We've just got back from a week on the Isle of Wight, which wasn't exactly Las Vegas but perfect for Baby Babs' first holiday. It was a lovely week, we did lots and as you do on holidays bought lots of tat to bring home - fridge magnets, novelty souvenirs etc. I hadn't been to the island before and it was an eye-opener. My main memories?
1) Sunday drivers. As the island has no motorways and only one or two "main" roads, driving around isn't quite the London experience. They are great roads for rally drivers, all bends and hills, but more often than not you get stuck behind someone tootling along with no idea of the other traffic on the roads. My favourite one was an old chap who was clearly showing some friends the sights as they went along. Sadly this involved braking randomly to slow down enough to give a guided commentary on something we were passing. But not slow enough so we could overtake him. This carried on for a good half hour with Mr Babs getting more and more irate (he's a London driver through and through, I was surprised he didn't try and force him off the road) until we got to a big enough town for us to pass him. Mr Tour Guide was merrily pointing at the harbour and looked quite upset when the 20 cars that he had held up for so long sped past him giving him their not so polite opinions on his tour of the Isle of Wight.
2) Shops. Again, as someone used to London and 24 hour shopping facilities, we were quite thrown by the lack of shops. On our first day we managed to find a small supermarket so we could stock up on the essentials (beer, wine, crisps - I brought my own tea bags naturally). But it was 3 times more expensive than probably anywhere else in the world (Britain is an island too - what's with the import tax?!) and everyone in the shop knew each other and knew we were strangers. It was a bit like the League of Gentlemen - "you're not from round these 'ere parts are you?". The main town, Newport, was about the only place on the island where you could find what you wanted. Not that that is a bad thing, who needs Starbucks and Tesco Express?!
3) Local hostelries. We went out for dinner at the local pub and afterwards had a drink in the bar. I was looking after Baby Babs who was causing chaos and his dad had gone to feed his gambling addiction on the slot machines (you could hear his brain thinking "pretend it's Vegas, pretend it's Vegas") and of course I attracted the local nutters. It's quite heartening to know I haven't lost my attraction to weirdos despite being an old married (but obviously so young looking that they wouldn't think that). One was a fisherman, I gathered that, the other could have been a fisherman. Or he could have been just out of prison. Who could tell? They used Baby Babs as an excuse to keep chatting and smirking while I sent desperate looks at the slot machines to no avail. I almost asked if they didn't have to be in bed as they'd have to be up for the fishing soon. But we escaped unharmed. And everytime we drove past they were there, smoking outside, as they're not allowed to do it inside anymore. So we couldn't go to that pub again. Typical.
4) Oh so friendly shop assistants. At the main tourist attractions, the staffing policy seemed to be "employ students". And that was that. They were all to a man extremely sullen, bored looking, and completely apathetic. I know they've spent a whole summer doing the same thing for hundreds of tourists, but really. They could have at least pretended to look enthusiastic! At the Needles, the sullen staff were managed by a student barely older than they were, but who had attempted to grow a moustache to demonstrate his seniority. He was very amusing. He looked like a Chuckle Brother and his misguided attempts to enforce jollity to his staff were the stuff of stand up gold.
5) The Zoo. Main memory? Don't go to the zoo when it's raining. The animals will be indoors.