Sunday, 8 March 2009

Across the great divide

This weekend I went down to south to see some family. To Christchurch, to be exact, which is just oustide Bournemouth. The new Morrissey album was played over and over again in the car, as well as both Housemartins studio records. I'm not stuck in the past, honest.

There's a lot of rot talked and written about the north-south divide, but there's a definite sense of coastal towns on the south coast being more affluent than their northern counterparts. My father-in-law was telling me that the beach huts on a beach near Highcliffe were thirty-two grand a year to rent. The ones down the road in an even posher area were over a hundred thousand. This is basically for renting a garden shed on a beach that is freezing cold for six months of the year.

I'm sure I'm generalising massively, but everything seems so well maintained down there. And I really didn't feel as comfortable strolling down the sea front at the weekend as I do whenever I visit Scarborough or Morecambe or Skegness or, of course, Cleethorpes. Faded glamour is overrated, but it's not half as overrated as a beach-side cafe that sells grape and brie sandwiches.

I also went to Southampton, which I'd never visited before. Post-war town planners have a lot to answer for, that's all I can say. In Southampton, it seems to me as though some knobs in the city hall played a drunken game of pin the tail on the donkey when it came to working out which roads would go where after it was bombed so heavily during the last war. We went around one baffling road junction-cum-roundabout, and stood in the middle of the massed lanes of traffic were a row of houses that looked ridiculously sorry for themselves. But not as sorry as the poor sod who was coming out of his front door at the time. Horrible, really. Oh, but it has a new, large city centre Ikea. Big wow.


Simon said...

Well, famously Sandbanks a bit further down the coast has the most expensive average property prices in Britain (although when I spent a week down there last year I found a really quite cheap and well maintained flat literally a couple of minutes' walk from their explosion in an art deco factory). Harry Redknapp lives there. About eight years ago I almost literally bumped into him and Jamie coming back onto the pavement off the beach where they were walking a mangy dog.

But yeah, I'd broadly agree about the coastal divide. Even in mid-summer you can go especially out east and even if the sun is at its highest you're preparing yourself for whipping coastal winds, large expanses of half-wet sand covered in shells with small shallow pools where the tide once came in, and a seafront entirely populated by abandoned pubs and amusement arcades predominately featuring those machines you put 2ps into in the vague hope of winning a plastic brooch.

A layer of chips said...

A-ha! I think it was Sandbanks my father in law was talking about, yeah. Crazy, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

You have clearly never been to Margate.