I was saddened by the news this morning that Fleetwood pier had been destroyed by fire. Not simply because this was yet another piece of our heritage lost to flames, each of those has saddened me, but this was Personal, with a capital P.
Some of you may never have heard of Fleetwood on the Fylde coast, up from Blackpool. At one time it was a thriving fishing port, and I was lucky enough to live there from the age of two to sixteen, starting off in an Edwardian house just two hundred yards from the beach, and from the window seat in the sitting room, if I stretched my neck a bit, I could see the pier.
It was a part of my daily life almost, it was just THERE, and you always thought it would be. The news this morning brought back so many memories; of a carefree childhood, of happy-ish school days, nature rambles with my classmates, tram rides to Blackpool on these noisy, clackety old things that I loved and now miss. Of playing on the beach, and watching the marionette show that set up in a small hut in the Marine Gardens each summer. Of thinking how strange it was to have two lighthouses, one of them inland - what was the point of that I wondered? And why was the prettier, more lighthousey of the two, the inland one?
I remember having lunch every Saturday with my late mother, in a cafe called The Morocco Bar or something like that I think, though looking back there wasn't much Moroccan about it. Of buying my first stockings and other undergarments from a shop nearby, run by a very precise and proper lady. I remember buying craft materials for various projects from the shop next door to the cafe, and of weekly visits to the big old library down by the docks, where it smelt of old wood, old books and old librarians sometimes!
I had my first job in Fleetwood too, working as a clerk in a carpet showroom, but then we left the town, moved a few miles nearer Blackpool, though I still visited Fleetwood regularly.
These days there isn't much of a fishing fleet left I don't think, but there is a huge shopping area on the rejuvenated quayside, and it's still a popular place to visit for holidays, quieter and more sedate in a way, than blowsy Blackpool, just along the coast.
But the pier was one of those traditional piers, lots of noise, slot machines, that annoying little marionette in a glass case that laughed and was supposed to make you laugh, though it never worked on me. Then there was that grabber in another glass case, which tempted you to try and get hold of something completely useless but which you longed to have all the same.. of course, you never managed it, but that didn't stop you trying. Sugary drinks and salty crisps, sand in your Clarks sandals and hair getting sticky from the salt spray if it was windy.
The walk along the pier, looking at the water through the gaps between the boarding, then leaning over to look at the brown foaming sea way below you, with adults warning you to be careful, and not lean over too far. But as a child, the dangers never entered your head really, did they?
So sad to think it has all gone, but let's hope it gets rebuilt, as near as possible to the original ideal of a seaside pier.