Friday, September 30, 2005

Dead Slow

I’m no closer to understanding why this website is running at a crawl. I’ve informed the helpdesk at but until they fix the problem, that’s if they read the email, I’m as frustrated by the speed as anyone else. My apologies once again.

Rise in Children with Alcohol Problems

Kent Online reports that the number of children admitted to hospitals in the county with drink-related problems and conditions has soared by more than 60 per cent in just three years.

There has been an equally sharp rise in the number of adults admitted to hospitals with alcohol-related conditions.

The increases have been disclosed by hospital trusts following a request made by the Kent Messenger Group under the Freedom of Information Act.

Their analysis of the figures shows that in 2002-2003, hospitals in Kent admitted an average of 13 under-18s per month. In 2003-2004, that rose to 15 a month. But in 2004-2005, that increased still further to 22 a month.

Thanet South MP Dr Steve Ladyman, a former Labour health minister, denied that Government plans for 24-hour licensing would make things worse.

"These figures”, said Dr Ladyman, “indicate exactly why we need this new law. If we carry on with the existing legislation, drink problems will get worse and worse.

"We want a new culture where people do not have to rush to drink several pints just before last orders are called. Our legislation will remove the kind of things that lead to binge drinking."

Still Slow

The website is still slow. I don’t quite understand where the problem lies but hope you’ll be patient with the delays in page loading.

Don't Hold Your Breath

Apparently, EUjet staff have yet to receive the salary owed to them by the company before it went bust. In some cases this runs to thousands of pounds and is leading to considerable hardship.

The trouble is that any administration process runs slowly and can take anything from two to five years to resolve. From experience, this often means that any money that might have existed at the point of a company ceasing trading is then taken up by accountancy and administration fees. Ironically I’m on the creditors committee of one company that went to the wall in 2002 and the poor employees and creditors are still waiting in a long line behind the Inland Revenue, the bank and of course the administrators.

Another story today, this time from Kent Online, reports that "Council chiefs have rejected claims that their decision to invest £100,000 of public money in EUJet was a gamble that backfired.Cllr Alex King (Con), Kent County Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and the man responsible, said he accepted the investment was high risk but claimed it had produced "a good return" for Kent by demonstrating that a budget airline could be viable from Manston."

KCC lost its £100,000 investment when EUJet faced financial problems. The authority subsequently agreed to put in an additional 15,000 Euros to provide "working capital" to PlaneStation, the company that owned Manston Airport before it went bust.

Bottom of the Class

What does it mean?

An interesting story in the Times newspaper today, which holds some implication for areas of the country that, like Thanet, are struggling to transform their workforce and general population through the universal availability of higher education. A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that “Class is permanent, even in this golden age of equality.”

Findings, published in the report Population Trends, show that “Despite more than fifty years of effort by governments to break the link between social class and educational attainment, which began with the foundation of the welfare state under the post-war Labour Government, the social class into which you are born remains the best indicator of where you will stay for the rest of your life.”

According to Dr Anna Vignoles, senior lecturer at the Institute of Education at the London School of Economics, “Family background is a definite predictor on how well the child does. We have spent a generation since the Second World War attempting to improve social mobility and allow people to succeed on their own merit only to see it depend on the position that you are born.”

A month ago, I commented in The Thanet Gazette, on the “Aspirational chasm” that faces us in certain parts of the island and the ONS report can only encourage a pessimistic view, echoed by a number of recent comments on this website. This suggests that you can throw as much money as you like at improving schools and offering greater opportunity to the children but if the home environment is entrenched in a generations-long cycle of aspirational deficit and deprivation, then it’s of little more use to improving opportunity within society, than applying a band-aid on the bullet-wound of social history.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lost History of Birchington

I remember reading some years ago, that skeletal evidence of a lost battle, recounted possibly in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle or another contemporary source, was found during the building of houses near Birchington High Street. Does anyone know anything about this that they could contribute to the site?

A Little Slow

If you are seeing this, then the web page is back again but apparently still experiencing problems, a consequence of a domain re-direction problem at the host site. If you are finding it slow, then my apologies. Hopefully it will be fully resolved later today!

Complete Nonsense

“Sorry” says Tony on the BBC this morning, obviously irked that the thing that people will most remember this week’s party conference in Brighton for is not his speech or even Gordon’s but two party thugs manhandling 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang from his seat for the crime of shouting “Nonsense” at Jack Straw over his speech on Iraq, possibly expressing what many of us feel on the same subject.

The BBC reports that Wolfgang was briefly detained by police under the iPrevention of Terrorism Act (Section 44). His conference pass was also confiscated) Fearing perhaps that this elderly Jewish pensioner was a sleeping Al Qaeda operative who might detonate with indignation at any moment. At least he avoided being placed under house arrest or worse, being sent to a labour re-education camp in the urban wilderness of Camden.

This story illustrates my own fears over the misapplication of new legislation, a hammer to crack a nut, threatens our civil liberties and the right to shout “Nonsense” at politicians and is increasingly used in a manner which is neither necessary nor proportionate.

Mind you, was that Tony Blair or comedian Rory Bremner being interviewed this morning? I’m not sure I can tell the difference anymore!
(Photo Scott Barbour/ Getty Images)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Photos of a Lost Housemate

Reader, John Kirby has sent in a copy of a flyer he’s been sending out for the last month and a half, for his own web photography project, explained in more detail on his Weblog.

“It been going for a month”, says John “and I am still awaiting my first email back with a photo. Anyone can enter, all I want is your name and where you were with him with said photo, and eventually you will be on the Weblog once I’ve told the story up to that point!”

John adds: “There is also a 'growing' prize for the best one but as yet I do not have a time scale set, as I have not had an entrant yet. The prize at the moment stands at a Edinburgh Cut Crystal Glass and 5 air fresheners. How I have so far these prizes is being told on the Weblog ‘Photos of a Lost Housemate’”

“All my work”, he writes, “is self funded, and I really just want people to have fun with it. Anyone”, he adds, “is welcome to make comments, send emails and if they really want to help.

Remember GBH?

If we had doubts about the nature of the party that we have voted into government then watching the shocking film of an eighty-two year old man manhandled and ejected from the Labour Party conference should confirm our worst fears. If this had happened in China, then it would have been outrageous but this was middle-England, Brighton for God’s sake!

Last week anti-ID card protesters were ejected from a shopping centre in Gateshead before Home Office Minister Andy Burnham even arrived, having fallen foul of a bylaw prohibiting the unauthorised distribution of leaflets in the centre, except those apparently being distributed by guess who? The Home Office of course! ID card scheme protestors are also angry that the choice of venue has so far always put the Home Office on private property, meaning unwanted visitors can be kept out and maintain the false impression that the introduction of ID cards would be a popular measure. Trouble is, the technology doesn’t work properly or cost effectively. I should know but won’t bore you with the details.

Government for the People - By the People

One problem we are clearly facing at present is the number of larger homes that are being bought up locally, demolished, and replaced with blocks of flats.

It appears that while upsetting residents greatly, there is very little Thanet District Council can actually do to prevent this as the government has manoevered the planning laws now to prevent any real objections.

It strikes me that where any issue may be of real concern to local people and may lead to vigorous objection, central government has “pulled the teeth” of local government to a degree that its relatively helpless in stopping the bulldozers or even licensing legislation being rammed-through against people’s wishes.

Worse still perhaps, is that while we hear of how much Treasury cash is to be spent on schemes, like the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), local government appears to be receiving less support and in the south-east particularly is having to struggle to maintain services, as money is re-allocated to the north of the country. As a result, one can understand why the man in the street struggles to understand what democracy does for him in the 21st century.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Whip Around

I wonder if we could organise a whip around to buy a new street sign for College Road in Ramsgate? In fact, I notice that missing street signs are a local problem. Not as bad as places like Camden in London but it helps if you know where your'e going, even here in Thanet.

Dog of the Day

A second thing I observed today, trying to avoid the chronic congestion on the Margate Road, is that vans and trucks too wide or large for Pysons Road, are intent on using it during the rush hour as a qualifying round for the 2005 World Rally Championship. It's inevitable that people are forced to try and bypass the heart of Thanet's growing traffic problem but I wonder what the accident statistics are as a consequence? Does anyone know?

Mind you, the tragic death of a sixty year-old Broadstairs woman, struck by a garbage truck this morning raises other and more immediate questions on local road safety.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Always With Us

“The poor”, said a young man from Nazareth, two thousand years ago, “will always be with us”, and I’ve just been listening to the Chancellor, Gordon Brown’s speech, all fire and New Labour brimstone, as he readies himself to fill President Tony’s shoes in the not too distant future.

From a local perspective, the poor are very much with us in Thanet and suffering from a number of problems that Gordon appears to have ignored as he catalogued a long list of government victories, such as family tax credits and winter fuel allowances.

But hold on a moment, many of the initiatives he mentions have either failed miserably or hide the fact that indirect taxation and a higher cost of living is making hardship even worse for many. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau has pointed out that the Family Tax Credits fiasco has ‘plunged many (in Thanet) below the breadline and into mounting debt’ while the Parliamentary Ombudsman said that many ‘have to borrow money from family and friends to support their children, using up their life’s savings or running up credit card debts in order to pay for childcare costs, buy food and get to work’. The elderly and retired are struggling on their pensions and are being crippled by rising community charges. Today, retired social worker Sylvia Hardy, 73, became the first woman pensioner to be jailed for refusing to pay council tax arrears when she was sentenced to seven days in prison. Her case followed that last month of Vicar Alfred Ridley, 71 who became the first person to be jailed - for 28 days - for non-payment of £63 of his council tax bill.

Energy charges, looking at my British Gas bill, are about to climb through the roof and on a local basis, people can’t find NHS dentists and sometimes, even doctors. Although not many of us go to church on Sundays these days, it’s at church, where you see how tough life can be for the elderly in Thanet, who hang on to their faith, struggling to live and pay their taxes on a state pension.

Gordon Brown talks of the abolition of world poverty to rapturous applause but the state now squanders £2.5 billion on consultants, £30 million in the NHS alone, the equivalent of a penny in the pound on income tax. Viewed from another direction and from my perspective as one of the same consultants, we can’t afford the kind of big government that Gordon and his friends have been building without raising taxes or cutting services.

In 2001, Gordon Brown forecast that he would borrow £28 billion over the years 2001-2 to 2005-6. The latest figures show that he is actually borrowing £129 billion – over £100 billion more. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes that because growth has slowed, Gordon will have to introduce significant tax rises in order to avoid running up unsupportable levels of debt.

Perhaps we need to think less about tackling world poverty, an admirable goal and more about fighting the root causes of poverty and deprivation in places like Thanet, which won’t be solved by throwing larger and increasingly inefficient and top heavy government agencies at the problem.

You’re welcome to disagree with me.!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Up and Away

A bright blue sky and dazzling late afternoon sunshine over Thanet and I’m just back from taking our 30,000th visitor, Pete Kirby and partner Kate, for their winning flight.

As you can see from the photograph of the two of us together, I’m the midget on the right and Pete is 6’8” tall, leaving me to wonder whether I might have to cut a hole in the top of the aircraft so that he could see out more easily when he had a go at the controls!

Anyway, both Pete and Kate both survived the experience and a bumpy landing – it’s windy out there – and have a bottle of champagne to drink later. Well done the two of you and glad you enjoyed it.

A Man for All Seasons

While I try and avoid to much political comment on this website, there are times when I’m tempted to pop my head over the parapet. With the great Brighton fiesta now underway, I’m wondering if Britain, Kent or indeed Thanet has done any better under a Labour government than it might have done under the Conservatives, LibDems or even UKIP, I’m struck by Simon Jenkins’ column in the Sunday Times this morning where he writes:

“Labour conferences now resemble the last chapter of Animal Farm. Old Boxer has gone to the knacker’s. No one dares speak. Some animals are more equal than others. Napoleon is reading Tit-Bits and dressing his sow in watered silk. The ruling pigs are drinking with the old enemy, the humans. In truth they are indistinguishable.”

He continues, “The Labour party will this week cheer a government that in its name is privatising the National Health Service, public housing and, if it can, secondary education. It will cheer the fiscal regression of last week’s cringing U-turn on council tax revaluation. It will cheer parenting orders, internment without trial and curbs on free speech. Its MPs have for 2½, years acceded to an illegal foreign war in alliance with a right-wing American president.”

Perhaps I’m a ‘wishy washy’ liberal at heart but conscious of the example of Sir Thomas More in challenging the Reformation of Henry VIII, I’ve spent five years watching and protesting the dismantling of the freedoms that started with Magna Carta, survived Oliver Cromwell but apparently not Tony Blair. In my lifetime, being British, once implied a moral, educational and political courage that once made us the envy of the world but when George Orwell, satirising communism, wrote ‘Animal Farm,’ I wonder if he could have conceived of political correctness and a 21st century Britain under New Labour?

"For if the power without law may make laws, may alter the fundamental laws of the kingdom, I do not know what subject he is in England that can be sure of his life or anything that he calls his own. " - King Charles I

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Sunshine and Football at Hartsdown

Margate vs Carshalton 5

Lot’s of sunshine and action this afternoon at the football match between Margate FC and Carshalton FC. Margate now into the next round and closer to a game with Notts Forest I hear.

A good home crowd of nearly 800 and plenty of excitement in the first half of the game with a quick winning goal for Margate - 1-0 full time Remy headed goal from a sacha free kick- and much of the action at the Carshalton goal. You can find a Margate fans discussion forum here.

I had to promise to photograph the home team's younger supporters before they would let me leave!

I’m posting the photos to the gallery here with a video clip below. If you are interested in the club's history, here's a link to find out more:

Opening action from the Margate FC vs Carshalton Game this afternoon at Hartsdown Park.

Talking Tropical

Staying on the subject of exotic fauna and with some evidence of global warming in action, note the Figs ripening on the Fig tree in my garden. I wouldn’t have believed it would have survived the Thanet winter weather, let alone thrive!

Palmed Off

Reader Fred Kohlhofer writes:

“Unfortunately I do not have a digital camera available at the moment but if you are interested please go to Venus hairdressers at Westbrook opposite the old Sea Bathing Hospital and you will see a big empty pot outside where the TDC funded palm tree was stolen last night.

Might make a good photo, they have a reward notice in the pot now.

If you want to see what it used to look like there is still one in front of the Post Office at Westbrook or on the Margate seafront.

Is nothing safe in Thanet?”

I’ve taken Fred’s advice as you can see from the photos. Palm trees are valuable and may go well with the missing family of garden gnomes from Broadstairs. A search of all garden centres or eBay perhaps? "Psst.. fancy a cheap Palm tree mate?"

Every Little Helps

We’ve been using the internet-driven, Tesco home delivery service from Westwood for two months now and have to admit, that barring the occasional hiccough, it’s very good.

Minster Website

The village of Minster now has a nice website with lots of useful information for local people.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Imperator Divis

Fresh from being heckled at Dane Court’s prize-giving, Thanet South MP, Steve Ladyman, has chosen to use the Thanet Gazette as a platform from which to lecture us, in Thanet of all places, on, “The logic of longer drinking hours.”  Perhaps he hasn’t noticed that alongside our presence in Iraq, this is one of the government’s more unpopular measures?

And what on earth possessed Dane Court School to invite Mr Ladyman to their prize giving? His position on non-selective education makes him as appropriate choice of speaker as the Reverend Ian Paisley at a Catholic First Communion service.

In all honesty and without waving any particular flag, I suspect that if Downing Street decided overnight that like the Emperor Caligula, Mr Blair had become a God, then Mr Ladyman would be among the first to tell us why this political decision made absolute sense.

Unusual Obituary

On page nineteen of today’s Thanet Gazette there is a strange, black-bordered obituary for the seaplane slipway at St Mildred’s Bay. It reads:

“In memory of the seaplane slipway at St Mildred’s Bay, Westgate..
Survived two World Wars, many storms but not Thanet District Council.”

Does anyone know who put this in the paper and why?

I remember the slipway well and was surprised when it was removed. I can recall lying flat on it one summer’s day thirty-five years ago and watching the film, The Battle of Britain, being made above, as a group of Spitfire’s attacked a group of thirteen Heinkel IIIs, all filmed by a bright-red painted converted Liberator bomber of the same era.

It was a piece of local history as part of the old Royal Naval Air Station and I have no idea why the council decided we were better off without it. Perhaps to stop boats launching from the promenade?

Fantasy Island

This morning’s Thanet Gazette has edited my column down to fit the available page space and so, for those of you who would like to read the whole thing, warts and all, here it is in its original form. Better late than never I suppose!

In the not too distant future a party of Japanese tourists may be seen admiring a perfect Thanet sunset, on the harbour wall opposite the towering steel structure of Margate’s Turner Contemporary (TC) gallery. As the tide recedes, the sea exposes a rusting shopping trolley, draped with seaweed and half buried in the sand, the latest “Tracey Emin” masterpiece to attract international visitors to the town.

There’s a great deal riding on the success of the Turner Contemporary. It’s seen by the council as a catalyst in its plans for the regeneration of Margate and in the process it’s attracting £25 million pounds of investment from Kent County Council, the regional development authority and private donors. Simply building the gallery will cost £17 million which for many, appears to be a great deal of money to bet on a single throw of the dice.

Will Turner offer Margate the same path to regeneration and commercial success that the Guggenheim Museum gave the Basque city of Bilbao in Northern Spain or is it, as many people in Thanet believe, our very own attempt to imitate the achievement of the Millennium Dome?

“The Guggenheim Museum”, writes Jeremy Top Gear’s Clarkson, “is enough to blow your underwear clean into next week” but he adds, “What the hell can you put inside such a building that is more astonishing than the building itself.”

The New Black by Tracey Emin

Martin Wise, one of our councillors tells me: “The idea for the Turner Contemporary was put forward by a resident of Margate, who believed in our town, and saw that the link between Turner and his paintings of Margate skies could be a draw for international tourists, who could help regenerate Thanet. He recognised that people in London, Paris, New York and Tokyo would be drawn to this gallery because of the Turner link, and cultivated officers at KCC and TDC to help deliver his vision.” “Thanet District Council, Martin adds, “will not contribute to the construction costs, nor will the Council be responsible for the running costs. A sizeable junk of land adjacent to the harbour has been handed over to KCC, who will develop the land to obtain revenues which will pay for the upkeep.”

I asked readers of the Thanet Life website not only to fill in a quick poll on whether the gallery is worth £25 million but also to suggest where such a sum of money might be spent with better results. The small survey shows a 70/30 split against the Turner Contemporary and the online comments reveal that local people possess more commercial pragmatism than some of our civic leaders might realise.

The absence of an efficient integrated transport system and the infrastructure able to accommodate the type of well-heeled visitor, willing to make the trek to Margate, is a challenge, that lead one national newspaper to comment: “The British coast, once well served by railways, can be surprisingly hard to get to.” With construction starting this month, the Turner Contemporary is scheduled to open in 2008, well before we have the good hotels and restaurants in place to add value to the overall experience of visiting Thanet for a predicted annual visitor level of 195,000.

Some readers might agree that if £25 million is to be made available anywhere in Thanet for purposes of regeneration, then the Dreamland area should be the immediate priority rather than the harbour, perhaps with the building of a water park, like Aqualud across the channel in Le Touquet. This might also attract hundreds of thousand of paying visitors, as might a Sea Life centre or French-style Futuroscope experience perhaps with the “Reconstruction of a smaller pier for catamaran journeys in from London and Essex Coast”.

Leaving Turner aside what I see happening in Thanet at present, is the rapid expansion of residential property and new commercial space in collision with what we really need most, a good reason for the rest of the planet to visit and spend its money here, while at the same time introducing a new level of visitor able to stimulate the local tourist economy in a new direction, away from the busy bars, tattoo parlours and amusement arcades, reversing the decline described in the newspapers. Perhaps one day even going as far as encouraging a Starbucks Cafe to open in an increasingly shabby-looking Margate high street.

I have my own mixed feelings over the future of the Turner Contemporary and its subsequent commercial and cultural impact on the town of Margate. These are better expressed by the soldier and adventurer T.E. Lawrence when he wrote: “All men dream: but not equally, Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."

Smugglers Bay

Lurking off St Mildred’s bay this morning, one of Her Majesty’s Customs boats.

Two hundred years ago, Customs officers often had to visit the smuggling centre of Thanet ‘Mob-handed’ and with cavalry protection or risk being shot. In the light of the £3 million drugs haul recently made in Ramsgate harbour, perhaps the Revenue & Customs Agency has renewed its interest in this notoriously lawless island of ours, particularly after two of their officers appear to have gone "native" and were allegedly involved in the drugs ring.

Margate FC vs Carshalton on Saturday

For you local football fans, Margate are in FA Cup action on Saturday at home against the Conference South side, Carshalton. This promises to be an exciting clash with a place in the next round being the prize for the winner. Kick off is 3pm.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Three Blind Mice

Not much time to write today, as I had to feel my way through the fog to Denham, near Uxbridge, with a white stick today. The GPS is a wonderful thing. While you’re supposed to know where you are with standard navigational aids, it’s comforting to be able to position yourself accurately with this little miracle of technology. I couldn’t actually see the runway at Denham through the mist until I was less than a mile short.

Northolt give a better radar service than Thames radar, who are much too busy with bigger aircraft and in general, I find that the military controllers are a best first choice when you need to transit difficult airspace.

I’m reliably informed, promised even that my Gazette piece on the Turner Contemporary et al will appear in the morning but may be edited to fit. In other words if an advert for double glazing or Jacuzzis is competing for space, we know who wins! I’m curious to see if the whole piece is printed and who it might offend!

A Secret Meeting on Uncharted Space

Apparently there is a meeting at Thanet District Council this evening at 7pm to discuss local redevelopment. The public are invited to attend and will be able to voice their opinions regarding the issues that concern them!

Local democracy at its best!

Crazy Frog Banned

Hearing that the ‘Crazy Frog’ advertisement has been banned, at least for now, I was told by a Thanet parent that his son was unable to call home to be picked-up from an after-school football game, because the moment he turned-on his mobile phone, all the credit was immediately “eaten” by the ring tones provider. They’ve’ spent a week trying to get it off his phone and finally have resorted to a new SIM card, so parents be warned!

Yesterday, the High Court upheld a ruling that will limit the Crazy Frog ringtone advertisements which appeal to children without making clear the true cost of its products.

Almost 300 people complained that Jamba!, based in Germany, did not make clear that its mobile phone services were offered on a weekly, subscription basis rather than a one-off payment. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that children had unwittingly run up large phone bills and ruled that the commercials cannot now be shown before 9pm.

The Crazy Frog advertisements were shown on 40,000 occasions during a single month on British television. The post-9pm restriction is intended to place it outside of children’s viewing hours.
Before Time Began

Seeing the photo of Brian Mayo being cremated for his seventieth birthday last week, reader David Bartlett sent in a shot from before the beginning of recorded time, of Brian, dressed as an extra from the Blues Brothers movie, playing with a model aircraft at the old Ramsgate airport. In those days Thanet had even more space free of concrete for such frivolous activities.

Brian, as some readers will know then graduated to building perfect full size, working replicas of aircraft that are still flying today.

Thanet Life

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wacky Pictures

Well I asked for readers to send in photos, local, wacky or otherwise and first up to bat is John Kirby, who sent in this shot from a recent visit to Margate. His friend Mike with comedian ;Chas' from 'Chas and Dave'.

A new feature on the website now also allows me to embed photos in ways I couldn't do before.

Thanet Life

Winter Gardens Website

I had no idea that comedians, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy played the Winter Gardens in Margate in 1947.

This and other interesting pieces of historical information can be found on the Winter Gardens website, which also records that during the Second World War, the Winter Gardens' first war-time role was during the evacuation from Dunkirk when it acted as a receiving station for some of the 46,000 troops landed at Margate. It also found other war-time roles such as an air raid precaution and food rationing centre. There were also concerts for the troops on Sundays and Brighten-Up Dances every Thursday and Saturday!

Your Photos Please

I’ve been trying out the 2megapixel digital camera that’s built into my Sony Ericsson K750i phone and you can see the results, taken from my kayak, a few minutes ago at Westgate, are quite acceptable.

I’m very keen to encourage readers to send me their digital photographs of Thanet, particularly the more interesting and candid shots of life around the island, so please don’t be shy! The lower resolution limit is about 2mp.

ATM Machines Out?

Are the cash points down? Certainly, the Post Office in Westgate is paralysed this morning, they can’t use their chip and pin machines and the girl behind the counter tells me that this is not an isolated incident and may also affect the ATM machines in the street as well.

Has anyone else notice the problem?

And the Winner Is...

The magic number, 30,000 passed rather more quickly than I expected and two people, Peter Kirby and James Maskell, are both claiming the prize. I’d like to say congratulations to both, my thanks for their support of the website and when the overnight system logs come through, I’ll identify which one of the two was 30,000 as opposed to 30,0001.

I’ll put the result up underneath a little later, so watch this space.

And the winner is Peter Kirby, who very cleverly caught a screenshot to prove his prize and his IP address coincides with the system log.

Entry Page Time: - 20th September 2005 22:07:50 - (

Consolation prize to James Maskell, an IP address I recognise as a regular visitor. James you are welcome to join us on the same flight if you like? This weekend OK for the two of you. Please email me

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A Visit from Tesco

That’s interesting, for me at least. Tesco ( ) just visited the website and sucked down every page that’s ever been written since day one. It’s called page ‘scraping’. Something I said perhaps or maybe the comments made recently about their participation in the local community have attracted attention at Head Office?

Vigilante Action

I don’t approve of violence or bad language in any circumstances but as a parent, I have some sympathy for the residents of Garlinge who chased registered sex-offender David Butterwick from his home in Glebe road.

Historical evidence clearly demonstrates that sex-offenders are frequently recidivist and having one present in the community places local children at risk. Sadly, a number of cases in Thanet appear to illustrate the nature of the problem.

The question I need to ask myself is that if Mr Butterwick or any of the 8oo registered sex-offenders in Kent moved into my street what would I do, knowing of the presence of someone who offers a clear and present danger to my child. What’s your view?
National Jodo Champions

National Jodo champions Dave Roe (Birchington) and Peter Gibbons (Ramsgate) practising. Jodo kanji Jodo is the way of the Jo, or wooden staff.

This way of using the staff was devised by the master swordsman, Gonnosuke Katsukichi in the early 1600's.

Both gold medal winners have been selected for the Great Britain team to compete in Bologna in Italy in November.

While Peter is using a wooden staff (Jo) to defend himself in this exercise, Dave is using a real sword.

Oven Ready

Two pieces of news came my way today, both from reputable sources. The first is that Thanet reportedly has the highest level of teenage mothers, per capita, in the European Union according to new research. I’m still trying to authenticate the source, which is apparently a police report.

The second piece of news is rather better for local residents and suggests that the planning permission for the field behind the Ursuline School and adjacent to King Ethelbert’s school has been rejected on grounds of access. Again, I can’t confirm this but it seems that action may have been taken as a result of the recent protests that you will have read about in Thanet Life.

Monday, September 19, 2005

New Visitors

If you are a new visitor to Thanet Life, please try out the comment feature and let me know how you found the website. Visitor numbers continue to grow and as we don’t advertise, I would love to know how you got here!
Birchington Town Centre

Now up with other photos available in high resolution from the photo library - see sidebar links -

If you think I've missed any places of interest in Thanet, let me know.

The Black Hole of Westbrook

Westbrook reader Barrie Smith still appears to have problems having his refuse collected. He writes:

“I would be pleased to know if others in our near vicinity have problems with refuge collection. Here is my letter to TDC for your site.......

I continue to have problems with TDC refuge collection.

My complaint is simple.......they do not collect every week.

I have been put on "Special watch" this seems to do little to make sure the bin is emptied.

My bin is kept in the front garden in ‘front’ of the building line in accordance with the guidelines on TDC web site/given by Jane Stratford of refuse department

I have emailed the Amenities this morning to get the rubbish emptied from the 14th Sept when it was last missed.

I had to write for the bin to be emptied twice in March, once in April, once in May and now in September so I would not be exaggerating to say at least once every couple of months they do not collect, I have only one bin, there is no excuse. The bin-men just do not do the job which they are paid for. Is this an isolated problem is Westbrook or are there other residents who have problems? Please post comments.”

Photos of Thanet

A thought for the council tourism office, that’s if anyone ever visits this website from there or is even aware of its existence.

The photo library now has hundreds of high-resolution photos of Thanet under a Creative Commons license. Some of these show the island of at its best and most interesting and are in stark contrast with some of the tired and rather washed-out examples that are used to promote tourism in Thanet.

So Thanet Council, they are there for you to use and won’t cost you a penny. Why not consider using some of them for the 2006 season?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Men @ Work - Not

I had been under the impression that work was to start on the Turner Contemporary this month, with a construction barge arriving from Holland. At least that’s what I thought was said at the press briefing. No sign of any barge yet but plenty of seaweed.

Does anyone know what the latest news is on the construction of this miracle of modern art?

Here to Stay

Someone told me that the full force of the law had been directed against the caravan and its occupants at Westbrook car park; after all it’s been over a month.

Obviously, as you can see from the photograph taken by a U2 spy plane just over an hour ago, they are still there and the area surrounding is looking increasingly less decorative as the weeks pass. Would anyone from the council care to offer an update or should we be extending this seafront accommodation opportunity to those thousands of refugees, who aren’t fortunate enough to cram themselves into the Nayland Rock hotel but would like to live in Thanet as well?
Thanking the Few

Remembering the Battle of Britain today, with the memorial being unveiled in London, here's one German visitor who didn't get away, crash-landing in Westgate behind the Minster road as more battles raged in the skies above a Thanet defended by a few very young and very brave men sixty-five years ago.

From Geoffrey Wellum's book, "First Light", which recounts his time at Manston in 1941, a photo showing, left to right:

Allan Wright, Geoffrey Wellum, Tich Havercroft, Brian Kingcombe in the 92 Squadron Spitfire cockpit, Unknown, Jock Sherrington, Sam Saunders (with cap) Bowen-Morris, possibly Bob Holland, Tommy Lunn.

Red Sands

It's a stunning autumn day and one that shows off the colours of the sandbanks that lie offshore to the north of the Kent coast between Margate and Minnis Bay.

Occasionally, one can see boats moored in the lagoons they create during low tide and people having a picnic on what is a very temporary beach; if they're lucky, catching sight of the seals that live there.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Live Democracy - Sort Of

Kent County Council will be internet broadcasting its Cabinet meeting, live, on Monday 19th September and you can watch the webcast as it happens from 10am until 12noon.

For the first time, you will be able to view Cabinet discussions dealing with some of the bigger issues for the county as they happen.

On the Monday agenda are details of how the county is gearing up for the 2012 London Olympics and its new Vision for Kent, which will gather ideas for the future of the county. – Lack of water and over-development might be a good place to start!

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Magic Number 30

Coming-up to the magic 30,000 visits and this time, the first person to claim the prize will qualify for a thirty-minute ride over Thanet (partner included), plus a bottle of champagne.

Same rules as before. Watch the counter at the bottom of the screen an if you happen to be 30,000 mail me as editor(at) with your email address, the ISP you are using and the time of the visit. I can match this up with the system log and can filter out any efforts to beat the system with multiple visits to boost the counter by using the refresh feature on the web page. The editor’s decision will be fair and final on who is actually the winner if several people appear to visit simultaneously.

By the way, if any readers would like to see our 'island' from the air and are happy to contribute to the fuel costs, you can always ask me. I can be reasonably obliging in a good cause, if I’m not too busy and the weather is good. There's room for three plus me. First come first served though!
Don't Try This at Home

Mr Brian Mayo's seventieth birthday party and of course, it's a challenge to fit seventy candles on a single cake and light them at the same time.

The resulting fire melted the cake and almost cremated Brian - Happy birthday old chap - set-off the smoke alarm and caused the guests to flee in panic. But it's the thought that counts!

To Print or Not to Print - That is the Question.

OK, there seems to be a little confusion over my Gazette column. I thought it was every two weeks but apparently not, I’m wrong, it’s every month and there’s a firm promise that my look at the Turner Contemporary and other local investment issues, will appear next Friday, cross my heart etc. If not, then it will appear here instead.

Mind you, I wonder if the Turner Contemporary will be finished before the column appears in print!

Apologies if you bought a copy because of me. I got one on the school run this morning and then the questioning emails started arriving via my mobile phone while I was flying to Brighton. Pretty bumpy up there today and very interesting on the approach to land!

All at Sea

The BBC reports that “Hundreds of homes in Ramsgate were without power and telephone connections on Thursday night after a driver towing a yacht brought down scores of cables.”

Kent Police said the driver did not realise he had left the mast up when he began his journey from Ramsgate Harbour along Boundary and York Roads.

Part of Boundary Road was closed while engineers re-attached the cables.

The driver was stopped and given a fixed penalty ticket before being allowed on his way, with the mast down

Thursday, September 15, 2005

MEP Fights Sunbeam Insanity

South East MEP and Tory Whip, Richard Ashworth, has accused Labour and UKIP members in Strasbourg of jeopardizing UK businesses by exposing them to the red tape risk from the so-called “Sunshine Directive”.

Richard Ashworth MEP with Cllr Burgess and Roger Gale MP

Richard and his Conservative Group colleagues led an attempt to scrap the infamous directive which would force employers in the South East to monitor the exposure of workers to natural sunlight.

“This is protection gone mad. Of course we want safety at work to receive the highest priority but for bosses to have to tell workers to cover up or rub on some sun block is meddlesome nannying of the worst kind,” says the MEP.

The Conservative Group narrowly failed in their attempt to scrap the "sunshine directive” because UKIP MEPs voted against an amendment which would have removed natural sunlight altogether from the scope of the draft EU law. The ten UKIP members voted against the Conservative amendment. The amendment was supported by a majority of 361 MEPs, with 296 against, but failed by just six votes to reach the "qualified majority" level of 367 required to amend legislation in a second reading.

“It’s hypocritical of UKIP to boast they are the champions of freedom from EU bureaucracy when they fail to take a stand against this ridiculous law which would impose an enormous burden on local employers,” says Richard.

The Tory group did however achieve a significant victory by persuading a majority of MEPs to support a fall-back compromise amendment which proposed that the issue be left to member states to decide.

Don't Miss the Thanet Gazette

Don’t miss my column in the Thanet Gazette tomorrow, Friday. I guess I have to buy a copy like everyone else.

I haven't pulled any punches and would appreciate any comments on the article, which is itself drawing upon a number of readers suggestions!
Spitfire Pilot - A Look at the Controls

Simon Moores takes a quick look inside Charlie Brown's Spitfire. It's painted blue because it was originally in desert colours before finding it's way on to an aircraft carrier and painted in US Navy blue.

Spitfire Vb BM597 (G-MKVB) was built at Castle Bromwich and delivered on 26th April 1942. It served with 315 and 317 (Polish) Squadrons RAF at Woodvale before sustaining damage whilst landing on 13th February 1943. It was repaired, but is thought to have seen no further action. After the war BM597 was assigned to several 'gate guardian' postings finishing up at RAF Church Fenton. Acquired by Historic Aircraft Collection in 1993, it was restored to original specification at Audley End and first flew in 1997.It usually flies in the colours of 317 Squadron, but for the duration of the Merlins Over Malta project it will wear a unique Malta scheme that has not been seen on a Spitfire since the original aircraft were transported out to Malta during the war.

For the duration of the project BM597 will depict a Spitfire V wearing the codes U-2 that was to join 603 Squadron. When the aircraft were put aboard the USS Wasp they were wearing standard camouflage schemes but on the deck of an aircraft carrier sailing through the Mediterranean these camouflage patterns offered no protection. The solution was to paint the top surfaces of the aircraft blue. Paint was taken from the stores and applied to the aircraft. There is no definitive colour match because paint was mixed and watered down to ensure there was enough to go around.

Merlins over Thanet

Marooned, temporarily at Manston this afternoon are the Merlins over Malta team on the way to the Mediterranean for a display to mark the historic Second World War defence of the island.

Charlie Brown

Unfortunately, the weather over Thanet is appalling this afternoon and the Spitfire and Hurricane can’t get airborne again until it clears, so the celebrity Battle of Britain aircraft pilots, Charlie Brown, Clive Denny and their team-mates are contemplating an evening among the fleshpots of Margate.

Clive Denny (Hurricane) & Charlie Brown (Spitfire) Pilots

I’m rather hoping the weather it will clear through though as they have to get to Jersey before dusk if possible and I have to take some photos of the Spitfire and Hurricane for Pilot Magazine and I’ve always wanted a chance to get in either aircraft!

An Interview with Charlie Brown

They just got off, squadron scramble or what? They were ready and gone in ten minutes towards the nearest patch of blue sky!

An interview with the legendary Spitfire display pilot, Charlie Brown, caught at Manston on the way to "Merlins over Malta"

Flt. Lt. Charlie Brown serves at RAF Cranwell as an instructor. As chief pilot of the Historic Aircraft Collection Charlie flies and displays both the Spitfire and the Hurricane that will be going to Malta. Charlie spent many years flying Messerschmitt 109 Black 6.

MP3 File

Between June 1940 and December 1942 Malta became one of the most bombed places on Earth. The battle for this tiny island proved to be one of the most decisive turning points of World War II.Situated just sixty miles south of Sicily, Malta was a vitally important outpost in the heart of the Mediterranean, and with its airfields and deep harbours, held the key to Allied hopes in the Middle East and North Africa: not only was it a crucial staging post, it was also a base from which Allied aircraft, ships, and submarines could cripple Axis supply routes to Rommel’s forces in Africa. Had Malta fallen, the Allies would almost certainly have lost the Suez Canal and the Middle East oilfields to the Axis powers, and with catastrophic consequences.

Recognising its strategic importance, the Axis forces were determined to wipe Malta from the face of the earth – and they very nearly did so. At the start of the siege Malta was woefully ill-equipped, but with the arrival of Hawker Hurricanes in June 1940, the RAF began to fight back. With the arrival of the Luftwaffe in Sicily, these saviours of the Battle of Britain soon proved obsolescent and despite inhuman heroics from the defenders, Malta faced almost certain defeat.

Relief came in the form of the Spitfire Mk V – the first seven flying into Malta from the carrier HMS Eagle on the 7th March 1942. At last the Island had an aircraft capable of taking on the best of the Luftwaffe. More Spitfires followed and by May 1942, the air battle was almost won.

The Merlins Over Malta Appeal aims to take a Spitfire and Hurricane back to the scene of their epic defence, the islands of Malta GC. On the afternoon of the 22nd of September 2005, if the funds are raised a Spitfire and Hurricane will once again fly through Malta’s Grand Harbour. This will be the first time a Hurricane has returned to the island since the war and the first time for a Spitfire since the filming of "The Malta Story" in the early 1950s.

Place of Rest

It’s a mess, the state of the path through Ramsgate cemetery. The council claims there’s no budget available, so what should be done about it?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Your Thanet is Scheduled For Demolition

“People of Earth, your attention please. This is Prostactic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you are probably aware, the plans for the development of the underlying regions of the Western Spiral Arm of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspace express route through your star system. And regrettably your Thanet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less that two of your Earth minutes."

“Were going to build more homes but we’ll consult you first.”

This appears to be the line take by our unelected South Eastern Regional Authority (SEERA) in seeking consultation with local residents in pursuit of their apparently unstoppable plan to bury us under concrete before the decade is out.

In Kent, 6,100 homes have to be built somewhere and perhaps Thanet is far enough out of the way to avoid to much of a fuss? Maybe not! You have a chance to have your say in Margate on September 22nd. Each region has to submit its local representations to SEERA by 9th December.

Where exactly this opportunity will take place I don’t yet know but: "All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at you local planning department on Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth Years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge a formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now!"

Ed: The photo above is from Google Earth a free application, which if your computer is modern enough to run, is quite stunning and allows you to zoom in, using satellite imagery, on any piece of the globe. In fact some governments are getting quite unhappy about this as it reveals what's hidden in their military installations!

Sex Offenders in Thanet - Part 2.

Thanet North MP, Roger Gale has written to tell me that he plans to table a relevant Parliamentary Question to highlight concerns over the number of sex offenders that may be living in Thanet.

You may remember from an earlier story that I wrote to Kent Police and using the Freedom of Information Act, asked for the number of registered sex offenders living on the island that might be regarded as presenting a risk to our children; a concern reinforced by the recent tragedy in Scotland.

Kent Police declined to reveal this information on the ground that it might “Provoke public disorder” and leading me to suspect that we had rather more than our fair share of such people being binned, out of sight and out of mind, in Thanet, by other English local authorities.

Albion Place Planning Update

Cllr David Green has written-in to let us know the latest on the Albion Place car park planning protest:

“I have heard from Thanet Council that they are withdrawing the application from Wednesday's Planning agenda.

They have not yet stated that they no longer wish to sell the car park, but I hope this will come sooner rather than later so as to put residents’ minds at rest.

Thank you for allowing the issue to be aired on your site.”

Ed: Thanks David, well done on supporting the people of your ward. I understand that the application has been withdrawn for now but may be revisited again in the future, so it’s up to the residents to keep an eye on the situation. There’s also been a flurry of activity caused by my national column this morning on Silicon News over the King Ethelbert’s field protest last Saturday.

Silicon.Com News link

Petrol Panic

Is anyone finding problems buying petrol this morning? I plunged into a traffic jam coming into Broadstairs the other evening as the queue from the petrol station there went back to the Catholic Church opposite Upton school. Is Thanet in the grip of petrol panic? You tell me.

All At Sea

I just notice the Margate lifeboat dashing through the waves at high speed off to the west towards Reculver. Is it an exercise or is anything happening over there?

There’s a two-masted 19th century Brig moored off West Bay this morning and if I find the time I’ll take a photo. It’s some way out and so I really need a much longer lens. Perhaps if I win the lottery one day? Have to buy a ticket first though!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Gale on Cricket

Roger Gale MP on Cricket and the Birchington museum

Kent has, at the time of writing, two matches still to play in the County championship. It would be good to think that we might still take the title but the odds are long and, realistically, the chances slimmer than we would wish.

Nobody can deny, though, that this has been the season of "The Summer Game". While the Prime Minister has kicked a ball around to little good effect in China and while the England football team have had similar ill fortune in Ireland the nation has been held spellbound by a gladiatorial contest over eight weeks between the two finest cricket teams in the world.

When Suzy Gale, not known for her frequent forays to the St. Lawrence ground or to Lords, sits spellbound in front of the television set at home and eavesdrops on my listening to Test Match Special on long wave while abroad, then we know that the sound of wood upon leather has cast its spell very wide indeed!

The fact is that this Test series has triggered in the imagination of old and young alike an awakening of a love for a sport to which many had been prepared to administer the last rites. Sales of cricket bats - including the delightfully named "Woodworm" edition beloved of Freddie Flintoff - have soared and in parks across the land Fathers have taken not only sons but daughters (and let us not overlook the successes of our England ladies` team) out onto the pitch.

Perhaps the real triumph of this series has been a demonstration that it is still possible to play even professional sport as sport, hard but honestly and with some chivalry. The clear and genuine respect and even affection that the Australian and British teams have shown for each other has set an example that others playing other games, better paid perhaps but with a fraction of the grace, might take a few lessons from.

As with the rugby world cup, so with the ashes series, the cry goes up to "re-introduce sport into state schools". It would be excellent, would it not, if after the Trafalgar Square parade and the Downing Street photo-opportunities, some attention was paid to the need to give young people the Opportunities to both plat team games and to play fairly but to play to win.

The omens following our dramatic rugby world cup success are not good. Much talk but precious little long term action. This time we need to move fast: unless we have the balls to list the test series for television coverage the next ashes matches will not be seen by those millions of young sportsmen and women who have viewed the spectacle on terrestrial television. Along with the re-introduction of competitive sport in schools we have to demand our television rights with a loud and if necessary strident voice. And in the meantime may the good Lord rot Mr. Rupert Murdoch's socks!

The opening of the Village Heritage Museum at the Centre (Room 4) in Birchington was a modest but significant event and I was honoured to be asked to formally cut the ribbon and to declare the exhibition open.

Does this matter outside Birchington on Sea? Yes, it most certainly does.

Here are photographic records of the number of fine and ancient dwellings, of a kind replicated in all to many towns and villages, that have since the war been demolished in the interests of "progress". (Progress, in this context, means knocking down old and detached houses and bungalows and using the land to build modern blocks of flats).

Alongside these pictures are artifacts, lovingly preserved and handed down over generations. These village museums are important. They are a reminder to us all, and particularly to those with elected responsibility, that we are not the owners but the mere custodians of what we have and hold. We have a clear duty to hand on this heritage intact for the benefit of our children, our grandchildren and those who follow after them. History will not judge us kindly if we fail and we owe a debt of great gratitude to those who seek to preserve the records and to put them on public view.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Have You Tried VoIP Yet - Perhaps You Should

If you've ever used eBay, then you'll be hearing about something called VoIP soon, eBay just having bought a company called Skype for a couple of £ billion. In fact, I’d be interested to know if anyone else has experimented with Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony yet?

I installed Skype this morning, it’s free and all you need is a headset. PC to PC calls are free and if you want to call landline or mobile numbers, you can buy credits, minimum ten Euros, which gets you an awful lot of talk time at a fraction of conventional phone calls. One can see why the big telcos are running scared and why the likes of Microsoft and Google are enthusiastically launching into the IP telephony business.

In case you think it’s difficult to set-up, it’s not. Download the installation file from and make sure you have a microphone headset, about £20 from Fast Micros, MWise or any other local PC shops, et al plugged in to your PC. Once installed, the Skype software will help you test your connection and the you’re away, rather like Microsoft’s Instant Messenger and can strike-up a conversation with any friends who happen to be online with Skype, anywhere across the globe, for free if they are in front of a broadband connected PC. For ten Euros more you can buy your own Skype number, so your PC "Switchboard" can be dialled directly from any other PC or phone. I just tried it. The sound quality is a little tinny but it seems to work fine and for zero or near zero call cost, I’m not complaining.

One rather neat benefit is that if you happen to be using a laptop, connected to a Wifi link in a hotel or airport lounge, you can use your PC as a mobile phone and without the related costs. For me, that makes a lot of sense, calling home from hotels in the middle-east where the termination costs on my mobile phone can be outrageous.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Albion Car Park Protest

Ramsgate local residents are protesting against the proposed development on Albion Hill car park.

Car park protest

Thanet Life has been told that Thanet District Council has drawn up plans and submitted them to itself in order to allow the sale and development of Albion Hill car park in the centre of Ramsgate. The car park currently provides parking for twenty cars, including two disabled spaces. As well as residents, many of the small businesses in the centre of Ramsgate make use of the car park during the day, either directly using the pay and display facility themselves, or indirectly because customers find it a very convenient location close the town centre. The history of the site is that it arose out of war time bomb damage. It lay derelict for many years until, at the request of Cllr Green it was levelled and surfaced for use as a pay-to-use car-park and was later designated to form part of the resident’s parking scheme. It attracts an income for the Council of about £12K per year.

Local objections claim that the viability of Ramsgate shopping centre depends critically on the provision of parking at a time when it is in increased competition for trade with Westwood (free parking). Parking, in this area of Ramsgate is already very difficult and the proposal will allegedly force up to a further forty cars regularly into the battle for parking places. "Removal of the car park will result in increased traffic in Abbot’s Hill as people search in the back streets for a parking place."

“More critically”, states the objection, “this proposal must increase the risk that sooner or later the Police, Fire or Ambulance services will be unable to meet an emergency as a result of poor parking.”

Supporting the action of local people, David Green writes: “The regeneration of Ramsgate is a long process and it can be quite fragile. This area of the East Cliff has much potential and given careful nurturing by the council it is easy to see it developing into a huge asset for Ramsgate and Thanet. I recently moved here and for me personally the availability of residents parking was a key consideration. Without it I probably would not have moved into the area. If Thanet Council wants to create a ghetto then this proposal is a good start. Shall we dig up the local park next?”