Tuesday 10 November 2015

The Annual Pilgrimage to Blackpool

We go to Blackpool Illuminations every year, it’s a tradition. I’m pretty sure it’s a tradition for every family north of the imaginary border we place between ourselves and ‘the south’. I’ve always loved the illuminations, going fills me with the nostalgia of my own rainy childhood days spent traipsing about the seafront.

It always rains. And the illuminations rarely change. And the chips never taste as good as I remember from my youth. And the shops are littered with candy phalluses. And, if you go on a weekend, the streets are filled with drunks. And yet, it’s still the perfect place for an autumn family day out. Just make sure you have explanations ready as to why the lollipops have testicles.

We went during half term this year. I think we usually go a couple of weeks later, because the weather is always terrible. It wasn’t so bad this year, it rained but was warm and nobody’s hat got blown off (these are the sort of achievements you can really celebrate in Blackpool).

We arrived at about 5pm. It only took a couple of minutes for Ebony to go native sporting a blood stained mouth thanks to a fall on the way to the tram. After a particularly stressful game of where’s all this blood coming from and a trip into a pharmacy to buy tissues, Ebony looked like your average slightly bloodied three year old once again.

We got a tram straight to central pier so we could go on a couple of rides before seeing the illuminations. We were toying with the idea of going to Blackpool Pleasure Beach but it wasn’t really possible to find the time. Ebony spent most of the tram journey planning to go on the big wheel (and the rest of the tram journey silently trumping, sorry to our fellow passengers) and was more than a little disappointed to discover that it was closed.

A man who had clearly had his fill of Blackpool (happens to the best of us), gave us his leftovers tickets for the rides so we managed to entertain Ebony for a while without parting with a penny. That is as big a conquest as I get these days. All the pennies. Ebony went on a selection of brightly coloured, repetitive rides manned by terrifying people who definitely didn’t have the personalities for customer facing roles.

Then we went to the arcade, of course. I celebrated keeping my pennies but putting them all into an arcade game filled with pennies in the hope that I might win some pennies. Ebony, on the other hand, found a Frozen grabbing machine and set her heart upon having an Elsa doll. Laurie, being the dutiful dad, quickly put his pound in the slot and prepared to take his mere four attempts to secure the Elsa of his daughter’s dreams.

Ebony, in the meantime, grabbed the joystick and went crazy trying (and failing) to grab an Elsa. She used all four goes without ever really leaving the grabber’s holding bay. Laurie wasn’t happy, his chance to impress his daughter was well and truly gone. By this time, he didn’t have another pound because I had exchanged it for pennies to feed my penny arcade game habit Ebony really wasn’t happy. At three, she is not yet old enough to understand that this emotional and heartbreaking disappointment is really what makes Blackpool fun.

After she had punched the machine, we convinced her to step back outside where she stumbled across the waltzers. I was eventually able to convince her that, perhaps, the waltzers were not for her (three year olds are fun, aren’t they?) and then we went to get chips from a quintessentially Blackpool chip shop. We then set off towards the big illuminations. It turns out these are very far away from the chip shop. We walked part of the way along the promenade which was truly terrifying in the dark, but at least there were no genital-themed kitchen aprons along the way. Swings and roundabouts.

The illuminations themselves were pretty, as always. Ebony remembered the Open Sesame one from last year and asked for it most of the way along. She enjoyed being out in the dark, seeing the bright lights and trying to guess what was happening in each of the illuminations. We eventually set off home at about 9:30pm and Ebony slept the whole way home.

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