A Reading Rose Part Three

woke at a reasonable time with a planned meeting time with Kathy of 9am, a time which on a Saturday I am not accustom to, but as we had a journey to the coast it was wise to set off reasonably early. Anyway I took part in my morning ablutions and made myself a not-so damn fine cup of coffee while packing for the day; the forecast said rain so I doubted that’d be any paddling going on, but knowing there was a swimming pool in the area I packed my swim shorts and a towel just in case. A towel for any day trip is essential and I nearly always pack one with me just in case, you see the world is full of things. Whether it be sudden downpours of rain, aggressive tides, or a variety of unpleasant people who want to beat you, kill you or do you, it is important to remember where your towel is and they come in extremely useful should any hyperspace jumps need to be made. Once packed I studied my directions to Kathy’s humble abode and made my departure, with plenty of time to spare. It turned out to be a very short journey to her house and I parked up just outside her house and was greeted by the warmth of her beautiful smile quickly followed by the lovely young lady herself, we exchanged morning pleasantries and I handed her her very much belated birthday gifts which were DVDs of the original Evil Dead trilogy and the recent remake. She invited me in and I was introduced to both of her parents and her dog and cat. The dog, Rosie, managed to unclip the dog gate and jumped on my lap for a fuss which apparently is unusual (never once met a dog who hasn’t taken to me). Rosie is a friendly little dog who due to eczema issues was mostly bald and as a consequence was wearing a jumper, not that this stopped her being a little fuss pot. We had a cup of tea while I discussed the travel route with Kathy’s father, it was relatively simple follow the A33 and join the M3 then M27 but just in case I had my GPS on standby on my phone. We packed up the considerably large picnic the delightful Kathy had prepared for us and made for the off, only stopping off en route so Kathy could stop at the cashpoint. The journey was relatively simple and very little traffic was encountered except on the outskirts of Basingstoke where there was a series of roadworks going on but nothing major. Most of the journey to the M3 took us a lot of green belt area and I noted a few pubs and hotels which we could call in on the return for an evening meal. The one which caught my eye was a pub called the Jekyll & Hyde which was a pub owned by the Badger brewery and I made a mental note that it would be my first choice of dining. I let Kathy choose the first bit of music for the journey, she had bought in quite a collection of CDs to listen to so I was intrigued to hear what would come out first. As we drove a long the familiar strains of Mr Blue Sky filled the air, this was a ‘best of’ compilation of the Electric Light Orchestra, a band I haven’t really listened to a lot but are by no means bad. This was a deliberate choice on behalf of Kathy as that was the album her dad used to play in the car when they went to Southsea when she was a little girl and as result this was something a nostalgia feast for her and part of the reason why she suggested we go there. The journey on the motorway was fairly simple and as we drove on I had a sudden recognition of some of the road signs, nearly 12 years ago I had travelled this route to go Brackleshum Bay for a Trad Jazz weekend at South Downs Holiday Village organised by drumming ace John Petters, it would seem that this part of the coast connected Kathy and I more then we thought. The only got a little confused when it came to which exit to leave for Portsmouth, when I visited Julie I do recall the junction I got off at took me over a bridge over a body of water but I couldn’t remember which exit it was. Not that it really matters as pretty much with Portsmouth providing you head to the sea front you’ll eventually end up in Southsea and that is pretty much what the sign posts said once we were off the motor way. I did ask Kathy if she could remember and it transpires she was not kidding that it wasn’t a wise idea to ask her directions. It was a fairly simple drive to town, hampered only slightly by part of the road being close due to the Race for Life. As we drove the familiar opening of Mr Blue Sky began again and the disc had come full circle. So at the next traffic lights I switched the disc to Two of a Kind; A duet album by Bobby Darin of Mack the Knife & Beyond the Sea fame, and songwriter/singer Johnny Mercer with the Billy May Big Band. It is a very entertaining banter filled album with many standards such as (Back Home Again in) Indiana, I Ain’t Gonna Nobody of My Jelly Roll, Mississippi Mud (a more lyrically acceptable version with the word people subbing the term darkies) and of course the titular track. As we looked for a parking space I noted a pub declaring it had “music performed by live musicians”, I guess somewhere in Southsea there is a pub which has dead musicians performing. We finally found a spot near our destination and spent a huge amount of time paying over phone by card because rather than have a person on the end of the line it is a good damn automated service which is no good for touch screen phones. After the rigmarole was over, it was impossible to notice that the sun was beginning to peak out from behind the clouds, we had arrived at our destination and it was a beautiful day for beautiful company. We set off towards the arcade and I noted that the Wimpy Bar was still there after the 9 years since my previous visit, I wonder if it is the last Wimpy bar in the UK. Now, for my overseas readers, your image of England Seaside towns may well be perpetrated by classic Seventies sitcoms and old Postcards depicting trams, red Phoneboxes and a huge amount of people sitting on benches eating Fish and Chips from old newspapers. Sorry to destroy the image but its not really like that any more, you only really get Trams in Blackpool, Fish & Chips just come wrapped in greaseproof paper and the red Phoneboxes…. well they are silver and no longer Phoneboxes but cashpoints. I withdrew some money and we headed into the first arcade with Kathy intent on winning a Minion for her work colleague, a cuddly toy for the dog and a few other bits and pieces. These various items were all prizes in the claw machines (think the space rocket game in Toy Story) and as of that point I had yet to see anyone win on the machines. I’ve tried myself many times but every time I did get a prize, the claw would open up and drop the prize before it reached the prize shoot. Kathy, it transpired, would be the first person I’ve ever seen win at one of these games.

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