Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Bring me sunshine

On the seafront in Morecambe, Lancashire, caught midway through his famous dance, stands a glorious statue to one of the town's most famous sons, Eric Morecambe. Born John Eric Bartholomew (as recognised in the name of a pub in town), the genius of Eric Morecambe needs no explanation for British readers, although he may be less well known further afield. A comedian, best known for his double act with Ernie Wise, Morecambe was a well-loved television personality, and was a particularly great star in the sixties and seventies (Morecambe and Wise's 1977 Christmas show on the BBC is reputed to have had an audience of around 28,385,000).

I had known about the statute in Morecambe's home town for some time, and had always wanted to go and see it but, despite passing reasonably close to it many times, on my way to the Lake District (which you can see in the background of the photograph, above), I had never gone out of my way to pay it a visit. Morecambe, the town, has a bit of a reputation for, to be generous, its faded glory, so I was pleasantly surprised, when I did finally make the effort to go to find it had a pleasant promenade along the seafront, and an air of quiet business. A typical English seaside town, its days of being a thriving tourist destination are very clearly past, but there was nevertheless a sense of minor optimism about it, of an effort having been made to attract the visitor, and it was nowhere near as dispiriting as I had imagined.

The statue of Eric Morecambe had, a little time before, been removed after a vandal had apparently tried cut it off at the leg, but it had been restored, and was just as joyous - even more so, in fact - as I had anticipated. For a man who brought a great deal of joy to many millions of people, it was heartwarming to see the genuine affection in people's faces, as they politely waited their turn to have their photographs taken with his statue. Most, like me, posed for their pictures with one leg in the air, their arms waving, in tribute to the statute's subject, and all of them, from what I could tell, were smiling; many, myself included, were properly grinning.

It says something about the warmth with which Eric Morecambe is remembered that even a statute of him (brilliantly rendered by sculptor Graham Ibbeson, including binoculars in honour of Morecambe's fondness for birdwatching) brightens up people's days. Even the thought of it, and its effect on those who had come to see it, cheers me again.

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