Have you ever been to Ryde? If you have I’ll give you a couple of minutes to go to the shed and find then biggest bluntest instrument you can get your hands on. If you haven’t been there then don’t go there unless you are four Pesky Kids with a large dog driving around solving crimes in a funky multicoloured van.
Ryde is a rare treat for a rampant piss taker like me. It has the lot and it has nothing at all in any other department.
I see you have returned from the shed with what appears to be a rubber camping mallet…. Good… Good. Now take that mallet and repeatedly smash it into your temple until all memories of Ryde have ceased or at least blurred sufficiently. If you can’t find a hammer or similar bludgening implement try an awl or 6″ loft nail for insertion behind the ear, little ‘wiggly wig’, happy days. This is a free service I’m providing here so let’s see a bit of appreciation.
Ryde…or ‘Fuckin Ryde’ as I have christened it is beyond words but as this is a blog I’d better come up with something.
We arrive by car and get a glimpse of the delights ahead as we turn a corner towards car park 732556 (I remember the numbers as everywhere I go on the Isle I pay for parking). We alight with happy smiling faces and head towards the fabled (once more) ‘Old Town’. I’ve paid for 3 hours of parking as the plan is to mooch about a bit, soak up the history and find somewhere for lunch.
As I look up the tight winding slope of the ‘Old Town’ I am met with two aging pissheads having an argument. Seaside town drunks are a breed apart. Mostly they look like they have come from a different time and nearly all of them have lost their arses due to there being a flat rear to the jeans. There are lots of waistcoats (leather), Crocodile Dundee hats (leather) and bracelets (leather) on the seaside pisshead and a lot of swept back greased Rockabilly type haircuts. These are the common drunks, people of the soil…y’know… Bumper Car attendants looking for a frantic one behind the Wurlitzer so a new notch can be etched on the plank they sleep on. It’s top end Toffee Apple and a Goldfish in a bag stuff here. Rotten..
We’ve been here less than a minute and I’m looking for the road out. Even Jen, normally stubborn in the face of a bad choice she has made is looking rather ‘WTF’ but we battle on and head up the hill past various degrees of scrote and dog on a string Jubs and even past a rather large effort wearing what I initially thought was a woolen hat until I noticed on closer inspection was in fact matted hair.
Everyone here appears to be trollied and in posession of the kind of ‘leisure wear’ that you normally associate with a glue covered car emerging backwards out of a ‘Sports Direct’ following a high speed crash. There are bodies littering the many benches in the pedestrian areas as if they have fallen from planes such is the lean or slump. It is deeply grim with ‘Greggs’ being the top end eatery and ‘Peacocks’, a shop seemingly for blind women of an awkward gait, being the number ‘Department Store’ in the precinct if you are in the market for a shapeless spark inducing polyester blouse.
We reach the top of the ‘Old Town’ and decide to head back down via another route towards what could be described as the ‘Marina’ although I say this is the loosest possible terms.
The route back down is mostly residential but it does take us past a Bingo hall where two knitted old ladies puff away outside like steam trains and the obligatory seaside tattooist where you can walk in bollocksed and be served up instantly pissed or not.
We finally reach the bottom of this massive hill and stare directly at the majesty of Ryde Bus terminus which appears to be very popular most probably because the vehicles piling into it take you away from Ryde itself. We ignore this chance to escape, thumbs intact, and with our mouths agape mince towards the what seems to be the entertainment hub of this nightmare…. The Ryde Superbowl Bowling Alley and Laser Quest
Across the entire width of this monument to the dullest ‘sport’ on the planet (which always seems like a good idea until you start to play…there’s no escape as they have your shoes) is a Super Pub. You know the thing, a massive, souless one room effort filled with menus and chrome and joyless ‘slave’ bar staff working 12 hour shifts for peanuts and a free burger to be consumed during a 6 minute 18 second rest break out the back by the bins.
All the doors to the front are open and so the clientel has oozed out to the ‘garden’ area to the front to smoke to a professional level. There is an assortment of mobility vehicles outside complete with ‘Riders’ all on the piss (it’s barely noon) or engaging in some top level swearing in front of the many feral kids loose in the area.
It’s Hell’s pub… ‘The Beelzebub Arms’ where all you can order are non specific ‘Curries’ with packet Nann and Poppadoms, Kettle Chips and a Kronenborg / Strongbow Snakebite for £8.92.
It starts to rain and it’s excatly the kind of rain you need in this miserable hell hole….fine, fine drizzle. The rain we all say is ‘drenching’ even though most rain is drenching. The drizzle drops and the punters outside simply sit there seemingly unable to erect the umbrellas at the table due to the lack of will to exist as full Homosapiens. My eyes are drawn to one particular savage in an England shirt (Not football or rugby but something ‘These colours don’t run’ inspired) and a tattooed face glistening in the rain while chugging on a pint. Nothing will stop him from enjoying this £3.20 pint of wife beater as he’s in it for the ‘En-ger-land’ and a bag of Black Country Scratchings.
The Pavillion SuperBowl stands behind this abomination like a haunted warehouse from Scooby Doo. It’s a large delapidated building which has seen better days and brighter paint. There is no hint of joy from it other than the potential future memory of tearing off the mask of what you thought was a Killer Clown or Scarecrow to discover it is infact a disgruntled Local councillor or Candyfloss entrapenuer terrorising the locals over an unexplained grudge he had from 40 years ago.
It is gash incarnate and I will not be engaging in it. Royal Ryde, Historic Ryde the home of Melvyn Hayes, Mr Bronson, Lizard King David Icke and 24,000 other lost souls is the world centre of Jubbery.
I insist that this trip is over and to my suprise Jen concurs and so with quickening pace we arm ourselves with rudimentary weapons of mass evacuation and head back to the car almost exactly 32 minutes after we left it. Filth. The Penzance of the Isle of Wight.
As I said in the previous effort, this holiday was more about relaxation than anything else. It was never going to be high octane mentalness and so we planned on lazy days with the odd bit of explosive family competition courtesy of ‘Uno’, Pool or of course the old favourite ‘Frustration’.
I wasn’t too happy on the ‘Uno’ / ‘Frustration’ front as I usually get battered but I was fully confident in destroying my entrie family in the Pool room as a misspent youth means that any game played in the company of alcohol is my thing. Bar billiards, Pool, ‘Double Dragon’ and Darts which I am a God at….welcome to my drunken late teens where 50p on the edge of the table was King. Let the Pool begin…
The Daughter is destroyed in minutes. She doesn’t know the rules. Not. My. Problem. She is dispatched with contempt.
The Boy comes next. I’m ready, up to speed…. BANG! BANG! BANG!…. 3-0 up in 10 minutes… He’s broken which was never more proven when he fell for the old “oh… you potting that ball are you…” trick meaning he tries a different one. BOOM He’s sent back to the house with intructions to send the Mother up.
I now sit and wait to complete the sporting disassemblage of the Tribe. It’s hard but necessary if I am to be King. They need to learn by the numbers… the tough choices…Heavy is the Crown etc.
In walks Jen. She informs me that she hasn’t played pool in over 30 years….then she smiles….This is a worry. She racks up the balls incorrectly and so I intervene and with rapid speed I sort the problem and leave the 8 ball spinning in its slot like one of those pub wankers who owns their own cue and have an initialled carrying case.
After a brief recap of the rules (necessary on this occasion as her humiliation will be lessened if she thinks she has an excuse) I break off with levels of power not seen since the crane lowered Bill Werbenuik’s coffin into a baize lined abyss… The sound of white on rack is deafening but beautiful, birds scatter, car alarms go off, children scream in the ditsance…. we’re off!!
….25 minutes later I’m 5-1 down and Jen, having laughed after every victorious frame, leaves the room in silence not even looking back while I lean on the edge of the table looking at my non potted balls. Hustled by the current mother to my children. I now have nothing. In the distance I hear Jen enter the house and they all cheer…
Another holiday tradition is humiliation at the hands of the boy on the Go-Kart track. This year I feel strangely confident that I will destroy him mainly due to his supreme confidence that he will destroy me.
We head towards Wight Karting as they have supercharged thunderbastard Karts and let’s face, I need all the thrust I can get hold of if I am to beat the self-proclaimed ‘Son of Senna’.
We check in and I misread the colour coding on the jumpsuits and pick up a ‘small’ instead of ‘Extra large’ and have to face the embarrassment of a 17 year old receptionist taking it off me and replacing it with a parachute sized garment. She clearly thinks I think I’m less rotund than I am.
I take the jumpsuit and the free balaclava and gloves and the boy and I head to the cafe to wait our turn. As we are sitting there the previous race ends and some proper Essex Oafs (or is it ‘Oaves’?) and their many bleach blond offspring enter my ‘Hate Arc’. Every sentence from theie pieholes is prefixed with the work ‘Fuck’ or a derivative of it and the C-Bomb is getting extensive usuage even though the cafe currently houses a group of 12-14 year olds waiting for a junior race.
As I’m soaking up every esturay infused syllable which notably included the powerful sentence of…
” fuck me… did you see me eh? wot a wanka… what a cunt eh? piled right into your arsehole you fat fuck…”
…I notice that the Boy is eyballing me like a laser beam. Blimey Charlie, he seems well up for this I may have to reassess his destruction at my hands. We are 15 minutes from the race and his intensity is so great that he’s both gloved and balaclavered up which seems a bit unnecessary. Calm down love…
We get underway and as expected we are pitted against the Essex Boys who are all up to speed and make me look even slower than I am. The boy blasts off and is beating all but one of these cavemen and inevitably it’s the lumpy mouthy one from the cafe. As the boy is about to overtake this stroker he sees him coming and slams on the anchors taking the boy out and three other karts. The ponce would rather cause a crash than lose the lead to a 17 year old. I should have expected nothing less in reality.
We have two races and I’m sure you have guessed, and much like Wales a few years back my kart was substandard and so I fail to beat the boy not only in the races but also on any of the laps within them. I’ve never been lucky with my choice of kart but hopefully next time I will destroy him.
Of course not everything on this trip is piss taking. I genuingly love the Isle of Wight and would consider it as a venue to while away the hours in retirement. It is clean and quirky and the West of the Island where we are staying on this occasion is beautiful.
Jen and I have managed a few trips out without Dog or kids to the more cultural efforts including Farringford House where Tennyson lived which was spectacular and unbelievably peaceful which is something I will insist on when my working life is done. Not certain I want to be an old bloke in London so maybe the tranquility of West Wight would suit me.
The main issue I’ve found with the Isle of Wight this time is what seems to be a lack of care. Most hospitality venues I’ve been to have been lacking in either interest or actual supplies. Now I’m fully aware that the ‘Pingdemic’ this shithouse government triggered wiped out a lot of lorry drivers so deliveries were fewer and I’m also acutely aware of the problems with Brexit but the attitude to this appears to be a resounding ‘Unlucky…. you’re here now, what else do you want?’
I’m not a pub crawl merchant on holiday, it’s pretty much ‘destination venue’ when I go out as we are looking for a family meal so I find it pretty unnacceptable to attend 4 seperate pubs and be told there is no Guinness with barely an apology. A pubs standard tarrif is Lager, Bitter, Cider, Stout and I reckon 80% of the offered ‘stout’ is Guinness. If you drink Guinness you drink Guinness as much as the Cociane aficionado aint really dabbling in Heroin a Guinness drinker would rather slam his head in a door than drink ‘Belhaven Black’ or the repellent ‘Camden Ink’. The lack of Guinness was ridiculous.
Only one venue hit all my criteria and that was the magnificent Red Lion in Freshwater where the G was marvellous and I had the greatest Sunday lunch outside of my own house that I’ve ever had. The beef was perfectly rare, the Spuds perfectly crisp and the Cauliflower Cheese luscious. It’s a dog friendly pub with excellent staff and fantastic food ( I also had a heart stopping suet crusted beef pie which could barely contain the meat on another occasion) which I whole heartedly recommend should you be in the Freshwater area.
None of this could be said about a pub I visited in the beautiful, posh coastal village of Bembridge which I visited for lunch that we will call ‘The We’ve got nothing Inn’.
Bembridge appears to be a bit tickerty-plop and it seems essential to own either a Boat, Launch or at the very least a Kayak or some description. If you haven’t got one of these items you get looked at down the hooter but it’s not as bad as Yarmouth where the disdain for the landlubber is total. No Sea Legs, No loosely tied jumper round the shoulders, No likey.
Bembridge is lovely with some fantastic houses and a lovely coastal path along a pebbled ‘beach’. We had a nice time walking around and found this empty shop masquarading as a boozer which from the outside looked like a good idea.
We sit outside in a very well appointed covered garden. It’s funky and not conservative in keeping with the humans roaming about. I’m liking it a lot, you could say that I’m on the right side of ‘happy’…..yes….I’m happy…actually happy. I peruse the menu. My happiness increases….This is it, this is what it is like to be ‘happy’.
Over walks the owner to take my order and it would be fair to say that by the thickness of his neck and the broadness of his hands he has been on the right side of a pair of nostrils in a previous life. His face oozes violence and the fingers have rolled a million ‘snouts’ in C-Wing. I can only assume he has escaped from Parkhurst and is living on site with a room full of shooters waiting for the inevitable ‘Last Stand’ against the filth.
He opens his mouth to speak and I prepare to hurl myself to the floor to avoid the blast and stench of cordite but instead of “Open the till you fuckin’ mug!!” he asks us very politely in a gruff East End Cockney if he can get us some drinks.
” I’ll have a Guinness please” says I to which the now standard Isle of Wightean response is ‘No fuckin chance mate’. I ask him what else he has and I’m told they have Fosters (piss water) or Kronenborg (kid beater). There appears to be no other options which means my choice is near enough Vauxhall Astra or Lamborghini Huracan, a homemade burger in a bread bun cut to shape or a Five Guys, shit or chocolate etc…
There is little chance of me entertaining Fosters as it’s not 1989 but it’s 1403 hours and a couple of Kronies will have me hanging out the window of the car on the way back screaming my tits off at passers-by.
Kronenborg it is…
All of a sudden ‘Reggie’ grabs my menu like it’s the throat of a grass and slams it on the table where he explains in a soft malevolent cockney whisper that some items aren’t available.
No. Shit. Welcome to ‘The Island number 6’…
He points out that only two of the nine Pizzas, two of the five Curries and four or the six burgers are currently available. He walks away to give us time to let this sink but returns fairly sharpish with the drinks including my headache juice in a plastic pint pot. I would have been less insulted if he had shat in it and stirred it with a shitty stick.
‘Happy’ is now a distant memory….. or maybe merely a fleeting sensation…
We wait to order and some young girl rocks up with a pen and paper who instantly tells me that no pizzas are now available and basically it’s a burger of nothing so rather than walking out we went for the Double Findus, Super special, Onion Ring, BBQ skewer tower of toss (The bigger the burger the shitter it is is my rule of thumb) and obviously we regret this choice five hours later when none of us can move for stodge.
The food isn’t really the problem. The issue is the service and the ‘tough shit’ approach to it which I encountered more than once on this trip which was a shame.
Take ‘ The Needles’ which is one of the ‘premium attratctions’ on the Isle of Wight. Essentially it’s a Ski Lift to Alum Bay and a 25 minute boat ride around the the rocks themselves and little else. The complex it sits on used to have a small fairground and some stalls that small kids will love. There were Ice Creams sellers, candyfloss spinners and all that rubbish and this summer, the summer after a dead summer for a nation and the most crucial summer in British history as they have a captive audience who they can make a big impression on they blow it by having half of even this two-bob attraction closed and boarded up.
You’d think the opportunity to make a good impression with potentially a lot of people who would normally gone abroad wouldn’t have been lost on the Islanders but it seems that it may have been. I will come here again because I have a history with the place and I’m a nostalgic old tosser but not everyone is. I spoke to a great friend of mine who had similar substandard customer service issue in a high end venue up North in an area of outstanding beauty so it isn’t merely an Isle of Wight thing and so can only be misguided complacency on behalf of the British hospitality industry.
On our penultimate night we head to a lovely old building for dinner in a venue with almost fautless reviews. It’s a short walk from where we were staying and we were all looking forward to it as we’d past it on a number of occasions and it was busy and appealing.
We head down on a rare sunny evening which assists the venue as it has big windows and so the interior will be bright and airy given us hapless punters the impression that we are on holiday somewhere where the big fireball in the sky appears on a more frequent basis.
It’s nice inside, a bit like a kooky ‘All Bar One’ with some industrial shit hanging from the ceiling and high shelves filled with bottles of wine and salad dressings. The Menu is simple and was pretty much what drew us in as it only had about 6 otions which is always a good sign that they are making it fresh rather than tearing the cellophane off the top and whacking it in a microwave.
I’m reliably informed from years of watching Gordon ‘Fuckin’ Ramsey tear the hoop off multiple hapless resterauters that 60 dish menus is a sign of poor eatery and so these six simple dishes including Spanish Chipotle sausages, Harrisa Lamb, Meatballs in a mushroom sauce all served with skinny fries (which was the clincher) give it the unfussy feel you want for a good family dining experience.
The place seems to be run by some kind of International student collective. When I say ‘seems to be’ I actually mean ‘is’ as I’m greeted at the door by a ginger topknotted bearded bloke who referes to us as ‘Guys’ which is a sure sign of the Pot Noodle eating, three lectures a term brigade.
I ignore ‘guys’ and we take our seats and this Hippy takes our drinks order of a bottle of wine (Obviously there is no Guinness) and a couple of softies for the kids and we look at the menu. I’ve had a look online already and know that I want the meatballs and fries so I’m ready to go.
We are waited on by a Japanese exchange student with the communication skills of ‘Oddjob’ from Goldfinger. He can barely be heard such are his soft hushed tones but he gets the order and we settle down to so low level family chat. He is incredibly polite but not very confident and pretty inept but no matter, I appreciate waiting staff as it’s a thankless task and unless he drops my dinner or, God Forbid, the wine he’ll be getting my thanks and a tip.
Ginger Topknot then appears with this pearler:
“…Sorry Guys but I don’t think ‘Oddjob’ mentioned that we have no skinny fries tonight and so are replacing them with Roasted New Potatoes. Is that okay?..”
No mate. It is very much not ‘Okay’. It is a fuckin disgrace.
The ‘chip’ is the simplest of all the potato products and to replace it with the new Potato is to me the equivilant of serving up a plate of sick. The only thing worse than a new potato is a plain and simple boiled one which frequently appeared on my plate during the 70’s when food was incidental. To make any new potato palatable you need to encase it in butter otherwise you might as well serve up an unripe pear.
Before I get a chance to start smashing up the place Jen intervenes and tells Topknot that everything is fine and so I simply disappear into my Pinot Grigio and we get back to some family small talk while waiting for my Meatball, Custard and Jam Sponge Casserole because, let’s face it, anything could happen in the next 15 minutes.
I’m not happy about it but Meatballs and new potatoes is understandable but the bloke weeping over his menu on the table next to me is crying because he has ordered a Burger with new potatoes a combination not even a lunatic would consider during a mild famine. When that actually arrives at his table it is a sight to behold, like a cats head on the body of a stork…simply wrong. It will stay with me a long, long time.
Before our slop gets served up another family walk in where the oldest member, a frail looking old bloke is rocking a big yacthing look with three quarters lengths, boating shoes along with a baggy ribbed jumper over a polo shirt with the collar up. He’s probably too old and too light to pull this off but he looks happy enough and takes his seat.
My meal turns up and I see the offending pattatas. My face looks like that of the man who put everything on red and it came up black but I strive on and get involved with this protein and starch hybrid. It’s alright…. bit claggy but tasty none the less.
Then behind us there is a commotion…Well, more of a huge thud, the smashing of glass and the high pitched scream of a daughter of the Yachting set. The old man is down, prostrate on the floor slightly trembling with his finger outstretched pointing to the door. The room goes silent just like when a fight breaks out in a pub.
The punters are concerned for the welfare of this poor sod and all I can think about is that the new potato abomination has pushed him to this. Even the old like pomme frites and he came here for them specifically as they are all over the fuckin menu!! He has clearly made a lunge for the exit in a vain attempt to escape this hell hole, he knows that chips may be available elsewhere and we are free people living in a democracy…. free to choose…. surely we are free to leave?
But No…We’re are not free to leave. ‘Oddjob’ swoops in and picks up the old man with one huge golf ball crushing paw. He straps him to his chair, claiming it’s ‘safer’ and brings him an extra large bowl of non roasted new potatoes. He then stands over him to ensure that are consumed to a satifactory level. It’s a Gulag… A carbohydrate Gulag. Next thing I know I’ll be working here explaining that chips are off the menu but we can give you a raw potato on a stick for pudding.
The kids order puddings and I order another glass of Pinot for Dutch courage prior to fighting my way out like Rick Grimes leaving another Utopia turned bad in ‘The Walking Dead’.
In any other world the request for the delivery of the single most accessible and popular white wine, possibly, in the world would be a piece of piss for ‘Oddjob’ and Topknot but alas, no.
The wine this time is in abundance but they need my used glass to deliver it in as they are ‘running short’ in a restaurant of 30 people. I have enough wine glasses in this house to accomodate this crowd and this jub need this one….fucker don’t even rinse it, he just fills it up and slams it down in front of me. It’s the coup de grace, the turd in the water pipe, the blue plaster in the beef chow mein…. This aggression will not stand..
We get the bill (which is totally correct and reasonable) pay up and like good Englanders thank them for the magnificent food and impeccable service and leave with bellies full…. Might visit it again on another trip but will bring my own glass and a packet of McCains…
And so the holiday ends the following day with a fish and chip supper and a night of drinking all the booze that is left.
The Isle of Wight has seen me once more and it will definately see me again as I love all its idiosyncrasies, it’s just this time I felt a bit taken for granted. I got the impression that the hospitality sector here felt that because of Covid and travel restrictions it didn’t really need to try that hard as a lot of us were going to turn up regardless and just accept it.
The only problem with this strategy is that next year, with a fair wind, a lot of us will be sitting on European beaches, with Guinness, and Chips, and Pizza and no fuckin’ new potatoes…
Far too much of this is uncomfortably close having grown up in a seaside town. Extra points for correctly highlighting Bowling as fraudulent fun and for spinning the eight ball before your destruction…