We left the b’n’b after a quite terrible English breakfast.
Bright morning light bathes Blackpool, but we, instead, are in a dark amusement hall, playing bingo with the old ladies.
Casinos in Las Vegas, so I’ve read, have no clocks on the walls and pump fresh oxygen in to keep punters awake and gambling. Here, Gavin goes round offering a free tea to anyone playing on the 10 penny games. It tastes like milky sink water. I take three and never win the bingo once.
We walk around the town once more, drink some more tea, and while it still seems a wholly freakish place, the joke is starting to wear thin.
Shall we carry on Northwards? We discuss what lies beyond Blackpool and Passepartout tells me that one of the only places in Britain that she has seen already is the Lake District. As she has already been there, and we’ve only just seen lakes and (bigger) mountains in Snowdonia and, more conclusively for me, as she went there with an ex Greek boyfriend, we decide to head back to Liverpool.
We had talked before of seeing Anthony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’, the life-size iron cast figures (of Gormley himself) dotted intriguingly, incongruously, on an off-the-beaten-track beach near Crosby, so we can head for there. I check the published times of high tides and with the adopted style of an old seafarer’s, deduce with pin-point accuracy, that we only have a few hours before the statues will be totally submerged.
We race to the car and hug the coast down again past the seemingly endless golf lynxes, the gull-marked sand in the bunkers and the in-coming smell of seaweed and mist of the sea. Through sturdy, well-to-do Lytham St Annes and at polite Southport (echoes of Llandudno’s ornate Victorian canopes, but also with a sense of select seediness attached to it too. I spot pampas grasses and have little surprise of the swinging that must be going on behind these respectable double-fronted houses) I tell Passepartout to put her foot down. I’m convinced the figures will soon be totally gone. Hassling her to such a degree that we zoom through a red light. The spectre of the ticket haunts us for the rest of the trip.
We race through Crosby backstreets, never seeming to get any nearer the beach, with me sure the water will have left nothing of the statues to see, telling my harassed driver what’s the point? We’ll just see the sea. Finally the huge, open, exposed beach is there. The incoming tide I had so confidently predicted nothing but a rumour out somewhere in the middle of the Irish Sea. Every figure is standing on bare, cold sand. The sea so far out you’d wear your legs down to stumps trying walk out to reach it. We take the art in, meaningfully, walk back to the car park, past the couples in their cars staring out at the huge sky, chewing slowly on sandwiches, refusing to leave the haven of their Vauxhalls, and head back for Liverpool, both of us thinking of the red light ticket.
It’s decided to leave the road to the others for a bit, and to make our next long trip, heading far further north, in less agitated style.
Glasgow Central’s old dark wood-lined station – designed with long flushed curves, to keep the passengers moving along. We hail a taxi in the dark for the West End where we’ve booked a room for the night. I sit back and take in the ride, watching the unfairly maligned city passing my window, and enjoying in the reflection the agonised face of the Greek trying to understand the Glaswegians taxi driver’s conversation. I offer no help to her pained looks in my direction. I couldn’t even if I tried.
The city looks similar in its Victorian grandness to Liverpool. But larger. The dark brick of the centre giving way to redder buildings and then finally, in the West End, sand coloured, redolent in my mind to those back in Bath.
We walk around, past the Botanic Gardens, through a handsome district of privilege houses. It isn’t the Glasgow I’ve imagined or been warned of and when I tell the very reluctant Greek that we must eat something deep fried in this city, I feel it may be me that has got it very wrong.
There are no deep fried mars bars but I do find a chip shop selling deep fried pies and burgers. As I tuck into one, trying to allay the Greek grimace with a mumbled mouthful of “It’s what they eat here” three well-heeled young Glaswegian women arrive after their night out and frown with distaste at the counter. “I mean” says one in a soft brogue “who eats those things?”