Silly Saturday – Sad Statues

After Nelson was toppled from his column in Trafalgar Square and dunked in the fountains, the Prime Minister announced that all statues around the kingdom would be removed and replaced by more of the ubiquitous figures of Everyman created by Antony Gormley.

Margate’s man only emerges at low tide.

Angry protestors, objecting to Gormley’s exclusive use of the male human body and also the fact he is white and has been middle aged for a good while, gathered at the foot of his Angel of the North. On arrival they called for more supporters to help pull it down as it turned out to be much bigger than it looked when they were driving along the A1.

One art enthusiast gathered to protect the great work and point out that the Angel was androgynous, a heavenly not human body and had led a blameless life, so could not offend anyone.

After a petition on 38 Degrees, parliament passed a motion that all the now empty plinths would be filled with life size replicas of the Angel of the North. Buckingham Palace released a statement saying The Queen was delighted at the prospect of seeing The Angel when she looked out of her bedroom window and retiring Queen Victoria to the back garden.

The Wonder of Wetherspoons

Christmas and Culture in Margate

We spent Christmas with Team H in Margate and as Team AK were also coming down we volunteered to stay at the Premier Inn.

Premier Inn is a British hotel chain and the UK’s largest hotel brand, with more than 72,000 rooms and 800 hotels.

On our various trips and breaks we do stay at blogworthy bed and breakfasts and hotels of character and weirdness, but Premier Inns are a good choice if the location is handy. You know what to expect; the rooms are big enough, the beds comfortable and everything is purple. The Margate Premier Inn is by the railway station, looks out to sea and the walk to the home of Team H takes us within view of many cultural landmarks.

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We have stayed a good few times and never had a room with a sea view, this time we did, but the view was blocked by the air conditioning unit on top of the Brewer’s Fayre pub and restaurant below. But the winter afternoon was drawing in and it was time to check in with the rest of the family, then back to the sea front for another family tradition – dinner at Wetherspoons.

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J D Wetherspoon plc is a pub company in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Founded in 1979 by Tim Martin, the company operates nearly 900 pubs and a growing number of Wetherspoon hotels. The company is known for converting unconventional yet attractive premises into pubs.

Another chain where you know what to expect, Tim is obviously a chap who, unlike most politicians, cottoned on to what people want. Cheap pub food, refillable coffee cups, meals served from morning till night and a relaxed place where you can take your granny or your grandchild. As you order at the bar, or with your smart phone, you can wander in and out for a handy loo visit or perhaps hang out all day. The added bonus for writers is that you can watch all sorts of people and for photographers many of the branches are in amazing buildings rescued from neglect. Another interesting fact; it is claimed that every Wetherspoon has a different pattern of carpet, inspired by the location and specially woven; you can even buy a book about them.

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The Margate Wetherspoon has just been refurbished and now boasts comfy booths where you can charge up your various electronic gadgets. The walls are adorned with framed snippets of the town’s history. It is called The Mechanical Elephant, recalling the creature that used to give rides along the promenade in the 1950’s. This little bit of history inspired my short story ‘Thanephant an Elephantasy’ which was included in Thanet Writers’ anthology ‘Shoal’.

On Christmas Eve morning it was time to return to Wetherspoons for breakfast, but first another cultural landmark. At this end of the main sands is the Victorian Nayland Rock shelter. In the late Autumn of 1921, the bank clerk poet T.S. Eliot came to Margate on doctor’s orders to convalesce. He was in a fragile state physically and mentally and took a tram to sit on the seafront every day. While looking out at the expanse of grey water, watching children playing and war veterans exercising on the beach, he drafted part of The Waste Land.

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“On Margate Sands/ I can connect/ Nothing with nothing/”
I have to confess I haven’t read The Wasteland, but I have just downloaded it onto my Kindle for 99pence.

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Margate is on the Isle of Thanet, a real island until a few hundred years ago. It is on the east coast of Kent, but actually faces north across the Thames Estuary, so the sea can be grey on a grey day. The first day trippers used to come by steamer down the Thames.
On Christmas Eve morning the sun had come out and on the beach we saw the new attraction, a recreated bathing machine; the steam arising from the roof gives a clue to its secret, it is actually a sauna. I was almost envious of the chap emerging from the sea to clamber inside.

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Near the Mechanical Elephant is Dreamland. Amusements have been on this site since 1880, it was first called Dreamland in 1920 when the Grade 2 listed Scenic Railway wooden rollercoaster was opened. After going into decline early this century and being closed down there was a public campaign to restore the park and it re-opened in June 2015.

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Dreamland’s morale has been greatly boosted by the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery in 2011, bringing a big buzz to the town. Cheap property prices and a fast train route to London have brought artists and fresh blood into the town – DFLs Down From London. The gallery is built on the spot by the harbour where the painter JMW Turner’s landlady had her boarding house.

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At the end of last year the Turner Prize took place in Margate, the four artists exhibited at the gallery and the award ceremony was held in the Hall-by-the-Sea in Dreamland. It was an unprecedented event as the prize was shared between the four artists.

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Our Christmas break finished with a family breakfast at Brewer’s Fayre. If you are staying at Premiere Inn and want breakfast this is where you go, sneaking in a secret door at the back…

Brewers Fayre is a licensed pub restaurant chain, with 161 locations across the UK, known for serving traditional British pub food and for their Sunday Carvery.

There are several advantages to be enjoyed, refillable coffee cups, up to two children under fifteen can eat for free at the breakfast buffet and there is a soft play area where your toddler can end up well beyond reach and stuck there forever unless you persuade him to come down in the slide tube. If your child is a strapping fourteen year old they will be too big for soft play, but can eat twice as much as the adults for free!

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Where do you like to stay when you are away? How many doctors these days advise their patients to go on holiday to convalesce and write?

Part of my novel ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream’ is set in Margate.

Bank Holiday Book Bonanza

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Charles Dickens and I have one thing in common, not literary success, but we have both been to Broadstairs on holiday. He enjoyed summer holidays in a house now called Bleak House, where you can still stay. My earliest holiday memory is of Broadstairs, two summers blended into one set of memories. There was only me at the time and Mum and Dad did not attempt to stay in a hotel again.

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On one occasion I opened the wrong door, to be confronted with a lady wearing black underwear, I had never seen such an outfit. With brilliant insight she said ‘Are you looking for your Mummy and Daddy?’

The hotel boasted child minding, so one evening Mum and Dad left me; probably only for a little cliff top stroll, I’m sure they did not spend all night in the pub, but whatever the supervisory arrangements were, I had enough time to take our clothes out of the suitcase and wash them in the large washbasin in our room – this was in the days before everyone expected en suite facilities.

Apparently I never wanted to leave the beach, drawn to the sea already, and had to be dragged off screaming or bribed with a ride on the ‘Peter Pan Railway’.

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Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate are all part of The Isle of Thanet, the easternmost part of Kent; an island formed about five thousand years ago and always a busy place, Stone Age, Bronze Age communities and then The Romans. The last ship sailed through the Wantsum Channel in 1672 and over the decades it narrowed, it is many years since Thanet was an island.

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The next time I visited the Isle of Thanet was when we took our toddler, in the days when we wondered how anyone coped with more than one child on outings, on a British Rail Awayaday to Margate. It was a sunny day, but fog descended halfway down the line and never lifted. We sat on the beach, but never actually saw Margate.

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When a branch of the family moved to Margate in 2015 we returned in sunshine; a great chance for Tidalscribe the beachwriter to explore more of the British coast. We were soon sitting in the cafe of Turner Contemporary Gallery, which had opened only four years previously, looking out over the sunny harbour. As well as being famous for Tracy Emin, Margate also claims the painter JMW Turner.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/mr-turner-exploring-margate-and-tracing-the-inspiration-behind-mike-leighs-latest-film-9823823.html

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May Bank Holiday Monday brought hot weather and hordes of visitors streaming out of the railway station. The Turner Gallery was gleaming white in the sun and as part of the Margate Bookie there was a book launch. Once again Dickens and I have something in common, we both have short stories in a new anthology. Shoal is a venture by Thanet Writers.

Writing is a solitary occupation; most of us are energised by meeting up with other writers in local groups or on line. To speak in public and read out your work is another skill very different from writing. Gathering people together, setting up a website, publishing and creating a book requires plenty of enthusiasm and yet another set of skills.

The launch of the anthology was very well attended and presented and the book is a delight. A varied selection, from the brief and poignant ‘The Pigeons’ to ‘Life and Times of a Zombie.’  There are flamingos in Pegwell Bay, an unhappy wife a hundred years ago and a fairy tale so much darker than Disney.

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https://thanetwriters.com/

Spend a day in Margate at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/