Saturday 8th Sept – Saturday 15th Sept 2018
Part 2 of my birthday travels with my parents and Art Gap Challenge began on Saturday 8th September when we were due to go into Blackpool to see where Grandad used to live, find significant places to scatter some of his ashes, and watch Blackpool FC play a game of soccer (or football, as the locals know it). I had been led to expect that Blackpool would lose the game, as our family are fondly known for supporting teams who never do particularly well, but I was looking forward to stepping into some family history, and doing something special for Grandad, as well as getting some proper cold weather seaside fish and chips.
The weather did not disappoint, pouring down all morning so that I was only able to use my camera some of the time with help from Mum holding up to three umbrellas and a plastic bag which we wrapped it in and tied up with string between shots. When Dad bought the tickets to the game, I left it in the car for safety, and was only able to take a few sub-par shots on my phone.
Tickets obtained (and some scarves and a mini ball for Dad), we walked to the street where Grandad used to live and found his house, still with the original green door, although the whole street has been painted white instead of the original red brick. Dad met a local walking his dog who sounded quite a bit like Grandad and resembled him in dress style with his flatcap and weather-resilience. We visited a park directly opposite Grandad’s green door, and a section of beach in line with the space between the house and the soccer grounds.
Throughout this expedition it poured down with rain, but now it was time to go and watch the match, and right on time, the rain stopped. Unfortunately the grounds did not have hand driers in the toilets as Mum and I had anticipated, so we were rather wet while watching the game.
Dad made friends with a match photographer and several officials, and in a lovely coincidence, there was already a memorial bunch of flowers being laid for another lifelong supporter of the club who had passed on, so we were able to incorporate this into our memorial gestures for Grandad. To our great surprise, Blackpool played extremely well, and came back from being down 2 – 0 to win 3 – 2. I guess Grandad got out there on the field that day.
For that day the town held some nostalgia. While the chip shop Dad remembered at the end of Grandad’s street was gone, we found another one where the gentleman cooking told us he’d been there 35 years, and the fish and chips received were certainly a testament to his experience.
The next day we shifted from Great Eccleston to Lytham St Anne’s, stopping on the way at a little place called Garstang, where I saw barges on a canal for the first time. I thought it seemed a very quiet and gentle way of life. There was also a castle ruin on the hill, which we enjoyed exploring. On returning to Great Eccleston, we stopped at the little general store on the corner for some cider and discovered that there was live music coming from the pub next door which included a violin. Of course we were then obliged to go in and listen for a while to Simon James and his band, who he had dubbed for the night ‘the Deep Sea Pilots’ or something to that effect, made up that afternoon. In an impromptu ‘From the Spout,’ I will tell you that this country-style folk music was lovely to hear live, and Simon himself very friendly and welcoming to us strangers. The band were expecting some family and friends, so delayed starting their original set and played a few unpractised covers, which nonetheless came off very well. The original songs we had time to hear had good lyrics and musical depth within the style they were aiming for, and I found myself humming some of the lines later in the evening. If there was something we were less keen on, it was the fact that we struggled to hear the lovely melodic additions being played by the violin over the sound of all the guitars in the room, and we do love a good violin so this made us a little sad. Overall however, it was a lovely part of our evening hearing these folks play. If you were to have tea while listening to Simon James, I’d probably recommend something that could be described as ‘builders tea.’ A good strong stock standard English black tea brew with a touch of milk and a biscuit. You can find a bit about the music here: http://www.simonjamesmusic.co.uk/
It was from Lytham St Anne’s that we explored Blackpool and Fleetwood, and began to see something of the depressing side of the place. The endless ‘amusements’ are failing and run down, and there is a feeling of the spookiness of an empty theme park. The ‘illuminations,’ which we saw by tram, look nice at night, but have the feel that they are surviving on nostalgia, like old Nelly the Elephant in the Adelaide Christmas pageant, who I was so sad to see retired when she had finally become too old and creaky.
On our last day staying in Lytham St Anne’s we decided to get out of the city and visited Billborrow to walk along another canal. It was surprising how close to the city you can find a patch of peace.
Finally we left the city of Blackpool behind and wound our way in and out of the border to Wales as we traveled to our next stop just inside the Welsh border in Powys. On the way we stopped for a pot of tea in a lovely pub in Bunsbury which had its own little library. At the Powys BnB there was a cute dog and cat and a kitten in the woodshed, and we explored the nearby bigger town of Welshpool. It was in the little BnB living room that I really began the weekend’s Storytime story in earnest, after several attempts to do background research in the car on my phone which left me feeling queasy. Lying on the carpet by the tiny kitchen, listening to the silence as everyone flicked through their photos of the day and waited for their cups of tea to cool, it struck me that the silence was not really silent. A clock ticked, a water heater hummed. Next door, the shuffling feet of the host could faintly be heard through the door. Was there ever such a thing as complete silence? Perhaps not. From this thought, the character Ella was born.
The last stop on this leg of our travels was a BnB called the Rose Cottage, hidden in the very hilly, narrow country lanes near Little London. The surrounding farm had a delightful garden, many furry and feathered friends and an absolutely stunning view from the walk up the hillside in the fields behind the cottage.
On the way back to Southampton from this lovely final stopover, we had a rest for lunch in a town called Cricklade, the first town on the Thames and home to a lot of history.
Over the course of this second week I had begun to be a little better at making time for my poetry and photo editing at a reasonable hour, even if this was done by limiting the number of pictures I bothered to edit and staying home from the occasional wander round town. The rest of ‘In Search of Silence’ for Saturday’s Storytime was however, completed late at night when we got back to Southampton, somewhat to my frustration when I discovered that no one was able to listen live anyway, and therefore we could have recorded the telling on my camera in one of the forests. A visit home was definitely due however, and I appreciated, in the end, the chance to read from my usual patchwork rug, see my Lloyd and do a bit of band practice as well as singing some songs with Mum and Dad with the use of our instruments in the flat. Now it’s time for a couple of day’s rest and catching up on things like this blog, before I join my parents once more to explore a bit of France. If you’d like to hear In Search of Silence, you can watch the video below, or wait for me to type up the text in the next few days. Stay tuned for journals and poetry about the France leg of our adventures.