Blackpool Pleasure Beach: surely, a contradiction in terms?
Dan W.Griffin FOR AWARDS CONSIDERATION PURPOSES ONLY. (Ha, Ha, Ha!) www.nostrangertothep45.com
Copyright ÂŠ Dan W.Griffin ALL RIGHTS RESERVED The rights of Dan W.Griffin to be identified as the Author of this Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 Downloading of this file is subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be reproduced, stored in an alternative retrieval system, transmitted elsewhere or otherwise circulated in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author. This document is for single machine viewing purposes only.
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Welcome to Danland Thanks for downloading this excerpt from my book, No stranger to the P45. This is the complete ‘Blackpool Pleasure Beach: surely, a contradiction in terms?’, a piece describing a job during a summer break from university. It’s the same work as featured in The University Years but produced as an independent piece via issuu.com. I hope that you enjoy it and I’d be delighted if you’d like to make a comment via the website. Thanks again and have a fantastic day. Dan W.Griffin
Having left the delights of burger-flipping and still in need of cash I wandered along the seafront in search of my next victim (nay, employer). I didn’t have far to go because as I looked up, The Big One; The Pepsi Max; the newest, highest and fastest rollercoaster in the world - it was to keep that record for about twenty minutes towered above me and beckoned me in to Blackpool Pleasure Beach. I secured a job almost immediately as a ride operator and was swiftly posted to The Avalanche, a simulated bobsleigh run in a large Swiss chalet-type building in the park. I arrived for my first day of work with genuine enthusiasm and an optimism that I would never again have to ask anyone if they’d like ‘fries with that’. The Pleasure Beach offered an entirely novel and new experience for me. Given the name of the place I figured that I might actually enjoy it. On arrival I was first handed a bright yellow shirt. Although not a great one for uniforms (since they tend to make me feel as though I must immediately conform to the grand scheme of convention and actually behave myself) I put it on and was pleasantly surprised by the absence of feelings of deflation and what I thought would Page 1
be a resignation to months of belittling by idiots in cheap suits with inappropriate and misplaced attitudes of superiority. I felt comfortable, the enthusiasm and optimism continuing to make me feel as happy as a nice cup of tea. The majority of that first day consisted of paying attention to training things and we viewed health and safety videos featuring recognisable faces from Blue Peter and the like. We were then handed a multitude of booklets, brochures and forms, the latter of which mostly indemnified the park from any responsibility whatsoever should anything disastrous occur such as me crashing a ride or something. I didnâ€™t think that crashing a ride was in the slightest bit likely for me since all that Iâ€™d be doing was guiding punters on and off the ride. It would be a good few weeks until I realised that I was very wrong indeed about that. Posted to The Avalanche I arrived to meet my three co -workers: John, Rich and Dave. John was in his early thirties and possessed the kind of lightning wit that were it not for his thorough enjoyment of his less than taxing vocation could have made him an excellent game show host. He was the ride manager. Rich was slightly older with a mop of orange-red hair like a wig without a tartan cap. He had a sense of humour perfectly in synch with Johnâ€™s while Dave rarely spoke, often preferring to Page 2
answer any questions directed at him with a grunt. That said, he still fitted the little team perfectly. He was the more technically-minded of the operators of The Avalanche, often climbing around the maintenance bay with a spanner in his hand and a couple of screwdrivers between his teeth. Because working as a ride operator was an entirely new experience for me I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t sure what my colleagues would be like and whether or not I’d fit in. I’d been told that the teams on each ride tended to be rather close-knit and as I walked up the stairs to the platform at half-nine that morning, so despite my enthusiasm and optimism I felt a little apprehensive about the whole thing. That apprehension soon vanished as I entered to see John and Rich drinking tea and playing catch with Dave’s lunch. They all greeted me warmly and made me feel instantly welcome and part of the team. I got the impression that these next few months were going to involve a great deal of fun indeed. I was quite right about that. In order to best describe the layout and setup of The Avalanche one should first imagine the aforementioned Swiss chalet. One should also imagine then that it’s rather large and on two floors, and thus divided into four rooms. The platform on which the passengers would
queue for the ride was in the area that was one half of the first floor and below it, on the ground floor was a gift shop. The other half of the first floor was actually combined with the other half of the ground floor and made up the maintenance bay in which a huge system of cranes and pulleys and rotary things could be operated to change the trains (the ride itself) according to what work needed to be done on them. To further resemble that Swiss chalet or even an Alpine train station, much of the building was built and decked out with wood. Across the track from the main waiting platform was another onto which the passengers would step off the ride, and a control booth in which sat John, Rich or Dave (and I, eventually) staring at dials and gauges and video screens and pressing buttons to make the ride start and stop. Accordion music looped continuously throughout the day. Oddly, I didnâ€™t find it half as annoying as I thought I would. The ride consisted of a train with six or seven cars each accommodating two people. One would be seated behind the other and both would be secured with a safety bar that would be lowered onto their lap prior to the start. With the assistance of a pulley the train would then travel out of the station and up a steep incline. There, Newtonâ€™s purpose in life would be proven fair as gravity got involved in the whole thing and the train would thunder Page 4
down a twisting and turning track. People would scream with both delight and terror and then spend a small fortune on useless plastic junk from the gift shop. Many would also purchase an image of themselves in midscreech as well; taken as they hurtled down the ride. Before opening The Avalanche for the day ahead each of us had to carry out a range of maintenance and safety checks. Because of the nature of the thing (the ride, that is) it was something that we all took very seriously, only relaxing and beginning our day of fun once every one of the tasks and procedures had been carried out. Although the entire system was supposedly fool-proof with computers monitoring each of the systems, prudence dictated that we double-checked everything. This included a walk of the track itself and then sending the train around once empty and then occupied. Since Iâ€™m quite a coward and dislike fairground rides because of a fear of it going wrong and my being smashed into a million pieces of thorough aggravation, I avoided this latter job at all costs. During the days weâ€™d regularly rotate our duties. There were three - plus Daveâ€™s maintenance things - and the first was the actual operation of the ride. This job required someone to sit in the control booth, monitor all the stuff and press the start button every few minutes. The other two jobs involved the primary and secondary Page 5
safety checks on the bars securing punters into their seats and only when the secondary check was complete would a thumbs-up be given to the operator in the booth. Like I said, only once the safety stuff had been dealt with would we settle into the routine of thorough enjoyment of our time on The Avalanche. Each day involved a lot of laughing at rubbish jokes and observations, and a great deal of silliness often involving the punters as they awaited their moments of terror and delight. This was despite my discomfort and the usual displeasure I get from spending any time whatsoever with the mass populace. At The Avalanche I simply didnâ€™t have to deal with any one member of it for any prolonged period of time and so I could dismiss them from my mind the second they stepped from the platform and away. Besides, there were many girls to gawp at - and to attempt to be appealing to, too. It soon became clearly apparent that I wasnâ€™t very good at the latter bit.
Have you ever had that experience of having your elbow on the bar one minute and it suddenly slipping-off leaving you feeling like a bit of a twat? I have. Worse-
still, as it slipped I tried to correct it to lessen the embarrassment in case anyone had seen - and then punched myself in the jaw. Everyone had. And they all found it very funny indeed. It happened not so long back and really was quite an embarrassing moment. It was, however, no more so than one I had on The Avalanche... When my mother was eighteen or so she was crowned the Beauty and Carnival Queen of her home town in Gloucestershire. She is a beautiful woman. I was probably adopted. Once more it was a busy day.
The platform was
packed with punters eager to enjoy their moments of terror and delight and Rich and I were conscientiously checking and double-checking the train before giving John the thumbs-up to send it out on its run. As usual we were in high spirits and as per another perk of the job, seeking out attractive girls to flirt with. We’d just finished our check and the train had left when I noticed a woman standing in line. She was a woman as beautiful as my mother in an old photograph taken the day she was crowned Carnival Queen. To say she was beautiful was an understatement. She was captivating and I was monetarily struck with a sense of oddness; a kind of déjà vu with a twist of awe. Aware that John had noticed her too I walked over to the control
booth and quickly recounted the tale of my mother’s crowning all those years ago. This sense of oddness continued as I realised that despite her beauty I didn’t fancy the woman at all. There was no Oedipal thing going on but I still had an overwhelming urge to do something. I had to say something. I had to compliment her because she was beautiful and she had made my day just that little bit more special. I had to share the moment with her and without a second of further thought I hopped across the track. I had no idea what I was going to say. I had no time to prepare a thing. This was a unique event and I was being compelled by an unknown force toward her. She saw me walking across and her expression registered an almost quizzical ‘something’. I reached the gate (keeping the passengers a safe distance from the track) and stood directly before her. Still unable to think of anything to compliment her with I opened my mouth, hoping that the words would appear assisted by that same unknown force that had brought me across to speak to her. For a second before I found my voice I simply gaped at her like a fish; struck-dumb with shyness and intimidation. And then the words came out. ‘Er... Excuse me’ I stammered, ‘I just wanted to tell you that you look like my mum.’ Page 8
Now, there are moments when one is in a place packed with people one doesn’t know. Sometimes in that particular place one wishes to say something just for the ears of an individual, but, as one begins to speak the entire area suddenly falls quiet and before you know it everyone has heard what ‘one’ had wanted to say. This was one of those moments. At precisely the wrong time the platform fell silent. Even the cheesy accordion music playing continuously in the background had finished and was automatically looping around to begin again. Those who’d seen me cross the track were intrigued. Because they’d fallen silent, everyone else did so, too. The woman pondered for what seemed like an age. Five hundred pairs of eyes burned into my head. Looking first to her friends to her left and then to her right, she looked back at me. Pausing a moment more for even greater effect, with the sweetest smirk she looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘That has to be the corniest line I have ever heard in my life.’ And then, along with the music, the laughter began. I was immediately miniaturised into a mouse-size version of my former self; my ego obliterated, my selfconfidence gushing out of my shoes and down through the cracks in the floor. I looked over my shoulder and back at John, optimistically pleading for some kind of Page 9
emotional support. But no. On his face I saw not help but a contortion of pity, sorrow and stifled hysterical laughter. I looked instead at Rich whose head was shaking in his hands. Dave was doubled-up, too. Red as ketchup I stuttered something about going on my break, shuffled away and hid downstairs for the next thirty minutes, praying for the earth to open up and for Sod to come and call me home. It was an embarrassing moment and one of two events I recall featuring specific punters. I feel even worse about the other...
There is a certain well-known individual: a celebrity, if you can call them that - even though I despise the term. He somehow began his career on the comedy circuit and was recently on your television screens practically each and every week. This person is extremely well-known and so, for reasons of prudence I think itâ€™s best not to mention his name lest he decide to rain lawsuits down upon me or half-drown me in a bucket of porridge and then beat me to death with a croissant. For the sake of personal safety therefore, letâ€™s call him Mr E. Good eh?
One morning before work I was at a friend’s house watching TV. There was some kind of breakfast show on and the screen cut to a piece about this ‘celebrated’ entertainer, Mr E. I’d never heard of him. Mr E was credited as a comedian. It was a description that I immediately considered deeply offensive to anyone with even the slightest hint of a sense of humour and I watched with increasing fury as he cracked the most pathetic of jokes and ventured a number of utterly inane anecdotes. A rage built inside of me similar to that when I get a parking ticket. Moments later the camera turned to what I’d hoped would be my relief. It wasn’t. Instead the screen filled with the show’s presenter congratulating Mr E on his comedic genius. I was furious and thoroughly disheartened at the failure of humankind to spot this humourless fraud. Seething, I went to work to alleviate my pain and suffering. The next few days were pretty busy and the platform was consistently full, a steady and continuous stream of punters seeking their twenty seconds of terror and delight. About four days after the show I think it was a Saturday. I was on the platform with Rich, John was in the control booth and Dave was dangling from a pulley and gnawing on a spanner. Rich was performing the primary check on the safety bars and I the secondary. At Page 11
some point in the morning as I began my check I looked along the length of the train to see if there were any attractive girls in any of the cars. There wasn’t. Instead, who should be sitting in the last car but Mr E. Memories of that morning’s TV show instantly came flooding back. This blight on comedic culture - says I, somewhat hypocritically - was sitting in the rear car of The Avalanche. There sat this offence to comedians the world over spilling crap jokes and anecdotes to anyone who would listen, whether they wanted to or not. Vengeance. Here was my opportunity; my time to make a stand. Here was the antichrist of comedy and now I was going to release my unforgiving wrath upon him. Having checked each of the cars in front I arrived at Mr E’s. Reaching down I pushed upon the bar just a little more than I normally would and took note out of the corner of my eye of an almost imperceptible grimace. ‘How’s that, Sir?’ I asked ‘Uh, it’s a little tight’ Mr E replied with a wheeze. ‘I’m sorry. It has to be tight because we can’t have you falling out.’ I gave John the necessary thumbs-up and watched with my own sense of delight as Mr E’s head snapped back against the headrest. Dashing to the control booth to view the monitors I watched as each of the punters came into view, a mixture Page 12
of fun, fear and anticipation on their faces as the train ascended the incline. And then Mr E’s face appeared: a mixture of nervous fear and anticipation… and pain. Oh joy of joys; the sweetest of revenge. I watched with utter delight as Mr E’s face, wracked with fear and pain hurtled down the track. Half a minute later and it was all over. The train rolled back in to the station, the bars were released and Mr E an odd expression of confusion, pain and relief across his face - limped pitifully off the platform and away. Today, I do indeed feel a little bad about my behaviour and I occasionally wonder whether I was perhaps just a little harsh. Today, after all these years I feel a minute connection with Mr E. I’ve recently seen him act in some quality drama on the screen and in my opinion he’s really not at all bad. He appears to have quit comedy and has now found his true niche and for that the world is a better place. Good fortune Mr E. I really do mean that. Anyway.
On occasion I would receive instructions to spend a day working on a different ride. This was always extremely dull. One day I’d spend it on the log flume and Page 13
on another the Mouse Trap - possibly the oldest, most rickety death-trap rollercoaster in the world. On one of these days word came for me to take Second Operator position on The Revolution, a rollercoaster that performed a loop-the-loop in one direction and then did the same in reverse. My job was to sit in the secondary control room and when the train came to a stop at my end press a button to release the brake and send it back. Iâ€™d have to push the button about once every five or six minutes but apart from that there was nothing else I had to do. Oddly, someone had left a magnifying glass in the Mills and Boon book and so I day using the power of the considering that the control
control room along with a spent the majority of that sun to improve it. This, room was made almost
entirely of wood was probably not the smartest of things to do. Back on The Avalanche a day later John decided that he wanted to work the platform and asked me to take over the controls in the booth. Now, The Avalanche had a fairly complex braking system and the first brake was in the station itself. Known for rather obvious reasons as Brake One, pushing a button in the control booth would release it, start the pulley and the train would be taken up the incline towards the start of the Avalancheâ€™s run. As it hurtled down the track at speeds in excess of 50mph, thus confirming that Page 14
Newton was indeed quite a smart bloke, Brakes Two, Three and Four would slow the train all the way back into Brake One and to its final stop. It was about eleven in the morning and the punters climbed from the platform into the cars. John carried out the primary safety check and Rich began the second. Dave dropped a hammer on his foot. I glanced at the dials and the monitors and the lights as each of the ones that were supposed to turned green. I confirmed the thumbs-up with Rich and pushed the start button. The train pulled out of the station. A minute or so later it returned and the process began again. About half an hour had passed and we were all enjoying ourselves thoroughly. Once more the train was occupied with punters, the lights on the control panel turned to green and Iâ€™d gotten the thumbs-up from Rich. I pushed the start button, the train departed and I watched the monitors and the panel as it left the pulley and thundered down the track. The train slowed through Brake Two, a little more through Brake Three and then, suddenly there came the most almighty BANG and the whole building shook. I hit the Emergency Stop button and our safety training kicked-in. The queuing punters were evacuated out of the building while Rich and I checked on the passengers. John telephoned the park office and set in motion the standard practise of calling Page 15
ambulances and someone from the local Health & Safety Inspectorate. With no passengers hurt we helped them back onto the platform where I overheard someone say ‘We can get compensation for this.’ Suddenly five people had whiplash. Within minutes The Avalanche was swarming with officials from medical personnel to structural engineers, technicians and - of course - the park’s resident lawyer. Once all the passengers were safe and out of the building to pursue various claims and receive free Pleasure Beach rides for life I became thoroughly preoccupied with the cause of the incident. Of course, so was everyone else. But I’d been the one at the helm. I thought back over my actions and then repeated the process again and again. Was it my fault? Had I been negligent? Had I overlooked something or not seen a warning signal that I should have? Was I going to be sent to prison and experience things very unpleasant indeed? I couldn’t actually think of anything that I’d done wrong, but it didn’t stop me from worrying that I had. Two hours later and the investigators gave everything the all-clear. A technical fault, unnoticed by the back-up systems that were supposed to be fool-and-even-meproof, had caused the penultimate Brake Four simply to lock itself. The parts were replaced, I was exonerated and The Avalanche was opened again. Page 16
For the rest of the day the mood on The Avalanche was particularly sombre. We were all relieved that there had been no injuries and also that we werenâ€™t at fault. We were a little surprised at the speed of the investigation but confident that the Health and Safety Executive were happy for us to reopen. Relieved, I spent the rest of the day in quiet reflection. Bloody typical, I thought. And so, that was my job at The Avalanche. Much to the hilarity of John, Rich and Dave in respect of my fear of being smashed into a million pieces of aggravation as a result of the ride going wrong, on my last day I was manhandled into the train and sent out on a half-dozen runs of absolute terror. I returned to Sunderland to begin my third and final first year and got a new job in which I attracted my very own stalker. At first I was quite flattered, but I soon became rather disturbed about that.
There is no chance that this will ever be a
SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
No stranger to the P45 by
Dan W.Griffin ‘It’s not shit - it’s Art!’ - Marvellous Malcolm ‘Buy this book! (or else)’ - Andy McNab, Author Bravo Two Zero ‘Dan, you should be in prison’ - Mrs H.Downing
WARNING Contains strong language, bloody violence and scenes of a sexual nature FOR AWARDS CONSIDERATION PURPOSES ONLY. (Ha, Ha, Ha!) www.nostrangertothep45.com
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