A Day in Bournemouth

Vernon Coleman

I haven’t visited Bournemouth for a quarter of a century. I used to go there two or three times a year to do radio programmes when I was on book promotional tours. It always seemed to me to be a rather old-fashioned and genteel place; the sort of place that nice people put top of their list when thinking of retirement.

And so, since Antoinette had never been, we thought we’d spend a day there; just to see what it looked like.

Oh dear.

What a mistake.

First, whoever is responsible for putting up road signs seems to hate visitors. We got to within two miles of the city centre and then, abandoned, drove round and round for three quarters of an hour. I just hope I don’t get fined for inadvertently wandering into a bus lane or a cycle lane.

Second, we found almost empty car parks on the sea front but discovered that it is impossible to park there unless you have a special app on your phone. The damned machines won’t take cash at all and neither of us has the faintest idea how to find an app or, indeed, how to recognise one. I was happy to abandon the car to its fate, and pay the fine, until Antoinette pointed to a sign which threatened that cars which hadn’t been properly registered would be clamped or towed away. We ended up dumping the car in a private car park where the spaces were so small that I had to take up two of them. I parked in spaces three times but neither of us could open our doors to get out and at one point I did contemplate clambering out through the sun roof. To describe the area of the town as rough is an understatement. It could well have been twinned with Beirut. When we left the car park we were followed by a fellow who was clearly intent on mugging us. He was following very closely behind us when Antoinette, sensing something, turned and spotted him. He immediately turned off to go into a block of flats. Moments later he was back. We turned and looked at him again. This time he made as though to go into a café. Seconds later he was back behind us. This happened four times until even he realised that his attempts at subterfuge were failing and that he had probably lost the element of surprise. He suddenly turned on his heels and stood and waited at the exit of the car park.

I guess I now look well into the prime mugging age group. My parents were mugged in Cape Town and New York when they were in their 80s. You don’t really expect to be mugged in Bournemouth, do you?

Incidentally, forcing motorists to use their phones to pay for parking is very un-green and will I hope be banned soon. Mobile phones and apps use huge amounts of electricity and are consequently doing a great deal of damage to the planet.

We found the pier eventually but were very disappointed. The interesting bit at the end was closed for a private function though a kind fellow let us in to use the loos. (As long as we promised to be quiet.) There are just six benches on the entire pier. Fortunately, none of them was in use so we were able to have a picnic on the side of the pier shaded from the wind.

We also found the shopping centre. It was scruffy and rather scary and far too well equipped with empty shops.

We won’t ever be going back to Bournemouth.

Copyright Vernon Coleman November 2019