Sunday, August 31, 2014

a super day

Where but in England can you start your Saturday morning with a bicycle-riding group of rugby superheroes?

I guess I gave away the answer.  It is England.  Fleetwood, England to be exact.  A fishing port where my friend Dr. Bob grew up.

Because he did not fall far from the tree, Bob suggested that the three of us should take the short tram ride from Bispham to Fleetwood to spend part of our day.  We could then return to Blackpool to let me reacquaint myself with that peculiar tourist town whose reputation has returned from its basic ropiness to a somewhat respectable seaside holiday town for British families.

Part one went as planned.  We met up with a friend of Bob's, Stewart, at a Fleetwood pub -- where we encountered the boys in not-so-tights.  I have yet to meet an Englishman who could not hold forth in interesting conversation in the confines of a neighborhood pub.  And Stewart was no exception.

He had sent something like 50 years sailing out of Fleetwood to various parts of the world -- primarily as a navigator.  He now lives half of his year in Thailand.  That gave us some common ground to launch our conversation.  With a nice mixture of politics, weather, travel, and favorite authors, we whiled away our time until Stewart left for a local football match.

While we were sittig at the table, we noticed a sign that the Fleetwood Folk Music Festival was underway.  And, best of all, it was mainly free.  So, we decided to spend the rest our daylight hours in town going from public houses to hotels to experience some very good local music.

My favorite was the annual competition between Lancashire and Yorkshire to determine who had the best music.  Solo vocal music.  Instrumental music.  Poetry.  All in a folk style.  And all quite good.

The first performer up sang a song that could have come right from the pages of Tolkien.  His short height and sharp features added to his quasi-Hobbit performance.  But isn't that the reason we like Tolkien?  Because his songs speak with the tongue of the country?

As is true for all these venues, some performers were better than others.  A British band, who attempted to perform American folk and popular music, did not fall into the good category.  But they served a purpose; they sent us scurrying out of Fleetwood on the tram.

Sunset was our cue to head into Blackpool to see something I have never seen on my previous visits -- the illumations.  The local businesses have discovered they could extend the holiday season past the August bank holiday by dressing up the city light poles with lights, and lining the seashore with various electronic tabaleaux.

I started to call them cheesy.  But that would not be fair.  It would be giving in to a bit of snobbish churlishness that tries to masquerade as sophistication.

The illuminations celebrate the naivete of childhood -- in the same way Disneyland does.  They are often nothing but spinning lights.  But they let that child who lives in all of us to stand in awe at the magic of electricity.

Of course, the real purpose of all this activity is for me to spend as much time as I could with Bob and Fon.  And the fact that I was pleased to experience a bit of Lancashire folk music along with a slathering of Blackpool light magic was merely a bonus.

I would tell you what we are going to do today.  But I have no idea.  Other than catching a train in the afternoon to Oxford, all I know is that circumstances and necessity will guide us to another adventure.

And the three of us will have a great time.  We might even run into a new group of superheroes.

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