Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Swansea City & Tour Of Blackpool

This weekend has been a bit of an epic, exploring hidden corners of Blackpool that I wouldn’t ordinarily have visited. I’m going out a bit more (a) to see if I can get away with it on my diet; and (b) as escapism from the horrors of the real world. This blog provides a fine excuse and also allows me to relive my joyful adventures and share the joy with you, dear reader.

Buckinghams

No I’d never heard of this either. So how did I end up here on Friday night?

Well I was on the train home from Manchester, just putting the finishing touches to my Northern Quarter blog, when I had a message from James, a Swansea fan and Twitter friend. Was I in town tonight? I replied in the affirmative with my itinerary for the night, which involved No 13 Bonny Street and a gig at the Waterloo. He responded that they were going to Walkabout to watch the rugby – was there anywhere near there? I tried to veer him towards Cask & Tap. He countered with Molloys. These negotiations were not going well. By the time I got off the train, I had a message to say they were in Buckinghams. I had to consult Google Maps and trotted over there in the rain.

Now Queen Street isn’t a part of Blackpool that I frequent. Just looking at the map now, I can see there’s a Crazy Horse Party Bar on there. Oh and Bar 19, which I did go to once when it won some sort of CAMRA award. The beer was ok but the people were odd. Anyway Buckinghams I had never heard of and I was nervous.

I got to where I thought it was and scanned the area and still couldn’t see it. Eventually it appeared and I scurried over, keen to get in out of the rain. But there was a man standing in the doorway (possibly smoking) and he didn’t move as I approached, just eyed me suspiciously. Who are you, stranger?

‘Excuse me. Can I come in please?’

He silently stepped aside.

James had assured me that he was ‘right by the door’ but I couldn’t see him anywhere. Confused, I approached the bar, without catching the barman’s eye.

‘What can I get you?’

‘Er…I’m not sure…I’m meant to be meeting someone but I can’t see him…’

‘Who are you meeting?’

‘A Swansea fan.’

‘Well they’re Swansea fans over there…’

But I couldn’t see James in that group. What should I do now? I scanned the drinks offerings and of course there was no cask ale (hence why I had never heard of this place).

Mercifully James now appeared (he’d just popped to the loo) so we said our hellos and I ordered a token half of Tetleys Smooth just to be polite.

‘Sit down and I’ll bring it over.’

Oh that was odd but ok. I took a seat at the table next to the Swans fans, got chatting with James and then all of a sudden I had two angry men towering over me.

‘He’s sitting there.’

‘Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t know.’

I moved to an adjacent seat while the angry customer returned to his seat in the window with his newspaper and his pint of lager. I wasn’t surprised he was angry if he was reading the news. The other man was the barman, delivering my half that I didn’t really want.

‘That’ll be a pound.’

‘Oh…er I haven’t got any cash…do you take cards?’

I followed him back over to the bar and it ended up being a two-man, two-machine job to pay by card.

‘Do you not have cash then?’

‘Well I did have loads but it was cluttering up my bag so I just spent it all.’

Why did I say that? Why did I feel so out of place in here? Why did I feel like I was causing a nuisance and in the way with everything I was doing?

A pound for a half, though – that wasn’t bad, was it? Also I loved this on the bar.

Finally settled with my beer I had a nice chat with James while his fellow Swans either ignored me, eyed me with suspicion or stared at me. He told me the story about his trip to Sheffield when he’d ended up walking the streets all night because his planned host for the night had blocked him and his backup roomy had fallen asleep and couldn’t let him in. We football fans do have some adventures on our travels.

This was only a flying visit as my train had been late and I had a gig to get to across town, so I said goodbye and left James who was now heading to Walkabout.

As I splashed across town – no umbrella because it has to be really raining hard to necessitate that and the hat would do nicely tonight – I got to thinking about the lot of a visiting fan to Blackpool. Every other week we hear them chanting ‘Blackpool’s a shithole / I wanna go home’. And yet they CHOOSE to drink in Walkabout and Molloys and the Buckingham and the Manchester. There is always a choice about where to go and what to do on any away trip. But that’s not a fair representation of Blackpool as a whole. Blackpool is a town of variety and it can be whatever you want it to be. I want it to be a hotspot for new micropubs and that works very well for me. Vive la difference.

Waterloo Music Bar

I was a bit wet by the time I arrived here. I could have got a bus but I am ramping up the exercise in a bid to try and counter the beer and food that I enjoy on these adventures.

I had chosen to come here tonight because they had a couple of bands on and that seemed like a great way to spend a Friday night. After all, I’d enjoyed the gig I’d been to in Manchester earlier this week. And I really wanted to support this great local venue. I’d been here pre-lockdown to see Buckcherry, which had been brilliant, but not to a gig since. I presented my ticket (well QR code on my phone) to the lady on the door and left a trail of dripping water all the way to the bar.

Er…Black Forest Gateau cherry & chocolate stout? Hell yeah! I was all over that.

I wrapped my wet coat around my waist and set my hat on the bar to dry as I guzzled this lush beer.

Fletch the gaffer appeared and gave me a friendly welcome. He asked one of his staff if they wouldn’t mind popping out to the shop to stock up on orange juice as they were running low and I wondered who drank orange juice in pubs.

I wasn’t hungry but I was conscious that I did need to factor in food tonight. My message to No 13 Bonny Street re food offerings had gone unanswered so I wasn’t too fussed about my diversion tonight as I wasn’t sure if they had any food on weekday evenings. But the Waterloo had responded to my message with confirmation that Burgerhain were here tonight from 1900. Whilst not the best for my diet, I knew Burgerhain to be the best burgers I’ve ever tasted, so all was well.

I studied the menu and was tempted with the following:

But that sounded particularly bad for my diet. Plus I wasn’t THAT hungry to warrant two courses. So I went for this, which I’d been salivating over on their menu for months.

I was slightly hesitant to order this because of the name. As a woman, I have to watch what I say ALL THE TIME so as not to invite sexist comments from men. But it sounded lush, so why should I deny myself?

I was confused as to how the food system worked here. On my last visit, the pizza guy had his van outside the pub. But didn’t Burgerhain have a permanent base here? I made enquiries.

‘How do I order food please?’

‘Well I ring the bell and the chef comes out to take your order.’

I chuckled to myself. That was novel!

And then, as if by magic, the chef appeared – wearing a superhero cape.

In’t Blackpool brilliant?

I placed my order (‘THE LADY WANTS A SLAG!’) and got a bonus bloggers discount (I didn’t drop my own name but I had to explain to chef why I wanted him to pose for the photo). He wrote my name down as JAYNE (grr) and apologised that I would have to wait 15 minutes for my food because they were busy in the kitchen supplying takeaway orders but 15 minutes was nothing, was it?

Meanwhile I ordered another pint of the black forest stout without actually needing to order it because the barman remembered what I was drinking (‘same again?’). I always feel like a local in here despite not coming in nearly often enough. And then up popped chef with my tea.

‘There you go, Ja(y)ne. Enjoy!’

This burger was of course every bit as delicious as I had expected. But there was one problem. It was an absolute mess to eat. It’s not pleasant watching me eat at the best of times but here I was standing at the bar in view of everyone, struggling to keep the burger intact (impossible – WAY too moist), with food running down my chin and in my hair. The plastic fork was not remotely sufficient. This really needed a plate and a proper knife and fork. It did the job, though, and I was nourished with tasty food that was just enough for my tea.

But the food and the beer was a bonus – it was the music I was here for tonight. When I’d been researching pubs to visit tonight, I gave these bands a listen to see if I liked the sound of them. I did, very much, so I’d bought a ticket straight away online (you can pay on the door sometimes, but I wasn’t sure – plus the organisers like you to buy tickets in advance so they know the gig is viable).

I had to wait patiently for half an hour to get this photo as there were some pool matches going on.

I had one eye on the stage and now seemed a good time to head round and find a good position at the front. Happily there was a me-sized gap right at the front, so I slotted myself in while I enjoyed the background music. I’ve started paying more attention to background music before gigs since I heard and enjoyed Y Bandana ahead of the Pwdin Reis gig in Swansea. Tonight it was Puddle of Mudd that caught my attention (cheers Soundhound). That’s my exercise bike music for next week sorted.

Soon it was time for the opening act, Sweet Crisis. They are from Cambridge and they were brilliant.

Singer Leo has the best hair (and his voice isn’t bad either), although his banter about orthopaedic pillows was not very rock n roll. Guitarist Piers was also impressive. The drumkit was ace, too. They didn’t have much stage to work with and I got nervous every time Leo took it upon himself to move around (‘you’re in the way of his guitar! you’re touching his cymbal!’). I thoroughly enjoyed this set and it was lovely to lose myself in music that I wasn’t familiar with but it was that good that it didn’t matter.

In between acts (a lengthier break than I had been expecting), I bought another pint (‘same again?’), heard a woman asking for orange juice (‘don’t you know how much trouble you’re causing with your orange juice?’ I thought but didn’t say) had chats with someone I went to school with and the fire safety officer from BFC, who I’d met in here last time, then repositioned myself back at the front by the stage. I turned around to get a different perspective of the room, to see what the acts could see when they were onstage.

Oh, isn’t that just wonderful? My eyes welled up just a little bit.

I turned back round and, as I looked down, I saw the lights shining through the stage barrier creating a ‘disco pants’ effect on my legs.

I chuckled to myself and looked around for someone to share the gag with – others were wearing disco pants too and I wondered if they had noticed – but it was all couples who were engrossed in conversations so I had to save it for the blog.

Now it was time for Romeo’s Daughter.

Singer Leigh informed us the band had been together for over 30 years now (albeit in different guises), which is some going.

Ahead of my walk home, I made a strategic toilet stop. The Ladies in here are AMAZING.

I arrived home safely but still not dry. I hung my jeans and hat on the radiator before retiring immediately to bed. It had been a great night but a tiring one…

The Morning After

I was up early(ish) on Saturday morning because I had another busy day ahead. I wanted to get my Northern Quarter blog finished and published so I could free up Sunday to write this one for you, dear reader. I had written it all on the train to and from Manchester yesterday (three hours) but I still had to add in all the photos and links, which can take an additional hour, then publish it and promote it. So that was my job for this morning. I made myself a brew, boiled a couple of eggs, settled myself on the sofa with my laptop and put last night’s Corrie on while I worked.

I was finished just in time to dry my hair and head off on the first adventure of the day with Lee.

The Armfield Club

I’m conscious that I haven’t blogged about the Blackpool supporters club this season and it does need to be covered, so here we were today. It was buzzing as always but I was delighted to find the bar wasn’t rammed and I was able to walk straight up. I was also pleased to spot a cask pump.

‘A half of that one please.’

‘Ooh just let me check if we’re allowed to sell that by the half.’

How odd. Thankfully this was permitted and a nice little drop it was too from this Poulton brewery.

I had lost Lee in the crowd and there were no free tables so I went to stand by the door and hoped he’d find me somehow. Happily he soon did and then we got chatting with someone at a nearby table. The most wonderful thing about this club is you know everyone here is a Seasider and you automatically have that in common with them, so you’ll always have someone to talk to.

I was pleased to find I wasn’t as anxious in this busy room as I had been on previous visits. I guess I’m starting to forget about COVID now I don’t HAVE to think about it in terms of mask-wearing, COVID passes, etc. It’s nice to have those shackles off. I know it’s still out there but I’m not scared of it any more. It’s not at the front of my mind any more. I’m out there living my life again (for now at least) and it’s brilliant.

Next we were heading across Bloomfield Road to the football club, where we were trying something a bit different today. But meanwhile we needed to move the car and get parked up half a mile away, as is Lee’s preference. On the walk back to Bloomfield Road, I spotted a tangerine and white cat sunbathing (it was a tropical 10C today) and wondered if he was a good omen.

The Heineken Experience @ Bloomfield Road

This is a new thing that the club are trialling. For a £10 upgrade to our season ticket we had access to a new lounge at the back of the South Stand (where we sit) with food (included in the price) and drinks offers. We discussed it at the last home game with our neighbours Besty and Pickle and, when they confirmed they had it booked, decided we’d better follow suit, as it had been our idea in the first place.

Around 1335 we entered the ground through Lucky Turnstile 16 and were directed to go up the stairs. I was wondering ‘what stairs?’ until I realised they meant the steps up to the back of the stand. We headed out into the stand and across to the stairway between blocks T and U (I think). There were two men in suits at the foot of the steps at the front of the stand offering us wristbands in exchange for sight of our tickets. Ooh this all seemed very organised. And didn’t they look smart in their suits? We climbed the stairs and went through the door, which was opened for us, unsure quite what to expect inside.

Of course I headed straight to the bar to have a nose and order drinks. There was no cask obvs but I was pleased to spot some cans of Farm Yard Ales so I ordered one of those. There were buckets of Moretti on offer at 8 bottles for £10 (I think) that were going down well but I wasn’t going anywhere near them.

The food offering is different for every game and today we had a choice of chicken or veg kebab.

They were served with flatbread and there was also chilli sauce and salad for us to help ourselves to. So here’s what I ended up with.

There was no cutlery provided and this was VERY messy to eat. I left most of the bread for diet reasons – plus I’m not a big bread eater – but somehow polished off all of the kebab. I wasn’t convinced I didn’t have chilli sauce in my hair and I definitely had it all over my fingers, so it was time to retreat to the Ladies to clean up.

Proper mirrors, not the ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ kind they have on the concourse.
Still no hand driers tho. Maybe at least get these dispensers BFC branded?

Totally aware I’m beginning to sound like a toilet snob here but it would also be nice if there were hooks on the back of the toilet doors for us to hang our coats on at half time. But I totally appreciate all the work that has been done to get this new facility available for us.

The Barnsley v Fulham match was on the big screen but I wasn’t sufficiently interested to watch. I only tend to watch England matches on TV. If I want to watch a match I’m usually there in person.

We were sharing a table with some fellow Seasiders and again we instantly had that in common with them. I got chatting with the former landlady of the Station in Lytham but didn’t share my experience of my last visit there when I’d been thrown out as soon as I’d arrived (it wasn’t her, I checked). I was thinking how lovely – and how BLACKPOOL it was – that these people were strangers but they were so warm and easy to talk to and happy to welcome me into their conversation.

A lady came around hand-delivering teamsheets to everyone in the room, which was a lovely touch. This is the sort of added value that I had wanted for my £10. I want to feel like I’m getting something a bit special and this little touch did the trick for me. WiFi would be even better though.

Not that we were much impressed with the team. What was going on there? One up front? Ooh Jim’s back though. And my mate Steve’s the ref and he’s a good one.

There wasn’t time for a second drink as we were now approaching kick-off, so I headed down into the stand to take my seat.

Blackpool v Swansea City

‘What time do you call this?’ interrogated Derek.

I explained where I’d been and it turned out he knew very well as I’d been sitting next to his brother up there, apparently.

Steve told me he’d only just found out about Mighty Blackpool – a team in Sierra Leone who play in tangerine and were so-named in 1954 in honour of our FA Cup winning heroics. He said that could make a good fanzine article and I wondered whether or not it had been in the past.

We had a minute’s applause for Ukraine and then the match kicked off and the Swansea fans were LOUD and we scored pretty much straight away (from a corner!) and the Swansea fans were silenced. Woohoo! Kirk took the corner and Madine headed home. Easy when you know how, innit?

And then the strangest match ensued. Swansea passed and passed without creating any chances. They were playing possession football as if they were winning but they weren’t. I remarked to Lee that they reminded me of Milton Keynes from last season but he disagreed, saying they were playing further up the field than MK had done; Swansea were actually in our half much of the time. I later found out that Swansea have the same manager that MK had last season, which explained a lot. I said back then that I couldn’t bear to watch them every week and the same applies to this Swansea side. All this passing is boring and gets them nowhere. At no point during the match was I worried that they were going to score. They only had one shot on target all game.

I wasn’t wearing my magic hat today (hence our early goal) but I was conscious I needed to do SOMETHING just to make sure we held on towards the end. I retrieved my Lucky Orange Aero from my coat pocket and began rubbing it for luck. And it proved to be enough.

So we won 1-0 but damn that was the dullest win I’ve ever seen. But every credit to Critch for getting it spot on with his team line-up. Kirk (corner king) and James stood out for me today but it was a great team effort as ever. Bowler could have made it 2-0 just before half time but he shot wide when everyone in the home end believed he was going to score, such is everything he touches turning to gold at the moment. He did great to break through like he did anyway and the move won a round of applause after the initial gasp of him shooting wide.

Here’s our matchday vlog.

I trotted back into town as I was meeting MG for some post-match scran, while Lee was DJing back at the Armfield. My route took me down Central Drive, where I found myself amidst the visiting Swansea fans. They weren’t very lively, which wasn’t that surprising, as they’d just watched the same dirge as us but without any points to take away.

I chuckled as I spotted the tiniest garden gnomes.

There were a couple of sprightly police horses and I had to divert to avoid a huge pile of manure, which a visiting Swan was pointing at.

‘You see that? That’s how we play, that is.’

I was confused by this tattoo parlour which appeared to look like a terrifying dentist.

I realised I was on course for a too-early arrival at the restaurant, with the table being booked for 1800, so I wondered what pub I could pop into en route. I realised No 13 Bonny Street (formerly the Pump & Truncheon) was not too far out of the way, so I took a detour here.

No 13 Bonny Street

I ordered a half of the blonde (this is one of my fave blondes), had a cursory look round for a free table, couldn’t find one, so I took up a position at the bar. Almost immediately, Mark appeared and invited me to join him, his girlfriend, Michael and Adam. It was lovely to see them again. You might remember Mark from Fulham, when he had taken the free seat on the train, leaving me standing. Now, over a month later, he finally explained himself.

‘I was desperate for the loo. I even had to jump off a stop early so I could find a pub and go.’

I wasn’t entirely convinced I believed him. The excuse seemed plausible enough but why had it taken so long for him to own up?

The light fittings in here were lovely.

And the taps in the Ladies were most unusual.

This was only a flying visit so I had just about enough time to finish laughing at Fleetwood losing before it was time for me to move on.

I was now heading deeper into town, on to Clifton Street. This is another street that I don’t often frequent, but every time I do, I wonder why I don’t go there more often. It is lined with appealing restaurants. And tonight we were visiting one that we had not been to before.

Twisted Indian

MG was already parked directly outside so we entered together and were shown to our table – a booth at the rear of the restaurant, passing this on the way.

Nice lighting in here too.

When I enquired about beer, our waitress reeled off a list of lagers. There was no diet pop either, so I ordered a glass of tap water.

‘Are we having starters?’ enquired MG.

I wasn’t really that hungry after my eggs and messy kebab but I like to try as many dishes as possible in Indian restaurants so yes of course we were having starters.

Here’s what I had:

This was absolutely delicious and really spicy. I had no idea what the mystery chutneys were but sometimes I like that mystery element; I don’t always need to know what’s in my food, despite what Martin would have you believe.

Love that disclaimer: ‘If you’ve got any allergies, just fuck off.’
I loved that the food was served in prison dishes.

With my main, I actually tried the mystery green chutney independently of the rest of the dish and was surprised to find it was really hot and definitely contained chillies. I had wrongly assumed it was some sort of mint sauce. The curry had bones in it, which put me off a bit, but it was tasty all the same. I’d go for something spicier next time though, as the starter had been just the right level of heat for me.

There was one problem with this restaurant for me and that was the music. It was terrible contemporary wailing versions of what had been previously decent songs. And it was being played just that bit too loud that we couldn’t ignore it. This was the second time I’d been disturbed my new-fangled music in as many weeks. Was it really so terrible or was it me getting old?

We couldn’t see a dessert menu, weren’t offered one and I made a point of not asking for diet reasons. Instead, I asked for the bill, which came with a tangerine chocolate and a mint chocolate (I scoffed both – oops!).

It was only on the way out that I spotted the umbrellas on the ceiling by the door.

I didn’t have the legs to walk home after 20,000 steps in the last 24 hours so was pleased of MG’s offer of a lift home.

The house was surprisingly cold and there’s no way I’m boosting the heating at that price if I can get away with it, so I made myself a brew (fennel tea to cleanse the palate after the Indian), got into my thermal jimjams and Blackpool FC dressing gown (so comfy!), burrowed under a blanket, closed the door to keep the heat from escaping and settled down to watch Nothing to Hide, a French film that I would recommend.

Next Up: Blackpool v Sheffield United

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