Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Scarborough With A Hint Of Bridlington.

We had a weekend away this week, travelling to Bridlington on Friday for two nights. We stayed at a nice enough B&B which was just a bit let down by the shower unit in our room. This was plumbed straight into the water supply. This meant that there were separate hot and cold taps and the room was at the end of a long corridor so no matter where or how you set the taps, the water falling on you alternated every few seconds between freezing cold and scalding hot... Ah well, it was cheap and cheerful - if you don't count the owner's Dad who answered the door at night by saying "I hope you haven't woken our granddaughter up!!!"

I had a camera free day on Friday which is when we took advantage of some bright sunny weather in Bridlington. I had the sketch pad with me but I didn't get round to doing anything with it all weekend - Brid was crowded and seating by the harbour was at a premium and there were hundreds of people trying to eat fish and chips before the somewhat aggressive seagulls got them first. Not everyone succeeded... I didn't fancy spending an hour sketching only for a blob of unmentionable to obscure the page, so I apologetically offer this effort from 1994.

If you want to eat fish and chips then Bridlington is your place. There is probably one fish and chip shop for every seagull. This is actually necessary as the amount of repeat trade they get must be incredible from people who have had (helpful hint on seagull fave method coming) a seagull fly down over their shoulder and land in the tray of fish and chips, snatching a beakful and taking off with the probable spilling of the rest of the tray for other seagulls to fight over.

We found an Italian restaurant called Leoz. Highly recommended! I had the chicken stroganoff and it was delicious.

On Saturday we decided to leave the car and take a bus to Scarborough. Between the two bus stations of Bridlington and Scarborough it is 17.1 miles. This should take around 30 minutes or less, but the bus does not exactly go straight there. The timetable suggested an hour and 25 minutes, but it took quite a bit longer than that in the event. We missed out on the front seats going, but managed to get them coming back. Some of the roads it turned aside onto to reach holiday camps were better than a ride on the roller coaster!

When we reached Scarborough the first building of note that I saw as we walked down from the bus station was this theatre. The original Stephen Joseph Theatre was Britain's first theatre in the round and was built on the first floor of the public library. It moved to a former boys' high school and subsequently in 1988 following the closure of the Odeon Cinema it moved here, opening in 1996.

We walked downhill past the theatre and along a shopping street, cutting off down a side road and finding ourselves near the Grand Hotel. There was a funicular railway going down the cliff to the beach but we opted to take the strenuous route - this being much less strenuous going down than coming up - where we did take the funicular!

So we set off down these steps, admiring the litter and the way that, at the bottom, the handrail stopped being black and instead was seagull-poo coloured to the encrusted state that the end of the railing had corroded altogether and had dropped off.

Scarborough has a South Bay and a North Bay. To someone who lives on the west coast like me, directions on the east coast always seem the wrong way round. Between the two bays is a huge but ruinous 12th century castle high on its hill which was once a hillfort from the Iron Age, a Roman signal point and the home of Norse invaders. A busy spot. In fact all of Scarborough seems a busy spot. There was hardly room on the beach for all the families, couples, and sunbathers to swing a bucket and spade. People lean on each side of a windbreak, at least half of them having underpaid for the privilege.

Amusement arcades line the other side of the road, facing the beach and harbour. They look like Blackpool of yesterday - modern fronts on the ground floor of old buildings. Yet sadly, the amusements are the modern boring collection of cranes and two pence piece pushers with the occasional video shoot-out or racing game. Where did all those pinballs go, which I so loved as a boy and which required skill of reflexes and knowledge of the laws of physics rather than mastery of a remembered past sequence?

The harbour holds a collection of boats from working fishing boats to day trip or half-hour trips round the bays. A marina serves those rich folks who like to boast they "have a boat at the seaside" but rarely can be bothered to move them.

It all makes for a very picturesque scene. In fact multitudes of scenes of water, old buildings, modern amusements, the inevitable fish and chips, and families relaxing.

There are so many architectural styles within a short stretch of road that it is hard to make sense of it. Odd little bits strike you as either pleasing or incongruous. Some manage both at the same time.

On the whole I quite liked it. There were plenty of benches to sit on without having to pay to hire a deck chair - though they were well over-subscribed and finding an empty one was usually the precursor to turning away again as some other foot-weary person or group dived upon the few inches of bare wooden slats.

In the harbour, a single formidable chunk of membrane and tentacles was pulsating and moving slowly round in circles, its progress impeded by the strength of the incoming tide matching its ability to swim against it. It may have been somewhat mollified by the steady and continuing chorus of exclamations and excited shouts of "Oh! Look!" that it caused.

We bought a drink at a cafe and sat on the harbour wall whilst we cooled off and rested our feet. Well... rested our feet anyway. There was no shade on the harbour wall and I was turning a splendid shade of bright red on this, our second day in the sun.

Just after the harbour is this delightful Coastguards' Hut. Do a search and you will find lots of photos of it but finding any textual references will take longer than I cared to spend. Very strange - you'd have thought someone would have thought it worthwhile to say something about it...

Crammed into the smallish space between the harbour and Coast Guard Station is a small funfair with a handful of rides mainly aimed at children.

We retraced our steps until we reached the flight of steps and then we stepped smartly on until we reached the funicular railway - known as the Central Tramway Company. The car was full, I wasn't able to get to the window to take a photo of the other car coming down towards us. There's something about funiculars that always appeals to me. The theory is that the weight of the descending car matches as near as possible the weight of the ascending car and therefore the power needed to operate is not as great as might be required for a single lift.

We had lunch and a quick look round the shops (not my idea...) and then caught the bus back to Bridlington. This time we managed to get the front seat upstairs and it was a fun ride back via all the side roads and holiday parks until we arrived back at Bridlington bus station.

We got back to find a collection of classic cars parked near the harbour, their owners sitting by them, listening to a karaoke set-up. Unfortunately as we got there we were "treated" to a man and woman singing Those Were The Days as a duet. It certainly wasn't how I remembered those days... We decided on an ice cream and the young girl serving laughed out loud when I asked for two cones and two pairs of ear plugs. We sat on the harbour wall for a while until a seagull, sated with a surfeit of fish and chips decided to splatter all over Miss Franny's hand... "Ooh, that's lucky!" I said, a second before the backhander...

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Blackpool Air Show 2016

On Sunday we spent the day with David and Jeannie, going down to watch the Air Show on the Promenade and then going for a Chinese meal at Chu's Phoenix on Whitegate Drive, Blackpool - highly recommended!

We were a little selective in what we wanted to watch - the main attractions being the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (which ended up being cancelled due to strong winds) and The Red Arrows. So the show had already started when we left David and Jeannie's home to walk down to the Promenade. From near their house we kept seeing the Eurofighter Typhoon appear over the houses as we walked.

There were huge crowds as was to be expected, but we found a spot on the inland side of the tram track and the first plane we saw relatively up close was the BAC Strikemaster. They were an armed version of the Jet Provost.

The Calidus Autogyro came next. Highly manoeuvrable, it's probably fun to fly in but only if you are ok in flying in something that would drop like a stone if the engine cut out... I know commercial flights are not known for gliding long distances to safe landings without engines but at least they look as though they have a chance of gliding...!

I've never been in a helicopter either, but I'd quite like to experience that even if they seem to match the non-gliding qualities of the autogyro. This is a Gazelle helicopter. So called because they are "deer" to buy? There are very few helicopters that look pretty but this is definitely not one of them...

Team Raven aerobatic team. The aircraft are an RV-4 (the leading aircraft) with the rest being RV-8s. These are kit aircraft for home-builds although not all of these aircraft were built by their pilot-owners as some were bought second hand. Described as "Quick-Build" by the kit manufacturers, I suspect it takes probably more time and knowledge than your put-together wardrobe and there will be slightly more agonised angst if you find you have several screws and bits left over at the end...

The Twister aerobatic duo. The Silence Twister aircraft were originally designed as radio-controlled aerobatic aircraft but the design was modified and this aircraft is the result. With the beautiful elliptical wings reminiscent of the Spitfire they make for a stunning sight in close formation.

The Red Arrows made a superb entrance, bursting from behind the Tower and flying over the heads of the crowd who roared their approval. It was a much better sky this year than the last couple of years as there was no low cloud. The only bug-bear was that by the time of their appearance at 4:00pm, the sun had swung itself into the line of sight. You can't win. A morning display would be better for Blackpool as the sun would be over the land and behind or at worst to the side of the audience, but it would cause difficulties for anyone wishing to just come for the day to watch.

I took lots of photos, but will limit myself here to just a few!

Now that's what I call a close pass!

A brilliant display by the world's leading display team. At the end of the display, the Red Arrows make one final pass along the front to say goodbye and take applause.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

A Day In Southport

On Wednesday I breathed a sigh of relief having finished the decorating of the bathroom and toilet, which have been keeping me from updating this blog for a while. I was starting to think of articles I could post and series that I should get on with (the next issue of Film Review coming shortly...) but then the weather turned nice and I thought - and Miss Franny insisted - that we should go out for the day.

So Friday saw us in Southport. It's quite a long time since we visited that particular town and it does hold some memories for me, particularly running round the boating pond as a child, holding onto the mast of my yacht which I was watching to the exclusion of noticing the path taking a 90 degree turn which resulted in me neatly running off the edge and... SPLASH!

"Mu-u-u-m! Mu-u-u-um! I've fallen in the water! Mu-u-u-um! I'm all wet!!!" [SMACK!]
"Look where you're going next time! Look at you! We're going to have to go home now, you've spoiled the day!"

We didn't of course. We just walked round, my parents looking at shops, me being left outside so I didn't drip in them... "Don't you dare move an inch from there!"

I imagine that the boating pond is still there somewhere but we didn't find it. This is the Marine Lake. The sea retreated from Southport's Promenade and the Marine Lake meant people could enjoy the water and go boating without the hike over the beach. We used to park our car on the beach in fact, though they seem to have stopped that again now and in fact the sea was fairly close to the sea wall, only a short bus ride from the Marine Lake (joking there!!!)

On the edge of the Marine Lake towards the north is The Lakeside Inn, which claims to be the smallest pub in Britain. It can officially claim that too, having been recognised as such by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1989 and again in 2011. Other pubs challenge the claim, particularly as although it measures only 16 x 22 feet, it has a somewhat larger beer garden outside catering for drinkers.

The pier front is dominated by a large amusements arcade (no pinball machine though...) and a carousel of gallopers, both owned by Silcock's, a Warrington based firm whose name will be instantly familiar to fairground customers and visitors throughout the north west. The sound of a karaoke artist came from a pub just behind these. We passed by on the pier later on and lots of people were singing along with him. Strange how each one of them managed to hold the notes a bit longer than he did...

Just off the main Promenade road, between that and the shops of Lord Street are lots of small shops and cafes that just typify a seaside town for me. Colourful and presenting a bewildering range of goods both behind the counter and on displays on the pavement, this rock shop is a good example.

Here's another, with rock, ice cream, balls, buckets and spades for the beach and enough signs to make you forget that you forgot to bring your book with you...

Then there's the other type of seaside shop. This is where you buy your postcards during the week, your Dad gets his newspaper to read on the beach, Mum stocks up on sun tan lotion and TCP for any cuts, scrapes or bruises (caused by falling in the boating pool perhaps)... Then at the end of the week on your last day before going home, this is where you hoped to be brought so that you could choose a toy to take home! Perhaps that new Corgi or Dinky Ford Cortina or Triumph Herald...

And the boring bit, because every day Mum will want to spend at least some time away from the beach looking at the shops along Lord Street. You are dragged along by the hand, mutinous and glowering whilst Mum spends ages trying on at least fifty pairs of shoes until her feet are all raw and bleeding and even Dad is starting to look a bit fed up... "I'll have these!" she says triumphantly, limping in a pair of ridiculous heels to the angled mirror at floor level to admire her size 7 feet crammed into a pair of size 5 shoes...

As a grown-up (well...) I can admire these old arcades and shop fronts from an architectural point of view and I did love this one, the Wayfarers Arcade. A plaque informs us that it opened in 1898 as the Leyland Arcade, Leyland being the name of Southport's MP at the time.

It had two levels with the ground level at the rear of the arcade being exactly halfway between the ground level at the front and the first floor level! So behind me as I took this photograph were doorways to the street.

And it had a guitar shop!!! I had to go in and chat to the owner. I told him how I loved the name of the shop. "Oh, that was never in doubt," he said. "As soon as my kids heard I was going to open a guitar shop they said 'What will you call it? Dad's Guitars?' So I did..." Specialising in quality second-hand guitars there was plenty to drool over from 1950s vintage Strats to a couple of lovely Gibson SGs.

We had some lunch and then returned to the Promenade. The theatre and conference centre has another memory. This is where, in 2009, Creeping Bentgrass shrank from a trio to a duo and as a consequence we found ourselves able to accept far more bookings. We started in 2000 as a four-piece, then became a trio, then a duo... I keep telling David that his days are numbered... He keeps telling me... - well, no, it doesn't matter...!

We caught a little road train to the Pleasureland fairground. Not because it was a long way to walk to it, but more because it seemed a fun thing to do. We arrived at the Pleasure Beach and handed out some money for the driver who asked "Are you just going back or do you want to return here?" He hadn't noticed us get on or off...

Southport's Pleasureland was owned and operated by the Thompson family of Blackpool Pleasure Beach from 1913 to 2006. There was an outcry when they pulled out and dismantled everything including some vintage and much loved rides such as the wooden Cyclone roller coaster. In 2007 the park re-opened under the ownership of Norman Wallis.

Here's a few photos taken as we wandered through!

We came out of Pleasureland onto the Marine Drive, the coast road. The coast here runs south west to our left and north east to our right. I'm sure the tide never used to come in so far when we used to come here during my childhood. I always seem to remember the end of the pier still being a long walk away from the sea's edge. The pier is Britain's second longest after Southend. It is 1,216 yards long and extends more than a kilometer out towards the sea.

There had been a tram service up and down the pier intermittently from 1863 up to 2015 when the tram was scrapped and it has now been replaced by the land train similar to the one we had ridden on to Pleasureland.

Taken from the pier this looks out over the River Ribble estuary to Lytham St Annes and beyond to Blackpool with the Tower clearly visible and behind it again, the hills and mountains of the Lake District.

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