Flight delays. Once again I find myself shocked and surprised at the audacity of my fellow traveller. I have started being very selective in my choice of seat – more often than not I am sitting beyond row 13 as the rear of the aircraft often boards first. Boarding first has its advantages – for me, it lets me get first pick of the overhead lockers. The overhead locker is important – after the LHR T5 fiasco, I no longer carry hold luggage for anything other than family trips and where I’m away for more than 5-6 days. On this occasion, I had secured my bag in the overhead locker, however in order to allow the gentleman in the opposite aisle seat to do likewise, I had moved one row back and was standing behind my allocated seat. Like a torpedo aimed at the rear of the aircraft, an OAP with ruler-like precision clearly thought we were invisible – she was exercising her “right” to move toward the rear whilst preventing others moving forward. The chap opposite just shook his head; I was frankly stunned. However, it happens more often than not.
I read an interesting piece in The New Statesman magazine by Shazia Mirza. Shazia closes her article with the phrase “Google me then”. It seems that the brand name Google has become the Hoover of the 21st century. Hoover make vacuum cleaners (amongst other things) – however a lot of folks say “let’s Hoover the carpet” when they don’t own a Hoover product. People are now using the word Google in place of “search” or “look on the Internet” – I guess this is the kudos associated with being [close to] first to market. Kudos to The New Statesman for opening up their back issues for free viewing.
I travelled home this evening. After the T5 opening fiasco, I bought myself a “right sized” cabin bag that is able to hold 4-5 days worth of wearables and all my gadgets and laptop. Usually this bag goes through security without question. Not tonight. Fortunately I had a little time to spare, so the full bag search that followed didn’t hold me back too much. Apparently, I had a corkscrew in my bag…given the amount of travelling I do, that’s the last thing I would pack. Besides, there are equally as dangerous items that are allowed in the cabin: BA meals are on glass plates, coffee/tea served in china mugs, propelling pencils, broken credit cards….) Anyway, I digress. A full bag search involved decanting everything into three trays: one for clothing, books, etc. the other two for electrical goods. Oddly enough, no corkscrew was found. 20 minutes of time consumed though.
Dell’s D430 laptop is rather neat. I was able to get some typing done mid-flight…whilst the food tray was still in place. If ever I need to buy a laptop myself, the small foot-print devices will be high on my list of choices. I found that using Dark Room (thanks to @dchristiansen for the recommendation) helps focus the mind and hinders anybody looking over your shoulder hoping to read what you’re typing.
On Friday…Blackpool – Arrival
Hotel check-in. Discover that the hotel has mysteriously lost its liquor license and is unable to serve booze until further notice. Some early warning would have been appreciated, I could have brought my own booze down with me.
That night we discover that our “family room” is an oven. The one fan that is in the room is not suitable – largely because the “family” bit of the room was actually bunk beds in a separate room – which in its own right is actually pretty good. Kudos to the hotel reception though, they quickly brought up a second fan and an extension cable.
On Saturday….Blackpool – Day 1
At Blackpool Pleasure Beach…
It seems that the thrill I get from rollercoasters is getting hard to find in Blackpool. I’ve done the Pepsi Max Big One, Avalanche, the Big Dipper, Space Invader 2, Infusion and the Tango Ice Blast – none of which are really able to float my boat. I guess I have to go to Cedar Point and try the Top Thrill Dragster. Space Invader 2 was a disappointment. The queue took 45 minutes to process for what was a 2 minute ride.
A lot of places in Blackpool stop serving food at 2000. Even on a Saturday. This caused some problems. Room service in our hotel (no liquor license, remember) managed to offer French Fries and rounds of sandwiches. My wife ordered two portions of fries and two rounds on white bread…and received one round on white bread, the other on brown bread. Still it was good service otherwise. My dinner came from the local Nisa…a BLT, a bag of ice and a couple of tins of beer!
On Sunday…Blackpool – Day 2
Today we took a tram south towards Blackpool Tower. I don’t think I’d ever reached the top of the tower before, so today was a “tick box moment” (BucketList—). I took our son all the way to the top of the tower – he was un-fazed by the transparent (but heavily scratched) floor at 380ft- the Walk of Faith as it’s known. The view from the top was worth it, as was the time spent in the tower facility itself (£10 for adults and £5 for children).
Later today we went to Sealife, just next door to Blackpool Tower. We had a couple of buy one get one free passes so the entry cost was very acceptable: £12.50 for adults. There are plenty of fish and other sea creatures to look at here and there’s plenty of information to read and take it too. The only thing I didn’t like about my Sealife experience was the “exit strategy” – getting out was a maze of stairs and doors, not really very disabled-person-friendly (we had a pushchair). There is a lift at the start, however that would mean going against the flow of visitors (it’s like Ikea should be, it’s best to go through the exhibit in one direction only). The exit itself is weird: you end up coming out of the Dr. Who shop…
The Yates Wine Lodge “experience”
Looking for a dinner venue… After a rather successful day taking in the sights, we found ourselves looking for a place to have an early evening meal. Now, picture the scene: wife, 3 year old son, mother-in-law and invited guest, the centre of Blackpool, around 1730 in the evening. We wander around for a bit, pass through the Winter Gardens, everything was closing up.
We move on to the likes of Talbot Street where I spot an O’Neill’s Irish bar – a decent pint I think to myself. Wrong: “no children allowed on any part of the premises”. Too bad, we’ll take our custom elsewhere, now and in the future – one sign kills your custom.
Less than 100 yards away, we find a Yates Wine Lodge (Blackpool North). Now these places have a pretty good name. My wife, mother-in-law and guest decided to have the Sunday roast. It was Sunday, in England after all – they do roast very well. Not at Yates, “roast is off today”. OK, we’ll take three gammon steaks instead, and a bottle of Echo Falls Merlot. The server turns around, looks in the ‘fridge, consults with his boss then says “No Merlot, we have what you see in the fridge, Rose and the white”. Right, I keep my red wine in the same fridge as my white and rose.
However, whilst attempting to order food and drinks, the server took a call on his “radio” – he excused himself and disappeared. Moments later, he appeared from the kitchen carrying three plates of hot food, clearly destined for another customer. Hold on, we were mid-order.
We concede and choose the Echo Falls Rose. The bottle duly appears at the bar, closely followed by three glasses. Three rather dirty glasses. I reject the glasses and ask for clean ones…hey, I had the mother-in-law with me!
Meanwhile, the server (behind the bar) is trying to process my credit card…my BAA credit card with pictures of foreign national on it. The server had some issue using the credit card so was forced to call in the manager. Now, the manager’s appearance was so similar to the pub manager bloke in Men Behaving Badly – it was uncanny. He looked at my credit card and went for the swipe card that authenticated him for that till. You won’t believe what he said next: “a credit card with foreign people on it, we don’t want that in here”. Of course, he didn’t realise that I was right beside him when he said this…the server however, did. The manager left the scene, with my eyes following his every move – I was very tempted to take my business elsewhere. By now, the server was shaking, probably wondering what I was about to do. You know, I’d love to be a ghost customer in these situations – working for head office, weeding out the establishments that fail to meet even the most basic of customer service standards.
The food itself was perfectly acceptable, even though the garlic bread with cheese was cold. However the toilet was unclean, there was a lack of toilet paper and there were many flying and crawling insects. Similarly, the cleanliness of the area around and behind the bar itself was unacceptable. We cleaned the table with a wet wipe, it was demonstrated that the tables needed cleaned rather than dusted down.
We’re unlikely to use this chain of eateries in the future.
Here’s a photograph of the said establishment.
Blackpool 2008 Summary
Blackpool opening hours: they suck.
Sealife: good value, worth it.
Staff on the trams, they’re pretty damn good.
Blackpool Tower: good value, worth it.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach: expensive, consistency between the ticket selling facilities needs to be achieved though. My son’s wristband wasn’t put on tightly so I went to the nearest ticket booth to have it re-issued – I was told to go back to the main entrance! At the main entrance they asked for the original receipt – which was with my mother-in-law elsewhere in the facility. Thankfully they re-issued it after I explained who much effort it would take to find her quickly. Something needs to be done to manage the queuing situation: waiting 45 minutes for a 2 minute ride takes a lot of time out of your day…