The first Velvet Underground song I ever heard was Beginning to See the Light, played on the John Peel show around 1977. In it, Lou Reed babbles exuberantly about ‘Wine in the morning/And some breakfast at night’. Having a cooked breakfast washed down with a pint of IPA in a Wetherspoons pub at 9.30 in the morning in the middle of Staffordshire may not have quite the same transgressive poetry, but it was a heartily decadent way to start a walk (and refreshing after some wet and dysfunctional public transport.)
The Wetherspoons chain (large pubs sited in converted buildings of various kinds) is interesting. The combination of their hugeness, cheapness, decor and range means that any given one can combine the roles of pub, cafe, restaurant, Darby and Joan club, sports bar, perpetual beer festival, tramps’ hostel and unofficial branch of social services, often without any obvious clash. This one had been converted from a Post Office and maintained its role as a communications hub by offering free wifi.
After re-buying the map I had forgotten to bring I left Stone along the canalside. Almost immediately the weather started to improve. Under the bridge someone had written WHIT POWER, suggesting (considered alongside last week’s poor-quality swastika) that today’s crytpofascists live under bridges, like trolls, thereby failing to benefit from the education system. I photographed this instead:
…love hearts left on display but the accompanying names painted out by officialdom; their policy must be ‘love all you want, but never define the object’.
Much pleasant walking along the canal, adding to the many miles of tow path I have done so far.
I left the canal at Burston, and joined a little-frequented path.
The weather threatened rain (‘It’s a twister, Aunty Em!’)
but it was bright again for a few miles of quiet lanes.
I entered Stafford via a large, open common
then a road passing an industrial estate.
The final stretch into the own centre passed the kind of specialist shops that have somehow escaped being replaced with out-of-town or town-centre operations: fireplaces, cake icing, tattooists. And a large prison.
In Stafford I sought out an end-of-walk drink (partly as self-invented tradition and partly to justify this post title.) Signs pointed to a beer festival in a theatre, and I thought ‘why not?’ The first Stafford real ale festival for a number of years, it focused on local brews procured within a 30-mile radius. I had a half of Slaters Common Road Bitter, named after the road I had just walked down – food miles <1. Then something else that tasted like nettles fermented in a training shoe. And (foreshadowing a later leg) some nice beer from a pub in Netherton.
After that I wandered back through Stafford to the station, and considered the walk concluded.