Fell Fridays – The Taprooms

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Yesterday in Friday Nights On The Fell I wrote of the Low Fell pub route mates and I undertook on Friday evenings in the early 1980’s. Within this journal, relaying the order of service (at the bar, not from the pulpit) and some of the characters with whom I socialised back then.

Admittedly, this meander on foot was barely the staggering achievement of Hannibal’s trek across the Alps – Mimicking that challenging route would’ve completely ruined our social occasion. For a start off Low Fell pubs had a strict admission policy barring entrance to elephants and confrontational military commanders.

We Friday night revellers on Low Fell undertook far less exerting sojourns than that of Hannibal and his troops. The Cartaginian general’s 200BC journey took 16 days, over incredibly challenging terrain, after which they fought the Roman’s in their own back yard. Whereas, Low Fellian’s Friday night wanders to refresh thirst and argue about football were a mere few hundred yards over predominantly flat terra-firma.

The aim of today’s blog was to add some flesh to the bones of yesterday’s literary offering. Furnishing the reader with memories of the pubs in their 1980’s iteration.

The Beaconsfield – Located halfway down Beaconsfield Road, this hostelry was ordinarily the start and end of our Friday evening’s thirst quenching expedition. In those days the pub was split into two rooms. If you took a left at the entrance you’d find yourself in the lounge, venture right and you were bar in situ. If you went straight on at the entrance you’d walk into a wall and had probably drank too much of the old loud mouth soup – Indicating it was maybe wise to go home.

The Beaconsfield was probably my favourite pub on the Fell at that time, this despite in 1984 being fleeced out of 50p by the jukebox when it played novelty record Agadoo, instead of my selection, The Jam’s ‘Town Called Malice’. An event that nearly led to my barring, unit I successfully argued with bar staff that if the song had the potential to inflame the patrons to violence perhaps it should be removed from the playlist.

The New Cannon – Situated at the corner of Beaconsfield Road and the main Durham Road, the Cannon’s decor in the early 1980’s included wall to wall mirrors. Consequently, drinking in there was a bit like be embroiled in the penultimate scene of the movie Man With The Golden Gun. This the duel scene between James Bond and Scaramanga, only without a midget adding illusionary visions of carousels and gangsters as a distraction tactic.

The only time I saw a midget in the Cannon was on the occasions Harlow Green’s Frankie Smallman drank in there. Times when I’m pretty sure he didn’t attempt to cause confrontation by beaming images of fairground rides, or the cast of Goodfellas upon the tavern’s reflective decor.

The Cannon was probably one of my least favourite of the Fell pubs back then. I always found the lighting too bright, making it less impersonal. That being said it didn’t stop me going in there on scores of occasions between 1981-1987.

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The Crown – Situated almost opposite the New Cannon on Durham Road, which despite selling Vaux beers/lagers was a very popular pub on a Friday night. A colloquial indifference at utilising the letter ‘w’ in words ending with ‘wn’ leading to locals pronounced it’s name as The Croon. Leading one particularly stupid acquaintance of mine regularly complaining that the pubs sign was spelt wrong.

Despite the unpleasant tasting ales, it always had a decent atmosphere and along with The Beaconsfield and The Belle Vue was amongst my favoured stop-offs on a Friday night. From memory, the pub was made up of one large room; a boon for the indecisive drinker who wasn’t confronted with the conundrum of selecting bar or lounge.

The Belle Vue – Located about 50 yards south along Durham Road from The Crown, the downstairs of this boozer was generally frequented by older revellers. The group of lads I drank with usually had a beer with some of the older lads who we knew drank in there. Acquaintances who frequented the bar at Gateshead Fell cricket clubs (GFCC).

These individuals, around 5-10 years older than me, who probably despaired at my immaturity at the time. And if they didn’t, they bloody should’ve done!

Guys like Rob Harrison, Chris Smare, Mick Griffiths and Mal Dellow. From memory all decent lads who ,despite my idiotic behaviour at times, cut me some slack for my immaturity as I was just a kid.

As I’d played senior cricket with him, I knew Rob the best out of that group of guys. Nicknamed Horses for a reason I’m not prepared to shed light on, other than to say it wasn’t because his living room needed mucking out on a daily basis, Rob was an amiable guy whose visage always bore a ready smile. Which bearing in mind the way he batted was some achievement.

Chris Smare was the only one of three Smare brothers who didn’t play cricket at GFCC. His brother’s Tony and Gerrard both accomplished players who representing the club at first team level. A philosophical bloke, Chris explained his lack of prowess with bat and ball was down to an indifference towards the game of cricket and contracting leprosy in the mid 1970’s. The latter causing his teenage dread of trying to catch a ball in the event his hand fell off……. That probably wasn’t true, but I didn’t like to get too close to Chris just in case it was!

Mick Griffiths was one of the lads who, like Mal Dellow, played for Gateshead Fell football team at that time. A bustling centre-forward who refused to take a backward step, Griff took many a hit for the team, and that was just in the bar after the match. Was renowned for new knowingly overpaying for carpet underlay.

Mal Dellow a tall midfielder in the Glenn Hoddle mould. By that I don’t mean he had the silky, lithe skills of the former Tottenham star, I’m referring to the fact he never stopped banging on about people suffering misfortune in this life was a consequence of their sins in a previous existence. Claimed that Mick Griffith’s bad luck at Trivial Pursuit was probably due to him being a mass murderer in a previous carnation. A claim Mick subscribed to as he didn’t want anyone to know the real reason, that being his general knowledge was s***e!

I’ve not had a pub crawl along Low Fell since 1987, the year I left Gateshead to seek my fortune. Well, to be more accurate, seek enough money to finance my wife’s ostentatiousness…… I really need to make more of an effort next time I venture north to visit my brother in Gateshead.

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