Monday, 5 December 2011

Aaaaargggghhhhh !!

I'm not usually one to start yawning on about what dreams I had last night and what their significance or lack of, means. But when you wake in the middle of the night as I have just done, and you can remember lucidly most of your night's dreams and in all of them you end up starting an argument or fight in them, even to the point of shouting at children that you don't even know, then you know that you must be pretty stressed.
The difference between my life three months ago and now is striking and can e highlighted in the respective times that I took/take coffee down at the excellent, Do Lii Coffee. A few months ago Dominic or Claudia might see me roll in, bleary eyed at no earlier than One O' Clock for my morning coffee, and sometime it could be as late as half past three. These days, I can sometimes be waiting for him to open his doors at half seven.

Anyhow, the pub. What's going on ? Well apart from myself transforming from a sedentary sloth into a hyped stresshead once more, great progress has been made with the Bag of Nails, and problems have been solved, bypassed or mostly wallpapered over.

I wrote the above a few days ago and was rudely interrupted from my rambling by a call from some supplier or other telling me that they were outside my pub waiting for me and if I wouldn't mind could I get my ass down there ASAP so that he can continue with his daily work. Since then I have spent a total of one hour at my home, which mostly consists of rushing to put some soap on my face, and then digging deep into my many piles of junk to unearth some crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle that make up my pub. I cannot write much more now as today is the big day, and my friend John and I have a full day of running around the city, tearing our hair out at the latest crisis. At five o clock today, we find out if we have a working pub or not. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Finally ....

We have the keys to the pub. It's been so long. We took them last Friday and have been in the building since then. I would say that I have hit the ground running, and we have accomplished a huge amount so far, but this would be far from the truth. I'm going to get up to speed a little bit more slowly than I did at the Nubes, because I managed to utterly knacker myself out over the course of a year.
To be fair, at the Nubes, I didn't actually ever know how long I was supposed to or going to be running the place. I was only actually brought in for one day to hold the keys until the new manageress turned up the next day, and she never turned up at all. I was running it on a daily basis for a month before Mike decided that I was the best man for the job. And even then we were constantly expecting the company to go bust on any given day, (which it did a month or two after I left the company.) I like to think that I was the only thing holding Hidden afloat and certainly the Nubes was hemorrhaging money when I arrived, and when I left it was the only profit making part of the company left.
Anyhow, we finally have the keys, and I'm really excited. The place is in quite a state, in so many different ways. The council or the old owners ripped all of the carpets out, and so the  bare floorboards are covered in twenty years of dirt and dust, mingled with a smattering of rubble and other roof fixing things.
The first executive decision was to buy a Henry hoover from my nice local electricians, Able Electrics on Gloucester road, which was cheaper than any of the major suppliers would have been. The next executive decision was to cover the Henry with Sonic the Hedgehog stickers, just to make him feel loved. Don't worry, we didn't cover over his eyes at all. He needs to be able to negotiate those flights of steps after all.
Since Friday, I have been generally seen around pubs and bars with a tape measure in my hand, taking measurements and thinking deep into my pint. A lot of decisions need to be made, and most pressingly is what to do with the back of the bar. The Bag of Nails was never really built as a proper pub, and so the facilities are, lets just say they are certainly lacking an amount of functionality. To be honest, behind the bar is actually just shit all around, and I am tempted to just rip it all out and start again. I am generally against people doing this kind of thing, because they are just ripping out something lovely only to put their stamp on a palce, and once they inevitably fail, then the next owners are just left with some kind modern rubbish that doesn't fit the venue. But the Bag was never actually put together properly in the first place, so it makes it difficult to build onto it in a decent fashion. The back bar is just thin hardboard painted matt black, and you couldn't affix any proper shelves or mirrors onto it. So I am in a bit of a quandary between wanting to keep the character of the pub, and wanting a bar that has been built properly in the first place.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Balloon Photo

I was drinking beer when I took this which is the flimsiest excuse for showing off a picture I can think of.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Goose Island IPA.

It has not been unnoticed that so far I have not mentioned beer at all in this journal, a mistake that I shall now improve. While cask ale shall be the main focus of drinking in the Bag of Nails, I shall also be stocking a very wide range of world beers. It is only fitting that the first one that I mention is also one of the first really good American craft beers that I came across. Five or six years ago, while working for Bath Ales, as an assistant manager, we had a music night booked for the evening, called the Chicago Music Explosion. This consisted of three or four rock/funk bands containing various hirsute Chicagoans, and the tour was organised and lead by an Englishman called Ben 'Shakey' Ruth. These bands needed somewhere to stay after the gig, and my manager, Paul, knowing that I lived in a big house asked if I could put any of them up for the night. Having seen Spinal Tap, I was very hesitant. Shakey finally bribed me to permit nine hairy, smelly Americans and one Lancastrian to stay across our house with a six pack of this beer, Goose Island's IPA.

Goose Island IPA is from the Goose Island Brewery in Chicago, and they have been brewing for nearly twenty five years now. Being American it comes in the standard funny sized bottle, which is 12 fluid ounces. No, not our fluid ounces, but ones of their own invention, which are nearly the same volume as ours, but not. After all they do have to prove that they are not like the British really. So anyway, 12 American fluid ounces translates as 12.49 Imperial fluid ounces or 354.88 ml. (or nearly two thirds of a proper pint.)

Coming in at 5.9% this craft beer is strong by British standards, but is par for the course in it's own country. It is bottle conditioned, and to pour it getting the correct head of over an inch without some of the yeast slipping into the glass can sometimes be quite tricky. Because of this I often drink it a little hazy, but I really don't actually mind this as much as maybe some people think I ought. (But of course if I'm serving it to you in the Bag then I will serve a perfect drink every time without question, m'lud.)
Goose Island describe the colour of the beer as 'Bourbon' which is a nicer way of calling it light orange :).
This beer has a big, full flavour, which you begin to experience straight away upon sipping. As you would expect with an American IPA, hops play a large part in the taste. But along with the hops you do have a fuller fruit like taste, and also a clear hint of citrus. There are quite a lot of individual flavour forming one composite which is very pleasing indeed. There is a floral hint and or course malts in there too ('pales malts' they unhelpfully embellish on their web page,) but just enough to counter the natural astringency of the hops, and so this beer would never be described as overly bitter. In fact without being cloying at all, I would say that it was more on the side of sweet than bitter. You are never close to experience the sucking in of cheeks which  does happen with some American craft beers.

This is a beer that tastes a lot better in it's own glass. So if you do find it in a pub and they pour it into a pint glass,and try to charge you four fifty for it, send it back and tell them that I told you too.

This is actually a beer that I can drink all night long, but I would recommend caution before doing this, as you really don't notice the alcohol content, and getting carried away and falling on your arse can be a real possibility.
This beer is mostly imported by James Clay, although I suspect that it shall be much more widely available due to a recent deal with some evil purveyors of 'UniFizz'.. I do hope that they allow the brewers to retain their craft beer integrity, Else I'll be buying a plane ticket, an eyepatch, a false moustache and a chainsaw. (like that one in Doom.)

Just time to thank Shakey Ruth for introducing me to this wonderful beer. After that first night, he bagsied the floorspace underneath the pool table, and came to stay again quite a few times more. He leads a band called The Convulsions, and you should always get to their gigs if you get an opportunity. But take your drinks of off the bar if you do. They're not safe when he's around.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Find a penny, pick it up..

Today I feel good. Despite the fact that I was out drinking again and actually feel like shit this afternoon. I woke at half one, having not been able to sleep until five, last night. I wasn't even any drunker than usual, but had been smoking, which is the stupidest thing that I ever do in my life. Even though I feel wretched and sick and everything, I feel really positive about things today for two reasons. Firstly the lease for the pub arrived in the post for me to sign today. This is exciting for me as you can imagine. I just have to sign it and drop off a huge amount of money, and the place shall be mine within days. 

Secondly; well I'm not a superstitious person, but I do tend to pick up pennies when I find them. In my mind I usually tend to go through the mantra that we all learnt of discovered pennies as little children. Most of the time I pick the coin up and perform the ritual, and forget about the penny later that day. Perhaps this is why I don't ever seem to have any money.  This time I found a dirty, discoloured coin sitting on the wall of our garden, near the rocks and neighbours' hedge. I picked it up, thanked my luck, and began to clean off the mud and dirt on the coin. As chance would have it this was not a lucky penny, but a lucky sixpence from 1950.  It must have been buried in our garden for a long  time, and had only emerged very recently, to enhance the luck of a certain young publican. It just seems very apt timing to find it on the very day that the contract for my future also came along. I'm going to keep this coin, and hopefully I shall not need to use all of it's luck up too soon. 


Friday, 15 July 2011

My Records.

Somebody yesterday asked me to elaborate on my record collection, which I shall do. It's big, heavy, takes up a lot of room, and is almost without exception worth less now than what I paid for it. Over the years I have acquired a lot of records from local charity shops, and various assorted means, for usually not a lot of money. A few years ago I did have a phase of buying new records from Ebay, Fopp and Rise, but more often than not I have paid less than a few pounds for my records. While this is a good thing when I get very lucky in the case of At Folsom Prison, in other cases it may not have produced such dividends. I have had eBay accounts but usually get thrown off for forgetting to pay for a week or so, and everybody is so impatient these days. In fact one time an Ebayer had actually sent the record to me, and given me positive feedback before I had paid, which was interesting. I did of course pay him in the end. I hope. Anyhow without resorting to the word eclectic, I'm not really certain how to adequately describe my ever-expanding collection without actually listing every record that I own.

 Well, last night were playing some  board games, and this is a list of singles and albums that were played over the evening; Stone roses - Something's Burning, Tubeway Army - Are Friends Electric, Barry McGuire - Eve of Destruction, Edwin Starr - Ooo Baby Baby, Donna Summer -  I Feel Love, Jan Hammer - Miama Vice Theme Tune, Squeeze - Cool for Cats, Dusty - Baby You Don't Know, The Train Spotters (punk band), ? and the Mysterians - 96 Tears, Elvis Costello - Watching The Detectives, Michael Jackson - Billie Jean, Jonathon Richman - Astral Plane, The Gap Band - Oops Up Side Your Head, Giorgio Moroder - Together in Electric Dreams, Gladys Knight - To Make a Long Story Short, along with some Billie Holiday, Sonic Youth and Elliot Smith, Beatles and the Jungle Book Soundtrack on long players.

I would say that this was kind of representative of the music that I play, but of course there are some thing missing. I Tend to play quite a lot of old Blues records, such as Big Bill Broonzy and Bessie Smith, along with Nick Drake, Johnny Cash and the Velvet Underground.

Probably my favourite three albums currently are all by Canadians actually. Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. There are many things that I love to listen to which are probably not really pub-friendly music, such as say the White Stripes, Captain Beefheart or Sonic Youth, but I would say the majority of it goes down pretty well at the correct time. I'm going to put up a music page here, detailing our favourites, the kind of things that we are listening to at the minute, and maybe listing new acquisitions.

And about the post photograph which I am quite happy with. It was taken on a Nikon D200, 1/20th, ISO1600, 50ml lens at f1.8, using a monopod. The deck is providing the only light source. It is Gladys Knight playing on the deck, and I have a feeling that for the image I may have had to cheat and slow the speed down to 33rpm in order to allow the flicky-red-light-texture- to become more pronounced. The cartridge is just a cheap Stanton, but it does produce a satisfying shadow, I hope you agree. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Right then, it's beginning to sink in now that this is going to happen. I had a bill in the post today for over two grand, legals and taxes. And that is far from all the legals and such that I shall have to pay. I definitely need to start getting my act together. No more staying in bed 'til noon, then ambling along at a snails pace. I have done a mental assess of what I actually have, and it brought it home to me that I need to do this right, because I don't really have a lot to fall back onto. My mental stocktake revealed to me that I have a strong idea of what the best pubs in the world should be like, a large amount of junk in my house with which I am going to fit out this pub, a surprisingly small sum of money in my bank account in which to buy stock and all else that we shall need, and hopefully the experience, energy, knowledge and vision to turn an empty building into something quite special.

Time to put my running shoes on and get into those starter blocks.

Speaking of piles of junk, here is one of mine. This is a pile of picture frames that I have  collected mostly from charity shops over the last six months or so. The picture at the front gives a good clue to one of the themes that I intend to follow re- decorations. 

Monday, 11 July 2011

More stuff.

Finally the sun has emerged long enough for me to take a properer photograph of my new bike. Here she is taking in the sun outside our house in Cotham. Research tells me that it is a Raleigh RSW 16. They were Raleigh’s answer to the Moulton range of cycles which were first released in 1962. My bike has 68 stamped on the Sturmy Archer rear hub, which suggests it is a 1968 model, just after Raleigh bought out the Moulton company outright. The rear tyre seems to be an original, which makes it possibly forty three years old. As I am such a shameless self publicist, I am thinking of using this vintage machine to advertise the pub venture, namely getting ,’The Bag of Nails’ painted onto both sides of the frame. The frame has already been badly painted once, so I would not be ruining anything original. This might well help advertise the pub, because I do already get a lot of looks as I cycle around the city. Sacrilege, shameless opportunism, or just the sign of an inflated ego? You tell me. Do please comment and let me know your thoughts.  

On Saturday evening, I briefly went to Glostonbury. This is the wittily named annual festival of the Golden Lion pub, on Gloucester road. You can see what they did there. It’s a great pub actually and one that I ought to visit much more. The range of ales is limited but fine, with Gem and Butcombe Gold always available, but this pub promotes itself as more of a music pub. This is not that surprising as the same bloke who has this pub also has the famous Old Duke on Kings Street, named after Duke Ellington, I believe. Anyhow you can see how busy the Lion was on Saturday evening. While we were there, they were playing what I would call electro-dub very loudly, shaking out the neighbourhood. Incidentally, the building to the right in the picture is Horfield Nick, which is where Paul Gadd served his all too short sentence for being a dirty, dirty bastard. It must be mental torture for some of the inmates, being able to hear banging music and the sounds of people getting pissed at times. But at least they don't have to share their cells with pervy Gary Glitter any more. 

Later in the evening, I visited various excellent pubs in the centre of the town, and at the end we arrived at The Bridge, ran by my friends Greg and Simon. A tiny pub that used to be within the estate of Bath Ales, it also has a record player and shelves full of LP’s and singles. Anyhow, it seems that they are trimming their collection down, and had a few Ikea bags of records they were giving away. Good for me because I have a psychotic need to take home and play records. I took home around ten 12”’s including this fine Jansch / Renbourne / sampler and thirty odd assorted singles. Some of the singles are excellent an I’m looking forward to drunkenly playing them too loudly in the pub, after hours. Anyhow Phoebe is guarding the records in our porch as you can see here.  

Friday, 8 July 2011

Pictures and Music

As I expected I was not exceptionally good, playing music at the Hilly the other day, for a variety of unnamed reasons. I did stick to weak beer for most of the night in an attempt to stay sober, but it’s didn’t really work. The beer that I was drinking was Dawkins Milkmaid Mild coming in at only 2.8% abv. The Milkmaid Mild is surprisingly tasty for such a low alcohol content, with a creamy and malty taste. For me it has a warm, subtle bitterness that makes it very drinkable. After I finished playing music I moved onto something stronger which was a Bad Idea. I can’t remember what I drank after and I stayed for far too long. Yesterday was a write off. I can’t afford to do this kind of thing in the mid-week for a while at least.

The Bag of Nails is going to be a pub that reflects my character, and thus I am going to put a lot of myself into it. One of the most important things in my life is music, and I mostly choose to play music using tiny diamonds and little discs of vinyl. This photo shows the Technics 1210 deck that we shall be installing into the Bag somewhere. This is the same record player that I had famously put into the ‘Nubia and delighted so many customers during my tenure. It’s slightly knackered, but still keeps a good speed, and the sound will only cut away if you move the deck around too much. Initially it might have to sit on the end of the bar in the Bag until we find a permanent site. The thing that people loved at the last pub we ran, was the ability to pick and choose the next record, and the tangibility of handling and changing the records. The extra sound quality is a bonus of course. Unlike the ‘Nubes, there isn’t that much storage space downstairs there, so I may not be able to have all of my records available to play at once. I might have to employ a rotation scheme. I have been buying a lot more singles this last year and now am beginning to have a respectable collection. As long as you like old pop music that is, as most of the singles I find come from charity shops.

I have pictured another acquisition, which is an antique painting with a lovely gilt frame. The painting is around a hundred years old and by a Scottish artist called Sam Pope Jnr, 1881–1940. The painitng is quite nice, but it is the frame that I am actually interested in. I am happy that I only paid twenty five pounds, as the lady initially wanted ninety five for it, not long ago. I have been collecting these style of frames for a while and now I might just have enough. I will reveal what pictures I intend to put into them later. I do intend to make the walls of the pub very interesting to gaze upon. The two singles alongside the frame are Beats International, which was not as good as I had remembered it to be, and a Sam Cook classic, Wonderful World.

The weather was disgusting again today and I think our media ought to focus on the important aspects of our society. Not about newspapers shutting down, but why has the weather been so much less pleasant since the Tories got into power ? It cannot be just me that has noticed the link. How did they manage it ?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

getting the ball rolling.

I now have a till. I am more excited by this then I expect anybody else to be, but it underlines to me that this is actually going to start happening. We have been waiting so long to iron out difficulties with the contract that it feels a relief to begin the ball rolling. We have not signed yet, but I expect to do this next week sometime. There do not seem to be any more hurdles to the deal.

I took the Raleigh shopping today. She cycles like a dream. As long as your dream is of teeny tiny wheels and fat, low pressure tyres. The riding position is difficult to describe. It is a little similar to sitting on a bar stool, holding onto a glass on the bar, but moving along on scooter wheels. I did enjoy pootling along the promenade of Gloucester Road, past the cafes and bars. And yet we did get quite a few looks, although the bicycle many more than myself. I popped into Fred Baker’s, which was the unfortunate bike shop that is next to the Tesco store that hit all of the headlines in May this year. Old Fred himself came out and uncharacteristically was quite disparaging about my lovely machine, but I think he was just winding me up. He did give me some tips about attempting to take this bike up the hill to Clifton, but frankly it is the return journey that worries me the most. One of my earliest grown-up emotions was dislike for caliper brakes. I will take a nice photo of my bike tomorrow if the sun emerges.

On the way home, I went into the second hand store near my house and made two excellent purchases. The Casio till and an old looking chair for the pub. It shall have to be upholstered, but I think that it looks really nice. The till works, but has no manual. It tallies up fine and ‘fingers crossed’ it will be able to perform accurate X and Z readings. I’m hoping to be able to use it until we need something more versatile. It has Larry Nash's service sticker on already, which is handy as I have used him before.

I’m going to the Hillgrove tonight to play some records. I’m a rubbish dj so I hope it goes well. It’s a horrible cliché but the word eclectic ought to be sewn onto my dj hat. It’s the only way that I can play records. (Those are singles in the photo. The 28mm lens makes them appear a bit larger than they actually are.)


My friend, Chris is great. This evening he gave to me this excellent Raleigh bike. It is from the sixties or seventies, and it is his belated birthday present to me. I am really chuffed that Chris had managed to acquire the beauty from his housemate. It has been gathering dust in Chris’s small lounge, and every time I visited them, I always cast longing eyes onto it. Now that it is mine I am a very happy monkey. It needs a little work, but I rode it home from his with no problems except for the embarrassment that juddery and extremely squeaky brake pads will make. I did manage to slightly scare an elderly couple while shamefully cycling on the pavement actually very slowly behind them. Sorry.

So this is my new blog. It’s the first time that I have been tempted to actually attempt to bore the entire planet with many details of my daily life. I am promising to myself to try not to start posting every mundane event that occurs every two hours in my life.
The reason why I am starting a journal is because very soon I hope to agree a contract for a lengthy lease of a local, respected pub that has been vacant for 12 months. We need to spend a little time decorating and possibly converting sections of the building, and basically turning it into a working pub once again, starting mostly from scratch. There are no fixtures and fittings within the building to speak of and I do not have loads of money to spend, so this could make the next few months are of our lives interesting. Getting to this stage has been a long and at times arduous mission, but it does finally look like it shall happen. I am going to share and convey the experiences that my partner, H and myself are going to experience, and hopefully some people might find it interesting enough to follow.

The reason that I feel compelled to start the diary today rather than any other day is that I feel the great pub adventure has genuinely begun today with the acquirement of the bicycle. I want it to be a kind of pub bicycle. I can use it to initially commute, to advertise my venture, and to visit any suppliers that are not in Clifton or Totterdown