I thought I’d seen it all by the age of 53. Jacaranda trees in bloom in Harare, Cliff Richard in Cambridge in the summer of ’74, the family naan in Balti Towers, two goals in injury time to win the League. Even the Pubmeister in shorts.
But apparently I’d never seen Aberdare.
A town of 31,000, as large as Hitchin, but with barely a sign to indicate its mere existence on routes from Merthyr, Mountain Ash and Maerdy.
This is a place with a Football League team as recently as the 1920s; Pubmeister probably saw them beat Reading Home and Away in 1923. Familiar looking kit, too.
And a familiar looking town, with a plain centre dominated by the giant Constitutional Club.
Three (count them) GBG ticks for me here, and a chance to explore the charity shops for Taylor Swift and Skids CD, without success.
The Bute looked a, er, beaut.
But the top sign belonged a place called TEETH which turns out to be a dentist, whatever that is. In Bethnal Green it would turn out to be a cocktail bar with scary seats.
Ignoring worried looks from strangers, I pressed on to the Whitcombe. Nice sign.
A typical Welsh town pub, dutifully opening at noon and staying open all day for no-one in particular. A pleasing mix of seating, and that clutter of old pictures, offset by random ancient sewing machine for reattaching Aberdare Athletic badges to jerseys.
Butcombe and Wadworth seasonals accompanied the Felinfoel, which was the only beer you need (if you’re not putting the 6X on). It was flat and cool, a rare survivor in the heat (NBSS 3).
The landlady was cheery enough, too, in that way you have to be when there’s only one customer in. Perhaps thinking I was Mark Crilley, she put Simply Red and Miami Sound Machine on the video jukebox to compensate for the lack of waggish Welsh wit.
A chap looking like a young Mike Scott with a backpack came in while the landlady was round the back. He took a sweeping look, said “It’s too quiet” and turned to walk out. “She’ll be back any second !” I squeaked.
Embarrassed, the chap said hello, explained at length the pub was too quiet, and snuck out. I think he thought he was in the Rifle Drum.
Round the corner, the Ieuan ap Iago was bustling, despite being named after a Watford forward, as are all Wetherspoons under their new sponsorship deal.
I fancied something Welsh. The curry is made with Welsh dragons.
“Do you want to go large ?” “Of course”
And a Welsh pint from Boss Brewing.
“There you go my lovely“. I suddenly felt like Peter Sarstedt, drinking a 5.5% IPA.
Well my pint was superb (NBSS 4), despite no evidence of any other cask sales, despite one of the customers wearing an Iron Maiden shirt.
And the dragon meat was great. But going large is a mistake.
As was the mile walk up the hill to the Fosters stronghold of the Rhoswenallt, which has a special “straw flavoured” version of this classic;
I abandoned it (NBSS 2) on an outside table and walked up to the cairn. Half an hour later, it was still there, and had improved to a 2.5. The miraculous Rev !