A “major trek” from Broadstairs to Margate.

In the last post I promised the reader that I would be going for a walk but I shall very briefly deal with Monday 14th October and it will be brief, believe me. The whole day is best summed up in the images above which show my usual excellent breakfast in the Royal Victoria Pavilion, a murky Ramsgate beach in the early afternoon and the full-bore rainstorm that had settled over Broadstairs by early evening and did not let up. I am a fairly hardy soul but it really was too dismal to consider doing anything of note and so we shall pass quickly on.

15th October
A (not so long-distance) footpath.

A few posts ago I teased you with the image that heads this page and promised a full explanation in due course, so here it is.
For many years I had seen signposts like this round Broadstairs and never even bothered to enquire what T&D stood for. When I eventually did, I was informed that it was Turner and Dickens although many locals do not even know this as you shall see. T is the famous artist JMW Turner and D the equally famous novelist Charles Dickens. The former had a strong association with Margate and the latter with Broadstairs to the extent they now even have an annual Dickens Festival and it seems you cannot move in the town without seeing a plaque commemorating some Dickensian association.

Despite the fact that their lives overlapped by about four decades and had connections in the two adjacent towns, there is no evidence the two ever met although it is possible as they had mutual friends. I suspect it is just the local Council conflating the two histories to create the route. Whatever the facts, it matters little as this is a pleasant stroll and it is nothing more than that. Over the years I had walked the majority of it without really being aware it was a designated route.

If you do fancy a go at it your first problem will be the conflicting and often inaccurate information available on the internet. I checked the first three websites my search engine threw up and that was an education with the start and end points being given as the rail stations in the two towns (wrong) and distances varying from 6.44 km. (four miles) to 8.7 km. The route starts or finishes at The Droit House Visitor Centre in Margate and the other terminus is the Dickens House Museum on the front at Broadstairs. I would say it is closer to the former distance and it is certainly not onerous.  I found this website to be one of the better ones.  

I love walking and have completed the London Loop and Capital Ring (150 miles and 78 miles respectively), the vast majority of the Thames Path (184 miles) and the pinnacle of my rambling was completing the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal (100+ miles at altitude) some years ago so what was I doing wandering about four miles mostly along roads I knew intimately? A couple of reasons, really. Firstly, it would give me something to do rather than just sit in the pub all day at my computer and secondly it would “test drive” my poor old body that had been a bit knocked about. I was surprised at how weak I still felt exactly a month after being discharged from hospital. This route was ideal as it vaguely follows the Thanet Loop bus route (or vice versa) so I knew that if I got tired I could easily get to a bus stop which was a reassuring backstop.

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Michelin starred, no less.

I started good and early and the first image I took that day was absolutely nothing to do with the path and was taken about 200 yards from where I was staying. This rather unprepossessing frontage hides the restaurant that had recently achieved Thanet’s first Michelin star. It is run by a guy called Ben Crittenden who transformed the premises from a tiny sandwich bar with his Dad. The only other person involved is his wife Sophie who runs front of house.

STARK is only open in the evening four nights a week, it has twelve covers and no menu, you eat what you are given. The website states, “PLEASE NOTE THAT WE ARE UNABLE TO CATER FOR ANY DIETARY REQUIREMENTS, DISLIKES OR ALLERGIES AND WE ARE UNABLE TO OFFER ANY SUBSTITUTIONS”. Sorry about the caps, it is a c&p. All this sounded very pretentious to me but I am told by people whose opinion I respect that he is a really pleasant bloke. The rather draconian food policy derives from the fact that he has a kitchen the size of a shoebox which is equipped with one fridge, well, how much kitchen does a sandwich bar need? Gordon Ramsay, eat your heart out.

If you can get a table, and I say if as there is typically a six week wait, it will set you back £60 or £90 with a paired wine flight. Heaven knows where he keeps the wine! Whites in the fridge and reds under the sink presumably. In truth, with some of the weather we were having he could have put the whites on the back doorstep and they would have chilled nicely if they had not been washed away to the sea down Oscar Road. I doubt I shall ever dine there but good luck to them and back to my walk.

It was a mere five minutes walk from STARK to the Dickens House Museum which I have never been in and is said to be the inspiration for the home of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. This would make sense as it is about 10 feet across a footpath to the Albion Hotel which has a Dickensian association as the plaque outside indicates. It also has a Fergian (what a word!) association as I have stayed here and played a gig in the lovely garden with my mate Tim.

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The real Bleak House.

I also took the image above of Bleak House which is certainly not the best one I have of it but I took it to demonstrate a point. With a little compact camera (no telephoto lens or anything) I took the images of the Museum and this one whilst standing in exactly the same spot which shows just how compact Broadstairs is for the visitor. About as compact as my camera really.

On then up the High Street and I may as well have been walking to Beano’s for my breakfast as I know it so well. I have walked up and down here literally thousands of times. I thought I would include the images above for a bit of amusement. Not far up the hill is the pretty uninspiring row of shops, with J. Prentis the greengrocer at the far end. I must declare an interest in that I know John who is a really nice guy but his fruit and veg are really good with lots of locl produce. Cobnuts were the seasonal offering with a cobnut being a locally grown variant of a hazelnut.

I looked up as I knew there was another blue plaque there indicating that Dickens had stayed in a house on that site at some point but, as the image shows, it has been changed, very possibly by John to what you see above. I won’t bore you with the details but it is to do with a dispute between him and the landlord of the upstairs premises which are, frankly, an eyesore and have been for years. It certainly made me smile.

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How lovely, two pubs side by side.

On up the hill past Pierremont Hll where the future Queen Victoria once stayed, past the War Memorial and then I stopped briefly to take the image above which indicates much of what is happening in Broadstairs. The two premises shown are both obviously former retail outlets and are both now pubs. The one on the right is Mind the Gap (a reference to the nearby train station) where I have been once or twice and played an impromptu gig with a standing invitation to do so again any time. It is one of the many micropubs I have spoken about in this series of entries. The bar on the left is Houdini’s, which I unusually have never been in. The USP here, as the name suggests is that most of the staff are practicing magicians who will amaze you with their prestidigitation at the drop of a (top) hat. I just hope the rabbit does not jump out.

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Friends Meeting House.

I carried on past the station and Beano’s which took a serious amount of willpower and then right into St. Peter’s Park Road where I stopped to take a quick image of the rather pleasant Quaker Meeting House which houses not only Society of Friends (Quakers) but also, somewhat oddly to my mind, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. I cannot imagine there are too many practicing Calvinists in Thanet but apparently there must be enough for a congregation. I live and learn.

The path then follows some quiet residential streets until you get to St. Peters which I also know quite well having played gigs on all four pubs in the village. It is not a big place and I think it is commendable that it supports so many “boozers”. Again, two of them are micropubs (the Four Candles (the smallest brewpub in Britain) and the Yard of Ale) and the other two are more traditional establishments (the Red Lion and the Little Albion). Both the micropubs regularly win awards as the attached websites show and both are excellent. The image shows the Candles on the left and the Albion on the right. When I passed the Little Albion was undergoing a much-needed refurb as you can see by the newspapers in the windows. I could tell you all sorts of stories about it but I won’t bore you.

St. Peters and Broadstairs are now more or less joined and the local Council features both names but while Broadstairs is now the much more important entity it was not always thus. The village has a very long history with the first Church being built here in 1070 to serve the habitation in the area when Broadstairs was merely a few fisherman’s huts. Strange as it seems now, it was reputedly the largest parish East of London in the first half of the 19th century. Nowadays, it is basically a dormitory town with about 20% of the population being retired.

A short walk past the pubs I came to the charming set of mosaics pictured above, the work of well-known local artist Martin Cheek and local schoolchildren. See if you can spot which characters are depicted. This is yet another example of the very artistic nature of the area that I mentioned in the previous post.

The two images above are nothing to do with the Turner and Dickens theme other than they are on the path named for them. The first shows a detail of a hedge around a private dwelling the like of which I do not think I have ever seen. It is so thick that it has to be trimmed as shown so as not to obscure the street sign. The people here must really value their privacy! The second is of a large and presumably very old tree that I liked the look of purely because of the numerous trunks.

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St. Peters parish church.

Another few minutes walk brought me to the Church for which the village was named and which I had been in before, notably for the wedding of my friends Simon and Becky which was quite some event as it happened during Folk Week. Becky is an excellent fiddle player and singer who is originally from the village and who I have played many gigs with and Simon dances with a folk dance side from Northumberland where they now live with their young son.

Being in Folk Week, the logistics were a bit frantic for many of the guests. If memory serves, the wedding was at 1500 and at lunchtime I had a gig with my mate Pete May in the Charles Dickens pub in Broadstairs which is yet another of the Thorley Taverns I mentioned in the last entry. People were somewhat confused by me turning up to play looking semi-respectable as I habitually play in jeans and a T-shirt and Pete was fairly smart as well. We finished the gig bang on, explained why we could not do an encore, set down in record time and then hit the traffic in Pete’s vehicle! We ended up taking a crazy detour and arrived at the Church about two minutes ahead of the bride. We did well as there were other musicians slipping in the back during the service. Everyone knew the score (musical pun absolutely intended) and it was no problem as was the state of dress of many of the congregation. Simon’s dance side turned up in full “morris” gear to provide a guard of honour and many other dancers from other sides turned up in their costumes, having danced out that lunchtime, it was quite a sight.

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Red Lion pub.

After the service we all retired across the road to the Red Lion (pictured) for a few before heading the short distance to the Village Hall where the reception was to be held. There was food laid on but Becky had not booked a band, well she had no need to as a fair proportion of the guests were musicians who were under orders to bring their instruments which we did. The entertainment effectively took the form of a ceilidh with a fairly large and constantly changing band including your humble narrator. It was one of the best weddings I have ever been to and the memory of the bride hammering her fiddle with the band whilst still in her bridal gown is one that will remain with me forever.

As I always do, I stopped to pay my respects at the War Memorial outside the church and take a few images for inclusion in the War Memorial Register. I found it amazing how many men from this small village, which must have been even smaller then, died in the First World War. Lest we forget.

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St. Peters parish church.

I was surprised to find the church was open on a weekday out of season but I gratefully went in for a look round to find that I was understandably the only visitor. There was a man there “minding” the place which I think is a terrible shame. Churches used to be open all the time as places of sanctuary and shelter but the realities of modern society render this impossible now. He was very friendly and pointed out many things of interest but he did manage to surprise me somewhat when I told him I was walking the Turner and Dickens path and the presence of the mosaics mentioned above, he claimed to have never heard of it despite obviously being a local and a parishioner there. We got to chatting about this and that until he slightly apologetically told me he had to lock up and go for his lunch. When I checked the time I discovered that we had been chewing the fat for the best part of an hour. Still, no harm done as I had nothing specific to do except go for a walk and it was an interesting conversation. I do love never specifically planning anything.

The attached website has an excellent history of the Church but a brief precis is that the nave is the only late Norman portion of the church still extant and dates to 12th century although most of the rest is 15th century. It was extensively restored in the latter part of the 19th century and much of the stained glass, of which I am so fond, dates to this period. A couple of interesting snippets about the church are that the late former Prime Minister of the UK, Ted Heath, who was born in the village, sang in the choir here and the church was used as a naval signalling station in Napoleonic times. The latter fact means that the church retains the right to fly the white ensign (the flag of the Royal Navy) although I am not sure if it exercises this privelege. This interested me as there is a church about 15 minutes walk from my home in the East end of London that regularly flies the red ensign (flag of the merchant marine). I wonder how many churches in UK are allowed to fly naval ensigns.

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St. Peters churchyard.

To the rear of the church is the extensive graveyard which I have visited before and which I found fascinating especially as it has a number of Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) tended graves which I have a particular interest in. I did not spend too much time on them as I had examined them exhaustively on a previous visit but I took a while to look at the Garden of Remembrance and I paused to take one of the images you see above which shows a portion of the graveyard which has been left to grow pretty much wild. I don’t know the reasoning for this. It maybe deliberate policy to encourage wildlife as is becoming popular, it may be that they do not have the resources to keep the whole place up to scratch. Certainly other parts of the site are very well-kept so I really have no idea. The images below are of the well-surfaced path which passes through the rather ornate castellated gate you can see.

 

One piece of advice I would give to the visitor is to try to arrange one of the St. Peters walking tours which I have never been on because they are so popular. Three of them involve the graveyard, a general one (including the grave of the Giant!) and one each for graves pertaining to the World Wars. The most popular is the Village Tour when numerous volunteers from the area dress up in period costume to greet the tour with various anecdotes. I think it is a great idea and those that have been on it say it is excellent which is presumably the reason it has won so many awards. I really must get round to it some day.

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St. Peters Footpath.

The churchyard gate marks a boundary in more ways than one. Whilst in the precincts of the church you can see houses nearby and know you are in a reasonably built up area but as soon as you walk outside you are in open fields. Certainly there is constant traffic noise from the nearby A255 which is always busy but it certainly looks rural enough although utilising modern farming techniques i.e. huge fields which neither Turner nor Dickens would have recognised. Frankly, it is fairly flat, featureless and boring, especially on a cold and damp October day. The path here is called St. Peter’s Footpath and remains so until you are well into Margate.

Whilst on the Footpath I passed an area known as the Shallows for which various suggestions are given as to the origin of the name. What is not in dispute is that this is where the poor old Baptists had to meet to worship in the 17th century when they were being persecuted for being Non-Conformist. That is probably pleasant enough on a warm, summer Sunday but not much fun in the midst of winter.

I kept walking and was glad to note that I was not flagging too badly although my knees were making their presence felt a little, and were to do so a bit more the next day, but it was flat and easy walking. Whilst I had walked under the railway line in Broadstairs I was to walk over it on a footbridge on the outskirts of Margate. The various websites make much of the local youth, under supervision, being encouraged to turn their aerosol graffiti habits to positive effect by decorating this structure. Whilst this may have been true when the websites were constructed the “artists” have either reverted to type or their less altruistic brethren have been at work as it is just a mess of ugly “tagging” graffiti now which I did not even bother taking an image of.

 

Just beyond the vandalised footbridge is the entrance to Dane Valley Woods which is marked by the rather pleasant carved sign you can see above. I would ordinarily have liked to explore that a little but a look at the muddy path (also pictured) and my still relatively pristine white trainers put paid to that notion. That was a bit of a shame as a look at XXXX the attached website shows the woods to be a very creditable project to “be a sustainable, community-owned wildspace in the heart of Margate encouraging participation in creating and managing the woods for enjoyment, health, learning and wildlife”. Fair play to them.

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Past the woods and I was into Margate with settlement springing up as suddenly as it had disappeared in St. Peters although my way was still named St. Peter’s footpath. I knew I was due to come upon a windmill called Draper’s Mill fairly shortly as I had seen it signposted from the other direction previously and I could just see the top of the sails from a way off. I wasn’t actually expecting it to be open (if indeed it ever does open to the public but I suspected it must) although I probably wasn’t expecting what I saw which was a cherry picker and a gang of workmen dismantling the sails. Routine maintenance I suppose.

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Draper’s Mill (under repair).

The mill was constructed in 1845 as one of a set of three on a site where a mill had stood since at least 1695. It worked in the manner intended until 1916 when the sails were superseded by a gas engine although I singularly fail to see the point of a “wind”mill that does not utilise the wind. In 1927 the disused sails and fantail were removed completely. In 1965 the mill was threatened with demolition but the Headmaster of the primary school opposite founded a charitable Trust and saved it thankfully. I am so glad he did. Just in case you are interested, those sails span 66 feet (20 metres).

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Signpost, Turner and Dickens path.

I kept on walking, still on St. Peter’s footpath and then things started to unravel a bit. I don’t know Margate anywhere near as well as I know Broadstairs but I know it well enough not to get lost. Whilst I did not get lost per se, what I did lose was the path. It had been signposted well thus far and, indeed, for a long portion of the path it was the only visible route but the signage just petered out with the post above which is the same one I teased you with before.

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Another one bites the dust!

I kept going in generally the correct direction but could find no sign of a sign if that is not appalling English. I quartered about but still nothing. Ah well, no problem and I made my own way into town. I suppose that theoretically it would have been possible to look up the route on my ‘phone but that is all a bit technical for me. Pausing briefly to take the image of yet another dead pub for the Lost Pubs website I headed down Ramsgate Road into town.

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I know you want a picture of a fry-up.

When I got into town I debated walking down to Droit House which is the official start / end point of the path but I had walked far enough and decided to jump on a bus back to Broadstairs. I knew that I could still manage a bite of brunch in Beano’s although it would have been just as easy to walk five minutes down the hill to Beano’s in Margate but back to Broadstairs I went. I know it is unusual for you to get my “breakfast” pic so late in the piece but here you go. I know you would not think it was not a proper page of mine if there was not an image of a fry-up on there somewhere!

It had been a great day in terms of me learning what I was capable of as I recovered and I was well pleased with my progress but the day was not yet over. As I have mentioned before, Jackie manages to get some great acts in the Wrotham despite it being a relatively small venue and this evening was a case in point. She had booked a guy called Keith Kenny from New Jersey and he turned out to be excellent not to mention a really nice bloke when I chatted to him afterwards.

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Keith Kenny and his surprising suitcase.

I had noticed on his cartoon promo material that apart from a caricature image of him there was a red suitcase which I took to be merely indicative of him being a travelling muso butit is not. As you can see in the image above (again, I did not want to use flash and annoy others) it is onstage and actually hides an electronic drumkit and between that, his pedal board and his loop machine he manages to sound like an entire band all by himself.

Of all the excellent music I saw during this trip he really was one of the most impressive acts and I would definitely go to see him again. He does a short tour in the South of England every Autumn and I believe this was his third year in the Wrotham. It is a measure of how well Jackie runs the music here that not only does she get returns from international acts but I know he has already asked to play next year because he loves it there. Do yourself a favour and check out his website.

After the busy day I did not stay too long and it was a relatively early bed for Fergy.
In the next post I mange to get further than the Pavilion in Ramsgate and discover a few hidden and not so hidden gems so stay tuned and spread the word.

Taking time in Thanet.

Hello again and welcome back to my ongoing tale of what happened when I went to Broadstairs in the summer of 2019 to play the wonderful Broadstairs Folk Week as I normally do, fell fairly seriously ill and spent nearly a month in the QEQM hospital as I have never done before! I am now writing and backdating this on the 17th of October but I am catching up slowly but surely.

If you have been keeping your wits about you (pay attention at the back there) you will have noticed that this post is some way after the last one and the reason is that nothing of much interest happened as I had settled into a bit of a routine of a fairly quiet life recuperating by the sea and I have to say there are a whole lot better places to recover from illness. In a few posts I will tell you about Queen Victoria doing the self same thing so I am in good company.

You will be bombarded with images of breakfasts which are as much to prove to people that know me that I am actually eating as to remind myself of the same. I am even debating investing in a set of weighing scales when I get back to London, a piece of kit I always spurned before on the principle I wasn’t too worried what weight I was. I was certainly never in the position of wanting to lose weight, rather the contrary as I could never bulk up enough to play the level of rugby I would have liked to. I had, however, been a little surprised when they weighed me in hospital and I found out how light I was but I have now had to ease off a notch on my belt so I might be putting on a pound or two.  Perhaps it is just my stomach swelling from all the fluid I am injecting into it.

As well as the images of the morning repast, there will also be my almost daily weather report images, again purely to save me looking up old weather reports when writing this up. OK, so there are some pleasant vistas to take these images in which helps. Please feel free to skip this post if you like, I am merely publishing it for the sake of completeness and as a personal diary. It will get interesting (relatively anyway) in the next episode.

28th September.
No images and no joy in the rugby.

A Saturday when apparently absolutely nothing happened if the images I normally use as an aide memoire are anything to go by as I took a grand total of nil but I happen to know that plenty happened and most of it not good! I suspect my failure to get shutterhappy was probably brought on by depression in the latter part of the day as I shall explain.

Regular readers will know that I love rugby and am following the Rugby World Cup in Japan avidly. This Saturday saw Ireland facing the hosts Japan in a game that they should have won on paper but, as they say, matches are played on grass and not on paper and the Japanese ran out deserved 19 -12 winners which raised the entire nation to a state of euphoria. The Japanese really are embracing this tournament with a passion. I won’t go into the whole ins and outs but effectively we needed to win this to avoid potentially meeting the New Zealand All Blacks in the quarter finals. The “Blacks” are a superb side and were my pick to win before a match was played. Oh dear, oh dear.

29th September.
Weather bad, rugby good, band brilliant.

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Just a light nibble.

The Sunday after that awful rugby Saturday saw me back in the George for yet more rugby with Wales squeezing past Australia 29 – 25 in a great match all accompanied by Dave’s Sunday lunch bar nibbles and in good company as this is very much a sports pub and I know a lot of the guys in there. Regrettably, I could not be as convivial as I normally am as I was still sticking faithfully to my new “Ciderwater” regime but I was getting slowly used to it by then. I am glad the company and the rugby was good because the weather was abysmal as you can see by my daily weather bulletin, it was a proper monsoon yet again.

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Typhoon looming in Japan, monsoon happening in Broadstairs.

There was more to the day than rugby and cheese and biscuits as I knew there was music on in the Wrotham for the 1600 -1800 slot which Jackie is trying to get up and running. Whilst she books most of the bands for the rest of the week, this slot is booked by my mate Euan who books for the Folk Week and has a lot of contacts. He had tipped me the wink about a band called the Thumping Tommys who he had booked for the Festival and had gone down a storm although I did not see them.

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Thumping Tommys at the Wrotham.

What eventually turned up was a stripped down version of three of them in a semi-unplugged mode and they turned out to be very good, a bit like Flogging Molly or the Dropkick Murphys. I say eventually because they had travelled down from London by train and fuelled, on their own admission, by gin and tonic they had managed to get off at Margate instead of Broadstairs and then wondered why they did not recognise where they were! They were only a few minutes late, made a joke out of the whole thing and nobody minded. They seem to be that sort of band, good time folk rockers who like the audience to enjoy themselves as much as they evidently do.

After they had finished they headed off for the train back to London where they had to play another gig that night. I know that route well and what public transport in London can be like on a Sunday so I really do not envy them that day’s work.
Sunday evening is always quiet in the Wrotham and that suited me fine. A couple more pints of cider spritzer, a bit of blogging and it was time for bed once again.

30th September.
A spam fritter and (a) jam.

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Yes, you read it right, a Monday afternoon jam.

Monday morning, a new week and what to do with it? Well, I knew what I was going to do with at least a part of it as it was the Monday jam in the Magnet which I may or may not have told you about previously and where I have a standing invite to play.
Before that it was rugby time again with the Scots taking on the Samoans inn the same group as Ireland were in so there was an added bit of interest there. Scotland trotted out 34 – 0 winners, collecting their bonus point on the way. With the rugby out of the way, I trekked the 100 yards or so from pub to pub and turned up at the Magnet where things were just getting underway.

The concept of playing sober is completely alien to me and I must confess to having had a touch of the butterflies which I have not suffered from for years. Fortunately, the venue really is tiny and I knew probably 70% of the “crowd”, most of whom were musicians I had played with in one shape or form over the years so I wasn’t that bad. I did manage to start one of the numbers in entirely the wrong key (why did I transpose that from G to A?) which I have not done since Captain Kirk was a space cadet but other than that I got through it pretty much unscathed. Like so much else, it is something I am just going to have to get used to for a while.

The jam really is great fun and very laid back and you really never know who is going to turn up. The idea of a jam on a Monday afternoon in shoulder season in a seaside resort should be dead in the water but it thrives and has done for some time now, long may it continue. The images show my great mate Pete Stockwell on the banjo, another guy I have never met on the guitar (very good) and another guy I don’t know with possibly the youngest rhythm section I have ever seen. That is just the kind of gig it is.

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I feel a Monty Python song coming on.

Packing up at about 1600 it was back to the George for the evening and a lovely supper of Spam fritter and chips. I love Spam fritters which used to be common in chippies but the Seafarer is the only one I know that still does them. Not only that but they deliver across the road to the pub! That’s what I call service.

1st October
Another spam fritter and some red hot blues.

Tuesday was another day of doing not very much and there wasn’t even any rugby on as it was a rest day. I was quite happy with that and another spam fritter supper (told you it was a boring post) and then it was back to the Wrotham as Tuesday night is Blues night with tonight being the Eric Ranzoni trio.

Apart from his own excellent trio he is the keyboard player for Mud Morganfield who is the son of the blues legend Muddy Waters. I knew he was a serious operator when he told a story (without showing off at all) about hanging out with John Mayall backstage at some big Scandinavian blues festival. Not too shabby and he put on a great show, full of energy. Towards the end my friend Nigel Feist got up and blew his harp (that is muso speak for played his blues harmonica!) to the extent I thought he was going to burst a blood vessel. They were really going for it.

If you were hoping for an image here I am afraid you are going to be disappointed as a combination of a large and well-deserved crowd coupled with my reticence to use flash meant that I didn’t get an image I would post here and you know how bad they must have been if you have seen some of the images I have posted in the past.
The great thing about going to gigs at the Wrotham is that it is not too far to go to bed, two flights of stairs to be exact.

2nd October.
A bit of a wasted trip to Margate.

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A sunny day in Margate

The Wednesday was quite a pleasant day weatherwise as my daily meteorological snapshot hopefully shows and I had the vaguest of plans of at least one thing I wanted to do with the day.

I mentioned that on a previous trip to Margate I had seen an impressive half-timbered tudor house which I had inexplicably missed for 30 years and that it only opened at limited hours. Well, Wednesday afternoons were amongst those limited hours and so I jumped on the bus and off I went to Margate. In the way that my mind often works I couldn’t help but think that a century ago people would look forward for months to a daytrip to Margate and here was I having a couple a week sometimes.

 

I jumped off at Cecil Square and set out on the short walk up the hill but before I got to my destination I saw something that depressed me greatly, yet another closed pub or in this case a hotel, the George by name. I have mentioned that I contribute to the Lost Pubs website and so it was a quick couple of images for that before heading to my destination just across the road but as always there is a story or two before I move on.

The first is that the George was supposed to be haunted. It was bombed by the Germans in 1943 and the room above the bar supposedly played host to a ghostly apparition of a female dressed in 1940’s attire. I wonder if she left when the hotel closed down. The second is a piece of synchronicity in that the building was home for some time to the Ambrette, a very upmarket Indian fusion restaurant which has now re-located to another closed pub called the Hoy on the seafront opposite the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery. The Hoy was previously run by my friends Dave and Bev who I have spoken of often and who now run the George in Broadstairs. It’s a small world (Thanet is anyway) but I wouldn’t like to paint it, as they say.

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No luck today, Fergy.

Across the road to the Tudor House and it did not look good from the off, in fact it looked very closed which turned out to be the case and the image above explains why. Not to worry, there is always another day so I might as well go for a walk. I was walking partially because the Doctors had told me to keep active and partly because I love walking. I was still trying to get my strength back up and it was returning slowly but surely.

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What do you think this might be?

On my fairly aimless wander I came upon the sign you can see above. Now I knew what it was but I am going to tease you dear readers a little here and not tell you as it will all become apparent a few posts down the road or should I say down the footpath? Go on, work that one out.

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St. John’s churchyard, Margate.

I also stopped off in the churchyard of St. John’s church but I did not find much of interest as so many of the headstones seem to have been weathered away to the point of being illegible. I suspect it must be to do with the type of stone used locally and obviously antiquity but I really don’t know. I managed a reasonable image of the churchyard though.

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Not bad for a fiver.

All the walking was making me a bit hungry and so I headed back to the seafront and the Mechanical Elephant where I knew I could get a decent feed at a reasonable price. In Wetherspoons pubs all over the country Thursday is curry day but today htere was a manager’s special of chicken tikka masala for £4:99 so I decided to have that. It is milder than I would normally have but it was very tasty and at less than a fiver for a curry with all the trimmings I thought it was very good value.

After that it was back on the bus and straight back to the Wrotham for another quiet night and off to bed.

3rd October.
Nothing to see here folks, move right along please.

I managed the sum total of one image on the Thursday which was of the exterior of the George and I won’t bore you with it. I spent the whole day in the interior of the George, initially watching Ireland dismantle Russia in the rugby for a 35 – 0 bonus point win as expected but it was all a bit academic after the loss to Japan and the All Blacks were still looming large in the quarter finals.

4th October.
One unusual sight and not much more.

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Something you do not often see.

Again nothing much to report on the 5th except that I stopped to take an image of a sight you do not see too often, a closed Beano cafe although in truth this was not one of the traditional ones but rather a kebab / burger joint open late nights and which used to be very good some years ago. It is literally 200 yards from the more usual style of Beanos which is still going strong and which still makes a brilliant breakfast as the before and after shots here show.

As my late grandmother (RIP) used to remark, “Are you sure you don’t want to eat the design off the plate as well”? It really is a fantastic breakfast and I love Beanos. As I cannot go “collecting” pubs any more perhaps I should try to visit every Beanos instead. Well, everybody needs a hobby.

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Just when you thought you had enough medication.

The only other excitement was a visit to the pharmacy to get yet more medication to variously swallow and inject, I really was getting tired of those jabs.
After a whole lot of nothing in this post you will be glad to know that something which may be of vague interest to you happens in the next one so bring your napkins, knives and forks (all will be revealed), stay tuned and spread the word.

Broadstairs Ball Fest (rugby balls, that is).

Sunday 22nd September and I was up very early for the second morning in a row but this time by design rather than accident. It was one of the few occasions in a very long time I had set my alarm for anything but this was important stuff as I mentioned at the end of my last post. You may know that I am following the Rugby World Cup in Japan and Ireland were playing Scotland to open their campaign with kickoff at 0845 due to the time difference. It is an unholy hour for a rugby match but not as bad as it might be as some of the games start at 0545 but thankfully not too many.

The Ireland game was immediately followed by England vs. Tonga at a more respectable 1115 so it was going to be a busy day one way and another. I had roused myself and got ready so early that I had time for a wander along the front and my obligatory couple of images which I have included at the top of the page just to kick off and give the page a half-decent look.  (Kick off, rugby, get it?  I don’t just throw this stuff together you know.  OK, I lied, I do just throw this stuff together).

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What has my life become?

Under the old regime I would have been straight into the cider but times have changed radically and it was coffee first. I am drinking so much coffee now it is unreal. I suppose they will tell me now that coffee is no good for me either! Dave made me up a large one in the rather cute Winnie the Pooh mug and quickly followed that with a tasty sausage roll just to keep the wolf from the door. The day started well with Ireland completely dismantling a Scottish side who were very disappointing. I cannot see them doing anything in this competition.

Sausage roll, George Inn, Broadstairs.
Rugby breakfast Mk. I.

It is pretty well worked out that there is only a short gap between games, allowing the experts in the studio to have a few words of a roundup and then change over to the next lot and so it was almost immediately on to England vs. Tonga at 1115. The pub had filled up well for this game because a) it was England and b) it was a much more civilised hour and once again Dave produced trays laden with sausage rolls which were devoured in short order. By this time I was on to “ciderwater” and if you do not know what this is please check back on my previous posts. It is interesting to compare and contrast Breakfasts Mk. I and II which were timed at 0853 and 1124 respectively.

Sausage roll, George Inn, Broadstairs.
Compare and contrast. Rugby Breakfast Mk. II. Note the marked improvement.

Unsurprisingly, England ran out easy winners by 35 to 3 and they really are looking good this time around after a rather ignominious pool stage exit in their home tournament in 2015 after being beaten by Wales and Australia. I know the English sporting press are notorious for over-hyping any home side in any competition but I honestly think that the team coached by Eddie Jones has as good a chance this time round as at any time since they won it in 2003. Their back row particularly is explosive and they appear strong in every department with a strong bench to cope with injury and allow for rotation. this will be an interesting competition.

Enough of the rugby. If you are a fan, you will already know all this by the time I publish the post and if you are not then you do not want to know it! As for a travel blog entry I am afraid there is little more to add today as it was just another day spent in the pub trying desperately not to drink too much. It is certainly not the way I would wish to live but it has been forced on me and I shall have to make the best of it.

Wrotham Arms, Broadstairs.
Home sweet home away from home.

Back home to the Wrotham, which was feeling more and more like home with each passing day, a quick snack and a couple of chapters of my book and then head down for another peaceful night’s sleep.

Tomorrow, I go back to Margate and make an interesting discovery plus I get to the bottom of the “Mystery of the Beano Cafe” which you will know about if you have read my previous posts so stay tuned and spread the word.

Gluttony in the George.

Viking Bay, Broadstairs.
My attempt at being arty.

I do not know if you have reached this page through following my exploits chronologically / sequentially or if you just landed here by reason of something very bad you did in a previous life! If it is the former you will know that I had been up eating snacks at 0430 on this morning and if it is the latter you will not have known this but you do now! Despite all this nocturnal noshing I still managed to awake at some ridiculously early hour and I knew I would not get back to sleep so it was up and shower and out to face a pretty decent if chilly autumnal morning.

You may know that I am following the Rugby World Cup when I can. Dave the manager opens the George pub early (his normal time is 1100) if there is a match of particular interest on but I could not for the life of me remember if he was opening before time on that particular day so I took a bit of a wander along the front and had a try at taking an “arty” type shot or two of the sun reflecting off the water. I’m not sure if this is arty or just a mess but I quite like it. The rather safer options of the pier and Viking Bay and the information board at least turned out vaguely competent

I eventually ambled up to the pub in time for the 1045 kick off New Zealand vs. South Africa fixture. If you don’t follow rugby, these are two big hitters either of whom could win the competition and it was always going to be a bruising affair. The NZ All Blacks are my tip for the Cup as they are just so consistently good. The game was as tough as it had looked on paper and NZ ran out eventual winners 23 – 13. Although it will dent their confidence a bit this is not a major setback for the Springboks (South Africa) as both teams should progress from the group stage to the quarter finals.

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Breakfast is served.

If it is an early kick off, Dave knocks up bacon or bacon and sausage rolls (free, gratis and for nothing) which he dishes up to all and sundry and much appreciated they are. He was not doing that on this day but he seems to have taken it upon himself to feed me up following my recent illness. In truth, I am a bit thin at present. To this end produced a huge bowl of chilli con carne which was left over from the quiz night on the Thursday although he had spiced it up just a little as he knows I like a bit of a kick to my food but it was still not terribly hot. What it was, though, was completely gorgeous as anything in the stew / casserole / curry etc. line is when left overnight and re-heated. I know that proper recipes for certain French dishes actually call for them to be left overnight to let the flavours “get to know each other” as I like to put it.

My dear friend Poetry the barmaid was in the pub although not in a working capacity and she had been partying all night. I remember the days I was her age and could do it as well. As it happens, I reckon I probably still could if the Doctors would let me. Well, for one night anyway. There was no way I could finish all that Dave had given me although I had a good go at it and Poetry asked could she finish it. I wish she had asked me earlier as we could have got another plate and shared it while it was still hot. She took one spoonful of it and what happened next was spectacular. I wish I had had the presence of mind to film it as it was comical. As I said , it was not really hot at all but she reacted as if it was a Phall curry with extra naga chillies on the side. She was fanning her mouth, gasping, calling for water and all sorts of antics, it really was hysterical. When she had eventually calmed down sh told me that she cannot eat spicy food at all. I would love to see her face off a proper Thai jungle curry some time, that would be worth watching.
After the rugby I had a bit of a catch up on this blog and about half three in the afternoon I was hungry again despite the huge amount of chilli I had consumed not five hours previously. Back across the road to the Seafarer which I have mentioned previously and a battered sausage and chips was soon enough delivered to my table in the pub, I love this system!

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A late lunch is then served.

More online activity and a couple of pints of my new tipple followed so I suppose I should tell you about that. I was in the Wrotham one evening and lamenting the fact that I had been forced to cut down on my consumption so radically to Mira the barmaid. I have known Mira for a long time and her husband is a musician in a couple of prog rock bands so we all get along very well. Mira asked me if if I fancied a “ciderwater”. A what? Mira is a cider drinker herself and she told me that she sometimes drinks it when she is working. It is effectively a cider shandy but made half and half with soda water instead of lemonade, hence the name. It sounded disgusting and I told her so but Mira has a habit of talking me into doing things I don’t want to do which hitherto had normally meant me having another pint of real cider and so I had one.

What can I tell you about “ciderwater” other than that I was right? It did taste disgusting although I am still drinking it and actually getting used to it a bit now. Certainly it is not a patch on the proper stuff but you can still taste a little something. I just could not spend a whole evening drinking soda water and lime or orange juice or whatever. Added to that it looks like a pint, albeit somewhat anaemic so I do not have the psychological thing of everybody knowing I am not drinking. I know it is not a problem but everybody round here knows my backstory and it would just take too long to keep explaining it. I must admit I still feel a bit embarrassed asking barstaff for it but they do not bat an eyelid. Changed times from when I was a young man when even driving was not deemed an excuse for not drinking, ridiculous as that is.

Of course there is the financial aspect of drinking and I reckon that with my new ciderwater regime coupled with the vaping instead of lining the Government’s pockets with their unjustifiable tobacco taxes I must be saving a fortune. Ordinarily I would put a windfall like this towards another overseas trip but obviously that is not currently an option. I’ll let you know what happens.

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An early evening snack is served.

Come about half past eight in the evening and that appetite of mine was rearing it’s not so ugly head again. Seafarer time again for a “snack” of two fishcakes, just to keep me going you understand. Being a Saturday night, it was a little later to bed that night although I still managed yet another few late night munchies before I got my head down.

There is important rugby in the next post (yes, more important than NZ vs. RSA) so stay tuned and spread the word.

Back to Broadstairs and the “real world”.

There I was, awake on a pleasant autumnal morning at a time of my own choosing and not having my blood pressure, pulse and everything else recorded and it was delightful. If this makes no sense at all to you then I suggest you read the previous few entries where I have spent almost a month in the QEQM hospital in Margate being not terribly well frankly.

Enoxaparin syringes.
Twice a day – my belly looks like a second hand pin cushion!

It was a Monday morning so it was a new week and in many ways a new beginning, an enforced new lifestyle which was certainly not of my choosing as I was quite happy with the one I had before but I had little choice now. I should say at the outset of this post that I managed to take a grand total of one pretty uninteresting image the whole day which I have posted above for two reasons. One, it is the only one I have, as I say, and two, it is indicative of my new regime as this little box of tricks is more or less the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night. It is not a major problem but it is just something you would rather not have to do. I do feel sorry for diabetics who have to do this every day. I have some sort of light at the end of the tunnel as it will be for a finite period. I am writing this on the first day of October and I probably have another six weeks of this although they are currently discussing changing me to oral medication but I am not holding my breath.

Whilst I did not take many images on this day, I was far from idle. The very first thing was to sort out the smoking. I mentioned in previous posts about my enforced abstinence from tobacco whilst I had been laid up, assisted by prescribed nicotine patches and I was surprised at how few physical cravings I had actually had compared to long-haul flights of perhaps 12 or 14 hours when I am literally climbing the walls at the airport at the far end. I had thought that my hospital experience was psychological in that my brain knew there was no chance of smoking and so just dismissed the idea. I didn’t think the patches would have that much effect but something seemed to be doing the trick.

Whilst it was not contributory to my illness, obviously smoking isn’t a brilliant thing to be doing although I have to say that I enjoy smoking, always did. I did think, however that having made this start I could maybe manage to cut down and my plan was to start vaping rather than the patches or gum or whatever else. I had been thinking about vaping for quite a while and some of my friends had reported very good results with it. Obviously the vape shop was not open on the Sunday I was discharged so I bought a packet of cigarettes to replace the one I had given another patient in the QEQM hospital. He was ambulatory but could not get cigarettes in there obviously, although he could get out into the garden for a smoke. I knew I would be in for a while and so I gave him mine. I have to say that I was pretty good though and only had two or three all night.

First thing then I was off to the vape shop and there is certainly plenty of choice. As far as I know there are at least six in this little town of approximately 25,000 people. I am a great believer in utilising local knowledge and the general consensus was that Pure Perfection in York Street was very good which was handy as it is literally about three minutes walk from my front door. In I went and told the two guys there that I was completely new to the whole vaping concept and I was not interested in passion fruit bubblegum flavour or whatever else nonsense ideas they have come up with but rather I just wanted something that tasted as close to a Marlboro Light as they could get.

I have to say that the blokes were very good and obviously knowledgeable. They could have tried to foist a very expensive machine on me but they didn’t and offered me a starter kit (pictured) which included two “burners” or “coils” or whatever they are called and a bottle of Gold and Silver which I have not used a quarter of in two weeks and all for £35. For non-smokers, to put this in perspective a packet of 20 Marlboro Lights are getting on for £11 now due to the obscene taxes on them and I was smoking 20 – 30 a day. Since I started the vaping there have been a couple of days when I have smoked four but most days it is three and I am very pleased with myself. In truth I have little reason for self-congratulation as it has been relatively easy and I have not had the serious cravings I thought I would. I have been smoking for the best part of half a century now and fairly heavily for a large portion of that. Yes, I know that none would be better than three but the fact is that, as I mentioned, I enjoy smoking. I always did and probably always will so it is now a matter of keeping it to manageable proportions and I am happy with the current status quo.

My new vaping machine.
My “new best friend”.

Incidentally, I am not lying to you, the image of the vape here was taken at a much later date, I really did only take the one image that day.

If I am happy with the smoking situation in response to Doctor’s orders then I am very far from happy with the NHS in that respect of their further orders. I had experienced the very best of the NHS during my time in the QEQM hospital, and believe me that is very good as I hope I have conveyed but now I was to be faced with the pathetic bureaucracy that dogs it so often and the “left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing” way of doing things.

In hospital when I had told the medical staff that I had not been registered with a doctor for over 20 years they freaked out and asked me why. I told them it was because I did not get sick which is generally speaking true and if I get an odd sniffle or whatever I just drink plenty of fluids and take to my bed until it passes. The problem apparently is that whenever I get ill I get spectacularly ill but I was never one for doing things by halves.

The Doctors (several different ones so it is not merely one of them being in error) stated categorically that although I was not resident locally I could register on a temporary basis. Wrong. I am writing this to backdate over two weeks later, the situation is still not resolved, I still do not have a GP and some of my medication runs out this weekend!

I went to the Health Centre in Broadstairs (the only Doctors I know of in town) and explained the situation to the young receptionist who seemed unsure of the procedure and called her superior. The superior was very sure of the procedure and told me that under no circumstances could they register me even on a temporary basis unless I produced photographic ID AND a utility bill or similar to prove a local address. I repeated that I had just told her and her colleague I was not resident here but merely visiting and repeated, yet again, what the hospital Doctors had told me. Also, as I do not have a driving licence my only photographic ID is my passport and I am not in the habit of carrying that round unless I am going overseas. I shall let this story unfold in it’s proper sequence over the next few posts and, believe me, it does not make for happy reading.

I know some of you have been good enough to follow me down some rather unusual roads in my days of travel writing so if any of you, old friends or new, wish to accompany me down the as yet untrodden road to recovery then stay tuned and spread the word.

Time to go home (as Andy Pandy used to say so long ago).

The big day finally arrived, Sunday 15th September and I waited until everyone else had used the bathroom, went and had a shower, which I could do by then (I couldn’t until the PICC line was removed), changed my own dressing and headed back to my bedspace. Why on Earth I did not take my street clothes with me I shall never know, I suppose I just was not used to wearing them by now so I pulled my curtains and got changed. It seemed a bit odd after all this time. I binned my pyjamas in the laundry basket and then stripped my bed and binned the used bedlinen, I thought it was the least I could do. I donated the books I had read to the ward “library” which at that point consisted of two old Readers Digest books of four abridged titles each, not one of which I had heard of!

After that, it was a slightly odd sensation. I was sitting doing my normal things but in my “civvies”. I had ordered my lunch, which you do immediately after breakfast, although I had told the lady I wasn’t sure if I would be there for it or not. She told me to order it anyway on the principle that it was better she prepare it than me possibly go hungry. It turned out she was right and this was the rogan ghosh I spoke of in my previous post plus spotted dick and custard – lovely stuff! I am publishing the images again here as I could look at them all day as easily as I could eat that dinner all day.

I knew I would be going nowhere until I had been given drugs to take with me as I had been told that not only would I be taking some of the medications for a while including 12 weeks of the injections which I was not looking forward to, but that I would be on one of the tablets for the rest of my life. Every day as long as I live which, whilst not a major problem as taking tablets doesn’t worry me, will undoubtedly lead to all sorts of bloody hassles when I travel overseas for months on end. I really have no idea how it works but it must as I am sure others do it. A right pain but something I suppose I am going to have to get used to. Without being over-dramatic, this whole episode had been life-changing one way and another.

All the drugs duly arrived and it was time to take my leave. Cheerio to David in the next bed who had been in for a long time and looked set to be in for a long time to come, I wish him well.  Then it was farewell to Kyle in the corner bed (you shall meet him again), and a generic cheerio to the three other guys on the other side of the ward who were all recent arrivals I had not really got to know.

I was well aware that the next bit was going to be the most difficult part and that was saying goodbye to the wonderful staff who had been so good to me over quite a long period. Obviously, the normal business of the ward was going on and people were busy but I cornered as many of them as I could for a brief farewell and heartfelt thanks to the point that it was getting a bit emotional. All of them wished me well, gave me various words of advice about my lifestyle, making sure I took my meds etc. etc. There was still one final little piece of nonsensical hospital procedure to be followed and Sister deputed one of the male nurses to escort me to the front door which is standard practice it appears. Apparently it did not matter that I had been wandering about the hospital alone in the dead of night for weeks. I joked with the nurse that they were just making sure I didn’t steal anything on the way out but it seems they were responsible for me until I was off the premises. Something to do with damned lawyers and spurious lawsuits, I believe.

I know I say a lot of strange things in my posts here and this will undoubtedly rank as one of the strangest to date but I was actually a little sad to leave the place. Obviously nobody wants to be ill and in pain and few people would choose to be in hospital but apart from the obvious physical discomforts (especially that damned NG tube up my nose and the extended starvation diet) I had as good a time there as could be expected under the circumstances. I was made as comfortable as was possible, I was treated with every consideration by staff of all disciplines that obviously believed in what they were doing, I had all day to do nothing but relax, read and potter about on the net. I have really no excuse for how long it has taken to post this admittedly lengthy post with the time I had at my disposal on the ward. When I was eventually allowed to eat, the grub was spot on and I was pretty much left alone to do what I wanted within the confines of my treatment.

Having finally stepped outside and smelt fresh air for the first time in what seemed like forever I relented on the matter of the bus and called a taxi. I was perfectly able to get the bus but I was conscious of time and I knew that my friends Sally and Brian were playing a gig in the Wrotham at 1600 and I really wanted to catch it as I had missed them completely during Folk Week. It turned up promptly and delivered me at my temporary home just in time to catch the start of the set and be accosted by any number of friends, many of whom did not even know I had been ill so my sorry tale was somewhat abridged and related several times. Sally and Brian were superb as they always are, I have known them for more years than any of us would care to remember and I have never seen them do a duff show yet. They do some old-style folk and some numbers which are fairly “socially aware” but they are possibly best known for their humourous numbers some of which are literally rib-hurtingly funny. It was a great welcome back to the “real world”.

Drink, Wrotham Arms, Broadstairs.
I had waited a ling time for this.

Naturally, I had to order a pint which you can see pictured above. I had been lectured ad nauseum about my drinking and smoking in hospital and I had a plan for the smoking which seems to be holding up fairly well as I write this a couple of weeks later but I had told the Doctors that there was no way I was giving up drinking completely, that was just not an option. Before anyone gets in touch, no, I am not an alcoholic, that was proven in hospital when I did not have a drink for a month or so and suffered no ill-effects. When I was first admitted they used to offer me medication if I was getting withdrawal symptoms but they were completely unnecessary.  I was very disciplined and limited myself to two pints all night.

The fact of the matter is that I enjoy drinking, as much for the social aspect of it as anything else. I absolutely refuse to sit and drink soda water and lime all night and if you remove pubs from the equation then I may as well put down a deposit on a small cave on a remote island as I shall instantly become a hermit. I shall have nowhere to go socially which I explained to the medical staff and told them I would cut down as far as I could. Again, a couple of weeks in, this strategy seems to be holding up well although it is very early days. We shall see how it goes.

One other thing of note is represented by the rather lovely image above and it is the fact that my spell in hospital had seen the seasons change from Summer to Autumn. Yes, I know it is not officially Autumn on the 15th of September but I always associate the coming of Autumn with the first hanging of the hops in the same way as many people associate the coming of Spring with hearing the first cuckoo.

Kent is known as the “Garden of England” and rightly so because of the variety and quality of it’s produce. It is famous for it’s apples and also it’s hops with the first English hop garden believed to have been created near Canterbury in 1520 and this is the reason for the excellent quality of both the cider and the beer in the County. Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham is reputedly the oldest in the UK and cider has been made in the UK since the time of the Norman Conquest which was very influential in Kent. Can it be merely coincidence that I spend so much time in this fine county?

Hanging hop display, Wrotham Arms, Broadstairs.
It’s Autumn on the Fergy calender.

When the hops are picked at this time of the year, it is the tradition all over Kent to hang garlands of them, if that is the correct term, in pubs. Not only do they look rather pretty but if you rub them gently between your thumb and forefinger, the smell is divine. In the Wrotham, Jackie has gone the extra mile as she tends to do and put up fairy lights amongst the display. I think it looks rather wonderful although it did take me a few attempts to get a decent image. I hope you like it.

After Sally and Brian had finished, the pub pretty much cleared out with only a couple of guys playing pool and I had another quiet night chatting to Jackie at the bar. I could not help but think about what had happened the last time I had done this and all that had happened in what had seemed like half a lifetime. It had been quite a ride. Although I felt OK apart from a little tenderness around my wound site, I did feel tired quite quickly and retired pretty early to my room to stick a needle in my belly, take a handful of pills, a cupful of a solution and then crash into a bed that did not have an air mattress and a remote control. I turned out all the lights and listened to the silence which was punctuated only by the occasional passing car on the Ramsgate Road and it was not long until I was fast asleep.

If you have read this far in my hospital saga then I am unsure whether to applaud your perseverance or wonder at your masochism but whichever it is, I thank you. Yes, I know I have gone on a bit but it was a fairly long period of time to write about and one that was, and still is, literally life-changing. There will undoubtedly be further references to my health and connected matters in the next few posts but I shall try to keep them relevant and to a minimum.

If you want to know more about my rehabilitation into the “real world” then stay tuned and spread the word.

I am back again.

Hello again all and, as seems almost inevitable with this website which I so naively embarked upon a few months ago, I begin with an apology. Any of my handful of readers who were following matters sequentially will have left me back in Northern Ireland in early August 2018 where I had spent about two … Continue reading “I am back again.”

Hello again all and, as seems almost inevitable with this website which I so naively embarked upon a few months ago, I begin with an apology.

Any of my handful of readers who were following matters sequentially will have left me back in Northern Ireland in early August 2018 where I had spent about two months at home with my Father having only intended to be there for about a week. I ended up staying until the 10th of that month when I returned to London for a literally overnight turnaround which entailed unloading the few dirty items of laundry (I had laundered at my Dad’s before leaving), replacing them with clean from the Himalayan pile of clean clothing awaiting ironing which may happen sometime before a politician tells the truth but don’t hold your breath. I swear that little suitcase has not been fully unpacked for about 18 months now.

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Viking Bay on a sunny day.

The next day saw me on a train and heading for the utterly delightful seaside town of Broadstairs in Kent, which is about as far East as you can go in that county without getting wet as you will have fallen in the Channel! Apart from the many obvious charms of this delightful town you may wonder why I was taking myself there and the reason is simple, it was Broadstairs Folk Week which is arguably the largest and certainly my favourite of the numerous Folk Festivals that take place all over the UK every year.

Most UK festivals are weekend or long weekend four-day gigs but Broadstairs is one of the three week-long events that take place throughout the season (the others being Sidmouth in Devon and Whitby in North Yorkshire) and I am unsure exactly how many years I have played it but I reckon it is 27 this year. I missed one in 2016 as I was travelling in Canada but otherwise it has been an unbroken run. The Canada trip will eventually form the basis of another set of retrospective entries here but there really is so much to be done beforehand. Likewise I have more than enough images, memories and written pieces salvaged from other now-defunct sites to construct travelogues on many different years here but again it is all a matter of when I get time to do it.

I am something of a standing joke in Broadstairs although I have to say that that particular state of being is not at all confined to this location. The reason is that, like my four-day Dutch trip last year which took three and a half months and my week back in Northern Ireland which took two, I have a habit of not going home. I am not even going to start explaining my five-week trip to the Philippines in 2012 where I managed to substitute the word months for weeks and is yet another travelogue waiting to happen. I just tend to get marooned in places and last year I came to Broadstairs to play Folk Week but ended up going back to London in early November as I wanted to attend Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph as I habitually do if I am in the country. It is just the way I am, I get cast up on foreign shores and tend to remain.

You may well wonder how I manage to do such things and I do try to explain them as I go along in my various little travelogues here. I am certainly not a rich man and cannot afford to just sign into some hotel or another for months on end. I hope I can give a few tips in my writing about how to minimise costs for the independent traveller but in the case of Broadstairs it is very simple. I have two wonderful friends who live right in the middle of the town and are kind enough to put me up, allowing me to stay as long as I like even though I often tell them to throw me out when they are sick of the sight of me. They never do. I am not going to name them here for various reasons but they have my deepest thanks and are the most lovely people. Again I am drawn back to another of my travel / life mantras (is there a difference?) that there are a Hell of a lot more good people in the world than bad and so here I am on a gloriously sunny Summer day in a town I love with an almost ridiculous passion. A dear friend whose opinion I greatly respect once told me it was my “spiritual home” and, whilst I shy away from the term somewhat, it is undoubtedly true.

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A very fine pub and back to it’s old name again.

I am typing this in a great bar (the George) which is not 200 yards from my bed and “home” where I have my own key. I have free run of the kitchen and bathroom, access to the washing machine (vital when you travel as light as I do) and I am living with friends who I socialise with on an almost daily basis. How bad can that be? If any of you have been reading the account of my little European excursion last year you will have heard me speaking of the “travel Gods” who I firmly believe in. No, that is not a belief system nor religion and, no, I am not intending to start a cult worshipping them but I genuinely believe in their presence, not as deities per se but just some sort of “something” that looks out for travellers. I have a Hell of a life on the road and I fully appreciate that fact.

Enough of the philosophy and back to the details. I am in Broadstairs again for whatever length of time, I have been asked to play at the local Folk Club this evening which is generally a good laugh and I believe there may also be a firework display which really are spectacular here. I’ll keep you posted. I have been asked to play at a house party on Saturday for other friends where there will be a bunch of musos hanging about as the male half of the couple is a bass player in no less than three bands so that should be fun. Of course this sort of thing ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy as someone sees you at a gig and asks you to open for them the next Tuesday or “dep” (stand in for someone) at another gig and so becoming stranded here is not too difficult.

Right, I think that is me caught up with my present position but for anyone who is coming upon this site for the first time I shall provide a couple of links to the other travelogues I have alluded to as the only way I can keep any semblance of order here is to post events on the days they happened.

You can find the start of my European jaunt here.

If you want to know about my recent trip to Northern Ireland trip it is here.

I have now finished off the blog of my trip to Lundy Island and the West Country.

The European trip of 2017  as mentioned above is eventually finished and I am going to attempt to pin this entry to the top of the site (fingers crossed) so you can have a look at all the back entries I have done and the many more I still have to do.  Honestly, this backdating is the only way I can ever hope to keep this whole enterprise in any sort of order.

As a final comment, thank you as always to everyone who has read my pages here and sent comments or “liked” them and there is much more to come so please stay tuned and spread the word.