The Mouth – Bournemouth – Poole – Christchurch

Public buttock spanking, street fighting, homelessness and vomit : “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!”: a night out in Bournemouth.

By Mark Perry

I join in with a group of party-goers taking a taxi into Bournemouth. On discovering our driver is from Afghanistan I ask if his family back home are okay?. He replies with a grimace. I don’t press the question any further, after-all it`s the beginning of a night out in Bournemouth!

On finding the entrance fee to “V-club” is £6.00 I bail out. It seems a little excessive to a cash strapped student. I walk up the high street. It is as lively and rowdy as any other on a Saturday night. I stop to talk to a man and women begging in a shop-doorway.The guy is in his late twenties / early thirties; he is clean, calm and remarkably centered, considering he has only been free of prison for three days.The women, who used to work in advertising, is older, convivial and talkative.She has clearly spent some time on the streets.They do not wish to be identified so I will call them Simon and Sophie here.

I recall a recent story I read about the changing location of a local soup kitchen.The article described how a Catholic Church had asked the kitchen to move, following a decision to: “balance its duty to the needy with its responsibility to keep an attractive churchyard.”

I ask Simon and Sophie what they think about the move. Simon`s answer is zen-like, philosophical: “soup is still being served.” He doesn’t mind the change, “Bournemouth is a good place,” he continues, “there are just to many rehab centers; it`s easy to get drugs here.” Sophie provides a more caustic view: “they are scaring her to push us out, they want us out of here!” The she, she is referring to is Mary Randall of the Salvation Army. “She gets worried you see, she doesn’t want to cause trouble, she worries, she just wants to look after us.” She is an angel, yes?” I offer. Sophie holds her hands close to her heart in agreement. Mary, it transpires has an MBE for her work running the soup kitchen for over 20 years.

I sit down. We pause to watch the revelers pass by. Simon gently imparts his mantra:
“Spare any change?” Some people pass without acknowledgment, “sorry for bothering you.”

“Spare any change?” Rebuff, “Sorry for bothering you…”
No one has given any money since I arrived.
“Spare any change?”
“Sorry I would but i`ve got none”, says a guy putting his card into a near-by cash machine.
“Sorry for bothering you….”

Then a bizarre spectacle unfolds before us. A group of guys roughly the same age as Simon appear on the pavement, all jeans, shirts and shoes. One unfastens his belt and pulls down his pants revealing his buttocks to the night air. Bending over a car another in the group pulls the belt from his waist and whips the guys arse. Slap. They all look remarkably jovial and pleased with themselves. Is this some strange ritual being acted out on the street I ask myself. The whipper becomes the whipped. Slap. The youngest in the group looks decidedly perturbed because it`s coming up to his turn. “Use your hand”, they goad, as he steps up to take a slap. A group of girls walk by, “look at that arse, you`ll never see an arse as red as that !” the lads jeer. To their discretion the girls mostly avert their eyes. One turns to look over her shoulder, “That’s just what I want to see,” she says sarcastically. The charade continues with the next one up and they ask Sophie if she wants to join in. She has no intention but jokes “give me something to hit him with, i`m not going to use my hand ! ”
“Come on give him a good slap,” they cajole. Then, all of a sudden, it is as if the flow of passers-by dries up; with no more audience the group sinkers on.

“Spare any change?, Sorry for bothering you.”

Then a fight between two men breaks out around the cash machine. One man is being restrained by friends but is vigorously shouting and struggling to break free, he pushes away his friends, who grab him back. He is pretty determined to have a go. Simon is in there like a flash, talking calmly and directly eyeballing him. Something is said and the struggle begins to calm down. Sophie is up doing her bit too. Two street sleepers, taking up social responsibility on the streets.The police have been around, in and out of my periphery vision, but as yet haven`t got involved in any of the things i`ve witnessed. “Them, they don’t bother!” says Sophie with a sideways glance. I’m not so sure, there must be plenty for them to do.

I give Simon and Sophie my spare change and continue on up the hill. I walk passed a guy in the recovery position, passed out in his own vomit, a door-women and friend in attendance. I walk on.The night moves on. The party continues and the night clubs fill to the brim.

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