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Decaying Lincoln
Decaying Lincoln

Insania Darlingtonia Part 2

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 22/08/2005

GREY, overcast skies accompanied by a cold, blasting wind were the order of the day in Newark. The wind was blowing away from the glue factory. A good omen, perhaps? A quick visit to the Caféxpress - note the fusion of the words.

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The é is in red, the rest in blue. They know about marketing in Nottinghamshire. Shame they didn't sell anything except ice cream and mars bars. Packets of sandwiches were on display but mysteriously there were no sandwiches inside. No pies either, but who ate all the sandwiches? A job for the Serious Crime Squad here. The dozen or so of us on the platform had run out of visual treats and were pleased when a bright green bendy bus appeared. We got on. It smelt like a toilet. Welcome to Central Trains. All aboard for Grimsby Town. And off we trundled.

We got to Lincoln. Decaying buildings, decaying yards, decaying railway. Decaying people. Decaying everything. 'Don't they have a sewer system here' piped up Merlin, enigmatically. Was he drawing on his educational knowledge and referring to Roman times? Maybe not in this case. No wonder everyone looks miserable here. 'Where's this?' I overheard someone say on the train. 'You've been here before' came the reply. 'It's Market Rasen. Do you remember, it's like a ghost town'. It looked it. Not a soul in sight. Worryingly, there were signs of new houses being built. Homes for Married Corpses, anyone?

It was 1115, and we arrived at Grimsby Town station. The earlier cloud had given way to bleak sunshine and an eternal wind. First complaint from Revis: ' Why does it smell of sea salt?' I asked if she was cold, to which she responded 'Not really, considering it's Grimsby'. Merlin reminded her that they had two extra layers on. I would describe it as a nice day. Two guys walked past in shirt sleeves with the statutory fish and chips - brunch in Grimsby. A stop off at Pettits for a pork pie 'to go' (I really hate that phrase) and an extremely unsouthern friendly bit of banter before a stroll through Freshney Place. 'I'd rather die freezing' I overheard Merlin say to his sister. I don't know what prompted this discussion. Maybe it was the subliminal surroundings. We then caught a number 9 bus, destination North Sea Lane, to take us to Cleethorpes. On the way we had a chance to admire the plastic tables designating a newly established al fresco café outside Freeman Street market. Continental café culture in Grimsby? Chips culture more like. Anyway, I'm pleased to report there was not a mocchiata in sight. Mugs of tea and everyone well wrapped up was the order of the day. Later on, I put this disturbing development to Humbo, who bluntly responded 'if that happened in Cleethorpes, they'd call it eviction'.

After passing the friendly bouncers outside the Leaking Boot (I know it as the Darleys) and the centre of cultural excellence - Bursar Street Primary School, if it needs explaining - we arrived in Cleethorpes. To the strains of Heatwave's 'Boogie Nights' (apparently one of the members of Heatwave came from Humberston, a not-so-obvious link here), we visited the slotties. Outside in the gardens notices advertising a Classical Concert did not betray the reality of a bouncy castle and a coconut shy, in which brightly coloured hybrid fish-lions could be won and taken away as a souvenir. We declined this one. We walked through Cleethorpes Market Place, and noticed that what had been Burgess's (I think) was now Frenchies, specialising in that not so French delicacy, the ice cream sundae. A walk up our very own Sunset Boulevard, St. Peter's Avenue (OK, a bit of an exaggeration there) led us past the nice butcher's shops and bakeries. I stopped and reeled in horror however as I looked in one bakery window. In it I saw what I know as torpedoes being advertised as 'demi baguettes'. Is Cleethorpes turning French? An experiment was in order, plus I thought the 'demi baguettes' might make a snack later for the children. I went in and in my best Grimbarian accent, for fear of being misunderstood, politely asked for 'two demi baguettes'. 'You mean small ones' said the girl behind the counter. Faith was restored. It was now time to meet Humbo.

With military precision, Captain Humbo had already fixed up the tickets - yes, I realise that the thought of being locked out due to excessive demand to see Darlington smacks of improbability and insanity - and a rendez vous at Steels in Cleethorpes Market Place. Ah, Steels. Now this is the gastronomic epicentre of the universe. We know this. Fresh, succulent haddock falling off the plate or off the table, as you prefer. Forget Le Manoir aux quat'Demi-Baguettes, or whatever it's called. Steels = the ultimate in unpretentious quality. Once again southern-induced shame forces me to admit that I suggested making a reservation so as not to miss out on the experience, as if there was nowhere else local to eat magnificently. For those unaware of the ways of the decadent south, people there also make reservations for a hair cut and pay more than two quid for one. It's a rum do.

We met up with Andy and his mate Fran and had our pre-match meal. It gave us a good chance to catch up on the news. We talked about broccoli, café culture, the pitfalls of language translators, Uruguayan football teams - good job Andy knew of one - and the local obsession with hot food and meal times. The usual things. The meal itself was perfection, and we came out full, happy and sweating cobs in the finest tradition of our fish restaurants.

The article continues in Part 3

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