Journeyman jones: Ale-sorts can be found here

PUBLISHED: 10:40 02 February 2006 | UPDATED: 11:28 04 May 2010

QUIZ MASTER: Journeyman Jones with Minster Tavern landlord Nick Collingwood.
Photo: HELEN SOUTH

QUIZ MASTER: Journeyman Jones with Minster Tavern landlord Nick Collingwood. Photo: HELEN SOUTH

I ARRIVE at the Minster just before 8pm and the tension is mounting. It s quiz night you see. The pub has a strange, ethereal quality about it on a Thursday evening. Time seems to stand still in there, which is great, because it means there s time to get

I ARRIVE at the Minster just before 8pm and the tension is mounting. It's quiz night you see. The pub has a strange, ethereal quality about it on a Thursday evening. Time seems to stand still in there, which is great, because it means there's time to get another round in.

It is perhaps this quality which persuaded Scouse ghost-hunter Derek Acorah to pay a visit recently. There have been various sightings of a ghostly monk which haunts the pub at night - Bishop's monks were in residence there during the 10th century during the period when Ely Cathedral was being built.

Now, the only haunted souls I was aware of last week were those standing next to me at the bar. Too much real ale, possibly, or not enough.

Real ale is popular in the Minster. Assistant manager Mark Daws has just been on a course learning to be an 'ale champion' - how to store it correctly, pour it right, look after it, that kind of thing - and one regular tells me that real ale is "his thing", pointing markedly at the bar.

As the quiz approaches, the pub steadily fills up. I need to talk to some regulars before they all start scratching their heads for the next hour-and-a-half.

Peter, 50, has been coming to the Minster for the last 15 years. "It's a traditional English pub," he says. "People are quite sociable and there's always someone you can talk to. You never get any trouble and the food is good."

He is less convivial when discussing the fortunes of Ely City. "Don't talk to me about them," he groans. "I don't know what's gone wrong - I can't put my finger on it."

Well, one win in the last five games. But let's not bicker.

Amanda and Jenny are two friends who are also quiz regulars. "It's a friendly place and there's a nice atmosphere," says Jenny. "We like the pub quiz, but a couple of weeks ago they didn't even bother to read our team name out."

This is clearly a sore point so I don't dwell on it. Least said, soonest mended and all that.

The quiz begins with the usual hubbub of excitement. For the first five questions, I think I'm off to a flyer but my standard gradually worsens with each passing question (or should that be drink?). How was I to know Dickens was born in Portsmouth? Pub quizzes have the ability to frustrate in a way that nothing else can.

In the end, I manage 17/30, which isn't half bad, considering the only brain I can rely on is my own. The eventual winners, Sunshine, score 25 points but in my opinion, the Coveney Taliban should win every week for the excellence of their name.

Like some glutton for punishment, I then spend the rest of the evening on a nearby quiz machine. I should apologise at this juncture to the couple who were trying their luck on it before me, who had to suffer my interminable habit of shouting the answers at them from across the pub. For this, I can only say sorry.

With weary legs and a confused mental state I drag myself off home. Mark has kept me amused throughout the evening with his verbatim renditions of scenes from The Office, but sadly licensing laws allow me to stay no longer.

I didn't eat there, but I have done in the past and can vouch for the food. Put it this way: it's the only place I've ever eaten a Ploughman's lunch and enjoyed it.

If you want the Minster Tavern experience from the comfort of your living room, watch Derek Acorah's Ghost Towns on Living TV on Valentine's Day. Spooky maybe, but not as concerning as my ability to keep coming back to the Minster despite getting my lack of general knowledge exposed every week.

If you would like Journeyman Jones to visit your pub, contact him on 01353 667831 or email: ben.jones@archant.co.uk

INFO: The Minster Tavern, 1 Minster Place, Ely, CB7 4EL. Telephone: 01353 652901.

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