Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Grange

I noticed that this weekend was one of the all-too-rare occasions when the Grange on the West Cliff was open to visitors. Well worth a visit, and a great insight in to the architectural style of Pugin, and his radical approach to designing a house according to its intended function, rather than keeping to the traditional styles prevalent at the time.

This image is taken from a November 1879 issue of the Building News, and provides a highly detailed birds-eye view of the Grange, dated 1873.

Pugin Grange Ramsgate
Click on the picture for a larger image.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Seaside Postcard 79: lovely stout

Ramsgate seaside postcard Another beeauty today - the pint of stout anyway... sorry, that was very ungallant, must be my age when the beer starts to look more tempting than the person holding it.

Mum wrote this to Ethel in August 1926, and you'll be pleased to hear she was having a fine time, in "very nice lodgings" and just about to go for a ride. Similar to today, except we get taken for a ride instead - by the planners, developers and all those with no sense of what makes a town work properly. Oops, there I go again...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Seaside Postcard 78: Be afraid...

Ramsgate seaside postcard Possibly the most frightening card I've ever seen. No date, but probably early Edwardian, and certainly intended to terrify holiday makers!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Seaside Postcard 77: Tasty town...

Ramsgate comic postcard Today's card dates from 1924, and was sent from Ramsgate to Bushey, just outside Watford. Amasterpiece of brevity - "Hope to see you all on Wednesday in Watford. Sea awful. Love to all" Oh well, some people just can't be pleased...

The card contains a strip of photographs which fold out, taken innthe early twenties and showing the town and harbour as a thriving centre of trade and commerce. Hmm...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Seaside Postcard 76: foggy days

Ramsgate comic postcard This morning's postcard dates from the 1930s - the pull-put strip of pictures includes the Winterstoke memorial, the 'new' Swimming Pool and the Harbour Cafe (now Harbour Lights restaurant) in all their shiny new deco glory...

The sky looks blue, which is more than can be said for this weekend - cold fog seemed to be the main feature, meteorologically speaking, which was completely unreasonable for a Spring weekend. It's about time the weather sorted itself out, quite frankly.

I notice there's a ship on harbour slipway gettign what looks like some serious surgery - large holes being cut in the sides, leaving a nice view right through the cargo section. Simple plate replacement, or conversion to something more unusual requiring side access? Not a clue, but I'll be interested to see what they do next. I may be an ignorant landlubber, but I can find anything interesting if I try!

We went to Detling (the Kent Showground) for the Detling Antiques Fair. Fighting our way through the fog, we still seemed to find a way of spending three hours and too much money on unnecessary collectibles. Oh it was just terrible. Awful. And now we have to go back to the next one. A bit of sunshine would certainly have helped the hardy souls trading outside beside their caravans and campers - we noted stallholders from Newcastle (on tyne AND under lyme) as well as Netherlands license plates, so I hope it was worth the effort. We did our bit to make sure it was, god knows...

ship repairs in Ramsgate

ship repairs in Ramsgate

Friday, April 18, 2008

Seaside Postcard 75: Weather Woes

Ramsgate comic postcard Well the tall ships never came, worried that the forecast Easterly winds would have prevented them sailing back home today. Shame, but just one of those things that happen in an environment where the weather actually affects more than just the mood! Oh well, there's always next year. Sigh.

This postcard reflects the current atmosphere quite nicely, I think, mine anyway - a general air of gloom and despondency, a sense of waiting for things to brighten up.

Still, it'll soon be Summer, we just booked our next day trip to France for a couple of weeks time, and I seem to be settling in to my new job without anyone being too disappointed in my performance. All in all, a good result!

A day off on Tuesday included a visit to Whitstable, and a slightly expensive visit to The Bonsai Shop at Yorkletts, about a mile out of town. We only popped in to get our little Acer re-potted and to get our wrists slapped for letting what we thought was an attractive weed-related ground covering to spread over the pot - turns out it was starving the tree of nutrients and water. Oops... Still, not too late, although this year it will look a bit ragged. So we consoled ourselves with a new beautiful bright red Acer of a different type, and promised faithfully to look after it as well as we could. Worth a visit, if only to look and wonder at the amazing range and display of hundreds of magical little trees - who knew that you could cultivate a bonsai from a hawthorn hedge cutting - then again, who's got ten years to wait to see the results - it's all we can do to wait for our sunflowers to come up, so I'm always amazed by the vision and patience of the professional bonsai nurserymen.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Royal Harbour, Ramsgate - The Glory Days!

Today's one of those days where - with a little imagination - you get just a flavour of how the harbour used to be: full of visiting sailing ships, each with its own story to tell, each with a crew from exotic lands (OK, today they'll be mostly Dutch), each fighting their way in to the Harbour under full sail in the teeth of a storm (OK, it's a nice day, and they'll come in under their auxiliary power). Like I said, it's just a flavour of times past, as the Heineken challenge delivers up to 20 tall ships for a short visit.

This card (published by Ramsgate Libraries, so not in itself a great antique) shows the harbour in 1795, with just the inner harbour built, and even that look little more than a beach with a wall in this view.

old harbour scene Ramsgate

All together now... aaaaahhhh...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Seaside Postcard 74: The Time of Our Lives

Ramsgate comic postcardAnother classic card, showing a slightly disarranged yet happy young lady - this one is from 1920, and starts just how we wish we could always start descriptions of Ramsgate - "Simply lovely, wish you were here". To Vi in Waltham from Ivy, who had even managed a two hour row (in a boat, not arguing, I think).

Haiku - brevity above all

I see there's a Haiku event coming up in June at the Albion Hotel in Broadstairs. Full details on the ThanetCAN blog.

If you didn't know already, Haiku is a Japanese poetry form that requires you - in the English version at least - to say something brilliant in just 17 syllables over three lines. Very minimalist, occasionally very funny, and surprisingly challenging and yet highly absorbing.

My favourite, quoted in the Wikipedia entry for Haiku is by John Cooper Clark:

To express oneself
in seventeen syllables
is very diffic

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ramsgate needs more new businesses like this

In town on Saturday, we called in to Age & Son, the new cafe-bar-restaurant in Charlotte Court (the old wine warehouse). Open for just five weeks, run by a brother and sister team, this is a light, friendly and very modern British style of place - if you've been watching Great British Menu on telly, some of the dishes might seem quite familiar, but less strange! They're just waiting for the alcohol licence, but with a restaurant upstairs, and a wine bar in the cellar, there's great potential for a busy establishment here. There's certainly an interesting lunch menu, a range of exotic teas and a real sense of enthusiasm - a nice old building too with bags of atmosphere, so fingers crossed for a success...

Now if we can just get some more of the empty shops filled with like-minded entrepreneurs, the town might build up the buzz that is at risk in the age of credit crunches and out of town shopping centres.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Seaside Postcard 73: a familiar tale

ramsgate comic postcardA familiar theme today - lack of money forcing a change of plan. Feeling in the need for a general rant, I'd have to say that this card applies to our locality in a number of ways...

First, after a horrible week for lovers of Dreamland, it feels like another nail in the coffin - and if there just aren't the places to spend the money, how can we benefit from visitors? The other thing that baffles me completely is the economics of property development. I mean I understand the idea of building buy to lets, but the 500 or so flats being built at the Sea Bathing Hospital are going to take some shifting, given that you can buy (or rent) a nice victorian 3-4 bed house for the same price. And that's just one site among several quite large developments across the isle. Similarly, the plans for the Dreamland site included retail as one of the key elements - in a town with one third of its retail space currently available, and a council plan that rightly or wrongly directs any major retailers to Westwood Cross, just which businesses are going to fill this site? And new shops imply an increase in total consumer spending - or do the rest of the 'old' shops have to fall by the wayside to provide the cash flow for th new ones?

Secondly, as interest rates keep coming down, I can't help feeling that many of the banks are just seeing this as the Bank of England giving them a hand to keep their profits up, without feeling the need to pass on those cuts to borrowers. Some are, certainly, but others are currently raising rates, removing mortgage products, and generally finding new ways to make money from us. HSBC are sounding very helpful by offering to provide mortgages to people at their existing rate (if you meet some better criteria, have 20% plus equity etc) but are charging up to £5,000 fees for 'arranging' this mortgage. I though the interest was their fee, but then I'm ever so old-fashioned... and worried about our tracker deal ending in September - I expect we'll meet the income and equity requirements, after all we did when we got the mortgage in the first place two years ago, but just chucking away an extra £5,000 for the privilege is a non-starter... it's this cunning means of subtly forcing people on the standard variable rates whilst pretending to continue offering fixes and trackers that will boost their profits ever higher.

OK enough misery, the sun is shining, and it's been quite a nice week so far. The dredger appears to be beavering away in the harbour, we've got the Heineken Challenge delivering 20 or so old and old-looking sailing ships in one go next Thursday, so we'll have just a flavour of how it used to be...

And anyway, everything will be fine when the high speed train gets here next year. And the Chinese. And Thanet Earth. And the Turner Centre. And our new old library. And our new hotel, conference centre and shops on the seafront. Boom times ahead, clearly.

More postcards and less ranting coming next, I promise.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Scenic on fire. Wet wooden closed and burning. Hmmm.

dreamland on fire
Picture from Kent Online -see link below

So I get in from work, put on the telly, and the headline story is Firemen battling to save Scenic as it burns. A closed wooden structure after a damp week when the wood must be pretty damn wet. Who are they kidding? It'd be quicker to list the famous bits of Thanet that haven't been torched to get them out of the way of developers...

This from KentOnline.

And the Save Dreamland Campaign forum is filling rapidly with sad and angry comments...

Now back to the telly to see just how bad it is...

Yup, as expected, a wet wooden structure looks completely destroyed. Bastards. 10 fire crews on scene, and it's still a smouldering wreck. Not sure we deserve to survive a recession as a tourist area quite frankly. Very depressed now.

ECR has a few pictures. Expect plenty of comment!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Another day, another fire...

Driving out of town to see the snow this afternoon, we were sorry to see most of Thanet's fire service in Royal Road, Ramsgate, tackling an upper-floor fire in one of the buildings across the road from the Artillery Arms. At least three engines and the long extended hose snorkel tower thingy, as well as a couple of fire officers' cars, and buckets of steam and smoke. I didn't see any ambulances, so fingeers crossed for a property-only incident... they're all still there as I type, so it's taking an hour or two to get under control by the looks of it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Seaside Postcards 70, 71, 72: Prehistoric Pegwell

Ramsgate Pegwell card
Ramsgate Pegwell card
Ramsgate Pegwell card
A fun trio of cards represnting Pegwell as a lively but not very advanced location, with trips from Ramsgate, shrimping and boat races all clearly a major part of the excitement. Posted in 1913, just before the Great War, they reflect a time when Pegwell was still a destination in its own right, with a thriving tourism and shrimping sector. Not many hairdressers though...

Seaside Postcard 69: Where there's a will...

Ramsgate donkey card

Addressed to "Dear Will" from his Dad, who must have been very pleased with himself... sent in 1920 to Tooting, South London, and yes - the curvy beauty in the water does seem to have a moustache. I've looked closely, and it is printed, not just a dirty mark. Clearly there were different ideas of beauty way back when. Mind you, his wife also seems to have a moustache, so maybe the artist was just an enthusiast...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Seaside Postcards 67, 68: having a beastly time

Percy making an ass of himself here . . . this 1932 card was addressed to "Dear Perce" so clearly chosen with great delight by the sender, who was returning home "by charabanc" expecting the journey from Ramsgate to Twickenham to take about 4 hours. Not bad, given the lack of motorways, dual carriageways and definitely no Thanet Way!

Ramsgate donkey card

Ramsgate flea card And this card is just strange. A reference to flea-ridden bed linen in the guest houses of Ramsgate perhaps? Addressed to a PC Burt at Lea Bridge Road Police Station, and sent in 1910 by Rose, she was clearly enjoying the trip: "we shall be so sorry to come back again". At least I think she meant she'd be sorry to come home, perhaps she was declaring she would never come back to Ramsgate...

And good to see the dredger working away at the mouth of the Royal Harbour - you can keep tabs on its activities via the Harbour Cam. Looks like those tall ships will be able to get it afterall in a couple of weeks time...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

French shopping

A day trip to Calais last Thursday, calm seas, dry skies and even some blue... A quick visit to the Calais branch of Troc (a national chain of antiques and furniture warehouses where they sell people's goods on commission). One 10 foot long plate rack on the roof of the car later we were heading for Cite Europe for three and a half hours of mooching and shopping.

She-who-likes-shopping-more-than-I-do was amazed at my patience as we checked out the shoe shops (just buying one pair, amazingly) before heading in to Carrefour. If you treat it as your normal fortnightly shop, but with a more interesting range of stuff, it sort of makes sense. And the one thing Tesco hasn't quite managed to master is the idea that fresh food is a real joy to buy - all the fruit and veg really is larger and more colourful over the channel: these aubergines were just one example (and we had them last night. Yum). And just half an hour to get home once we're off the ferry. Perfick.

Boulogne is certainly prettier, and far better for antique shops, but Calais is just that little bit easier as the ferries run often enough to be convenient: Speedferries to Boulogne only manage half a dozen a day, which means it's always an hour too early or an hour too late. Yes, we are that picky... and our travel season is just beginning (ok, it runs all year, in case you were wondering).

Margate Rocks - May is obviously festival month!

Here's another May festival, Margate Rocks. Go to them all. See everything. Bring your friends...

Margate Rocks

The Margate Rocks festival of contemporary visual art returns this 3 to 11 May, with a very special public launch night on Friday 2 May. This year’s festival explores the relationship between art & ecology through a fantastic and fun programme of art exhibitions, family drop-in workshops, talks, films, music and events for everyone! There’s also new commissions being made for Margate, including one from internationally renowned artists, Heather & Ivan Morison, who represented Wales at the 2007 Venice Biennale.

Highlights include:

Sat 3 May
All day
Kentish Food and Arts & Crafts Market, and Street Festival.
FREE, Market Place and High Street

Sat 3 and Sun 4 May
Various times
The Magnificent Revolution present the Cycling Cinema – watch films on the UK’s only bicycle powered cinema!
FREE, The Pie Factory

Sat 3 May
His Dark Materials – A late night café-style talk with materials scientist, Dr Mark Miodownik, of the Materials Library at Kings College London and Tate Modern.
FREE, Café G

Mon 5 May
Billy Childish’s May Day Music Show – Catch a rare performance by this internationally cult musician, artist and poet at The Theatre Royal Margate.
Tickets £10, Theatre Royal Margate, call 01227 787 787 to book or buy on the door

Thurs 8 May
Green filmmaking master classes led by internationally acclaimed activist filmmaker, Franny Armstrong. Followed by an intimate screening of her award-winning film, ‘Drowned Out’.
FREE, booking essential. Email

To find out more about Margate Rocks visit or email

Jour de Poisson

Happy April 1st!!

Brighten up your day with a look at the latest important news to break across the media:

From the BBC, a great clip of flying penguins migrating to the South American rainforests, to avoid all that huddling in the cold... and who can blame them?

Not a hoax itself, but the Times yesterday provided an article summarising great hoaxes and hoaxers of the past.

I'll look forward to seeing what the papers have come up with - some better than others no doubt...

Seaside Postcards 65, 66: Preoccupations

Here are a couple of classic preoccupations when on holiday in a seaside boarding house - the inputs and outputs as it were... Worrying about a shortage of beer (in this 1929 card), or money to buy beer, is a universal fear with which most of us can identify. And then there's the worry about what happens next... the dash down the corridor, the desperate search under the bed (a card from 1931), the pain, the pressure....

ramsgate comic postcard
ramsgate comic postcard

And a big welcome to Summer Time. Aah, the weather seems to have improved already...