Blackpool

Blackpool is the town adjacent to where I live. It’s the largest town on Lancashire’s Fylde Coast with a population of approximately 142,000 but also one of the most deprived towns in Britain. Historically, Blackpool was the holiday destination of choice for much of the population of greater Lancashire including the North West region and Glasgow in Scotland. From further afield in the East Midlands my own parents used to speak in glowing terms of visits to Blackpool in the 1950s staying in boarding houses and B&Bs where the landlady was king and the Blackpool Tower was the enduring symbol of fun and freedom for the last pre-war generation and the working class baby boomers. That was then. Today I cannot help myself referring to Blackpool as a shit-hole. Old hotels and guest houses have become magnets to itinerant jobless where a once thriving holiday resort is now home to a community in which in large parts is both morally and socially bankrupt. A recent TV documentary series entitled 999 Emergency focused on the unending work of the emergency services in Blackpool and the repeat offenders and social misfits who cause such a drain on both emergency and social services. Most towns and cities in the UK have their particular problems but with one of the most dense populations in the country where many flock for the easy accommodation and life on benefits, Blackpool’s challenges are more prevalent than most. That is not to say everything is bad in the old town. Sure, a bulldozer to push it into the Irish Sea would be the start to a much needed programme of regeneration but the local council have spent £millions on sprucing up the tourist areas and although many of Blackpool’s visitors are the day trippers and overnight or weekend stag and hen parties at least the central sea front area is modern and attractive providing a handsome veneer to the grim realities of what lie just a few streets behind.

This week the sun came out in Blackpool and much better than usual it looked too. Blackpool is home to The Pleasure Beach Resort with one of the biggest rides in the world: The Big One. Here it is, I have still yet to take a ride upon it…it’s aptly named!

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C and I walked further along the promenade and saw a helicopter taking off from the beach and giving people willing to pay a flight around the tower. It was proving a popular attraction!

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And lastly, here is the beach with the tower in the distance.

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I want to be optimistic about Blackpool’s future and gradually improvements are being made. But for every step it takes forward there seems to be some issue causing it to take a massive leap backwards. It looked nice on this bank holiday Monday and as we continued our walk and the crowds on the beaches expanded at least I felt that we were enjoying Blackpool, it’s doing its best and it still has plenty to offer. It has a long way to go and there are many good people here, I just hope it makes it one day and becomes a town that people on this coast can really be proud of.

List, at last!

The feeling! The freedom! The…the…the sheer joy! I’ve done it, I’ve made a list! OK, it may not be up there with Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ list but I bet he didn’t feel so blissfully empowered as I do having completed mine. You see, I am, after all, Lazy Bill. I don’t usually do things such as lists, I am, generally speaking, disorganised; I just do things when I have to with a minimum of preparation or pre-oganisation. But with my list in hand, I can say “I’m Prepared”, I have a plan and I’m going to make it work!

Right, I’ve calmed down a bit now, the euphoria is wearing off. So what is this list, I suspect you’re all wondering, that is causing such elation? Well, I’ll tell you. Next week, my wife is taking me to Berlin for a few days as part of the celebrations for my impending 50th birthday. We fly from Liverpool to Schonefeld Airport on Wednesday, spend a couple of nights at the Grand Hotel Esplanade and return on Friday. Now, normally when I go on a trip, I just get a large bag out the cupboard, scan my wardrobe, put a few clothing essentialls inthe bag, a shirt or two, t-shirts, toiletries and before I know it I’ve got enough clothing and accessories to last a month long cuise through the freezing Norwegian Fjords and crossing the Atlnatic for a sojourn across the Caribbean. But that’s not how it is this time…Oh no. this time I’m travelling light and I’m planning ahead!

Last Saturday we went to Manchester and I bought myself a 40 litre bag, just the right size to take into the cabin and this will carry my ‘stuff’ in its entirety.

My new North Face 'hand luggage' bag
My new North Face ‘hand luggage’ bag

The bag cost £120 and it has all the right dimensions get in an Easyjet cabin for free, so for a return journey that’s a saving of £50 so it’s already saved me about 40% of its value! And the list? Well, about 5 days ago during a quiet period at work I got a piece of paper out and made a list of all the clothing and toiletries I’m going to take. I’ve transferred it all onto useful little app called Wunderlist and I’m good to go! I’m even tempted to pack my bag now, a full 5 days before we set off just so I can feel doubly organised (and probably doubly smug).

It’s a little thing but in some ways means much to me that I’ve discovered, on the eve of my 50th birthday, that a little bit of forward planning and preparation has taken the stress out of a process I’ve always considered a dull and stressful chore which is one of those requirements that cause stress and anxiety which is at the root of my laziness and underachievement. Yes, it’s true, I avoid stress and anxiety like the plague so if its not worth doing I don’t do it and if it has to be done I do it at the last minute in a rush of stress fuelled adrenaline.

So, it’s goodbye stress and its goodbye anxiety. Lists are the future. If only I’d known 35 years ago.