You all know that joke by now. Q. How many folks from the Isle of Wight does it take to change a light bulb? A. CHANGE?? We don’t like change!
The Island has us in its thrall. We like encountering the same faces in the same places. If we’ve been here long enough we navigate using long-decommissioned landmarks: we know where everything is in relation to where the post office used to be. And wasn’t your dad at school with your cousin’s uncle?
Yet every minute of every hour of every day we inch closer to the abyss. In 1991 I blinked and the next thing I know I’m being presented with a paperweight by my employer, in recognition of my twenty-five year’s service. A quarter of a century spent on my commute, shuttling between Ryde and Newport. I miss that horse and sheep in the meadow at the top of Lushington Hill. I watched them grow old and now they are gone.
I have a pal who emigrated to Australia. Before he made the bold move from East Cowes to Melbourne he relocated to a dismal part of London, reasoning it would be too easy to stay in his safe but unrewarding job on the Island. So he took baby-steps to get as far away as possible; first renting a miserable bedsit in a grotty London borough. On the corner outside the off licence begged the self-styled ‘rudest tramp in London’, whose modus operandi was to squat on a bread crate with one hand outstretched while shouting “****” at passers by. After a few joyless months in this deteriorating dystopia my friend gleefully fled to the Lucky Country.
If he’d have stayed on the island my chum would probably still in his corporate pinny, working that supermarket veg counter, so I can sort of see why he made things so grim for himself that he had an imperative to relocate to the other side of the world. I have no such desire, nor circumstances remotely bad enough for me to consider leaving. I have a view of the sea, an enjoyable hobby and the most famous man on the Isle of Wight once bought me a drink. That’ll do me.
But what about the next generation? Change? They court change. So much so that Ryde-based punk band Grade 2 have a track on their new album – itself called ‘Break the Routine’ – in which they “Got to escape this time-warped town”. I was delighted when they dedicated their song Groundhog Day to me at a gig earlier this year, but am fully aware that they were most likely taking the mickey. Yes, perhaps I do fear unknown territory – otherwise known as change.
This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 25 August 2017.