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Please forgive the last word of the title; the blame lies well and truly with Mrs PBT’s. It was she who came up with this term of endearment, in reference to the bus pass I acquired back in April. Slightly jealous that I would be off exploring the local highways and byways, whilst enjoying the view from the top deck of a bus, the term she came up with was designed to convey the omnibus equivalent of a “train anorak!”
Somewhat ironically, I have so far turned out to be a rather infrequent “bus wanker,” but that’s all set to change next month when I switch to part-time working. The beauty of my bus pass is that after 10.30am weekdays, and anytime at weekends, I can use it to journey wherever I want to – within reason.
Looking back, I’ve only made around five bus journeys, one of which took place this past Bank Holiday Monday. It was a bit of a whim, but with the weather not looking that great, and with most of the gardening and household jobs out of the way, I decided to take the bus over to Tunbridge Wells. This is where my bus pass came in handy, but as if to super-charge it, I downloaded the Arriva App to help me plan my route and know which buses to take.
Arriva, run the majority of bus services in West Kent, and they also extend into neighbouring East Sussex. I went for the App, initially just to look up the bus times, but soon discovered its inter-active capabilities, that give the user real time information. It tracks your location, but in order to not drain your phone battery too rapidly, only does so whilst, the App is open. Then by clicking on the “Plan” option and typing in where you want to go, it then gives you a choice of buses, departure times and, should you be interested, intermediate stops. All this is in real time, and the App even calculates the time taken to walk to the nearest named bus stop.
So, like a kid with a new toy, off I went, taking the 291 bus, from the stop nearest toBailey Towers, to Pembury Hospital. There after a 10-minute wait, I was able to catch a different service into Tunbridge Wells. (Actually, it was the same bus that just changed its number, after the driver had enjoyed a short break). The route taken by the second bus, took me and my fellow passengers through the local retail park, followed by a tour of a large housing estate. This was fine by me as, after all, my journey was completely free! Furthermore, by following the route on the App, I knew exactly where to get off.
I was looking for a new pair of shoes, amongst other things, but I knew there would also be the chance of a beer or two once the shopping had been accomplished. As it happened, the shopping didn’t take long at all, the longest part was queuing at the pharmacy counter in Boots, for various pills and potions that Mrs PBT’sthought she might need on our forthcoming cruise. As for the shoes, I will probably buy them online. I know it’s bad for the High Street, but my preferred brand of Clarks has an online outlet offering a 20% discount – something not to be sniffed at, when you’re talking around £90 a pair! Their Tunbridge Wells store did give me the chance to look at the various styles, colours and treads available – something you can’t do online.
So, with some ideas in mind, backed up by several photos, the next and most important question was, where to go to for a pint? I had a couple of places in mind, the George or Sankey’s. Both are at the top end of the town, in the area known as Mount Ephraim, and both offer a wide ranging and eclectic mix of beers.
My preference was for Sankey’s, based on the fact it was an absolute age since I last set foot in the place, but according to WhatPub, it doesn’t open on Mondays. I decided to take a walk past anyway, especially as it was on the way to the George, but to my absolute delight I noticed a light in the window, as I approached and with the “A” board in the entrance porch, providing another positive sign, the pub gods really were smiling on m that day.
Leaving the George for another day, I stepped inside. There were a couple of rather charming young ladies milling around the bar, one of whom asked me what I would like as I stood looking at the beer list, prominently displayed behind the counter, more than a little confused by the variety on offer. I could see no cask, despite there being a hand-pump with a Long Man Brewery clip, set against the back wall, but I was quite happy to choose one or more of the craft offerings. I started off with Wanna Go to the Sun, a 4.6% pale ale from the highly respected Lost & Grounded Brewery.
After suggesting I grab a table to the far left of the bar, the friendly barmaid said she’d bring the beer over for me, along with the packet of crisps I’d ordered. I perched myself at one of the high tables close to the impressively large and ornate Bass mirror. This one was definitely an original, rather than a cheap imitation from that mythical factory in Wrexham.
How do I know this? Well, Sankey’s is renowned for its amazing collection
of old brewery advertising signs, collected over many years, by the current landlord’s father. Given the pub’s location it is not surprising that Kent breweries feature prominently amongst the memorabilia. Long defunct names such as Smith & Co of Lamberhurst, Masons of Maidstone, Fremlin’s – one of the largest brewers in Kent, and also of Maidstone, plus Tunbridge Wells’s own sadly vanished brewery, E & H Kelseys, whose Culverden Brewery stood just a few hundred yards away from Sankey’s.
I referred briefly to the current landlord’s father, who as well as collecting all that brewing memorabilia, is also something a local author. For Christmas last year, I treated myself to a copy of Guy Sankey’s book, “Old Breweries of Tunbridge Wells,” published in association with the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society. This fascinating, and well-illustrated publication is worthy of a post in its own right, but for anyone interested in old breweries and the role they paid in the development of Tunbridge Wells, Guy’s book is well worth a read.
I know Guy well enough to say hello to, but I only know his son Matthew by sight. He popped in for a brief check on the pub, whilst I was enjoying my first beer – the hallmark of a good landlord, in my book. The family also run a couple of fishmongers shops – one in Tonbridge and the other in Tunbridge Wells, alongside a champagne & oyster bar situated on the town’s famous Pantiles area.
In addition, below the Mount Ephraim pub, they operate a renowned Seafood restaurant, linked to the bar by means of a staircase, as the rear. I have eaten there on a couple of occasions whilst entertaining visitors from our parent company, in Japan. Returning to Monday’s visit, there was a really nice atmosphere in the bar, with a good mix of customers. A chap with his inquisitive and friendly dog, provided the entertainment, as did the athletic barmaid who jumped up onto the rear counter, and then had to stand on tiptoe in order to adjust the hand-written beer list. writing up the beers
Talking of beers, my Lost & Grounded choice was excellent, so I decided to push the boat out for the next one. Magic Rock, Clown Juice, a White IPA (I think it designates cloudy), proved a good beer to finish on, but at 7% abv, I wisely stuck to a half pint.
After that, it was time to drink up, as a quick peep at my Arriva App informed me there was a bus due in 10 minutes. I said goodbye to the bar staff and wandered back down the hill, to the stop in Grosvenor Road, opposite Fuggles. The return journey was a single ride home to Tonbridge, that I enjoyed from the top deck of the No. 7 bus. It dropped me near the station, which meant a 15-minute walk home, after an enjoyable afternoon out – courtesy of my bus pass. I will end on that note, as the irony is today, my good lady wife’s very own bus pass arrived in the post, a full 10 days before the date she officially reaches the age of qualification. Work that one out for yourselves, bearing in mind you should never ask a lady her age.
Needless to say I congratulated her on becoming a fully qualified, "bus wanker," in her own right!

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