Monday, September 29, 2008

Dallas Sweetman

What a treat on Friday - a new play, performed and partly set in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral, a dark tale of 16th century love, betrayal, murder, lies and general nastiness, wrapped in an elegant and eloquent presentation. A bit too much echo, inevitably, but a brilliant evening - and all the critics (Telegraph, Guardian etc) seemed to have been impressed too, which is reassuring. The first play to be performed in the nave since 1928 apparently, which made it a little more special.

The play made good use of the location, with the pulpit, the stone screen of the choir and the doors to the choir all neatly integrated in to the action and movement, and the 4 foot high undulating stage ensured that the audience saw everything from the gently raked seating.

Mmmm... culture....

And yesterday an afternoon picking fruit - raspberries, blackberries, apples (and some huuuuuge courgettes) at the fruit farm near Sandwich. Mmmm... fruit, fresh air, and general nice weekendness.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Traffic Trauma on the A256

The man on the radio said it was adding 15 minutes to journey times - actually 45 minutes is more like it... roadworks outside the petrol stations at Richborough, just after the dual carriageway ends - already a pinch-point for traffic in the evening rush hour - caused tailbacks past Pfizer yesterday. And it's scheduled to last 14 weeks, so that's the last time we use that road this year... How we laughed as we sat waiting for our turn to move a few feet forward.

Maybe it will ease off a little as those who can will shift to the main Canterbury road (that should add to the general fun of getting past the railway crossing in the morning...). But for Pfizer and Dover traffic, you're dooooomed...

Can't be helped, it's got to be done, but it doesn't add to the joy as Autumn and dark evenings creep in. Sigh.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Seaside Postcard 95: Wet Wet Wet

ramsgate seaside postcard
Well it's ben a very welcome little dry spell, after a rather moist summer, so we're making the most of it where we can. Garden getting tidied up, walk on the beach last Sunday, fingers crossed for the Deal braderie this Sunday.

It was a bit of a shock, although not entirely unexpected, to see the report on Eastcliff Matters about the Maritime Trust being on the point of closure. What with the threat to the Crampton Tower Museum, that would be a neat removal of each of the town's remaining museums - perhaps we should start bets on which will suffer the first fire, presumably just after the first attempt at change of use planning permission? All I know is what I've read on the blogs and in the local papers, so no searing insights, but not providing management accounts for three years seems like a financial crisis determined to happen (which appears to be the case for the Maritime Trust). Even so, there is absolutely no sense that the council cares, understands or feels it needs any museum provision as part of an overall tourism strategy.

And I suggest keeping a close eye on the local and national auction houses (and eBay) for the next few months - closed museums are easy prey, whether for opportunist thieves, culturally negligent local authorities or hard-pressed management, although of course I'm sure all the local heritage is perfectly safe and secure for the time being (he said, somewhat optimistically).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Seaside Postcard 94: wishful thinking

Ramsgate Postcards
A little optimistic, but maybe those few hotels that do remain in the area will see the benefit from a combined credit crunch and a series of holiday firm collapses.

This card dates from 1919, and it takes a little imagination to guess the emotions of people holidaying in the area this soon after the Great War, with the damage caused by Zeppelin raids, the personal traumas and tragedies, and the huge number of local buildings used as military hospitals all too fresh in people's minds.

This card was sent to Amy by Bell: "We fixed up alright as you can see from the other side". Hopefully just a joke, and not a comment on seaside boarding houses. Then again...

More holiday woes...

Another 85,000 stranded abroad as XL goes in to administration. Following the demise of Kent Escapes' parent company thi sweek, it justgets worse for those travellers maki g the most of the end of the school holidays. Report from the BBC gives more detail.

A small silver lining to this very nasty cloud - domestic holidays may benefit as people try to save some money, reduce the risk or simply canot find the available holidays to book. I leave it to you to decide whether Thanet is in any position to benefit from this after the erosion of our facilities, amenities and capacity over the last few years...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seaside Postcard 93: shy but happy...

ramsgate postcards This 1924 card sums up a little of the attitude in and to Thanet, I think - lots of enjoyment going on in many places, but not enough publicity about it, so we all think we're in a world of misery and depression. (And if the government and Bank of England could just please stop telling us about the looming recession, it might be over a little quicker). That might be over-interpreting the situation (and this card) a little, but there's a lot to be said for seeing the sunny side... most of us seem to be in work, living in houses we like, in an area with lots of attractive features, with families we love/tolerate/grind our teeth over (delete appropriate), and on top of all that, Tesco is starting to get out the Christmas product lines. What more could you possibly want? OK, the last bit is a bit of a nightmare, but hey, why keep Christmas for December?

And if that doesn't work, then have a really good rant - you feel so much better afterwards.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kent Escapes . . . not looking good

2,500 holidaymakers have been stranded abroad...

Budget Holiday Firm Goes Bust. This headline from the BBC news web site sounds like it's the end for Kent Escapes as Seguro Holidays went in to administration. Such a shame as one thing that could lighten the gloom surrounding Kent International is proper and profitable use as a holiday airport - much less business and an industrial park may be its only viable purpose, despite the threat to the water table...

Seaside Postcard 92: Auntie's Hat

Ramsgate comic postcardsAnother delightful card, this from 1911 at the height of Edwardian seaside fun - and the year after they completed Fleetwood pier, tragically destroyed by fire yesterday morning. A closed amusement structure, owners wanting to develop, objections coming in thick and fast. Hmmm, a little bit familiar. And the third pier fire in so many months - Weston, Yarmouth and now Fleetwood. Will we ever learn to value and protect our seaside heritage effectively?

Anyway, back to the card - sent by Lil, another vanished name, to Miss Boakes, whose address was Darenth Asylum near Dartford. Whether Miss Boakes derived comfort that her friend/relative was "having a lovely time" we shall never know. Hopefully she found the picture funny, if nothing else...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Seaside Postcard 91: bad travelling...

Ramsgate postcardAnother early card, with someone off to a miserable start of their holiday: " "We got here about 3 yesterday after a very rough journey and much seasickness". Sent to a Mrs Hart in Webber Street (just off Blackfriars Road in London SE1), so presumably she came on the steamer from Tower Bridge.

Still, Esther goes on to say "... but it is alright now". Phew.

And two very glum faces this morning as we ger ready for work after a fortnight off... it was almost dark when we got up. That can't be right, can it?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ghent yum...

And last, but definitely not least, some cakes. You're allowed to look, but don't touch. They're ours. All of them. Every last one.

ghent cakes

ghent cakes

ghent cakes

Ghent mmmm...

The Ghent Design Museum is home to some fabulous items, varying from famous Belgian Art Nouveau furniture designs to modern international kitsch. Here are just a couple of items that caught our eye, and our imagination perhaps...

First, three stunning fruit bowls, clearly the coolest way to present pears, apples and bananas ever:
Ghent design museum

Ghent design museum

Ghent design museum

I'm sure eveything would keep sliding off the curved edges, but you would feel like an astronaut working at this desk:
Ghent design museum

She-who-must-be-indulged insists that this is how she wants her next kitchen to store and display its implements. Looks like I'll need to learn how to carve enamel, or something...
Ghent design museum

And who wouldn't want this art deco stained glass screen, especially if you can arrange shadows from a skylight like this:
Ghent design museum

And then there was the complete set of house fittings and furniture by Henry van de Velde, Belgian architect and teacher who ranks with his compatriot Victor Horta as an originator of the Art Nouveau style. Mmmm...
Ghent design museum

Ghent design museum

Ghent design museum

Just a shame I couldn't get far enough away from this to get it all in!
Ghent design museum

And finally in the old part of the museum, where the original Hotel de Connick is presented in all its 18th Century glory - including this modest fireplace. Now where were those tiles we bought at that fleamarket? Hmm...
Ghent design museum

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ghent, ooooh...

A few pictures from three days meandering aimlessly around Ghent. A few wrong turns, some long walks and a canal trip later, we managed a few pictures of the old town and one or two interesting things that caught my eye...

First things first - the fleamarket. Fabulous. Saturday and Sunday market beside Sint Jacobs church, with the inevitable consequences of taking a car - one large carpet, two chocolate moulds and one very heavy deco marble clock later we came put the other end and marvelled at the specalist market van pictured below - the sliding roof creating an undercover market stall, and the shelves and racking providing all the display space. A Renault classic...

Renault market van

There's nothing quite like turning a corner in a busy and narrow streetscape and unexpectedly coming across a complete and perfectly formed mediaeval castle. It looks just how a proper castle should look - moat, turrets, and everything...
the perfect castle

And the canals... they do canals very well here...
Ghent canal

Ghent canal

Ghent canal

Ghent, aaah

Just back from a weekend in the Belgian city of Ghent. Three very restful nights on the most comfortable bed we have ever paid to sleep in, in a 4-star hotel (at a bargain price, naturally, otherwise it would have been the usual 2-3 star).

A delightful crossing on Norfolkline to Dunkirk, then a quick whizz down the notorway to Ghent and then...

We drove, and drove, and drove. In fact it took an hour just meandering around Ghent's hideous mediaeval one-way street system with unfathomable names to find our hotel slap bang in the middle of the old part of town. The streets themselves are gorgeous, it's just their layout that is hideous. For drivers. For drivers without a map. For drivers without a map who hadn't worked out even which side of the city we were approaching from. Sigh.
Marriott hotel Ghent

Marriott hotel GhentStill, once there, you could not have asked for a better location - the Marriott had the canal-side facade in keeping with its 16th century neighbours, but inside was a fabulously stylish modern boutique hotel. Best of all worlds, and a huuuuge bedroom, a real treat compared to the usual shoeboxes we sleep in when we go to Paris.

Even the telly in the bedroom was superior - a large widescreen with BBC1 and BBC2 (and CNN) as well as the usual full array of mainstream continential channels. French quiz and game shows are a particular favourite.

And the lobby was a glass curved roof over a huge atrium, with glass lifts and doors opening on to a balcony-style corridor, giving a light and spacious feel to the whole place. Friendly and attentive staff and a generally calm, relaxed and welcoming feel. Perhaps that's what you always get in a 4 star hotel, but it felt refreshingly different for us!

And only £70 a night, if you were wondering... (via

Rip Van Winkle awakes...

Strange, I thought I'd have a few days without blogging, just for a change, and over a month later, blinking in the light, here I am again. It's been quite therapeutic actually, although the intervening month or so has been anything but, including the beginnings of a house sale and move, a holiday and a general sorting out of stuff, things and everything...

So, if you are even remotely interested, coming up for your delectation - a report on a weekend in Ghent (which is clearly a popular place for local bloggers), an inevitable stream of rants about estate agents, solicitors and whoever else conspires to drive us mad over the next few weeks, a picture of a sunflower and a few postcards. In other words, normal service is resumed - although I'm not entirely sure anyone out there has been panicking too much at my absence. I hope not anyway...