Jane Stuart – Writer

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

A Football Tourist’s Guide to Hull – Part One

Ten years ago I undertook a pub crawl of Hull ahead of the first match of the season on a Friday night. Thus I knew it to be quirky and well worthy of the full Football Tourist’s Guide treatment. I booked a two-day trip and below are the findings from Day One.

The alarm went off at 0700 and I sang my head off to Pulp’s Different Class as I showered. Today was Tuesday but it felt like a weekend because it was football and hollibobs rolled into one, which is exactly how I like it.

We got on the road at 0815. We’d fuelled up at the weekend in advance of our trip, so we didn’t have that worry today. We weren’t quite sure how long a tank would last us but it would get us to Hull. Getting home would be tomorrow’s problem.

It was raining – and forecast rain for the duration of our little trip. I already had a rain playlist – created when I was living in Walsall and was missing home. There’s a whole album of different types of rain on there as well as rain-related songs.

I was tweeting en route and was offered suggestions for said playlist, which I readily added.

We called in at Hartshead Moor Services. Immediately I was hit by a wonderful aroma that I recognised as Subway. When I commuted by train into Birmingham, I passed the Subway on New Street station every day and it was magnificent. Truth be told, I’ve never had a Subway. I mean, how do you fit one of those things in your mouth? Bloody terrifying stuff. But I always did enjoy the aroma. Was it melted cheese? Smelled like pizza.

I popped to the Ladies, which also had a powerful and pleasant aroma – some sort of fruity air freshener. Whilst drying my hands (you can take it as read it was a Dyson if there’s no photo), I wondered how good the chewable toothbrushes actually were. Could they not sell a mini toothpaste and toothbrush set instead?

I made a new friend outside the shop but somehow resisted buying him. This willpower was not to last…

I browsed the snackage aisles in vain for the new Walkers range. I had somehow resisted buying the Thai Green Curry ones at Sainsbury’s in Manchester Piccadilly station last week but now I knew there to be Fish & Chips flavour too and there was no way I was missing out on those. Would I have to dip them in gravy?

I settled for these: a new flavour I hadn’t tried before.

We continued on our way and, as we approached Hull, the skies brightened and the rain ceased and desisted. This was unexpected yet pleasing.

After the Whitby debacle, we researched parking in advance and were delighted to find a multi-storey car park close to our hotel which was £3 for 24 hours. As we entered and parked up we were singing ‘Wombling In The Rain’ very loudly. They did some great tunes, The Wombles. Hmm the pay and display machine only took cash – and we didn’t really do cash these days. When will we learn that some places are still cash only, while we remain in this strange hybrid COVID-ridden world? We wondered if it would be ok to leave the car as we darted to find a cashpoint and a convenience store to ‘buy some chewing gum’ to generate change. There was a guard’s office by the car park exit, so we gave him a knock. He didn’t seem concerned at all and waved us on. And when we returned to the car a few minutes later, there was no sign of anything untoward under our windscreen. Plus we could now relax and not have to spend the weekend worrying about parking a la Whitby.

As is the norm, Lee realised a few minutes down the road that he had left something in the car. I needed the loo, so could have done without this added delay.

‘Well there’s a shopping centre here. Why don’t you go to the loo in there and I’ll meet you back here?’

‘But it’s a shopping centre. I get lost in shopping centres.’

‘Oh you’ll be fine. See you back here!’

And off he went. I suspected he wasn’t taking my concerns seriously.

I really tried to pay attention to where I was going and where the entrance door was in relation to the direction I was facing. It’s behind me. Still behind me. Now it’s to my left. Where are the toilets? I’ll just head up here. Ooh it’s eerily quiet in here. Where are the toilets? Ah the third floor. Right, how do I get up there? Hmm that’s a down escalator. And that one. Ooh there’s a lift – I’ll go up in that. Now where are the toilets? Ah there they are! Is that man following me?

I conducted my business in the Ladies and made my way back out. Could I find my way? Right there’s a down escalator…and another one. I was getting good at this! I was definitely on the right floor, which was a good start. Now I know it’s not those doors because the ones I came through were not automatic. Right. Where is there another entrance? No, nothing over there. It must be those doors, then. This doesn’t look right, though. I went through them anyway and found myself in the car park. I rang Lee.

‘I’m lost.’

Lee suggested I retrace my steps back to the lift, where he was waiting for me. It transpired that, when I took the escalator down to the first floor, it took me to a separate area that was not accessible from the same floor where we had come in. How was I supposed to know that was a thing? But at least Lee now fully understood that I really did have a problem with shopping centres.

‘Honestly, it’s no wonder your parents never took you anywhere.’

I tried to explain that, growing up, everywhere was in a straight line (with the sea visible to the west) or I got there on the bus or I followed someone else, therefore I never developed a sense of direction. These days there is Google Maps, but that’s not much help in shopping centres. I made Lee promise never to send me into one alone again.

As we made our way across town, we observed many of Hull’s quirks: some expected, others not.

I know this is Yorkshire but…is this really still a thing? More on this shortly…

We understood from my Hull research guru Tony of Hop & Vine fame (more of him later) that Hull’s toads represented Philip Larkin. Hull was the poet’s adopted home town. But why toads? Well because of his poem about the internal struggles of the working man, represented by and entitled Toads. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding this very relatable…

Streetlife Museum of Transport

Our first scheduled stop was this museum: mainly because I knew it had trams and I’m from Blackpool so I like trams.

We weren’t allowed onboard this tram – there was a notice explaining why: something to do with COVID or preserving the vehicles, I’m not sure which. But you could step up onto it to look inside, so I did. Here, I heard voices (I know, this is happening a lot) from yesteryear, discussing a boy who had recently lost his leg from going under a tram. I earwigged a little longer in the hope that the conversation would turn to something less gruesome, but all the tales appeared to be about transport-related injuries. I chuckled to myself (wrong reaction, I know) as other visitors to the museum shot me quizzical looks (for they could hear no voices where they stood).

My chuckles escalated to hearty laughter as I spotted Postman Pat’s van inside this transport museum. And check out the personalised numberplate.

As I entered into the next room, I was surprised and delighted to find it was full of retro arcade games.

As I gazed around the room in awe, not knowing where to start, Lee arrived and pulled me in another direction to ‘look at this, look at this’.

There were retro cars (including steam-powered ones, which I didn’t know had been a thing.

And there were retro shops, too. I spotted a chip making machine in the window of the ironmongers.

And chocolate in the window of the sweet shop.

Via this circuitous route I found myself back in the arcade. Most of the machines required 20p to work. I had no coinage but Lee had some from buying the chewing gum earlier. There was a change machine and soon I was armed with six 20ps. Right – where to start?

1. The foot massage machine. This was ace. It left our feet tingling.

2. Grand Prix Racer. We had no idea which car was which but, on comparing the colours against the controls after the event, it transpired I had won narrowly.

3. Table ice hockey. Lee beat me 9-0. I couldn’t get to grips with the controls at all.

4. The clairvoyant. I grabbed the lever while she predicted my personality.

Way to go to boost my ego after that 9-0 defeat!

5. Haunted House. This was pretty cool, with ghouls appearing in the living room.

6. The Nightwatchman. Boring at the start (perhaps indicating the monotony of the job?) but skeletons eventually appeared.

I wasn’t going anywhere near The Laughing Policeman. I spent my childhood traumatised by the manic laughter of the clown at the Pleasure Beach. This got worse following the fire at the Funhouse, when the clown’s severed head was featured on the front page of the Gazette (HAHAHA you think you can kill me HAHAHA never HAHAHA I’ll haunt your nightmares forever HAHAHA). It’s still there now. I don’t go so often these days.

Heading back out into the real world, I was interested to observe a brown pigeon (further reading indicated this may technically be red).

We were starving by now, so stopped to ask some natives where we could find somewhere to eat (my chippy of choice, Papas, had closed down and the recommended chippy, Viking Fisheries, was quite a distance away, en route to the ground. During the course of our enquiries, we learned that Netflix were round the corner, filming a new series called Enola Holmes, about Sherlock Holmes’ sister. Ah that explained the pigs’ heads and quaint shops. They had dressed the shop fronts with fascias, so it didn’t really look like that in real life. I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or disappointed.

We passed ‘the home of the original hull pattie’ – sadly now closed.

Would I get to try this local delicacy this weekend? Research revealed it was some sort of battered sagey potato thing. I wasn’t sure I liked the sound of it but I was game to try it. Every awayday is a Bushtucker Trial…

Head of Steam

While Lee had been asking the natives for directions, I had been consulting my pub research from last season in my virtual crawl of Hull to see where I ate. The answer was this place. I was a huge fan of the Head of Steam in Birmingham – one of that city’s best pubs – and we always used to drink in the one on Huddersfield station back in the day (although on my last visit I had to return the beer as it was undrinkable).

This pub was a little off the beaten track but it was quite the stunner.

I ordered half a Small World Barncliffe Bitter and half a Rooster’s London Thunder.

The welcome in here was somewhat cool and Lee wasn’t too enamoured with the menu, so we quickly supped up and moved on.

We headed towards the marina, which was like a big car park for boats. Where had all these people come from and where were they going? Why were they in Hull? And how long for?

We passed a line of bars and restaurants. Talk about a great location! Ours was, of course, right at the end. The further out towards the sea we walked, the more blustery the weather became. This seemed even blowier than Blackpool! I was glad I had remembered my hat.

The Minerva

We were here not only to eat (I had checked they served food) but also to see the smallest pub room in Britain. Happily, we were seated in it, so we got to experience it in its full glory.

I do love a good snug and it was lovely to have our own private dining room without fear of being disturbed. Every pub should have one of these!

The food was delicious too: hearty home-made grub. I had been craving a chilli since someone mentioned it on tv the night before (I couldn’t remember the last time I had had one) so that’s what I had.

Look – they do half and half

And here are the pump clips for your consideration.

I had a half of each of the Little Valley Stoodley Stout and the Tetley’s Bitter (because how often do you see that on cask?)

Now it was time to return to the car but only to unload it, as we were now able to check into our hotel. We were staying at the Ibis, which was pleasantly cheap and had everything we needed (a bed and a shower). Breakfast was not included – and I wasn’t sure I’d fancy eating first thing in the morning – but it was £2 cheaper if we booked it tonight. I was hesitant (rightly so, it would turn out) but Lee insisted and we booked it.

In town my eye was caught by some posters in a shop window promoting gigs from artists that I loved, including Boo Hewerdine. Hmm, what was this place? Well, let me tell you, dear reader. It was Wrecking Ball Music & Books. An invisible but powerful force pulled me inside. There were music tees, rows of vinyl, cassettes (cassettes!) and a whole host of music memorabilia. Towards the back were shelves of books and then a cafe. Oh this was heaven! If only we had time to stay…

But, now I had my drinking head on, it was time to explore a couple more as we made our way (somewhat circuitously) towards the ground. There was to be a lot of walking between now and kick-off (we had abandoned the car and had no intention of returning for it) but happily there was plenty of quirkiness to be observed along the way.

Whalebone Inn

This had been billed as a must visit by Tourguide Tony – and also by Past Me on my virtual pub crawl of Hull. Having walked half an hour to get here, I was glad of a drink and a sit down when we got there.

I had the mild and the milk stout

This was a traditional pub with a display of items made from whalebone as well as a wall dedicated to Hull City memorabilia. The cask beer boards were traditional chalk boards, but the bottle beer boards were of the electronic variety we had seen in the chippy in Whitby.

I loved that they were selling crisp sandwiches and had to inform Ben immediately.

Ben tweeted about his crisp sandwiches daily earlier this year but is now down to one a week. It’s not something I’ve ever tried. I’m not a huge sandwich lover and, when I do have one, I like it to be moist. Ben does get round this by adding all sorts of weird and wonderful things to his crisp sandwiches. I’ll have to give it a go one day. Maybe Roast Beef Monster Munch with horseradish and dipping gravy?

Hop & Vine

This was my favourite pub from my last actual crawl of Hull ten years ago. It is remarkable – and memorable – for being situated in the basement of a row of houses. It’s my kind of quirky.

Here are the beers that were on offer tonight.

And here’s a close-up of that lovely fluffy half of mild.

We chatted at length with our host Tony, with whom I had become acquainted via Twitter since I wrote about this place in my virtual crawl earlier in the year. He had been super helpful in providing inside knowledge to help me prepare for this trip (and in providing a phone charging station right now, as our batteries were running perilously low and we hadn’t even got to the match yet). It is lovely to meet my Twitter friends in person.

We also got chatting with a local called Mike who proved to be a mine of fascinating local information. I mentioned the huge grain warehouses we had passed on our walk to the Whalebone. Mike said that grain was big business here because it was used to make oil in a similar process to how they made oil in the whaling industry. Mike also filled us in on the local rugby rivalry in Hull, with one team being east of the River Hull and the other to the west, so the two could never merge.

We were soon joined by a couple of Seasiders and of course the conversation turned to the Lucky Orange Aero, which I fear is turning into something of a monster as I’m being asked about it everywhere now. I explained that tonight I was trying a different tactic, as I wasn’t sure the Orange Aero was lucky in midweek (we had lost our last midweek match despite the Orange Aero being present and consumed).

I said I would accept full responsibility if we didn’t win tonight.

Mike, the Hull fan, was listening intently to all of this, in the knowledge that his team were struggling and could do with all the luck they could get.

‘Hmm. Does it have to be something that’s eaten? Because I’m thinking I could try some chip spice.’

He raised the heel of his thumb to his nose.

‘Ah you mean snort it? Yeah, that might work…’

Chip spice is another Hull delicacy. It’s some sort of paprika seasoning that they put on their chips. Sadly I had got our eating timings all wrong today so we had missed out on the Hull pattie and the chip spice. I am aware this is a development area; however at least it gives me something new to look forward to on my next visit to Hull.

Before we left, I made a visit to the Ladies, where I was delighted to find this in the cubicle.

It’s little touches like this that make me fall in love with a pub. There used to be a bowl of sweets and even a Visitors Book in the Ladies at the Wellington in Birmingham and I frequented that place for years.

It’s not just pubs, either. A number of football clubs now – including Chasetown and Tranmere – have free Lady Products in their facilities, which always makes me smile because it’s so thoughtful and recognises that sometimes women are ‘caught short’ when they are out and about on a matchday.

After bidding a quick farewell to Skelly, the pub skeleton, we headed out into the rain.

Hull City v Blackpool

I always check the weather forecast before leaving the house and I knew it was going to rain today. I had even brought my walking shoes so I could change into them, in the full knowledge that my Skechers had no grip on wet, slippy surfaces. But my feet had been pampered these last 18 months as I had worn only slippers and Skechers (which felt like slippers). During that time my bunion had given me no trouble and I had even learned how to walk without my usually obligatory pigeon-toes (which had caused the bunion in the first place). Hence these days my feet are not happy when I wear shoes. My walking shoes aggravate my bunion and, as such, I was reluctant to wear them. I didn’t want it to hurt for the next few days. The price I paid for this was slipping and sliding my way across Hull, risking an injury that could be a lot worse than an aching bunion. Lee tsked at me and insisted on taking me trainer shopping soon.

I remembered it was a long walk to the ground across a bridge. It was a little way out but not quite so far as some, such that it was possible to walk there. Although it was a bit grim on a drizzly night like this. The ground appeared lit up beautifully on the horizon.

I was glad to arrive at the ground in one piece – but the concourse in the away end was perilous too.

Grr. I completed my usual pre-match admin (toilet, bottle of water) and headed as quickly and safely as possible to my seat.

During a lull in the first half, I observed the adverts for the stadium sponsor, MKM, and realised I had no idea who MKM were or what they did. Is that therefore good advertising? I find this a lot with stadium advertising. I’ve just looked it up and they are a building supplies company. Wouldn’t it be helpful if they put that on their advert?

Back to the match, Shayne Lavery scored just before half time – out of nowhere – and all was right with the world.

Apart from the large group of standing fans that was blocking my view of the goal closest to us, which we would be attacking in the second half. I therefore moved towards the back at half time so I could see the game better.

On the back row I met with MG, who had something for me. You may recall I bought some exciting loose-leaf tea in Middlesbrough recently, not realising that I didn’t have an infuser. Tonight MG was coming to the rescue with not only this little beauty…

…but also a nice selection of very-out-of-date loose-leaf teas. Prior to tonight, MG had enquired how I felt about out-of-date things and I said it was fine as long as it wasn’t going to kill me or make me ill. Tea was therefore fine. What was the worst that could happen? Perhaps it had lost its flavour a little? (Future Me can report that the tea is still quite delicious, so thank you very much, MG).

The second half came and I thought Blackpool played better, without creating many proper chances, as is the Blackpool way. Hull hardly threatened but somehow scored against the run of play. By this time they were down to ten men (somewhat harshly, I thought). It stayed 1-1 and we came out feeling like we’d lost.

Wm Hawkes

Google Maps says it takes 32 minutes to walk from the ground to this pub but, realistically, slipping and sliding on Hull’s sodden cobbles, it seemed to take much longer – and we lost two men en route. Having lost Chris somewhere along the way and despatched Lee back at the hotel, so he could get to work on the match vlog, Houstie and I arrived at the pub drenched, tired and very much in need of a pint. We were relieved to find it still open, knowing that some pubs close early these days, and with the walk here revealing Hull to be a Ghost Town on this wet Tuesday night.

I had a pint of Market Porter

A rather merry lady seated at the bar invited us to join her but I really wanted to spend this last hour of the day having a quality catch-up with a friend I had not seen properly in far too long. We took a seat in the window and had no intention of moving until we were asked to.

I had passed this pub a couple of times earlier today and Past Me had billed this, too, as a must not miss pub on a visit to Hull (it seemed there were a lot of these, but Hull is ace, as I was already discovering). Regular readers will know my photography skills go downhill as the night progresses, but here is an example of this pub’s quirkiness.

After a good natter and a lot of laughter, it was time to squelch back out into the rain and back to our hotel.

While I was out drinking – and later sleeping – this is what Lee was creating:

It had been an action-packed, exhausting and very wet day out in Hull. We had one item on our itinerary to tick off in the morning, then we would be on our way…or would we? Hull was to prove a very difficult city to leave and you may note that this is only Part One of A Football Tourist’s Guide to Hull…

COMING SOON: Part Two, including:

  • Nibble
  • Humber Street (Hull’s hipster quarter)
  • Dead Bod
  • Taphouse & Bone Machine Brew Co
  • The Deep (aquarium)
  • Dinosaurs
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