Friday night who resisted telling the waiter the glaringly obvious “That’s all you will be pulling tonight” Suddenly we were a ship with a captain as this year’s project manager Rhys arrived to immediately break the second rule of the weekend;
Change of Appearance Violation
10.04 pm Friday 9th September 2016
Members must not change their appearance
Rhys had grown his beard even longer thus violating a rule brought in after Gez cut off his pony tail admittedly for a very worthwhile charitable cause, Rhys with his new style beard looked very cool but even so can you imagine the consequences of such rule breaks if our merchandising department was up all night in his bedroom making scaled models of members using pictures from the previous year to then find a complete change in appearance the following – Mogi was happy because it finally took some heat off his selfie rule violation earlier on. We all tried to ignore the rule break and instead thanked Rhys for his choice of destination, his hard work organising the weekend and especially his announcement made from India in London last year, Rhys talked about his time in the once Jewel in the British Crown and how he cried himself to sleep every night, luckily before I began to empathize with Rhys about how I do the same with only my memories for company he quickly went on to tell us the reason he cried every night was not because of any lifestyle crisis but because he was in India – phew!
Since returning to the UK Rhys has been busy in London pursuing a career in stand-up comedy and gosh I was surprised at the attention span of Londoners these days as his last gig only lasted 22 seconds but I rather admire Rhys for honing his trade as a funny man the hard way playing gigs in small venues in front of live raw sometimes unforgiving audiences unlike the usual well-trodden route of most young comedians these days who fill their acts with unfunny jokes about Margaret Thatcher and George W. Bush topping it all off with a moan about the lack of strong female, disabled and ethnic minority comedians in the media, but as Rhys says the Edinburgh Festival isn’t for him.
Dave from Dave’s Alternative Weekend sponsored by Foster’s Lager joined us next; Dave had driven to Liverpool all the way from Bristol so a Chinese Restaurant was the ideal place for a refreshing pint of Foster’s Lager Mmmmmmmm! – Good-on-ya mate – poor Dave would have to wait until our next port of call the Cornmarket and the pub right under our hotel for a pint of real beer. It was in the Cornmarket that someone [was it your writer?] suggested that we begin a beer kitty, a perfectly innocent suggestion you might think but a suggestion that would lead to very very serious consequences but for now as we gathered around a table with our beers bought from the kitty we welcomed the arrival of the final member of the weekend crew and brand new to the group Paul II. Paul II who arrived by rail from Norfolk had travelled the furthest that weekend, I assumed that he had taken the rather tedious east to west cross country route but Paul our Heritage Railway enthusiast did the complete opposite by firstly heading to London from Norwich then he screwed one hell of a deal travelling to Liverpool in first class being served to table all the way with free pints of Reckless beer – he is the true Tender to the Throne and our own Prince of Rails – and yes the puns don’t get any better.
After an action packed day and having counted all members in for the weekend I felt that I could retire peacefully to my room and to go over my chairman’s speech, I wished everyone goodnight knowing that if any members who felt that the evening was still young and were considering hitting the Town Zone they wouldn’t have to move far as our hotel and the Cornmarket underneath were already in it, I later discovered that the noise from the Zone filtering up two floors to our hotel rooms would keep a few members awake during the night but I found the sound of Friday night party revellers accompanied by that dulling bass sound coming from the nightclubs rather cathartic and soon drifted off to sleep. I was suddenly awoken by what I initially believed to be the usual end of night argument between two young men fighting over a girl, I was correct about the young men but not about the girl because this girl was a woman, one of the most unforgiving women any man could ever meet, a woman who gives out in pleasure only what a man or even another woman puts in and her name dear reader was Kitty – I was woken by Beer Kitty Armageddon!!!
As you all know everything that happens in Town Zone stays in Town Zone so purely out of respect for the rules [not like some others] I am prevented from revealing any details surrounding Beer Kitty Armageddon!!!! Kitty is a formidable lady who will always come out the winner and remember that you may check in but you can never leave and before this becomes as tedious as the intro to Hotel California by the Eagles I intend leaving the subject right there [it will all be in my book by the way]
Anyone in the hotel nursing serious hangovers who thought that the noise from the Town Zone would die away towards the early hours of Saturday morning were very much mistaken as the sound of late night party revellers was soon replaced by an army of street cleaning vehicles, I don’t know if I wanted to cry or laugh for people nursing sore heads when bottle skips began to get upended into bin lorries creating the most shattering of noises.
I decided to go for an early morning walk just as the clean-up vehicles were finishing leaving the streets as fresh and new as the morning tide washes the beach clean of any evidence and detritus from the previous day, I headed down towards the Three Graces and the Mersey to look across to Birkenhead and imagined the many cargo ships that would have arrived at the Albert Dock during the ports heyday, the sailors on the merchant ships in the 1950s also brought back with them vinyl records with the then unheard sounds of the new Rock & Roll music coming out of the USA, you might say that merchant seamen had a hand in providing inspiration for the Mersey Beat sound of the early 1960s and of course its greatest exponents – the Beatles.
It was now time for breakfast a somewhat changeable feast in the hotels we have stayed in over the years beginning with the fabulous buffets at the Oxford Holiday Inn and the Days Inn Bury St Edmunds, it was then all change in Cheltenham at the Holiday Inn Rubbish Breakfast and after being offered what looked like cardboard at the Travelodge in Windsor we decided to look outside the hotels for our first meal of the day, our hotel in Liverpool probably had the best idea by not bothering with breakfast at all except for a bowl full of complimentary fruit drops that I found all members sucking on gathered in the reception area for our prearranged meet up time of 9.30. There was one member missing, Project Manager Rhys who was going to take some time out from his heavy responsibilities as team leader with a few more hours in bed however Rhys would be monitoring the situation via the Fourtharch Facebook and twitter accounts and by tracking Richard’s phone, Rhys had full confidence in our abilities to work without him for a few hours on the Saturday morning – how wrong he was.
We decided that breakfast was to be at Ed’s American style Easy Diner on the nearby Lord Street and I think Matt a fan of the USA probably enjoyed Ed’s the most with its 1950s “Happy Days” interior and the option of sitting around the breakfast bar in that typical stateside way watching the chef cooking the eggs over easy and sunny side up, the American theme came crashing back to earth when the young waiter came to take our order not with that bubble gum have a nice day Californian accent but a wonderful Liverpool one instead “And for youse mate” I loved it.
Gathered around the table after breakfast it was now time to plan the journey to our first treat of the day, the Crewe ‘Rail’ Ale Festival at the Crewe Heritage Centre railway museum – for Paul II the combination of trains and beer was the perfect storm and it was indeed Paul II wearing his school teachers hat who took charge of booking the train tickets, everyone seemed to know that you could get a good deal with a group booking but when Matt produced a price on his mobile phone, Paul II was so annoyed by this that he then put on his headmasters hat to give Matt 100 lines “I must not use thetrianline.com or I will have to pay their booking fee” Paul II then putting on his Scout masters hat [Note to props department – bring a hat stand next time] to lead us up to Liverpool Lime Street Station to purchase all the tickets, lead us all onto the platform and we were soon away on the train to Crewe.
The journey to Crewe would last just over 40 minutes and while everyone else found a series of 6 seats, 3 either side facing each other I took up position on the opposite side of the isle behind a man wearing a pork pie hat and what turned out to be his pretty young daughter, as the journey progressed both parties began chatting and soon discovered a lot in common plus the fact that we were all heading for the beer festival, our new found friend not only had a wonderful Liverpool accent but also that typical Liverpudlian sense of humour telling us that he couldn’t wait for the festival in order to get legless making light of his prosthetic leg that was visible to all, he went on to recommend a really interesting local train excursion that might interest any group of real ale lovers, the train stopping at stations with real ale pubs on the platforms – certainly one for the future there.
Upon arriving at Crewe we said goodbye to Dave outside the station as he re-joined Dave’s Alternative Weekend to watch the football in a local pub, poor Dave if the football pubs in Crewe are anything like the ones in Liverpool his only choice of beer is going to be lager, lager or lager. Dave would be joining us again later and as we set off for the Crewe Heritage Centre our new found train friend with his pretty young daughter [did I already mention her?] obviously considered us a group of smart cookies as they both began to follow us in the completely wrong direction but we did manage to pass the biggest B&Q that Richard and Matt had ever seen.
Both parties returned to the start point at Crewe Station to begin the quest again, we had passed the Crewe Heritage Centre on the train coming in and it was literally next door to Crewe station however the walk there was a real around the houses marathon, our friend from the train kept up with us but after the first two miles his leg was beginning to slow him down, I dropped back to keep his spirits up while everyone else pushed on ahead with the pretty young daughter – I wonder why? Back in Liverpool Rhys was almost apoplectic monitoring Richard’s phone wandering all over google maps in Crewe bar the beer festival, the fourtharch project 2016 was spiralling out of control – Rhys immediately headed for Lime Street station and the train to Crewe and no, he didn’t book his ticket using thetrainline.com.
Back in Crewe when we finally arrived at the Festival by the time we had worked out how to order and pay for beer, find a table outside and get our breath back, Dave had already rejoined us from the football, we asked him if he had the same trouble finding the place and he replied “Naaa, I just got in a cab” quickly returning his head downwards to concentrate on his mobile phone – it was at this point that I was seriously thinking of defecting to the Dave Alternative Weekend.
The Crewe Heritage Centre is nowhere near the scale of the National Railway Museum in York and it was railway expert Paul II who informed me that the place opened with very little funding but it does have parked up beside the engine shed that the beer festival was held in an Advanced Passenger Train better known as the Tilting Train and even more famously known for being a great British failure, the train was never put into service and while Paul pointed out the mistake of placing the engine unit in the middle of the train it was the 1980s Yuppie style plush seating throughout its carriage interiors that spelt out all the signs of doom for me. We wandered down to the redundant Art Deco signal box now part of the heritage centre to see two model railway enthusiasts sat contently in the large bay window enjoying the view not of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or even Torquay but of trains leaving Crewe station snaking either side of the old signal box – they both seemed to have achieved Zen and Kama all rolled into one.
Back at our table while some members were on their second sausage course bought from the nearby large steam train style barbecue, Mogi took the opportunity to reveal his beer mat model pallets that not only went down well with all members but also attracted interest from nearby tables of other real ale fans, should we put in an order for 10,000 model pallets by next Monday? For now Mogi with his content manager’s hat on [Note to props department – bring an even bigger hat stand next time] attempted to ‘incentivise’ members by promising a personalised beer mat model pallet if a blog gets written and published on the website, we then moved inside for the beer festival quiz that was a series of questions and Dingbat cryptic picture puzzles that we simply handed straight over to Gez, noticing Dave staring down at his mobile phone I reminded him that mobiles were not to be used during the quiz, he told me that he wasn’t using his phone but answering his front door bell in Bristol – dear reader will I ever get to grips with the modern world?
Project Manager Rhys had now arrived in Crewe bringing back order to the chaos and immediately began making tough decisions by telling Richard that there was no more time left for a fourth sausage course or the results of the dingbats quiz he then ordered two cabs to take us straight back to Crewe station for the return train journey to Liverpool and the next stop the Lady of Mann our featured pub where next year’s destination would be revealed – the tension and excitement was now building.
Uber had not yet arrived in Crewe [CREWE ALEXANDA – OF COURSE] so it was to be your regular local taxi service and regular local taxi driver who spent the first half of our short 5 minute journey with a lecture about how bad foreign drivers were and that local British drivers were the best then after talking us into taking a rat run so he could avoid the traffic around the railway station he suddenly without notice took a sharp left almost running a pedestrian down, if it was not for our ever alert volunteer train guard Paul II shouting a warning who knows what would have happened, while the driver then blamed the pedestrian I began to pine for our courteous, knowledgeable and patient Uber driver back in Liverpool and considered a possible fourth key attribute to the making of a good taxi driver – must be a foreigner!
We had a Jeremy Corbyn moment on the journey back as we found the train crowded out with empty seats so poor Mogi had to sit on the floor to read his random important looking pamphlet upside down, we took a video to highlight the problem of Labour party members clogging up train corridors by sitting on the floor and after climbing over Ed Balls who was sat on the floor near the exit door on our train from Lime Street to James Street Station we finally arrived back at our hotel. Some members decided to freshen up before our next destination and highlight of the weekend – the Lady of Mann, as we all gathered again outside Mogi began to hammer home the importance of the group photograph and that it must be our first task upon arriving at the featured pub, I had asked Mogi to be my wingman with this because gathering a group of blokes together in a pub to stand in the same spot holding full pints of beer is not easy, Mogi then proceeded to warn members of the first pint “no-sip” rule to ensure that everyone in the photograph would be holding a full and intact pint of beer. After acting in such a stern confident way and being such a good help I was seriously considering promoting Mogi to rear gunner before he suddenly rushed on ahead of the rest of us, it was Gez who suggested that Mogi was going to dive into the featured pub first to down a quick pint in order not to break the first pint ‘no-sip’ rule – it was at that point that my suspicions were beginning to become aroused about the group photograph wingman.
The first pint ‘no-sip rule’ was made completely futile when we all eventually arrived at the Lady of Mann to find the courtyard packed with people focused on the big TV screens watching the Liverpool football game, I was right in assuming football in the city was a religion that we dare not disturb, it was suggested we eat somewhere else first and then return to our featured pub when the sport was over, the Lady of Mann adjoins Thomas Rigby’s with which it shares a courtyard so we thought we would give it a try finding it almost empty we were then quickly taken in hand by a wonderfully obliging American hostess who amazingly found us our now usual board room style pub table that was perfect for beer, food and our AGM, I was reminded of Windsor when we were again saved by the good ladies of the USA.
Would you believe as per last year in London our American hostess would wait until the end of our AGM before bringing the food to table, our meeting began with an introduction from Project Manager Rhys, then the chairman’s speech where I took the opportunity to point out that the British pint was one of only three legal imperial measures still allowed in the UK and to have survived the tenure of our European Union membership – we all raised a pint to the great British pint. Next on the agenda was a content and finance manager’s update, a recruitment drive all building towards what everyone was really waiting for – the announcement. Project Manager Rhys seems to have started a trend last year with members now preferring to make their announcements from different continents around the world, Chris our PM for 2017 on holiday in Morocco with wife Emma had left Richard with his announcement in the form of a very impressively produced video and fact sheet, the video opened with dusk scenes around the small market town of Masham in Yorkshire, God’s Own Country and our destination for September 2017. The featured pub is to be the poetically named Black Sheep and a tour of not one but two breweries, Theakstons and Black Sheep, Chris wetted our appetites with a shot of him in the video raising a pint and taking a sip [the no-sip rule does not apply here] a great presentation that all members enjoyed.
After a hearty meal it was now time for the ever so important group photograph usually taken standing outside the featured pub holding full pints of beer and what with the daylight now fading I suggested we quickly buy the pints in Thomas Rigby’s so that we might then ask our friendly American hostess to pop outside and snap the picture for us, Mogi my group photograph wingman who I had asked to assist me with this then proceeded instead to build more hurdles for me to jump over by insisting that the beer in the official group shot should be purchased in the featured pub thus causing me to break a rule that he had just made up.
Group Photograph Violation
19.04 pm Saturday 10th September 2016
The pints of beer [with no sips] seen in the group photograph must be purchased in the featured pub.
Rhys who by now should have been released from his duties as Project Manager showed real mettle and with a great awareness of the fourtharch rules [or rule] attempted to resolve the situation by suggesting that because he had just consumed a pint of beer in Thomas Rigby’s he could now chose it as a second choice featured pub therefore enabling the beer for the group shot to be bought at that bar. While this argument continued I decided to head outside to check the daylight while Mogi [stormed, thundered, breezed, sulked – Note: Don’t know which word to use yet, use headed off for now] headed off to the bar in the official featured pub to buy the now so called official pints of beer from the official kitty for the official photograph, during all this the remaining members had found a spot for the photograph on the steps up to the Lady of Mann entrance in the courtyard all bathed in Hollywood style artificial light and while Gez came outside to alert me. Richard with his diplomatic ways kindly asked the American hostess if she would take the snap even though we had not bought the beers in her pub. Team work at the fourtharch had triumphed yet again and who knows at the end of the day we may have dodged a bullet as I think the picture I had proposed of eight blokes standing out on the streets of Liverpool holding full pints of beer might very well be illegal and would have been a great piece of evidence for the local police spread across the front page of the Fourtharch website.
The football fans had now cleared from the Lady of Mann so we could finally find a seat in our featured pub and after the announcement it is always good to see members straight away busy on their mobile phones working out the best way to travel to next year’s destination Yorkshire proving that the fourtharch quest continues. As you know dear reader once our duties have been completed it was now a free for all and it was suggested we head for the famous Cavern bar in nearby Mathew street, unfortunately there was quite a queue so passing by the usual promotions people and bouncers trying to throw people into the other night clubs we headed towards the Ship and Mitre as suggested on Mogi’s colleague’s good pub guide. The pub was packed and had a real buzz, there was a kind of live list of real ales pinned up on the pub walls all adjusted by the bar staff when any beer had run dry, listed under foreign drinks was a Welsh Whiskey and in pride of place was Tiny Rebel form Newport kind of bringing this newsletter full circle. The pub was full of real Liverpudlian characters and one dressed in a silver bomber jacket made his way straight for Rhys to ask if the pub was showing the Boxing, Dave was rather impressed by this chap as his silver jacket reminded him of a space suit he once had as a child and in fact on the way back to the hotel Dave left us to dive into the pub that was showing the Boxing and maybe to catch up with the man from outer space.
While Dave’s Alternative Weekend continued everyone else retired but poor Paul II could just not get off to sleep what with the noise of Saturday night revellers in the streets below, suddenly there was an invitation for everyone to now join Dave’s Alternative Weekend and Paul II went for it hitting the pub opposite the hotel where Dave hit lucky on the one armed bandit machine but it failed to pay out mainly because there was not enough money inside, this was technically a rule break on Dave’s Alternative Weekend but it still counts buddy.
Fruit Machine Violation
02.15 pm Sunday 11th September 2016
Fruit Machines must pay out when the punter wins
Day 3 An Audience with the Dean of Liverpool Cathedral
I say this every time but it is always sad to see the group break up on the Sunday morning to head off back home in different directions but first it was Ed’s Easy Diner for breakfast where straight away another rule went by the way side.
Town Zone Violation
09.29 pm Sunday 11th September 2016
Town Zone stays in Town Zone
The talk at our breakfast table had been about the noise from the Saturday night revellers and Gez chipped in with fact that it was not only the noise spilling into his hotel room but the flashing lights from the nightclub opposite were also spilling in illuminating his bathroom making him believe he was in a Town Zone nightclub – rules is rules.
As Dave and Rhys said their goodbyes Richard, Matt and Gez decided to head up to the Cathedral for the Sunday Morning service, your writer, Paul II and Mogi decided to follow and with the Cathedral in our sights Gez had calculated that he would now not have time to make it and left for his scheduled train home to Bath leaving us without a Dingbats expert. I have visited the Cathedral before and like everyone else I had been taken aback by the size of the floor space inside, big enough for a game of football but not big enough to escape the notice of the Dean Peter Wilcox who spotted us and made his way over. I began to panic, had the Dean known about our weekend of blatant rule breaking, I then began to hallucinate and actually saw the word ‘Guilty’ written across Mogi’s brow, but was he guilty of the selfie rule violation because he didn’t actually take the picture, I took the selfie without actually appearing in it, so did I violate two rules over the weekend. While I hid behind Richard, Matt and Paul II the only members not to break the rules I kind of realised that maybe the Dean had spotted in us what Brian Epstein had spotted in the Beatles – a group of tightly knit friends with a common interest, the Dean welcomed us to the Cathedral and hoped we had enjoyed our visit to Liverpool a “very vibrant city” Can we now say that the fourtharch has received a blessing from the Church of England?
Guess what, only a few hours after breakfast certain members were already feeling peckish so we headed back to the Albert Dock that for a Sunday morning was absolutely packed with people enjoying street entertainers, fairground rides, the restaurants and lots of street food stalls, we found a Bar-B-Que table to sit around and while I looked after the luggage everyone else headed for the sausage stalls, gathered again around the table a folk singer began to sing traditional sea shanties and Matt wished he could stay longer to listen more – his wish would soon come true. It was now time for more farewells as Mogi headed away for his train to Cardiff while Richard, Matt and Paul II were all on the rattling cross country train to the east of England, I was booked on a flight to Portugal from Manchester airport in the evening so I walked around to the Three Graces for a sit down thankful that at least we got three Fourtharch members away without breaking any rules.
After an hour of quiet contemplation I then walked up to Lime street station for the train out to the airport and while standing on the platform I was suddenly aware out of the corner of my eye someone waving, then another person and then a third, I looked across to the train on the station opposite and there were indeed three people waving not from the train but from the platform on the other side – it was Richard, Matt and Paul II – their train East had been cancelled.
Richard, Matt & Paul II
Train Schedule Violation
14.12 pm Sunday 11th September 2016
The 14.12 train for Norwich must leave at 14.12
So there you have it dear reader, a full set of rule breaking by all members for the Fourtharch outing 2016 – I wonder if I could hop across to Dave’s Alternative Weekend in Yorkshire next year?
Next year’s venue
The Black Sheep, Theakstons and Black Sheep Breweries Masham Yorkshire