Over the years, one by one, all those posh-sounding English south-coast resorts have been proved to be – once I’d visited them – completely bogus. Bognor Regis may well have been George V’s favourite spot for dipping into the waves, but today it is an unutterably scruffy, unprepossessing place.
Weymouth may conjure up images of elegant Edwardian decadence, but on a summer’s afternoon in 2012 it is largely populated by uncovered women covered in tattoos and babies. Their menfolk are either absent, or looking vacant.
Littlehampton – whose name used to put me in mind of the Daily Express cartoon flapper Maudie Littlehampton – is an eyesore.
But there are two notable exceptions. Christchurch remains the very epitome of older genteel Englishness living cheek by jowl with stylish marina-wealth. And Worthing – a real surprise this one – is a seductive blend of contemporary apartment-block design and Georgian terraces.
The traffic everywhere, however, is horrendous – and more than enough to remind me how overcrowded we are as a country. One longs for the endless, empty kilometres of French autoroutes.
I stopped off in Lyndhurst for lunch at a good pub there. The landlord is the most uncanny Tony Blair doppelganger you will ever meet. Even his manner is similar. I wonder if he’s been cultivating it.
I’m staying with a chum in Uckfield tonight. In his loo is a 2010 copy of the Viz classic Roger’s Profanisaurus. Some of the cockney rhyming slang remains hysterically funny – my own particular favourite being A crock of Douglas – for Douglas Hurd/Turd.