[In case you’re wondering, W.W.W.W.W.W. stands for World Wide Web Wetherspoon Wifi Walkabout.]
Regular readers of this blog (and especially my Facebook friends) will already know that the ‘free wifi’ in Yr Ieuan Ap Iago, Aberdare’s J.D. Wetherspoon pub, is less than useless at the best of times. According to the timeline on the company’s own website, in 2006 ‘Free Wifi [was] made available in all pubs.’ I beg to differ. I know from talking to friends that I’m not the only person to have failed dismally to access their advertised service.
In fact, I’ve taken to calling it the ‘Periodic Wifi’, as it comes on for a few days every month or so. Every so often The Cloud returns to the town centre and I get a very slow and erratic connection before giving up entirely. I’ve written to Wetherspoons’s head office twice in the last year, but the situation remains unresolved. Whenever I ask a member of staff about it, the standard reply is that they’re ‘waiting for an engineer to come out.’ By my estimate, he must be coming from Bangalore, the long way around, by dugout canoe.
Anyway, I was in Aberdare Library yesterday and the Netbook tried connecting to The Cloud automatically. I managed to use that network in the newly- (and surprisingly-) reopened Mount Pleasant (see Another One Bites the Dust) a couple of weeks ago. Obviously it was still set up in my Network Options. However, the mere fact that it was within range of the Library made me wonder what was going on. Maybe the Constitutional Club, just across the road, has it enabled. It seemed highly unlikely that I was connecting to the Spoons Cloud, a hundred yards or so away. It would have been hugely ironic if I’d managed to pick it up from a different building, but not within the pub itself.
The company has been quietly establishing quite a presence in South Wales since they appeared in Cardiff a decade or so ago. The old Prince of Wales Cinema was converted into a cavernous and very busy pub right in the heart of town, and it became a convenient stop-off between buses after a long day in work. There are now over half a dozen ‘Spoons’ in the city centre alone, and I’ve visited three of them on several occasions. Meanwhile, hardly a Valleys town of any appreciable size with an interesting, historic and vacant building has escaped the acquisitive eye of Tim Martin, the chain’s founder and chairman. It’s given me an idea.
I’ve been to Y Dic Penderyn, the pub in Merthyr Tydfil, several times, usually in between buses to the hospital. (The last time I was there I met up with an old friend, as I related in Chance Meeting.) I’ve been into the Tumble Inn in Pontypridd on numerous occasions (usually between Ghost Trains.) I also had a nice lunch and a catch-up with Trish (who finished work at the same time I did) in the Sirhowy in Blackwood a couple of years ago.
It occurred to me last night to do a bit of a pub crawl by public transport, and report back on the Wifi situation in the various Spoons pubs I encountered on the way. Armed with a Day Explorer bus ticket, it should be possible to start from my house at a reasonable hour, zip over to Merthyr for a glass of Coke (or maybe a breakfast), then go down to Pontypridd, across to Blackwood, down to Caerphilly, into Cardiff, across to Bridgend, and back to Aberdare. The buses intersect quite nicely, as I’ve illustrated here:
The Bridgend – Aberdare leg of the journey, although the longest, is the least problematic. The last bus home doesn’t leave Bridgend until 2045, and arrives back in Aberdare in plenty of time for last orders – whether it’s in town, or in one of my two locals (Mount Pleasant or Llwyncelyn.) That’s a lot better than the last departure from either of the alternatives, Merthyr (last departure 1825) or Pontypridd (last departure 2240, but back in Aberdare after stop tap.)
So (on paper at least), it’s possible to do a little tour of the Valleys, like this: Aberdare → Merthyr → Pontypridd → Blackwood → Caerphilly → Cardiff → Pontypridd → Bridgend → Aberdare. (I know Pontypridd’s a duplication, but since there isn’t a Stagecoach bus direct from Cardiff to Bridgend, it looks like I’ll have to do it.)
Then I decided to look in more detail at the Wetherspoon website, and found a plethora of pubs in the eastern valleys. I wonder whether any people with a knowledge of logistics and/or operations management would care to tackle this particular problem:
I very much doubt if it would be possible to undertake this particular pub crawl in one day – even assuming one stayed on soft drinks. The travelling time would soon mount up, and there’d be at least three duplications en route. Anyway, I’m lining up the towns and villages of the eastern valleys for individual treatment as and when the Vanishing Valleys project gets back on stream (see Where Do We Draw the Line?) I’d probably be better off targeting those pubs indidually, as and when I get to the towns in question. Even so, if the weather stays dry I might try Phase 1 in a couple of weeks, just to see how widely (if at all) the Wetherspoons Wifi problem has spread…
[Update, 1935, same day. I’m still waiting for the Traveline Cymru website to decide whether it’s possible to travel from Merthyr to Caerphilly via Rhymney, as it was in the good old days. I first entered that search at about 1530 this afternoon. It’s reassuring to find that the website is as useless as the phone line I encountered in What Do You Want? – Information!]