Jane Stuart – Writer

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

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Stoke City v Blackpool: The Fly

Home game. Away game. It makes no difference these days. Our pre-match routine is the same: lie in, relaxing morning, Lee preparing the tech for the livestream, me sitting in the conservatory reading and/or on social media and a spot of lunch around 1pm.

The Wasp

We’re in the conservatory eating lunch. I’ve got unidentifiable leftovers from the other day (chicken something from Aldi) with rice; Lee has pasta bolognese. We had the heating on this morning but the sun has come out now and it’s pretty hot in here, so we’ve got the conservatory door open.

A wasp flies in. Lee panics.

“Just open the other door and he’ll find his way out soon enough.”

“It’s going to sting me!”

“He’s not going to sting you. He just wants to be outside. Just ignore him.”

“I can’t. It’s going to get me.”

“How old were you the last time you were stung by a wasp?”

“Er…about five?”

“So what’s the likelihood of this one stinging you? It doesn’t happen very often at all. There’s no need to be scared.”

Lee finishes his lunch standing up in the corner of the room so he has a view of the whole room, in anticipation of attack. Me? I have long since stopped fretting about insects. I just ignore them and let them get about their business. They’re unlikely to do me any harm.

As Lee scurried off to the safety of another room, I remained in the conservatory with my latest book that I’ll be reviewing on Friday. If you haven’t seen my football book (and magazine) reviews, you can find them here. Today I was starting ‘Pirates, Punks & Politics’ by Nick Davidson. This book was recommended and loaned to me by Tim Fielding. When I went to collect it from him the other week, I clarified whether he wanted it back, explaining that I have a tendency to highlight passages with a highlighter pen. He looked uncomfortable with this, despite not specifically vetoing it, so I needed to think of a different way to note passages in the book that I wanted to refer back to in my review. Hmm, we were out of post-it notes. Suddenly I was struck with a genius idea. I had some unused stickers that came with my scrapbooks. I could stick these in the book! I carefully placed one by the first pertinent passage, taking care to ensure the sticker could be removed without tearing the page. I did this a few times just to make sure. I had been trusted with this book and was determined to take care of it for Tim.

Stoke City v Blackpool

We were watching today’s match on iFollow, which we hadn’t used before. This was the first round of the EFL Cup/Carabao Cup/League Cup/Rumbelows Cup/whatever it’s called these days. iFollow is the EFL’s official channel. It cost £10 for a match pass. This being a cup game, it wasn’t included in our season tickets, as any home league games would be.

Annoyingly, iFollow wouldn’t mirror from my iPad to the tv via Apple TV, so we had to watch the match on the small iPad screen. This proved a bit of a strain on my eyes. I am trialling some new contact lenses to correct my near sight as well as my distance sight. I’ve recently been struggling to read small writing. I therefore now have one lens through which I can see long distances and another lens that is meant to help with my reading. That’s all very well but I’m now struggling with middle distance (e.g. pump clips and, I today learned, watching tv on an iPad).

Lee and I were hosting another watchalong today, as that’s what we do now. We were live on YouTube watching the match and chatting to football fans from around the world. It’s actually going really well and we’re getting thousands of views on each match. Many visitors are fans of the opposition and it’s really refreshing to have the opportunity to chat with opposition fans before, during and after the match.

I of course turned the conversation to oatcakes around half time and learned that you can order them online and can have sweet fillings in them! We decided that it would be great to have an oatcake stall on Blackpool prom, selling oatcakes of both the Staffordshire and Scottish varieties. I reckon that would go down a storm.

Ham & Egg Oatcake

The match was a tight affair, with both sides difficult to penetrate. Blackpool had been so prolific pre-season – with a shaky defence – so no way would I have predicted this game would end 0-0. But it was a good game of football. There were chances at both ends but neither keeper was really troubled, with most efforts going high, wide or straight at the keeper.

Blackpool’s keeper, Chris Maxwell, was captain today. He doesn’t half make me nervous when he strides out of his area (frequently) and plays as a sweeper. He is going to get caught out one of these days! That said, I love his confidence and he is my favourite keeper for many years (since perhaps Brad Jones or Joe Hart). You certainly notice him! He was playing in the new pink keeper kit today, which I absolutely love. I’ve dropped enough hints so hopefully I will be getting it for my birthday next month!

Blackpool played a strange tactic that I had never seen before, where there was a defender either side, parallel with the keeper when he was taking goal kicks towards the end of the match.

It was straight to penalties after 90 minutes. I was puzzled as to why our star penalty taker Jerry Yates was subbed a few minutes earlier, but I guess Critch must have had his reasons. Maybe he’d taken a knock or maybe we wanted to make sure we didn’t concede during the last few minutes.

Apparently I was stressing out our viewers as the game progressed, so I grabbed a beer to relax me going into the penalty shoot out. Thornbridge Market Porter, if you’re interested. I wasn’t sure if my headache was a result of stress, eye strain or the bag of sweets I’d scoffed pre-match, but it needed shifting and beer usually works.

The pens were all on target, none with a great deal of power behind them, some of them saved. Again, both teams were evenly matched. It went to sudden death. Ollie Turton was the first player not to hit the target and Blackpool were out of the cup.

You can watch us watch along (and me get increasingly stressed!) and get the lowdown on ALL the oatcakes here.

Face? Bothered? Well of course it would have been a great confidence booster ahead of the league campaign to take a Championship scalp. But we did at least prove we can match them. And, with 13 midweek games in the league and a further three in the EFL Trophy, do we really want any more midweekers this season, of all seasons? So, no, I’m not bothered about this. Indeed this might have been the best possible outcome: confidence boost + non-progression. Win/win.

The Fly

Saturday nights are roughly the same each week. We do a food shop (Asda tonight), rustle up a quick tea (curry for me, hotpot for Lee), then turn off the lights, settle down and watch tv (Modern Family tonight) with a bowl of jelly beans.

“Is that fly part of the programme or is it here?”

“It’s here.”

The fly flew towards the projector and soon filled most of the 100″ screen. Even I had to admit that was pretty horrific.

Lee leapt to his feet.

“I’m going to get it!”

“Oh just leave him – he’s not doing any harm. He’ll fly off in a minute. Try and relax darling”

“Hmm…”

Lee reluctantly sat down and we soon found ourselves chuckling away and forgot all about our insect companion.

I was enjoying a couple of beers as we relaxed into the evening. I’d had a Brew Toon Raspberry Ripple (nice) and was now well into a St Peter’s Cream Stout. I love fruity beers but dark beers are my preference.

It is rare that we can sit through an entire programme without ADHDing. One episode featured a woman we knew we had seen in something recently but couldn’t think where. A quick Google search – inputting the season and episode number – revealed that she was the female lead in The Last Man On Earth. The first episode of that series was brilliant and we had high hopes for it. Sadly, the male lead became VERY annoying, and we ditched it a few episodes in. The next episode featured a woman we THOUGHT was Minnie Driver, but had to look it up just to make sure.

Mid-ADHD, I found myself on Twitter and saw that Mitch Cook’s Left Foot had already uploaded his blog of this afternoon’s game. We love these blogs, so kept Modern Family on pause while I read it out to Lee. These are quite lengthy pieces so, at the end of the first section, I reached out in the dark for my glass of dark beer, brought it to my lips and took a good swig before returning the glass to the table.

It took a second or so for me to realise that my mouth was not just full of liquid. There was a solid object in there. My mind raced to find an acceptable outcome. Beer sediment? No, it was more solid than that.

Shit! The fly!

I immediately opened my mouth and spat out its contents right where I sat. Lee asked me afterwards why I hadn’t spat it back into the glass but I had already put it down and frankly I just wanted it out of my mouth right away. We could always clean the sofa. But…

Shit! The book!

Tim, I’m so sorry! I really tried to take care of this book for you but I’m guessing you won’t want it back now with my beer gozz all over it. I will buy you a new copy. Sorry again. This sort of thing hasn’t happened with any other book I’ve read! I remember borrowing The Da Vinci Code from a senior colleague once and he’d read it on holiday in Italy and it was covered in pasta sauce and it was gross and I remember thinking ‘how can you DO that to a book, let alone hand it over to someone else in that state?’

With that, at least the fly situation was resolved – and perhaps I will be a little more mindful of our insect housemates in the future. It wouldn’t have hurt to have opened a window and ushered it out. Going forward, is it acceptable to drink beer through a straw? Asking for a friend…

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