Friday, 4 July 2008

New Milton Cafe Culture

The Dorcas Coffee Shop since closed New Milton doesn't have much to offer, especially not for a town of around 25,000 people, but it has at least half a dozen coffee shops.

Quite why New Milton needs half a dozen coffee shops in such a small high street: the inhabitants of the town are predominantly old folk who don't drink coffee [1], let alone go out to do so, I have absolutely no idea. I think it thinks it's catering to a vast influx of tourists.

Quite why most are pavement cafés as well, considering the usual climate here, is a total mystery too. Among these coffee shops is one that's newly opened (next door to another coffee shop) that belongs to a community project that collects old furniture for the poor disadvantaged. The local rightwingnuts have already voiced their concern that this will turn out to be a drop-in place for drug addicts and other undesirables (people like me?) The new cafe actually seems to attract a better class of old codger (aging hippies, old blokes with silver hair in pony tails), sells organic and fair trade products and their carrot cake is not half bad!

[1] I know that the local OAPs don't drink coffee, because trying to buy a coffee machine here has been like a hunt for the Holy Grail. So is a still, after a full month, fruitless search for a bloody simple mousepad. The other 24,999 inhabitants here don't have computers, I'm absolutely certain of it.

The Knowhere Guide (or, in the case of New Milton, maybe Nowhere Guide would have been more apt), sums things up best, with comments on local record shops like "Glen Miller only I'm afraid". On Clubs (Dance Music), they say, "There's the local Conservative club on the High Street, I saw someone move in there once. Does that count as a dance?" Otherwise, "... best you get on the train into Bournemouth matey! Be back by midnight too."

Entertainment was outlawed in New Milton in 1922. (see)

No, really, it's not just me saying it! There's nothing listed for events, because there aren't any, unless you want to go to a church, the conservative club, or a meeting of stamp collectors or other such anorak wearing types. And even for those, you need your own transport, so it's all off the menu.

Most telling is if you hit the link for Alternative Lifestyle in New Milton. The site doesn't have any information, because any alternative will not be tolerated around here. Not reading the Daily Mail and not voting conservative would be viewed as rebellious. Most casual conversations with the natives will contain reference to "foreigners" coming to milk the NHS, or whatever is the latest fear and loathing that the media prescribed and they swallowed, wholesale.

You might think I'm being flippant, but I'm not.

There really is the Conservative Club in the high street, I really have winced at numerous bigoted and ignorant comments and, if you go into shops selling newspapers, etc., there'll be two racks displaying the Daily Mail, alongside which you will only find The Sun and local rags with similar leanings and headlines.

Magazines offered are often a flag waving, English, patriotic variety. Most likely because this is all folk buy around here. 

Another telling fact is that the local department store (on the left of this shot where you see the Union Jacks flying), Smith Bradbeer & Co. Ltd., was established in 1837 - the same year Queen Victoria ascended to the throne. They have a website, but not much else has changed since that era.

Least of all the tastes and attitudes of the local people.

The most exciting thing to happen all week in New Milton is the market on Wednesdays, with a dozen stalls along the main street. At least some of the stall holders appear to be under 40: none of the punters are under 70. Last week there was an Iranian man selling Persian goodies, Greek pastries and superb Turkish Delight (from Turkey.) The sad thing was that when I spoke to him, his initial defensive tone made it obvious that he expected racism and to be spoken to with a lack of respect. He was perfectly amiable once we did get talking; gave me samples, etc. Although some of his goods were on display in the open, he'd served me at all times using tongs. Some local residents, I discovered later, don't "like" this stall, because he reputedly touches "other things" before serving. It's painfully obvious what they don't like really.

Various charity shops outnumber almost [2] everything else here, which is good, because these are the only places I can afford to shop. There are 5 in the High Street and I've seen more in side streets I haven't yet combed.

[2] Everything else except estate agents, that is, which, according to one internet search turned up an incredible 38 of them for this area.

New Milton does now have an Indian restaurant! This is a newfangled thing for this area and can be found about 2 doors from the chippy. New Milton's finest culinary offerings can be found opposite the taxi place in a listed wooden hut) outside the railway station.

This main line between London and Weymouth, with a quaint 1930's / model railway / Great Western feel to it, has hardly changed since 1966 (if the exorbitant cost of the local bus fares are anything to go by, it sadly won't have retained correspondingly old prices.) In conclusion, don't be fooled by the new cafe culture "put on for the tourists", because New Milton, which has been called "new" ever since 1896 and, which has existed since before the Domesday Book, is just the town that time forgot!

For your further delight, download a copy of the New Milton Town Guide 2008.

The Worst Things in New Milton

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