Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Charlton Athletic & Blackpool v MK Dons: Life in Tier 3

Dear reader, I’m reverting to writing about life in lockdown because, despite us barely leaving the house, it’s still more interesting than the football (I will get to the football later).

Blackpool – being part of the plague-ridden North – is currently in Tier 3 lockdown. Here at LCTV Towers we have been keeping largely positive and making the most of our time spent at home. I’m back on the study trail, commencing my Advanced Creative Writing Course with the Open University. I’m finally getting my first book written (the idea for which came on an early lockdown walk). Once this one has been sent out to work, I already have another in the pipeline. And the house is pretty tidy too (assignment deadlines are good for that).

Exercise? What Exercise?

The novelty of the daily walks wore off months ago. We went for our first walk in ages last week – only 3,500 steps – and I was exhausted by the time we got home. I’ve never really been one for seeking out exercise – I hated PE at school and the gym really isn’t for me – but I have always walked. Granted, much of that walking has been between pubs, but my daily commute, pottering round the office, darting for trains and exploring new towns on my football travels has kept me at an acceptable level of fitness.

But where do I go these days? Pub crawls aren’t a thing now we have to take a meal in each one; I’m working from home, so the furthest I go during the day is from the bedroom/office to the kitchen; I haven’t set foot on public transport since March; and away days (even home matches) appear to be a thing of the past. Worse, I’ve just discovered Tesco have plenty of home delivery slots in Blackpool, so our weekly trip to the supermarket is out the window now, too. I tried the home workout thing but it’s not really for me.

On the positive side, my weight remains under control, because we aren’t eating out and consume more fresh food than we would under ‘normal’ conditions. The abstinence from alcohol lasted 19 weeks. I confess my mental health is far better since I invited beer back into my life. I enjoy the adventure of sampling different flavours (I do this with fruit/herbal teas too) and it helps calm my nerves when I do occasionally have a bad day. Besides, it’s part of my MO (virtual pub crawls around Wimbledon – or is it QPR? – and Burton – oh lovely Burton – coming up next week).

Good Riddance to the Alarm Clock

The alarm clock remains obsolete. My body clock now wakes me at the same time every morning and it’s far more civilised than being woken when I’m not ready to get up (who is ready to get up at 6am?). I still blast out my music in the shower; I still put my face on every day. It’s getting noticeably colder now, though, so I’ve ditched the dresses and taken to wearing more layers of warm clothes in a bid to keep the heating bills reasonable.

Energy Boost

We’ve had a smart meter and Hive installed in recent months. The former was free and helps us monitor our energy usage. We then got Hive because (a) it’s exciting; and (b) we could not figure out the old heating controls for the life of us and, as you know, I like to eradicate sources of stress. Anyway, it’s ace. Gone is the faffing with the controls. Now, it’s as easy as:

‘Alexa, ask Hive to boost heating.’

And bingo! It’s also controllable via an app and the new (easier to understand) thermostat on the wall. The app will be particularly handy when we’re back at football, freezing in the South Stand, from where we can set the heating to warm up the house for when we get back home.

Instead of having the heating set to come on at certain hours in the morning and evening like we used to, we just ask for a boost whenever we need it (which thus far equates to fewer hours than we had it on for last winter, despite us both being at home all day every day now).

Hive also offer smart lighting (‘Alexa, dim the lights’) – which we won’t be able to resist for much longer – indoor cameras, smart plugs and window/door sensors.

If you like the sound of it, you can get £30 off here.

The Big Screen

Netflix continues to provide great companionship. We’ve been watching a lot of dark stuff lately – Snowpiercer and Ratched. To lighten the mood – and get us in the festive spirit now the nights are drawing in – we have started watching Christmas movies. This weekend’s instalments have been Christmas Inheritance and Nativity. Between Netflix and Amazon Prime, I think we could watch a different Christmas movie every night between now and Christmas Day. Recommendations welcomed!

Lee has been busy upskilling and improving his videography skills. It seems such a long time since I was his roving reporter on Blackpool awaydays! I assist with his live watchalongs of Blackpool matches. Here are our latest two from this week:

Blackpool v Charlton Athletic

The big talking point in this game – aside from our infestation of fruit flies – was James Husband’s dismissal in the first minute – his second red card of the season. He’s had a lot of stick for this – with some fans calling for him to be sacked. And, yes, he is perhaps too often guilty of challenging rashly. On this occasion, however, he prevented an almost-certain goal in the first minute – and I don’t believe this Blackpool side has the ability to come back from going a goal down in the first minute. As it was, the goal was prevented and Blackpool actually hung on until the 83rd minute – by which time Charlton were down to ten men themselves – before conceding. Sure, we still lost, but I don’t think Husband is particularly culpable on this occasion. Without that challenge, we’d have been losing from the off and we’d have enjoyed the game even less than we did.

Blackpool v Milton Keynes Dons

This was a terrible match between two sides with little to offer, so we spent much of the stream talking about midget gems. On this occasion, it was Blackpool who broke the deadlock on the 66th minute with the only goal of the game. It was great to welcome Sullay Kaikai back into the team after his injury. He makes such a difference to the team, winning and taking free-kicks, delivering corners and scoring goals. I’d be tempted to play him up front in the middle for all the goals our strikers are reaping (nay spraying with weedkiller).

Far from being the highlight of our week, football is fast becoming a cause of stress (and distress). Still, at least we have it in our lives again – and it does offer a routine and a chance to chat with fellow fans. It is causing me to comfort eat and drink on a Saturday (and Tuesday) night, though. Perhaps I ought to start taking a walk after matches instead, to clear my head and try to regain some form of fitness…

…or could they just start a little winning run pretty please…

#UTMP

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