Right. You demanded pubs: you got ’em! Ahead of the Barrow match (well ahead, actually – on Sunday) I went out on a pub crawl with fellow blogger Si ‘BRAPA’ Everitt. We took in a new place (to me) as well as some old favourites with new features.
Si was in town for the Rebellion punk festival (something I’ve yet to try myself, but probably should). He’s a Good Beer Guide pub ticker (constantly working to complete the full set) and today he wanted to tick the Wrea Green Institute – somewhere I had yet to visit myself. I arranged to meet him there. The buses looked way too complicated (plus it was Sunday, so I didn’t really trust them) but happily Lee agreed to drop me at the ‘tute just ahead of our agreed rendezvous time of noon.
It was a lovely day today – I wasn’t even wearing my cagoule – and I eyed up the outdoor seating area for a suitable spot to perch while I waited for Si to arrive and the doors to open. It was 1156 so there wasn’t long to wait. But – what was this? – the doors were already open. Result! I headed in with some trepidation.
This was a club, not a pub – would I need to sign in? I had brought my CAMRA card as I understood this might be required to gain entrance. As it was, I waltzed straight up to the bar, snapped the pump clips and ordered my first beer of the day (nay in about ten days!).
There were already a couple of customers looking very comfortable sitting at the bar – how long had they been there? – and I was aware of their eyes on me. I had expected this: I’ve always found clubs to be cliquey (especially sports clubs).
I excitedly spied the tray of barms at the back of the bar and enquired about their fillings. There was an excellent variety of both fillings and bread. Had I not just eaten breakfast (Multigrain Cheerios and Cashew Milk), I’d have been all over the ham and cheese on tiger barm.
I took a seat under the tv next to the bar and scanned the room. I was sitting in the back room but there was a smaller room at the front, too (and possibly others I didn’t explore).
It wasn’t long before Si arrived – grumbling that he’d had to sign in, when I hadn’t – and he apologised for the absence of any of his mascots on this occasion, as he was punk festival weary. What, no Colin the Cauliflower?
Now we were on to mascot chat, I expressed my shock at his callousness of shipping Keane Lewis Otter (KLO) to the charity shop as soon as his namesake (Keane Lewis Potter) left his beloved Hull City for Brentford. I’d even written a song about KLO (to the tune of ‘I Am The Music Man’ by Black Lace):
I insisted Si explain himself.
‘Well just imagine you had a mascot named after a player – Josh Moler. You wouldn’t want him around as a reminder once he’d moved on, would you?’
I couldn’t begin to imagine a world in which I didn’t love Josh Bowler so I wasn’t really having any of this.
There was a bus back into Blackpool due at 1255 so we decided to head for this, the beer here not being sufficiently interesting to necessitate staying for another. As we stood at the bus stop, I marvelled at the beauty of Wrea Green (where I don’t believe I’ve visited before).
The Grapes pub looked inviting but (a) this wasn’t on Si’s list for ticking; and (b) I’d checked out the menu and it looked sensational and thus presented a risk to my diet.
‘All of our Sunday meat roasts are served with garlic & rosemary goose fat roast potatoes, maple-roast carrot and parsnip, Yorkshire pudding, sausage meat stuffing, Tenderstem® broccoli, peas and lashings of rich gravy.’
Also: Caramel Banana Waffle? Bakewell Tart WITH CUSTARD?! This was all too much, so I remained at the bus stop, focussing my attention on which direction the bus was going to come from. But, now that I come to look at the menu again, I’m thinking I might go for my birthday or Christmas…
The bus arrived to save me from this temptation. I’m still not that au fait with the local buses and how they work these days but Si assured me that they took cash and card and this bus went into Blackpool. I boarded with more confidence.
‘A single to Blackpool please.’
The driver muttered something about the price for a single and the price for a return. Hadn’t he been listening? I had clearly asked for a single.
‘Yeah, a single to Blackpool please.’
Once seated towards the rear of the quite busy bus, I glanced at my ticket and baulked at the price.
Si then showed me his ticket for a return.
How was that 10p CHEAPER than a single? It dawned on me that that must have been what the bus driver was trying to tell me. If only I’d listened to him…
I had no choice but to listen to the child squawking in my ear from the seat behind and focussed my attention on finding out whether Thirsty? was on this bus route. Si is always on the look out for ‘pre-emptives’ – i.e. pubs that might appear in a future edition of the Good Beer Guide – so this was now our focus for the rest of the afternoon.
Happily this was on the bus route so we hopped off at the top of Church Street. I warned Si about the trip hazard in the doorway and we successfully navigated our way in.
‘Ooh it smells nice in here!’
No response from the barman.
I’ve visited this micropub a few times now and always found it lacking SOMETHING – although couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I recently settled on ‘personality’ – but realised I was perhaps being a bit harsh, as I’d never ventured beyond the front room of the pub. This was going to change today – and it would reap dividends.
First of all, here’s the beers:
I went for the Boss Black – and it was lush. This is a Swansea brewery that I sadly missed out on visiting on our visit to Swansea last season. I cannot complain about the beers in here at all as I’ve always found a lush dark beer on my visits. And I’ve only just noticed the Camerons Strongarm – this was the beer I had the Flake in on our visit to Hartlepool.
I probably didn’t notice the Strongarm because my eyes were drawn to this on the bar:
‘Is that popcorn for dogs? I quite fancy that myself,’ announced Si. He had been telling me all about his Keto diet on the bus but surely doggy popcorn wasn’t on the menu? I shepherded him away from the bar and deeper into the pub. In addition to the front room, Thirsty? has a middle room, a back room and a rear courtyard. We strode all the way through to end up in the courtyard.
By the time I’d checked my beer into Untappd, it was time to check out the Ladies. These smelled lovely too (two different shades of lovely – one in the annexe and the other in the cubicle). I took advantage of a few minutes alone to catch up on my emails and was pleased to find a quite lengthy email from Bob from Walsall, who’d seen my article in Autumn’s CAMRA Beer Magazine. Before I’d reached the end, the light went off in the cubicle. Oops! I waved my arms round a bit in the hope the light would come back on (it did) and resolved to hurry back to the courtyard. When I found myself trying to dry my hands under the soap dispenser, I realised I was already beginning to feel the beer. This wasn’t great in only the second pub of the day! This was a result of me not having had a beer in ten – no, twelve – days and sticking to a healthy diet as opposed to eating food to soak up beer. A happy side effect of this is a reduction in my waistline so it is working.
Back in the courtyard we were soon joined by a man and a woman who parked themselves down at an adjacent table. Being a personable sort, Si was soon engaged in conversation with them about Yorkshire or something and, his guard now down, he innocently complimented the woman on her hair (long and pink at the front, blonde and short at the back). The man she was with remarked how he was not a fan of her hair and she was really livid about this and began ranting incessantly.
“See! See! HE likes my hair. It’s only you that doesn’t. Why are you always putting me down?’
It was becoming uncomfortable out here now and I managed to extract us quite smoothly (I thought) by pointing out that it was now 1358 and therefore time to retreat to the back room to see if the cuckoo clock (that we’d clocked on the way through) did anything on the hour.
And it only bloody did! Bang on the hour, a cuckoo appeared through the top doors and cuckooed, the little men underneath did a little dance and there was some sort of woodcutting or something going on at the bottom as well. This was brilliant! How had I thought this pub had no personality? This was my favourite quirky thing in any Blackpool pub; well, at least on a par with Punch & Judy in Alberts.
I had acquired a little fly in my drink when we were in the beer garden and they’re tricky little blighters to spot in dark beers. This one was slipping further down my glass with every swig and was still in there as I neared the bottom of the glass. Si said I shouldn’t worry if I accidentally consumed him as it would be added protein. I agreed that this was probably allowed on the SlimmingWorld plan and downed the dregs of the glass. Mercifully, the fly remained in the glass, which was a relief.
I recalled that the rooms in Thirsty? were themed and Si figured out that this one was Alpine themed. I remembered that the middle room was Hacienda themed (now apparent from the pictures on the walls). So there was much more to this micropub than I had given it credit for on previous visits. I do feel that the more I open myself up to a place, the more I get out of it. And I’d enjoyed this visit very much. But there was another pub that I couldn’t let Si leave without visiting…
We walked down to the crème de la crème of Blackpool boozers. The place was rammed with punks – inside and out – and it is lovely to see this wonderful young pub flourishing.
Here are the beers (apologies for the sub-standard shots but it was rammed at the bar and thus tricky to get decent angles):
I had a half of each of the stout and porter from Black Edge (my favourite North West brewery, which I understand is now available at Ewood Park). Had I not already been feeling the beer, I’d also have waded in for the bottom two from the craft beer menu above.
In here we met up with a couple from Reading and I dropped off some fanzines for sale behind the bar (you can pick one up for £3 if you’re in there). And now it was time to tuck into the emergency snackage I’d brought with me to save me from the chippy or hot doughnuts or whatever the beer might have driven me to.
I dug out the Sweet Chilli Chicken from my bag and gromphed the whole lot down (I’d even remembered to pack a fork). I had some grapes, too, in case of another food emergency later.
During our discussions about Rebellion, it turned out I’d been mistaken in thinking that the festival was spread across numerous venues across Blackpool. I realised that meant that Si hadn’t visited my favourite music venue in town – so we promptly headed there via tram.
It was coming up to teatime now, which is a good time to head to the Waterloo, as it means it’s open and free to enter. It’s not always open when there isn’t a gig on; nor usually free to enter when there is a gig on.
I was keen to showcase the transformation of this wonderful venue – even going so far as dragging Si into the Ladies toilets to show him the drumkit sink.
I’ll confess I was slightly disappointed to find only one beer on tonight – but that was until I realised what that beer was.
Can I draw your attention to the SWEET BRANDY / SMOKEY RAUCHBIER part of this pump clip. Oh my word this was everything it claimed to be, which is exactly what I want from a beer. It was exquisite and my favourite beer of the day.
We sat at a ouija board table that I’d never noticed before.
I’d have been all over remaining in here – with this lovely beer – for the duration; however the band were now loudly warming up (or soundchecking or whatever they call it), rendering conversation more than a little tricky, so we reluctantly moved on to another fabulous pub just down Waterloo Road.
Yay Shickers! This (together with No 10 Alehouse) is my go-to retreat for post-match beers, being situated within walking distance from Bloomfield Road. And here were the beers on offer today:
Well, it HAD to be the Plum Porter after my visit to Titanic Brewery yesterday.
I instinctively headed to the little table nearest the toilets because I just like it (and it was probably the first table I ever sat at in here) but Si moved us back to the next table, where he’d sat on his debut visit here last night. Isn’t it funny, how we gravitate to a first and favourite table? I had pointed out mine in Cask & Tap, which is a high table in the window, where I’d sat on my first solo pub visit post-lockdown. I don’t even like high tables but I’m always drawn to that one as I was for people-watching reasons that first time.
However, I soon spotted that my much-coveted table (surrounded by comfy chairs) had become available at the far end of the pub, so we relocated over there. Eventually I spotted some gaming controls underneath the tv on the wall there. Ooh was this a gaming corner?
By now, Si was sufficiently lubricated to have talked himself out of getting the train home to York tonight, instead heading back to Rebellion for another night of punk festival action. And with work in the morning, too! As he headed in the direction of the Winter Gardens, I called Lee for my lift home – and I was joined by Victoria and Steve who, unbeknownst to me, had been stalking me on Untappd all afternoon and had eventually caught up with me. Before I had to leave, I got to see some gaming in action, which was all very exciting.
So that was my Sunday afternoon on the lash; now let’s fast forward to Tuesday night and the match…
Blackpool v Barrow
I’d had a busy but productive day and at 1800 it was time to head down to Bloomfield Road. I was selling fanzines pre-match but, as the South Stand was closed to home fans tonight (instead housing the Barrow fans), I decided to try a new spot by the West Stand main entrance. I made an active decision to wear an eye-catching tee so as to attract the eyes of potential customers.
This tee always piques interest and soon enough a man came over, squinting at my tee.
‘I’m just trying to read what that says.’
‘It says EGG, SAUSAGE, CHIPS AND BEANS. It’s the Lancashire Hotpots. If you like reading there’s plenty to read in this fanzine. It’s a snip at £3.’
‘Ooh no thanks. I’ve got this programme to read. Lancashire hotpot, you say? I can’t eat that. I can’t eat vegetables. I like them but they don’t like me. They just go in one end and come straight – ’
‘That’s too much information thank you very much. Enjoy the match!’
It was a good night selling in the evening sun. One class of customer I omitted from my last blog is the football tourist. Tonight I met a man on holiday from Wales who bought a zine ‘to get the locals’ take on things’ and another who was here for the match but staying until the weekend so he could take in the air show. I wonder if other clubs have quite the level of football tourists as we do? Hopefully the Football Tourist’s Guide series will encourage more of this sort of thing.
If you haven’t subscribed to the fanzine yet please do so. It’s a fab little magazine filled with quality content from Blackpool fans and the wider football community. If you enjoy reading these blogs and would like to thank me for my efforts and read more quality content please do subscribe. For £15 you’ll get four issues of this 32-page quality publication delivered to your door. I really am proud of this zine – every single article brings me joy.
So, what is a fanzine? It is a celebration of football fan culture and an opportunity for fans to have their opinions committed to the page to be read on a matchday (or on the toilet or wherever people read these days). Like match programmes, fanzines are collectors’ items and are kept as a snapshot in history. I have copies dating back to the 1980s. They celebrate history with a collection of memories and memorabilia. They offer commentary on current events, jokes, cartoons, photographs, poetry, quizzes…an eclectic mix of football stuff.
‘Physical media is still the best form, whether it be magazines, books, vinyl/CD or DVDs – it will always, in my opinion, trump digital. I love holding a product in my hand, the smell and feel and it getting a bit battered or worn over time.’
Chris O’Keeffe – Now That’s What I Call Progress – Issue 6
The current issue of Now That’s What I Call Progress begins with the thoughts of a gay Blackpool fan, who writes about what Jake Daniels’ brave announcement means to him. We then move on to managers old and new. We feature plenty of BFC nostalgia and memorabilia as we share stories and celebrate our proud history. And there’s an insight into the academy, which we hear about almost anecdotally as a vital component of our growth model without really seeing it for ourselves. We welcome new Seasiders to the family as well as paying tribute to those we have lost. Finally, there are a few pieces from the wider world of football culture, including creative ideas that fans came up with when cooped up during lockdown. Whilst the zine is centred around Blackpool FC, the content is culturally diverse and will appeal to the wider football and literary community.
Here’s a quick and easy way to subscribe – just click the button below:
I headed into the ground around 1935, popping to the Ladies so I wouldn’t have to face the busy West Stand concourse at half time. I wanted a bottle of water but there was a bit of a queue as one of the two refreshment kiosks was shut so I decided to go without and head straight up to my seat to get comfortable in advance of kick off.
As we couldn’t get our usual seats tonight (the away fans being given this stand), I’d booked us the ‘royal box’ of seats in M block. These are on the front row just behind the home dugout – and the seats are padded. From here we get a great view of the match and the benches.
However one thing that I didn’t notice as being a thing prior to this season (and probably wasn’t prior to lockdown) is the continual badgering of players for autographs/photos/shirts by fans. Back in my day I’d write to players (usually with a birthday card on their birthday) c/o their clubs with a stamped addressed envelope and sometimes they’d send me a signed photo and sometimes they wouldn’t. But it was always a treat when I saw an envelope bearing my handwriting drop through the letterbox. Sometimes I’d get a stock photograph from the club but occasionally I’d get a nice personalised handwritten note from a player and they were the best ones. I wouldn’t have dreamed of actually approaching a player – let alone at his place of work DURING A MATCH when I’d expect him to be fully focussed on the match. I find this distracting as a spectator so goodness knows how they blank it out when their name is being constantly called out.
Anyway on to the match. The starting lineup was pretty strong, with the odd fringe player in there, possibly as a last chance to impress or an opportunity to break into the starting 11 in the league.
Barrow clearly came to do a job – and they did it very well, flooding the defence and limiting our opportunities despite our dominance. At half time it was goalless and we were a bit frustrated but there was always the second half.
The half time rocket was duly delivered as Blackpool were way livelier after the break. Not only were they now successfully penetrating the Barrow defence but they were making good chances. And yet none of them went in! It was time to check whether we’d have to endure extra time or if it was straight to penalties.
And straight to penalties it was. Well not to worry, I thought – Maxi is great in penalty shoot-outs. Lee, however, had other ideas.
‘We’re rubbish at penalties. Blackpool and England. We always lose.’
As part of my personal development and mental health management, I try to subscribe to a ‘F**k It’ mentality. I found the F**k It Therapy book quite inspiring and this week they’ve launched a video series which I’ve been enjoying. In the videos, John speaks about your ‘inner scripts’ and how things that we’re told as mantras (as a child or maybe by a mentally abusive influence in our lives) can become self-fulfilling because we come to believe and live by them. This makes a lot of sense to me and things I joke about as being a result of my witchcraft actually arise because of my inner script.
I thought now was an opportune time to mention this in context to Lee.
‘Why not try changing your inner script? Why do you believe we’ll lose? Maxi’s the penalty king! We can do this.’
But we were already halfway through the shoot-out (and already behind) by the time I said this. And I was worried that Shayne Lavery (who had already missed a sitter) was stepping up to take a penalty he had to score to keep us in the tie. I didn’t believe myself, so how could I convince Lee to believe?
Lavery didn’t score, of course, and Barrow celebrated wildly. I declared that Lavery could fuck off and I just wanted to go home but we had to stay and do our post-match summary for the match vlog.
But – hang on – what’s this? He’s getting to retake the penalty? And their keeper’s been booked? Oh! Had the witchcraft worked after all!
And Lavery only went and blasted the retake home! Get in! Then a save from Maxi! We were back in this tie. Fucking get in!!! This was the most dramatic penalty shoot-out I’d ever seen!
And then Lewis ‘Banana Boot’ Fiorini blazed his over the bar and Barrow paused for quite a while – just to make sure – before celebrating once again. Well their fans had had a great night. Well done them. Stupid cup anyway.
The kids around me were screaming for the players’ attention as they trudged off the pitch and I thought that’s the last thing they need now when they probably just want to be left alone and get out of there. One kid down my row was holding a sign asking for Charlie Patino’s shirt and I was surprised when the player actually came over and gave him his shirt. Do they get new shirts for every match? What’s that all about? Plus doesn’t this sort of thing encourage more sign-wielding? I know it will have meant the world to that little boy so perhaps I shouldn’t be so grumpy about this whole practice. I guess it’s part of football culture now.
Anyway, here’s a nice picture of the sky over the North Stand…
…and a nice one of the tower at the end of the match.
And here’s Lee’s match vlog, where you can catch all the drama.
Next Up: Manchester GBG Mission #6.