Rambles in Portsmouth (And Beyond)
As a native of the Isle of Wight, (please hold all jokes until the end of the article), I get the indescribable pleasure of using the Wight-link ferry on a regular basis. My craft of choice, out of the three available, is the car ferry. Not because I own or trust myself to drive a car, but because it’s cheaper, slower and all around funnier. Let me describe a typical journey.
First things first, you get your arse to Fishbourne, where from the ferry departs. You buy yourself a ticket from the ticket-shack, get evil-eyed by the cashier, pause briefly to have a heart-attack over the price of a drink from the shop and then proceed to the jetty. After waiting however long it takes for your vessel to arrive, during which time you will most likely have an cross-eyed old man try to sell you a Tesco-bag of assorted fish-viscera (as is the way of the Wight), you may board. Foot passengers board first, so be sure to make rude hand gestures at the rows of patient motorists as you do so, then pray none of them find you once aboard.
The floating tank in which you now find yourself, is comprised of 5 levels. Two car decks, a coffee lounge, the deck and the bridge. To access the stairwells, you must first pass a set of bulkhead doors, which are opened by pressing a big yellow button to their right. This will be the highlight of the journey. Be warned that these doors slide shut whenever they bloody well feel like it, so ten points if you can time it right and squish a pensioner. That’s one less person in the queue for coffee.
If you managed to drag yourself up the three flights of stairs, you will now enter the lounge, which is basically a floating, more expensive Costa. These places are well known for their ability to turn even the most upstanding member of society into a self-obsessed, post-ironic hipster who will pull a laptop out of thin air and set to work writing a screenplay. Fuelled by a mixture of insecurity and lukewarm latte macchiato. So just grab a few sugar packets for sustenance and make a bee-line for the nearest door to the deck.
The deck is cold, damp and most likely crammed with smokers. But it’s preferable to the post-ironic orgy that is currently occurring in the lounge, as legions of grizzled truck drivers hammer out the next bestseller onto numerous crumb-riddled keyboards. So just find a spare stretch of rail and try to resist the urge to jump. It is here you will find the only enjoyable moments of your journey, as you watch the Isle of Wight slowly slide away into the mist. The hill fires of the blood-cults fade from view and all seems right with the world. This will be shortly ruined as the half-sunken grey mess known locally as Portsmouth hoves into view.
The remainder of the voyage will be spent gazing up at windows of the bridge, mentally willing the captain not to spill his cup of Tetley on the control panel and send us all down to get Davy Jones’ autograph. (Who the hell is Davy Jones anyway?) If you find yourself bored, simply move to the bow or stern and see if you can spit on someone’s windscreen. Bonus points if they left the sun-roof open.
Finally you will near your destination. As the Spinnaker Tower looms menacingly above you, you may recall as I have many a time, that we are supposed to call it the Emirates Spinnaker Tower now. At which point you will laugh sardonically, turn to leave and contemplate that even at sea, you will never escape the mixture of hilarious social incompetence and slow, grating boredom that is the British Isles.