Don't be daft! As if I was talking about our own outcrop of chalk here in the tip of Kent! No, I'm talking about the Isle of Wight.
I was warned before my weekend on Vectis that it would be like stepping back 40 years. And yes, the hotel was very Fawlty Towers, with a general air of tut-tutiness and enough signs forbidding this, that and the other (especially the other) than you could shake a proverbial at.
On the plus side, though, I toured the entire island and saw not one burnt out amusement park or derelict building. Not even a hint of a magnificent seaside facility transformed into a car park with EU money. And all the hotels were still hotels, rather than dire accommodation for third generation unemployables. Hundreds of brown tourist signs appeared to lead to, er, actual tourist attractions. Everywhere you go there are public conveniences which are not only clean and open, but being used by people for the rather quaint purpose of going to the lavatory. And not one crushed Stella can or barker's nest to spoil your promenade along the prom.
Ventnor was a particularly good example of a seaside town that was still doing a thriving trade by being a, er, seaside town:
Even the Winter Gardens looked as if it had been given a lick of paint recently. Moving on to Shanklin, proof positive that I have relatives in every coastal resort:
One shock, though, was the sight of my old showbiz chum Alan Titchmarsh wearing black tights. He's in the centre of my shot, walking next to the gipper with the scrambled egg on his shoulders.
Steady on Alan! I know the island's a timewarp, but there's no need to take it to that extreme! (Nice set of pins, though.)
I must admit that, parking up the old Tardis/Priapus back in the Millionaires' Playground last night, I fell into a bit of a decline. Clearly something went very wrong here on Chavvy Island thirty or forty years ago. My guess is that someone, somewhere began the cry of 'the bucket and spade holiday is dead' and over the following decades ensured that their prophecy came true. Now we're constantly being told by the Tory duffers that 'Thanet is open for business'. Well, that business ain't tourism, is it, 'cos there's chuff all left for the tourists to do. Perhaps they're talking about 'funny business'.
All the hoteliers and restaurateurs I spoke to on the Isle of Wight reported bookings are significantly up this year, as the recession, the weak pound and carbon footprint anxiety lead more and more Brits to holiday at home. One downside is the cost of getting there, though. £55 return to take the car on the ferry. But it does keep the riff-raff out. Now there's an idea! We could put up a barrier at the Wantsum and charge a £50 toll for getting in. And if we make it free to get out, it would effectively be a one-way trip for the pit bull tuggers. Hurrah!
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