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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 has a small pier, a café called Hamburgerology and a reptilarium. And that’s about it.

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 and from there on, an unending parade of 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, 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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A gang of Teletubbies have a kickaround. A passing chimney sweep lectures on the offside rule, cheered on by a tin soldier. Oh my God, Bognor is the most boring place on earth. There is nothing interesting about it, and this blog would have set new records in mundanity, if it weren’t for the fact that on the day we visited, the town was being taken over by the Bognor Beer Race, or in Nhung’s words, “Bognor fucking Mardi Gras”.
candy stripers

candy stripers

It took us a while to work out what was going on; confronted by a gaggle of men in superhero outfits, we thought it was some sort of Fathers For Justice cock-off. When we asked an assistant in the first charity shop we saw (Nhung as we arrived in town, “I’m starving, we must go to a café right now – oh, there’s a charity shop”), he barked, “I don’t know, it’s not the town council”. But eventually we got the info out of a youth dressed as Yoda. Apparently the Bognor Beer Race is a charity fancy dress pub crawl organised by students from the nearby campus of Chichester University (noted for its physical education courses…hmmm) and as such, is the highlight of the boring Bognor year.

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Oh dear. I hate to reinforce the orthodox view, (Bognor was described as “bright black with here and there a vivid streak of grey” by Tony Hancock), but try as we might, we found precious little to get excited about in Bognor, apart from the rapidly fading novelty of being trapped inside a giant stag and hen party with a bunch of bellowing future PE teachers dressed as Inspector Gadget. We went to the charity shops –they were nearly all the worst charity shops in the world, although in one, we heard a woman talking about her quest for garden ornaments shaped like meerkats with nodding heads. We went to the market – it was the worst market in the world, filled with tat, but expensive tat. We went to the pier – it was the worst pier in the world, enthused with the grim greyness of a military encampment, rather than any seaside jollity. Even the crazy golf wasn’t very crazy.

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the worst pier in the world

In 1994, an IRA bomb went off in Bognor town centre, to this day, no-one knows why Bognor was targeted. My theory is that the terrorists were passing through on the way to Brighton, and the bomb got so fucking bored of being in Bognor that it spontaneously exploded rather than face another second of being there. Strangely, William Blake, James Joyce and Dante Gabriel Rosetti have all spent time in Bognor. Great art thrives where there are few distractions it seems.

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OK, it wasn’t all bad. We found a good second hand bookshop, with a policy for exchanging your old books for new ones. Whilst in there, we heard a woman go up to the counter and mysteriously breathe, “I’ve been thinking about that pussy willow…” Heather’s Café, where we had a breakfast snack, has a sign in the window saying “A free sausage for every dog”. Nhung perked up a bit when she spotted a nice brutalist tower block. Tamsin bought a tea towel so pretty that the charity shop lady remarked, “It seems wicked to use it”. And she was right, two months later; Tamsin still hasn’t been able to bring herself to besmirch it.

i was made for loving you baby

i was made for loving you baby

Nearing the end of the day, we went for an ice cream in Poppins Café and watched through the window as 2 men dressed as bananas walked past a little old lady having her photo taken with Gene Simmons from Kiss. Then we headed back to the station to await the replacement bus service, as the trains weren’t running that day. A solitary male Little Mermaid waited at the bus stop alone. “On a scale (geddit) of 1 to 10, how stupid do you feel?” asked the bus conductor. The Little Mermaid shrugged, tucked his tail into his pants and went home to his mum. He didn’t want to miss Eastenders.

Out to sea

Out to sea

Lost
(Almost) Nhung’s bag of books – left on the pier, but reclaimed in the nick of time
Interest in Bognor Regis

Found
‘Birds of Australia’ colourful tea towel
10 Agatha Christie novels
5 1960s Puffin books
6 1970s photography manuals
3 more books, including the final George Orwell paperback Nhung needed for her collection
A-line cream, red and blue chevron-striped skirt
Roll of expired camera film
Cuticle remover cream

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no jumping

denied!

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