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We visited Newquay because we felt its seedy grot would be a better match for Nhung’s aesthetics than a pretty-pretty Cornish seaside resort. But no-one could love Newquay the town, muck-sprayed as it is with mediocre buildings, a thousand surf shops all selling the same bland sludgy-coloured clothes and “gentlemen’s clubs” that no real gentleman would go within 50 feet of.

is this boring?

is this boring?

Our friend Arash had kindly offered to drive us there, so we spent a pleasant journey singing along to “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” and swapping stories. We were tempted to drop in at “Gnome World” on the way, but resisted, arriving in Newquay in time for lunch. For lack of anywhere better, we had chip butties in the beer garden of the Red Lion pub, which for some reason overlooks the road instead of the sea. However, we were targeted by formation-shitting pigeons, so in the end we all had to sit in a row, facing the wall, grimly chomping on our soggy nachos.

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So we had a wander through the town, but could barely stomach its crass tedium. I’ve never had much interest in surf culture, but fake surf culture is even worse. Beer-swilling, bawling cocks in hideous shorts jostle for space along the narrow streets – these are the most pointless, loathsome people in the UK; sweaty, lumpen braggarts out for “a bit of fun”, at the expense of everybody else, destined to spend their middle-age as clones of their Daily Express buying parents, with every now and then, in their witless, bovine existences, a glimmer of suspicion that there are people out there who may be having real fun, and are no strangers to truth, beauty and art. But this sort of fun is a threat to Newquay Knob’s fragile sense of self, so in his world it must be stomped on and jeered at and spat on and befouled. Not that he’s aware of his motives – he’s just “having a laugh”. Haven’t you got a sense of humour?

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Ahem, maybe veered off the subject there for a moment. In fact, one thing to note about Newquay is that nearly everybody in the town is young – and execrable as the stag party fuckwits are, they are I suppose at least providing jobs – and jobs and homes for young people are at a premium in Cornwall, decimated as it has been by self-centred, second-home owning scum, probably the parents of the aforementioned blaring fuckwits. OK, I’m ranting again, so we’d better leave the streets as soon as possible and head for the beach…and what a contrast, it’s glorious!

lets go surfing now...

let's go surfing now...

It’s huge; sweeping sands, playful sea, interesting caves, and within a minute the stench of the town is hurtled away. We clamber on the rocks, write “Lost Prom” in the sand and take snaps of surfers with man-boobs. We note that there are no emos here, though there are a type of maritime surfer/emo cross whom we christen “nemos”.

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A sandcastle competition is taking place, with entries varying from a Gaudi-esque palace to a detailed sculpture of Spongebob Squarepants, all judged by a woman wearing a pair of rabbit ears. Nhung tries to photograph some of the entries but is hampered by something she terms the “paedo barrier”, designed to keep adults out of the way. The results are announced and the kids all joyfully kick and stamp their transitory artworks back into nothingness. For them, this is the highlight of the event.

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We buy ice creams and continue our walk into the fishy-scented harbour area. We consider a day trip with a “1 hour pleasure mackerel” but it’s time to leave, so we head back to the car and let Gram Parsons soothe away our sunburns. Later on seeing, some of Nhung’s photos of Newquay, we almost forget the squalor of the town – she has depicted a mysterious, magical place with not a fuckwit in sight. Art may be a search for truth, but truth is subjective and the camera lies. If only it was always so easy to erase the fuckwits from existence.

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Lost
Layers of skin (due to unexpected sunburn)
Patience with stag party idiot culture

Found
First ice cream of the summer
Own way of seeing

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80 days around the world

80 days around the world

We walk straight down to the sea from the station and there’s a proper seasidey smell – the first of the year. The sun is blazing and children are writing messages in the sand. And oh yes! There’s a tethered hot air balloon! We’re in Torquay and it feels like we’re on our holidays.

So the first thing we must do, is go up in that tethered balloon. And let me tell you, it’s the best thing the Lost Prom has ever done. It reaches 400 metres and provides marvellous views of the tenderly kept gardens and crazy golf. But never mind the view, we’re at the seaside! We’re in the air! We’re in a balloon! We try to think of songs about balloons but don’t get much further than Nena.

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Next we attempt to find the town centre, but we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, because the only way we can find to get in, is through the back of a multi-storey car park, like a fucked-up, urine-soaked Narnia. And in terms of charity shops, Torquay that day really was Narnia, but without the Christian undertones and the beavers. We found something cool in nearly every shop. One had a collection of line dancing skirts, the next held an array of 80s Gola sportswear. A man fronting one shop answered our enquiry of how much a hat was with, “How much do you want to pay?”  He wore a magenta shirt and a puce waistcoat and tie and nearly tempted us with a blouson leather jacket and a Dynasty annual. His appearance however was misleading, we hoped he would tell us all sorts of interesting things about the town, but like all the other locals we tried to speak to that day, he was taciturn and spurned idle chit-chat. Despite this, there was a real holiday atmosphere in the air that no grumpiness could destroy.

grand hotel

grand hotel

Our next quest was to find the Lost Prom’s patron saint, Agatha Christie. We had planned to visit her old home, Greenway, but didn’t have time. So we consoled ourselves with a stop at the Agatha Christie shop by the harbour. Disappointingly, everything was very overpriced; there were no small keepsakes like bookmarks, keyrings or postcards of classic book covers. So we just took pictures of her bust and in tribute to the Queen of Crime, went for a cream tea.  At the Tudor Rose Tea Room, we scoffed scones the size of our handbags, smeared in sticky clotted cream and ruby-red jam like murder victims oozing blood and vomit. They were quite, quite delicious.

Oh no! We were going to miss our train, so we grabbed a cab back to the station and despite the words of the pessimistic cabbie; “You’ve already missed it”, we made it in the nick of time and shared our carriage home with a parrot called Kenny.

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Torquay is too cutely pretty for Nhung’s aesthetic sense, so there were few photo opportunities to be had, but despite that, and the unfriendly locals, we loved it – the sea, the flowers, the balloon, the scones, the 1930s crime, the Krankies’ yacht docked in the harbour.  This is a proper traditional seaside resort – no need for gastropubs, arts festivals and branches of Fat Face. You go there for your summer holiday (preferably in a charabanc) and you’ll be skipping around like you’re 5 years old again. Only if the sun is shining, mind. The rest of the year it probably sucks.

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Lost
Eyeliner pencil
Ice cream (didn’t have time to have any)
Agatha Christie memorabilia
Interesting conversation from locals

Found
Cream ostrich leather handbag with matching gloves
Black line dancing skirt with gingham trim
Fuzzbox single
Grey wool blazer
Fake fur hat
Blue stripy 80s New Wave sunglasses
Floral velvet jacket with leg o’mutton sleeves and tailed back
Adam Ant mug
Pink and blue Gola top
Detective novel (not Agatha – boo!)
Vintage shop we’d been looking for called Johnny China Vintage
Our Lost Youth
Our Patron Saint

up up and away ...

up up and away ...

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