This is a hard thing to post about because it’s so abstract, but there has been a weird tickle of nostalgia at the back of my mind for the British seaside resort culture of the early 20th century for most of my life which came into focus somewhat after I discovered a previous life in England during that period, but has yet to yield any useful memories.
Early as I can remember, whenever I heard British music hall music or band organs playing, whenever I saw turn-of-the-century carnivals in movies, I found myself picturing brief flickers of a place like this, with lots of big bright lightbulbs and a festive atmosphere, arcades that were hot, humid, and stuffy, and a general feeling that this was a place I knew. I even had dreams about it growing up, usually very confused dreams that were only slightly clearer than my confused flashes of memory. Whenever I heard songs like “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” by the Beatles, the hair stood up on the back of my neck.
In 2004, I traveled to Brighton, hoping to find this place. Strangely, in the photo I took of myself on the pleasure pier at Brighton, I look about 38 even though I was only 19 at the time! Some of you have probably seen that photo… I don’t like posting pictures of myself in public posts though. I imagine if I look at all like John Harris, then he was showing through in that photo. When I saw that same pleasure pier in the movie “Oh What A Lovely War!” I nearly shat myself. The trouble with Brighton is, like a lot of the old seaside resort towns, it’s fallen into something of a decline since the Edwardian era and a lot of the really flash pleasure palaces of days long past are simply not there any more. Also, I was disappointed to find beaches of rather uncomfortable stones where I felt more “right” about beaches of smooth sand, like the ones at Blackpool.
The same can be said of Blackpool; It’s just not what it used to be. But I saw this video some time ago and I feel strongly that this was a place I knew well, albeit through the haze of a few pints and the fragrant smoke from cigars and pipes: