Back in the North and once more driving towards Cleethorpes where we’ll be staying the night in a trailer park with Lindsey’s mum. The journey is punctuated by scarecrows in hi-viz, bad chips and service-station-Michael-Palin-travel-slacks, just in case you should have a trouser emergency.

The trailer park has a guitar-shaped entrance and the caravan areas are all named after birds; albatross, chaffinch, wren. Although sadly there doesn’t seem to be a tit. Or a booby. We get more chips (with pea fritters) from the on-site chippy and settle down for the night to watch Poirot.

The next day we’re up, not bright, but at least early for a trip to Scarborough. As we drive through Grimsby on the way there, we see statues of boars everywhere and decide we’d like to make the boar the latest fashion animal. Fuck owls and wolves – someone needs to start printing t-shirts with great big bastard boars on them. It’s the first nice day of spring and there’s quite a bit of traffic so when we get to Scarborough, we dive into the first café we see – Parlour Tea Rooms, which is attached to a funicular down to the beach. There we eat toasties and consider our plans for the day.

 

 

Scarborough has kind of an uppy bit; all apple-bright shop fronts, little winding passageways and slopes, and a downy bit; all chip whiff and cheap thrills. In fact it’s much more vulgar than we expected. For some reason we had an idea of Scarborough as being well-to-do and up itself, but in fact it’s pleasingly tacky.

We start with the charity and tat shops of the uppy bit. One sells novelty money with pictures of Rodney from Only Fools & Horses on it. ‘Who would buy it?’, we think? But then we see a group of lads, one of whom is grasping a Simpsons version and speaking accusatorily to his mate, “What’ve you got Olly Murs for, you bent bastard?”

 

 

During our walk we decide that after all this time, Lindsey should be made an official Lost Prom member. Nhung wants to do a blood ritual to mark this solemn day but the others nix it. So we decide to do what we usually do and get fake tattoos. While browsing in a joke shop for them, somebody says, “I remember chips in newspaper – it was great when you could get grease on Maggie Thatcher’s face.” Which almost makes up for the earlier overheard comment.

Nhung tries on an 1980s suit with shoulder pads and jodhpurs, but the jacket is so tight she can’t even raise her arms in it. There’s also an amazing shop window with a moving Loch Ness monster and descending spider. And a sweet shop called Love Fudge.

We also go into a memorabilia shop which sells a signed photo of Thora Hird for £20 and one of Nickelback for £150. Broken Britain.

The covered market is slightly disappointing – quite a lot of the units are shut, there’s not much vintage and it smells of incense. However there is a cute home-made jewellery shop with giant 80s style fruit jewellery, a Palmist (Internationally Known) and a saddle shop.

 

 

The uppy bit finished with, we pay 75p for the 2 second funicular trip down to the seafront which is awash with typical seaside resort type stuff. Shops sell bead bracelets with slogans like ‘shut up’, ‘reem’ and ‘lol’. An old lady in a pink headscarf sits on the prom under an arcade, smoking a fag next to a leather-clad biker. There are donkeys and it feels warm in the sun. Someone has drawn a giant spurting cock on the sand.

There is also a shop called Ancient Warrior that seems to be aimed purely at psychopaths. We think this even before we overhear a man telling his crying child, “Don’t be weak”.

 

 

In order to test our own characters, we decide to pay a visit to ‘Terror Tower’, a snip at £2. At first it’s not really that scary – there are glimpses of the Bates Motel, Freddie Krueger, Dracula and a strange sideways troll woman. But Lindsey gets a scare when a giant descending dinosaur head in the Jurassic Park section makes her jump. The best is yet to come though. We hear a stamping from the corridor and then suddenly a very small figure dressed as Jason from the Friday 13th films stands in front of us, hockey mask and all, looking slightly lost yet somehow expectant. “Hello” we say and he wanders off, appearing again every now and then to follow us about a bit more, most notably in the “City Morgue”, which has bodies hanging down and strobe lights going off, like some sort of Death Disco. After that it’s on through the Predator and Alien sections until finally Tiny Jason leads us out, unscathed…this time.

 

 

We recover our nerves in a café called Winkin Willies where we drink tea and eat puddings with custard. The customers enjoy the names of the dishes, “I’ll have a big willy”, “I’ll have a small one”. The waitress is unsmiling.

Off the seafront, there are more winding streets, these ones with more old ladyish shops, including one called ‘Sing and Bling’. The Grand Hotel, where Anne Bronte died, blighted in recent years with fire and norovirus, looms overhead looking like a giant cooking pan – Industrial Oriental. We walk past the harbour and look at the boats stuck in the mud and the closed Luna Park theme park and then head back to the car park.

 

 

We had parked in a shopping centre and arrive back for 7pm assuming that, as in Brighton, the car park would stay open later than the shops, but we can’t find the entrance. We walk all around the periphery searching in vain and realise that the reason we can’t find the entrance is because it’s shut. It had closed at 6.30 and Lindsey’s car is locked inside overnight. We had already booked into and paid for a night at a youth hostel near Whitby. Also all our clothes, underwear, toothbrushes and toiletries are in the car. Oh. Shit. The Lost Promenade are stranded!

 

 

It’s all OK though because after an initial panic, we manage to find a room at Powys Lodge B&B. When Nhung phones to check for vacancies, she says ‘Hello, is this Powys Lodge or Powys Manor or something?’ which makes us all crease up in the background. But the chatty lady called Tina who runs it doesn’t seem to mind and tells us about the time she went to London and found a booking hadn’t been made at the hotel she was due to stay at, so she had to change her knickers in the back of her car. It’s our misfortunes that bring us together.

After food in a nearby pub, we all settle down under a blanket on the bed to watch another rubbish vampire film. The Lost Prom has had its closest shave with disaster yet, but everything’s going to be fine. We have temporary tattoos.

 

 

 

Lost

Car

Boggle Hole youth hostel, where we were supposed to stay the night

Nhung’s temporary tattoo – didn’t go on properly

Tamsin’s ankle – turned it on one of Scarborough’s many slopes

Cream tea – as usual we never had one

80s suit

Hairy Bob’s Cave – a feature of Scarborough apparently

 

 

Found

Book about tarot cards

Dennis Wheatley novel

Octopus-shaped keyring with the name ‘Judy’ written on it

Navy cardigan

Temporary tattoos (an eagle, a wolf and a My Little Pony)

5 postcards

2 Puffin books

2 Mills & Boon Classics

3 toothbrushes

Toothpaste

Nurofen

Moisturiser

Chocolate digestives

Terror in Terror Tower

An unexpected bed for the night

A variety of mystery items that may or may not form part of a special future Lost Promenade project

 

 

Smile

Smile

Our day in Ryde was delightful, but as we sailed back to the mainland, there was a taste of lack on the air, a softly-spoken lacuna murmuring something out of earshot. If we strained, we could just pick it up: “shopping…shopping.” Fortunately we were staying the night in Portsmouth and we still had a few hours until Gunwharf Quays outlet shopping centre shut. Maybe a mall could fill the hole?

The Lost Promenade has a guilty passion for malls. They are blank yet shiny, beetle-bright hard, simultaneously places of misery (many a time I’ve cried to myself in a mall) and mystery. There are no dark corners. Voices echo through them. And we do like to buy things. We know we’re not supposed to have any truck with chain stores and we’re aware of the ethical issues; the sweat shops, the non-unionised workforce, the many abuses. So shame accompanies a visit to a place like this, but by crikey, we do like to buy things.

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However, we leave disappointed. We thought we’d need to come back the next day, but we cover the whole complex in 2 hours. The architecture is so unmemorable that if you were to try to draw Gunwharf Quays, nothing would emerge. If it could look in a mirror it would leave no reflection and if it could walk it would cast no shadow. The bulk of the wares are over-embellished and over-priced – and we’re totally over them. The one highlight is the Wonderbra shop, which is staffed by the world’s leading expert on all things breast-related and officially the campest woman who ever lived. “Darling” this, “darling” that – we’re in for a shock though – she declares both of us are two cup sizes bigger than we thought. Nhung in particular is in denial about this. While we’re in the changing room trying to come to terms with the terrible truth, the phone rings. It’s our friend, Michelle, who is temporarily staying with her family in Portsmouth at the time of our visit – calling to arrange meeting up this evening. “We can’t talk, we’re trying on bras!”

Uplifted but downcast, we head to our hotel to check in, at the same time as several stag parties. Then we head over to Michelle’s neighbourhood, Southsea for a meal at a Turkish restaurant. Southsea is a seaside resort suburb of Portsmouth with two piers, so although we can’t see much of it by night, we resolve to return tomorrow for a closer look.

 
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Next day we’re up bright and early. Too early in fact, because the fire alarm in our hotel goes off in the small hours. We have a period of ignoring it and hoping it will stop, then an ”Oh-it’s-being-going-on-for-a-while-now-maybe-we-better-get-dressed-and-go-out-so-we-don’t-die”-Yeah-but-I-want-to-sleep-for-longer-fuck-living” type conversation. Finally, by the time we grudgingly join the pyjama’d bleary multitude on the stairs, we’re told it was all a false alarm – some div set it off trying to get out of the wrong door to the car park.

spinnaker tower

spinnaker tower

Once we’re really up, we head back to Gunwharf Quays. Nhung is still not happy about the cup size conundrum so wants to get measured again. This time we try Marks & Spencer and what do you know? According to their boob guru, she’s only a cup size more than she thought. Also, a tradition has developed, Michelle once more rings us while we’re in the changing room. “Guess what we’re doing?”

Tamsin also buys some very heavy brogues that weigh her down for the rest of the trip.

Clarence Pier
Clarence Pier

Michelle takes us along the Millennium Walk from the Quays to Southsea seafront, finishing off by Clarence Pier. It’s a flabbergasting sight. Although originally built in the 1860s, after war damage it was rebuilt in 1961. A combination of pebbledash and blue and yellow shiny cladding, topped at one end by an arrow-pointed pagoda and at the other by a flying saucer, it’s one of our favourite ever piers. What’s more there’s a Wimpy upstairs, complete with photographs of burgers that have faded so that the meat looks green.

Clarence Pier
Clarence Pier

Despite the huge temptation of that, we forego a burger and instead have a sit down at an outdoor café where we meet Michelle’s sister and her bulldog and Tamsin has the vilest ever cup of hot chocolate. Next to us is a plastic model of a cow in a red waistcoat eating an ice cream and in the souvenir shop across from us there’s an old-fashioned pram with an inflatable plastic sword dangling over it in Damoclean fashion.

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Southsea seafront still retains a collop of something quite rare in British seaside towns these days – 1950s/60s futurism. Redolent of rocket ice lollies and Ladybird books about space travel and rock pools, it’s easy to forget that when places like this were booming as holiday destinations, modernity and future-dreaming were part of the picture postcard, not just nostalgic Victoriana visions of gilded carousels and hurdy-gurdy music. It’s worth remembering that the original Butlins holiday camps were not retro palaces – they were glistening aquariums of newness and promise. Clarence Pier, with its spiky silliness contrasts with the anonymity of Gunwharf Quays, with its buildings designed to blend insidiously with its surroundings, a brick Quisling fronted with clichéd sub-Sydney Opera House pieces of cheap metal. Even the nearby Spinnaker Tower (Dubai-One-Get-One-Free) ends up looking a bit sad – like a steel ghost from somebody else’s future, although maybe in 50 years time, it too will have taken on the patina of eccentricity.

Skyways
Skyways

Into central Southsea and we finally return to our natural habitat, the charity shop, where Michelle and Nhung do very well indeed. We also find the ideal place to eat – Pie & Vinyl – boasting dark walls, chequered floors, vintage bric-a-brac and best of all, Portsmouth’s only independent record shop record shop at the back. Along with the delicious pies, we drink sarsaparilla cordials from china teapots shaped like cottages. Yes, it’s twee, but the pies are so good we don’t mind and I’m pleased to report that this time, the “liquor” that comes with the pies is 100% eel-free.

Also, in the same street there’s a junk shop in which we see a man busily painting a giant picture of some kittens. And that has to be a good thing.

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Lost

Mini eggs and spicy peanuts – accidentally left on a park bench while changing shoes
Good night’s sleep, due to being woken by fire alarm
Ridiculous trainers – Tamsin was tempted by a pair of hi-tops that looked a bit like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but Nhung dissuaded her
Southsea model village – it turns out there’s a 1950s model village there that we only found out about afterwards – pah
Interest in Gunwharf Quays

Found

Blue & white cardigan

11 bras

7 pairs of knickers

1 slip

Some antibiotics

2 DVDs

Sporty scarf

Khaki knit t-shirt

Blue chunky Aran jumper

Black velvet dress

80s cream, grey & black geometric-blocked dress

Blue skirt

Grey hooded cardigan

Jeans for £2

Concealer make-up for Michelle’s mum

1 LP

Tan leather men’s brogues

Plasters to protect feet from said brogues

Larger breasts than expected

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