Al Amir, Talbot Road, Blackpool (58%)


Saturday 11th March 2017.

“Are we fallen angels who didn’t want to believe that nothing is nothing and so we were born to lose our loved ones and dear friends one by one and finally our own life, to see it proved?”

“The Dharma Bums” – a naked disquisition on all those cool, existential questions.

Quite Buddhist, of course, in flavour, and not without moments of profundity. It seems to divide opinion though. Perhaps it’s a bit naive, self-indulgent – pretentious in places. (Sound familiar?) A sort of youthful exuberance pervades; something of the excitable teenager at times (despite Ray being in his early thirties). And sticklers will quibble, of course, over the accuracy and veracity of the Buddhist theory and experience…

Still, there’s a genuine, urgent, poetic imperative going on – a real lust for life and self-exploration that comes from the heart. It’s hard to fault the source of this outpouring, however occasionally misjudged the results. Quite often though, whilst forming these snooty opinions, a line will trip you over with its acuity…

“Standing on my head before bedtime on that rock roof of the moonlight I could indeed see that the earth was truly upside-down and a man a weird vain beetle full of strange ideas walking around upside-down and boasting.”

Book set down, here’s Blackpool, seemingly right-side up. No Desolation Peak interrupting the flat skyline, only the abandoned stiletto heel of some reckless, party-smashed giantess. And yonder – not forgetting – the towering, undulating contours of a whirligiggly sea monster. (Back in ’95, Stretch Strachan had me catapulted up and down the beast after a fortifying nine holes of crazy golf.)

It’s not the famous streetlight show flicked on by an electric Bradley Walsh, neither is it the Conservative Party Conference featuring suited gangs of bumptious gadabouts (last clocked circa 2007). Not even the World Fireworks Championships, though all such events do manifest within the Blackpool compass when conditions are ripe. No, this time it’s something altogether more crusty and moth-eaten. It’s the annual Chess Congress at the Imperial Hotel where a few hundred chess sufferers share their Symptoms before doing battle with their demons. There goes Johnny Mac now, ambushing the unsuspecting like a Don Quixote tilting at windmills…


Finally, we made it to the restaurant, chess-fashed / mash-potato brained. A lively party of 16 tailed us in making for a rather more raucous ambience than anticipated for a teatime feast. Service was prompt, not unfriendly. A slightly limited menu of standard options. They don’t push the pickle boat out much here, my lime pickle lifebelt lost at sea… You just get the chopped onions, raita, and mango chutney – a precarious life-raft on a leaden curry ocean. Our starter selection also came up short: fried potato dumplings missing, presumed drowned. Still, both the onion bhajis and the tandoori chicken sailed proudly forth in fair winds and following seas.


Painful maritime metaphors aside (for a moment), the main meals did okay; the melting lamb, in both dishes, worthy of particular mention. Though the achari sauce perhaps lacked aromatic intensity and oomph. Garlic naan bread meant business though. (Here it comes…) They could hoist that fella above the main sail with a hearty, “Ahoy there shipmates!” – like a tandooried Jolly Roger.


What about a swifty in Ma Kelly’s and a rollicking sing-a-long for afters…?

“A life on the ocean wave,
A-home on the rolling deep!
Where the scater’d waters rave,
And the winds their revels keep.
Like an eagle caged I pine
On this dull, unchanging shore.
Oh give me the flashing brine,
The spray and the tempest’s roar.”

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Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles



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