Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Reading & Freckleton Pubs

After two long away trips it was a relief to have a home match. Today was going to be action-packed but it would all be fun stuff and they’re the best days.

I spent the morning putting the finishing touches to the Football Tourist’s Guide to Cardiff – Part Two and uploading it here. Whilst I usually write on the move these days – and indeed wrote that piece on the coach back from QPR – the WordPress app does not allow me to add photos, so I was adding the finishing touches this morning.

By the time I had finished I was ravenous, so searched the kitchen cupboard for inspiration. Ooh a tin of corned beef!

Not enough brown sauce on this.

Saturday afternoons often end up quite hectic at Football Tourist Guide Towers and today was no exception. Lee found himself rushing against the clock to get to the Armfield Club, set up for his disco tonight, then get back home to pick me up so we could set off for the theatre. Miraculously, he made it – and off we headed on the first adventure of the day.

Jurassic Earth @ Winter Gardens

Dinosaurs! In Blackpool! There was no way I was missing out on this. I’d seen it advertised on Facebook (I think) on Christmas Day and had booked tickets immediately.

Lee drove us into town and headed towards Hounds Hill Car Park which, after our NCP Cardiff experience, now seemed good value. However it was busy and we had quite a wait to get onto the car park. Mercifully we easily found a space once on there.

I had used the waiting time to try and find the theatre tickets in my email (surely they were on there somewhere – it’s pretty much only the football that insists on physical tickets these days). I found something that I thought was our tickets – although there were no seat numbers on there, which seemed odd.

I’ve never seen Lee walk so fast as he yanked me behind him like a little puppy through Hounds Hill Shopping Centre and across to the Winter Gardens.

On arrival at The Opera House we were relieved to see a small queue of people, so we weren’t the last to arrive. The woman on the door didn’t seem that interested in checking our tickets (if they were even tickets) and just ushered us through.

‘The stalls are getting quite full now – you might want to head up to the circle.’

We headed upstairs and secured front row seats in the circle. This would do very nicely. What a view!

And who knew sitting where you like was a thing at the theatre? I was happy because we’d done well with our seats – and it felt quite liberating.

The show still hadn’t started – I’d noticed this on all our recent visits to the theatre, that they started later than advertised, possibly waiting for the crowd audience to settle before taking to the stage.

I wanted something sweet after my corned beef bagel and I was also pretty thirsty after our sprint over here. Lee darted off and was back within seconds (was he Billy Whizz this morning?) with a bottle of water and these little beauties.

I scoffed half the bag before begging Lee to take them off me. Jelly Babies are so moreish and I hadn’t had them in ages. I think I overdosed on them a year or so back to the point I got sick of them but I’m pleased to announce I’m back to enjoying them again now.

How different again was this experience from our recent theatre visits in London (Book of Mormon) and Cardiff (Don Giovanni).

And indeed how different from our last visit here, when we all had to wear masks throughout the Bobby Ball variety show. That had been our first visit to the theatre since lockdown and it had felt strange being indoors with so many other people. Happily now this feels normal again. Indeed, without realising it, my post-COVID anxiety has eased in recent weeks. Could it be that we’re really back to normal again (WWIII notwithstanding)?

This afternoon (for it was a delayed noon kick off here) the theatre was full of kids. This was, apparently, a kids show. But I love dinosaurs and I don’t care about things like that.

The show was brilliant! The dinosaurs looked so good. I had assumed they’d be people dressed up as dinosaurs but I couldn’t for the life of me see any seams in the dinosaurs’ skin, so can only conclude they were real dinosaurs.

We met the brontosaurus (Bronte) sisters, a spikosaurus (which I’d never heard of), Tank the triceratops (who did a little dance for us) and a T-rex. They all formed part of a story together with rangers who trained up the excited audience to control dinosaurs.

The stars of the show for me were the velociraptors, who crept down the aisles of the stalls to terrify the children. I’m all for that sort of behaviour.

We left just before the end as we had a match to get to. I understood the show had been scheduled to finish at 1315 but it had started a little late and I think it also overran because it took time to clear children from the aisles during the show.

At one point the children were asked to take their seats before the show could continue. Lee and I wondered if similar action would be effective at the football.

‘We’re not kicking off until you all sit down.’

Could be a genius tactic for awaydays, where we are forced to stand in the main owing to persistent standing in front of us.

We darted back through the Winter Gardens, weaving through the ballroom dancers and passing a bustling room at the back (which I later learned was the Sausage and Cider Festival) and headed back into Hounds Hill and up to the car.

Blackpool v Reading

On arrival at Bloomfield Road I surprised myself by remembering to take a photo of the Lucky Turnstile.

‘Ooh I’d have struck a pose if I’d known you were taking a photo,’ said a playful steward, striking a pose. I chuckled. This was the sort of interaction I wanted from stewards and was pleased it was happening here now. They seemed happy in their work and that’s a good sign on a home matchday. Bloomfield Road should be a happy place.

Even before I was through the turnstile I was hit by a barrage of questions from the steward just inside.

‘Have you got your hat? What new badges have you got?’

I explained that I was going to attempt to not wear the unlucky hat today, but might have to if it got cold. In that instance, I said, I’d take it off for the last ten minutes to try and avoid our usual backs to the wall onslaught. The steward seemed satisfied with this.

I visited the Ladies, which I never give enough credit. They have to be up there with the best in the league. There are loads of cubicles, hot water and mirrors. The only thing they’re lacking is hand driers (we have paper towels) but I guess that makes for a quicker turnaround.

As soon as Lee arrived in his seat, I was told off.

‘You’re wearing your hat! I’ve just spoken to the steward down there and he was so excited you weren’t wearing it to help us win.’

‘But it’s cold! I’ll take it off for the last ten minutes so it should be ok.’

The club showed their support for Ukraine following this week’s invasion by Russia for reasons I’m still confused about. Is it about NATO or energy supplies or just swinging dicks? All the reasons I read about seem to be woolly and make little sense to me.

Anyway what I did understand was that Reading were currently being managed (on an interim basis) by Paul Ince and we didn’t like him. He’d managed us back in 2013/14 and hadn’t managed since, he’d been that bad. Our discipline had been shocking during that time. Granted, this was during the post-Premier League wilderness years, when Blackpool were always destined to topple down the leagues, but Ince had been particularly bad.

His son, Thomas, was playing for Reading today. Along with Matt Phillips, Tom had been a spectacular talent at that time and surely destined for greater things. He was playing for England U21s and there was talk of interest from Inter Milan. That never materialised and Ince Jnr has been somewhat of a Championship journeyman ever since.

At first we were confused by the boos ringing out whenever Ince got the ball. Then we remembered how he had refused to play after we’d sacked his dad. And we did chuckle as the North Stand chanted:

‘Your dad’s a c**t and so are you.’

Anyway it was 1-1 at half time and we had no idea which way this game was going to go.

The second half was so dull that I found myself drifting off. We did score, though – but would it be enough?

With ten minutes remaining, I did my bit for my club by removing my unlucky hat, despite it being very nippy today.

And we only went and scored another two goals!

All praise the Fritidsklader hat!

I skipped out of the ground, kissed Lee goodbye and headed off on the next adventure of the day.

Here’s our vlog of the match:

On The Bus

I was heading to Freckleton tonight and my research had revealed that I needed to get the 68 bus in the direction of Blackpool East from outside the Bridge. As I turned right off Bloomfield Road onto Lytham Road, I spied the 68 bus already at the bus stop. I made a run for it but the driver wasn’t having any of it and pulled away.

I repositioned myself towards the back of the bus shelter. There wasn’t a queue as such – it was more of a huddle. I was recognised by Seasiders waiting for the bus.

‘I just wanted to say thanks for all the content you put out. I do enjoy it. But – I hope you don’t mind me saying – I don’t like the swearing,’

‘Well Blackpool do make me swear sometimes, I’m afraid. It is always in context.’

‘I’m from Lytham, you see, and I don’t hear bad language there.’

The 11 bus came and everyone piled on that. Whilst that would have taken me partway in the right direction (to Lytham), I always prefer a direct option if I can get one (less faff and a more relaxed journey). Hence I remained behind.

Within minutes, another 68 approached so I stuck my arm out and stepped aboard.

‘How does this work please? Is it contactless?’

‘Yes you can do contactless if you like. Where are you going?’

‘Freckleton.’

‘That’ll be five pounds.’

I decided to give the driver a fiver because Karen keeps paying me for her tickets in cash and my bag was getting cluttered with banknotes (it’s not any more, in case you’re thinking of robbing me).

I got this ticket and 50p change.

I was now on my merry way to Freckleton. I didn’t even know where Freckleton was. All I knew was that it was one of those ‘inland’ places. Forgive me for sounding a bit ‘local’ here but, if it’s not on the Fylde coastline, I don’t know where it is. I simply followed the blue dot on Google Maps, which would let me know when it was time to get off. How did we ever survive before Google Maps and smartphones?

My fellow passengers were a jolly bunch and were laughing heartily which, in turn, made me smile.

And there was a bit where the bus went REALLY fast to the point where I questioned what the speed limit is for buses (60MPH on dual carriageways, apparently).

I hopped off outside Lorenzos, an Italian restaurant I’d be tempted to visit if I liked Italian restaurants (I don’t like pizza and I resent paying that much for pasta). As I approached the corner, there was my first pub of the night gleaming like a thing of beauty.

Coach & Horses, Freckleton

I was encouraged by the listings on the wall.

Two couples entered the pub in the time it took me to take these photos so I already guessed this was a popular pub. As I stepped inside, the pub appeared to shrink (like a reverse TARDIS) and it was bustling with early evening drinkers and diners.

My route to the pump clips was blocked by drinkers who showed no sign of moving – not that there was really anywhere to move to. So there’s no photograph of these for you, I’m afraid. However I can list the beers:

– Timothy Taylor Landlord

– Thwaites (or is it Marstons now?) Wainwright

– Greene King IPA

I was served immediately despite being set back from the bar (they weren’t wrong about the ‘warm welcome’) and ordered a pint of Wainwright. I used to love a drop of Wainwright in my pre-dark beer days and I have to say this was a bloody lush pint (pardon my swearing if you’re from Lytham).

It was the curries on the menu that had lured me to this pub – and I’d been looking forward to one all day. But there were no free tables. Hmm. I found a spot at the end of the bar by the empties and drummed my fingers on the bar.

‘Are you being served?’

Blimey they were on the ball here! I explained I was waiting for a table and got a genuinely sympathetic look in return.

Already halfway down my pint, I realised I needed to take action. I surveyed the room and spotted a huge table which only appeared to be occupied by two people (and a dog) at one end.

‘Excuse me. I want to order some food. Is anyone using these seats?’

‘No you sit yourself down love.’

Oh even the customers here were lovely. Oh I felt right at home already.

I put my coat on the back of the chair to mark my territory and headed straight back to the bar.

‘What can I get you?’

‘Cambodian Curry please.’

The man standing next to me at the bar grumbled something sarcastic. I got the impression he didn’t appreciate me being served before him. In my defence, I hadn’t noticed him.

‘Oh I’m sorry – did I push in there?’

He muttered something under his breath. Maybe he was having a bad day or was out with someone he hated. It wasn’t as if he’d been waiting for 20 minutes, as he hadn’t been there before I’d gone to claim the table a minute earlier. How anyone could be grumpy in this pub of joy, I honestly didn’t know. What I did know was that I felt seen by the staff here – which is something that I really value – and I had a lush pint and a curry on the way and that was all good.

I forgot to ask for the chicken.

‘Is yer food ok, love?’

I nodded vigorously because that question always comes when you’ve got your mouth full, doesn’t it?

There were loads of dogs in this pub, which is always a good sign.

It’s a big thumbs up from me for the Coach & Horses. I’ll definitely be back here. But I had somewhere else to be tonight. I was warm after my pint and curry so I left my coat unfastened as I headed back out into the night to make a short walk to my next stop.

The Vestry, Freckleton

‘Ooh we’re not in your photo are we?’

‘Nooooo don’t worry – I’ll crop you out.’

‘I’ve just noticed your top. Did you go to the match today?’

Aha! The crafty clothing conversation piece trick was working! She’d spotted my BFC bodywarmer (gilet if you’re from Lytham).

We chatted awhile about the match before the cold started biting me and I needed to head into the pub for a warm.

My route to the bar was blocked by this dog.

‘She’s not ours,’ confirmed everyone in the vicinity.

I politely squeezed past and managed to manoeuvre my way to a slight gap at the bar, where lots of people were congregated at seats.

I ordered a pint of the Jubilee. I knew this to be a good drop because I’d had it in the Shovels. Decent brewery.

Hats off to this innovative advertising display.

I took a seat at a vacant table and immediately realised it was under the telly.

‘Oh am I blocking your view?’

I waved at the people at the bar but they didn’t notice me as the match on the tv had their rapt attention. I guess that answered that one.

The dog approached me hesitantly. I said hello and reached out for a fuss but she stepped back. She was shy around strangers, I was told.

‘I’m sorry – I’ve only got cat biscuits.’

I hadn’t encountered a single damned cat since I’d started carrying a pouch of Dreamies but it seems I can’t move for dogs these days.

‘Try the jar behind you.’

‘Ooh – am I allowed?’

A man at the end of the bar nodded vigorously. Was this his dog or was he a feeder? Either way, I needed little encouragement.

‘Ooh there’s none left! Oh no…there’s one biscuit hiding at the bottom.’

I retrieved it and fed my new friend. Oh Freckleton was brilliant!

I busied myself with my pub admin (checking in on Untappd, etc) and, when I looked up, my friend was gazing up at me longingly.

‘Oh I’m so sorry – there’s no biscuits left.’

I picked up the biscuit jar to back this up but – woah, what was this witchcraft? – it was now full of biscuits! Got to get me one of those biscuit jars! I gave her another.

As my pint glass emptied, I checked Google for the bus times and saw there was one due on the hour. I made a quick visit to check out the facilities.

Pretty basket of lady essentials bookended with flowers.

I bade farewell to host Debbie and made my way back out into the night. Would the bus turn up? How reliable was this service?

Pretty reliable from my experience tonight. Indeed the buses were more frequent than the timetable (well Google) suggested. I was soon boarding the bus back to Blackpool. This journey was not quite so joyful as the first leg, with a woman being sexpested by a pissed up lad. Unfortunately that is one of the pitfalls of travelling by bus and I suppose that’s also (subconsciously) why I always pick the solo seat at the front of the bus nearest the driver. How hard is it for men to leave women alone?

I toyed with the idea of stopping off in St Annes to check out the new pub in the hood – The Pier Inn – but I figured I’d save that for another day. It would be easy to do St Annes and Lytham on a post-match jaunt now I knew about this bus service. Yes, it would be straight home for me tonight. I was being good.

J D Drinkwaters Ale House, Blackpool

But I needed a wee when I got off the bus, which necessitated a call into Jimmy Drinkwaters – a micropub I have visited before but I’m not sure I’ve blogged it? And of course it would have been rude to pop in, use the toilet and leave straight away. So I ordered a half on my way through.

Soz for jaunty angle – the bar was busy.

I went for the Cross Bay IPA because I rather like Cross Bay beers. Ooh get me getting a taste for local blonde beers. I must be acclimatising.

Of note in the toilet was this mirror held up by a leather strap.

There is a lot to look at in this little pub.

I quickly supped my half and made my way back to the front of the pub, placed my empty on the bar, offered my thanks and stepped back towards the door. I was stopped in my tracks by a hand on my arm.

This was Mick, who was sitting in the front window with his mate. He recognised me from the football. We were chatting for so long we ended up all having another half despite all being ready to leave before we had met. That’s what pubs are all about right there. And cheers for the half, Mick.

On the walk home, a fire engine went whizzing past and there in the middle distance was the biggest fire I have ever seen. A whole house was up in flames. Was that in the direction of our house? Had I left the hob on again? I thought about taking a photo then realised that would be a bit grim, so I carried on walking.

The house was still standing when I got home, so I got ready for bed and was soon in the land of nod.

The next morning there was no news of a fire and I wondered if I had imagined it – although there was a smell of smoke in the air outside. We went for a drive so I could prove (to Lee and myself) that I hadn’t been hallucinating but there was no sign of a fire anywhere. When we got home I Googled it and discovered it was an outbuilding and not a house after all – and it was nowhere near where we live (that was my lack of inland geographical knowledge kicking in again.

So that was my fun day out at a home match. Who needs long journeys? Adventures can be found anywhere.

Coming Up: Wigan Beer Festival – Stoke City v Blackpool – Manchester GBG Crawl: Northern Quarter

If you’ve enjoyed this article there are many more to read on this website. You can navigate using the menus above. All of my content is FREE but you do have the option to buy me a beer on a forthcoming trip by clicking on the link below:

Thank you so much to Bill and Hannah for buying my beers in Freckleton tonight. Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: