Husband went off to see if there was a room available.
‘Yup. £40. I didn’t see the room, but I saw the hall, bar and breakfast room.’
‘And?’ I asked hesitantly.
‘Well, it’s pretty chintzy, but it’s cleanish,’ Husband replied.
‘Okay babe. Hey, it’s only one night.’
And all the other B&Bs we’d seen had their no vacancies’ signs in the windows.
I walked into the room and there it was – all that inappropriate laughter spewed out. The 1970s formica furniture and faded net curtains laughed right back at me.
There was a door that could lead to an en-suite. I opened it optimistically – it was just a toilet and a sink. I assessed the cleanliness status. I was reminded of the many times on our motorhome adventure when I would go armed into campsite bathrooms with my cleaner. I continued my assessment and picked up the towels.
‘Look at these,’ I shouted out to Husband.
I had never seen towels this thin – easily thinner than your average tea towel – and they were definitely missing the freshly laundered smell. I wandered upstairs to check out the shared bathroom; I knew that would be my only visit.
We quickly unpacked and went out to explore Mablethorpe (which is just up the coast from Skegness). I was relieved Husband had advised me to wear trainers, although even in my casual attire I felt self-conscious. We walked up the high street with neon lights flashing, the brash sounds of amusement arcades blasting out, shops selling rock in the shape of full English breakfasts, and takeaways offering fresh fish and chips. It had everything you picture when you think of a British seaside resort.
We decided on Dave’s ‘award winning’ Restaurant for dinner (very curious about what awards he had won). It was heaving with families. I decided to be brave and order a glass of wine (yes, I am back on the vino). I was glad I had set my expectations to low. But I was fascinated by this place; we never go anywhere that caters for families. I was also mesmerised by Dave working the room. He charmed little girls with extra strawberry sauce for their ice-creams, encouraged Mums to treat themselves to a banana split and made sure Dads’ beer glasses were never empty.
But it wasn’t just the family nature of the restaurant that was unusual for us, it was also the type of people. And even with our dressed down look we still stood out: we just looked so, well, middle class. And as we chatted and giggled at our Mablethorpe experience, tempted to throw the chav label around, we were forced to face our class prejudices.
I resisted Dave’s attempts to lead me astray with the pudding menu, and we headed back to our room. I found myself lifting the duvet and checking the bed (I’m not sure what I was going to do if I didn’t like what I saw), the sheets looked and smelt washed, and were certainly not in the same sorry state as the towels. We got into bed with our books (I know) just as the sound of Dancing Queen came blaring out of one of the rooms.
The next day we walked into the breakfast room, and again we stood out. We nodded and said hello to our fellow breakfast companions, and I had some entertaining banter with the man on the next table, struggling to not notice the missing teeth and thick gold chain round his neck. Again, I caught myself with uncomfortable thoughts.
Our impromptu trip to Mablethorpe was a lot of fun. It’s not our kind of place, but it’s our nearest seaside and we wanted to see the sea! We enjoyed walking along the seafront, admiring the views at Gibraltar Point, playing games in the arcades, visiting the Seal Sanctuary, and eating cockles on the pier. And the dreadful B&B just added to our amusement (although I’m sure there are plenty of lovely – and clean – B&Bs in Mablethorpe). But it also turned into something more.
I am middle class. This is not good or bad – it just is. And like most of us, I generally spend my time with people who are from a similar background to me. I am also guilty of watching middle class dramas and comedies which have preyed on the chav stereotype. But where’s the line? Laughing at the TV is one thing, but laughing at people in real life is something else.
Husband and I probably live very different lives to most of the people we saw in Skegness and Mablethorpe this weekend, but different isn’t better – it’s just different.
As a society, it feels like we have become sensitive towards sexism, racism, and ageism, but what about classism? It seems socially acceptable to make comments about people’s class: chav bashing is commonplace, as is making fun of upper class people, for being posh.
I don’t know where the line is between humour and offensive – but I do know my trip to Mablethorpe has made me reflect on my own prejudices.