Largin' it in Southsea

I spend several weeks back in Southsea every year over the summer and each time I notice something different about the people, the area and about Britain in general. Having spent nearly a year in France the thing I noticed almost immediately is that here in the UK there are many, many fat people. If there is such a thing as a “typical” person in France, Mr, Mrs, Miss and Master “average Ariège” is small, lean and certainly not fat. Here the converse seems to be true. And it is apparently not restricted to one or other gender, age group or even social class (if I can use this outdated and inappropriate term).

I was aware that there is an acknowledged obesity problem in the UK but just dismissed this as Daily Mail style hyper sensationalism. Surely with the constant media pounding you receive about eating 5-a-day, the importance of an active lifestyle and the apparently universal popularity of TV cookery programmes, the nation should be eating healthier, exercising more and consequently becoming slimmer, not fatter.

A walk along Southsea seafront from Castle Field to Gunwharf Quays on Sunday was enough to convince me that your average Brit is in pretty poor physical shape. It was a beautiful day and as part of the military celebration weekend there was a “Love Southsea” festival. I decided to take a look at the festivities and was assailed by the sight of an extremely well-upholstered young lady bedecked in a bright orange floaty belly-dancer outfit with matching orange platform shoes performing a fan dance. Yes, a fan dance. Her audience of OAP's reclining in deckchairs appeared only slightly entertained as she strutted her ample stuff and coyly concealed parts of her generous anatomy with two bright yellow fans before whipping her skirt off with a Bucks Fizz style flourish. My impression was that she was a novelty act based on the never-to-be-forgotten Roly Polys so I kept on walking past the stately parade of veterans which was immediately followed by hordes of rowdy bikers.

I could not help but notice that there were large numbers of, what I can only describe as, overweight people in the throngs. Substantial mothers pushing prams containing tubby babies. Overly plump school age children waddling slowly along. Big, loud teenagers leaning on bus shelters and slouching along the seafront. Older men with T shirts stretched tightly over their “Jeremy Clarkson” tribute stomachs. Even elderly wide-hipped ladies leaning heavily on walking sticks or using zimmer frames to support their bulk. Blimey, Britain has got big.

I discovered further proof of this observation, should it be needed, this morning. As I have flown out from France I have very few clothes with me and I certainly did not think to bring old clothes to clean and paint in. As I now urgently require some cheap, lightweight and ultimately disposable clothing I decided to comb the local charity shops. There are 3 on a 100 yard stretch of Albert Road close to where I am living. The first yielded nothing suitable and when I entered the second one I realised why. The vast majority of the unwanted clothing on sale is a UK size 14 or larger. The problem for me is that I am a size 10. Admittedly a foray to the more central charity shops did yield the requisite clothing and the rather stunning bonus item of a Calvin Klein leather jacket.

It's too small for me”, the shop assistant had sighed.

Tant mieux pour moi! Sometimes it's pretty good not being average.

The “original” Jeremy.

J.C. photo copyright