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pleasure beach

golden mile

“You’re going to Blackpool? Good job you’re wearing hats”, said the guard at Liverpool Lime Street. In fact blue skies and hazy sunshine met us when we tumbled off the train in our triple layers of socks and gloves. Hurrah!

pleasure beach

pleasure beach

So our first Lost Prom trip North, and where else could we go but Blackpool? The nation’s most renowned seaside resort, famous for its tower, Illuminations, pleasure beach and the fact the suicide rate among 15 to 19 year olds there is eight times higher than the UK average. Blackpool is the uber British seaside town, steeped in a tawdry glamour but with a dark side, most recently revealed in tales of child sex rings and “blowjobs for chips”. Here are a few stats: Pleasure Beach Blackpool is the most visited tourist attraction within the UK. Blackpool is said to have more hotel and B&B beds than the whole of Portugal. The largest chip butty in the world – 1.4 metres across, was made at the Coral Island Chip Shop in Blackpool. There are approximately 800 convicted high-risk sex offenders currently living in Blackpool. Hmmm.

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OK, that was a nice dramatic intro; contrasting seaside fun with the grim reality of child abuse, and bringing chips into the equation too. Oh clever me. So what was the first thing that Tamsin and Nhung did on arriving in Blackpool? Erm, we went into a kid’s outfitters shop where Nhung spent £60 on school uniform. The shop assistant looked on in bemusement as Nhung tried on pieces of uniform from every local school, and as Nhung paid for her haul, including the prize item, a blazer with the motto “Meliora Sequamor” (“Strive for the best”), the assistant weakly stuttered, “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why?” “It just looks cool” was all we could think of to say.

That was it for shopping really; Blackpool’s charity shops are a dead loss, rack after rack of limp Primark and George from 2 years ago. At the end of the day, we had to console ourselves in the Top Shop sale and consequently, nearly missed our train back. But, I’m skipping ahead…

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hotel mile

We headed to the seafront, and promenaded along the Golden Mile and further, passing the tower, all 3 piers, the World Famous Palace Discotheque (our favourite Blackpool building, all cream and blue with strange geometric shapes poking out of it) and a stretch we nicknamed Hotel Mile, pitted with down-at-heel dismal looking B&Bs. By the time we reached the Pleasure Beach we could barely walk, so badly did we need food and a wee. Blackpool abounds with interesting buildings and colourful seaside kitsch but in January, nearly everything along the seafront was closed up, and the beach was scarred and made inaccessible by  a sewage treatment programme. The Tower lift was closed and a group of small boys hanging around the entrance scattered as a sign fell down and the bouncer came running out. “It was the wind, honest”, they yelped over their shoulders as they fled.

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The one stallholder who had opened up on the Central Pier begged Tamsin to try her luck on his attraction, offering infinite free purple teddy bears, but she walked on by. The only thing to do was to get a tram back to the centre and visit a palmist.

palace discotheque

palace discotheque

Roma Lee presides over a booth near the World Famous Palace Discotheque, festooned in bright pink ruched satin, gold doilies and little lamps. She has a heater under her seat to keep the chills away and a sudoku puzzle book to keep away the boredom. As the radio in the background played “I Will Survive” she talked about Nhung’s health; possible diabetes, but happily Nhung won’t become crippled or go mad. She correctly described Nhung as a bossy boots but a big softy at heart and predicted that she would have 3 kids, marry in her 30s, travel a lot and die where she was born,have a neck problem and intriguingly in its specificity, would come into some unexpected money in February, which she hadn’t earned. Due to most of the Lost Prom pictures being taken with film on multiple cameras, and also to general laziness, our trips are not put online until a few months after the event, so this gave us the chance to prove or disprove Roma’s predictions, in our own mini James Randi style exercise. Did Nhung come into any wealth in February? The answer is at the bottom of the blog.

she tells fortunes

she tells fortunes

Strangely for a psychic, what Roma Lee liked best was talking about herself, but she was such a lovely, entertaining woman, that it added to her charm.  We learnt about her husband’s dentistry, the lack of twins in her family and her daughter’s career prospects. Her husband has a business importing furniture from Thailand and apparently keeps coming home with unexpected plastic surgery: new teeth for a bet, a face-lift on a whim. She told us about her Gypsy background, “Where are your family originally from?” Nhung asked, expecting somewhere exotic like Romania. “Hull” said Roma Lee.

“We asked her if she liked her job “NO!” she shouted with surprising vehemence. She would really like to be a hairdresser. Did she like living in Blackpool? “NO!” she roared with even more vehemence. Tamsin was moved to say, “I may not have any psychic gift, but I advise you to relocate and to get a new job”. We loved Roma Lee; we wished she was our auntie.

amusements

amusements

By then, we still hadn’t eaten or weed, so we went for pie and chips with extra gravy in Big Fish Trading nearby. Black leather banquettes, blue and white tiled walls, great chips – a good place to mull over the day’s events. Somehow, we didn’t take to Blackpool as much as we thought we would. It felt a bit fake and contrived, and didn’t seem to have the quirky charm of some of the seaside towns we’ve visited. Instead, it all seemed to be geared to moneymaking, although the people we met were some of the friendliest we’ve encountered on our trips. Maybe this exploitative yet transitory character is what has led to the town’s children becoming victims too. Everything’s seedy and everything’s for sale. The town shines with a grim glitter, but behind the tinsel curtain, evil lurks.

illuminations

illuminations

The rain finally came, as we headed for the station. “Get in that bloody taxi”, we heard a woman say to an older lady, “I can’t” she replied, “My walking stick’s stuck in a puddle.”

blackpool tower

blackpool tower

Lost
Penguin Bar (left on the train)
Blackpool Tower (lift closed and too expensive)
Cake (again)

Found
School jumper and blazer for Collegiate High School (specializes in sport and maths – bum)
Vest and stripy football socks for Baines School (recently in the news because the head teacher banned pupils from using fake tan, as they were “various shades of orange”)
Tie for Palatine High School (also specializes in sport and maths – what is it with the school’s around here? Don’t any specialize in music and poetry?)
Stick of rock
Sugar dummy
Purple suede high-heeled shoes with bows
Green clutch bag
Black leather elbow length gloves
Cream tulle petticoat (described by boy in Top Shop as “ace”)
Nurofen
Lem Sip Max (overpriced)
Pair of insoles
Newfound enthusiasm for palmistry

So, did Nhung come into any money in February?
Weellll… not exactly. But she got a tenner from her parents for Chinese New Year at the end of January, and money back from the Student Loan Company that she’d overpaid at the beginning of March. And Tamsin got some money in February. So, Roma Lee was close, she just maybe confused the vibrations. Or something.

Maclumminations

Maclumminations

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