Blackpool in September
‘I’ll turn Hitler on while you take the photo,’ my boyfriend smilingly says to some strangers. They are delighted by his kind offer and pose in front of the Fuehrer, as his arms raise and an electronic voice shouts ‘nein, nein, nein.’
This is definitely the best fun it is possible to have in Blackpool.
We are at the Grundy Gallery, which is currently running the Crazyland Golf exhibition, a fully interactive crazy golf course designed by artists including The Chapman Brothers and David Shrigley. Saddam Hussein is also immortalized here, a statue in perpetual fall, arms held aloft in perpetual victory.
Outside and the drizzle of summer has disappeared and it is a bright blue mid September morning-not yet half eleven yet the pubs are busy and several men recumber outside topless and clutching their mid morning beers which is probably the second best fun it is possible to have in Blackpool.
Look behind you and you can see tattered filthy perennially closed curtains, empty industrial cooking fat containers and the general detritus of urban squalor. In front of you lie modern sculptures, bleached sands, glittering sea and the far away blue hazy promise of mountains.
People are desperately trying to squeeze this last little swansong of summer dry, licking ice creams with furious intent and spending spending spending on kids carousel rides and lager. Everyone is smoking with cheekbone chiseling intensity.
Two creosote tanned middle-aged women sing an old fashioned sounding song gently to each other at a bus stop, three female generations of a Glaswegian family tumble off a bus and into the Metropole loudly looking forward to ‘an enormous Baileys in the sun’.
We too enter The Metropole, a grand old hotel, all ambitious curly wurly Victorian plastered glory through the high grand foyer, all collect your own cutlery and meals for under £3.95 in the conservatory bar area. An elderly couple pristinely ironed, smile at each other over a coffee. A punk is talking about stabbing someone at the bar. Oh Blackpool, I do have a soft spot for you.
The Victorian penny arcade on the North Pier with black duct tape over half the coin slots is enough to make anyone’s heart sing as a tattered hundred-year-old ghost half heartedly flutters to life when I place my genuine Victorian penny in the slot of the Ghostly Tales machine. A few metres away in the modern arcade, urgent orange lights tell you to NUDGE!!! or KEEP!!! and shimmy upwards in ever increasingly bright orbits. I like my flaccid grey and silent ghost best.
My heart does not sing to wannabe upmarket tourist resorts, desperate to appeal to the Farrow and Balled and cutesy, chintzy and over-priced. Blackpool is the only place not to attempt to sell ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ tea towels and overpriced oversweet over-embellished cupcakes. Blackpool has poppers, Willy lollypops and chips with gravy and cheese. For which Blackpool, I salute you. Blackpool has genuine Victoriana with duct tape or ‘Danger’ emblazoned across it, not a ‘Victorian Experience’ costing seven quid a head and all the chaos, malfunctioning, unmarital sex and working class people removed from the equation.
Blackpool with its hideous aura of post war surburban houses has two quid a pint lager overlooking the best view in the world and is not selling aspirations, anything polkadot or anything pastel. Blackpool is a place to have dirty cheap neon nylon fun and maybe be a bit sick into your full English breakfast.
There is no pretence or aspiration here. People from all over the country who are either ignored, hated or pitied come here and have a fucking brilliant time, like they did a hundred years ago.
And be a bit sick in their breakfast.