THIS ISLAND LIFE IF the battle to save Sandown were to be staged as a prize fight, the ring announcer would probably sound something like this.
'Ladees and gennulmen, we now come to the main event of the evening, for the undisputed championship of Sandown, a title recently vacated by Heather 'Honeybunch’ Humby.
'To my right, and in the blue corner, I present to you the self-proclaimed guardian of the Island’s heritage, Roger 'Wafty’ Whitby-Smith.
'To my left, and in the red corner, please welcome the undefeated champion of the working-class, Bob 'The Bruiser’ Blezzard.
'Ladees and gennulmen here in the IW Council chamber, and for bemused spectators around the IW, let’s get ready to STUMMMBBBLE!’
The struggle to rejuvenate Sandown has become focused on the future of the Grand Hotel and appears to have developed into a straight fight between these two men, who clearly come from opposite ends of the political spectrum.
The fact they both loiter under the flimsy awning marked 'Island Independents’ shows once and for all what a flawed and unworkable political hybrid we now have running County Hall, because these two have virtually nothing in common.
Cllr Whitby-Smith is director of a company which owns a number of properties in and around Ryde. He is a Freeman of the City of London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
He is an aesthete and you get the impression he regards local government as an interesting distraction which gives him something to chat about at the IW County Club, where he is a shareholder-member.
Cllr Blezzard, on the other hand, is a steely, town hall brawler, steeped in the minutiae of local government and a member of more prosaic organisations such as Hampshire and IW Local Government Association.
Cllr Whitby-Smith thinks the future prosperity of a fading town should be sacrificed on the altar of his quixotic beliefs; Cllr Blezzard knows if something isn’t done, and quick, Sandown (the town he represents and in which he lives) will die on its feet.
It is a head-on collision between idealism and realism; a fight to the death between airy philosophy and raw practicality.
Let me state Bob Blezzard is a mate of mine but we also have virtually nothing in common politically and it is only a matter of time before we butt brows in public on some issue or other. But when it comes to the struggle to provide Sandown with some sort of meaningful future — which means overturning the planners’ ludicrous refusal to allow the Grand Hotel to be demolished and replaced by a 53-bedroom hotel — he is absolutely right.
Sandown is a decaying anachronism, exemplified by the state of the Grand, an empty, unwanted and unremarkable example of art deco styling.
The town’s businesses know it, the residents know it and so, in increasing numbers, do the people who no longer choose to go there on holiday.
When I was a kid, Sandown was a delightful destination for locals, let alone tourists. It was a classic British seaside town with wonderful beaches, a traditional pier, boating lake, swimming pool, amusement arcades and all the attendant fripperies.
Times have changed but the town hasn’t. Which is why, on this occasion, The Bruiser’s pragmatism must prevail over Wafty’s high-minded ideals.
Lovely staff but why was I left fishing for chips for such a long time?
AFTER acting as Mrs N’s ever-willing pack-mule during a trudge around Sainsburys, I sought sustenance in the cafeteria upstairs.
There, greeting customers, was a large sign extolling the virtues of their 'famous fish and chips,’ made with 'line-caught, hand-battered cod’.
Perfect. 'I’ll have a portion of your famous fish and chips please.’
'Sorry sir, we’ve run out of cod.’
'What happened? Did the line break?’
Patient smile. 'No sir, there’s none available I’m afraid.’
I pointed out the immediate proximity of the supermarket and suggested it may well contain substantial quantities of eminently available cod.
'Sorry sir, we’re not allowed to acquire the fish from there.’
Why could this be? Had lines not been used to catch it? Had feet been employed to batter it?
'You could dangle a line over the balcony and ask someone to stick a bit of cod on the end? I promise I won’t tell.’
Patient-ish smile. 'Sorry sir.’
Undaunted and tolerant to a fault, we returned last Saturday and I decided to avoid the famous fish and chips, opting instead for a deceptively-simple sounding panini.
'Certainly sir. Would you like it warmed up?’
'Yes please.’ Big mistake, which was then compounded by my request for an accompanying bowl of chips.
I needed another shave by the time my lunch eventually arrived and Mrs N, having wolfed back her eminently sensible chicken sandwich, had gone off to complete her entire shop in the time it took my fairly simple repast to turn up.
In my experience, the counter and serving staff in Sainsbury’s cafeteria are, without exception, polite and pleasant people.
But could someone get the place organised so they have at least half a chance of providing a decent service to hungry customers?