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East West, the IOW's Best

Wednesday 3rd April 2013

In church in Seaview on Easter Day, the vicar, Mary Strange said the first of her farewells. She told us she was leaving the parish after 11 years and I thought: 'Blimey - 11 years. That means we've been here at least 13 or 14 years.'

Sorry to revert so quickly to Little Miss Me, but that's most of my middle aged life and more than half my children's lives. (The fact that they are well settled is demonstrated by the fact that the eldest son has been wearing shorts all week - the true sign of a Caulkhead. When I question him about it, he shrugs and says 'Well,it is summer.')

Well, as the Queen would say, in
those years we've seen many changes.

The Island has built up a reputation as a great festival venue, starting with The Isle of Wight Festival (where - I might point out to all those who are wetting their knickers about The Rolling Stones playing at Glastonbury this year - Mick and co headlined a good four years ago), The Bestival, Isle of Arts, The Jazz Festival, The Walking Festival, The Literary Festival...I could go on and on, suffice it to say that whatever your interest we are likely to be celebrating it somewhere on the Island at some point each year.

There is now a Michelin-starred chef in Ventnor and a Noma-trained chef at the Priory Bay Hotel. There is live music in almost every bar and pub on the Island. Shanklin Theatre - in private hands now - has a fantastic line up running through the year.

There is a lot of fun to be had here.

And there are also a lot of good things to eat. In our Island infancy we used to meet Richard of the Isle of Wight Cheese Company at the Farmers Market, with his fingers raw from all his experimental cheese-making. Now his tally of prizes and awards recognize him as one of the best cheesemakers in England.

Small businesses like the Garlic Farm and the Tomato Stall have grown much bigger, and others like the innovative Wild Island Dressings, the wickedly tempting Chocolate Apothecary and Catch which makes delicious fish products, have established themselves.

Artists and craftsmen - drawn to the Island by its beauty - have flourished and we can even boast the winner of this year's Turner Watercolour Prize, David Firmstone.

And on top of all that the beaches are still a perfect playground, the coastline dramatic and the downs a glorious escape.

All in all, as a place to live - and if you can't manage that, certainly to visit - I can highly recommend it!

Made on the Isle of Wight, Bullen Mead, Bullen Road, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 1QE
01983 564949