I’m sitting at the hotel bar, it is early evening, the sun is still shining, I’ve ordered an Old Fashioned like I usually do, the first one as a long drink with soda. Four young women, about my age, grab me from my stool and carry me horizontally out of the hotel. Everybody in the hotel lobby laughs. But not me, what’s happening?
I’m staying in a posh hotel beside the sea in Blackpool, not that I have seen much of the sea. I wanted to get away and be happy. I remembered holidays in Blackpool a long time ago, they were happy, I took some money from the jar by the front door, I got on a train and here I am.
I’ve seen these girls before, yesterday at this time and much later when one of the barmen helped me to my room. What are they going to do with me?
They took me to a rainy-day hut and sat down with me horizontal on their laps. They put their hands very gently, but firmly, on me – I wasn’t going anywhere. Five more young women came and kissed my cheeks, my arms and my legs. They sang What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love.
I felt happy. “We like you a lot.” was followed by eight yeses and one “We like you very much.”
What was happening? “You need TLC.” was followed by eight TLCs and one “You need a lot of tender loving care.” I could feel the TLC.
They sang What a Day for a Daydream, the Sandwich Song, and Brothers in Arms – all soft numbers. A crowd gathered – the girls must be a professional group or choir – they each had a name printed on their chest.
They picked me up and carried me along the seafront, we passed the Tower and stopped at another rainy-day hut just short of the North Pier. I was sandwiched between Jolly and Enda. Mary bought ten portions of plaice and chips – very tasty. I noticed that Eloise ate only the fish.
A large crowd gathered and chanted 9gals! repeatedly – why had I not figured that out. Mo collected the fish and chip paper and binned it. Suddenly we all stood up in a line – I had no choice – and sang the Sandwich Song – I discovered that I knew most of the words.
Eloise moved in front of the line and sang Eloise. Full volume – was it loud! Eloise has a great voice. Then we all sang – it was deafening. As was Anyone Who Had a Heart Would Love Me. And then a big surprise, an old music hall number: Oh, Mister Porter! done in style.
The crowd was getting bigger, the girls shouted STARBURST, Mary and Mo walked out on the pier, Enda and Eloise went inland, Jenny and Jo went along the seafront, Enrica and Margaret went along the seafront in the other direction, and Jolly and me took a tram to Fleetwood.
We got off the tram in Little Bispham and found another rainy-day hut. I decided to open my mouth and I talked about my childhood as a little girl. “I was happy, I had the best mum possible, a little brother and a dad. He was a publisher of technical manuals, not very thick, written for the ordinary man, they sold very well. Like a maintenance manual for a Ford Prefect or How to Plan and Plant Fruit Trees.”
“What’s a Ford Prefect? And why are you not happy now?”
“It was a car, very popular in the 1950s. We used to come here for holidays, sit on the beach, buckets and spades, go paddling and swimming, fish and chips, rides at the funfair, the Tower, donkey rides.”
“And when it rained we sat in a rainy-day hut just like this one and read sweet rock and chewed books with a newspaper over our knees to keep the rain off.”
“But my father got more and more successful, he bought a newspaper, he changed, my brother changed, the happiness went, they shouted at me and mum, it was hateful. Mum died.”
“I retreated into myself, I kept out of their way. One day I found a guide to making a Hawaiian Guitar lying about in the living room. Very interesting. I bought some stuff and some tools and made one. Great, it looked good, but just two little limitations, I did not know how to play it and it sounded very quiet and thin.”
“No problem, I found a guide titled ‘How to Play a Hawaiian Guitar’ and another ‘How to Build an Electronic Guitar Amplifier’, I bought a soldering iron and more stuff and got on with it. I feel a song coming on.”
I wanna talk about things. I’m talking about swooning. I’m talking about spooning. All that type of thing. I wanna talk about things. I’m talking about caressing. I’m talking about suggesting. All that type of thing. I wanna destroy some things. I’m talking about swooning. I’m talking about mooning. All that type of thing to go. I wanna talk about destruction. I’m talking about your stupidity. I’m talking about your morality. All that type of thing. I wanna talk about things. I’ve had enough of you.
“No, no, no! It’s not about you or the girls. It’s about my last boyfriend I dumped about two week’s ago. I’ve gotta work on it.”
“I like it, I like it, very good. Let’s go and meet up with the others.”
Jolly and I walked back along the seafront, just before the Central Pier we turned into The High Balls, was it a male strip joint? No, it was a bar, the other girls were sitting at a table. The barman mixed two long drinks: a Plum Dunk for Jolly; and a Citrus Kane for me, freshly-pressed orange, lemon, grape-fruit and lime with a piece of sugar cane. “No alcohol!”
Another round of drinks and the barman, who was the manager, came over to us. “Would you like to sing a few numbers? We have a small stage over there. The drinks are on the house.”
How could we refuse. The stage was very small – no dancing – we sang Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All about You. Eloise sang a not so loud Eloise. Jolly grabbed my arm and pulled me to the front.
“Can’t you count? There are ten of us. We’ve got a new girl – so new that she does not have a name yet – we kidnapped her a few hours ago. She has written a song for us. It’s called Talking about Things.”
Jolly and me sang it with a few mistakes. “Let’s sing it again properly.” We all sang; the best part was not singing my song, but feeling the power of the line-up behind me. The audience loved it.
The manager bought a tray of tiny, grey-coloured glasses. What is Jubilæums Aquavit? “Down in one! A yoobie for the newbie!” It was ice-cold and quite a shock – 40%. Everyone in the bar wanted one.
The girls had a big suite on the top floor of the hotel, several rooms, a lounge and a huge bed. Jolly took me to the bathroom and washed off my make-up. The girls removed my clothes and threw me onto the middle of the bed. They removed their clothes and threw themselves on top of me. Someone turned out the light. Where was Jolly? And who had my left ear in her mouth?
Jolly whispered loudly in my ear “This is what we call a clump; you’re clamped.”
“We came here for some fun. We came here to do some rehearsals. We came here to discover the childhood, the happiness of childhood, that we never had. We think that you came here to rediscover your childhood, the happiness of childhood, your real happiness.”
“We have had fun, we did discover some of the happiness of childhood, but we know that we never had a childhood and never will, it was a dream with no filling. We have found something else; and that pleases us.”
“What?” I asked.