Monthly Archives: September 2011

The ‘black’ in Blackpool

At some point, you realise you’re not in Kansas anymore. That’s what travel is all about. But I didn’t expect culture shock in Blackpool, Northern England – after all, this wasn’t my first trip to the UK.

The Blue Room pub on Church Street
From my first floor apartment window, I watched the crowd stumble out of the Syndicate nightclub. It was closing time, only 2am, and the entire contents of the 5,000 capacity club spilled out onto the street. The nightclub sat on a corner. Perched at each angle were police cars, an ambulance and private security vans. Just in case.

It was utterly freezing. It was the, allegedly, the start of the English summer. I could still see my own breath. But the girls were wearing bikini tops, hot pants or micro minis with clunky high heels. They were visibly blue and crossing their arms, teeth chattering, fake eyelashes fluttering.  

Outside the pizza and kebab place, a young couple started to argue. It started with wild screaming and hearty finger poking and ended with an all out roadside brawl. As they wrestled each other they fell to the ground. Their friends looked on with some amusement, her skirt hitching higher and higher. Abruptly the couple stopped fighting and got into a cab together, both rather glum.

On the opposite corner, a littler darker, a little more secluded, people were going to the toilet. Not just men (who seem to regard any object or surface tantamount to a toilet) but women too squatting gracelessly, teetering on their heels, still clutching shiny handbags. Opposite this crowd a couple were trying to have sex against the wall of a pub, impervious to the multitudes still thrumming through the streets. Nearby, others were retching violently into bins, doorways and gutters.

All this from my window on my first night. Welcome to Blackpool.
One of the biggest nightclubs in Europe, resting quietly during the day.

I thought about my day so far, meeting some of my co-workers at the pub downstairs. Dressed in my travelling ‘uniform’ – a t-shirt, jeans and hiking boots, no make-up – I came face-to-face with a safety pin wearing Goth chick who hosted sex toy parties as a sideline, a skinny punk with the requisite dramatic mohawk, and a leery, lecherous, bawdy bloke called Dave who asked me if I had a lock on my door.

Though my instincts said ‘gather up your belongings and hightail it to the railway station’, I decided to stick around for a few weeks. And I’m so glad I did.

Appearances are almost always deceptive. The Goth chick and I later went on a girly shopping trip to Manchester together. The skinny punk and I sang Massive Attack duets during quiet times at the pub. And Dave and I became great mates. He was always the first to come to my rescue if a customer got too aggressive.

Blackpool actually turned out to be very likeable indeed, filled with friendly, beautiful people. It just took a little recalibration.

If you do find yourself in town, just remember – always wear underpants. You never know when you’ll get into a roadside brawl.

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