NEXT STOP BEMBRIDGE!

Robert Duncan and family head for the sun…

Regular readers of this drivel will know that I have a great and historical love of the Isle of Wight. This was our holiday destination of the forties and fifties, where we had fishing nets instead of Xboxes, dirty postcards instead of emails and beach cricket instead of mobile phones. Ah happy times – there we were for three or four weeks in August, meeting up with old mates, watching the lifeboat go out, sailing our little dinghy, and chatting up Jenny Southwell for so many years that I probably clocked up about two years of residency. But before those regular readers start going ‘Not again…’ Or words to that effect, this pithy article is about last weekend, and purely uses the old Bembridge motif as a backdrop to the main thrust.

For reasons I won’t discuss here, in case anyone under eighteen is reading this before the watershed, I wasn’t allowed to go back to this English Eden during the term of my first marriage. So (once again, as I’ve said before) my gorgeous Cathy not only indulged me by letting us visit this nostalgic retreat, but actually got into it to the extent she can’t get enough of it. (The Isle of Wight that is).

So to cut a long story short if it’s not too late, Cathy, Jamie and I left for the 12 o’clock car ferry from Southampton on Friday morning. After returning home twice for forgotten things (coats, teddy) we made good time and were on the ferry with at least four minutes to spare. Pretty drive across the island, soaking in the extraordinary lighting and atmosphere you only find in the home of the English micro-climate, we arrived in Bembridge to examine the lifeboat in detail, reminisce about beach huts, fishing boats, lobster pots and ice cream sodas, and walk along the sea wall. On occasions like this Cathy is always fascinated by what we all got up to, how we spent our time, where we walked, and how we survived without technology. I have just decided to illustrate this article with a good gag we found near the end of the sea wall walk. Weather stoneOver to Shanklin where we were staying in a super little beach front hotel, with alfresco dining overlooking the sea. Glasses of Prosecco, simple but effective food, and Jamie turning out his current speciality – drawings of very fat people with small hats wearing very loud ties. Tired but happy we went to our room etc…

Saturday was all about visiting a dodgy arcade where they charged 20p for the loo because it had been vandalised so often, several highly competitive rounds of crazy golf (where in spite of getting two holes in one Cathy still beat me) and on to a mega walk along the cliffs in Ventnor, ending up in a rocky splashy bay with a rather nice bar in it. Wine for us, ice cream for Jamie.

Back to the hotel to prepare ourselves for the imminent arrival of dear friends Mary and Graham – who gave up his Pinner roots to live the dream and become an islander. ( A resident, not the famous plane). Graham and I go all the way back to prep school, and all the way through our dodgy teenage years (don’t ask) and to our marriages, which happened within a few weeks of each other. His peripatetic ways have taken him and the lovely Mary to places as far flung as Putney, St Albans and Kent, where they owned a wonderful orchard. Graham retired early, I think he was about twelve, and they have been living the simple idyll ever since. Constant. Never changing. Always great fun, with a daft sense of humour that hasn’t changed, and the years haven’t dulled. Bless them.

Blimey, I’m going on a bit. Better stop before you get bored (I heard that).

Anyway, Sunday morning was all about a long walk along the front at Shanklin, another game of crazy golf that Jamie won for heavens sake, and it was all about loading the car with all the unnecessary coats, luggage, souvenirs from Monkey World which I forgot to mention, and a quick drink in the relentless sunshine before sailing back to Southampton.

Sitting on deck watching the yachts go by it was almost as if this little paradise hasn’t bothered to change since those black and white fifties days.

Long may it be so…