The last time I was on the Isle of Wight, Jimi Hendrix was top of the bill and the barking-mad American falsetto Tiny Tim was helicoptered in to perform a bizarre version of There’ll Always Be An England on the ukulele.
The year was 1970. And even then, despite the presence of legions of long-haired layabouts in loon pants and Army surplus jackets from Millets, the island seemed to be stuck in the Stone Age.
The ferry from Portsmouth wasn’t so much a ticket to Ryde as a Back To The Future theme park trip.
Forty-odd years ago the place was marooned in a time-warp. On the first night, we slept on a golf course and the following morning climbed over the fence of the local holiday camp to use the ablutions.
Trust me, you don’t know how lucky you are until you’ve been forced to share a shower with a bloke from Chelmsford who looks like Bob ‘The Bear’ Hite from Canned Heat.
By the time we got to Britain’s answer to Woodstock, we were half a million strong. Unfortunately, the facilities would have been inadequate for the residents of Dale Farm.
As I may have regaled you before, the men’s toilets were an open cesspit and the ladies’ was a discreetly screened cesspit. What passed for sanitation was a couple of planks with holes drilled in them every three feet, positioned precariously above a trench that looked like a relic from the Somme.
Perhaps it was the vivid memory of one of the planks collapsing under the combined weight of a few dozen hippies on hash cakes, consigning them to the murky depths below, which has discouraged me from ever returning to the scene of the crime.
Either that, or the knowledge that the former Coventry City reserve-goalkeeper-turned-darts-commentator David Icke moved to the Isle of Wight after he announced he was the Son of God and ran off with a blonde half his age.
As I get older, though, the prospect of revisiting a part of Britain permanently lodged in the Fifties seems daily more appealing.
That was until I read this week that the powers-that-be are determined to recreate the paleolithic period on the island.
According to a report in The Economist, the Isle of Wight has been designated as Britain’s first ‘eco’ island.
The plan is to make the island self-sufficient in energy by smothering it with wind farms and solar panels. It’s the brainchild of an outfit called Ecoisland (geddit?), which is described as ‘so green that the invitations it sent to an event at Britain’s House of Commons were printed on recycled paper embedded with meadow-flower seeds (just plant, water and watch them grow)’.
The report continues: ‘Ecoisland plans to . . . insulate houses better, make greater use of geothermal, wind and tidal energy, and generate power from waste. There are also plans for electric vehicles that residents and visitors alike can hire.
‘Locally grown food would be delivered through island-wide supply hubs. A concerted effort is under way to reduce water use and capture more rainwater (about one-third of the island’s fresh water at present is pumped from the mainland).’
All very commendable, you might think. But they’re not doing this simply for the sake of saving the polar bears.
Someone has worked out there’s a nice drink in it for them – which is why the project is being sponsored by multi-national companies such as IBM and Toshiba. While the idea of generating all our energy supplies from natural, sustainable sources is hugely attractive in theory – and would certainly have found favour with the 1970 Isle of Wight pop festival crowd – the problem is that it doesn’t work in practice and is hideously expensive.
Already, every household in Britain is set to pay £280 a year over the odds for gas and electricity to fund the Government’s ‘green’ agenda, which amounts to little more than bunging foreign firms billions of pounds to clutter up our beautiful, world-heritage site countryside and our outstanding natural coastline with utterly useless War of the Worlds windmills.
I wonder if anyone has bothered to ask the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight if they want to be forced to drive rented electric cars, knit their own toilet paper and have their scenery desecrated by hopelessly inefficient solar panels and wind turbines sprouting like triffids.
And having to pay through the nose for the privilege.
What have they done to deserve being singled out for a expensive eco-experiment?
In future, the only tourists prepared to travel to the island will be woolly-headed Guardian readers posing for pictures in front of an artificial forest of aluminium windmills before retreating to their over-priced, wood-fired Stoke Newington slums, where they can revel in the snapshots of their eco-friendly vacation on their nuclear-powered iPads over bowls of meadow-flower muesli.
By the time the wind farms are whirring at full speed, the Isle of Wight will weigh anchor and sail off into the mid-Atlantic sunset like a competitor in the annual round-the-island yacht race.
It is, perhaps, significant that the new plans for the island’s exciting eco-future have been announced in the same week that Jimi Hendrix, who topped himself shortly after topping the bill at the Isle of Wight pop festival, was voted the best guitarist of all time.
Incidentally, Tiny Tim’s only other hit was a dreadful cover version of Tiptoe Through The Tulips. Somehow, Tiptoe Through The Turbines doesn’t have the same ring to it.
There’ll always be an England? Not at this rate, there won’t.
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