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Too Far South: Mods Adrift on the Isle of Wight

We’re suffering from Bank Holiday Blues in the Mod Closet this week.  Having planned, talked about and counted down the months, weeks, days and sleeps to the Isle of Wight Scooter Rally – and, by planned I mean bought me a scooter; customised two scooters and endured nine motorcycle tests between us (one of us had to take the Mod1 twice) – we’re feeling a little deflated now that it’s all over.

You may be questioning why a couple of Mods didn’t attend the Brighton Mod weekender. Brighton was our original plan but when we struggled to find a hotel with suitable parking we decided on the Isle of Wight instead.  In the weeks leading up to the Mod-milestone weekend we began to wonder if we’d made a terrible mistake.

I appreciate that this may not sound like the biggest decision in one’s life but I do struggle with simple decisions.  Major decisions like, the sale of my house (yes), where to live (back in Oxford), where to get married (New York); should we invoke our Disaster Recovery plans? Which direction to take this multi-million dollar organisation, all easy-peasy.  What to order from the Chinese take away on a Friday night and I’m paralysed with fear that I may make the wrong decision (I don’t even know what a wrong Chinese food decision is – no Chinese food maybe?!).  Anyway, the point is the less significant the consequences the harder it is to make the decision.  A common conversation in the Rodger house goes something like this:

Me: “what do you want to watch (on the TV)?”

George: “I don’t mind”

Me: “AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHH! FOR PITY’S SAKE PICK SOMETHING!!!”

George: “Well, that escalated quickly”

To be clear, I’m not asking George what he wants to watch because I am a fantastically thoughtful wife (which, of course I am).  I’m asking because I’ve been through hundreds of channels, multiple times and I cannot make a decision.  I’m not gazing up into his eyes asking “darling, what would YOU like to watch this evening” I’m silently screaming “HELP ME!  I’m stuck in television scheduling hell”.  I appreciate that may not be immediately obvious from my question but, if expecting him to read my mind wasn’t part of our wedding vows then it was certainly implied.  So, Isle of Wight decision made, hotel booked; oh, dear Lord what have we done?

FRIDAY MORNING: having packed up our van (sorry Scooterists) with scooters, a suitcase each plus extra bags (each) for our shoes (tut, Mods!) we headed south.  I did feel like a bit of a fraud travelling to IOW in a van, passing the die-hards en route on their collection of Lambrettas and Vespas but, as I’ve said more times than I care to remember, this is supposed to be fun.  Long scooter rides with a tent and the bare essentials for a weekend away is not fun for me.  Travelling comfortably, staying in a nice hotel with closet space for my wardrobe options and hooning around the island, in good weather on our scooters is, most definitely, fun.  When we arrived at the Southampton Red Funnel ferry port amongst the many, amazing scooters I was relieved to also see a myriad of vans; some were support vehicles for the scooterists but most were like-minded easy-riders with scooter on board.

The scooters are boarding…

After our early start and long journey (albeit in a van) I was delighted to turn up to Foxhills hotel in Shanklin.  The owners, James and Paula, could not do enough for us and our stay here was a real treat.  You can click here to read our full review on Trip Advisor.

Anecdotally, the IOW scooter rally was quieter this year due to a change in the way it was organised.  It normally centres around the town of Ryde but, this year it had its heart at the Smallbrook stadium, which was home to the main scooter rally camp site; custom show, stalls and music events sponsored by VFM.  People we spoke to mentioned that Ryde seemed a lot quieter with the rally centred in Smallbrook but, from a first-timer’s perspective I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to get a drink at one of the many Ryde bars and clubs if it had been any busier than it was this weekend.

FRIDAY EVENING we headed over to Smallbrook stadium with our AAA tickets but, in all honesty after an hour we’d had enough and these two townies headed back to Ryde.  To be fair to Smallbrook it was probably early doors on the first night and we maybe didn’t give it the best chance.  I know from comments I’ve read from those that camped there they had a fantastic time and, if that’s your bag then I would imagine having so much in one place would be a bonus.  There were three main social areas; the main arena playing Mod and soul sounds, a large marquee pumping out Northern Soul and the club house with the main bar area playing indie hits and wedding SKA (my favourite kind of SKA after a few drinks!). However, there didn’t seem to be enough people there to fill all three venues and create a decent atmosphere in each – again, this was early doors (between 9pm and 10pm) on the first night and I’m sure it picked up later.  But, we are a couple of overdressed townie Mods (I lost count of the number of times George was stopped so people could comment on his jacket, tailored to fit by yours truly)  so, after making the most of the £2.20 Vodka’s (I kid you not) we made our way back into Ryde.

Ryde didn’t disappoint; it was smart and it was heaving with people and venues.  We enjoyed a crawl of the Union Street bars and cafes to the backdrop of 60s and soul sounds until we stumbled upon some Oxfordshire friends hanging out in the Black Sheep bar.  Unfortunately our evening was cut short around midnight with a wardrobe malfunction (I split my trousers) and, after convincing George that no, it wasn’t an insignificant split and yes, people would be able to notice we headed back to Foxhills.  Once back at the guest house George passed out snoring whilst I was trying to reassure him that I could do a quick change so we could head back into Ryde.  I really must brush up on my negotiation skills!

Sidebar: I’m noticing an upsurge in the number of wardrobe malfunctions I’m experiencing and, I can’t help thinking that’s a bad omen for someone who writes under the moniker of The Mod Closet.

SATURDAY MORNING we headed back over to Smallbrook Stadium bright and early to check out the stalls and custom show.   The sun was shining on Smallbrook and the stadium was buzzing with people and scooters.  It was lovely to bump into Mod Closet favourite and new friend Suzi’s Scoots (handmade scooter jewellery).  We caught up with neighbours who had scooted down from Oxford and, oh my, that pile of vintage scarves on one of the clothing stalls seems to be haunting me (another six purchased).  The stall holders & stadium campers I spoke to had only positive things to say about the venue and way the rally was organised; although, I did notice a couple of longing looks when we mentioned our five-star fully licensed guesthouse with spa!  How’s that tent working out for you?

Out & About in Smallbrook

The custom show exhibits were outstanding.  I was absolutely blown away by the imaginative and talented artwork and custom jobs.  ‘Misfit’ was a genius concept but, The Bluebird got my vote.  Who would you have voted for?

The custom show

SATURDAY AFTERNOON we made our way back into Ryde for some lunch and shopping.  Ryde during the day was awash with people and scooters.  I had so much fun wandering around with my camera taking photos and chatting to people.  It’s one of the best things about starting The Mod Closet; whatever it may turn into, at present it’s a great excuse to stop people in the street for a chat and a photo.  We’ve met so many wonderful people I just hope I can do them and their scooters justice with my point and click camera skills.  A moment that will be with me forever was chatting to a couple of German lads and finding out they were members of The Mod Closet.

 Too far south: Mods on the Island

If you like people watching then there really is nothing better than grabbing a bag of chips and a glass of wine and finding a small patch of grass in the sun to watch the Mods peacocking, the Scooterists throwing themselves up and down the esplanade on two wheels and the Rude Girls and Boys nodding their heads in time to the tunes pumping out of the bars.  There were live bands, DJs and stalls all along the front and, I couldn’t help wondering what we would have been up to if we had been in Brighton; it was the first time I had even thought about Brighton.

Out and about in Ryde

SATURDAY NIGHT we bounced into Ryde on the oldest and, honestly the best train journey I’ve ever experienced (how much happier commuters would be if the London underground was as bouncy as the Shanklin to Ryde train).  People and music spilled out of the bars and clubs up and down Union Street and along the esplanade and water front.  Starting at the top of Union Street we sampled a Paul Weller tribute in one bar before heading into Coburg’s for DJ Ricky Tick’s 6T’s and soul.  Cocktails in the Black Sheep bar before heading downstairs to the club lounge for some 1970s reggae revival.   Later we headed to the front for some Northern Soul at the Marine Bar & Diner before ending the night in the Balcony Bar with Mod bands and DJs.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON RIDE OUT was expected to be the highlight of the weekend and, it didn’t disappoint.  We opted to watch rather than participate as we weren’t convinced that Lammy could handle all that clutch control (we were right, the gear cable broke on the ride back, about 200 yards from the guest house front door!).  We experienced such an adrenalin rush as we headed into Ryde, scooting past thousands of spectators that had already gathered on the side of the road; I can only imagine how the riders in the ride out felt as they made their way out of Ryde that afternoon.  It was a rush just experiencing the ride out, although I did feel like I’d smoked about forty cigarettes after experiencing almost half an hour of two-stroke being pumped in my face.

Watch the video…

If I didn’t catch you on film then I probably snapped a still (see my gallery at the foot of this post)

SUNDAY NIGHT in Ryde was significantly quieter, it felt like most people had gone home and, with Monday’s weather forecast to be torrential rain we didn’t blame the scooterists for packing up and making their way home in the dry.   We started our evening with dinner in Olivio’s Italian Mediterranean Restaurant and ended it at the Ham Yard grand finale in the Black Sheep Club Lounge.  But, even Ham Yard was a lot quieter than we expected so, bearing in mind our 5am start on Monday we headed back to the Hotel to pack and crash out.  We noticed that Shanklin seemed really busy en route back to the hotel and, we’ve since learned that a lot of people stay in their resident towns on the last night, which explains why Ryde seemed a lot quieter.

MONDAY MORNING and we couldn’t help stopping off in Brighton on the way home, just to soak up some of the residual atmosphere.  The torrential rain scuppered any plans we had to get the scooters out and enjoy a ride around the Brighton front and, most people had sensibly made a hasty retreat once the heavens opened so, plans to meet up with friends were also dashed.  However, our real reason to be in Brighton, to spend some time with the lovely, Continentalist, Original Mod and new friend Gill Evans made us forget all about the rain.

Re-enacting the original photograph with The Original Mod. AKA Continentalist Gill Evans

Re-enacting the original photograph with The Original Mod. AKA Continentalist Gill Evans

THE BIG QUESTION: ISLE OF WIGHT OR BRIGHTON? We had such a wonderful time on the Isle of Wight.  Something about it being over the water made it feel like we were on holiday much more than, maybe Brighton would have felt.  When we got home after three nights away I felt as relaxed as I do after a week’s break.  I do love Brighton; in fact, we have a half-plan to retire there.  We’re lucky enough to get to Brighton a few times a year, whenever the mood takes us.  In fact it’s not unheard of for George to wake me up at stupid-o-clock on a Sunday morning and bundle me into the car for the two-hour drive for breakfast in Brighton (followed by a shopping binge).  Maybe, for this reason we loved the Isle of Wight Scooter Rally for its holiday vibe, for its being different and, for its diversity.  It wasn’t a Mod weekender it was a scooter rally and, I think I preferred the diversity of the crowd, all brought together for our shared love of those little Italian scooters.  I wonder also, how much riding we would have done in Brighton.  In terms of increasing my confidence and competence the Isle of Wight worked wonders.  In Brighton we would have booked into a hotel on the front or as near as and got the scooters out for a few minutes and some photo opportunities maybe.  On the Island we were one of over five thousand scooters and, staying ten miles outside of Ryde meant that every day was a ride out as we joined thousands of scooters out and about on the islands roads.

Things I leant this weekend:

  1. Camp sites are probably not the evening venue for a couple of town-mouse Mods
  2. It’s not always better to buy tickets for events and venues prior to the weekend (the AAA Smallbrook Rally tickets were wasted on us)
  3. A little bravado and my lovely new camera are proving to be a wonderful way to meet and chat to people
  4. Sometimes it’s better to be where you’re not supposed to be.

Dear Isle of Wight, see you in 2015!

Thank you for reading x

The stills from the ride out from Ryde…

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