(said in a Lancashire accent).
Yesterday's Times speaks of the demise of Blackpool as a resort. Blackpool - on the Lancashire coast - saw its heyday in the nineteen forties, when they often welcomed seventy trains a day bringing in holiday-makers from all over the industrial North of England. Now, with the advent of cheap flights and cheap tourist hotels, that same clientele have hopped on a plane and gone to the Costa del something instead. The powers that be in Blackpool are hoping that this year will see a return of some of those holiday-makers as the credit crunch continues to bite.
In the nineteen forties my father worked for Ruston and Hornsby in Lincoln (although long defunct you can still see their engines all over the world- and still in good working order). He worked for them as a foreman turner in the lathe shop for fifty years.
We had to take our holidays in the same two weeks each year - the last week in July and the first week in August - "Trip Weeks" as they were called in our area. During those two weeks you would go out for days here and there, or you would go to Skegness, our nearest seaside place, for a week in the YMCA Holiday Camp (did that several times) - or if you had managed to save a bit more money you would go on the train to Blackpool and stay in a Boarding House.For several years ourwhole family went to Blackpool in the late forties. My father and mother with me, my sister and her husband, my brother and his wife. We always stayed in the same Boarding House with a landlady called Mrs Cheffings. When we left at the end of the week, we booked the same week the next year. Life was all very ordered in those far off days.
Bed and breakfast and evening meal - the meals cooked mainly by Mr Cheffings - big English breakfast (i never had the blackpudding (ugh)) and a very conventional meat and two veg dinner in the evening. During the day you stayed out while Mrs C cleaned everywhere thoroughly, laid the tables for the evening meal and put her feet up for an hour. That was the good thing about Blackpool - there were plenty of places to go if it rained or was too windy to walk along the Prom (it is always, but always, windy in Blackpool).
I remember those holidays with affection. We swam every morning in the Lido. Then we would walk along the Prom deciding what to do next and eating an ice cream, or a candy floss, or a bag of shrimps. We would go to the Pleasure Beach where the men would try their hand at the shooting range and the bravest of us would go on the Big Dipper. Then it would be everyone on the Cockerels and Horses with its steam organ music. Afternoons would be spent on the Boating Lake or the Putting Green or sitting on the sands, or making intricate and elaborate sand castles. Then we would retreat to the Prom above when the tide came in and watch our efforts vanish under the water. We would build a good deep moat round the castle so that it would fill with water for an instant before the whole edifice was washed away.
But it was in the evenings when Blackpool really came into its own. All the big stars were there in the Summer season, so you went to the theatre. And then there was that mecca for the teenager in those days - The Winter Gardens. Reginald Dixon rose up out of the floor at the Theatre Organ (usually playing "I do like to be beside the seaside.") and we would dance. All the ladies would be there in their dance frocks (specially bought for their holiday) and those not dancing would sit up on the balcony at little tables, looking down on the dance floor.
I went back once - in about 1985, while staying with friends in Chorley in Lancashire for the weekend. It was the time of the Blackpool illuminations. We walked along the Prom in the dark and rode back in a horsedrawn carriage to look at the lights. Before we did that we had a fish and chip tea in an old fashioned cafe where the elderly waitresses all wore black dresses and white starched aprons, where every table had a white damask cloth, where all the cutlery was silver and where they served a plate of white bread and butter with the fish a chips. And a pot of tea at the same time!
Those days seem to have gone for ever, don't they? I can't really see them coming back. We have got so much more "sophisticated" in our holiday tastes and maybe in a way we have forgotten to enjoy ourselves.
# the photograph is of me with my Mum and Dad at Blackpool circa 1947 You wore a collar and tie and a jacket in those days - and, yes, I promise you, my Dad was enjoying himself.