Alex James: Possibly the best place in the world to smoke a banger
The Independent
12 April 2004

As you look out to sea, the New Forest is on your left and the Purbecks to the right. It's some location, but you do have to be prepared to be underimpressed by Bournemouth. It's not got the whizz-bang-wow of the Cote d'Azur or even Blackpool.

The way people drive is kind of nice; gently without impatience; there are nice old ladies going about their benevolent business; nice smells. It's nice. Subtly but deeply pleasant.

Lit by the summer sun bouncing off the sea, it's the bay that's the true basis of Bournemouth's appeal, but the place has grown into something bigger than a seaside resort; it's a largish town designed around people enjoying themselves.

There is a benign and satisfied Telegraph-reading kind of establishment and just enough disaffected youth to perpetuate a sub-culture. If New York is the best place on earth to go for a drink, then Boscombe Chine may well be the best place to smoke a banger. It has everything to make the stoner feel safe or to bring out the child in anybody. Crazy golf, silly hat shop, ice cream, weird dogs, deckchairs, no pressure, all easy on the eye. Gazing out to sea is profoundly calming. I can just keep drinking that view in forever.

There are plenty of fancy places to eat but I like a lollipop - or the cheese on toast at the Point House Café is a world beater; I always pop in there when I go back.

I also love poking around the antique and second-hand shops in Pokesdown. It's where I bought my first guitar, but you never know what you're going to find there. I can't think of anything quite like it. It's where the poet Shelley lived but it reminds me of San Francisco.

At the other end of the bay, Canford Cliffs has more than a whiff of Bel Air, less holidaymakers, more holiday homes. Bournemouth is just big enough to have everything, from Max Bygraves to benefit junkies, from grannies to groovers, and an airport big enough to land the space shuttle. There are quite a few things to do here, but what it's best for is doing nothing at all.

Alex James was born and brought up in Bournemouth and is the bass guitarist with the group Blur.

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