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.

Buy a Canterbury, get a Broadstairs free!

This is another of my two for one special offers merely to keep you from having to keep clicking from page to page.  Never let it be said that I do not care for my dear readers

11th October.
What a waste of time.

Friday morning was another fairly dismal one and I headed back to the Pavilion in Ramsgate for breakfast when my mobile (cell) ‘phone decided to relay a voicemail message to me that had been sent on Wednesday. I should explain that the signal in Broadstairs is notoriously bad and it is not uncommon to see people in the oddest looking positions trying to get their devices to work. Thankfully, I ensure that I am not so reliant on mine as to make it a serious issue although in this case it was to prove to be a major inconvenience. My provider (Vodafone) is notoriously sketchy here and although it is improving I regularly used to get “welcome to Belgium” messages as it could pick up a signal from the Continent better than one from a few miles up the road.

The message was from the haemophilia clinic at Canterbury Hospital telling me that if I could get to the QEQM hospital on Thursday afternoon (i.e. the day before) the haemophilia and thrombosis nurse who I had seen previously could supply me with a prescription for a further supply of the anti-coagulant syringes which were by now running low. That had obviously been and gone and so I ‘phoned the clinic which proved less than simple as the signal kept dropping out even in Ramsgate and I ended up standing virtually on the beach to maintain contact. The upshot of it was that I had to go all the way to Canterbury to get my prescription and I decided it might as well be that afternoon so I walked back up to the Harbour and caught the bus.

On the way to the bus stop I took a couple of images which you can see above. One is of a scaffolding fence on the pier that had fallen victim to the recent high winds and taken out a lamp post in the process and the second was of the Queens Head hotel and it is another example of why it is always good to look up as I mentioned in an earlier post. Some of the architecture along the seafront in Ramsgate is stunning. Whilst there has been a pub here since 1773, this incarnation only dates to 1921 although I must admit I thought it was earlier than that but it just goes to show how little I know about architecture!

I said I had to go “all the way to Canterbury” and this may seem odd to anyone who has looked it up on a map as it is only 18 miles but it is a nightmare as the bus takes the most circuitous route imaginable and stops at every hole in the hedge. It took me nearly and hour and a half to get to the bus station which is nowhere near the hospital but I decided to walk anyway on the principle of trying to get a bit of exercise when possible as medically advised. That was a mistake. It was all uphill and the rain came on when I was far enough away from the bus station that I reckoned carrying on was a better option than turning back and getting a bus up.

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The sadly closed Two Doves pub – I do hope it reopens.

On the way I spied a decent looking little pub which I marked for a possible visit on the return journey although it didn’t happen as I shall explain and also spied the sad sight of another pub that I was not going to have a chance to visit. I fear the Two Doves will soon be another of my submissions to the Lost Pubs website I have spoken of here before. A little research shows that the owners applied for planning permission early in 2019 to turn it into flats (apartments) and so would have died another community pub which has been serving that purpose since the 19th century, which really would be a disgrace. All is not lost however as, in a fit of common sense not normally associated with local authority planning departments, the application was refused hence the for sale sign. Anyone fancy taking it on?

I eventually made it to the hospital and started on a further ramble as the signage seemed to indicate everything, including quite prominently the private health company that in my opinion have no business in NHS premises but gave no clue as to the location of either reception or the haemophilia clinic.

After wandering round for what seemed like an age in the drizzle I eventually stumbled on the reception desk and they directed me. After a short wait I was seen by Jeanette, the lovely haemophilia / thrombosis nurse and who took no more than two minutes to write me out a prescription. The new regime prescribed had the advantage of being double dosage so I would only have to inject myself once a day for which I was very grateful. In nine weeks or so it had gone from being slightly uncomfortable to being pretty painful with me having to use the same limited area over and over again. My stomach was considerably bruised and, frankly, I felt like a second hand pin cushion!

A couple of steps outside the clinic informed me that I was getting the bus back into the centre as the weather had gone from miserable to bloody evil, it was tipping down with rain. Fortunately the bus came fairly quickly and cost another £1:80 so I was now down £9:30 not to mention the four hours of my life I won’t get back and all for a piece of paper they could have issued at the QEQM hospital or the Health Centre if they had agreed to take me on. Of course that does not count the £9 for prescriptions which are free for the over 60’s but I had to take ill a few months shy of that milestone birthday. I could have saved myself a fortune had I waited.

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Big Boots – small pharmaceutical stock.

There is a shopping centre right beside the bus station and I had seen a large Boots on the way to the hospital. Again for non-UK readers, Boots is one of the largest retail pharmacists in the UK. When I say it was large I really mean it, it was about the size of an aircraft hangar and easily the biggest branch I have ever seen and I thought I would have no problem getting my prescription filled. Wrong, they did not have it but told me I could come order it and come back in a few days which was little use to me. I didn’t get my prescription filled, didn’t even get to stand in line with Mr. Jimmy and if you understand that little deliberately cryptic reference then you are probably as old as I am or possibly your parents are!

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St. George’s clock tower, Canterbury.

I thought I would brave the elements as I had time to kill before the next bus so I set off in search of another pharmacy and found in the form of a fairly sizeable Superdrug (another large pharmacy chain) only to find their pharmacy was shut with no reason given. Brilliant. I managed one quick image of the clock tower which is all that remains of the 15th century St. George’s Church where Christopher Marlowe was baptised. The actual clock is positively “modern” dating only to 1836 and the reason only the tower remains is that the whole centre of this historic city was bombed severely by the Germans on 1st June 1942.  This raid can only be viewed as wanton destruction and terrorising the civilian populace as there was little of military importance there.  It was one of the so-called Baedecker raids which were reputedly planned using a pre-war German tourist guidebook of that name and which targeted historic cities.  York, Bath, Exeter and Norwich also suffered.

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Canterbury bus station in the rain, sounds like the title for an Al Stewart song!

Nothing for it then but to head back to Broadstairs and resume my search for medication in the morning as I didn’t think the small Boots in the town would have what I needed, they are notorious for being very poorly supplied. A recip (surveillance term) of the tortuous route on the bus in the rain with the gloom turning to full dark and the widows steamed up was hardly high on my list of great things to do in Kent but I got back in one piece, had a quiet night and off to bed.

12th October.
Another quiet day.

Saturday was another fairly dismal day when I did very little. I decided on a Beano’s breakfast which was as tasty as ever and justified it to myself, were any justification needed, that I could pop into Payden’s pharmacy a couple of doors up which I did with complete success. I had always thought that this was a fairly local concern as I knew they had a branch in Margate but a quick check shows that they are a fairly large outfit. Still, they got the job done and I was fully drugged up for another while. Sorry, I should have said that I had sufficient prescribed medication to fulfil my health requirements. That sounds better, doesn’t it?

 

On my way back down the town I took the first image above which shows why I have to hump my laundry on a bus to Ramsgate. The second really pains me as it is what is left of the Lord Nelson pub where I have played so often I have lost count a long time ago. It was one of the centres of Folk Week where the lunchtime playaround sessions were held for a long time. I know the last landlady who had the rug literally pulled out from under her (she lived upstairs) when the brewery sold it off to a property developer to turn into flats (apartments) as if any more were needed in Broadstairs. It has lain like this just rotting away for some years now with all sorts of problems about planning permission and a host of other issues but it appears that at long last something is happening if the bricks outside are anything to go by.

I have included these two images as they show exactly what is happening to villages and towns all over the UK. Local retailers are being squeezed out of business and banks, pubs and post offices are closing hand over fist. Broadstairs used to have three major banks. One is now a chain coffee shop, one a pizza joint and one a bar / escape room (bloody stupid idea if you ask me) which is about par for the course. Add to this the fact that over 3,000 bus services in Britain have been axed in the past decade and the life is being squeezed out of smaller communities. If you are elderly or disabled or, like me, you choose not to drive then you are in real difficulties in many parts of the country now.

The next post is packed to the rafters with music and I fulfil a long held ambition so 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.