Blackpool is the north of England's premier resort, whether people who resolutely deem it 'tacky' like it or not. It is situated on the coast of Lancashire, a county in the north west. It has approximately 150,000 residents.

Blackpool boasts some fine attributes. It has a large sea front, with an impressive promenade and three piers (called, somewhat originally, North, South and Central - for years as a child I wondered why there wasn't an East and West pier - thick, huh?). The front is affectionately known as 'The Golden Mile' and has loads of amusement arcades, souvenir shops, and eating establishments. There's also a fine network of trams (some very old) that run the length of The Mile, and beyond. (They are also such fun to travel on - they have reversible seats so if there's four of you you can sit facing each other - very cool.)

There is a very large fun-fair at the south end, called 'The Pleasure Beach' which has some top roller coasters, notably 'The Grand National' (which is one of only a very few 'Mobius Strip' coasters), the Roller Coaster (original huh? - someone broke a world record on it recently - something about the longest continual ride... mad geezer), and The Big One (which had, when it was launched, apparently, the highest first drop of any coaster in the world (I'm not sure that any one believed it though - and it wasn't for very long in any case)). There're also loads of other rides for the more squeamish, and a kids' section called, hilariously, Beaver Creek. I guess no one asked the Americans if that was a good name for a children's attraction.

There's a huge 'observation tower' (sounds a very banal name for one of the most famous landmarks in the area, but still) which stands at a height of 173 metres, was built in 1894, and was modelled on the top section of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There's an entertainment complex underneath which has a fine circus (although of the animal variety, which is a shame - the floor sinks at the end of the show, and floods to create a water scene - it's great!), amusements, exhibitions and the famous Tower Ballroom which is entertaining. The Tower, and the complex beneath it, stand right on the front, very close to the Central Pier. The tower dominates the skyline, and affords some great views of Lancashire and the sea.

Every autumn (fall to the US) the place becomes illuminated by thousands of electric light bulbs. The whole Golden Mile is electrified for a good six weeks; tableaux, pictures, strings of lights, displays across the roads, even lit up trams make the sea-front utterly breath-taking. The whole place becomes jam-packed with people enjoying the sights. I once drove the whole length of The Mile only to find that the roller coasters were still running. Riding The Big One, in the dark, lit up with blue and red lights, with the sea in my face and the smell of hotdogs in the air was stunning.

And there's night life, a big zoo, some fine shops, a big swimming pool complex, a theatre, and the rest of Lancashire (which is lovely) right on the doorstep. Ace.

Okay, so it is tacky... ('Las Vegas without the good stuff' sure... (there are plans afoot, actually, to remodel the front to look like Las Vegas, with casinos and so on. I'll be heartbroken if they try it).) It's also massively provincial - there are families that have been going there every year for a weekend away. But it's easy, and it's relaxed. And you can do what you like, and no one cares, and there aren't too many places you can say that about any more. It might be over-run with McDonalds (yes, I have a thing about that place), and be full of litter, and screaming children. But every time I think that, I just have to remember that I was one of those children twentyish years ago, and the place was like magic to me, just as it is for them now.

Every time I visit, for the first quarter of an hour I am disgusted by the state of the place - and then I catch sight of the Tower, smell the sea and go on a roller coaster, and the feeling goes away. And it's suddenly magical again.

I remember the lights, green and pink and yellow, and your dress, and the smell of fried meat and French fries. I remember a song, played on an organ, a few hundred feet from where we stood. I remember how your lipstick had smeared on the can of beer you held in your hand. I remember needing to burp, swaying slightly in the breeze. I remember saying that we would never be this young ever again. I remember you not caring. I remember the kid who was throwing up behind you. I remember how he looked fourteen, but had already learnt to vomit in an adult way. I remember thinking that I did not want to live in this place forever, but knowing that if I left, I would leave you. I remember trying to keep my eyes focused while you told me about your parents. I remember looking at the pier, and the sea, with my shoulder pressed to yours. I remember not putting my arm around your neck. I remember how stupid I thought your hair looked, and how I thought you earrings were to big. I remember imagining what you would be like as a person who was more like me. I remember picturing you in no make up, with a black turtleneck sweater, corduroy pants, black frame spectacles. I remember what you said about your perfect man. I remember that I fit only one of the criteria (height), and came close in another (eye colouration). I remember the delicate way that you had of slurring your words. I remember your apathy towards the three P’s, politics, politeness and precision. I remember finally burping, and you laughing, and you burping back. I remember the taste (I never did get used to it). I remember saying goodbye, afraid that by staying longer I might dilute the feeling that I had. I remember the awkward way you hugged me, with one arm, on account of your beer, and the way our chests only half met. I remember the smell of your hair clinging to my nostrils as I walked away, and I remember trying to clear you out of my nose, taking long, deep breaths of the salted night air.

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