Monthly Archives: May 2010

Brilliant Blackpool: A British Classic

Last August I visited Blackpool for the first time. It was a fantastic day. On a ‘TwiTrip’ for the Guardian – an unplanned journey fuelled solely by live tips from Twitter – I was guided through the town, from penny games on the pier to The Big One.

But there are two things that I will never forget. The first took place in a transvestite cabaret club, where the people of Twitter had suggested I finish my day. As a Michael Jackson medley reached its climax on the stage I walked in on my own, plodded sheepishly to the bar, and ordered a drink. A group of fourtysomething women on an office night out were ordering at the same time. They insisted on paying for my beer, and decided that they were going to look after me while I was in there. I’m sure this kind of thing happens all the time in Blackpool, but as a hardened Londoner, I was rather moved. Classic British hospitality.

The second was the ballroom in the Tower complex (pictured above). I could hear the Wurlitzer organ playing a waltz before I got there. Inside, the dance floor was full of pensioners twirling each other around the room. The expertise was something to behold. And the feeling that these couples had been doing this for decades, in there, with each other – was wonderful. Above them, the hand-painted murals on the ceiling, the elaborate cornicing and the sculpted balconies completed the picture. This was romance as it used to be. Another British classic.

And this weekend, Blackpool experienced something very romantic indeed. Their football team, who four years ago were in the third tier of the English league and attracting an average attendance of just over 4,000, were promoted to the Premier League. In a play-off match against Cardiff, inspired by their lovably excitable manager Ian Holloway, they twice came from behind to win 3-2 and collect a bounty estimated at around £90m. The flood of football fans into the town next year could simultaneously generate just as much. And they’re in for a treat. Bravo Blackpool.

Morocco on my mobile: Scenes

Some more images from my recent trip to Morocco, taken on my phone. See yesterday’s shop images here.

The leather tanneries of Fez.

Marrakech medina

Storm water in Fez

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Morocco on my mobile: Shops

Some images from my recent trip to Morocco, taken on my phone. Yup, that phone. Increasingly I’m finding that when I go away, a phone is all I need for writing, researching, taking photographs, recording audio, and even rough video. More to follow tomorrow.

A roadside butchers on the way from Fez to Chefchaouen.

A record store owner in Fez.

Powdered wool dye in the Marrakesh medina.

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The semantic web

As close as I’ve come to understanding it. And as close to philosophy as the internet gets. Props to Kate Ray for making it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Nick Clegg’s travels

A few years ago, a couple of months after he was made leader of the Liberal Democrats, I went to Westminster and interviewed Nick Clegg about his travels for the Guardian. I had the idea after reading a bit about Clegg’s very international background: he’s the son of an Indonesian-born Dutch mother and a half-Russian father, he has roadtripped America with the Theroux brothers, lived in Helsinki, Austria, New York, and Hungary, and has spent 10 years in Brussels as an MEP.  He also speaks five languages and has a Spanish wife.

Having scoured through my computer, I managed to find the original audio, in which he talks about time spent in the Netherlands (02:22), his wife’s home town in Castilla-Leon (04:38), road-tripping through America with the Theroux brothers (08:08), Budapest (10:22), Brussels (10:59), the Alps (15:29), the UK (17:07), and the environmental issues associated with travel (20:45). *The sound improves after a few minutes*

Listening back, I wish I’d asked more, but as I mention at the beginning of the interview, at the time I was looking for nuggets of information about where he would recommend visiting – for a travel piece, not politics. Hey ho. He was a nice guy. Definitely a politician, but a nice guy. And he seemed to be a genuine travel enthusiast; noting, at the end of the interview, that “travel genuinely expands the mind”.

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