So I was kinda interested in discovering whether the style and grace of a lot of Londoners had spanned its wings and ventured further afield. Past the suburbs of Walthamstow and Chingford, down the A406, through Buckhurst Hill and Loughton and ever speeding down the motorway towards the wonder that is Southend. It hadn't. They were at least 15 years behind the rest of us. Some, if not most, had no teeth. Weather beaten men in shiny leather jackets were gambling on the shitty fruit machines at 10am, some were on the john smiths. And for some reason, 70% of these Southenders were steaming around on mobility scooters. They were actually pulling up to the bar, parking up, jumping off and strolling to the toilet with ease. Yes people, Southend truly is Tower Hamlets by the sea. It's a shit hole.
Miss Kate Ford and I (she looks remarkably like the Pint Sized Snapper, who was spotted at the superhero convention) settled down outside a lovely pub called 'The Hope;' apparently an 18th Century Coach House, with as much charm as the Nelson Mandela Estate. I set up shop, hoping to spot the trendy amongst the crowds. There were no trendy people, there were no crowds. I remember as a kid, getting in the car for a day out by the beach. I thought it was brilliant. I would buy my bucket and spade, settle amongst the obese, shell suit wearing, mullet sporting Essex dwellers, and quite happily dig up the toxic waste and swim in the piss sodden sea.
I witnessed kids of this generation doing the same thing. Poor bastards.
Last year when I was bumming around the world, I stopped at a place in the middle of the desert called Las Vegas. Apparently stars such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and even Barry Manilow have graced the towering hotels along the strip. In Southend, I could imagine Bernard Manning, Jim Davidson and Rick Waller donning their Sunday best to wow the locals. They would love it.
This gentile looking fella was on the hard stuff at 9.30am. Sporting a greased back look, brown fleece, leather look coat and Rockports, he was the pick of the bunch outside the Hope Hotel. With trademark homemade tattoos and a distain for people who 'aren't from these parts'; the Willie Nelson look was attracting the toothless women cruising by on their scooters. A true Southender to the core.
I spotted this guy and his Mrs sitting outside the pub (can you see a pattern emerging here) I loved his clip on aviator style shades, his native American tee straining to cover his ale filled stomach, blue plastic bag, retro tattoos and week long stubble. Obviously gasping at 9.45am, a nice pint was just what the doctor ordered.
Now, I would never mock a human being for having a disability. It truly is a dreadful thing to live with. But I believe I have the right to question people who zoom around on their scooters, only to get up onto their feet to change up a tenner for the one arm bandit machine. Have I missed an advertisement along the way somewhere? Is Southend the place to migrate to when our legs let us down?
An amazing return to form here for this lovely looking lady. The 'number 1 wag' top was the best item of clothing I saw all day. Teamed with peroxide hair, with roots growing through, and a couple of kids in tow, this lady caught the eye. I actually did some digging and rumour has it she was spotted leaving Jermaine Defoe's flat in the early hours of last Saturday morning.
So this guy was my most stylish man of the day. Tracksuit bottoms, Velcro sandals with socks, an ill fitting Ben Sherman style shirt, 80s specs and baseball cap. I caught him loitering outside the pub. Majestic.
So, I think I may have to travel back towards London to spot the style conscious amongst us, because I think the people of Southend worry about other things. After all, the scooters don't run for free, the dental bills are a nightmare and the bar tabs are sky high. So, if you fancy sharing a toilet with a random on a night out, or sunbathing under a grey sky, or paying over the odds for a bag of doughnuts, Southend beats the South of France every time. Maybe I'm just a cockney snob, but give me the big smoke any day of the week.
So, after a spot of crazy golf, a go on the 'Rage' roller coaster, about 6 pints, a greasy hot dog and a deep fried doughnut, I thought it was time to jump back in the supervan and get back to Walthamstow. I was disappointed. Southend, you let me down, you let my readers down, you let Essex down, but most of all, you let yourselves down.
Next stop, Selbourne Walk, E17. Be scared.
Spare Change guv'ner?