Recently I went to a big bash at Blackpool Tower to celebrate 120 years since the famous structure was built.
I enjoyed it for many reasons – not least because of some lovely carrot cake the Tower staff laid on; very moist – but mainly because I learned a little about the history of the place, like the fact it was designed by a couple of blokes called James Maxwell and William Tuke (who, interestingly, both died in 1893 shortly before their creation was completed, which must have been most annoying for them).
By coincidence, my former Gazette colleague, Craig Fleming, got in touch to say he’d been to an exhibition about Maxwell and Tuke in Bury, where the architects had their first office.
This was immediately of interest to me because I’m a Bury lad (it turns out Maxwell and Tuke designed the office of the Bury Times, a paper I worked on at the start of my career ... if you can call typing a few stories each day while drinking brews and nattering about last night’s TV a career).
Anyway, one of the Maxwell and Tuke designs displayed at the exhibition was the photograph on this page – a hospital on legs. That’s right. The year was 1872 and Maxwell and Tuke, bidding to win the contract for a new hospital in Manchester, decided it was a good idea to propose building an entire hospital on a giant pair of legs. Asked why, they said it was so patients would be above the smog. Quite what substances the pair were smoking at the time is not clear, but suffice to say their design was not chosen by the powers-that-be.
Which is a pity. I mean imagine wandering into Manchester today to do some shopping at Primark and being confronted with the sight of two giant steel legs with a hospital perched precariously on top? It would have been a hell of a tourist attraction, though on the downside a right faff for nurses getting into work each morning. The hospital idea shows how ambitious Maxwell and Tuke were, though, and the steel legs clearly came in handy when they came up with their design for Blackpool Tower 20 years later.
One other fact: Blackpool Tower was the tallest building in Britain when it opened. But after crowds of more than 70,000 queued to ride to the top on its first day of business, others realised it was a bit of a money-spinner and decided to build their own, superior Tower.
Maxwell and Tuke (both now dead, the firm run by Maxwell’s son) immediately began work on New Brighton Tower, which, when it opened three years later in 1898, superseded Blackpool as Britain’s tallest building (567 feet 6 inches, 48 feet 9 inches higher than Blackpool’s).
But we’ve had the last laugh – while ours is still standing, New Brighton Tower was demolished in 1919 because poor maintenance during the Great War caused the steelwork to deteriorate.
Clegg and Cable pub game of charades doesn’t fool anyone .... apart from them
Best comic moment of the week was Nick Clegg and Vince Cable’s pub date.
This wasn’t some kind of impromptu lads night out, to discuss England’s World Cup chances, share a bag of salted nuts, and do Wonderwall on karaoke.
No, they invited the world’s media to attend, to send out the message that Vince hadn’t really tried to stab Nick in the back last week by getting his mate Lord Oakeshott to organise a coup, and that they were still the best of mates.
So Vince and Nick sat awkwardly in the pub, raising their glasses and flashing their best fake smiles, while the media cameras filmed and flashed.
It was ludicrous and quite breathtaking that the Lib Dems thought this was a good idea. It has surely caused more damage than good, for all the TV reports accompanying the footage made it clear the whole thing was a stage-managed charade.
Is it any wonder people are turning off from politics?
It would have won the Lib Dems much more brownie points had they been totally honest. Cable should have admitted he wanted rid of Clegg so he could take over, Clegg should have said he was cheesed off about it but understood, and now they intend to muddle on as best as possible in the circumstances, which, of course, is exactly the case.
Instead, they treat voters like morons by thinking they can make us believe all is well because they’re having a pint together.
Times have changed. People are now much more media savvy and less gullible. They see through things and the sooner the political parties realise this, the better for everyone – mostly them.