To Derby, then, for the wedding of my lovely cousin Andy to his top notch girlfriend Sam. Andy came all the way to Kentucky for my wedding, so it’s only fair I travelled to a hotel five miles outside the queen of the East Midlands, in the sense that royalty is bollocks and so is Derby.
Growing up in Nottingham as I did, there is residual childish contempt for Derby, the local rivals down the A52. The people who, I learned on the terraces of the City Ground, enjoyed sexual union with sheep.
But now I just feel a bit sorry and angry for it, a once proud town gutted by the forces of neoliberalism and austerity that the Times keeps reporting to be over. Oh yeh: and also that bloody shopping centre. The city centre is dominated by an enormous ex-Westfields, you see. How it got planning permission I’ll ever know. Everything outside it is wind, Greggs and dust.
Under the third category comes the assembly rooms: Derby town centre’s only interesting building. Opened in 1977, the year Derby became a city, this striking, multi-purpose cultural, arts and civic space has sat unused since 2014, when a fire in the adjacent car park knocked out its air conditioning, lighting and heating.
It otherwise remains in perfect structural condition, so naturally the council have left it empty for years and will knock it down in 2020 with a replacement coming a few years later, maybe. The vandals.
Anyhoos. Everyone I talked to in Derby was lovely, so I’d like to take back all those sheep shagger chants from the early nineties. I was young and easily led by the mob.
The wedding was nice. I was only there for the evening reception, but enjoyed catching up with my mum’s many siblings, chatting about grim discoveries by crime scene investigators with Andy’s brother David, and completing streets of rage at the random video games cabinets provided at the back of the venue. They also had Mario Kart, so I ensured I beat everyone at that.
Oh yes, and it was good seeing lovely Dave, younger brother of Geoff, and a friend of Andy’s because everyone in Nottingham knows everyone else apparently.
Dave has moved to Germany with his wife in part due to the Brexit his parents have voted for.
After the wedding, I got a taxi back to my hotel by the cathedral and read the Gideon’s bible until I was sleepy enough for bed. I do enjoy picking a page of the Old Testament at random. On the first, God was being a prissy little bitch and murdering thousands of innocent people as punishment for some tiny perceived slight; on the second, two daughters marooned in a remote cave with their father got him drunk on wine in order to become pregnant by incest.
The bible is wild.
On Monday I caught the train to Skegness. The guard was explaining industrial action in favour of, you know, keeping guards, which the passengers, pensioners all, seemed to support. Who else would help them up into the train from the unmanned windswept stations of Lincolnshire?
The bus to Chapel went past lots of out of season seaside shops and attractions, all shut down and achingly nostalgic for a seventies kid like me.
The route weaves past endless caravan parks, amusement arcades, chip shops and pubs advertising disabled access; along the front of Butlins and skulking round the back of fantasy island it goes, past Arnold Palmer’s putting range, and a log flume under soggy tarpaulin and a carousel waiting for next year’s sun and candyfloss fingers. Of all this all I have is vivid memories and two blurry camera photos taken through the window of the single decker.
And so finally to Kate, and her family. I’m here to help, but my main use was making the dogs happy by taking them to the beach, our walk lit by moonlight over the turbines, the wind rising as I headed south, the yellow and neon glow of Skegness rising up in the distance.