Lured by Southsea seafront's dens of iniquity '“Â Lesley KeatingÂ
I'm not Portsmouth born and bred but I am Portsmouth by choice, having moved here in the late '80s.Â But, long before that, I was coming here as a child to stay with family at WaterloovilleÂ and the highlight of any trip was a day at Southsea.
South Parade was so different from my suburban street.Â Sparkling sea, a pebbly beach, and a pier with its candyfloss, penny arcades and boardwalk.Â
I remember feeling so trendy at 12 in my shiny snakeskin plastic mac, white tights and platform sandals, holding two little monkeys in knitted jumpers for a photo.Â
My dad would march us up and down the promenade then we'd cross over for a burger at The Intrepid Bun or fish and chips in Clarendon Road, but my attention was always taken by the enticing, neon clubs opposite.Â
Nero's had doormen in bow ties outside and a silver-painted Roman statue. It seemed the very definition of decadence.Â I was desperate to see inside.
Next to the amusement arcade was a gift shop where I once spent pocket money on a T-shirt only to be frogmarched back by dad as I'd inadvertently bought one with aÂ veryÂ rude slogan (well, I was very young...)
Joanna's Discotheque at the end seemed little more than a dark, seedy doorway. Where did it lead to? And what actually was a '˜Honky Tonk bar' anyway?Â
But, best of all, there was a real casino '“ surely the height of sophistication and glamour?
Fast forward 15Â years and the hallowed secrets were finally revealed.
Peggy Sue's, formerly the Honky Tonk Bar, was actually pretty grim and dark with frequently-flooded ladies' toilets and blocked basins. Lovely.
Nero's had morphed intoÂ 5thÂ Avenue, loud, neon and with trip-hazard staircases.
And I finally discovered where Joanna's went to '“ a small club withÂ beer-sodden, sticky carpets but the best music.Â Who knew?
The other day I drove slowly along the seafront on my way to a meeting, taking in the transformation.Â The former '˜dens of iniquity' are now a retirement living complex and a convenience store.
Â How times change.'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹
RightÂ Milly, before your walk, please sign this consent form'¦
I swear the world is getting moreÂ bonkers every day.Â I've just watched a deluded, daft woman on TV arguing that guide dogs for the blind '“ and assistance dogs '“ should be phased out as they are being exploited.
She feels dogs can't give their permission for anything so it's unacceptable to use them. WhatÂ next?Â No pets allowed because they haven't given their permission? Hardly circus-style cruelty is it? There's no substitute for the companionship andÂ comfortÂ a canine best friend gives.Â It's a close, two-way relationship that benefits the dog too.
Excuse me while IÂ have aÂ meaningful talk with Milly to confirm she doesn't feel exploited and is OK with me taking her out for her walk'¦
Marching for peace, friend turned out to be a real pro
A friend told me a storyÂ too funny not to share. SheÂ wentÂ on a peace demoÂ against the Iraq warÂ and gathered in London for the march feeling liberated and proud in standing by her beliefs.
She suddenly spied a jolly bunch of people with rainbow hair and feather boas dancing along with a huge bannerÂ which she couldn't read as it was up ahead.
Enjoying their energy she happily joined them, thrilled the press seemed to be particularly interested in them, taking pictures and TV footage, so she smiled obligingly.
At the end of the march she went to the banner carriers at the front to say goodbye and read it for the first time.Â '‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'˜Sex Workers of the World Unite'