Saturday, September 29, 2007

Eastcliff Groovin'

A great bit of reggae up on the Eastcliff this evening, with a passing celebrity just to top it off - Timothy Spall ambled by, whilst the music set a very ambient groove behind him... I didn't get a picture of him though as I thought a flash in the face might be a bit uncool, if you see what I mean.

And this is my 100th post. Thrilling or what?!?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Calais, the slow way

A day in Calais yesterday, with P&O doing the honours, an hour's delay on the return blamed on the previous 36 hours adverse weather conditions. Strange that the trip out in the morning was bang on time, but what do we know... I found these two cards in my ever-growing pile of things to sort, scan or sell. I just wish we'd been here when these were running - The info on the back of the small raft's card says 55mph, 36 people. 55 mph would have made the Ramsgate-Calais run a treat compared to the lumbering Pride of Kent, comfortable though it is. And even squinting I couldn't quite see how 36 people got in to the small one, it must have been very friendly on board!

Ramsgate hovercraft

Monday, September 24, 2007

Summer funfairs a success - official!

This week's World's Fair (No. 5372, September 21-27 2007, page 6) reports on the Summer seasons for the two visiting pleasure fairs at Margate and Ramsgate, and scores them a success.

"Neither resort pulls the holiday makers as they once did but both are still worth a visit for a day". Talk about being damned by faint praise! Nevertheless the concluding paragraph is quite positive: "The daily rain showers knocked a bit of a hole in attendance figures but when it was dry trade was described as satisfactory, enough anyway to warrant a return visit next year."

Let's hope so, except of course Ramsgate's venue will be a building site (at last), and even Margate might be seeing some action towards the Turner Centre, with the Dreamland site probably still up in the air . Still, nice to know that two travelling fairs found the Summer season satisfactory, even in the current limited circumstances.

A Fishy Business . . .

Hooray, opened last Thursday in King Street, a real fish shop. Not the only one in Ramsgate of course, but the only one right bang in the centre of town, so that has to be a good thing. And the web site promises a delicatessen and restaurant to come upstairs, so something else to watch out for. King Street is definitely on the up!
Eddie Gilbert Ramsgate

We've watched this shop being fitted out since last October, so it's not a minute too soon - you just can't have too many real food shops. Coming just a couple of weeks after the closure of The Ramsgate Deli on Queen Street, let's hope the appetites of Ramsgate are better matched to this one.
Eddie Gilbert Ramsgate

Monday cuteness . . .

Got that Monday morning feeling? Looked out the window in dismay at the wind and greyness? Have a look at this and feel better:

From the BBC: "a pair of Sumatran tiger cubs and a set of young orang-utans, all abandoned at birth, have become inseparable after sharing a room at an Indonesian zoo" (follow the link for 3 more pictures).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

High as a Kite at the Big Sky Festival 2007

(Sorry about the video, still learning, but it gives the general idea)
A lovely day out - sun, crowds, entertainment and (only just) enough wind. And kites. All sorts of kites - stunt, team, novelty, fantasy - a 20 foot anatomically correct Italian cherub, a line of 50 or so penguins (they CAN fly, you know) as well as some great choreographed display flying in the arena. The gekkos were great once they got in to the air, and the others were similarly fabulous. A few more knots of wind would have been ideal, but it was still a great day out - here are the highlights, and a few more can be found on my flickr set for the event. Another good free event in Thanet!

And this is how they work . . .

And when they get bored, stick 'em in a teacup. Never fails.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sands Station 1864

Here's the other interesting photo in the lot sold on eBay yesterday - and it shows how wrong I was to make comments based on the first photo! I said 'no leisure use of the sands here', well clearly that was only because that photo was taken at high tide. Here the beach is teeming with life. [Note to self: must to try disguide ignorance better]
1864 Sands Station

And there are two more pictures: below is the whole page as shown on eBay, I wouldn't want anyone to think I was only showing the good stuff here! The other two pictures show the beach and harbour, but are perhaps more familiar (or else old pictures of these scenes just all look the same to me).
1864 Sands Station

It just goes to show what gems appear on eBay - you have to keep watching, watching, watching...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Royal Harbour 1864

A nice old photograph for sale on eBay today - an 1864 view of the Harbour (with a couple of others). Not sure whether to bid yet, but have a look for yourself:

Notable things (notable to me anyway): the wall on the left surrounds the railway turntable, which I think is where the current roundabout is outside the Pavilion. The Pavilion itself is another 40 years away of course, so we see a ship being built and beyond that either a timber yard or, more likely, a chandlers with masts and spars ready for the fleets of ships visiting for refitting and stocking. No leisure use of the sands here - the shore is just a workplace near the sea. The industrial age is creeping in though - note the mix of sails and steam funnels among the larger ships in the harbour.

If you fancy bidding (and I'm not the seller, I promise), or just want to see what it made, it's item 230170405763, ending 6.30 this evening (Thursday 20th).

Sold for £27.00, so clearly to a railway enthusiast!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Midget houses become towns... lots of them...

Thank to Michael Child, below is a picture from the Merrie England Amusement Park of Midget Town, which provides the most likely source of yesterday's mystery as to the whereabouts of the Midget houses:

If there was a permanent troupe at Merrie England, then their accommodation would have been built to scale, and even formed part of the entertainment (in the older 'look at these strange folk' style of entertainment before we all knew better, obviously).

This was not unique. Below is a picture of the 1948 Midget Town in Hull in 1948.
Hull midget town

From 1927 to 1930 the Roof Gardens in Blackpool was also Midget Town, which included a sports club, town hall, post office and garage. It was ‘populated’ by a troupe of midgets. I can't find a picture yet, though.

There was another at the Glasgow Exhibition of 1938:
Glasgow midget town

and a several listed in the Rides and Shows list for Coney Island, New York.

Clearly scope for some serious research here, but it'd be nice to find some more pictures of our local experiences - interiors of Merrie England, or what else might have been built in to the cliffsides behind it? Watch this space...

And one more thought: many of the 'midget towns' like the ones photographed above were fairly temporary structures, for exhibitions or even travelling fairs, so perhaps inside Merrie England is the most likely location after all. Who has the pictures of inside Merrie England then?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Midget Houses anyone?

This from a conversation overheard by my (much) better half in Michael's Bookshop today: "Are the midget houses still there?" There followed no small amount of confusion, but it turned out that the lady in question had left Ramsgate many decades ago (before or just after the war), was revisiting and wondered if the houses that were apparently 'built in to the cliff' for the midgets - low level fittings, small doors and so on - were still there.

The location would seem to have been on the slope down from the Granville towards the Marina Theatre, and I do recall seeing an old stage photo of the troupe of midgets who presumably had a long-term residency in the Marina Theatre before the war. Any extra information? It was such a surreal question that there has to be an answer! Michael himself was apparently stumped by the question, which makes it all the more effective, obviously. Time to check out your old photos and postcards...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Drains rip-off: what a surprise, not.

Local drainage company a complete rip-off. I know, I can't believe it either. Don't believe me? Here goes: blocked drain (cleared a month ago for £70 for 15 minutes work, now backing up again). Quoted £55 for each half-hour (and knew last time it took 10-15 minutes). Guess what - it takes just under 40 minutes (including chatting time etc). Want a receipt? That'll be £90 extra! This for relatives who are on benefits, in rented accommodation, not impressed with previous drain clearance arranged by estate agent's contractor (which they had to pay for), so figure best chance is to arrange it themselves (on our advice, sigh).

Is it really so inevitable that every contractor rips off every customer every time? Can't there just be an occasion once where an honest tradesmen turns up, says it was an easy job, so it'll just be the expected and quoted amount for a few minutes' work?

Oh yes, anyone who uses 1st Call Arrow deserves all they get. You've been warned. "A genuine local company with local rates – No hidden extras". If local rates are £110 an hour then Thanet is doing better than Central London. Ha bloody ha.

Northern Rock - unique or just unlucky

Like many, I've been watching the growing crisis at Northern Rock with great interest and a little awe at the effect a financial problem in America's mortgage industry can have on individuals in Britain. Looking at the shares though, Northern Rock's halved in price over the last few months - it wasn't just since last week that the trouble became clear to the well-informed.
Northern Rock shares
No matter how many calming statements from the Bank, the Treasury and the FSA, you can't really blame savers for being twitchy, even if they know deep down that the government wouldn't dare allow a bank this size to actually collapse. Luckily for Thanet the nearest branch is in Brighton, so it's unlikely to cause too much personal panic on the Isle.

And I'm very impressed at the financial skills of the couple who marched in to the manager's office and demanded their £1 million, in cash, instantly. Haven't they seen It's a Wonderful Life?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dreamland - the saga continues

Today's Gazette reports that the Dreamland site is once more up for sale, and MTCRC are talking with Paigle Properties. Given the widespread loathing and mistrust that Reading-based MTCRC seem to have attracted this sounds like a glimmer of light breaking through the clouds. Paigle have done what looks like a sensitive and appropriate job on the former Royal Sea Bathing Hospital, and look likely to repeat the process at the Lido site.

Perhaps a competent local developer sensitive to the benefits from having a thriving and busy town environment might just do what an out-of-town developer has not managed thus far? Both main directors of Paigle are on the board of the Margate Town Partnership, so hopefully that means 'good local contacts and understanding of what's needed' and not just 'conflicts of interest'. Here's hoping...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tom Thumb Theatre for sale . . .

Here's your chance to become a real challenge to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bill Kenright and Trevor Nunn. Get a theatre. Not just any theatre, but Thanet's own teeny tiniest theatre, the Tom Thumb. For sale at just £255,000, although in need of refurbishment, this former coachhouse has a capacity of 60, two parking places and a one bedroom apartment. Only a theatre since 1984 though, so not quite as ancient a venue as it looks...

Let's hope it is bought by someone with more imagination than the usual property developer - it'd be a shame for it to turn in to a residence, no matter how quirky.

Full property details on Cooke & Co's web site

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Seaside Postcard 15 - something fishy

Line of Fish postcard from Ramsgate

Another great old postcard, undated but probably from the 1910s or thereabouts. Auntie Bertie is wishing Marjory in Croydon a Happy Birthday. Aaah. More to come soon.

And watch out for a forthcoming postcard calendar for 2008, thanks to those lovely people at (or Cafepress, Zazzle, Moo or Qoop, I haven't decided yet). One of the great joys of the Internet is the way it enables creative dunces like myself to produce professional-looking publications and products without needing my own workshop, printing press or factory. I'm very envious of the scrappers, cartoonists and rubber duck adapters on here whose fingers seem to do what the brain tells them. But one day . . .

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Arras, Boulogne, Le Touquet

The recipe for a perfect weekend - take two of our oldest friends, a Speedferries flexiticket, 2 nights in Arras and a few antique shops in Boulogne; mix in an unexpectedly magnificent firework display over Arras town hall, a sand sculpture festival on the beach at le Touquet and a generally lovely time and there you have it, a goooood weekend.

Arras Town Hall in daylight:
Arras Town Hall

Arras is lovely, lots of Flemish-style architecture, grand squares and serious - very serious - history. The squares are almost entirely 'new', rebuilt after WW1, but lovely nonetheless, and we saw what was probably the loveliest firework display we have seen - accompanied by a commentary in words and music, it told the story of the town as pyrotechnics burst over, through and from the town hall and belfry. Enchanting. A few more shots to see on my Flickr set of Arras pics.

Arras Town Hall in pyrotechnic-light:
Arras Town Hall
Arras Town Hall

And the Place des Heros by night, showing the beautifully reconstructed Flemish-style heart of the town.
Place des Heros

Under the Town Hall are entrances to the dozens of miles of tunnels, started as medieval chalk quarries and completed as WW1 troop accommodation - and access to the Front, several miles away. Very sobering, and seeing the map of British War Graves (all 693 of them) was a chilling reminder of sacrifice and slaughter.

Some lovely architecture survives of course: here are a couple of front doors that caught my eye:

French doorsFrench doors

On the way back to Boulogne we thought we'd try Le Touquet for lunch, and found the last day of the Sand Sculpture Exhibition - marvellous. Loads more to see on my Flickr set of Sand Sculpture pics (again).

Sand Sculptures at le TouquetLe Touquet

And topping it all off with a few antique shops in Boulogne and a nice piece of furniture on the roof of the car just to prove the point. And Speedferries are offering a deal at the moment - 10 tickets for £220 (that's £44 for each return trip, which is pretty good, as long as the sea cooperates). Hmmm...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More Google stuff

Just in case you'd missed the latest Google developments in their cunning plan to get you to waste your whole life just looking, looking, looking... Google Earth now includes an amazing new dataset from Nasa. Everything. The Universe. And Beyond...

With about a hundred million stars and two hundred million galaxies, Sky in Google Earth lets you explore the heavens like never before. You'll need to download/update to Google Earth V4.2, then click the new logo in the toolbar, but then you're away - zoom in to the galaxies, type in a starname to shoot straight there and much more. Reeeeelly interesting if you like stars and stuff (which I do, especially since I just finished indexing two great books - the next edition of the Atlas of the Universe and The Stargazer's Handbook). Check out the YouTube intro above for more...

And if you're a fan of Google Maps, add the Googlemapsmania blog to your favourites: every clever thing you ever wanted from Google maps, and a whole heap you're never thought of. Just say goodbye to productivity at work... A bit US-biased of course, but there is a country search in the right hand column, and inspiration might just strike.

The Cunning Adsense Plan Takes Shape

Exciting day - the morning post saw my first cheque from Google for those funny little adverts you see down the side of the page. It's taken 14 months to get to the first £100, but hey let's not diss the business plan just yet! Let's face it, it's money for nothing except a little bit of fiddling about on a web page. And I only have the adverts on about half a dozen pages (I have a couple of hundred or more across a dozen web sites to play with), so when I get myself sorted, I could be on my way to a life of leisure. Eventually. I'll let you know when it happens.