Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Hull City: GBG Pub Crawl

A Change In Fortunes

It was time for a change today, on the back of two heartbreaking results for Blackpool. Much as I have faith in Critch and the team, I know that I, too, as a fan, have a responsibility to them through lucky talismen. We all have lucky socks/pants/routines, don’t we? I gave considerable thought to mine, which clearly needed reviewing.

My Lucky Orange Aeros had brought much luck to the team earlier in the season. However, since I had started my diet and stopped eating them, our form had dipped. I did still have one in my coat pocket but it was melted and looking sad.

Nor was I giving the Aero any thought, attention, rubs or bites during matches. Something had to change in that department today. I removed the Aero from my pocket and put it in the Naughty Cupboard in my kitchen.

Now, what to wear? Well, we were playing Hull today so I pulled on my Dead Bod tee, which I’d picked up on our recent trip to Hull for the Football Tourist’s Guide (so good, it warranted a two-parter).

Over that, I wore my nu-nu checked shirt, which had arrived on a day (several years ago) when I was feeling low and cheered me up. Would it bring me smiles today?

And then there was the Problem Hat. My friends at Fritidsklader sent me this wonderful hat a few months ago. I waited for the weather to cool before I wore it and, since then, I have hardly taken it off. It’s just sooooooo comfy (fleece-lined and woolly), it doesn’t leave a Klingon-line on my head, it doesn’t leave me with ‘hat hair’ and it looks great too.

The problem with this hat is that our form has dipped since I have been wearing it. Of course I complained to Fritidsklader about this – and they did lift the curse for the next match as well as sending me a new hat. But the trouble is I’ve fallen in love with the ‘unlucky’ hat above.

The weather forecast was a balmy 13C today – too warm for a hat, really – but I put it in my coat pocket ‘in case it got nippy later’. I was half-hoping the hat would fall out of my pocket and I would lose it and thus free myself from my tie to this cursed object.

I was also going for a change of routine today. My Twitter friend and fellow beer blogger Si BRAPA Everitt was in town. BRAPA stands for British Real Ale Pub Adventure and Si is on a never-ending mission to visit all the pubs in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. Today Si and his dad (Daddy BRAPA) were on the Fylde Coast to visit our local GBG pubs, so I invited myself along. I enjoy meeting Twitter friends ‘in real life’. I tailor my timeline to include joyful people and Si is a particular highlight. His blogs about his pub adventures are filled with wonderful stories and I’ve long-since wanted to be a part of that. And today was that day.

Si messaged me with their itinerary for the day and I liked the look of all of it, so resolved to join them in the first pub at noon. I was thankful for my relatively reserved New Year’s Eve (two beers, interspersed with Dandelion and Burdock), so I was up in plenty of time. I made my customary morning brew (Earl Grey today) and put my feet up to catch up on last night’s Corrie as I eased my way into the day.

Just a few sips into my brew – and seven minutes into Corrie – I realised a pre-match pub crawl necessitated food. How was I going to play this? My devotion to the SlimmingWorld plan (and my refreshment kiosk boycott #LidGate) meant that wolfing down a pie at the ground was not an option. Nor was I hungry now, because it was too early for me to eat (plus nothing exciting to pick at, with groceries not being delivered until tomorrow). Hmm.

Meanwhile I double-checked the opening times of the pubs on Facebook, it being New Year’s Day and all that. My research alerted me to the fact that the first pub of the day served hot breakfasts AND opened at 11am. Problem solved! I turned off the tv, left my brew hardly touched and Lee chauffeured me into Cleveleys to start my mission.

Shortly before we left, I noticed an unpleasant smell and soon realised with horror that it was me – or technically my coat sleeve. We’d been out for a walk in the pouring rain the other day so my coat had been in the airing cupboard to dry. I don’t know what’s in there but whatever it is left a horrible musty odour on my coat sleeve. I tried to bury the smell with perfume (Armani Diamonds, one of the stronger aromas) but it hadn’t quite done the trick. Dammit. I was meeting new people today and didn’t want them to think I always smelled like this. Should I mention it or hope they don’t notice?

As we approached Norbreck Castle (a much-maligned hotel, part of the Britannia chain, need I say more?), we were surprised to see it being externally renovated and it was now painted two shades of grey. What a difference that made to its facade! I’d have taken a photo but I was too busy picking my jaw up off the floor.

Now recovered and waking up fully, I began enthusing about our imminent trip to Hartlepool in the FA Cup, breaking out into song (to the tune of ‘Panic’ by The Smiths).

‘Hang the monkey, hang the monkey, hang the monkey, HANG THE MONKEY.’

Dear reader, I can’t begin to relay just how excited I am about this Hartlepool trip. I really, really hope we get to go.

Shipwreck Brewhouse (Take One)

Lee dropped me off by Victoria Road around 1110. I wasn’t quite sure which direction the pub was in but I knew it wasn’t far away. I soon spotted it and went to try the doors. Shut. Hmm. Maybe they were opening at noon instead, despite what they’d put on Facebook last week? Or 1130? Lee had driven off by now so I was committed to Cleveleys. I quickly debated what to do. Sit on a bench outside and wait for the pub to open? Bit cold for that (it was very blowy here by the coast). Go for a walk to burn off some calories while I wait? That didn’t solve the breakfast problem. I resolved to tramp against the wind towards the coast in search of a caff. And lo and behold three appeared on the horizon all at once. I chose the one on my side of the road.

Cleveleys Kitchen

I strode to the counter and ordered an Earl Grey and big breakfast ‘without the sausage’.

‘Would you like something else to replace that? Extra bacon or an extra egg?’

‘Ooh an extra egg please. Oh and Happy New Year!’

I took a seat in a prime people-watching position by the window as I sipped at the best Earl Grey I’ve tasted in a long time. I resolved to ask what brand it was (but promptly forgot).

No milk or honey for me these days.

My food arrived without delay. After initial annoyance with myself for forgetting to ask for no butter on the toast, I found it to be really tasty and a rare treat, having not tasted butter for months.

I did clean my lens after this photo…

This might not look a lot but it beat me, as it was still really too early in the day for me to stomach food, plus I have found myself eating smaller amounts of food in recent weeks. The toast was especially yummy.

By now I had received word from Si that, having initially found the Shipwreck closed and decided to head over to the Spoons across the road, the plan was now back on track. Happy in the knowledge that Shipwreck – where I really wanted to be right now – was open, I again abandoned a half-drunk cup of Earl Grey in favour of the obviously preferable beer (which it is, of course, never too early for).

Despite my eagerness to get to Shipwreck, I paused briefly to (clean my lens and) photograph this shop across the road. You may recall from my previous visit to Shipwreck that I fell in love with the tomato chutney on their Lancashire Platter – and this is the shop where they get it from. I was sad to see it was closed today, else I’d have popped in to buy some. Next time…

Shipwreck Brewhouse (Take Two)

As soon as I entered through the now open doors, I was greeted warmly by Si and his dad. I returned the greetings.

‘Hello! Welcome to Cleveleys. And Daddy!’

Si immediately pointed out that it would be weird if I called him Daddy, and ‘Daddy BRAPA’ introduced himself as Bernard. Great name. Si offered me a drink and we approached the bar.

Si had already explained that the pub had opened late because the landlord was hungover. As he now stood, staring vacantly into space and completely oblivious of us waiting at the bar to be served, I couldn’t help but laugh. At least it gave me ample time to consider the pump clips.

Ooh a breakfast-strength (4%) rum porter! This was the first time since my return to the Fylde Coast nearly two years ago that I had seen a beer on tap from Fuzzy Duck Brewery in Poulton. This definitely needed sampling.

At length I got my beer and we took our seats at the table by the front door. My position meant it wasn’t possible to take a surreptitious photo of the pubdog at the table behind me, but I did have a good view of the birdcage lampshades, which I liked a lot.

Si and Daddy Bernard are Hull City fans and, when Hull are playing away, visit pubs in the town where Hull are playing, without going to the match (#AllamOut). However today they were going to the match. I was pleased about this for quite selfish reasons, as I hadn’t wanted them crawling without me.

I was pleased to be introduced to Colin the Cauliflower and Keane Lewis-Otter (named after Hull City forward Keane Lewis-Potter).

Si explained that he introduced mascots to encourage conversation from strangers on his pub adventures, which I thought was a genius idea. I recalled my recent night out in Walsall with my fox teapot, which had proved to be a great conversation piece.

I was honoured to be handed the highlighter pen to mark off this pub in Si’s GBG.

Conscious that Daddy BRAPA had been recently chastised for being too heavy with the pen, I took care to colour in lightly but firmly. I didn’t get told off so I think I did ok. I learned there was more colouring in involved when a town was complete and there was also a map to be coloured in. I could easily get into this pub ticking malarkey – after all, who doesn’t like a bit of colouring in?

I soon realised a half of 4% beer was not for lasting very long, so I headed back to the bar for another. Of course this wasn’t a quick process (it must have been a great night in here last night) so I took time to observe and photograph my surroundings while I waited.

Mmm these sound yummy.
This is why I ate before I came.

‘You can eat those instead of just photographing them, you know,’ piped up a local, also waiting to be served.

‘Sadly, I’m on a diet, so the photograph is the best I’m going to get.’

Back at the table, Si confirmed they had had Christmas cake and cheese en route to the Fylde Coast this morning. What a great breakfast! I realised I’d had no Christmas cake at all this year, which is quite sad. I am lighter than I have been since records began though and I guess I can’t have it both ways. I had chosen beer as my syn of choice, so I didn’t have it so bad really.

I had found it very difficult to leave Shipwreck on my last visit, when I had been lured into a rabbit hole by the tempting fridge and secret bottle shop. But today we were on a time limit and a mission, so leave we must. As I stood up to leave, the vacant landlord enquired:

‘Are they going to win today?’

As I continued the conversation – chuffed to be recognised as a local beer blogger by someone I hadn’t met before (the gaffer had been on holiday on my previous visit) – it soon became clear that he thought I was a York fan (Si must have mentioned he was from York) and I realised any explanation would probably be too much for him to digest in his current state. I was glad I hadn’t waited to eat here this morning. Bless. I loved him already.

Raging hangover aside, you’d hardly have noticed it was New Year’s Day in Cleveleys, as it was pretty busy with people going about their business. I was slightly disturbed by these mannequin heads.

As we strode to the car (Daddy Bernard was driving), I tried to explain my unlucky hat conundrum to Si.

‘Look – it’s in Hull’s colours! Could you steal it from me? It’s a great hat – you’d like it.’

I’m not sure if he thought I was joking or if he was being polite as we’d only just met but the hat remained unstolen. I was going to need a Plan B.

Cask

I was hopeless at providing directions to the next pub. I explained that I don’t drive and that I grew up using the sea as my sole navigation point (‘if the sea’s on your right, you’re heading south’) and this was why the inland Poulton remained a mystery to me. I did, however, prove useful in terms of local language, correcting pronunciations of ‘Wrea’ and ‘Gynn’ – as well as pointing out the only landmark of interest in Layton.

‘It is quite an impressive cemetery, though,’ observed Daddy Bernard.

I am ashamed to admit that I had not visited Cask since its opening night a little over two years ago, when it had been heaving. I had been really impressed with the love that had gone into this pub and knew it would do well. The locals were really friendly, too. It was much quieter in here today, just after opening at 1300, with a couple of Seasiders drinking at another table.

Here are the beers on offer here today.

Ordinarily I would have chosen the Port O’Call here, being the dark beer. But at 5% I knew this to be a risky choice as a breakfast beer. I’d also overdosed on this exact beer at No 10 Alehouse once and been sick afterwards (my only time ever sick after drinking beer as opposed to something stupid like limoncello).

‘Ooh look – Camerons!’

We’d just been discussing my visit to Hartlepool next week, which will include a visit to the Camerons brewery tap. After initially trying to talk myself out of having this today and saving it for next week, I found myself eyeing Si’s beer with envy. Why wait? It would help me get further in the mood for Hartlepool. I went for it.

There was snackage available here too.

Who knew scratchings were so popular up here? I had been hoping to leave them behind in the Black Country. Horrible, smelly, tooth-cracking things. That said, I’ve never seen (or smelled) anyone eating them up here, so I’m beginning to wonder if Evo Boozy Scribbler has had them placed around town just to taunt me.

I was mistaken for a Hull fan in here (was it the hat or the company I was keeping?) and, if today taught me anything, it was that I need to ‘put myself about a bit’ more where the Fylde Coast’s finest pubs are concerned, despite Gary from Cask & Tap accusing me of doing this already (no I haven’t forgotten you said this yet).

The pint of Camerons was quickly supped (punctuated by a bit more colouring in) and Si pondered whether my pint at source next week could possibly be any better. I was looking forward to finding out.

No 10 Ale House Blackpool & Thai Kitchen

Our next and final stop was this pre-match favourite of mine. As we approached the pub, I was confused by this.

Why does a brewery which has two pubs on the Fylde Coast (that I know of – possibly more) sponsor a pub that isn’t part of its chain? How odd.

Anyway, no time to ponder on that – we had more beer to sup before kick-off!

The front room of the No 10 was heaving with Seasiders – as is the norm on a matchday – but I led the way through the crowd to the bar at the rear of the room. The back room was empty so we secured a table in there, which was much more comfortable for us.

Here are today’s beer offerings.

Dear reader, if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written before, you know full well which one I’m having here.

Now settled at our table (room to ourselves), we debated how orangey this beer was (conclusion: not very). Si offered a tip that, if you lift your tongue and swish it underneath, you do get that orange flavour. I tried this and was getting nothing of the sort. It was at this point I really missed my Orange Aero. Now would have been a perfect time to whip it out of my pocket and share it with my companions, thus winning on the orange flavour. I’m a big fan of pairing chocolate with beer and I passed on my tip about a pack of Maltesers making even the most boring beer taste interesting.

I wasn’t given any colouring in to do here so I hope Si remembered to do it.

Now it was time to walk the 15 minutes down Bloomfield Road to the ground. It was quite an interesting walk today.

I assured Si that the away end was handily situated on this road (right next to my entrance) and he was pleasantly surprised that it was not – as we know is the norm on arriving at an away ground – right at the other end of the ground. I forgot to mention that he would be directed out at completely the opposite end after the match…

We said our goodbyes at the turnstile. BRAPA and Daddy BRAPA had been excellent company. If you enjoy my blogs I’m pretty confident you’ll enjoy Si’s, which you can find here. He’s basically the male Yorkshire version of me. I hope we get to adventure together again soon (subject, of course, to his take on today, which I’m looking forward to reading with slight trepidation).

Blackpool v Hull City

Yes I’d forgotten there was a match to write about too. When the football isn’t going so well – as in the last couple of matches – it is important for me to find alternative sources of entertainment on a matchday. Today had already been brilliant and the match was not going to take that away from me.

Despite not arriving at the ground until late, the queue was mercifully short and I was there in ample time for kick-off. After a quick trip to the loo (my first of the day, despite two half-brews and three pints), I made my way up to my seat.

The match was not the most amazing spectacle. Hull appeared to be struggling – with COVID battles of their own recently – but we weren’t going to feel sorry for them. We needed a win today. And my unlucky hat was still in my pocket and not on my head, which I hoped would be enough to make a difference.

Josh Bowler – my beloved Joshy – was running rampant down the right, with Hull powerless to stop him. After half an hour of him tearing them to pieces, they resorted to fouling him in the box and we were awarded a penalty. Yes!

Gary Madine stepped up confidently and despatched a powerful penalty to put us in the lead. We might be shit at corners and free-kicks but we can sure do penalties, yes siree! Perhaps we ought to go for a few more of those and play to our strengths?

At half time I nipped to the loo again. On my way back I was stopped in my tracks.

‘George – Number 10 Ale House.’

Now that is how to greet me (please take note ‘Neil, Sonny Carey’s Dad’.)

‘Oh hi George. I’ve just been in your pub before the match.’

‘Oh I didn’t see you. Did you have the stout?’

‘Yes, it wasn’t very orangey.’

It got a bit nippy during the second half so I put my hat on. And then Hull really came at us, with Grimmy in goal pulling off some wondersaves at the death. And it stayed 1-0. And we won and we’re back up to 12th in the league. Ok so no-one else played in our league today and we have now played more games than anyone else. But they’ll have fixture pile-ups waiting while we can stay fresh later in the season. So I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

Here’s Lee’s video memory of the day.

Back Home

Tonight was going to be a tricky one, with the beer imp on my shoulder trying to tempt me away from my diet. But I won! I made a huge bowl of pasta to go with the arrabbiata sauce I made the other day; I did half an hour on the static bike (which was bloody murder even on ‘beginner’ mode on my app); I did a bit of admin; a bit of tidying up; and I caught up on Corrie and binged a bit more of Bonus Family.

And that, dear reader, is how to Saturday.

Next up: A Football Tourist’s Guide to Hartlepool.

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