St Annes, Sand and Santas

My mum’s from Lancashire, her mum was from Lancashire, and so was her mum and her mum before that. Pretty much all my mum’s relatives still live there, just outside Blackpool, in and around Lytham St Annes.

I was very close to my Gran and spent big parts of my childhood with her, including a lot of time in Blackpool. I have lots of fond memories of walking into town across the golf course at the back of our house, eating sandwiches on the beach and being told off for blowing bubbles down my straw in a department store café that we regularly went to.

When my sister was born my grandparents left Blackpool to be closer to my mum. This was a big deal for both of them, but especially for my Gran who’d rarely left Lancashire before that. My Gran, mum, sister and I would go back each year for a holiday and to visit our family there – it became a much-loved tradition.

Sadly my Gran died a few years ago and we haven’t been back to St Annes since. This weekend however the old tradition was revived when we took my niece, Bean, to meet her great-aunts and wider family for the first time. While we were there my mum reminisced about being taken to see her great grandparents there and it felt lovely that our connection with the place is so deep-rooted. Bean even wobbled precariously close to a mini-boating lake that my mum had fallen into as a toddler.

My mum had booked a lovely hotel for us all to stay in. You might be forgiven for thinking that Blackpool in January would be quiet and bleak. Actually it was neither, though the sleet that greeted us when we arrived was pretty bracing. The hotel was bustling with people including many families meeting up like ours. It had a pool and Bean spent a long time captivated by the water, watching through the glass as the bigger boys jumped gleefully shouting ‘splash’ each time someone went in.

She didn’t have to wait long before getting in for a splash herself and she giggled with excitement as she bobbed about in the water with my mum. I have a very strong memory of staying in a similar hotel in Blackpool during a family wedding when I was about the same age as Bean. In fact we went back years later and I recognised it, based on where the swimming pool was. My Gran also recognised it, not only as the wedding venue but also as somewhere she’d worked during the war when it had been used as a base for organising rationing.

Yesterday morning we had an hour or two before we had to leave and because the watery January sun had made an appearance we took Bean out for a brief walk. The long flat Fylde coast looked stunning and the beach and dunes were buzzing with people out walking.

I felt incredibly content being here with my family. I thought about my Gran a lot over the weekend, but as Bean shot across the familiar beach I felt her presence even more closely.

We all had a lovely break, especially Bean even though she did moan about the “Santas” in her shoes all the way home – I’m pretty sure she meant sand.

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