Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Christmas Day Antics

Christmas Morning: The Dream & The Presents

On Christmas morning I dreamt that Lee and I had upsized to a huge house with more rooms than we knew what to do with. Having initially thought we would ‘grow into’ the house (as you do), we decided – after decorating only one or two rooms – that the project was simply too large and decided to sell. Ben Mansford (the CEO of Blackpool FC) bought the house, quickly renovated the garden and was soon using it to make money from falconry displays. At first I was annoyed that we hadn’t thought of that but realised it had been a lot of work to do the garden and frankly life is too short.

Lee and I didn’t do Christmas presents this year as we have recently got a new car (as my little Fiesta was not great for all these long road trips). However I did have a few pressies to open from friends. I thought I had been quite clear about my diet over the last couple of months but this is what I got.

It was a brilliant haul and I would simply have to manage getting through it over a long period as opposed to all at once over Christmas. But I had willpower now, right…?

I did also get beer (oops!) and other stuff, including tea-related items (tea is my Drink of Choice before midday) including these dinosaur tea strainers.

What a way to start the day with a smile

Christmas Dinner: Water’s Edge

In my pre-diet days I had booked us in at Water’s Edge in St Annes for a three-course Christmas dinner. We’d been here two years previously on Christmas Day – as well as eating here many times since – and it was lovely. I was delighted we had got in this year too. When the time came to select my menu options, I realised it wasn’t particularly diet-friendly but I knew it was important to support pubs so of course I kept the booking and decided to have Christmas Day as a ‘flexi-syn’ day on the SlimmingWorld plan. I tend to do this once a week anyway (using my syns on beer) so it would make a change to ‘binge-syn’ with food for a change.

On arrival at the pub at 1230, we were greeted at the door and shown to our table. We were advised that our food would be brought to us but we should go to the bar to get drinks. As we took our seats at the rear of the pub, Lee realised he’d left something in the car (as usual), so he went off to sort that while I went to the bar. One beer wouldn’t hurt, right? It was Christmas Day after all.

I was pleased to see the pub was bustling with diners, although many were seated and it did not take long to get served at the bar. I had a Two Hoots.

Now back at the table, our starters had already arrived.

Smoked Salmon and Prawn Bruschetta with a Bloody Mary mayonnaise. But can anyone tell me what the green things on stalks are? I thought they were capers but they tasted more pickly. I probably should have asked at the time…

I simply can’t help but analyse a plate of food for syns and was immediately thinking ‘I should have asked for the mayo on the side’ and ‘I’ll just eat the fish and leave the bread.’

As this was running through my head, two strangers appeared at our table.

‘Hello. You don’t know me but you recommended this place to us to eat so I thought we’d come over and say hello and thank you. And here he is.’

He pointed at the young man with him.

My brain whirred. I was clearly supposed to know who this was. At length it dawned on me.

‘Oh – Sonny Carey!’

Some weeks ago, a man had been in touch with me via Twitter asking for recommendations for where to go for Christmas dinner. I was chuffed that I was recognised as an authority on food and I had recommended Water’s Edge as I knew it to be excellent. He later explained that he was up visiting his son who ‘couldn’t boil an egg’ and revealed that this son was Sonny Carey – Blackpool’s recent signing from Kings Lynn Town who my scout friend had been raving about and who has been really impressing in the first team and scored a wondergoal against Peterborough last week.

Now of course at this point I should have raved about Sonny’s goal and congratulated him and thanked him and said how well he was doing and how proud his dad must be but, in truth, I can’t even remember what I said, if anything. I hadn’t been prepared for this.

‘Are you going to Huddersfield tomorrow?’ enquired Neil.

‘Oh yes – we’ll be there.’

‘See you there, then.’

‘Yes – see you there.’

As they went back to their table, I remarked to Lee:

‘Blimey – Santa brought us Sonny Carey for Christmas! Wasn’t that lovely of them to come over?’

‘Eh? What?’

‘That was Sonny Carey. I even said his name out loud for your benefit.’

Dear reader, this was proof if proof be needed that Lee does not listen to me. Perhaps he, too, was distracted by his starter. But boy was he so annoyed that he’d missed Sonny (despite him standing right next to him) although, to be fair, he wasn’t looking.

‘I can’t believe it. I would have told him how much we love him and how amazing that goal was last week. He’s our best prospect here in years. I can’t believe that.’

Lee was devastated. I realised I could – and should – have communicated better to him while our visitors were at the table. But my verbal communication skills do need work. I’m a writer and this is how I communicate best. So, if you’re reading Neil (or Sonny) please know that we love to watch Sonny play and haven’t been this excited about a young player for a very, very long time. And you are very welcome in this special tangerine family.

But back to dinner, as I know the food is what you are here for! My main was listed on the menu as Traditional Roast Turkey with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables, a pig in blanket, orange and gingerbread(!) flavour stuffing and gravy. This was served carvery style so we waited for the queue to go down before heading over. The carver was very friendly despite having started work at 4am to get our dinner prepared for us. What a legend. I opted for no Yorkshire Pudding (not sure where they sit on the SlimmingWorld plan but I know they take up too much room on a plate at a carvery) and no pig in blanket (I’m not a massive fan of bacon or sausages) but I couldn’t resist that stuffing (although only allowed myself a taste). Turkey and veg are all free on plan but I treated myself to some cranberry sauce and gravy as syns because it was Christmas. And very tasty it all was too. No pic because you’re probably sick of the sight of turkey by now, aren’t you? Also I forgot to take one…

This afternoon I had been tasked by my friend Brian with finding out why this pub was called Water’s Edge when, by his reckoning, there was no water anywhere near it. I asked the young waiter, who looked blank. But then Lee piped up, suggesting that this was where the sea used to come in to. Internet research backed this up and the pub website confirms that indeed the tide did come into here 10,000 years ago. So we’re gaining more land here at the seaside – who knew?

By now a large party had arrived at the table next to us. I was very excited to see a dinosaur walking across their table, while the man seated next to me was battling to insert batteries into a lizard. Happily, Lee had won a mini screwdriver set in his cracker, so offered this by way of assistance. The man battled for quite a long time to try and get the screws out – using every screwdriver in the set – much to the amusement of the man seated opposite.

‘Hurry up – they’re nearly on dessert.’

(Then, later, to us)

‘So, do you have plans for new year…’

Lizard man: ‘This seems an awful lot of work to get to the battery compartment.’

When he finally got all the screws out, he couldn’t figure out where the batteries went. And then he realised the battery compartment was on the other side and opened easily… But now he had to screw it all back together. Oh how we laughed.

Meanwhile dessert came.

This was Traditional Christmas Pudding with brandy sauce and fresh redcurrants. Custard would have been nice but this was still great. An added bonus was witnessing the lizard scuttling across the next table. Scoll forward to 4m30 in this video to see him in action.

I suggested this would be really funny to take on holiday overseas and the owners of the lizard agreed that it would work well on the beach.

All in all, what a fab Christmas dinner that had been. What more could you ask for than a Blackpool player, a dinosaur, a lizard, good company, good beer (I had two – oops!) and good food?

Christmas Evening: Netflix O’Clock

Back home I messaged Neil to apologise for not really realising what was happening when they came over and he apologised for ambushing us at dinner. He said Sonny had recognised me in the pub from my blogs, which made me feel even worse for not recognising him. That took me back to #FanzineGate, when I was ambushed by the Blackpool FC board of directors outside the ground and didn’t know who they were either. I really should start getting the Gazette again so these faces are more familiar to me. Maybe things will improve when I finally get my new contact lenses. At the moment I’m struggling to make out players’ numbers let alone their faces. Happily, I’d won a mini magnifying glass in my cracker so that was two practical things we had won today. Anyway, more of Sonny and Neil tomorrow…

But now it was time for some well-earned couch-potatoing! We’d spent the last few weeks manically focussed on getting to the end of How I Met Your Mother and Homeland before they get taken off Netflix and had completed our mission on Christmas Eve. Both had amazing endings. However this had severely limited our Christmas movie viewing. We put this right by watching this highly recommended movie last night.

But today – on Christmas Day – I could not find another Christmas movie that we hadn’t already seen or that took my fancy. So there was only one thing for it…

Money Heist binge!

Not festive in the slightest but it was such a treat to have the time to sit and binge-watch one of our favourite series.

I got hungry again of course so raided the freezer for a beef bhuna that I prepared earlier in the week. That was diet-friendly but, because I’d had two pints with dinner, that little imp on my shoulder was persuading me to go off plan and ‘have one of your Christmas beers’. Well, it was Christmas, after all, so I went for this one.

It was wax-sealed, so I handed it over to Lee to open as I didn’t have a clue where to start. When I heard him screaming I realised he must have got it open and, indeed, that was the case, with his Christmas jumper now coated in beer. Mercifully, most of the bottle was saved and it went down very nicely indeed as a perfect nightcap.

Cheers! And a cheeky promo for my friend’s excellent pub in Birmingham.

I’d calculated a 1030 start was required for the match tomorrow. Would I wake up in time after my first beer at home in 11 weeks? Find out in my next blog: Huddersfield Town v Blackpool.