STEVENAGE’S RICH & FAMOUS

More exciting UK towns to tempt you out of Lockdown in 2022, and another chance for me to recycle old rubbish with impunity.

Reader Huish Hugh asked for more salt-of-the-earth football (anything below City, I guess), so where better than Yeovil Stevenage, if only because I’ve been bullied into clearing out the garage and this was the first programme I found.

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25 years – Where did it go ?

Hugh will be delighted to recall that Yeovil recovered from their perilous position on 25 April to finish bottom at season end and slip to Tier 6.

Eighteen years later they were 4 divisions higher playing Leeds in the Championship.  Such are the joys of football.

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Yeovil deducted a point for inability to spell “ineligible”

25 years ago I was living in the posh bit of Stevenage (Hitchin) and occasionally attending Broadhall Way to watch an unlikeable team full of Daves, Stuarts and Leo bully their way to the League.

By phoning the Boro Hot Line (0891 88 44 87) you could find out the match result.  At 49p per minute it cost you 98p to find out Alty had lost this match 4-2.

The programme only has one advert for a bar, and that’s the frankly improbably Goodfellas (top) which catered for the rich and famous and therefore may have misjudged its market.

Stevenage

Stevenage is, of course, best known as being the stunt double for Slough in The Office (UK version). I’ve fond memories of the place though.

The lovely people at the Lister Hospital employed me for five years, taught me 3-sided book-keeping, and delivered our son James (after 36 hours, according to Mrs RM).

James will never get that off his birth certificate, and some day I’ll take him back to admire the post-war architecture.

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Means something

It’s not a real ale hot bed, but the New Town Spoons near the station had a classic cask range when I popped in back in 2016.

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STILL too many if you ask me

Cellar problems, apparently.  Nice North Herts service (“You’re more than welcome, my lovely“), and the quality of conversation would provide Simon with 3 posts worth of material.  Pregnancy tests, blow-up dolls and WKD in the same sentence, pensioners today know how to live.

Less excitingly, I’d spent my stag night in the Old Town Surma curry house in 1992; it still has a plaque up to commemorate the fact.

I was teetotal before marrying Mrs RM, so the highlight of the evening was watching Denmark beat Germany in the Euros in the nurses quarters at the Lister.  Kids today don’t know what a good time is.

Near the Surma is the Chequers, one of those Greene King locals that raided the GBG by adding half a dozen pumps 5 years ago (See also : Pontefract).

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Unexpectedly,  a magnificent GK mild (NBSS 4) belying its 3%.  Some rarely heard Smokey Robinson tracks too.

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Don’t expect branded glasses

Only one visit to Stevenage since then, for an estate pub just out of town that lasted barely a year in the Guide but would have won my prestigious Estate Pub of the Month award had I run it.

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No clues to the wonders inside

You’re never quite sure what reception you’re going to get in an estate pub, even an 18th century model like this, but it’s nearly always better than you expect.

As it was here, where in my mildly scruffy but functional dress I fitted in perfectly with a wider mix of locals than you might expect at 5.30pm.  Tradesmen of all ages, of course, a lot of polo shirts, and a table playing cards.

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You can trust a pub where folk play cards
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What real people drink

The Proper Job was nectar (NBSS 4 +), just as it had been in a Woking estate pub running on similar principles and commitment to clean lines. The light poured in, the beer was cool and rich, I was very happy.

Denmark (them again) played Armenia on the telly, and a rather more energetic game of pool rumbled on behind me.

If you’re not tempted by  the Dhansak in the Surma, I can recommend the pancake roll from the Fisherman’s Wharf.

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But where are the micros ?

18 thoughts on “STEVENAGE’S RICH & FAMOUS

    1. Like RM I was lucky enough to work in Stevenage around the turn of the century. I would often see a Mercedes C-class stickered up with the words ‘LEWIS HAMILTON – RACING DRIVER’ parked in the Leisure Park carpark next to the station to avoid the official pay and display charges. On the subject of pubs, from memory the Old Town Spoons was much better than the New Town one.

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  1. A lovely piece Martin, revealing a hidden past to our intrepid pub-ticker. And there was me thinking that you’d never strayed far from the Fens – domicile wise, that is.

    By the way, I was going to ask what “3-sided book-keeping” involves, but thought better of it!

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    1. Lived in Letchworth and Hitchin for decade while working in hospitals in North Herts, where I met Christine. Actually only 45 minutes from Cambridge on a good day so not that brave !

      Best not ask.

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  2. I’m not sure how many genuinely rich and/or famous people are willing to dine at a place where the menu includes advertising from the local insurance company. But perhaps the upper crust culture operates by different rules in Stevenage. 😉

    Were you really teetotal before marrying Mrs RM? I was on the straight and narrow throughout most of high school, but succumbed in college. Now it is I who am the corrupting influence on my wife in this regard, truth be told!

    “Proper Job” will always rank among my favorite beer names. Here’s hoping I get a chance to actually drink it someday.

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    1. “Different rules” -definitely. I’d love to find an equivalent US town to Stevenage.

      The joy of looking back at football programmes is the adverts. Goodfellas rings no bells whatsoever, the poshest place was called Fatty Arbuckles.

      What have you corrupted your wife into drinking, do tell !

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      1. Well, really we both enjoyed a good drink or two when we first met. But nowadays she drinks very moderately indeed– she has lost a good bit of the tolerance to alcohol that she used to have.

        I was mostly just joking about being a “corrupting influence,” but I expect she’d drink even less if not for me!

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  3. I went to Stevenage a few times to watch Farnborough play. A couple of things bring back memories.The first is a GBG pub near the ground where I picked up a SPBW leaflet and used it to join. I’d never heard of them before.Was the pub the one you have written about.
    The second is the club built a brand new all seater stand behind one of the goals and MADE away supporters use it having to pay an extra pound or so for the privilege. Not only was the extra money a liberty but one of the joys of attending non league football is to stand and lean against the railings giving the lino a bit of stick.

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    1. That pub was probably Our Mutual Friend, pretty much the only Stevenage pub with true guests in the ’90s and ’00s. Hophead a favourite, but it’s a decade or more since I went. Not even sure if it’s still GBG.

      I think it’s fair to say Broadhall Way not near the top of many fan’s favourite grounds.

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  4. Well thank you, kind sir. Though wasn’t thinking of Satanage in that request: coming in at No. 6 on list of All-Time Hated Football Clubs for the petty reasons and rivalries accumulated over decades on which obsessive fans of the beautiful game base such dislikes.
    Surprising reminder we were ever as high as 21st that season.

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    1. Yes, as I think that I might have mentioned, that explains the puzzling – to the non-soccer aficionado – addition to the notice in the train toilet.

      “Except Stevenage”

      After the sign saying “Do not flush this toilet when the train is in a station”.

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