Friday, April 4, 2014

What's the Plan B for Tonbridge Town Centre?....

Lots in the Courier today about the Sainsbury's bombshell dropped earlier in the week as they pulled out of the, so called, "Sainsbridge" regeneration store, leisure centre and cinema project at the advanced stages. It was an outrage according to council officials and many townsfolk. That said the reports also suggested that the views of quite a few shoppers, businesses and passers by up and down the town weren't all that in favour of the development to start with. Some seemed to be suggesting that the project would have caused years of disruption and much loss of trade as a result and that the high street might well stand to benefit from the shift in focus away from the Angel area. Either way the borough council has the headache now of finding a Plan B, and pretty damned sharpish....

RIP the Selfie?...


Selfies have taken the internet world by storm in recent months but, apparently, now they've become very boring.. They've always been for self important people who feel the constant desire to see themselves published on websites, blogs and social networking sites. The type of people who just need to have their views aired and cannot bear to be just anonymous and get on with their lives. You know, always seeking approval of their own self righteous views. (What do you mean I've just described myself? What nonsense!) One recent report suggests that selfies have become the digital equivalent of dad dancing! And this from something which only became an official word in the Oxford English Dictionary last November! So is it RIP the selfie?...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Beales to stay in Tonbridge....

As regular commenter Paul Bailey points out in one of his comments against the original post about the Sainsbury's pull out bombshell (scroll down) it looks like Beales department store is to stay in Tonbridge after all. They received a reported £1 million for surrendering their lease to allow for the Sainsbridge scheme so, unless they have to pay it all back, it'll be Freixenet cava all round at the next Beales board meeting. I dare say the staff in Tonbridge will be quite relieved as well. Where else would we all go for that essential Peter Rabbit money box christening present, or my Timberland boxer shorts?!..

A satisfied Mr. Books online customer....

This is a genuine email from a customer for a book sold on the internet from someone who is clearly a real book fanatic. It's always nice to get positive feedback from customers as, due to the nature of us humans, you only tend to hear when someone has a problem or hasn't received something. Or, as "Basil Fawlty would have put it: A satisfied customer, let's have her stuffed!"

" Dear Mr. Richardson,

Thanks so much for the book you sent me by V. Gordon Childe.  It arrived yesterday.  It was quite kind of you to send it airmail, even though I didn't upgrade from surface.  Anyway, I really like the book very much, and was interested to notice the small oval sticker from a bookshop in Cairo.  2nd hand books have such an aura, from the trees from which they are made, from the spirits of the writers which infuse the work, and from their previous owners and the past lives of the books.  Thank you for this beautiful book, which has been well cared for, and for your excellent service.

Sincerely,  Meaghen, USA."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Apologies from Sainsbury's for dropping bombshell on Tonbridge..

After much deliberation, procrastination and, frankly just not answering any phone calls a Sainsbury's spokesperson has finally given TonbridgeBlog a comment on their pulling out of the proposed new store, cinema and leisure development and this is what he had to say:

SOWWY! :-(

Sainsbury's drop a bombshell on Tonbridge....

Well, well well! Who'd have thunk it? Sainsbury's it seems have done the dirty on Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (TMBC) and it ain't a cruel April Fools joke. Their, much trumpeted new store, combined with a cinema and leisure centre complex on Bradford Street has been canned. It seems to be in the face of "changing retail patterns" by which I think they mean that they've just noticed this new way of shopping called the internet. It took them long enough but they got there in the end! They have now worked out that, instead of a giant hyper market style store in Tonbridge town centre, all they actually need is a couple of nerds and a few computers in a building in a low rent, poor part of Wales and tiny little "Xpress" shops (or is that Tesco?!) on the High Street. So a bit like the Spa shops model of about 40 years ago except now you don't even have to bother to leave your house and order the food, you can just lay around at home in your underpants, watching Jeremy Kyle and Heir Hunters whilst ordering your fruit and veg and cheap baked beans, only bothering to drag on a pair of stained jogging bottoms when the delivery man arrives at your house. Pretty soon they too will be replaced by robots! Anyway, I digress. Sainsbury's have really dropped a bombshell here as Councillor Nicholas Hedgelop will testify. In fact he's jolly hopping mad at the amount of work he and the rest of the council have put in on this. Especially the scheme to build a new leisure centre and cinema on a flood prone street. He is said to have commented that it really wasn't cricket to stop the building of this site which they hoped would, in the next few years, be able to match the flooded swimming pool, football and rugby pitches so that fitness fanatics, and just casual visitors of all standards, plus the unemployed, who can enjoy services at a fraction of the cost of peak time users, who just want to give badminton or underwater table tennis a go without feeling committed, can play sports in a river water themed, relaxed, semi-aquatic environment. Sainsbury's were unavailable for comment except to say that they are really, really, really sorry. They were last seen examining the Iron Age Castle Hill fort site off the A21 which they reckon will be flood free for at least another 2 years and also very handy for that shopping trip to the North Farm estate.....

Saturday, March 29, 2014

P Off Joke....

I hate to start the day with a moan but, waiting 25 minutes at the swanky, newly refurbished Post Office in Angel Walk, when I was running late anyway, really isn't acceptable. They have a "greeter" on the door like it's some sort of conference hotel or something, they have a new take-a-ticket when you walk in system, it all looks lovely, you can sit down while you wait instead of queuing. It all sounds great until you realise that there are still only 3 counters out of 9 staffed. It's Saturday morning for Pete's sake! I feel a little sorry for the staff who seem almost embarrassed about the new "system" so I didn't give them too much of a hard time. If only though, I told them, they'd spent the thousands of pounds that must have coughed up for the refurb, on more staff. It's no laughing matter but it is a joke....

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Pretty Penny Spent....

It's come to something when someone is willing to pay £120,000 for a couple of public loos hasn't it. £120k? Yes that's right. Now that's a pretty penny to spend isn't it! That's, apparently how much the toilets on the Ridgeway and Lambert's Yard went for at auction last week when the council sold them off. What are the developers going to do with them one wonders? Open a WC museum? Or maybe a laboratory (or should that be lavboratory?!) on new flushing mechanisms, or soft wipes? No, I suspect that the answer is somewhat less amusing. It's likely that the Lambert's Yard lav, next to the Scout Hut, will become a retail unit or office; and the Ridgeway bog, which I never knew existed, it's probably very fragrant and ex-directory being at the posh end of town, will be turned into a couple of small dwellings. The passing of the public loo, it seems to me, is a very sad trend indeed. Let's hope that the good visitors to our lovely town aren't caught short before they can get to the loos opposite the Railway Station, which is far enough from Lambert's Yard but, I fear, just unrealistically too far to grimace and hold it in all the way from the Ridgeway. Except of course I've just remembered the sanctuary of the latrines by the Castle. Now there's a relief! At auction? Now they would fetch a pretty penny!

Sorry but I just couldn't resist quoting that famous bit of graffiti which no self respecting public lavatory wall would be without:

Here I sit broken hearted
Paid a penny but only.... (that's enough of that, Ed.)

Pedestrianisation....

The High Street is back to normal and there's been an immediate uplift in trade at Mr. Books. Could just be the weather or Spring being in the air but I reckon it's more than a coincidence....
btw keen observers will note the spelling of "Pedestrianisation" or should that be "Pedestrianization" Look I run a bookshop so surely I can indulge in a little pedantry now and then!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Not sure Tonbridge town centre ready for pedestrianization....

So how is everyone enjoying Tonbridge's temporary one way system? I personally have got quite used to it. It's a lot more quite, that's for sure, and it feels less polluted, although I have no proof for that other than not choking so much as I walk along the High Street. Unfortunately what goes with that is that trade in my shop is massively down, which could be the weather, the recession or several other factors but generally when it's this obviously, sudden and dramatic then it's something out of the ordinary and the road works causing the one way system are the only thing I can think of. The only period that I can compare it to was when I had scaffolding outside Mr. Books for about six weeks and suffered a similar fall off in trade. The perception of shoppers seems to be that the town centre is a place to be mostly avoided at the moment if they can help it. So shoppers are maybe waiting for normal road conditions to be restored before shopping in Tonbridge again and, most probably, that means that they are spending their hard earned pounds elsewhere by going to The North Farm, Tunbridge Wells, London or Bluewater.
So to those people who are campaigning for Tonbridge High Street to be pedestrianized Tonbridge Blog says "Hm, not sure."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Doctors Appointments....

Is it my imagination or is it much harder to get a Doctor's appointment these days? The receptionist in my experience, has always been the, sort of, "blocker" when it comes to seeing your family doctor but these days it seems almost impossible. Not that long ago I wanted to see my Doctor about something fairly minor (as it turned out) but it was worrying me alot before I knew that so I deemed it necessary to see him. Now I reckon that I've been to the Doc's, for myself, not counting for children's ailments, maybe six times in the 25 years I've lived in Tonbridge so I'm not exactly a drain on the NHS. So when I was standing at the Doctor's reception ( tact and diplomacy prevents me from naming the practice) asking to see my doctor any Monday in the next month or so I was expecting to just put a date in my diary, perhaps even be seen there and then, or that afternoon maybe. "No." I was told flatly. "Well then, what about next Monday?" I replied. "No we can't do that...." said the receptionist "...we reserve Mondays for appointments made on the day by telephone." By now I'm starting to feel like tearing my hair out whilst calmly explaining that Monday was the day when my shop is closed and that I really didn't mind if the appointment was several weeks hence. "Sorry you'll have to make the appointment by phone, I'm afraid." She was quite adamant. "But I'm standing here now!" Came my last desperate appeal to her sense of reason. All I got was a shrug of the shoulders. Essentially, rather than make the appointment whilst standing right there in front of her, the Doctor's receptionist was telling me I had to go home, and telephone, which, by the way, generally takes ten minutes, minimum, to actually get through to find out if I could get an appointment. There was no online system or email appointments system. I'm not knocking doctors and medical staff but this system just seems farcical. So is it just me? Or a sign of the decline in the NHS?...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to teach blogging to kids....


Slade School have asked me to do a session on blogging for an IT group of children. Do I know anything? Come to think of it, I've never really tried to analyse it before now. I just sort of start writing and either vent my spleen or say something funny, depending on what mood I'm in. Keep it short and funny and eye-catching is my first thought by way of advice. But do I even take heed of my own advice? Why do I want to teach an army of school kids to enter this murky world we call the blogosphere?! I'll do my best for them!...

Body found in Medway....

I saw on the Meridian TV news last night that a body has been found in the Medway at Tonbridge. Sadly it looks like this is that of missing person Kieron Knowlden as this link to Kent Online seems to confirm. It was looking like this would be the case but I'm sure it's still devastating beyond belief for Kieron's family. It's not like Tonbridge Blog to go all sentimental but my heart goes out to them....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hall's Bookshop welcomes Adrian Harrington as new owner....

On Sunday I heard a rumour that the famous Hall's bookshop in Tunbridge Wells has been bought out by an even more famous bookseller. So yesterday, since I was in our upstart daughter town, I went along to Hall's to investigate. As it happens both the current owner and the next owner happened to be there and were able to confirm it. So it is true Hall's is being taken over by Adrian Harrington's, currently of Kensington Church Street in London. Apparently Mr Harrington has been looking to move out of Town for sometime now and one of his key employees also happens to live out T. Wells way. So cut your overheads, move your books over and come and enjoy the life out in the sticks. All seems to make perfect sense to me. I tell you it'll be worth visiting the new Hall's/Adrian Harrington's in a few weeks, once they've set up, just to marvel at the beautiful books they'll have in there. I've visited Harrington's in London, quite recently actually, and some of the individual books on display there would almost certainly be the value of my entire stock. Seeing really is believing. Perhaps Mr. H will want to come along to Mr. Books and stock up on some cheaper books that he'll need for the passing trade he's probably not used to. Perhaps he'll buy me out in, let's say five years time. Asking price about £250,000 or, to him, a set of signed Ian Flemings!....

Hall's Bookshop
Adrian Harrington

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The good old interweb....

Blimey I've been quiet on here of late but don't worry my twitter fingers have been quite active so, if you want to see what's up in Tonbridge you can always take a look there @tonbridgeblog is of course my handle. Is that right "handle" or is it name, or feed or something edgey and internetty perhaps like i-name or e-name?? Anyway have a butchers there.....

Friday, February 28, 2014

Ex Judd School teacher jailed over sex assaults....


A can't see Judd School being all that pleased with some rather unwelcome publicity on the front page of the Courier this weekend. You have to feel sorry for Headmaster, Robert Masters, in having to defend the actions of a PE and history teacher who taught at the school 30 years ago, well before his time there of course. It does serve to highlight though just how vigilant we all need to be still. We all hope that it doesn't happen but keep hearing of these isolated cases from years ago. The sad fact of the matter is that paedophiles are sad and perverted, yes, but often also highly intelligent and manipulative. They prey on the innocent and the vulnerable and don't regard what they are doing as wrong. Often they will seek positions where they are in contact with children on a daily basis and are prepared to bide their time and wait for opportunities where they think they can go undetected. Our awareness of this has of course improved dramatically over the last few years but we must never be fooled into thinking that the problem has gone away....

Horses to Hairdressing.....


Good to read in the Courier just now that K College has been saved from bankruptcy and ruin by, of all institutions, Hadlow Agricultural College. Good on them I say as they appear to do a grand job there by all accounts. But will they do as well with Hairdressing and Health as they do with Horse Management and Horticulture? Let's hope so and that we keep K College, or whatever they end up calling it, on our doorsteps for many years to come. It's a vital education facility in the heart of our community and ever more essential since from now all 16 to 18 year olds, by law, have to be in full time education or training. K College, it seems to me, is a classic example of an organisation which hasn't bitten off more than it could chew. An ambitious expansion plan to encompass other colleges spread across the county, an £80 million new building and, probably worst of all, an expensive, and arguably totally unnecessary, rebranding which opened the senior staff up to criticism and ridicule....

Kent "Freedom" Pass...


Parents of children travelling to school by bus must be disappointed when they see the cost of the, so called Kent Freedom Pass going up and up. When my son used to travel to Tunbridge Wells every day he paid a £50 "admin fee" for the pass. This subsequently rose to £100 and now they are making noises about putting the fee up to £200. It seems difficult to see how "admin" could cost £20 let alone £200. Most of the children using it have little or no choice and probably get no extra benefit other than their journey to school. At one point they were talking about extending the scheme to the young people who would really stand to benefit, the over 16s of sixth form and college age, but I'm not sure what came of that proposal. That would have given that age group real "Freedom." There is an online consultation on this whole subject coming up and you can find out details here  although good luck with that because, as with most local government forums they seem designed to deliberately put you off bothering....

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Some pictures from around Tonbridge....


Even the floods were fun for some!
It's been a heck of a long, wet winter so I thought I'd add some cheer by posting a few pictures. Let's hope that there's a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow!...

 
Spot the 21 Murder weapons at Mr. Books (some more obvious than others)




Organ pipes in the parish church. Well it's different and I just like the shot!
Stained glass window at St. Stephen's church
This brightened up a wet day over Cannon Lane industrial estate recently

Fresh Muffins with Tonbridge Tom....


Tom Tugendhat, the next MP of the Tonbridge and Malling constituency, has very kindly invited me to have breakfast with him at the Hadlow Manor Hotel. Very nice of you Tom but I hardly know you and still have trouble spelling your name, let alone pronouncing it! That said I have, rather cautiously accepted his invitation on the basis that I should be able to trust him. After all, as he points out on the invitation, he is an ex-journalist, PR and Management Consultant, financier and future Member of Parliament and we know how trustworthy they all are! Interestingly he makes no mention of his having served, as I understand it, for many years as a reservist in war zones and the like. Maybe he likes to play that one down and for it just to sit there, as it were, as his ace card! Actually I'm sure that he has invited lots of my fellow Tonbridge business folk so it will be an opportunity for a bit of gossip/opinion gathering and maybe some of that, what do they call it now, networking. 7-30am is a little early for a bookseller though Tom so don't expect to see the best of me and make sure the croissants and muffins are nice and fresh please!...

Lest We Forget....

I'm a historian at heart and, consequently, I'm very much enjoying the various World War One documentaries which are bombarding our TV screens to mark this year of the Centenary (of the start of hostilities) such as Max Hastings insightful programme which was repeated on BBC 2 last night. The causes of WWI are a question on every history student's mind at some point or other and it seems fascinating to me that, all this time later, there is any debate about it. But, as Sir Max points out, indeed there is. Was it merely the shooting of the Arch Duke Ferdinand by the Serbians which then dragged all the others allies to a stand off? Or was it the expansionism of an imperial Germany? Max Hastings asserts that Kaiser Wilhelm was almost certainly suffering from some chronic, psychotic disorder, if not madness, which made him all the more willing to enter into hostilities. I'm sure that historians will still be debating all of this in another 100 years time but, for the rest of us I wish we could forget the whole sorry business after this year. I realise that this is a forlorn hope even though now everyone who took an active part in the Great War is no longer with us to tell the tale. But I for one think that it does us no good to keep dredging up this dark episode in our past. That said it has always fascinated me to think that there are, apparently normal people, walking among us in Tonbridge who carried acts or war beyond the comprehension of most of us. Just imagine for a moment what an veteran of the world wars has seen and done. Has he killed one or many of his enemies? Did he shoot them or even kill them with his bare hands? How can these men then go back to being an upholsterer, mechanic or teacher once they've witnessed anything like that? I hear many a story form visitors to Mr. Books of Japanese camps and falling from the skies having been shot down and they are all fascinating. But my hope is that one day the two World Wars will become such  distant events that they will be talked of only in the same way as the Napoleonic Wars are today....

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tonbridge Tories' Tommy....


EX-SOLDIER:  Tom TugendhatThe Tonbridge Conservatives have apparently made their choice. Ex soldier and all round action man, Tom Tugendhat, aged 40, is the candidate who has been chosen ahead of the other three who made the short list. Tom is still relatively young at only 40 and has a tough act to follow with out going MP Sir John Stanley having served the community for 40 years. That's a long shift by anyone's standards. I must say that I never voted for him so in a sense he didn't represent me but, that said, in my few dealings with him, he always seemed to take action where needed and seemed to care about his constituents. The new guy, Tom, is a former Army officer who, I'm informed,  served in Iraq and Afghanistan. That in itself doesn't necessarily make him a great guy but it certainly buys him a lot more respect in my eyes than if he'd been, say, a career politician or long standing borough councillor.
Tom is quoted as saying that he has no political background, but that his time in the Army and experience in working with a community would serve him well as an MP.
He said: "I grew up in Sellinge near Ashford and spent most of my holidays around Kent.
"I've just left the army and I feel it's extremely important that those who have experience are represented in Parliament. There are so many professional politicians, which concerned me, and I felt the need to do something about it."
Unless the liberals or Labour put out an extremely strong candidate Mr. Tugendhat is a virtual shoe-in at the 2015 general election in this Tory stronghold parliamentary seat. Just hope that someone will be able to pronounce his name! Any thoughts?....

Thursday, February 20, 2014

There's been a murder in Tonbridge!!


The new crime scene window at Mr. Books looks good, though I say so myself. For all those people who were complaining about us not having taken down the Christmas window in my defence it was never meant to be a Christmas window but more of a seasonal window based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy story, The Snow Queen. This does seem to have been lost on quite a few passers by though. So, moving on then, the latest window is worth a look so that you can identify all the potential murder weapons scattered around the "room." Some are really obvious, the others not so much. It's like a full season of Poirot all in one small space!

140 characters....

Had a bacon sandwich this morning.
Er, sorry, I thought this was twitter for a moment there! Isn't that what people are meant to be twittering about on that site where you are limited to only 140 characters per "tweet" I have been known to twitter a bit myself so I'm not going to sit here and knock it. I do find it very tricky though to get all my thoughts into such a short space though it has to be said. I mean why say it in ten words if you can say it in 50. That's what I say. Anyway, yes, the bacon sandwich? I only mention this because, for a change, I bought some sausages and bacon from Chatfield's butchers the other day, so it is sort of a Tonbridge story this. It was absolutely succulent of course, as are the baguette's I frequently buy from them and the home made sausage rolls and burgers. Come to think of it everything I've ever bought from Chatfield's has been superb so you can keep your pre-packed super market rubbish and give me a traditional butchers any day. I'm looking forward to cooking their "Tonbridge Pasties" later today. Pasty, chunky chips, peas and brown sauce. I can't wait. Now you try getting all of this into 140 characters!...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Here's the Floody update....

The park's still flooded and looks like a lake. Where there should be football matches and children playing on the swings canoeists have been spotted in their place again on there over the weekend. The river's still high. If you drive over the Medway on the A21 the flood barrier looks to be holding the water back but the whole area is just surrounded by a vast quantity of water. The Environment Agency seem to be doing a good job of controlling the flow of the river. Whether they got it wrong on Christmas Eve is another question. Will we ever find out the truth? Tonbridge Rugby Club have erected a marquee on the car park, as a temporary clubhouse and I noticed on Saturday that they were showing the international match in there. I must say though it didn't look that full; probably people preferred the warmth of the fire at the George and Dragon or the camaraderie (and the beer) at the Punch and Judy and the Chequers Inn and who can blame them?  Slade School, I'm told, had their boiler room out of action for a short time because of flooding but are very relieved not to have been hit worse than they were. Being so close to the Hilden Brook and the river someone was looking down and smiling on them that day. Or was it simple geography?! Shops in the south end of the High Street are still clearing up the mess and the Post Office opposite the Angel Centre has all the floors up and dehumidifiers blasting out (or do they suck? maybe both!) giving the place a sort of third world like quality. They could even be mistaken for the Superdry shop in Tunbridge Wells! Mr Books is okay so far but if the Castle floods then we're in trouble but I've a sneaking feeling that those Normans, when the built the stone structure, which has lasted nigh on a thousand years, knew what they were doing. A lady who lives in Yalding told me that her house is on slightly higher ground than most of the village so she managed to escape the floods, but only just. According to her the water level was even higher than the 1968 floods which so devastated Tonbridge town centre. More floody updates as they come in. Please feel free to use this as a forum by commenting below....

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Poetry Competition entry form....


Roundel Poetry Competition 2014

Roundel is a Poetry Society Stanza

 

Judged by Abegail Morley

author of

 

 How to Pour Madness into a Teacup (Cinnamon Press 2009)

 shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection,

Snow Child (Pindrop Press 2011)

Eva and George – Sketches in Pen and Brush (Pindrop Press 2013)

 

First Prize         £100          Second Prize   £50    Third Prize   £25

 

Entry fee: £3 per poem. No entry form needed.  Poems are welcome on any subject. There is no limit to the number of entries per person. Each poem should be typed on a single A4 sheet. Your name must not appear on the poem. Please enclose a separate A4 sheet with your name, contact details,  email address and title(s) of your poem(s). Closing date: 31 May 2014.

 

RULES

 

Poems must be:

 

ñ the entrant's original work

ñ written in English

ñ no longer than 40 lines (not including title or dedication)

ñ unpublished and not already accepted for publication

 

Poems will be judged anonymously and the judge will see each piece. No entrant may win more than one prize. Winners will be announced at a prizegiving ceremony on Wed 2 July in Tonbridge during the 2014 Tonbridge Arts Festival.

 

Entries and cheques to: Eric Beston, Roundel Poetry Competition,

26 Dry Hill Park Road, Tonbridge, Kent TN10 3BN by 31 May 2014. Cheques payable to Eric Beston (Roundel Treasurer). Please write Roundel 2014 on the back of the cheque.


 

Friday, January 31, 2014

PS. On the Kelly Holmes Cafe...

Dear Kelly Holmes, I read in today's Courier that you are planning on opening a chain of juice bars. Now, opening a nice café is one thing but really you cannot nick my idea for juice bars as mentioned in Tonbridge Blog a few months back (scroll down if you don't believe me!) I also went on ad naseum about the benefits of the Jason Vale juice diets and recipes in the Tonbridge Town Crier My Shout page (whot I write) under the heading: The Juice Apprentice. Jason Vale calls himself The Juice Master you see!  So Kelly, you may have pots of cash these days but that is my idea so lay off! The name of my juice bars chain? why "Mr. Juice" of course!!

Gold Blend....

Tonbridgeblog loves the idea of the Kelly Holmes Café in Hildenborough. Just a shame it's not in Tonbridge instead I say. What the neighbours can possibly complain about on this one is beyond me. I mean it's not like she's proposing a Fracking rig in the courtyard is it! It looks like being a nice looking eatery, a real alternative to greasy spoons or pubs. Look what was there before; Kelly might have fond memories of the place but, let's face it, in the later years Fags and Mags was a right eye sore. I wish her luck in Hildenbrough, because the truth is it would almost certainly have worked better in Tunbridge Wells, she obviously has  a soul to be so romantic about the old place. I for one will be supporting the place and, yes, Kelly I will be biking there. Earn your lunch by a bit of exercise I say. Too many of us are becoming too lazy in both mind and body and we should all get out more. As for the name of the café? I think I've guessed it: Kelly's Golden Dream....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Floody Tonbridge....


Here's the poem which I read/performed at last night's Roundel poetry evening. It seemed to go down well enough so I thought I'd share it with you all. Now, you have to imagine me standing there in the Rose and Crown Hotel wearing a snorkel and mask on top of my head. I kid you not and have about 70 witnesses!



 
Floody Tonbridge
 
Tonbridge, Hildenborough, East Peckham and Yalding
We were on the telly … like that Clare Balding.
Cameron came, but Clegg? He never
All them politicians out braving the weather
Were they bothered ‘bout our feelings and views
Or were it enough to be on’t six o’clock news?!
We’ll never forget that night, the wind roaring
Rain hurtling down, God it was pouring!
Christmas Eve, when we should have been writing n wrapping
The flippin rain kept rat a tap tapping
Then, soon after, they opened the gates, over at Leigh
Resulting in unmanned canoes and boats a floating on by
Anything, usually on the banks so neatly
Went white water rafting if not tethered completely!
Commuters are moaning in First Class compartments
Questions being asked in Government departments.
Home owners, they say, given one hour to go?
Shouldn’t the barrier have regulated the flow?
Should houses be built by the banks of the river?
The answer my friends must surely be never!
No need to discuss, no need to deliberate
Just take a look at the level, on the post, from 1968!
Oh, there’ll be many a claim for damages, you bet,
The insurance’ll make sure that most of them met.
But will the Environment Agency put its hands up and say
“It was us. We got it wrong on that day!”
Will they floody heck!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon anyone?....

Just had a chat in the shop with Caroline Dunmall of local homeless charity, Bridge Trust, who tells me that they are always looking for runners for local fun runs and the like. They have entered a team of ten for the Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon which is coming up on Sunday March 2nd. I'm afraid Tonbridge Blog is a little out of shape having not trained for quite a while now so I had to decline. But there must be others out there who are willing to put themselves through the pain barrier for a good cause. Interested? Then contact her at the Bridge Trust on 01732 368363....

Bridge Trust....

Tonbridge, Floody Tonbridge....

On a lighter note the Roundel Poetry Evening at the Rose and Crown tonight, is a sell out. That's more than 60 poetry fans going along for readings by local poet, Margaret Beston, and also by Geraldine Paine, followed by my favourite bit the open mic' slot. There's also musical accompaniment jazz style and a glass of wine. Not bad for a fiver! No wonder it sold out so quickly. Poetry is indeed alive and well in Tonbridge and I'm very much looking forward to reading, actually I prefer to call it performing, my poem, "Floody Tonbridge" what I wrote....

Friday, January 17, 2014

Council to charge extra for under water parking!...

When I saw the headline in today's Courier I almost spat my tea out in shock but the truth is that this is a lot more complex than it would at first seem. As the director of planning at TMBC (the council to you and me) is quoted as having said the review of charges has to take into account the balance of revenue and the vitality of the town centre. Wise words Steve but do you really mean it when it seems quite clear that the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing? Timing in announcements is crucial and this is classic bad timing. Economy still depressed, consumer confidence at an all time low, the rise and rise of internet shopping and, not least, Tonbridge has just had a natural disaster of its own with the floods over Christmas. Maybe the council have decided to charge extra for the novelty of under water parking!!
Parking charges in town centres always seem too high to me and, I should think, to most people. In a way it's just a form of stealth tax anyway. That said the car parks always seem to be spilling over with cars (and sometimes water!) so there's no doubt that they're in demand. I was over at Pembury Hospital last night for reasons I won't go into now and, though I have an major issue with hospitals charging for parking, I have to say that I wish that Tonbridge town centre would use the same system. Barrier entry, no limit to how long you can stay, pay at a ticket machine just before you leave. That way there's no worry about staying longer in that shop, trying on a new pair of jeans in the sale at Beales or meeting a friend and lingering over a second coffee because you're enjoying their company. It works, it would boost trade, it's simple and would avoid the need for the goons (parking wardens) to be hovering over your car when there's a minute left on your ticket. If the brains at the council would change all the car parks to that simple workable system I'd settle for trading that off for paying slightly more for parking. Shoppers would be happy, traders would be happy and I'd be ecstatic....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Where's Humphrey Bean?...


In other news Wetherspoons has reopened so you'll be able to go and get your pint and curry for six quid again. Hopefully without having to wade through two feet of water to the bar!...

Swimming Pool flooding update....

Walking past the Tonbridge Swimming Pool just a few minutes ago, peering through the window I noticed two things. One: there were three official looking men in suits sat around what should be a café table scratching their heads and looking very concerned and serious. Not surprising at all really when I then noticed the second thing. Scaffolding around the pool, no water in the pool. No swimming for a good while then by the looks of things. The good news is that there was no obvious damage in evidence to the indoor pool floor so it looks as though the main problem will be in making it pass health and safety measures. For once I'm saying this in all seriousness, instead of in the case of the usual utterance of that tired phrase. Let's face it you wouldn't want your lovely heated pool to be contaminated with river water and the debris it washed up during the floods. Think I'll steer clear for a while though and let the keenos be the guinea pigs. So that knocks my New Year fitness regime back to about, probably March/April then!...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

TJRFC badly damaged by floods....

More bad news on the flooding in Tonbridge. The Juddians Rugby Club has some serious damage. As an ex player for the club this news is heart breaking on so many levels. The TJs have been riding high in recent years having spent money on players, equipment and, not least a new clubhouse. Anyone who's seen it may have noticed that the building is raised up, almost as if on stilts, so I was amazed this morning to hear one of the guys at the club tell me how bad the damage has been. The figure of £150,000 was being talked about. Now presumably the insurance will take care of much of that but, nevertheless, it's still a massive headache for all concerned. The pitches will drain and be playable after a few weeks but the clubhouse has to be in working order and hygienic otherwise there will be no more home games for this season. Again it raises the question of whether the floods were just a natural disaster or was there indeed a fault with the flood barrier. Tonbridge Blog has heard various rumours and it should be stressed that they are just that, rumours with perhaps some grounding in fact. Firstly there's the theory that the Leigh barrier was partially opened to allow the river water flow to be regulated and when the operators tried to close it one of the flaps was stuck. So the solution seemed to be to open the gates fully in order to release the stuck flap. This may have worked but also may have caused the surge in the flow which had a damaging effect on the town and, perhaps even worse, downstream in East Peckham and Yalding. The other theory, and one which the authorities seem to be sticking with, is that the levels at the flood barrier were so high, perhaps because the forty year old system in need of an upgrade, that the Environment Authority had no choice but to raise the barrier to allow water to be dispersed down river. Either way the residents and businesses of Tonbridge and the surrounding villages need some quick answers. No cover up please just honest, blunt answers. I'll have a bet though that we don't get these answers unless they are wrung out of the people involved....

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Floods in Pictures. Boxing Day....

Angel Centre car park on Boxing Day
The Racecourse Sportsground becomes more like a sailing course
I took a walk out on Boxing Day to see the extent of the flooding in the High Street area....


Tonbridge Park is a lake!

The kids don't seem to mind it too much!

This is becoming all too regular for the Tonbridge Juddians 1st XV pitch

The water was pretty much over the Town Lock

Floods in pictures. Christmas Eve....

click to see the river in torrent
The river almost up to road level
Here are some of the photos TonbridgeBlog took of the river and floods on Christmas Eve. The video clips gives a glimpse at the ferocity of the waters once the flood barrier had been opened. Quite frightening it was actually to see the force of nature at work....


To the left of the picture is one of the rowing boats from the submerged jetty stuck at the bridge

The Great Flood 2013....

Having just read the "The Great Flood 2013" report in the Courier I now fully realise just how lucky I've been in escaping any damage. If I lived in the town centre or by the river my home could have been ruined on Christmas Eve. If my shop had been South of the river instead of part way up a hill I could have spent all of Christmas day fishing for floating books and clearing up the mess! Thankfully none of this happened and I'm very grateful. There's no doubt that it has effected sales in the shop but I'm confident that we'll catch that up and anyway it seems so trivial to think like that when other shop keepers lives and livelihoods were at stake. It's heart warming to see that there was an army of volunteers helping with the clear up operation as pictured in the Courier. Wonderful stuff. The Dunkirk Spirit surfaces yet again. I've often looked at pictures of the 1968 floods in the local history books on sale in my shop and now pretty much everyone in Tonbridge will now know someone who has been effected in the Christmas Floods of 2013. Newspapers can be a bit prone to exaggeration but their headline this time seems very apt....

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

HNY Everyone....


The true identity of TonbridgeBlog finally revealed!  Have a very Happy New Year........




This one obviously flatters me!

P Off...


I see that once again our dear old post office has let us all down. It's been closed throughout the Christmas period due to flooding. Well, I don't see any water inside the building and as far as I know they've had no power cuts. So is it a case of any excuse will do to close early or not open at all? Or do they have genuine reason? Come off it guys this is a vital service, especially for businesses, and you should be pulling out all the stops to open up as normal as possible. What is everyone meant to do? Go to a sub post office? Oh, that's right, they've all been closed down!...

New Year's fitness....

If you are a swimmer and your New Year's resolution is to get fit TonbridgeBlog suggests that you take up running. It simply will be no excuse that Tonbridge Swimming Pool is likely to be closed for January and February, at the very least, by the looks of things. The pool's website suggests this by saying that direct debits for the fitness pool and spa have been frozen although actually the official line is "a number of weeks." It seems that those flood barriers around the pool, constructed at enormous expense after the last floods over a decade ago, weren't up to the job. As this is the first time that they've been properly tested that's pretty shoddy really when you think about it. It is our understanding here at TonbridgeBlog that a decision was taken by the borough council officials, when the swimming pool was being planned, to save money by NOT adequately protecting the pool against the possibility of flooding based on it being, statistically, a once in a hundred years possibility. Well guys at the council that was a big error of judgement as this flood makes it twice in 13 years! To give them the benefit of the doubt maybe the damage would have been a hell of a lot worse if the barriers weren't there this time. As it is it looks like we (the tax payer) will have to fork out for new equipment and a massive decontamination and clean up operation. Think I'll stick to running and canoeing!...
Read updates on the swimming pool's website and on This is Kent site

Flood defences....

I've been away a bit so haven't been able to report much on the great Tonbridge floods. Mr. Books is part way up a hill so I knew the shop and, more importantly, the books would survive but I did have a bit of a hairy moment when I heard the loud speaker vans going around announcing evacuations like some scene from a disaster movie! People were lining the big bridge to see the river in what can only be described as torrent. It was up to road level at the bridge. Wetherpoons was closed (actually the only time I've ever fancied a spur of the moment pint there!) and my understanding is that it hasn't reopened all of Christmas. Very costly indeed for the pub chain I should imagine but I'm sure they'll claim most of it back on insurance. Further down the High Street on Christmas Eve there were police and Environment Agency officials in high viz jackets everywhere you looked. I knew how serious things were though when I realised that even McDonalds had been forced to close. That must be a first! The car parks in the riverside apartments were under two feet of water even on Boxing Day when I went for an investigative walk. Funny that, what with them being below the river level and all! Not sure of the wisdom of that idea. But, then again, presumably they were built like that on the understanding that the Leigh flood barrier could hold back even the Red Sea and thereby protect Tonbridge. The question remains as to whether or not the barrier did do just that or, as some were muttering last week, that there was some sort of mechanical fault and the barrier failed us. Anyone aware of the latest thinking on that? Did they successfully regulate the flow of the Medway or did someone or something make a boo boo? .... Some pictures will follow soon

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Message to Tonbridge....


To put you all in the Christmas mood here's a few pictures from Slade School's Nativity play entitled, rather amusingly, "A Midwife Crisis" Don't they all look lovely. Merry Christmas to everyone who lives in Tonbridge or indeed used to live here or has anything to do with our wonderful town....




I'm dreaming of....

I wet Christmas....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Merry Christmas....

As I was saying earlier. I'm off to make some deliveries....

Angel Centre Cinema, Clubs and Events....

Always worth remembering that, although we don't have a cinema in Tonbridge (yet) you can watch some fairly up to date films at the Angel Centre from time to time. There's lots of social clubs and other things going on down there as well. I'm particularly intrigued as to what the Gassers and Rubber Fanciers get up to. I'm told that it's some sort of modelling club and completely harmless. Still, the mind boggles!....


FORTHCOMING EVENTS - JANUARY 2014                         


Although Christmas is not yet upon us, we thought you might like to see what's in store at the Centre in the New Year.  There are lots of events taking place during the month including an SRP Toy Fair, IPWUK Wrestling Spectacular and two great films - Philomena and Captain Phillips.

Don't forget that the Lions Club Christmas Panto is taking place this weekend and there are still tickets available - more information below.



ANGEL CINEMA

January

Philomena (12A) - 2 hours long

Tuesday 14 January - 2.45pm & 5.30pm
Wednesday 15 January - 8.15pm
Thursday 16 January - 2.45pm, 5.30pm & 8.15pm

A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman's search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent. Stars Judy Dench and Steve Coogan.

Captain Phillips (12A) - 2 hours 30 mins long

Tuesday 14 January - 8pm
Wednesday 15 January - 2.15pm & 5.15pm

The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. Stars Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Barkhad Abdirahman.

Tickets are available in advance from the Box Office - 01732 359966.  Adults £6  Children/Senior Citizens £5



EVENTS

January & December

SRP Toy Fair - Tuesday 7 January
The Toy Fair takes place in the Medway Hall from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

Area Planning Meeting - Thursday 16 January
This meeting takes place in the Riverside Lounge at 7.30pm.

IPWUK Wrestling Spectacular
The event takes place in the Medway Hall from 5pm.  Tickets cost £13 adults, £9 for under 16s, Family £37 and VIP Package £40. For more information visit www.ipwuk.com.

December

Sleeping Beauty at the Angel Centre - 20 & 21 December
Tickets are still available for the panto this Friday/Saturday. Following the hugely successful production of Jack & The Beanstalk last December, the Tonbridge Lions Club are delighted to join forces again, with the Angel Centre, to produce the popular pantomime The Sleeping Beauty on Friday 20 December (7.30pm) and Saturday 21 (10.30am. 2.30pm and 6.30pm). Each performance will raise much needed funds for local Tonbridge charities.

The Sleeping Beauty, widely regarded as one of the most delightful fairy tales ever written, is a truly magical story of adventure, music, romance and fun. Share the adventures of the beautiful Princess Briar Rose, her handsome Prince, dotty Fanny Annie and not forgetting Nuts the Monkey! As with all the best pantos this hugely entertaining Christmas romp includes masses of audience participation and wonderfully boo-able villains.

Tickets cost £11 for adults, £9 for children/concessions and £32 for a family ticket. Places are limited, so please book early to avoid disappointment! Contact the Angel Centre box office on 01732 359966.



REGULAR EVENTS

Friday Fleamarket
Every Friday in the Medway Hall from 8am to 1pm. Contact Mrs Carmichael 01732 456196 for further information or to book a stall.

Weight Watchers
Weight Watchers sessions take place every Tuesday at 12.45pm and 6.15pm in the Jubilee Room. Contact 08457 123000 for more information.

Blood Donors Session
Sessions are held regularly in the Medway Hall - the next will take place on Thursday 9 and 21 January. For more information contact the National Blood Transfusion Service on 0845 771 1711.

Tonbridge U3A
Meetings held on the first Wednesday of every month at 2pm in the Medway Hall. On 8 January speaker Pat Mortlock will discuss 'Tonbridge: The Growth of a Market Town.' For further information visit www.tonbridgeu3a.org/index.html.

Tonbridge Flower Arrangement Club
The Club will meet again on Wednesday 22 January at 2.15pm. New members always welcome.

Tonbridge Civic Society
The next meeting will take place on Tuesday 21 January when speaker Sir Paul Britton will discuss: The Architectural History of Tonbridge. For more information please visit www.tonbridgecivicsociety.org.uk.

Tonbridge Decorative & Fine Arts Society
Meetings held monthly at 2.30pm in the Medway Hall - new members always welcome. On 23 January Rosalind White will discuss: LS Lowry - The Painting of Modern Life. For more information contact 01622 754929 or visit www.nadfaskentarea.org.uk.

Society of Friends
The Society of Friends meets monthly in the Vauxhall Room. The next meeting will take place on Sunday 19 January. For further information contact Mrs Heydecker on 01732 365781.

Tonbridge Morning Townswomen's Guild
Held on second Wednesday of each month from 10am to 12 noon, new members always welcome. On Wednesday 8 January its Chatter Day & Quizzes. For further information please contact Mrs Knight-Smith on 01732 361751.

North Tonbridge Flower Arrangers
The next meeting will take place on Thursday 23 January - 7.45pm for 8pm.

Tonbridge Gassers & Rubber Fanciers
The group will next meet on Saturday 25 January.

Tonbridge Historical Society
The next meeting will take place on Thursday 13 February when speakers George and Joyce Buswell will discuss Vinzenz's Diary. For more details please visit www.tonbridgehistory.org.uk.

Line Dancing
Classes take place on Friday at 7pm. For more information please contact Mary on 01892 538322.

Zumba
Classes held each Monday from 8pm to 9pm and 6.30pm to 7.30pm for Zumba Gold. For further information please contact Nicky on 01892 616123 or email nicky.zumba@btinternet.com.

Little Kickers Football Training
Classes take place on Sunday morning at 10am for children aged 18 months to 4.5 years. For further information please call 0208 4320982 or visit www.littlekickers.co.uk.

Merry Christmas....

Sorry I'm off for a week or so. Some urgent deliveries to do!...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sorry John Lewis beat you to it!...



Today's business and market reports make a big deal out of John Lewis being the first department store to have been "given the google street view treatment." Sorry Mr. Lewis but Mr. Books beat you to it by about six months. Some of you may already realise that you can go on a virtual tour of the famous Tonbridge bookshop. Simply click on the image outside to enter into the murky world inside Mr. Books. Don't be alarmed when you see some mug with, well, a pixelated mug sitting at the desk. Actually it's not pixellated at all it's just how I look!...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mr. Books Confession....

Okay, now I have a confession to make to you the people of Tonbridge. I'm not particularly proud of this but here we go. You must understand that I did this partly as a result peer pressure and, I'd like to say, out of needing to conduct some literary research, being a bookseller and all. Closer to the truth though was that I was fascinated with the massive hype. Everyone has an opinion about this book and usually it's not a good one, even though it seems that most people commenting have never actually even picked the thing up let alone gazed upon its pages. Yes, I'm sorry, I'm almost ashamed to admit it but:

I'VE JUST READ FIFTY SHADES OF GREY!

The even worse confession is that I actually quite enjoyed it. In fact I've since skim-read the follow up, Fifty Shades Darker and have moved onto the final part of the trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed. I do want to find out what happens to Anastasia (Miss Steele) and Christian (Fifty Shades of.) I wouldn't say that the first book was un-put-downable, if indeed there is such a book in existence, but I did find it compelling reading and not for the obvious titillating bits involving S&M either. That said, being a man more used to M&S, I did find myself laughing out loud and sniggering like a teenager at some of these fruity bits at first. Later though they induce the feeling of: oh, here we go again! Once you've read one chapter about what goes on in the red room of pain (if you've read it this will make sense to you) how much more shocking can it get! It took a long time to come out, because I think that the author, E.L. James, was well aware that she was on to a winner what with the unashamed descriptions of previously taboo goings on in a mainstream novel, but there is a plot and it's quite a good one. Obviously it is by no means the most challenging book I've ever read but, you know, you just can't always read serious literature and Booker prize winners; sometimes you have to lose yourself in something a bit, well, trashy. Essentially though, in my opinion at least, so far in the story  (remembering that I'm only two-thirds through the trilogy) it's a good old fashioned love story, where good must triumph over evil... just with added spicy bits. Can't wait to see the steamy film version!...