The Lucky Numbers
Blackpool – Past and future – Looking back and ahead
Thursday and Friday they both visit friends individually, and when having time both alone and together they look at houses for sale on the internet. They don’t find the house to make them say wow! Let’s see it as soon as possible. Friday afternoon there are several moments with tears of joy as Susanna is paid for her first three days and a contract of permanent employment is signed. They all overeat thanks to the delicious homemade baking of both Susanna and her mother. Susanna suggests that she moves in with Jude and Paula as she might as well sleep on their couch as that of her parents. She doesn’t have to go out early in the morning or late in the evening and Paula points out that she can help her with her nightdress. It produces some tears from her mother but she is assured it is the best for her daughter so agrees. Friday ends with Jude and Paula eating the leftovers from tea for supper, deliciously presented as fresh of course by Susanna. When Jude goes to bed he is met by a fully confined Paula.
Saturday morning, as the previous days, Paula wears clothes similar to those she put on in the clothing store on Wednesday. She simply sits leaning back alone on the backseat of the taxi while they drive towards Blackpool. Because her veil is so dense she doesn’t see much out of the windows. Jude is of course wearing his own new clothes as well and sits in the left front seat talking with the steward, Martin. Jude gets him talking about the car, the latest in fuel cell technology and safety features, and then asks about his family, how he lives now and where he grew up. It’s not only to pass the time, but if it shows hiring a taxi with a steward is beneficial it’s good to know if Martin is one he should consider. Jude learns that he is a local boy and a Burton supporter, both of which are to his advantage. Jude has also considered buying a car himself, so he asks Martin where he thinks the hurdles are. Martin says an owner license with a little technical knowledge and some knowledge of traffic signs is still mandatory. The seventy-five minute journey to Blackpool passes pleasantly.
Martin suggests that they start their visit at The Blackpool Tower Eye and Jude agrees. There is a great uninterrupted view across Blackpool and beyond on this clear and quite warm day. There is even a ‘sky walk’ where you walk on glass and with glass at the front. Despite her dense veil Paula can enjoy all of this as she can look downwards with any restriction to her vision by just pulling her veil out from the neck at the front. After walking a full circle they return to look along the beach and the Promenade. There are many people about even if it’s only mid-morning, but only few are bathing, a few teenage boys are playing where sea and beach meet and small children with buckets are digging in the sand while others build sand castles. Jude sees two single coloured figures, one blue and one green some distance away. They are Reformist women in velvet who Paula will enjoy watching even more now. Jude suggests they begin strolling southwards down the Promenade just watching and taking a detour or completely changing their course whenever something catches their attention.
At the first street crossing there is a sign pointing south saying ‘Women’s beach’. They both look down the beach without being able to see anything unusual, but The Central Pier blocks the view further down.
Jude speaks to a man who appears local and he tells him “The women’s beach is about half a mile south of The South Pier almost three miles away from here, just jump on a tram. On weekends every fourth tram is a vintage car from the first half of the twentieth century.”
As they walk towards the stop pointed out by the man Jude says to Paula “I think this means we are going to stroll from south towards north instead.”
After five minutes of waiting the second tram is a vintage one with hard wooden seats and is very noisy when moving.
This perhaps explains why Paula, to Jude’s surprise, puts her lips to his ear while in public whispers “With your grandparents staying here for a week they might very well have rode in this exact tram.”
To avoid having to shout Jude has to put his lips to Paula’s ear as he replies “I’m glad you made me aware of it. It’s very plausible. If it wasn’t for your interest in watching women we wouldn’t have had this experience of riding with my grandparents.”
The women’s beach is a part of the beach where it’s very wide, about five hundred feet, enclosed with a fence except towards the sea. Halfway to the sea is a row of beach huts blocking the view so that only the top of women walking near the edge of the sea are visible. It can be seen that around a quarter of them are wearing special beach clothes in bright colours. On the area between the huts and the Promenade groups of children are playing with balls and the few women seemingly looking after them wear normal clothing.
Jude says “Go and take a look at the life on the women’s beach Paula. I’ll take a look from the pier where you can see it from the sea side and get a little higher although it’s further away. We’ll meet here again in about fifteen minutes.”
Jude starts walking fast to get the five hundred feet to the pier and the three hundred feet out to where it meets the sea. He quickly determines there are no velvet cones on the beach at the moment. The majority seem to be just wearing normal clothes with some carrying a sunshade. They are strolling along the beach or sitting in groups or pairs chatting. Those sitting closest to the water appear to be keeping an eye on small children playing in or with water. Girls above fifteen are wearing the same as adult woman and as such are indistinguishable from them at long range. The brightly coloured beach clothes are a swim or exercise suit with a loose fit, integrated feet and gloves, and mostly an attached hood. No matter if there is an attached hood they all wear a separate hood in a different colour to cover the entire head including the face and with openings for eyes and mouth. On his way back to meet Paula he notices a shop on the other side of the Promenade selling women’s beach wear and having a window display with a dummy dressed like the women on the beach.
After meeting Paula he takes her across the street to look at the shop window before saying
“If you would like to spend an hour on the women’s beach during the afternoon and perhaps even bathe you may buy such an outfit and hire a beach hut for changing.”
Paula shows him her right glove is wet to show she has had her hand in the water and shakes her body to indicate it feels freezing. Next she points from the leg part of her own dress to the individual legs of the suit while shaking her head. They start walking up the Promenade again.
After a few minutes a curry velvet (I am assuming that ‘curry’ is intended to be the colour of the outfit) cone accompanied by her guardian approaches them. Of course this makes Paula look straight forward at them without a single glance neither over the beach and sea nor at the shops or restaurants until they have passed the velvet cone. Just a few moments later Paula stops and turns to take a look at the velvet cone from behind for a few seconds, then her head scans the shop side of the Promenade for her to point out a women’s clothing store three stores ahead. Jude has just offered her a beach suit and when she didn’t want that he can’t object if she wants to buy some other clothes. Besides all women have to do some browsing when coming to a new place. Jude nods to Paula and starts walking across the street. At the shop entrance she just gestures him to wait outside and shows two fingers. Jude steps out to the curb to look as far as possible along the stores in both directions to see if he can find a seafood restaurant. There is one opposite where they passed the velvet cone. He walks down to take a look at it but it’s not at the level he is looking for today. Little surprisingly more than five minutes have passed before Paula comes out of the store. Jude is surprised to see that she is neither carrying a plastic bag nor looks different to make him say
“I had the impression seeing the Reformist woman made you remember some item of clothing you had forgotten to buy or isn’t available at home. And then it’s admirable that you left the store without being tempted to buy anything else.”
Paula turns to face the sun while taking her hand to her chest to lift at the piece of black tulle covering her head and with the other hand draw a line below her eyes to make Jude see that she is wearing a new and far more transparent piece of tulle on top of the dense one she has been wearing since the day after the win. She still wears the dense one but its wound not to cover the eyes for her sight to be much clearer.
Jude is surprised Paula has decreased her covering so just tells her “I haven’t found a restaurant where I would like to have lunch yet. I suggest we just continue strolling north for about half an hour and then start looking more thoroughly if you are not too hungry now?”
Paula nods but turns to walk into the clothing store again. This time she is back in just over a minute to hand Jude a note containing three names and addresses.
When he has finished reading he smiles at Paula to say “Mr. Woodrow certainly was right that you are a clever girl. I assume these are the best seafood restaurants in Blackpool according to the local women in the store?”
Paula nods twice to make Jude lean over and kiss her on her veiled forehead and then say “They are all north of The Central Pier as far as I can deduce from the street numbers here, and the second option is in a side street near the tower I think.”
Paula points up along the wide pedestrian side of the Promenade and they start walking. They meet two more Reformist women before coming to the first restaurant.
They look at the menu and Jude says “They specialise in oysters. You want salmon and I don’t want oysters either. Let’s go on.”
After walking another five minutes they reach the Kwizeen Restaurant.
Jude says “Salmon soufflé, the photo looks good. Is that what you want? Then I’ll have the same.”
They enter and get a table for two which, as in most restaurants, is surrounded by screens for females to eat unveiled. Jude immediately orders two salmon soufflés and two pints of beer. While they wait for the meal Jude says “I think we should spend a day here each year at the end of May to commemorate both our win and that of my grandparents. I can’t remember exactly at what time of the year they were here so we might as well come at the time for our win. A vintage tram ride is a must each year. It really made me remember by grandparents. No one speaks for the minutes until their dishes are served. The waiter closes the screen and Paula removes her veils.
After they have been eating and drinking for some minutes while saying ‘yum-yum’ Paula speaks “I noticed you looked surprised when seeing me less veiled. I am not fanatically religious but more so than you are; in general women are more religious than men. I wear what matches my social status and the women where I stay. Blackpool is a holiday resort where people come to relax and so the lifestyle is more relaxed. You probably haven’t noticed but a lot of the ordinary women wearing black tulle wear either only a thin one like working women do at home or the combination I have just removed. I don’t think you have noticed either that the velvet women here wear a mantle only reaching below the eyes, and I haven’t seen one with a blinding veil on top.”
Jude answers “You are right I haven’t noticed any of this. But a beach suit is too immodest for you?”
Paula answers “Modesty in this case isn’t the most important thing to me. After all it only barely shows eyes and mouth. But I am a woman and showing individual legs is a sign of a man. Also I agree to us visiting here each year. Let’s toast your grandparents.”
Outside the restaurant Jude says “Now we have rested we can walk some more. I think our next destination is a place to sit and rest again, namely the Ferris wheel on The Central Pier. Agreed?”
Paula nods and starts walking. The Promenade, being straight and flat they can see for quite a distance and now, in the early afternoon Jude counts six velvet cones within view. The second velvet woman is burgundy and is not coming towards them but sitting on a bench, where the beach meets the Promenade, facing the sea between a man around sixty and a guardian. The bench, being long enough to seat four and the empty space of course being next to the man makes Jude turn out on the beach to approach the bench from in front.
He stops in front of the empty space not to spoil the view of the man and makes a light bow addressing him “If you don’t object and don’t mind a short conversation while enjoying the view I think you may be able to help me Sir. It’s about taking up the Reformist lifestyle.”
The man gestures Jude to sit down and says “It’s the duty of all Reformists to assist others in getting closer to the way of living God intended and as my wife displays, we are true Reformists. I guess you know a true Reformist woman is restricted more than is directly visible and because of that needs to rest frequently so sitting here a little longer is fine.”
Jude introduces himself “My name is Jude Russell and just a few days ago I received a rather large windfall, enough I have found out to permit my wife and I to live the true Reformist life. Previously this had just been a dream as we were at the social level where my wife had to work. From this you understand that a true Reformist life has been so far from our reach that I have neither associated with such honourable people before, nor studied how to approach this lifestyle.”
The man answers “Congratulations Mr. Russell. It’s admirable that you want to use your new wealth to live more righteously. My name is Gary Baker and I am from Leeds. The extent of my help is very much dependent on where you live.”
Jude shakes hands with Mr. Baker and this makes the guardian stand up and gesture for Paula to take her seat. No matter if Mr. Baker can help or not Jude has made Paula’s day with her probably for the first time in her life sitting right next to a velvet woman with her dress touching the velvet cloak.
He says “I appreciate any advice you may be able to give me Mr. Baker, but if more help means a home visit then I guess we live too far. I live in Staffordshire.”
Mr. Baker says “Yes, we live too far apart for me to be able to help you more extensively. The Reformist movement is organised physically following the organisation of the Reformist Church: The first level is the local parish, then there are deaneries and at the top dioceses. True Reformist families always associate with the other families of their parish to some extent. When new families appear in the parish, either by moving from outside or by taking on our lifestyle, they are as soon as possible invited to a communal gathering to be acquainted with their fellow Reformists. If, as with you, it’s about entering our lifestyle the board of the parish almost always selects a tutor family to learn. These families resemble the new family as closely as possible regarding age, wealth, possible children and background. The tutoring consists of the two families being extensively together for a period of time, men and women apart of course. In most cases the men each spends a day with the other at his work and are together for some evenings as well. The women spend all the time possible together from early morning until late in the evening for at least a week, because for the woman entering the Reformist lifestyle it’s for most a whole new way of living, very different from their previous lifestyle. Because it’s the new woman who has to learn the life of a Reformist woman they do not, as with men, gain an insight into the life of the other, but the new woman spends all her time with the Reformist woman to follow her lifestyle and copy it. As you would not have asked me if you knew any of the Reformist families where you live I think the best way to start contact is to have a word with the local pastor tomorrow after the service.”
Jude thanks Mr. Baker by saying “Thank you Mr. Baker. What you have told me is all very useful information. Knowing what to expect when talking to the pastor and what the local Reformists are going to offer is nice to know. But it’s a small rural parish and the local Reformists almost always prefer to drive to the cathedral of one of the surrounding cities for the Sunday service; I suppose to hear a deeper more sophisticated sermon and meet other true Reformists to learn more, it will probably be best if I wait until after lunch when they take a stroll in the local park.”
Mr. Baker tells Jude “If it is just a Reformist church you have then I’m sure the pastor is acquainted with the local Reformist community although they may not come to his services. May I ask what you do for a living Mr. Russell? I work for the DIY chain Morrells and I don’t think we have any stores in Staffordshire. Perhaps you have some connections?”
Jude answers “My town has a ScrewFix store. I do almost all the repair and maintenance of my house myself and I quite am not impressed by their selection. Some competition would suit me fine.”
Mr. Baker says “We can talk for a while longer Mr. Russell. My wife and I would like a ride on the Ferris wheel. It’s much better than the tower for a true Reformist woman because you can sit down while getting much the same view. Would you care to join us?”
Jude answers “We were heading there ourselves when I got the idea of asking you for advice Mr. Baker.”
Mr. Baker lets the guardian take the lead at a pace Mrs. Baker can cope with and the three women walk next to each other with Paula still at Mrs. Baker’s right side with the guardian on her other side and the two men behind exchanging views about DIY, maintenance, Reformist politics and more.
On reaching the Ferris wheel Mr. Baker says “There are two options: the women ride in a basket with other women only, or we buy all eight seats of a basket for the five of us to have to ourselves. I prefer the latter because my wife is wearing so little veiling here in Blackpool that she won’t have any of her veiling lifted even if riding in women only company and besides she feels more secure with me next to her.”
Jude says “I don’t think my wife will unveil any further either.”
Walking to the box office Jude asks for an entire basket and refuses when Mr. Baker wants to transfer the sixty percent to him. They ride in silence except for when Mr. Baker tries to point out and explain to Jude where the Blackpool Morrells store is located.
When the ride is over Mr. Baker says “Thanks for the ride. I guess it’s time to part Mr. Russell. We have quite a walk ahead at the pace of my wife because I’m into vintage cars so I can’t just call my car which is parked behind the tower, and then we have more than ninety minutes by car to Leeds. It has been a pleasure meeting you. Give me a call if you come to Leeds sometime.”
Mr. Baker holds his hand towards Jude, but Jude instead produces his phone while saying
“I can get you home a little faster Mr. Baker if you like. We have hired a taxi for the entire day which can pick us up where the pier meets the Promenade.”
For the first time Mr. Baker looks at his wife on purpose, and she, as far as Jude has noticed, for the first time responds to anything said while they have been together by nodding to make Mr. Baker nod as well. The women have started walking while Jude has requested the taxi, but of course Mr. Baker and him don’t need to speed up to soon catch up with the women.
As they walk together Mr. Baker says “It’s just occurred to me, Leeds United and Burton Albion will play the same league in the coming season. Perhaps we can meet at one of their matches. What outcome would you bet on if taking a neutral position?”
Jude starts by saying he will most likely be present at the home match for Burton because he has just bought season tickets for the guys he always goes to football with. His neutral opinion is that both teams will be in the lower half of the ladder, but he sincerely hopes both will stay up because Leeds United play with their hearts. When the car arrives with Martin it’s no surprise to Jude that Paula in a polite way arranges to be seated in the middle position on the backseat, so that for a little while longer she is able to sit up against the velvet cloak. The drive is less than three minutes. Everyone leaves the car at the parking lot. Jude and Martin curiously look at Mr. Baker’s car and he proudly shows it has a driver’s side with wheel and pedals. While Jude and Mr. Baker finally say goodbye Jude notices that Mrs. Baker, and of course her guardian, curtsey to Paula who reciprocates. With her eyes Paula watches Mr. Baker drive away instead of entering the car. As soon as the car is out of sight she holds her hands out to hug Jude. She has never done anything like this in public before and showing such affection is certainly not good Reformist behaviour. Then she pushes Jude to make him enter the back door where Martin is waiting to assist her, for him then having to speed quickly round her as she moves around the car to the other back door.
As soon as they start driving Paula whispers to Jude “Even though Blackpool is relaxed this was not right, but I simply couldn’t wait to express how wonderful you are and how much I love you. Asking a true Reformist man is one of your best ideas ever to both get us valuable information and me coming as close to a true Reformist woman as ever before. In my mind I still feel her soft and warm cloak against my side. She also tried to communicate with me by tapping my side with her mitten from inside her cloak, apparently using some sort of code all true Reformist women know. Using gestures the guardian made me understand that she had expressed I’m about to save my soul and that of you and others through praying, and that she would like to meet again when we are better able to communicate.”
Jude says “Mr. Baker and I might meet when Burton play against Leeds in the coming season, then the one going away could bring his wife for her to stay with the other wife during the match and what follows.”
Paula barely nods and then puts her head on Jude’s shoulder for them to sit close for the rest of the ride where Jude talks to Martin, starting by asking him his opinion of Leeds United. Even if soon after their homecoming Susanna serves tea with fresh sandwiches they would both have eaten just as much of the mass produced old damp artificially tasting sandwich because they are hungry after so much walking with lunch being their only meal throughout the day.