It was somewhere between half 3 and 4 mid-May, driving into Blackpool. Not as hot as you’d expect for that time of year, but still I wore the flowered pattern short sleeve shirt I’d bought a few weeks earlier in Jersey, with a pale-yellow t-shirt underneath. Hen parties accompanied with blow up sex dolls under their arms readying for a night of whatever came their way mingled with school children scurrying home. By luck, we found a parking space next to the Ballroom. After a quick scan for lurking junkies on the hunt for potential prizes that could be used for bartering, we headed to the sea front. I instantly regretted not wearing something more adequate as the ghastly Irish Sea gusts continually bit down on my bare arms. I suggested heading into the nearest bar we came across, which just so happened to be a Wetherspoons. ‘Can we not try somewhere a little more, you know.’ Asked Bea. ‘In this town?’ I replied, half joking, in all seriousness. We kept walking. Shortly after passing a man wearing a full latex gimp outfit, complete with a zipped mouth, posing next to a Cinderella carriage, we stumbled across a Western themed bar/restaurant. ‘Just drinks please, not food.’ We say to the bouncer, scrolling on his phone. ‘Not this door, the next one down.’ He replied without looking up. The next door down was a completely different establishment named “The Crows Nest”. An odd blend of nautical instruments and Bourne Identity movie posters filled the walls. Bea found us a seat by the window. I ordered two drinks – a Peroni, pint of, and a large Malbec poured from a bottle labeled Merlot. Despite noticing, I say nothing. At the table we wonder if the barman walking around wiping other tables will wipe ours too. He doesn’t. ‘Are you sure this is Malbec?’ Asked Bea. ‘It’s what I asked for.’ I replied before turning my attention to the uncompromising waves out the window. ‘How long do you think you could survive in that water?’ I asked. ‘Are you struggling for signal in here? ‘Cos I am.’ Replied Bea.
Halfway through our drinks and deep into a discussion about what Tarantino’s final film should be, Lara and Will arrive. Their significant height difference over myself and Bea used to intimidate me, especially Lara’s, but I feel much more relaxed about it these days. Although not completely. Will orders Lara a gin with a pink coloured tonic and himself a blonde ale, which puts a slight damper on my spirits because I now wish I’d ordered the same, due to the Peroni having a funny chemical taste.
Things are going great catching up, until Lara lets it be known she’s slightly peeved with Will for inviting other people out on their first night away without the kids for some time. Bea and I protest we never knew this to be the case, but we can tell Lara doesn’t believe us.
It’s a little awkward for the next ten minutes until Tim and Tilly arrive. They apologised for being late, explaining it took a while to find our pin drop due to poor signal. Tim goes on to tell us the poor signal in the area is due to the tower. No one asks why. Everyone seemed happy with half an explanation. Tilly goes to the bar and orders herself the same as Lara and Tim the same as me. Tim then complains of a funny chemical taste in the lager.
After a couple more rounds, the conversation switches back to what we think Tarantino’s final film should be. Bea can tell this subject isn’t Lara’s forte, so changes subjects, leaving me a little exacerbated because it was my turn to share a theory next. Lara talks about babies and marriage and shows us photos of babies and marriage. This subject isn’t Tilly’s forte, nor mine, Tim’s or Bea’s or even Will’s for that matter, so we change it back once more. ‘A sequel to From Dusk Till Dawn, but it’s not a vampire film.’ I begin, ‘It’s a heist film in which…’ ‘Will, the kids are Facetiming.’ Interrupts Lara. I finish the remainder of my pint, misjudging the amount, leading to beer pouring out the sides of the glass and down my cheeks. I quickly wipe with my spare hand, then excuse myself to go wash up as I can’t stand sticky hands.
Back on the streets the crowds were becoming raucous and stranger. A heightened sense of trouble brewed causing both excitement and anxiety. We headed to a dive bar named “Ma Kelly’s”. I thought it rather strange naming a pub after a convicted RnB sex-trafficking peodophile, but was quickly corrected by Bea.
After a few wrong turns we eventually arrived, with a picture of Ma Kelly herself hanging from a sign aloft the exterior. Inside, the karaoke was gathering speed. An off-key version of “It’s Raining Men” was being sung by a woman in her mid-thirties wearing a sequin dress that stopped just short of the top of her thighs. A man danced with crutches raised above his head alone on the dancefloor, lit by revolving multi-coloured disco lights. At the bar, Bea asked for a pint of cider. The barmaid explained they only have Dark Fruits. Bea points to a cider tap that isn’t Dark Fruits. The barmaid nods and pours. Will, Tim and Myself ask for a pint of Moretti each. The barmaid tells us they don’t serve Moretti, they only have Moretti glasses. We ordered three Madris, poured into Moretti glasses. Tilly orders another gin and tonic. Lara contemplates, then orders the same.
We sit at a round table that’s not really big enough for the six of us, but make do. Two gruff looking chaps sat next to us are approached by a skinny looking student with a camera around his neck asking if they want a souvenir photo. They tell him to fuck right off. He fucked right off. I finish my pint quickly, bursting the seal. In the toilets, two toilet attendants offer me an impressive range of eau de toilette. I politely decline. They squirt soap into my hands and I do the rest. I attempt to use the hand dryer but they insist on giving me a paper towel. I apologise for having no change. They say, ‘No problem my friend.’ And I walk out feeling guilty and thinking how rarely I carry change these days, and how it must surely soon be over for the toilet attendants in the world. And the homeless for that matter.
Back at the table and a slightly intoxicated Will is telling the others a story about how a girl he once slept with lied to him about having AIDS because he never called her back. Lara looks appalled. Everyone else, uncomfortable.
A few more drinks in and Bea and I decide to book a hotel. We found one online situated a few streets away from the car for £22. Once booked, we leave to go quickly check in, telling the others we’ll meet them at the Ballroom shortly.
Ocean View Road didn’t have a view of the ocean, but that was alright. Hotels, b&bs and guesthouses blocked out the setting sun. Shitehawks from the rooftops and gobshites from the faked turfed front lawns watched our every step as Bea and I waded through the stench of stale lager and the fog of cigarette smoke. A craving for a fag after five or six pints drove me insane, but the holidaymakers, most of whom with North-East accents, wouldn’t part with one whenever I asked. They could see right through my imposter persona.
The hotel was what one would expect for £22 a night. We checked in with relative ease. Bea dashed to the room for a quick wee whilst I waited in the cramped reception area. On her return she asked for a toilet roll to be taken to the room. ‘Help yourself.’ Gurned the toothless receptionist pointing to a pyramid of toilet rolls on the counter. ‘Take two if ya need a shit.’ Shouted a male voice coming from a darkened room to the left. Bea took the top toilet roll that somehow seemed boobytrapped, causing the pyramid to tumble over the 1970’s stained carpet. Groans from the toothless gurner filled the air.
15 minutes later we met the others at the Ballroom. Plastic shot glasses filled with black sambucas awaited our arrival. They went down easier than expected. Slurred gibberish took hold of the conversation, but we were all in the same boat so no one cared. Tilly told us all she fancied Tim because he looks like Rick Moranis. Tim turned and smiled at me – there’s a resemblance.
Michael Kiwanuka’s deep, rich tone bounced off the ballroom disco ball, hitting everyone within a ten-mile radius. But, as impressive as he was, we now had a taste for the dive bars, so left early to find some trouble. On the way, we stopped for kebabs. I asked for doner meat but was miffed when doner meat was served to me instead of chicken. Ten minutes of sucking doner meat down us like spaghetti ensued, inevitably sobering us up and leaving us pining for bed. I vaguely remember something of a goodbye, but it wasn’t cinematic.
Back in our room Bea realised our curtains were folded neatly on our bed. She tried her best attaching them to the rail – a fine effort given her drunken stupor.
At 7:21 am I awoke to the sound of the ocean. Well, not the sound of the ocean, but the aroma of the ocean. Well, not the aroma of the ocean, more of a stench from a dustbin truck on a foreign holiday. I opened my eyes, squinting, at what I first thought to be Michael Kiwanuka’s voice still shining off a disco ball from the ballroom. Alas it was sunlight breaking through the many gaps in the curtains. Bea had done a god-awful job.
© Christopher Moore, 2022