Dear reader it is my absolute pleasure to be able to report that Blackpool Are Back (again!).
On Friday evening I headed up to the seaside in the car from Manchester. I have hunted down a new car park in the City Centre which allows me to avoid reversing into a space, so I’m very happy to have removed that stress. I am a big fan of avoiding stresses wherever I can. The alternatives here were (a) continue to get stressed with the mean car park attendant forcing me to park in spaces I’m not comfortable parking in (to ‘fill up’ the car park); and (b) learn to park. I have asked Lee to teach me to park (I know I do need to learn) but it hasn’t happened yet (we are both busy people) so this is my stop-gap solution (which may well end up being permanent).
Whilst the traffic out of Manchester was a little quieter than usual, owing to it being half-term, it still took two hours to reach Blackpool. I don’t mind sitting in traffic, though – and it is still quicker than the journey from Walsall – so I sang along lustily to David Ford as I headed in the direction of my happy place.
With the dawn of a new month today, I resolved to resume a healthy lifestyle, as it’s obvious I have gone off the rails since I’ve been back at Blackpool. This is not so much to lose weight – I have lost two stone since September last year and am now in the healthy BMI zone – but more to rediscover some discipline and feel healthier.
Step one was to actually go to the new gym I joined a month ago. Now this was a pretty traumatic experience, notwithstanding the fact I hadn’t been to a gym for months. I couldn’t figure out (a) how to get in the front door (in my defence it was a complicated system involving a pin number and a space pod); or (b) how to work the lock for my locker. I enlisted help from men to resolve both these problems – only to encounter another when I had to learn how to work a new kind of treadmill. Just as I had THAT figured out – and was beginning to relax into my run and work up a sweat – I realised I hadn’t seen any towels in the changing room. Did we have to bring our own? That being the case, I realised I mustn’t get too sweaty on this occasion (not having brought one) so I had to cut my session short.
Step two was the resumption of my diet (a big exercise in discipline – and a tricky (if not impossible) one for matchdays). On arrival in Blackpool we popped to the supermarket to stock up on Slimming World friendly foods – including chicken, peppered beef, turkey, ham, bananas, cherry tomatoes and Muller Light yoghurts (the Irish Coffee one is LUSH!). I filled myself up prior to heading to the Odeon to watch Terminator 6: Dark Fate.
Lee being a movie buff, I think I’ve been to the pictures as many times these last few months as I did the last ten years in total, but I am enjoying the experience. It forces you to switch off and devote your full attention to watching a film, which is a great exercise in mindfulness. I didn’t even have any sweeties to distract me today, as my diet discipline remained intact. And we enjoyed the film. I liked that the leading characters were all female and enjoyed the relationships and dynamics between the characters. Arnie was legendary too.
Saturday morning brought the Rugby World Cup final. Having watched it, I am still none the wiser as to how rugby works, but anyway we didn’t win so I can forget all about it now anyway.
I breakfasted on a bowl of Honey Cheerios with Alpro Hazelnut Milk (Alpro do a great range of milk substitutes – I also love their Almond Milk and Chocolate Milk), a banana and a Banana & Custard Muller Light (or two). A key to the Slimming World diet is to keep yourself full on allowable (‘free’) foods, so as to not be tempted by bad food choices. This worked well for me in the past but my appetite has shrunk considerably since coming off the diet in May, which has also worked well (I lost a stone on the diet and a further stone afterwards through simply eating less and drinking less ale).
My pre-match today involved selling Issue 2 of the Blackpool fanzine ‘Now That’s What I Call Progress’. If you haven’t got your copy yet you can read it here:
Mercifully last night’s deluge had reduced to some barely-noticeable spitting this afternoon, so I was able to assume my usual position on Bloomfield Road (I have resolved to relocate to opposite the Main Entrance to the club in the event of Proper Rain).
As well as being a successful selling session, it was as always a pleasure to engage in conversation with passing Seasiders. I sold a second copy of Issue 2 to a woman who had bought one at the last match (‘I left the last one in the ground when I walked out in disgust’), I was promised a couple of articles for Issue 3 – and was once again told that I looked taller on TV. I sometimes forget how short I actually am. Again this is something I have learned to compensate for (by, for example, standing at the front at gigs). It is rarely a problem for me these days – except when it comes to using mirrors in public conveniences.
As I headed into the ground I wondered why my season ticket wasn’t successfully activating the turnstile until I realised I was trying to enter the ground using my bus pass. Mistake rectified, I scurried into the Ladies to make myself comfortable. Now you know I have a thing about football clubs only having one tap on their basins? Well Blackpool have two!
Which is just as well, because the hot tap wasn’t working – and cold water is better than no water. I could have tried another sink, of course, but didn’t for expediency.
I was on the ball food-wise today. I had brought a food bag containing a banana, chicken tikka skewers, some cherry tomatoes and a bottle of Diet Dr Pepper. I munched away on the banana before tucking into the skewers, which were a lot more filling than they looked, leaving no room for the tomatoes. This is definitely the way forward for matchdays. It is a shame that healthy food options are not available in most grounds. I know we have Macros at Blackpool now (their peri peri wraps were lovely and I’m not sure if they’ve got the chilli on yet – I forgot to check today) but at most grounds the range is not good for people wishing to eat healthily. I understand that pies, hot dogs and burgers are an easy option for catering in large numbers – and perhaps they do sell better than anything else – but I would rarely eat them through choice.
That said, I can sometimes be tempted. Out selling fanzines earlier today – Lee at my side doing a spot of pre-match filming – I was approached by a man with exciting news:
‘Jane: You MUST try the Mushroom Pie from Marks & Spencer. I’m a vegan and I found it in their Plant Kitchen Range. You’ll love it. It’s brimming with gravy.’
Now you know I love a good food recommendation (keep them coming, folks: the sausage and marmalade sandwich was a revelation), so I made a mental note to check that out in the week (I get my lunch from M&S most days now anyway). I’m sure I can make it fit within my syn allowance on the diet.
As the mushroom pie man walked on, Lee asked:
‘Who was that?’
‘I’ve no idea. I just get people coming up to me talking about pies and gravy ALL THE TIME.’
Which is great, really, isn’t it?
Anyway, onto the game! WOWZERS!!! I don’t know what has happened in the last week but this was a markedly different Blackpool to the team we have seen these past few weeks. They attacked confidently from the off – and were rewarded with four goals! These boys have got their swagger back and it was an absolute joy to watch. Despite going 1-0 down against the run of play – and later conceding just before half time – their heads didn’t drop and they simply carried on confidently. Was this transformation a result of the team meeting after last Saturday’s match, a boost from the positive reception at the open training session on Monday, a change in personnel in the team, inspirational words from Larry or Simon Sadler, a combination of the above or something else entirely? Whatever the reason, it was certainly effective – and let’s hope we see more of this Blackpool over the coming months.
All I want to do when writing about my beloved Blackpool is to enthuse about how wonderful an experience it is to go and watch them – and to encourage others to do so. I have such fun on my adventures following the Seasiders – but the fun is often centred around events surrounding the football, as opposed to the football itself. Today, however, I am delighted to report that the football was exceptional – the game finished 4-3 to Blackpool – and the fans were entertained for 90 minutes.
I confess I edited a lot out of last week’s blog by dint of it being too negative concerning the football. It was only after speaking with my sunshine Lee that I could find any kind of positive spin to add. I had endured weeks of frustration, watching the team playing terribly below par and KNOWING they could be performing so much better, because I’d seen it at Southend, when they’d WOWED me. It was against this backdrop that I found myself overwhelmed with today’s scintillating performance.
Armand Gnanduillet hurtled amain towards goal, heading the ball forward to gain ground before being clattered to the floor. This was a dead cert penalty – although it was not required, as the ball ended up in the net anyway. This dogged determination from the big man – allied with the euphoria of the goal – brought tears to my eyes. Guilty as charged: I can get overexcited with the good times, but I make no apologies for that. I want to be entertained. I want to enjoy the football. I want to tell the world how wonderful these players are. It is my job as a supporter to support the team – and as a writer to encourage as many people as possible to join me on this amazing adventure. And having suffered for my art these last few weeks, yes, I was somewhat overwhelmed by what I witnessed today. But my goodness I was so happy! I actually welled up with pride after three of the goals – and screamed at the other. The emotion was tangible and quite, quite wonderful.
Frankly, I would have been happy even if we’d lost today (less happy obvs) because the team had performed heroically for 90 minutes. They’d given their all and looked like they actually GAVE a damn. Throw entertainment and goals into the bargain and honestly what fan could ask for more?
After the match we headed to the ticket office to pick up our tickets for the forthcoming cup matches. It was pleasing to see a lengthy queue for tickets – and we used the time in line to review the results (ooh Bolton got a win against Fleetwood) and league table (ooh only a point off fourth and five off automatic…).
Now Lee had been trying out his new camera for the first time at today’s match – and in the car on the way home I enquired whether I would be allowed to take the camera on my away day missions for Lee Charles TV. I could tell Lee wasn’t keen on me taking charge of his new pride and joy so resolved not to push it. When I accidentally dropped the camera getting out of the car (no serious damage done) I conceded Lee might have had a point… Somewhat harshly, I thought, he also promptly sacked me from the TV channel. He wasn’t serious, of course, but, just in case, I pointed out that the viewers would revolt and, besides, who else would he find bonkers enough to do what I do for him?
Things calmed down over dinner at the Half Way (sic) House, where I managed to stick to my diet with a Superfood Salad (oops just remembered I had a pint of bitter with it!).
On the way home I received an email:
Jane, tell us about your gym visit yesterday.
As I’m sure you can imagine, when it comes to filling in surveys, my replies can be somewhat colourful. I decided it wasn’t fair to judge the gym on one flustered visit, so decided against replying. On this occasion.
Back at home, I settled down to write this blog while Lee worked on editing the video footage of today’s adventure, which can be found here: