Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Seaside Postcard 33: On the job...

Ramsgate comic postcard

This is so definitely not me, I know it's hard to tell from the back, but my hair is darker. Sent in 1914, no message (why spend the extra halfpenny?), it has a fold-out sheet of photos that include West Cliff Promenade before the new hall was built (which means the photo is about 10 years out of date!), as well as several of the harbour chock full of masts and sails.

And slightly startling news - I started my new job today at a certain local college. A bit of a shock as I haven't had to wear a tie (or tuck my shirt in for that matter) for just over a year, since my services were last dispensed with. It's been a lovely year, but mortgage companies have these unrealistic expectations which have to be met, so there we are.

After Day One, although I'm in mild shock brought on by almost a whole day concentrating on a single task, I'm fairly sure I'll be going back for Day Two, which must be a good sign. Everyone very friendly of course (they always are on the first day, I remember that much), but it seems like an OK place to be, at least for the duration of my not-too-permanent contract, if not for ever. And I haven't broken anything yet, which is also slightly unexpected, given the access I have to their Web site in my new role. But it is only Day One. Give it a short while and Fat Finger Syndrome will kick in as I hit the Escape key when I meant the Enter key, or something similar (only joking, if any new colleagues stumble across this, I am semi-competent).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Seaside Postcard 32: Sinking under the weight

Ramsgate Comic PostcardAnother week, another postcard. I'm starting to suspect that postcard designers have something against us comfortably built types. They certainly seem to think we like the seaside - well, that certainly is true...

A day trip to Dunkirk on Saturday, costing a whopping £19.00 on Norfolkline, and on a swedish-designed ferry that actually seems to understand that passengers need to be treated nicely. Comfortable furnishings, no plastic anywhere, and panoramic windows at the front so you get an amazing view from the restaurant. Auchan (Dunkirk has France's biggest one) at least the equal of LeClerc and Carrefour, and as usual we needed at least another hour's shopping to do it justice. I now have loyalty cards from all three, to go with my Tesco, Nectar and Homebase cards. Ready for shopping anywhere, anytime...

And Paris next week, mmmmm.....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sandgate Boer War History - Part II

Further to my post about the return of the Boer War troops, survivors of the Ladysmith Siege, I have received this extra snippet from Bobbie Allen, archivist for the Sandgate Society who kindly dug around for further information after my earlier posting.

This is taken from a 'look back in history' in the local paper, with the accompanying text:

Big welcome awaited the Boer War casualties
1900. Over two columns of the Folkestone Express were devoted to celebrations to mark the homecoming at Sandgate of some of the brave soldiers who left town the previous November to fight the Boer War, men who 'gambled daily with death' but returned home as invalids - 150 of them, arriving in charabancs and a variety of other transports from Sandgate railway station. Devons, Gordons, Rifles, Gloucesters, Artillerymen, Dragoons and Hussarsarrived by hospital train from Southampton to a warm welcome with much flag-waving from crowds along the route to the Camp Hospital or Beach Rocks convalescent home. Meantime 17 more East Kent Volunteers arrived in Hythe for training before going out, in May, to join Capt Gosling's company fighting in South Africa. They were expected to be led by Lieut. Hubbard, of Margate, their send-off to include a party at the Volunteer Club in Tontine Street given by Lieut. Griffin. Latest casualty figures were given as 213 officers and 2,015 men killed, plus 50 officers and 483 men died of wounds. Other casualties brought numbers up to 842 officers and 13,982 men.

My story referred to a return of troops in early 1901, so I'm not sure if these are two separate (but all too regular) events, or just the local paper using a more general date to cover a longer story, or the 1900 referring to when they went out. Nice to get a Thanet connection in the Margate Lieutenant, but even without that it's an interesting snippet of Kent history.

And don't forget that Michael's Bookshop publish a book (on a happier topic) on Sandgate: The Mansion of Mirth - Sandgate as Seen Through the Eyes of the Alhambra Music Hall and Rex Cinema.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Groovy Grottos

Watching BBC News 24, I saw that an underground cavity decorated with seashells, mosaics and pumice stones was discovered near the ruins of the palace of Emperor Augustus on the Palatine hill. I was struck by the shell panels in the newly revealed grotto, where Romulus and Remus were allegedly suckled by their adoptive wolf mother. The panels (you see better views in the video clip on BBC News 24) seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to the panels in our local Shell Grotto in Margate. The Roman grotto panels included marble mosaics, so they're not identical, but they may at least be of a similar age perhaps (Roman one seems to date from about 700BC). Oh well, I thought it was interesting...

Seaside Postcard 31: Pier Review

Ramsgate comic seaside postcard This card from 1920 maybe explains the disappearance of Thanet's piers - the constant assault from visitors leaning against their side rails, obviously that's what done it.

The message is very appropriate too - "we are having a good time and will not want to come home. We are looking out for a job". Sent to an address in Kings Road, Chelsea, it shows that us Down From Londoners are a far from new phenomenon!

See this and the rest of my Ramsgate Comic Seaside Postcards on Flickr. More to come, keep watching!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

There oughta be a law . . .

vintage Christmas card . . . against putting up Christmas decorations before December 1st. Yawn, ok, this is such a predictable rant, and obviously the Christmas shopping period is now steaming ahead merrily, but for goodness sake! It's barely mid-November, and there are some houses already displaying symptoms of advanced Xmas. Shops, ok, they're drumming up sales of Xmas gifts so theming the display in advance is fair enough (just), at least as soon as the last non-Xmas shopping event (Halloween or Fireworks) is out of the way.

But town centre lights going on this week in various towns, a tree in the foyer of the Kent International Hotel, that amazingly decorated front room in a private house on Margate Road in Ramsgate (nearly opposite the junction of Whitehall Road, you know who I mean) - couldn't you just hold on till December 1st at least? Aaaaaarrrrrgh! And they're just the ones I saw yesterday.

I have a feeling the madness can only get worse. Sigh. We're doomed. See what happens when I have to get up at 5.30 to get she-who-must-be-adored to the station!

And the card on the left? Well, if you can't beat 'em, you might as well just join 'em, enjoy it and at least make it vaguely tasteful. That's my excuse.

Normal equilibrium will be restored shortly. In January.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Seaside Postcard 30: Warming Your Cockles

Ramsgate seaside postcard

A blustery weekend - walking up on the East Cliff was a bit of a struggle yesterday evening and the sea looked very choppy INSIDE the harbour! This 1920 card understands the attraction of Bright, Breezy and Bracing Ramsgate though - that's what the seaside is for, after all, to blow those cobwebs away.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Speaking of performance spaces

Royal Victoria Pavilion in 1905
And while performance is in the air, here's a picture of the Pavilion, shortly to be even more underused and unloved when Grosvenor Casinos relocate to Westwood Cross in the New Year. The card itself dates from September 1905, only two years after the Pavilion was built, and it shows both the history and potential. As well as the main concert hall inside, there are cafes and terraces, windows and doors, all the things that are missing now. This is a building that could support a dozen different small businesses and activities, especially when the Pleasurama site finally becomes a source of people and activity (love it or loathe it, it must happen eventually!).

The entry on the Images of England web site records that it was "Designed in 1 week, to be built in 6 weeks in time for the 1903 season". Clearly there was a slightly more dynamic approach to building in those days!

A fine evening's entertainment

HMS PinaforeA visit to the Granville and an evening of Gilbert and Sullivan at the Ramsgate Operatic Society's production of HMS Pinafore. All that you could hope for - bags of enthusiasm and hard work combined with some great amateur talent to provide a fun evening. The full houses show there is clearly an appetite for live performance, and the need to support our local venues.

Looking forward to Anything Goes, the ROS's May production, but first I might need to save up to go and see The Mikado at the Coliseum in London in February. I'd forgotten what fun G&S can be...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Seaside Postcard 29: Cleaning it up

Ramsgate comic seaside postcard This card from 1910 is as sweet and charming as possible, despite certain bloggers' needs for more sauce - although if you have a particularly dirty mind I expect you could find some interest in the the promise of a good blow in Ramsgate...

Sent from 14 Kent Terrace, the obviously quite young correspondent says "we can see all the London steamers in the harbour". Aaaah, those were the days.

This is just the latest of my Ramsgate Comic Seaside Postcards - see the rest on Flickr. More to come, keep watching!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Seaside Postcard 28: Living it Large

Ramsgate comic seaside postcard Another early card, though I'm not sure what it ways about the size of our visitors in those days! It must be those healthy seaside appetites.

This is just the latest of my Ramsgate Comic Seaside Postcards - see the rest on Flickr. More to come, keep watching!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Seaside Postcard 27: Last, First, Next Train

This card dates from 1912, and refers just to the last train of the day, not to a line closure (I hope!). Hopefully the excitable crowd just reflects the end of a fabulous day at the seaside, not desperation to escape back to the big city...

comic ramsgate postcard

Eurostar So the first train has officially pulled out of St Pancras. And the next picture is the train that promises to bring us that little bit closer to London. Eventually. A Little. Spot the similarity? Except for the destination unfortunately...

Much as I love St Pancras as a station, Waterloo was a particular favourite, so it's with a litle bit of sadness that I noted the closure of Waterloo International yesterday, as Eurostar enters its new phase of operations. Ebbsfleet is nowhere near as handy as Ashford (actually it's just nowhere!), and to be honest I really don't consider shaving 20 minutes off a pleasant enough journey is worth the expense and upheaval. Still, we'll be on the train in a couple of weeks (from Ashford) as the other end isn't changing, and a regular dose of Paris does wonders... especially once their Christmas displays are up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Some things never change . . .

You never write, you never call . . . the lament of mothers around the world. Mine included. Here's a beautiful old greeting card, probably from the first few years of the last century, showing that some things have always been an issue. Still, it's an elegant way to have a grumble!

vintage card

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Two Suitable Cards

card of damage to Ypres
card of damage to YpresGiven the day, a couple of cards from Ypres: the second sent on 18th December 1916 to Cliftonville Terrace, Margate. Interesting that these were being produced during the middle of the conflict, and used to share a sense of grief and dismay - this one says "one cannot send Xmas cards when so many dear ones have lost their lives in this terrible war."

Being a curious type I was having a look through the list of war memorials on the United Kingdom National Inventory of War Memorials, and of over 60 memorials listed for Ramsgate the only mention of the Boer War I could find was of a plaque to 6 lost alumni or former staff from Chatham House school. Did local units not feature in that conflict, or were they simply a small part of larger elements remembered at Canterbury, Broadstairs and Margate? (The Margate plaque only lists 7 dead, so maybe Ramsgate got away relatively unscathed).

Guinness, it really is good for you!

Off to Canterbury last night to see Two Days in Paris, very sharp and witty film. But before it, the adverts. The best? Well of course it was the new Guinness advert, a jaw-droppingly brilliant village full of domino tippers - see for yourself, and enjoy . . .

Friday, November 09, 2007

Small flood, not much excitement

I feel guilty about feeling disappointed, but we were promised something approximating Noah's flood and all we got was a few waves. OK, that's obviously a good thing, and Norfolk had a much worse day than us.

I popped in to Sandwich earlier, just in time to see one car with wet tyres, and a slightly damp quayside, and then back to the harbour, where it looked very full, but not in too much danger. Pegwell Bay looked pretty lively though.

surge tides

surge tides

surge tides

And if you were wondering what those (small) piles of sand are in the last photo - that's all that's left of the large sandbank painstakingly piled up by the big digger last month. Oh well, better book it again.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sandgate and the Boer War

I've stepped off the Isle to explore some old photographs I picked up at an auction some years ago. As I'm finally sorting through piles of stuff with a view to eBaying, I thought I might as well share the occasional interesting item.

These are three photographs, dating to 1900, recording elements of the Boer War, and - as luck would have it - with a nearby Kent connection. The first picture doesn't have any obvious connection, as it is of some logistics corps with their steam-powered traction engines.

Boer War traction engines

The other two are more local (well, just up the road from Folkestone): The caption with the first records "Arrival at Sandgate of Sick and Wounded Soldiers from South Africa". The second is captioned "Arrival at Beach Rocks". A quick look on the Sandgate history page records that "In April, amid fanfare and flags, vast crowds turn out to welcome the Ladysmith Heroes to the Beach Rocks Convalescent Home, after a 6-month siege and a 6000 mile journey. (By 1908 The Beach Rocks is known as the Alfred Bevan Memorial Convalescent Home where the splendid, somewhat formidable Sister Mumford takes charge of 200 persons, in particular the wounded in World War 1.)"

Boer War  Sandgate Ladysmith
Boer War Beach Rocks

A far cry from the welcome for our returning soldiers today, as has been noted quite a lot recently in the press. Both crowds and available convalescent facilities are long gone.

And, inevitably, local publisher Michael's Bookshop has a book on Sandgate: The Mansion of Mirth - Sandgate as Seen Through the Eyes of the Alhambra Music Hall and Rex Cinema, with some sample content (including pictures) that you can see here, just before you go and buy the book!

Seaside Postcard 26 - More Fishy Tales

Another 'line of fish' card, this time with the Ramsgate civic crest. "Only a Line. Just Arrived. Quite fresh." They knew how to tell a joke in those days, didn't they?!?
comic postcard Ramsgate

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Seaside Postcards 22, 23 & 24: Ramsgate is the place to be!

A sudden and unexpected burst of enthusiasm for scanning today so here's three lovely old comic postcards. The first, sent in 1910, has a short message on the back "Don't be common" - and this is written by the sender! Sent to a Miss Warren in Clapham, clearly there is no need to say what a lovely time is being had, baceause that's a given.

comic postcard from Ramsgate

The second card is a slightly battered pull-out card containing 10 great old views of Ramsgate, as well as a slightly risqué verse. Sent in 1927, there's no mesage at all on the back, thus saving a peny on the postage.

comic postcard from Ramsgate

And today's third card has a delightful chambermaid inviting the guest to arise and enjoy Ramsgate (not the nasty landlady yelling at the guest as would normally be the case in later years!). More cards soon.

comic postcard from Ramsgate

Seaside Postcard 21 - Triple fun

comic postcard from Ramsgate

Another old card from August 1914, to somone in E Company, NCB, Bull Inn, Eastry. Not sure if NCB meant National Coal Board, or if was an Army unit billeted there. Any ideas?

Fireworks Night - the official one

Broadstairs Fireworks
After a week or so of daily barrages from the various Thanet Firework Appreciation Societies (there are obviously several of these, judging by the amazing number of displays, dates and times of their displays - it must be so annoying having to schedule your display for long after midnight so as not to clash with all the others), we went to THE display - Broadstairs. Very impressed with the turnout, and the display, and of course (have I mentioned this before?) the weather. Just enough drops of rain earlier to cause concern, but at the appointed hour it was clear, dry and virtually wind-free. Perfect.

Monday, November 05, 2007

November weekend, Thanet microclimate.

A gentle stroll along the beach to Broadstairs at the weekend: she-who-must-be-adored was delighted at the lovely weather, the bracing exercise, the beauty of the beach; me grumbling all the way, as usual. Me and exercise are reluctant acquaintances at the best of times... Still, Broadstairs was pretty, as usual. Back there this evening for the fireworks, but sensibly by car, none of this healthy walking stuff. Raglan Place looking as chocolate boxy as always...
Raglan Place, Broadstairs

And then for a cup of tea at the Royal Harbour on Sunday, when I saw this little beastie drive by. I've seen a few funny Volkswagen buses, but I hadn't seen this one before. The numberplate implies it's quite old, but it looks like a newer body style than the classic microbus, but about two-thirds the size. Very curious, but with a nice VW smile on the front.
VW bus
VW bus

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Simple lodgings...

Here are two lovely old 1840s prints of Ramsgate buildings - East Cliff and West Cliff Lodges.
East Cliff Lodge

East Cliff Lodge was the home of Sir Moses Montefiore, who bought the property in 1831. Its grounds now form the King George VI park, although the property no longer exists (following an unhappy period in the ownership of Thanet District Council). The Italianate greenhouse, recently restored to its former glory, is one of the few surviving parts of a once great estate. The print is taken from an original now held in the National Maritime Museum, and predates Sir Moses' purchase, as it records the house as being the seat of Lord Keith.
WestCliff Lodge

West Cliff Lodge is best known now as the site of the former model village. Built in the early years of the 19th century, by a Mr. Benson and known as Royal Villa, this was the residence of the Earl of Darnley, and yet another of the houses used by Princess Victoria in Ramsgate.

Aaaah, if only I'd been born in the early 19th Century. With loads of money. And a title.

Have you ever wondered where...?

... you'll find a swastika on a Thanet wall?
... you'll see the word 'milk' in white brick up the side of a chimney?
... you'll see 'Jackson's Stables' in wrought iron on a rooftop?

So you think you know The Isle of Thanet

book coverWell you may never have wondered before, but you should! A new book by Stuart and Sarah Horner provides a whole new perspective on the little views of Thanet. The book contains a few sweeping and panoramic vistas, but mostly it's the details, those little architectural flourishes and fancies that catch the eye, the statements of individuality from long-gone builders. It's essentially a photographic record of 339 sites and sights of interest on the Isle, beautifully presented, with the images captioned only with a number. The key to the numbers is at the back of the book, so of course you can discover - or confirm - where the picture was taken, but this provides a leisurely visual journey through Thanet, combined with the style of a quiz. Play it yourself, or challenge your friends, family and colleagues - see who has the best visual memory of our locale.

Milk on a chimneyBased in Birchington, Stuart edits Birchington Roundabout magazine, and has published a couple of other titles on Birchington. He and Sarah have clearly enjoyed doing this one: "The joy of creating this book has been discovering some of Thanet’s more obscure features alongside the wonderful buildings which surround us. Things we are all vaguely aware of but never seem to really appreciate." It's certainly reminded me to look up - it's so easy to miss unexpected views by not checking out the skyline and rooftops. It's also made me determined to improve my photographic skills!

It won't be the cheapest book you ever buy about Thanet, due to the full colour photography on every single page, but I think it is still pretty good value, as you'll want to revisit it often as you try to baffle and outwit visitors and residents alike.

You can buy So You Think You Know the Isle of Thanetfrom Amazon, or direct from Stuart. This will make a perfect Christmas gift - I suggest you order it direct from Stuart as the Amazon link threatens 4-6 week delivery, which might add just too much tension to the process!


*The MILK chimney is at 2 Cuthbert Road, Westgate. You'll need to buy the book to find the others!