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beach huts

beach huts

Bournemouth is not renowned for an exotic, exciting reputation, but God knows it’s got more going for it than its satellite neighbourhoods. So quite why the Lost Prom decided to head in the wrong direction out of the train station for a long and boring walk into the suburb of Boscombe, rather than for the perhaps more varied pleasures of Bournemouth, is unknown, or at least, lost in memory. Boscombe is also known as Bosghanistan or the Costa Del Dole. It has a small pier, a café called Hamburgerology and a reptilarium. And that’s about it apart from some of the most tooth-grindingly ugly, Play Doh-faced human cold showers the Lost Prom has ever seen. In the ugly townsfolk Top 10, Boscombe scores even higher than Margate and Portslade.

It hadn’t started well; when we meet at the station, Nhung is ill, and this time it’s not due to overindulgence the night before. She has no feeling in her fingers and is almost weeping with exhaustion. It’s looking doubtful we’ll do the trip, but despite losing one of her gloves before we even set off, Nhung bravely rallies and we embark. Once on the train and warmer, she perks up and we amuse ourselves on the journey by doing personality quizzes in the paper, finishing – helped by new Lost Promenade friend, Melita – with a record result in the Guardian Weekend quiz. We are stared at intently and intensely by a woman as we change trains in Havant, but this is what happens in Havant.

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So back to Boscombe and the first thing we witness is a child with the most hacking cough we’ve ever heard. Galloping consumption in Peacocks jeggings and jelly sandals and from there on, an unendingly clompy parade of obesity and glumness. However, there are some nice art deco buildings, a second hand book shop and a record store so it’s not a total dead end. The charity shops aren’t very impressive, although there is a moment of drama in one, (run by a gentleman resembling The Old Man of the Mountain), when Tamsin manages to knock over a huge shelf of videos. Just like the clichés say, the shelf collapses magnificently backwards, in extreme slow motion. We spend the next 15 minutes, crimson-faced, picking up copies of King Ralph and Heartbeat Series 1-29 and after that, we don’t dare go into a tiny store stuffed with china in the shopping arcade, or even a shop that sells giant Y-fronts for Yetis.

meat auction

meat auction

Despite the unpromising surroundings, Tamsin and Melita are giggly and excitable, just enjoying the whole surreal school trip feeling that a Lost Prom trip always has. And Nhung finds a new pair of gloves so she’s more cheery too. On all our trips so far, there’s always been something to delight and this time is no exception, because we suddenly come upon Boscombe’s cultural highlight – its meat auction! This is what passes for street entertainment here. You can buy 150 chicken nuggets for £10 and the auctioneer performs to the enraptured crowd like he’s sunk his life savings into an Edinburgh Festival show. At one point he loudly suspects the notebook and camera-armed Lost Prom of working for the Child Support Agency. We decide to leave without any processed flesh, although the market does have some very keenly-priced avocados.

Boscombe Pier

Boscombe Pier

We head to the seafront, and we immediately know we’re in a more gentrified area when we overhear a little girl say in ringing, plummy tones, ‘I think it’s perfectly hot Daddy’. Unfortunately, although less grimy than the town, the seafront is pretty dull. The pier, with its 1950s aircraft wing style design at the front isn’t very spectacular. And although the beach is nice, it’s given an apocalyptic tone by a ton of construction work that’s going on. However, we do pass some lovely buildings on the other side, including the beautiful Deco Cumberland Hotel.

under construction

under construction

Finally we end up in Bournemouth proper and it’s not really worth the wait. Its pier has been ruined by modern ‘improvements’,-glassed in and unromantic, and the seafront is awash with a mish mash of modern architecture, all sterile, all horrid. Instead of seedy little seaside cafés, there is only a Harry Ramsdens. By this time the Lost Prom are ravenous, but we can’t for the life of us find a decent caff. We pass up through the well-kept pleasure gardens and into the high street, but not a sniff. Even the Obscura Cafe, which once housed a camera obscura looks shit, fronted by a couple of tacky statuettes. In the end we settle on a pub, the Goat and Tricycle, which is marred by big-screen sport everywhere and unremarkable food.

Bournemouth pier

Bournemouth pier

Another one of Bournemouth’s satellites, Sandbanks, in contrast to Boscombe, is the 4th most expensive place in the world to buy property, and in a survey in 2007, Bournemouth residents came out as the happiest in the UK. However, to the Lost Prom, despite the meat auction, it just didn’t feel, well seasidey enough. Bournemouth town centre felt characterless and lacking in blood, and Boscombe was probably a bit too bloody. This is of course, deeply unfair. But hey, so is life sometimes. Especially if you’re a chicken.

beach huts?

beach huts?

Lost

Glove

Guardian Guide

Any decent cafés

Lou Diamond Phillips (allegedly in Bournemouth that weekend for a sci-fi convention, but we never spied him)

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Found

China poodle shoebrush

4 children’s’ books

‘In Search of England’ by H. V. Morton

Set of 2 botany books (‘Wayside and Woodland Blossoms’ ) with beautiful illustrations

3 avocados

Black dinner jacket with interesting buttons

Lady man-hand gloves

Barbara Cartland Guide to Etiquette book

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