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Knauf

Knauf

Skegness is not looking too promising. Yet again it’s raining and during our research into the town, we clicked the ‘Places of Interest’ tab on the skegness.com website and were answered with the message, “No Results”. Skegness marketing hasn’t got the best track record, given that the most famous advertisement for the town is ‘Skegness is SO bracing’. You’re selling a holiday destination and all you can say is “It’s blimming cold”? The only other selling points we find are that the town came number one in a survey in Yours magazine for the best retirement place in the UK, that you can still buy Chesney Hawkes t-shirts on the high street and that there’s another shop called Allsorts which apparently has “something for everyone”, which is definitely true seeing as how the something includes a “humourous turd collection”.

pleasure beach

pleasure beach

So no, Skegness doesn’t look promising. But, what’s this? On arrival, the first thing we see is a rockabilly boutique called Fiesta. It sells mainly new things, not all vintage, but has amazingly cheap brothel creepers and is run by a cheery man called Del. Del tells us about a mega car boot sale (the biggest one in the country) which is happening tomorrow and promises to go home and root through his stock to see if he has any creepers in our size. In the meantime, Tamsin gets a sailor top and Nhung a vintage vanity trunk.

Skegness Pier, That's a good idea

Skegness Pier, That's a good idea

After, Fiesta, the high street is a bit of an anti-climax, and disappointingly, there’s no Chesney Hawkes memorabilia to be seen. It is one of the most garish roads we’ve ever seen, lined purely with shops selling shoddy fluorescent scarves, cheap workware stalls and grimy cafes. Everything is so gimcrack and flimsy, even the street furniture is probably made in China. The stench in the air could be chip fat or it could be petroleum-based products pooling in flabby arse cracks into puddles of grease. The charity shops are also disappointing, although Lindsey nearly buys a cook book, only being put off by a recipe inside for something called ‘Wee Pancakes’.

little hoody

little hoody

The seafront in comparison is stunning. A beautiful sandy beach with wild dunes and a dramatic wind farm out to sea. We chat to a man with a cute dog in a jacket called Millie (the dog that is, not the man or the jacket) and the sun comes out and suddenly Skegness is quite nice. We wander along the prom and look at the windbreaks which all have odd messages written on them like, “I fell in love with a pianist from the orchestra”. We walk through the Pleasure Beach theme park and admire its impressive donkey derby. We have a look at the pier, which has a sign saying; “Skegness Pier. That’s a Good Idea’” (Once more the Skegness tourism board comes up trumps). Lindsey gives her Lost Prom tip of the day, which is “The shitter the seaside town, the better the crazy golf”. Then we have ciabatta melts and chilli and garlic bread in Christopher’s Tea Room and discuss our next move. We are toying with driving out to the seal sanctuary, but it’s a bit early in the year for them and it may be a wasted journey, so instead we decide to head back in the direction of Grimsby (by way of Fiesta to check the brothel creepers – damn! They’re not quite right) and have a look at some industrial installations instead.

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We drive towards Immingham, an industrial port just outside Grimbsy. On the way back from Bridlington yesterday we had seen the Lindsey Oil Refinery in the distance, lit up like an ugly smoke-charred chandelier. It had an exciting look, so big and dynamic, almost breathing through smoky nostrils with a septum destroyed by years of pollution, unsafe working practices and disrespect for its workers. However, security is so tight, we can’t work out how to get near to it, so instead we sidle up to the rival Conoco-Phillips oil refinery and photograph it instead.

Conoco-Phillips oil refinery

Conoco-Phillips oil refinery

We are happily snapping away, when a van labelled ‘Forward Patrol’ draws up and the drivers beckon Lindsey over. Apparently we shouldn’t be taking pictures and we are suspected of being ‘anarchists’. “But they’re Southerners’” protests Lindsey, “They just want some photos of belching smoke”. Strangely this seems to appease Forward Patrol and they end up giving us suggestions of other places we can visit. We are mentally filed as barmy Cockneys and allowed to go on our way.

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Our Southern longing for dark, satanic mills and other grimy exotica is not yet assuaged, so next we make Lindsey drive us through an industrial estate that smells of poo, drains and burning. And then we finish off at Grimsby docks where we want to photograph the derelict Victorian icehouse and the clock tower, but here our luck runs out. We’re not allowed onto the docks and aren’t allowed to take any photos. So we console ourselves with a drive-by shot of a racist chip shop and some pictures of a duck factory. We’re Southerners, we like that sort of thing.

Brit and Chips

Brits and Chips

Lost

Seals

Brothel creepers

Lindsey oil refinery

Wee pancakes

Grimsby docks

cliff's cave

cliff's cave

Found

Retro sailor top

Four 7” singles

Cream vintage vanity trunk

New brake light for Lindsey’s car

New ‘baglady chic’ look for exploring chilly British seaside resorts

motel

motel

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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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