Sunday, December 30, 2007

Seaside Postcard 42: Castles in the Air

Ramsgate postcards
Definition: thinking or dreaming about something unattainable

Explanation: Used when talking about someone who likes to spend time thinking about things that have little to do with his / her own reality

Examples: Why don't you pay attention to what you need to do and not build castles in the air. Or - Unfortunately, he often dreams of castles in the air and doesn't do much to improve the situation.

Mmm. Does this sound like anyone or anywhere you know? or are these the architects used to plan the Pleasurama development...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Seaside Postcard 41: Blue Skies

Ramsgate Postcards Blue skies outside, just a light breeze, ready for that first proper venture in to a town open for business after the family and food thingy of the last few days.

This card dates from the 1930s, with the swimming pool and Winterstoke Gardens featuring once again. Also on view is the harbour cafe (now Harbour Lights Restaurant) with a striking Art Deco entrance and observation platform (and a small house between that building and the shore-side wall of the pier. The removal of neither of these seems to be a visual improvement. Sigh.

Harbour Cafe

Right, just a couple of days left to knock the list of New year's resolutions in to shape. The most important one is to stop writing lists of New Year's resolutions, but obviously some are just destined never to be fulfilled.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Doing The Ramsgate Walk

No better way to blow those cobwebs away and build up an appetite than go for a December stroll in Ramsgate. Christmas Day 1.30 and there we were down at the harbour, an eerie wind howling through the rigging on yachts in the harbour, and seagulls just hovering in a menacing sort of a way, waiting for their chance to swoop... A quick drink in the Belgian Bar to give us the strength to return home, and away. Actually the Belgian Bar was quite busy, with a dozen or two people letting someone else do the complicated cooking and bulk washing-up. Seems like a good idea to me.

Today's Boxing Day stroll, even more traditional - up to the West Cliff, tea and a bacon butty at The Lookout, where the staff seemed a bit shell-shocked - they'd been rushed off their feet since opening at 10 and they were starting to look a bit frazzled. The bright sunshine clearly had a part to play, and we enjoyed watching other families' wobbly bikes and scooters on their first outing. Very traditional.

And on Royal Road, what looks like a cherry tree prettily coming in to blossom. On Boxing Day. The world has gone crazy, I tell you, crazy...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Guess the topic...

Merry Christmas

And maybe not explicitly seasonal, but the sentiment is there...

Greetings from Ramsgate

Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Good Luck & Merry Xmas from 1907

Merry Christmas to all bloggers, readers, Thanetians and non-Thanetians. I think that's just about covered all the bases - enjoy the day, the season and the opportunities, and look forward to a fulfilling 2008.

Season's Greetings - It's not over yet!

vintage greetings card Yet more festive greetings from my limited supply of seasonal goodwill... This 1911 delight has the little children and the Christmas angel combining in a beautiful card to send greetings and good wishes.

A nice visit to London yesterday to swap presents with part of the family. The thick fog that hung around all day made the journey a bit less than delightful with the nastiest bit on the way back passing the airport - no road lights and very thick fog make a nasty combination. Still, we returned safely, just in time to get back to the wrapping, eating and telly watching.

We could still do with another week to get organised, though.

Nice to see hostilities temporarily suspended in a good cause as some of my fellow bloggers organise an aerial jaunt that has raised a few quid for the NSPCC. The Zumi contribution is winging its way to that worthy cause via the Internet, and with a bit of luck we'll see the Airads banner-towing tour over the town today.

Luckily the fog seems to have dispersed so the flight will be seen and enjoyed by countless millions worldwide (ok, by the few people who care to look up as it potters about).

A great idea, although I'm looking forward to normal hostilities being resumed as soon as the Christmas truce is suspended.

vintage greetings card

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Season's Greetings - the mini-series

Here are a couple more cards just to spread the festive joy. Off to London for the day in a couple of hours, keeping our fingers crossed that the roads are suitably quiet on a Sunday. Hmmm....

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas help for the historical - or the hysterical

Christmas GreetingsWell we're well in to the final stretch now, present wrapping and food preparation is starting to reach a frenzy and we're sure we need another week to finish everything that needs finishing off. The main thing is to not panic. Really. Stop it.

If it's all become too much, and you can't find a card that says what you need, here are a couple to provide another option - demonstrate to all that you treasure the values of years gone by, that you care not a fig for modern fashions, that you realise that what we all crave at this time of year is well-worn tradition.

All you need is some photo paper, the Internet and a lovely old card like this.

Both these cards date from before the First World War, so to prove you too can be century out of date, enjoy them as though they were printed just yesterday.

And a glorious sunny day, designed to help the shoppers make the most of the shopping, the harbour and the crisp December air.

The forecast is for a distictly grey few days, so let's hope the microclimate kicks in and ignores the forecasters.

A quick visit to drop off prezzies in London on Sunday, then it's back to the joys of a Thanet Christmas. New Year's Resolution number one: start getting ready for next Christmas much earlier. Sigh.

Christmas Greetings

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thanet libraries scandal

In order to save money, Thanet District Council is opening both the recently refurbished Margate library and the newly rebuilt Ramsgate library without the assistance of a library catalogue system. A TDC spokeperson says it will save several pounds a year, and make the library much more accessibly to young people, as this is how their bedroom floors usually look. Librarians will be responsible for emptying several shelves each day, to avoid any accusations of professionalism or elitism. A librarian was quoted as saying "shit".

OK, don't panic, and for god's sake don't go and ask Steve Ladyman what he thinks... Although I think the librarian probably did say "shit" when she saw this lot - it's a library in Gisborne, New Zealand after a small earthquake yesterday evening. But don't think TDC would'nt do it if they could...

Seaside Postcard 40: Weather for Penguins

Ramsgate Postcards The temperatures seem to be dropping, I've had to scrape ice of my car window twice this week so far, and she-who-must-be-warm is not happy.

It's alright for the penguins of course, they've been trained specially for these conditions, so no wonder these two sweeties think Ramsgate is nice this week! The card conceals yet another pull-out set of photographs, this time from the 1930s, with the New Undercliff promenade on the West Cliff and two pictures of the new swimming pool.

Last day at work, and everyone is getting a little stir-crazy. Productivity might dip a little today as it becomes increasingly important for every single colleague to put their head round the door and wish us all greetings of the season.

Personally I think we should accumulate all that lost time and gather at the main entrance at lunchtime, shout "Happy Christmas" in unison and then bugger off home. Still, it'll soon be 4.30. Sigh.

And I'll soon be able to sit down and collate my New Year's Resolutions. Oh joy.

Funny how things happen. No sooner have I posted my Penguin postcard above, than I see on the BBC web site that Penguin sketches made by Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton have been found in a basement at Cambridge University! Not the greatest art in the world, but drawn at public lectures for the entertainment of the audience, autographed, and left in storage till now, apparently. Aaaaaah. Lovely...

Penguins by Scott and Shackleton

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Seaside Postcard 39: Holiday by Brand by Grammar

comic postcardToday's gem dates from around 1910 - the pictures include the New Royal Pavilion (built 1905) and show the West Cliff Gardens (where the Hall will be built in 1914). Our happy traveller arrives from Ramsgate with a suitcase clearly full of delightful memories and souvenirs (or drop-downphotos...).

Our capacity for visitors has just increased quite significantly with the imminent opening of the new Express by Holiday Inn (surely the crappest name for a hotel chain ever) near Minster. The official name seems to be Express By Holiday Inn Kent International Airport. Elegant or what? Formerly the Prospect Inn, whose listed deco curves have been incorporated in to the new build, this hotel has a substantial 105 bedrooms, ideal for business visitors, the airport and others whose idea of a comfortable night is at the side of a dual carriageway a couple of miles out of town. Maybe they know something we don't about council plans - or about changing visitor patterns. Especially as despite the fact they describe all 105 rooms as suites (I think they just mean they are all en-suite), 69 are single-bedded, and just 31 are doubles. No family market here, this is clearly a hotel for business travellers. Oh what fun the bar will be each evening, as sales reps compare their day's triumphs...

The Hotel's web page states "Margate, Ebbsfleet and Canterbury are just a short drive away", but any driver aiming for Ebbsfleet is likely to find themselves even nearer to Pegwell Bay wondering why this little village doesn't look like a shiny new Eurostar Terminus. Lots of scope for fun with lost bus drivers here, methinks.

I'm not complaining though - it means a few new jobs, an extra visitor resource and an eyesore restored to use, so overall it must be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thor Chemicals fire...

Just what you need to help the traffic along the day many schools break up...

BBC reports Margate Road closed both ways between the Pearce Sign's Roundabout junction and the Farley Road junction in Broadstairs, because of a building fire at a Chemicals Factory. Apparently there was some sort of explosion this morning, but that's all I know so far. No doubt local TV news (and of course our reliable local newspaper journalists) will have more news later...

BBC Kent has this report:

Crews douse chemical factory fire
Thirty firefighters have been tackling a blaze at a chemical factory in Kent.
The fire broke out at the Thor Chemicals premises in Ramsgate Road in Margate on Wednesday morning.

Six fire crews were sent to tackle the flames and nearby roads were shut. All factory staff were evacuated safely with no reports of any casualties. Police say there is no danger but are warning people living between College Road and the Westwood Industrial Estate to stay in doors as a precaution. Officers from the ambulance service are also on the scene in case they are needed.

Thor Group Ltd is a multinational company that produces a range of chemicals that are used in items such as personal care and flame retardant products. Kent Police is advising drivers to avoid the area because it is heavily congested.

A Chav Christmas, or just lousy journalism...

ChavtivityMy fellow blogger East Cliff Richard recently posted an image sent in by a Mr X showing an artistic rendition of a Chav Nativity Scene. ECR jocularly stated it was based on a Margate nativity, and that was enough for our local journalists - today's yourthanet (page 3) has Steve Ladyman incensed, declaring it bigotry - "whoever drew it doesn't come from Thanet, doesn't care about Thanet's image and doesn't care who he or she offends". A pretty good description of the local journalism too - this image has been around for a few days, and the simplest Google search would show Wednesday's London freebie, the Metro, reckoning it's set in Glasgow, with the Telegraph pinning it down to Mostyn Bus Shelter. I think they employ journalists.

Mind you the the Mayor of Crawley is also furious at this depiction of her town, presumably because some other intrepid local hack called for a quote, and no-one could be bothered to CHECK THE FACTS. This is how wars get started...

The artist probably thought it was a biting satire (or wry comment) on modern society - either way it has some satirical and topical merit, but all the kneejerkers can see is that it might reflect badly on their little bit of the world. Sad.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Seaside Postcard 38: More fishy tales ...

Ramsgate Comic Postcard

So this is what those shivering fishermen are casting for off the side of the pier in Ramsgate Harbour. I did wonder - I've never seen them actually catch a fish after all.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Effort

Well it's not Somerset House or Kew Gardens, but getting an ice rink in to a teeny space like the formerly unheard-of Petanque Court was never going to be easy. We were actually impressed that they'd managed it at all, although the 'ice' word was a mild contravention of the trades descriptions act perhaps... the penguin seemed quite at home though

And as for the Polar Village, well it wasn't as bad as it could have been. That's not meant to sound quite so grudging, we thought it was a reasonable attempt given the whole range of conflicts - not much space, not much money, not wanting to compete with existing traders, unreliable weather causing a deferred start and so on.

As afternoons in town go, it provided quite enough seasonal cheer - a walk through the Polar Village, an "ooh" and an "aah" at the three reindeer, an "eh?" at the man in the polar bear costume and a "hmm" at the ice rink, so vocal chords were nicely loosened up when we got to Albion House whence the Christmas Bazaar had taken shelter after the bandstand and surroundings became just too arctic.

Ramsgate christmas market

Ramsgate christmas market

Ramsgate christmas market

And then the Salvation Army band turned up in Albion Gardens, lanterns were lit (one catching fire quite impressively a few minutes later!) and a sweet little carol service was had by all. And it looked like the Mayor knew most of the words - he certainly sang with appropriate enthusiasm, despite the bitter cold and modest, but appreciative crowd.

After this afternoon, the Christmas season is definitely under way.

Belgo-indian melange

Indian at the BelgianA delightful display of traditional Indian dance at the Belgian Bar last night, watched by a warmly appreciative audience. it's always nice to see someone doing something that looks quite tricky, is very unfamiliar, and doing it well. A little explanation before each of the three dances set the scene and explained some of the movements and themes, and all seemed to have a good time.

Oppressive working conditions

cat in in-trayJust in case you thought my new job was going ok - just look at the humiliations and suffering I have to endure. I'm the grumpy-looking one at the back by the way...

Apparently this local cat has a habit of wandering in to the building - I can't really blame it, the heating settings are managed by a frigophobic sauna-loving maniac as far as I can tell.

It's not the cat I object to as such - it can't help being a cat, and it was harmlessly friendly, if a bit casual about its approach to desk territory, clearly having no idea of office etiquette. But its presence (for about 5 hours) led to a succession of female colleagues, from senior managers down, coming in to coo at how lovely he was, and isn't he friendly, and I wonder where he comes from and isn't he well-behaved. And they liked the cat too.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Seaside postcards 36 & 37: Kids' Stuff

ramsgate comic postcardBack to normal service after our Paris delights, and a style of postcards from the 1930s focusing on the growing importance of children in the holiday process.

Edwardian postcards were mostly about adults and the sheer novelty of the seaside holiday for many - by the 1930s, we have lidos, swimming pools, the beginnings of mass tourism.

These two cards from Dennis have pull-out strips of photographs showing the Marina swimming pool, the Harbour Cafe (now the Harbour Lights restaurant) as well as the traditional sights such as Madeira Drive, the Pavilion, and the Harbour. More recent constructions include The Chine, the New Underhill Promenade at the West Cliff and Winterstoke Gardens.

It was a busy time for the municipal developers, which makes it all the more depressing that this pride in the town and its surroundings seems to have all but disappeared, judging by the enthusiasm by the council for simply 'switching off' elements of local culture and heritage - choosing not to have a gallery or museum element in the replacement Ramsgate library, withdrawing funding for the museums, allowing once important buildings to lie idle and rotting - the Customs House and West Cliff Hall being the most glaring examples.

It may not be their fault that non-council operations choose to close - Model Village, Motor Museum, and so on, but the council has to take the lead in creating a cultural climate that encourages something other than bars and cafes - I love 'em, but I need more (and so do potential visitors, I suspect)!

ramsgate comic postcard

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

And one more thing . . . 5 of 4

And a funny thing happened when we were walking throught the Jardins de la Palais Royal . . . there's a sculpture exhibition currently on display, stone creations by Vana Xenou, including one that implies Thanet has a connection with Eros. I kid you not - see the caption below to the 'Acis of the World'. Are there Greek origins that I haven't heard about?

Vana Xenou Paris

And in case you wondered what the Axis of the World looks like:

Palais Royal sculptures

And, just in case you wonder what the rest of them look like, I've put up photos of almost all of the scupltures in this little exhibition as a set on Flickr.

More information on the exhibition and the artist.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Last (nearly) posting from abroad - 4 of 4

Just to get a bit of seasonal spirit, we went to a little Christmas market whilst in Paris. Held at the Fondation d'Auteuil, a national children's charity based not too far from the Eiffel Tower, it also included an annually famous Nativity display - La Creche Merveilleuse - created by Fouque, a factory in Provence famous for its figurines.

Just a couple of pictures to whet your appetite - if you like it have a look at the rest of the set on Flickr.

creche merveilleuse
creche merveilleuse

And then some of the other weird and wonderful sights from our all-too-short trip to Paris.

A classic car parked in the Rue St Honoré - a Hindustan Ambassador, that curvy Indian limousine based on the old (very old) Morris Oxford:
Hindustan Ambassador

Removals, Paris-style. As a former removals person, I'm always impressed by the way they get the goods to the upper floors without gasping up the stairs. Brilliant, if a little scary when the wardrobes go up:

up a bit your end

Freight transport, Paris- and Seine-style, with the emergency car for those essential journeys ashore... and a turning circle that needs some serious forethought:

I can't see round the corner

Continuing the transport theme, the Velib - a huge fleet of bicycles available for pennies and making a serious difference to the way Parisians and visitors alike get around town - although there's never enough bikes at the top of the bigger hills apparently:

what colour is your bike?

Transport on ice now - the ice skating in front of the Hotel de Ville, with Penguins and Chairs for the more unstable. Excellent idea...


And finally, much to my horror, after 16 visits to Paris and heroic resistance, I was finally dragged in to the same room as the Mona Lisa. It's a fabulous picture, but the effort of getting within viewing distance was just too much like hard work...

that painting

There, another fabulous few days on Paris. Energy restored (a bit), looking forward to the next trip (a lot). Back to the old postcards. Oh just one more...

Arc de Triomphe

Next thoughts from abroad - 3 of 4

Albert Kahn BonsaiYou may have seen the BBC running a season on the Edwardians recently, the centrepiece of which has been a season of programmes showing the amazing images financed by French philanthropist Albert Kahn. The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn showed colour images and black and white moving images from the early part of the 20th Century, taken by photogrephers financed by Kahn and his plan to create the Archive of the Planet.

The Musee Albert Kahn is a delightful museum in the grounds of his former home on the outskirts of Paris (at the end of a Metro line, but only 200 yards from the Metro station), and a key feature of the museum is the garden - Les Jardins Albert Kahn - created to demonstrate harmony between different national styles, as well as to provide a perfect space for him to discuss world affairs with visiting dignitaries. There is beautiful combination of French, English and Japanese garden styles, and the museum itself has a lovely exhibition of old autochrome images as well as computer access to many of the startlingly detailed and evocative images - many of pre-WW1 Paris, for example. The entry fee was a ludicrous €1.50, surely the bargain of the year!

The museum and gardens feature in very few guide books - we've been to Paris many times in the last 6 years, and have read most of the guide books - we only found this through the TV programme spurring me to Google the museum. Truly a hidden gem - one ofParis' many small specialist museums that repay the effort of discovery manyfold.

See more pictures on my Flickr set for Albert Kahn Museum and Gardens.

ALbert Kahn Bonsai

Sunday, December 09, 2007

More thoughts from abroad - 2 of 4

Le Shopping. Mmmmmm. Window-shopping on the Rue St Honoré and the Place Madeleine brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "consumer society". There's only an elusive lottery win between us and all those lovely things. Sigh... Just let the pictures speak for themselves - these Paris shopkeeper types know thing or two about window displays:

Paris christmas shops

Paris christmas shops

Paris christmas shops

Paris christmas shops

Not exactly a shop - this is from a display of Biedermeier-era furniture currently in the Louvre, but I thought the photo came out pretty well.

Paris christmas shops

See more pictures on my Flickr set for Paris shops.

Thoughts from abroad... 1st of 4

A few days in Paris, the usual delights and a few novelties, and then back to the news that TDC thinks museums are superfluous. Strewth, what is wrong with these people! It may be unfair to compare Ramsgate to the City of Lights, but the municipal pride in Paris pervades every atom of the city - pride in its history, its culture, its architecture and even its shopping. Oh well, focus on the good stuff. Paris. Four days of lovely...

And a good word for South-Eastern trains - going to get our tickets to Ashford, the guy on the counter asked if we were travelling Eurostar, and then beamed with delight as he said it was free. Eurostar have a new deal with South-Eastern to waive travel fares to and from Ashford and Ebbsfleet, which is nice, but he seemed so pleased about it! And then the guard on the train was even more pleased. We airily waved our Eurostar tickets at him and got the response "Brilliant! Have a great trip!" and then carried on up the carriage being ridiculously cheerful to everyone, leaving a little slipstream of smiling passengers in his wake. Must be something in the water this week...

Paris christmas lights

Paris christmas lights

Paris christmas lights Paris has a serious approach to Christmas illuminations - the Champs Elysees were ablaze with lights, as were most areas of the city, with traders' associations in each arrondissement doing something special. We didn't have time to see many of them, but there was some serious outlay and effort.

More despatches to follow (I don't want to use up my limited reservoir of Parisian joy all at once). And as for the Grands Magasins - well Lafayette already has a head start with the amazing stained glass dome. Add a truly enormous tree and you're off... Mind you the crowds were every bit as bad as any large store on a Christmas shopping Saturday, certainly not improved by the fact that 25% of them (ok, and us as well) were just there to gape in awe at the building and the decorations, thus getting in the way of the dedicated shoppers. I'm not sure that gaping in awe happens too much at Westwood Cross, but the end result is quite similar - crowds and queues everywhere.

Around the Place Vendome (think of somewhere that makes Bond Street look really cheap and nasty!) there were elegantly understated displays on the windows of places like Cartier and Piaget, whilst nearby Hermes had a very slick display that looked a little like a disaster in a sugar icing warehouse (but in a good way, see the picture below). More about Parisian retail later, along with two other exciting topics (brace youself): arguably Paris' loveliest garden and one of the grandest Nativity tableaux you'll ever see. Pop back and see the rest soon... it'll just take me a day or two to sort it all out.

Paris christmas lights

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Seaside Postcard 35: Cheers!

Ramsgate Comic Postcard Another card fram days gone by, in this case the 1930s, as the pull-out photos include the Winterstoke Gardens, the Marina Swimming Pool and the West Cliff Undercliff Promenade. All now somewhat less than they used to be, although the Winterstoke Garden hangs on, just...

Never mind, Paris tomorrow, a small silence from me for a few days, followed by huge cheerfulness as my internal batteries are restored to seasonal jollity. Frightening thought, or what?

Au revoir, mes amis...