Bye bye Broadstairs (for the moment).

As promised in the last post here this one is going to be quite a number of days all rolled into one, not because I am getting lazy or rushing to the end of this particular trip, which it will be but because I slipped into somewhat of a routine which probably would not interest the reader. I do, however, urge you not to skip to the next page just yet. The one thing I did manage to do was to get to see some excellent gigs and was getting confident enough with my newish camera to record some footage. This post will contain links to my YouTube page where I tend to post all my videos and I hope you enjoy them. I shall also write briefly about the one or two other things that I did but that will be brief, I promise.

image004
An autumnal Viking Bay.

Saturday the 19th was a pretty bleak day, not in terms of the weather was still pleasantly bright if chilly but in terms of the Rugby World Cup where Ireland still had an interest but not much hope. Having failed to beat Japan in the group stage we were destined to face the mighty All Blacks (New Zealand) who were two time defending champions and my pre-tournament pick to win. I have no complaints about the Japan result as they simply outplayed us with superb discipline, fitness levels and adherence to a clever strategy that suited them very well. Of course, losing to them meant the Blacks as everyone knew and I didn’t hold out a lot of hope. Dave had very decently opened the pub early again for the minor undercard on the bill which was England vs. Australia. OK, Poms and Aussies, I am joking – honestly.

I had arrived at the pub bang on opening time as I knew there would be good crowd for the England game which there proved to be although I bagged a good seat with a clear view of one of the big screens. One of the images above demonstrates how early I got there.

Whilst I had picked NZ to win I also thought that England stood as good a chance as they had had since they won it all those years ago. I know that might sound contradictory but they went in with a superb squad and had demolished Ireland (then ranked #1 in the world) not long before. All it would take was for them to play as they were capable of and a bit of that most elusive sporting requirement, luck, and they were in with a shout. In the event they totally dismantled Australia 40 – 16 and looked nigh on unbeatable.
Somewhere in the middle of this Dave did his usual and produced tray upon tray of tasty bacon rolls to feed the masses.

I know there is no shortage of venues to watch sporting events in Broadstairs but I do like the George. Dave runs it brilliantly and there is usually a good friendly crowd for just about any sporting event. On many occasions I have seen three different sports being watched on the various screens simultaneously.

With the first game out of the way it was on to the main event and a few people left but not many so it was still a good atmosphere. I really do not wish to dwell on it but NZ did to us what England had done to the Aussies and we were turned over 46 – 14. I expected to lose but it was the manner of the defeat that rankled. We just did not turn up and you cannot do that against the All Blacks. Ah well, I certainly did not expect us to win it despite the world rankings which I have little faith in anyway. The images above tell the story of the day really.

Sunday 20th and it was back to the pub early for the other two rugby matches. In the first, Wales scraped a one point win over France and were lucky to do so  with French indiscipline gtelling again.  Sebastien Vahaamahina was sent off for a nasty elbowing offence which effectively ended his career early as he at least had the decency to retire early shortly thereafter.  As always, there were breakfast rolls for all before South Africa basically bullied a gallant Japan into a 26- 3 result. Japan had impressed me greatly and also others who actually know something about the game. Even allowing for home advantage they punched well above their weight and must be considered for inclusion in the Southern hemisphere main competition of Australia, NZ, RSA and Argentina but I cannot see the Old Boys network allowing it as they do not want the very lucrative pie sliced up five ways instead of four.

The three images I want to share with you here are nothing to do with the rugby but serve to illustrate various points.

The first is not to showcase the Victorian promenade shelters, attractive as they are, but to show you two of the ever-increasing street sleepers / beggars that seem to be in ever greater numbers every time I visit the town. The second shows the mess in Victoria Gardens after the mini hurricane during the Food Festival which I mentioned in another post. The third is included primarily because I rather like these attractive houses in Wrotham Road but also to show you what is happening in Thanet as these dwellings are relatively new and there are plenty more springing up. There was another new development in Alexandra Road under construction since my last visit.

Nothing until the Wednesday when it was Folk Club night again in the Tartar Frigate which I go to sometimes and am always made very welcome, probably because I know just bout everyone there. Here are a couple of images to give you an idea.

image002
This used to be a Post Office.

Only one image for Thursday the 24th October whilst coming back from my Beano’s “breakfast” at 1400 and it once again shows what is happening in smaller communities in UK. This building, until recently was the Post Office for the town but that function has now been devolved to retail premises although they do retain the rear of the premises as a sorting office. I think it is disgraceful.

image002
Folk week commemorative marker.

Not much on the Friday except that I finally got round to taking images of a couple of things I had been meaning to for ages as I knew I had only a few days left. The first is the rather wonderful sign commemorating 50 years of Folk Week in 2015, the Festival is nearly as old as me! The piece was made by Mark Howe of Broadstairs Metal Craft and I think it is very well done. Hopefully both it and the Festival will still be in place for the centenary although I doubt I shall be around to see it!

image004 (2)
Memorial plaque to Ted Heath.

The second is of a plaque on the side wall of the Sailing Club commemorating it’s most famous member, the former Prime Minister Sir Edward (Ted) Heath who I have mentioned before in these posts.

image005
Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra in the Wrotham.

The final image is of Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra who played in the Wrotham that night. These guys are regularly booked for Folk Week although I had never seen them. To be honest, I do not get to see too many acts as I am usually too busy making a noise myself. somewhere. Once again Jackie had booked well and they were yet another of the excellent acts I saw in the pub, I really cannot speak highly enough of either her or the Wrotham generally. As promised at the start of this piece you can check out some clips of the band on my Youtube channel here, here, here and here.   Four videos, I am spoiling you, dear readers.  Of course the added bonus was that I only had to wander upstairs to my bed again but not too late as I had an early start on the Saturday.

Saturday was rugby day again and so I was up with the lark and off to the George once again. I knew I needed to be early as it was the first semi-final with England taking on New Zealand so one of my hunches about the eventual winner was going to come a cropper. As you might imagine, the place was packed to the rafters although again I had a good seat (and the obligatory decent breakfast offerings from Dave) to watch an excellent game. England turned over the much-fancied All Blacks 19 – 7 and played extremely well. I knew they were good but I did not expect them to win as impressively as they did nor restrict the Antipodean side to a mere seven points. Needless to say it developed into a bit of a party helped along the way by the usual football offerings on TV. I had a reasonably quiet evening and headed to bed early as I knew the next day was to be another early rugby start.

Up on Sunday and straight to a much quieter George Inn for Wales vs. South Africa in what promised to be a good game and certainly lived up to the billing. There were a few Welsh supporters in but it was by no means busy. I knew it had been a bit lively in there on the previous night so perhaps there were a few delicate heads and stomachs being nursed at home. Another 0900 kick off may just have been a step too far despite the extra hour in bed afforded by the change from BST to GMT. As I expected, RSA depended on the sheer physicality of their monstrous pack and edged a narrow 19 – 16 victory to set up a final against England the next Saturday. I was looking forward to that although I knew I was going to be watching it many many miles from the George.

I was leaving on the Monday which, even allowing for my hospital sojourn, is earlier than I normally go. I usually hang around until a day or two before Remembrance Sunday as I like to attend the Act of Remembrance in central London but before that I had another little jaunt to undertake.

You may remember my mate Paul from these posts, he is the banjo player I had played Folk Week with. He and his lovely wife Sue live in Newcastle in the Northeast of England and for years I had been promising to go up and visit him and “play a few tunes” as we refer to it. Whilst I had been in Broadstairs he had been messaging me from his hotel in Crete asking me to come up in early November. I couldn’t help but think how much things have changed in my lifetime. I remember a time when computers took up a warehouse and a mobile (cell) ‘phone was science fiction and yet he was sending me instant messages from over two thousand miles away arranging gigs a mere 350 miles away. There was a gig on the Tuesday night so my plan was to get an evening train to London on the Monday after saying my farewells and then a quick turnaround and on another train North on Tuesday lunchtime but all that is for future posts.

For now I still had one last treat in store, the Sunday early evening gig in the Wrotham which I was looking forward to as it was Snake Oil Trading Company which includes my mates Griff and Brian who I have mentioned often here before. They are the two sound engineers / multi-instrumentalists that seem to rig just about every gig in Thanet that my other mate Chris doesn’t put together. I reckon Broadstairs must have more soundmen per capita than anywhere else in the UK and they can even make me sound marginally less awful than I usually do! The other two members of the group are Ray on guitar and vocals and Jacks on drums / percussion and vocals. They perform what is known these days as Americana and they do it very well as I hope the clip shows.

During the interval my mate Nigel Feist  and Ben Mills  got up and did a couple of numbers which was a commendable effort as they were both still hanging out rather following Nigel’s birthday party the night before.  Nigel is an excellent blues harp player whom I have known for years and Ben is quite a celebrity around Thanet following his getting into the finals of a national TV talent show a few years ago.  In a perhaps unusual choice of number they did a rather bluesy version of “Ode to Billie Jo” by Bobbie Gentry which I rather liked and which you can see here.

It was great fun, well attended and I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially heckling the band (in a friendly manner obviously). Another quiet evening in the pub with a few great friends completed the day before retiring to my comfy room for the last time this trip. I felt quite sad about that.

Monday morning and a beginning and an end. The beginning of a new week which was hopefully going to end miles away and the end of another Broadstairs trip which had proved to be memorable for all sorts of reasons.

Just a few random images of the day here, firstly the William Hill bookmakers which had closed down when I was here and mirrors the fate of it’s sister shop not three hundred yards from my home. I was told that the rise of online gambling and new regulations on gaming machines where people could lose ludicrous amounts of money in a very short period of time, were making them no longer viable for the operators. Apparently they had all opened up huge numbers of outlets a few years ago where betting on sports events was the least part of the business, all the money was coming from the machines. Now this is no longer possible they are just closing them all down again. It is no loss to me as I find gambling the height of stupidity, I do not even buy lottery ticket.

The second image is of the pier, a view I must have literally hundreds of images of but. like the Royal Harbour in Ramsgate, I can never get enough and it serves to show that even at the end of October there were still people enjoying the Viking Bay beach. The final image is of my “last supper” in town, delivered to the pub as usual and delicious as usual. There had been a few farewells during the day and I still had one more lot to do so I headed off back to the Wrotham.

When I got back, the “choir” were in full flow. They are not a proper choir but rather a group of people who get together to sing, accompanied by two guitars, and with the emphasis very much on harmonies. They do stop and work these out so I do not know if the ultimate aim is to perform live or whether indeed they already have. It certainly seemed much more like a rehearsal / workshop than a singaround and it was rather an appropriate finish to my stay. I was half-tempted to break out the guitar which I had sitting beside me but I had a train to catch which I did in good time as the image below shows.

image007
On the move again.

It would be tempting to say I was thinking about things in general on the train and were I a cinematographer it would be great, interspersing “flashbacks” with my reflection in the window of a speeding train with lights flashing but it didn’t happen that way. Yes, there was the general deflation I always feel leaving Broadstairs but I spent my time reading my book and dozing on the mercifully empty train. The introspection had been taking place before I left and much more since, especially whilst reliving it all here.
It had been an even more eventful trip than usual on my annual pilgrimage to the Folk Week and there have been some pretty eventful times there in the past. It had reminded me of my own mortality and approaching official “old” status not that I was ever living in a state of ignorance (blissful or otherwise) of either and caused a fairly serious lifestyle change as a result. I am very pleased I “quit” smoking to the extent I did. Apart from anything else it is saving me a fortune in tandem with the new drinking regime which I am still not particularly fond of snd doubt I ever will be. What is it they say about never missing your water till the well runs dry?

I always knew I had a lot of friends in and around Broadstairs but this really drove the message home. The amount of support and concern I received both amazed and humbled me. Cliched as it is, the people involved are too numerous to mention but they know who they are and some of them actually read this nonsense so my heartfelt thanks to them all.

I got to see the National Health Service “up close and personal” and I have to say that for all the much publicised failures that the media revel in, my experience was 100% positive. Again, I believe one or two of the people in the QEQM read this and so more heartfelt thanks are in order. You are lifesavers, literally, and you should be immensely proud of what you do. Heaven knows, you can’t be in it for the money!

As for the Festival itself, yes, there were a few problems this year, many of them climatic but there is nothing you can do about that, it is just the British “summer”. The other issues will undoubtedly resolve themselves to a greater or lesser degree but the enthusiasm for Folk Week seems to be undiminished by those present. The standard of musicianship (not to mention dancing, poetry, juggling and a host of other artistic activities) seems to be as high as ever and yet further thanks to everyone who put up with me making a noise alongside them both during the event itself and subsequently.
I could really go on and on here but I’ll rein it in as it will become terminally boring for the reader but back when I started this blog I did say that I was going to be completely honest in it and that is what you are getting here, folks.

Now that I have got my thoughts on life, the Universe and everything (to quote the late Douglas Adams) out of the way you’ll be glad to know there is more travel in the next post which is presumably why you dropped in here in the first place so stay tuned and spread the word.

Another bumper Broadstairs bonanza.

Sunday 6th October.
Not Hagibis but pretty hurricane like.

As I mentioned in my last post I am going to quickly run a few days together on one post here as not very much of interest actually happened. I was doing much the same things every day and slowly regaining what health and vitality I may have once possessed and, apart from the inconvenience of self-injecting an anti-coagulant subcutaneously into my abdomen twice daily, my recovery was coming along nicely.

A quick glance out the window on Sunday morning showed that it was a pretty miserable day and I was glad I had visited the Food Festival the previous day when it was not exactly tropical but not too bad but all that was to change. I decided I might as well get the most out of my rover ticket on the bus and took myself off for a day in the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate again. My day is effectively summed up in the three images above – excellent breakfast, awful weather and then an evening meal of a small Hawaiian pizza. I am so glad Wetherspoons have introduced this 8″ pizza as even with my recovered appetite a full sized offering after a large breakfast would still make me struggle, I reckon.

I decided on a quiet night in the Wrotham and was regaled with tales of how a mini hurricane had just about obliterated the Food Festival, blowing down tents, reducing the ground underfoot to a quagmire and generally wreaking havoc. It was so bad that the Festival had to close early which is a shame. During a later conversation with one of the Directors I found out that they had no option as, apart form their own safety consciousness, they were not insured for winds of the strengths being recorded. I was a mere four miles along the coast and whilst the weather was bad it was nowhere like as severe as Broadstairs which only reinforces my point form a few posts ago that Broadstairs really does have it’s own microclimate.

At the same time as this was going on, Typhoon Hagibis was creating complete devastation in Eastern Asia, disrupting the Rugby World Cup although that is unimportantin view of the 86 lives lost which somewhat puts a sporting contest into context. It also demonstrated the fundamental goodness of rugby people as both the Canadian and Namibian squads were out helping with the cleanup operation. One of the Canadian players said that they had been hosted so wonderfully that it was the least they could do to lend a hand. Well played, lads.

7th October
Laundry, ladybirds and a late lunch.

image011
Well it was about time.

Monday came around to start yet another week in Thanet and I decided to do some laundry or rather it decided for itself as it was approaching the critical and so off I trotted to Ramsgate again to the laundrette. Like the A&E (ER) or outpatients at the local hospital, I always take a book with me as it can be mind-numbingly boring otherwise. I was reading said book (a Simon Scarrow if memory serves) and breathing deeply as I love the smell of laundrettes, when I felt something on the back of my right hand. Looking down, I saw the tiniest ladybird I have ever seen quite happily doing whatever it was doing. I knew I had to take a picture but that was to prove to be easier said than done.

 

I did not want to move my right hand at all lest the fragile little critter took off. My camera was in the front right hand pocket of my jeans and so it was a bit of a feat of dexterity to get it out, turn it on, adjust the zoom and take the images whilst trying to remain perfectly still but I managed it. Above you can see the shot “as is” to give an idea of just how tiny the little insect was and also with a bit of cropping to give you a better look. It even went for a bit of a wander round my hand before taking off. I have often heard that a ladybird landing on you is lucky and although I am not superstitious I must confess I felt very happy and probably had a big soppy grin all over my ugly mug.

Having missed my now customary breakfast I was getting a bit “esuriant” to use that lovely word as featured in the wonderful Monty Python cheese shop sketch and I fancied a bite to eat so back to the Pavilion where the grub is always good, served quickly and not expensive. Although I would eat breakfast at any hour they only serve an all day brunch which I didn’t really fancy but a look at the menu suggested a beauty of an option, namely steak and kidney pudding. This is not to be confused with steak and kidney pie, which is fine, but there is not much to beat a proper suet pudding. That was decided then and I was promptly presented with the very tasty looking offering you see below.

image013
Proper grub – steak and kidney pud.

I have a bit of a problem with this dish as it is served here, however. I am not a huge fan of gravy at the best of times but with chips (fries for my American friends) it is just wrong. OK, I have had poutine in Canada as it is virtually impossible to visit there and not sample what is effectively their national dish and I quite enjoyed it. At least JDW have the decency to serve it in a proper boat and so a small amount on the pudding and the whole lot disappeared p.d.q.

I spent the rest of the evening in there trying manfully and failing miserably to get this blog up to date (I swear it will never happen) and by the time I got back to my digs you wouldn’t believe it but that appetite of mine had kicked in again. Much as I love staying in the Wrotham, and I do, my cooking facilities are limited to a kettle so I have to box a bit clever in that respect and frankly I am getting a little tired of pot noodles! However, I had been to the Food Festival and laid in supplies as you will know if you read the last entry here and after the idiotic attempt at an arty image you can see with me “posing” the tomatoes, I did knock up quite a pleasant feed. A scrubbed out pot noodle container served as a small mixing bowl and some halved vine cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar accompanied by two wonderful Ashmore cheeses (chilli and mustard) was a decent enough supper for me prior to sticking yet another damned needle into my abdomen then having a few chapters of my book and off to sleep.

8th October.
Not a lot to read about really.

According to my images, what happened today was not a thing
Not a single thing, nothing at all, nil, zero, nowt, zilch, you get the picture and so we shall pass swiftly on to……………..

9th October.
Were did the summer go?

image005
Another fine brekkie.

OK, I know I spent mid August to mid September in hospital but the autumn seemed to have set in quickly and severely as one of the images above shows. It was an overcast horrible day and I didn’t much fancy doing anything until the evening when I had promised to be at the Wrotham again for Griff’s open Mic Night. I enclose the obligatory breakfast image above with the comment that the black pudding Wetherspoons use is very tasty, I wonder where they source it.

 

Nothing much more to report until the evening when I duly turned up for Griff’s do which is held once a month and which I really enjoyed. Griff is one of three excellent resident sound engineers who all hang out in the Wrotham, it really is that sort of a place. They all drink there even when they aren’t working. In addition, Griff and Brian are both excellent musicians and, amongst other projects, are half of a band called Snake Oil Trading Company who I look forward to seeing tomorrow afternoon as I write this in late October 2019.

I was offered an opportunity to do a few numbers but the truth is that I was pretty exhausted albeit I had done nothing much all day. I am not sure if it is the effects of my illness, the sea air, advancing old age or a combination of any or all of them but I do feel tired quite a lot and regularly take an afternoon doze. I did not actually need to do anything as there were plenty of willing volunteers including a drummer who can have been no more than about 12 sitting in with the house band and a very talented young lad singing and accompanying himself on keyboards who was not much older. I am constantly amazed at the quality and quantity of musical talent in this fairly small area and long may it continue. Obviously I did not have far to go to crash out and so ended another fairly quiet but very enjoyable day.

10th October.
Still not hot enough.

Again, very little to report on the 10th of the month which was another day in the Royal Pavilion in Ramsgate vainly trying to get this blog somewhere under a month in arrears. Yes, I was in a rut, yes, it is very boring reading which is why I am whizzing through it as quickly as I can and yes, it seemed to be doing me good or at least it wasn’t doing me any harm. The number of people that were telling me by then that I was looking so much better surprised me even though very few had thought to tell me I was looking awful when apparently I was. I suppose they were just being polite.

As to the tagline at the heading of this section, it is something of a double entendre in the proper and non smutty sense of the phrase. Firstly, the weather was certainly not hot enough for my liking and I was increasingly trying to work out how to get somewhere warmer that did not involve flying as the thrombosis ruled that out completely. Morocco and Turkey overland were both suggesting themselves and still are and the Lebanon has been a place I have wanted to visit for as long as I can remember but getting there overland at present might be difficult unless I go through Cyprus on ferries. I must look into that.

My usual Southerly migration to Asia is feasible at ground level but I’d like to leave such a major undertaking until I am in a more settled situation healthwise. By that I do not mean physically stronger although that is a consideration but moreso logistical matters like sourcing my medication, some of which I shall be taking for life, in far flung places. I am definitely not contemplating leaving UK until I am finished with the injections as the thought of taking relatively bulky syringes and sharps boxes through borders does not really appeal although I know it can be done. These are all things to be looked into and I have plenty of time.

Apart from the weather, the “before and after” images above should give you a clue as to the second part of the double entendre and that was a good old Ruby. UK readers will probably know what a Ruby is in this context but for others I should explain that a Ruby is rhyming slang for a curry deriving from Ruby Murray = curry. Ruby Murray was a famous singer and actress from the place of my birth and adolescence – Belfast. I am amazed and humbled when I occasionally check my stats page here and discover I have readers all over the world so thank you all so much and I shall attempt to explain any British colloquialisms as I go along but back to the Pavilion and my Ruby.

Every Wetherspoons in the country, which is over 1,000 outlets and increasing, has a “Curry Club” on a Thursday night and they boast in their promotional material that they are Britain’s biggest curry house that night of the week. Frankly, I can believe it. They have even gone so far as to have their own branded mango chutney produced for them which I do like as it is a little spicy and certainly stands comparison with any of the popular branded products. They rate their curries with chilli symbols from one chilli (mild) to five chillies (extremely hot) and I opted for the lamb madras which is the sole four chilli (very hot) offering and which I have enjoyed greatly before. As the image shows, each curry is served with naan bread, basmati rice and poppodum and I have tried most of the range which have all been very good. You can also add samosas and / or onion bhaji if this is not enough for you.

I like a fairly well spiced curry and even the milder ones are tasty without being volcanically hot although I have had some fairly lively offerings, specifically in Northeast Thailand and in my friend’s home in Sri Lanka. I will accept no argument, my dear friend Treshi makes the best curries on the planet bar none.
My beef madras is described on the menu and the attached website as “Tender pieces of diced beef, in a spiced tomato sauce, with onion, coconut, mustard seeds and chilli” and damned tasty it is too but what it is not is “hot, hot, hot” and I now have that irritating 1980’s disco song in my head having written that! I am in no way Mr. Asbestos Mouth as some of my mates seem to be, ordering ridiculous things like vindaloos and phalls in proper Asian restaurants where they really do mean hot when they say it but whilst this had a pleasant “afterburn” it was nothing like as hot as I can eat enjoyably. I certainly would not have put it at four on a five chilli scale. I think the “after image above says it all really.

I’ll take a break here as this post is getting a bit long and the next one will be another multiple where I take a trip to Canterbury and don’t do a single piece of sightseeing. If you want to find out what exactly I was doing, 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.

Vincent, half a breakfast, two gigs and back to bed.

I woke up well rested again early on the morning of Thursday 15th August and due to my late arrival from London it was already the penultimate day of the Festival and I felt as if I had barely started. I had a bit of time to spare so I decided to go for a look round Spencer Square where the hotel was as someone had told me that Vincent van Gogh once lived there. It did not take me long to find the appropriate blue plaque commemorating the fact on the wall of number 11 on the opposite side of the square. I love blue plaques as I find them are endlessly interesting.

A few doors along there was another blue plaque, this time erected by the Ramsgate Society commemorating the residence of one John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1854) who I had never heard of but was apparently editor of the Quarterly Review which I had similarly never heard of although internet research shows it was a journal published from 1809 -1967. It appears that Lockhart was more famous for being the son-in-law of the writer Sir Walter Scott. Not much of a claim to fame really and I think I may have an answer to why about every third building in Ramsgate “boasts” a local plaque and that is that Margate, just along the coast is exactly the same. Ramsgate and Margate have traditionally been rivals and are now competing for the tourist second home and retirement home markets amongst others and I think there is some one upmanship going on. Of course, I could be wrong and it would not be the first time.

I had not really eaten for a couple of days and so I took myself to the huge Royal Victoria Pavilion, a fairly new J.D. Wetherspoons venue (OPENED 2018) on the seafront adjacent to the Royal Harbour. It is their largest outlet by far and was the largest pub in the UK when it opened. Despite this, it has some very strange menu / drink choices and one of them impacted on me here. JDW do a number of variations on the theme of Eggs Benedict of which my favourite is Eggs Royale which substitutes salmon for the traditional ham yet this is the only Wetherspoons I know that does not offer it. Nor does it offer Strongbow cider although it is on the tabletop advertising blurb. I noticed another omission from the normal menu but I cannot recall what it is just now. I really do not understand the thinking.

Eggs Benedict it was then, beautifully cooked and served promptly and yet my ever-decreasing appetite did not even allow me to finish it, tasty as it was but at least it was some food in me and I took what was supposed to be a bit of an arty image of the beach through the window from where I was sitting. I have to say that the views from the Pavilion are stunning and there will be more in further posts in this series.

It is only a short walk to the bus and another one at the far end in Broadstairs and I was once again setting up with Paul for yet another playaround. Happy days and again there was a reasonable crowd for this late in the week. When this was over, Paul and Sue again took off somewhere and I decided to sit tight again as the afternoon act was another guy I know called Gabe so I settled in for that, again drinking little and still not feeling quite up to par.

Gabe often plays troubadour but on this occasion was backed by another guy I know and have jammed with called Jeff on bass and another couple of musos who I did not know. Gabe does a few of his own but predominantly covers and he does love James Taylor (who doesn’t?) so that got a good outing. For me, the highlight was when he got Bessie from the Dealers band up for a number, which you can see here. I am not sure if the Dealers are actually still a functioning unit but it was Bessie and a guy called Pierre and they were very, very good. I discovered them at Folk Week years ago. Don’t worry about the name, it is nothing to do with drug dealing but rather that they come from the town of Deal in Kent, simple as that!

Not long after the band had finished my ‘phone went and it was Paul asking me if I fancied joining him and Sue for a pint in the Magnet, another of the numerous micropubs in the area. As it is literally 50 yards up the road and in the direction I would eventually be going anyway, that seemed like a plan and so I said my goodbyes at the bar, picked up my guitar and moved onwards, ever onwards.

When I went into the Magnet I met quite a few people I knew as well as Sue and Paul so it was another round of handshakes and hugs all round. I suppose I should give you a quick rundown on the place which I first encountered many years ago as the Fish and Beer bar which was exactly what it was, a Belgian themed establishment with an open kitchen, limited but tasty menu and a great selection of great if expensive beers. It was owned by a guy who owned a quite upmarket fish restaurant in Ramsgate and he really did not have time to keep both projects going so he put it on the market and it was bought by my great friends John and Jo who I have known for years. They changed the name to Reef and carried on much in the same vein as before although over the several years they had it the food took a gradually less forward role but there was still a superb selection of interesting beers. In 2018 they were forced to close for a while as the cellar was flooded by a mains leak in the road outside and I was asked to play the re-opening night which I did with my dear friend Noel McAuley and we had a great night. Well, it was a great night until the point right at the end where I misjudged the relative positions of the bar stool I was playing on and the wall behind and with my final, “Thank you, goodnight” ringing in their ears the crowd were treated to me doing a not very graceful dying swan off the back of the stool, cracking my head on the wall and ending up with my legs in the air in an undignified heap but still clutching the miraculously undamaged guitar.

Thankfully there was no harm done except to my pride and I will eventually get round to writing up when I put together Broadstairs 2018 as a project here! Don’t hold your breath though.

I was introduced to Will, the new landlord, and his good lady, was made to feel most welcome and sat down for a bit of a chat and a catch up. I really had no intention of playing any more that day but, as my dear friend Suzi once remarked to me, “You are just a party waiting to happen”. There is undoubtedly more than a grain of truth in this as there is with most things she says and never moreso than when I am with Paul as we just seem to egg each other on.

Paul Lucas and Fergy Campbell at the Magnet micropub Broadstairs.
Paul and I doing what we love to do.

The original plan was that we would just go and sit in the “Musicians Corner” and play a few tunes and songs acoustically. Well, that was the plan anyway. Somehow it escalated into having one ambient mic just for a bit of poke although between my voice and Paul’s banjo we could fill that space three times over, it really is a micro micropub. As well as being a purveyor of fine alcoholic refreshment, Will is a card-carrying sound engineer and a very good one at that. His argument was why bother with one ambient when he had the full PA rig already deployed and ready to go and so we ended up as you see us above, fully stage rigged as we would be for a proper paid gig. Why not as I was still playing catch up to a degree and was relatively fresh despite my illness? Paul is just like the Duracell bunny, he never knows when to quit.

To make a long story short, we must have played another two hours and had a jolly old time. I know we attracted a bit of passing trade as people told us so later and were asking what our band name was etc. (we have never had one in all these years although Paul is currently in Shamrock Street and I played for years with the Northern Celts until the travelling made it impossible) and so everyone was happy. Will was getting a few £££ over the bar, we were having a ball and getting a few pints for our trouble and the punters seemed to enjoy it from their reaction and kind applause and the fact that they didn’t just walk out. What’s not to like?

I suppose we probably finished about 2100 and again I was feeling the pace so off for yet another early bed. This really was getting ridiculous.

Last day of Folk Week in the next post so stay tuned and spread the word.

First full day at Folk Week.

Wednesday 14th August arrived with reasonable weather but look at the skies told me that it was very possibly not going to remain that way, which indeed proved to be the case later on.

The very first thing I needed to do was to get one of these microcard things for my new camera as it was about as much use as a lawnmower on a submarine without it and so time to check the internet for a suitable outlet and here I encountered another small problem with the guesthouse that could have been solved so easily with a little thought. Spencer Court boasts wifi and it may well have it but it is password protected and the only place the lengthy alphanumeric password is displayed is in the entrance hall which meant I was either going to have to run downstairs, write it down and then go back up to my room or else lug my laptop downstairs and input it there. Not a major problem certainly but it surely would not be beyond the wit of man to put a simple notice somewhere in every room. Again, it is just indicative of how they could improve the guesthouse considerably with just a little thought and without spending too much money. I took the lazy way out used my ‘phone instead.

CeX entertainment exchange Ramsgate.
My technological saviour – at a price!

I discovered a place called CeX which was right in the middle of town and not far from where I had to catch my bus to Broadstairs and wandered along to the shop where I spoke to a very helpful young lady who produced a 64GB SDXC cartridge which is apparently what I needed for £12 as it was second hand. I suppose the name of the business, which is presumably a contraction of Computer Exchange or something, should have given me a clue. It didn’t bother me in the slightest and a subsequent check slightly annoyed me as apparently I could have got the exact one I was sold for £9:99 online or in a Curry’s store that actually stocks them! Slightly irritating but at least I was good to go then.

A quick bus journey and I was back in the George Inn and setting up with Paul for the day’s session which turned out to be another good one with a decent crowd. The numbers of players generally tend to decrease as the week progresses when people who cannot stay the whole week drift off home but it was pretty consistent this year so in the very unlikely event that any of you may read this blog at some point, thank you all so much for coming as there is not much point in having a playaround if there is nobody there to play around!

We played away as happy as sandboys and it was getting darker and darker outside which convinced me that my earlier weather forecast was going to prove to be correct as it began to pour and when I say pour I mean it, it was positively monsoonal. Regrettably for an event that is so weather dependent Folk Week seems to suffer more than it’s fair share of appalling weather and I have been there, sometimes camping which was no fun, in conditions that would not have disgraced SE Asia in the wet season. I had been told that on the Sunday night / Monday morning there had been heavy rains and winds approaching hurricane strengths. There had been weather warnings issued by the Met Office and I have it on good authority that 33 tents were completely wiped out on the official campsite.

Amongst the victims under canvas was my mate Ted Handley from the excellent folk band Triality who are three brothers featuring a slightly unusual line-up of bass, accordian and trumpet, work that one out if you can. They are all great friends of mine and have been playing Broadstairs even longer than I have! Ted had one of these huge family marquee affairs that you need a map and compass to navigate round and he was camping with the whole family and enough kit to service a battalion but when the portable palace blew down he had to borrow his brother’s much more modest four man tent which put somewhat of a damper on things.

I’ll let the images speak for themselves regarding the weather and it was partly because of this that I didn’t fancy moving far after we had finished but the main reason I wanted to stay was that the afternoon act was the Baggy Boys who I love. If you have never experienced the Baggies, as they are known to their fanatical following, it is going to be extremely hard to describe what they are as they defy all conventional band knowledge.

The Baggies official website lists eight members although at the gig I am reporting on here they were apologising profusely that one of the band had had to return home early and there were still eight of them. I’ll swear I have seen them playing with about 14 members although it was at a previous Folk Week and in the evening of a hard day so I may conceivably have been seeing double by then. Looking at the band onstage it appears that about half the band play electro-acoustic guitars and all playing the same chords (no Eagles style duetting here), there is a decent lead guitarist and the rhythm section consists of electric bass and a cajon drum in place of the conventional kit. Various other percussive instruments are swapped around within the band and often the audience as well.

All this sounds as if it must be total chaos and it can indeed get quite hilariously disorganised onstage occasionally but the cleverly thought out repertoire of crowd-pleasing singalong numbers, hugely amusing banter between numbers and a very obvious delight in what they are doing makes this one of the most unfailingly good time pub bands I have ever seen, if you ever get a chance you should really go and check them out.

image003
Dave getting down with the Baggy Boys.

You might wonder how such an unusual outfit came into being and, frankly, so am I. Every time you ask one of them, or indeed anyone who has ever been associated with them in any capacity, you will get a different answer. Either they do it deliberately to build up a bit of mystique or they genuinely cannot remember themselves. Having met them many times I reckon either hypothesis is equally likely. The lads played to a hugely appreciative audience including Dave, the pub “guv’nor”, who you can see above strutting his stuff on the tambourine behind the bar. Like every other landlord in town he loves them and they are never short of bookings during Folk Week. Like myself, they usually manage to blag a couple more impromptu ones when they are here just for the love of the thing and they really are the Martini band – “Anytime, any place, anywhere”.

If the origins of the band itself are somewhat shrouded in mystery there is a little less controversy about how they came to be playing at Folk Week. I have it on good authority that a few of the guys were down for the Festival purely as punters and obviously had their instruments with them. Fancying a bit of a jam (I know that feeling well) they approached Chrissy, the landlady of the Prince Albert pub, and asked if they could play a few tunes. Of course they could as Chrissy is a great one for live music and was a great supporter of Folk Week and it was full steam ahead. She enjoyed them so much she booked them on the spot for the next year with the full band. As always, in the interest of fair reporting, I should say that Chrissy and her partner are great friends of mine, I still see them regularly although not in the P.A. which was taken over by an outfit called the Craft Union Pub Company and got rid of my friends. They replaced them with a manageress who quickly alienated all the regulars, most of whom left and have not returned, and turned the upstairs manager’s accommodation into a clubhouse for a local outlaw motorcycle club! Unbelievable but true. She is gone now and apparently there was a decent couple in there next whose daughter now runs it well but I will never be across the door of it again. As for the Baggies, they played the next year, ate the place and the rest, as they say, is history.

image010
Paul One Love doing his thing in the George Inn, Broadstairs.

By early evening the weather was not as bad as it had been but still not great and I didn’t fancy trekking all the way up to St. Peter’s where Paul was trying to get some sort of a session together. I still was not feeling great, nothing I could put my finger on but just a general malaise and I certainly was not drinking a whole lot so I decided to stay put in the George as the evening act was anther guy I know called Paul Messenger. Paul’s stage name Paul One Love, which probably gives you an idea as to what kind of stuff he plays. Paul is a troubadour i.e. one man and his guitar and plays to backing tracks from a seriously state of the art backing track machine. I’ll swear NASA could launch rockets with that piece of kit. His set is all covers with a heavy emphasis on reggae and ska, particularly UB40 and Bob Marley. He is very good and has a large local following wherever he plays. Rumour has it that he is also an excellent cook but I have never been invited to dinner yet!

Paul is one of the hardest working musicians I know and he will do a three or three and a half hour set with one very short break, he really does give value for money. I watched most of it until it was time to go and get the last bus home as taxis are like hen’s teeth during the Festival. A couple more chapters of my book and it was sleepy time again in that rather comfortable bed.

Still another couple of days of the Festival to go and a bit of an adventure thereafter so stay tuned and spread the word.

Broadstairs Folk Week at last.

Well, Broadstairs Folk Week has been and gone again and I am actually writing this as the dust settles in the aftermath. I know I have mentioned it many times before on various pages on this site but for newcomers a) welcome and b) a quick word of explanation. This is undoubtedly my favourite festival in the world and I have been playing it in one guise or another for 30 of the last 31 years. I missed 2016 as I was in Canada travelling and playing the odd gig so I reckon that was a reasonable excuse. On that occasion my travelling companion told me I was like a bear with a sore head (she knows all about bears with sore heads as she is Canadian herself) because I was fretting about not being on the Kent coast making a noise on my guitar.

As you will know from previous entries here I had returned from visiting family in Northern Ireland in good time for the festival which is not always the case as I have been known to get back from there at about 0100 on a Saturday morning and been on a train to Broadstairs shortly after 0900 the next morning having stopped off at home briefly to ignore the bills piling up on my doorstep, swap clean laundry for soiled and pick up my guitar. Despite my best efforts, everything just seemed to conspire against me and it was an odd Folk Week in many respects. I was having a bit of difficulty getting in touch with my wonderful friends who put me up every year for the week and, indeed, far beyond but I had eventually contacted them although because of personal circumstances they were unable to host me this year so now I had a problem.

The area of Thanet which is basically Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate is a very seasonal seaside tourist region and accommodation can be hard enough to find in the summer but it is impossible in Broadstairs during Folk Week. Actually, that is not strictly true, I could get a single room for about £120 a night and upwards which is way outside my budget. I tried every site I knew including homestays and there was nothing with the nearest affordable options being Whitstable and Canterbury, neither of which are feasible commutes especially if you play late in the evening as I often do. The best I could manage was a B&B in Ramsgate from the Monday to the Friday which meant the week would not be a total washout anyway. I got in touch with my mate Paul and told him what had happened and he said that was fine as I was not actually booked and we do sessions / playarounds so it is not as if it was essential I be there much as I would have loved to.

I woke up on the Monday morning all ready to go but not a chance. As I say, everything was conspiring against me and I had the most unpleasant stomach upset, there was literally no way I was going to be able to travel. Straight back on the ‘phone to Paul to explain and lay in bed all day feeling wretched on a number of levels. I had paid for the room in advance so I called the B&B and they kindly agreed to hold the room even though I would not be there. Time is now running.

Tuesday morning and I still was not feeling anything like 100% but I was damned if I was going to miss another day so I jumped in a cab and headed to Stratford International to finally get moving East and this is where another issue that is close to my heart crops up. I had got there in good time (about 0830) and asked the friendly young lady for a return to Broadstairs. She asked me was I in a hurry to get there and I told her that I needed to arrive no later than 1130 so she told me that if I could afford to wait until after 0930 I could get an off-peak ticket which would save me a lot of money. I knew about these tickets but when she told me the comparative prices I was astounded. I bought the off-peak for £44.70, which I still think is disgusting for a 70 mile journey, on the nicely timed 0932 but had I travelled on the preceding train about 15 minutes before it would have cost me an obscene £92. How can they possibly justify that? How can our Government allow it, not to mention annual fare increases above the rate of inflation (using the higher and less accurate RPI index)? The predominantly foreign owned companies running these cash cows must be laughing all the way to the bank.

Stratford International is in the middle of Westfield shopping centre which, when it was built, was either the largest or one of the largest in Europe. It was all tied up with the 2012 Olympics redevelopment as the stadium is right next door and so I took off for a look round although it was not merely an aimless wander as I shall explain.

I have long used a series of great little Canon Ixus compact cameras which I have been very happy with but a couple of years ago I happened to have been in my local Curry’s PC World outlet, not because I like them and they have messed me about badly before but because they are so convenient to my home and I bought a Samsung WB36F as it seemed to have a lot of functions and was on sale at an absolute steal of a price. I had stuck it on the shelf at home as I didn’t see any point in breaking it out when the Canon was still going great but it had just about had it’s last days and I thought it was time to change over. I got the Samsung out of the box and charged it with no problem. I opened it up expecting to just transfer my SD card from the Canon but, oh no, that would have been far too simple as it does not take an SD card, it takes one of these idiotic and extremely fiddly “microcards” which I did not have so I took myself back to the shop I had bought the camera in to buy one. Not a chance. The guy looked at it with a slightly bemused look on his face (amazing in such a shop) and then called his mate who told me what was required and then, when asked, informed me that they did not stock them. What is the point of selling a camera that you do not have the accessories for? He suggested I go about a mile and a half down the road to Argos to get one. Sod that.

Back then to Westfield on the Tuesday morning and I wandered all round it dragging my suitcase, daypack and guitar to find out that none of the several electronics shops opened until 1000 by which point I intended to be somewhere the far side of Ebbsfleet and travelling East. Back then to catch my much cheaper train and finally make BFW.

In light of all the above and in my desire to be totally honest on this site, the images at the head of this paragraph are from previous years but I can assure you that you could never tell as absolutely nothing has changed on that journey except for the price rises.

I got to my destination in good order and headed straight to the George Inn where Paul runs an open playaround every day during Folk Week. This is always very well-attended as it gives players of all abilities a chance to come and play in a group environment and one of the booked artistes from the main roster is always detailed to play so it is great fun. When I wandered into the pub it was just as if I had left the day before although it had actually been the previous November as I had got somewhat marooned after Folk Week. Most of the wonderful staff were the same, including Dave and Bev who run the place so well and look after us brilliantly and Paul and his lovely wife Sue both greeted me with big hugs. As the place began to fill up it was just one old face after another in the same way as it has been for so many years now, albeit the venue of the playaround has changed a few times, and I felt instantly at home as I always do in this venue and this town.

Paul always has the booked guest sitting on his left and he always insists I sit on his right as he seems to like me as his “wingman” albeit he is a far superior musician to me but it is a great honour all the same. I still was not feeling great but I managed to play well enough which pleased me as I had not played in public for about nine months for one reason and another. Ordinarily, Folk Week gigs would be a signal for me to hit the bar in no uncertain manner but I really did not feel like it and only had a couple of pints before the session finished at 1500.

In years past, we would have just kept on playing but Dave had booked afternoon acts for a 1600 – 1800 set and obviously they have to get their gear set up so we needed to vacate the “stage” area pretty sharpish. We sat and had a quiet drink and a bit of a catch up with some friends and Paul announced that we were heading round to the 39 Steps micropub (or tiny tavern as I have recently heard it described) to play some more which is about par for the course. We were not booked to play there nor advertised in the programme but we are friendly with Kevin the owner and we just pitch up and ask can we play to which he invariably agrees and very decently supplies the musicians with a few pints along the way. Despite the mind-boggling selection of ciders on display (have you ever tried mango cider?) I still was not feeling up to scratch and so was still taking it very easy.

Neptunes Hall pub, Broadstairs.
The recently re-furbished “Neps”.

I have explained the concept of the playaround earlier and I love it with people of all abilities getting a chance to play in a group environment and hopefully learn some new tunes or ways of playing or whatever but when we move on in the afternoon to wherever we are going (Paul seems to have an ongoing arrangement with half the publicans in town) it is usually only a small group of us who are all used to playing in public and all of us have been doing so for many years and so we can afford to get a little more adventurous in our choice of tunes and also throw in a few songs which we normally do not do in the playaround. If people want to sing at lunchtime then there is an excellent singaround in the Neptune’s Hall pub, just across the road from the George, which shows you how much choice there is at Folk Week.

When it got round to about 1900 we were going to get evicted again by an incoming booked act although not as swiftly as earlier as we just sit about in the middle of the bar and the bands set up in the corner so we can work round each other easily enough. Paul and Sue were heading out that night for a family get-together so I thought that would be an ideal opportunity for me to get booked into my digs and dump my kit at least. I really could not be bothered humping all that gear on the bus so I got a cab which deposited me at the door of the Spencer Court Hotel which was one of a terrace in what had obviously been a rather grand square in days past and much of it still was although the guesthouse itself (it would never merit the term hotel) was a little scuffed round the edges.

I rang the doorbell and waited, and then waited some more. Another try and another whole lot of nothing. I had noticed a handwritten sign in the window saying that if reservations were required then to ring the given mobile (cell) ‘phone number. I did not need a reservation as I already had one but, in the absence of any sign of life in the building I tried it anyway and was told to stay put and someone would be with me shortly. Sure enough, about ten minutes later a guy came sauntering round the corner, greeted me and let me into my room, asked me if I wanted breakfast which I declined and subsequently disappeared again leaving me to settle in. Remember that due to the inexplicable incompetence of my local electronics store I was still without a camera and my technological ineptitude totally precludes my using my ‘phone as a camera I was unable to take any images that evening and those that you see here were taken on subsequent days but it makes sense to the narrative to place them here. Again, I like to be totally upfront about how I throw this site together!

I would describe the room and the whole guesthouse as having seen better days and perhaps not for a while although I must stress that it was spotlessly clean. The room was furnished with a comfy double bed, TV, tea and coffee making facilities and an almost comically tiny en-suite bathroom. Looking at the outside of the building I would suggest that there had once been a large room with a balcony here which had been split into two to make a couple of bedrooms and then bathrooms had been squeezed in wherever possible. On the first evening I could see that I had the only small piece of balcony and there was a table and a couple of chairs there although they obviously had not been used for a while but the patio doors looked to me as if they were painted shut and so I was running up and down the stairs to go outside fora smoke which was a bit of a nuisance. It was only the next morning in the daylight that I worked out how to open the thing and I was quite content to sit out there for a smoke with the vista that just about included a sea view between some buildings but it was definitely pleasant on a good day although they were to be few and far between as we shall see.

I debated going back over to Broadstairs for the evening as I knew there would be plenty going on but I still was feeling far from 100% and I decided the sensible option was to have an early night despite it being my first at the Festival. I reckon I had five pints all day and was in bed by 2130 which is totally unheard of behaviour for me at any time and in any place, much less here during Folk Week but that is what I did.  A few chapters of my book and off to the Land of Nod.

There are still a few days of the Festival to go so stay tuned and spread the word.

I fly solo on Lundy and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

After another excellent night’s sleep in John’s place and a cup of his almost lethally strong morning coffee, I was up and ready to face the day. As I mentioned earlier in these travelogues, John had been kind enough to take his day off to coincide with my visit but had to return to work that day. No problem, I had more or less got my bearings by then and knew I couldn’t really get that lost on such a small island. Having had a wonderful tour of the Northern portion of the place. I had determined myself to take on the much smaller Southern portion i.e. that part South of what passes for a village.

Lundy 3 006
St, Helen(a)’s Church on Lundy.

The first port of call had to be the only Church on the island, dedicated to St. Helen(a). I have put the a in brackets as I have seen it referred to by both names.

Lundy 3 007.jpg

The Church, which is Anglican, is no longer in regular use although I believe occasional special services are held here. The image of the saint here suggests Helena as the proper name but that may just be a linguistic thing as I believe the inscription is in Latin.

Lundy 3 013

A rather imposing but unlocked door opened to admit me to the place and the first thing I noticed was a pretty musty smell. It is obvious this place does not get much use nor even a good airing.

Lundy 3 015

The font, simple as it is and is probably expected to be, is worth a look.  It is interesting to see the various forms of crosses on it as opposed to the traditional.

Lundy 3 017

The interior of the building is fairly sparse, and I had created a full review on the place for another website which I reproduce here should you be interested. It was initially entitled “The Kingdom of Heaven”.

“When you approach the “village” on Lundy initially on leaving the boat, there are two buildings that dominate the skyline. Away to the left you can see the Old Light which I have mentioned before but the building that most catches the eye is the much closer St. Helena’s Church, also known as St. Helen’s. As your stay on the island continues, you become increasingly aware of it, not least as it is a very handy landmark when you wander around, sometimes off the paths.

I am certainly no expert but I did not find it architecturally outstanding, built in 1896 to the design of Gothic architect John Norton out of stone apparently salvaged from demolished cottages. This in itself is something of a precursor of the current island mentality of recycling, which I have mentioned elsewhere on these pages. What sets it apart from so many parish churches on the mainland is the stunning location it occupies. There can be few churches of any denomination in the UK with a better situation. I hope the images give some idea and, again, an apology for the standard due to technical problems with my camera.

The first thing I noticed was that the Church was open, which is not the case in so many places on the mainland for reasons as regrettable as they are understandable. I suspect St. Helena’s is never locked, Lundy is not like that.

Entering the Church, I was immediately aware of a slightly musty smell such as you get in a place that is not often used. This is hardly surprising as the it is what is called an extra-parochial building. That means, I believe, that it is a consecrated building but does not have an attendant cleric nor regular services. At time of writing the original piece in September 2013, the incumbent was the Reverend Shirley Henderson from Hartland on the mainland but as far as I am aware, there are only very occasional services held here.  (An update as I edit this in September 2018 is that The Reverend Brenda Jacobs is currently the incumbent).  It appears they like female clerics here which could lead me onto another whole debate about the role of females in the Christian Church but I shall refrain.

Lundy 3 020

I had the place entirely to myself and I plenty of time and quietude for a look round. I must confess to being slightly surprised at the interior decoration, which I found slightly incongruous with the exterior and surroundings. It was very pleasant and with what I thought was a slightly odd style for an Anglican church as it seems to be geometric tiling. I wandered around and saw what looked like a very grand organ although I subsequently found out that it no longer functions due to the salt air having affected it. Another feature affected by decay was the peal of eight bells which were installed the year after consecration but became unsafe in the 1920’s. They were actually removed in the 1950’s but a charity appeal managed to restore them in 1994. I must say, I would love to hear them peal out over the island.

Lundy 3 015

The font is worth a look as it shows various forms of a cross which are not the standard cruciform of the Christian church.

I have often noted elsewhere on websites that I am of no religious faith but I do find places of worship (of whatever persuasion) fascinating and St. Helena’s was no exception. As for the slightly obscure heading for this entry, please allow me to explain. From 1834 to 1918, the island was in the private ownership of the Heaven family and the church was the brainchild of the Reverend Hudson Grosset Heaven and funded with financial assistance by another member of the Heaven family. The island and church were therefore known locally as the “Kingdom of Heaven”. You really should visit if you are on the island.

With my usual inquisitive spirit (for which read nosiness) I simply had to look up St. Helen(a) and found out that she was born of common stock, being referred to in at least one history as a “stablemaid”, and ended up as the concubine (i.e. whore) of the Emperor Constantius.  She is probably best known for being Mother to the debatably bastard Emperor Constantine (accounts differ as to whether or not she actually married Constnatius) who only converted to Christianity on his deathbed.  Apart from being in possession of various allegedly sacred relics of dubious provenance I can find nothing else that would mark her out for such veneration but such is the way of organised religion.  Again, in the way of all things going round in cirlcles which I firmly believe in, she gave birth to Constantine in a place called Nis in modern day Serbia which I had the pleasure of visiting in 2011 and is credited with bringing a number of cats to the island of Cyprus which still has a massive population of them and boasts the St. Nicholas of the Cats monastery which I have also visited.  Again, these places will feature in future blogs here if I live long enough to write them!

Having had a good look round the Church, I took off in a vaguely Southerly direction. That is one of the very many great things about Lundy, you cannot really get too far lost.  You know you are lost when you get wet because you are in the sea!

Lundy 3 029

Looking back, I was treated to a lovely view of the village which you can see here. I also managed some absolutely stunning coastal views (apologies again for the quality of the images) and the sense of isolation was wonderful. I also managed a lovely vista of the jetty where I had landed what seemed like so long before although it was only a few days. it just felt like I had been there forever, Lundy gets you like that.

Lundy 3 050

The next thing of note I saw was South Light, one of the two lights which were built to replace the fairly ineffective Old Light, which I mentioned earlier on in this travelogue. Due to it being a working installation and apparently fenced off, I didn’t try to get near it but it was interesting to look at.

Lundy 3 040

Walking on, I came upon this pleasant little pond. Now, I already knew that there was no natural water on Lundy except rainwater as there is nothing in the way of a river, stream or spring. I subsequently discovered that this was actually a test quarry pit for granite during the building of Old Light. Like the pond I had seen the previous day with my friend John, this pond has a population of carp that nobody appears to know the origin of and nobody knows how they survive with no apparent source of food. I really suspect someone is feeding them secretly but maybe it is just another Lundy oddity!

Lundy 3 039

Right beside the pond is this rather odd looking thing. I took the obligatory photo and determined to discover what it was later. Well I have now so I shall explain.

This is a rocket pole, of all things. Rocket poles were used in the 19th century as a means of saving life at sea. Basically, the idea was that you fired a line to a stricken vessel via a rocket and then you could rescue survivors using it, thereby avoiding the need to launch lifeboats or whatever. I have spent much time around the various coastlines of the UK over the years and never seen the like of it but I had never seen anywhere quite like Lundy before either!

I am a firm believer in the concept of everything going round in circles and so, if I live long enough to post up all the writings that I managed to salvage from the remnants of two former commercial sites (14 years worth!), then I shall link this picture to a park in Southwest London, a British general from about 20 miles from where my remaining family live in Northern Ireland and whose grave I have visited in Canada plus the American national anthem.  Go on, I know just about all of my (now) 18 readers and I know you are all smart people so work that one out!

The path seems to go on forever on Lundy. Along I wandered on a lovely day in July and was completely happy and contented, it really is an otherwordly place, it seems somewhat inconceivable that anyone could get stressed here.

Lundy 3 064
The main road in Lundy.

Almost inevitably, I came upon Old Light again fairly soon, it really does dominate this part of the island. Again I shall reproduce a piece I originally wrote for the now sadly murdered Virtual Tourist website. I have been rummaging about in my files and found all these bits and pieces which took me literally hundreds of man hours to write and it seems like a shame just to waste them.

“The not very imaginatively named Old Light on Lundy is, as you have probably guessed, a lighthouse and is not so much a thing to do as a thing you cannot avoid. It dominates the skyline to the West of the village and is well worth a visit. Old Light has a fairly interesting history most of which was related to me by the wonderful John Gayton.

As I have mentioned many times elsewhere on these pages, Lundy is a most beautiful place but, frankly, it is a damned nuisance for shipping sitting where it does and has a most appalling record of shipwrecks, not all accidental!  In the early 19th century, it was obvious that something needed to be done and so a group of Bristolian shipowners offered to construct a lighthouse if the landowners would provide somewhere to build it. This was duly done and the light was finished in 1820 to the design of one Daniel Asher Alexander, the chap who also designed the fairly grim Dartmoor Prison. As well as the lighthouse itself, which is fairly impressive, he also provided quarters for the lighthouse keepers adjacent to the light. These have been very sensitively restored and are now available as some of the excellent holiday lets which keep the island financially viable.

The only problem with the light was that it was effectively pretty useless! Basically, the fog that often engulfs the place rendered it none too visible and the lighthouse keepers had to resort to firing a cannon at regular intervals to warn shipping of their presence.

Like so many other places on Lundy, they don’t lock the door so you can just wander in whenever you like. A word of warning however, the stairs are pretty steep and if, like me, you are not great with heights then you might not enjoy it too much at the top despite the stunning views. If you are not worried by the vertiginous climb and fancy relaxing and enjoying the vista, they have even very helpfully left a couple of deckchairs up there on the platform that formerly housed the light. I am glad I saw it but I don’t think I’ll be going up there again!”

Here is yet another image of this wonderful building.

Having done it the previous day, I didn’t feel the need to climb it again, so I contented myself with a few photos and then went back to the adjacent Old Cemetery for a better look.

Lundy 3 052

On the way back to the Old Cemetery I saw a quad bike which seems to be the preferred mode of transport for a lot of the Wardens on Lundy. In a place without a proper paved road and a very limited amount of vehicles, it seems like a pretty good option to me.

Lundy 3 054
Alone in this place is a very strange place to be.

Relatively untended and with various crosses (many of Celtic design) rising from thick grass and undergrowth, the cemetery really is a mystical place and made all the moreso when you read a little of the history of it and the attendant mythology.

Lundy 3 056

Again, I shall reproduce my original tip here if the reader is interested.

“It will come as no surprise to regular readers of my travel pages but I love pottering about in graveyeards, churchyards, cemeteries, call them what you will. I find them endlessly fascinating and great sources of social history. Like just about everything else on Lundy, the old cemetery is unusual and slightly mysterious and I loved it.

Lundy 3 061

It is unusual insofar as there are appear to be two distinct periods of burials, early Christian and 19th / 20th century, at least as best I could make out the stones. What happened to all the burials in the intervening period, were they all taken to the mainland? Even on an island as small as this, it really is a small plot to have had that period of use.

Lundy 3 062

There are a number of early Christian stones standing here but with no graves, and it is believed they were moved here after being elsewhere, nobody really knows. They are all inscribed with Latin inscriptions (some time after the Romans had left Britain) and there are various theories about who they may have been.

Whilst researching this piece, I came upon another mystery. There was a grave here of a semi-hermit, originally of high birth, who went by the name of St. Nectan and is believed to have inhabited the island in the 5th century. I say there was a grave as the remains were eventually disinterred and moved to Hartland in Devon. However, I have read a contrary view that Nectan had lived in Hartland all the time and was murdered there and buried locally after the rather grisly scene of having walked a distance carrying his head which had been severed by a robber! Miracles were associated with his burial place there and there is no mention of Lundy at all. I am no archaeologist or historian so I won’t offer an opinion and shall as always leave it to those better qualified and to the reader to make up their own minds.

The place, as you can see, is fairly unkempt but I know the wardens have plenty else to keep them busy and it is probably not a priority. Anyway, to me it only added to the appeal. Apart from the ancient gravestones, there are many graves and memorials to members of the families that owned the island, and again I was struck by the fact I could find no marker for (ordinary) islanders. I am not actually sure how many of these stones are actual graves and how many merely memorial stones as I did read that the last interment here was 1978 and there are certainly memorials post-dating that.

Given it’s position and solitude, it certainly exudes an air of spirituality of one sort or another. You certainly should have a look round here if you are walking round Lundy”.

Onward, ever onward on a reasonably decent track and back towards the village, having completed my loop of the South of the island. Back to the village and a couple of pints of something reviving in the delightful beer garden of the Marisco Tavern. I don’t think I could have been any happier just then. I even spied something I had inexplicably missed before behind the bar, the pickled eggs!

This is going to be one of the slightly odder observations I am going to make about Lundy but it is something the visitor may easily miss and really should do. Allow me to explain.

I love eggs and I simply adore pickled eggs which have been a staple of pub snacks for as long as I can remember. Heaven knows, I have even been known to pickle my own now and again and very nice they were if I may say so myself.  For those of you who do not know the concept, and there may be many, pickled eggs are basically shelled hard boiled eggs pickled in vinegar and whatever spices you fancy, I normally use black pepper, a few chillis and a couple of cloves of garlic but you can suit yourself.

I like eggs so much I have even eaten balut in the Philippines. Again, for the unitiated, balut is a partially fertlised hen’s egg which you crack the top off to reveal a semi-formed chicken foetus which you then liberally dose with chilli vinegar and eat. Sounds pretty awful I know but it tastes gorgeous and is a national delicacy.

Anyway, back to Lundy and the pickled Lundy duck eggs. Well, that is an absolute must do for me. I had seen a few ducks wandering about, free range like just about everything on the island and I had spoken to the farmer who rears them. I love duck eggs on the odd occasions I can get them fresh as they are far tastier than chicken eggs in my opinion. I paid my 60 pence, applied a bit of white pepper (must always be white pepper for pickled eggs, never black) and bit into it. I don’t want to start gushing here but I have never tasted a pickled egg like it, it was superb. A beautiful pickling mix, wonderfully tasty egg and the yolk was even ever so slightly soft, not dry and powdery as is so often the case with the commercial varieties.

I am not expert on many things but I do know a thing or two about pickled eggs and you really should try them. I didn’t notice if they were available in the shop for you to take home or are merely for local consumption. Pickled egg heaven!

Whilst enjoying my pint and a smoke in the most wonderful beer garden, I actually managed to do something I had been attempting for days.

Lundy 3 078.jpg

I know it is never going to win Wildlife Photographer of the Year but I am very proud of the image above. I mentioned in an earlier portion of the piece that there is a colony (if that is the right collective noun) of sparrows on the island which are invaluable for ornithological research and I had been trying for days to get a picture of one of them. Two problems arose. One, I was only using a little compact camera and secondly, have you ever seen a sparrow sit still for more than about three seconds? If you think of moving towards one (even at a distance), they are off! So here it is, my one and only Lundy sparrow image.  Thank you so much Mr. or Mrs. Sparrow.

Back into the Tavern and I simply had to have another one of the beauties called Lundy pickled eggs. Well, that was dinner sorted for the evening.

The day was winding down nicely but as always it was not over yet. During a lull in dinner service, John popped out of the kitchen and asked me, in his delightful Scottish way, when I was going to get that f***ing guitar out of the case. It was my last night on the island and I hadn’t played a note yet, probably to the great relief of the drinkers in the Tavern. It was the last opportunity I would have and I had dragged the thing all the way here so it made sense and I popped across the main street to the other side of the village which was a round trip of about 200 yards, if that, and returned with my beloved Tanglewood.  I do own guitars that are supposedly better and certainly more expensive than this baby but they are all gathering dust in my flat.  I love this thing so much, battered and bruised as it undoubtedly is.  Any guitarist of any standard, including my appalling one, will tell you the same.  You just get one and it feels right.  This one (bought in an emergency where I had limited funds and was going to tour Scandinavia with my Takemine laid up in the sick guitar hospital) is a case in point.

By this point I had had enough throat oil / Dutch courage (pints of cider) inside me and so out it came, quick tune up and I took off on one of the stranger gigs I have played and believe me there have been some strange ones. The gig itself was not odd as I ran through some of my fairly limited repertoire, it was just the location and the vibe of a group of people who had all chosen to be “stranded” in this beautiful and remote spot. Obviously everyone present “got” Lundy as I did and the vibe was superb, any musicians reading this will understand, you just know when it is “right” and this was as right as it was ever going to be.

I was lucky in that one of the group of divers who were camping out the back of where I was staying turned out to be a very competent guitarist so we ended up sharing the musical duties and it turned out to be a great night. I would include the one image I have of the man, whose name I regrettably never learnt, but it really is too awful due to my refusal to use flash, even in the dark in late night pubs.

Perhaps the highlight came late in the piece when John, having finished for the evening, persuaded the affable bar manager to join him in a rendition of “Flower of Scotland” which was memorable to say the least. The bar closed bang on time as always although we did play on for a bit but quit just before midnight to allow everyone to get home before the power went. For my last evening on Lundy it was a cracker and John and I took off for a nightcap and then to my makeshift bed on the floor for another great nights sleep.  This really had been some trip.

I get off the island in the next instalment so stay tuned and spread the word.