Parts Of My Past – Lymington

If you go down to the coast today…

Staycations are all the rage; a lot of people showed up on Bournemouth beach this weekend for instance, including my son on his stag weekend – poor Bournemouth.

A bit further east is the small port of Lymington, gateway to the Isle of Wight and when I was a teen, the nearest town to where I lived in the 1970s as I confronted my awakening, or whatever passed for passing my 13th birhtday back then.

The two As of teenaged youth at that time filled my focus: Angst and Alcohol.

Angst is something I avoid now but back then, life just threw uncertainties at me. I wanted to stand out and fit in. We moved from Surrey when I was twelve, in 1969/70 and I had to make new friends. I did. It was easy, in retrospect. At twelve, still in love with the natural world and given the opportunity at a new school to lie reinvent my way into sports teams, I had a great time. Hindsight is a seductive drug….

Those first few weeks though still stand out as ones of terror and uncertainty. That gut wringing ‘will they like me’ anxiety scars you. By 14, while I had a good solid group of friends, I wanted a more active social life; but all Lymington had, assuming I could be bothered to cycle the four miles to get there, were pubs. Oh and a library but that shut at 5. So I made do with the Boy Scouts (one mile up the road in the village of Hordle) until the lax application of the licensing laws that applied in rural Hampshire in the early 70s let me sample a few pints and I had discovered some sort of after-hours niche.

It may be because I took up drink between fourteen and fifteen that I’d had enough by thirty something when I gave it up completely. I just didn’t like the stuff; it took me sixteen odd painful years to admit it to myself. Had I decided, as a rational being might have, that I didn’t like it at the start (I concluded that about all types of smoking after one puff on a Silk Cut circa 1972 after all) then I might have been spared several hangovers, a couple of utter blanks that may or may not be as embarrassing as I’ve been told by those who witnessed them, and a lot of wasted cash.

Truth be told, to have done that would have scuppered any chance of a social life, back then; after all it only took place if alcohol was involved. And they complain about binge drinking youngsters today? Pah! It was only because we didn’t have the money that we didn’t binge; it wasn’t because of some imbedded moral rectitude. We were just as likely to scrawl a message on a  wall, smoke something illegal (if you could stand the idea of a bonfire in your mouth, which I couldn’t) or try our hand at shoplifting (the only reason I didn’t was because I was petrified of authority, but there were a number amongst my peer group with no such qualms) as any youngster today. And so was my father before me. It was all about pushing boundaries – always was, always will be.

There were something like 15 pubs, hotels and bars in less than a mile from the Lymington quayside (the Captain’s Cabin) to the final one at the top of the hill (I can’t tell you its name because I know we never drank there). With that many pubs and given the size of the catchment area around Lymington out of the summer season, someone was always going to serve a person who could pass for eighteen (give or take five years) in the gloom of a poorly lit public bar ( to quote from the Judge’s Song in the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera ‘Trial By Jury’ ‘She may very well pass for forty-three, in the dusk, with a light behind her – that was exactly what we tried to do, only we wanted to look older).

And why didn’t we ever drink in the last pub? Well, we stuck to our ‘favourites’ until we were in the sixth form and only then did we expand our repertoire. And that led, inexorably to ‘The Challenge’ for an 18th. Can you drink your way up the hill, one pub at a time? No one ever did. Me? I barely made it onto to the foothills of the slope.

The other problem was girls. Or the lack of them. Well, that’s not strictly true. There were plenty at school – we were a mixed grammar school fading out to become a sixth form college which gave us a lot of freedom. But living in a New Forest Cottage miles from anywhere meant I had to travel well over a mile to see anyone. Dating, even practice flirting, outside of the dreaded, once a term, school discos was almost beyond comprehension.

It was only the advent of driving licences for some friends ( I didn’t learn to drive until I was 25) that changed that. Of course I would have enjoyed driving, but looking back, while they drove, at least I had the chance of a snog in the back of the car. In reality, though, such heart-fluttering experiences were few and far between and it wasn’t until I arrived at Bristol for my degree that I began to fully appreciate the female of the species.

I can’t share with you pictures of Lymington from back then but here’s one of my mother.

You’d most probably find her in her garden, and not focusing on what I was focusing on.  Well maybe a glass…

So for some Lymington is a tourist trap, beautiful in both its setting and its architecture as well as a gateway to the Isle of Wight. But I never saw it that way. To me it was stalls for the market of a Saturday morning, selling plastic Tupperware, sawdust and sultanas as my father dubbed the local’s desiccated attempt to make muesli and garden plants; shoe shops for the new school year’s reshodding; the dentist. Not much fun.

Going back as an adult, I recognise its charms. But for me, it will forever trigger memories of one bored youth and the vast amounts of beer he imbibed. What a prannock…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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23 Responses to Parts Of My Past – Lymington

  1. As you would expect, I enjoyed this, Geoff 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My early youthful enjoyment was somewhat curtailed by the fact that the nearest village was a mile and a half away and that grand metropolis contained a grocery shop, a butchers, and a Methodist Chapel!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. noelleg44 says:

    We used to drink rum cokes in the back seat s of cars parked at the beach. Today I wouldn’t touch that stuff but I do like a wee dram or two now and again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. trifflepudling says:

    Youth is mostly all about making an idiot of yourself. It’s the only time we have a real excuse!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. joylennick says:

    Fascinated by what makes people tick…I love it when they delve into their – so different – pasts.
    Being a teenager – fast disappearing in the tangle of years – was,in part, exciting,and again nerve.wracking…as I blushed beetroot red whenever someone of the opposite sex spoke to me. This was often, as they considered blushing a ‘come on’ when it most certainly was not (though I was secretly flattered). Fortunately, ‘things’ changed! . Like you, Pete, I choked on my first and only cigarette, and although I could knock back a few fruit cocktails,never understood the desire to spend hours heaving over a loo, or throwing my kickers to the wind…I loved dancing and had a fabulous time, but could never understand ex-drinkers/smokers extolling the delights of their, often ‘lost’ youth as if I missed out…But then, we are all so different! Lymington is a lovely part of England to grow up in. Husband (the very best…) and I ran a modest hotel in Bournemouth for a few years way back. Always fun to reminisce. Thank you..


  6. willowdot21 says:

    Life hard when you’re young 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JT Twissel says:

    For me it’s Lake Tahoe which is only 20 minutes from where I grew up. It’s a beautiful place but I got drunk up there once on just one glass of champagne (it’s over 6 thousand feet) … I can still remember how sick I got. And the water up there is so cold that if you fall off a boat without a wet suit, that’s it! And now it’s sooooo crowded. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I wish I could say you are less interesting since you quit drinking, but it just isn’t true. I still love my drinks and wine, and I guess it’s cause I never did much of the overserved drama, so many of my friends seemed to habituate. Fun post, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t think it matters where you live, Geoff, you will suffer all these same anxieties and issues as a teenager. I am so glad that part of my life is long gone. So easy to go off the rails at that time in your life and it is the most important time from a schooling perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

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