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Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

Reaching The Peaks

Football is a joy and I choose to make the best of it where possible. Amidst many grumblings about Chasetown’s fixture at Glossop being rescheduled for a Tuesday night (the original fixture having fallen to snow), I set about booking the day off and planning a little adventure. The caves in the Peak District initially drew my attention (since reading the excellent ‘The Silence’ by Tim Lebbon, caves fascinate me more than ever); however they seemed a bit faffy to get to on public transport. Having checked out the route via Manchester, to discover the total cost to get to Glossop would be £7.90, my decision was made.

I rose early on Tuesday morning and headed into Birmingham to board the 0815 Megabus to Manchester (£2.70). I tucked into my breakfast of ham & egg roll (the sliced meat with the egg in the middle), bananas, tomatoes, watermelon and mango, before pulling out my laptop and getting down to work on my latest assignment for my Creative Writing course with the OU. I like to put travel time to productive use where possible and I enjoy writing on the move, as it makes journeys fly by (I’m writing this on a bus). By the time I looked up to see we were arriving into Manchester, I had edited my piece and drafted my commentary. Not a bad start to the day.

On alighting at Shudehill, I consulted Google Maps, which confirmed that the National Football Museum was just around the corner. The short walk was perilous in the driving rain as my inappropriate (but comfortable) footwear struggled to gain traction on the smooth paving stones. Feeling pleased with myself for remaining upright, I smiled at the man selling entrance tickets, who advised that my £8 (concession) ticket would grant me entrance to the museum for the next 12 months.

I really enjoyed the couple of hours spent here. After passing (and photographing) the Premier League Trophy and FA Cup, I lingered at Kosmo Vinyl: Is Saitch Yer Daddy, a display of interpretative collages depicting matches from West Ham’s final years at The Boleyn Ground. Heading up to the first floor, I stopped to listen to clips of football commentary, immediately selecting Ian Chisnall’s coverage of the 2010 Championship Play Off Final, when Blackpool won promotion to the Premier League. Dear reader, I broke into the widest, proudest grin and cried and I didn’t care who was looking. That was the happiest day of my life.

Now full of love for The Beautiful Game, I continued in to the main room on the first floor, which was packed with displays of football art and memorabilia. I was pleased to see more of Blackpool in here, with Sir Stanley Matthews having his own section in one cabinet, including a certificate from The Football League in recognition of his knighthood and the fact that he was never subject to any discipline of any kind (not even a booking) throughout his 33-year playing career. I smiled as I happened across a copy of AVFTT, the Blackpool fanzine I used to edit (although the issue in question pre-dated my editorship). As I continued along, hardly knowing where to look, there was so much to see, my ears pricked up at the words ‘nineteen-fifty-three’ and, without being asked, my legs carried me to a nearby monitor, which was showing footage of ‘The Matthews Final’, the 1953 FA Cup Final, which Blackpool won, from being 3-1 down. I gazed on with pride, even though I’d seen the footage many times before.

Heading up to the second floor, I found a Brett Ormerod display, which told the story of his release by Blackburn Rovers, going on to work in a factory whilst playing for Accrington Stanley before joining Blackpool, for whom he scored in every division, including that winner in the 2010 Play Off Final.

There were some wonderful quotes scattered throughout the museum, my favourite of which sums up the magic of being a football fan:

It turned you into a member of a new community, all brothers together for an hour and a half…having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid life.

JB Priestley, Author

The third floor was closed, the museum being restructured, so I headed back down the stairs and out onto the streets of Manchester. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining brightly (of course it was) so I rummaged in my bag for my shades and set off across the city towards Piccadilly Station, where I boarded a train to Glossop (£5.20).

On the train I checked my email from the Glossop North End secretary, Dan, who had provided some recommendations for my pre-match entertainment. I cross-referenced these against the map of Glossop and was pleased to see everywhere was in relatively close proximity. I was hungry now – and determined to stick to my diet today – so also sought out a caff with a menu that wasn’t entirely unhealthy. Destinations suitably plotted in my head, by the time the train pulled into Glossop, I was ready to explore.

After almost getting run over in my attempt to take a photograph of the stunning Peak District scenery, my first stop was Glossop Cafeteria, where I took the last free table and ordered gammon and egg, with a jacket potato instead of chips, and a mug of tea. As I sat back and surveyed my surroundings, I noticed behind me a quite unusual selection of teas. Now I love a quirky tea at the best of times (my current favourite being Twinings Mango & Coconut, which is like a cocktail in a mug) – but these were really something else. There was Magic Herbs & Quince, Warming Beetroot and Golden Minty Saffron, amongst many other weird and wonderful flavours. These were made by a local company called Flory & Forest and, if you’re interested, they can be found at www.floryandforest.co.uk.

Now suitably sustained – and pleased to see it still wasn’t raining as forecast – I headed in the direction of Manor Park, which had been recommended as a nice scenic place for a stroll. On my way I stopped for a chat with a visiting Chase fan, who was midway through doing a tour of Glossop pubs. On arrival at the park, I studied the map and made my way to the lake, where I took a seat on a bench and observed the ducks and geese. This was not as serene as I had expected, with the waterfowl flapping and scrapping and trying to impress potential mates. By the time one goose was practically on my lap (I didn’t want to get that close), and as the snow began to fall, I decided it was time to move on.

I walked back across town – sporting my shades to protect my eyes from the sun that was shining brightly in defiance against the snow – and my next port of call was Star Inn (shirt sponsors of Glossop North End) reviewed as an ‘old man’s pub’ which served great real ales. Whilst pubs like this aren’t to everyone’s taste, they are my absolute favourites, as I find the environment safe, relaxing and peaceful enough to read or write, as well as chatting with locals when the mood takes me (not being bothered by them when it doesn’t). Plus I am partial to a fine ale (not today, though, as I was working the match). Now I confess to having been a little afraid of the barkeep (who hadn’t uttered a word during our transaction, despite my best efforts), having already returning my Diet Coke because it had unrequested ice in it (why do they do that?). Hence I didn’t dare ask for permission to plug in my phone charger (I sat somewhere I could do this surreptitiously) and was grateful that the pub WiFi was set up such that I didn’t need to ask him for a password. Now I sat back and further edited my assignment, further reducing the word count and editing the commentary.

Soon it was time to head to the Arthur Goldthorpe Stadium, home of Glossop North End. After greetings at the gate, I took my customary stroll around the ground – and was almost immediately struck by the awesome view of the Peaks from the one side of the ground. As was the case at Mossley some months previously (and at Colne the previous Saturday), I found myself transfixed and unable to move my eyes or my body away from the view. My trance was broken by Dan, who had hurried over to introduce himself. Nice lad, Dan, and he looked after me very well all evening. After I’d familiarised myself with the layout of the ground – and decided where I was going to stand to watch the match (next to the away dugout) – I suddenly realised how cold it was and made my way to the clubhouse to hibernate for a while and began preparing the Chasetown teamsheet. I introduced myself to the match officials, chatted with the arriving Chase fans, hunted down the gaffer so I could complete the teamsheet, did the pre-match handover (happy that the refs took my not-too-subtle hint about wanting to dip into their customary bag of sweets), helped Dan decipher my handwriting as he typed up the teamsheet, then called by the food kiosk to pick up a brew (to warm me up) and some sweets (I’d got the taste for them now).

Mercifully it wasn’t too cold during the match itself, with a warm brew in my belly and my winter coat still in service, although I did need my gloves on for the first time in months. The scoreline helped too, The Scholars reversing an early goal conceded to emerge 2-1 victors on the night, with a couple of great goals from George Cater and Jack Langston. It was a feisty match, too, with a red card for each side, so that helped raise the temperature somewhat.

Having turned down three offers of a lift home from tonight’s match, I was latterly informed that the lift I thought I had arranged was not, in fact, on offer. Thankfully I was in time to flag down another lift – one that provided bonus ABBA tunes for us to sing and bop along to down the M6 – and I was safely despatched home a little shy of midnight. It had been a long but thoroughly enjoyable day. Sure, I’d be tired tomorrow, but it’s all worth it for the love of football, isn’t it?

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