THE SUZI FEAY COLUMN: White knuckled on the pleasure beach

THERE'S a blonde woman in the Blackpool Sea Life Centre wearing a Kiss-Me-Quick Hat. She's with a bronzed gent dressed all in white - that's bronzed as opposed to wind-whipped - and together they're adding a lubricious undertow to the teenage guide's glib patter. She holds out her hand and rubs the exposed snout of an affectionate ray while her companion sniggers in her ear. These two are a slightly younger version of the couples we see boosting up and down the sea-front in whacking great cars. At pavement level the old folks parade around, lagged like ambulant boilers. Why do so many of them end up in squally Blackpool? Perhaps they are forced by their offspring, who hope thereby to clip a few years off their span: "You're retiring to Blackpool, Mam and Dad!" "Oh, but we like it here in Jersey ..."

But there is something unsatisfying, something un-Blackpool about the Sea Life Centre, despite its high price. It turns out to be ... rather good. Imaginative. Stimulating, even. So it's a relief to see this chuckling couple goggling at anything penile with fins.

Our entire family upped sticks to Blackpool for a holiday when I was a child, and two incidents stick in my mind, both hemmed round with dread. There was a fruit machine in our guesthouse, into which I was one night persuaded to introduce a grudging couple of coins. To my dismay the machine began pumping out a flood of silver. I looked round nervously, afraid of being accused of some malfeasance, but on this occasion the adults' natural cupidity was in full approval. Far from inducing a love of gambling, this incident inoculated me against it. If I don't win immediately I give up. If I do win, I take it all away with me.

Then, on a wet afternoon, as I was playing hide-and-seek with my cousins, I slipped into a wardrobe which clicked shut behind me. The catch was operated by a button but no matter how much my cousins pressed it, the door would not release. The cousins soberly discussed leaving me in my Narnian predicament, as any appeal for adult help was bound to lead to accusation, however unjust, and thence swiftly to retribution. While they debated, I ramped around in a panic, rocking the wardrobe back and forth. This sufficiently impressed the cousins, but by the time everyone had been summoned from bar and snooze, I had slumped into catatonia. "Best get the fire brigade," clucked the landlady after fruitless efforts to release me. "Don't do that," shrieked an excitable aunt. "The fireman'll stove her head in with his axe." The sadistic laughter which greeted this sally caused me promptly to scream myself free. This was one of the defining horrific moments in a generally over-excited childhood.

Now, years later, this bloody image still needs to be expunged, so with my pals for the day, Nicole and Sharon, I take a bus down to the pleasure beach. (Our small sample of Blackpool bus drivers - four - reveals that while half of them are reasonably content with their lot, a quarter are shatteringly depressed, and a quarter disobliging.) "The World of Coronation Street" looks extremely promising. We all know Corrie has nothing to do with Blackpool, so this is a facsimile of a fake, the ultimate sofa-spud experience, as the promotional leaflet explains.

"You'll see a video presentation of cast-members reminiscing ... the current producer will tell you, via our video monitors ... take your place in Florrie Lindley's original shop for our video history of this fine establishment." One presumes "The Man Behind the Legend", Tony Warren, is not actually there in person to tell you about "which Salford terrace provided its inspiration", and that Kevin and Sally Webster ("listen while they put the kids to bed") are similarly pixillated. All this, plus Elsie Tanner ("...video montage..."), The Rover's Return ("...video history ..."), The Duckworths ("... Jack and Vera mysteriously appear and disappear ..." on video, perhaps?), and, best of all, "Your Star Guides for the day", Ken Barlow and Rita Sullivan "on video monitors." Cuh! It's money for old tape, isn't it!

But once we discover all rides on the pleasure beach are 50p a pop today, we are through those turnstiles. Mind you, we still manage to waste 50p on the phenomenally silly ghost mansion, scrambling about in pitch blackness on wobbly floors, watching spectral maidens with supernaturally huge busters float into view.

Now I begin to regret having scoffed at Nicole's fear of heights at Blackpool Tower. It turns out she is the world's only vertiginous speed-freak, and wants to go on all the big dippers. "Only 50 peeee! Only 50 peeee!" she wheedles. We compromise on what was probably the top white-knuckle ride of 1955, a rickety roller-coaster. Even at this low altitude I am nearly sick with fear, my nails cutting sickles of angst in each palm. Nicole still seems to think we are working our way up to "The Big One", but then I have a flashback outside "Alice in Wonderland", a ride I remember going on all those years ago. I start to think about wardrobes and have to make a dash for the River Caves, a gentle subterranean cruise which wafts you from Old Peking to Angkor Wat via the Valley of the Kings. The wardrobe is finally vanquished. Blackpool has worked its rough magic after all.

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

    Structured Finance

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

    SQL Server Developer

    £500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

    C#.NET Developer

    £600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff