Thursday, May 05, 2005

Flags pt3


Tracy was feeling run down a couple of weeks ago and we agreed that she needed a couple of days away from London. When the two of us first met we used to trip regularly around the country. We do very little of that these days. High travel and accommodation costs, traffic congestion and a terrible rail service have combined to take the fun out of travelling the UK. The few times we do go away for the weekend we travel to Europe. Bizarrely, a two day trip to somewhere like Brussels, staying in a discounted five star hotel, works out cheaper than staying in a crappy guesthouse in Lyme Regis for the weekend. Go figure.

Anyway, Tracy wanted to get away and suggested a weekend in Antwerp. I countered by suggesting that we go somewhere really foreign and exotic instead. I suggested Great Yarmouth …

Yes, Norfolk, the English Louisiana. It’s flat, it’s marshy, people don’t travel much, and children with big ears and extra fingers abound. A popular destination for people on boating holidays that is just begging for a remake of Deliverance to be set there.

Quoting directly from the Great Yarmouth tourist guide:

“Greater Yarmouth buzzes with events throughout the year. On the sporting front, there is the World Indoor Bowls Championship in January and the horseracing fixtures run from April to November. The Yarmouth Stadium present greyhound and stockcar racing all year. Festive events include a special Christmas show at the Hippodrome Circus and the Christmas Fayre, where you can track down those perfect Xmas gifts at the craft fair with a Scandinavian twist. Great Yarmouth has a rich and proud maritime heritage and once boasted being the one of the wealthiest town in Britain on account of its prosperous herring industry. In 1724 Daniel Defoe was compelled to say that the town had "the finest quay in England, if not Europe".

Without committing an extensive travel diary to the web the most characteristic features of our two days in Great Yarmouth included:

  • Staying in the hotel which Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield. Our room retained many original features from Dickens’ time; including the bedding, electrical fittings and washing facilities. The bookshelf in the Lounge area contained two tatty Agatha Christie novels and the John Player Golf Yearbook 1974.
  • An extensive seafront lined with old people staring out to sea contemplating Death
  • A tired pier (Soundtrack: Early 1980’s hits, especially Yazoo)
  • Numerous seedy arcades (Soundtrack: Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre)
  • Several run down pubs (Soundtrack: Walking on the Moon by The Police)
  • Many boarded up business
  • A strong multicultural presence consisting of one Chinese takeaway and a curry house
  • Tired cafes occupied by old and middle-aged people drinking cups of boiling hot tea
  • No sign of a Starbucks all day
  • Shops selling usually hard to find items such as gollywogs, air pistols, Chinese fireworks and flick combs
  • The all-pervading smell of stale cooking oil

There was no sense of playful post-modern irony about the place. This was how it was. Nor was there any mystery as to the source of stale fat smell. Yarmouth is infested with dozens of makeshift chip stands and is unquestionably the alfresco fried potato eating capital of the World. During Saturday lunchtime in particular the entire population of the town turned out onto the streets to eat chips. Hundreds and hundreds of people eating chips. At one point I stood in the centre of Yarmouth market square and everyone in my field of view was either:

  • Waiting to buy chips
  • Eating chips
  • Smoking
  • All of the above,

OK, that’s not strictly true. One couple was eating doughnuts. We tried a few ourselves and they tasted, to no-one’s surprise, like sugar coated, jam-injected chips.

It was clear that Yarmouth’s extensive port facilities and the huge expanse of agricultural land that surround it are straining at full tilt just to keep the town supplied with the potatoes and vegetable oil necessary for its continued existence

So, what’s my point?

Those two days in Yarmouth were like stepping back 25 years in time. The last time I encountered such retro-shock was during disco night in a pub in Rotherhithe a few months ago.

Being old enough, but only just, to remember how things used to be I managed too spoof the folks in that South London pub and in Yarmouth into thinking I came from the same planet that they did.

The truth is I don’t.

With notable the exception of isolated pockets such a Rotherithe, you’ll see more change in 12 months in London than in 12 years in somewhere like Great Yarmouth. The majority of people who live in places like this, and there are still millions of them, haven’t a f*cking clue what’s going on. They are white, monocultural and very English. Our ruling class hates them. And they face a dismal future in a multicultural society where the only culture frowned upon is their own. The Great White Tribe is going the way of the dinosaurs and everyone knows it.

Some of them are a little pissy at the thought of that.


Sparkling said...

I didn't think I had been to Great Yarmouth, or was it just called something else?
The world is getting smaller, and yet you can travel 'down the road' and be so much further away than if you travelled abroad.

Stef said...

Aye, globalisation can do that to a country ...