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Ages ago, I asked a geek to set-up my home computer network to block the Daily Mail website. Sure, the occasional zelebrity wardrobe malfunction was moderately amusing, and who doesn’t want to see how Brooklyn Beckham is ‘all grown up’? But I decided to shield myself from its biliousness; undermining of individuals, entire cultures and general whipping up of hatred. Take those shlock stories about young people and binge-drinking. Reportage-style photos of swaggering youths with blood-spattered faces in some middle-England town. Up-skirt shots of vulnerable drunk teenagers lying on the pavement, using a cheap handbag or a cooling kebab as a pillow.
Back in my youth, my studenty chums and I visited bars to chat about the ozone layer, or how cool it would be if you could have an eye on the end of your finger. Nowadays I normally only go to pubs for dinner. However, at the end of March I took rare advantage of happy hour on Newport’s leisure strip; that bit of town between the Guildhall and County Hall where the vertical drinking establishments ply their trade. Buy-one-get-one free cocktails are a great social lubricant and my friends and I lined up our drinks, sipped their fruity contents and stared about us. At the far end of the room was a DJ. Someone in a baseball cap fiddled with the lighting. The bar staff stood about in patient anticipation. It was like that scene in the Inbetweeners film where the gang of four are lured into a suspiciously quiet nightclub.
We looked out of the window. Three civil enforcement officers were pointing at coned-off parking spaces. A posse of street pastors sauntered by, pausing to chat to the door security staff and a couple of bobbies. There were more people outside the pub than in it, and all were a variant on community safety functionaries. We were heartened to see that our safety and wellbeing were well-resourced.
There was an accidental spillage of drink. When I lived in Portsmouth this would’ve been the catalyst for a bit of argy-bargy and perhaps, after a few minutes of aggressive pushing, some screeching of the “It ain’t worth it” calibre. But not this time. A cloth was procured, the liquid mopped.
Where was everyone? The only young fella in sight told me to try the Bargemen’s Rest, but even he was on his way home. I was expecting to be jostled into a corner by Newport’s beautiful people, feeling like someone’s nan who’d stumbled into the Magaluf coach instead of the turkey-and-tinsel charabanc. My night on the razzle in Newport was a bit of an anticlimax but in another, more joyous way, I was thrilled that the Isle of Wight confounded the mendacious tabloids.
This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 7 April 2017.