The Duke - March 25, 2015

Central Pier in Blackpool
Central Pier in Blackpool
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One swallow does not make a spring (or a summer), but there’s nothing quite like last week’s unexpected burst of sunny weather to con us all into thinking we’ve seen the last Beast From The East cold front until next winter.

So, trimming down to a mere three layers of clothing, The Manager and I decided to couple up some shopping (her) and a visit to the hairdresser (me) with a stroll down Blackpool Promenade.

We started out at Talbot Square, where, for a moment, it looked like work had finally started on the hole in the ground formerly known as Yates’s Wine Lodge (though to a new generation just known as “a hole in the ground”).

On closer inspection, it turned out to be nothing more than wind damage or vandalism to the colourful but makeshift mural hiding the long abandoned lump of land, about which so many unfulfilled promises have been made.

But a Promenade stroll is always a fun thing to do on a pre-summer season sunny day, and can be combined with various traditional seaside games such as Dodge The Dog Dirt, Count The Empty Industrial Strength Lager And Beer Cans and the always fascinating How Many Times Will We Be Asked for Loose Change (me twice, The Manager three times – she clearly looks more approachable than me).

This time we even managed a quick-fire round of Glare At The Skateboarders – but only because they were monopolising the Comedy Carpet with their skills, and keeping a school party from enjoying the attraction for fear of being mown down.

Had we been braver, we might have challenged them to a game of Comedy Catchphrase (“do you know whose memorably funny music hall line you run the risk of damaging with your antics?”) but I felt a little disadvantaged by the Primark and Waterstone’s bags I was carrying.

So, to compensate for our cowardliness, for good measure we threw in a session of If We Win The Euro Lottery Which Pier Would We Buy?

Apart from the fact that we don’t actually do the Euro Lottery, the answer was obvious – none of them. Well, as with Blackpool businessman Peter Sedgewick, North Pier would have been the obvious choice, but his run of bad luck and bad weather would make anyone think twice about putting in a bid for the two available ones.

Assuming Blackpool Council hasn’t already changed its mind and made an offer for Central and South Piers because they would make ideal car parks during the next flood of bumper-to-bumper weekends, I do wonder who or what might have the required millions to put the piers back to anything like their former glory.

Presumably they’d have to buy them sight unseen. Especially the once-quite-attractive Central Pier. These days, it’s about as embarrassing as a Blackpool FC full-time scoreline. The annual seasonal lick of paint no longer covers up the rusting corrugated façade, long-gone shows are still advertised, and even the amusement arcade looks dated and uninviting.

In fact, the only thing stopping it from resembling a derelict slice of social history soon to feature in a Channel 4 documentary series (“The Tarnished Mile?”) is the dilapidated state of the buildings on the other side of the Prom.

Work done to the Winter Gardens and Blackpool Tower has proved that former glories can be brought back (OK, the now-closed Tower Lounge frontage is still dire and the Dungeon’s signage is pretty grim – but you can’t win them all) so let’s hope the piers can be polished up too.

We’ve got enough on our plates

I don’t know about you, but I like my dinner on a plate.

The only exception is if it’s fish and chips out of doors and out of paper, as a treat.

I only mention this because we recently dined in a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Yorkshire village of Harome, and our side order of bread arrived in a flat cap.

All very ho-ho-ho and tongue-in-cheek, but the restaurant wasn’t exactly charging flat cap prices (probably to pay for the dry cleaning and linen lining bills).

The Manager had an early Mother’s Day afternoon tea on the outskirts of Clitheroe, which was served on a miniature park bench/table.

It was once considered revolutionary when chicken came in a wicker basket, and chips arrived in miniature stainless steel fryers.

It was bad enough when steaks came on slates, but these days anything goes – salads in flower pots, scampi in trainers, Sunday roasts on driftwood boards, and at The Botanist, in Leeds, you can expect to eat out of toy wheelbarrows and watering cans.

Hopefully, help is at hand.

A Twitter page called @WeWantPlates has already attracted more than 16,000 followers posting pictures and sharing stories about bewildered diners and exhausted waiting staff.

It’s even been suggested that, to be on the safe side, customers should start taking their own plates.

But who would do the washing up?