Sadly this time, the TV on the ferry over to the Isle of Wight had no cock-headed man of Brading Roman Villa for us to snigger at. You can’t have everything, and as it’s a sunny day on everybody’s favourite retro-racist holiday utopia, we won’t be too disheartened. Off the boat and out of the station, along a long, bleak pier; green with age and almost empty, and at the end of it? Ryde; the town on the other side of the Solent from Portsmouth.
Like the other bits of the Island we’ve been to, Ryde retains an old-fashioned, slightly musty and moth-eaten air, like velvet curtains in a long-abandoned dancehall, heavy and hushed. There are some lovely old Victorian buildings and plenty of twirly wrought-iron colonnades. A few chotzke shops are creeping in, but they haven’t reached the biddy heights of Cath Kidston yet, just some generic tealights and vague white, driftwoody items. There are also a large number of bad boutiques.
Victoria Arcade is a fascinating building with a beautiful domed ceiling at its top and a museum of Ryde heritage at its bottom. There are also various independent shops, including one specialising in breweriana and crammed with long-forgotten logos and other interesting ephemera. Sadly, the other shop selling vintage collectibles in the arcade lets itself down by not only selling the IOW’s most popular keepsake, the golliwog, not only selling WWII Nazi memorabilia but also selling contemporary items with Nazi insignia. Won’t bother buying anything from them then.
From there we move onto the Donald McGill postcard museum. Donald McGill produced some of the best known saucy seaside postcards and is associated with Ryde due to a spate of police raids and seizures of McGill cards in 1953 in the town under the Obscene Publications Act. The museum is tiny and eccentric; at the back of a cafe called The Orrery and through a vintage turnstile. Most of the jokes on the cards are incomprehensible and often revolve around the hilarity of women being overweight. There are odd almost-double entrendres a-plenty (not rude words, but words that just sound as if they should be rude). A fat woman whose child is hidden by her size, says “I can”t see my little Charlie” – since when is a Charlie a vagina? Another buxom lady says,“I’m making curtains for my back sitting room” (She’s talking about her bloomers! ROFL!). Nhung asks “So is her Charlie also her front room?” It’s all very confusing.
We stop to try and make sense of it all at Le Croute cafe and meet our old Lost Prom friends and Isle of Wight correspondents Ian and Tina, who then accompany us through town for a foray into the charity shops. There’s nothing mega-interesting, in fact Nhung – in a first for the Lost Prom, buys nothing at all. We do spot a funny little Dr Who theme shop and a couple of stores catering for the mod attendees of the town’s regular scooter rallies, including one called Boots and Camo, which mainly sells just that. As we get further into town, the prosperous outer layers seems to flake and scab and we start to see more boarded-up buildings. The town still retains an untroubled-by-modern-concerns air though. A full-scale race riot could occur on the roundabout and the locals would probably still respond with a quiet “tsk tsk” as the petrol bombs whizzed by, pausing only to make commemorative golliwogs to mark the occasion.
We cut through a residential area back to the seafront, which is fairly featureless, just an unattractive ice rink and bowling alley. There is however an odd little shop on the front, long-closed and abandoned apart from its window display, which seems to have been left in-situ since the 1960s. Plastic novelties almost obscured by thick, grey dust, like a seaside tat shop version of Pompeii, knicker elastic and headless dolls. In some ways it’s an encapsulation of the Isle of Wight . Except it’s probably the only shop on the island not to sell golliwogs.
Evacuee paper doll set and Agatha Christie bookmark (would have bought them, but the shop sold Nazi memorabilia so left in disgust)
Nhung’s hat – nearly
Anything for Nhung to buy in a charity shop
Almost the ferry home again (once more we had to leg it down the pier)
Girl comic playing cards
4 vintage postcards
Watneys Red Barrel glass and coaster
Janet Jackson single
Lots of shops selling racist knick-knacks