Blackpool, Liverpool & Manchester
Towards the end of 2004 we discovered that my father had Alzheimer’s disease. His condition worsened over the next 3 years until it got to the point that he could no longer live at home.
At almost the same time my mother developed a different form of dementia, and by late 2007 we made the decision to put both my parents in a residential care home. Their condition continued to get worse and my father died in August 2008. My mother passed away the following December.
As an only child I found caring for my parents, who were living 300 miles north of us in Blackpool, to be a very difficult experience. It was only with the tremendous support of my wife that I got through it.
We spent a lot of weekends travelling up and down the M6 or on Virgin trains from Euston to Blackpool. We tried to ease things by taking my parents on trips around the beautiful Lake District or into the Yorkshire dales and that seemed to work for a while.
As things got worse we came to dread going north and it even started to colour my view of the area where I was born. I would be driving the last part of the M55 into Blackpool always fearing what I was going to find out about my parents next.
In July 2008, just before my father died, one of my close friends told me that he would like to explore Lancashire as it was a part of the UK he had never seen. My parent’s house was not available so instead we rented a holiday flat in St Anne’s for a week together. Over the course of that week we explored the coast, made trips to Manchester and Liverpool by train and drove into the countryside.
My friend is an excellent photographer and with one or two exceptions all the photographs here are his.
For me it was quite a strange but very pleasant experience. After growing up watching the tourists visit every season it felt weird to be finally acting the part of a tourist myself and to be staying in a holiday flat. It was almost like seeing Lytham St Anne’s and Blackpool for the first time.
It was also fascinating to hear my friend’s honest opinions about the places we visited. Seeing Lancashire through the eyes of someone else also made me come to appreciate what a great place it was and also to strengthen the pride that I felt about it.
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Museum of the Lancashire Cotton Industry. The museum was housed in an old mill at Helmshore (now sadly closed -2017) and concentrated on telling the story of the history and the hardships of the cotton workers.
There was actually a whole section of the museum about the mill workers’ yearly visits to Blackpool. A room had been set aside and it had been decorated with photographs of the resort and a model of the tower.
After seeing what the workers went through in the mills it was easy to see how Blackpool was a kind of paradise to them. I had never really appreciated Blackpool in that way before. I will admit it made me feel quite emotional seeing it.
The museum experience and my friend’s visit itself helped me feel better about my home town at a very difficult time.
Since the death of both my parents and a beloved aunt soon afterwards, I no longer have many reasons left to visit the area.
I do go back sometimes though and I always really enjoy it.