Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v MK Dons: Sometimes Beer Is Not Enough

I have learned many things during my thirty years of watching football.  This includes how to keep warm on a February night in Oldham, how terrible food is at football grounds and how to time toilet breaks so as not to miss any of the match action.  However the most important thing I have learned is how to seek out entertainment outside of football, so that a dreadful match does not become the focal point of a (duly ruined) weekend.  

This weekend I headed up to Blackpool on Friday evening.  This was to be my first experience of driving to the Fylde Coast in illuminations traffic – and it was also the World Fireworks Championships tonight.  How long would the journey take?  Waze didn’t allow me on the M6 until Stafford – and proceeded to take me off again at the M65 – but I landed in Blackpool within three hours, which I was pretty pleased with.  The weekend had got off to a good start.

Having watched Lee’s video of the previous week’s fireworks, I was keen to go along and view them for myself tonight, so we headed straight out to enjoy the display.  The prom was packed with people as we made our way towards North Pier, where the fireworks were being launched from.  To rousing music, Canada’s spectacular display drew everyone’s eyes to the skies.  I had never been to a fireworks display before and I was entranced by this work of art lighting up the sky.  I wholeheartedly recommend you get down there for one of the next two Fridays to see the remainder of the championships.

We had been watching from the Comedy Carpet, but barely noticed the words beneath our feet as our eyes had been drawn upwards. Now I took a moment to enjoy a few words of comedy gold:

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Despite my obvious protestations, Lee was quite insistent that we seek out chips and gravy on the way home, so we ended up at C Fresh, a chippy just off the prom on Lytham Road.  The queue was quite big, so we had ample time to peruse the menu while we waited.  

MUSHY PEA FRITTER 99P

Ooh hello!  Well we couldn’t leave THAT untried, now, could we?  It was duly ordered and smothered with gravy.

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And boy it was delicious!  Sure, I had a little heartburn afterwards, but I had some Rennies with me – plus I can’t fully attribute that to the fritter, as I had been eating particularly extravagantly for the previous few days.  I confess I am deriving WAY more enjoyment from chippy-based dishes that I did from the football ground refreshment kiosks, so I think I’ll stick with this important area of research.  What will they find to batter next?

***

Saturday was of course matchday – but first the fun bit of the pre-match pub with friends.  Today we went to No. 13 Bonny Street, formerly known as the Pump & Truncheon, which was our Pub of Choice for many years before we all stopped coming to matches.  In our absence – and with no little guilt – the pub sadly closed but it has recently reopened in a different guise.  Whilst the ale offerings are fewer, there were still a couple of cask ales on today, and I decided to sample a half of each:

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Whilst not overly hungry after last night’s chippy tea, I resolved to eat before getting to the ground today, so ordered chips with chilli, receiving a large plate of food for a reasonable price.  The chilli was not quite as hot as I would have liked, but it was a good hearty meal and I can always sneak in some chillies to liven it up to delight my palate on a future visit.  

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There was a good crowd of Seasiders in here this afternoon and it was almost like we had never been away.  It was so good to back in a familiar pre-match environment with good friends.  This was pre-match at its best as we laughed and revelled in each others’ company.

But of course we couldn’t spend ALL afternoon enjoying ourselves, so we headed down to Bloomfield Road to watch the match.

I was dumbfounded by what I witnessed on the pitch.  The first half was resolutely not good enough but at 1-0 down – and trusting in Larry – we thought we might turn it around in the second half.  Sure enough, the Seasiders began to dominate possession and play and it was surely only a matter of time before the pressure would result in a goal.  You know when you just KNOW you are going to score?

Cue Curtis Tilt – under no pressure whatsoever – gifting the ball to MK Dons and putting us 2-0 down.  Fool me once, shame on thee; fool me twice, shame on me.  Tilt having taken a good 15 minutes or so get his head out of the shed the last time he did this, Larry decided to take him off almost immediately on this occasion, prompting Tilt to tear off his shirt and strop off down the tunnel.  

Later, at 3-0 down with 20 minutes remaining – and clearly no hope of a recovery – Seasiders began streaming out of the ground.  I had my head in my hands and was sickened by what I was witnessing.  I stuck it out until 90 minutes but, as five minutes of added time was announced, I groaned – and frankly enduring five more minutes of this torture was asking too much.  I wasn’t being entertained.  I was being subjected to misery.  And that’s never going to be a life choice I make.  I headed out of the ground and promptly potentially subjected myself to more of the same, purchasing tickets for the Donny, Accy and Carlisle away matches.  It matters not to me whether the team wins or loses – I’ll still be there every week.  And besides, it can’t be this bad EVERY week…

I could barely speak at this point and headed up to The Corner Flag (nee Rowleys).  I refused point blank to give the club any more of my money today (stopping short of demanding a refund on my match ticket) and slumped on a sofa while I waited for Karen to arrive.  Dave tried to engage me in conversation about the match but I simply couldn’t talk about it and zoned out to another world for a good 20 minutes until Karen arrived.

***

Tonight we were heading out into Fleetwood for a change of scene.  

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There are numerous pubs in Fleetwood that sell real ale and we had every intention of trying out a good few of them tonight as we sought to drown out the afternoon’s horror show.

Our first port of call was The Steamer, where Syd Little provides the catering.

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I was all chipped out by now, so opted for the Steamer Beef Curry with rice, which came with a poppadom, onion salad, mango chutney and an onion bhaji.  And was actually a chicken curry and not as spicy as the menu had led me to believe.  I really ought to start carrying chillies in my handbag.

To accompany this, I quaffed down a pint of Kelham Island Riders on the Storm, which was in good nick – and comfortably the best pint I had all night.

We called into The Thomas Drummond, Fleetwood’s Wetherspoons, as we were sure of a decent ale in there.  Sure enough we weren’t disappointed – and got an absolute bargain into the mix:

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Next stop was my favourite pub in Fleetwood, the Royal Oak.  This pub is known locally as Dead’Uns – and an explanation for this sinister nickname can be found here:

https://www.fleetwoodtoday.co.uk/news/warming-story-behind-pub-s-chilling-nickname-1-1563029

Here I bumped into a couple of Seasiders and, instantly being reminded of the game, decided to switch to the hard stuff, ordering a tot of Lakes Gingerbread Vodka and a tot of Kendal Mint Cake Vodka, courtesy of Mint Drinks Co. in Kendal.  These drinks successfully transported me back away from Bloomfield Road and up to the Parkside Road Stadium, home of Kendal Town, where I went last season to watch Chasetown play.  Whilst there (as visiting Match Secretary) I threatened to report Kendal Town to the league if I wasn’t provided with chocolate covered Kendal Mint Cake.  I was presented with a bar within 15 minutes.  But my absolute FAVOURITE thing about Kendal Town is their mascot, Mr Minty, who is himself a bar of Kendal Mint Cake:

https://www.betvictornorthernpremier.co.uk/mr-minty-turns-coach-12778

Now back in Fleetwood we headed to our final port of call for the night, Strawberry Gardens, for a Blond Witch.  The food menu in here looked good too (Crispy Duck Wrap mmm), and I resolved to return to eat here on a future visit. 

Now my hunger and thirst had been satisfied – and the match forgotten – I caught the tram back into Blackpool to retire for the night, enjoying the illuminations from Bispham onwards.  I found myself disappointed that there weren’t levitating Daleks at Gynn Square, despite being terrified of them.  But hang on – if they aren’t at Gynn Square then WHERE ARE THEY?!  It seemed that, despite having pushed the afternoon’s horrors from my mind, these were now being replaced by fresh nightmares…

Roll on Tuesday in the hope of the return of sweet Tangerine Dreams…

***

The video memory of the day is here:

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