John and Tom's 26th Birthday

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To celebrate mine and Tom's 26th birthday, I'd planned (in the loosest sense of the word) an educational tour of drinking establishments spanning four charming villages along the river Thames. It was mostly successful, although Whitchurch was entirely closed and Streatley contained a pub landlady who was, on reflection, probably slightly less pleasant than a particularly bad mooded antichrist. Still, these minor quibbles aside, Pangbourne and Goring provided us with some lovely pubs, and (hopefully) on the whole, much fun was had by all.

12:17:27 Out the back of The Swan. Kevin was the only of the day's attendees to actually arrive at the originally agreed time. Well done sir!

12:34:55 Not too long afterwards Rob turned up...

12:35:02 ...this picture was pointlessly taken...

12:35:15 ...and Byrnie arrived as well. Unfortunate evil distortion coming out of the top of my head there.

12:42:12 Well I certainly don't have a clue what it's all about.

13:12:18 Nice though the weather was, it was March, and therefore still generally too cold to sit outside for any great length of time.

13:54:44 Aha! By this point it seems Tom and Michelle have also arrived... Here we are in an obscure corner of The Swan, that I hadn't previously realised existed.

14:12:41 Rob embarked on taking a number of strange angled pictures of me and Tom, the birthday boys.

14:12:44 The camera has done a spectacular job of sodding it all up again here. Well done.

14:12:47 Two cheeky young rascals.

14:13:34 Rob forced us to stare "lovingly" into each other's eyes for this. Thanks Rob.

14:13:38 ...and again. Ok Rob you can stop now.

14:23:03 Kevin turns up with the biggest round so far.

14:25:58 Rob is clearly very pleased about this.

14:34:29 An entertainingly strange (or strangely entertaining?) facial expression from Rob here.

14:34:51 Byrnie and Michelle, no relation.

14:36:38 Here follows a bizarre (albeit short) pictorial checklist of Byrnie's facial anatomy.

14:36:44 Yes, nose and right eye appear present and correct.

15:09:16 We're heading out of The Swan now. I can't remember why Byrnie is positioned thusly between the curtains, but it seemed funny at the time I (vaguely) recall.

15:14:32 Rob, wandering along a path, carrying a bag wherein Rob's sleeping things were contained, which we had to drop off at my flat before further drinking could commence.

15:29:34 A brief stop off in my flat. Time for a bottle of Asahi each, and a quick play on the guitar.

15:29:39 Michelle is watching out for the rozzers or something.

15:30:57 Look at all that gratuitous Asahi drinking.

15:38:27 A nice group shot, incorporating four people who weren't anything to do with us whatsoever. Well, that's not strictly true. I do know Chris, who is a smashing bloke, and the other bloke may have been Chris's mate. The two women on the end, however, are entirely random.

15:48:53 Right then, for the next stage of the proceedings, I had decided we should all visit Whitchurch. Here's Kevin, Rob and Byrnie on the bridge over the Thames.

15:49:06 There can't be many pictures of Asahi being drunk on this here bridge.

15:49:25 The other side of the bridge...

15:49:32 ...we don't seem to be progressing very quickly at this point...

15:50:03 Michelle goes off to risk life and limb in the name of photography.

15:50:11 Just don't lean backwards, OK?

16:01:13 Here we are on our way back out of Whitchurch again, having realised all the pubs close in the afternoon.

16:01:19 The best laid plans, as they say....

16:04:17 I'd had a quick go on Michelle's bike, which was fun.

16:35:45 In the absence of any open pubs in Whitchurch, clearly it was time to resort to everybody's favourite, The Cross Keys.

16:35:53 Again though, it was a bit on the nippy side.

16:35:59 I assume as we had a couple of pints inside us by this point we didn't notice this so much though...

16:39:06 Rob already starting to look sleepy!

16:39:15 I certainly don't look 26 this close up...

16:39:27 I think the light is starting to go a bit.

16:46:37 Somebody always has to take a picture of a bloody pint glass.

16:46:44 Rob may have been on the Gin and Tonics. If I recall, plenty of crisps were consumed at this juncture also.

16:47:00 Somebody (Michelle?) went off round the beer garden taking "arty" shots.

16:47:17 Look, it's a hose pipe.

16:47:29 Some stones in a bucket.

16:47:42 Errr.

16:47:51 Erm.

16:47:57 Ok well that is quite pretty. But it doesn't really shout out pub crawl does it?

16:48:15 Yes, OK, also quite nice, but still, where is all the beer drinking type activity?

16:48:34 C'mon now.

16:48:53 Is that bamboo?

17:02:30 Right, either in an effort to warm up, or to curtail all the bloody nature photography, we moved inside.

17:02:37 Brynie giving the beer the thumbs up.

17:02:42 Michelle looking a bit sozzled alread...

17:07:56 Rob looking blurry.

17:08:04 Fantastic, Kevin. I've no idea what it's all about but well done anyway.

17:08:12 Byrnie, the hapless piggy in the middle amidst a photographic menage a trois.

17:08:32 Michelle's watch.

17:08:39 Errr, well, Michelle took this...

17:09:44 ...and this...

17:11:36 Byrnie looks quite rightly concerned.

17:11:45 Michelle pauses briefly from her odd photographic activity to check whether or not the rest of us are talking about anything interesting at all...

17:12:40 ...clearly not...

17:12:48 Erm?

17:13:52 Well.... errr...

17:14:35 Anyway...

17:16:01 Crashing on!

17:16:19 In case you wanted to see the inside of the women's toilets. I am quite jealous at the presence of carpet here.

17:16:49 Let's just all pretend this was taken by accident.

17:16:59 That would be a toilet then.

17:23:59 Ermmmm....?

17:24:45 Kevin is offered a crisp with perhaps more aggression than he was expecting.

17:24:51 Michelle, seemingly pondering on the merits of having two tongues.

17:24:57 Me and Tom are clearly having a serious conversation over there.

17:25:00 Kevin looks a bit bored though.

17:25:23 Disapproval has been registered.

17:25:40 What a skillful bit of composition there (I think Rob took this one).

17:25:55 Here I am looking mildly concerned about something or other.

17:26:06 A classic expression from Byrnie, and a charming smile from Tom, amidst some slightly unusual lighting.

17:26:19 Michelle now appears to have got hold of Tom's camera also...

17:26:46 I think we needed the flash here.

17:26:53 ...and here...

17:27:00 Starting to get a bit samey now.

17:29:13 Michelle looking really quite drunk.

17:31:28 Number 84, Rob's crotch.

17:33:04 The dangers of Guinness and white shirts.

17:33:45 Michelle, clearly very proud of her tongue.

17:33:51 A slight look of "what the hell am I doing here?".

17:35:37 Lots of people's hands.

17:37:20 Blurred

17:37:46 Exhibit A, one packet of crisps, prawn cocktail flavour.

17:37:58 Almost a cheese and onion crisp.

17:38:19 Byrnie looking jolly happy.

17:38:46 My chin/nose. Thanks.

17:38:51 Whoever has the camera now, please take it away from them.

17:38:54 Errrr.....?

17:38:57 Nope, no idea.

17:39:59 I think Michelle is getting ready to leave here.

17:41:57 A kind of matador style look. Lovely.

17:43:22 Two innocent bystanders (or bysitters) who became embroiled in the whirlwind of bad photography.

17:43:36 I think Michelle wandered off home shortly after this.

17:51:47 Me seeming to find much joy in collecting empties (well, not all actually empty).

18:01:44 At Pangbourne station, ready for our next leg of the journey (on to Goring).

18:07:19 ...a certain amount of arsing about seemed required.

18:13:17 To confused matters, this isn't actually Goring, and here we are in fact back in The Swan again. The train was going to be delayed over twenty minutes, which was more than enough time for a swift half.

18:13:39 was of course staggeringly unnecessary, but anything beats hanging around at a station waiting for a delayed train.

18:14:39 Well, not anything. Being stapled to death, for instance, is probably worse than waiting for a train.

18:14:57 Although, of course, that depends on how late the train is.

18:16:01 If it's in excess of six months later, it really could go either way as far as I'm concerned.

18:16:09 Errr, sorry where was I?

18:17:13 Ah yes, in The Swan.

18:20:53 No actually, we've left The Swan now, and we're back at Pangbourne station. Confused? We certainly were at the time.

18:21:17 Still we seemed to be able to make it back to the platform with time to spare.

18:23:21 In fact, categorically speaking, the train was more than half a pint late.

18:26:29 Still, we seem to be making our own amusement, after a fashion, so that's fine.

18:29:37 Right, I think we're on the train now, where we met up with Chie (on the left hand side, not very visible here), who had kindly brought along fizzy lances for my birthday which were actually consumed by everybody else.

18:30:11 Rob looking, errr, like Rob, but, well, on a train.

18:30:19 Kevin looking distinctly unimpressed by the whole train experience.

18:30:26 Chie and Tom, casually enjoying a fizzy lance each.

18:36:03 In the background, if you look carefully, you can make out "Welcome to Goring and Streatley". Nice.

18:37:41 Here we are, on the surpisingly obscure roads of Goring, on our way to the first pub.

18:46:08 This, ladies and gentlemen, is the very odd, but nonetheless very good Catherine Wheel. Upon asking if he'd mind me taking a photo, the landlord replied "You can do whatever you like sir". Dangerous, I thought.

18:48:39 Here we are in the Catherine Wheel, with everyone else eating my fizzy lances.

18:53:15 Not exactly a traditional accompaniment to a G&T (or indeed Guinness), but very nice nonetheless.

18:57:59 Tom, helping us to discover that the ceiling of the Catherine Wheel is kept immaculately clean, whereas the inside of his nose isn't.

18:59:35 It's a table, generally speaking.

18:59:45 It's a funny shaped pub, as Tom is helping to demonstrate here.

19:00:14 Me and Chie, listening carefully to whoever is sitting opposite us.

19:00:58 Errrr.... Perhaps the photographer here was trying to get a shot of the charming rustic mural on the far wall?

19:01:28 I couldn't help but enjoy the way the door to the gents was just part of the wall, if you see what I mean.

19:01:48 Erm, nope, no point here.

19:02:01 Lovely Kevin with lovely Chie.

19:08:31 Byrnie seemingly explaining something that must require a fair amount of gesturing.

19:15:14 Me about to go into the secret toilets.

19:26:52 Whilst I'm gone, everyone looks understandably glum.

19:26:58 Not much point in doing anything, I suppose they're thinking.

19:28:51 Byrnie appears to have finished his gesturing-intensive monologue and has temporarily packed his arms away. Rob, meanwhile, has a hint of "Poisonous monkey!" about his person.

19:36:10 Seamlessly we have moved from the Catherine Wheel, to the John Barleycorn round the corner. Clearly seating was in somewhat short supply.

19:36:35 Tres blurry, monsieur.

19:37:01 We seemed to have spent the first few minutes there in a kind of waiting room area.

19:37:16 No idea why this was necessary.

19:41:04 Chie enjoying an open fire.

19:42:44 Rob, possibly sitting on my knee.

19:43:03 Me and Kevin looking like two old men.

19:43:18 Not too long after getting into the John Barleycorn, we discovered the rather excellent bar billiards table there, which consumed, very entertainingly, the next half hour or so of our evening.

19:43:46 Here follows therefore, lots of pictures of people playing bar billiards. I am anticipating diffculty in writing interesting captions for them all.

19:47:20 Right then, we're off. I think we split into two teams of three, although I was already a bit drunk by this stage, and effectively just did whatever I was told when the cue was thrust in my direction.

19:47:27 I'm still unclear as to whose team I was actually on.

19:49:16 They make a very attractive bit of barroom furniture, do bar billiards tables.

19:49:39 A bizarre trick of perspective makes Kevin look tiny and Rob look huge in this picture.

19:49:55 What an interesting and dynamic picture this is.

19:54:09 I think I may have taken this pocket's eye view of the table, and I'm rather proud of it.

19:54:25 Actually maybe this one is a bit better... although Tom is a bit blurry.

19:54:58 Chie is very good at this sort of game - she has far more hand-eye coordination than I do. Either that, or she is just a lot less drunk than I am normally.

19:58:25 What a handsome yet entertaining piece of furniture it is.

19:58:46 I think I must have turned the flash back on.

20:00:23 Hmmm actually I think I preferred the ones without the flash. It's unclear as to whether Rob is aiming for a pocket, or at Tom's head here. There was no mention in the rules of how many points a hit on the latter target would merit.

20:09:10 Kevin is a bit of a pool/snooker/billiards shark, it turns out.

20:22:30 Thinking back, being in the John Barleycorn was probably my favourite bit of the day. We were all just about at that right level of drunkenness - before you go over that peak of liveliness and start to become more sluggish and irritable.

20:37:50 Outside the John Barleycorn. All in all a damn fine pub.

20:37:55 The same again.

20:37:59 ...and again.

20:56:43 Here we are in the Indian restaurant in Goring, whose name I don't remember (and I'm not sure if I knew at the time either). Chie reliably informs me (via the medium of after dinner mints) it was actually called the Rajput.

20:56:56 Chie enjoying some poppadoms.

20:57:10 Me, and, unfortunately, Rob.

20:57:18 A very frightened looking Mr. Lang, and perhaps rightly so, as me and our Kevin are looking very odd indeed.

20:57:23 I'm looking very excited here for some reason. Possibly Rob is elbowing me in the groin.

21:04:05 It looks like the poppadoms are all but finished by this point.

21:04:16 Rob attempting to make his face look as thin as possible. Kevin is started to look a bit on the tired side.

21:04:29 Tom looking a bit demonic, and Byrnie looking pretty much like he always does.

21:04:38 Look at that pouring technique. Beautiful.

21:07:04 Me looking rediculous whilst Rob is oddly reminiscent of that Madonna video.

21:08:20 Here follows a section of the evening where we (well mainly I) thought it was either big or clever to play our beer bottles like pan pipes.

21:08:27 The back of Tom's head.

21:16:42 Clearly our main courses haven't quite arrived yet, so we are filling in the gap quite happily with general larking about.

21:17:17 Quite why it was necessary for me to rest my head on the table, and Tom and Rob to stick their tongues out at me we may never know.

21:17:23 Tom kindly offering me something from the pickle tray.

21:20:03 Still the musical bottles gag is continuing.

21:20:09 For some reason this picture makes me think they were doing Bohemian Rhapsody, but surely that is far too complex an undertaking given the circumstances.

21:21:11 Byrnie considers eating a couple of Tom's fingers.

21:21:25 Rob looking sort of suave (ish), whilst Kevin gazes off into the distance.

21:21:36 I may be consoling Rob about something or other.

21:30:00 Aha! Our main courses have arrived. Although I don't remember this too well, I have a suspicion the food was very nice indeed. The service was also absolutely excellent, and I am very tempted to go back there sober one day.

21:30:14 My only slight criticism was the amount of orangey colouring in the food. Which wouldn't have been a problem had, errr, ok well I won't go into it...

21:54:42 Tom looking like a school bully temporarily.

21:54:58 Kevin grinning with a certain amount of gusto.

21:55:05 I think this must be the vegetarian end of the table. I have no recollection of what we ordered, but I'm sure it was very nice.

22:26:33 Time to pay up. Actually it seemed very reasonable priced, and the staff were absolutely fantastic so it was definitely well worth it.

23:11:13 I would rather forget our visit to the Bull at Streatley altogether. This is the only picture I took there, and you can see quite clearly the level of pure hatred we built up for the place in such a short space of time. Never before have I encountered a pub management with such utter contempt for their customers, and I have no intention of ever going there again.

23:32:50 The Bull was a real low point, but we didn't let it spoil the evening altogether. We had a very jolly time on our way back, and required no further alcohol to maintain an admirable level of tomfoolery. This here is Goring station.

23:33:51 Rob Chie and Kevin awaiting a train in Goring.

23:35:39 We quickly took up the noble sport of how many people can you get on a bench. Byrnie, impressively, seems to still have beer as well.

23:36:31 Room for one more? I think so.

23:38:48 As everyone present for the latter part of the proceedings is actually in this picture, I am assuming a friendly stranger took it for us. Thanks very much whoever you are!

23:40:34 ...and again. Jolly nice! Thanks!

23:43:01 I think this is tomfoolery in its most literal sense.

23:43:20 Is there some chance a number of these young gentlemen have been drinking beer...?

23:45:12 Byrnie was generously offering to carry me some of the way home, however it is quite likely he was in a worse state than I by this point.

23:45:53 Chie, bless her.

23:48:57 Look! We're on the train now!

23:49:10 We managed to take over an entire carriage, which was fun.

23:49:17 I think there's a strong possibility we're all fairly drunk.

23:50:07 Rob, sporting a simply fantastic facial expression and matching pose.

23:50:59 Less of that now Rob...

23:51:14 ...clearly I felt it important to get involved...

23:51:30 ...however when Tom also wanted to join in things went somewhat awry.

23:51:44 Yes, it does seem very much like it took three people to get me off the floor.

23:55:51 As seems to often be the case this time of night, there was a rail replacement bus for a bit of the journey, and here we are, well, on it, basically.

23:56:02 Kevin appears to be drifting out of conciousness...

23:59:05 It's not clear whether or not the bus is moving here... I assume it is...

00:00:48 This was all probably incredibly irritating for the poor driver.

00:05:27 Here's Kevin giving Chie a bit of a hand in the way home.

00:06:15 An entirely bizarre picture to end on. On the way back to my flat we bumped into this bloke here, who I believe was called Adam, and asked if we were all Crystal Palace supporters, or something like that. There you go. Still though, I rather like the fact that the time makes this just a few minutes short of being 12 hours after the first picture was taken. Marvellous!