My Mum is a typical East End Cockney, she thinks that England just falls into a dark abyss at the end of her street and that outside London the rural areas are little more than a wet, lush green Mad Max. However she's always spoken about Bournemouth like it’s the fucking Bahamas.
Ever since I can remember she has prophesied about this jewel on the south coast that was always “too far” for us to ever visit but was a tropical paradise none the less. She spoke of beautiful sandy beaches that went on as far as the eye can see, and turquoise water that was so warm the locals didn’t need baths in their houses, they simply took the radox and a towel down the beach after work. She knew about the celebrities who lived at Sandbanks further down the coast and the exact amount they’d paid for their respective pads. I think she’s proud that there was a place she knew of in England that was as glamourous, idyllic and as expensive as anywhere on the Med.
So needless to say I’ve always wanted to see it for myself, and although I had visited a couple of times in my twenties they were brief, pissed up night time encounters. But last summer my work asked me to do a job for a fortnight there, a bit older and wiser (fatter) I knew this was my chance to properly experience the Waikiki of Dorset. Surely I’d feel like I was on holiday whilst working so maybe my old dear was onto something.
The only nagging concern I did have was for the validity of my Mums exemplary review. The fact that she hadn’t even been to bloody Bournemouth, or Sandbanks did not bode well. The brainwashed yarns she spun had all been born from the years of photos and articles she’d read in the travel supplements of the Sunday Mirror and News of the World.
Work had booked me into a B&B just around the corner from the station and only half a mile from the beach so I was optimistic. I disembarked the train and strolled out into Bournemouth, it was a balmy summers evening as I walked past the Asda and carpark and towards my accommodation. During the short walk I think I passed a dozen or so people and noticed one thing, that they could all be separated into two categories; vest and gold chain wearing skinheads clutching cans or Chinese students, Bournemouth a town of contrasts I thought.
I checked into the B&B which was a strange place, but then I wasn't surprised. I've never quite understood B&B's, generally a mad middle aged couple who can't stand the sight of each other so they decide that letting strangers bunk up in their spare rooms will ease the pain. But the bed was clean and it had a kettle so I couldn’t complain.
I decided to get out and see the beach before it got dark so I got my runners on and went for a jog. Down a terraced street past more vest wearing maniacs, over a main road, then only after a couple of big hotels the street opened up and there in front of me was the vast sea stretching out like flat plains of marine blue.
I stopped jogging and stood on the clifftop road taking it in. To my right the beach stretched for miles towards Sandbanks and the headland in the distance hiding Swanage and to my left the same all the way to another headland at Henglesbury, it was beautiful. I smiled and relaxed, and jogged down a ramp to get closer to the sand and sea. At the bottom I took a left on the promenade and began running towards Boscombe pier, families were having barbecues on the beach and a rugby team were practising drills on the sand in the warm evening sun. It all felt pretty surreal, I wiped the sweat from my face and thought, ‘I could be in California here’. The old girl was right after all.
I knew I had to get back before dark or I’d struggle to find it so just past Boscombe pier I ran back up onto the clifftop path, it led through a park of sorts and up a hill until a clearing where a couple of men were sitting on the grass ahead of me drinking super strength lager. One was sat down but the older man was stood up, well just about, he swayed a little his legs open like he was riding a horse, he was wearing white tracksuit bottoms and had no top on just a big gold chain which balanced nicely on his big round suntanned belly. He was making a noise which can only be described as growling as I passed him, ‘a few beers in the Sunshine I thought, why not?’
I was thinking of getting back to my room and giving my Mum a call just to confirm what she had always said to me about Bournemouth, what a bloody brilliant place this was. I stopped quickly for a slash in the public toilets and immediately stopped in my tracks in shock and horror (a lot of horror) at what was playing out in front of me. Two old blokes, one older definitely in his seventies was getting wanked off by his sinister younger pal. The older fella stepped back from the urinal and tucked himself back in holding my gaze but saying nothing the whole time. Meanwhile his tall skinny wanking accomplice scurried past me head down but the older one just kept his focus on me as he sauntered out, all this with the air of a man who hadn't just been caught being milked by another man in a public toilets. I didn't say a word, I just shivered and stepped onto the brick step to start pissing at which point noticed that the old creep had checked out. Yep he’d sprayed his load over the stainless steel back wall of the communal urinal. I stopped pissing because I thought I was gonna throw up in my mouth and left post-haste.
I didn't mess about with the Bournemouth sightseeing thereafter, I just got on my toes back to my B&B and locked the door. I couldn't think of anything else for a while, that old fucker had really soured an otherwise lovely evening.
From this whole experience I discovered that Bournemouth is a town of contrasts; a place where wino’s soil themselves only a hundred yards from a beautiful sandy beach and where five star hotel suites overlook crack heads fishing off the iconic piers. And most of all I learnt that you won't read any of that in a fucking tabloid travel supplement.