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Life Chez Dee Episode #57: An eve in Fleetwood

As you all know I don’t really plan the subjects of my blogs … I write when I feel the need to write … when there’s a lot going on in my head, in my thoughts, worries, anecdotes, experiences. I would never in a month of Sundays have guessed that I would be writing about our evening in Fleetwood, but it just so happens that as the evening unfolded I just found myself with more and more to write about.

The reason we were heading to Fleetwood, as I’m not sure I’d be heading there for an evening out without good reason believe me … is that Oliver’s school choir was taking part in Last Choir Singing Competition at the Marine Hall in Fleetwood. Although the evening wasn’t starting until 6.30pm we’d been told to get there at 5.30pm for photographs. We’d agreed to take one of Oliver’s friends who couldn’t get there as his parents were working. They own a local chippy, and of course, they were busy in the shop all evening. As we had to be setting off at about 4.45pm I thought the easiest way of them having some food would be for them to eat something on the way and Jason kindly provided them both with a tray of chicken nuggets and chips to eat en route. Part of me was a little nervous if I’m honest … I’d heard about Thomas being really travel sick … but I knew that if they didn’t eat now, it would be really late by the time they were finished.

After insisting that Oliver puts on his RED school jumper over his WHITE choir T-shirt as an insurance policy against a ketchup disaster, we set off. Oliver polishes off the lot, whereas Thomas only picks at half … and I think the journey to Fleetwood was just about the limit to what Thomas could bear travelling in the back seat of the car!

We arrive in Fleetwood … it really is a beautiful seafront. Victorian houses, the manicured gardens at the marine hall, the boating lake. We're not watching the choir competition ... I'd had a look at booking the tickets which to be honest I thought a bit pricey, even though I was tempted to go as I'd never been inside the Marine Hall and I was intrigued as to what it was like. I'd taken the view that if the choir got through to the next round we'd go and watch that performance. So having dropped the boys, we now had just over 3 hours to kill whilst we’re waiting for them, so we decide to go and look for something to eat. Most shops are shut, the streets are dark, and it feels a bit desolate … and I’m not particularly fussed about making much more of an effort to find somewhere to be honest. We sack searching for fish and chips and settle for MacDonalds. Its ages since I’ve been to MacDonalds to be honest, and I can’t actually remember the last time I ordered a Big Mac. We pop to the loo to wash our hands before sitting in a window seat to wait for our order. I’m really impressed. There are extra staff milling around with surface cleaner. They’re clearing and wiping tables regularly, wiping the touch screens of the order points and wiping the card machine keypads regularly; scouting constantly for things to clean and sanitise. I have to say this is the only place I have been in recently where I have seen dedicated staff on cleaning duty … the restaurant was immaculate. Probably as well as I was watching a group of girls chatting, sneezing, coughing … and no tissues or hand wiping or washing going on there!

We finish our meal and we’ve still got a couple of hours to kill so we pop into ASDA next door. Well obviously I’ve heard about panic buying and empty shelves, but I’d not actually seen evidence of it until now. There were empty shelves instead of loo roll, soap, and hand gel, as well as pizza and beer, but wine was still a plenty, so obviously all the Fleetwood folk are big on hygiene before tucking into their pizza and beer. Paracetamol and ibuprofen were sold out... except for some packets of Nurofen still left … obviously too pricey, as the shoppers were only wanting own brand products! I needed some sardines to give the cats for a treat … they always have a little treat of half a sardine each and I was getting low. Again, all the own brand tinned sardines had gone and all that was left was the branded products. I didn’t buy any sardines … the cats will have to go without. I was rather flabbergasted if I’m honest. Are the Fleetwood folk big tinned sardine eaters too? Well it is a fishing town I suppose, or maybe they’re all buying own brand tins for their cats too, and thought that it was pushing the boat out too much give them John West!

We’re still trying to kill some time, and so we decide that we’ll find a pub and have a drink. The North Euston Hotel looked rather nice and so we decided to spend the rest of our time waiting in there. I really like those old grand hotels, beautiful stonework, columns, grand entrances, the hotel initials incorporated into the mosaiic tiles near the revolving doors, and in the glasswork over the bar. It was rather pleasant in the huge bar area; easy listening music was being played, which I have to say I quite enjoyed. All the tunes which I knew and was singing along to in my head, tunes which I so often hear my Dad whistling to. My dad always whistles … you know when he’s going to appear in the house as you can hear the medley of tunes as he approaches … and its always a medley, never a full tune … and I know what the order of the medley is … its always the same. I couldn’t actually name them all in order, but I know as he finishes one tune, how it will blend and merge perfectly into the next. I order a gin … it feels like one of those nights … Justin was driving, so soft drinks it was for him, and I took the opportunity to do a bit of people watching with a nice gin balloon in hand!

What a great place it was to watch. The regulars at the bar; the dodgy couple who reeked of cigarettes so strongly that I thought they were actually smoking in the bar area! We watched the couple who thought it interesting enough to comment on the hand sanitizer which had been mounted prominently near the door, and found it interesting enough to photograph!

We watched the one armed bandit repair man faffing at the machine for ages. Why are they called one armed bandits? Are they still called this? Or is it me thinking back to those machines where you had to vertically place your coins in the slot, and then pull the lever to start the spinning of the three wheels. Pulling the “one arm” I suppose. Do we call it bandit, because they rob you of your money? I don’t know … I’m just offering a logical guess.

Anyway, the repair man had taken this machine apart, and was fiddling with one of the parts, trying to open it with some makeshift tool which he was using as a screwdriver! … It all looked a bit strange and cak handed if I’m honest. We found ourselves both watching him .. fascinated with what he was up to. Ooo ing and aaar ing at odd discoveries which seemed to offer him both lots of pleasure and satisfaction. The discovery of a £10 note which had crumpled and jammed the machine part seemed to send him into euphoria. He fed the notes he’d found back into the machine and proceeded to put things back together after first resting his hands either side of the machine and staring at it for sometime … admiring it … looking at it lovingly … smiling.

He bid the bar staff farewell, but within minutes was back inside the hotel asking if they’d seen his phone. He said that he thinks he’s left his phone inside one of the machines and could they phone it and see which one he’s left it inside … he uses the phone as a torch you see. He repeated his phone number that many times to the staff, who either mishear him, or misdial the number, that even Justin said that he knew his number now. We all waited with anticipation for the phone to ring … to see which machine was guilty of harbouring the phone … but nothing. There wasn’t a sound. He put his ear to each of the machines in turn hoping to hear the ringtone … but nothing. He said I must have left it in another machine in Blackpool. So the poor man will now have to retrace his steps to all the pubs and hotels he’s been too, and get someone to ring his phone whilst he puts his ear to each and every machine, hoping to hear the familiar ring from deep within one of them. What a job!

It’s time to collect the boys now, and I pop to wash my hands before leaving … with soap … rather than sanitizer. Personally, I wasn’t keen on the pink marble effect formica clad loo doors, but all was clean in there, and that will do me. We get back in the car which we’ve parked on the front near a shelter … which brings back so many memories of sitting there with the boys … with Edward … visiting to register for the Fleetwood Tri … bringing them again on the day of the Tri. Edward too was always travel sick whenever we drove over to Fleetwood. Well he was sick on a couple of occasions, but that was enough for him to use this as a ruse to persuade me to let him sit in the front seat whenever we came in future.

We drive down the very elegant and picturesque front again back to the Marine Hall. The boys haven’t won, but they’ve enjoyed it. They’re really tired … beyond conversation. Oliver was recovering from a late night the day before when we’d taken him to see Les Mis production by Blackpool Sixth. William was in the band for this truly brilliant production of the show, which had left me even the day after, thinking about the truly wonderful performances I’d watched. I was singing these songs in my head on the way home … to be honest I’d been singing them in my head all day … but now they were mixed with “If I only had a Brain”, the song from the Wizard of Oz which the boys were singing in this choir comp, and as we were on the theme of scarecrows I also had “Dingle Dangle Scarecrow” going round in my head too.

What promised to be a rather dull and dreary evening, turned out to be an interesting one … and one still being played over in my head today … and now passed on to all who read this too. Who’d have thought that the eve in Fleetwood would make such an impression!


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