The Thanet Trinity – Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate.

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Sunny Broadstairs – maybe not.

As I promised in the last post (no, not the bugle call) there are going to be several days rolled into one here as not a lot happened so it is just for the sake of completeness. Appropriately it encompasses three days so I have dated it to the latest date.
The 24th of September had no World Cup Rugby so that was one option ruled out and it was tipping down with rain so any sort of walking was right out. The image shows you how unpleasant it was weatherwise. Yes, I still wanted to do a bit of walking, partially to aid my recovery and build up my strength and also because it is one of my favourite pastimes, at least it was until I started feeling unwell. What was I to do?

My newly rediscovered appetite made breakfast a must and I really fancied a pancake breakfast which meant Wetherspoons at Margate. I much prefer their outlet in Ramsgate but they have some odd ways of working there. I do eat breakfast quite a bit in JDW and my two favourite breakfasts there are the pancake breakfast or else Eggs Royale but neither are offered in Ramsgate. My preferred tipple, even under this current abstemious regime is Strongbow, one of the most popular ciders in UK and again not available in the Pavilion although it is in every other ‘Spoons that I know. I am fobbed off with Thatchers instead which is not a bad drop but not my first choice.

I am very partial to “bangers and mash” for lunch or dinner and again it is available in every other Wetherspoons I know but not Ramsgate. I believe they have exceeded it now with another outlet but when the Pavilion opened it was reputed to be the largest pub in Europe and certainly in the UK. It was very much their flagship with a customer area of a staggering 11,000 sq. ft. not to mention kitchen, staff, storage areas etc. so you would think they would offer their full range of food and drink but apparently not. It completely baffles me.

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Not their finest hour.

Off to Margate then on the Loop bus, into the Mechanical Elephant which I have mentioned here before is not my favourite of what is an excellent chain. You would think that pancakes, maple syrup substitute, bacon and blueberries is not too difficult to get out but they could not even do that right and the non-maple syrup was fridge cold. Apaprently they could not even manage a few seconds in the microwave where they cook most of their food. When I received the obligatory “Is everything OK Sir” which was as mechanical as the elephant of the pub name, I did point this out and she offered to have it sent back to the kitchen. Not a chance, I have known enough chefs to know what happens to returned food.

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Even the internet was down.

As usual, the internet was not working in the Elephant so there was nothing else for it but to head back to Broadstairs as the weather didn’t look like livening up any time soon as you can see below. I won’t bore you with my evening in the pub tapping up this stuff on my computer and nursing a pint or two of cider spritzer so we shall pass quickly on to the next day.

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Margate was as dismal as Broadstairs.

A quiet day, wired in the evening and a bit of seagull wrangling thrown in.

The 25th was not a lot better than the previous day weatherwise, it really was getting autumnal. I have mentioned before that Thanet has an odd weather system and I have known T-shirt days in October but here it was wet, blowy and none too warm.

After the slight debacle of the Wetherspoons the day before I decided to play a bit safe and return to the Pavilion for breakfast. OK, there would be no pancakes nor Eggs Royale but I had half an idea to try something I had seen on the menu which was a relatively recent innovation known as Miners Benedict which I am quite sure is something the chain had invented themselves as I had never heard of it before. It substitutes black pudding for the ham in the traditional Eggs Benedict. I was not sure how it would work as the Benedict family is served with Hollandaise sauce whereas I would normally associate brown sauce or preferably English mustard as the condiments of choice for black pudding but I am game to try anything once and so that was the order.

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Strangely it works although it shouldn’t.

No doubt Wetherspoons have very well qualified executive chefs, all sorts of focus groups and whatnot and had probably trialled the new dish before putting it on general release so I really should not have had too many misgivings about my Miners Benedict. Let’s be honest, as a man who makes tuna, banana and garlic pizza nothing should seem too odd and, against all expectation, it worked very well and provided a good start to the day.

As I was sitting allowing my breakfast to settle and doing a bit of leisurely blogging I became aware of a bit of a commotion which was a couple of members of staff making a fairly half-hearted attempt to direct a juvenile seagull, which had somehow found it’s way in, back the way it had come. The creature was obviously confused by the concept of glass and was persistently trying to get through the window to the outside world it could so clearly see. Incidentally, I apologise for the quality of the images but the beast just would not keep still, probably understandably. Lest anyone is concerned, it was eventually returned to the great outdoors, apparently none the worse for it’s visit to the Pavilion. With the excitement over, I settled down to another quiet day of blogging and attempting to keep my alcohol consumption down. I must say I was becoming increasingly good at that although I will never like it.

As I was walking back the short distance to get the Loop bus back to Broadstairs I stopped to capture the two images above. I had seen them many times before and knew the whole history but I thought I would capture them to share with you. I have told you before how much I love Ramsgate Harbour not to mention boring you with interminable images of it but in addition to it’s obvious aesthetic qualities it is packed to the gunwales (note the nautical reference there) with history and these plaques represent only a fraction of it.

I was heading home for the afternoon dozette that is becoming increasingly a part of my daily routine the older I get. I wanted to be fresh for the evening as it was “Wired” in the Wrotham so I suppose I should explain what that is.

“Wired” is a long-running open jam session which has had several venues rond the town and has now settled in the Wrotham which seems to be the centre for so much good live music. It is held on the last Wednesday of the month and is an open jam session tending towards electric music, predominantly blues and rock. It is not to be confused with “Griff’s Open Mic night” which I shall explain in a future post, nor the “Woodshed” (ditto re: explanation), both of which are also held in the Wrotham.

I know a lot of musos on the scene round Thanet and have played with most of the guys you see pictured here but I did not know the guy who provided me with a great treat that night in the shape of the Hammond organ you can see being expertly played in one of the images above. I love Hammond organs and whilst Lee (apparently that is his name) did not have the Leslie speakers (are there many originals still around?) but it still sounded great especially as he was such a good keysman. It was a great night and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A very short trip up the stairs (no, I did not literally trip up the stairs) and straight into bed for another great night’s sleep.

Two breakfasts, one rugby match, one hospital appointment and little else.

Thursday 26th rolled around and the only item in my rather full social diary (I am only semi-joking about that) was yet another hospital appointment at the QEQM in the late afternoon. I knew Dave would not be opening the George for the early rugby match of Italy vs. Canada as it was of little interest locally but England were due on at 1145 and whilst it was a foregone conclusion I fancied watching it as I love my rugby.

I awoke early and hungry which thankfully seems to be my default position now and so I took off over to Ramsgate for a quick breakfast. I only ordered the small version as I knew damn rightly that Dave would be putting food on in the bar and he does not take no for an answer when it comes to eating, at least not with me. As I told you before that the man is on a very well-intentioned and much appreciated mission to bulk me up again. My supposition proved correct on both counts and the two feeds are shown above.

The match was pretty much as expected with England running not only riot against USA but also running out 45 -7 victors. Then it was back to the QEQM hospital again for my appointment before back to the bar where it was quiz night and despite being asked I declined the offer to join a team and make a complete fool of myself.

As always, a gentle stroll home and off to bed content with another day on the road to recovery. Certainly I was not going to be entering any Ironman events in the near future but my wound was healing nicely and I was able to walk increasing distances with no ill effects. As I have described I was eating with a vengeance and an appetite I had not had for a very long time. The only downside were those annoying jabs but they were an inconvenience rather than a major problem although they were becoming gradually more uncomfortable as I was forced to revisit the same injection sites but I suppose it is preferable to a blood clot roaming around inside me.

In the next post I get to visit a fascinating place I have wanted to see for a very long time and there is inevitably yet another breakfast so stay tuned and spread the word.

Roaming and return to Ramsgate.

Special offer – two days for the price of one.

Thursday 19th September was another lovely day although I did not do much with it and so I shall content myself with a brief entry here and post the whole thing on the 20th as it seems a bit pointless making a post for so little otherwise.

Having gone to Margate the previous day, I thought I may as well utilise my Loop Bus pass to go the other way and return to Ramsgate for another day. A quick wander round town where I checked out the numerous charity shops as I ten to do. My beloved old DPM (Disruptive Pattern Material aka camo) jacket had fallen hors de combat (get it?) with the zip giving out and the weather, whilst beautifully sunny still, certainly wasn’t warm. Having set out on this trip with only the one top coat, it was obvious I was going to need something to replace it.

Street scene, Ramsgate.
Street scene, Ramsgate.

The urban decay I spoke of at length in the previous post in Margate is also evident in Ramsgate as you can see although not perhaps to quite the same extent and there is no shortage of charity shops to choose from. In one I found a decent quilted waterproof jacket which fitted nicely but there was just one problem. It had a Saracens rugby team logo on it and they are not my team so I just could not bring myself to do it. A little further down the hill I found a brilliant leather motorcycle jacket for £15 (absolute bargain) and I tried it on. It fitted like a glove. What prevented me from buying it there and then I will never know but I didn’t and carried on with my unzipped camo. Luckily I had plenty of layers on as the wind was pretty raw and I do feel the cold a bit, probably because I have no meat on me! Still, you can’t fatten a thoroughbred as they say.

By then it was time for breakfast with my newly refound appetite so I decided to head for the Royal Victoria Pavilion, the JD Wetherspoons place I have mentioned before. OK, I am a creature of habit really and people do scoff at JDW but I am not going to go over the arguments again here, I like them.

Royal Harbour, Ramsgate.
Are you tired of it yet?

Of course, it would not be as simple as me just walking there as I have to skirt round the Royal Harbour to get to the pub and so I had to stop for yet another image of it. I swear that body of water is to me as a shoe shop is to Imelda Marcos – I just cannot pass it so you are going to be “treated” to another one. Be fair, it is very pretty and I remember when my mate Richard had his boat moored here. I had some great afternoons just sitting on it watching the harbour life, it was most pleasant.

Breakfast, JD Wetherspoons, Ramsgate.
Very tasty but why did I go for the diet option?

Hungry as I was, my image shows that I perversely opted for the small breakfast which was lovely as always but hardly a “breakfast of champions” in terms of size. I must have been planning to eat another three meals that day or something.

If I have a slight criticism of Wetherspoons it is that they have taken it upon themselves to ban vaping in all their premises as have many other establishments. This is despite the fact that vaping is perfectly legal in public places although I wonder how long that will last. British misgovernments (that is not a typo) of both political hues have been working for some time now on the “nanny state” system of ruling us and if I were a betting man I would put a small wager that they will legislate against vaping in the same way as tobacco within ten years. Strange to think that only about 18 months ago the NHS were debating prescribing vapes as an aid to smoking cessation!

Ramsgate beach.
View from a pub door.

However, in the way of clouds and silver linings and so on, look at the view I have when I do step out the door to boost my nicotine levels up from the critical. Not bad, eh? I spent a few hours in the Royal before heading back to Broadstairs for another quiet evening and early bed, well early by my standards anyway.

Revolutions (non-violent), rinsing and retail in Ramsgate.

Friday 20th September was another decent day weather wise but that did not really matter to me as I was pencilled in for a day of domestics, well half a day at least. I always pack light despite experience telling me that I was quite likely to stay in Thanet for some time and to put no too fine a point on it I was running out of clothes. I knew that the one laundrette in Broadstairs had closed down (like most of the premises in town) and a quick internet search showed the nearest to be either Ramsgate or Margate. I knew the bus ran right past the Ramsgate premises and so I decided on that. Besides, the Ramsgate option gave me another chance to go and look at that bike jacket which I had been thinking about on and off.

In the same way that I know a good book is required for a hospital waiting room, so I know that a laundrette is much the same scenario although it is a long time since I used one. As I walked from the bus stop I noticed something vaguely familiar three or four doors along from where I was headed, a Beano Cafe. More of this shortly.

I went into the laundrette where I was the only customer and spoke to the very friendly lady there who was most helpful and fetched me washing powder got me the correct change and set the machine for me (she was later to do the same with the drier). Although I had not paid for a service wash, it might as well have been one. I hit on a bit of a plan and asked my “new best friend” if it would be OK if I popped round to the cafe for a spot of breakfast as my washing went round and round. It seemed a better option than sitting there with the book. She told me it was no problem and my kit would be fine and so I headed off to the Beano.

Beano cafe, Ramsgate.
I just knew what this was.

As you can see, there is a fairly distinctive sign here with the word Beano picked out in red and yellow. Those UK readers of a certain age (i.e. mine) will recognise this as the typeface of a British children’s comic of long-standing and when I say that I mean it as it is the oldest British comic, first published in 1938 by D.C Thomson of Dundee. At time of writing in early October 2019 it has just passed it’s 4,000th edition – some going, but back to the cafe.

For years at Broadstairs Folk Week I camped on the official campsite which was at the “top” of the town and I had a daily walk down High Street to where most of my my gigs were. The Beano was not actually the first cafe you came to but it was not far from my tent and it was certainly the favourite of many festival goers. In recent years I had not been in as it was a long walk up that hill and at the “wrong” end of town for me although all that was to change as you shall see in a future post. I was guessing that this establishment must be in some way related to the Broadstairs one and it turned out my surmise was right to an extent but I shall leave the full story for it’s rightful chronological place in this series.

Beano cafe, Ramsgate.
Simple and delicious.

A light breakfast of poached eggs on toast was all that was required and although it was not confirmed at that point, I just knew it was the same operation as Broadstairs with much the same menu, including a great delight for me which is corned beef, egg and chips at a very reasonable £3:50. It was a bit early for that but it was noted for future reference as I simply love corned beef and you just do not see it in cafes any more. For the benefit of my North American readers, this is not corned beef as you know it but rather the stuff that comes in cans or thinly pre-sliced in rectangles and sold loose or packaged.

Grange Road laundrette, Ramsgate.
No I didn’t strip off.

The breakfast was lovely and I was pleased to see that the cafe was full of tradesmen tucking into huge fry-ups and mugs of builder’s tea which is always a good sign. Having finished, I wandered the 50 or so yards back round to the laundrette just in time to transfer my entire wardrobe (for such it was) to the tumble dryer. I had even taken off my combat jacket and thrown it in. I was reminded of the old 1985 Levi’s TV advertisement which showed a young man going into an American laundromat as they are called there and basically stripping off to his underwear to launder his clothes. I caused quite a stir at the time and did the male model, Nick Kamen, no end of good as it launched him on a brief career as a pop star. I did not go quite that far as it was a bit chilly and I thought the local constabulary may have taken a dim view, not to mention the lady in the laundrette and what I took to be her husband in the back office. I couldn’t shake the image out of my head though.

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My new favourite bit of kit.

With the domestics completed and the belly full I headed straight back into town and the Shelter charity shop  hoping against hope that the bike jacket was still there. I would have kicked myself if it had been sold but I need not have worried. I tried it on again and apparently neither it nor I had changed size or shape appreciably overnight so it still fitted like a glove. I know from experience that leather is useless for repelling water but it was well-padded and warm and whilst I should have bought a sensible winter coat, I had to have this. At time of writing I have been wearing it daily and I absolutely love it.

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I reckon I stole this from them!

It is the best £15 I have spent in a long time as I reckon it is worth ten times more than that new but thankfully it is not new.  It is a bit scuffed and battered, obviously well-worn which saves me the bother of “distressing” it. I hate wearing new clothes that look like new clothes. Have a look at the image above and tell me it was not an absolute steal, plus which the charity get a few £££ so it is a win all round I reckon.

 

On my way back to the bus I happened upon a decent sized street market which I had never seen before but which appeared to be doing a reasonable amount of business.  I had a look round but did not buy anything as purchasing a jacket is more than enough retail therapy for me for one day!

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Merely a snack whilst awaiting my next meal.

I eventually headed back to my digs and helped myself to a Pot Noodle before a quick afternoon dozette which is what happens when you get to my time of life. When I awoke I showered and dressed, complete with my newly acquired jacket and headed back to the George for the evening. I mentioned earlier that my appetite had returned with a vengeance so about 2100 I went across the road to the wonderful Seafarer fish and chip shop and ordered fishcake and small chips or so my image tells me.

Fishcake and "small" chips.
Fishcake and “small” chips.

Dave, the manager of the George does not do regular food in the bar (although he is an excellent chef and often produces very tasty bar snacks) but he is quite happy for you to bring your own food in and consume it on the premises. He is that kind of manager and it is tht kind of pub. It is not just because I am well-known there as the staff tell complete strangers who come in enquiring about food the same thing. Not only that but the staff of the Seafarer will actually bring it over to the bar for you when it is ready as they cook everything to order and it is always piping hot and very fresh. How good is that? Table service in a bar that does not even do food. I should mention in passing that this is a small portion of chips (fries) and I can rarely finish it even with my rediscovered appetite. I have seen a large portion and I swear it would feed either a family of four or a hungry sumo wrestler. Sashimi and chips anyone?

Back home after having stuck manfully to my drink and cigarette allowance, a couple of chapters of my book and off to sleep. That is another thing that seems to have sorted itself out to a degree. I have often mentioned in previous posts about my odd sleeping patterns and, whilst they are probably not what would be deemed to be completely normal now, they have certainly settled down into some sort of rhythm. Whether ot is the sea air (which always makes me tired) or something else I do not know but I am usually asleep before 0200 and do not wake up until morning and having said that I am just going to make a liar out of myself.

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Half a midnight (well, 0430) snack.

I awoke in the middle of the night to attend a call of Nature (too much information I know) and having dealt with that I suddenly came to the realisation that I was hungry but how was that possible? I had eaten that huge portion of fishcake and chips at 2100 and it was now just past 0400 (I know because I checked my image time) and I needed feeding again. Fortunately, I always have a few bits and pieces in my room for emergencies like this and so I made some pancakes with marmalade. You can see three here but that was not enough and I eventually finished the pack of six washed down with some fruit juice. That was better and I managed to get back to sleep.

If you want to see what I manage to shovel down my throat when I get going the next day then stay tuned and spread the word.

Margate- a Tale of Two Cities (or towns).

Margate Sands.
The main attraction in Margate.

The 18th of September was a Wednesday and a quick look out my window showed that it was a beauty with the sun splitting the trees. This was my third full day out of hospital and whilst I was still not anywhere like at 100% I was undoubtedly feeling a whole lot better than I had been a month earlier and I decided on a day out exploring at a gentle pace. I had my Loop Bus pass and so it was a simple matter to jump on the bus which stops just outside my digs and take the short journey to Margate. I have walked there along the cliffs many times and it is a lovely stroll but I was not feeling quite that fit just yet.

I suppose I should tell you a little about Margate, especially the recent history as the place has been up and down more times than the horses on the carousel at Dreamland (of which more later). I shall start with an introductory piece I wrote about the town on the now sadly destroyed Virtual Tourist website in 2011, updated in 2013, and then I shall tell you the more recent goings on there.

“In many ways, Margate stands for just about every other seaside resort town in the UK and has now become an anachronism which is sad but, I suppose, ultimately inevitable.

Margate lies on the extreme East of Kent, in fact just about as East as you can go in England without getting wet! Overlooking the Channel, it is easy to see France on even a not too clear day. The town is part of an area known as the Isle of Thanet, in ancient times properly an island but now part of the mainland, and is best known not for it’s ancient history but for it’s 19th and 20th century role as a daytrippers paradise. This was a place to escape the grimy reality of inner city London for a day or possibly a week long summer holiday. Margate was the place for a “beano”, effectively a daytrip on a hired coach with candyfloss, a walk down the pier, a few beers, fish and chips and then a sleep all the way home as the order of the day.

I spend quite a bit of time in Thanet, more specifically Broadstairs, which is only about four miles away. I have many friends in Margate so I hope readers will understand my reluctance when I deliver a slightly unpleasant verdict on the place. I am not unnecessarily denigrating Margate but, frankly, it is a mess.

Economic recession and the combination of cheap foreign holidays and the often appalling British weather have led to the decline of all British holiday resorts and Margate is no exception. The British holiday industry is pretty well dead now.

I also have to mention, and I am being very careful how I say this as VT very rightly and properly has an embargo on political (in the widest sense) comments, there is another issue. I do not wish to mislead the reader and I have to report that Margate now has a large population of mostly Eastern European immigrants living in what were formerly holiday bed and breakfast establishments. Rightly or wrongly, many of my friends in the town will not walk in the area of Cliftonville after dark, if at all, and these same friends associate this situation with the immigrant population. Drugs (evidence of which is easy to find), violent crime and a complete lack of confidence in the local police have led to areas of Margate becoming “no-go” zones.

I can personally attest to the change in the place even in the last five years. The photos on this front page (again this was a reference to a VT page) were taken in 2006 and having revisited in 2011 it is a much changed place. For example, Dreamland, the “theme park” featured in one of the photos further down this page, had mysteriously burned down, thereby removing the last major link with the traditional leisure industry. This was the last big draw for the holidaymakers. It is generally accepted locally that the fire was no accident as the site was prime land for development.

Shuttered up shops, beggars and decay seem to predominate here now. Certainly, if you are in the area, have a wander around, you will be safe enough in the centre of town (avoid Cliftonville as mentioned) but there is little to see here now. I find it very sad.

As readers of my other VT pages will understand, I tend to find the best in any particular place, and I really do not like to make very negative tips or pages but I am afraid I can find little good to say about Margate, save for the fact that I have many good friends there.

Update August 2013

As of this month, the local press are reporting that any potential redevelopment of Dreamland is going to be delayed for at least a year due to various legal complications. A shame really.  I shall update here as I get any further information.

That was then but this is now.

Here I am writing about Margate again in 2019, so what is new? Charles Dickens, who was no stranger to this part of the Kent coast wrote a novel called “Tale of Two Cities” and this could very well have been written about Margate. The town centre is just about staggering on as a commercial entity but there are still a huge amount of empty commercial premises and many of those that are open are charity shops. There are a large number of beggars / allegedly homeless people (many are not homeless at all) and street drinking is fairly prevalent.

Set this against the fact that the Turner Contemporary gallery is hosting the prestigious Turner Prize as I type this and a recent survey showing a rise in house prices in Margate of 55% in the 10 years to 2019 and it is difficult to know what is going on, it is an odd juxtaposition. Ten years ago Ramsgate was considered the more genteel of itself and Margate (traditionally huge rivals) but now it is apparently like a warzone on Friday and Saturday night. Indeed one of the men I met in hospital was there as the result of being seriously assaulted by a gang of youths in Ramsgate which is apparently a common enough occurrence nowadays.

I do not think Margate is as rough as it was ten years ago although I personally would not be too happy wandering about Cliftonville after dark and I can look after myself. OK, I shall rephrase that, I wouldn’t give much for my chances of looking after myself at present but hopefully I shall not always be incapacitated although there is nothing I can do about getting old!

As for dear old Dreamland, it seems to be a bit like me i.e. you just cannot kill us off and it has had a lick of paint and is back up and running. At time of writing it is getting ready for “Screamland” which is a Hallowe’en based opening on a few nights, presumably in an attempt to extend the season a bit. I do hope the weather keeps up for them.

That is the general outline of the place so what of my day out there then? Well, I knew that there was little or nothing to do there (or so I thought) and whilst it was lovely and sunny it was far from stripping off for the beach weather, not that I am much of a beach bunny anyway. Still, sightseeing was not the object of the exercise as I just wanted a bit of wander to see how quickly I tired.

Cecil Square, Margate.
Cecil Square, Margate.

I jumped off the bus in Cecil Square which is very much the centre of town. I saw a church a short way down Union Crescent as churches are fascinating places (if they are open which, regrettably, most are not these days) and also often good for war memorials which is another interest of mine. Well, it looked like a church and it had once been a church but it now stands as a sign of the way my country has changed since it opened it’s doors as a Congregational church in 1860.

Nowadays, as the image shows, it is the Masjid Al-Birr. From living in an overwhelmingly Muslim area I know that masjid is merely another word for mosque and thiis place is locally known merely as the Margate mosque. I wonder what the 19th century non-conformists would have made of it. Whatever their views may have been it seems that mosques face the same problems as Christian churches and this one was firmly locked up so no exploring for Fergy there.

I think I may have mentioned it before but since my operation my appetite has returned with a vengeance and you could not carry food to me at the moment so it was time for breakfast and I knew just where to go, the Mechanical Elephant. Whatever under the sun is a mechanical elephant? Nowadays it is a pub of the Wetherspoons chain which I have spoken of often enough here and where they do a decent breakfast. Like all Wetherspoons pubs it is linked to the history of the area and there was indeed a life sized mechanical elephant which took tourists for walks along the front here in Margate.

It was invented by a chap called Frank Stuart and unveiled in 1950. It was locally nicknamed Jenny for some reason and whenever it was decommissioned, or whatever the word is for taking a petroleum propelled pachyderm out of service, it was bought by the ever eccentric Peter Sellers to add to his collection of automobilia. Mad as it sounds, the idea took off and similar “beasts” were exported to Australia and America. If you are in the slightest bit interested in the whole concept of pretend Proboscideans there is an excellent and lengthy article here but I do warn you that it is dangerously addictive reading!

Pancake breakfast, JD Wetherspoons pub.
One of my fqvourite starts to the day

Inside the pub (not inside Jenny the Elephant) breakfast consisted of pancakes, bacon, male syrup and blueberries which is a great favourite of mine. It was all washed down with a decent Lavazza coffee and I’d like to share another little piece of information with you. In Wetherspoons they serve unlimited free refills of tea and coffee or rather you serve yourself from the self-service machines which are so simple even a technophobe like me can use them without mishap. Given the ludicrous prices charged by the chain coffee places, I reckon my £1:55 for as much coffee as I want is money well spent and the breakfast is pretty inexpensive as well.

Whilst I do like Wetherspoons generally, for some reason I cannot warm to the Elephant, charming as the name and the backstory is. Apparently it had had a £500,000 refit three months previously and I did not even notice as it looked pretty much the same as I remembered it. The staff seem to have some sort of aversion to cleaning tables as they are nearly always in need of it and it just lets itself down in lots of little ways like the supposed free wifi almost never working. Of all the many Wetherspoons I have visited this is probably my least favourite but it is a cheap, tasty breakfast and that is all I want. It is interesting to compare and contrast it with the Royal Pavilion in nearby Ramsgate and the difference is night and day.

As usual the wifi was defunct so I was not going to sit there all day and catch up on this blog as I might have otherwise been tempted to do. What I am going to do is digress horribly for a couple of paragraphs, as I tend to do, but at least this time I am going to give you fair warning and you may well wish to scroll down until you see the words “Digression over”.

I mentioned that I do not know why Margate named it’s mechanical elephant Jenny as I always thought Nellie was the industry standard for naming females of the species with males invariably being Jumbo. The reason for this is the children’s song but as usual every day is a schoolday whilst blogging and my research for this post showed that the song, written by Ralph Butler and Peter Hart was not released until 1956 when Jenny had been stomping up and down Margate front for six years. Butler is somewhat of an interesting and most prolific character writing, inter alia, “Run Rabbit Run” and “The Sun Has Got His Hat On”. That is a digression but not the one I had planned which was to do with the “Nellie” song.

Some years ago I attended First Aid classes although they were called “Emergency Life Saving” classes in those days for some obscure reason and obviously an important part of this was CPR and we were taught to mentally sing the first portion of the song whilst doing chest compressions i.e.

“Nellie the elephant packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus
Off she went with a trumpety trump
Trump trump trump”.

After that it was time for two breaths to assist the patient breathing. Our instructor told us a quite amusing story, quite possibly apocryphal, about someone who had occasion to use CPR for real and due to the understandable stress of the situation was singing Nellie out loud as he did the chest compressions much to the bemusement of the assembled gawpers.

I have just re-read this little section and I reckon that, even by my appalling standards of rambling (hence the blog name), this must be some kind of a record. This appears to be an excursus of a diversion from a detour off a digression so four for the price of one. Also, I reckon that not one person actually scrolled down past this due to the natural curiosity of the human mind but I shall do as promised so…….

Digression over.

 

The clock is on time but the tower wasn’t.

Time to continue my midweek Margate meander and I thought I would take an image of the clock tower which is such a landmark here. Again, like the Royal Harbour in Ramsgate, it is a view I have literally dozens of images of but I just fancied another one. As I am in full-bore research mode today, I might as well tell you a bit about this fine structure.

The clock tower on the front was built to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria which was in 1887 although they did not manage to complete the building until 1889. If you look closely at the top of the tower you will see something which is quite unusual and I have cropped the image to assist you. What you are looking at is a time ball which was raised at a few minutes before one o’clock (1300) every day and then dropped precisely on the hour which was useful for local people but particularly so for mariners off the town and for whom precise time is important. With the advent of radio and subsequent even more sophisticated devices the time ball fell out of use some years ago but at the suggestion of a local worthy called Arnold Schwartzman funds were raised and the time ball was restored and returned to use in 2014.

Beside the clock tower is a well-tended little park which affords a good view out over the sands and although I had not walked far I felt the need for a sit down for a little while. I really had become quite weak during my hospitalisation but this was no problem as I was in no hurry to do anything and I was just testing myself out.

After my small break I took myself down to what is known as the Old Town and again was struck by the number of closed commercial premises as pictured above but in one instance it worked to my advantage as the shop you can see called Henry’s was having a closing down sale and I bought the little table tripod pictured for a knockdown price. It was a great shop full of all sorts of interesting knick knacks, including a lot of photographic gear and it is sad to think that it will soon be gone.  There is much talk in the media about “the dying British High Street” as a catch all term for the demise of the retail industry but in this case it was literal as well as figurative as most of these images were taken in High Street, Margate.

The more I walked the more commercial decay I saw but, again, it was cheek by jowl with regeneration and quite vibrant businesses as evidenced by the pleasant little al fresco cafe you can see pictured. I really don’t know what to make of Margate any more.

 

As if to prove the point, right beside the cafe was the lovely building you see in the other image and was once the Midland Bank but is now a charity shop for the excellent Pilgrim’s Hospice charity.  The charity runs a hospice adjacent to the QEQM hospital I have mentioned so much and is very well supported locally and the name, if you are interested, derives from the fact that this was once on the pilgrim route to Canterbury to visit the shrine to Thomas Becket (not Thomas Becket as it is often rendered.

 

Apart from being a beautiful building both internally and externally, this is one of the best charity shops I have ever been in and I have been in a few.  It deals exclusively in books and artistic items and is brilliantly laid out with everything in sections, in alphabetical order and so on, it puts many high street bookshops to shame, well what high street bookshops are still in business that is.  The building also raises another important issue and that is of banks in towns and villages which are closing down hand over fist to maximise shareholder profits and the customer be damned!  “Banks and building societies closed a total of 3,312 branches in between January 2015 and August 2019, with an average of 55 closing each month. A further 100 branches have already been scheduled to close before the end of this year” (info from the Which.co.uk website.  From my current location in Broadstairs it is a 90 minute journey each way by public transport to visit my nearest branch of TSB while the Broadstairs branch I used to use is now a bar and escape room of all things.  An absolute disgrace as if the banking industry had not disgraced themselves enough.

 

Since this visit I was talking to a local Thanet resident, born and bred in Broadstairs and himself a former professional dancer and artist who said that Margate was now full of what he called the “bohemian bourgeosie” which I thought was a lovely phrase and probably pretty accurate.  Margate really does baffle me now.

I took myself for another walk and really struck it lucky.  I walked past the Margate Museum which is staffed by volunteers and therefore only open at very limited times, none of which have coincided with my visits to the town.  Joy of joys, it was open and as I am a sucker for Museums I was straight in there to pay my modest entrance fee and go for a look round.

 

I apologise for the lack of images for this section but they are about as paranoid about photography as the North Korean military! Every inch of wall space not taken up with the mass of Margate memorabilia they have is covered in a “No Photography” sign and I really do not understand why. There were no particularly delicate artefacts that I could see that would have been affected by flash and there was enough light that non flash photography would have been possible if that was their concern.

 

The building itself is interesting as the Museum is housed in what was formerly the old police station with the local Magistrates Court on the Upper floor. The second cell along was probably the most interesting as it had housed the main player in a local cause celebre namely the murder of 63 year old Rosaline Fox in the Hotel Metropole, Margate on October 23rd, 1929. She and her son Sidney Fox had checked in together as they had often done in various hotels round the country.  They were low-level swindlers who would run up large bills and then “bilk” them i.e. make off without paying.  Rosaline had made a will in favour of her son and he insured her life, subsequently increasing the coverage.

 

On the night in question a fire was discovered in Rosaline’s room and her lifeless body was dragged from it. Death was determined to be the result of the fire and she was buried but enquiries revealed that the fire was discovered just twenty minutes before the insurance policy was due to expire and there was also evidence that it had been set deliberately. The body was exhumed and a post-mortem conducted by the eminent and very famous pathologist, Sir Bernard Spilsbury who determined that the deceased was dead before the fire started and the cause of death was strangulation. Sidney Fox was arrested and held in the cell here before being taken upstairs to face the Magistrate where he was remanded to Lewes Crown Court.  Despite pleading not guilty, the jury decided otherwise and he was executed by hanging in Maidstone jail on 8th April 1930, incidentally the last hanging there before that function was moved to London prisons.

 

Although there is a good selection of police related exhibits, there is much more to the Museum than that and, naturally enough, there is much to do with the holidaymaking aspect of Margate including an excellent original Punch and Judy booth complete with marionettes. The seafaring history of the town is also well represented.

 

Going upstairs to what was the old Courthouse there are exhibits covering all sorts of subjects, including much of the civic life of the area although I think my favourite exhibit was a display case of the local Association of military veterans of the Korean War. As these gentlemen are getting on in years now they no longer meet much and their collection of medals and the like have all been put in one place and entrusted to the care of the excellent volunteers here who proved to be most helpful.

 

The volunteer who told me about the Korean War exhibit also told me about the display describing the pitched battles between “Mods” and “Rockers” in the early 1960’s which plagued seaside towns like Margate and, most notoriously, Brighton. The volunteer remembered it as he had been there (he was a mod) and it transpires he was a fellow musician who was still gigging regularly. I hope I am still playing live when I am his age!

 

Whilst researching this piece I came upon an article from the local online newspaper dated December 2018 and describing another proposed act of cultural vandalism for which Thanet District Council is notorious. They want to sell off the Museum and the adjacent (now disused) Town Hall to raise money for more of their profligate nonsense ideas. The article states that 100 people had signed an online petition and I thought that was pretty poor. As I have described, Margate does not have too much in the way of attractions and to lose this would be a sin. I cannot find out what the current position is although it is obviously still open (sometimes) as of September 2019.

With all this local historical activity and walking around I was ready for the first drink of my now severely curtailed daily allowance so I headed to the Lifeboat, another one of the micropubs that proliferate round Thanet these days. I know the guy who owns it although he was away on a charity bike ride in France at the time so I contented myself with a pint of mango cider from the excellent selection and a chat to the pleasant barman as it was fairly quiet at this early in the day. I did take my time over the pint which is totally alien to me but I am having to get used to it and I am quite pleased that I have stuck rigidly to my new regime. I cannot wait to get off these anti-coagulant drugs to increase it slightly although it will only be ever so slightly as I really do need to cut down for the sake of my poor old long suffering liver. If you have ever seent he film “Silence of the Lambs” you may remember the rather chilling quote from Hannibal Lecter when he said of someone who had fallen prey to his cannibalistic habits, ““I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” I doubt even Dr. Lecter would find my liver appetising even if he could manage to cook it.

Digression alert.

Here is another one for you and again it came to light as I was researching this. Apparently the reference to liver, fava beans and wine is an in joke and I think it is quite a clever one at that. I quote here from this website as I will only make a mess of the spellings otherwise.
“Great line from Silence of the Lambs everyone knows. But most people don’t realise Dr Hannibal Lecter is making a medical joke.
Lecter could be treated with drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors – MAOIs. As a psychiatrist, Lecter knows this.
The three things you can’t eat with MAOIs? Liver, beans, wine.
Lecter is a) cracking a joke for his own amusement, and b) saying he’s not taking his meds.”

How did I ever get onto this whilst writing bout a day out in Margate? My mind really does move in strange directions.

Digression over.

With my pint slowly consumed I started making my way back to the bus to return to Broadstairs which was no problem as central Margate is fairly compact and easily walkable. On the way I saw the houses you can see above which were rather charming and in stark contrast with the general air of decay that pervades so much of the centre. As you can see they are in Lombard Street and it is a miracle they are still there as the area was heavily bombed by the Germans in the Second World War. Not 100 yards from here is a fairly modern shopping centre and gym complex which is built on the site of Margate College which was totally obliterated during an air raid. The nearer of the houses is named Smuggler’s Cottage and may well have been such as that area of enterprise was prevalent all along this coast. The further of the two is dated 1690. I thought it was good to leave the town on a positive note and I returned to Broadstairs for a quiet night attempting to catch up on this blog which never seems to happen.

There is still plenty more to discover in Thanet and my love affair with the QEQM NHS hospital and hate affair with Broadstirs NHS Health Centre continues in future posts here so stay tuned and spread the word.

I can’t keep away – QEQM hospital again.

Entrance, QEQM hospital, Margate.
I know this door better than I know my own front door.

On the 17th September, I awoke after another excellent night’s sleep in my comfy bed in my quiet cosy room and I felt good. I knew I wanted to stay round Broadstairs and Thanet for a while as a) even getting a cab to and from the train stations at either end I was not sure if I was physically strong enough to hump all that luggage back to London and b) it is so much better an environment to aid recuperation. I was still a bit surprised as to how weak I felt but I suppose it is natural. Jackie was happy for me to stay more or less as long as I wanted so everything was set fair.

Unfortunately, there was still the problem of getting registered with a Doctor locally and getting repeat prescriptions etc. If you have not read the previous post here, I had been turned away from the local health centre despite several hospital Doctors telling me they were legally obliged to take me on. The simple fact of the matter was that I needed medication and my only option was to go back to A&E (ER) at the hospital albeit that I knew it was a ridiculous waste of the time of a Doctor already busy in an already over-stretched department. I queued up again, checked in and then sat down for the long wait with another large, good book. I was not too bothered by that as there were other people there obviously in need of much more urgent attention than me.

I was finally shown through to a small room to speak with the lovely Dr. de Giorgio who quizzed me about my current condition and wrote the script out in the matter of a few minutes. She also checked across the corridor where the door to the opposite consulting room was open and asked me if I could just say hello to her colleague, the Doctor who had initially admitted me what seemed like half a lifetime ago. Sure that was no problem until the Doctor explained that her colleague (whose name I still do not know) had spoken of me when I was admitted and said that it was a long time since she had seen anyone looking as ill as I had. I have a mirror in my room and I didn’t think I looked that bad but obviously so.

The Doctor also told me that her colleague had checked with my ward later the next day to check that the surgery had gone OK, just to be sure. I wonder if she does that for every patient she admits. Somehow I doubt it and it was a bit worrying albeit I only found after everything was sorted. Naturally I went to see the other Doctor and cracked a joke about rumours of my demise being greatly exaggerated. She said I was looking a lot better than I had been before and wished me well. Nice lady.

I know of a couple of pharmacists in Broadstairs but my friend had been telling me before how poor even the largest one was when she was trying to fill prescriptions and so I jumped on the Loop bus as I had topped up my weekly card. I reckoned that as Ramsgate was a larger place than Broadstairs I might have had a better chance of success. As it turned out that was a false hope and it was the Enaxoparin sodium syringes that were causing the problem. The first pharmacy did not have them and the second one which was the biggest in the town could only give me 20 of the 30 prescribed which would have meant a return trip so I did not bother as I had enough for the night and thought I might go to Margate the following day.

I was in Ramsgate and waiting for a bus back to Broadstairs and took a couple of images of the harbour although I do not really know why as I already have dozens from every angle and in every weather condition you can imagine. I just love the place and, as is my way, I am going to share a little factoid with you about it. It is the only Royal Harbour in the UK and received the designation in 1821 from King George IV, a German who used to embark here en route to Hanover. He was so pleased with the rapturous welcome he got from the townspeople that he granted the title and allowed his Royal Standard to be flown three times a year, a tradition that continues to this day.

Old Rover car seein in Ramsgate.
What a beauty.

I also took a quick image of the lovely Rover you can see above. I do not know if it is my imagination but there seem to be an awful lot of wonderful old cars around Thanet, I seem to see them everywhere. From the number plate I reckon this was registered in 1970.

I got the bus back to Broadstairs and, more in hope than in expectation, went into the local chemist clutching my prescription. A quick check and the young lady told me I was in luck and that they had everything I needed. Happy days.

image012
Yes, this is all for me!

I could not resist taking the image above which is my personal “medicine cabinet” on the mantlepiece in my room. Terrifying, isn’t it?

Cinelli Brothers Band at the Wrotham Arms, Broadstairs.
The Cinelli Brothers taken without flash! Honestly, you could see them.

The evening was taken up in the Wrotham where the excellent Cinelli Brothers Band were playing. The brothers are the drummer and the frontman with the hat who are London based Italians and the other two guys are British. They play really good basic blues and do it very well. You can have a look here to get an idea. They are also very friendly guys and I had a chat with a couple of them. Definitely recommended if you get chance to see them. I d not know how she does it but Jackie punches well above her weight with the quality of the music she puts on in what is a pretty small pub.

Having jabbed myself, filled up on various medications and dressed wounds I turned in for a few chapters of my book and another nights sleep.

I am still in Broadstairs writing this in October so if you want to know what I got up to whilst recovering please stay tuned and spread the word.