It’s an island famed for sunlit beaches, crumbling beauty and old fashioned classic cars with romantic names. Austin Allegros, Morris Oxfords, Hillman Imps – all ingeniously preserved by colourful locals. Now, after half a century of isolation, the United States has lifted the embargo that has kept the Isle of Wight cut off for over half a century.
Traditionally, the island paradise once exported clotted cream, crested teaspoons, lavender pillows, dusky slave girls, illegal machine guns and novelty tea cosies, all the while welcoming wealthy tourists to its famed fleshpots: lavish bingo parlours, smoky fish and chip shops and the notorious Odeon Ventnor which stayed open as late as 11.05pm (not Thursdays).
But shopkeeper Mike Smythe of Las Shanklinas remembers the day in 1961 it all came to an end, with the notorious Bay of Twigs episode. ‘Crack members of Portsmouth’s Conservative Ramblers Club crossed the Solent under the cover of early closing,’ explained Smythe. ‘Their mission – to collect contraband kindling for their forthcoming Guy Fawkes potato-bake. But the invaders didn’t reckon on the strength of our island defences – e.g. Special Police Officer Nigel Smithers and some vigilante Liberal Party members, whose beards and sandals struck fear into the invaders’ hearts.’
Events then got out of hand, with the arrival of Soviet nuclear missiles pointed at Paris, Berlin, Istanbul and Dibden Purlieu. The world held its breath, while caravan sales plummeted. Brief respite came in musical form. In 1996 the band from the Bella Vista Guest House Social Club had a surprise hit with ‘You should never do a Tango with an Eskimo’.
Soon the island’s most famous export, embargoed for 50 years and only available as contraband to the world’s wealthiest will be available to be savoured by all: its famous sausage rolls, fashioned on sunlit sands on the ample thighs of the members of the Shanklin Women’s Instititute (if wet, in beach hut 43).