THE DIARY: Pub buffs call time

Pub Pals , Jamie Thompsom, & Dave Semmons ,
Pub Pals , Jamie Thompsom, & Dave Semmons ,
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IT started eight years ago with a pint in Ye Olde Shakespeare Inn, Heeley, and ended this weekend with a bottle of fizzy lager in The Crown, in Totley.

“We should have had champagne to celebrate,” says David Semmens. “But it didn’t seem in the spirit of things, somehow.”

What he and best friend Jamie Thompson were toasting was an achievement that’s no, er, small beer. The pair have spent the best part of the last decade visiting every single pub in Sheffield.

“Five hundred and twenty-three in all,” says Jamie. “Am I proud? I know it’s just a small thing but yeah I am.”

There have been good pubs, rough pubs, pubs that have shut, pubs that should shut, glitzy bars, back street boozers and the sort of dive you’d normally crawl across the road to avoid.

“I remember the Market Tavern near Castle Market,” says David. “We were offered drugs before we’d even stepped inside.”

Ironically, perhaps, it’s Jamie’s wife Caroline who was responsible for the challenge.

For Christmas 2004 she bought him a map listing every pub in the city.

“David came round on New Year’s Day and we were looking at it,” explains the 33-year-old, of Hollybank Road, Intake. “He said he’d never heard of Ye Olde Shakespeare and neither had I.

“I remember saying ‘Why don’t we get in the car and go there now for a pint?’”

They did just that. And, over that very beer, set themselves their ale-licious assignment.

“What did Caroline think?” muses Jamie. “She rolls her eyes when we talk about it. She can’t understand why you’d spend an hour on a bus going somewhere you know is probably going to be rubbish.”

He pauses.

“I’m not sure I understand to be honest.”

David is no more certain.

“We got some strange looks from friends,” says the Sheffield City Council auditor, also 33. “They’d ask if you wanted to go to town and you had to say ‘No, thanks, I’m off to some horrible pub in Stocksbridge’.

“But I think men like to collect things. We’ve been collecting Sheffield pubs.”

It’s not been easy, either.

In those eight years, Jamie has become a father-of-one, and David, a step-father-of-two, has moved to Wakefield. But, like true heroes, they’ve kept supping away.

And their favourite? They struggle to say.

“It’s like asking someone what their favourite song is,” says David. “It depends what mood you’re in.”

What the two can say, however, is that they’ve marked all those boozers out of ten. They have a spreadsheet, and everything.

“There are rules too but we probably shouldn’t admit that,” notes David.

A dozen places or so have received a perfect 10. Nowhere has got zero – “although The Farfield, in Neepsend Lane, had a good go”.

And now it’s all over?

The lads are sitting in the Rutland Arms, in Brown Street, (“nine”) contemplating what to do next. There’s almost a sense of deflation.

“We were on a high on Saturday but now...” says David. “It’s strange it’s over.”

Still, he perks up a little.

“I bought a book the other week which lists all the heritage pubs in Yorkshire,” he says. “We’re thinking of visiting all those. We’re planning a trip to York to start it off.”