Thursday, February 12, 2009

Home Sick

Hugh Cornwell, formerly of The Stranglers and the biochemistry department of Lund University, has written "Please Don’t put me on a Slow Boat to Trowbridge" in which he compares the county town of Wiltshire (unfavourably) with the Black Hole of Calcutta.

I don't know what he has against the place - I'd say it's not even the most unpleasant place in Wiltshire (hello, Swindon). I'll bet that even without pausing I could name six British towns more deserving of musical abuse.

Reading, Croydon, Crewe, Stoke, Livingston, Milton Keynes.

Several decades ago I wrote the following about my home town of Blackpool. From what I've seen it doesn't look to have improved since.

Anyone who wants to set it to music is more than welcome.

Blackpool is a third-rate, once great seaside resort in the unfashionable North West of England. The town’s motto is “Progress”, but it might as well have been “Progress, and Sod the Consequences”, as in recent years it has turned from a bolt-hole for Northern gentlefolk into a tourist processing-plant that has been described by one visitor as “The Calcutta of the North”.

Blackpool is at its best in summer, and that’s not good.

The seafront (or “Prom”) is packed solid with garbage, chip bags, dog turds, street peddlars, and people-people-people determined to have fun or die in the attempt. The beach is one of the main attractions – a grey, windy stretch of sand that is heavily littered with mutant seaweed, broken bottles, plastic bags, and the occasional dead dog. People sit shoulder-to-shoulder on deckchairs in this squalor, licking their over-priced ice creams and staring out to sea.

The sea actually looks very pretty, but this is just the effect of the sun glancing over the thin layer of oil and the thicker layer of raw sewage that cover the murky polluted water. Every year the Head of Tourism for the town is photographed in the local newspaper drinking a glass of seawater to prove that it is safe to bathe in. It is a different Head of Tourism every year.

And yet millions of tourists still come to Blackpool every year. They stroll along the Promenade savouring the Blackpool air – a heady cocktail of rotting fish, stale cooking fat, car exhausts and (of course) the sewage and dead dogs from the beach chilled to twenty below zero. The brochures call it “bracing”, but a more honest description would be “nauseating”.

When night falls the visitors pile into Blackpool’s many nightspots to drink too much Australian lager and start fights with people just like themselves.

Souvenirs of Blackpool are bought by the armload. You would think that the hangover, knife wound, bout of dysentery or venereal disease they brought back with them would be sufficient reminder. But the people who holiday in Blackpool are not put off by its manifest imperfections. Year after year, from cradle to grave, from father to son – the attachment to holidaying in Blackpool seems to have some sort of genetic basis. At the first sign of summer, they fall over each other in a lemming-style dash to the Lancashire coast. Once there, instead of throwing themselves over he cliffs, they queue to be ripped off by the tourist-fleecing machine that is Blackpool.


Mike1727 said...

Heh, I didn't realise you are also a Fylde refugee.

The Blackpool stuff is bang on- or as near as dammit based on my last trip there..

Stan said...

Mike : most Blackpudlians I've meet are of a similar mind - they all currently live well outside the FY9 postcode too.

I'm sure there have to be some Blackpool enthusiasts out there - maybe my sister-in-law will give me an argument.

Cracking chip shops and better beaches in Lytham and St. Annes if you really insist on the Lancashire coast - why bother with Blackpool ?

Stan said...

I went looking and I found a Facebook group with nearly 3000 members, but some of the members do seem less than seriously in love with the place