Two cities. More like two universes.
I went to Lytham taking advantage of my bus-pass. Wigan is within reach now. Anyway going to Lytham isn’t just a geographical relocation it is a spiritual one. Out of the favela… I transported from a place of poverty and disease to a land of plenty. From the barrios of Guatemala City to spend a day in Oslo.
On the way I took a look at St Annes and its decrepit pier. It was a fine August day and the pier was busy. There was a railway carriage redone as a cafe and a statue outside an ice-cream stall. The statue seemed to be recycled. It was as far as I could tell a French Policeman whose arm had fallen off? The connection with ice-cream evaded me. .
But no time to wallow in the fleshpots of St Annes. I had work to do. Well not work. Kind of hanging about. I find it hard to find the exact word but I like the term flaneur. It was promoted by Walter Benjamin a Jewish Marxist who committed suicide while fleeing Nazis. French Romantic Poets kept a lobster on a lead to walk down the boulevards. The lobster set the pace. There is something about walking around towns…you undergo estrangement or re-enchantment, the familiar becomes unfamiliar, beautiful, frightening, bizarre. Flaneur sounds better than bone-idle loiterer. The point is that there is no point… I’ll stop this now because I’m boring myself.
In the case of Lytham bizarre is what it becomes. You come from Bloomfield, Blackpool and you go to Lytham you live ten years longer. In Bloomfield life expectancy is 71 in Lytham 79.
Everything is different, The first thing you notice is that nobody is smoking. Few people are using mobility scooters. Nobody is using mobility scooters and smoking Mobility scooters have really taken off in Blackpool, like tattooes, sometimes you think they involve a fashionable alternative to walking. Nobody is tattooed. Nobody is shouting. There are no young girls smoking and pushing prams. Nobody is trying to eat their own weight in sausage rolls. There is nobody so large that running around them could be an Olympic Event.
I go round the Charity Shops. Why? I always go round Charity Shops. I just like looking at things. And they give you a feeling of the place. It fascinates me that it seems that the first thing people do when they get a roof over their head is to fill it full of crap. And then they die or get fed up with it and they take it to a charity shop. Where other people buy their crap until…
In Lytham they have more expensive crap. I saw a picture of the Last Supper with a clock inserted above Jesus’ head. Did somebody look at it and think: “that will add enhance our living room.” Really?
So houses in Lytham have more expensive tasteless crap adorning their mantelpieces. I say “houses” but Lytham is the bungalow centre of the world. If bungalows ever become a religion they will have pilgrimages to Lytham.
The differences between Lytham and Blackpool are intriguing. One that most struck me was that older people continue to dress as if they are well… people. In Blackpool people settle for sports gear and then deteriorate. Past the age of forty clothes are just acquired and worn randomly.
The impact of Primark has been to improve the quality of clothing. Blackpool residents have transferred allegiance from Oxfam to Primark.
Even the dead are fashionable in Lytham. I looked into an undertakers. From inside a lady looked back at me speculatively. I left.
In Lytham clothes are chosen carefully from an expensive selection in clothes shops along the main road. I wish I could say that the result was appalling but it isn’t, quite. The population of Lytham is older and where somebody is old in Blackpool at 60 they thrive in their 70s in Lytham. The fact that people in Bloomfield live ten years less than people in Lytham doesn’t capture the situation because people in Bloomfield are more likely to suffer chronic ill-health. So in Lytham you see a lot of older healthy people in nice clothes enjoying themselves at outdoor tables in cafes.
I went up to an elegant couple enjoying a latte and said: “Bougeois scum living off the lifeblood of the workers. The price of your latte could cure a Bloomfield child of rickets.”
Well no I didn’t. I thought about it because to there is a certain smugness about Lytham.
And do they live off the life-blood of the workers? Well the average income is much higher than in Blackpool. Not only that but there are a number of exceptionally high earners. And this wealth comes from financing Al Queda.
The best-paying employer in the area is British Aerospace. A model employer its highly-skilled and educated workforce have all the benefits of an enlightened and ethical employer. Its like a kind of step back to the seventies: a huge well paid self confident workforce and decent employers. Its as if Mrs Thatcher had never happened.
They make military aircraft. The details of the Al Yamamah arrangement were stifled by Tony Blair and leaked out in the American courts. The the largest bribe in the history of the world was paid to a Saudi Prince whose father, as luck would have it, was the Saudi Defence Minister. The biggest order in British History secured BAE for years. Two Saudi aviation students in California benefitted ….
Since the reason for BAE is to use aircraft to destroy people, buildings and aircraft 9:11 was an entirely appropriate operation for BAE to sponsor.
So maybe the people savouring lattes have blood on their hands.
The Al-yamamah deal kept production lines at BAE Warton running.
At a recent trial in Saudi the Prosecution asked for the defendant to be crucified. Really. How do they learn to crucify people these days… study Renaissance Paintings, practise with monkeys?
But I digress. Walking the main street in the August sunshine the effect of all this prosperity is to feel a sense of well-being. This is the good life. Kind of. There are criticisms. True people are well dressed but they are well dressed in the style of the 1970s. And hats are very popular for men. You never see a hat in Blackpool. Wearing a hat would be dangerous in some areas.
And the men of Lytham are very tempted to pony-tails. I have given instructions that if I ever attempt to grow a pony-tail they will hire a hit man to blow my head off. £2000.00 is the going rate.
Crime rate is low and deprivation is low. The schools are good. Blackpool schools are close to average, amazing considering.
The difference is money. If people have money they will be kind and generous and good-natured and reflective. They will care for their health. If people haven’t got money they will die for £20.00. If people have money they think about their next holiday. If they haven’t got money they think about how to get a bottle of Three Hammers. (I think I’ve got the name right. Three Hammers is a kind of cider favoured by Blackpool Residents. I looked at a bottle down a back alley once. I think it was two litres and the government health warning or whatever it is said: “28 Units.” Possibly people buy a bottle and spread it out over a week.)
And I got my bus back from the eternal sunshine of Lytham to the eternal darkness of Blackpool.
And when I saw my first television on the pavement and knew I was back in the favela my heart leapt with joy.
Its clean and crime-free and tasteful but Holy Mother of God Lytham is fucking boring.
(Copy to Lancashire Life)