Even the name is vaguely onomatopoeic and sounds somehow indecent. And indeed it is. What is it about these Victorian seaside towns that is so utterly vulgar and depressing? Is it the fact that they all look exactly the same, with their long-faded grandeur, endless fish and chip shops and gaudy amusement arcades desperate to tempt suckers inside with ‘Niagara Falls’ of 2p pieces, dementia inducing electronic cacophony and epileptic neon?
I suppose Bognor is just representative of all these generic seaside towns that drape themselves along our coastline, like over made-up knackered old tarts soliciting for trade. In the summer the place stinks of chip fat. In winter it’s almost deserted and smells of death.
This is part of Britain’s ‘Skeleton Coast’. People from all over the British Isles retreat south in their twilight years towards the sea, in some bizarre reversal of evolution, to die. After Ford XRI’s, the most common car seen about town is the hearse. Droops of grannies can be seen stopping to watch them pass, and with knowing nods they point and speculate who might be inside. The dual role of this town as both a holiday ‘resort’ and gods’ waiting room always struck me as somehow inappropriate.
Kids in cheap sportswear perch like feral pigeons on the railings lining the prom, with their backs to the sea, spitting oysters of phlegm in front of the feet of passing pedestrians. Beneath greasy peaks of baseball caps, they suck on badly rolled joints and try to contort their acne-ravaged features into their interpretation of the hard bastard’s thousand-yard stare. Their idea of high comedy is to take the piss out of passing groups of mentally handicapped children down from Croydon on a day trip.
Don’t even bother looking for something to eat in Bognor that hasn’t been battered and deep-fried. Don’t go into the pubs – they’re all shit, without exception. But most of all, don’t go to the pier. Just don’t. You will discover new levels of disappointment, higher levels of kitsch and more Neanderthal kids than you could poke an electric cattle prod at, (with the voltage turned all the way up to ‘eleven’). Instead, turn your back to the sea and head north, to the South Downs and places like Arundel and Amberley, where you can get a proper pint and decent pub food beneath ancient castles and away from the festering putrid rot that is Bognor Regis.