The 44th Meeting of TOFC – The Old House at Home, Havant

old_house_at_homeThis was our third visit to The Old House at Home and it remains a firm favourite for many.  We booked for fifteen in advance, but as often happens these days we ended up being a larger gathering – 19 in this case.  We were setup near the back of the pub (near the kitchen) where we were last time and this area allows some expansion if necessary and we made good use of that capability.  In effect we used the lower long tables and three tall tables, which meant we were broken into smaller groups, but I think that helps conversations.

We had one new face at this meeting and a few who we haven’t seen for a while, which is always good for the atmosphere.  I certainly has a few good chats and a slightly political debate (ah well!), but all very enjoyable!  It looked to me like everyone else also enjoyed the day.

We were slightly late starting to order the food – we were delayed when Southern Trains cancelled the 11:13 and then pulled the 11:35 onto the wrong platform (which was already occupied) and consequently took several minutes just to unload the passengers through the one door on the ne carriage that was at the platform!  Still, once the order went in it didn’t seem to take too long for the meals to be served and as far as I could tell everyone got the meal they ordered.  My own personal view about Fuller’s pubs is that they are quite expensive and the food, on particular, is expensive for what you get.  that is certainly the situation here and my fish and chips were nice enough, but at £8.95 not cheap.  The beer that I had was HSB and that was good, but also not cheap.

All in all I still like this pub, but I think it doesn’t quite work for us as such a large group – not so much a space problem as an organisation problem – it is quite a drain on the kitty and makes it difficult to ensure fair access to the funds for everyone.  I think we may have to make more frequent visits to Wetherspoons in order to boost the kitty if we are to keep this gathering going along the current lines!

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The 43rd Meeting of TOFC–The White Swan, Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth

The White Swan

This was our second visit to this old haunt since Wetherspoons sold the pub and a microbrewery company took over – Brewhouse and Kitchen – and knowing the layout I thought I would contact them to make a booking.  In fact, we couldn’t get an answer when we phoned, but an email got a very quick answer and we booked for 20.  When we arrived we found we were situated at the back left of the pub, okay but a bit closed off from the rest of the pub, but there was plenty of space we just needed to arrange the tables a little.  There was a little inconvenience in that the door to the kitchen was next to us and we had to ensure access, but otherwise we were fine.

Being a microbrewery there is always the chance that a brew is being made when you visit this pub and today we were lucky (unlucky?) enough to be there as a brew was being produced, so the pub had a distinct aroma of yeast and malt.

There was a good turn out of TOFC members (19), so it took a while to compile the list of lunches, buy beers and drinks and settle down, but it worked out reasonably well with us splitting into one main group and one satellite group.  Once again it was nice to see old faces (a few we haven’t seen for a while) and at least one new face who has joined us.  Interestingly, we also saw a few faces of old colleagues from The University who had popped in for lunch (nice to see some traditions carry on).  I am pleased that everyone is still enjoying these events and that their popularity is growing, I just hope we can find enough new places to visit in 2014.

The menu has some unusual items (Chilli with chocolate in it!) and seemed to be reasonably popular – the Chilli was quite popular, but not sure I could taste chocolate, maybe – and despite the pub being busy, the food arrived after about twenty minutes and was very tasty.  I didn’t hear any complaints, just a slight uncertainty as to whether we got one too many meals (we didn’t).  So, so far so good and I have to say I like how they have set this pub up – I even got used to the smell of wort being prepared.  We all tried one of the locally brewed ales, Troubleshooter, and it seemed popular with everyone.  This is definitely a place to visit if you haven’t been before and I was more impressed at this second visit than I was at the previous visit.

The 42nd Meeting of TOFC – back to The Lord Palmerston

The Lord PalmerstonThis meeting of TOFC is the first of the New Year and consequently the one where we spend the excess funds in the kitty.  For that reason we always choose a Wetherspoons as they provide best value for money and The Lord Palmerston in Southsea is a good size to accommodate a sizable group.  Unfortunately, they don’t take table booking (apparently too many people fail to turn up) so we had to grab some tables early.  In fact, we managed to get a couple of long table down near the food serving area, which allowed us to expand easily and was handy for the food when it arrived.

For my wife and me, the journey was a train through to Portsmouth harbour, which ran perfectly on time, and then the No 1 bus that dropped us of at the top of Palmerston Road – so a relatively easy journey from Southampton.

As usual with this “free” event, we had a good turn-out (19 eventually) and there was already a good crowd in the pub by the time we got there with the kitty!  We quickly settled in and paid back those who has bought a round (that always goes down well) and then started to order food.  In between food orders there were a few different beers bought at the bar and, as usual for this pub, there was a good choice of different real ales.  The food order went in about 20 min after we arrived and the food was served very quickly afterwards.  I was not alone in saying how well Wetherspoons manage big food orders these days and everyone seemed to get there food quickly and without problem.

Once again there was good mix of people and, this time, we even found a new recruit in the pub – he mentioned to me that he remembered our Friday meeting from when we were all at work, lol!  Everyone seemed in good spirits and we chatted about everything from The Ashes (a bit depressing) to memories from work (distant!) and there was a good amount of mixing of people to improve this chatting.  All in all a good day and still some kitty left over!

The 41st Meeting of TOFC – a return to Cosham

firstpostThis month’s meeting, held one week late due to difficulties attending the usual date for a number of people, saw us return to an old favourite – The First Post, Wetherspoon’s in Cosham.  This pub is popular as its location is very central for a lot of people and it is quite close to the railway station and the buses from Portsmouth.  This meant a good turn out for the last meeting of 2013, with 21 people turning up, setting a record for attendance – thanks to everyone for coming along, it was good to see so many people.

While The First Post is not the most attractive setting for a pub (very much in the high street and it is typical of large Wetherspoon facilities), it is always pleasant – friendly staff and good service.  With such a large gathering there was always going to be the question of JDW-J4302_2_MEAL_DEAL_BANNER_170X250pixels.inddhow we would arrange the sitting.  In fact, this time we got a line of tables against the wall at the foot of the stairs, which meant we weren’t blocking people in the booth seats (as we have before), but a couple of the seats were booth style, which meant there were large wooden extrusions to sit around – a bit awkward I know as I sat at one!  Still most people got to sit around the main block of three tables and we managed to grab at least one other table just across the pub, so the pub catered with the numbers well.  Food was ordered and served quickly as usual and there was no problems, which is always the case in this pub.  There was a reasonable choice of real ales that were easy to drink and tasted good, so all went well again.

I think I would always recommend this pub for meeting of a large number of people – they cope very well and always serve the food promptly.  The waitress even ordered my wife her desert from the table!  For our group it certainly seemed to work well and there was a good mixture of chats and groupings of people.  It was nice to see a face returning from Australia (I joked he wasn’t enjoying the Ashes) and a good number of our female members – all in all a good afternoon.  I would also like to thank those who thanked me for arranging these sessions – I don’t really do much – but it is nice that people enjoy them so much.

The 40th Meeting of TOFC – The Golden Lion, Bedhampton

 

The Golden LionThe Golden Lion, Bedhampton was a new venue for TOFC and also for me, in fact I have not been to Bedhampton before, but I am happy to report that the journey was worthwhile.

The train journey from Southampton was about one hour, changing at Havant, but the journey went quite smoothly.  For many of the other TOFC members the journey was a bus ride from Portsmouth, but no one complained about problems getting to Bedhampton, which is good.  I had thought we might only have a few members for this meeting, and I had booked a table for 12, but in fact it was one of the best attended meetings of the year with 17 turning up!  This also meant it was a good mix of people, most of whom were able to sit around a big round table in the main window of the lounge area of the pub.  The rest of us grabbed a couple of tables nearby.

The pub was very welcoming and they had no objection to us moving tables and taking over most the lounge area.  The bar itself is fairly short and a couple of locals were sat at it, facing the bar was what I would describe as a bar area, while the lounge area, where we were, was off to the right of the bar.  There were three real ales and most of us drank jail Ale, which was very good.  The food menu was very reasonably priced (main meals were £5) and the food order was processed quickly and the food arrived very quickly.  In fact the service was both friendly and efficient and there were no problems at all.  In fact, it was a very enjoyable afternoon out and the pub is definitely worth a visit.

The 39th TOFC Meeting – The Red Lion, Cosham

RedLionCoshamI cannot believe we are already rapidly approaching our 40th meeting (which will be in November and at a new location for us), but this 39th meeting also took place in a new pub – The Red Lion, Cosham.  Previously, our visits to Cosham have taken us to the local Wetherspoons, but The Red Lion is further up the High Street, past the pedestrian-only shopping area to the main road at the top of the street.  People attending arrived by both bus and train and Cosham is handy for public transport, but the town itself lacks any real character and is beginning to look somewhat run down (which is a shame).  In fact, finding this pub (any pub) for TOFC was something of a struggle as most of the other places were in very poor condition!

As you can see from the picture, The Red Lion is quite a big pub with an outside sitting area next to the main road (good for the carbon monoxide, lol) and inside one main central bar with seating widely spread around the room.  First impressions was that pub was in need of refurbishment and there were some areas that looked “past their sell by date”, but the good side was there was plenty of space to pull tables together and gather a bit of a crowd – 12 of us turned up, so not too big a gathering, but okay.  The pub sells one real ale (despite having three pumps on the bar), which was Doombar – a very tasty Cornish ale – at ONLY £2.50 a pint, which is a good price.  Some drank cider and lager, but most of us consumed enough of the Doombar to keep the barrel flowing well!  The food menu was reasonably extensive and included some very good “food-deals” that we partook of – fish and chips in my case as a shared meal that also included a free drink (we had wine), but the star of the food-deals were the steaks!  The food arrived quickly and was tasty, so that helped improve my view of the pub – it really just needs a refurbishment, as I mentioned.

We had a good afternoon and it was, once again, nice to see a couple of faces who have been absent for a while.  Although the turn out was smaller that some recent events, it was a good size gathering for chat and I think most people chatted to most others – I must get up and mix more though, I am getting lazy!

The end of another cricket season – many thoughts!

Ageas-Bowl-410Tuesday (24th September) saw the start of the last cricket at The Ageas Bowl this year – it seems to have gone quickly – and that probably means the end of summer and cooler weather!  But, at least we had a good summer when it eventually arrived (despite the snow at some early matches in April) and the t20 was a resounding success in the summer sun.  I haven’t really written much about the cricket this season (a few groans about why the County Championship points system tends to encourage too many draws), so maybe now is a good time to summarise what I have enjoyed about this year’s cricket.

matt-coles-1350855

Matt Coles

Of course, the most enjoyable thing this season has nothing to do with Hampshire, but connects me back to my northern ties – Durham have won the County Championship again, well done lads!
But, what of Hampshire?  Well the last game was a wonderful win in only three days by an innings and 31 runs.  There was little to gain other than some respect, but Essex had an outside chance of reaching second place.  There performance was poor in the light of that factor and I would have batted first if I won the toss, but they chose to field and Hants managed to reach maximum batting points.  In reply Essex collapsed twice and only Napier showed any real grit.  So, Hants boosted themselves to fourth place in the table with this win.   However, nine draws out of 16 games played sums up the problem of County Cricket and I really think it is time for the ECB to make a re-think of the points system.  A few games have involved declarations, which should have enable a positive result (and that is to be applauded even when Hants loose), but it is clear from some games that such an approach is frowned upon in certain circles and that generally there is no real encouragement (from the powers that be) to engineer results in rain affected matches.  But why is this happening, why are games ending up in a draw?  At the Ageas Bowl I think that the wicket, when dry, is very flat and easy to bat on (after all when any sort of spinning wicket is produced the club gets fined as we have seen in the past), but Hants also face a problem in the four day matches of not having a genuine strike bowler who can take wickets through sheer pace (the recent arrival of Matt Coles has illustrated the problem as did well at Leicestershire and in the last match at The Ageas Bowl, where he took 10 wickets in the match, but, he is not what I imagine as a strike bowler, but he is quicker than the other bowlers at Hants) and the flat wickets make this problem worse!  If it is not possible to change the wickets and it is not possible to find a bowler who can take 10-12 wickets per game, then the only solution lies with more declarations and, as I have said before, this requires an incentive, probably through the points system, but also a financial incentive from promotion.

Yet, despite these problems we do very well at limited over cricket, where there is an increased need for the batsmen to take risks and play across the line – this tends to increase the success rate of swing bowlers such at Chris Wood and explains some of the success Hampshire have had.  When combined with the batting capabilities of Carberry (now selected for England), Vince (who has improved dramatically this season), Dawson and Adams the team is an excellent unit for one day cricket and especially t20, but these forms of cricket tend to encourage loose shots and I have seem too many such shots during the four day matches (this was Vince’s problem in my view).  We have seen some amazing cricket this summer and perhaps the most memorable moment was CarberryCarberry scoring his 100 off the last over of a t20 match, almost being run out in a match that saw over 400 runs scored in only 40 overs!  There were some wonderful overs bowled by Mascarenhas, who will be sorely missed, and despite his loss of pace he remains one of the most difficult bowlers to score off in limited over cricket.  Despite failure at the semi-final level in the YB40 game (to Glamorgan) and in the semi-finals of the t20, we played some wonderful limited over cricket and the batting looked deep, but occasionally likely to fail at the top.  However, the question rises should we be happy with limited over success, or should there be more determination to return to the top flight County cricket?  One of the topics of discussion during some of the cricket this year was the incentive for player and club to win County matches – our conclusion was that there is very little financial benefit for the club and even player transfers appear not to benefit the club financially.  There is little likelihood that gates will change for County matches and the only possible change might be the demographic change in age groups that might increase the numbers of retired people who watch cricket ( not a particularly viable solution to the problem).

There are many changes planned for next year and one area of concern is that the t20 cricket will be spread out across the season.  I am surprised by this, and I am not sure I totally believe that spectators wanted this, but the format will be primarily Friday nights through June, July and August (I believe), but problems attracting foreign players for such a tournament may be a problem and may lessen audience size!
The 40 over competition will be replaced by a 50 over tournament, to match international games, but I think these longer games may have a smaller audience as they take most of a day to play.
I also understand County matches may start on a Sunday, which may cause some problems with infrastructure support (public transport) if they run late!

So, I am sure there will be plenty to discuss next year and I foresee some problems attracting larger crowds to the longer tournaments, but at least we have a test match at The Ageas Bowl to look forward to (even though the ground had to be “inspected” to get this generous award, lol!