Cattle

Coloured Sand. A Prison. Level 42.

As well as all the bad memories, I’ve also got bleached-out, 70’s-style Polaroid pictures in my minds eye of a quaint, old-fashioned, little place – quite nice really. Picturesque, when it’s dry, in fact. Old London Underground tube trains, clattering along on the tiny railway line. Crazy golf. A Butterfly farm. Fountain World. The Garlic Festival. Coloured sand. Stoney beaches. A prison. Level 42.

Many years later, and with the exception of a newly added Star Wars Museum (someone’s front room with a few dusty old toys, in the middle of nowhere), things haven’t moved on. At all. Not one little bit.

In a world of rapid and radical change, it’s refreshing to go somewhere that refuses to be dragged into the crazy rat-race of mainland living. Often ridiculed by those in neighbouring Hampshire (of which I’m a piss-taking resident), as a place of in-breeding and ‘Deliverance’-style non-consensual bum sex between brothers, the Isle Of Wight is a traditional English community of historical heritage and natural beauty.

And so it was, under brooding skies, that I bought my hovercraft ‘Ticket to Ryde’ (yeah, I know, hilarious), and headed off to a rain sodden lump of rock in the Solent – to revive some painful memories and find out for myself why first cousins really shouldn’t be allowed to make babies together (sorry, couldn’t resist that one).

Home to around 150,000 people, and just a few miles off the South Coast of the UK, the IOW feels like another world in a slightly off-centre time shift. Like on most islands, life (not the ‘islanders’) is just that little bit slower. On the surface, you could be in any part of the British countryside, but dig a little deeper and you’ll notice that there’s something different going on – not in a cannibal butcher / pre-op transsexual taxi-driver / ‘Royston Vasey’ type way, but in a ‘can’t put my (non-webbed) finger on it’ kind of way. (I solemnly swear that this is the last incest joke that I will make at the IOW’s expense. Honest)

The thing is, the Isle of Wight is just a little bit weird – but in a wonderfully quirky and surprising way. It’s really not the kind of place that you’d think would have a skate ‘scene’, but it does. And it’s thriving. Thanks in no small part to the efforts and stoke of a born and inbred (his words, not mine) Islander, John Cattle and his cleverly named enterprise: Wight Trash Skateboards.

After a bouncy 10 minutes on the Hovercraft, I arrive at a very damp and miserable Ryde to meet John. The plan was to travel back to West Cowes, book into my Guest House, and go for an evening shred with some of the WT guys. As I look to the skies and at the puddles on the ground, my heart sinks as it dawns on me that we wouldn’t get much outdoor action in the next 24 hours.

John calls, he’s going to be late getting to me – there’s been an accident on the only dual carriageway on the Island (it’s about a mile long).

[Opposite: John Cattle proving that Islanders have only got the requisite, standard issue, 5 fingers]

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