If you want to check out the new KHE product for '08, you could do a lot worse than heading over to the Ride UK website. On a related note - new issue out 20th September.
Seeing as everyone else involved with the PijinBlog has had their say, I may as well add an outsider's view to the scene debate.
At the moment I'm back in sunny Wales, and have the following spot options open to me:
A rancid 3 set.
A 3ft long, 1 1/2ft high flatbank with bollards in the middle of it, and a curb at the top and bottom.
A long, low 6 set.
A tight, short 5 set.
And that's basically it. Oh, there is a 4ft metal mini ramp as well, but that's usually covered in kids/rain/pikies so it's unrideable.
Either way, there's not a hell of a lot. That list may make you think "doesn't sound too bad...", but you kinda need to see what we have to deal with here. As a result, cruising down to Southampton and having the option to just choose what to ride and where to ride it is pretty sweet. When we're out on rides, it's usually a case of just meeting up at Hoglands/MFI and just cruising and chilling for a bit, then seeing what mood people are in - banks, steps, etc. There are so many spots it's unreal in Southampton if you just open your eyes (and the sightings of multiple swimming pools and schools on GoogleEarth suggest there are a few there if you use some digital eyes too...) and think outside the box a bit. From the little ankle-killing banks by Aldi to the train station 7-set, to the brutal 5-set by the football ground to the random little bank to wall setup Joel spotted when we were breezing down some shady hill near St.Marys, there are loads of places to ride, to suit whatever mood you happen to be in.
All that'd still be pretty rubbish if you were just on your own, which is where the scene comes in handy. Again, relating it to where I am now, there is a scene here: me. There are no other riders who are actually in this town, and there are none for about 40 miles in each direction. In Southampton, I've ridden with people I've known for a while and people I've just met, and everyone's been super friendly, and up for a ride and a chill. It may seem like "just" having 10 riders to call up at random and go and ride with isn't "strong" enough for some people, but when you've come from nothing, having 10 people who are super cool to hang around with and ride with is pretty awesome.
Even comparing it to London, Soton's got a dece scene. The scene in London is pretty spread out, and although there are a load of people in each area, it's a bit of a 'mare trying to get everyone out riding at the same time. Equally, the spots tend to be relatively spread out, so it's even harder getting from spot to spot.
When I was last back in London, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the guys from 2-Hip (*cough*namedrop*cough*). Unfortunately, I happened to meet up with them at the tail end of a pretty long UK tour, and none of them were really into riding London or even being in the UK (in fact, they all left to head over to their hostel to try and arrange earlier flights home). Now - that's all fair enough. 3 weeks away in a foreign country having to live out of a bag can get a bit tiring at times when you're under pressure to get footage for a video and so on, but it still felt bad to me that people weren't really enjoying the scene London had to offer. I've only lived there a year but feel pretty connected to the part of the London scene that I'm involved in, and so hearing people saying they hated being there hurt (not really the word I'm looking for...). That got me thinking though, and the fact that the other locals and I weren't super happy at the fact that people didn't like our scene shows that at some level, everyone's still connected to each other, and that even though there aren't the all-night-every-night rides we used to have, the fire still burns pretty brightly.
Netley's blog appears to have upset quite a few people from people who've spoken to me directly, and from what I've seen elsewhere, so maybe the fact that people are sticking up for the scene in Southampton is ultimate proof-positive that it's still alive and kicking? Although you can't just drop in to a spot and expect people to be riding it (in part due to the fact there's so much stuff to ride in Southampton, spread out all over the city), if you've got a couple of numbers of the usual suspects from there you can still get put in touch with at least 3 or 4 people every night who are out riding. You can even just turn up at Pijin on any day of the week and find a good few locals who'll be up for a bit of a sesh somewhere in town in between Carlos-hassling sessions.
Either way, just make the most of what there is there, no matter how big or small you think it might be. Riding is almost certainly going to be better than sitting around in doors, so why not just give someone a buzz and go head out for a roll around? If I think back to all the good times I've had recently, the majority of them involve being out on my bike with other people, so the more you go out, it'd suggest the more good times you'll have. Give it a try. Even take out a camera (even if it's just a little point 'n' shoot jobbie - you don't have to be rolling around with £3K in a camera bag on your back to take a sweet photo of someone doing something) or videocamera if you've got one. Looking back on the archive of photos I've got from the early days when I was in London brings memories flooding back of good times I've had, and it's always pretty cool being able to look back at what you used to do, who you used to hang out with and stuff like that.
Like the DISSRM site says, you get out what you put in.
P.S. I'd also like to take this moment to thank John, on behalf of everyone. It's hard to imagine what the Soton scene would be like without Pijin around now, and bearing in mind how much effort John puts into Pijin, we all owe him a lot. That's not to mention the fact that, unlike a lot of the other people involved in The Industry, John's got the right idea with helping people out - from donating prizes to all the jams that are happening to sending Alex some DVDs and bits 'n' pieces to help pass the time while he's in his cast (get well soon dude!), it's always good to see people out to help other people and not just fill their own pockets. Thanks, John!