The Duke - September 23, 2015

Blackpool promenade and beach.
Blackpool promenade and beach.
Have your say

Despite what some people seem to think, I do like to be beside the seaside.

Granted I Iive in what is temporarily (I hope) that building site with an impenetrable town centre road system otherwise known as Poulton, but that’s not to mean I don’t get out and about.

So whilst the rest of the country was being buffeted by high winds and drenched in rain (this was last week, so things might well have changed for the worst since then) The Manager and I decided to make the most of what was available on our doorstep.

Please note I am avoiding the use of the hideous “staycation” word because, as our son frequently comments – with more bitterness than I feel is necessary – every day is a holiday to us.

Obviously, except for the dedicated few, retirement is not all getting up early, working late and falling asleep just in time to miss the last episode of something on television.

We’ve long been believers in what our own country has to offer, and the older I get the less time I want to spend wasting what’s left of my life in an airport, forgetting where I’ve put whatever foreign phrase book I need to order beer and coffee – and never being able to work out what today’s exchange rate is.

So this year, in addition to our regular UK breaks, we’ve reminded ourselves why so many people still love coming to this coast.

This has even involved enjoyable overnight stays in Fleetwood and Lytham. But mainly it’s involved becoming Blackpool holidaymakers – with the added advantage that we can be home in minutes.

For daytime visits, if we haven’t caught one of the last remaining trains into town, we park the car at Gynn Square and walk along the front to North Pier, or even stride out to South Pier before remembering we’ve then to get back before we’re clamped or fined.

Stopping by the Sun Lounge on North Pier last week we must have looked like genuine tourists, because a Midlands visitor took to telling us: “It’s wonderful. You could be thousands of miles away – on the other side of the world.”

True enough, except for the organist banging out the theme from The Good The Bad and The Ugly whilst fixing us in his gaze, then hitting the keys with Les Miserables.

He’s right though. On a good day you could be anywhere. We always stop off at the Beach House Bistro & Bar on the prom and have likened it to watching the world go by in Nice (I think the rosé wine helps).

The last couple of weeks have even had the added attraction of evening visits too – including the Illumination Switch On where it was good to see Little Boots in action for the first time since her days playing piano at Joey Blower’s place in Cleveleys – not to mention headliners The Vamps.

We also took in the first Fireworks Friday. A wonderful evening of fish and chips, crowds, glow sticks, community police, amusement arcades and, of course, fireworks. It helped that we had two youngsters with us who reminded us how to put the wide-eyed “wow” into the Wow Factor.

We didn’t take them to see The Full Monty at The Grand – there wouldn’t have been room with all those screaming women packing the place – or even Tommy at the Opera House – but we probably should have. And what about Cannon and Ball at Viva (as well as North Pier) along with Bobby Ball’s sons The Harper Brothers? Pure Blackpool magic.

See? I do love the place after all.

The fishy tale of a claim to fame

So, when it comes to reasons to be famous, Blackpool has got more than its fair share of things to brag about, whereas Great Yarmouth has got... well fish fingers actually.

Sixty years ago – September 26, 1955 to be precise – the UK’s first frozen fingers rolled off the production line of the Norfolk resort’s Bird’s Eye factory.

It was the year Disneyland opened in California, James Dean died and ITV started – and prior to the launch they’d been test marketed as “herring savouries” in South Wales and “cod sticks” (almost the name they still go by in the US) in Southampton.

They were nearly called “battered cod pieces” and had actually been patented in 1927, but not enough people had freezers so prototypes had to be eaten there and then.

Anyway, going on 20 billion UK fish fingers later (that’s about a million a day) they’ve outlasted the “no smell – no fuss” launch campaign, seen off several bearded Captain Birdseyes, still contain less actual fish than their continental counterparts and – apart from that day in May 1845, when 79 people were killed when the bridge they were on collapsed as they gathered to watch a clown in a barrel being pulled by geese down the River Yare – they are probably still Great Yarmouth’s biggest claim to fame.