Festival or not – how can this be a fair fare?

By Keith Newbery

Published on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 16:02



The sacrifices I make for the sake of this column are nobody’s business — but I think you should be made aware of them anyway.

Firstly, I have to endure the sullen gazes of Freemasons, who don’t know I know they wear the symbolic pinny but are unable to contain their resentment anyway.

Now I am jeopardising the supply of dandelion souffle and homemade wine from La Hofton (dahlia and dewberry is a special favourite) because I am about to trample all over her tender tootsies again.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, I have been obliged by public demand to return to the vexed subject of Wightlink, whose reputation among most Islanders still stubbornly refuses to glow, despite rousing epistles from the company’s chief executive, such as the one published in the County Press last week, which came complete with everything except tassles and ra-ra skirts.

As a consequence, I fully expect the Cellar-Dweller to refrain from carrying out her trip to the local offie each morning to collect my copy of The Star and a four-pack of Newcastle Brown, because she can be very vindictive like that.

Mrs Belinda Clarke, of Bembridge, whose father, the splendid Bruce Sothcott, appeared in a couple of musicals I co-wrote with Robin Burnett more than 40 years ago, got in touch to tell me how the company exploited her Island-born son to the tune of almost £200 for a return trip between Portsmouth and Fishbourne.

She wrote: "Our son joined the Royal Navy in 2010 and obviously, when he has some leave, he likes to come home and see his family.

"He managed to get the 7pm ferry from Portsmouth on April 4 and was charged £98.85 for a one-way ticket.

"He questioned the price and was told he could have a period return for another £50, making a grand total of £148.85.

"Once home he realised the ticket was only valid until April 14, even though he had specifically told them he was returning on April 21.

"He rang Wightlink to inform it of its mistake and that he wished to return on the 21st. For the privilege of the company correcting its own error, he was charged another £48.95, making a total of £197.80 for a standard car-and-driver return.

"No wonder the holiday trade is suffering on the Island. People can fly to the Mediterranean and back for far less."

A day later, Ray Winter rang and he gave me the chuckle that ranges somewhere between despair and disbelief.

"You’re never going to believe this," he said, "so I’m going to send you copies of the computer print-outs as proof."

Every year, Raymond organises a golf trip to the mainland for 15 like-minded chums and a mini-bus.

This is a supreme act of faith on their part because Mr Winter, you may recall, once test-drove a Skoda in Austria and managed to end up lost on an Italian mountainside, to the consternation of the local carabinieri.

Nonetheless, he was designated to get prices from Red Funnel and Wightlink for a journey due to begin on Thursday, June 12,

at 8.30am and return later that day.

The price from Red Funnel was £81 for vehicle and passengers, while Wightlink came up with an eye-watering £620 for the same trip.

Yes, £620. It’s not a misprint.

June 12 is, of course, the first day of the IW Festival and one must assume the attendees will have arrived and be safely ensconced in their bivouacs but the Wightlink computer was obviously still in profiteering mode.

Festival or not, what possible justification is there for Wightlink to charge Islanders (or anyone for that matter) such extortionate prices?

Andrew Turner has done everything in his power to bring this lot to account, and it is a brick wall against which he should continue banging his head.

The EU is not good for much but surely there is something in its commodious vaults crammed with company legislation which prevents such crude exploitation of a captive market?

A tongue-in-cheek anatomy of metaphors

For a man already desperately positioning himself to become the Island’s MP after next, Cllr Chris Whitehouse seems sadly lacking in worldly wisdom.

He appears unaware, for example, that parts of the human body are frequently used in metaphors to describe human emotions.

Let me enlighten him a little. There are examples like lacking heart (cowardly), poking one’s nose in (unduly inquisitive) and a knife between the shoulder-blades (an act of treachery).

This all brings us, inevitably, to clenched buttocks in general and Cllr Whitehouse’s in particular, which I used a lifetime ago to describe his reaction to the harmless "stunning women" tweet on the Southern Vectis site.

Cllr Whitehouse wrote to the CP last week to describe my reference to his nether regions as "distasteful", so for his benefit I should point out that tensing one’s gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus means (how best to put this?) displaying faux outrage about something others regard as


It is probably presumptuous of me to offer a "PR consultant" some PR advice, but here goes.

Perhaps the good councillor should get everything off his chest — if he will pardon the rather indelicate anatomical expression.

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