Open for business, but not for YOU?

Cat James

Are there Isle of Wight natives who have yet to bob across the Solent to set foot in Hampshire? Perhaps just one or two (red) squirrelled away in the crags of the Undercliff or clinging steadfastly to the (blue) slippery slopes of Blackgang.

For some that short stretch of water is a curse, with up to an interminable hour to cross. And, during the summer, the cost of a vehicle passage can make your purse… well, purse its lips.

If your pleasure is budget fashion or spicy chicken your anticipation might be enhanced by a slow cruise to the alluring twin twinkles of Primark or Nando’s. But back in the olden days, when such venues were open, you probably didn’t appreciate the extra layer of timetable jeopardy a visit to a gig or theatre entailed. Will you have to leave before the encore, or end up staying for the ovation and forking out for a bed for the night?

The flip side of our natural barrier is the literal sense of separation it gives us from The Other Side. For all its yin, the Solent’s yang gifts us with a slower pace of life; special wildlife and, in 2020, a degree of isolation from COVID-19.

Because of its detachment, the Island has a welcome tier one status; one of only three such areas in England. This means that our hospitality venues can be open and, unlike in tier two, pub landlords don’t have to find ingenious ways to pimp a bar snack into a substantial meal.

What it also means is that the Island, once again, has been in the nation’s consciousness as a (relatively) virus-safe place to visit. Despite understandable caution from some quarters, in the summer the Island reopened for business with the exhortation “Wish you were here.” And, with international travel bringing extra risks and even more tedious airport screening than usual, people came in their droves.

But should we be careful what we wish for? The prospect of booze cruise revellers descending on the Island’s ports and onward to its bars has frothed up a social media storm. Those whose keyboards are permanently wedged on CAPS LOCK, may grudgingly extend the hand of welcome to boutique BnB guests who want to enjoy a nice meal out during their stay – but not YOU, you ‘irresponsible’ daytrip binge-drinker. Coming over here, spending your furlough dough in our COVID-19-secure bars and restaurants? Not likely.

Perhaps we could have segregation for other incomers. Want to retire to the Island? Slip your clothes off behind that screen, then answer a few questions. Are you related to a Caulkhead?  Do you have your own hair and teeth? Will you require use of the local hard-pressed social care system? While we’re at it, how about we make it harder for ‘foreigners’ to come here too, even if they want to work in those same care homes. Oh yeah, we’ve already had that debate – and it resulted in the potential apartheid that is Brexit.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 11 December 2020 and also online.

Cat James

Graphic designer, creative director of Pinkeye Graphics, Isle of Wight County Press columnist, Cat out of Matt and Cat

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