I'm always impressed with older people who are still going to festivals.
I don't mean people in their 50s and 60s, since that's neither old nor unusual nowadays.
I'm talking about the couples in their 80s who are still turning up and barging their way past you whilst holding two pints in plastic cups to get slightly nearer the front for Fatboy Slim.
I like to think I'll be one of those people, although I've got to say it's not quite going to plan.
Mrs Guru and I have accepted that we generally need to get to bed by 10pm every night to allow for the usual 6am wake-ups and the occasional midnight call to deal with someone who is too hot, too cold or has an urgent question about why the sky is blue.
And so it caused a bit of a hoohaa when we realised that one of my favourite acts - Garbage - were due on stage at 11.45pm on Saturday night.
"That's when they start?" asked Mrs Guru, who was doing calculations in her head about what time we'd get back and what time the children would wake up.
We concluded that Mrs Guru would sit this one out and I headed to the site to meet up with friends.
The evening raced by with George Ezra putting in a decent performance despite being 'dosed up on anti inflammatories' after a jogging mishap (one of the more wholesome drug-related stories you'll hear from a headliner).
Rather confusingly, the headliner wasn't on last, which reminded me of the decision to name the third tier of professional football as 'League One'.
After a few minutes of 80s anthems in the Electro Love tent we headed back to the Main Stage for Fatboy Slim who pumped out some banging beats like, er, an efficiently engineered Victorian pumping machine (note to self, don't apply for a job at NME).
Then it was time for Garbage, appearing at the festival for the first time. The band played a festival-friendly set, rattling through most of their best-known songs for just over an hour. In my head, I was 15 again, even if my body was telling me that it would really rather be tucked up in bed by now.
By the time I crept into bed, it was 2am. Not-enough hours later I was sat on the sofa watching CBeebies. Still, I concluded it was worth the struggle.
Perhaps when I'm in my 80s I'll be able to have a lie-in...
My photography skills are a little hit and miss. I occasionally get lucky, but only in the same way that a monkey with a camera would eventually produce something brilliant.
Thankfully, the good people at the Isle of Wight Festival have given us permission to share some of the highlights.
Here are Friday's photos:
Credit: Isle of Wight Festival
John Giddings must have had an exceedingly sore neck by the time we got to Friday at the Isle of Wight Festival 2019.
Throughout Thursday and Friday, the Isle of Wight's weather was teasingly indecisive. The festival's organiser has said in the past that he spends the preceding week constantly looking up for signs of rain which might pour on the festival.
I remained confident that the rain would stay away, based on a couple of the more favourable forecasts and a blind belief that the sun always shines on the Isle of Wight.
Sure, we had a couple of short showers in the campers' field on Thursday night and Friday morning (the only showers most people will have over the weekend) but by the time the main arena opened at 2pm, the weather was spot on.
For the first time, we were attempting to take the whole family, including the darling daughters who are two and six. We are not the kind of parents who climb Kilimanjaro with young children, so this was a big deal for us.
It started start badly, with the youngest falling over her feet in the queue and then taking great offence at having to wear a wrist band. Thankfully, she was calmed down by a tasteless rice cake and we were free to explore the site.
I've said this before, but the Isle of Wight Festival has grown massively since the early noughties. I seem to recall (perhaps not completely accurately) that in the early 2000s, there were only half a dozen food outlets. The queues crawled all the way back to Nettlestone and they all offered a limited choice of chips or fries.
Nowadays, the site offers trendy food I've never heard of and several rides that you shouldn't really go on after eating a spicy meal. There are many more stages than there used to be, and then there's the Kidz Zone where we spent most of Friday afternoon.
Child one and two both joined in with the parachute games in the Kidz Zone without embarrassing us and then we spent a fair amount of time wandering the site whilst child one asked a series of questions I didn't know the answer to ("why is that man wearing an orange suit?" "why has that man got glitter in his beard?")
Granny Guru lives quite near the site, so after a couple of hours we decided to return home, put the children to bed and then come back in the evening without them.
And so we returned, just Mrs Guru and I, free to sip prosecco and enjoy the festival.
It had been many years since Mrs Guru had been to the festival, so I began by taking her up the big wheel (ooerr...) whilst Lily Allen was onstage. The big wheel is an essential part of the festival experience for me, as it gives a chance to see the scale of the whole thing, and it's not massively expensive at £5, considering the location.
After failing to meet up with some friends and doing a little more wandering, we settled down for the Courteeners followed by Noel Gallacher's High Flying Birds.
The sun slowly set over the River Medina, I ate some curly fries with barbecue sauce and Noel Gallacher sang Wonderwall.
What more could you want in your backyard, eh?
One of the (many) things I like about the Isle of Wight is that it works well for a completist, like myself. It’s feasible to set yourself a challenge such as sailing around the entire 70 mile-ish coastline, walking all 500 miles of footpath or shopping in every Poundland. Such things are less practical on the mainland.
Our current challenge is to complete all nine of the Treasure Trails on the Isle of Wight. Last summer we completed Yarmouth, Ventnor, Cowes and Godshill, so we are nearly halfway there.
The issue is that we’ve now done most of the shorter and more accessible Treasure Trails. We are still at the pushchair and whinging stage so clambering over styles and along muddy tracks is a little tricky.
For trail number five (not to be confused with Mambo Number Five) we attempted a route around one of my favourite parts of the Isle of Wight – Freshwater Bay and Tennyson Down.
The trail started at the Freshwater Bay pay and display car park. I was raised to spend two or three hours looking for free parking to save 50p, so we parked on the road nearby to begin our hunt.
For newcomers, the idea is that you pay £6.99 for a list of clues and then spend two or three hours wandering along a route and learning some local history. If you find you’re spending too long staring at a brick wall in the search for an answer, you can text a number and they’ll reply with a clue.
On this occasion, there were three adults, a two year old and a five year old taking part. The two year old was in a pushchair and after the first three clues decided that she would very much like to begin her lunch. It was half past ten, which in my book is practically 11 o'clock, which is basically lunch time if you're waking up early.
So, we picked up the pace and rattled through the first few clues whilst child two tucked into some overpriced, salt-free snacks contained in conversational packaging.
The route took us along the seafront, then towards the Island's only thatched church and on to Dimbola Lodge.
By this point we had completed half of the clues in about an hour. Child two had eaten her entire lunch and child one had just realised that she was on a walk and that, as such, her legs should feel tired right about now.
We looked at each other, looked at the steep climb up to Tennyson Down, and pondered whether we could make it. The route ahead wasn't the familiar path, so there was a high risk of a scene where we ended up with a pushchair stuck in the mud and tears all round.
On the other hand, we had already done half the clues pretty quickly and it wasn't even noon.
We mutually concluded that this was the end of our Treasure Trail for today.
We returned back to the beach and ate the remains of our lunch whilst listening to the stones being dragged up and down the beach.
Still, we had made a good start to trail number five, and no-one had had a tantrum. Sometimes you just need to know your limits...
There’s a familiar pattern to the conversations in our house about days out on the Isle of Wight.
First, Mrs Guru will ask what I would like to do today.
I will then say that it isn’t really a question of what I would like to do, but what will keep a 2 year old and a 5 year old happy (which in turn will keep the adults happy).
I’ll say that I would really like to find a hidden beach or dine out somewhere fancy, but that what we should really do is to sit uncomfortably on a see-saw whilst secretly eating a packet of Nice 'n Spicy NikNaks from a coat pocket.
And so we headed off for Sandham Gardens in Sandown, to see the recent renovations which have been taking place over the winter. We first found the playground when child one was still in nappies, but it’s changed a fair bit since then.
The two main upgrades at the site are at the playground and the minigolf. The toddlers playground at Sandham Gardens has been given a decent facelift, with the equipment either being replaced or tidied up.
The Olympic themed gym equipment seems to have vanished, at least temporarily. Hopefully it will reappear somewhere else as it was a nice feature, even if it didn’t appear to be as regularly used as the other equipment nearby.
The other upgrade is the new Dinosaur themed minigolf - Dino Islands - which has replaced the simple minigolf at Sandham Gardens. The concrete curves have been replaced with dinosaurs which would fit in at Blackgang Chine and a centrepiece volcano. It was still in the building phase when we visited about 10 days ago, but opened just in time for the glorious weather we had at the Easter Bank Holiday.
There is also an improved go-kart track for younger children which costs about a fiver (even my weak stomach could handle the speed) and there are plans for new beach huts.
Just over the road is another building site, where Wight City and Colonel Bogey’s nightclub once stood. As much as we enjoyed Bowlingo in the building’s arcade, it is good to see it gone as it seemed like a terrible waste of a lovely stretch of coastline.
Despite the Spring sunshine, Sandham Gardens felt colder than the milk aisle in Sainsburys so we eventually gave up and headed to Brown’s Golf Course cafe.
From the outside, it’s nothing special but inside it’s a lovely light space which is big enough to cope with a large number of noisy children. More importantly, there’s a good choice of children’s games so we achieved one of those rare moments where both children were playing happily.
“Don’t interrupt them” I whispered to Mrs Guru as she returned from the toilets.
After three slurps of my latte, the younger one was asking for food, but I had at least had a few precious moments of holiday bliss.
I find it hard to behave myself at formal functions. It's not that I mean to cause trouble, I just tend to drop canapes on the waiter's foot or choke on an ice cube like I'm starring in an Adam Sandler movie.
Thankfully - for Mrs Guru's sake - I avoided such embarrassments at the opening of the Auckland House Hotel in Shanklin this week. I was wearing one of those ridiculous fake shirt and jumper combinations, but no-one seemed to notice.
The old Auckland House guest house was bought a couple of years ago and has been completely gutted and redeveloped by a company called Carlauren (the same people currently redeveloping the Ocean Hotel in Sandown). At one stage there were plans to turn it into a '5 star support care hotel' but that plan changed and it's now opened as a posh hotel which is open to anyone.
The Isle of Wight has about a dozen hotels which I'd consider 'luxury', but Shanklin mostly offers guest houses and B&Bs so the Auckland House Hotel will gives the town something a bit different for those who want luxuries like valet parking and chauffeurs within a classic seaside resort.
Being nosey, I asked for a tour and we were shown round some of the two-dozen smart new rooms, the restaurant and the hot tub. I didn't bring my trunks, otherwise I'd have dived in head first.
Mrs Guru, who knows about these things, made lots of approving noises at the decor and told me that it was 'on trend'. I was a bit busy stuffing my face on canapes, but I got the gist of what she was saying. When I checked, a night for two was about £110 on Expedia.
For what it's worth, I'm really pleased to see investment in Sandown and Shanklin, both of which feel like they are on the up. Besides the Carlauren developments, the area around Sandham Gardens is also being jazzed up with a dinosaur-themed minigolf, beach huts and go karts.
Hopefully there'll be plenty more grand openings and canapes to come.
A few years ago, whilst working in radio in Somerset, a PR company came to me with a news story about a new board game.
If I had lawyers they would at this point ask me to make very clear that it wasn't the company behind this Destination Isle of Wight game. It wasn't.
Anyway, the company told us they were launching a game and wanted to do a poll to decide which local town to base it around.
Being an idiot, I spent several weeks promoting the poll, giving the board game a great big heap of free publicity.
When the poll finally closed, the PR company revealed that they'd had a change of heart and would be releasing a countywide edition instead. The public votes had meant nothing but they were grateful to me for doing my bit.
A week later I spoke to a friend working at a newspaper in the north east who said he had been taken in by the same 'competition' which had been changed at the last minute in exactly the same way.
I still kick myself that I didn't pick up on the PR company's dubious games earlier and hadn't taken the opportunity to take them to task live on air.
I've since held a slightly unfair suspicion of local board games and probably wouldn't have bothered with Destination Isle of Wight unless I'd been given it as a birthday present. (Let me make clear again that the board game I mentioned earlier wasn't this one).
With a couple of hours to fill at 6am I gave it a go, along with my early rising 5 year old.
The general idea is that you play the part of an Isle of Wight taxi driver. Every time you fulfil a request to drop someone off at Blackgang Chine, Shanklin Chine or wherever you pick up some cash and perhaps a tip.
There are added complications such as red lights, speeding fines and log books. To really get into the swing of things I switched on Talk Sport, told my daughter my poorly thought out views on Brexit and kept looking over my shoulder.
In my view, a good board game is a balance between making it complicated enough that you aren't just rolling dice and plodding around a circle whilst not making it so complicated that the rule book resembles a photocopier manual.
Destination Isle of Wight was just about simple enough that my impatient competitor let me read the first half of the rules. I quickly realised that some bits could be dropped so we attempted a basic version which was just about right (the game is really aimed at 8+).
And so we drove our taxis around the Island, picking up fares ranging from £30 and upwards. Whoever paid £100 to visit the Isle of Wight College must have been unfamiliar with the local currency.
A few of the attractions had closed since the game was made (Seaview Wildlife Encounter, Colemans Farm) and some other new ones were missing (Tapnell Farm Park most notably). This gave it a melancholic feeling as I imagined myself dropping off a family of holidaymakers at an abandoned attraction before skidding away in my Ford Mondeo.
After an hour I was getting hungry so I discreetly removed a big wadge of the cards to speed things along.
Half an hour later we were involved in a frantic race to get our cabs back to the taxi rank. I put my metaphorical foot down as I raced to my final stop - LA Bowl in Ryde - whilst my contestant headed for Waltzing Waters (Rest In Peace).
I punched the air as my double six got me back home first and gave me the £250 bonus. I then remembered that it's much easier to lose a board game with a 5 year old.
Luckily, she won anyway thanks to an earlier triple drop off at Cineworld, Carisbrooke Castle and the Visit Isle of Wight office.
After consulting with my contestant we've given the games a thumbs up, particularly if you simplify it a bit and ensure that the youngest player wins.
You can buy Destination: Isle of Wight from Amazon, and no-doubt from various local retailers on the Island.
I’ve been holding back from having a bit of a rant, since I know that very few people would consider “listening to rants” as one of their hobbies.
It concerns the Isle of Wight Festival, which recently announced headliners and ticket prices.
For those, who missed it, the lineup – so far – looks like this:
Some were delighted...
...some were already opening a can of beer...
whilst others expressed their general horror...
Honestly, the reaction from some people online made me wonder if the organisers had pushed over their grannies or left dog turds on their doorsteps.
Take note of the fact that Fatboy Slim will actually be playing last on Saturday night so the headline acts will be: half of Oasis (who had 8 number one UK albums), a dance act that even my mum has heard of and a rock band with two UK number one albums (Biffy Clyro).
And that's 'terrible'?
If anything, I think we've been terribly spoilt over the years.
OK, it's undeniable that Sir Paul McCartney (2010) is a bigger name than Noel Gallagher and there aren't yet many 'surprises' on the lineup, but I can’t help feeling that some people have got short memories and no real grasp of quite how difficult it is to put on a profitable world-class music festival in 2019.
As I’ve said before, when I was growing up on the Isle of Wight the best chance of live music without a ferry trip was a husband and wife folk duo in a bar in Shanklin. And then, in 2002, the Isle of Wight Festival returned (well, Rock Island specifically) with Robert Plant, The Charlatans, Ash and others playing at a one day festival.
As the years passed, the Festival grew to three or four days and many of the world’s biggest acts turned up at Seaclose Park including The Rolling Stones, Jay-Z, Paul McCartney, REM, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Bruce Springsteen, The Killers, Florence + The Machine, Pink, Kings of Leon and so on (see our Isle of Wight Festival History page or our 10 unforgettable moments)
The concept of these acts playing on the Isle of Wight would have been utterly bonkers to me as a teenager in Carisbrooke. Yet, here we are complaining that Noel Gallagher, Fatboy Slim and Biffy Clyro are 'disappointing'?
As the Isle of Wight Festival grew in the early 2000s, others decided to have a go and the Island became a much richer place for music and culture. Bestival gave us a few great years of Elton John, Stevie Wonder and inflatable churches. And then there’s Eklectika, Jack Up The Summer, Rhythmtree, V Dub Isle, the Fairweather Festival and probably others I’ve forgotten.
Sure, some have been and gone but I don’t think many of them would have given it a go if John Giddings and Solo hadn’t first (well, second really including the remarkable 1968 to 1970 festivals).
And then there’s the overlooked matter of the Isle of Wight Festival's shrinking ticket price.
Back in 2002, the one day festival was £35. By 2007 it was £125 for a 3 day weekend ticket.
In 2019, Islanders were able to get early bird tickets for £110. The standard Islander rate is £145, whilst the mainlanders' price is £175 (plus booking fees). In case you're curious, Reading/Leeds 2019 is £205, Download 2019 is £210 (plus fees).
So, if you got in early and bought an early bird Islander ticket, the Isle of Wight Festival price is actually lower than the standard price 12 years ago. Try comparing that to what's happened to the price of your weekly shop in the last 12 years.
It’s also fair to assume that the costs of putting on the festival haven’t gone down in the last 12 years. This Guardian article from 2016 paints a bleak picture of the finances of putting on a festival and reckons that policing at the Isle of Wight Festival costs £1 million (I think it's actually the cost of security in general rather than just policing).
Let's not forget that it wasn’t that long ago that Bestival went into administration. The Big Chill gave up altogether in 2012. Fairweather Festival won’t be returning in 2019 due to finances. And then there's the Fyre Festival…
The reality is that there are many more festivals in the UK than there used to be. Weekend festivals now need to compete with a whole heap of one day 'festivals', which don’t have the same overheads since they don’t offer camping.
It's also worth remembering that the Isle of Wight Festival has gradually transformed from a single stage festival to a weekend of fun and games over several stages. I’m sure some of the extras are good moneymakers (fairground rides, more food stalls etc.) but most just add to the overall cost.
Organisers have realised that a good festival isn’t just about the acts on the main stage. One of the best afternoons I've had at the festival was spent in the kids' field (with one of my children, I should add).
So please, if you want the Isle of Wight Festival to return in 2020, buy a ticket and enjoy the party. Embrace the lineup for what it is, rather than comparing it to a time when you were younger, better looking and only had one chin.
Otherwise, don't complain when we're back to watching husband and wife duos at a pub in Shanklin.
I'm always delighted when the Isle of Wight gets shortlisted for something.
Admittedly, the naming of Yates in Newport as the UK's 'most tragic hometown club' was not a proud moment, but it has since closed and been replaced with a Slug and Lettuce (presumably that's better, kids?).
No, I'm more interested in awards for natural beauty and tourism which are slightly more glowing and likely to encourage people to visit for the first time.
The latest is the Countryfile Magazine Awards which has nominated Sandown Bay as the Best British Beach and Bembridge as the Best Village.
If you like the Isle of Wight (and aren't put off by attempts to harvest your data for marketing) then I'd encourage you to vote.
The curiosity is that many people will tell you that Sandown Bay isn't even the best beach on the Isle of Wight, let alone the UK. And it's not, if you are looking for a beach where you can go surfing or walk the dog in the middle of summer.
It's also not the best Isle of Wight beach for kite surfing or searching in rock pools for crabs or angrily throwing stones into the sea after a difficult breakup or cooking up some sausages on a barbecue.
And it's definitely not the best Isle of Wight beach for watching a lifeboat launch, avoiding the crowds in August, looking for dinosaur fossils or for building a tower out of stones for an Instagram post.
And since you asked, it's not the best Isle of Wight beach for kayaking into a cave and it probably isn't the best Isle of Wight beach for flying a kite or gazing at sunsets, although I'm happy to debate those ones.
My laboured point is that choosing a beach to visit on the Isle of Wight depends very much on what you are looking for. We spent most of our youth at Compton Bay, which is glorious for sunsets and bodyboarding but is much less practical for a family with a pushchair or a wheelchair. The steps down to the beach are steep, the toilets are pretty basic and there's nowhere to go if it rains.
In our guide to 'which is the best Isle of Wight beach for...' Sandown was winner in the category for the best beach for toddlers. The sand is soft, there's a playground and parking nearby, and if it starts to rain you can race everyone else to the Pier or to the cafe at Brown's Golf Course. But in other categories, winners included Shanklin, Ventnor, Freshwater Bay and about a dozen other beaches.
As I've said many times before on this blog, the Isle of Wight's trump card is its range of beaches which makes it the 'UK in miniature' rather than any one beach. Lots of other UK counties have plenty to offer and can do things on a bigger scale, but you'll struggle to see such a varied coastline during a week's holiday.
I'll tackle the question of whether Bembridge is the Isle of Wight's best village some other time...
As reported previously on these pages, we are currently enjoying a local food binge in an attempt to highlight some of the more authentic souvenirs which are on offer to Isle of Wight visitors.
It came about after discovering that most Isle of Wight souvenir fudge doesn’t actually come from the Isle of Wight, in the same way that your French Windows weren’t made in Paris.
We went for a quick trip to a farm shop, which soon turned into a spending spree.
It’s not an especially healthy activity or one which is suitable for pregnant women, teetotalers or vegans, since last time we were drinking gin and this time we are slicing off great chunks of blue cheese.
You’ll find cheese is one local product with a decent range of options on the Isle of Wight.
There are at least two companies producing cheese on the Island, and probably more which I’ve missed (apologies in advance, I await a telling off).
Firstly, there is the Isle of Wight Cheese Company, which presumably held a very short brainstorm meeting before deciding on a name and launching in 2006. At the time of eating, their range includes:
The second is Briddlesford Lodge Farm, which is based nearish to Newport and which has a cafe and farm shop you can visit (they also do tours on certain days during the school holidays). They currently offer Caerphilly, Cheddar, Gouda, Halloumi-Style and Feta-Style.
On this occasion we tried Isle of Wight Blue, which the Isle of Wight Cheese Company say will taste 'spikier' towards its best before date. We tried it about 20 minutes after purchase, so I would say we didn't exactly let it mature a great deal. Nonetheless, it was very tasty and went down nicely with big chunks of bread and my mother-in-law's soup which was as thick as a tin of gloss paint.
To try it for yourself, visit one of the local stockists on the Island. You won't regret it!
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