Saturday, April 30, 2005

Buddy Can You Spare a Dime

I found myself in Cliftonville’s Northdown road at lunchtime today with thirty minutes to kill. It’s the first time I’ve really noticed how many cafés there are along its length, filled with elderly diners tucking into their roast and two veg.


Westgate St Mildred's Bay circa 1900

The pawn shop seemed remarkably quiet with two of the sales-assistants, who would have looked at home, standing guard outside any night club door, having a quick fag in the street outside. Every few minutes or so, a car would pass announced by the noise of its stereo but on the last Saturday before the election, there was not a politician or poster in sight, just a group of feral-faced youths clustered on the corner of Harold road.

In a pair of jeans and a Harley Davidson t-shirt, I can’t have looked too affluent but one scruffy-looking character of about twenty-five stopped me and asked: “Excuse me mate, can you spare £2.60? I’m trying to get back to the homeless hostel in Canterbury and nobody will help me.”

I had £3 in change in my pocket and gave it to him. Probably a bad move and perhaps he had instinctively recognised me as a soft touch. “You had better catch the bloody bus and not spend it on fags”, I shouted after him as he walked off, leaving me wondering why I was feeling guilty about the social deprivation visible along the length of the Northdown road.

How did it come to this I wondered and at what point in time did the balance so very clearly tip in the wrong direction in Cliftonville? So many of the young people walking along the street were clearly not from Thanet, Geordies, Scots and Somalis to name a few from the accents and their appearance. How did they all find themselves in this last corner of the UK before you fall into the sea and hit Belgium? Didn’t anyone in local government notice what was happening or were they unable to stop the decline? It’s a mystery but one thing does occur to me, the absence or presence of Apple's iPod music player among the population, now offers a useful metric on the economic circumstances of any area of the country.
10,000 Competition Winner Claims Prize

David Evans and his wife Ann, seen today claiming his prize as Thanet Life's 10,000 visitor last week.

Dave who, describes his experience below, has never been in a light aircraft before, was given the controls of the aircraft and a short flying lesson and then taken on an aerial trip of Thanet. His home in Kingsgate, Broadstairs was photographed, before flying back towards Whitstable and Herne Bay, returning to land on what was arguably the first day of summer, with temperatures in the mid-twenties Celsius.

I should add that I don't recognise the character of the pilot in his account of the flight!"




On a wing and a prayer

Thanet Life prize winner Dave Evans takes to the skies

Come fly with me, teased Thanet Life, and all I had to do was check the counter at the bottom to see if it had rolled past the 10,000 visitor.

First to email the editor that I won.

A few days later and - lo and behold! - I was on my way to the tiny Maypole airfield near Hoath as confirmed winner of the competition, and about to take a trip around the island in a two-seater Cessna as prize.

Now, it has to be said, I've seen the world a bit - from the States to Russia, from Korea to Africa - and generally I have no qualms about flying.

But there's something about climbing into the cockpit of what vaguely resembles a flying milk float, knowing little about the pilot except he's about to take you for an uncharted sortie along the coastline in what could be a kamikaze mission, that makes you start thinking of emergency drills.

You know the sort of thing: put your head between your legs and kiss your "gluteus maximus" goodbye.

As it turns out Dr Simon Moores, pilot and aforementioned editor of Thanet Life, has a touch of the Indiana Jones about him - former technology advisor to Tony Blair, expert on the Middle East and given to gruelling foot runs across the Sahara, he has a handshake like a vice and which, had it been any lower, would have given me three Adam's Apples.

Minutes later and I'm strapped liked a turkey in the Cessna, headphones sprouting from my ears, and we're rattling down the Maypole's grass runway heading for the Big Blue Yonder. As part of the prize I've also been given a bottle of bubbly which, I can't help but think, might end up as the last thing I ever, desperately, gulp. Either that or the English channel.

But by now the patchwork quilt of Thanet is below, a maze of green and brown with the odd patch of bright yellow rape seed, and in the distance the towers of Reculver and the sea.

It's a dreamy vista and one that makes you wonder why Thanet Council in its infinite wisdom, does so little to promote the glories of the island and, when it does, gets it so wrong - like blowing millions on a Margate art gallery-cum-turnip few locals want; giving a clandestine offshore company the rights to ruin Ramsgate seafront, and renovating a fake Viking longboat at a further plunderous cost to the ratepayer.

But my thoughts are suddenly interrupted by Simon addressing me in the headset: "Want to have a go at the controls?" he asks cheerily, though I can scarcely believe my ears. "Just tap the paddles if you want to go right or left, stick near the coast and try not to go into a lethal nosedive.."

Me? Pilot? Biggles I ain't and suddenly all my earlier fears about plunging to my death Icarus-style come rushing back.

But then, as Simon goes on to explain, the Cessna more or less flies itself apart from the occasional spot of correction.

And he's right. Like a pet labrador being taken out along the beach, the plane lollops along happily by itself and only needs the odd, light pull on its leash to prevent it getting up to mischief. A little tap on the paddles here, a small tilt to the joystick there, and the Cessna is as well trained as a guide dog.

It's now 20 minutes into the trip and the other purpose of the prize - to take an aerial photo of my Kingsgate pad - hoves into view.



Simon opens up the window and there's a woosh as he circles lower over the bay, zoom camera at the ready. He hands back the controls to me - "just keep her straight and steady while I bang off some snaps," he instructs.

Damn right I will. Not only do I not want to chew dirt, but also I don't want the ignominy of dying while simultaneously reducing my own home to a rubble. Nor do I know which of the two disasters would upset the wife more, though I have my suspicions..

To make matters worse there's Manston air control now on the radio, warning that an EUJet Fokker is in the vicinity.

My immediate thought is to bark back - "Well get the Fokker out of here!" - but, again, Indiana Jones has everything under smooth control.

Finally, it's time to head back to Maypole.

Botany Bay, Margate, Birchington and the peversely-named Wantsum Walk (at about two miles long, you must obviously want some!) all slowly come into view, before we ultimately arrive at Herne Bay and lean left for the descent back at Maypole. Ahead of us is a 1930's classic Stampe bi-plane whose pilot graciously allows us to land first as he continues to cartwheel in the sun, happy as Larry.

He follows us in a few seconds later and, as the engines of both aircraft are cut, a silence again descends on the Maypole meadow where you can barely hear a pin drop.

It's an experience that could give you a passion for flying. Besides, I might just cut a dash in a Biggles helmet after all..

There's a short slide photo show of Dave's flight HERE.
The Road to Serfdom

“Heavy taxes and a bloated state, we're marching down the road to serfdom”, said a column in the Times newspaper yesterday, continuing that “The British people are being reduced to a state of cringing dependence on an aggrandising Government. Within three years, taxes will account for more than 40 per cent of gross domestic product, the highest level in 25 years, and beginning to close the gap again with the levels in sclerotic Western European countries.”


Thanet, looking a bit like the South Pacific at times

We may be fed-up with elections, politics and the prospect of higher taxes, with less than a week to go before its all over and 25 million postal votes decide who’s President but the Times column, which talks of apathy, takes me to a reader comment, left this morning that says:

“So many visitors - so few comments left!

Is it that Thanetians are apathetic or just that they don't care to leave a comment? Or maybe like myself they have been stonewalled by the Police and Council so often that they realize they will get nowhere in any quest to make Thanet a better place to live?”


Have we given up as a society and slumped into a state of apathy? There’s plenty of chance to pass comment anonymously on local issues on this site but very few visitors do. Why is that I wonder?

Ironically, one reader stopped me in the street this week and said “If you’re looking for good fish and chip shops, the Harbour Fish Bar in Ramsgate is very good.” Alright, it’s not local politics but I pointed out that there’s a “Good fish and chip shop” thread running on the site so instead of telling me, he should add his comment to the others. However, for many, there’s a distinct nervousness over clicking on that comment button and there shouldn’t be as everyone has something interesting to offer on local issues and experiences.

Meanwhile, I notice that the real Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” encyclopaedia to be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2 has no entry for Thanet. Does anyone want to contribute one?

Friday, April 29, 2005

South Pacific @ The Winter Gardens

Margate Operatic Society (MOS) proudly presents Roger and Hammerstein’s fabulous SOUTH PACIFIC at the Winter Gardens, Margate from Tuesday 31st May to Saturday 4th June 2005.

Performances are at 7.30pm nightly and a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets £9.50 and £8.50 with a £1 concession for Senior Citizens and Children are available from MOS Box Office 01843 297780 or Winter Gardens 01843 292795.

Do not miss seeing this show, there is so much talent in Thanet.

Thanet Life
Council Cash Crisis for Thanet

It doesn't look good, a £1.7 million "Black Hole" in the local finances and management jobs predicted to go on top of local service cuts. Thanet is, without doubt, a tough fiscal and social environment for any local council to operate in but now it needs to prioritise and perhaps find greater performance and better value for money than it has in the past.



Thanet Life has requested an interview with Council Chief Executive, Richard Samuel, so watch this space.


Richard Samuel

Thanet Life
Advertise on Thanet Life
As little as £10 a month

With over ten thousand visits in two months Thanet Life's audience is growing fast. Your business can help support this website and find a new audience for your message, for as little as £10 a month. To find out more about Thanet Life and its audience, please email the editor.

Thanet Life
What the Dickens!

Bleak House, the Broadstairs Mansion where Charles Dickens wrote some of his greatest works, has already been given a new name, it seems.


Broadstairs early view

The cliff-top residence - which Dickens once described as "The property I most desire" - was bought earlier this month by local jeweller Richard Hilton for £1 million to use as his home.

But a concrete plaque engraved with the property's name has now had the last three letters of Bleak crossed out with a felt tip pen - and replaced instead with the suffix "ing."

The result? Bling House.

Some vandals have no respect..

David Evans

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Out and About

Cherie Blair was apparently out and about canvassing votes in Minster today, a missed opportunity for Thanet Life but then while the Conservatives have been "on the ball" with news, such as the arrival of David Davis in Ramsgate earlier today, Labour have been conspicuous in their absence, which may be the case for the next five years, if their campaign in Thanet South continues in its present match winning style.



For our caption competition, does anyone recognise the chap on the left. What is he whispering and what happens next? No bad language please.
And the Lucky Winner Is.....?

The lucky winner of our 10,000th Thanet Life visitor competition is fifty-three-year-old Dave Evans from Broadstairs, who happens to live in Kingsgate Castle, and works a journalist.

Well done Dave.We'll have you up over Thanet in the aircraft with your bottle of champagne as soon as the skies clear and will let you off over the harbour at Broadstairs if you like!

For those of you who missed the prize and it was a near thing, we'll probably re-run the competition again for number 15,000 or 20,000 which, given the speed at which the readership is building, shouldn't be too far away.

Thanet Life
A Single Issue or A Local Issue?

The immigration issue raised its head once again on Thursday, with a visit by Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, to the marginal Labour constituency of Thanet South, being contested by Tory candidate, Mark MacGregor, the party’s chief executive under Ian Duncan Smith, rather surprisingly labelled as a "destructive force", this week, by the former party chairman, “The Chingford Strangler”, Norman Tebbit.


Roger Gale MP, David Davis MP and Mark MacGregor - Almost an MP?

In Thanet, North or South, it’s hard for the Conservatives to escape the subject of immigration as a local issue and Davis was at the port of Ramsgate to investigate the porous nature of border controls that his party promises to address if they are returned to power next week.

Davis was asked if he had a message for the people of constituencies like Thanet, who have seen the real impact of the government’s immigration policy over the last decade. At local level, this has touched-upon, schools, law-enforcement, infrastructure and above all the local community charge, Central government has an outstanding debt of £14.8 million of asylum funding to Kent County Council and the combined cost of Medway and Kent Councils supporting the asylum system since 1997 has been over £259 million, contributing to a rise in the typical Band D Council Tax Bill of £550 since that time.

“The general message”, says Davis, “We will get this issue under control, both asylum and immigration. We will allow people in with the skills we need as a society but we will control it so that it does not put unnecessary pressure on our public services. That’s what the Conservative party promises and frankly, before we started talking about it, the Government hadn’t even thought about it.”

Davis may have been surprised to discover that the Port of Ramsgate has actually tightened its border controls so that they now run on a twenty-four-hour basis but the Ramsgate Marina, like thousand of others around the country only presents a cursory form of immigration control. While much stronger controls at ports from either party, will undoubtedly reduce the flow of concealed refugees to a trickle, the determined, will still find Britain’s southern coastline accessible if they can afford the price demanded by the people smugglers.

In areas like Thanet however, it’s not the trickle of immigrants from the port that concerns local people, it’s the flow of asylum seekers being sent for housing and re-processing by central government and overloaded London councils that is placing local resources under strain. Already a relatively poor and disadvantaged area in contrast with other parts of the South-east, Thanet is seeing quite the opposite view of the picture painted by Prime Minister Tony Blair in Dover last week. With high unemployment and a shortage of local housing, doctors, dentists and school places already, many people in Thanet would like to turn it back into an island once again or put up a sign saying “No new customers only”. If they vote Conservative next week, it will send a strong message that immigration for many remains an election issue of real importance in two overloaded constituencies in North Kent.

A slideshow of photos can be found here.
A Shanty Youth Club

Thanet North MP, Roger Gale, has written to the Chief Executive of Network Rail, John Armitt, and Michael Holden of Network South East, to complain over the state of Westgate station, which he describes as a “Shanty youth club” in his letter.



With a list of problems that included broken flooring, inadequate CCTV and an overall “Run down and unattractive appearance and a deterrent to the elderly”, Gale, who also happens to be a volunteer British Transport Policeman, warns Network Rail of the inevitability of a tragedy should a young person decided to trespass on the track.

Ironically, I’ve seen this happen already while waiting for a train. I watched, quite horrified one day as a teenager from the deaf school climbed over the edge of the bridge and dropped onto the platform below before walking across the track between the platforms to join his friends, other children from the same school. to avoid walking around to the opposite entrance to the station.

In the afternoons as the local community warden may tell you, the station, which is unmanned between 1 PM and 6AM, is a frequent"hang-out" for a selection of teenagers from the local childrens home, and other local hooded-specimens, who appear to play truant at will, complete with the foulest “Rap” language to impress the girls leaving and arriving from the station for the local schools.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Bird in the Hand

Just back from the big city and attempting to keep-up with my email. I'm expecting visitor number 10,000 in the next forty-eight hours, so remember there’s a prize to be won but you have to claim it first; full details further down the page.


A warm welcome for international election observers from the port of Ramsgate

Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis will be visiting Thanet tomorrow, joining Mark MacGregor, candidate for South Thanet, Roger Gale (North Thanet), Cllr Sandy Ezekiel, Leader of Thanet District Council and Cllr Bob Bayford, Deputy Leader of Thanet District Council. If I can find the time, I will try and find him for an interview or at least a few quotes, if such a thing is possible in the proper press scrum.

Immigration is, of course, an issue of fundamental concern to local residents who have watched its devastating impact on areas of Thanet such as Cliftonville. This is not the positive picture that Prime Minister Blair painted in his speech at Dover last week. I did in fact call Sky News and suggest that if they wanted to contrast Mr Blair's argument with the harsher aspects of change in Thanet, then they should send a camera crew over here and ask local people for their opinions.

There's a fundamental question that needs to be answered. Should government be spending its money to tackle areas of existing deprivation in South Thanet in particular or should it be weighing down the our council with the expensive commitment of housing a constant stream of refugees? Speak to most people here and the consensus is that we should be solving our tough local problems first, education, housing, crime and infrastructure, before we allow ourselves the luxury of the epithets "Kosoville" or "Margate twinned with Mogadishu", which do little to lift perceptions of Thanet.

Meanwhile, I seem to have found myself working as co-pilot on both the Labour and the UKIP aircraft on Election Day. As my politics extend to neither it may be an interesting short story to write on 5th May.

My car has just been attacked for the "umpteenth" time by a local hooligan. He's not wearing a hooded sweatshirt but has shifty yellow eyes, a "F** You" expression, feathers and a rather wicked looking beak. If having the Seagulls tearing one's rubbish bags to pieces aren't bad enough, this one is attempting to use its beak as a tin-opener on my car roof. Of course throwing anything heavy at the "HooliGull" is only likely to do damage to the car and if the bird could stick two fingers or feathers up at me, it probably would!


The suspect

One local resident is so fed-up of the damage being done by the Gulls to his home, that he confided in me that he’s given-up using a an air rifle to scare them off and has found that Rat-poison works a great deal better. Apparently it can be bought in a specially-treated form of grain. As much as I loathe the big Herring Gulls, I can’t say I approve but he tells me that it takes a couple of minutes for the poison to take effect and prove lethal. Please don't try this at home folks, try asking the Gulls to move along politely instead. If all else fails then try showing them a picture of David Attenbrough.

Being a little controversial appears to drive traffic figures to the website up I see. Yesterday's photograph of Saddam Hussein seems to have done the trick and today's may conjure-up some interesting comments?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Cliftonville Craft Fair This Sunday

Midas Leisure are holding a Craft Fair on Sunday the 1st May at Northdown House, Northdown Park Road, Cliftonville, Margate.

From 10am to 4pm Entrance is only 50p and children are free. There will be lots of stalls selling all sorts of interesting things like woodturning, silk flowers, leather, hand made cards to fudge, wooden toys, furniture and craft stalls that sell things for you to have a try at .

For more information call Jason on 01843 823307 or 07966 225217 for Mick.

There's also a website www.midasleisure.co.uk or email midasleisure@aol.com

Thanet Life
Googled!

Good news of sorts is that Google, having temporarily lost Thanet Life from its indices a month or so ago, has now found it again, as has the MSN search engine, Yahoo and Alta Vista to name but a few. This has almost immediately started to increase the number of hits, as until now, the website was almost a secret unless you knew its address.

Iv'e a column mentioning the digital divide, Margate and the Internet today on the Silicon.Com news site shoud anyone be interested. Here's the link to the story.

Thanet Life
A Game of Two Halves

It’s a game of two halves, politics that is, according to Conservative leader Michael Howard in the press today and with no extra time allowed in this particular match, it remains to be seen what the score will be when the final whistle blows on May 5th.



Once all the dust settles and the politicians return to shouting at each other across the floor of the House of Commons, we’ll be left wondering what it all meant for the people of Thanet.

Thinking along the lines of our local council services, I’m wondering whether the introduction of a dictatorship might not be such a bad idea in terms of getting things done around here. I appear to share, at least with the ThanetLife readers who have commented, a relatively low confidence level in our own local council’s ability to deliver the quality of services that people might expect or even like to see.

This isn’t just a budget issue, although cost plays a vital part in the delivery process. It’s a business process and efficiency question that concerns me. Over the last decade the rush towards outsourcing appears to have had, in a number of cases, quite the opposite effect that was intended. Some services became worse rather than better, as contractors, in the relentless search for profits, delivered the lowest common denominator. This is true throughout the country and Jamie Oliver’s “School Dinners” is a case in point. Where the French spend £1.50 on their children’s school meals, we spend 37 pence, less the profit, which equals for many, chips and "mechanically-reclaimed" Turkey.

What concerns me most, in dealing with local government is that there is a general but polite reluctance to listen and a “not my problem” but some other “department’s problem” response to calls. This isn’t quite, “New customer’s only” but it’s close at times.

What we need from local government in Thanet is quite simply a visible sense of initiative and a proactive sense of responsibility rather than a shuffling of papers among departments which may or may not have outsourced that particular problem to someone else two years ago.

This may sound harsh but perhaps we need a blunt and local equivalent of Alan Sugar to sort out the problems. Perhaps someone with what the Romans called “Imperium Maius” to cut through the objections, the bureaucracy and outsourcing and simply get things done, efficiently with the resources we have and with less of the problems than may have been evident in a number of local initiatives to date.

Thanet Life 2005

Monday, April 25, 2005

Margate Football Club

As promised, a photo of the Margate football ground at Hartsdown from above. There are several views of the site now up with the rest of the aerial tour of Thanet, now over sixty photos. Follow the LINK to see the complete slideshow and view or download a larger more detailed version of the photograph.


Margate football ground at Hartsdown
Thanet Life

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Evidence in Camera

From previous reports over the last year, you can see that Thanet Life has been commenting on the danger presented by increasing numbers of jetskis intruding into proscribed areas and in particular, St Mildred's Bay in the summer months. Without evidence or laughably, the registration of any offenders, the council appear are unable to act, insisting that the jetski community are monitored, are acting properly, following the rules and only launching from designated areas at Birchington, Westbrook and Beresford Gap.

Most of them are but there is a rogue and irresponsible element who are using the equivalent of a high-powered motorcycle in an area which is a no-go area for speedboats and jetskis exceeding 5 knots.



The last posting on the subject showed a photo of the inshore rescue boat catching two, "thirty-something" hooligans at St Mildred's last summer and at lunchtime today, you can see one photo of several I took, which clearly shows three jetskis noisily "beating-up" St Mildred's bay at high tide, when they should be at least 500 yards from the low tide mark.

The council need to act on this issue before the summer season gets underway. An accident involving along the coastline swimmer is almost inevitable. A teenage swimmer was tragically killed, in the seventies, by a speedboat, in almost exactly the spot where you can see the first jetski in the photograph.

Thanet Life
Thanet on Sunday

The Conservatives have taken out a full page advertisement in the local media today with the banner headline: "Mr Blair's Asylum Chaos."

It points out that the combined spend of Medway and Kent Councils supporting the asylum system since 1997 has been over £259 million, contributing to a rise in the typical Band D Council Tax Bill of £550.13 since that time.


Old Postcard of Broadstairs Harbour

With the Labour government refusing to be pressed on the costs of any re-banding exercise until "after the election" I think we all know what's coming next in terms of higher Council Tax charges. All 22 million English homes are now being revalued by the government's Valuation Office agency to pave the way for a rebasing of charges from April 2007. (The suggestion is at least £200 but see the Guardian report)

Violent crime in Kent, fuelled by the "drink culture" is reportedly up sharply according to Kent police figures. These showed that there were 1065 violent offences in the period October to December 2004, a 19.1% increase on the previous year. Assistant Chief Constable David Ainsworth concludes: "It was inevitable that drink-fuelled disorder would increase because of the new laws."

Burglary and car-crime in Kent is falling according to the survey, an 18.9% drop and drugs-related offences also fell by 12.8%.

The two leading political parties hold rather different views at present. Prime Minister Blair claims that crime has fallen overall by 30% since he came to power in 1997 but opposition leader Michael Howard claims crime has risen by 15%. The truth is buried in the statistics and as the author Mark Twain once said:"The Mississippi river has an average depth of six feet along its length but an awful lot of people manage to drown in it." There's also the question of "Lies, damned lies and statistics", but we can be sure that violent crime is up, frequently a consequence of a social collapse towards a drugs and alcohol culture among the under twenty-fives' that government has lost control of.

While the Conservatives are promising to halt the unpopular building plans for Kent to be introduced by MR. Prescott's unelected South-eastern Regional Assembly, (SERA which is pressing for a minimum 36,000 new homes )the Chief Executive of the House Builders Federation (HBF), Rob Ashmead, is accusing Kent residents of being "Nimbys".

The Conservative Transport Secretary, Tim Yeo, said on Friday that he "was not convinced that enough infrastructure was in place to cope with new housing" and that the plans for Kent were "Excessive." The Conservatives want to abolish SERA and give such responsibilities back to local elected government. Meanwhile, the HBF has taken a survey which shows that 72% of people agree that Britain needs new homes, as a form of "carte blanche" approval for building what looks like most of them here in Kent, with very nice profits I should add.

By the way, we'll take a Thanet Life photo of the Margate football ground site from the air very soon. It looks as if a very large bomb has exploded where the stadium once was with a huge crater, which may prove a little difficult for any footballers to play on in the future!

A report in The Observer newspaper on the loss of control in British schools makes worrying reading.

Last month, in a conversation in a local Thanet business, I discovered that the two people I was speaking with, had between them three children, two boys and one girl, who were excluded from school in the same week. The two boys for pornography offenses and the girl for disruptive behaviour. The parents felt that their children had been wronged, even though there was no argument over whether they were innocent or not.

The parents felt it was counter-productive to exclude the children from school for these offenses and that headteachers would now exclude unruly or difficult pupils at "The drop of a hat." The parents did however not appear overly embarrassed that their children had been excluded.

The Observer article, which will be the basis for a documentary examining the collapse of order in British schools next week next week, has a supply teacher, secretly filming her experiences at a number of schools over the year. "My role", she writes, "was just one of crowd control. I felt useless." She describes boys openly using mobile phones to download pornography, accessing obscene websites on school computers and making serious sexual suggestions to her.

Finally, the EUJet sponsored Thanet Airshow looks to be coming along nicely for the weekend of 18th & 19th June at Palm Bay, with lots of attractions, including the Red Arrows, the RAF Falcons parachute team and much more. Tickets are available from the Winter Gardens on 01843 292795/296111 for anywhere between £7 and £10, depending on which month you buy them. I'm glad they decided to call it the Thanet Airshow in the end, having pointed out to the organisers and the council that "Margate Airshow" would confuse us with another, much bigger show of the same name in South Africa, that they didn't know about here.




Thanet Life

Saturday, April 23, 2005

St George's Day Spirit

Thanet postman, Jason Davis showing the St George's Day spirit this morning.

Not many houses are flying the English flag, I've seen two but Jason is taking the flag with him on his round, so well done.

Meanwhile, I read in the paper today, that the Royal Navy in Portsmouth have been told to strike the St George's Cross from their masts in case it offends the crew of a visiting Turkish warship. This is perhaps what Conservative leader Michael Howard describes as "Political correctness gone mad." Gallipoli was a very long time ago and today, Britain and Turkey are NATO allies.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Sea Bathing Hospital

An aerial photo of the now derelict Margate Sea Bathing Hospital this afternoon.



In fact, I took a number of photos of Westbrook, including your house Mr Barrie Smith, as you asked so nicely, but "binned" most of them because the mist layer made good photography very difficult. These photos are now up on the "Thanet Views" photo section as a slide show and are available for download.

Over the Top

I happened to be passing by just after this accident took place on the Heart in the Hand road to Hoath from the Thanet Way. The police declined to comment on how many people were involved and if they were hurt, although an ambulance was on the scene with two police cars.



The car must have left the road at considerable speed to finish on its back, so far into the field, just short of the Shetland pony farm.

From experience, this is a deadly dangerous piece of road. Linda, who owns the farm, tells me that she regularly has cars landing in her field and her teenage son only just survived being hit by a speeding car, hard enough to knock his boots off, on the same piece of road outside her gate.

Old Photos of Thanet


Westgate Station Road 1905
Originally uploaded by DrMoores.

Thanks to Ramazan Yilmaz of Beano's cafe in Westgate for donating this old photo of Westgate on Sea and a second one to Thanet Life.

I'm now slowly building-up a collection of old photographs which will soon be available as an online slideshow and for downloads soon. You can click the one above to see more details and to download it too. Can I have yours too please?


Ramazan Yilmaz

If Ramazan looks a little nervous in the photograph, it's because there are four policeman behind the camera. It's lunchtime and Beano's is the best place in Thanet to find a policeman if you want one and an English Breakfast as well. The two frequently go together!

Raising the Roof

Local author, Jane Wenham-Jones has given Thanet Life a nice little mention this morning in her Thanet Gazette column. Jane, who wrote "Perfect Alibis" and "Raising the Roof", is working on a new book and now has her own website at www.janewenham-jones.com and she's quite right, it's much prettier than this one!



There's a link to her new website in the sidebar should you need to find it again.

Funnily enough, I had a chat this week, with Thanet Gazette editor, Rebecca Smith on the subject of closer collaboration between this website and the paper after the election is over, so we'll see how the idea pans out.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Competition - Ten Thousand

Here's a competition of a kind for you.

Visitor number 10,000 to Thanet Life, will win a flight around Thanet and a bottle of champagne. we may even photograph his or her house in the process and put the picture on this website.



What's the catch. Well there isn't one beyond a weight and height limitation but the winner can give the flight to a friend or family member if he or she doesn't wish to accept it. Transferable within thirty days.

OK, here are the rules and there are no appeals:

Watch the counter at the bottom of the website and if your first visit on the day coincides with the counter rolling over to 10,000 then you must immediately send me an email to editor@thanetlife.com stating the time of your visit.

The reporting engine I have attached to the site is very detailed and can discriminate between single and multiple visits from any IP address, so if anyone should visit, leave and then return or refresh in an effort to bump the counter, I can see it in the statistics. All I have to do is match-up you claim and email address with your IP address and the time of your visit.

It's quite likely that a number of people will visit at almost the same time but once again my judgment is final based on the website activity report.

The winner receives a bottle of champagne and a flight around the island. If the winner is under 18 then parental permission is required.

That's all... Good luck.
An Interview with EUjet's Stuart McGoldrick

It’s now been six months since low budget airline, EUjet made its home at Kent International Airport, Manston. Simon Moores’ asks EUjet’s Group Commercial Director, Stuart McGoldrick what the challenges have been and what the future holds for the airline.


Stuart McGoldrick

Q: The airline has attracted consistent criticism over punctuality and cancelled flights since its start in September of last year. Is such criticism now a thing of the past?

A: In the last month, we’ve exceeded 95% of flights on time. Previous to that, weather delays presented us with problems in what I’m told is the worst winter Thanet has seen for years. I’m pleased to say that we are now operating at 100% of flights within one hour of schedule with no cancellations.

Q: Are you planning to add any more routes?

A. We just have, at the end of March with our summer routes. We are operating eighteen from Manston and six from Shannon. We cancelled some routes, as you know, because even with the best modelling in the world, we couldn't accurately predict what the Kent market would do when it had its own airline. Certain routes that worked elsewhere simply doesn’t work in Kent and but we’ve learned our lessons and our route network is now stable.

Q: What do you see as the principle challenge in operating from Manston in comparison with other budget airlines operating from Stansted and elsewhere?

A: There are two. We’ve captured the discretionary leisure traffic from Kent and possibly from South-east London. The second challenge is credibility in the market and capturing the attention of the business traveller. This takes time as business travellers are a little different in their needs to leisure travellers and have learned some important lessons here.

Q: In an ideal world, what would be your ratio of business to leisure traveller?

A: Ideally and in the way we’ve built our model here at Manston, the mix would be “fifty-fifty”. Leisure is important but the one problem with leisure is that it’s seasonal and you can’t build a living from it whereas business traffic is key to building our own business. At present business travel represent 30% of our passenger makeup and we need to build a stronger case around credibility, schedule and route network, all of which take time to develop. We started here with scale in order to become an option for the majority of people living here in the Kent region but you can never have enough scale.

We are working on our fundamentals, ensuring that our load factors exceed 60%, which they are at the moment.

Q: Is local infrastructure a problem?

A: We’ve just agreed with South-east trains for an “All-in-one” ticket to Kent International Airport via Ramsgate. We’ve also agreed with National Express to base a fleet of their buses here to service the local towns. Road access is good but could be better and good news for local people is that we have taken a proactive approach to the issue of a taxi service to the airport and we are working with a company called A2 Chauffeur Cars, who are servicing the airport and have a desk there.

Q: With a load factor of 60% are you running profitably or are you taking a much longer term view?

A: No, we are not profitable. We never thought we would be profitable and only someone who has no aviation experience would expect to be profitable in the first year of operations. But what I can say is that we are meeting our core business projections, which place us where we need to be at this moment in time.

Ultimately we are looking forward to more routes, more passengers and achieving Kent International Airport and EUjet as the airport and airline of choice for everyone, in Kent and South-east London.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Margate Walk

I'm starting to build-up a collection of photos of Margate and Cliftonville. These can be viewed in a Slide Show HERE but your own interesting photos are also welcomed.


Elizabethan House
"Arold"

I've just discovered that putting old photos on the Web isn't to everyone's taste. Passing by Bramwell's antique shop in Westgate, I noticed an old postcard which I thought might be interesting to scan for you as part of the historical record.



"Hello", I said. "I'd like to put that old postcard up on the internet, how much is it?"

"You can't do that", said the owner. "Why not", I replied, "I've asked you how much it is and I'd buy it first."

"I've got hundreds of them out the back", he said "and I'm going to put them up for auction on eBay. That one's £14.00."

"Have you got any that I might be able to scan and put-up as part of a free local archive with a credit to you?"

"None", he said. "Not interested."

So there you are, old postcards are worth more than you think in the right or wrong hands. The intrinsic value in reality lies more with the age of the card and not the image, which no longer holds copyright or had none in the first place. There's no point arguing though. Such little pieces of local history are to be sold privately at auction, kept in boxes and kept-off the internet. It's almost a metaphor for old Albert Steptoe meets the world of the internet!
Local Hero

The commanding officer of 609 Squadron, R.P. "Bea" Beaumont, at Manston, standing on his Typhoon fighter-bomber.

Beaumont was unusual for having introduced "loco-busting" when he was the CO at Manston and had knocked-out twenty locomotives as well as seven enemy aircraft.



It perhaps illustrates what may be achieved at any time in history, by any young man, in his early twenties if you give him a job, self-respect and a sense of purpose.
Zero Tolerance the Only Answer?

Reading the news and some of the comments in a local paper this morning, it strikes me that if there was a blanket prohibition on alcohol for the under-25s and if our police pursued a campaign of zero tolerance against all and any juvenile anti-social behaviour, then Thanet might be a much better place to live.

Let's face it. Government's grand experiment to encourage "social drinking" has been a catastrophic failure and produced social "binge-drinking" on a scale which hasn't been seen since the gin scourge of the 19th century. Hand in hand with government are the breweries and distillers who have cynically preyed on the young through the introduction of alcopops, which imply that drinking flavoured vodka by the litre somehow makes one cool and not a pitiful drunken and often violent comment on a liberal society that has lost its way.

To add to the problem, Thanet, has over the last ten years, increasingly become a dumping ground for the homeless and drug-addicted from elsewhere in the country. This appears to be the fate of many seaside towns, out of sight being out of mind for urban local authorities with their own mounting problems to tackle.

So, not only are the people of Thanet visibly calling for more visible policing, they are also calling for a zero tolerance to alcohol, violence and vandalism and an outright rejection of any suggestion that the island should continue to accept the problems of other local councils.

It doesn't take a genius to note that the expansion in school building is also a sign of a population explosion in an area of relatively low economic growth and opportunity. The council and the police need to take a five year view of the island's 16-25 population and anticipate the problems that will undoubtedly accompany its rapid growth.
Try This Number

I wonder if I was the only one who noticed the bad smell of sewage walking my daughter to school in Westgate this morning? Being the inquisitive type, on the walk back, I followed my nose to a rising main outside Beano's cafe, which was happily bubbling stream of foul water along the gutter towards Roxburgh road.


Westgate Roadworks Today

OK, as nobody else seems to notice, I'll go and call the council. Two conversations later, I find out that it's not their problem, it's a Southern Water problem. "So", I say, "You can't call Southern Water and tell them there's a local health public issue bubbling-up in Westgate?"

Of course not, it's nothing to do with the council and its up to me to report it but at least they gave me a telephone number. So my apologies, with St Mildred's road being dug-up at one end of the high street, you may find that Station road , could be dug up at the other end. All my fault I'm afraid!

Ed>Update: I just spotted a Southern Water van in Norman road. Apparently Southern Water have been working on a blocked sewer since last night. It extends along Station road to Norman road and is the same one they have had problems with in the past. The engineer tells me "It's stuffed with rags" and thinks the origin may be the old people's home in Roxburgh road. In any event, the water is still flowing and the smell is still awful

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Thanet from Above

Here you are then, a growing library of hi-resolution photos of Thanet from the air. It has schools, The Ursuline, King Ethelberts, The Charles Dickens, Dane Court, town centres, Westwood, Ramsgate Harbour, Broadstairs, Westgate and more.

You can download photos by going directly to the photo set indicated at the left hand corner of the slide show. There's an option which says "All sizes" which is for downloads.

We have much higher resolution shots, to the point that I can almost read my car number plate but if you want these, then you'll have to make a direct request as these are 20Mb files.

See the Thanet from Above Slideshow,


Westgate Pavillion
Originally uploaded by DrMoores.


Click the photo to go direct to the photo library.
Unexpected Guests

Can anyone remember this incident in Broadstairs in August 1942?

A battle-damaged Short Stirling bomber, returning from Mainz in Germany, tried to land at Manston but "missed" and ended-up in the gardens of 130 and 132 Rumfields Road.



Its nose was against the back wall of No:130 and it trapped two children in the Anderson shelter in the garden of No:132

Seeing how close the nose of the aircraft was to the bedroom window of the house, one can imagine the pilots thinking it their lucky day, although it's unlikely they survived the war, given the high casualty figures suffered by Bomber Command in Stirling bombers. Did they make it?

Ed: I've done my best to restore the photo which was in a poor state.
A Litter Newsflash

That's interesting! I just came across two council workers clearing rubbish from the seafront at Westgate. "Nice to see you here, " I said, "We don't see you very often."

"We do come when we can," one replied but there are only two of us in winter and four in the summer and we have all the Thanet parks and seafront areas to cover."

"That's ridiculous," I said. "I know," he replied. "Next year the council will be taking the rubbish clearing back in-house from Sita but until then, it's just us."

He pointed at the big waste recycling containers at the edge of the St Mildred's Bay car park. "They make our job harder", he told me.

You may remember that in an earlier editorial I complained that these recycling bins were actually making the seafront rubbish problem in Thanet worse? Well the man who has to clean up confirms it. People, it seems, use these to dump carloads of waste, which should in theory go to the dump, which is "errr.." closed. The paper then blows along the seafront and makes the problem even worse.

The is bureaucratic madness at its finest. First we have only four men (in the summer months) tasked with clearing at least one hundred square miles of parks and seafront of litter and secondly, the council make it worse by concentrating the litter in strategic places along the sea front - the containers - with the world's largest fan behind them, - a North-east wind - .

Now tell me readers, is this daft or is this daft and should we be paying our very high community charges to a local government agency with a little more common sense?

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Tesco Principle at Work

To even contemplate allowing more amusement arcades to replace derelict shops in both Cliftonville and Margate high streets sounds like the height of poor judgement.

The problem we are facing in Thanet is not an isolated one and in part, reflects Tesco’s quite remarkable annual results last week.


St Georges St Canterbury at War - Real Urban Deprivation

Within a five mile radius, shopping centres, such as Westwood are rapidly consigning traditional high street shopping to the history books and creating a commercial desert in their place. After all, who shops in Margate or Cliftonville now unless they really have to? Parking is often impossible and perhaps the principal draw lies in the presence of banks, now that the village banks are being steadily closed.

Shop in Margate or Cliftonville and you can see the result of a new kind of socio-commercial deprivation. More tatty shops, pawnbrokers and struggling small businesses and with them those who simply can’t get to Westwood without a struggle, because they don’t have a car.

There are three divisions and not two appearing in the 21st century. Those who have access to the Internet and the benefits of online commerce who also have access to out-of-town shopping malls. Left behind are those in the population, who have limited access to either and can't benefit from the convenience and cheaper prices that drive most of us towards the Westwood shops.

In a predictive feature for The Observer newspaper in 2000 which dwelt on the issue of a digital divide, I wrote: "Technology can help fulfil our ambitions, but it doesn't do much for people who can't afford ambition."

Thanet is poor, an area of high social deprivation and yet in a desperate search for a quick solution to the presence of empty shops, consideration is given to allowing these to be turned into more amusement arcades, where the young and unemployed can congregate to fritter the benefit money they need to keep for their basic survival.

Urban regeneration in Thanet does not equal more amusement arcades in my mind as this simply replaces one commercial problem with an even larger social one. This isn’t Monte Carlo or even Blackpool and we need to start thinking clearly about the impact that a growing Westwood is going to have on the small businesses that define Thanet as a community as it becomes increasingly difficult to for local shops to add-value in a world dominated by Tesco, B&Q, Comet and Matalan as neighbours.
Just Arrived

A different kind of refugee arriving in Margate. It's 1940 and these French troops have just escaped from Dunkirk with the British army in the flotilla of small boats that lifted them from the clutches of the advancing Germans.

Leisure & Tourism Online

The Thanet Tourism home page tells us: "Take a fresh look at Thanet. Our new website aims to inspire and inform, to give an insight into the isle, and show you fantastic places to stay. With an abundance of things to do, and places to visit."


A design that could be improved?

I tried calling their number to suggest some new ideas last week but the home page lists a contact name who doesn't work there anymore. Not an auspicious start but I did find a second name to try on the recorded message.

Apparently the tourism and leisure Web site is out to tender for re-design soon, that's the good news but the bad news is there's no real idea of when a more vibrant Thanet Tourism, the sequel, will appear.

I tried very hard to encourage the lady I spoke to take a quick look at Thanet Life for some ideas, particularly around the slide show feature, which they could pop-up in no time and at zero expense to the council but she took offense at my suggestions on how it might be improved.

"That's telling me", she said, adding she was too busy to look at the website - had to go into a meeting - and the system log shows that there were no TDC visits on that day.

The council has a feedback-form for suggestions. Bear in mind this is the same council that reportedly "Lost" a quarter of a million messages last year, so I'm not too hopeful!

One of our readers commented that it's rather like him dropping into a potential customer on his delivery route. "I've some products that might interest you", he says. "Not interested", says the man behind the counter.

Now driving a white van, the shop's owner has no idea what our reader might be selling. It could be £50 notes at a fiver each but he's not prepared to find out, which is bound to trigger an argument and in some ways mirrors my experience with our Tourism and Leisure department.

Never mind, come to Thanet Life and you'll probably find more information and links anyway. Please keep sending these in!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Lovely Views of the Sea

Margate featured prominently in an unwelcome report in the Sunday newspaper the "People" today.



The newspaper reported that the owner of the Nayland Rock hotel, Panayiotis Stavrou, allegedly receives £2 million a year from the immigrant board and lodging business.

The Nayland Rock, where Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall once spend a honeymoon, has changed over the last twenty years and become a prominent landmark in Thanet's immigration debate.

The People reports that its owner receives £350 a week per lodger, with five to a room and bunk beds, colour TV, "Roast dinners" and "Lovely views of the sea", included.



More recently, it's reported that as an induction centre, the hotel received a £1 million grant from government to renovate its seventy-seven rooms, which are presently occupied by a mix of two hundred Somalis, Kurds and African asylum seekers, enjoying what one described a "A two week holiday by the seaside."

Thanet's politicians appear united in pressing for a change in its use. Both Roger Gale and Iris Johnson want a change. The former describing it as "An enormous burden for an area under strain" and the latter that "It should be turned-back into a holiday hotel."

Refugees are good business it seems with the owner having a second induction centre according to the newspaper.

Tell Thanet Life, anonymously if you like, whether the Nayland Rock should continue or cease being a seaside sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers, roast dinners and colour TV included or not!
Find Thanet's Weirdest Cat?

Barrie Smith writes:

"Today, our cat who thinks she is a human ate as we did which was : humus, lentils, pork, asparagus, Roquefort cheese, tiramisu!


Monica

What weird things do reader cats eat?" Let us know with comments!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

No Plaice Like Home
The Decline and Fall of Thanet's Fish & Chips

One of our readers writes in with a comment on the sad state of an institution, our local fish and chip shops. He's right, it does deserve a thread of its own! Are there any decent fish & chip shops left and if so where?



"I don't know about restaurants but I would like to see reviews of that most British of institutions, the fish and chip shop.

I tried in vain yesterday to find decent fish and chips.

I was in Margate and thought I would try a fish and chip shop which opened last year in Cliftonville on the seafront near the Blue Lebanon restaurant.

I pulled up outside and there were a lot of chavs and pond life in there. So I didn't go in.

OK - Harold Road Cliftonville, the Beano fish and chip shop - no staff in evidence, no fish cooked, very tatty looking with obscene graffiti by the front door.

That's right - I didn't go in there either.

OK - back to Westbrook Fish bar in the side road opposite the closed-down Dog and Duck Pub. Ordered 1 x Plaice and 1 x Haddock and a large chips from the cheerful Punjabi gent.

Cooked to order, was hot when I got home but was probably 2 x Plaice. Difficult to identify and very oily, not much fish, dark batter, chips soggy. Was edible and no ill effects today. Cost £6.80

Not what it used to be a couple of years ago.

Is any fish and chip shop any good?

Used to go to Peter's by the harbour in Margate but fish is a bit small and chips not wonderful unless freshly cooked.

Does this deserve its own thread?"
Temporary Glitch?

There seems to be a glitch with the photo hosting site at the moment. What the problem is I don't know but don't be surprised if you can't access the slide shows for the moment.
Reader Review - The Vinery

Reader Keith Smith, has written-in with a short review of his Sunday lunch experience at Westgate's "Vinery."



We had relatives down this last weekend from the Midlands and as we are always on the look out for a good deal, took them along for a jolly good English Sunday Lunchtime Roast, to the Vinery Coffee House-Café in Station Road Westgate. This is the third or fourth time that we have eaten there and on each occasion the food has been both excellent and full with real ‘home cooked’ flavour. We weren’t disappointed this time either; as the quality and quantity of the meals was first rate.

The cost of a two course meal is very reasonable and even a hog like me had quite a job finishing off the main meal not forget the wonderful pudding after. They even gave into my personal idiosyncrasy of insisting that the apple crumble be accompanied by custard and ice cream!

The owner Mrs Jane Narraway told me that when they initially opened the premises back in January 2003, it was primarily to sell Pine Furniture but then she had the idea of including a few tables and chairs where customers could sit down and enjoy a hot drink. As can so often happen with a business idea that includes two activities, the minor soon overtook major one and today the Vinery Coffee Shop is where you get a great meal, you’ll have to shop elsewhere for your pine Furniture though!

For further details and to book a table you will need to phone the Vinery on 01843-831188.

Ed: Keep those restaurant and cafe reviews coming!

Friday, April 15, 2005

A Day in the Life of Chartfield School

Children’s editor, Charlotte, was sent into school with a digital camera to record a day in the life of Chartfield School’s Form 2, year 5.


Class of 2005

Commenting on the photographs, seen in a Slide Show Collection HERE, Charlotte (10) said:

“I’m not speaking for the President.” All the photographs were funny to take, including Jack Mills gone nuts.” Classmate Emily (9) added: “It was fun looking at all the pictures Charlotte took and the class photos and it was funny taking photos of Mrs Prebble and Mrs Ellis. The pictures of Matthew were strange!”

Do you have a day in the life of your school in photos that you would like to include on Thanet Life? Send me an email.
Beyond Hope?

By sending the Deputy Prime Minister to Ramsgate, is Labour tacitly conceding Thanet South as a lost cause?



Prescott, a man whose intellect lies at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum from that of Robin Cook, is almost guaranteed to offend the moment he steps off his "Battle bus" and his visit to South Thanet appeared to be no exception.

I have to wonder if Prescott's appearance suggests that South Thanet is so marginal a constituency that it's almost beyond hope or is it an appeal to Old Labour sentiments, Prescott being the last dinosaur remaining in a New Labour cabinet, which now has more in common with George Bush than Nye Bevan.



Tell me I'm wrong.
New Spitfire Museum Website

The Manston Spitfire Museum has a new Website a URL which one is almost guaranteed to mis-spell or forget, so I've placed a link to the site in the sidebar list so that you can find it again.



The new website features an online discussion forum for aviation enthusiasts, as well as new about the museum, it's exhibits and opening times.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Long Delays A2 – No Kidding!

There was a time when using a motorcycle between Thanet and London gave travel some predictability but today, the writing was very much on the wall, the “bikers” advantage is almost gone.

Twice, this morning I was forced to double-back from the two main routes into the South side of town and in the end, I had to try and squeeze through the Blackwall Tunnel, setting a new record of two hours before I reached the BMW service centre on the Wandsworth road.

The motorcycle reception has actor Ewan McGregor’s BMW 1150 from his “Long Way Round” series with Charley Boorman and it’s exactly as it arrived back from it’s global circumnavigation, marginally more scruffy than my own 1150 but with many more dents, a consequence of Mongolian dirt tracks and Siberia’s “Road of Bones.”



Sitting in the rather more plush-looking car showroom, waiting for my bike to be finished, I watched one young Chinese couple paying in rolls of “fifties.” The Black Economy. I thought ,is obviously alive and well under Gordon Brown and I quipped to one of the mechanics that most of South London’s drug dealers must pass through the showroom at one time or another. “You may be right”, he said.

With time to kill, I wandered off to the Imperial War Museum, good value now Museums are free to the public once again. On the 77 bus back to BMW, I noticed a traffic warden, with his hat hidden from sight, furtively scratching his chin in a derelict shop entrance, his attention fixed, like a predatory cat, on a twenty-minute parking bay on the opposite side of the road. With the bus caught in traffic, I watched him start to write a penalty notice and I knew exactly what he was about to do next.

The rules say that a warden has to stand by the car for at least three minutes and write a penalty notice but common practise is the “walking wait”, which removes any chance of the motorist escaping They back off out of sight and then suddenly appear to slap a ticket on the car.

Watching this made my blood boil. Local authorities now employ armies of such people, many of whom come in, claim asylum and are then given a uniform. From being the oppressed, they become in turn our oppressors and there’s no sense of fair play in the pursuit of fines. When, I wondered, did we become a society where justice was reduced to the level of a quick-fix revenue opportunity for Lambeth council, where judgement and sentence is arbitrarily dispensed by those with no known background and often barely speak our language?

Back down to Thanet and the road sign displays “A2 Long Delays.” It’s not far wrong. I had zeroed the odometer on my bike at BMW and it showed 30 miles before the traffic moved any faster than dead stop to a crawl. The length of the A2 was moving at around 8MPH and didn’t clear until the start of the M2. It’s no longer viable to drive to London from Thanet and with a new congestion charge of £8.00 a day, there’s an attempt to price motorists out of their cars. It wouldn’t be so bad if the public transport was reliable but it’s not. Train prices have risen again to almost £40 return to Victoria at peak times and so, if you happen to live in Thanet, you’re between a rock and a hard place. Sit in your car for hours; pay 80 pence a litre for petrol and risk fines and the congestion charge or “Let the train take the strain” and pay through the nose for the privilege.

If we don’t sort out the public transport issue soon, then Thanet will lose the professional people it needs to contribute to the local economy, with Faversham or Whitstable being the farthest viable commuting points from London.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Doolittle's Hamster

The latest addition to the family, Angel, from Doolittle's pedigree Hamster emporium in the Northdown road Cliftonville.



For some, as yet unknown reason, Dolittle's appear to breed the most remarkably tame, affectionate and entertaining Hamsters. No home should be without one!
Party Videos

I've just seen the Conservative Party video and think they could have done a much better job or even borrowed some ideas from Bremner Bird and Fortune perhaps which has some very funny clips of the different parties.


Howard's Way

While the Conservatives might have made theirs funnier, Labour's challenges the voters' intelligence, with Gordon and Tony, the best of chums apparently, only weeks after the personal staff of each appeared to be privately briefing against the other.


The Thanet Way?

Leaving aside the LibDems - has anyone see a video from them yet - or even UKIP, Labour's video is slick and expensive and the Conservatives may have missed a trick.

Mind you, in the end it comes down to who or what you believe in this campaign and what you want or expect from a government; a nanny state moving towards a European model of taxation or more of a "hands-off" and more accountable government with the promise of lower taxation and a much thinner public sector?
A Coastguard Flight Review

If you happen to be interested, then here's a draft review of a day with the Manston Coastguard flight which will soon appear elsewhere, with some small changes and additions as a magazine article.

You'll need Adobe's Acrobat to read it though. There's a free download of the Acrobat Reader Here.



Once you have this, unless you have it on your PC already, you can download and read the review automatically from Coastguard%20Review.pdf

You can watch a Web slide show of the patrol HERE.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Walk Around Reculvers

My daughter Charlotte and I walked around the Reculvers towers between Herne Bay and Birchington this morning, taking photos as we went. It was of course used by the famous Dambusters as a landmark in the training for the "Bouncing Bomb" raids on German dams in the Second World War.

Drop in and visit the tourist centre and museum, it's tucked away next to the car park and worth a look. A nice pub which serves good food is conveniently next door.

You can find a photo Slideshow of Reculvers HERE.


Dambusters Fly-by

According to its entry in "What to See in England":

"About 3 miles to the east of Herne Bay, the twin towers of an old Roman church stand prominently out from the flat marsh-land which stretches between the villages of Herne and Birchington, some 5 miles from the well-known health resort of Margate. Regulbium, now known as Reculver, and Rutupium, or Richborough, near Sandwich, were two Roman stations guarding the entrances to the estuary which formerly separated the Isle of Thanet from the mainland. Regulbium was also used as a lighthouse and watch-tower, because of its commanding position near the mouths of both the Thames and Medway.

After the Roman occupation, Regulbium became one of the chief seats of the Saxon kings, and when, after his conversion to Christianity by St. Augustine, King Ethelbert gave up his palace at Canterbury, he lived there with his court, and his remains were interred in the first church erected on the spot.

In the ninth century a Benedictine abbey was founded at Regulbium by a priest named Bapa. A few years after, King Edred granted the abbey to the Monastery of Christchurch at Canterbury, but the society was either removed or dissolved before the Norman Conquest. This practically ends the history of Regulbium, for owing to the steady encroachments of the sea, and to the fact that the estuary continued to fill up, the once populous Roman city was gradually deserted. The present remains consist of parts of the earth-works of the Roman station, and the twin towers and ruined walls of the church. Though the church formerly occupied the centre of the Roman city, the sea has now reached the base of the bank on which the towers stand. In his famous “Brothers of Birchington,” Thomas Ingoldsby says of the twin towers–


'They were tall and upright
And just equal in height.'