Dec 6 2009

Morecambe in Winter

A busy train. I didn’t expect it and am strangely disappointed. A thin girl punk and discarded copies of Metro.  It’s one of those trains that doesn’t seem like a real modern train-it is dirty velour, nothing slides open and there is a breeze and a drip. I prefer that sort of train somehow. Feel more connected to the outside with such a thin tin layer between outside and me. Then a shudder and we go over a bursting Lune, the nuclear power station highlighted to the left across the marsh, past the council estate and the bewildering array of children’s toys thrown over the embankment and ooh countryside! For almost a minute there are fields and animals until an instant suburbia as bungalows appear with the lurid colours of the TV singing through the midday dusk.

And then Morecambe where no sea can be seen but a Frankie and Bennies in lurid technicolour against its imagined backdrop. And not fitting in with its cheery chilly bobbing balloons and American breeziness.  You are an outsider Frankie and Bennies and you won’t last long. The locals will never forgive you for the parking ticket travesty of your early days-the letters dripping with vitriol, bewilderment and sadness when you charged people to park.  They trusted you, you see. Not again, not for all the bbq steak ribs you can eat-they’d be cheaper down Rita’s café anyway. Not that you can get such things there-but you can get ham, egg and chips, a roll and a cup of tea for 3.99. So who wants your starters and fading balloons and cheery smiles?

It is cold. I walk down the brassy swirly promenade with embossed quotes and riddles and poems from famous writers who I suspect people never actually read.  Maybe lurid Daily Mail headings would keep people moving fascinated further into the mire. And towards the sea.

The view across the bay to Nirvana. White capped mountains across a grey sea, a promise of beauty so near and so far away. A clichéd beauty that doesn’t seem real because it’s so ethereal, magical. Especially when looking at it from Al’s Den.  Eric Morecambe is dancing his merry eternal jig on a plant-bedecked plinth, cafes are offering ever cheapening selections of dead things, fried things, rolls and tea. I wish to buy a wedding cake hotel boarded up and decaying surrounded by bedsits and closed pound shops. It is for sale by auction and will be cheap.  It’s quantity and quality but in the wrong era. Many dreams will have been forged and died in its no doubt once grandiose lobby. But Morecambe is a town of ghosts. Nobody should venture to venture here.

The charity shops are filled with supermarket label clothes at optimistic prices. The ladies in them chat resignedly and /or chirpily about cancer. The Methodist church has a stall in the rain of old lampshades and rubbish.  It is an enthralling place to be.  I go for lunch in the Palatine, a place with pretentions, a cocktail list and papers. The same two old soldiers are talking as were there last week. I eat my excellent pizza with toppings worthy of a trattoria in Roma (capers, olives, spinach, aubergine mozzarella) and have a glass of wine (total seven quid) and listen for the sea over the sound of passing traffic.

B and M bargains is the chain store where famous brands go to die. At pleasing prices. Jamie Oliver’s brand of pesto, olives and pasta are for sale at 49p so I have a happy portent that his chirpy star is on the wane. B and M bargains knew it first.

I don’t go into the Midland but I like it-it is alien yet squats as comfortably as it ever did here-cocktails are £6.95-that’s about four portions of pie’n’ peas at Rita’s café. But it is James Bond in the interior and overlooks the best view known to humanity as the sun sets across the bay and the Lake District Mountains slowly dissipate into the nuclear glow. You can see the Wacky Warehouse from the rear window-a glass of wine here costs more than a bottle there. But there is only one Midland.  And I am scared of the Wacky Warehouse.

The sea whips up and the north wind blows. I see a ginger cat cowering in Morrison’s car park, a place inhospitable to humans, cars reversing and forwarding as random as machinery, where no house can be seen and grey roads stretch to infinity or at least to Heysham. I go to Customer services, my head filled with cats innards strewn across Ford Kias, screaming children, a desperate pensioner searching forever for her lost cat. ‘ Is it the ginger one? He comes around a fair bit-belongs to them estates at the back. Nowt we can do.’

I feel sorry for and angry to the cat. I hope he or she is ok.

In Morrison’s a woman is buying San Pelligro mineral water and I stare at her and am guiltily surprised when she speaks in a Lancashire accent.

I miss the train by one minute and get a bus that wheedles its way around every depressing outcrop of Morecambe for an hour. It is grey; children suddenly run in front of the bus which brakes and an old lady falls over. People say that it is ‘a crying shame.’ A woman listens patiently to and answers every single question her toddler asks. Another woman tells her child that he is ‘driving her up the wall’.  People seem to know each other. A poultry factory blackened by fire is a highlight, almost romantic in it’s gothic intensity as it looms above the single story pre-fabs and the caravan park which stretches into infinity. I know it from Court Watch in the local paper.  I don’t get off.

I start to envy people with cars. A Fiat Uno acquires an almost glamorous aura. Coming into Lancaster is like arriving in LA. The lights, the soaring bridge over the Lune, the old warehouses.

I love Morecambe. I shall go again next week.