Andrew Martin: My little bit of Blackpool schlock

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Blackpool last week earned a place in the Championship play-off final by beating Nottingham Forest 6-4 on aggregate. The match is at Wembley on Saturday, and I might yet fork out 30-odd quid to go.

I like Blackpool FC because their ground only holds 12,500, because they play in tangerine, and because their manager, Ian Holloway, could be a comedian on the North Pier. A few days ago, he entertained journalists in a rather cramped room, saying, "We'll sort out our media cupboard if we go up. This is illegal, I think."

But I mainly like Blackpool FC because they are located in Blackpool, the Bloomfield Road ground being just landward of the Pleasure Beach, so that, in place of a clock chiming the quarter hours, the fans hear the screams of the riders of the Pepsi Max Big One as they begin their first and most violent descent, at which point they are level with an aeroplane warning light, and have a good view (albeit briefly) of Ireland.

I've been visiting Blackpool regularly for 37 years, and I once set a novel there. Very little in my life has rivalled the excitement of seeing my dad whitening his plimsolls in preparation for our summer jaunts to the town. It is perhaps because of memories of racing my dad along the vast dun-coloured beach (the sea at Blackpool is a similar colour), or those days so hot that the streets seemed red through sunburn rather than because built of fiery Accrington brick, that I give special dispensation to the town. I have granted it a licence to be the antidote to political correctness and health faddism. In Blackpool, a bag of sweets a stone in weight might be labelled "all-day breakfast". I believe that Osama bin Laden masks were for sale in there within three days of 9/11.

Blackpool has been pushing its luck for 200 years. Last week, Blackpool Tower was a 116 years old – cue for a big party. I once booked into what was billed as a "double room" there. There was certainly a double bed, but it took up literally the entire room, so that I spent much of the night wondering how they'd got it in. (I concluded that they'd built the bed in the room). As for the famous illuminations, they are a blatant attempt to get people to visit Blackpool after the weather's turned. It is said in the town that the illuminations are one of two man-made features – the other being the Great Wall of China – visible from outer space. They are not.

There have been attempts to curb the town. In the Thirties, the council passed a by-law requiring those operating donkey rides to make all the donkeys' heads face the same way. There were fines for gypsy palmists. A couple of years ago, Blackpool was mooted as the possible home for one of the planned supercasinos, but nothing came of it.

Today, there are alternative plans to boost the town. The council has just purchased the Tower and the Winter Gardens (where I once got quite euphoric in a bar decorated like the hold of an orange plastic galleon), and will relaunch both attractions. There is to be a new fleet of trams (I hope they won't get rid of the one mocked up like a trawler to advertise Fisherman's Friends), and a new sea wall, which I trust will not reduce the violence of the waves. (If there's a news story about bad weather it will be illustrated by the shot of an innocent dog-walker getting soaked at Blackpool).

A spokeswoman for the council told me that Blackpool FC in the Premiership will complement all of this wonderfully: "We're really, really hoping it happens." So am I.

Andrew Martin is the author of 'The Blackpool Highflyer' (Faber)

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