Thursday, June 30, 2005

Helicharter Open Evening at Manston

Helicharter Manston June 2005 - Derek - 2
Originally uploaded by

A local success story, Helicharter, based at the Manston Business Park, held an open-evening today with a BBQ and helicopter rides for visitors and a bouncy castle for anyone who didn’t fancy a quick spin around Thanet.

With eighteen helicopters, fourteen employees and a dozen freelance instructors, Managing Director, Gary Slater, tells me that Helicharter now operates across the UK as far a Edinburgh and the Open Golf Championships, logging over five and half thousand flying hours a year across a number of different assignments which include pipeline inspection, executive travel and regular pleasure flights into the heart of London, where it now has a heliport facility in Dagenham.

Slater comments that he has yet to see any real impact from the presence of EUjet at Manston but is hopeful that the airline presence will encourage other operators into the airport and with them, the opportunity of further developing the potential of Helicharter’s air taxi capability into London.

Along for the ride

For the people of Thanet, Helicharter runs helicopter training and around 130 pleasure flights a year from Manston into London and around the Kent coast and they can be contacted on 01843 822555 or through email on their website at

More photos and a slide show of the evening's activities at

Harvest Time

It's called a "Directory Harvest Attack" and it's pretty tedious.

What you have is a bunch of bad guys, quite possibly involved in organised crime, flooding a server with email in every conceivable name combination. The objective is to to plant a virus and work out which names are rejected by the receiving mail server and from this, the spammers can have their computer work out which names are valid members of the server's address book. Quite simple really.

This site has been under such an attack for a week now, as I'm sure tens of thousands of domains across the globe are at any time of the day. What I get are hundreds of mail warnings from my anti-virus software as it catches messages like "

"We regret to inform you that your account has been suspended due to the violation of our site policy, more info is attached", which carry a nasty virus payload as well."

Once the bad guys have worked out what the proper names are at my end, then they'll add these to a list of known addresses and sell them on to other criminal gangs for a variety of different purposes. The Internet, don't you love it!
Anti-Seagull Device

Somewhere between me putting out the black rubbish bags and the dustmen arriving, the seagulls managed to spread a week's litter along the road outside my house yesterday. When the dustcart pitched-up after breakfast, it was to find me, wearing my flightsuit and with a dustpan and brush in my hands, in my temporary role as roadsweeper.

"This is crazy", I told them, pointing down the street at other signs of seagull-inflicted mayhem. "Can't you open the gate and collect the bags like you always used to? That way, we avoid having more rubbish along the street than in the back of your dustcart."

"Can't do that mate", was the reply. "Why don't you wrap a sheet over the bags when you put them out and that way, the seagulls can't get through them."

Now this might sound like a good idea but I can see two problems. Firstly, that the dustmen, are just as likely to throw the sheet in the cart with the rubbish and secondly, living on the coast, the wind will simply blow the sheet away, unless of course it's tied-down and then the time spent untying it rather defeats the purpose of putting the bags outside the gate.

With the arrival of wheelie bins inevitable, one reader has asked how on earth pensioners are going to have the strength push them around. It's quite likely, I was told that the elderly will simply have to unpack the black bags one by one, push the empty bin to their front gate and then pack it again. A friend in Herne Bay tells me that the wheelie-bin experiment has been a bit of a disaster there but that won't stop the scheme coming to Thanet I suspect.

Thanet Life

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Has Anyone Seen My Cap?

It blew off over the beach at Westgate on the photo shoot with the TG Aviation Stearman from Manston.. find it and you can claim a mystery prize.. it's got a Red Star with "Yakovelev" on the front

Lot's of photos and a short piece on this historic aircraft coming soon. In fact it's available for anyone looking for an unusual trial flight and the latest photos can be seen here.

Thanks to Mark and Tony for the fun!
Towards a Promised Land

The Sea Wall, Margate From 9 July 2005

The white cliffs of Margate are the setting for the beginning of "Towards a Promised Land", renowned photographer Wendy Ewald’s new commission for Artangel, in ollaboration with Creative Partnerships, Kent.

Towards a Promised Land has involved twenty-two children and young people who arrived on the Isle of Thanet from both near and far. Some of them come from places affected by war, poverty or political strife; others have been affected by domestic upheaval.

Ewald has taken portraits of the children in locations of their choosing around Margate and photographed the belongings they brought with them on their journeys. These portraits, capturing the children at turning points in their lives, will be displayed as huge photographic banners in locations around Margate.

Towards a Promised Land also marks the count-down to The Margate Exodus, Artangel’s major new commission, to be staged in the summer of 2006 and made into a film for Channel 4 by director Penny Woolcock.
Thanet Business Showcase

The Thanet Business Showcase is taking place this morning in the TG Aviation hangar at Manston airport this morning. Lots of local businesses are displaying their products and skills and there will be an air display from 11 am.

There's also food and refreshments available and parking on the grass between the TG building and East Kent Doctors on Call. If your'e around to say hello, I'll be going up in the TG Stearman, seen below for a photo shoot at 2pm.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Trafalgar Day 2005

Trafalgar Day Endurance
Originally uploaded by DrMoores.

HMS Endurance with the Queen on board reviewing over one hundred warships in the Solent today. Six hours flying over the top of the show gave us some interesting stories. The Lynx helicopter in the photo below was trying to push us away from the airspace above the royal party, as Endurance had strayed outside the exclusion zone on making her turn back on the second leg of the fleet review. More photos here and the full story here! Trafalgar Day Review.pdf

Monday, June 27, 2005

Clean Station - Broken Train

It’s the wrong kind of sunshine. The 17:09 from Victoria to Ramsgate is delayed because once again, one of the new South-eastern trains has broken down again at Faversham. Having fought my way through the crowd onto the first carriage and luckily found a seat on a train as packed as a Central Line carriage in the rush hour, this is as good a time as any to write a journal entry, with the good news that the train, will be running fast to Margate, missing Birchington and Westgate on Sea out in-between. So I guess I’m walking home tonight.

Passing Rochester, the 17:09 from Victoria

On the way out to London at lunchtime today, I noticed a cleaning crew tidying-up the station at Westgate, a small victory for Thanet Life and in particular, credit to our local Thanet North MP, Roger Gale, who has been acting on the complaints about the station. How long it can remain clean is anyone’s guess. As long as it has open access after dark, it’s going to attract “hoodies”, from the shadows around Ethelbert and Adrian Square, with the inevitable results.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, I’m up over the Trafalgar Day celebrations all day, with the first of six Airads sorties from Bembridge on the Isle of Wight at 08:30. I hope to get some good photos of the warships taking part, which I will add to the photo library and which you will also find on the Airads photo library. Incidentally, if aircraft interest you, TG Aviation, the Thanet Flying School at Manston have an open-day and small air-display running all day on Wednesday telephone (823520) for information. Helicharter will also have an open evening running from 17:30 on Thursday. Both TG and Helicharter (822555) offer trial flights, lessons and vouchers and so if you want give a partner or friend a really interesting gift to remember, this may be the one!
Cuttlefish Mystery

There are approximately seventy Cuttlefish carapaces, the oval white backbone of the Phylum Mollusca , in a single thirty metres squares washed along the promenade as St Mildred's Bay this morning. All sizes to the largest to the very small and I'm wondering what might cause such a cluster, other than a whale with indigestion? Does anyone have any ideas?

Thanet Life

Sunday, June 26, 2005

On Yer Bike

Was it in Thanet or perhaps an episode of Emmerdale where the police announced they were going to start bicycle patrols, a year or so ago and proudly showed-off their freshly-painted mountain bikes with a siren attached? I can't rememember.

What's certain is that the last time I can recall seeing a policeman on a bicycle in Westgate, I must have been about ten years old and it was "Charlie", the local beat constable, who had a very large Raleigh bicycle, a whistle a wooden truncheon and took his instructions from an original "Dr Who" blue police telephone box opposite the Ursuline school.

If Charlie, who might appear on his bicycle at any time, caught any of our little gang up to no good along the seafront, he'd give us a telling-off, a clip across the ear or worse, tell our parents. Although our human rights were endangered, we knew what our boundaries of behaviour were and Charlie, was both feared and respected by the boys as a local version of "Dixon of Dock Green".

Today, forty years later, I'm a Dinosaur and I don't even know if the young police officers who ride around in their cars wearing flak jackets, can even ride a bicycle? What's certain, is that a great deal of low-intensity trouble making takes place where cars can't easily go, along the Thanet seafront. I observed this week, that if you ride a bicycle for an hour between Margate and Minnis Bay in the early evening, then your'e likely to spot some example of anti-social behaviour or vandalism taking place. So why don't we have a police mountain-bike patrol, which a) gives our police a visible presence and b) sends a zero tolerance message to those who use the seafront to avoid CCTV and conventional police patrols?

This is the kind of message that the police should be sending out along the Thanet coast in the middle of summer at least. Perhaps they or the community wardens should have a bicycle patrol but I've never seen one. After all, this brings with it, the benefit of a sun tan, "cool" lycra cycle shorts and a chance to improve community relations and catch small thugs, a programme that appears to works very well in other countries.

Ed: I'm wrong. I just asked a policeman, filling-up his car at the petrol station and he tells me that there are two cycle officers based at Margate. If anyone has actually seen these around on a day to day basis please let me know for interest!

Thanet Life

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Le Touquet - A Pilot's Guide

Le Touquet Arrivals
Originally uploaded by

The link to my slightly cut-down version of a Pilot's Guide to Le Touquet for any visiting aviators looking for flight information, directions and good places to eat can be found below. The slide show of local photos is HERE.

A Pilot's Guide to Le Touquet


Margate beach at noon today. It's ironic, that on any morning you'll find dog owners, equipped with little black bags, following their dogs along the beach and making sure they are off them again before 10:00, in case the dreaded Dog Warden, who seems to spend rather a long time parked on the promenade between Epple and Minnis Bay, catches you.

12 noon Saturday - Two large dogs looking for a place to...

Others aren't so concerned and I wonder if anyone has ever been fined for breaking the dog-walking rules. There's one very large chap in Westbrook in full "dreadlocks" who walks his even larger Mastiff along the sands during the day, both of them almost daring the people who stop and stare to say anything, before man and dog retreat back behind the old Sea Bathing hospital. In this case, a little black bag might not be large enough and a Tesco's shopping bag might be a better choice, if he carried one!
A Travellers Tale

One of our readers writes:

"Thought you might like to include something about the travellers who have sent up their camp , three caravans Thursday, five yesterday lunchtime, don't know how many this weekend.

The travellers were probably lured to Thanet by the wonders of Westwood

Several years ago we had the same scenario at the Sea Bathing Hospital. Within one week there was the usual rubbish and filth, the pillar box in front of the Post Office had been jemmied open, the postmen were being attacked and the mail van ransacked, local shops were being systematically robbed by large numbers of boys, abuse and threats were being handed out to residents and shopkeepers.

The police said they could do nothing until the Post Office thefts and violence, then they came down and next day the travellers left, not taking their rubbish with them which lay around for months.

I know the police are now aware of the travellers presence and apparently, it will be an Inspectors' responsibility to visit each day to ascertain the travellers' intentions as to how long they may stay and to limit the numbers arriving.

This land was sold at auction last month and we do not know the name or contact details of the new owner. It used to be Rail track or maybe SRA as it became."

Ed: I've had a look this morning and the travellers appear to have gone, maybe somewhere warmer perhaps after the sudden change in weather? You may have seen that last week, a group of French gypsies moved in "en-masse" to a site opposite the Cheltenham race course. Apparently the French police are far less tolerant than our own and they are evicted in France within twenty-four hours. According to the news report, England is much nicer and they can claim benefits as well, so they have no immediate plans to return to "La Belle France" or even leave Cheltenham, which is nice!

Thanet Life

Friday, June 24, 2005

Rat Watch

Several comments have appeared about rats appearing to scavenge on the beaches in daylight. Mind you, I'm not surprised, I just recovered the bagged remains of someone's kebab dinner from the sea and instead of leaving it there, I tossed it in the back of my kayak and placed it in one of the bins, where no doubt the rats or the seagulls, will be enjoying it in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Did someone mention rats?

Instead of "Bay Watch", I suggest we institute a "Rat Watch" campaign and so if you see one of the cuddly rodents, make a comment on the website. If it happens to be "rattus rattus" the black plague carrying variety, then the council might actually be spurred into action but then again, perhaps not.

When I was teaching mixed-gas diving in Malta a few years ago, one of the police officers in my group told me that they still see the occasional Great White Shark swimming off the island from the police helicopter but they are under orders to call it in as a large fish, so as not to worry the tourists. A similar example might apply in Thanet, as sightings of "Filigree Siberian hamsters" scavenging along the promenade at West Bay. For more information on the species watch Fawlty Towers all over again.

Well, I didn't get to Sandown on the Isle of Wight after all. Sitting in Thanet this afternoon you might be forgiven for thinking that the sunshine and thirty degree heat extends across the country but it actually stops this afternoon on a line from Sittingbourne to Brighton.

Just in case Al Qaeda try and nick it!

I flew as far as Bognor watching the sky become progressively darker and listening to the controller warning of a storm moving across Benbridge to Bournemouth. By the time I reached Bracklesham Bay, there was no sign of the Isle of Wight, A big island shaped object which should have been visible to the south and so preferring not to fly towards the gathering darkness out to sea, I turned-around and dropped into Shoreham, regretting it almost immediately, because the landing fee is now £16.

Coming back to Kent, there's a curtain of heavy cloud stretching up to the Thames and the forecast for late this afternoon includes a risk of hail as well as thunderstorms. We need something to clear the air but we may yet see one of the heavy storms that soaked Yorkshire earlier in the week.
More Rubbish

I see that the Thanet Gazette has picked-up on the rubbish problem along the beaches, particularly at the weekends. Up early again this morning and the seagulls have made short work of the bags left along the seafront and in the town centre overnight, with the remains of someone's chicken dinner spread along the road.

If the heatwave continues, then it's bound to have a number of consequences. More people visiting the coast will lead to more litter and thousands more lager cans floating in the sea off Thanet. Another consequence of hot weather was felt in the eighties you may remember, with riots in some of our cities, as more young men congregate on the streets in the evenings with nothing to do. The Gazette reports the recent incidents involving a thirty-strong gang attacking people in the Broadstairs area and while it's a sign of the times, it's also a symptom of the warm weather I suspect.

Last night, cycling along the promenade from Minnis Bay to Westbrook, I noticed several little examples of kids with nothing to do. Three smaller boys trying to set light to a waste bin with the cigarettes they were smoking and two late teenagers with a crowbar, attempting to "jemmy" the iron door leading into the cliff at Epple Bay. Small stuff I know but indicative of the low intensity problems that you can see any fine day, walking, cycling or canoeing between Margate and Minnis if you keep your eyes open.
Thanet Life
Chartfield School PGL Adventure

Seven O'Clock and a dozens of excited children from Chartfield School prepare for their annual PGL adventure weekend, which starts at Thorpe Park on what may prove to be the hottest day yet this summer.

There's a temporary glich in the photo hosting system I'm using but parents should be able to find the other photos available from the library HERE. Meanwhile, I think I might go to the Isle of Wight today as I haven't been before.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Time & Tide

It's so warm and sultry outside this morning that I'm reminded of Amman in Jordan a week ago. Below you can see local character "Chris" out early to catch for what he tells me may be the first prawns of the season.

I've been a little remiss with posting entries over the last week. Back from abroad, I've been trying to catch-up and today, I have to finish a very dry report on the processes of public sector reform in the Middle East, already thirty-six pages and I'd much rather be in the garden making the most of the short British summer.

Nothing to do with Thanet but I attended an interesting presentation on "Spyware" yesterday in London. There are now more spy programs out there than viruses and many can't be caught by conventional software. I've included it in my audio Netcrime report for this week if you happen to be interested but chances are that unless you've taken precautions, your PC is busy reporting your web-browsing activity and habits back to someone else.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


I've just found a completely new use for my Bluetooth earpiece as I paddled my kayak along the coast to Margate harbour this lunchtime.

Wrap my phone carefully in a "Stay-fresh" Tesco bag and I'm hands free all the way and able to take calls to my office, which just happens to be several hundred yards offshore at the time.

The sea today is like a Gordons gin bottle, flat calm and so clear under the boat, that there's no point going to the Cote d'Azur, as the Isle of Thanet is offering better weather this week. Along the way I spotted a number of pulsing blue and brown jelly fish, which is unusual so early in the summer. More evidence of global warming perhaps?

Margate from offshore looks quite picturesque with the beach almost empty. I managed not to drop my camera-phone overboard. Pity about the Arlington tower though.
Westgate Station Vandalism - MP meets with South Eastern Rail

North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, has met with South Eastern rail at Westgate on Sea station to discuss improvements designed to put an end to vandalism and to make the station once again attractive.

The site visit, at which local resident Geoffrey Shaw Case was present, followed a London meeting between the MP and South Eastern`s CEO Michael Holden.

"There has been growing concern about vandalism and potentially dangerous activities at the station,” says Roger Gale. "Lighting is inadequate and the CCTV cameras do not provide sufficient coverage. Additionally, railings have been broken and night-access to the platforms and to the lines is too easy for those hell-bent on making trouble.

The network`s public affairs Director, Mike Gibson, has already indicated that a renovation programme will be brought forward and has written to the Leader of Thanet District Council seeking to establish a Transport Forum with South Eastern.

"This has been a very productive series of meetings,” says Roger Gale. "We know that the situation will not change overnight but it’s also clear that a number of significant improvements can and will now be made and I believe that South Eastern has given very serious attention to our needs

Thanet Life
Twenty Degrees

Summer Solstice and the pylons continue to spread across the horizon like the machines from H.G.Wells' "War of the Worlds". My estimate this morning is that they are now taking-up more than twenty degrees of the north-western horizon.

A curious feature of the sea recently is its clarity. Something I have never seen before. By rule of thumb over the last thirty years, you might find seven days during the entire course of the summer when the water was clear but in 2005, I've lost count and I'm tempted to pull-out my scuba gear. I think the last time I tried diving from the shore at high-tide, years ago, I was caught by a fisherman on the promenade above. I don't know who was more surprised!

Meanwhile, the Seagulls have left an appalling overnight mess on the seafront. One suggestion to the council would be to have a rubbish collection before Sunset each day in the Summer because by breakfast, the contents of black bin bags along the foreshore are all over the place.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Simple Pair of Scissors

The station at Westgate was smashed-up again on Sunday night. The Station Master tells me that vandals pulled-down the station signs and damaged what they could. Apparently the CCTV is left running over the weekend and in theory at least, British Transport Police should be able to see what happened, although there's doubt that the image definition will be good enough to identify individual faces.

More disturbing still, as I waited or the 10:37 to Victoria, I had a good look at the line. It’s clear from the rubble against the rails on the westbound track, that there have been a number of attempts to derail or damage trains by placing brickwork and concrete rubble against the line. Even worse, I pointed-out to the station master, there’s a pair of kitchen scissors on the track, with a line of cable attached to one of the handles. Now if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, then attaching one end of the wire to the metal handrail on the station steps and a lucky throw over the live rail, could have deadly consequences. You may be able to see the scissors and cable in my camera photo above.

We heard last week that vandalism is under control in Westgate but I’m not so sure! However, it's as nothing compared to the problems that Broadstairs reportedly has with violent assaults by large gangs of teenagers of late.

Yesterday, I witnessed a level of concerned parental outrage as a jet ski, ridden in turns, by two teenage boys was launched at St Mildred’s Bay and proceeded to show-off with high speed manoeuvres within fifty yards of the shore, forcing bathers to move into safer water and leave a whole section of the bay to the two boys. With the Bay Inspector and Life Guard reluctant to act in case they were told to “*** Off”, I paddled my kayak over to one of the lads to have a word.

Apparently the boys believed they had a council document with special permission to launch anywhere along the coast and had no idea of the inshore rules governing hi-speed water craft. By now, a number of annoyed parents worrying over their children’s safety in the water were enough to jolt the semi-naked Bay Inspector into action and he managed to locate the boys’ father for a second “word”. Ten minutes later, the jetski was loaded onto a trailer and driven off.
My suggestion for the week. Boards with “No Jetskis” clearly marked on the slipways of every bay which is designated for safe family swimming before an accident happens.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Butch and Sundance

With a heatwave across Kent this afternoon, these two heavily-armed Chartfield School bandidos have found one way of keeping cool as they make a desparate break from cover at a Sunday afternoon BBQ party, surprising their parents, relaxing over their beer and burgers.

Meanwhile, the Thanet Airshow continues and the Battle of Britain Flight Lancaster bomber flew so low over my garden that it narrowly avoided the trees at one end. I missed photographing the Lancaster but just caught the Spitfire following behind it.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A Great Success - Flight Thanet Airshow

On the hottest day of the year so far and with almost perfect weather, the Flight Thanet Airshow, sponsored by looks to have been a great success. The Flight Airshow photographic report can be found by following the link.

I've attended a number of airshows over the years and this one was certainly good value. I had expected Margate to be gridlocked with cars and even took my motorcycle to Palm Bay but the traffic was not as bad as I expected, with ample parking and excellent marshalling.

First photos of the Airshow can be found here and at the Flight Airshow site.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Fate of HMS Thanet

I just chanced across this entry on the fate of HMS Thanet: The full story of her fate and that of her crew can be found here.

The HMS Thanet is an 84 m long, 905 ton British Destroyer that was sunk by a Japanese cruiser and three destroyers just outside of Endau on 27 January 1942.

Crew HMS Thanet
Originally uploaded by DrMoores.

As she lies pretty close to the mainland and a rivermouth, visibility is usually worse than on other sites. If you dive it when the tide goes in, it can be very good. But it has been very divable even when the tides are unfavorable although visibility has been around 3-5 meters only. Diving depth is only 20-22 msw, which makes for long and comfortable dives. In diving circles, there is little demand for diving the HMS Thanet, mainly because of visibility concerns. In reality, we feel that the wreck is worth more than a few dives. Treat it as a muck dive and enjoy the small stuff.

The wreck itself is well broken up due to some metal salvage, but it is still together and ship shaped. It is actually interesting to dive a wreck that has been opened up like the HMS Thanet, the three boilers stands free in their stands and there are many interesting details that you don't really see out in the open on other wrecks. One of the main 4" guns still lies uncovered on the aft deck. It is possible to swim underneath or inside some structures but there is no real penetration possibilities any more.

What is surprising is the sheer amount of marine life on the wreck. Almost every crevice holds a small nurse shark (you'll easily see more than 20 per dive). And there is an astounding number of various nudibranches, crabs, shrimps and other macro friendly life crawling over the wreck. A fair amount of snappers, groupers and wrasses have made their home on the wreck as well. If you bring a torch on the dive you will really get out the color of the HMS Thanet reef. As practically no one ever dives here, the marine life has little disturbance.

Thanet Life

It’s true, you can smoke a shisha pipe and write a weblog over a 4Mb wireless connection at the same time!

When you think that the Weblog is hosted in California, the Webpage is about Thanet and I’m sitting outside in a hotel bar in Amman with my laptop open in front of me, it’s all rather confusing. If I had my webcam and microphone to hand, I could even stream video and sound to the ThanetLife website and show you tonight’s very pink desert sunset.

Sushi View

With an early morning flight back to Thanet, via Heathrow to catch tomorrow, it’s been one of “Those days” today. Having moved a meeting with the previous ICT Minister to the afternoon to suit the diary of the Finance Minister, the latter suddenly resigned, - not my fault- leaving me no option but to find a Jordanian sushi bar before trekking over to another meeting at MOCIT, the Ministry of Technology. From there, with everyone else apparently evacuating Amman for the weekend, it was off the meet Fawaz Zu`bi, the previous Minister of Information & Communications Technology, supported by our Ambassador in Jordan, Christopher Prentice, an unexpected honour.

The bad news is that the Ambassador and I haven’t been able to find any Mosque alarm clocks that one of our regular readers asked if I might pick up for him as a souvenir, better luck next time perhaps but all the shops are closed but we did try!

I should be back to Thanet in time to pick up my daughter from school on Friday and so normal Thanet Life coverage should be resumed over the weekend. If anyone wants to give me any interesting local news or photos to add to the website, then all contributions are welcome.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

You Can Run ...

But you can’t hide.

Here in Amman I’m catching-up quickly on my email.

One of our local councillors has written and suggested that the problems in Westgate that I described in an earlier post may be exaggerated. He’s spoken with the local warden and matters are now believed to be under control. If this means no more vandalism of schools or the local community centre, then this is good news and I would welcome any of our local politicians to comment directly on the site at any time, to ensure we “Stay honest” and report news, views and opinions accurately.

One of our readers has asked for a list of new stores at Westwood Cross, some four hours flying time from where I’m sitting at the moment. Other than Debenhams, can anyone help her?. I’m a little too distant this week.

EUjet have finally given an official go-ahead for a cockpit seat on one of their flights. I had hoped to write a review for Pilot Magazine and take some of the detail and photos and post them here. I’m assuming it’s a return flight? Does anyone want to suggest a route for me to write about?

Back to the real world then and the constant hunt for air-conditioning until I leave on Friday morning.

Thanet Life

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tuesday it Must be Amman

We rather take street names for granted at home but imagine if there weren't any? It used to be this way when I lived in Saudi Arabia and its the same in Jordan, so finding an address with a taxi demands a map and a taxi driver who either speaks English or can understand pidgin Arabic clearly enough to get you to your destination. I'm told that GPS devices are banned here for security reasons. It sounds crazy if it's true.

In Amman, everything is referenced the five main roundabouts thatrun through the city and I'm sitting in an office in one just off "Circle 5". When I lived in Jeddah, I had an apartment near "Thumb Street", a giant replica of the King's Thumb. There was a nose and other parts of the royal person dotted around the city and so one used to give directions like, "Third on the left off Thumb street." All well and good until they moved the Thumb one day, causing chaos and a near strike by taxi drivers.

Finding a taxi can be hard enough. Last night I spent ages standing in the middle of the road like an extra in the chariot ace from Ben Hur looking for an empty taxi as the traffic charged past. There are no traffic rules here that I can see and "Who dares wins", as Del Trotter would say.

HRH Princess Dina Mired

I now have to find my way to the British Embassy for a meeting with the Ambassador followed by two Princesses and the Finance Minister dotted acros the city. There's no guarantees that any of the meetings, other than that with the Ambassador, will run to time or that the taxis, if I find one, will break through the gridlock in temperatures close to 95 degrees. Another day and another adventure!

More photos here.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Blogging from Amman

There may be wireless but the Ethernet connection in my room, here at the Intercontinental in Amman appears to be dead and so I'm sitting here, picking up my email in the hotel lobby over its open wireless connection.

3:35 this morning and the Muezzin's call to prayer wakes me, declaring that "God is Great" in the most resonant Arabic voice that I've heard in twenty years of travelling in the Middle-east. It was worth being woken-up for and one wonders at the discipline of the faithful who will be starting their morning prayers at his call at the first glimpse of dawn each day.

Meanwhile, its not hard to spot the special forces boys, either. The Americans make a point of having haircuts that are straight out of a Hollywood movie while our boys are quietly dressed in civvies but can't disguise what they are. Staging over the border I assume.

It's all a very long way from home.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Do Not Adjust Your Set

I'm catching the British Airways flight to Amman this afternoon and will be largely out of circulation until Friday.

If I can post the occasional entry or photo from the hotel in Jordan I certainly will but broadband access is not a luxury that is generally available in the Arab World, although I do hear that the Intercontinental has wireless access and perhaps even a Starbucks if I'm lucky!

Back in time for next week's Thanet Airshow.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Time for Action

The Garden of St Saviour's junior School in Westgate, which included its pond and history project models was wrecked by vandals in Westgate last week, the fifth time the school has been targeted and with a cost of £2000 in damage, which may force the school to spend up to £6,000 installing a new CCTV system instead of activities and educational resources for the children.

St Saviour's School Westgate

Let's be frank. Westgate and Birchington have a problem. A "Big" problem with gangs of bored and destructive teenagers with little to do other than create mayhem or, as I observed this lunchtime, throwing matches into the undergrowth in the Adrian Square park and writing graffiti on the walls of the house opposite.

It is entirely possible that the Police, the Community Warden and many of the residents know who the culprits are but unless it's lunchtime or a weekday, one is unlikely to see any evidence of community policing outside office hours, unless it happens to be a passing police car or an English breakfast at Beanos Cafe.

We have graffiti, garden walls knocked-down, dog excrement thrown at pensioner's cars, bottles thrown at passing cars (my own) £12,000 of reported damage to cars parked outside the golf course and general acts of destruction, just to name a few of the stories going back over the last nine months.

My own estimate is that as much as £30,000 of damage may have been caused by what is likely to be one small group of yobs over a period of twelve months, much of it unreported. What the police and the council are doing to preserve the local quality of life and security is obviously not enough and it is time to adopt a zero tolerance policy toward the group that is responsible for most of the problems. It's time for action and not words from the people who accept our votes a high community charge and allegedly police our streets.

Thanet Life
Historic Pictures of Thanet

Students from Hartsdown Technology College have had their project which involves contrasting the changing face of Thanet have had their photographs, hosted on the BBC website to illustrate the changing face of the area.

Cliftonville 1937

A slide show of these photographs can be viewed here and is worth a visit. If you have any more like these please send them along to ThanetLife to add to our online collection.

Thanet Life
Hugin Longship Returns To Pegwell Bay

The “Hugin”, Thanet’s full-size replica longship, returned this week, following a major restoration programme, costing £243,000, to preserve it for future generations.

Hugin Longship

The ship was built in Denmark and was rowed over to England in 1949 to commemorate the voyage of Hengist and Horsa 1500 years earlier. After its landing in Broadstairs, it was presented as a gift to the people of Thanet and has been kept on a clifftop in Cliffs End overlooking the sea ever since.

In December 2004, the ship was taken to the shipyard of Tommi Nielsen and Co. Ltd. in Gloucester for a programme of work, paid for by Thanet Council, with help from European funding.

The work has included the replacement of rotten planks, realignment and replacement of frames and the installation of a new mast support to allow the mast and sail to be erected, which will be the centrepiece of the grand unveiling of the “Hugin” on Wednesday 22 June.

Thanet Life
Fight the Developers

Plans to build a new development of six houses and a block of flats on ground presently occupied by two cliff-top houses on Sea View Avenue in Birchington should be fought "tooth and nail."

Seaview Properties has reportedly applied to demolish the existing houses and fell trees on what is a designated townscape area and without apparent regard to the present look of the foreshore area.

Birchington to Minnis Bay

It is hard to go anywhere in Thanet now without noticing properties being knocked down and replaced by small houses or flats crammed into a smaller space and only last month, I had an approach from a developer to buy my own property on the seafront at Westgate, with a view to doing the same. I politely declined.

St Mildred's Bay

If residents are prepared to let apathy replace common sense, this will results in more examples of developer-driven greed, typified by the block of flats that now dominates St Mildred's Bay and which casts a shadow, so long, that the beach front is in shade until noon every day and depriving anyone using the two cafes or the stretch of beach in front of them of a suntan. How it ever received planning permission is a mystery!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Secret Mission in Uncharted Space
Westwood Cross U2 Spy Mission Photos

Apparently the traffic is so bad at Westwood Cross today that the Thanet Times has asked me to go up and photograph the evidence with one of their reporters, "Top Gun" volunteer, Jennifer Wiley, seen here as the mad Red Baron explains to her that we'll be flying upside down along the Haine Road. The jacket is mine by the way, it's cold up there with the windows open!

Jennifer Wiley

We had to call-off the first attempt as the weather collapsed at lunchtime and there's no point taking photographs of the low cloud but we had another try this evening and you can see an example below.

Westwood Cross

Featuring 31 new shops in a development costing over £100 million, Westwood Cross is certain to have an impact on the local economy and our growing road traffic problem. I have placed a slide show of the Westwood Cross photos here and these can be downloaded in lower resolution. Higher resolution photos, large files which allow you to zoom down to the car number plates - well almost - are available on request for £25 to help cover my aircraft fuel costs.

Thanet Life
Welcome to Westwood

Thursday's grand opening of Westwood Cross in the middle of an official retail industry recession should give us something to watch and comment on in the months ahead.

I'm delighted that I won't have to trek into Canterbury anymore, that's the good news but I worry that it might take me just as long to drive to Westwood Cross and predict a degree of traffic chaos, this weekend, as the greater population of the island decides to take a day out to look at the new shops. I'm prepared to bet that a bicycle might offer the quickest route to Westwood over the next month or so.

Margate Sunset - Photo Philip Page

Thanks to the reader who vigorously pointed-out the site is "Out of date" and that EUjet do indeed offer flights from Manston. As you may have noticed, this website is a continuous roll of stories in date order and so, if you keep going down the page, you'll eventually end up at the beginning of recorded time, for the website at least. Thanet goes back a little longer.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Cold Water Therapy

Every day this old chap braves the wind and the cold water to swim at St Mildred's Bay. I've been wrapped-up against the bitter cold of a January gale in a thick coat, walking the dog along the beach and still seen him taking a morning dip in the boating pool, slowly making his way along the promenade, wearing only a swimsuit and a bathing hat and aided by his walking stick.

He's made of tougher stuff than me.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Paris Plage

Forty minutes. It takes longer to drive to Canterbury but today, I've been over in Le Touquet, taking photos for a Pilot Magazine feature I'm writing for first-time aviators risking the seventeen miles of water between here and Calais and expecting the reward of a bottle of wine at the other end, for getting there without incident.

Mid Channel looking towards Lydd

There's a slide show of the photos here but today I found the Paris Plage resort very quiet and mostly populated by English pensioners and parties of school children on coaches. What struck me most today was how smart, if that's the right word, the French school children looked in their uniforms this afternoon, particularly the image-conscious girls in vivid contrast with their English counterparts who looked like refugees from the BBC's "Grange Hill." Le Touquet is of course a splendidly "Chic" resort, its high street lined by fashionable boutiques and the English tourists don't blend in well with the local population. I did find one exception though, the man in the photograph below who looks characteristically French, it must be the cigarette and perhaps he's a reformed existentialist on holiday.

Back on the great British side of the Channel, the price of good food and wine strikes me as insane and explains why so many people are choosing to leave this country behind them and look for a better quality of life on the other side of the channel. Looking at Le Touquet basking in the sun this afternoon, one can understand why.

Thanet Life

Six of them marking the horizon to the west, the first real evidence of the wind farm close to completion opposite Herne Bay.

At Christmas, I had an argument with someone at a party in Minnis Bay, when he announced that the wind farm would not be visible from Birchington. "Not true", I told him, you'll see it for miles and you can and I have mixed feelings about it. After years of an unbroken horizon, except for the occasional passing ship, I found my eye immediately drawn to the pylons as I walked the dog along the beach at Westgate this morning. Very soon there will be more, like a small forest of windmills and perhaps we'll learn to ignore them but for now the sense of an unbroken space, free of buildings and man's signature has gone for good.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Flaming June

Not quite the summer we might have hoped for yet, with the beach at Margate absolutely deserted at mid-morning today. Perhaps the predicted heat wave will appear next month?

Not even an attempt at divine intervention was able to reduce the force of the wind this morning and with nine ships now parked-off the Margate Sands, perhaps the weather forecasters are keeping something from us?

Meanwhile the cost of local holiday accommodation is too high for some Volvo owners, spotted with their tent on the sea front at Westbrook this morning. The council needs to do something about the derelict beach huts dumped on the Westbrook car park, they represent an arson hazard and double as potential overnight settlements for the homeless. and a great late-night spot for the druggies to congregate out of the wind.

More Thanet photos Here.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Website for Older Thanet Residents

The Island Guide is made up of information from Health, Social Services, Housing Association and District Council Housing Providers. The group, and the agencies they represent, is keen to promote the independence of Thanet's older people, seeing them as key members of the community. It recognises the importance of being able to access the right information to enable older people to make decisions about their own lifestyle. Thanet has many services and organisations that are available to its community. The online Guide is aimed at providing as much useful information about these services and organisations as is possible in one handy publication.

Thanet Life
Airliner World - EUjet Review

Should anyone wish to read the feature on EUjet, with photos and an interview with its Director, Stuart McGoldrick, then this can be found in the July issue of Airliner World, out this week, with a photo of an A380 Airbus on the cover.

Gale's View
From Thanet North MP Roger Gale

I know exactly where I was" people say "when I heard that Jack Kennedy had died". A later generation says the same of Princess Diana.

Where were you at nine PM on Sunday 29th May? That was when the polls closed in Paris (an hour ahead of the UK) on the French referendum on the European constitution. In time, it may become as much of a landmark in history as those other more immediately dramatic events.

I was in the Mairie in the tiny hamlet of Petit Bersac. At eight o'clock (two hours earlier in rural France than in the metropolis) the vote was declared over and two keys were solemnly produced by the Mayor and a senior Councillor, separately. The transparent perspex box was unlocked, the lid removed and the brown envelopes taken out and counted to ensure that the same number of envelopes as issued were in the box.

No crosses on ballot papers here: each voter is issued with a "Yes" and "No", places one or sometimes by mistake both or neither, into the envelope and the ballot box and privately destroys the other.

With the number of envelopes tallied local councillors remove the slips. Each is handed in turn to the Mayor, each reverently called "Oui" or "Non" for all to hear and each recoded by the clerk.

The result is know immediately and is devastating. An eighty per-cent turnout in this little village and a sixty-five per cent vote against the proposed European Constitution. There is no celebration, no surprise. The paperwork is completed in stunned silence, the results telephoned through to the authorities to be added to national figures already rolling in. "Bonsoir, M`sieu" It's over.

In the larger local town nearby the atmosphere is almost of bereavement. The hotel bar is empty, the voters at home awaiting the results.

At ten PM Paris time I tuned to the local FM radio station. Within minutes it was clear that what I had seen in Petit Bersac had been repeated across the country. Even my very sadly average command of a language taught to me years ago allowed the words "Non" and "Massif" to filter through clearly.

At 10.30 Monsieur Chirac, who unlike Mr.Blair is of course the Head of State, addressed the nation. He accepted "the will of the people". He could do little else - the result was devastatingly emphatic.

While the BBC from home was carrying clarifications and excuses the grim reality, in France, was that The People were rejecting "the European project". Much has been said about this being a protest vote designed to give a bloody nose to an unpopular President, about farmers fearing the removal of European agricultural subsidies, about the Far Right sending a "No" signal to Turkish ambitions to join the EU and so on and there were elements, no doubt, of all of that in the way that France voted.

The real reason though, put to me by an old friend when I arrived to observe the process, is much simpler. "Europe is bad for France" she said. "It has cost us the franc. It interferes with our way of life. We have had enough of Brussels.".

Monday`s papers screamed "Le Jour Le Plus NON!" as the country woke up with a political hangover to the enormity of what it had done. So far as I can tell, though, there are few regrets. This constitution, and the political careers around Europe that have been staked upon it are yesterday`s devalued currency. After the French Revolution of May 29th the power of the European institutions will never be the same.

Thanet Life

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Maypole Fun Day

Maypole Fun Day

Squadron scramble at Maypole Farm for a BBQ and a fun day, with rides being offered to visitors, young and old and a spot flour-bombing competition - with CAA approval - pictured here is runner-up Charlotte, call sign "Golf Golf" in a competition impressively won by Terry Brown in his Stampe SV4 who would have left his mark on the Western Front in 1914 with his accuracy.

Maypole Fund Day June05 - 2
Originally uploaded by DrMoores.

For the photo gallery and slide show please follow the link.

Wind Farm in Progress

Here you can see the first pylon going-up at the wind-farm opposite Herne Bay taken by Bob Shilling of Airads on the way out over the Thames Estuary yesterday. More pictures at Airads Images.

Below you can see a Russian sailing ship with the name that looks like "zercoshek" a phonetic translation, that passed along the Thanet coast at the same time. Does anybody know more about this vessel?

Photos Airads