A (brief) ramble in Ramsgate.

16th October.
Another nothing day.

The 16th was another day with nothing of note except that I was walking the back way from yet another Beano’s breakfast downtown and noticed that the old Leisure Centre in Alxandra Road is now earmarked to be yet another “escape room” and apparently an offshoot of the one in Northdown in Margate if the name and logo are anything to go by. As I mentioned in a previous post there is already one such establishment in the town in what used to be my bank so what the need is for another one I singularly fail to see. I think it would be far better employed as a leisure centre or some sort of facility for the local youth who tend to roam about creating mayhem in semi-feral packs, especially in the summer months.

Enough of this and we shall pass swiftly on to…….

17th October
A (brief) ramble round Ramsgate.

If you have been reading this whole series you will know that I slept in Ramsgate for most of Folk Week this year and have also stayed there on various occasions over the years when I have run out of options in Broadstairs. It is strange the way things go in that of the three main Thanet towns, Broadstairs was always seen as being a bit genteel and old-fashioned with lots of pensioners, Margate was thought to have left it’s glory days as a holiday destination long behind and was regarded as being a bit rough and Ramsgate was seen as more upmarket than Margate but all this is not so now. Anecdotal evidence, including that of a guy on my hospital ward who had been put there by defending one youth from another gang in Ramsgate, suggests that Ramsgate is now getting a lot rougher and Margate is “on the up”.

Whilst I had been to Ramsgate a few times this trip, predominantly for breakfasts in the Pavilion and visits to the laundrette, I decided it was time for a more thorough look round. Nothing too strenuous as I had seen the major attractions round the harbour area but just a general wander to see if I could find anything as I inevitably do.

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What a great name for a road.

My bus from Broadstairs runs along the wonderfully named Plains of Waterloo road which I think would be a superb address to have. Not only that but a small road leading off it is named La Belle Alliance Square. La Belle Alliance is the name of an inn near Waterloo (it still exists as a nightclub) where Wellington and his ally Blücher met after the famous battle.

Whilst gazing out the bus window I had often seen one of the numerous blue plaques that litter Thanet stating that Karl Mark had stayed here (number 62) in 1879. Just out of interest I looked up an estimated value for the property today and it is £318k. He could have just about funded the Russian Revolution with that as that amount when he stayed there is equivalent to just under £40 million today. Yes, I do have too much time on my hands!

A little further research shows that he had been to the town many times before including several visits with Frederick Engels. Strange to think that plans for world communism may have been hatched in this most genteel English seaside resort. Engels was not present for the 1879 visit as a letter to him proves but rather Marx was there due to the ill-health of his wife Jenny rather than his own ill-health. He had first visited  Ramsgate seeking relief from the boils that plagued him, probably due to liver dysfunction.

With the erstwhile residence of the Father of Communism duly recorded on my trusty compact I walked the few yards to the delightful and very impressive Wellington Crescent where blue plaques seem to proliferate like the boils that apparently afflicted dear old Comrade Marx. It appears that every third house or so was home to some notable or other at one time although some are more notable than others and I suspect there is a degree of “bigging the place up” on the part of the Ramsgate Society.

As you see, I spotted Sir Charles Warren who lives at number 10 behind a door not dissimilar to a much more famous “Number 10”.

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Another famous temporary resident.

I also found Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who also got about a bit by staying at number seven, 28 and 29 at various times and Wilkie Collins, novelist, friend of Charles Dickens and opium addict although the Ramsgate Society do not see fit to mention the latter two facts. He stayed at number 27. Interestingly, Collins and Mark are both interred in Kensal Green cemetery in London, a place I have often been past but never visited, I must get round to it soon.

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It really is rather grand.

All in all, Wellington Crescent was “home” (temporary or permanent) to some distinguished people and it is easy to see why with the lovely views over the channel but the most famous visitor was associated with Albion House right at the end of the road where the then Princess Victoria stayed for a few months in 1835 and 1836 to recover from ill-health just over a year before becoming Queen.

The building today is a boutique hotel and as well as the vista over the Channel it also overlooks the pretty Albion Place Gardens which were not there when her Majesty visited, having only been constructed in 1894 from the grounds of the House. Should you be interested in such things the Gardens are home to a rare species of newt and a bat colony. I do like to keep my dear readers informed of such things.

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Try driving a bus down this!

At the same time as the gardens were being laid out an equally attractive if serpentine road named Madeira Walk (pictured) was constructed adjacent to it. Whilst aesthetically pleasing it is a bit of a nightmare for modern traffic but it was all part of the gentrification plan of the local Council at the time who were trying to transform the town from a working port into an upmarket seaside resort. It seems the concept of gentrification long precedes what is happening to most of the inner East End of London where I live these days.

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East Cliff lift, Ramsgate.

Also close by and again not there during Her Majesty’s stay is the wonderful lift from the Crescent down to beach level which was constructed in 1910 and is one of only five such structures in England still open to the public. It is of such importance that it is Grade II listed, having been thankfully saved from collapse in 1999. As it only operates seasonally I was not able to ride in it but it is yet another reason to return to Ramsgate should I need one which I don’t.

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Yet another view of the harbour I love so much and the chimneys are great too.

I have mentioned before how much I love the Royal Harbour in Ramsgate and how many images I have of it so this was a perfect opportunity to get another angle on it as you can see above.

After walking about halfway down Madeira Walk I came to Kent Steps which I had passed many times at both ends but had strangely never either ascended nor descended so time to rectify that and I am glad I did as I was rewarded by discovering on of the strangest homes I have ever seen in my life. Beautifully presented and obviously worth a fortune due to it’s location it boast it’s own name plaque which proudly declares “Rubber Chicken House”. Honestly. Even in my heavy drinking days I could never have come up with something like that. Not only is it just about the craziest house name I have ever heard but it lives up to it as the front window is completely full of the afore-mentioned creatures. Apologies for the images but the light was against me. I hope you get the idea because I have absolutely none and I strongly recommend that the homeowner gets off whatever they are on pretty quickly!

After that it was a brief walk to the Royal Pavilion for my usual breakfast, image of the prevailing weather conditions on the beach and a leisurely afternoon of catching up on this blog. About ten o’clock in the evening, hunger got the better of me and, it being a Thursday, a curry was called for and I decided to risk the Naga Chicken Vindaloo which was a bit lively to say the least but nowhere near as hot as some curries I have had. If you have ever spent any time in Sri Lanka, as I have, and eaten away from the touristy places and with local people you will know what a hot curry is.

After that decent meal and a bit of a chat with the female door supervisor (lovely woman), it was “last bus back to Broadstairs” time and straight to bed.
My next post will be another compilation effort of quite a few days of nothing much except links to some absolutely excellent music and the end of this particular little jaunt to the Kent coast so stay tuned and spread the word.

A “major trek” from Broadstairs to Margate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Michelin starred, no less.

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

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

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

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

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The real Bleak House.

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

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

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

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How lovely, two pubs side by side.

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

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Friends Meeting House.

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

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

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

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

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

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St. Peters parish church.

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

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

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Red Lion pub.

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

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

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St. Peters parish church.

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

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

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St. Peters churchyard.

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

 

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

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St. Peters Footpath.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Draper’s Mill (under repair).

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

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Signpost, Turner and Dickens path.

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

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Another one bites the dust!

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

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

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

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

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Keith Kenny and his surprising suitcase.

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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.

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.

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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.