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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    A day in Blackpool, with Jim. It was too wet to do an urban walk but Jim's mate Dick, local man and priest of the parish, drove us round this fascinatingly dowdy town. A study in concrete and weatherbeaten polymer, this is Britain's top tourist attraction.

    Why? It's not because of wealth - there's little brass here. It's not because of style - behind the shining slot-machine facades this place is distinctly downbeat. It's not because of good humour - the attempts at joviality (car park spaces marked 'Reserved for Clint Eastwood', '... Melinda Messenger') pale behind the survivalist competitiveness of landlady neighbours ("If one B&B offers you board for eight-fifty," said Dick, "the one next door would do you it for eight quid").

    It must purely be because of the expectations outsiders bring here - of fun on the seafront, titillation by the tower. People prepared to work hard (through the teeth of howling gales) to keep those expectations alive.

    Blackpool is a transient place - Jim's carefully-crafted census maps make clear that many people come and go from here all the time. Two nights is the usual stay for the tourists; three months quite long enough for many other prospective settlers. Despite great fish and chips it seems a very harsh place for those who stay.