Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Portsmouth v Blackpool: Portsmouth Pubs

You may recall I was dreading this fixture last season because (a) Portsmouth is Very Far Away and (b) it was scheduled for Bank Holiday Monday, thus rendering public transport ‘challenging’. One of the many advantages of these virtual trips is that I can effectively teleport anywhere, so the perils of public transport have less of an impact. Nonetheless, let’s look at how it could have gone…

The journey by rail is far simpler than I had expected (and as expensive at £131.90 for an Off Peak Return). On Friday morning I take the 0754 from Blackpool North (get this) direct to London Euston. I spend the journey working on my book. Having put it to one side for a couple of weeks, I am revisiting the difficult period of my life that I need to get written, hoping to push past it by the end of this month. It is making me depressed again but not making progress with the book has been causing me consternation, so I have resolved to work through it and get it out of the way, so I can see an end to the bleak period. I now have a strict timetable to adhere to, such that the first draft of my book is scheduled to be completed by the end of March. As I have two projects on the go currently, it is important that I maintain this discipline. I now find myself telling myself off when I start ADHDing, picking up my phone and finding jobs to do round the house. Time flies by when I’m writing and it is good for my mental health as a rule.

‘We are now approaching London Euston. Please make sure you have all your personal belongings with you before leaving the train.’

Blimey, are we here already? Now comes the tricky part of the journey (for me, with my Tube phobia). I have to navigate my way to Waterloo (couldn’t escape if I wanted to). Today I again chose to walk this route, Google Maps indicating it would take 46 minutes (which means 40, unless I ADHD en route, which of course I’m going to). I’m enjoying these walks across London, which are helping me familiarise myself with the layout of the city as well as allowing me to stretch my legs to break up a long journey. En route, I pass the following landmarks:

  • Forbidden Planet London Megastore – As I am working on a sci-fi project in addition to my memoirs, I can’t resist popping in here for some inspiration. I’ve never been to a ‘comic book store’ (as they call them in Big Bang Theory), as historically this hasn’t been my world (I did read the Beano until I was 21, but I don’t think that counts). I peruse the bookshelves with interest: Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Harry Potter…I love all of those. Why have I never read any of them (Harry Potter aside)? There’s a Wicca section – I always wanted to be a witch when I was little, as a result of reading the Meg & Mog books. I confess the freedom of flying around on a broomstick with a cat is still appealing. Could this be my world? Why have I never taken the time to enjoy London before? Ambling (Wombling?) overground, seeing what the city has to offer is far more fun than cramming on a crowded tube with miserable people refusing to make eye contact with you.
  • Royal Opera House – Ah yes – culture. I remember that. I used to enjoy the theatres and festivals in Birmingham frequently when I lived down there. Alas I haven’t had much chance to experience the cultural offerings of Blackpool and Manchester since relocating, as the arts have been stifled by lockdown. But there is no keeping a good artist down. Streams are available to watch from the Royal Opera house here, if that’s what floats your boat. I rather fancy a ‘night at the opera’ for a change from Netflix.
  • London Film Museum – This is certainly of cultural interest, given that (a) Lee is a filmmaker; and (b) I am now writing scripts for television. Gosh I am all over London! Why have I never done this before? It’s magnificent. Here they have hosted ‘Bond In Motion’, ‘the largest official collection of original James Bond vehicles’. That doesn’t particularly interest me, as (a) I’ve never watched a James Bond movie, which has lost me a lot of points in quizzes over the years; and (b) I don’t get excited about cars. I move swiftly on and hope the next exhibition is Star Trek themed.

From Waterloo station, I take the 1245 train, which I’ll be on for two hours. I use this time to rattle through another chapter of my book. It’s important I take full advantage of this time to write – and travelling alone is good quality writing time – especially considering I’ll be on the lash for a couple of days on arrival in Portsmouth.

I land at Portsmouth & Southsea station on time at 1443. I make it time to start sampling some local beer…

The Southsea Brewing Company

The Southsea Brewing Company have their own micropub and taproom called The Brewers Tap, which excites me greatly. It opened in 2019 and used to be a newsagents. The Tap is currently offering draught beer, which was a welcome sight.

  • Southsea Lights Out (Black IPA)
  • Southsea Casemate (American IPA)
  • Makemake Space Soda IV (Fruited Sour)
  • Odyssey Brew Co Baknaffek (American IPA)
  • Lost & Grounded Keller Pils
  • Norman Hunt & Sons Conquest Cider

Black IPA for me please! I love that I’m finding this everywhere now.

And, dear reader, there’s a fridge, which is never great for me at the start of a crawl (or anywhere on it, truth be told). They have the following Southsea beers:

  • Heavy Artillery (IPA)
  • Casemate
  • Low Tide (Pale Ale)
  • X-Ray Spex (DDH IPA)
  • Lights Out
  • Bad Eye Bill (NEIPA)
  • Deserted Treasures (Sweet Cherry Stout)

I need that cherry stout in my life!

The snackage menu is exciting here, too: wasabi peas, chilli & black pepper olives, peanut butter pretzels, BBQ peanuts…and woah, what’s this?

Naga chilli pork crackling

I have a complicated relationship with pork-based snackage. If I’m in a pub and there’s an open packet of pork scratchings on the table, I’ll always take one even though they smell and taste gross and breaking a tooth is a real concern. Pork crackling I find less offensive, especially on the latter point, as they’re a bit like Quavers and I like Quavers. But naga chilli pork crackling? I rashly ordered a Naga Jalfrezi at an Indian a few months ago (when were allowed to undertake such dangerous activities as eating in restaurants) and, not only was it uncomfortable to eat, but there were some very unpleasant aftereffects as well. I won’t be making that mistake again. But how harmful can this crackling be? After all, I do like food that makes me cry (I always lash way too much English mustard onto a ham sandwich).

Southsea canned beers are available for national delivery. Draught and guest beers and snackage are available for delivery in Portsmouth only.

Staggeringly Good Brewery

A dinosaur-themed brewery. What’s not to love?

When I moved down to Walsall there was a pub called The Imperial and it was full of dinosaurs. There was a huge brontosaurus in the middle of the pub and if you looked up you could see pterodactyls. It was truly magnificent. Sadly, the dinosaurs moved on; the brontosaurus moved to Drayton Manor Theme Park, where he sadly died, as he wasn’t built for the outdoors. Later, the pub was closed down as part of Wetherspoons’ downscaling exercise. It was a real shame.

I am therefore delighted to find dinosaurs here.

Check out their artwork:

Their beer range includes:

  • Wrecker w/ Blueberry, Pancake + Maple Syrup
  • Souropod – Mango, Raspberry & Vanilla
  • Souropod – Papaya & Lychee Kettle Sour
  • Dawn Stealer Black IPA
  • VelociRapture Divine | Divide New England IPA
  • CocoaDocus – Imperial Chocolate Stout 
  • Impeach It Don’t Bleach It

Mmm this is a tough choice… I go for a third of each of the stout, mango and blueberry.

And look at this glass! I need one of these:

Next day national delivery is available for £3.99 (free for orders over £50). They also have a taproom (closed at present, obvs).

Urban Island Brewing Company

Urban Island were founded in 2014 and were Portsmouth & South East Hants CAMRA Brewery of the Year in 2019 and 2020 (dinosaurs clearly aren’t part of the judging criteria, but they should be). They have a taproom where they host events with live music and street food. This sounds like my kinda place.

Their beer range is thus:

  • Pale XX
  • Perceptions
  • Nothing As It Seems
  • Soul Surfing
  • Distance Between Dreams
  • Tunnel Vision
  • #beerwithnoname
  • Big City Small Island
  • Urban Graffiti
  • New England
  • Ammo
  • Mosaic
  • Urban Pale
  • Porter 28
  • High & Dry
  • DSB

I can’t resist the Urban Graffiti, which is ‘a cross between a black IPA & stout’, and the Porter 28 ‘gentle hints of smokiness & chocolate’.

Local delivery is available.

Irving & Co Brewers Ltd

‘Invincible ales from Portsmouth’ boasts their website. I like the word Invincible. I always loved Danny Invincibile (of Swindon Town fame). Such a strong name.

Irving & Co were established in 2007 and their current regulars are:

  • Admiral (Classic Stout)
  • Frigate (Golden Bitter)
  • Invincible (Premium Cask Ale)
  • Iron Duke (IPA)
  • Type 42 (Best Bitter)

These are all good, strong names. I like their branding.

Seasonal/festival offerings include:

  • Captain B (Spiced Rum Ale)
  • Thai Me Up (Aromatic Spiced Ale)
  • Red Plum (Christmas Ale)

The spiced rum ale sounds magnificent.

Beer can be collected from the brewery in volumes ranging from 4 to 72 pints.

That’s me done for Friday night. I retire to my hotel to sleep off the journey and the beer and recharge for the match tomorrow.


I wake up with the intention of discovering the touristy stuff of Portsmouth – but realise it’s already 11am! Ain’t nobody got time for that so, after a quick shower, I’m off back to the pub…

Brewhouse & Kitchen

I love this chain. Predominantly south coast based, they have pubs in Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield. Whilst expensive, the food is good and the beer range impressive. What I loved the most, though, was the log fire on one of the tables, with little logs for you to add to keep the fire burning.

There are two of these in Portsmouth: one at the Guildhall and the other in Southsea.

I study their brunch menu and find the most exciting sandwich since the Slutty Rutty Butty (if you know, you know…if you don’t, you will when I take you to Sheffield).

I’m passing on the Prosecco, obvs…

I ask for a side of smokey beans and ask them to hold the hash brown.

I have, of course, ordered this because it’s a new thing, a ‘croll’. I love a good word mash-up. And yet, the more I think about this one, the more it troubles me. Is the ‘r’ hard as in ‘roll’ or French as in ‘croissant’? I think the word ending makes the ‘r’ hard, but I’m by no means comfortable with this. Indeed, I’m so uncomfortable that I want to leave, but I need to wait for my croll/croll and then eat it. To the bar!

  • American Pale Ale
  • Craft Lager
  • Bitter
  • Oatmeal Stout
  • Tropical IPA
  • Black IPA
  • Traditional IPA
  • Peach Kettle Sour

I order a pint of Oatmeal Stout, because oats are breakfast, right?

B&K pubs brew beer onsite and they really are stunning buildings.

They offer brewing and cocktail making classes as well as a beer and food matching experience. If you haven’t been to a Brewhouse & Kitchen I recommend you try them out.

5L mini kegs and cocktail packs are delivered nationwide.

Hole In The Wall

‘A traditional local serving real ales’ and ‘homemade food’ promises the pub’s website. Well this sounds right up my street. But, dear reader, it get better. This pub has…you’ll never guess…a sweet shop! I am beyond excited. I’m glad I didn’t find this place yesterday because, on top of the dinosaur-themed brewery, I think it would have been too much to take for one day. They even sell them by the quarter.

I can spend hours in a sweet shop and today is no exception. I come out with white mice, aniseed balls and a mix of chocolate peanuts and chocolate raisins, all of which are easy to pronounce, even after a breakfast of beer.

There are at least five hand pumps and ‘endeavour to include at least one new beer each week’. Alas the beer range in the pub is something of a mystery – nothing on the website and I can’t find them on Untappd – but who cares when they’ve got a sweet shop?

Beware – this pub has quirky opening hours (3pm-7pm Mon-Fri, 1pm-5pm Sat-Sun).

I have a couple more pubs to go at, but I need to pop to the match on the way…

Portsmouth v Blackpool

I settled back in my seat at Fratton Park with my sweets and that was me set up for the afternoon. I looked behind the goal and there was someone’s face made out of seats and I thought that looked very odd. This is apparently Jimmy Dickinson, Portsmouth’s most famous former player and manager.

James Husband (today sporting a new hairstyle, with the top section of his hair in a ponytail) switched to centre half, replacing the injured Big Marv, with Luke Garbutt back in at left back. I like both players, so was pleased to see them both accommodated in the team.

Watching the game on iFollow (as we do), we are used to one camera angle – and we’ve been ok with that. Today, Pompey ponced about with numerous cameras – to the detriment of the viewer. At corners, the camera was pointing at the players in the box from behind the goal. At free kicks, the camera was focused on the player taking the free kick, not where the ball was played. It was most frustrating. Perhaps I ought to give them credit for trying something different – and I like to think they will improve with practice. But it was annoying today.

It was all Blackpool for the first 25 minutes – and it was delightful to see them playing with smiles on their faces. Kaikai was outstanding, at the centre of some delightful passing moves. Pompey were full of histrionics and their players were writhing on the floor in a way that I can’t begin to imagine any Blackpool player doing. The ref appeared to be falling for everything and wasn’t as authoritative as I’d have liked to see (indeed, he allowed the game to continue at one point when there were two balls on the pitch). I was screaming at the screen for Blackpool to ‘make it count!’ and get a goal but it didn’t come before half time.

As the match progressed, Critch made some cheeky subs that swung the game back in our favour. Demi Mitchell came on, providing a threat down the right wing, so we were now strong down both flanks. Elliot Embleton was also introduced and looked dangerous. Damn, we’re good. And then…oh watch for yourself:

What a player Jerry Yates is. And we thought his goal against Northampton was good! Both are fine examples of what bloody-mindedness can get you as a striker. On both occasions, nothing was going to get in the way of Yates and the goal. The Northampton goal was carefully crafted with persistence. Today’s goal saw Yates continue when the first defender remained stationary and drive forward and carve out a shot from the tightest of angles through three defenders and past the keeper. It was breathtaking stuff and we are so lucky to have this man at Blackpool. Could Yates be a cheeky contender for Player of the Year now Big Marv is out long term?

Here’s our reaction to the match as it happened:

Right – back to the pub to celebrate!

The Old Customs House

This is a Fullers pub. Whilst their beers don’t excite me, I recall from the Old Joint Stock in Birmingham that they do delicious faggots and that sounds just dandy for my tea. I grab a menu on my way to the bar. Please still do them. I don’t think I’ve had faggots since I left The Black Country.

Oh. Game. Dear reader, there’s not much I won’t eat, but I will not eat bunnies.

Instead, I opt for the burger, which comes with the promise of ‘secret sauce’, which I simply cannot resist. I love a good mystery condiment.

Despite thinking I wouldn’t eat anything fluffy, I found it was the fluffiness of this item on the dessert menu that drew me in:

Recent beer checkins on Untappd include:

  • Beavertown Neck Oil (IPA)
  • Dark Star Hophead (golden)
  • Fullers Gales Seafarers Ale (bitter)
  • Fullers ESB
  • Camden Town Off Menu IPA
  • Beavertown Nanobot (IPA)
  • Fullers Frontier (lager)
  • Fullers Vintage Ale (old ale)

As expected, I’m not particularly excited by the beer range here, but I’m eating a lot, so the beer doesn’t matter so much. The Seafarers Ale reminds me of my most recent (actual) visit to Scunthorpe (where they run coach trips to Primark in Birmingham and I still can’t decide if this is better or worse than running coach trips from Blackpool to Walsall Illuminations).

The Merchant House

The food here looks dirty:

Recent beer checkins on Untappd include:

  • Tiny Rebel Super Hero Landing (stout)
  • Pollys Strip & Drift (IPA)
  • DEYA Something Good 10 (IPA)
  • New Zealand Beer Collective All Gose South
  • Pollys Free The Sky (American pale)
  • Brew By Numbers 11 Session IPA – Mosaic
  • Unity Conflux (pale)

I opt for the Tiny Rebel Super Hero Landing. It’s a 13% double milk imperial stout which tastes of salted caramel popcorn. It has rave reviews on Untappd. It is so delicious – and so lethal – that it does me in for the night. I think I’m still tired from the journey yesterday – and I have to do the return trip tomorrow, which will take up most of my day – so I retire early back to my hotel.

On Sunday, I take the 0922-1022 Winchester, 1036-1429 Piccadilly, 1501-1625 Blackpool North. On landing back home, I kicked myself for forgetting the reason I decided to do the return journey by train (as opposed to jumping on the supporters coach): to check out the pub on Blackpool East Station. I am so used to trying to avoid Preston station, I had completely forgotten it had been bombed, rebuilt and rebranded (see Brighton blog). Next time, dear reader…

UTMP.


NB Pics above are taken from the websites referenced, as this was a virtual trip.


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