Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v AFC Wimbledon: Four Wins, Four Dogs and A Brand New Micropub

As I was mulling over which pub to visit after work on Friday, this popped up in my Facebook feed:

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Dear reader, how could I pass up the opportunity to visit the Fylde Coast’s newest micropub on its opening night?  Well of course I couldn’t, so I hopped off the train a stop early and made my way there, together with Karen, who joined me on the train from Manchester this evening.  On board the Northern Rail service, an exasperated girl was talking loudly on the phone to a friend and we had no choice but to listen in:

‘Can you believe they don’t serve gravy on your chips in Lincoln? That’s not right, is it?’

Hmm and I was contemplating a weekender when we play them in January.  Might need to reconsider that one…

Now I can safely say that I would never have previously considered Layton for a night out.  I did go there recently for ‘An Evening with Ian Evatt’ at Layton Institute, but I cannot recall any other visits there.  Layton was simply somewhere I passed through on the train or bus into Blackpool.  So I was interested to see what it had to offer…

On arrival at Cask, it was pleasing to see that it was busy, whilst not being uncomfortably packed.  We were immediately impressed with the finish of the place – it looked impressive and the staff were well-presented and waiting to take our orders.  Ooh hang on, I haven’t had chance to check out the beer board yet…

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Of course it had to be the milk stout – and boy was it delicious!  The first pint did not touch the sides, so of course we had to have another…and another…

I know you’re dying for me to show you the toilets, so here is a fine example of how much love has gone into this place:

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…although I think they are being a little precious about their toilets, as I’m not sure this is practical…

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I love micropubs because, for me, they represent what public houses should be: an experience akin to having a drink in the front room of someone’s house.  The atmosphere in here was warm and welcoming and we took a seat at a table with a couple of lads who had ‘just popped out for a pint of milk’ and ended up staying longer than we did.  The lager-drinking one who ‘didn’t drink real ale’ was happily quaffing the milk stout by the time we left.  That’s a job well done, Cask!

There were FOUR dogs in Cask during the course of our visit.  The first was an old boy, who was wandering around the pub accepting fusses from anybody and everybody, before reluctantly having his coat put on and taken out into the cold night.  The second was a care dog in training, who was being taken into as many dog-friendly pubs as possible so as to get her used to the environment (hang on, taking dogs to the pub is an actual JOB?!).  On the way out we spotted another two dogs. 

It was also pleasing to see a few fellow Seasiders in Cask.  Many of the people we spoke with were local to Layton (‘build it and they will come’) but others, like us, had travelled in to sample its wares, including representatives from Blackpool CAMRA and the gaffer from The Craft House in Lytham, which I’m ashamed to say I haven’t yet visited, despite it having been open for over three years (I promised I would pop in soon).  A couple of friends advised that Electro 80s were on at Layton Institute tonight – and we would have gone along, only we were three pints in on empty stomachs and had to hunt down some food.

Now you know I don’t like to leave food to chance, so my pre-pub research had uncovered Go Greek, a restaurant down the road which had received rave reviews.  This was endorsed by fellow drinkers in Cask, a number of whom were regulars at the restaurant.  So off we strolled up Westcliffe Drive to satisfy our hunger.

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One thing that I love – and often forget – about restaurants is that they can transport you to another country.  It is not only the food, but the drinks, the decor and the music.  Plus the fact that eating in a restaurant is something that I mainly do when I am actually overseas.  Tonight was no exception.  Toto, we weren’t in Layton any more – we were now in Greece.  And it was quite delightful (if not cheap).

We had had the meze recommended to us, so we opted for the Mini Meze platter.  As I tend to pick at food anyway – as well as liking to try lots of different things – this was ideal for me.  We had a Greek salad, bread and dips to start, followed by a couple of pastry things (apologies for the lack of detail but (a) the contents weren’t listed on the menu and (b) I was three pints in by this point) and pork and chicken souvlaki. 

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I rounded off the meal with a Baileys (as the bottle was winking at me from the shelf in my eyeline – and, after all, I was on holiday).

The toilets were kitted out with deodorant and perfume, as well as this odd air-freshener/deodoriser(?) on the toilet roll:

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Well that was a most pleasant night out in Layton.  I already knew I would be visiting again (possibly every Friday!).  There’s a chippy that needs trying out next time, too.

Now you may recall from my trips to Colne that I was particularly taken with their sturdy white stone bus shelters, protecting travellers from the elements:

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Dear reader, this is where I had to wait in Layton for my bus back to Blackpool:

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No word of a lie, I had to go and wait in Mr Nitro’s ice cream parlour because it was warmer.  Come on, Blackpool Council, get this sorted!  It’s bloody freezing in the North!  I complained vociferously on the phone to Lee – who valiantly offered to come and fetch me – but I said that putting the heating on would suffice and I’d see him soon.

Now you know Blackpool buses excite me.  Remember the bus with the TABLES on it?!

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Well tonight’s bus announced that I should download the Blackpool Transport app so, being suitably pliant after three pints, a nice meal and a nightcap, I duly did as I was told.  And WOW I will be using this in the future for sure.  This should save me a fortune on taxis (well when the weather warms up at least).  Not only can you buy tickets online, plan journeys, track buses and find out what’s on in Blackpool…but THIS!!!

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A BUS PASS FOR DOGS CALLED A ROVER!!!  I was SO excited about this that Lee thought I actually wanted a dog.  I assured him that I don’t but…do I? So I can get him a Rover ticket and take him to pubs and non league football matches…?

I’m sorry, Travel West Midlands, but your buses were never this exciting.  This is a different world.

I went to bed happy and dreamed of Blackpool continuing their home winning streak…

***

Still in holiday mode come Saturday morning, I resolved to have the day off.  I’ve worked pretty much every matchday this season, either selling fanzines or vlogging, so I treated myself to an impromptu day off.  Lee was on vlogging duties today so I tagged along with him pre-match before settling down to watch the match.

There was a very different atmosphere at Bloomfield Road today compared to last week’s FA Cup tie.  For a kick-off, it wasn’t cold (although I had dressed up in thermals, hat and fur-lined boots just to be on the safe side); and we were also back in the South Stand, with the 300 away fans housed back in the East.  As a consequence, the atmosphere was much improved – and we enjoyed the game much more.

The Seasiders were dominant from the off and, despite being goalless at half-time, we were confident that a win would come; we were playing that well – and AFC Wimbledon never looked a threat.  Sullay Kaikai had me on the edge of my seat again today – what an exciting player he is.  The second half brought two goals from the rejuvenated Armand Gnanduillet – taking his tally to the season to 12 – and Blackpool were now 5th in the league.

It occurred to me today that one explanation for Pool’s recent resurgence in form could be that they have been incentivised to win promotion.  Certainly they have improved immeasurably to a man – and the whole team now celebrates every goal.  You could argue that they shouldn’t need incentivising, but I disagree.  It can be so disheartening plodding away at a job (and it is a job to the players) and an incentive is a good way of improving and rewarding performance.  It certainly worked in getting Blackpool promoted to the Premier League.

Here’s Lee’s video memory of the day:

Lee was working on Saturday night so I had the house to myself and was determined to have a peaceful, relaxing evening (it was, after all, my day off).  I put the heating on, got into my pyjamas and opened up the Just Eat app to find a local Indian takeaway.  I went for Lee Raj last time, which was very nice but the minimum order of £18 was too much for me on my own – I ended up wasting so much food.  I researched other Indians in the area and settled on Gulshan, as it had a food hygiene rating of five, as well as good reviews.  There was a delivery fee of £3 but the total cost was a more palatable £14.90 for a Chicken Tikka Jalfrezi, Pilau Rice and a 1.5L bottle of Diet Coke.  The portion size was just right for me and all food was devoured and none wasted.

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I settled back with my curry to catch up on last night’s Corrie and the latest instalment of The Apprentice (why do I find myself liking Ryan-Mark?!) before painting my nails.  And relax…

I’ve got an epic trip to Ipswich next weekend, with lots of exciting things planned for the day.  It’s going to be exhausting but is sure to be a fun adventure.  I look forward to taking you there.  Tune in to Lee Charles TV on YouTube (and come back here next week) to find out how I get on…

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