I was sat on Hayling Island beach on Wednesday, enjoying the sun, sand, sea, and the fact that there were no shrieking teenagers splashing each other nearby.
Next week I’m moving to London, and it occurred to me recently that apart from the time spent on army bases as an infant, I’ve never lived more than 10 miles from the sea. I’ve never really been one for sunbathing (even with factor 50 I burn within minutes) but as a child we used to go to Mudeford Quay to catch crabs, and going for a gallop along the sand has always been a favourite activity of mine.
I’ve lived in Portsmouth for 10 years now and I’ve really enjoyed the nautical nature of the city; the naval base has a massive influence on the place and back in my clubbing days it was always a laugh sharing the sticky floors of Route and Scandals with US navy folks in full mess dress (taking bets on how long they’d last on the sweaty dancefloor in their woollen uniforms was mean, but funny). And then walking home from the club in the middle of the night through fog so thick I could barely see my feet, jumping out of my skin every time the fog horn echoed through the streets…
I’ve made some fantastic friends while living here and had some incredible experiences; I know I’m going to miss this place, but in all honesty it’s time for a change. The atmosphere here has been gradually changing and I don’t think it’s for the better. Making the transition from employee to student made me realise just how much resentment there is towards Portsmouth Uni by the local residents.
In 2010 a giant fibreglass dinosaur was built on the common as part of an art project; it travelled 2,000 miles to get here and was meant to spend a few weeks in towns across the country, but about a week before it was due to leave for Colchester it caught fire and was completely obliterated.
Immediately local people started blaming “the students”, as they do for everything: windscreen smashed? Students. Wing mirror ripped off? Students. Piles of vomit on the pavement? Students. In fact, most of the antisocial behaviour that I’ve witnessed has been performed by idiots wearing blue football shirts, and I doubt that many students are also Pompey fans.
Anyway, it turned out the dinosaur burnt down because of dodgy electrics, but the ill will towards the city’s students had already peaked and the atmosphere had turned quite unpleasant. On top of the general physical and verbal abuse I’ve had to endure at the hands of local thugs over the years, I decided that it was probably time for a change. The decision has been helped by a number of other factors, the lack of employment opportunities in Portsmouth being a major one; neither my partner nor myself have been able to find work here, and neither of us went to uni in order to work in a call centre.
So now’s the time. And honestly, I’m going to miss this place, I’ve got some incredible memories to take away with me and I know it’ll be an emotional departure, so thanks Pompey.
And try not to let things get too messy, yeah?