It was off to Hull on Boxing Day. Nice local fixture there. Thanks EFL.
Hull got the full Tourist Guide treatment last season, which you can read all about here and here. I loved this visit so much – falling in love with the city – and was thanked by Hull Council with a bailiffs letter relating to a fine for driving in a bus lane that they hadn’t even informed me of. The process to appeal this was so traumatic that I had a breakdown. I ended up paying the bailiffs because they actually treated me like a civilised human being, unlike the council, who were most unhelpful throughout the whole process. Consequently we were going on the coach today…
We’d arranged for the Blackpool Supporters Association coach to pick us up from Kirkham today for a giggle. We’d estimated its arrival time…wrongly…and my phone rang just as we were parking up. It was Steve asking where we were, as the coach was already there. Oops. We boarded meekly and kept our heads down for a bit.
Oh good news, dear reader! I reached my target weight with SlimmingWorld! I knew Paddington would get me there. I’ve now got a new ‘Slim For Life’ book to work through and help me maintain this weight going forward. I don’t anticipate that being a problem, as I was pretty much maintaining throughout 2022 anyway until Paddington came along and gave me the extra push I needed to get me over the line. Now this doesn’t mean I can go back to scoffing Midget Gems and Orange Aeros (sorry, Seasiders) and drinking two cans of beer in front of the telly every night (sorry, breweries); nor would I want to, as I have new, healthier habits now. However this will allow me extra flexibility to have more
beer treats. I have a plan but there will be a bit of trial and error involved. I have a 6lb range to work within and aim to stay within those parameters.
Today Paddington (still in charge of such matters) had packed us a cool bag containing:
- Apple & Cinnamon Overnight Oats
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hard boiled eggs
- Ready Salted Square Crisps
- HiFi Bar x 2
The latter two items were treats for after we inevitably lost. And we also had a bottle of Diet Pink Lemonade and cans of Tango Berry Peachy (Best. Pop. Ever).
I scoffed the Overnight Oats and spent most of the journey writing my Birmingham Pubs blog. I had intended to read on the journey as part of my plan to actually have some days off over the festive period; however I figured that this was otherwise ‘dead’ time that I could put to practical use and free up another day later in the week (allowing me time to write this blog). I have been finding it hard to switch off, although I have been feeling less (not at all) stressed and burnt out these last few days.
I always ask where the coach will be stopping off so I can research
pubs things to do when we get there. I had been told Selby, but apparently there were three coaches today (it being Boxing Day and there being no public transport) – and the coaches were stopping at different towns so as not to overcrowd them. Our coach, I now learned, was stopping in Beverley. Cue hasty research.
Now research ought not to be conducted in a hasty manner. I grew flustered and stressed and pretty much came up with no firm plan (my favoured pubs being apparently closed, it being Boxing Day and a Monday to boot). I did, however, spot a ring road with various Things To See and pubs dotted all around it. So the (infirm) plan was we’d go for a walk and see what was what.
I was disappointed to find Beverley Minster was shut. Why would a place of worship be closed on a religious holiday? I couldn’t imagine Jesus would be very happy about that.
‘I wonder what Mary was doing on Boxing Day…’ mused Lee.
‘Probably feeding,’ I replied.
Lee was keen to film the intro to his matchday vlog somewhere scenic. This led us into some nearby gardens, where we encountered dogs in Christmas jumpers and santa hats.
It was either Not Sunny Enough or Way Too Sunny to get decent lighting for the video so we continued on after taking time to enjoy the gardens.
How delightful. We continued making our way round the ring road.
We continued on in the direction of Atom Bar, which I was hoping might be open (it wasn’t). Despite being sunny, there was a biting wind, so we were keen to take shelter in a friendly inn.
‘Ooh look at that horse!’
Lee pointed to a white horse above a door.
‘Oh that’s a pub!’ I remembered from my hasty research.
We headed over and – lo and behold – it was open.
It was very dark inside and we crept in carefully, having a nose into the various snugs. There was a roaring real fire in one of the rooms – and I paused to take a photograph of this relic.
As I headed round towards the bar – spotting a sign prohibiting the use of mobile phones – it suddenly dawned on me: this was a Sam Smiths pub.
I was immediately wracked with guilt about the sin I had just committed in photographing the above. Would I go to hell? Would we be told there was no room at this inn for the likes of us heathens and banished back out into the cold?
Pub rules are interesting things. I’ll confess I hadn’t anticipated the outrage at the thumbnail photograph on my Birmingham Pubs blog. Lee compared Rock n Roll Brewhouse to Sam Smiths in having a set of rules that defined its preferred customer base. My immediate reaction was to disagree with this comparison but, on further reflection, I realised Lee was right. Basically, Sam Smiths pubs have a set of rules that aren’t to my liking (no mobile phones, no cameras) but Rock n Roll Brewhouse has a set of rules that appeals to me (no lager, no children). Neither are wrong or right – and both know exactly what sort of clientele they want at the expense of the clientele they don’t want. And that’s ok. We all have our own set of values and they will differ from those of others. Vive la difference.
But Sam Smiths could fuck off – we turned heel and marched straight out in search of a more welcoming pub.
‘Ooh look – it’s one of those things,’ observed Lee.
This was part of the Puffins Galore art trail. Isn’t this beautiful? We paused here to film Lee’s intro.
This Christmas tree had dozens of handwritten notes attached to it. The concept put me immediately in mind of the memory walls at the museums in Barnsley and Wigan. But these notes were different. They were Christmas messages to loved ones who had passed away. It was such a beautiful thing and I felt tears welling in my eyes as I read the notes.
Further down this road we spotted a welcoming pub and headed in there.
This was a long pub with a long narrow beer garden, which we explored before entering. There were some nice seating areas with the football showing on big screens (Brentford v Spurs). There was shelter from the biting wind here, too. However we really wanted a warm, so headed inside.
I spent some time considering the 10 (ten) pump clips.
My thinking was that obvs I wanted the Plum Porter but Wainwright and Leeds Pale were lower ABV (thus lower syn on SlimmingWorld). Both of these were ‘acceptable’ boring beers that I would always favour if, for example, the only other options were Doom Bar and Bass (sorry, Martin). If Paddington was here, he would have had the deciding vote. But he wasn’t – and I was off the leash a little today (my reward for hitting target). Ooh decisions, decisions…
‘Could I tempt you with a bottle of Moët?’
I do love bar staff with personality. I declined the champagne and decided on the Plum Porter. Naturally.
The pub was busy so we ended up sitting at a high table. These aren’t my favourite, as I like my feet to be touching the floor when I’m sitting down (except when I’m reclining on the sofa).
I picked up the menu for blog research purposes. Lee picked one up too and was tempted by the tapas.
I growled as we’d got plenty of food in the cool bag – Paddington would have been administering one of his dreaded hard stares at this point. But then my ‘fuck it’ therapy came to the fore.
‘Well if that’s what you fancy then let’s get some ordered.’
The food was really tasty and proved to be a great decision. There wouldn’t have been many syns in such small items and, besides, I am allowed that extra flexibility now I’m a target member and no longer seeking to lose weight.
Right. Best get back to the coach. I suspected we might get lynched if we were last on again.
Hull City v Blackpool
The coach dropped us just outside the away end. There was a table for bag searches so I headed there first. No frisking today (boo!). No gatemen (or women) either, with a bar code reader on the outside of the turnstile. I struggled to get mine read and was taking a moment to try and figure out why, as it had worked perfectly well for the person in front of me.
‘Oh bloody hell they’re not working.’
The man behind me was impatient, despite there still being a good 20 minutes until kick-off.
I ignored the shard of ice in my stomach and realised that I needed to hold the bar code further away so the scanner could read the whole thing. That worked and I was in.
First stop: Ladies. Not remarkable enough for a full review but there was hot water so yay.
Next stop: Refreshment Kiosk. I joined one of the short queues. I had been debating whether or not I wanted a bottle of water or not. I could probably wait until we were back on the coach for another drink. I usually bought two bottles (one for each of us) but would stick with one today. And, if they were going to take the lid off, I’d simply reject it at that point (I’m tired of not getting what I pay for). My Scrooge mentality was interrupted as I was heckled by the man behind me in the queue for having a Hull-coloured hat. I needn’t have worried about the water, as it was handed to me with the lid intact. Yay for Hull. They were doing a good job here.
I headed up into the stand and selected a seat where I could sit down and see the match. This new tactic means I tend to sit alone (as opposed to with Lee, who prefers to be in the mix for video atmosphere purposes). I spent many years travelling to away matches alone when I lived in Walsall. I enjoy the peace and solitude of being alone with my thoughts in a football ground. This not only leaves me space to form my own opinions of what I’m witnessing but also allows me to drift off into my own little world when the football is shit and I don’t really want to be there.
As it turned out, the match was entertaining. I know!!! Hull did something that Lee insists our opponents never do: made a daft mistake in front of goal, allowing us to pounce and capitalise. I was so chuffed for Sonny Carey as he gleefully celebrated his goal in front of the Blackpool fans. Whose immediate response was a chant of ‘how shit must you be / we’re winning away’. Way to bring a happy young player back down to earth. In their defence, they did follow up with a new chant for ‘Super Sonny Carey.’
Towards the start of the second half, Mark on the row in front asked if Jordan Thorniley had started the match. I confirmed not and hadn’t even noticed he’d come on. It wasn’t long before he made an impression, though, being promptly sent off for bringing down the last man. I thought at the time that he’d saved a certain goal – and forgave him instantly for taking one for the team – but replays indicated that the keeper was already safely collecting the ball.
So. We were down to ten men. Does this happen literally EVERY away game? I sighed and resigned myself to more heartbreak.
Marvin Ekpiteta (usually the one to be sent off) looked over to the bench in desperation. How was this depleted defence supposed to cope? What should he do now? I thought ‘ha! the boot’s on the other foot now, Marvin, isn’t it? hard, isn’t it, when you lose your defensive partner?’ Hopefully that will help him understand the impact of his flailing limbs and perhaps he will take more care to stay on the pitch himself in future.
Hull livened up (they had been shit up to this point) and made a quadruple sub that made their fans roar. They came at us but still have this habit of shooting too high ALL the time. They did this last season under a different manager and are STILL doing it now. Do they train with a heavier ball or something? Surely they can sort this out? Not that I was complaining.
Hull equalised. Of course they did. I thought it was an own goal at the time but apparently not. It was bullet header that left our defence shellshocked.
I never felt at any point that Hull might win. Could we get a late, late winner? Give the fans a much-needed boost?
Well, no. That’s not what we do, is it?
The match ended 1-1 and we had been entertained and played well and I left the ground happy.
Here’s Lee’s match vlog:
Back aboard the coach the fans were buzzing with conversation about the drama-filled match, with conflicting opinions on Thorniley’s dismissal. What did we make about Gary Madine being captain? Where did this team need strengthening? Why do we concede so many corners? Is Josh Bowler really coming back in January?
I dug into the cool bag and tucked into the ham, cheese and tomatoes. And – fuck it – the crisps and HiFi bars as well, even though we hadn’t lost. Pat then came round with mince pies for everyone and we had one of those, too. It would have been rude not to. And let’s test this extra flexibility.
As the coach quietened down – and the snow fell heavily around us, surprising the ungritted motorway – I chuckled as Pat sang Mistletoe and Wine to lull herself to sleep.
I could relax now, too, with my blog finished on the outbound journey. I pulled out my Kindle and started two new books. I like to alternate chapters of one book with another. This all started when I was midway through Jeffrey Archer’s prison diaries and somehow lost the book midway through. This was during a snowstorm and I was on a bus that was taking much longer than usual to get me home. Hmm. I needed a book to escape into. I remembered I had a free copy of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth courtesy of Apple’s 12 Days of Christmas, so I began reading that – and was immediately hooked. But that was a tome, with long chapters. And I needed to keep up pace with how Jeffrey was getting on in prison. But I couldn’t put Pillars of the Earth down either. And so my habit of reading a chapter of one book and a chapter of another was born. I make a point of choosing markedly different books, so there is no danger of me getting plotlines confused. Anyway, today’s books of choice were:
- The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (a ghost story)
- Suited and Booted: My life as Lincoln City mascot Poacher the Imp by Gary Hutchinson
Both were instant grabbers and made the journey home most enjoyable. Before I knew it we were pulling into Kirkham, a little after 8pm.
Now that, dear reader, was a Good Day Out at the football. Merry Christmas.
Next Up: Watford v Blackpool.