From Foxhall, one of the most historic parts of Blackpool, you can see the terraces of Bloomfield Road.
I’m always drawn to a football match and stood on Rigby Road last Saturday and wished myself into the heart of the action for a while – until I tuned into Radio Lancashire and heard the usual catalogue of woe.
Three - one down. Wigan won.
A football club, even one that’s snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, should be the heart and soul of a town.
It shouldn’t be at war with its fans. I can barely bring myself to read about the club any more, the rows, the Oyston Out chants, the Oyston Out car, the send-offs, the unremitting misery of all those goals down, the all-too occasional flashes of brilliance – and whether yet another manager’s job could be on the line.
If Roy of the Rovers, the famous Tiger comic strip, had been set in Blackpool rather than the fictional town of Melchester, it wouldn’t have lasted a decade – let alone six.
It’s 61 this year. Blackpool FC was founded in 1887 – the year Britain celebrated the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria, and the term Bloody Sunday passed into history after police charged protestors in Trafalgar Square, and a Scot won the men’s singles at the 11th Wimbledon.
Heart of the town? I’m tempted to suggest this club needs a bypass. By its fans. The real heroes are off the pitch, the men, women and kids, who will be back there tomorrow, watching Blackpool play Sheffield Wednesday, or dragging off to Bournemouth on March 14 and forking out up to £26 to watch grown men chase a ball – and try and get it in the net.
How hard can it be? I suppose if your heart’s not in it, even Cupid’s arrow would miss the target. And your head has to be in it, too. The only mind games in football should be played on the pitch, in terms of strategy, and in the dressing room, to boost morale.
At least players get paid to provide the misery. They are still chasing the dream. They’re just not catching it. There are still kids out there who would give anything to be where they are.
I don’t know how quickly they shower and change and flee the scene in their nice cars but they should take a good long look at those fans and read the unremitting misery in the hang of their head, the way they walk, don’t talk, even carry their own little cloud of gloom on to the trams and buses taking them back to other parts of town.
Tangerine is too bright a colour for public misery. The home kit should be camouflage.
I caught that glimpse of the terraces from Rigby Road – where I’d been stopped in my tracks by the new Foxhall housing estate.
I was taken aback by how nice the new two, three and four bedroom units look, both in illustration and the emerging actuality. Starting price of around £90k. Not bad for this day and age. Affordable, accessible housing in an area desperately in need of regeneration.
The new look housing is a small but significant sea change. It’s been condemned by critics as a high density housing scheme of the sort which springs up when social housing is cleared but, for pity’s sake, unless they can turn chip wrappers into gold and use it to build what we used to call ‘council housing’ give it a chance.
What’s offered here by Hollinwood Homes and Great Places Housing in terms of more social provision could be the next best thing. Four hundred homes in all on what could have easily become a derelict wasteland after plans to transform the area into an educational hub failed.
The homes should be completed by 2020. Twenty-twenty vision for the future. New people moving in and staying put will build a sense of community and continuity.
And one of the best things about Foxhall Village?
Hollinwood, part of the Marcus Worthington Group, plan to name the streets after Blackpool FC’s 1953 FA Cup winning team. Back of the net! The spirit of Matthews and Morty lives on.
Celebrating the power of imagination
I was, as I’ve written before, nine years old before I learned to read.
Since those first letters finally fell into place and rearranged themselves to shape words, I’ve never stopped reading. And in the car, on long journeys, I’ll usually listen to an audio book – and be transported in every sense.
Yesterday was World Book Day.
Back in the days when I regularly interviewed authors, children’s writers were my favourites.
Michael Bond topped the list, Roald Dahl a close second, and the Fylde’s own Spooks Apprentice creator Joe Delaney up there, too. Richard Adams left me cold – much as I’d loved Watership Down and Plague Dogs.
Sometimes you shouldn’t meet your heroes. Other times they make a lasting impression. Justin Somper, author of the Vampirates, always makes time for his young fans.
And Darren Shan, playing to a similar market, is very mindful of his fan base, too.
I remember at one local school a collective intake of breath as one young girl stood to question him closely.
She was intelligent, articulate, inspirational.Turned out she seldom spoke, barely interacted with other kids and teachers, but Shan’s books transported her to other worlds – and there she found the words she needed to connect those worlds with this one.
The power of a child’s imagination should never be underrated. And if you’re lucky you will carry it with you forever.