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Thursday, May 5, 2011

5th May - King of the Road

How does anyone spend any time in Blackpool? People still go on holiday there and spend their hard earned cash, and boy do the traders and businesses there charge high prices for some very basic things.

As a rugby club mini's section we used to go there around Easter for our annual tour. None of us adults really would have chosen to go there, but with around 150 excitable boys and girls between the age of 6 and 12, it was an easy place to go. None of wanted to volunteer to arrange an alternative, for two reasons: collecting money and offending the woman who organised it. As grown ups we were all scared of her, so paid up on time, agreed to go etc. It was hard work and we were grateful for her efforts, but her husband used to cower in a corner when she spoke.

We took over three hotels pretty close to the pleasure beach just off the front. Hotel is a strong word. I've slept in higher quality bunk houses. It was the cardboard on the windows and nylon sheets when you walked in that made you shudder, and was probably the reason we all enjoyed the bar in the hotel so much. We needed to be anaethestised to sleep in the beds. As least we wouldn't feel the bed bugs bite that way. (I'm shuddering now thinking of the nylon sheets). Bathing was out of the question. If you had a bathroom (not guaranteed), the black mould around the bath put you off doing anymore than the basic ablutions. And for this, we were charged more per person than a Travelodge - style hotel, with cotton sheets, bathroom, and glass in the windows.

And then there was the breakfasts. We were summoned by a bell at 8.30am. Roughly about 4 hours after we'd gone to bed. I think that must have been when they started cooking it as everything when we got there was cold. The fried egg had a sheen to it from the congealed fat. The toast was rubbery. They could, of course, done what most hotels do. Cook as people come down, between set hours so it was fresh, but no. We all waited for our orange - style juice. (No oranges had ever touched the box it came out of) Perhaps Tartrazine Juice would have been a better description. This was needed to address the raging thirst that the numbing alcohol had caused. The sausages had never been introduced to a pig. I know how a 'banger' ( because they exploded from the water it them when cooked) tasted in the Second World War. The bacon was crispy, with the exception of the thick rind which of course had not been removed, and the tomatoes and beans were cold.

The whole thing was a Elf and Safety nightmare. The prom, trams, a busy road and a joke shop were all within spitting distance of the hotels, so the whole time, parents worried about where their kids were. (Mostly buying stink bombs at the Joke Shop opposite - thanks kids, holding down our breakfasts was achievement without that smell.) I got the principle of the joke shop - it was on the parents as the wallets emptied on plastic dog turds and exploding cigarettes.

One year I decided that G., my son, should see the sights. We walked along the front to the Tower, passing a variety of pavement pizzas, of differing shades of brown. (Dependant on whether created by lager or the paler ones from alcopops). Thursday nights are obviously the first night of the stag and hen nights' stay. The Tower was closed, so we walked back to the Pleasure Beach. The pleasure wasn't my bank balance, as even with a wrist band the £20 ride tokens lasted about an hour. (That was the admission price of unlimited rideas at Alton Towers - mmm I wonder why its always in the top 5 UK visitor attractions?) From the 5 rides we had on the Log Flume, and getting wet on a cold March day, I ended up with larygitis. Could've been much worse. Weils disease, cholera are far far worse water borne diseases.

A friend had a daughter with a disability which led to her feet blistering, if she walked too much. She spent the day shopping and her feet had blistered. The family had forgotten the special cream that relieved the symptoms. Myself and AJP spotted an opportunity. If we helped them by going to a chemists for the cream, we could have a few sneaky ones in the pubs around Blackpool. The grateful mother said she'd watch the kids, so off we went in search of a chemist. Whilst there aren't many in the pubs we tried, there also aren't any in Blackpool. Every chemist we went in only sold hangover cures (aspirins, Rennies etc.) and condoms. We even went to the hospital to ask where the late night chemist was - they just don't exist for any other medical problems other than self induced ones.

As is the way with Tours, 'What goes on Tour stays on Tour', so stories beyond this are limited. The cold urine on the Toilet floor at three in the morning, thanks for that..... The fire alarm being set off when a bedroom light was covered over so someone could sleep whilst the son wanted it on... The parent who climbed the drainpipe outside, falling onto the railings and ripping his forearm open, will all remain unmentioned.

One year we were offered a Sunday Lunch. We weren't going to stop, but had been blocked in by a car so had to wait. I remember G saying 'never mind mum, I like my Sunday Dinners, we'll have it before we go'. Lamb does not go with Yorkshire puds, beef does. Or at least in my house it does. Mint suace would've been nicer. As would fresh, not tinned veg., and crispy roast potatoes. I've never experienced roasts like that. Remember leather look plastic shoes and the way you could peel off the 'shiny' bit from the rest of the material? Well you could do that with the potatoes. Which were undercooked. We left the food and joined the queues at the first service station for sandwiches.

To the owner of one of the hotels... We didn't take the tv remote, as there weren't any in the rooms in the first place. And get some new karaoke tapes. There's a limit to the amount of time you can listen to 'King of the Road' and 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light'. I wonder if you are still in business....

As previously mentioned, 'King of the Road' - Roger Miller was one of the popular choices for three years we went there. Other songs are available but the Karaoke machine just didn't know them.

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