Saturday, November 01, 2003

The Republic of Thanet

I’m attempting to smoke the huge Churchill cigar the Director General of the Interior Ministry gave me in Kuwait two weeks ago. For a while now I’ve been gazing at it wistfully, much like a dog looking at a rather handsome bone but best smoke it now before it loses it’s texture, although I feel guilty over setting light to the equivalent of a $20 bill, which would keep the family of the Cuban who rolled it comfortably in groceries for a week.

The late afternoon has turned-out clear and bright, ideal flying weather, except for the fact that the wind is gusting across the runway. It’s dropping now as the first November sunset approaches but too late for a later afternoon run along the coast to Broadstairs.

Yesterday, on an impulse, I dropped into the offices of the local paper, The Thanet Gazette, in Margate. I introduced myself, realising that they didn’t know me from Adam and offered to write the occasional column for them for nothing. I might call it ‘The Thanet Republic’, following on from my discussion with my hairdresser, earlier in the day, that the Isle of Thanet, should declare itself independent from the rest of the UK, after first widening the small stream, which used to be the Wantsum Channel, that separated it from the mainland of Kent until the Middle Ages. Apparently, until two hundred years ago, some of the population still spoke a dialect of Dutch that goes back to the Saxon invasion.

Declaring independence might have its advantages in the minds of many local people and perhaps go some way to solving the refugee problem, which has Dover and indeed some of the London boroughs, offloading their chronic immigration problem to an already overloaded, poor and overstretched Thanet District Council. Mogadishu by the Sea, (twinned with Basra). I heard Margate described this summer and it’s not far from the truth and it can’t be long before our first real mosque appears to replace the temporary facilities in a local café. Perhaps I should ask my Kuwaiti or Saudi government friends to fund one. I'm sure they would.

The cultural and demographic changes here in Kent would be a wonderful subject for a novel and if I can find the time, I’m tempted to try and write one. They’re a freindly, tolerant, open lot here in Thanet, salt-of-the-earth with an enthusiasm for cigarette smuggling and the attractions of the black economy but I haven’t found a single person yet who isn't worried by the overloading of an already deprived area with new faces, living off benefit, in dirty, overcrowded converted hotels in Cliftonville and with very different, cultural loyalties, so different from those of the Kent. People whose families have lived here, like my own, for over a hundred years and whose rising council tax bill reflects the problems of funding a multicultural haven in the 21st century

Too radical a view perhaps for the local paper. Twenty minutes to sunset and the wind has dropped, while my cigar still has at least another fifteen minutes to run.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Birchington.Com #1 on Google

Today, Birchington.Com achieved the #1 ranking on the Google search engine. A good reason to advertise here.