Pilling, Knott End, Fleetwood, despondancy and peas
I open the car door and the wind slams it shut again. I briefly smell the sweet dank smell of industrial cow shit, have an unprepossessing glimpse of flat desolate landscape devoid of feature-the landscape of depression. And do not bother to open the car door again. The only sign of movement apart from the wind is a frantically flapping sign advertising luxury self-catering accommodation up a muddy track. Poor fuckers. Bet they wish they had gone to Spain.
It is August. It is the worst day I have ever seen. But to go to stately homes and the like is expensive and we need to have something for when we retire, the house is dirty and to stay in it means I should really do something about it and nothing fun like cinemas, DVD’s, books or pubs can be done with an angrily teething six month old baby.
So we get into the car and head the only way we haven’t been before. Towards Fleetwood in the rain. We’re that desperate. And it’s closer than the orphanage.
We go through Pilling. It might be fun! It’s amazing the little gems you discover when travelling around undiscovered places off the tourist trap!
Except you can’t sodding see them through the lashing freezing rain, wind and is that hail? Shivering hanging baskets are flung against modern brick walls, pathetic unripe flowery debris littering the road. Poor Pilling. It is a squat little place but has tried its best. The farm shop seems to only sell dead stuff, the village shop although pleasingly a true village shop rather than a Tesco Express or similar advertises both fresh meat and cooked meat-there is little choice seemingly for those who want both. We see a sign for an art exhibition at the church and so desperate for stimuli are we that we go in. The sign was for last Saturday. I can really see why people go abroad.
A sign appears through the gloom. ‘To The Shore’. We follow it To The Shore. The Shore is strangely strangulated by long strands of industrial plastic, the rocks all appear to be manmade, such is their mediocre form and consistency, there is no sand but only clag and we can’t see the sea, just another shade of suicide grey in the distance. We have travelled a few yards from the car but are soaked right through and hopefully close to death. The baby is beaming. That is not good. I really really hope he isn’t getting a taste for this. We need to go to Spain.
Next stop Knott End. I was expecting a tiny huddle of a hamlet but come to a little obscure town, so near to where I have lived for years but previously unknown and I am excited and glad I am not in Spain. Until I try to open the car door and the howling wind slams it shut. Again. There is a cheese shop, a wine merchants, a couple of shops I think are charity shops but sadly are not but then the strangely apostrophised ‘Gran’pas.’ And it is magical. An emporium of childhood; wooden intricately carved small worlds-mobiles, pirate ships with such minute detail, a circus with animals, clowns, ring seats containing wooden dolls with jolly wool hair. It is sixty pounds, a bargain when mass produced plastic crap from Argos costs similar and the bad baby will be getting all his presents from here from now on whether he wants them or not. And if he so much as mentions Ben 10, the orphanage awaits.
I wander around wide eyed and remember the magic of childhood before it all contained running down batteries and peeling TV characters with fixed Hollywood smiles, quiffs and sunglasses. Here suspended from the ceiling are little mice on a Ferris wheel. I melt a little inside. The lovely woman behind the till makes the angry baby beam and talks about Father Christmas and despite it being August (allegedly) I feel like I am in an Elves workshop-it does not feel like lurid Argos reality and I am sad to leave but now carry with me a bag containing a moving seagull mobile with grinning yellow beak and beady eyes. The baby better not touch it. It’s mine.
The elements outside terrify me-I walk past a pub I remember reading about, its infamy a result of being the scene of a murderers confession-he rushed in blood covered and terrified having killed his wife and swung for it later at Lancaster Castle. It looks a welcome relief from the wind which is actually making me stagger, we enter, sit next to a picture window showing us the terror and inhumanity of an English summer and have a soup startling for its salinity. Maybe the murderers wife had asked for the recipe. The pub however is pleasant enough and the wine glosses over the terror of the walk back to the car.
Past Skippool creek, a boat mooring and graveyard, shiny well-kept boats bob next to the skeletal remains of their neighbours and then to Fleetwood.
Fleetwood does not lend itself to the rain. It struggles to be beautiful when dappled in sunlight. A long straggling strip of shops cloistered by remnants of industry, the worst situated new builds I have ever seen, perched precariously on a spit betwixt old fishing factories and the cold black Irish sea-salt covered beaming faces on the advertising hoards hardly visible through the rain.
We think about walking up the high street, a high street I know from my past as being pleasant, friendly and at least free of the usual high street chains but today I really cannot be arsed. Sorry Fleetwood. But the chips and mushy peas at The Eating Plaice are worthy of Michelin stars. Seriously. The peas are not a stagnant yellow green slush reminiscent of first-born nappies but slightly crushed, fresh, vibrant and the essence of pea. They were 60p and possibly the best thing I have ever eaten whilst I look out at the swelling churning boating lake, which looks like it has sunk the Titanic and would do it again given half a chance. Just as we have decided that Fleetwood is really not that bad, a whiskered man shoots out from the Model Yacht Club and tries to start a fight with my boyfriend for parking near his Jaguar.
We retreat to the North Euston Hotel nearby, a brave stalwart against the decline of Northern holiday resorts. It has made an effort to stay true to its rather more superior roots and heyday with its porticoed entrance way and revolving door. People chat at the well stocked bar, the cricket is on but it smells of fried food and the laminated menu offers the normal deep fried pub food albeit with a free trip to the salad bar which stands nearby, appetising looking enough but ignored. Nobody is talking about the rioting going on in other areas of England and it is hard to imagine listing to the soft northern hum at the bar that outside much of England is still smouldering from the flames of the night before.