I thought while we were ‘up north’ a night in Blackpool to see the illuminations, tacky souvenirs and dated Guest Houses would be funny and make him smile. I think they did in a scary kind of way. Monsieur X liked to talk a lot but after a morning with his fellow art lovers the shock of driving though Blackpool town centre left him speechless. No more Picasso lots more pound shops.
His first (shocked) Blackpool observation as we drove around the back of the tower trying to find our Guest House and a car park: ‘I don’t know the English word for it, errr maybe cheap’ ‘tacky?’ I said, he agreed. One positive point was the Guest House, the Carlton on Albert Road, great position behind the Tower (a few minutes’ walk away) and it looked like it was recently decorated, no 1960s gross wallpaper and a flat screen television but it still had a Blackpool personality. Monsieur X is more used to the Carlton Hotel in Cannes and the next morning when his breakfast was served by a man wearing shorts and t-shirt he said ‘this would not happen in France’.
I know Blackpool looks better in the dark but I wanted this Frenchman who lives in the beautiful South of France countryside near the coast to see why so many English people visit the Mediterranean Sea in the summer. Still shocked we walked to the end of the North Pier a perfect location for any zombie/end of the world films to be made. There was just the two of us, an elderly couple and man ‘working’ on the carousel, it wasn’t a surprise he had no customers on this cold and windy day. Monsieur X said ‘It’s like I’m back in ze 1970s’ and looking down onto the brown sea ‘ah ok I understand no blue here’.
I think we had only been in Blackpool for an hour and he needed a Guinness and a siesta to reduce his fear factor level from 10. But in a hotel bar opposite the Carlton, we witnessed two drunken old ladies showing him that the drunken young English people he has seen in Spanish beaches and French Ski resorts don’t actually grow out of the binge drinking habits. Old Lady A fell over in the bar and has she was helped up by other people in the bar, her friend Old Lady B said ‘watch her hip, she’s just had a new one’ – this was at 4pm. He fear level went back up a few numbers.
The evening opened his eyes to many sights mostly unsightly, yes the illuminations was interesting ‘just like Christmas lights in the street but lots of them’ he said, but the hen do groups dressed in onesies, a middle-aged large women wearing a teenager’s summer short dress or the ‘pièce de résistance’ would have to be the six women still in their leopard print pyjamas with unbrushed hair sitting on the step outside their hotel having a cigarette the next morning.
I’m finding it hard to remember if Monsieur X enjoyed any of this time in Blackpool. He liked the tower and the ‘comedy blanket’ on the sea front. I introduced him to the world of money waterfalls, where you waste your 10p or 2p coins hoping to win and you can’t go to an English seaside town and not have fish and chips on a Friday, so Harry Ramsden’s was a must and he did finish off his large portion and the bottle of wine. As we left the town behind, he said ‘Please don’t bring me back here’. Ah oui at least Birmingham will look good now.