Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Alternative Blackpool Pub Crawl – Part Two

(If you missed Part One, here it is).

Shickers Micropub

I had arranged to meet Evo in another ‘safe place’ and I was also keen to showcase this great little micropub. I arrived ahead of schedule because I was keen to have a beer to try and shake off my ‘tiredness’ after last night’s adventures.

Yes please.

I struggled to open the door, which wasn’t a great start (although I later noted that everyone else did too), then was greeted by a very chirpy Sean from behind the bar.

‘What can I get you? We’ve got ales, lagers…’

I went for the Rock Solid stout because it was locally brewed and it was stout.

I surveyed the pub for a suitable seat. I usually come here after a Blackpool home match, when it’s busy, and I was perplexed by the choice this afternoon. Sean was using my ‘usual’ table by the bar/toilets. My eyes roved to the back room, where they met those of a hipster on a high chair. Hmm. There was some comfy-looking sofa seating through there but could a solo drinker justify occupying such a prime seating area that could house a small group? The decision was proving tough so happily it was made for me.

‘Come and join us love. I’m Carol and this is Rod. It’s his birthday today – he’s 60.’

I took a seat with my new friends and wished Rod happy birthday. They were nattering away with the couple at the next table so I was able to sit back, be entertained and surreptitiously take notes on proceedings. I feel like a spy on these blogging missions and it’s rather fun.

‘You’ve got lovely eyes.’

‘Thanks but that’s my hungover glazed look.’

I learned from the locals at the next table that the cover of this album was taken in Blackpool.

They are apparently Blackpool fans on their way to a match against Huddersfield.

I also learned that Twisted Wheel (which I only know as a brewery that’s having a TTO at Brew Room next month) was a famous Northern Soul club in Manchester. I really ought to make more enquiries about names of breweries and beers because the stories are often so interesting and linked to local culture.

This man had so many stories – and dropped so many names – that I began to wonder if they were all true (amazing if so). He went on to tell of how he met Eric Sykes in a Blackpool pub and he gave him a lift home in his gold Rolls Royce convertible.

Hence I was suitably entertained while Evo was getting lost trying to find Shickers. I eventually saw him across the road so went out and waved at him.

Now at the bar, Evo was offered the special St Patrick’s weekend deal of a pint of the Irish Cream Stout and a Jameson’s for a fiver. The man before him at the bar had been offered the same but I hadn’t been offered that. Probably just as well, as a short is definitely NOT a good idea at the start of a crawl.

I was excited to spot this calling card from some visitors from Evo’s native region.

Evo was mightily impressed with the haul of 21,637 pubs. I wonder how many Martin and Si have done? Surely into the millions by now?

Before they left, Rod alluded to the pub across the road.

‘Oh it’s a terrible pub. It’s like stepping back in time.’

Well it wasn’t on the list but we knew exactly where we were heading next…

Royal Oak

Oh this was EXACTLY like stepping back in time and it was magnificent. I was back in the 1980s. It felt like Fleetwood. The room was so dated it was brilliant. We approached the bar.

‘Ooh are those on?’

‘No they’re not.’

Of course not. They hadn’t been invented yet. I had one of these instead.

£3.30 for a pint (of whatever Evo had) and a half (of this). Even the prices were dated. I was used to paying £2.20 for a half in Manchester.

We took a seat at a table close to the bar and marvelled at our open plan surroundings as I rocked in my unstable chair. We were so pleased we’d come in here.

Yes it was a bit Phoenix Nights in here.

Obvs I visited the toilets. Of note was the wobbly toilet seat and this hand drier.

I can’t remember EXACTLY why I photographed it but it must have been either (a) like blowing on your hands; or (b) broken. I expect the latter because electricity hasn’t been invented yet.

I loved these machines!

On our way out the doorway was blocked by a man selling steaks from a carrier bag. In an unrelated fact, steaks are one of the most stolen items from supermarkets, apparently.

Bull Hotel

We continued westward down Waterloo Road towards the Bull Hotel. This was one of two pubs that was on Evo’s Must Visit list this weekend. I asked why and he explained he’d had an amazing time in here on a previous visit following Walsall.

From across the road we could hear Champagne Supernova blaring out from the pub and I already knew I was going to love this place. I was also pleased to have arrived in the 1990s.

On entry I was immediately hit with the aroma of Strongbow Dark Fruits. I chuckled at the Swear Jar on the bar.

And I marvelled at the decor for the Cheltenham races.

I ordered one of these and took a photo, as is the norm.

The man standing next to me at the bar eyed me suspiciously. I felt compelled to explain.

‘I’m taking a photo so I can remember what I’ve had.’

He laughed raucously.

The jukebox in here was banging out tune after top tune and I soon found myself belting out Dignity at the top of my lungs.

And I loved this plaque.

I could see why Evo was so taken with this place. Everyone in here was beaming from ear to ear, with the exception of the couple who walked past our table having a blazing row. And the woman at the pool table who glared at anyone who came anywhere near her boyfriend.

On the way out we spotted the beer garden.

On our walk to pub number four, we spied some great street art.

The Last Resort

We were here on Lee’s recommendation. As a former taxi driver, he knows the streets of Blackpool very well and suspected this pub would be a great fit for our alternative crawl.

It was pretty busy, especially at the bar, and I had to weave my way through to get this photo of what I was drinking.

The barmaid stopped what she was doing and glared at me. I met her gaze and was a bit scared.

‘I’m just wondering what you’re taking a picture of.’

I can’t remember how I replied but I quickly threw in a compliment about her lovely nails and seemed to get away with it.

Now seated at a table, I zoomed in to take a snap of this.

This attracted the attention of the man at the next table, who instantly asked where I was from.

‘Trading standards.’

Of course I didn’t say that but I was beginning to wonder why these people thought it was so curious that I was taking photographs. It’s never been questioned anywhere I’ve been before this weekend. Is it so unusual that I want to memorialise a night out in Blackpool? What were these people concerned about?

Shortly afterwards, I spotted an amazing pano of Blackpool on the far wall but by now I was too scared to take any more photos so I’m afraid you’ll have to go without, dear reader.

By now we were starving and I hadn’t factored in anywhere to eat, which was bad news for my diet, where planning my meals is key. Hence I went wildly off plan with tonight’s tea.

Mother Hubbards

This place appeared round a corner exactly when we needed it, so in we headed.

We joined the short queue at the counter and I gave the menu a cursory glance despite knowing full well what I’d be having. I became hypnotised by the graphic of a swimming shark on the screen. I briefly toyed with the idea of filming it for you but I was still a bit scared to get my phone out.

I ordered the usual and Evo ordered the same. And here’s proof that the price of a chippy tea really is going through the roof.

Back in my day I remember when two Bispham chippies had price wars and were selling fish and chips for 9p and 10p respectively. I wonder what they’re charging now? I’ll tell you when Cask open their Bispham branch.

It was very bright in here.

And it was loud, too, with a wailing baby at the next table. This was quite the sensory overload.

There was some nice Blackpool decor.

Here’s my tea.

The fish was particularly good and the chips were enormous. And here’s photographic evidence that Evo polished off all his gravy.

Right. More pubs?

Crazy Scots Bar

This pub is sometimes called Happy Scots on t’internet but the sign outside clearly billed it as Crazy Scots, so I’m sticking with that.

Now this place had come recommended by Ashleigh (of Lee Charles TV fame) who told me at Stoke that she’d recently been for a works do. I was pretty sure I’d never been in one of Blackpool’s infamous Scottish pubs. I was excited about this one.

Here’s what I had to drink.

We stepped up onto a balcony towards the rear of the pub and took a seat. I liked the zebra crossing tables.

Ooh Chubby Brown.

I went to explore to see what the toilets were like.

Ooh glittery purple walls.

Back in the pub proper, there were lots of newspaper articles from when this pub fiercely fought the anti-smoking legislation back in 2006.

I gave up smoking in 2005. It seemed much easier than getting stressed about not being able to smoke anywhere any more.

We soon became aware that we were seated right by the karaoke man. Someone stepped up right away to do a number and, alarmingly, he chose Kingston Town by UB40. Here’s what Evo thought of that.

The couple seated along the far wall were laughing their heads off.

There used to be a pub in Birmingham that celebrated the fact that it had featured in the video for Red Red Wine by playing UB40 songs ALL THE TIME. Mercifully it’s been demolished now. Not all pubs are good pubs. And not everyone in Birmingham likes UB40.

Then a little family arrived: mum, dad and two little girls (one of whom was barefoot). Mum and girls approached the karaoke man while dad sat down at the table next to us. Was the next track ever going to be anything other than ‘Let It Go’ from Disney’s Frozen (a film I’ve never seen, but surely we’ve all endured that song?)? The little girls were a little nervous to start with, until dad (who looked a likely sort) stood up and began belting out:

‘LET IT GO / LET IT GOOOOOO / I AM ONE WITH THE WIND AND SKY!’

Shortly afterwards he fell out of his chair and the couple on the back wall were doubled over with laughter. I wondered if this was their regular Saturday night entertainment. It certainly beats Saturday night tv.

Next up was a man singing Wonderwall. Well I say singing. Oh my word. His voice was so flat that I couldn’t even sing along because I’d forgotten what key the song was supposed to be in.

We honestly could have stayed in here all night – and I might well have another night out here at some point – but there was one more pub that Evo didn’t want to miss out on this weekend, so we were making our way in that direction.

Our route took us down Foxhall Road and we couldn’t walk past the next pub without popping in.

Lifeboat Inn

We headed straight up to the bar and I had one of these.

Seating was at a premium in here tonight but I spotted a table that looked occupied but had lots of free stools around it. We perched ourselves down, prepared to move if the occupants returned, just taking a breather for now.

‘We’re sat there.’

A woman grunted at us before returning to her station at the gambler. Clearly they weren’t sat there because they couldn’t be in two places at once. But I resisted the urge to approach the gambler and say ‘we’re playing on that’ because I’m not a dick.

Happily we found a vacant table with friendly neighbours at the back of the pub. From here we had a great view of the pub.

Ooh look – there was a man on an electric guitar accompanying the karaoke singers.

Brave man attempting Angels.

Someone got up to sing Que Sera Sera and I was disappointed to find I was the only one in the whole pub singing the football chant version.

‘When I was just a little girl / I asked my mother what will I be? / Will I be Blackpool or Blackpool East? / Here’s what she said to me…’

And well you know the rest but I’ll not recant it here because I don’t condone violence. Indeed I’m quite dreading that derby match when it does come around (but yes I’m still going for blog research purposes and no you can’t have my ticket).

We spotted women dressed as leprechauns and I even spotted a woman exiting the toilets straightening her hair. What a pub this was! It did smell a bit though but we were seated by the toilets. Not that that’s an excuse.

Now we did need to move on to get to that other pub on Evo’s list.

Oh that was BANDEOKE. I see. Well I liked it anyway.

Spyglass

I couldn’t resist popping into this new James Bond themed bar to have a nose, despite not liking James Bond. I went to see the most recent movie and I can safely say it will be the last I will ever watch.

The doorman invited us to take a seat as it was table service in here. We parked ourselves down and I surveyed the room. It didn’t seem particularly James Bondy, although there was a glass cabinet with James Bond memorabilia in it.

I picked up a drinks menu. Cocktails £9.50?! Pfft! We marched straight back out the door.

Mitre

This little pub was heaving tonight and we had to push our way through the crowd to the bar.

This is what I had because the Wainwright’s was off.

‘What are you up to?’

Another stern enquiry from the barman. Was everyone here working illegally or something? Again I can’t remember how I replied but I skulked back to take a seat.

I had a look around the pub and observed some Donny Rovers fans at the bar (they’d drawn 0-0 at Fleetwood today). I couldn’t quite make out what was on the tv but it looked like Killing Eve.

It is a nice little pub this and rightly popular. It’s in a great location just off the prom (it was brr out there since the sun had set). The beer was even drinkable tonight, which was an improvement on my previous visit, when I’d sent my beers back.

But, while we were in this area, I couldn’t resist visiting the place across the road, which seemed a perfect fit for tonight…

Knobbys Karaoke Bar

This was stag and hen party central – the first we’d encountered this weekend. We entered to Hurry Up Harry by Sham 69.

This was the last place on earth I expected to find mild (not cask, but still mild) and yet here it was.

We stood and marvelled at our surroundings. Check this out for pub art.

The stags and hens were giving it large on the karaoke stage and once again this was a pub of pure joy. Although the night was yet young and I imagine it would probably get messy later.

If I’ve learnt one thing this weekend it’s that pubs like this are absolute blog gold. I’m seriously questioning whether the Good Beer Guide is indeed a good guide for a pub blogger. Sure, I love good beer, but I don’t have to go any further than No 10 Alehouse or Cask & Tap to find that in Blackpool. But it’s really the pubs (and the people therein) that make for good stories – and good stories make for good blogs (unless you’re Martin and just look at the pictures).

Case in point: check out the signage for the toilets in Knobbys.

Add to this the little man who appeared round the door of the Gents Knobs from the inside with a spray so the odour didn’t seep out into the bar area. It was simply brilliant stuff.

What a way to end the night. Maybe next time we’ll be up there doing the karaoke (I was surprised Evo didn’t, as he loves karaoke). This weekend certainly opened my eyes to the alternative pub scene in Blackpool. And we had barely scratched the surface of the pub map I had prepared for this weekend. I now find myself wanting to explore this scene further – although I confess I would be slightly scared to do so unaccompanied (the strange man waving across the pub and the regular tellings off by bar staff and customers alike might have proved more distressing if I had been on my own). However I suspect this could be just the start of a new series of alternative pubs in Blackpool…

You can read Evo’s view of proceedings here.

Next Up: Chasetown v Cambridge City & Hotpotting in Derby

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