"We’ll be visiting Blackpool," we told relatives.
"Oh, we went to Blackpool," they said. "You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it."
Great, I thought, picturing Blackpool as the Marmite of cities. I detest Marmite.
"We’re stopping in Blackpool on our way back," we told the woman at the hotel in Scotland before we left.
"Oh, I love Blackpool!" she enthused enthusiastically. We smiled. "Some people hate it though." Ah. Okay.
Blackpool Tower Ballroom. It’s like stepping back in time to when Blackpool wasn’t dreadful. Back in time and across to a parallel dimension too, I imagine.
So we went to Blackpool with a smidgeon of trepidation. You see, we’d heard things about the place. Our relatives had mentioned the people and the nightlife, both of which were interesting. Interesting – especially when said in italics – is widely understood to mean different, also in italics, and that’s universally known to mean bizarre with a hint of odd. But I’d been looking forward to interesting Blackpool. I’ve been accused of being interesting myself on occassions.
Blackpool: Speed Cameras
The first thing we noticed about Blackpool was that speed cameras are very much the fashion. Every street appears to have one. I have been unable to decide whether this is due to the prevailing air of "we must take your money!" present throughout the city (the cynical look) or whether this is really out of sense of protecting the tottering old biddies from too severe a car-impact-related hip injury that it prevents them from coming back and spending their pensions on tat (the alternative cynical look).
Blackpool: Guesthouses And Tat
Guesthouses and shops selling tat make up approximately 105% of all businesses in Blackpool (margin of error: 1% (percentage comprehension of percentages: three fifths)). The general rule of thumb for any business premise in Blackpool is: if it’s not a guesthouse then it’s a shop selling tat or a guesthouse selling tat or a tatty guesthouse. It’s quite often a tatty guesthouse. And it’s quite often selling tat.
The proliferation of guesthouses and shops selling tat does mean that market forces come into play. Do you know the Klingon proverb "guesthouses are a dish that are best eaten cheaply?" It is very cheap in Blackpool. You may also have heard of the non Star Trek universe-related saying "you get what you pay for" (although I wouldn’t rule out a Ferengi Rule of Acquisition here). This applies to Blackpool like you wouldn’t believe. The guesthouses are not great. The tat is not even good quality tat priced competitively.
We enjoyed Blackpool Tower. In a city that otherwise excelled in disappointment at nearly every turn the tower itself was very nice. Lovely architecture inside and out; the ballroom was beautiful; the view from the top was lovely.
View from the top of Blackpool Tower. You could almost believe the place was pleasant from up here. Almost.
I will moan about the elevators though. They’re not frequent enough to prevent long and tedious queues to form. That is all. You’ll notice that unlike the old woman at the front of the queue to come back down I’m not complaining that the wheelchair-bound visitors were given priority causing us all to wait an extra five minutes. This is because – despite being one of nature’s finest moaners – I’m not a heartless beast. I do play one sometimes on the web though.
Blackpool: Eating And Drinking
As you might expect from a classic British seaside city, fish and chips is big on the menu options of the eating establishment choices. Of course, your eating establishment choices are fish and chip shops or nothing so that’s hardly surprising. But that’s okay because if you visit a place like Blackpool you probably want to do the touristy thing and buy fish and chips anyway. We had fish and chips for lunch.
And some more chips at the end of the evening. But that was partly to warm our hands up.
When it comes to drinking I’m a big fan of real ales in local pubs. My wife likes a good cider (i.e. not the stuff you can buy in 2-litre bottles in Asda). We were suitably impressed with our recent visits to Liverpool and Scotland. Blackpool was a kick in the crotch by comparison. Finding a pub that wasn’t a Yates’s or a Wetherspoons or something equally ubiquitous proved to be a chore. However, we did finally find a place that seemed to fit the bill from the outside.
Stepping in, out of the cold northwesterly wind, we first became aware that the pub had an aroma. Imagine a pub in the 1970s filled to the rafters with smokers drinking quality lagers such as Double Diamond and Harp and Hofmeister. Imagine a smoking ban comes into effect. Imagine one day afterwards. That was this pub. Trying not to breathe in I spotted no sign of a real ale or draught cider and ordered a bottled cider for my other half and a pint of some unfamiliar bitter for me. Big mistake. My pint tasted how the pub smelt.
After this we stuck to Wetherspoons. I like to give local pubs my custom wherever I go but I will say this for Wetherspoons: clean, good range and quality of beers and ciders, and definitely the drinking destination of choice in Blackpool.
Blackpool Tower illuminated with illuminations. Lightbulbs to you and me.
Blackpool is renowned for its entertainment.
The Pleasure Beach!… closed just as we turned up.
The Tower!… closed by early evening.
The strip clubs!… weren’t really what we were after. I swear.
This left a small handful of shows on the pier or in the shifty-looking venues along the seafront. Our choices were: a psychic, a medium, a psychic/medium, or an all-singing, all-dancing tribute to mediums. I know that Blackpool is a hub for the elderly but surely some of them want to do something else other than part with their money to a con artist in return for a fictitious chat with the latest of their friends who decided to skip Earth entirely rather than visit Blackpool again.
And good riddance. It’s an awful place. The seafront isn’t that great and it goes downhill rapidly the further inland you head. It was a tired-looking city with little to nothing to recommend it. Some people like it; some people hate it. We were warned. We hated it.
And that concludes our tour of the northwest. Liverpool we liked a lot. Scotland we loved. Let us never speak of Blackpool again.