Sunday, June 15, 2008

Life in the UK: Glitzy Blackpool

I received my tertiary education at Manchester, UK. But before that was possible, I was sent to do A-Levels first at a college in Blackpool, a coastal town in the north west of England.

I remember receiving the green letter of offer to enter the Blackpool College of Technology and Art sometime in July of 1979. My mind immediately wandered to England. I started day-dreaming of being in the land which gave the world Star Soccer which I’d watched with Apak on television. The land with kings and queens whose faces had adorned the old Malayan coins.

I left home for Blackpool in early September of 1979. I had just turned 18 years old four months earlier. Young and innocent, I was to spend 6 years of my life in this land of our former colonial masters.

With a total population of about 100,000, Blackpool, in Lancashire County, is one of England's premier sea-side resorts. With its iconic tower, famous tram system which was the world's first electric street tramway, and long sandy beaches, Blackpool is a popular holiday destination for the British till today. Its glitzy image – what with all its casinos, theaters, ball rooms and long roller coasters – reminds one of a smaller scale Las Vegas.

I arrived in Blackpool by coach from London on a chilly September afternoon back in 1979. If memory serves me right, there were fifteen of us. Our first stop was the College at Ashfield Road to report to the Overseas Students Coordinator. From there we were put up for a couple of nights at the Marlowe Hotel, at No. 12, Pleasant Street before we could move into our own rented flats.

The Blackpool College of Technology and Art (as it was known then)

For the most part of my two years in Blackpool, I stayed in a flat with a group of friends in Norbreck. Norbreck was in fact in Thornton-Cleveleys north of Blackpool. My self address at the top of all my letters to Apak and Emak back home then would read “No. 22, Norbreck Rd. Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire, FY5 1RP, United Kingdom”.

Staying 10km north of Blackpool town centre meant that we were off and away from where the real actions were. But, what’s nice about Norbreck is that it is close to our college. We guys who stayed here were the only ones who could walk to the college for classes. The others had to take the bus everyday. Some cycled.

Norbreck has been described (perhaps a bit too harshly) as being “probably the windiest place on Earth”. I remember walking to the college on cold, drizzling, winter mornings. I would walk past by the fruit store on Guilford Avenue, the mini post office, and the fish and chips store, all on my right. The Spar convenient store would be on my left hand side before I start to go downhill, passing by rows of quaint, single and double-storey English houses.

During spring and summer the front gardens of these houses offered a feast for the eyes as they are filled with daffodils, roses and numerous other flowers. Somehow, it was the bright yellow daffodils that I always looked forward to and loved the most. For, they are amongst the first to bear flowers when spring comes around. And what refreshing sites they were.

After the rows of houses, Guilford Avenue meets up with Fleetwood Road. From here, I would walk across a large open field followed by an area of thick grassland before finally arriving at the college. The journey would take me 15 minutes in all – 20 minutes during winter, if the harsh winter winds were blowing!

Norbreck boasts a cold, but beautiful beach. When the tide is out you have over a kilometer of flat clean sandy beach to walk to the sea. You can see seagulls swirling above, whilst shells and starfish litter the beach after a storm. The sunset is absolutely stunning. As a budding shutterbug, it was a frequent photographic subject during my "lensemen outings".

Norbreck Beach

The beautiful Norbreck Beach sunset

But come winter, the storms that thunder in from the Irish Sea are certainly not for the faint hearted to experience.

Ah, yes. Blackpool. The windswept, seaside resort town Blackpool.

It holds many good memories.

This is where I spent two years slogging, preparing for my GCE A-Levels as an entry requirement to the university. This is where I got to be exposed to new ideas and concepts. Learnt to know Islam as a way of life.

And many more...

Winter sea-storm at Norbreck Beach

Nobreck Castle Hotel back-of-house, as seen from direction of my flat



Sdr. Azizi ,

Cerita2 nostalgik sebegini cukup memikat hati pak cha.Walaupun tak pernah menjejaki kaki ke sana,tapi dapat merasai ke jantung-hati.Dulu dah membaca cerita England seperti dalam classic TOM BROWNW'S SCHOOLDAYS sejak sekolah primary.

Write more,I enjoy reading.


tiger60 said...

Assalamualaikum Sdr.Azizi,
Sdr ke north-west,saya setahun awal dari sdr.,akhir Ogos 1978 ke selatan iaitu Worthing,tidak jauh dari Brighton,mula 'A'Level.Saya tak sampai ke Blackpool,hanya setakat Manchester dan Salford.Keadaan di Worthing berbeza sikit,musim sejuknya tak berapa sejuk seperti di utara dan penduduknya kebanyakan senior citizen.Memang bawa kembali kenangan manis dan pahit di ketika umur baru 18 tahun menjejaki tanah bekas penjajah.Banyak pengajaran yang bolih kita pelajari kalau diarahkan ke jalan yang betul.

Azizi Ahmad Termizi: said...

To Pak Cha & Tiger60:

Pak Cha

Walaupun tuan tak menjejak kaki ke sana, tetapi all the good virtues of the Mat Salleh ada pada tuan courtesy of the Kirkbyites and cikgu-cikgu lain. TQ


Kalaulah you sempat sampai Blackpool, pasti saya dah bawa naik roller coaster. Memang itulah kerja saya. Every long holidays Malaysian friends from all over akan datang ke Blackpool dan saya akan jadi tour guide bawa mereka ke interseting places especially the theme park!!

Anonymous said...

Hi...late 70'ies...the days when liverpool were the king of English wonder ur Liverpool's fan..btw which division was Balckpool at that time ?

Di Tembok Ketapi

Azizi Ahmad Termizi: said...

Dear anonymous di tembok ketapi,

Yes, in 70s and 80s Liverpool were the undiputed king of English League - and their record still stands.

Blackpool? They were always in the 4th division since as far as I can remember. That's why I support the other 'Pool' which is just about 1 hour's drive away.