Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Accrington Stanley: A Christmas Quest

Ah finally a break from work and the opportunity to spend some quality time in my old and new hometown of Blackpool. As I escaped the office at noon on Christmas Eve I could finally relax, right? Well, where would be the story in that…? I swear the more I write, the more adventures come my way…

Now I was a bit late getting organised for Christmas this year, by dint of being ridiculously busy and not having time to stop and think about it. However, once we got the tree and decorations up at home – and I wrapped up Forky in a tinsel sash – I got in the zone and set about ordering presents online. 

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After a trip to the Trafford Centre (necessitated by the fact that the Hounds Hill Shopping Centre in Blackpool closes at teatime even in the lead up to Christmas grr) and the high street in Manchester, I had all of my shopping wrapped up (see what I did there?) the Friday before Christmas. 

But of course I have Lee now and, being a man, he is somewhat less organised when it comes to Christmas.  In his defence, however, his last-minute crisis was not entirely of his own making… He ordered an Oculus Quest directly from Oculus and expected it to be delivered ahead of Christmas. 

However, the day after ordering, he received a message from his bank advising that the payment had been rejected as it was deemed unusual. In order for the gift to arrive in time for Christmas he ordered it again from Amazon, who promised to deliver the Sunday before Christmas. Meanwhile, after a heated discussion with the bank, the order with Oculus had also gone through, although delivery was not now guaranteed before Christmas.

On our way home from the match on Saturday, Lee received a notification that his Amazon order had been delivered and handed to him. We knew that was not true because we were at the football at the time. So where was the parcel? Lee telephoned Amazon who were very helpful and apologetic and offered him a refund. This was all very well and good, however we needed the present for Christmas Day and could now not see how that was possible. We could only pray that the other order from Oculus would arrive ahead of Christmas Day.

With still no Oculus Quest on 23rd December, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I researched Oculus outlets; however there appeared to be none in stock anywhere except a few Down South. But oh what’s this? There is one in Scan at Horwich? The only one left in the North West of England and it happens to be on my train route home from work! I placed an order immediately for collection the following day.  Surely nothing could go wrong now?  But after all the trouble we had so far, I wasn’t going to count my chickens.  Of course then I had the obligatory call from the fraud squad at my bank querying the transaction, but I managed to get it through after an agonising fifteen-minute call.

Hence when I finished work at lunchtime on Christmas Eve, my job was not done. I simply had to get my hands on this Oculus Quest. My job was to save Christmas. Could I do it? My mission was on…

The trains were of course shafted; however I noticed that there was one commencing its journey at Manchester Oxford Road – seemingly cutting out Piccadilly – so I headed down there and boarded the train to Horwich Parkway.

I had with me today for lunch some salmon jerky that I picked up from Sainsbury’s this morning. 

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I almost didn’t open the packet I was that distressed by the fact that it needed to be opened upside down to access the jerky. I am one of these people who gets very upset when people open a packet of crisps upside down and certainly can never accept one from an upside down packet. However I am constantly pushing down barriers these days so I told myself to get over it and open the packet and tuck in. 

Whilst not an ideal food for eating on a train owing to its aroma, it was quite delicious. There’s not much in a packet but I was actually quite full afterwards. The flavours were amazing – strong salmon followed by hot sweet chilli. Yum yum. 

As I disembarked the train at Horwich Parkway I sent little video teasers to Lee to chart my progress and build the suspense. Here’s the Reebok Stadium – or the Macron Stadium  or the University of Bolton Stadium or whatever it’s called these days. Ah there’s a retail park on the horizon – I think that’s where I’m going…

I arrived at Scan. I found the Customer Collections desk. I gave the lady my name and order number. Within a minute she had returned with a delivery note…and the Oculus Quest! I had succeeded! Mission accomplished! Christmas was saved! Hallelujah!

“How much do you love me right now?“

“More than anything in the world!“

On my march back towards the station I checked the train times. There was one due in one minute – but then not another one for an HOUR, thanks to the traditional Christmas train cancellations. I wasn’t at the station yet. I looked up and yes there was a train coming in. Please please let it be coming in on the platform on the nearside. No? I’d better run then! So I legged it down the road, up the stairs, across the bridge, down the stairs and onto the train just before the doors beeped and closed. I collapsed into the seat hoping this was actually the right train – I hadn’t checked. I had to run because I had no intention of spending an hour here! Mercifully this train was actually calling at Preston so, whilst not being ideal, it was at least going in the right direction. I disembarked at Preston, loitered on the platform for a while, finally got back to Blackpool – and boy was I going to relax now.

Christmas morning came and it was lovely to spend Christmas in a home full of love. One of my presents for Lee was gadgets to attach to his keys and wallet so he can effectively call them via an app on his phone when he loses them (which is pretty much all the time). He can also call his phone from his keys and wallet so basically he only needs to know where one item is to locate the other two. I cannot tell you how excited Lee is about this present. He will be able to reclaim so many hours of his life and reduce his stress levels.  If you’re a man always misplacing your keys/wallet/phone you might want to invest in one of these:

After a lovely morning spent playing with our new toys, we headed out to Waters Edge (a Joseph Holt pub in St Annes) for Christmas dinner. We managed to get in here for dinner on a late cancellation (apparently you need to book in March to get in to some places for Christmas Day – WTF?!). The service throughout booking and arrival and during the meal was all excellent. We had table service all afternoon and didn’t need to bother with queues at the bar. The food was very good as always.  I had:

  • Pork, Chicken Liver and Cranberry Pate with toasted wholemeal bread and a sticky fig relish
  • Turkey Carvery with Yorkshire Pudding, vegetables and gravy (naturellement)
  • Traditional Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce

There were crackers on the table and I was actually disappointed that I failed to correctly answer any of the jokes. This is normally something I am especially skilled at.

Lee then went out to work and I put my feet up and watched the entire series of Shrill on BBC iPlayer. 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p07vzfpm/shrill

This is a cracking series about a larger lady who has an epiphany and decides to enjoy life within her frame and not accept the way that society is treating her. It’s a really great show.

And then of course it was time for Christmas Corrie. I haven’t missed an episode of Coronation Street since I was about five years old. I was watching it live on ITV Player and of course Lee telephoned at the crucial moment of the gun rampage. In fact, do excuse me while I watch it now…

By the time I got to the Not Going Out Christmas special I realised why I had stopped watching that during the last series and I retired to bed.

Boxing Day was of course matchday. I packed my fanzine bag the night before so didn’t have much to do by way of prep this morning. 

One of my Christmas presents this year was a very exciting umbrella.

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Not only does the stem light up in different colours – one of which being tangerine – it also has a torch on the bottom and of course functions as an umbrella too. Before leaving the house I thought I’d try something out and stuffed the umbrella handle down my coat to see if it would function hands-free (as I needed my hands to hold fanzines and collect money). Dear reader, it worked a treat! I was now set up for the day.

Thanks to Chipolo, we saved the usual 15 minutes looking for Lee’s keys, wallet and phone. Hence we were on time leaving today.

Lee had been out working this morning and it was only now that he realised that I had had nothing to eat so far today. Well, nothing of substance anyway. I had had a few Liquorice Allsorts and some chocolate. Oh!  This is that delicious chocolate that I can now tell you about:

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It’s from a little chocolaterie in Great Northern in Manchester and it’s bloody lush!  I had no idea what speculaas was before eating this chocolate but can confirm it is incredibly tasty.  I now know is a Dutch spiced shortcrust biscuit and I want some!

I was feeling a little dizzy now from too much sugar and not enough proper food. Lee wanted to call in at a shop en route to get me some food but I pointed out that I needed to get in my spot to sell some fanzines. 

“I knew I needed to eat something substantial – and I did look, but there wasn’t anything in that I fancied.”

“Well what would you fancy to eat?”

“A leftover turkey sandwich.”

“But we don’t have any turkey in the house. We ate out yesterday.”

“Yes I know but you asked me what I fancy and that’s what I fancy.”

Lee looked at me incredulously. 

“You’re like one of those divas, wanting impossible things for your rider.”

“Well you did ask…”

I was in situ in the rain on Bloomfield Road around 1pm armed with fanzines for sale.

So, who did I meet whilst out selling fanzines today? I made Christmas conversation with my first customer of the day.

“How was your Christmas Day?“

“It was okay but there was nothing on the telly was there? We wanted to find a nice film to watch but ended up watching this terrible film that only had a one-star rating.“

He then proceeded to tell me at length about this terrible film. Ever wish you hadn’t asked something out of politeness…?

I was later approached by a man who was pointing at me and saying:

“You’re the blog person aren’t you?”

This reminded me of a Shrewsbury fan I had met on Saturday who asked if I was the one who did the blogs. I must have another T-shirt made up.

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Lee rocked up with a turkey sandwich, some Fruit Pastilles, a bottle of water and my hat (which I’d forgotten) and I was yet again reminded why I love this man. Can I just point out that these weren’t my Christmas presents.

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By the time I entered the ground my hands were freezing (someone today suggested fingerless gloves and I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this myself) so I headed straight to the Ladies and put my hands under the hot tap. Because that’s a thing now and it’s brilliant! I then took my seat in the South Stand. I put my bags down and rummaged in my rucksack for my sandwich (which I now had time to eat) and my flask full of hot chocolate to warm me up. Only now can I relax, sit back and enjoy the match.

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Well I say enjoy but…that’s not really what happened. It was pretty much a repeat of Saturday, with Blackpool not threatening seriously and the visitors going away with all three points. 

We lost keeper Jak Alnwick early on in the game and he was replaced by young Jack Sims, making his debut.  Jack came on to a touching reception from the home crowd and we really hoped he would do well.  The man sitting behind me kept fretting:

“Oh this could be a disaster, this…”

But I was not concerned.  It wasn’t as if this was an inexperienced outfield player going in goal: he was a trained goalkeeper, who trains to keep goal every day.  Why the worry?  I actually miss the days when outfield players did go in nets (David Eyres and Gareth Evans spring to mind).  You don’t see it so much these days, with teams being allowed too-many subs.  It’s far less fun.

The young keeper collected the ball confidently pretty much as soon as he came on and proceeded to play well.  I was only disappointed he wasn’t awarded Man of the Match.  It wasn’t as if anyone else really stood out – and it would have done wonders for the lad’s confidence.

We lost Kaikai to injury too.  This player – who can win a match single-handed with a moment of magic – appears to have lost his va va voom in recent weeks.  Kaikai has such great potential and I would love to see him nurtured and cultivated and grow into a superstar.  I know we can never have Ollie back now after he opened his mouth once too often, but I can imagine him whispering in Kaikai’s ear – as he did with Charlie Adam – telling him he is magnificent and to go out there and shine.

And what was going on with Liam Feeney today?  He is hands down the best winger I have ever seen at Bloomfield Road.  Now that is really something coming from me, as I absolutely adored Martin Bullock, who had me on the edge of my seat every time he got the ball.  And yet Bullock famously had no end product.  Feeney doesn’t have me on the edge of my seat but he is bloody good at what he does and delivers the ball into the box countless times during every match.  I’ve never seen a winger like him.  So why are we finding him more in the middle and less on the wing?  I know we need someone in the middle to be connecting with his centres, but if he isn’t on the wing, the balls aren’t being delivered into the box and we don’t have any proper chances.  And we don’t score.

This was one of those matches where frankly I drift off partway through.  It wasn’t entertaining and didn’t hold my attention.  Whilst I stopped short of getting my phone out and catching up on admin/correspondence/social media, my mind did wander off to what I was going to write in my blog, what I was going to have for tea, what chores I had to do tomorrow, how I’m getting to Reading, etc.

Way more entertaining than the match itself is Mitch Cook’s Left Foot’s blog about the match:

[Joe Nuttall] trots on to a resounding chorus of low level muttering and grumbling and a Mexican headshake from the West (which is like a Mexican Wave, except without the energy, the waving and consists instead some old fellas sighing and shaking their heads in a domino effect as the realisation that it’s Big Joe coming on passes along the stand.)

You can read the whole thing (and much more) at the link below:

https://mclfoot.blogspot.com/2019/12/boxing-day-hangover-mighty-vs.html

And here is Lee’s video memory of the day:

So now Lee has resolved that his new coat and shoes that I bought him for Christmas so he could keep warm at the football are clearly unlucky so thank you very much Blackpool.  Humbug.

So that’s two home games lost on the bounce against mediocre teams.  Had we won both those games, we would now be sitting pretty in second place in League One.  Yes it is disappointing that we are down to tenth.  But this league is so tight – and is still there for the taking.  I have every faith in Larry conducting some good business in the January transfer window.  I will again remind you of the 2007 transfer window, when Larry brought in 15 players to take us from almost dead certs for relegation to winning The Perfect Ten games on the bounce to win promotion to the Championship.  Remember this team is one that Larry inherited on the eve of the season.  It is not his team yet.  We can and will improve.  And I am excited to see what happens between now and the end of the season.  I believe – do you…?

UTMP.

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