As a child growing up in Lancashire, my family and I often visited our local seaside resort, Blackpool. During the summer we usually went there on the train and I remember the excitement we all felt when the big morning finally arrived.
We kids had a competition to see who could see ‘The Tower’ first as we approached Blackpool from Preston. (I don’t think I ever won that one) My mother would pack a picnic for us, always placing copious amounts of cucumber on the sandwiches, ensuring they were lovely and soggy when we ate them ‘on the sands’ later. It wouldn’t have been the same if the wind wasn’t raging, thus adding plenty of sand to the gourmet mix. But, we didn’t care at all; we were as happy as clams at high tide, albeit often shivering, frozen ones.
In the autumn we went by car or coach to see the Blackpool Illuminations, when the tower and the whole of the promenade would be lit up in spectacular fashion. Sometimes we would go to Blackpool Circus, located at the foot of the tower; a truly magical experience for me at the time. I particularly loved the clown, Charlie Cairoli, who really made me laugh, even though he terrified some of my friends for some reason.
I made a nostalgic visit to Blackpool a couple of weeks ago and took in a trip to Blackpool Tower. It has undergone some changes over the years, but the structure is the same as it was when this magnificent Victorian masterpiece first opened in 1894. The journey to the top nowadays includes a 4D Cinema experience before you are transported 380ft to the top of Blackpool Tower, where on a good day the panoramic views enable you to see for miles. You can look out onto the promenade, see the three piers stretching over the Irish Sea and sometimes see places like Liverpool, the Lake District and even the Isle of Man. The highlight at the top is the Blackpool Tower Eye and the ‘Walk of Faith’ (if you are brave enough) where you can walk on a solid glass SkyWalk. The tour operator assured us it was 5cm thick, which didn’t seem too thick to me at that height. This is not for the faint-hearted and I found it seriously scary, yet exhilarating at the same time.
We also visited the famous tower ballroom, where we had a relaxing couple of hours eating a delicious afternoon tea, (miles better than soggy sand sandwiches) whilst watching couples whizz uninhibitedly around the dance floor, creating unlikely shapes. The magnificent glass chandeliers in the ballroom glitter and glint in the coloured lights, creating a warm, convivial atmosphere. Listening to the ballroom organ being played was particularly evocative for me. Yes, I am old enough to remember the one and only Reginald Dixon (Mr. Blackpool) and remember feeling very concerned the first time I saw his Wurlitzer floating down beneath the stage area after his playing session ended. Nowadays, rules in the ballroom are very different from the original ones, one of which said, ‘Disorderly conduct means immediate expulsion’. With this in mind, I very much behaved myself for a change. I normally treat my family to a rendition of my party piece, ‘Albert and the Lion’, at the drop of a hat, but I was assured I would have been left at the top of the tower if I even thought of doing that.
I love Stanley Holloway’s rendition of this brilliant monologue. He was such a talented man, considering he was a cockney and not a Lancastrian at all! Check out this link on YouTube and listen to his version.
Stanley Holloway, Albert and the Lion: http://preview.tinyurl.com/ohqcl3f
Take a trip to Blackpool Tower one day. The town itself has lost a lot of its sparkle, but for me, it’s still a great place to visit.