Image header of Bispham Kitchen from Trip Advisor.
I don’t remember exactly how it came about. All I know is that we were a massively spontaneous bunch back in those halcyon days. It was often we’d do things spur of the moment and this particular evening was no exception.
It was November 2004 and we were all hungry. I say we meaning Mike (Munch), Adam and myself. We decided it’d be a great idea to go all the way to Blackpool and have tea (dinner to all you posh folk) at Bispham Kitchen. Of course, it would never do with just three of us so we got in touch with our friends Alan (Potter) and Matt (Sully) and brought them along too. The final addition was a video camera. Why wouldn’t we want to film all of this and put it on DVD? No; Munch really did put this particular exploit onto DVD. I still have it now and watch it on occasion for the laugh/cringe.
A quick trip to the supermarket to get some beers and off we went to Blackpool on the M61 motorway via the M60 and M62. Naturally, we had to stop at Rivington Services aka First Services in Bolton owing to our obsession with the TV show That Peter Kay Thing (well, Peter Kay in general at the time). The pilot episode of the show was filmed at First Services so we never went that way on the motorway without stopping off. At the time I had a thing for speaking with a broad Lancashire accent such was my obsession with Peter Kay. The services were shut on our side (where the pilot episode had been filmed) so we had to walk over the bridge to the other side to grab snacks. Why wouldn’t we grab snacks whilst on our way for tea?
From there, we pressed on to Blackpool. The mood was a positive one as it always was when we did spontaneous things. The beer we were drinking might have helped too (not Munch of course as he was driving. We were reckless, but not stupid). The drive to Blackpool without stops takes less than an hour without traffic and we made good time; reaching Bispham Kitchen about an hour or so before it was due to shut. Bispham is a small town a couple of miles north of Blackpool and where the famous Blackpool Illuminations officially start, though by this time of year the Illuminations were over with.
The place was desolate and we were quick to be seen to. I immediately noticed a hot waitress and did my usual thing of banging on with myself about how much I wanted to get her number, take her out, bone her…blah, blah, blaaaaah! We were noisy, uncouth and boisterous. The poor people working there must have hated us. It was fun though. The food was nothing special and the prices weren’t amazing, but the novelty value of what we were doing was simply priceless.
As we left, I naturally had to say how much I fancied the waitress loud enough for her to hear, but with nowhere near big enough balls to actually go up to her and talk. That was twenty year old me all over! I persisted to go on about how fit she was for a while after we left. Viewing the DVD nowadays I can concur that she really wasn’t as amazing as I was making out. Sure, she was pretty, but I really was getting far more excited about her than was actually merited.
Anyway, we climbed back into the car and decided we’d head off into Blackpool itself and go for a couple of pints. We found a place to park on Cocker Street; the name of which amusing us highly (boys will be boys) before walking towards where we knew the main hub of bars were. We tried to get into Walkabout, but the doormen refused Munch entry thanks to his tracksuit bottoms; something that he insisted weren’t tracksuit bottoms at the time, but would later admit that they were in fact tracksuit bottoms (we already knew that thanks to the optical receptors known as eyes that we each possessed).
Instead we made a beeline for nearby Yates’s; a bar which unfortunately burned down a few years later much to my dismay. I always liked it in there. We each got ourselves a beer (not Munch, obviously); Adam and I opting for our usual tipple of the time, Guinness. The laddish behaviour continued as we seemed to notice every single female that walked into the place and every single female that walked past the bar from our vantage point at the window. Don’t get me wrong; we were having our own laughs too. It’s not like we were just sat there staring at women, but we were all single (or at least I acted like I was single) lads aged between eighteen and twenty. Sex was the most important thing to any of us at that point. Apart from maybe beer.
I was working as a lifeguard at the time and when I wasn’t working you would usually find me drinking somewhere. I was literally all about having fun and being a bloke in those days. My girlfriend at the time was working in a decent job and had a house share thing going on with this frightfully boring woman whose name escapes me (Emily springs to mind). My girlfriend was much more grounded and mature than I was despite being a couple of years younger. She liked a party, but I was reluctant to ever bring her along to mine thanks to the shitstorm of issues we had; serial cheating chief among them. She’s always labelled me as being the one worst for it, but I have it on great authority that she was every bit as bad. I entirely believe it! Anyway, I digress.
We enjoyed a few beers each and somehow ended up chatting up a poor barmaid en masse. To be fair to her, she took it in her stride. I probably wouldn’t go so far as to say she was flattered, but her body language suggested that she didn’t mind our behaviour. She even gave a smile and wave for the camera, bless her, though she ignored the request to recite her number for the camera for some reason…
We decided to make that the last of the frivolity and headed back for the car, but not before Adam and I were recorded acting like doormen in homage to Max & Paddy (another Peter Kay creation) in a segment of the DVD that still has me creasing with laughter to the day. The fact that we’re doormen outside a confectionary shop that’s closed and has the shutters down is hilarity in of itself!
As we were getting into the car, the police suddenly zoomed around the corner. Naturally we shit ourselves thinking Munch might get breathalysed, not that he’d actually drank and if he had he certainly wasn’t over the limit. All they really wanted to check was whether he’d paid and displayed on the car park. I didn’t realise that was even a police concern. It was lucky they didn’t look in the back and see all the empty beer bottles that Adam, Potter, Sully and I had been banging down our throats on the way there!
We left Blackpool; four of the five of us somewhat tipsy if not straight up drunk. The atmosphere was much calmer on the way home thanks to our full bellies and alcohol consumption. That didn’t stop us from pulling up at First Services again though. We literally weren’t allowed to pass it in those days. I might have taken the camera to the toilet with me and filmed myself taking a leak in the urinal whilst insisting it wasn’t X Rated because I was making sure not to get my junk in the shot. I shudder sometimes at what a moron I was in those days!
The DVD footage came to an end while we were there and, coincidentally, the last thing you heard was Potter saying “shit; I’m goin’” before the battery ran out on the camera. And you can’t teach that! (The perfect time for an Enzo & Cass quote there).
Thanks to the fact there isn’t any footage after that, my memory of what happened is hazy. As I recall, Munch dropped Sully and Potter off at their respective homes before taking Adam and I to Adam’s mum and dad’s house; leaving us there to head home as he had work the next day and it was already gone midnight by this point. Adam and I finished what remained of the beers in his room whilst listening to some music. He insisted I stayed over, but all I wanted was my bed. I left Adam’s at whatever o’clock in the morning to walk home.
That was a great night. The fact that it was just so spur-of-the-moment is why the memory has endured. The DVD has helped of course, but I’m certain I would have remembered that night vividly even without it. Spontaneity isn’t something that features heavily in my life anymore. In fact it rarely features at all, if ever. In those days, spontaneity was the way we planned. So much was done impromptu and it made life such a thrill.
The DVD was named Cuban Nights. We partly named it that because we loved Phoenix Nights; the TV show that really made Peter Kay famous; and because we loved to smoke Cuban cigars. Pre public smoking ban, a few of us would sit in a booth in Bar 15 in Ashton and each smoke a stogie whilst drinking Guinness. We didn’t do it because we thought we looked cool (I am a poor liar – we totally thought we looked cool); we did it because we enjoyed it. Those were times of great freedom. Times where we could do anything, be anything and go wherever. We really didn’t have to answer to anybody.
I’ve always said that I don’t regret what I did when I was younger despite the fact I’ve never gone on to achieve anything I wanted. Nights like the one in this story are exactly the reason why I don’t.