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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.

Blackpool v Portsmouth: A Delight for the Tastebuds (and An Appeal for Earbuds)

I love my little car.  And I rather enjoy driving these days, which has come as quite a surprise to me.  I sing my head off all the way up the M6 as I head home to my happy place, my Blackpool.

‘Birds flying high / You know how I feel

Sun in the sky / You know how I feel

Breeeeeeeeeze drifting on by / You know how I feel

It’s a new dawn / It’s a new day / It’s a new life for me

And I’m feeling…’

‘And a traffic update for you now. Traffic still heavy in Wales on the A483…’

‘GAH! WHY ARE YOU GIVING ME TRAFFIC UPDATES FROM WALES?! IN WHAT PARALLEL UNIVERSE IS WALES ON THE WAY FROM WALSALL TO BLACKPOOL? Oh, what’s that? It’s NOT on the route from Walsall to Blackpool at all? THEN WHY ARE YOU INTERRUPTING MY MUSIC TO TELL ME THIS???’

Dear reader, I can cope with rain and traffic jams and diversions and other drivers, but I’m really struggling with these traffic updates.  They make me cross.  I thought they’d stopped.  I was wrong.  It feels like Radio Stoke is haunting my car.  I was forced to endure an interview with a retired referee at the end of one of tonight’s traffic updates when really I just wanted to be singing along with Nina Simone.  Can anyone help me get the pesky thing switched off?

That aside, the run up to the Gold Coast was a smooth one tonight.  What always confuses me, however, is why drivers appear unable to comprehend the usual rules of motorway driving when faced with a four-lane motorway.  The Manchester Ship Canal bridge is always a free-for-all with lanes appearing to be chosen at random, irrespective of overtaking.  It’s a bit blowy up there as well, isn’t it?  And always raining…

Saturday morning brought still more rain.  If I’d been out selling fanzines today, this might have been a nuisance, but I’ve pretty much sold out now (subscribe if you want one), so actually had the day off today (yay!), with Lee back on vlogging duty.  However Lee announced that he had booked us on the open top bus from the No. 10 Alehouse to the ground this afternoon.  We had our fingers firmly crossed that the rain would ease off for the departure time of 1420.

Our first stop of the day was Bloomfield Road to pick up tickets for the next couple of matches.  This offered an opportunity to check out the recently-revamped club shop and ticket office.  And what can I say but ‘WOW!’.  The artwork on the walls is stunning – and the timeline, charting the club’s proud history from formation to date, makes for fascinating reading:

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The new home shirts were finally in stock, so I tried one on for size before dropping a heavy hint to Lee about my birthday.  After stopping for a chat about gravy with a man I’d never met before in the ticket queue, I continued my perusal of the shop, before being hailed over across the room:

‘Jane – if you’re blogging, you might want to have a look at these mugs!’

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We could have stayed here for hours taking everything in but we had a date with an open top bus, so off we headed to No. 10 Alehouse.

It was still raining, so the outside terrace at the front of the pub was barren…but, on opening the door to the pub, we were greeted with a room packed full of Seasiders.  I fought my way through to the bar, where the queue was two-deep, and stood on my tiptoes so I could see the pump clips  and decide on my tipple of choice before getting to the bar.  As I finally jostled into position at the  front, armed with my debit card and locals discount card (shh don’t tell them), I was all set to order a Copper Dragon Black Gold when I made eye contact with the barmaid.  But then – oh hello, what’s this just going on?

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Of course I had to have half of each.  But which to try first – the dark or the fruity?  I went for dark first, followed by fruity for pudding.  Both were delicious beers but the Black Gold was the winner for me, as it was more quaffable.  I went back for another pint of that.

We were presented with our tickets for the open top bus – which frankly resembled oversized ear plugs – and spent almost an hour in here chatting away with our Seasider friends (old and new).  This really is a great pub with great beer and George has done an excellent job.  Do get down there and support him and his pub.

It was raining when the bus arrived and people began leaving the pub to try and bag the favoured top deck seats, forming a queue in the bus shelter.  We managed to get a prime position at the front of the top deck – the seats were wet but it had stopped raining now – and boy what an experience this proved to be!  As we passed Seasiders walking towards the ground – and drinking outside pubs – they smiled and waved and sang in our direction, as we returned the smiles and waves and chants from the top of the bus.  This sure is the best way to travel to a home match.  The bus is laid on free by the No. 10 Alehouse – all they ask is that you enjoy a drink in their fine hostelry before the match, which frankly is no great hardship!  I would urge you to give it a go at least once this season.  I’ll certainly be back for more.

We were dropped off outside the main entrance at Bloomfield Road and wound our way round to the South Stand.  After making use of the facilities (why are the cubicle floors always wet in the Ladies?), I scurried round to Macro’s Health Bar to satiate my hunger, as I’d only had a bowl of cereal (and two pints of beer) so far today.  We’d been chatting with Mr Macro when we were at the ground earlier and he told us that he was planning on adding chilli and rice to his menu at the ground.  What a cracking winter warmer that will be.  Finally some good food on offer at a football ground!  This is groundbreaking stuff from BFC.  Today I tucked into a Peri Peri Chicken Wrap, washed down with a bottle of water.  Dear reader I am delighted to report that it was really tasty!

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I was asked by a man a little further down the row if I was having gravy with it, but it was (a) surprisingly served cold, which I wasn’t expecting for some reason; and (b) it was quite moist enough, with mayonnaise inside.  With every wrap you also get an extra children’s portion; however, me being without child I scoffed the lot, which was just enough to satisfy my hunger.  I had exercised discipline in not ordering pudding from Macro’s, although there were some tempting looking cookies as well as protein bars.

Not sure what was going on with the PA system today, with not even a muffled announcement to be heard, but there was an interesting selection of what I call middle-aged-man music, including ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ by The Smiths.  Well this not quite the rousing music I like to hear to get me geared up for a match – and was a far cry from last week at Rochdale, when I was singing away to Blondie in the toilets.  However, most offensive to the ear, was the bloody cowbell being rung incessantly from the Pompey end.  I began to wish the ‘bus tickets’ had actually been ear plugs, as they would have come in pretty handy.

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And so to the match.  Blackpool started off all guns blazing yet again, but it was Pompey who broke the deadlock following a mistake from Curtis Tilt.  We lost our way a little then, but recovered after the break, coming back to draw 1-1. Sullay Kaikai looked lively, being fouled a lot and winning a number of free-kicks.  Armand Gnanduillet was Man of the Match for me – he is such a handful and scored a cracking goal.  Pompey were no great shakes and we ought to have won this match.  I was frustrated at some of the sloppy passing, but have every confidence Larry will fix this over the coming weeks.  Larry is doing a great job and I’m so pleased to have him back. What he is achieving already with the players he has inherited is really quite something, when you consider how terrible we were against Gillingham on the last day of last season.

After the match I headed back to the No. 10 (on foot this time) to meet up with a couple of friends.  It’s a good walk but it wasn’t raining any more and I got chatting with a few Seasider friends on the walk down there.  When I arrived, I ordered another Black Gold and managed to secure a table in the back room.  I was ravenous again by now so went back to the bar almost immediately to order a Chicken Panang Curry (which I again forgot to photograph for you, as I wolfed it down as soon as it arrived!).  My Blackpool beer friends Chris and Kev soon arrived and updated me on the Blackpool Cricket Club Beer Festival, where they had spent the afternoon.  I was shortly thereafter joined by star fanzine contributor Steve and his pal Brooksie, who I hadn’t met before.  We had an absolute hoot over another few beers (and more amaretto, my short of choice in this pub). What was meant to be one quick drink turned into quite a session and it was 9pm before I headed off – falling asleep the moment I collapsed into bed.  What a great day today had been!  I love being back home in Blackpool.  So we hadn’t won today, but that was almost immaterial.  We had a bloody amazing day, with so many good things going on in and around the club, with everyone in such good spirits.  Blackpool are on the way up, there is no doubt about it.  And I’m relishing every wonderful moment.  UTMP.

The video memory of the day can be found here:

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