Postcard from Essex, No 1

Coloniescross, Going Postal

Colchester, for those of you that aren’t up with your geography, is a large town in Essex with a long history and an enduring connection with the military. It was occupied by the Romans and remains of the walls, along with several gates, can be seen around the town. It also has an imposing water tower which was completed in 1883 and has over 1.2 million bricks holding the tank up!

The Romans called the town, which is the oldest recorded in England, Camulodunum. If you have any interest in history then Colchester is well worth a visit. It has a castle which is built on the site of a Roman Temple and houses an excellent museum and a ruined priory (St Botolphs), great shopping, if you like that sort of thing and a host of other interesting things to see and do. It is also one of the fastest growing towns in the South East; house building is happening just about everywhere there is an open space.

My eldest daughter and my best pal both live quite close to the town and, you guessed it, a visit to Essex to see family and friends and revisit some old haunts is another one of those 40 things to do when you’ve been married for forty years things.

The drive down, just over 300 miles, was uneventful and took exactly 5 hours. Friday, once we arrived, was uneventful, we got to our daughters house, had lunch and relaxed for a bit. We had a green curry for supper, a couple of drinks and made ourselves ready for Saturday.

Mrs Cross is a fanatical Carlisle United supporter. Surprise surprise, they were playing Colchester on the Saturday. Her visit to watch a dour but ultimately satisfying 1-0 victory over Col U meant I could spend a bit of time with my eldest, something which is all too rare these days.

Coloniescross, Going Postal

Saturday evening was reserved for drinking and eating, we met our great friends in one of several excellent bars in town, The Three Wise Monkeys. Even at 6 pm it was buzzing, it serves a wide range of British and continental beers, including a couple that are brewed on the premises, highly recommended if you overnight in the town. As is often the case after a couple of decent pints we couldn’t agree on where to eat, so settled for Prezzo. Decent anti-pasti, good pizza and a passable spaghetti and meatballs, washed down with a couple of bottles of red set us up for an evening that, although fairly short, will live long in the memory.

Coloniescross, Going Postal

Opposite Prezzo is a building that is reputed to have been continually occupied since the 14th century. It houses The Queen Street Brew House. From the outside it looks like a dive, but the music emanating from within drew us like moths to a flame. Here we had one of the most eclectic bars I have ever visited, selling a huge range of beers and ciders from all over the place. It was also vinyl night.

Over the next couple of hours we were treated to both well known and obscure tracks from albums by The Crystals, Ramsey Lewis, Otis Redding, Velvet Underground feat. Nico, The Band, Toots and the Maytals, The Upsetters and others. All this followed by early singles from The Kinks, Chairmen of the Board and, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better they played Tightrope by Charlie and Inez Fox followed by Georgie Fames’ Yeh Yeh, the first record I ever bought. The DJ’s must have thought I was crazy but when the nostalgia kicks in, mixed with great company and excellent beer you just have to dance.

Coloniescross, Going Postal

I wish I could remember the name of the beer I eventually settled on, a Belgian light beer, not a lager, 6.3% with, fittingly, a joker on the label. It was smooth, full of taste and it certainly hit the spot. We didn’t want the night to end, but they all have to, eventually. The taxi was clean and reasonably priced and the late night streets (11.30) were busy but surprisingly peaceful. I don’t think Colchester achieves optimum punch up time until the clubs kick out.

Colchester, like many other large towns in Britain, has its fair share of problems, there are quite a few people sleeping in doorways and Big Issue sellers on nearly every corner but if you want to visit a town with a long and rich history and be able to enjoy a right good night out I thoroughly recommend the town, The Three Wise Monkeys, Prezzo and the un-missable Queen Street Brew House.

In part 2 we go to the seaside.

© Coloniescross 2017