Tuesday, 16 August 2011

An Adventure in Blackpool, 1991

I didn’t grow up in Blackpool...

I spent the first 9 years of my life in Coventry before moving to a small village in Bedfordshire. Therefore, I know what it’s like to come from a place that is stigmatised by non-habitants. I was used to hearing the South’s negative opinions about my Midland home, ‘It’s an ugly concrete breezeblock,’ people would say. And shy me would stand as tall as I could and defend my City. I’d explain how Coventry was bombed during WWII, that concrete was the cheapest and quickest way of rebuilding – of rising from the ashes.

I was proud of my hometown, of my roots, and I could see things that most outsiders missed. I could see the Coventry Cross (made from the timbres of the destroyed cathedral), which stands in the ruins as a symbol of peace. I could see the old silent monastery, which coined the expression ‘Sent to Coventry’. I could see the grade II listed Tudor buildings down Spon Street. I could see the Godiva clock, which we’d stare up at on the strike of the hour and watch Lady Godiva riding her horse as Peeping Tom emerged from the window above. I could see our three spires, defiant and proud.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with Blackpool, well, when I was seven I saw a Blackpool that most outsiders miss. I went on an adventure that allowed my independent spirit to stretch its wings...

We (my parents, my younger sister and I) were staying in a four-berth caravan at Newton Hall, Staining. It was July and the British weather – for a change – was behaving itself. My sister and I ate breakfast; we fought over the free toy in the cereal. We fought over who used the yellow pencil crayon first, we fought over whose socks they were, and then we fought some more.

Today has been cancelled, said Mum. She sent us both off to bed, my sister went into one bedroom and I into another. We were to stay there until we learnt how to be civilised.

However, I had a different plan. I decided that it was too nice to remain inside. Therefore, I decided to go out...

Now, I wasn’t a particularly rebellious child, nor was I very confident, but I was bright with a rather prominent independent streak. And I knew that holidays were for doing things, for exploring new places, and for being outside. So at the time – as I sat on the single bed feeling sad – my decision seemed to make sense.

I grabbed my ladybird rucksack, and quickly packed it with a few essential items: a cardigan (in case it got cold), Sunshine Bunny, a book, a pack of Opal Fruits, a hat embroidered with butterflies and two five pound notes. I opened the caravan window as wide as it would go, before jumping out and beginning my adventure.

When I could, I followed the brown signs for the promenade, and when I couldn’t, I just let instinct lead me. I stumbled upon the zoo. I saw penguins and lions and antelope and ostriches and camels through gaps in the fence. I brought an ice cream (one of those white Mini Milks) and a carton of orange juice from Stanley Park. I read a chapter of Barrie’s Peter Pan by the boating lake. I played on the swings.

The walk to the promenade seemed like a very long way. I made up games in my head to distract myself, and eventually I was standing on the bustling sea front. I was a little scared, initially, so I counted to twenty. By the time I reached fifteen, I felt much better.

I skipped on the sand without shoes. I paddled in the Irish Sea. I tried to make a sand-snake, using only my hands. I wrote ‘Lara’ in big letters on the damp sand under Central Pier. I treated myself to a pound of 2ps, and spent them on the arcade slot machines. I walked back to the caravan site...

Poetry is about seeing what other people miss. It’s about being brave, taking a risk, pushing the boundaries. It’s a lifelong adventure that allows you to feel free.

Thank you for reading,



Ashley R Lister said...

I was genuinely scared for 'young Lara' whilst I was reading that. Your imagery of Blackpool was reminiscent of Laurie Lee's writing at its most effective.

Great post,


Lara Clayton said...

What a compliment, thank you :)
'Young Lara*' got into quite a bit of trouble for embarking on this adventure...

*The usage of third person has only been employed because it allows for a greater degree of cohesion between the initial comment and this one.

vicky ellis said...

I love that you walked all that way and had a lovely time. I feel for your mum!

As Ash says, beautifully written. One of the best pieces of prose I've had the pleasure to read in ages - thanks! xx

Lindsay said...

That sounds like an excellent adventure, you must have walked for miles! I could picture you walking along the prom, in search of the next wonder.

I agree with Vicky and Ash too, incredibly well written and just pulled me in there with you.