I woke up at 0800, still physically exhausted from yesterday’s adventures and near-death experience. Little did I know that Southampton wasn’t done with me yet and was in no mood to forgive me for daring to go to Portsmouth (and enjoy it!) last night.
I headed straight to the shower on waking and stuck my Upbeat playlist on to get me going. I seem to be getting better at working hotel showers but this morning it was the free toiletries that proved tricky. The little bottles were a weird shape – tapered like a pawn – and it was nigh on impossible to squeeze the bottles to get the shampoo/shower gel out. Instead I had to wait for the bubble to get to the top (bottom) and the liquid to slowly seep out. Thankfully we were having a slow morning (a practice I was learning through my Fuck It Therapy) so I wasn’t in a hurry.
The plan for this morning was to chill at the hotel and enjoy the gym, pool and jacuzzi. I still didn’t have a swimming costume but I figured my gym kit could pass; or simply laying on a sun lounger by the pool with a book would have been great.
We didn’t do any of that of course because…well, pubs. But I ended up with wet clothes anyway as the shower water ended up soaking my clothes that were on the bathroom floor, so I spent a good 15 minutes drying them with the hairdryer (there was a note on the heater prohibiting putting clothes on there). But that was ok and in line with our slow morning with no darting about. We’d done enough touristy stuff yesterday so sacked off the Tudor House and Garden that had been on the itinerary (and had also been recommended) for this morning. They also do a Ghost Walk from there which had been in the running for last night’s entertainment before we were tempted over to Portsmouth by Powder Monkey Brewing Co.
Which offers a nice segue back to the language barrier that I encountered last night. Now I’ll confess I do struggle with strong accents sometimes and it can take me some time to tune in. I remember this happening before a match at Stoke when I spent some time in the company of Donny Piet, who has a very strong Yorkshire accent. Similarly with Pam at Chasetown, who has a very strong Northern Irish accent. I struggled on holiday in Dublin, too, where it took my brain a good few seconds to translate what the bar staff were saying to me. I tune in eventually after listening hard and then have no problems going forward with those accents. But this was not a problem I was expecting to encounter Down South.
Cue Marcus of Powder Monkey fame using one word last night that I just could not catch. It was clearly an important word as he mentioned it three times. In Blankety Blank terms, he said they’d been often asked for BLANK beer but they don’t do BLANK beer. Certain pubs only take BLANK beer so they can’t get their beers in there. Was this some new sort of beer I should be aware of? A Southern speciality? I had to ask him to clarify. I still couldn’t understand when he repeated it slowly but Lee caught on and translated.
‘He’s saying ‘cask’.’
Dear reader, I’d never heard cask pronounced like that before. Think bath and Bath. It blew my mind. I had no idea Southerners pronounced cask like that. Marcus adapted his language and pronunciation to help me understand and ended up saying ‘bottle conditioned’ as the universally understood term and we made a little joke about it. This inclusivity helped me feel welcome in Portsmouth.
Anyway, back to the morning after: let’s get some scran!
The hotel breakfast was brilliant. Dearer but superior to Premier Inn. It was self-service and there was plenty of everything. What a treat to have all of those beans! I do love a nice moist breakfast the morning after a night on the beer.
The drinks machines were swanky too, with iPad type screens to select your drinks. There was no Earl Grey but there was rooibos (red tea for a red town) so I selected the hot water for that. On the cold drinks machine you had to hold your finger on the selected drink (orange juice for me) for it to pour.
After a leisurely breakfast we returned to our room to pack. The gym wasn’t going to happen. We’d done a recce and everything but it was a bit of a trek over to the other building and it was cold and we’d only end up rushing about if we went to the gym now and we wanted to take it slow this morning as we had another long drive ahead of us tonight. Hopefully this one wouldn’t try to kill us like last night’s.
First stop of the day was Tesco. It had to be Tesco specifically because I’d been notified that I had some Clubcard vouchers that were about to expire and I wasn’t about to let that happen.
We were here to top up our cool bag with snackage for the journey home so we didn’t need to stop off for food and could thus get home at a (hopefully) reasonable hour.
Tesco seemed dear compared to our usual shops (‘Two pounds for Tango Berry Peachy?! I’m not paying that! It’s a pound in Food Warehouse. What own brand stuff have they got? 80p for Pink Lemonade? That’ll do.’)
We spotted some pumpkin seeds (which you may recall had been a taste sensation in The Cowherds last night) so we picked up those too. Together with cheese, cherry tomatoes, chicken satay skewers, Tesco Finest turkey with apple and cranberry stuffing (very nice!) and bacon strips, that would see us home nicely sustained.
The queues were long for petrol and the car wash (definitely needed after we got coated in salt yesterday) so we headed out without either. Lee suggested we do a recce of the ground to see if there was any street parking nearby so we headed down there.
The street parking all seemed to be permit holders only but a quick online search located this car park pretty close by. We were there early enough to secure the spot right by the exit. And it was only £3 for six hours. It was now noon so that was perfect.
As we headed out of the car park on foot – and Lee was instantly recognisable as a Blackpool fan in his tangerine hat – we were hollered over by a man who had also just parked up. He was ‘a West Ham fan really’ who came to watch Southampton a few times.
‘It’s only because it’s Premier League football. We wouldn’t bother if they were in the Championship.’
‘Oh…we like the Championship.’
‘Oh well yeah of course it’s all right for you… I didn’t mean any disrespect… Yeah, er, my son here knows all the stats about all the clubs…but he doesn’t really know anything about Blackpool, do you son? We don’t know any of the Blackpool players.’
‘Oh right. Let’s hope Southampton don’t either and we might surprise them!’
‘Well you’ve done well to get this far, haven’t you?’
(We’d won one match to get through to the FA Cup fourth round).
‘Hmm…Blackpool…it’s a long drive home when you’ve lost, isn’t it?’
Dear reader, I honestly think this guy was genuinely trying to be nice but these condescensions just kept gushing out of his mouth. Anyway, let me show you a bit of Southampton from our walk down to the water.
The purpose of our bimble over this way was to see the cruise ships. We’d spotted a huge one on our drive into Southampton yesterday and wanted a closer look – as well as to capture images for the vlog and blog.
I’d fallen in love with the immense Celebrity Silhouette when I’d seen her in Dubrovnik some years ago. Which ship would be here today?
As we gazed on in awe, a woman approached us in a slight state of flux.
‘Excuse me. We’re meant to be getting on that ship. Do you know how we get to it?’
We didn’t but we enquired where they were going, which was down to Spain and Portugal. Ooh we’d got it all wrong, hadn’t we, going to Southampton v Blackpool?
As I pondered my life choices we accidentally happened across a pub.
Ooh this was in Martin’s Top 100 Pubs – with mutterings about the gents toilets being hard to get out of. I had to send Lee in to test them. But first: beer.
I went for the stout obvs. Lee (a non-drinker) was bored of lemonade and decided to try a kombucha.
These sound magnificent but (a) Paddington’s voice is pretty loud at the moment (‘you’re not REALLY hungry after that big breakfast, are you, Miss Stuart?’); and (b) pretzels are a migraine trigger for me.
We were curious about the pub sign. Was that the ‘dancing man’ of the nearby brewery fame? He was everywhere.
We enquired of the barmaid but our question fell on deaf ears. Oh well – we were going to the brewery next, so we could ask there.
The pub was busy but there was a vacant table in the room to the left. With 12 vacant seats, the table was reserved for 1.30pm. Well it was 1.05pm now and we were only stopping for a quick half (we’d only stumbled across this place by accident and weren’t even supposed to be here). We took a seat and removed hats, coats, scarves, etc because of course it was warm in here.
Lee was gone for ages while I listened in to the Southampton fans on the adjacent table talking about their other cup match (it seemed we were too insignificant to warrant a mention even though we were their opponents today). I looked around and smiled at the quirky decor. This is one of those pubs that has been decorated with love, with lots of interesting things to look at. It smelled amazing, too, and I began to wish we’d left room for lunch.
Lee returned and confirmed the toilets weren’t that hard to get out of – the door just needed a forceful shove.
A staff member casually walked past and enquired: ‘Are you waiting for some friends to join you?’ I think I was getting the hang of this language barrier now and I translated this as the passive aggressive for: ‘Please vacate that table, as it’s reserved for customers we value more highly than you.’
So up we supped and off we fucked.
This was a stunning building both outside and in. As we strode towards the bar I was greeted by a friendly face.
Dear reader, I’ll never make a poker player. I clearly have a face that reads: ‘who the fuck are you?’ when I don’t recognise someone.
‘It’s Alan from Cookham.’
I knew Alan very well by name so that was helpful information. We got chatting immediately about football – he and his friend and me and Lee – before I excused myself for a minute to nip to the bar.
As I stood contemplating the pump clips looking for a standout word like STOUT or PORTER or even a picture of an animal, I was asked what I wanted.
‘Er have you got any dark beers on?’
‘Any what beers?’
(That language barrier again!).
‘Any dark beers: stouts, porters…?’
‘Ah yes – we’ve got a milk stout that’s 4.5% and a coffee stout at 5.9%. We’ve got a rum one as well, but that’s 13.5%…’
He turned to the draft taps to get me tasters of the milk stout and the coffee stout but not the rum one because that’s 13.5%…
Meanwhile I’d spotted a Christmas beer on cask so asked for a taster of that, too.
This was the third successive Christmas ale I’d sampled but not bought this month – none of which had been dark beers. Are Christmas stouts and porters not a thing any more? Is it because they’re not dark beers that they’re still on sale in January?
My taster man had gone off to serve someone else as the bar was busy but I was quickly approached by his colleague who was ready to take my order.
‘Could I have a half of the rum stout please?’
‘The rum? That’s 13.5%…’
‘Ok I’ll have a half of the coffee stout then please.’
Did they not want to sell the 13.5%? Was it because it was relatively early in the day? Because I was a woman? Or is this a pre-sale disclaimer for everybody? Had they experienced issues with people getting accidentally plastered on strong beers? I’d never experienced a strength warning before. I was perplexed by this at the time but, on reflection, it did give me time to think and I did change my mind. But surely one half of 13.5% beer wouldn’t have done me any harm? I might even have enjoyed the game more…
Anyway they had some exciting ginger beer for Lee which I’d never seen before.
As the drinks were being poured I enquired after the name of the brewery and whether said dancing man was the one from the Platform Tavern. The barman didn’t know (‘I’ve only been here a year’) but he did tell me that Dancing Man Brewery started off brewing in the cellar of the Platform Tavern. This was a good clue in my quest to find out who said dancing man was.
I’ve just continued my research on the Dancing Man website, which was of no help whatsoever in this regard, however I did learn that they have a pubdog called Mr Watson, so my research wasn’t in vain. If anyone actually knows who this dancing man is please let me know.
‘Are you waiting for the bar?’ enquired someone who could clearly see that we weren’t. I spied an empty corner at the far end of the pub and suggested we relocate over there.
We had a good chat about football past and present with Alan and his pal and the time quickly ticked on. According to Google, it was a 25 minute walk to the ground, so I conducted my Loo Review before we left.
Excellent wall art, Dancing Man. Bravo!
Southampton v Blackpool
The walk to the ground was straightforward enough – basically following the coast, but cutting off a corner.
There were railings dividing the queue to the away end into several separate queues. I joined the second queue and when I got to the front was told to file back out and join the first queue, as that was the bag search queue. There had been no indication of this at the start of the queue so that annoyed me a little. I was soon smiling though as the bag search man was joking with a Pool fan that ‘ooh Haribo – that’s definitely a banned item – I’m going to have to confiscate those.’
On entry into the ground I was greeted with the smiling face of Apple Cake Rob. It’s always a pleasure to see Rob and I took a moment to chat with him before heading on to conduct my pre-match business.
Ooh there was Mark from Blackpool Fylde & Wyre CAMRA. I paused to chat with him about the fake news circulating about the Brew Room – and it transpired we’d both been in Bookshop Alehouse last night, but at different times.
Finally I got to the loo, which was so nice it gets a photo.
I forgot to buy a bottle of water despite already being thirsty after that walk and having WAY too many layers on (it really wasn’t that cold). But by the time I’d realised this I was nicely settled in my favoured spot: towards the back and out of the way, where I could watch the match from a seated position.
Just after kick off, a couple of tall lads appeared in front of me. They stood in the aisle so as to not block my view but a steward immediately pounced on them and told them they weren’t allowed to block the aisle and they had to block my view instead. Great. I tried to look around them for a bit – pretending they were stanchions – but eventually gave in and stood up. When they headed down to the concourse with ten minutes to go until half time I gratefully flopped back down into my seat.
I enjoy sitting on my own at matches. When the football is
a bit shit not going quite so well, I escape into my thoughts and switch to creative mode. Sometimes I’ll be planning my blog in my head. Sometimes I’ll be planning what’s for tea. Sometimes I’ll be solving a tricky problem that’s arisen in my book. Today I was about my new Patreon account which I’m launching…well now.
As well as putting these blogs together (this trip has taken up six days in the planning, researching and writing), I’m also writing my footballing memoirs, in addition to editing the Blackpool fanzine. In order to perfect my craft, I’m also studying for a BA (Hons) in Arts & Humanities (Creative Writing & English Literature). If you enjoy my work and would like to help inspire me to keep churning out this nonsense, I’d love it if you’d support me by offering a small monthly donation to help keep me going. I’ll update you on what I’m working on, I can give you a shout out in this blog (well technically not this one, a future one) or you could commission me to write a piece for/about your business. Here’s the link with further details.
Hey a girl’s gotta
drink eat, right?
Suddenly there’s the full weight of someone’s body collapsing on top of me from above. What the fuck? Instinctively my ‘fight’ mode is triggered and I begin pushing this person off me – get off me – and into the empty row in front. Jesus what just happened there?
I now see there’s a girl collapsed in a heap in front of me and reach out to help. People are asking me if I’m all right but I’m fine, what about this poor girl? What just happened?
I’m fighting back tears because I’m in shock and everyone is still asking if I’m all right. Then Lee appears and I tell him what happened and he mics me up and we do our half time summary because that’s what we do at half time. Then eventually I give in and head down with a steward to first aid because someone said I probably should in case I get whiplash or something.
I’m not expected in first aid but they find me a seat and I ask for a glass of water (another reason for coming down here). I explain my neck hurts a bit so they prod that and ask me some questions. They keep mentioning a head injury but I’m more concerned about a neck/back injury but obvs they know what they’re doing. Anyway I’m soon given a couple of paracetamol and discharged. I’m anxious about heading back out into the busy stand (even more so than usual) so ask if there’s somewhere quiet I could sit and watch the match (thinking a disabled section or sensory room – which I can see that they do have) but perhaps I wasn’t clear or didn’t push hard enough. All I can say is that it was a good job I’d had a couple of beers before the match to help quell my anxiety, otherwise I’d have been in a right mess now. Mercifully I managed to find a seat towards the front where (a) I could sit down and see; and (b) the person behind me was also sitting down. Phew!
The disadvantage of my new position was that I was close to the home fans. For some reason I cannot understand, there are huge corners of empty seats within the home end, but the away fans are seated in a narrow area directly next to home fans. I don’t like being too close to opposition fans and today was a good example as to why. When they went 2-0 up they were positively gloating. Now why would they do that? They are a Premier League club and they were at home. Just celebrate the goal and leave us out of it.
‘Nice day out, now fuck off home.’
‘It’s a long way back to Blackpool when you’ve lost.’
We pulled a goal back and of course that was the only occasion during the match that VAR was used (for a possible offside). Can’t have the little visitors enjoying themselves, can we?
We lost 2-1 and headed out of the ground and back towards the car. As Lee was filming us doing our post-match summary, we were heckled by gloating Southampton fans: ‘That is why you’re going down.’ I’m not sure a cup defeat to a team in a higher league has any bearing on our league status, nor was there any need for that. Other clubs’ fans would be sympathetic, wish us luck for the rest of the season, ask us what our YouTube channel was, wish us a safe journey home. But not Southampton.
Part of our walk involved walking slightly below where Southampton fans were leaning across a barrier directly above us. I felt scared, expecting them to spit at us or throw something. It felt like Burnley or Preston and it was horrible.
Mercifully we were soon back in the car and heading north, tucking into chicken satay skewers and cheese and grapes and – fuck it – crisps and an Alpen Light.
This Football Tourist Guide series is all about us going to football towns and cities and wanting to fall in love with them through their culture and tourism and food and beer. And that’s usually what happens. People appreciate us wanting to learn about them and immerse ourselves in their culture and we are welcomed and made to feel like we belong. We joined a Sikh festival at Luton and were kidnapped by a local and introduced to banked beer in Hartlepool in towns that have embraced us. But – mercifully occasionally – we are met with hostility and told to ‘get on your donkey and fuck off back to Blackpool’ and called cunts (in writing).
Sadly we were leaving Southampton with a bitter taste in our mouths but we had made some lovely new friends in Portsmouth and were already looking forward to a proper visit there to do that city justice.
As we drove through Manchester the rain began to pour. There’s something cleansing and comforting about rain. Plus it cleaned our car, washing away a lot of the grit that we’d accumulated on the way down yesterday (as well as explaining why we’d never experienced that before).
We were home at 2230 absolutely shattered. It would be days before I’d recover – but recover I would, in time to do it all over again in Middlesbrough next weekend. Fingers crossed we’d get a warmer welcome there…
Next Up: A Football Tourist’s Guide to Middlesbrough.