As the rest of the country slithers deeper and deeper into recession, Morecambe smiles. Because now gap toothed high streets snaggle every town, those who used to sneer at the crumbling ‘four for a pound’ decay here find the pox has spread to their own towns. Morecambe smiles, for now everywhere has the desperate failing small businesses and boarded up shops of Morecambe but no-where else has the view. Morecambe has won. Again.
It’s a tenacious old place. Like a zombie, it repeatedly rises from the dead – in winter it is desolate yet strangely compelling as its snapping sandy wind howls around post-apocalyptic urban bleakness contrasting with the clichéd perfection of the Lake District mountains across the churning sucking bay.
Now it is summer and the desperation has been sellotaped over with shops open again selling buckets and spades for the gritty sand and unflattering nylon clothes in lurid patterns.
People have tried to make Morecambe posh again, how it used to be back in the day when consumptives and grey factory workers came to ‘take in the air’ in a futile swipe against sickness and mortality. The Midland Hotel, an art deco beacon resurrected from decay throngs with people gawping at the retro futuristic poshness, its optimistic pricing and elegantly uncomfortably seating but those who have chosen to spend a few hundred pounds on a night here are stranded on a windswept island of indulgence. Should they choose to leave their king-size bed and go for an expensive meal out, they would be faced with eateries that advertise the price as the main recommendation or with ‘meals of the day’ written on cardboard stars.
The Kings Arms goes one better and it is not the price, not the food but the sheer amount of it that is boasted about-‘King Size’ portions of pie and chips! Monstrous lashings of puddings! Buckets, troughs, mountains of fried delights-drown under a roast dinner tsunami and have change from a fiver. There is no jus here.
But should that shell-shocked couple peruse the streets of Morecambe a bit more, they would find cafes selling smoothies, beetroot and feta soup, croque monsieur’s, all for more than a fried 10 item breakfast on the prom but less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee and sandwich somewhere else. There are shops selling vintage fabric and handmade jewellery, real ale pubs with newspapers and leather sofas overlooking the bay, nice things, things that people like but presume Morecambe, the butt of every loud Southern joke would never have.
Delis, pound shops, restaurants come and go but the essence of Morecambe remains. In a giant Polo mint highlighted by blue sky. In a Guinness and white chocolate cake in a glass fronted café, in the sound of a hacking cough outside Festival market, in shops selling bags of Thorntons misshapes and cheap unpopular flavours of celebrity endorsed pasta sauce, in beautiful boarded up Victorian terraces, in its pure potentiality that never quite comes to fruitation and in its view, that glorious view that cannot be sold, sullied or changed.