Saturday, 16 October 2010


Bonjour ma cheries, I'm back in da hood after my final summer sojourn, just in time to catch the start of a long, dark descent into the winter of our discontent on This Fair Isle. And so...onto the atmospheric Isle of Wight. T'was August bank holiday, arriving off the ferry from Portsmouth into the town of Ryde and I was enchanted to discover the local train was actually a retired vintage tube that shuffled out a couple of hundred metres over the rickety Victorian pier to meet the ferry (below). 

I stayed in the lovely Shanklin Old Village on the island's east coast, where the streets are awash with beautiful thatched cottages from days of yore lit up with pretty fairy lights (below top). It was here I first noticed that the thinking gentleman's favoured sartorial choice seemed to be either Fred Perry, Fred Perry or Fred Perry. I'd never seen so many middle aged beerguts straining against too-tight casual apparel. Even the charity shops featured cut price jobbies in their fabulous window displays (below bottom). When I heard the joyous din of the pissy little Lambretta motor for the millionth time, the penny finally dropped that I had landed smack bang in the midst of the 2010 Isle of Wight scooter rally. Jeeesusssss....three days of this I grumbled as I jauntily threw myself into the hedgerows under cover of darkness for the fourth time to get out of the way of Scunthorpe Scooter Club's finest.

I was impressed of course, to see this quintessentially British scooter culture very much alive and kicking against the pricks (whoever they are these days. Tescos probably). Predictably enough, The Modfather Weller was in residence doing a show at Carisbrooke Castle and most of the faithful were around the same vintage with a few young, new-school hipsters thrown in for good measure.  

Shanklin's beach was a pretty, vast expanse of calm water, full of families having crazy summer fun in the sunny weather. After hiring my deckchair and busting out the knotted handkerchief on my head, I exposed my deathly pallor to the full vitamin D experience and kicked back with a serving of Irvine Welsh. I soon realised however, the best fun to be had on the beach is still being buried up to your neck in sand while your sister fucks off into the water threatening never to return (below bottom). Good times.  

By accident I happened upon the Shanklin Chine (below), a beautiful gorge leading from the lower edges of the village out to the seafront via a tiny enchanted forest. Visitors can amble through this oasis of spectacular, fertile wilderness - featuring an imposing waterfall and more than 150 varieties of wild plants, as well as the infamous red all but extinct on mainland Britain. After an extremely pleasant stroll through the chine, I paused to examine the squawking avery of exotic birds before downing a divine cream tea - scones and cakes all homemade by the lovely chief cook and bottlewashing lady on the premises.  

There is much picturesque walking and bike riding to be done on the Isle of Wight, and the Shanklin to Ventnor section of the 67 mile coastal path almost got the better of me. After the local Tourist Information Centre battleaxe's confident advice that 'its only an hour!' I set off on my jaunt, humming a gay tune, not realising the crazy dame meant an hour uphill, carving through overgrown foliage like some wizzed-up 'Nam vet, negotiating prehistoric fallen tree trunks, slithering between rock crevices and falling on my arse through endless puddles of mud. It all became worthwhile after I stumbled upon this brilliant local enterprise (below) selling homemade wares from the Luccombe Jam Man. A table full of jam, an honesty box, a handwritten sign...job done. Won't get that down the Crapham High Street. 

Finally surfacing back into civilisation...I felt the call of a restorative snifter and came upon this curious establishment (below) in Ventnor. Not afraid to fly the the old union flag with gay abandon, this pub positively revelled in Great Britain's halcyon days, displaying paraphernalia from those long-forgotten times when the men were real men and the women were glad about it. The locals gathered round, banging on about local issues the way local people do (...are YOU local?)...and a merry atmosphere pervaded the place on this beautiful sunny August bank holiday.

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