Strange as it may seem, I had a vague plan for the Saturday after all those days of doing very little and that was to do with another Festival that was taking place in Broadstairs, indeed it was taking place about five minutes walk from where I was staying. Instead of Folk this Festival is dedicated to Food and has been going for a number of years now. Indeed, it seems to get bigger every year.
Kent is known as the “Garden of England” and with good reason as it is an absolute treasure trove of produce from the orchards with the associated ciders and perries to the hops and the beer they produce to excellent lamb, cheeses and all manner of fruit and veg. Add in such seafood delicacies as Dover sole and Whitstable oysters, to name but two and you really cannot go wrong food wise. On my five minute walk from bedroom to festival site I actually passed the restaurant which has very recently been awarded the first Michelin star in Thanet and which I will deal with in a future post.
If you are a regular reader all this will explain the rather cryptic message I left in the last sentence of the previous post about napkins, knives and forks. I decided to go on the Saturday and was glad I did not wait for the Sunday for reasons I shall explain in due course and it was absolutely packed as the images attest even though the weather was anything but glorious. I have actually been here before and sat outside drinking in a T-shirt. All this in early October, it was great but sadly no T-shirts this year and I was well wrapped up.
Cider, cider everywhere nor yet a drop to drink!
I have to say that the Festival was very frustrating for me this year for a couple of reasons. Firstly, due to my medication I could only stand and look longingly into the numerous beer and cider tents, the Gin Palace, the champagne bar and even at the miniature prosecco wagon you can see in one of the images. OK, I am not really much of a one for drinking prosecco except mixed with Aperol and soda in my mates bar in Rome but it is the principle of the thing.
My meagre purchases.
The second reason for my frustration was that much as I love where I am staying in the Wrotham, the sum total of my cooking facilities is a kettle. OK, I had cutlery and a tin opener with me as I always carry such things for emergencies but it somewhat limited my choice of purchase. What could I possibly do with a lovely rack of Kentish lamb for example? In the end I limited myself to a couple of excellent pieces of locally produced cheese and a bag each of red and yellow cherry tomatoes on the vine from the massive agrocentre called Thanet Earth which I have mentioned before and who had an extensive stall. I was glad to see that they were selling their produce in paper as opposed to plastic which was a good sign. I’ll show you what I did with the toms in a future post. I also bought a couple of pieces of cheese from the Cheesemakers of Canterbury
I do like the way they name all the “roads” on the site with local place names as you can see in one of the images. I picked this one as the Festival site is right beside Louisa Bay where there used to be a pub of that name that I played a gig on the first year I played Folk Week which is a very long time ago. There is a block of flats there now which seems to be par for the course in Thanet, indeed in the whole of the UK.
As I was taking this image, I heard my name being called and it was my mate Jo who is one of the Festival Directors. She is the lady who used to own what is now the Magnet micropub, formerly the Reef, and who I have known for many years. I met her about a week later and she told me that she had one of those wristbands that tell you how far you have walked amongst other things like the time of High tide in Cape Town or whatever and that she had walked something ludicrous like 12 miles that day. I told her to cancel her subscription to the gym!
Broadstairs Food Festival.
Jo was not the only person I was chatting to as it seems I know an awful lot of people round Broadstairs and they all happened to be at the Festival at the same time I was. It probably took me twice as long as it should have done to get round the site as I kept bumping into people, many of whom I had not seen for a long time so there was a lot of catching up to do.
I took myself considerably less than Jo’s 12 miles back to the Wrotham for another quiet night and was sitting minding my own business when a lovely dog decided to just make itself at home on my feet which sported only a pair of flip flops (thongs). I thought dogs were meant to have a keen sense of smell but apparently not. Try as I might, I could not get the beast to turn round even slightly so I could get anything other than a back of the head image and it is not centred properly but I quite like it.
Upstairs then once again to my bed, leaving my purchases by the slightly open window by way of refrigeration and off to sleep.
The next post will be another several days rolled into one as I really had slipped into a very comfortable routine of doing very little but I’ll let you know as soon as anything good comes up so stay tuned and spread the word.
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 never tire of looking at this view.
I have lost track of how many images I have of this harbour
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.
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.
I could not resist taking the image above which is my personal “medicine cabinet” on the mantlepiece in my room. Terrifying, isn’t it?
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.
The big day finally arrived, Sunday 15th September and I waited until everyone else had used the bathroom, went and had a shower, which I could do by then (I couldn’t until the PICC line was removed), changed my own dressing and headed back to my bedspace. Why on Earth I did not take my street clothes with me I shall never know, I suppose I just was not used to wearing them by now so I pulled my curtains and got changed. It seemed a bit odd after all this time. I binned my pyjamas in the laundry basket and then stripped my bed and binned the used bedlinen, I thought it was the least I could do. I donated the books I had read to the ward “library” which at that point consisted of two old Readers Digest books of four abridged titles each, not one of which I had heard of!
My last hospital meal – lamb curry.
School dinners done properly.
After that, it was a slightly odd sensation. I was sitting doing my normal things but in my “civvies”. I had ordered my lunch, which you do immediately after breakfast, although I had told the lady I wasn’t sure if I would be there for it or not. She told me to order it anyway on the principle that it was better she prepare it than me possibly go hungry. It turned out she was right and this was the rogan ghosh I spoke of in my previous post plus spotted dick and custard – lovely stuff! I am publishing the images again here as I could look at them all day as easily as I could eat that dinner all day.
I knew I would be going nowhere until I had been given drugs to take with me as I had been told that not only would I be taking some of the medications for a while including 12 weeks of the injections which I was not looking forward to, but that I would be on one of the tablets for the rest of my life. Every day as long as I live which, whilst not a major problem as taking tablets doesn’t worry me, will undoubtedly lead to all sorts of bloody hassles when I travel overseas for months on end. I really have no idea how it works but it must as I am sure others do it. A right pain but something I suppose I am going to have to get used to. Without being over-dramatic, this whole episode had been life-changing one way and another.
All the drugs duly arrived and it was time to take my leave. Cheerio to David in the next bed who had been in for a long time and looked set to be in for a long time to come, I wish him well. Then it was farewell to Kyle in the corner bed (you shall meet him again), and a generic cheerio to the three other guys on the other side of the ward who were all recent arrivals I had not really got to know.
I was well aware that the next bit was going to be the most difficult part and that was saying goodbye to the wonderful staff who had been so good to me over quite a long period. Obviously, the normal business of the ward was going on and people were busy but I cornered as many of them as I could for a brief farewell and heartfelt thanks to the point that it was getting a bit emotional. All of them wished me well, gave me various words of advice about my lifestyle, making sure I took my meds etc. etc. There was still one final little piece of nonsensical hospital procedure to be followed and Sister deputed one of the male nurses to escort me to the front door which is standard practice it appears. Apparently it did not matter that I had been wandering about the hospital alone in the dead of night for weeks. I joked with the nurse that they were just making sure I didn’t steal anything on the way out but it seems they were responsible for me until I was off the premises. Something to do with damned lawyers and spurious lawsuits, I believe.
I know I say a lot of strange things in my posts here and this will undoubtedly rank as one of the strangest to date but I was actually a little sad to leave the place. Obviously nobody wants to be ill and in pain and few people would choose to be in hospital but apart from the obvious physical discomforts (especially that damned NG tube up my nose and the extended starvation diet) I had as good a time there as could be expected under the circumstances. I was made as comfortable as was possible, I was treated with every consideration by staff of all disciplines that obviously believed in what they were doing, I had all day to do nothing but relax, read and potter about on the net. I have really no excuse for how long it has taken to post this admittedly lengthy post with the time I had at my disposal on the ward. When I was eventually allowed to eat, the grub was spot on and I was pretty much left alone to do what I wanted within the confines of my treatment.
Having finally stepped outside and smelt fresh air for the first time in what seemed like forever I relented on the matter of the bus and called a taxi. I was perfectly able to get the bus but I was conscious of time and I knew that my friends Sally and Brian were playing a gig in the Wrotham at 1600 and I really wanted to catch it as I had missed them completely during Folk Week. It turned up promptly and delivered me at my temporary home just in time to catch the start of the set and be accosted by any number of friends, many of whom did not even know I had been ill so my sorry tale was somewhat abridged and related several times. Sally and Brian were superb as they always are, I have known them for more years than any of us would care to remember and I have never seen them do a duff show yet. They do some old-style folk and some numbers which are fairly “socially aware” but they are possibly best known for their humourous numbers some of which are literally rib-hurtingly funny. It was a great welcome back to the “real world”.
Naturally, I had to order a pint which you can see pictured above. I had been lectured ad nauseum about my drinking and smoking in hospital and I had a plan for the smoking which seems to be holding up fairly well as I write this a couple of weeks later but I had told the Doctors that there was no way I was giving up drinking completely, that was just not an option. Before anyone gets in touch, no, I am not an alcoholic, that was proven in hospital when I did not have a drink for a month or so and suffered no ill-effects. When I was first admitted they used to offer me medication if I was getting withdrawal symptoms but they were completely unnecessary. I was very disciplined and limited myself to two pints all night.
The fact of the matter is that I enjoy drinking, as much for the social aspect of it as anything else. I absolutely refuse to sit and drink soda water and lime all night and if you remove pubs from the equation then I may as well put down a deposit on a small cave on a remote island as I shall instantly become a hermit. I shall have nowhere to go socially which I explained to the medical staff and told them I would cut down as far as I could. Again, a couple of weeks in, this strategy seems to be holding up well although it is very early days. We shall see how it goes.
One other thing of note is represented by the rather lovely image above and it is the fact that my spell in hospital had seen the seasons change from Summer to Autumn. Yes, I know it is not officially Autumn on the 15th of September but I always associate the coming of Autumn with the first hanging of the hops in the same way as many people associate the coming of Spring with hearing the first cuckoo.
Kent is known as the “Garden of England” and rightly so because of the variety and quality of it’s produce. It is famous for it’s apples and also it’s hops with the first English hop garden believed to have been created near Canterbury in 1520 and this is the reason for the excellent quality of both the cider and the beer in the County. Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham is reputedly the oldest in the UK and cider has been made in the UK since the time of the Norman Conquest which was very influential in Kent. Can it be merely coincidence that I spend so much time in this fine county?
When the hops are picked at this time of the year, it is the tradition all over Kent to hang garlands of them, if that is the correct term, in pubs. Not only do they look rather pretty but if you rub them gently between your thumb and forefinger, the smell is divine. In the Wrotham, Jackie has gone the extra mile as she tends to do and put up fairy lights amongst the display. I think it looks rather wonderful although it did take me a few attempts to get a decent image. I hope you like it.
After Sally and Brian had finished, the pub pretty much cleared out with only a couple of guys playing pool and I had another quiet night chatting to Jackie at the bar. I could not help but think about what had happened the last time I had done this and all that had happened in what had seemed like half a lifetime. It had been quite a ride. Although I felt OK apart from a little tenderness around my wound site, I did feel tired quite quickly and retired pretty early to my room to stick a needle in my belly, take a handful of pills, a cupful of a solution and then crash into a bed that did not have an air mattress and a remote control. I turned out all the lights and listened to the silence which was punctuated only by the occasional passing car on the Ramsgate Road and it was not long until I was fast asleep.
If you have read this far in my hospital saga then I am unsure whether to applaud your perseverance or wonder at your masochism but whichever it is, I thank you. Yes, I know I have gone on a bit but it was a fairly long period of time to write about and one that was, and still is, literally life-changing. There will undoubtedly be further references to my health and connected matters in the next few posts but I shall try to keep them relevant and to a minimum.
If you want to know more about my rehabilitation into the “real world” then stay tuned and spread the word.
Hello again folks and thanks for your forebearance in waiting for an update here which I know has been long overdue but the reasoning will be explained in the next post after this one. It is an interesting story to say the least. I intend to put three days together here for your ease of reading although I am actually composing and publishing this in late September and backdating as always.
Saturday, 17th August 2019.
The Saturday after Folk Week I was up fairly early as I knew I had to check out of my hotel pretty early and then get all my gear over to Broadstairs to my new abode in the Wrotham Arms. I like to travel light but the guitar case and the weight of the laptop with it’s various accessories in my daypack makes for a fairly cumbersome load. I was feeling OK as I decided to walk into Ramsgate and get the bus over rather than call a cab which would not have been expensive. I knew I could not “check in” at the Wrotham until 1600 as the pub does not open at lunchtime and there would have been nobody there so it was an obvious choice to head back to the George for a quiet couple of pints which is what I did.
In years past this day was known as Survivors Saturday where all the local site crew would come to the Neptunes Hall pub after having struck all the fencing etc. from the various sites ready for collection by the hire company. The sites take three days hard graft to set up and one frantic Saturday morning to take apart. I know as I have done both things before and the speed of the Saturday demolition is undoubtedly fuelled by the thought of the free beer the organisers put on in the Neps. As well as the crew, some of the organisers, local musicians, local volunteers from the Workforce and the odd (in every sense of the word) itinerant visiting muso like myself would all attend and there would be a bit of an informal debrief on the week just passed. Folk music was absolutely banned and Ken the landlord took great delight in putting pop music on the pub sound system with never so much as a “hey nonny no” or a finger in the ear! I love folk music but there is a limit and It did make for a pleasant change.
Sadly, in recent years, the tradition of Survivors fell into decline somewhat and it was finally killed off when Ken and Jill retired in 2018 and the premises were refurbished, re-opening in November of that year. As part of the new regime, the Neptunes does not now open at lunchtime so that was that. I sat in the George looking across the road somewhat wistfully at the closed and darkened pub opposite and thinking of how things had changed over the years I had been there. In that vein I took an image of a sign that Dave had put up in the George earlier that week which you can see above. This was prompted by some wild rumours that had been circulating that it was going to be the last Folk Week ever.
I think I should put things into some sort of perspective here regarding Broadstairs Folk Week and I should say that I have a reasonable handle on what is going on. I know a lot of people and I hear things, confidences I am obviously not going to break here but shall speak in general terms and the first of which is so obvious it is ridiculous. The rumour of the demise of the Festival was apparently based on the fact that it had gone bankrupt but just think logically about this. I know the Festival accountant and the final accounts are not put together until some time later as there are still outstanding matters to be settled and so declaring the event bankrupt whist it is still in progress (and hopefully generating money in the form of collections etc.) is very premature.
Certainly it is no secret that Folk Week had to downsize a bit this year due to less corporate sponsorship and several other factors. This was the first year that I can remember when the main focus of the Festival was not a huge marquee along with attendant beer tent in Pierremont Park as they just could not afford it this year. The beer tent, which is run by my great friend Jenny, was relocated to the Craft Fair area adjacent to the Bandstand but the seating was totally outside and the weather really was not suitable for al fresco drinking for most of the week as I have mentioned previously. There are numerous other factors in play which I shall not bore the reader with but I cannot see this superb event folding just yet. I know it came close some years ago but everyone rallied round, gave of their time and talents for nothing and we survived somehow. I am sure we can do it again, at least I hope we can.
During the afternoon I popped across the road to get a cheeseburger as I had not eaten for a day or two and knew I really should. I had taken a large bite out of it before remembering my camera and blog as you can see and normally I would not publish such an image but this burger is to prove important so I am glad I had this on file. The big bite was about the best I managed as I forced myself to eat as much as I could but still only managed about half of it, I really was in no mood for eating.
On my way up to the Wrotham to dump my kit I passed Harrington’s Store and could not resist popping my head in to ask if I could take a photo which the guy was more than happy for me to do. Harringtons is quite simply a timeslip, it is a general store and stocks anything you could possibly want and quite a lot of things you may never want. Again, I shall revert to an old review from my Virtual Tourist writings to explain.
“I don’t know if readers will have seen the absolutely classic comedy sketch by the British comedy duo, the Two Ronnies (Barker and Corbett). It has been voted best sketch in the history of British comedy. If you haven’t seen it, I have posted a link here.
There is a bit of Broadstairs folklore associated with it. The shop pictured is the simply wonderful Harringtons which is worth a visit in itself, it is an absolute cornucopia. It is situated at 1 York Street. I visited recently to buy a French bean cutter (long story, don’t ask) and was amazed at what was available, I kid you not, they have everything from a single screw to sets of saucepans to builders supplies and just about everything else.
Anyway, I know that some years ago, Ronnie Corbett had a holiday home just across the road (behind the Charles Dickens pub if you are interested) and was in the place. He was so enthralled that Ronnie Barker subsequently wrote the iconic skit based on this place. So there you have it. Fork handles”.
In the way of these things I had my bubble partially burst a couple of years later as I was staying in digs in Broadstairs during Folk Week and had borrowed an autobiography of Ronnie Corbett from my landlady where he states that the original idea came from a shop in Hayes in Middlesex although Harrington’s vast range did indeed influence the final script. Honestly, even if you don’t buy anything just go in for a look, they are well used to it.
As for the bean cutter mentioned, it went straight in the bin when I nearly removed a finger with it, it was bloody (literally as well as figuratively) dangerous.
My home from home in the Wrotham Arms.
I made it in good order to the Wrotham, spoke to Jackie and was billeted in Room Six, which is the best room apart from the fancy en-suite family room. As you can see from the images it is lovely and cosy and I do rather like it. Over the years I think I have stayed in every room there. It faces the road but it is not a problem as it is as quiet as the grave after the early evening. Like most of the rooms it is not en-suite but that is no problem as the communal bathroom is only a few steps along the corridor. It is kept spotless and the shower is piping hot with a good pressure which is all I could ask for really.
I didn’t feel much like heading back into town that night and so settled for a quiet time in the bar chatting to Jackie. It was pretty quiet and so we had a good chance to catch up on things. I was still taking it easy and did not drink a lot. By about half midnight I bid goodnight and headed towards my bed. OK, I know this is technically the 18th but bear with me. I walked to the bottom of the stairs which is literally no more than 30 feet from where I was sitting and doubled over with the most excruciating pain in my stomach, it was absolutely agonising. I half crawled and half staggered to bed, kicked off my shoes and curled up in a foetal position fully clothed and lay there all night in far too much pain to sleep. I must have dozed off for a little while but not long and woke in the same pain shortly after.
Sunday 18th August, 2019.
This was just a day of unmitigated discomfort where the only position I could lie in that did not make me physically cry out was lying in the same foetal position on my left side (for some reason it was no good on my right) and practice shallow breathing as inhaling or exhaling too deeply sent a stabbing pain through my abdomen again. The interesting thing and the sole reason I did not try to get help, if indeed I could have got out of the bed, was that I had had exactly the same symptoms some years before whilst on a canal boat trip with friends which is documented elsewhere on this site. In that case the worst of it passed within about 24 hours and when I consulted a pharmacist she diagnosed trapped wind and prescribed something for that. In light of what was to transpire, I suspect this was a very flawed diagnosis!
Another full day and night of extreme discomfort trying to catnap where possible but being awoken by the pain after the merest of 40 winks every time.
Monday, 19th August, 2019.
I woke after one of my brief and fitful dozes on the Monday morning and felt much better. Not anything like 100% but not nearly as bad and fit enough to go out. I didn’t feel like eating but I went to the George in the afternoon to watch the Football later on. Again, I was very circumspect in my drinking and spent the afternoon catching up on my blogging here. At about 1900 I started to feel rough very quickly and within half an hour I knew there was no way I could walk back to my digs even though it is only a fifteen minute slow amble to get there. I had to get the barmaid to get me a cab and I am sure the driver must have thought me the laziest man in Thanet. I did not even feel well enough to explain. Something was definitely going to have to be done.
What was done is fully explained at some considerable length in the next post so stay tuned and spread the word.