The Illuminations - Blackpool were and are the big ones, but Morecambe had their own, lesser constellations* - are a very bitter-sweet time of year for me. They are and can be glorious ( Blackpool this year looks to be particularly fine
) but, like the last night of the Proms, they are also the harbinger of the long dark nights and so a sad time for those, like me, who suffer from Seasonal Affective Depression.
I can recall trailing along through Blackpool Illuminations in a Battersby Coach with the Scouts and Guides (the Illuminations themselves were tedious, but observing my fellows on the back seat with their oppos was -- illuminating.) I think the Illuminations may have been on that time I drove from Blackburn to Blackpool to see Paul Darrow in Guards, Guards!
. As a small child I have watched glowing trams swim up out of the murk labelled "Bispham" and confused them with the place the goblins called Home in The Silver Chair
. I have stood by Hampsfell Hospice and seen Morecambe's lights blaze along the shore, a good dozen miles away and more.
They are lovely and tacky and sad and beautiful, all at once. They've been switched on by Coronation Street stars, Royalty, Admirals, Olympic Athletes, Grand National winners, Doctor Who and the Stig.
And they signal the decline of summer into the dark of the autumn.
Blackpool knows what it is about, after all. And the start of the Illuminations is not so far from Lughnasadh.
*When I was still in my pushchair (not all the time, but when my legs got tired), I dimly recall my parents pushing me along the Promenade at Morecambe on the night the Morecambe Illuminations had been switched on. The celebrity who had done the on-switching leaned over my pushchair, to pass on good wishes for the season to one of the smaller celebrants. My parents did not particularly care for the celebrity in question, since (an outrage for 1964) he wore his hair to his shoulders, half of it dyed black and half of it dyed platinum, which they considered Wrong, Peculiar and (something they did not convey to the younger generation) no doubt Queer. Still, he was on the telly, and not obviously harmful, so they exchanged vague and civil compliments of the season, Jimmy Savile passed on along the Promenade towards Battery and the West End (we were at the Happy Mount Park end of things) and the part I remember most clearly was the whole family got excitable at the thought I might have swallowed the little blue packet from the crisps, the bit the salt came in. I'd actually just chewed it a bit and then spat it out, but they were all most worried about the danger I'd narrowly escaped.