Filler

It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in your tank
Under the moonlight you catch a wiff that’s smellin’ pretty rank
You try to clear but water floods the floor before you make it
You start to scream, but a hero is on hand to have a bash
He’ll only take cash Continue reading “Filler”

Earth hour for our earth?

Hola, compadres. We are back from our trip. We have been away in the jungles of Peru finding out more about deforestation, the impact of our decadent Western ways on the indigenous peoples and to conduct a thorough survey of South American subject indexing techniques, and those guys can chain index with the best of them, let me tell you.

Continue reading “Earth hour for our earth?”

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

buttonThe key things you need to know about Benjamin Button? Two hours and 46 minutes.

This film is very long. That is as in loooooong.

It is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Old FSF knew his onions when it came to stories and the pertinent word was short. Why mess with that?

That is not to say I didn’t like TCCoBB. I did. It is just that I would have liked it a lot more if it ran an hour less.

Put it this way – and I don’t think there is a need for a spoiler alert because it is well-known to be the story of a man who is born old and ages backwards till he dies as a baby – by the end I found myself thinking ‘Oh for fek’s sake, hurry up and die’. That was probably not the reaction the director was looking for.

The acting? Well Cate Blanchett was excellent, as ever. Brad Pitt? Well it’s hard to tell to be honest. When Brad was the old Benjamin all the acting was done by make-up and CGI, when he was younger all he did was look good and not say very much. Probably a wise choice.

This is the story of the absurdity of life, death and ageing. The point is that being born old and getting younger is no more absurd than the other way around for all that we accept that as the norm. The final image of the New Orleans flood flowing past the clock that had been set to go backwards is more than a tad heavy-handed. If you hadn’t got the time and tide message by that point then it had all been wasted.

The whole film was about time. Long before it got to 166 minutes, I felt it was about time it was over.

TV Channel naming.

UKTV History has become Yesterday and Dave’s catch-up channel (+1) has be renamed, wait for it, Dave ja vu. What will the marketing experts come up with next in branding our TV viewing? Will BBC2 become Middle Class and Dull, C4 will be Filling in time until BB12 and will ITV1 at last come clean and simply become Ant n Dec TV?

Escape to Victory

Now let me explain why I’m watching a film that is some 28 years old. As I suspect is true of most parents, I’m living vicariously through my children. From visiting lower league football grounds to watching old films unwatched in decades, I’m using the fact that I have a 12-year old son as an excuse for some fairly juvenile behaviour. I am in that halcyon window between the kids being too young to appreciate anything I show them and that teenage period where I will be too embarrassing to be seen with. Continue reading “Escape to Victory”

Ludlow

Feathers Hotel, Ludlow

Perched on a hill above the picturesque River Teme in South Shropshire, this 900-year-old market town is a visitor’s delight. Medieval and Georgian buildings at every turn, winding streets, independent shops and lots and lots of sausages. There are more butcher’s shops than you could shake a chipolata at and, despite a population of just 10000, at one point had four Michelin-starred restaurants, more than anywhere else outside London.

Ludlow is the Epicurean capital of England and has taken the rather smart decision to market itself as a destination for those who care about what they eat. The Ludlow Food Festival takes place every September and there are few more prestigious titles in the country than Sausage of the Year. Ludlow also hosts the national HQ of Slow Food UK.

Not for nothing did Sir John Betjeman label Ludlow “the most perfect town in England”.

Where to Eat

Basically you can’t go far wrong.

The Feathers Café is the rather smart foodery part of the Tudor hotel of the same name. The food here is actually very good — we could recommend the Finnan Haddock and spinach risotto if it didn’t sound quite so camp to do so — but be warned, the service is slow. That is as in sloooooooooooooooow. However, treat this as an opportunity rather than a handicap. Pop in and order a meal, stroll over to The Compasses and sink a couple of pints of Old Hooky before strolling back an hour or so later to enquire why the food still hasn’t arrived. There ought to still be time to go back over the road to The Bull and have a jar of Hobson’s before anything is served. A splendid arrangement and we don’t understand why they don’t advertise themselves this way.

The Church Inn has surprisingly very good pub food, almost to the point where it flouts a Plumber’s maxim (pubs are for drinking in, restaurants are for eating in). Truly excellent pate and a fine lamb shanks number high among their offerings.

Mr Underhills wears its Michelin star with considerable pride and rightly so. Its daily tasting menu, running to seven or eight courses with wine, is locally sourced and everything made in house by Chris Bradley. By the time you have finished you are likely to be just one wafer thin mint from explosion but you will rarely have dined better. It’s a big plumber’s thumbs up to the whole shebang but a particular mention to the Highland Parfait which could only conceivably be improved by being spread liberally on the downy skin of a certain Chinese barmaid.

De Grays Tea Rooms serve scones. You might feel this is all you need to know to inform your decision whether to go or not. This place is a “historic Ludlow institution” serving up home-made cakes, bread and patisserie by an army of waitresses dressed straight out of Upstairs Downstairs. If you like that sort of thing (the scones that is, not the uniforms) then this is as good as you will get.

Otherwise check out La Becasse (the former Hibiscus), Koo, the best Japanese restaurant this side of Tokyo, and The Clive, another in the Michelin Guide.

Where to Drink

In the interests of providing a comprehensive review of Ludlow’s public houses, The Midnight Plumbers endeavoured to visit as many of them as possible. On the whole, we found them a welcoming bunch with a very good and varied selection of local ales. Ludlow has real pubs and there is a noticeable dearth of designer bars, theme pubs and trendy bars. This is a good thing.

The Charlton Arms is in a great spot overlooking the Teme and is a friendly pub serving a fine selection of local beers and home-cooked grub. It’s a haven for walkers in the summer months. If you are really lucky then the evening might be rounded off by mine host Dave doing his renowned Sooty Sings Sinatra routine. Not even the grand hotels of Paris or the showcase nightspots of Vegas can offer a man wearing a Sooty puppet and miming to the strains of My Way. If Harry Corbett were alive today he’d be turning in his grave.

The Church Inn at Buttercross is a top pub and has maybe the best kept beer in town. If that weren’t enough there are hops hanging above the bar and some attractive barmaids behind it. It also does food (see above/below) and accommodation and is well worth a visit.

The Bull is a supposedly haunted pub on the Bull Ring. A lively place dating back to 1199, it is the oldest pub in Ludlow but of an evening it caters for a very young crowd. Like many Ludlow pubs it looks much better outside than inside.

The Horse and Jockey in Old Street is perhaps not the most salubrious alehouse in town but it’s none the worse for that. If you ask nice they let you change the channel to watch whatever football match you like. Therefore totally undeserving of the comment passed by Andy Plumb.

Ye Olde Bull Ring Tavern looks like it is falling down and for all we know it might have by the time you read this. If it isn’t suffering from subsidence then there was definitely something wrong with our eyes. Actually, both were probably the case. A bit of a letdown given the frontage, more chewed on than Tudor.

The Globe. This is what passes for lively in Ludlow and may well be your personal cup of Rosie Lee but that’s only likely to be the case if you like it loud and proud and don’t mind running the risk of being duffed up by the heavies of the local ladies pool team.

The Feathers on the Bull Ring is as Tudor as Henry V111’s codpiece. It was described by no less than the New York Times as “the most handsome inn in the world”. If you are American you will love it. We aren’t American.

On the recommendation of locals, we made our way to the Nelson Inn at Rock Green, about halfway between the town and the racecourse. We were told it would be worth the trip as it is “unique”. They weren’t wrong. It is a long time since we were in a pub ran by a man with more wives than arms but this is such a place. Big Al is the landlord in question and he can perhaps best be described a cross between Lord Nelson, David Bellamy and a collection of hallucinogenic drugs. Whether he had one of his arms strapped under his jersey as a result of some accident or whether he was just playing up to the name of the pub wasn’t immediately clear. More doubt was cast when he pulled the good arm from its hiding place to pick up empty glasses. Wide-eyed Al seemingly had two small, wide, wives who wore matching bottle glasses — which is illegal in most western states but probably fine and dandy in Royston Vasey from whence they have surely relocated. If this hasn’t given you enough of an insight into how the Nelson qualifies as unique then try the fish tank and the hairdryer in the lounge, the boxes of Jacob’s cream crackers or the scary outside loo. Then there is the indefinable atmosphere which can only be defined as odd. Think The Slaughtered Lamb meets The Clangers. Excellent beer though and let’s face it, that’s all that matters. Apart from its “uniqueness”, The Nelson is apparently best known for its own cider but we didn’t try it for fear of a massive hangover and the possibility of ending up in a pie.

Where to Stay

In an effort to give you even greater insight into the town of Ludlow we actually stayed at two different lodgings. We do hope you are suitably grateful as it was a decision that was not without suffering on our part. But more of the Cliffe Hotel later.

The aforementioned and afore-drunk-in Charlton Arms was the first place in which the Plumbers laid their weary and somewhat fuzzy heads. The rooms could do with a bit of redecoration (unless you have a penchant for ripped wallpaper) but they are a decent size and come in at just £40 a night. What the Charlton lacks in intact furnishings it makes up for in character, good beer and a lock-in. Dave (he of Sooty Sings Sinatra fame) will happily serve you alcohol all night as long as the local cops don’t intervene and his wife is away in Spain.

The only real downside to a stay at the Charlton are the evil housekeepers — cleaning ladies who will set rabid dogs on you if you are not out the room by the appointed hour. Dave would be better to get Sooty and Sweep doing the cleaning and send the evil housekeepers back to Macbeth, Act One, Scene One.

Actually, he might be better sending them to, or over, The Cliffe. At first glance it is a fine looking rural hotel set in its own gardens and more attractive accommodation you couldn’t wish to see. Until you step inside. It smells. It really does. Once you get past the sentry post/reception you cannot avoid it. The good people of Chanel might try to market this odour as Victoriana but we think the term “biscuity pish” is more accurately descriptive. Wild horses wielding Kalashnikovs couldn’t make us eat here.

The rooms were small although some did have large adjoining bathrooms which smelled positively fragrant in comparison to the hallways. Tiny bedroom, large bathroom, go figure.

For those not deterred by the smell — perhaps the insane, the nasally challenged or the elderly — the Cliffe does indeed serve bar meals. This seems to attract a cardigan-clad crowd from the nearby caravans (not gypsies) who are more than happy to put up with the pong in exchange for a gin and tonic and chicken in a basket.

The Cliffe gets a big Plumber’s thumbs-down.

What to Avoid

The Cliffe Hotel. It really does smell bad.

Culture

Sausages.

Castle.

Getting There

Getting to Ludlow, from Scotland at least, is fearsome. Part of the reason that the town retains much of its original charm is that it has not been sullied with immediate proximity to the key transport networks. Indeed almost all of Shropshire is rural idyll, which is nice, but don’t count on getting anywhere fast.

By car, it’s about 40-odd miles off the M5 via Kidderminster or 30 miles down the A49 from Shrewsbury.

By air, nearest airport is Birmingham, which has good connections around the rest of UK and beyond. Ludlow is about 90 minutes drive from here through one of the most congested parts of the UK road network. The train takes around two hours from New Street in the city centre. Bristol, to the south, is just over two hours drive and three hours away by train.

By train, the plumbers elected to let the train add to the strain and left ourselves at the mercy of the combined forces of Virgin and Arriva Trains Wales. The journey from Glasgow/Edinburgh involves a change at Crewe to catch Arriva’s Cardiff bound service which calls at Shrewsbury, Church Stretton and every sheep farm and hill station in between en route to Ludlow’s tiny station (actually, it’s only an hour from Ludlow up to Crewe, but when there is a danger of missing your connection, it feels much longer). Tickets can be had for as little at £11 (one-way) from Glasgow to Crewe, but you’ll need to be quick and booking Virgin trains is never easy, further complicated by the fact that the west coast main line is blighted by engineering works. However, things worth having are never easily come by and be assured the delights of the town will reward the persistent traveller.

One tip from those who know, train services between Cardiff and Crewe (and therefore to Ludlow) can be adversely affected by sporting events at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff. I know, it’s unbelievable, but it’s true and a quick check could save you a world of hurt.

We recommend that, if travelling in a party, that you leave all the arrangements to one person. That way, when things go even slightly awry, you can while away the journey by giving the poor sap endless grief over how it should have been arranged. Hours of fun.

By bike, cycling is definitely an attractive option in this area. There are a number of routes and trails into the Wye valley and around the Welsh border country. Relatively quiet roads, not too many steep hills and plenty of country inns to keep you refreshed would suggest this is an area that cyclists would enjoy. Organised trips and cycle hire can be had at Wheely Wonderful Cycling at Elton, just outside the town.

Getting to the Course

It is about two miles north-west of the town so we jumped in a taxi. If you are driving, take the A49 from the north via Shrewsbury or via Hereford from the south. From the west take the A4113 and from the east the A44 from Worcester followed by the A49.

About the Course

Racing here dates back to 1729 and there’s now around 16 jump meetings a year. It labels itself as “Britain’s friendliest racecourse” but of course we know that title actually belongs to Kelso.

What to Wear

Please yourself really. It’s a bit of a mixed bag so anything from tweed or trackies depending on your personal preference.

The Plumber

The Midnight Plumbers recommend Mr Charles Pitt, 16 Normandie Close, Ludlow, SY8 1UJ

The Midnight Plumbers Guide to Betting

How to Calculate Your Winnings

There are two or three basic terms you need to understand before reading this section. You should also make sure you understand the makeup of the bet you have placed. See our Types of Bet section for more details.

Some betting terms explained

Stake

EurosHow much you are going to bet. This could be something simple like £5 to win where your total stake would be, simply, £5. Or something a bit more complicated like £5 each-way where your total stake would be £10. This would consist of two bets: £5 to win and £5 for a place. Or even more complicated like a £1 Yankee which consists of 11 bets (6 doubles, 4 trebles and 1 fourfold – see our Types of Bet section for more details). In this instance your total stake would be £1 x 11 = £11.

Odds

The chances of winning as determined by the bookmakers usually expressed as e.g. 2/1 (two to one), 100/30 (one hundred to thirty) and so on. The higher the odds the more you will win (but the higher the likelihood of you losing…). Interestingly, 100/30 is known as Burlington Bertie in certain circles.

Starting Price (SP)

The final odds as the race starts. Up until then, the odds on some horses will fluctuate as more or less money is wagered on them. On-course bookmakers will give you the odds as they are when you place your bet. Off-course you can elect to take the odds at the time you place your bet or get paid at the Starting Price. Eager racegoers like to try to guess how the market will change and time their bets accordingly.

Return

How much you get back. If your horse wins at 2/1 then you will receive £2 for every £1 you have staked. Similarly, if your winner comes in at 4/5, you will receive £4 for every £5 that you bet. Note that you will also receive your original stake money too. So, if you bet £4 on a winning horse priced at 4/5 you would receive £5 (winnings) plus £4 (stake) giving you a return of £9 in total.

Odds-On

A short price where the return (excluding your original stake money) is less than your stake. Prices such as 4/5 (four to five or more commonly five to four on) and 10/11 (eleven to ten on) are examples. Remember that your original stake money is returned in a winning bet so 4/5 would pay £4 for every £5 bet plus the original £5 stake = £9 in total.

Evens

A short price where the return is exactly the same as your stake. A £5 win bet on a winning horse returned at Evens would pay £5 plus £5 stake money = £10 in total.

Each-Way

A combination bet where you will receive a return if your horse wins or finishes within the first 2,3 or 4 places depending on how many horses are running in the race.

Tattersalls Rule 4

DishonestLegalised swindling. If one of the horses in the race goes to post but fails to start, bookmakers are allowed to deduct a percentage from all winning bets. There is a sliding scale applied by bookmakers depending on the starting price of the withdrawn horse. A good yardstick is to assume a deduction of around 10 percent.

 

Some examples

So let’s cut to the chase. How much will you win?

All returns work on a simple principle. If your horse wins then you will get back your stake x the odds. The odds will be either the SP (Starting Price) or those you took when you placed your bet. You will also get back your stake.

Single bet return

So for example, let’s assume you have bet £5 on Pongee to win in the 3:45 at Doncaster. Pongee duly wins at 5/4. This means that you will receive £5 for every £4 that you bet. So your total profit would be £6.25 (£5 x 5/4). Add on your original stake of £5 and your total return is £11.25 for a £5 stake. Simple.

Double

Let’s look at something a bit more complicated. This time, you have bet a £5 double on Pongee to win the 3:45 at Doncaster and Basinet to win the 5:20 at Musselburgh. As this is a double, both of your horses have to win. Pongee duly wins at 5/4 and Basinet unbelievably manages to win at 5/1. Time to calculate the winnings.

£5 on Pongee at 5/4 will return £11.25 as we have already seen. Because this is a win double whatever you win on the first horse becomes the stake on the second. So we are now looking at £11.25 on Basinet at 5/1. This will return £56.25 profit (£11.25 x 5). Now add on your stake of £11.25. This gives a total return of £67.50. Excellent!

Treble

Let’s assume that, rather than a double, you had wagered a treble. Pongee in the 3:45 at Doncaster, Basinet in the 5:20 at Musselburgh and Waterline Dancer in the 9:05 at Windsor. Pongee romps home at 5/4. Basinet inexplicably wins at 5/1. Waterline Dancer canters in at 2/1.

So how much would you win? Just go through the same type of calculation. Remember that your return on one leg of the treble becomes the stake for the next one. We already know from above that Pongee and Basinet will return £67.50 between them. This money is now the stake for third leg of our treble (they all have to win remember). So £67.50 at 2/1 will net you £135 (£67.50 x 2). Add on your stake of £67.50 and your total return is a whopping £202.50. All right!

Each way

Let’s try that again but this time we’ll look at how some each-way betting might affect the overall returns.

So this time we have wagered £5 each way on Pongee to win the 3:45 at Doncaster. Pongee duly delivers at 5/4. Remember that an each-way bet splits your stake in two with half going on a win and half going on a place. So, when Pongee wins you will receive £11.25 (£5 at 5/4 + your stake money of £5). As your bet was each way though you will also get some money back from the place part of your bet as Pongee finished in the first three. In this instance you will receive one quarter of what you would received in the win part i.e. £1.56. Now add on your stake of £5 giving you a return of £6.56. Add the win and place returns together giving you a total return of £17.81 for your original £10 stake.

If Pongee had finished second rather than first (unlikely I know) then you would have received a return on the place part of your bet only. So for the win part, you would receive nothing. For the place part you would receive one quarter of what you would have received in the win part i.e. £1.56. Add on your stake of £5 giving you a return of £6.56 for a £10 stake.

I’m sure you’ve got the hang of this now so won’t try to confuse you with any more examples. If you do get stuck, you could always try one of the bet calculators on the Internet. Despite a few bugs, the one on the Teletext site is not too bad.

St. Vincent

mcleanBathroom shining white
Fix that shower and the old bidet
Realign that water spray
With eyes that know the darkness in my bowl.
Smudges on the bills
On your knees amid the toilet spills
Catch the slops and use your skills
To get your payment on demand

Now I understand what you tried to say to me
And how you struggled to fit that vanity
How you tried to let them pee
They would not plumb, they did not know how
Perhaps they’re plumbing now

Bathroom shining white
Smelly powers of strange bouquets
Swirling clouds of violet Haze
Reflect in St Vincent’s eyes, that china loo
Colours of shampoo
Morning needs, that usual strain
Flushing faeces down the drain
Soothed beneath the plumber’s loving hand

Now I understand what you tried to say to me
And how you struggled to fit that vanity
How you tried to let them pee
They would not plumb, they did not know how
Perhaps they’re plumbing now

For they could not pay you
But still, your bill was true
And when no soap was left inside
In that bathroom shining white
You left a hole as plumbers often do
But I could’ve told you, St Vincent:
This bathroom was never meant
For one as beautiful as you.

Bathroom shining white
Towels hung in empty stalls
Radiators in countless halls
With guys that plumb the world with no sweat
Unlike the plumbers that get wet
The cowboy men in plumbing clothes
A pipe is torn, the water flows
Clothes lie soaking on the bathroom floor

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me
And how you struggled with that vanity
And how you tried to let them pee
They would not plumb, they’re not plumbing still
Perhaps they never will…

Plumbing Rhapsody

wintonIs this a real job?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught on the wet side,
No escape from a guarantee
Open your eyes, look up to the guys like me
I’m just a plumber, I need no sympathy,
Because I’m easy plumb, easy dough, Little dry, little flow,
Any way the bend goes doesn’t really matter to me, to me

Mama just billed a man,
Put a ton against his spread, made it bigger, now he’s bled
Mama, the job had just begun,
But now I’ve gone and flushed it all away
Mama, ooh, Didn’t mean to bleed him dry,
If I’m not plumbing again this time tomorrow,
Carry on in the john as if nothing really splatters

Too late, it’s time to plumb,
The shower’s not so fine, drain’s stinking full of lime
Good God it is shoddy but I’ve spent the dough
I need a new hub-spigot and that’s the truth
Mama, ooh, I don’t want to buy,
I sometimes wish I’d never been a plumber at all

I see a little plumbing ghetto from my van
Looks a skoosh, looks a skoosh, can of orange Tango
Tensile bolt needs tightening, very, very exciting me
Thomas Crapper, Thomas Crapper, Thomas Crapper Mario
Magnifico

But I’m just a plumber and nobody loves me
He’s just a plumber from a plumbing family,
Spare him the strife of bulk viscosity
Easy plumb, easy flow, will you give me dough
St Vincent! No, we will not give you dough
(Give him dough!) St Vincent! We will not give you dough
(Give him dough!) St Vincent! We will not give you dough
(Give me dough) Will not give you dough
(Give me dough) Will not give you dough (Give me dough) Ah
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
(Oh mama mia, mama mia) Mama mia, give me dough
Inland revenue has a bill put aside for me
For me
For me
For me

So you think you can phone me and say it’s not dry
So you think you can moan at me and start asking me why
No maybe, you’ve paid it now, maybe
I’m going out, I’m gonna get right out for beer

Nothing really splatters, Anyone can pee,
Nothing really splatters,
Nothing really splatters on me
Any way the bend goes…

York

yorkminsterYork is one of Britain’s most historically significant cities and can trace its roots back to the arrival of the Roman legions in 71 AD when they erected a garrison at the confluence of the Ouse and the Foss. Such was its importance that it attracted all the big names of the time including the emperors Hadrian, Septimus Severus and Constantine. The Saxons took over for a while when the Romans went home but it later fell to the Vikings who knocked the lot down, threw everything out and decided to refurbish in the style of Ikea. The changes were obviously not to the taste of William the Conqueror because he burned the lot down a couple of hundred years later. There was a small period of architectural stability of 900 years before it was the turn of the Germans to try and flatten the place in World War 11. In between York had been regenerated by the railways in the early 19th century which allowed it to regain much of its former glory and by industry both heavy and light. The latter notably included confectionery, particularly the firms of Rowntree and Terry’s.

York has been the undisputed capital of the North for 2000 years and today enjoys the fruits of its historic labours as tourism is far and away the biggest earner. In July and August you will barely be able to inhale for the squadrons of demented tourists cooing at the grandeur of the Minster or wittering at the tangle of narrow streets that make up its medieval heart. If you are American, a lover of history or have a fondness for tat then York is the place for you.

Where To Eat

Lancashire. Derbyshire. Lincolnshire. Indeed any surrounding county offers greater culinary alternatives. Mind you so does starvation. If you are, by any chance, a political activist seeking to prove your point by going on hunger strike then we can think of no better place to do such a thing than York. Not eating here would be so much more enjoyable than not eating somewhere else. That is of course unless you have a liking for the cold and the over-cooked, the fatty and the bland, the cholesterol-laden and the plain inedible. All of the above can readily be found within York’s ancient walls – and all served in a great big foxtrot-oscar Yorkshire pudding. If you learn nothing else from this website (and let’s face it, that is more than probable) then learn this:

Pub grub in York and all three Ridings of Yorkshire is crap

Lasagne, haddock with or without batter, Cumberland sausage, steak pie and chilli con carne, that’s your lot. If anyone finds a pub menu with anything else as a standard meal then we will award you a prize (not really). Here’s a simple rule of thumb which your stomach will be eternally grateful to you for following, it should be followed in general but particularly in York. Pubs are for drinking in, restaurants are for eating in. Of the latter, the Lime House did look as if it offered something a bit above the less than ordinary (i.e. it didn’t seem to serve things in Yorkshire pudding) but sadly we didn’t have the opportunity to indulge owing to a prior engagement (drinking beer). The seabass on seafood paella looked the business. The Tasting Room and Rish both looked the kind of place your stomach might enjoy. Finally the Plumbers can firmly recommend Victor J’s in Finkle Street off St Sampson’s Square. Run by the delightful and eye-pleasing Victoria and Jennifer from Hamilton, it is the best art bar in York bar none. Chic, laid back and trendy but none the worse for that. Try some of the excellent food, enjoy a cold beer or a Baileys latte, buy a painting or just look at Victoria and Jennifer.

Where To Drink

Well not in the bars because they aren’t pubs but are actually gateways to different parts of the city. Ask a local to recommend a good bar and you’ll undoubtedly get the Tennent’s lager taken out of you. York has a huge selection of pubs ranging from Ye Olde Pubbe to designer chic with stopping off points at bland chain pubs and good old spit and sawdust. First up we’d recommend The Maltings on Tanners Moat, just two minutes from the railway station. It’s a fine pub with an overwhelming selection of real ales but its award-winning rep means it is usually packed to the gunnels. A Plumbers’ thumbs up. If you want to go to a pub with Swan it its name then definitely go Black rather than White. The Black Swan in Peasholm Green is a fine 16th century hostelry replete with oak beams, stone floors and proper beers. The Old White Swan is a strange mish-mash of Australia meets York meets smoke. The Hole in the Wall on High Petergate is worth a visit. It smelled a bit of paint but we’re sure that’s gone by now. Good selection of beers and a rigged quiz on Thursday nights. On Stonegate you can choose between Ye Olde Starre Inn (get over the name) or The Punchbowl (get over the food). The former is said to be York’s oldest pub and has various nooks and crannies to enjoy some good beer. The latter is haunted by two ghosts and its bar meals menu.

We have to give a big Plumbers’ thumbs down to The Lowther mainly because it is huge, manky, serves rotten food, and suffers from peeling furniture, a surfeit of ash and students. There are said to 365 pubs in the city of York and hard as we tried to drink in all of them in order to give you a full and proper recommendation, we sadly failed. For a full list you could try the online York Pub Guide

Where To Stay

The Plumbers stayed in the Orchard Court Hotel in St Peter’s Grove in Bootham, not far from York City’s football ground. Perhaps the management misheard us when we booked and thought we said five single rooms for midgets instead of five rooms for fully-grown (in some cases overgrown) adults. That is the only thing to explain the teeny rooms in which it would be quite impossible to swing a cat unless you dangled it out the window. One advantage is that while lying in bed it is possible to touch all four walls and turn off the light without leaving the confines of your duvet. You can’t do that in the Dorchester unless you get a really big bed. Or have really long arms. At just £40 a night for a room it is decent value for money and the cooked breakfasts make up in part for the small rooms (we mean really small – call Norris McWhirter now unless he is the one that’s dead). Ideal for jockeys. No offence is meant to midgets or other people of restricted growth.

What To Avoid

Apart from the aforementioned pub grub, the top of any avoidance list would be the Mickelgate Run. This charming peace of York custom involves being on said Micklegate of a weekend and getting duffed up by the local youth who have tried to in drink every hostelry in the vicinity. It’s like a pub crawl along Edinburgh’s Rose Street but with added violence. If you can make it from one end of the street to the other without getting kicked or punched then you are most probably a policeman. In fact you are probably three policemen. Our second suggestion may be a controversial choice but you could also do worse than avoid Betty’s Tearooms. The reasons are too many to list but principal amongst them are old people, rip-off prices and scones. In fact scones would be reason enough.

Culture

York is full of it. This city has almost as many museums as it has terrible meals. Take your pick between the National Railway Museum, the Jorvik Viking Centre, the Castle Museum or the Yorkshire Museum. The open top bus tour – a must on any Plumbers’ outing and the perfect cure for a serious hangover – is worth going on if only for the entertainment provided by the barely live guides. York may have possibly the oldest tour guides in the world and you can amuse yourself by talking bets on whether yours will still be alive by the end of the journey. If that isn’t culture enough for you then there is York Minster (big church), the Shambles (narrow street) and the York Dungeon (a dungeon). Clifford’s Tower, perched on a mound built by William the Conqueror, is where half of the city’s Jewish population were burned to death in 1190. There’s lots of other stuff about it but get on a bus and if you get stuck at the traffic lights then the barely live guide will tell you more than you need to know.

Getting There

York is well served by motorway and rail links. It’s a four-hour drive from London or Edinburgh but 25 trains a day stop en route between the two capitals so why bother? The nearest airport is Leeds, an hour’s drive away.

Getting To The Course

York Racecourse is about two miles from the train station and you can get shuttle buses or taxis there if you don’t fancy the walk. And let’s face it, who would?

About The Course

Racing has taken place on this site since 1731, with the first grandstand overlooking the Knavesmire completed in 1754. York is one of the premier racecourses in Europe and always offers a high standard of racing. Today you can choose between the Grandstand or County Stand and 20 different food outlets. However when considering eating you must remember that you are in Yorkshire. It’s worth shelling out for the reservation-only Ebor or Voltigeur Restuarants or the Gymcrack Room and therefore ensure avoiding the horrors of the pub grub. Entrance prices range from £9 for the Grandstand or paddock up to £42 for the County Stand during the excellent Ebor festival The course itself is left-handed and U-shaped, and is well suited to powerful gallopers.

What To Wear

Gentlemen are expected to wear a jacket and tie in the County Stand but it is usually more informal elsewhere.

The Plumber

The Travel Guide recommends: Fred Dodds, 116 Hamilton Drive, York. Tel: 01904 792382.