Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Gasmen Cometh


Every year in recent years, around this time, I'm invited to an exclusive do. The Retired Gas Men's Annual Pissup. When I say retired gas men, these aren't the meter readers, or the guys that shovelled coal into hoppers to produce coke for town gas, but the mob that investigated "gas incidents". Explosions, carbon monoxide suffocations and the like were their bag. They are a funny lot with a wealth of tales to tell, including how the Bridge at Heap Bridge, Bury, a pub I used to frequent, blew spectacularly apart in the middle of the night, though fortunately, the landlord and landlady walked through the falling debris unscathed. This apparently is often, but not always the way. The pub was never rebuilt though and is now a block of flats.

My old mate Steve, who was a forensic chemist God help us, is the source of the invitation. The venue is always the Ape and Apple, a tied Holt's house in central Manchester. It is interesting and instructive to see the old guard in action. It takes you back to how things were and in a lot of Holt's pubs still are. Not one was under 65 and the oldest was almost 80. To a man they stood on their hind legs, drinking proper beer like proper men always did. Cask Mild was the predominant drink, though a few drank bitter. Pints were jugged down in the casual, practised manner of ones to the manor born. Banter flowed, photos of families were examined and Christmas cards exchanged. I was even given some advice by one group on my recalcitrant central heating, while another group avidly discussed the recent massive gas explosion in Salford. "It wasn't the gas pipe". Old habits die hard in more respects than one.

The Ape and Apple was the perfect venue for such a gathering. Old fashioned (though not that old as a pub) and everything a proper tied house should be, with charming, efficient bar staff throwing casual banter around to the many regulars and pouring perfect beer from the wickets. In a very busy pub, waiting time was non existant and pints were topped up automatically. The Holt's Mild was in superbly drinkable nick. At 3.2% this is the perfect lunchtime pint. After four, I left. I had a quiz later and anyway, these guys needed to catch up.

I wonder how it all ended up? Or when?

7 comments:

The Hearty Goodfellow said...

For the love of Zeus, don't leave us all in such sickening suspense...

Did you win the subsequent quiz or not???

Tandleman said...

I'm afraid we lost but it was in the cup to the team currently second in the league above us.

coxy said...

When I read the title i thought here we go , another story about excess drinking at xmas and that special aroma some ale drinkers leave, leading to some saying it was better when there were smokers who killed the guffers off.

Tandleman said...

Coxy - I'm way classier than that. If you want to read about farting, you'll have to go to other bloggers sites! (-;

RedNev said...

You can't beat an old-fashioned pub filled with real drinkers supping an honest, if perhaps unspectacular, beer. I much prefer it to the craft beer snobs who think they're the future of beer drinking, when in reality they're nothing more than a self-regarding sideshow.

Tandleman said...

It all has its place RedNev, but a dose of the old fashioned would do many a power of good.

Erlangernick said...

I've walked by that place more than once, and even deemed the sign photograph-worthy; now I see it's worthy of stopping in. Next time then.