Day Two: Alum Bay
My family historically have a derogatory word for the patrons of this tourist “attraction”…. That word is “Lumpents”… It’s onomatopoeic. Lumbering, lumpy, tooth free, tattooed forearms, smokers….and then there’s the men… older, coach drivers in shirts who shout at their offspring in public.
The word itself is a derivative of the Marxist term “Lumpenproletariat” so we’re only as cruel as revolutionary socialist with a plot in Highgate Cemetery…. keep calm everyone… I’m not Lenin…. It’s banged out with Lumpents… all fighting over coloured sand… The kids, of course, love it… they are filling up the jars with layers and me and Jen are assisting… The rest of the assembled mob are involved…kids, Dad’s, Mum’s, Grandparents… why an adult would want a glass jar filled with sand is beyond me but hey, without them I’d have nothing to rip the piss out of right?
When you’ve filled the jar you take it to a counter where a spotty student will top it off for you… I say “student” but its more like a Dungeons and Dragons convention with tattoos and piercings. It’s our turn to meet the student.. We get Grendel… heavy eyebrows, whispy hair, crooked jaw with an underbite, snorting, nervous laugh…If I were Beowulf It would be my destiny to slay the beast while naked.. I’m toying with stripping down to nothing but remember I’m not Beowulf… I’m not even a cartoon Ray “CAAAANT””Winstone.
We do the chair lift (to the beach…not the gift shop) and mince about on the pebbles for a bit…. I feel slightly let down in reality…Is this really a tourist attraction? This country needs to take a look at itself when it comes to tourism… They are closing the place when we are in it… pulling down the shutters when you are still using the stuff… It’s truly pathetic..
Later we have an average one course meal in a pub for £70….”surf and turf” with such flavour I enjoyed the finger bowl more than the meal…cracking…it had lemon in it and everything… Luckily the kids are currently happy.
Day three: Shanklin….
A big town…. a hub of entertainment…. a cliff side lift..
We arrive, it could be any seaside town in England…lights, shit parking, passing trade, chips…chips everywhere… I’m sick of chips….”no chips kids” I say…surprisingly they wholeheartedly agree. Right… what to do here?…arcades, a beach and some kind of “fun” park containing crazy golf… Always a winner. We have a fun 40 minutes… I lose…. .. now the food issue.
I walk past a place near the fun park. It’s rammed with massive balloon people, gorging on fried potatoes and “pop” in a blur of tattooed ham hock forearms… I say “pop” as that’s what the general Northerner in attendance calls it… Londoners don’t do this.
We walk down the “promenade” or “pavement” as I like to call it. I see an old bloke walk towards me… super tanned, wrap arounds, magnificent bowl on him, shirt off…. oh dear… he’s in possession of a large growth to his upper chest… like a angry cricket ball sized blister… horrible…people duck for cover as it’s angry enough to “go up” at any moment….has it come to this?.. We move on and head to a hotel which appears to have sandwiches with salad on the menu….. naturally it’s empty. I fancy a Prawn Baguette as I’m international…I can fit in everywhere… I’m an very interesting man… Jen heads off to the bar to order and me and the kids sit under a parasol freezing our cobblers off but refusing to be beaten by the drizzle and chill.. Jen returns… something ain’t right…. she looks serious… I ask her what’s wrong and she tells me that she’s had a row with the bloke taking the order. Now, If you know Jen you would realise that this is almost impossible… she don’t do this…. I do this for us… It’s my job… it’s what I do… I’m a the trappy fucker, she is the calm, logical one, the Brains of the operation… I’m only wheeled out for the problems… the destruction.
She tells me that during the mundane task of ordering three sandwiches and a Cream Tea she was informed that it was not possible to deliver the items together just like the massive ponceitude of Wagamama but without the banged out restaurant. The jub taking the order says that en masse delivery “wasn’t possible”. She asks why and is told “That’s how we do it”… She suggests that maybe they don’t have to do it like that and that it is possible and is told “That’s how we do it”….she makes it clear that she ain’t happy to a deadpan acne face taking food orders in an empty hotel lobby…. nothing…. no response.. just the sound of hormones gushing out of the oily pores on his face.
I suggest some old school Dad intervention where I deliver the “Bad News” to Biactol Boy but she wants me to leave it… The brain has spoken… I fully expect my classy prawn baguette to include a flob or some other stringy emission related with the creamy fishy delight within.
I look at my pint…. “Shanklin Bitter”… not so much a drink as a state of mind. ..The sandwiches arrive and less than a minute later a tea pot and a scone as big as a babies head is brought in making the whole scenario of pissing off the punters irrelevant and merely a power trip on behalf of the fucker taking the order. We eat up and leave… I toy with telling the bloke that it’s not possible to leave a tip as “that’s not how I do it” but don’t bother… The kids head to the beach for a run around and Jen and I sit on the sea front and watch them… righty they don’t give a toss…they are the innocent..
“…abroad next year Darling?” says I…. she raises an eyebrow…no words are required…. Shanklin…a big town….a hub of entertainment….a cliff side lift…. a shithole.
Day Four: Freshwater Bay Beach
Sand…I hate sand…bad to sit on… bad for the camera…bad mixed with suncream, crisps, drinks, ipods and it makes sandwiches crunchy… This is a particularly bad moment for me but the kids want to go so I bite my lip.
It’s a nice beach and the sun is hot when it appears however most of the time I’m wearing a fleece which can’t be right…generally if you are clothed on a beach you are storming a machine gun turret. I sit there for three hours listening to a book about Columbian drug trafficking but intersperse this with “rock pooling” where the kids capture a terrified shrimp and some shells.
Freshwater and Yarmouth must be where the upper end of the island live… lots of healthy looking kids called “Ambrose”, “Amelia” and “Josh” all in little kid wetsuits and those waterproof shoes. They all have energetic dogs that endlessly run into the sea retrieving drift wood. All the Dads have jaunty Jack Johnson wicker hats that look too small and the Mums wear Fat Face beach fleeces… It’s idyllic bollocks.
I’m sitting minding my own business with a pair of over the ear headphones on (I hate them…but left mine in the house) listening to a story about a drug Cartel enforcer literally forcing a .38 snub nose down the throat of a competitor when I feel something at my feet. I look down and find two kids building a sandcastle. There’s about eight people on this beach and they decide to do it on me. I look at the owner of these brats… she smiles and waves. Standby Love… I’m from London… this ain’t normal… remove your 1000 yard stare kids. I engage my “fuck off” face and they are extracted to the feet of some other mug in a kind of “don’t look back at the scary man darlings” way.
We go back to the house where I down a large bottle of Hoegaarden and Jen does two large rouge before we head off to an independent bistro/cafe for dinner. Its “highly rated”… hmmm. I walk in resplendent in liberating burgundy trousers. I’m oozing trouser power. To my left are two pissed middle aged Yarmouthites… clearly been drinking all day and are preparing for a lazy, out of time early evening shag imminently… don’t ask… I can tell… I’ve been there.
We get a table…it’s wobbly…. it’s sticky… this is rectified by a teenager of such magnitude that I thought he was holding a giant ball of sausage meat and some chipolatas. It turns out this was his hand. He loosely “cleans” the table. I remain calm.. My daughter looks at me…she puts her hand on my shoulder and in her American accent she says “..I’m with you man!!”… she gets it…she can spot it.
I’m facing into the restaurant directly looking at a man who puts the salt into “salty seadog”. He looks uncannily like Marvel comics creator Stan Lee and is writing into a note book. His dinner arrives…Sea Bream and sautéed potatoes… it looks great… classy… proper… he devours it in about 80 seconds with a spoon. He shovels it in after covering it in tartar sauce…peasant… eating fish with a spoon…says it all. A bloke then walks in on a mobile to his left ear… too specific? He has no right ear, just a hole and a flap of skin…bad hair and a limp… “Highly rated”….roger rog…it was “alright”…I mean can you really fuck up a scampi?
We leave and find a shop to buy some milk. Outside there are teenage Amelia’s, Josh’s and Ambrose’s. One of them drops his iPhone and smashes it… “Fucking Hell…fuckididumdum…” I inform his that if he swears in front of my kids again it will be a bad move resulting in extreme violence... “but I’ve broke my phone” he says…”good”, I reply…Jen whisks me away.
Tomorrows plan is to drive around the island at full speed… when we reach the necessary velocity I will direct Jen to a jetty and hope that we have gathered enough momentum to Evel Knievel our way across the Solent to safety…. That’s my plan…the kids want to go to Robin Hill adventure park… I’m sure that will be our destination..
Day Five: Robin Hill Adventure Park
The Village of the Damned. We have a late start to the day as part of the Robin Hill experience is at night. I assume this is due to the trolls that will inevitably make up the patrons wishing to avoid sunlight.
Prior to departure we go to a Yarmouth hot spot on the pier. It appears that standard yet acceptably tasty stuff is available at ludicrous prices. Jen’s seafood “chowder” or “thick soup” for the intelligentsia was a £9.00 with a partial baguette.
Piss takers…. but we have to eat.
The two waitresses are sisters, 25 ish with spots and badly dyed hair and thick black gloopy eyeliner. They look “scrutty” and I’m betting a thumb will be in the soup upon delivery. The blond one of the sisters has a lisp. Tragically I always find a lisp amusing. When you enter you order and take a number and wait for your number to be shouted out by the waitress. I’m disappointed to receive ’58’ on my ticket as I was hoping for ’76’.. but fear not we’ve ordered the soup, sandwiches, drinks with straws, extra sugar for the tea and salt.
The place is filled with old people gnawing and sucking on crusty breaded items… its a horrible sight…reminiscent of a babies and rusks. We take out a bridging loan, pay the bill and leave… The Robin Hill ‘Adventure’ awaits…
We arrive at out destination venue….. It’s eerily quiet. It’s £70 for a family of four…comedy gold. It’s Legoland lite. They’ve copied the idea and tweaked it to farming setting which is some feat. I look around and realise that I could live and work on the Isle of Wight as all I need is a Scholl sandal and walking stick or crutch factory… not crutches.. crutch, singular. There is a future here Jen…. I can sense it. Everywhere I look I see the Challenged Limping about. They are cottage loaf people with lank hair mostly walking using the single crutch for stability as the other hand is holding a Rothmans.. It reminds me of the work canteen. The Horse and I once counted the crutches in there… we saw five shared out amongst four overly nourished staff who can move pretty sharpish when the jam sponge and custard appears. Crutches used to mean ‘broken leg’ not ‘density’.
We look around and try to marry up the fun map with the delights on offer… no fuckin chance. There’s a Maze made out of garden fences, a swinging Galleon (second hand from elsewhere), ‘Carp Quay’ which is a fish pond although it does lead to ‘Troll Island’ which is a jetty. There’s a ‘Gypsy Camp’ which I think is a thing as I can find no oil barrels and broken cars.. The kids spot ‘Hillbilly Slide’ and go for a ride… it’s a big slide next to the main event… ‘Toboggan Mountain’… I monitor this ride as I know I’ll have to go on it with my daughter. It appears to involve sitting on a plastic tray and being dragged up an incline before being released down a metal track reminiscent of a tobogganing…. As expected Hillbilly Slide fails to hold the interest and I find myself queuing for the Toboggan effort. In front of me is a woman….I think its a woman. It’s small and in a dress so I’ll go with woman. She looks up at me over her glasses and eyebrows, I see a tooth look out like a prisoner poking out a cell window during a riot…. she’s about to speak… I don’t want this… I’m queuing… just because we are thrown together doesn’t mean we must interact… her hair is a fairly decently cut bob but it’s not washed well. She has that thing I hate on a woman with a bob… a poking out ear breaking the symmetry of the cut…. It’s the female equivalent of men who pull down a cap too far to bend an ear… I want to poke it in and, let me tell you, this isn’t a sentence I ever thought I would think about when confronted with this woman.
It speaks; “..see that bangle?..” she says pointing at her kids. The daughter wears the bangle, the boy talks in whirs and clicks like Clunk from ‘Stop the Pigeon’ … I nod…”great value”… she speaks quick… “really?” I say but I’m thinking “fuck off and try not to drool so much”. She informs me that it’s a tenner a bangle and you get unlimited rides. Her daughter has done the ride 24 times which explains the twitch and the random pawing of the ear. “Great news” I say, “perhaps if there was something else to do here she wouldn’t need to have been on it so often”….. there’s an uncomfortably long silence before she bursts out laughing……teeth like a burnt down fence as expected… Friends for life…
The ride is shocking… a 35 second descent at luke warm speed…. thrilling…
We take a ride on “Big Green”… basically a tractor pulling a carriage which takes four minutes and goes in a circle…. no words are exchanged with the driver who looks like Kenny Noye. I make a note in case he’s escaped and is lying low.
We kill time by walking round the gardens which are lit with coloured lights They are genuinely beautiful and remind me of my first visit to this island as a 5 year old. Fantastic stuff and it makes me realise why I like it.. it’s tranquil and unfettered by modern life. However this brings me on to the African themed playground. It has a BBQ in the middle run by the only non white employee I’ve seen since I got here….It’s like a wind up….a sad, 1970’s “Love they Neighbour” wind up….the assembled punters don’t give a fuck and to be fair the bloke behind the ramp seems to be enjoying himself but I feel it’s wrong… 1950’s England is seen in my 2014 London eyes.
The main attraction looms….. “Owls by Twilight”… Because of kids you tend to see a lot of Falconry. Every castle you go to has it like its still used. It’s essentially dull but this is supposed to be “stunning”. I’ll say that again……”Stunning”. The Arena is packed. Crutches litter the stairways, excitement builds as there’s a rumour that this display, at night and with lights may also contain music….sweetfuckinjeebus!! I’m out of my excitement zone here… The music starts….
Panpipes… panpipes….noseflutes… owls by noseflute… don’t get me wrong I like Owls…I know a few cracking Owl sanctuaries but this isn’t difficult… Owls fly at night… they hunt at night… Rush’s 1975 album “Fly by Night” has an Owl on the cover. What more proof do you need?.
The owls fly about and the Jock in charge tells us that it’s hoped in 4-5 years they may have four owls flying at the same time…The lumpents clap at this revelation…. I don’t….I weep internally… my life is ebbing away…ebbing away at a falconry display. The only upside was the bird landing on a punters head and getting caught in her hair….flapping around, causing mayhem and not even an apology from the geezer with the glove… We head to the car…. “Nothing to do there Dad” says the boy and do you know… he was right.
Back at the house I stair at the Chianti bottle…. Have I also lost the will to drink? No… No I haven’t…
Day Six: The Last Supper
The major plan for this trip was to take the bikes away for a family cycle. This plan was scuppered early on by my daughter’s refusal to move on anything other than a smooth surface…Great…. she broke the holiday….she’s 8… it’s not her fault.
The final day was for chillin’… The plan was to have a drive to see the things we hadn’t so far and get some gifts to bring back… It’s a well known fact that if you return from holiday in to my office without some kind of tribute to the God of Tea then your career is pretty much over…. Fear not… I have the necessary heart stopping, clotted cream shortbread.
The Isle of Wight is a lovely place…. quiet…. calm….I’ve had a great time regardless of my ranting and I was with my tribe for a week which is the point. Jen is close to tears as she wants to live here however I’ve explained that as there seems to be no crime which limits my employment potential. We take a walk along the coast from Yarmouth… this should be easy, it’s a straight line and I can see our destination.
We wander along and it’s windy…bone chillingly windy. It’s also a bit of a shithole…burnt out BBQ’s, in some cases complete with uneaten kebabs are spotted as are the evidence of low end high alcohol boozing… standard seaside fare… I spot a couple of locals sitting by the sea. He looks like the brother Boris Johnson had locked in the loft who was fed with fish heads from a bucket. The woman is similar so I’m guessing it’s a brother/sister love in and they are drinking ‘K’ cider which explains everything.
Just before we reach the end of the walk I look up at a balcony of a big house overlooking the sea and see a huge stone cock….. This ain’t no Rooster man!… this is anatomical…sculptural… I draw Jen’s attention to it and she gathers up the kids to view a boat far away on the horizon… Perhaps this is the real Isle of Wight…..
We amble back into town to book a table for dinner only to find that everywhere is booked up. Fuck this…. I end up phoning the main Hotel which seems to have space. I put on the burgundies and we head for the Last Supper…
The Hotel is a big gaff near the Yachting Club which is a club of such poncitude that it should have a sign which says “fuck off if you don’t own a boat” on the entrance.
“Hello Sir” says the receptionist with the cheap powdery make-up. I explain I’ve booked a table and she asks if I want the Conservatory restaurant or the a’la Carte?.. I say nothing but look at the kids and then look back at her in a kind of ‘are you mental?’ way…. she directs me to the Conservatory…. We sit down….hmmm… this ain’t going to be cheap Three staff swoop in…all teeth and tits. The servitude is overpowering. I’ve never liked that, wine glasses filled up after ever sip…gets up my nose. I take control and the waiter withdraws in what can only be described as a bow.
As usual I’ve seamlessly fitted in, I’m a a very eclectic human….I’ve done this before… The boy peruses the menu and decides on chicken main course with a crudité and lemon mayonnaise starter…. what a ponce. My daughter has the Chicken and gets some “Crayons” to colour in the menu. They are called “Crayons” as they assume I’m North London scum They are in fact Caran D’ache watercolour pencils such is the ponceitude. I feel like asking for some oils and a easel…
The meal is acceptable in a “it’s just a steak” way… too small and precious.. Jen had he smallest Lobster in the Ocean… almost a large prawn but it was tasty enough. I look around and see the brains of the island…. the glitterati…Old, yet they think they are trendy in that aging rich hippy way. Glittery eyeliner on old eyes, earrings on men in lounge jackets, paisley cravats and comedy sailor socks….In the words of Mr Franklin it’s a “Cunts banquet”…It’s all a bluff….London would devour these idiots and spit them out. I look at the kids and it hardens my resolve that they live in London till they wish to leave it. London makes a person, nothing phases you after London…Greatest City in the world…
We pay up… £120…Jen don’t look happy. We return home to continue the UNO world championships and finish the remaining booze…. No Londoner would leave a drink for the next family and I keep up the tradition…. Give them nothing, take everything… I can smell the ferry…. I can sniff the Capital…. Onwards…..