Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Roadworks update....

A little birdie has told Tonbridgeblog that the High Street won't now be fully "regenerated" until at least the end of May. So I calculate that it'll be seven, perhaps even eight months since they started by the time the diggers finally go away. Is this acceptable? What can we do about it? Will the Highways authorities, and the borough council be coughing up to compensate the shop keepers who've been effected by this shambles? Yeah, good luck with that one! You can't help thinking that, if this had been a busy street in London, they'd have got the job done inside a week or two by employing an army of road workers and working around the clock....

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

New newspaper for Tonbridge. What do we think??..

I see Tonbridge finally has a new newspaper. The Courier probably had it coming to them as they seem more and more Tunbridge Wells centric since they quit their Tonbridge offices a few years back. Difficult to keep an ear to the ground from five miles away! Anyway up steps the Times of Tonbridge, a new free weekly to give them a run for their money. Personally I doubt whether a freebie will ever take over from a paid for due to the psychology involved: if you pay for something you are going to read it whereas a freebie is likely to be glanced at and then cast aside much more quickly. That said let's see what happens. The first issue looks quite fresh and bright, it's also noticeably wider than most tabloids, including the Courier. Maybe they did that to differentiate the two but it does seem oddly wide in your hands. There's a tendency with freebie papers to cram the publication full of advertisements, advertorials and sponsorships and this one seems to be no exception. Always difficult to take a paper seriously when the whole back page is an advertisement (in this case for some up-market bedroom furniture company.) Everyone expects the sports news to be there but there isn't any. The newspaper group already publishes the Times of Tunbridge Wells, presumably successfully enough to enable them to launch the Tonbridge edition so they should know what they're doing. However, being based down the road in our sister town, will they be able to devote enough resources to make our edition any less Wells focussed than the Courier? Again, on the evidence of the first issue at least, it looks highly unlikely that they will. But, who knows? Time, or should that be Times,  will tell! It's a bold move launching any in-print newspaper or magazine at the moment what with the current mad dash for digital media and the cost savings therein, so good luck to them. Judging by the first issue though I'd say that the executives over at the Kent and Sussex Courier, with the resources of Northcliffe Newspapers behind them, won't be quaking in their boots just yet....

P'd Off with the P Off again....

The Post Office are at it again. No amount of customer friendly counter can prepare you for the outrage of being charged over ten quid for 0.087 of a kg of parcel. That's 87 grams I'm talking about. How is this possible? I can sense some of you thinking. Well here's how. A UK parcel weighing up to 2kg costs a very reasonable £2.80 BUT my package was 2.087 kg (a heavy book) with the cheapest charge being £12.93 for Parcelforce. Normal 2nd class would have been even more! You would think for all the world that the PO would have another tiered rate for, say 3kg/4kg etc. but that seems far too logical for them. The result I had no option but to cough up (short of opening up the envelope and tearing out some of the pages of the book to get it below the dreaded 2kg mark. But even my mercenary tendencies wouldn't go quite that far!) Mind you, looking on the bright side, £12.93 is still cheaper than taking the parcel up to Warwickshire myself! Unless I walked or cycled there of course, which might still be quicker than Parcelforce come to think of it!! (Now you've just gone too far with that last bit, Ed.)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Bakehouse at 124: £2.30? For a Pain au Chocolat. How can they justify that?...

A few mornings a week I tend to grab a free coffee from Waitrose on my way in to Mr. Books. Sometimes I also grab a sandwich for later and very occasionally a pastry for breakfast if I didn't have time at home. Today though, although I'd had no breakfast, I thought I'd give The Bakehouse at 124 a go. After all we are neighbours in the Tonbridge Business community so why not. Being honest, and being a bit of a skinflint, I do find their prices a little off putting. £2.30 for a pain au chocolat against 85p in Waitrose seems a little on the steep side. Nevertheless I thought I'd treat myself to a fresh baked one from a local bakery. When I'd finally set up the books outside my shop and turned the computer on ready to start the day I could finally settle down to eat my breakfast which was sitting on my desk enticing me by this time. What happened next I'm not making up.

After two or three mouthfuls I realised that by comparing a Waitrose pain au chocolat with the Bakehouse one was like trying to compare a burger from McDonalds with one made my Jamie Oliver. The difference between driving a Ford Focus on the M25 with the experience of driving a  Ferrari Testarossa into Monte Carlo! With every bite I was transported back to a holiday in France as a twenty year old with my girlfriend (now wife I hasten to add) sitting in a water front café in St. Malo, watching the waves lap up to the harbour walls. Every mouthful a buttery, sweet, chocolaty delight to my youthful taste buds. Tasting breakfast properly for the first time in my life. Bakehouse at 124 this morning helped me to relive those moments.
Now, if that's not worth £2.30 I don't know what is!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Tonbridge High Street Regeneration update....

To paraphrase Winston Churchill: Never have so many done so little for so few!...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Do it yourself....

B&Q is closing down. It's official. The huge advertising van parked outside Mr. Books as I type gives this away. "Everything must go!" That chilling phrase which means we must all rush down there for those massive bargains. I don't know: a drill with an old style battery for a tenner? A split open bag of nails for 3 pence? Some plastic stacking for the garage storage you've put off for the last seven years? The possibilities are endless! Does any one actually have the time for DIY any more? I tend to call a handy man these days otherwise I just never get around to it. Mind you have you tried pinning down a tradesman (not literally you understand) these days? You'd almost be better off, well, doing it yourself!

Poetry at the Fire Station...

Tickets for Roundel Poetry Night at the Old Fire Station in Castle Street on Wedns March 16th are now on sale at Mr. Books, 142 High Street, Tonbridge.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Don't panic! Girl who told lies burns to death! Poetry night at the Old Fire Station

Pop up restaurants, celebrity chefs, beer cafes, pop up car showroom and now this. Here's a poem I should read out at the event which is to be held at the Old Fire Station on March 16th 7-30. Limited to about 50 tickets so hurry this always sells out.

Matilda Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death

Matilda told such Dreadful Lies,
It made one Gasp and Stretch one's Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth,
Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
Attempted to Believe Matilda:
The effort very nearly killed her,
And would have done so, had not She
Discovered this Infirmity.
For once, towards the Close of Day,
Matilda, growing tired of play,
And finding she was left alone,
Went tiptoe to the Telephone
And summoned the Immediate Aid
Of London's Noble Fire-Brigade.
Within an hour the Gallant Band
Were pouring in on every hand,
From Putney, Hackney Downs, and Bow.
With Courage high and Hearts a-glow,
They galloped, roaring through the Town,
'Matilda's House is Burning Down!'
Inspired by British Cheers and Loud
Proceeding from the Frenzied Crowd,
They ran their ladders through a score
Of windows on the Ball Room Floor;
And took Peculiar Pains to Souse
The Pictures up and down the House,
Until Matilda's Aunt succeeded
In showing them they were not needed;
And even then she had to pay
To get the Men to go away,     
It happened that a few Weeks later
Her Aunt was off to the Theatre
To see that Interesting Play
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray.
She had refused to take her Niece
To hear this Entertaining Piece:
A Deprivation Just and Wise
To Punish her for Telling Lies.
That Night a Fire did break out--
You should have heard Matilda Shout!
You should have heard her Scream and Bawl,
And throw the window up and call
To People passing in the Street--
(The rapidly increasing Heat
Encouraging her to obtain
Their confidence) -- but all in vain!
For every time she shouted 'Fire!'
They only answered 'Little Liar!'
And therefore when her Aunt returned,
Matilda, and the House, were Burned.

Are we all doomed? Don't Panic!

This is the third flood warning that I've seen this winter and I'm going to look pretty foolish if villages are effected like they were two years ago. Surely though this is just the Environment Agency playing safe after they (allegedly) cocked it up at Christmas Eve 2013. So are they right to issue these warnings or is it alarmist, scare mongering even, unless it's a real danger of serious damage to the towns and villages?? Here's the official warning from the EA which came to me via a Tonbridge Civic Society bulletin:

A Flood Alert has been issued by the Environment Agency for the Middle River Medway Area. 

Flooding is possible for the The River Medway from Penshurst to Hampstead Lock at Yalding, including the Leigh Barrier Flood Storage Reservoir, the Ensfield Road, Tonbridge, Paddock Wood, the Hop Farm, East Peckham, Branbridges and Hale Street  . 

Low lying land and roads will be affected first.

Be prepared to protect yourself, family, pets and property.

No flood warnings are currently in force

Heavy rain overnight and through the day has led to high levels on the upper Medway. Outflows from the Leigh flood storage area will peak between ten pm and 4am on Thursday morning. We will not need to use the flood storage area as no properties are at risk of flooding and flows are not high enough.

Around East Peckham and Yalding the river levels have been dropped for routine inspections so will have appeared to have been very low recently.

We continue to monitor the situation and will update messages as required. The current forecast is for light showers which will be followed by more persistent rain on Saturday

- Prepare a flood kit including a torch, batteries, mobile phone, warm clothes, water, food and any prescription medicines you may need.

- Avoid walking, cycling or driving through flood water.

- Farmers should consider moving livestock and equipment away from areas likely to flood.

- Keep an eye on local water levels and weather conditions.  Visit the Environment Agency website for river level and flooding information.

- Call Floodline on 0345 988 1188 using quickdial 012641 for up-to-date flooding information.


Environment Agency
Kent and South London Flood Resilience Team
Orchard House, Endeavour Park, Addington
Kent, ME19 5SH
Telephone Floodline on: 0345 988 1188

Friday, January 8, 2016


Well, it's that time of year when all the newspapers talk about how few calories we should all be consuming, or how many miles we should be walking, cycling and running. Time to join a step/spin/aqua aerobics class perhaps? The latest thing to hit the headlines is a little old hat but here goes: we shouldn't be drinking any alcohol at all if we know what's good for us. The trouble is I'm not sure that anyone does know what's good for us; so mixed are the recommendations from the various health organisations. Half a pint of Guinness a day used to be good for boosting your iron deficiencies when pregnant so it was claimed (probably by Guinness!) Then it was a well known fact that a glass of red wine was good for the heart and circulation. Until this week that is. Now it's being claimed that this was, after all, an old wives' tale and that it's now true that the only good alcohol is in fact NO ALCOHOL. So what are we to believe. 14 units a week, a day? Save them all up across the year and blow them all on New Years Eve?! It's such a mess all this Nannystatism that no one knows whether to eat a Mars Bar, followed by a bacon sandwich a day or just munch on a raw onion. Nothing a day equals certain death within a few weeks so I'm sticking with good old common sense, whatever that is!
All this brain ache and a bout of this winter virus which has been going around (probably as a result of mild weather, wet weather, cold weather, too many late nights or too much bacon) is enough to make me want to break open that Christmas bottle of malt whiskey which, up to now, I've been too frightened to touch....

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

And here's a much older pic of Tonbridge. Circa 1260 AD

A bit of Tonbridge History in photos...

This is well worth a look. It's not often that you see photos from the 1960s of the High Street but here you'll be able to see many of the shops which older folk will no doubt reminisce over. Who remembers Macfisheries where Peacocks is now? Why were there so many Wool shops? There's a Singer sowing machine shop and you can see the demolished areas where there used to be The Angel Hotel and the Tudor Houses up to the river near the Chequers Inn. A gentleman by the name of Bill Warner has given the Tonbridge Historical Society access to some of the hundreds of photos he took during the 1960s and 70s and the result is an wonderful new archive which the whole town can now share. Take a look for yourselves. Comments welcome as always....

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More on Grammar skool anexations....

Charles Moore of the Telegraph has been listening in on the conversation of Tonbridge school children. Maybe I should explain that comment before his lawyers contact me! He says as much in his most recent comment piece in the paper. Actually he was extremely positive about the level of discussion coming out of the (often loud) mouths of the school children of our town. Charles lives in East Sussex and, so he says, is a regular commuter through Tonbridge but he's actually using the daily scene of the mele of school boys and girls as a lead in to the real point he makes which is that he thinks that the growth of grammar schools should be encouraged. He goes on to say in his column that we should be celebrating inequalities rather than trying to equalize everything in our society and particularly in education. Some may not be at all that surprised by Mr. Moore's point of view given that he is Margaret Thatcher's official biographer, chosen by the lady herself no less, but I happen to think that he maybe has a point. At least grammar schools give less well off children a good fighting chance of becoming upwardly mobile. Unless all grammars and all private schools countrywide were to be abolished, which is highly unlikely in the next hundred years, we will go on having unequal opportunity; so why fight that fact by trying to impose idealistic principles in education policy? Which just makes all this business with Weald of Kent School having to call the recently approved new Sevenoaks grammar school an "annexe" rather absurd. Let there be more grammars in all counties and not just in Kent and a few others. So long as comprehensives maintain their own standards where the harm in it?...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tonbridge Mayor dresses up as Fireman Owen!...

There are some fab piccies of the Old Fire Station launch party on the Kent Messenger web site accompanying their feature in this week's paper. Have a butchers

New Grama Skool....

Great news about the Weald of Kent "annex" in Sevenoaks which now means that our neighbouring town gets its own state grammar school as has been widely reported in the national press today. This should mean that hundreds or school kids from Sevenoaks don't have to trek to Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells every day which can be a 25 mile round trip. That's a lot of wasted time and a lot of extra traffic on the clogged up roads. It's also great news for the primary school children of Tonbridge who also might just stand a better chance of gaining a place at a grammar school in their home town, as it should be. So why are many dead against the concept of new grammars when anyone can see the benefits when they are closely effected by it? Something to do with equal education for all perhaps. Fabulous idea, lift everyone up to the same standard and all that. Does it work in practice though? I would suggest that it doesn't; at least not unless there's a complete change of ideology at Government level. I believe that some Scandinavian, for example, countries have achieved this. Anyone have a view they'd like to share on this topic?...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Update on Old Fire Station Launch....

Mr. Books alter ego?
Fuggles are in town for a week or two. Apparently I had quite a good time at the launch party held last week at the first of the pop ups at the Old Fire Station! I can highly recommend The Kernel, a wickedly deceptive light tasting beer which is actually 6.8% abv so I'd drink it by the half pint if I were you. If malt whiskey is your thing they do have a nice range of malts including this one, The Classic Laddie, which I thought particularly suited my mood that night! Fuggles also brought along their delicious range from Chapel Down vinyards, as enjoyed by Kate and Wills at the royal wedding breakfast so it was reported. You can read much more about it in the Tonbridge Town Crier on the My Shout page. In the meantime Fuggles will be there this week from Thursday to Saturday from 4pm till late.... 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Town Centre "Regeneration" Update....

How's that regeneration of the High Street coming on? Tonbridge blog has only heard people moaning on about how inconvenient it is having to drive around the back on the town centre or how much trade they're losing as a result. So it would be nice to hear if anyone approves of them or thinks that the upheaval will be worth it. Comments please....

Slade Primary's new building....

Drawbridge to Main entrance!

Wearing the Slade badge with pride!
Anyone seen what's been going on at Slade School? The picture shows their magnificent new building which was a semi derelict old building right next door which the school bought so that they could expand and modernise. And what a great job they've done with it. Now they have state of the art classrooms for the Year 5 and Y6 boys and girls which they can be right proud of. Having had a tour round them, courtesy of Head Teacher Mrs. Vivienne Resch, I can tell you first hand that they quite superb. They just need someone famous, maybe even local and famous, to come and officially open it for them. Ideas anyone??
State of the art classrooms
A window on the world for the children?
(Photos by Izzy R)

Old Fire Station....

Camera shy new owner Richard Collins
Anyone seen what's been happening at the Old Fire Station in Castle Street, Tonbridge? Watch out for pop up restaurants, shops, bars etc.In fact I'm toddling off to the press launch this very afternoon to find out more. What I'm really interested in of course though is the free food and champagne!!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Shop closures in Tonbridge....

We've all read about Perfect Platters closing down after about ten years trading super size sandwiches next to the Police Station, and the shop unit, which was formerly the insurance brokers, has lay vacant for quite some time; but I'm also hearing other bad news for the South end of town. A reliable source tells me that Graham's hairdressers is about to shut it's doors for the last time, the guitar shop is thinking the same way and even the cop shop itself is rumoured to be closing in about three years time. Don't arrest me for suggesting the last one but that's what Tonbridgeblog has heard on the grapevine. How it would be possible to effectively police the town without a proper station is beyond me. Mind you they already close at 8pm for the evening which also defies all logic to me so I suppose illogical decisions happen all the time. Perhaps the police chiefs in their ivory towers have worked out a way of keeping all crime in the daytime by asking burglars to politely refrain from their activities after dark! I digress, because we were talking about shop closures weren't we.
On top of the recent closure of Homebase, I also hear that B&Q are closing soon enough. Now you'd think that, in the absence of the local completion, the DIY chain'd be raking it in (no pun intended!) but apparently not. By all accounts the store is screwed! (Pun definitely intended!) Even Halfords, it is rumoured, are also considering wheeling away from our fair town. I for one will be devastated if this happens as I am a frequent visitor to the bike hut there and find the staff incredibly helpful on all matters bikey. On the bright side though we are getting a drive through McDonalds so we can all console ourselves by sitting on our backsides in the Drive Thru and going large!

Friday, August 21, 2015

"Regeneration" of Tonbridge High Street....

Now that Tonbridge High Street is being ripped apart has anyone changed their views on the pavement widening/"regeneration" scheme. I just hope the results are worth all this turmoil. But what does everyone else think?? Did the town centre even need "regenerating?"

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Coming for to Carry me Home the SIBA Beer Festival....

It's very unusual for me these days but this morning I am feeling somewhat hung over. For last night I had to taste around twenty different beers. All in the name of science you understand! At the SIBA South East Beer Festival there were actually around 150 real ales and ciders, from more than fifty breweries, to choose from. So you could even argue that I was a little reserved in only trying twenty! The event is still going on as I write so there's still time for you ale fans out there to get round to the rugby club on The Slade. Leave the car at home because you will be tempted to try out lots of different beers and some are wickedly moreish and a bit on the strong side. Last night there were at least a couple of hundred people (mostly men it has to be said) in and spilling out of a large marquee about fifty yards long and lined with barrels, three deep. The organisation of this festival seems to get better every year. One of the Tonbridge Juddians, who run the bar, advised that I only try about six tasters before deciding which one to commit to and supp. I'm afraid that I didn't take heed of this advice but elected instead to try as many as I fancied before eventually saying enough! These were my faves:

Top of the list has to be Flack Manor Brewery's Flack Catcher which is described in the blurb as golden ale, honey citrus aroma, zesty marmalade taste. That about sums it up for you did get a tang of all of those flavours. Absolute nectar I'd say.

Others were Hedge Hop by Flack Manor again, Plateau by Burning Sky Brewery; Thirty Three by Brighton Bier; N7 and N1 were proving very popular from Hammerton Brewery. So much so that the N1 ran out. Hopdaemon always manage to impress and this year I enjoyed a taste of Golden Braid and Incubus. Our very own Tonbridge Brewery again pulled off a beaut with Union Pale, somewhat stronger than the ones I usually favour but this was really lovely in all its golden, grapefruity, biscuitiness.

I love some of the cheeky and macho names of these ales like Hopspur, Naked Ladies and Iron Duke but was surprised to see that there aren't many real rugger bugger type ones. So I've suggested a few of my own. I've already applied for the trade marks so no copy cats please!

Sweet Chariot should be one for definite; then there could be Zulu Warrior and of course the stronger version Zulu Chief and then the most potent of all Carry Me Home!...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Say OXI to Gatwick expansion!

It was interesting reading some of the letters in last weekend's Courier newspaper about the opposition to expansion of Gatwick Airport. I for one have definitely noticed that the air traffic seems to have increased considerably over Tonbridge in recent years. As I lay in bed last night about 11-30, an early night for me, I heard at least six aircraft fly over low enough to be a sound nuisance by any sensible measure. Could this have been that they were all stacking up to get in before a midnight curfew? Possibly. But the fact remains that it has become a problem for the area.
The loudest voices in the local paper last week were those who lived in villages such as Hever who have, according to them, had more than their fair share due to the narrowing of the flight paths being a condition of the proposed second run way (still a strong possibility by all accounts, despite the knock back that Gatwick had with last week's decision.) This operational strategy seems sensible at first glance but not so much if you happen to be one of those houses right on the narrow flight path. For them I can only imagine it to be a bit of a nightmare and that's putting it mildly. Say you'd bought a dream house in the country 30 years ago and now you can't sit in your garden for more than four minutes without another super sonic jet coming in low for its landing approach. Not much fun and who'd want to buy that house when the time comes to sell up? So it's already a big problem for many and it effects the rest of us greatly as well. If the expansion goes ahead we might as well all move to Crawley! Actually Oxi to that, thanks.
One more thing as well. I do still have one burning question which must be resolved quickly: How the heck do you pronounce Oxi anyway?!

Comments please.....

What's happening in Tonbridge?

Well the Carnival went well enough. No pictures this year but if you scroll down for previous years they'll be much the same! Anyway, lots happening in Tonbridge at the moment. Summer has acumen in as they nearly say. I'm twittering/tweeting a fair bit and leaving posts on various newspaper web sites and still writing the My Shout page in the Tonbridge Town Crier magazine but, I do admit, I've ran out of steam a bit on this blog. Perhaps I need a holiday in Cornwall (other counties and countries are available) to recharge me batteries.
The window displays at Mr. Books continue to be praised by many passers by. We have a Teddy Bears picnic and summer garden scene at the moment if you haven't seen it. The Tonbridge Through Ten Centuries book continues to sell well and has been a great stimulus to trade in general for the shop. I wish the Historical Society would bring one out every month and then I wouldn't have to do anything else. 600 sold to date by Mr. Books and about 1,500 sold in total at the last count. At a tenner a pop, as the Americans say, you do the math!
I've been keeping fit largely by cycling and have been rediscovering the beautiful Kent countryside hereabouts. I even managed to cycle up Toys Hill a couple of weeks back. Okay it's not quite the Alps but have a go and you'll soon find out how your lungs are tightened.
Our new MP, Mr Tugenhat, almost unprompted, has offered to come to the shop for a brief visit and photo session which can only help business, unless of course you happen to be a Labour or Liberal supporter and the it might put you off. I'm happy to be a Tory supporter even if it's only for about ten minutes! He seems like a nice clean cut sort of chap, in fact I quite like the cut of his jib, and after all he does represent all of us including those in Tonbridge who didn't vote for him.
Always happy to hear views and comments especially from new readers....

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Join the Carnival....

It's back and bigger than ever. It's the Tonbridge Carnival this Sunday 12-30 onwards...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tonbridge Half Marathon

I took part in this four years ago when it first started. Trained from being able to do the odd gentle jog to regular 8 miler training runs and then the event itself. Takes alot of effort and dedication to do it properly. But I'm nearly 15 stones. Hard to believe seeing me yes I know! If you need a summer fitness challenge, a goal to aim for this could be just the right timing. Give it a try it'll give you a new lease of life (if it doesn't kill you first that is!) Here's the circular I've just received promoting this year's Half marathon

Tonbridge Lions Club and Tonbridge Rotary Club are staging the 5th Tonbridge Half Marathon at the fantastic West Kent College. In addition to some of the best facilities of any half marathon in the country, a finishers medal and a goody bag, runners will also receive a technical t-shirt – all this and the price is UNCHANGED from last year – only £20 or £18 if you are an affiliated runner!! AMAZING!

The undulating course is on traffic-free lanes through beautiful countryside around Tonbridge and Leigh. Last year the event raised over £16,000 for the charities we supported and the runners themselves raised an estimated £50,000 in sponsorship for more than 45 of their own charities.

You can enter online via our website. If you have any queries, please contact me on

Join us this year and help to make it an even more successful event.
If you’ve already entered, please spread the word and encourage others to enter.

Good luck with your training.


I was thinking of going to the farmers market last weekend but I couldn't be bothered. Thought I might try that new Bakehouse at 124 High St. it sells artisan bread and does nice coffee and tea so I'm told. But you know what I couldn't be bothered. Its the Slade School summer fete next Saturday I think. Might go along if I can be bothered. Might go to browse a bookshop or two one lunch time but it's alot of effort to be bothered. There's that play on at the Oast Theatre, been meaning to go out to see more live entertainment, have a few laughs. Can I be bothered though? Was going to write a letter to the local paper because it annoys me seeing all those Kent Highways department signs in the High Street, you know the ones where they keep congratulating themselves for laying down new tarmac on the roads, so basically doing their jobs then. Might not bother though as I don't want to make a fuss.

People of Tonbridge. BE BOVVERRED

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Post your summer events below...

What other events can we look forward to this summer? Slade School's summer fete is always one not to miss in the centre of town. Then there's the Tonbridge Summer carnival and festival, Dragon boats I'm told will be back complete with music from Haiwai 5-0 (Why??!) I think the SIBA Beer and Cider Festival will be coming back again in July. There's another weekend of musical delights at the Castle and there's sure to be lots more. Post them below....

Bakehouse @ 124 opening tonight....

There's a new café and artisan bakery (what's one of them? Ed.) called, quite appropriately, The Bakehouse at 124, which is at 124 High Street, opening in Tonbridge tonight and I'm invited to the grand opening. You know how it is, me, the Mayor of Tonbridge, the new MP, Tom to his mates, and a few other select folk from the glitter and literati of the town. All of us tucking in to that lovely fluffy bread and hopefully necking one or two glasses of fizz. I don't want to sound ungrateful but I do hope that there are at least some tasty canapés being handed out as well. A man cannot live on bread and wine alone you know! Mind you they better get a move on as the new café still looked half finished when I looked in earlier this week. I think there will have been a flurry of activity this week to get it ready for tonight. It'll be a bit like one of those DIY programs where Handy Andy and his team work like crazy to some appropriately fast tempo music and put up the final shelf at exactly the moment the Mayor walks in!  Good luck to them because it's gonna be tough going in this big bad world of retail you're letting yourselves in for...

What not to wear at the school prom!

I just posted this about dress codes at school proms after having read this article in the Telegraph about a Canadian girl being given detention for wearing an "inappropriate" dress, which was full length but showed off her upper arms, back and shoulders (and tattoo.) As the school prom season is upon us in Tonbridge I thought that I'd share my comment. I'm sure it may provoke some similar and totally opposite views from some of you:

This is what I wrote:
"If the dress codes are anything like as stringent as they are at my daughter's school then surely going to the prom and other events is a chance to let rip. I do wish schools would butt out, to use a great Americanism, when it comes to what especially the over 16s can wear in or out of school. Someone's idea of "appropriate" is always wildly different from someone else's. So let the young adults, for that's what they are, decide for themselves. Teenagers have, and always will, want to shock us boring grown ups and long let it be so!..."

Saturday, May 9, 2015

More people didn't vote Conservative than voted for them in Tonbridge and Malling....

So our new MP, Tom Tugenhat, as expected, comfortably took the seat of Tonbridge and Malling which also, btw, includes Edenbridge, where, incidentally, I used to play golf when I first moved to this area. But that's by the by! His victory was pretty emphatic which sort of half rhymes with Tugenhatic, which is also by the by.
Enough of this nonsense and let's analyse those figures in a little more detail shall we. His party, The Conservatives, polled 31,887 which was 59.1% of the votes. The other parties, between them, polled less than that at 21,783 or 40.6% of the vote. So that's pretty emphatic isn't it? But what about the ones who didn't vote? These will be a mixture young people who didn't register to vote in time, people who couldn't make it to the polling station and, of course, people who just couldn't be bothered, a whole host of reasons. The turn out was 73.8% which is generally considered high. That said in the recent Scottish Independence referendum the turn out was about 95% so, you see, it is possible for more people to vote when they really feel it counts. Maybe Russell Brand had a point afterall! So, taking the ones eligible to vote who didn't bother into account the picture looks different again. The 24.2% of voters who didn't exercise their democratic right for whatever reason represent 12,988 people. Are you keeping up with me? So if we add those to the non-Tory voters that's actually 34,771 people. So, in fact, more people who were eligible to vote didn't vote for Mr. Tugenhat than voted for him and he needs to remember that.
I'm now off to munch, a cry into, my tripe and black pudding sandwiches again!...

Tom Tugenhat's web site....

Here's a link to our new MP for Tonbridge, Malling and, let's not forget, Edenbridge ,Tom Tugenhat's web site. Let's hope he carries out what he said he would do. We're all counting on you mate whether or not we voted for you. Tom's web site

Friday, May 8, 2015

2015 Election results for Tonbridge

That's a huge majority of 23,734 from the next nearest candidate and Labour did even worse. The lib Dems? Let's not even go there. Blimey though what a turn up for the books the whole thing was. People have been telling me this morning how they've been predicting the whole thing. Funny how no one mentioned it before and that they could see into the future better than the professional opinion pollsters isn't it!
Feeling like a disenfranchised northerner marooned in the leafy south east, I guess I'll toddle off home any minute for me tea of tripe and black pudding sandwiches! If the Missus is home we might watch a bit of telly if we've enough money for the lecky meter. Here's the result in full:

Tonbridge and Malling

  • Tom Tugendhat (Con) 31,887
  • Rob Izzard (Ukip) 8,153
  • Claire Leigh (Lab) 7,604
  • Mary Varrall (Lib Dem) 3,660
  • Howard Porter (Green) 2,366

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A spot of twitching and a pint....

Here's a post which might appeal to a certain regular commenter on this blog. Lovely summer's evening last night so my wife and I went out for a drive out to Bough Beech Reservoir. There's a "hide" there where you can view Herons, Coot's, ducks, geese, Kingfishers. If you've never been I'd recommend a trip and, particularly, at sunset. Very peaceful. Obviously that's not the bit which might appeal to the regular, let's just call him PB. We then drove on to a place which I would never have known was there called The Greyhound, at Charcot, which is a curious little hamlet, set back off the main road, near Chiddingstone Causeway. The pub, and I think the rest of the village, had a power cut and it was starting to get dark so we sat outside on a rickety wooden picnic bench at the front. Fortunately the pumps weren't effected by the cut so I sampled the Tonbridge Brewery Coppernob which was very welcome and perfectly passable to my untrained palate. The landlord seemed quite a friendly host and we noticed that there was a reasonably priced menu so we could well go back. I'd heard that the Fleur de Lis at Leigh had been recently refurbished, and it was on our way back home, so it seemed natural to go there for another half pint (I'm driving remember.) Turns out that it's a Greene King pub so the beer selection was quite limited but decent enough. The Landlady allowed us to sample the beers before committing to our choice of Golden Speckled Hen which to me also seemed perfectly passable. They were serving food and the menu didn't look half bad. The interior décor was a little too squeaky clean for my tastes but my wife loved it and it was clear that they'd spent a pretty penny on the place. We were told that the exterior has been promised an upgrade also to make it look more appealing. We'll definitely be back there as this looks like the hosts really mean business and want the place to succeed. It's an easy bike ride to Leigh and not that far to walk from Tonbridge which always helps if you fancy more than one drink. We'll be experimenting with other establishments over the summer so watch this space and, landlords I cannot be bribed by free pints and meals into writing good things about your boozers. Not a chance. Homemade cheeseburger, chips and sticky toffee pudding, three pints of Coppernob and a small Glenmorangie chaser? That'll do nicely!...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Make your mind up time....

Made your mind up on who to vote for in the general election yet? The 2015 election is tipped to be one of the closest fought ever and this particular floating voter is yet to make up his mind. Even five years ago Sir John Stanley's replacement, Tom Tugenhat, would have been a shoe-in as the Tory candidate. But are things so certain any more? Only today it's been reported that a UKIP supporter has donated £30,000 to help the local candidate in a rather bizarre revenge swipe (something to do with Tom T's father, who is a High Court judge, passing judgement on the businessman over some middle east deal.) The details aren't that important as much as the way the election, even for Tonbridge and Malling constituency, cannot be taken for granted. Five years ago the Conservative vote was way out in front of Liberal Democrats in second place and, in third Labour. That order at least is likely to be dramatically changed this time around. Will UKIP maybe even split the Tory vote and allow a more even contest? Does any of it matter? Did you know that Joey Essex, of TOWIE fame, thought that Nick Clegg's party was called the Liberal DemoCATS not crats! I wish I was joking but it does at least demonstrate how disengaged from politics particularly younger people are. It's less than a month away so let's hear some comments unless of course you think politics as a subject should be avoided along with religion....

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Developments, new MP and birthdays....

Yes I know nothing new is going on this blog very often these days. Is it inertia? Lack of interest, fewer comments indicating that readers are more interested in twitter, facebook, snapchat and, for all I know tinder and grinder (not that I have a clue what they all are) I have to feel motivated enough by a topic to get the urge to write about it and at the moment that's for sure. The big story of the moment is still, without doubt, the success of the new Tonbridge Through Ten Centuries History book. It's about to be reprinted because of its huge success; the first print run of 1,000 having sold out within the first month since publication. Mr. Books alone has sold around 250 in that time. There are of course many developments being built or at the planning stage such as the one next to Waitrose and the Cannon Lane waterside one. I heard a rumour only yesterday that the River Centre is to be pulled down and another development is to be put up there. There's also the huge housing development on the old Siemens site near the Porsche dealership. Oh, and apparently there's a general election coming up so Tonbridge is to have a new MP after the retirement of Sir John after 41 years of serving the town.

PS. As some of you may have read in the Courier, Mr. Books shop was 10 last week and here's a picture to prove it!
Cake to celebrate Mr. Books 10th Birthday now part of window display
supplied by An Enchanted Cake of Two, Barden Rd.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What's new in Tonbridge?

Topics for discussion:

New Tonbridge History book. The Historical Soc have pulled off a blinder!

Candy Inc sweet shop opened next to McDonalds. Good thing?

Café in old Moss Bros clothing shop next to Chequers Inn about to open. Good for North end of town?

The Town Team are in the news a lot with their loyalty scheme and views about the developments in the town. But do they speak for us all?

Millets probably relocating to card shop premises on corner of arcade. Thought they were closing altogether which would've been a shame or maybe an opportunity for some entrepreneur, whichever way you look at it.

Roundel Poetry night at Rose and Crown sells out again which says a lot about the power of poems. Or does it?

I've got a new bike and have discovered places around and about that I never knew existed....

Like I said. Discuss....

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tonbridge Through Ten Centuries frenzy!...

Okay, maybe frenzy is a bit of an exaggeration but the take up of this superb new history book on the town, Tonbridge Through Ten Centuries, has been quite amazing. To date my little bookshop has sold over 120 copies in just over a week which, in local book sales terms is like the new Apple i-pad air launch! Some people have been ordering 3 or 4 copies to give as family presents. The Tonbridge Historical Society has done a great job in compiling this comprehensive history of our town from the Anglo Saxons onwards, right through to post war and modern day. In fact my favourite chapter is the first one which goes even further back than that. Albeit in brief, it covers the previous ten thousand years. So I for one am looking forward to the sequel: Tonbridge Through Ten Millennia! Better start working on that one now guys! To buy a copy come to Mr. Books at 142 High Street or, if you're a long way from your spiritual Tonbridge home you can order one on the phone or online. It's only £9.50 which is massively under priced. It would still have been excellent value at £15 in my humble opinion....
Buy a copy at Mr. Books priced £9.50

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Copy Magna Carta shows up in Maidstone....

Ever since starting in the book trade over ten years ago I've dreamt of someone bringing in either a first folio of Shakespeare's Works or a copy of the Magna Carta. The dream is kept alive from time to time when I read about important works being unearthed in cupboards or in someone's attic. Only last week Maidstone county archives unearthed a copy of the 1300 edition of Magna Carta, belonging to Sandwich borough council, which was long forgotten, buried deep in a scrap book along with some other ancient documents. It is incredible that these treasures are still out there and I wait in the hope that one will turn up for me to at least see in the flesh, if not own. Read about the find here

Friday, February 13, 2015

Go to Tonbridge Library to see what they're planning for Tonbridge Town Centre....

TonbridgeBlog is keen to hear people's views on the latest proposed High Street Regeneration scheme as reported in the Courier today. I've yet to see the plans so I'll reserve judgement for now. Surely spending £2.62 million on the town centre can only be a good thing can't it? Or have we seen councils squander this kind of dough in the blink of an eye before and been left with very little to show for it? In this case it seems to be a joint project between Kent County Council, who are in charge of the Highways, and the borough council, TMBC. Some might see that alone as a recipe for disaster! For me, if they are to blow this amount, which is a serious sum for a small town centre like ours, the improvements would have to have a lasting legacy and not just look pretty for a couple of years. But what do you all think?...  See the plans which are on public display at Tonbridge Library and the web site here  I'm off there right now

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tonbridge to Penshurst Cycle Trail on YouTube....

....and as promised here is my video production of my own version of Happy Tonbridge. I'm never happier than when I'm out on my bike getting some exercise, fresh air and getting caked in mud in the process. So I thought it might be useful for some to see the whole route, start to finish, from Tonbridge to Penshurst village. If you've never done it just get on yer bike and give it a go. The Leicester Arms is very welcoming at the other end but don't forget that you still have to get back! As for the quality of the video and the audio for that matter? Look I never claimed to be Spielberg did I?! I'm just a novice with a new toy!...

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Penshurst Trail video coming up soon....

...and speaking of Penshurst, as we weren't, I had a lovely, and very dirty bike ride out to Penshurst along the cycle trail last weekend. I also recorded it on my new head cam (look it was a Christmas present) so that anyone who wants to be adventurous can follow the route. The video will follow shortly once I've got my head around Windows Live Movie Maker software. I probably need to cut it down from its present half an hour but where to make those edits? That is the question....

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wolf Hall comes to Penshurst...

I see Penshurst Place is in the news again. Many an Elizabethan drama has been filmed at the splendid 14th Century stately home but the latest one, Wolf Hall, is likely to give the place international recognition. It is a lovely house to visit or even just to walk around if you don't want to pay the entrance fee. Right on our doorstep as well if you fancy a stroll or a bike ride it's only about 5 very picturesque miles away across the footpaths. As for the book (actually books because the TV dramatization combines Hilary Mantel's two books Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, charting the rise and fall of Henry VIII's Machiavellian adviser, Thomas Cromwell,) I didn't care too much for it myself, finding it rather long winded and telling me, mostly inaccurately, what I thought I already knew. The truth is that I only finished it because it had been awarded the Booker Prize for fiction so I assumed it most be fabulous. (By no means is this always so in my experience.) The TV drama though, judging by the first episode at any rate, is superbly done....

Why are we all H-A-P-P-YYYYYYYY?

What can I say about the Happy Tonbridge video? If you haven't seen it yet then you are well behind as, at the last count, over 14,000 of you have. Clearly the people who put this film together, inspired by many other towns and cities' attempts around the world, have gone to great lengths. The final products, whilst, you have to say, by no means original, does manage to achieve it's stated objective of making us all H-A-P-P-YYYYYYY. Even an old cynic like me managed a smirk!! As Mark Kermode might say....Here's a clip (actually the whole thing.) Hope it brings a smile to your faces....

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Real Books making a huge comeback....

It's been widely reported that over the crucial Christmas period sales of physical, you know, actual real books, were resurgent whereas sales of Kindles, certainly at Waterstones, have fallen off a cliff. In any case e-book sales, whilst significant, represent a small proportion of overall book sales. The last reported figures that I've seen suggest that e-book annual sales are around £300 million whereas real book sales are over £2.2 BILLLION. Yes that's billions vs millions. So e-books have a huge way to catch up and it actually appears that sales are dropping off....

Thursday, January 8, 2015


At Chessington World of Adventures?!
A novel way of reading your favourite book!
Slade Primary School have sent me a few pictures from their "Unusual Places to Read" Competition so I thought that I would share a few with readers of TonbridgeBlog if there are any of you still out there. Apologies for the lack of posts recently. Touch of writers block perhaps?! (No, never, just been v busy what with Christmas and all.)
Watch out for these and lots more pics of children reading in unusual places in next month's issue of Tonbridge Town Crier

Anyone for a marmalade sandwich?!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dropping Amazon and returning to indpendent bookshops is the trend....

Here a serious one for you. (I know and it's nearly Christmas as well!) I recently sent a letter to the online book trade newsletter, Sheppards, which they published in full. Here it is below:

Dear Sir
It's been a while since I've felt moved to write in but I was particularly struck by many snippets in this week's newsletter.
  Laura Freeman's boycotting of Amazon is better late than never. In my view the problem is not that people don't want to save local bookshops but instead it's that feeling of it being only little old them and what difference can they possibly make by themselves?!
  A bit like not bothering to cast your vote in the general election and then wondering why the same party gets in again! As Laura rightly points out her vote does matter and by refusing to buy from Amazon she is hopefully at the forefront of a new trend. Certainly many customers in my shop, Mr. Books in Tonbridge, make very bad noises about the dreaded Amazon; that said I get just as many saying, when I offer to order in a new title which isn't on the shelf, things like "Oh don't worry I'll get it on Amazon."
  Buying online has become a habit. It's convenient, quick and, above all cheap. In the vast majority of cases it's unfortunately true that new books can be bought cheaper retail on Amazon than my wholesale price through Gardners Books. Just think about that for a second? How did it get to that stage? What chance have we independents got against such opposition?
  Reading the article about the revived Waterstones (shock, horror without the apostrophe) I was quite surprised by James Daunt's strategy of no discounting at all in his shops. Maybe he can get away with that in swanky central London but most customers would appreciate some level of discount. That's why at Mr. Books I've been recently trialing a 20% off new book orders offer. I have to be a little careful, due to varying discounts on some books, so advertise the offer as on 'most' books but this seems to be working. Certainly my Christmas orders are massively up on last years. That said I do of course need to sell twice as many to make the same profit. I'm pretty convinced by the evidence of the last month or so that customers really appreciate the gesture and, for those disgruntled with Amazon, it gives them an added reason to drift back to buying their books in a proper bookshop.
  Like Waterstones Mr. Books also sells greetings cards and board games, like Scrabble and Boggle although, unlike Mr Daunt, I'll be stopping short of selling Kindles for a good while yet! Mark Richardson, Mr. Books Bookshop, Tonbridge, Kent.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ho, ho ho....

Merry Christmas to all readers of Tonbridge Blog. Please feel free to post your Christmas comments and messages below or indeed anything else that moves you to write. I'll be back soon. In the meantime I've got books and presents to deliver!...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tonbridge 2425 please....

I almost forgot to mention that, again according to my Kelly's Directory for Tonbridge 1950, and again at the risk of sounding Michael Portilloesque, the telephone number for John Greig, bookseller & stationer was Tonbridge 2425 and, no doubt, you had to go through an operator to reach it!...