Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Nottingham Forest & Micropub Crawl

After a good night’s sleep after last night’s crawl round Salford and Manchester I woke up refreshed. I showered and then did half an hour on the static bike. I know I should probably do that the other way round but I’m not awake enough to get on the bike before I’ve showered. I was conscious that last night’s tea had not been healthy and I wanted to cancel out those calories.

By the time I was finished and dressed, Lee was settled down watching Goliath on Netflix, so I decided to head out on foot to burn off more calories.

This place isn’t usually open when I walk past but I must note it for future reference. Good name, good menu, good prices. But today I had different breakfast plans.

Shickers Micropub

Earlier in the week I’d seen that Shickers were offering free bacon and sausage barms from 1100 today, ahead of Blackpool’s 1230 KO against Nottingham Forest. This little pub is making a big effort to draw in customers and I thought that needed to be rewarded with a visit. I have always struggled with factoring in food pre-match and this seemed the perfect solution. Plus it was free so that was a bonus.

I arrived around 1030 and was greeted at the bar by a cheery Sean and these beers.

Obvs I ruled out the citra (the hop from hell). The malty one sounds quite nice in retrospect. But I’m always drawn in by the dark beers, so it was a pint of Lancaster Black that I ordered.

While Sean was pouring this, I realised I was quite hot after my long walk, so I scanned the fridge for a can of diet pop that wasn’t Coke. I was pleased to spot a 7Up Zero, so had one of those over ice by way of a chaser.

There were a few people in here already but I was pleased to see the sofa in the window was unoccupied so I went and claimed my territory.

I wasn’t halfway down my pint before I began to feel the alcohol. It seemed I was topping up from last night, although I felt otherwise fine.

Around 1115, Liam arrived with the first batch of bacon barms from the nearby caff. I dived straight in, raising my eyebrow at the man putting ketchup on his, as I applied the HP.

So this was white bread with butter (I think) and brown sauce and thus not SlimmingWorld friendly but by gosh it was delicious and I wolfed it down.

The gift of free food seemed to give the customers a fillip and we now began talking to each other. I got chatting with a dad and lad at the next table.

‘Can I get you a drink? I read all your blogs.’

Well how could I refuse? I accepted a half to top up my pint.

The lad was enthusing about Sullivans Bar which apparently is full of Blackpool and has a great atmosphere after matches. I’d never heard of it (not surprising, as it doesn’t have ale) but apparently it’s close to the Devvy Arms (which I don’t think I’ve ever been to either).

When lad was away from the table, dad maligned:

‘I keep bringing him to these pubs, trying to get him into the ale but he’s just not interested.’

‘Give him time. I was drinking lager until I was 30. He’ll see the light eventually.’

‘Yeah fair point. I think I started drinking ale around that age too.’

I began spotting a few familiar faces around the pub. There was the guy who was really drunk at the darts in the summer. Oh and there was that couple who’d recently relocated from Manchester who I’d met at Blackpool CAMRA meetings. They were United fans but were becoming disillusioned with their club so I’d suggested they try a Blackpool match instead. They’d done so and loved it so were back – and were trying out Shickers this morning on my recommendation. They joined me and we chatted for a while before I realised the time and made a dart for the ground.

Blackpool v Nottingham Forest

I entered via lucky turnstile 16 and hoped this would be enough. I hadn’t really made much of an effort on the lucky front this morning. I had exhausted my supply of lucky chai. My lucky tee was still awaiting a wash after I’d worn it for two days straight last weekend (and got sweaty in it whilst Hotpotting on the Saturday night). Three days would have been a step too far – especially as I was meeting people after today’s match.

I made a strategic wee stop and was pleased that the hot water was now back on in the Ladies (however half time would be a different matter).

I made my way up to my seat, saying hello to everyone in the row as I made my way along. Then someone arrived to take up the usually vacant seat next to me, which I wasn’t best pleased about (it’s a COVID thing, I think).

There were loads of Forest fans (the largest away following at Bloomfield Road this season) and they were merrily batting about their inflatables and clearly having a great time, which was lovely to see.

The teams came out and I was particularly taken with Forest’s kit.

However I wasn’t much taken with the match. Forest were the best side I’ve seen all season. They were sprightly and confident and sharp in front of goal. They are what we aspire to be. We were 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 down in no time at all and it is at times such as this that I like to drift off somewhere else. Maybe I’ll think about what I’m going to have for tea or start constructing my blog in my head. Shit matches have historically been good thinking time for me.

But now, of course, there’s Lee sitting beside me, chuntering away incessantly about how he’s shit and he’s not good enough and we’re not going to make the play offs now and we’re doing well to stay up really and the game’s over now and we’re missing him and this is just embarrassing Blackpool.

Which isn’t massively conducive to zoning out when the running commentary keeps pulling me back to the present moment I’m desperately trying to escape.

I headed down to the concourse at half time. On my way back up I bumped into my Belgian friend Caroline and we had a nice little catch up. She was being bombarded with messages from her Forest friend.

‘Your keeper’s our best player.’

The second half didn’t get any easier. I began to be riled by the arrogance of the Forest chants. For example when their target (our player) Josh Bowler was (inexplicably) announced as Man of the Match:

‘You should have signed for a big club.’

Well perhaps he would have if one had come in for him? I’m sure we wouldn’t have stood in his way if a Premier League club had come in with a less paltry offer than their £100k.

The pitch has been taken over by a small group of pigeons in recent weeks. I’m guessing they’ve reseeded the pitch with something particularly tasty. They don’t seem perturbed in the slightest when the ball and players come near them and I’m getting worried they’re going to get trampled at a forthcoming match.

All of this distracted me from remembering to caress my Lucky Orange Aero and remove my unlucky hat and consequently we lost 4-1.

After the match I headed out of the ground to meet Karen outside the BFC Hotel. While I waited, I contemplated the menu on the wall.

Aren’t entrees and starters the same thing? Karen arrived and confirmed the Americans call mains entrees apparently. But come on this is Blackpool.

As we headed down Bloomfield Road towards the pub I was still fuming. And why was everyone walking so slowly?

Karen somehow managed to calm me down by the time we got to the pub.

No 10 Ale House Blackpool & Thai Kitchen

Beer was what I needed right now – and we were in for a session this afternoon. We claimed the table in the back room that I’d reserved for us and joined the throng of thirsty Seasiders at the bar. I had to lean over people to snap these pump clips for you.

I thought I’d leave the stout for now and use the opportunity of a session to sample half of each of the EPA (nutty) and the Wayland Smithy (caramelly).

I enquired about the members cards – hoping to take advantage of the discount off our food and drinks today – but Dave said they still weren’t ready, although we were given application forms to fill out.

‘Will we be coming here often enough to get value from these?’ enquired Karen.

‘Yeah we will.’

I know where the good pubs are in Blackpool now and I intend to support them with my custom.

Karen pointed out that, throughout all those years when we had been up to the Premier League, down to League Two and all the way back up to the Championship again, Forest had remained stagnant in the Championship. I can’t imagine being stuck in the same league for all that time.

We were soon joined by Steve (who you may know as a contributor to my fanzine), his mate Simes and the latter’s wife Amanda. I know Steve to be quite the character – and great company in a pub – and the other two proved equally good value.

Simes had been to the match today. He’s a Fleetwood fan but also follows Liverpool and Blackpool. We discussed how we didn’t really understand why clubs need rivals and why there’s so much hate for other clubs when in reality football fans have more things in common than differences. Indeed I watch Chasetown, Squires Gate and AFC Blackpool on a semi regular basis but that doesn’t make me any less of a Blackpool fan.

I was chatting with the girls about something when I looked up and saw Steve punching Simes with his pen.

In truth this pen was brilliant. You press the levers on the character’s back to control the punches. I’m not sure how practical it is as a pen but who cares? We all spent ages playing with it and Steve said he was going to bring me one of my own to West Brom. He also promised to bring me some pork pie he was raving about so I’ll take extra care to look out for him at that match.

Steve was heading to the bar.

‘What can I get you?’

‘Pint of Wayland Smithy please.’

He came back with these.

I was confused. Amanda explained.

‘Well you had two halves last time.’

‘Yes that’s because I was trying two different beers…’

Steve also brought three packets of crisps and these were opened on the table for us to share. I was disappointed with the Prawn Cocktail (usually my favourite) and Salt & Vinegar (milder than expected) but the Cheese & Onion were great. We concluded that some crisps simply don’t go with beer.

Steve realised he hadn’t done today’s Wordle, which prompted the rest of us to get our phones out and have a little race. I had to show Karen how to play. I got it in four and think I won.

We’d now been here so long that the beers had changed and there were two new ones on.

We needed some proper food and I decided to tackle the Jungle Curry, hoping it would have a nice kick. The coconut milk curries are delicious but I fancied something hotter.

This was just the ticket and, I suspect, more SlimmingWorld friendly too.

This picture became a hot topic of conversation.

Does anyone know where this is?

Steve and Simes told us about how they used to go out in Fleetwood on the pull wearing black leather ties, smoking cigars and drinking peach schnapps because they thought it was cool. I suggested we get a round of schnapps to see if we still liked it but sadly they didn’t sell it here.

Obvs now we were contemplating schnapps we’d had quite enough to drink. Steve, Simes and Amanda headed off in a cab to Fleetwood. As Karen and I headed out of the pub I was fully expecting to be heading home but (a) it was still daylight so we figured it was way too early to be going home; and (b) Karen still hadn’t been to Thirsty? so I couldn’t deny her that.

As we walked towards town I played Karen Sutton United’s cup final anthem (for tomorrow’s FL Trophy final) by Tim Vine, which had been stuck in my head for the past two days. If you haven’t heard this yet you’re in for a right treat.

Thirsty?

It was pretty quiet in here tonight. We contemplated the beer board.

I went for the Lords because I’d enjoyed one of their beers on my last visit here.

We took a seat right by the front door and noticed that everyone was tripping as they came in. It was quite amusing but there’s clearly a trip hazard there.

Given that we were practically in town already, it was inevitable where we’d end up next.

Cask & Tap

It was nicely bustling in here without being overcrowded. I’m so pleased to see this new pub doing so well.

Here are tonight’s cask offerings.

‘I know what you’re having,’ said landlord Gary, beaming.

I had been raving to him about Green Duck and he’d placed an order with them recently. Their dark beers are lush and irresistible.

And oh look!

Sweets! This pub gets better and better every time I visit. Just extra little touches that make all the difference.

As the evening progressed and my drinking sense was all but lost of course I ended up on the keg. As I squinted in the direction of the beers at the back of the bar, Maureen announced:

‘I know what you’re having.’

As she began to pour, a man at the bar said he was enjoying the beer I was about to have.

‘It tastes like Turkish Delight.’

What was the beer? Dear reader, this is why I check my beers into Untappd, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to tell you.

It was definitely time to go home after two halves of that. However that proved somewhat problematic.

Google Maps told me there was a bus in about eight minutes so I took a seat and waited for it. Nope. Didn’t turn up. So I waited for the next one. Which didn’t turn up either. Hmph. I could have been halfway home now if I’d started walking.

So I started walking. Then quickly realised I’d need a strategic wee stop so I called into Brew Room for exactly that. Now seated, I realised walking home was a stupid idea after all that beer, so I called up the C Cabs app. Hmm. Nothing available for 45 minutes. I could walk home in that time.

So I walked home. En route I encountered two other women doing the same. Mercifully I got home safely and was quickly out like a light. I’d walked 20k steps today – and that’s after half an hour on the bike. The exercise paid off, though, as I lost 1.5lb this week, despite three successive nights on the lash (at 13 different pubs).

That was a longer sesh than anticipated but it sure did the trick to wipe that match from my head. Yay for friends and laughter and beer and micropubs and Blackpool.

Up Next: A Football Tourist’s Guide To Blackpool East.

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Thank you to the man whose name I forgot to ask because I was a bit hungover in Shickers, Steve, Simes, Amanda and Karen for the much-needed beers today. And thanks to Shickers and Karen for the food.

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