Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Blackpool v Bristol City & Beer in Blackpool

Dear reader, what an absolute pleasure this weekend has been. If what I write below doesn’t convince you to visit Blackpool post haste then I don’t know what possibly could.

Cask & Tap

This weekend began on Friday night with a trip to my favourite pub in town, where I was meeting Karen for a night on the lash catch up. This pub is situated on Topping Street, which is my favourite street in Blackpool because:

Here were tonight’s beer offerings:

Obvs I had the stout. In the past I might have sampled the others but I have got to a point where I don’t want to waste time drinking beers that I might not like. During lockdown I joined a couple of beer subscription services and ended up drinking a lot of IPAs, which put me off drinking pale ales. I found them a bit of a chore – like drinking for the sake of drinking, as opposed to actually enjoying the experience of drinking lush beer. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy some pale beers – Ride Brewing Co stand out for me; their lager is especially delicious. But, for now, I’ll stick with the darks, thank you very much. Life’s too short. Drink what you love.

I arrived earlier than Karen because I was thirsty and she had transport delays. So I took this time to catch up with Gary and Andy, who welcomed me warmly as usual. They very much view this micropub in the same way that I do, which is how pubs first began: effectively extending out their ‘home’ to welcome in ‘friends’. Their hospitality reminds me of my old local in Brownhills, the Jiggers Whistle, where Colin and Teresa always greeted me by name and with a smile. It’s nice to be remembered and welcomed into a pub where I feel valued as a customer and that is always the case in Cask & Tap.

A couple of months ago I put out an appeal on the Blackpool Fylde & Wyre CAMRA Facebook Group for any local pubs with their own merch that I could wear and promote Blackpool pubs on my travels around the country. I love my Strait & Narrow and New Bristol Brewery tees and am delighted to promote them but I am also keen to make people aware of all these wonderful pubs we have in Blackpool now. Cask & Tap came up trumps and had a tangerine tee made for me and I was presented with this tonight.

I was in my ‘usual’ seat in the window. It would be great for people-watching out the window but I prefer to sit facing inwards to have a good nose around the pub I’m in. This also allowed me to photograph the pub’s interior for you (something I often forget to do).

One for Retired Martin and the Bass Brigade (that could be your band name, Martin?)

It was a bit nippy in the window tonight but I had my new tee so I put it on over my dress and it provided that extra layer of warmth that I needed. Of course I was also working on the beer coat as the night progressed.

Despite having a huge plate of keema curry pie and veg for tea, I began to get increasingly peckish as the night progressed and the beer was sunk. I returned to the bar.

Even these were looking tempting by this point. I see why beer is bad for the diet.

I spied the crisp display on the side of the bar but I couldn’t find a way to access them, with customers on that side of the bar, so I asked Andy to talk me through the range of Lancashire Crisps. I really wanted the Black Pudding & Mustard ones but I knew from experience that, whilst delicious, they coat your teeth and you can still taste them the next morning (even if you use mouthwash the night before). I settled on these:

Karen had arrived and we were nattering away in the window when Andy came over with an unexpected proposition…

I actually enjoyed the ‘other side of the bar’ experience more than I expected. I felt tall and powerful! Karen remarked that, now I was trained up, I should volunteer to work at the Fleetwood Beer Festival in October. I’ve always said that beer festivals are for drinking (that is, after all, an important job at a fest, as it brings the money in) but who knows, I might give it a go. Please contact Blackpool Fylde & Wyre CAMRA if you’d like to volunteer to join the staffing team. I’m hoping for a Halloween theme as it’s the last weekend in October, so happen you can get to dress up too! Spread the word, get it in your diary and invite your mates.

As we were preparing to leave (at closing time – 10pm on Fri/Sat, 9pm Mon-Thu, 7pm Sun, so you don’t get caught out), I was surprised to see this in the literature stand on the bar.

I immediately stuffed it into my handbag for two reasons:

  1. I want people to enjoy the pubs of Blackpool and not go over there; but
  2. that said, I do need to give Blackpool East a visit, as I haven’t done the pubs over there for about ten years. This will at least save me the research time.

What a fab night out that was. We had intended this to be a two-pub night (I am conscious that I am yet to blog Thirsty?, despite having visited twice on non-blogged nights) but, like Shipwreck before it, Cask & Tap is one of those ‘hard to leave’ pubs. Which is definitely not a bad thing (sorry, Thirsty?).

The Morning After

Obvs I didn’t get up too early after four pints the night before but, when I finally surfaced, I was feeling good. And this wasn’t the ‘pre-migrainey’ good that I’d felt before our last home game. Nope. This was the right kind of good. This was the ‘still a bit merry from the night before’ good.

I bounced out of bed – mouth full of Lancashire Crisp flavouring, as if I’d eaten a packet in my sleep. What on earth do they put in these things? As I had last night, I cleaned my teeth and again I rinsed my mouth with mouthwash…but could STILL taste the crisps. I might try flossing next time.

I banged on Buckcherry and connected to the bluetooth shower speaker for full volume. Damn they’re great for getting me going in the morning.

I decided I was going for as many lucky charms as I could find for today, because I was determined Blackpool were going to win.

  • Lucky Herbal Chai
  • Lucky tangerine underwear
  • Lucky Hotpots tee
  • Lucky badge, neutralising unlucky hat
  • Lucky turnstile at Bloomfield Road
  • Lucky Orange Aero
Excuse the wet hair. It was a ‘let it dry on its own’ kind of morning…

The Aero was the key item here. It had performed brilliantly earlier in the season but, since I’ve been on SlimmingWorld, I’ve abandoned it – and Blackpool’s form has been shocking. With that – and the extra items backing it up – we couldn’t fail to win today. Belief + witchcraft = unbeatable.

I was ravenous this morning (well it was technically afternoon by now), so I cooked up a SlimmingWorld breakfast, comprising eggs, bacon, fried potatoes and tinned plum tomatoes, washed down with my Lucky Herbal Chai. That warmed me up and set me up nicely for an afternoon at a blustery Bloomfield Road.

Blackpool v Bristol City

It was gone 1400 when we headed out to the match, which I know because I read the team out to Lee from the sofa.

‘Ooh Bowler and Hamilton on the wings again – this is exciting! No Ekpiteta, though – but Thorniley will do a job.’

We parked up an intermediate walk away from the ground as usual. It was a bit blowy and trying to rain a bit but it was mild.

I entered through my lucky turnstile (can’t remember the number, but I’ll note it for you next time – basically it’s second from the left of the turnstiles closest to the away fans entrance in the South Stand). I walked straight ahead out into the stand, stopping for the obligatory chats when stopped en route to my seat.

On arrival at my seat, I bemoaned the lack of lettering on the end of our row.

‘I’m going to bring a marker pen next week and write ‘V’ on the end of the row.’

Derek had a better idea.

‘Just look at the floor instead. You’re close enough to the ground to see it.’

Oh, we’re on height jibe terms now, are we, Derek? I chuckled and was grateful to have the floor lettering pointed out to me, which would prove useful.

As the players emerged from the tunnel, I was again amused by the Bristol City keeper’s shirt.

If you click on the above Tweet, you’ll see in the replies there is a club that is sponsored by Tiny Rebel and their shirts are fantastic – and there is an actual Club Tropica coloured shirt too.

And so to kick-off. Well, what can I say about the Lucky Orange Aero’s Blackpool’s performance this afternoon?

Josh Bowler and CJ Hamilton are being allowed to play to their strengths (respectively running towards goal and ripping defences apart and whipping in perfect crosses) and they were unplayable today. How can opponents possibly deal with that double-threat? Joshy draws out four players whenever he’s on the ball, leaving CJ free on the other flank. It’s simply brilliant.

Blackpool’s positioning was much-improved. When Bowler and Hamilton were on the pitch, we always had a player in that hole on the penalty spot, ready to receive that cross or pounce on that rebound.

We looked confident on the attack and had our swagger back and it was joyful to watch. Attacking is the way forward – not faffing about and panicking at the back, hoofing the ball anywhere, which, when we’re on the rampant attack, we can instead force our opponents into.

And I don’t want to speak too soon here but (I’m whispering now) we appear to be getting good at set-pieces too. I know, right?! But we scored from a corner today. And we’re whipping in some belting long throw-ins. Blimey we’ll be scoring from a free-kicks next!

We were 3-0 up with relative ease – goals courtesy of Hamilton, Madine and Bowler. And what goals they were too. The work from Bowler to set up the first – and THAT crossfield pass from Kenny Dougall for the third. Oh. My. Word.

All three scorers were subbed to standing ovations, after which Blackpool seemed to fall a little flat, allowing Bristol City more possession and more attacking opportunities. By this time, the visiting fans were already trickling out, fully aware that the game was lost. Those that remained – being battered by the wind and rain in the East – started singing to rally their spirits.

‘We’ve got the ball!’

The game ended 3-1 and I could not stop smiling. Josh Bloody Bowler. Now my undisputed favourite player of all time, in 30+ years of watching Blackpool (boycott notwithstanding – I very much doubt we had anyone better during that time). Honestly, watching him makes me feel ALIVE. I love him.

I’ve even come up with a little nickname for Bowler and Hamilton: Thunderbolt and Lightning (Very Very Frightening). Bowler makes me feel like I’ve been struck by a thunderbolt, with electricity pulsing through my veins. And Hamilton has lightning speed.

Here’s our matchday vlog, which is an absolutely joyful watch this week. Enjoy.

Post-match, Lee was off to DJ at The Armfield Club, which I always consider free rein to go to the pub. Well, if I’m making my own way home, I might as well break up the journey, right? This morning I had half-heartedly tried to kid myself into thinking I could resist the pub if I had an exciting movie to come home to. But then I saw that pubticker and Bristol City fan Maltmeister (a Twitter friend I had yet to meet in person) was in town AND No 10 Alehouse had a particularly alluring beer on, so…

No 10 Alehouse Blackpool & Thai Kitchen

I scuttled down Bloomfield Road in what should be a straight line but I was avoiding puddles so I probably looked drunk to onlookers. I upped my pace to overtake groups of lads in case they were going to the same place I was (I didn’t want them getting to the bar before me). And, 10-15 minutes later, there on the horizon was the little oasis that is the No 10 Alehouse.

This was the beer that had lured me here tonight:

And here are tonight’s other offerings for your perusal:

The front room was already bustling. I squeezed my way through to the bar, nattering away to the locals while I waited patiently to be served. I couldn’t see Maltmeister anywhere, so I retired to the back room, where I could have a seat in a room where I was more comfortable.

I was invited to join Benny at his table and we enjoyed one of those ‘random-chats-with-random-strangers’ that you have in pubs sometimes.

When we had got to the bottom of our respective pints, we each made our respective ways out of the pub (mine via the loo, a chat with the pub manager about how non-cherry the cherry beer was and another scan of the front room for the elusive Maltmeister). It was now 1800 and I figured I had been stood up on account of our emphatic win.

I headed back out into the wind and rain and began the walk home. I’d got too many layers on for a good walk, so I got a sweat on quite quickly. I guess that’s good for my diet? I passed two Chinese takeaways en route and was pleased Past Me had made a SlimmingWorld-friendly Sweet & Sour Chicken that I could reheat when I got home. I was on plan today (one pint a day is permitted if all my food is on plan).

Back home – wetter than I realised – I put my boots under the radiator to dry and put my coat, bodywarmer, hat and thermal trousers on the heated clothes dryer. As the rice cooked on the hob, I changed into my PJs, took my contact lenses out and looked forward to an evening chilling.

Only now did I see a message from Maltmeister advising that he was ‘on his way’ to the No 10. Doh! Well I wasn’t getting dressed again and heading back out in the rain. I explained that I had been there but had assumed he wasn’t coming. I don’t know why I didn’t think to message him at that time. I felt guilty about that all night – especially as it was me who’d suggested the rendezvous in the first place.

But now tea (supper?):

And feet up in front of the telly finishing off Season Two of Call My Agent! – a French (and I hate the word but it’s a) dramedy that I’m currently enjoying. If you don’t like subtitled stuff, it is currently being remade in English. If you do like subtitled stuff, give it a watch – it’s funny with good characters.

Home game weekends don’t come much better than this (that said, there is one with dinosaurs coming up, so stay tuned). Like I said on the video, if you haven’t been to Bloomfield Road recently I urge you to visit – if only to say ‘I was there’ when Josh Bowler played for Blackpool. Because that boy is going places – and soon. Enjoy him and savour every minute he is gracing the turf at Bloomfield Road. I know I will.

Coming Up: A Football Tourist’s Guide to Coventry.

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