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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

 

 

Neptune Cafe

Neptune Cafe

The Internet doesn’t like the Isle of Sheppey. Widespread opinion seems to be that it’s violent and grim. Our pre-trip research reveals reams of poisonous and condescending lines written on the place; it’s the fight capital of Britain, second roughest place in the UK after Chatham, a holiday spot for cockney hardmen too lazy to go to Spain and so snarkily on. We also learn that it’s home to several major industrial installations, a sprawling dockyard, 3 prisons, an army of caravans and a thriving population of scorpions. It sounds like just the Lost Promenade’s kind of place, but, as we park, in the island’s biggest town, Sheerness, the baleful stares of loitering teens seem to confirm the stereotype. However, our worries are misplaced; everybody we speak to is incredibly friendly and we generally have a bumper fun-packed time.

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We knew it was going to be good, travelling over the bridge onto the island, “oohs” and “aahs” chorus through Lindsey’s car as we spot exciting looking industrial structures – complex pipes like metallic entrails, a mysterious long blue tunnel-type thing – the first charity shop we visit has a poster that says ‘Happy as a Pig in Shit’. They must have read our minds.

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Back to that first charity shop and Nhung and Lindsey head blankly and simultaneously towards a video called ‘Ice Road Truckers: The World’s Deadliest Roads’ as if hypnotized. They only just manage to conquer a perplexing urge to buy it, and Nhung is able to save her pennies later for a WW1 flying helmet she falls in love with.

labour hall

The town centre is fairly unmemorable. And every SINGLE charity shop has an old wedding dress in it. Could this be the island where romance goes to die?

There’s a sign that says ‘Swimming Pool Chemicals’, apropos of nothing, lots of wrestling posters and a mill without its sails hidden behind some gates, but as we peer into one window, we see people making lanterns (for an upcoming parade) accompanied by two others on harmonicas. And best of all, we find an amazing eating spot – the Beano Café. Its theme is of course, the comic and the walls are covered in homemade drawings and knitted figures of Dennis the Menace. However there’s also a random mixture of other images; Elvis, Spiderman, the Royal Wedding and a poster of Michael Jackson with the slogan “King of Pop.” It would have been nice to have some Freddie Krueger snaps to compare jumpers with Dennis, but you can’t have everything.

Tantra

The seafront is surprisingly bleak with a pebbled beach and a grey concrete seawall. There’s one amusement arcade, a barren looking nightclub called Tantra and a big sandpit. There’s not much to see here, so we head to the outskirts of the town, and the area called Bluetown, originally built to house the dockyard workers.

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We park near a garden gnome factory with a forecourt full of stone ornaments that seems to never end. Life-size Roman centurions, scantily clad goddesses, yawning eagles and cod Easter Island heads all crowd surreally into one space like a concrete platoon. This area is fascinating; eerily quiet, cobbled and full of boarded-up old pubs and a sex shop, in which we overhear, perhaps one of the finest Lost Promenade quotes of all time; “My mum’s a GILF. Not that I’d like to fuck her. But people do.”

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It’s going to take a lot to top that, so we decide to leave Sheerness and have a quick drive around the rest of the island. Amongst the caravans and suburbs, we spot a heartbreakingly derelict art deco house, more amusement arcades and a burned down hut and we try to get near the prisons, but it’s restricted access. We console ourselves with some fries and milkshake action at Mickey’s Rock Diner – all retro décor and posters advertising future Chicory Tip performances – despite it being on the wrong side of the motorway to get home, we can’t resist.

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Perhaps I haven’t made enough notes for this trip, but for some reason; my memories of the actual appearance of the island are remarkably hazy. But I do remember we liked the place. The Internet may not care for the Isle of Sheppey. But the Lost Promenade do.

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Lost

1930s wedding dress (the nicest of the charity shop wedding dresses, but too small for any of us)

Ice Road Truckers: The World’s Deadliest Roads video

A pier (we understood from our research that Sheerness had one, but we didn’t see it)

A peek at the prisons

Chicory Tip show

Memories of Sheppey

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Found

Brown v-neck jumper with a fish motif

3 Mills & Boons books (Nhung has decided to start collecting them for the cover art)

Holiday souvenir Florida mug

Lint comb

WW1 flying helmet

Scorn for internet bullies

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