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Darn we’re excited, glee is bubbling out of us like synthetic cream squidgeting from a vanilla slice. The reason? Tonight the Lost Promenade are realising a long-held dream – we’re staying at Pontins!
Sorry to tease you, but you’re going to have to wait for the next blog entry to find out what happened on our out-of-season-British-holiday-camp adventure. Because first things first, along with honorary Lost Prommer Lindsey, we’re in Rye for the day, and the plan is to head to nearby Camber Sands later for a spur-of-the-moment night at Pontins. We’ve been to Rye before separately and found it dull so we weren’t expecting much, but maybe because we’re so geed up about Pontins, this time we have a bumper good time, and there’s so much to write that it deserves a blog entry by itself.
Like our last destination, Liverpool, Rye isn’t really by the sea. – the nearest beach is two miles away. However, in medieval times, Rye was one of the Cinque Ports and was almost entirely surrounded by ocean. So more than anywhere else we’ve visited, it’s a true Lost Promenade. Rye lies amongst the wetlands of Romney Marsh, has a past full of smugglers, invasion threats and drownings and nowadays is very, very posh. On first glance it exudes smugness; perfectly preserved heritage buildings, peachy prosperity, polite prejudice, floral emptiness. However, the Rope Walk Shopping Centre outside the town centre is an unexpected oasis of unvarnished fun. A warehouse full of funny little unglitzy shops: Lady Penelope Hair & Beauty, Chez Maureen, Candy Cascade, Frankie G’s Snack Bar. Maggots are on sale for £3.50 a pint and the crowning glory is tucked away at one end – a collection of working vintage penny slot machines. Nhung tries the fortune telling machine which goes on for ages in a Northern accent; stuck on some sort of loop telling every possible fortune, not one of which we can remember. We’re tempted by the Fun Photo Stickers machine, but even better than that is Harry Corbett’s Sooty TV Concert, a glorious bimbo box, the equal to the monkey orchestra at the end of Worthing Pier, with Sooty on drums, Sweep on sax and Soo on vibes playing a fantastic big band swirling stomper. “I can’t believe it gets so good so quickly!”, says Nhung. Too late, Tamsin remembers she has a video recorder on her camera, so she gets a brief snatch of it, before Sooty’s song sputters and dies. We give the machine a careful slap, not wanting to break it, but that’s that, it plays no more. A man who looks like The Fonz approaches us and tells us that if we like these; Rye heritage centre holds the UK’s biggest collection of Victorian slot machines. But sadly we don’t have time to visit it today.
Whilst in the shopping centre, we also spend a long time in a junk shop called Swapshop, which sells vintage bits of technology (like suitcase record players) along with an extensive selection of guns. Nhung is captivated by a miniature TV, and we outstay our welcome by sleevefacing with various LPs. Our discussions vary from forced moustache growing, forming an “intimidating smile gang” and making an action film about a Kent-set vendetta that ends in arson, just to use the line; “Your oast is toast”.
Rye’s high street abounds with boring designer shops, but despite that, there’s a few gems here and there – in particular Grammar School Records and its offer of £1 for a lucky bag of 10 singles. All 3 of us have a go and score some pop magic with a pretty good ratio of yay to yuck – about half of the songs are goodies, with the winner being ‘Clouds Across the Moon’ by The Rah Band. The man in the shop says, “People always come back for more”, however when we try to give back the records we don’t want he says, “That’s not really the point, I’m trying to get rid of this shit!”
We stop for lunch in the Mariners Coterie Tea Rooms and have pizza, chips and Earl Grey. There we discuss animal jumpers; Tamsin has a swan, Lindsey has a fox but Nhung wins with a horse and two deer. We also marvel at how cheap Pontins is and Nhung accidentally says “Fuck!” too loudly and everybody turns around and stares at us.
Next stop is a craft fair, at which we suffer the usual modern craft fair disappointment. The trouble with craft fairs these days is old ladies don’t seem to make anything for them any more. When I was little, they were full of faux Fabergé eggs and novelty wooden spoons. OK, those things weren’t exactly nice but they had an innocent charm. These days it’s all owl-shaped knowing twee and faux-naif felt hair decorations made by bored Tory wives. Everyone has the right to exercise their creativity, but frankly it would be better for all concerned if these people used their energy to do something useful, like campaigning to save their local rape crisis centre, instead of making POINTLESS CUTESY SHIT. Ahem
We do have one good craft experience though; The Black Sheep is a knitwear shop which sells new jumpers unironically made (by old ladies natch) to 1980s patterns. Batwing enthusiast Nhung is in her absolute element.
After that we find loads of good antique shops and junk shops. And I mean loads. Vintage children’s clothing, 60s & 70s ceramics, kitchenalia, menswear (a shop called Classic Chaps) – there is an exhaustive supply of the second-hand. Nhung is mainly taken up with hunting for a one particular butter dish – a brown and orange daisy print in the Hornsea Pottery ‘Saffron’ pattern. We see lots of Saffron china that day, but the butter dish remains elusive. We head back, laden with booty, to the Rope Walk so Nhung can buy the mini TV and Tamsin gets told off by the man in the café for walking in to take a photo, “I’ve just mopped!”
Finally we head to Budgens to stock up on food for the evening and have a last minute dash to a fireworks shop to get some sparklers (An old man in front of us says, with a quiet dignity. “I’ll have one rocket please”). For tonight is Guy Fawkes night and did I already say? We’re going to Pontins!
Rye has exceeded our expectations, and provided a perfect warm-up to the next act. Although on the surface, it’s all gloss and half timbers, in the right mood and with the right company it’s a winner. Just make sure you go to the Rope Walk Shopping Centre instead of the hoity-toity town centre, and say hello to Sooty from us.
Nhung’s dream butter dish (again)
Child’s owl jumper (too small)
Vintage Victorian slot machines at the Heritage Centre
Nhung’s hairslide (broke)
Lindsey’s hairbrush she bought in Clacton
Green geometric print silk scarf
1970s oversized sunglasses
Mustard yellow 1970s Habitat plastic bath rack (like in Sindy’s bathroom)
Rabbit-shaped jelly mould
Vintage Madeline pan
1980s miniature black & white TV
1960s yellow leather shoulder bag
Green crochet blanket
Brown & orange floral print 1960s dress
1930s teapot with chrome and bakelite cover
30 7” singles
Handknit striped batwing jumper
2 sets of sparklers and a lighter