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Apparently Blackpool is rather more exotic than I had thought. According to the Civilisations  set of programmes on Iplayer, Stuart Maconie tells me that the cities of the North West were shaped by Empire.

It is easy to see I suppose when you look at Blackpool Tower and its older sister, the Eiffel. For those of you snortling with laughter now bear in mind that this edifice formed a great and happy part of my childhood. It would loom on the horizon as we chugged along the motorway and you knew that good times and crazy lights were ahead. There would be the River Caves and high tide.

The Eiffel, I will concede, is fancier, the smart chic French cousin but the idea is the same. The Eiffel Tower was about showing off and attracting paying idiots to the top of it. Blackpool went one step further and put a menagerie and myriad other tourist lures into its hefty red brick base.

NW TOURISM AWARDS 09

Inside of course it was a wonderland. That was back in the 70s when my eyes were rose tinted, never mind my spectacles. I have blogged before about the delights of the Tower Circus but I neglected to mention the ballroom. It’s featured on tv in several dance type or nostalgia type programmes but I remember it filled with dancing people and music, entirely golden and velvet red and seeming too huge a space to fit into the brick boundaries of the Tower. Cinderella surely was about to throw a glass clog and head out, rushing headlong for the Winter Gardens.

The Winter Gardens. They had me at the name. This building is not draped in icicles and managed by the Snow Queen but it was, in my day, a grand old dame of a building. The Victorians, inspired by their rape and pillaging adventures overseas brought frou-frou and rococo to the most basic of buildings. It was bling, even if they called it Gothic Revival.

When you were replete with the delights of the Winter Gardens you could head out towards that other palace of pleasure, Olympia. Here, Zeus himself ran the mini sports car track that took my sister and I on many a circular trip, sitting behind the white plastic steering wheels of trundling convertibles. And always always the merry music of the one-armed bandits.

The one-armed bandits, what a gang they were with their daylight penny robbery.

 

My #BreakfastWaffle thoughts this morning are why on God’s Green Earth are #Radio4 persisting with the #PuzzlefortheDay? That in itself is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. I’m a cheery soul at sun up but even I am strained by the #BreakfastWaffle of these tangled thought processes. I’ve never been much of a puzzler. I’ve marvelled at my dad unpeeling a cryptic crossword, four down, nine letters: mountain snowdrop anyone*? I don’t sit down and thrill to puzzles. They seem more like a punishment. I feel certain that puzzles are written into Dante’s Inferno, that what Judas Iscariot is really staring at for all eternity is the possible answers to the Puzzle for the Day on Radio Four.

Even as a child, riddles left me cold because, in the end, they always seemed contrived and stupid. They just masqueraded as clever with their glib responses of : ‘The answer’s a lemon’ or ‘No, it’s a toad because it was Thursday’. Good grief.

I harbour disagreeable feelings towards these puzzlemasters and it irks me. I don’t want to feel like that about people. There is a terrible whiff of smugness about the puzzles and also, I feel, a lack of reality. Who cares how many times the polar bear won at chess? I’m not asking for reality, far from it, I  love a story, stories have been my life. Perhaps that is what I’m asking from them, a heart and soul. My problem with the puzzles is they ring hollow. So, when John Humphries, with his ‘kill me now’ tone of delivery asks ‘If the train is running 3.17 minutes late at Hereford and there is a  Leicester blueface sheep on the line at Craven Arms, will Professor Moriarty arrive in Ludlow before Sherlock Holmes?’ The answer is yes, he bloody well will because he’s Professor Moriarty and he’ll get off the effing train and take the station masters bike, but, actually NO, HE WON’T.  The reason he will not arrive in Ludlow before Sherlock Holmes is because Sherlock Holmes IS DISGUISED AS A SHEEP AND IS ON THE LINE AT CRAVEN ARMS.

Pass the teapot, Watson and put down that last scone, it’s mine.

 

Did you deduce the answer is *avalanche? If so reward yourself with a free book by signing up here: http://www.helenslavin.com/signup/  Mwhahahaha, turns out I’m as wily as the good Professor.

 

I’ve heard the fox but I’ve not seen it. With the windows open for summer the sounds of the night peek in and the fox calling is particularly harsh to some, welcome to others, the squirrel nutjobs like me. I’ve seen scat as well. I read a book about identifying various bits of ‘business’ and embarrass my kids at every ‘opoortunity’ (wink, nudge). So the fox is out there, territory has been marked.

Eye witness report: Our neighbours, having dinner with friends out on their patio, watched as the fox came through their back gate, gave them a glance as if to say ‘Meh’ and then trotted on its way.

It’s infuriating because I like to think my garden is a special haven for the wild and wandering. No weedkiller. No hard pruning. Weeds are welcome. At this moment the jackdaws are raising another family of chicks in our chimney. They have been here since before us.  For the last few years the blackbirds have made the honeysuckle sprawling over the upturned/upcycled trampoline gazebo, into their home. There are usually hedgehogs although the latest incumbent might actually be the one that’s been flattened in the roadworks that have just set up outside our house.

There was a badger in our driveway once. I didn’t see it, sleeping oblivious above, but my neighbour told me about it later.

We’ve already talked about the rats. Like them or not, they are wild, of a sort.

Last year my neighbour on the other side had a pet rabbit. This little black furry creature took to visiting my garden. I would trip over it at any time of day or night, night in particular when it liked to sit by the fire basket with me. My neighbour, since moved away, stomped into the garden uninvited one afternoon and declared ‘My rabbit is in your garden AGAIN.’ as if it was my fault. Truth be told, the rabbit was escaping its domestic hell. According to my neighbour, her dog, a lovely little Jack Russell, liked to ‘play’ with the rabbit. Yes. Jack Russells will do that, it is a classic predator/prey scenario.

I called him Bunny. In return for sanctuary he ate my crop of courgettes and kept the grass down. He was high on Herb Robert for half the summer.

One night, the Jack Russell began barking in some distress. It was an unusual occurrence, he was a quiet little dog, well-behaved and no trouble unless, of course, you were a rabbit. By this time we’d heard the tale about the fox at the dinner party too. The terrier shrieked onwards, getting higher and higher pitched until our neighbour came out and shouted at him. He shrieked more, a dog in distress. She didn’t listen, instead she frogmarched him into the conservatory and shut the door.

We never saw Bunny again.

Somewhere, down by the river, a fox licked its chops, because rabbits feet are not only lucky, they’re tasty.

 
 

‘a highly original talent’ – Beryl Bainbridge

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