‘LTSN’ will – for once – be following its own advice for the next few days and saying nothing because I am off to Derby tomorrow to visit my friend Barry. He and I go way back to before decimal currency and we get together now and again to sink a few beverages and put the world to rights, usually in that order.
My memories of Derby before Barry moved there- imperfect and fragmentary as they were – did the town scant justice. I can recall going to an evening football match at the old Baseball Ground with my friend Serge. We seemed to walk through mile after mile of dimly-lit streets filled with back-to-back terraced houses, to the extent that I felt like a character from an L S Lowry painting by the time we reached the ground.
What I’ve found since I got to know the place is that Derby is actually a really pleasant town with some terrific pubs and lots going on if you know where to look. Barry lives on the north side of town, which is pretty leafy and green with parks and open spaces easily accessible. It’s also easy to get out to the country from where he lives and this weekend I’m hoping to pay a return visit to an excellent secondhand bookshop in Crompton, which is just up the road……
‘The Royal Standard’ in Derby
We may well also venture out into the town for a pint or two – I always used to enjoy drinking in ‘The Brunswick’ which is close to the railway station and always had a cracking selection of beer. There are a number of good Brunswick stories, but the best one I can offer comes from the day I walked in there and found the place full of green-shirted Plymouth Argyle fans. It was a Saturday lunchtime and ‘The Brunswick’ is pretty convenient for Derby County’s new ground at Pride Park, so their presence seemed reasonable enough.
I got a pint and a sandwich and settled down near the fire to read my ‘Guardian’, as ever, starting with the Sport section. I glanced at the fixtures for the day, only to see that not only were Derby not playing Plymouth, they were actually playing away from home in somewhere like Ipswich. I also noticed that Plymouth were playing Port Vale, whose ground is in Burslem, some 40 miles from Derby. Returning to the bar for a refill I asked one of the Plymouth fans why they were so far ‘off course’, to which he replied that if Argyle had any fixtures in the Midlands or North that could justify the detour, they would always detour to ‘The Brunswick’ . They left about 1:30 to complete their journey to The Potteries, but had already placed orders for take-out jugs of Brunswick beer to be ready for their return about 6 pm that night.
Being a Plymouth fan must take a lot of dedication (and cash) if you’re going to travel to away games like that – after all, their nearest ‘local’ rivals are probably Bristol City – a staggering 120 miles away from Home Park. On one level, the dedication is admirable, but you’d have to wonder about the lifestyle. Do these guys (this lot were all male) have families, kids back in Plymouth? The mind boggles……
Anyway, as regards ‘The Brunswick’, I hear grim tales of it being taken over by Everard’s Brewery – certainly, the folks who used to run ‘The Brunswick’ now seem to have migrated to the re-opened ‘Royal Standard’ near the river. This pub is also sometimes confusingly referred to as ‘The Brewery Tap’ as this is where the local microbrewery is now based. Things must have come on a bit in Derby, because the ‘Royal Standard’ apparently used to be informally referred to as ‘The Aquarium House’ in the 1930’s as the publican kept tropical fish and used to feed them periodically, drawing quite a crowd. This must be what is meant by ‘making your own entertainment’, which is what we were always told people used to do in the ’30’s……cue Michael Palin and the Four Yorkshiremen of the Apocalypse….