I love Blackpool. I should loathe it, because it’s not what it was when I spent my childhood holidays there in the 50s and 60s. Then it was the first choice of Northern working class folk who had enough disposable income to spend their one week’s holiday there, during Wakes weeks when the factories closed. It was never posh but it was decent. We stayed in hotels on the front. In Central not North. Later South, when my parents had more money. But never b&bs. We had ‘hoteliers’ looking after us, not ‘landladies’. Every year my parents would walk along the front and peer into the dining rooms in an attempt to select a hotel for the following year. ‘Select’ is the operative word because that’s what my mother wanted. She wouldn’t stay in any hotel that had sauce bottles on tables. She liked hotels with waitresses, dressed in pristine black and white uniforms, with frilly pinnies, who handed out napkins. One strict rule for we children was that we behaved at the table. ‘Aren’t your children well-mannered… ‘ was the highest compliment, followed by ‘They know how to use cutlery…’ What do other kids do?, I wondered.
So seeing Blackpool today is ‘different’. (Let’s be kind). Rows of hotels with fringed and coloured canopies, names like ‘Dun Roamin’ and ‘Ponderosa’, each trying to differentiate their appeal. Some advertise ‘colour television’ as if we we were still in the 50s. We would never have stayed in a Beatle-themed hotel. Mum would have assumed that it was full of Liverpudlians and ‘common’. One of the worst insults. (I couldn’t watch ‘Coronation Street’ because Mum said it gave a poor impression of the North). We once had a waitress with a Brummie accent who was deemed common. When she offered the conversational titbit that she liked salad cream sandwiches, that confirmed the opinion. But where else today could you get a hotel room for £12 a night?
Today in Blackpool we took Photography student daughter to tea. In an effort to avoid sauce bottles on tables we went to Lytham. Real china cups, tea leaves, not bags. Pot dogs and decorative teapots, you get the picture. Conversation got round to the changes being made to the town. A new front with giant black fronds lining the approach to the Tower. They are trying to remodel Blackpool on Torquay or Las Vegas apparently. To attract a different class of visitor. They have a long way to go…
Taking photos of the sand dunes with a friend late one evening Susie and friend were approached by a man, tottering drunkenly and with just two teeth, looking for a car-park.’Why?’ they enquired (no car). ‘I fancy a spot of dogging’, he said.
I love Blackpool for all its tackiness. I can see past obscenely shaped rock, badly spelt signage, rundown hotels … common folk. It’s the childhood memories that linger. Though we wouldn’t have got Mum back there.