Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reasons to be cheerful part one....

Regular commetor, The Tommahawk kid, is right to be upbeat about 2010. As he says in a recent comment next year should be full of promise for the country and especially Tonbridge and the South East. The City has taken a battering and is now bouncing back to its pre Lehman Brothers collapse levels; this has to be great news for the economy despite what you may think about the bankers with their noses in the snout yet again. Also there's the Winter Olympics and, more importantly, the World Cup in South Africa. If England have a promising campaign there, as they are tipped to have, then this too can only be good for the economy, as it rises from the ashes; newspapers, TV companies and the other media companies all benefit from the added interest and feel good factor these top sporting events bring. This has a ripple effect for the rest of the economy. So get behind those boys even if you're not a footy fan because we all stand to benefit if England do well. We will come out of recession, in fact TonbridgeBlog, for what it's worth, thinks that we already are in all but a technical definition. That definition, by its very nature always lags behind what everyone can see is going on in the High Street and in the stock market for example. All the indicators are that 2010 will have the potential, for most at least, to be a very happy new year. Let's hope so for all our sakes....

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mr. Books is having a sale?!..


By the way, did I mention that the Mr. Books sale is now on. Pretty substantial it is as well with most books at half price or less and many down to only £2. I must be going soft in me old age!

Party conversation: Wrong snow and private equity....

I had two interesting conversations at parties over Christmas. (What do you mean I'm too unpopular to be invited to any parties!) One of them was with some rich geezer who owned a private equity company. He attempted to explain in the most simple terms what it was that his company actually did. Something about putting the money in a box to be released at a future date; quite frankly I'm still baffled and I'm sure it's not that difficult once you've grasped it. It's the sort of thing I wouldn't mind getting my head around as this guy was just about to jet off to Sidney for a few weeks to take in some opera and to stay at his "bolt hole" in Australia, as he put it! He also mentioned that they had a "pied de terre" in the West End of London somewhere exlusive and another in some art deco mansion near Sunningdale and those are just the properties he talked about. Sickening or what! The other conversation was on the entirely different topic of snow. Was it "the wrong kind of snow" that brought Tonbridge, and much of the South East to a standstill just before Christmas after all. According to the fella I was talking to last night, at party number two, yes it was. In other words not the Highways Department's fault afterall but the Allmighty's! A combination of the extremely cold temperature and, unusually alot of snow at the same time meant that the very cold snow would settle, causing the roads to freeze over. According to him this was a once in twenty years scenario so would have been impossible for the authorities to cope with (which is why presumably they just did what they could to keep only the main roads clear and bugger the side roads!) My friend at this party told me that, when he was growing up his family often spent holidays in the Alps and that the snow there is pretty much the same as the snow we had last week. Great for skiing, crap for driving on! So now you know the truth....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ho, ho, oh no!...


OK all you Tonbridge bloggers it's time I went off to do my other job. If I've forgotten to send you a card this year or didn't have your address never mind, don't take it personally and accept my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Ho, ho, bloomin ho!...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow joke continued....

Now we've all had great fun this week walking, and sledging, in a winter wonderland and all that and my wellies have had more use in the last few days than ever before, but come on now council the joke's over. Just clear the snow off all the side roads and put some grit down, preferably before the ice starts to compact itself into a three inch layer again. It's funny that you missed the weather forecasts because, here was me thinking that, we all knew about the freeze from about ten days before. While you're at it, for future reference, can you try and remember that there are some shops in Bank Street and Castle Street and it would be quite handy, if you could find a minute, to put a little grit down to make it accessible for customers and the like. Only, that is, if you're not too busy sorting out the roads of Kings Hill....

Strictly Come Dancing in Tonbridge....

TonbridgeBlog didn't realise that this year's winner of Strictly Come Dancing, Chris Hollins, or was it John or Tim (you can tell how big a fan of the programme I am!) is an old Tonbridgeian, that is to say he went to Tonbridge School. I can't tell you any more about him so it's a pretty uninteresting fact really, unless anyone can tell us any juicy information about him. He and his dance partner, Ola certainly had chemistry on the dance floor, that much I could see from what little of the Strictly series I did manage to catch, but whether it went beyond mere chemistry is a matter of conjecture. Maybe we can entice the pair to do a special performance at the Tonbridge Arts Festival next year, now there's a thought!...

Courier runs tree story on front page....


I noticed that the Courier ran a story in this week's Tonbridge edition about the tree on the corner of Bank Street having been removed and later replaced. Now where have I heard that story before?! They did at least find out the reason it was removed, which is more than I did, but I suppose it's flattering to know that our local rag uses TonbridgeBlog as a source of leads for its main news pages. It's certainly not the first time either. It's funny that they never credit me with it and they never give me any leads. Ah well I'll soldier on regardless!...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Only travel if necessary....


Quite a few years ago, and seemingly in a different life, I used to work for the Daily Telegraph. Just stating out at the time (I'm talking late 8o's here) was a young cartoonist called Matt and he, unlike me, has been there ever since. In fact his small but distinctively querky, little cartoon appears on the front page just about every day. Once again here he manages to capture the moment expertly, as only he can....

P' Off. Customers....

Granted yesterday's weather was a bit freak and caught a lot of commuters out and many people would have cancelled shopping trips and the like. But Sainsbury's and Beales managed to open all day, as did many of the shops along Tonbridge High Street all day, including Mr. Books. I closed at 5 so that I could do my usual Friday stop at the Post Office to post my internet sales off in time for Christmas. When I arrived there the lights were off and the doors were closed with a note on them saying "Due to staff shortages this branch has had to close at 3pm." This branch happens to be the main branch so what are they playing at?! The supermarkets can keep open whatever the weather but apparently out national mail service cannot. Come on Post Office sort your act out!

Goodbye Gerry Stubbs....


I've just this minute heard some rather sad news. Gerry Stubbs, a local poet and very charming man, passed away last week. Gerry turned up to every poetry night when I was running them at The Ivy House up until about a year ago. I used to joke that the poetry nights attracted all styles of poetry from Wordsworth to hip hop and from all ages 18 to 88! Gerry was the 88. He was so dedicated to his poetry that he even had a poetry anthology published at around the same time, by this time he'd have been 89. I still sell his book, Simply Poetic Pride, in the shop and it has some pretty good verses in there, some of them very touching. At the poetry nights he used to hide behind the more frivolous poems when he performed them but, having read his book I know he was capable of more touching, emotional ones. He proudly told us that he's met Glen Miller during the war and had taken part in the D-Day landings. He told me he used to walk everywhere around Tonbridge and that that was his secret for staying fit; and I can also tell you that he certainly enjoyed a pint or two. As his son just told me, he certainly had a good innings. If you're listening Gerry it was nice to know you, and keep on with the poetry up in Heaven....

Snow joke....

OFFERED: Edenbridge Snow
I've been over supplied with snow this month so looking for a good home, plenty to go round first come first served.

This was a genuine entry on the Free cycle site and obviously someone's idea of bringing a bit of Christmas cheer!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Now you tree it update....


The man in the high viz jacket was as good as his word when he said that the Christmas tree would be returned to the corner of Bank Street, facing Church Lane this morning. They must have been up with the larks because it was in place by 9-30 this morning as if it had never gone. And doesn't it look wonderful covered as it is in snow, we could almost be in Lapland! It's starting to feel like Christmas. In fact, since the snow will have probably disappeared by next Thursday, why don't we just celebrate Christmas right now, today and have done with it!...

Traffic update at 10:58! Quarry Hill moving slowly...


Not that TonbridgeBlog is going to start a traffic report service or anything but it does appear that Quarry Hill is open to traffic and moving judging by the buses, lorries and cars that were driving cautiously, but surely up it this morning. I'm not sure about the A21, but I'd imagine that they've managed to keep it going. A white Christmas? Who knows but definately more snow on the way though....

Just look at the size of those parsnips!...


I told you that Shipbourne Farmers Market was worth a visit. I was so delighted with me fruit and veg that I felt inspired to take a photo of it all lovely, still covered in earth, odd shaped and twisted. In other words: exactly as it should be. The trouble is we get so used to the tasteless, perfect looking crap they sell at supermarkets that we forget what real food looks like. The market next week moves from it's usual Thursday to Wednesday to avoid Christmas Eve, but don't get there until about ten 0'clock so I can get all my food first! Tonbridge councils, parish councils, or whoever gets involved in these things, you're missing a trick by not having one in the centre of town every week. One lady I spoke to at Shipbourne yesterday said she had come all the way from South East London just for the cheese stall. Now that's what I call dedication to the real cheese cause!...

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow....







It's snowing, it's snowing, it's snowing, IT'S SNOWING!!! Well it's so long since we've seen it like this in Tonbridge. That's what one ratter well spoken lady said to me as I walked down Quarry Hill this morning. I had my wellies on and the snow was just about coming up to the top of them. Another lady smiled and said good morning and how wonderful the snow was. Children were out throwing snowballs and running in sheer delight, partly because of the amazing thick powdery blanket of the white stuff; others were already dragging tobogans, behind them off, no doubt, to Lambs Bank for a spot of suicidal sledging. Watch out kids those thorns at the bottom near the fence really hurt; you need to stick your heels in the snow near the bottom before you career into the.... too late! And partly because most of them had just got their best early Christmas present: an extra day off school! In fact everyone was talking and being nice to each other. Why aren't we like this all the time. Mr. Books is open, as are many other shops along the High Street, and let's face it not many people are going to go to Bluewater or even Tunbridge Wells in this weather now are they?! So you may as well trudge along, on foot, into town and do what you should have been doing all along anyway ie. support your local shops! We had an unexpected, but delightful, guest staying last night as my wife's Christmas party at a nearby country pub turned into Shackleton's expedition to the South Pole. On the way back they had to abandon the car half way up Quarry Hill and go on foot the final couple of miles to our house. So Ali, our guest, was given hot choccie and Amuretto before bedding down on an airbed and our warmest sleeping bag on the lounge floor. Still it's all good character building stuff for the girls. The meal at The Poacher in Tudely was, by all accounts, fabulous and the journey home was certainly unforgettable. Anyway all this is really just an excuse to post some pictures of snowy Tonbridge....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Move over Simon Cowell and make way for the new boy in town...

I've agreed to be a judge again on Tonbridge Has Talent, the final of which is to be held at Tonbridge School on Friday February 5th in the New Year. I really enjoyed being a last minute stand in judge and was quite chuffed to be asked to do it again because of my "witty and apposite comments..." and I don't even know what that means! Last year's winner was an outstanding magician from Judd School; there were entries from all over the Tonbridge area from schools, colleges and community groups and it really was one of those unexpectably brilliant night's entertainment that people tell you about afterwards and you think to yourself: how come everyone else knew about it and not me? So polish up on your singing, juggling, dancing, mime artistry, drumming, comedy and get your act together (literally;) or else just put it in your diary and buy some tickets....

Hidden classics of the future?!..

Stuck to know what to read during this coming Christmas holiday season? Then have a look at this article on the Guardian web site which is about the books that got away; that is to say the books which should have been best sellers but, for some querk of bad timing/bad promotion/bad luck just never got anywhere. You may find yourself reading a real hidden classic of the future, who knows! The article caught my eye I suppose because it's always fascinated me how some books are widely acclaimed while others just seem to become also rans and sometimes you know it's just the luck of the draw. A bit like life I suppose. (Oh I say that was a bit profound!)

Quick nip out and buy a Land Rover....

It's going to snow tonight and for the next few days there'll be a lovely white blanket over the streets and countryside around Tonbridge. I don't know about you but I'm always a bit nervous driving in this weather. I've got one of those dashboard computers in the car with the time, date and temperature displayed; yesterday it said minus 4 degrees and it was flashing at me which made me a bit panicky I have to say, I already knew it was cold by the way it took me ten minutes to scrape all the ice of the car windows so why the drama?! The Highways Authority never seems to get around to gritting the side roads, including where I live, so it's fine once you're on the main road but getting to it involved a few hundred yards of driving on an ice rink. I could do with a 4 wheel drive even if only for about two weeks a year. So TonbridgeBlog's message of the day is be careful out there especially if you live in the country and haven't got a Land Rover....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas books....

It's nearly Christmas so if you're not thinking of buying a Kindle or a Sony e-book reader or a book from Amazon, and thereby, incidentally, helping to slowly but surely strangle the independent book trade, then there is a book for just about everyone in Mr. Books at 2 Bank Street. Yes it is getting a bit crowded and full but you can just about still get around and you'll have about as much choice as WH Smiths who tend to spread their's out a bit more. Let TonbridgeBlog know which books you are buying this year for people. By the way the people who live opposite my shop have just told me that they moved to this area of Tonbridge (from America) especially because they love books and wanted to live overlooking it. Aah isn't that nice!...

More on Now you tree it....

Apparently we are getting our tree back. I have it on good authority (ie. a bloke in a high viz jacket wearing a bobble hat) that the tree on the corner of Bank Street, opposite Church Lane will be replaced on Friday morning. They had to take it away due to essential electrical works or something of that nature. I'm sure that the council couldn't possibly have known about that before putting the tree up! Still it's nice to know that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing!...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Now you tree it now you don't!...

I thought it was lovely when they put up a lovely 15 foot Christmas tree on the corner of Bank Street and the High St. It was even lit up quite tastefully with twinkling white lights. I thought how nice it was that, for once, the council haven't ignored the further reaches of Tonbridge High Street. Then, this morning, some men in high viz jackets, and a cherry picker arrived and started to take the lights down. I thought that they were just going to change them for some more colourful ones. I've just looked again and, not only the lights, but the tree has disappeared; all that remains are some cut plant ties and a few sprigs of pine scattered across the pavement. Oi council what are you playing at, give us back our tree!...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Farmers market in Tonbridge pleeeeease!...

I took a step back in time this morning and went along to the Shipbourne (pronounced Shibburn for you out of towners!) Farmers Market bright and breazy just as the church clock began to chime nine o'clock. It's more popular than ever as more and more crafty type stalls start to appear alongside the fruit and veg, game, fish, cheese, mushroom, jams and pickles, honey and bread and cake stalls. I've said it before and I'll keep on saying it: Why oh why oh why can Tonbridge not have a WEEKLY farmers market, selling local produce just like Shipbourne. It could be around the church or around the Castle lawn, anywhere except the excuse of a Christmas market that was held along River Walk the other Saturday. Missed it? I'm, not at all suprised! Some one have a word....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tonbridge Civic Society does Desert Island Discs at 7-30pm tonight....

Tonbridge Civic Society meet tonight at the Angel Centre in the Riverside Suite (upstairs) if anyone's interested. Tonight is a special Christmasy, mince piey type meeting with a sort of Desert Island Discs light-hearted interview of John Smallman_Smith. John is a man who has served the society well over the years, many of them as Hon. Secretary, and was responsible for twisting my arm to join and then to try out the committee. He's a great character and has a fantastic, some may say corney, wit which only certain people can pull off, and John is certainly one of them. Even if you don't know the man it would probably be an entertaining night out; if you do know him then it's almost unmissable. I'm going to try and make it along myself. Non members are always welcome for a tiny fee and you will get a glass of mulled wine or three and some tastey mince pies if you get there early enough....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mor on Tonbridge teenagers...


As mentioned in a previous comment and post this is the new basketball court stroke football pitch stroke hockey pitch stroke teenage hang out place on Tonbridge park situated right next to the tennis courts on an otherwise boggy, little used (in the winter anyway) piece of turf. Crap photo I'll grant you but, if you look close enough, there are actually teenagers on there using it and I promise you I didn't stage that like the local rag would have! A good use of council and therefore tax payers' money? I think yes as there's little enough for teenagers as things stand. So maybe a skate park next when funds permit. (By the way, if there are any teenagers reading this, the headline was a deliberate mistake and play on words/letters and it was just a joke so go easy on me! But since none of you can actually be bothered to even get out of bed, let alone read this I'm probably safe.... yes that was a joke as well...sort of!...)

Fork out....


That groundsman at Tonbridge Juddians Rugby Club needs to get out there again with his fork to drain that pitch before Saturday's game. He's got his work cut out but I'm sure he'll manage it!...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tonbridge Christmas Lights....

I'm amazed that the Tonbridge Christmas lights switch on went ahead last night in the appalling lashing rain and winds but, judging by the fireworks going off about 6-30pm just as I returned from exhibiting at the Dorking Book fair, I'm pretty sure it must have. Did anyone go along? Let's hear how it all went then and who was the celeb. I know that TonbridgeBlog usually has a better ear to the ground than this and that I should be telling you how it went, but I can't be everywhere at once you know!...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

More on the Tonbridge Arts Fest....

Here's a copy of Elaine Scutt's notice about the meeting this coming Monday. (Yes I know it's a bit lazy just copying and pasting, but it does save a great deal of time!) Go on get involved; you might even enjoy it!

Tonbridge Arts Festival 2010
A public, open meeting will be held on Monday 30th November at 5.30pm in the Riverside Suite at the Angel Centre in Tonbridge to discuss the Tonbridge Arts Festival. The proposal is to hold a week-long Arts Festival in October 2010 following discussions between West Kent College, Tonbridge Library, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council and Tonbridge School, who all wished to establish a town-wide Festival. Hillview School for Girls have also confirmed their support for the event. The organisers are now inviting all interested parties, including residents, to attend the public meeting to update all members of the community on progress made to date. We intend that West Kent College will take a leading role in hosting events and in developing activities for students and the local community. If you have any ideas for the programme, or would like to participate and support the event in any way, please attend the meeting or contact Elaine Scutt to discuss further.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Don't mention John Adams Bookshop....

I'm not saying a word about John Adams having already had not one but two "Closing Down" sales in the last year and then staying open yet again. I could mention that this time they have changed their name to My Back Pages but the owner is the same and I know that they only have another six month lease anyway and presumably they'll have another closing down sale in March again next year. But I won't mention it! Afterall it doesn't really effect me now does it...

Kent Messenger Tonbridge community correspondent sacked....

I understand that the Tonbridge community correspondent in the Kent Messenger, Anthony Heywood, has been "sacked" (his words) from his position. Anthony, who also used to write the Tonbridge South column for the Courier told me last night that they hadn't really offered him an adequate explanation; that's the trouble with being a free lancer on a local rag Anthony they can hire and fire as they please. Anyone know any more?...

"The Credit Crunch" one of me poems....

Those nice people at the "Tonbridge Outsider" have published one of me poems about The Credit Crunch. It's a bit dated now cos I wrote it about a year and a half ago but still fairly current. They may also be publishing more local poetry which I'm sending to them (not all mine though mind.) How does it go? You'll just have to pick up a copy of the glossy little magazine won't you!...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tonbridge Civic Society talk tonight, Angel Centre....

If you want to get involved, or at least hear about town planning matters and particularly with regard to the conservation areas of Tonbridge, then tonight is your chance. Tonbridge Civic Society are holding a talk at the Angel Centre this evening. Non members can attend for a very small charge or you could even join up for £7 a year. Don't worry you'll coffee and biccies in that price and get to meet some very interesting people, ok a few boring ones as well (like me) but never the less.... The best way to tell you the details about tonight's talk is by copying Peter Charlton's email about it:

Particularly given the fact that we had to switch the talks for our October and November meetings, I thought that it would be helpful if I reminded everyone about the illustrated talk that will be given on Tuesday evening in the Angel Centre (coffee at 7.30pm, for an 8.00pm start)

LOOKING BACK TO LOOK FORWARD – THE ROLE OF CONSERVATION AREA APPRAISALS
Tony Fullwood is a very experienced Town Planner who has carried out the recent appraisals of the Tonbridge Conservation Areas on behalf of TMBC

He will be giving an extensively illustrated talk covering the Role of Conservation Area Appraisals

The Society has worked closely with Tony in the past, in relation to his work in Tonbridge, both on the Conservation Area Appraisals (central/North Tonbridge and the Quarry Hill areas) and on the more recent Character Area Assessments. We have been very impressed by his knowledge and professional abilities

We are looking forward to a very interesting and informative talk and do hope that you will be able to join us on Tuesday

With kind regards

Peter Charlton
Chairman

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tonbridge (and Malling) council stop robbing Tonbridge shoppers....

I went shopping in Maidstone last Sunday. It not a crime so don't have a go! Anyway that's not the point of the story. I'm not sure whether all parking in Maidstone is charged in the same way but in the car park nearest the Fremlin Walk shopping street they let you take a ticket on the way in and pay at a machine just before you get back in your car to leave. As that annoying Compare the Meercat says: Simple! It worked for me, because I didn't know on arrival whether I'd stay two hours or five. As it turned out I stayed about four and the charge was £2.80. You see that to me is so much more sensible than having to guess how long you need, paying the charge, and then not having enough time to do all the shopping you need to do so rushing back to the car where if you're lucky you won't find one of those yellow sticky parking fine notices on your wind screen. So Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council my message is plain: Stop wasting resources on Civil Parking Enforcement Officers, or whatever the hell it is you call them now, if you're not going to make parking free in Tonbride then install exit-timed barriers so that shoppers can stay as long as they wish without fear of fines, stop discouraging shoppers from Tonbridge when the town needs them more badly than ever. Go on, take a long term view on things instead of taking the easy option, because £300,000 on parking fines, I'll wager mainly from overstays, at car parks is just not acceptable....

It's soooo unfair!...

I dunno the yoof of today! They just hang around intimidating old grannies and younger kids. What are we going to do with them? They get worse every year and society is to blame for the lower moral standards we see all around us. What bullshit! It's the same as it ever was. Older people just forget what it's like to be young, especially their teenage years. I'm pleased that the young people from Tonbridge schools have spoken out about the way they have been warned away from the play area at Tonbridge park (see the Courier page 3 this week.) I happen to know that at least one of the girl's schools in the town has told its children not to hang around the park after school because of the complaints by some parents of younger children who are feeling unable to get access to the equipment (Presumably because they're afraid to ask a 14 year old if they'd mind awfully if their toddler can have a go on the swings!) In my experience older folks are scared not by teenagers but by the popular media image of a hoody-wearing teenager, with knife concealed in jeans pocket ready to stab anyone at the mere mention of their spotty faces. Come off it, we live in Tonbridge, not Down Town Brooklyn for goodness sake. In any case where would these moaners have the teenagers go? There are precious few youth clubs and clubs for under 18s, There's really only McDonalds, the new shake bar, the street and oh yes the park. They are right when they say there should be a skate park and other facilities robust enough for their not quite adult, lumbering bodies. Why haven't these been provided when so much money has been squandered elsewhere? My guess is as good as their's. You see for a teenager it's a long time from year 8 to the day when you're alowed to legally enter a pub. Quite frankly, the lack of decent facilities is probably the main reasons why they turn to drinking and worse. Teenagers will always want to hang out with each other and share experiences, get things off their chests, tell their friends how unfair life is. So for Pete's sake give them places in which to do it, realise that actually they're just young people who like to be with their own kind. And, Old Fogies, just stop whining about it because, if you were their age you'd be doing the same thing!,,,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tonbridge Arts Festival update...

If you're of an artistic or literary disposition and have always thought that there should be more arts events going on in Tonbridge then now's your chance to get involved in something which could be an amazingly rich annual event in the town. If you don't wish to get involved make it a diary date for next October. Here is the press release from TMBC regarding the open meeting to be held a week on Monday at the Angel Centre:



NEWS RELEASE
NEWS RELEASE
NEWS RELEASE

Tonbridge Arts Festival


A public open meeting will be held on Monday 30 November at 5.30pm in the Riverside Suite at the Angel Centre in Tonbridge to discuss the Tonbridge Arts Festival.

The proposal to hold a week long Tonbridge Arts Festival in October 2010 came about following discussion between Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council with Tonbridge School, who wished to revive the school’s arts festival, and with West Kent College and Tonbridge Public Library, who wished to establish a Tonbridge Literary Festival. The Council has encouraged both parties to meet to see if, together, they could deliver one all-encompassing event for the good of the whole community.

Initial discussions took place between representatives from Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, West Kent College, Tonbridge School and Tonbridge Library earlier this year and in June there was a meeting of various arts organisations and community groups. Following this meeting, Hillview School for Girls, Performing Arts College, have confirmed their support for the event. The organisers are now inviting all interested parties, including residents, to attend the public meeting to update all members of the community on progress made to date.

For further details about the festival and its plans, please contact Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s Leisure Services department on 01732 876161 or e-mail leisure.services@tmbc.gov.uk


Objectives of the festival:

Deliver a week-long arts festival encompassing a wide variety of art forms.

Deliver performances by world-class artists and local amateur groups in different venues across Tonbridge.

To bring the joy of the arts to the people of Tonbridge and beyond

Implement a ticket price policy which encourages “fair access for all”

Include free events where possible.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tonbridge in 2029....

I've lived in Tonbridge for twenty years now, almost to the day, so I thought it might be an idea to share with you my vision for Tonbridge town centre in twenty years time. The obvious place to start is with the railway station. It is well overdue a total revamp and there's been much talk recently about making Tonbridge a South East transport hub; and why not? It's in a very good location both in terms of roads and rail networks and it has acres of space around the station which is ripe for redevelopment. I've never really thought of this before but, in a way, Tonbridge is a bit like Doctor Who: it has two hearts! So why not a huge new shopping centre right in the new heart of the town in and around the railway station complex. So that shoppers from many miles around can step off the train, bus or out of their cars and be right at the centre of a Blue Water sized 21st century shopping experience. Rather like Sheffield's Meadowhall shopping centre if anyone has ever been there. For those who fancy more of a Brighton Lanes type experience then Tonbridge would cater for that also with its oldy worldy cobbled streets around the North end of the High Street and the Castle with the new old-style shops of the Botany area complementing this and all within a ten minute walk of the new transport station. So no need to go to Tunbridge Wells or Maidstone or even Blue Water for your Christmas presents. Shoppers would be flocking to Tonbridge instead of Tonbridge shoppers flocking to other towns. The traffic problem would be sorted out by the new A21 duel carriage way having been completed and the, so called, missing link between, London Road and Canon Lane finally having been given approval and being built in time for the rejuvenated Tonbridge project. This would filter any traffic which did not require the town centre away from the shopping areas. There'd be a whole new restaurant quarter of the town around, and even on, the river and around the new town lock centre. There'd be a state-of-the-art multi screen cinema and leisure complex in the New Angel Centre and Tonbridge Juddians would finally have been awarded a grant to build it's new 5,000 seat stadium completed to time with their promotion to rugby's premier league! Just a pipe dream? Who knows it's all in our hands if we want it to happen we all have to do our bit even if it's just signing the odd petition or attending a meeting to put forward ideas. The council, TMBC and Kent County Council, must all play their part. But there's no doubt that it could be done, because it has been achieved elsewhere. With enough funding, and the right kind people behind it and with no small amount of good luck it could happen in Tonbridge....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

There's a hole in my roof....

Then fix it dear TonbridgeBlog; A hole fix it! Easier sang than done. You'd think it'd be simple enough wouldn't you. You've got rain water literally leaking into the bedroom, luckily onto the carpet, not the bed or, worst still, my wife's clothes! but still a puddle of water actually entering the house. I spent a good half hour up in the loft yesterday trying to work out where it was getting in and I think I've worked out that there's a tile missing from my gable, exposing a bit of felt which is catching the rain when there's heavy winds like the other night. I looked in the yellow pages for a roofer which really is total pot luck. (No doubt when this post appears there'll be about a thousand google ads for roofing services appearing below it.) How do you know what you're getting? Better to go on recommendation I thought and suddenly remembered that I had the number for the builder who has been doing some work for my landlord at the shop. I've met him and he seemed like a nice enough guy. When I spoke to him he said that he'd be able to get along and have a look and would come back to me within an hour to confirm a time. Two hours went by, no call, so I called him again. "Yes, I haven't been home yet and that's where my diary is! I'll get back to you before the end of the day," he said a bit sheepishly. Well the day and the night, luckily a relatively dry one, went by and still no call. Remember this is someone I've met, chatted to and have sort of on recommendation. So I called him again a few minutes ago, yes I know on a Saturday morning, but he was obviously too busy in the week wasn't he, and I do have a leaking roof. Now he's on answer machine, bugger what next...... He's just called me back and he's coming round on Monday afternoon so, hopefully I can eat my hat! And all of this proves what? You can't rely on tradesmen anymore? Maybe a little harsh. You should fix the roof when the sun is shining? Definitely!...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is it still sweet and proper to die for your country?...

DULCE ET DECORUM EST*
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod.
All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.
(Wilfred Owen, 1917/18)
* DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean "It is sweet and proper." The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for one's country.

Bang! it's 11am in Tonbridge....

I swear that I nearly jumped out of my skin today when a huge bang went off over Tonbridge Castle. It's okay it wasn't the Saxons coming to take back the fort after nearly 1,000 years in Norman hands! It was an air bomb going off at precisely 11am, to mark the beginning of the two minutes silence for the fallen of the Wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. My window cleaner who was out in the street at the time said that he had been equally shocked, especially since he had no idea what it was. He said that he was only too glad that he wasn't up his ladder when it went off. Two minutes of near silence later, apart from the brief conversation with the window cleaner, the passing cars, the people walking, the noise from the offices the radio playing in the background etc, and another massive bang went off. I watched the smoke in the air a hundred feet above the castle. "Was that strictly necessary?" a passer by remarked. Probably not but not bad to remind ourselves, even if only in that token way, how those poor young men in the trenches of Northern France suffered nearly a hundred years ago. Or would it be better to forget the whole sorry business?...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grasp those business opportunities....

People of Tonbridge: look the recession is all but over so let's please have some business people, entrepreneurs, call them what you will, come forward with some bright ideas for shops to smarten up the High Street. We've recently had the opening of Sweets and Shakes that very bright candy coloured place next to McD's and the green grocers, but how about an electrical retailer, a smoothy bar, a new and dynamic sports and outdoor shop, a canoe centre (we are on a river after all) a camera shop. A mens clothes shop other than Burtons and Beales would be a start or do we just want more coffee shops, charity shops, estate agents and hairdressers? Come forward you people wherever you are, there are business opportunities out there waiting to be grasped....

Is forgetting to bow a crime?...

Did Sir John Stanley bow his head at the Tonbridge War memorial on Sunday? Did anyone notice? Does it matter if someone forgets the protocol at these events? Gordon Brown has certainly been getting some stick, albeit mainly from the Sun newspaper about forgetting to bow at the Cenotaph and making spelling errors on his hand written note to the bereaved mother of a soldier. Should he have had it typed? Should someone have checked it for him before it went out? Wouldn't that have made it less personal? Shouldn't we be grateful that the numbers of dead are still small enough for him to be able to personally write to each family....

Remember, Remember how bonfire night used to be?...

Remember remember the 5th of... or was it the 3rd, 4th, 6th or 10th. That's just the trouble these days you never know when the day is any more because of the trend towards weekend-only fireworks displays. This has the effect of it not being quite the same anymore, for me anyway. It hissed down with rain on Friday evening (the 6th November by the way) but apparently the Slade school display, which is always a good one, did still go ahead. I had intended to go along but, due to a sick daughter, decided wisely that it wasn't such a good idea. Apparently the Dunorlan Park spectacular event (on Saturday 7th November in case you were wondering) was just that: spectacular. Its a good location with it's natural amphitheatre; and over looking the lake with all the reflections of multicoloured stars and rockets adding to the spectacle. Rumour has it that the organisers spent about £9,ooo on gunpowder so that they could blow up Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council's offices, er sorry, no I mean so they could put on a wonderful display of pyrotechnics! Interestingly Thursday night, that is November 5th itself (remember!) was very quiet indeed as I drove home late from work. The air was still and actually it would have been a perfect night for a big fireworks display, but not an airbomb or a catherine wheel in sight. So this year, apart from the incessant whooshing, banging, whizzing, fizzing and cracking and the free displays from my upstairs windows, I haven't actually been to see any fireworks at all. Oh apart, that is, from the ones after every night of the festival of music and, of course, fireworks over Tonbridge Castle in the summer (remember, remember the 5th August... now that doesn't quite work does it!) and every time someone has a landmark birthday party. In fact firework night could just about be any night of the year these days and I for one think that that's a bit sad. I can just about still clearly remember my 5th November when I were a lad growing up in the wilds of Lincolnshire when we had a small display, always on Gut Fawkes night itself, in the back garden, whilst troughing down potatoes in their jackets, hot dogs and beans followed by parkin cake, toffee apples and my mum's special bonfire toffee, which these days would take out all my fillings. The 5th of November, let's remember has meaning and tradition. Can't we just leave it at that please people of Tonbridge....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fridays will never be the same without Ian Carmichael....


For quite a few years I've been a regular at the Angel Friday Flea Market. It almost became part of my routine on a Friday morning to go there. I've probably mentioned it in a few posts before now and certainly used to give it a regular plug in my Courier Tonbridge Community Life column. My most memorable visit was the time when I picked up a 2,000 year old Roman coin, with the head of Emperor Augustus still clearly visible. I think I paid £3 for it. The great thing about visiting the Flea Market is that you never know what to expect there so it becomes almost like a drug. You know that most weeks you won't find much at all, but every so often you get a real high when you discover some object (or book) that you just have to have. One person I did always expect to see there was a real old gent called Ian Carmichael (please forgive me if the spelling is wrong I always did have a problem with that name for some obscure reason.) Every week I'd spot Ian, husband of Sue the organiser of the market, usually sitting down at the first table inside the main door. He often had an interesting array of items on his stall, antique bottle openers and cork screws, old name plates, playing cards, pen knives and more often than not books. In fact as I got to know Ian better over the last five or six years I discovered that he was also a bookseller on the quiet and had attended many local book fairs in his time; not that far back he used to organise one in Tonbridge which became the Sevenoaks book fair. So Ian and I had something in common, we both loved selling, buying and collecting books and I had gone on to organise the Tonbridge Book Fair, which Ian started to regularly attend. He very rarely directly paid for his stall preferring instead to wait until I was tempted to buy some of his excellent books by way of a barter deal against the cost of the stall. Ian became the only exhibitor at my fair who I, in effect, had to pay to be there! We had some great conversations over the years, usually about books and book people but often about just life in general. I didn't know him beyond that so I can't really say that I was a great frend of his but what I do know is that when I heard this morning that he'd passed away after apparently having recovered from a heart attack and stroke some months ago, I felt shocked and rather tearful. I think if the news of anyone's death has that kind of an effect on you then he must have touched me and become part of my life. I'm sure that what I feel today is nothing when compared to the grief of Sue and his family but Ian mate, if your listening, I'll miss seeing your warm friendly face and our little chats. Fridays won't be the same without you....

Thinking about buying a new van?...

When I was thinking of buying a new van a little while back I'm pleased that the brochure didn't echoe the Book of the Ford Van from 1920, which I've just acquired in my book shop. Under the section titled "Will it Pay?" it states: "You can get all sorts of estimates and actual records of the cost of running a Ford van.... The truth is that much depends on the driver, a good deal on the annual mileage run, and something on luck.... And luck becomes a factor for if your van runs over a broken bottle just after new tyres have been fitted, bang go a good many 'saxpences'!" I think manufacturers might have told it more as it was back in the 1920s!
Just thought I'd share that one with you....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

9-24 to London Charing Cross....

Trip to London yesterday. I decided that, although I don't miss commuting to town every day like I used to in a previous life, I do miss the vibrancy of the place. I spent a really nice day on my own doing a bit of business in the morning, a bit of sight seeing (actually looking at the statues of Franklin, the artic explorer, Florence Nightingale, The Crimea soldiers and Edward VII on horseback on that square and steps which link The Mall with Pall Mall) a look around the wonderful (and free) National Portrait Gallery, a browse around several bookshops in Cecil Court and Charing Cross Road, only bought one book a signed copy of the new book by Aravind Adiga, author of last years superb booker prize winner, The White Tiger; a sandwich eaten outside Pret a Manger at the top of St. Martin's Lane sitting in the lovely warm unseasonal late autumn sunshine. Then a wander up through Covent Garden and up to the amazing James Smith Umbrellas and sticks shop on New Oxford Street. I've always wanted to go in there and did so yesterday and was left spellbound by the incredible array of every kind of walking stick, shooting stick, umbrella and cane you could possibly imagine. Is there a market for this old fashioned type of product? Well, judging by the brisk trade they seemed to be doing yesterday, I would say so. Was I tempted to part with my hard earned cash on a walking stick umbrella the same as that fella Nicholas Crane in the brilliant TV programme, Coast? Yes I was but came to my senses when I saw the £175 price tag. That's a whole £155 more than I paid for my fold up Fulton one, which seems to do the trick! I then legged it back to Charing Cross via the Camper shoe shop in Floral Street, decided that I'm not young and trendy enough for them these days, past the Lamb and Flag (alas no time for a pint of London Pride this time) onto St. Martin's Lane, up towards Trafalgar Square and jogged onto the platform to catch the 4-30 fast train back to Tonbridge in time for my daughter's birthday tea.) Now if only every Monday could be that packed full of interesting things. I must get up to London a bit more often....

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Witch part of Tonbridge is haunted?...

There's no wonder that people claim that the old part of Tonbridge is haunted. If you think about it there's more chance that it is, assuming you believe in all that stuff, simply because there have been people living and, more importantly dying, in this the old part of town for much longer. Take the medieval Castle for example which has been there in its present stone form for around 1,000 years, it been laid siege, several times fallen into new hands by violent means, over the centuries it has witnessed horrific scenes of torture, public execution, tournament accidents, women dying in childbirth, disease, pestilence, poverty, starvation, injustice. In the market square, by the Chequers pub there was a whipping post and stocks usually for poor people to be taught a lesson who had to steal food in order to live. Need I go on.
Now compare that to say Hadlow Road. It's been around alot less long, it's had people living there in relative comfort for at most a hundred years and most of the residents have had cars, TV's, enough food, and not much to complain about. I know of many ghost stories in the part of Tonbridge, which would have been within the old town defences, I don't know of any from Hadlow Road. It is funny how most of the ghoulish tales relate to a pub or restaurant (good way of getting publicity) and how no one you have ever spoken to has actually seen a ghost they only know of a friend of a friend who says they have.
Enjoy your Halloween trick or treating, gate lifting, fancy dress parties, drinking witches brew or whatever it is you do. I'm going to get back in my coffin for the rest of the day and all days, for all eternity, Sleep tight. NeerHa, ha, ha, haaaaa!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thanks Tonbridge Insider!...

That wonderful and useful news and information magazine, The Tonbridge Insider, has published a full page on yours truely. Thanks for the big plug, featuring me in their Q&A at the back of the magazine is better than a double page advertisement in my book. Maybe the family will be able to afford to eat this Christmas after all now that I've saved all that advertising budget!
PS. since being taken over by new owners the so called Tonbridge Insider is ran by a small team who aren't actually based in Tonbridge. Perhaps The Tonbridge Outsider would be a better title! (Now that's what I call biting the hand that feeds you!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where can I find a handyman in Tonbridge?...

I don't know about you but I'm not that handy around the house. Don't get me wrong I'm not terrible, I'm not saying it's like a Laurel and Hardy episode whenever we do DIY in the house but it's certainly not my forte. The problem is where do you get a handyman these days and more to the point where can you find a handyman or tradesman that you can trust to do a competent job and not to rip you off. Well Slade Area Residents Association (SARA for short) have come up with an ingenious solution. In their latest newsletter SARA have an article about a Slade "Register of Tradesmen" whereby Slade residents put a name and number of jobs done and recommend whether they have been impressed. The information would be made public on SARA notice boards and in the welcome pack for new residents. Moreover the list would be ongoing and updated with ranked scores for each trademan on the list. TonbridgeBlog thinks that this is not a bad idea for the rest of the town; maybe someone should launch a web site?!..

Fine Scribes 5....


For the past five years now I have collaborated (sounds a bit sinister but I think that's the correct word) with John Dench of Green Arrow Publishing (GAP for short-clever eh!) on a very worthy project. Culminating in a poetry anthology called Fine Scribes (the title was John's idea) we have ran a poetry competition for the poetry lovers of Tonbridge and the surrounding area. It hasn't been a great money spinner for either of us but it has just about been self financing and the standard, we think, has been, on the whole, of a pretty high standard. Anyway, if you want to find out more about the competition and the results from previous years efforts then you can do so on the Mr. Books web site. For now though here are the entries which John and the panel of judges thought worthy of the glittering prize money of £100 for the winner and less for the runners up. All the commended poems and a few guest poems will be included in this years anthology which, almost certainly and inevitably will be called Fine Scribes 5 and almost certainly will be priced £4.95 and available from one good book shop:

First Prize Winner

Oh, Foolish Child...

Born in 1983
A rebel child she came to be
Defying parents, teachers and the law
Never one to tow the line
She ran away from home at nine
Freedom beckoned through an open door

Her name was Angela MacNeal
With a heart of stone and nerves of steel
Barefoot through the alleyways she ran
A search conducted far and wide
But Angela knew where to hide
No one would deter her from her plan

She fell in with an outlaw gang
Rebel songs at night they sang
They stole and cheated each day to survive
Fuelled by nectar from the jar
One night they stole a rich man’s car
Angela – the only one who could drive

Oh, foolish child how wayward was your way?
A rebel’s life lived each and every day

The Garda men went in pursuit
Angela took the hilltop route
Her foot down to the floor – speed off the dial
Then suddenly, she lost control
And down the hill the car did roll
To end up just a crushed and mangled pile

Five bodies were hauled from the wreck
Angela, dead with a broken neck
Her blue eyes closed forever, such a shame
Taken to the mortuary, cold
The fragile frame, sixteen years old
And nobody there even knew her name

Now, some might call it destiny
A high price paid just to be free
While others say she was just the Devil’s Friend
So, now her body’s laid to rest
In an unmarked grave – who would have guessed
That this is how her young life was to end

Oh, foolish child how wayward was your way?
A rebel’s life lived each and every day

by Edward Jones

Second Prize:

And Then The Shredding

I shredded the first 56 letters
Of explosive political content –
You had numbered them,
Could someone as controlled as myself have really let you keep them?

I kept every single photograph of you with my daughter,
I kept the best of your books,
Volume on volume, astrophysics and apartheid and Egypt,
How could you have been so concerned and conducted yourself so contemptibly?
I shredded all those legal statements,
The stuff that issued from your comradeship
When I struggled for a future with my daughter.

I shredded every scrap of paperwork,
For what reason did you keep so much?
Collected together it stank of the urine
In which you allowed yourself to sit and exist in these last years.

I shredded the Christmas cards, the Birthday cards,
The bears and puppies and robins, the daffodils, the roses.
I kept the ancient photographs, the faded documents,
The half-deciphered hints of your evasive secrets.
I kept all the accumulated trophies
Of my every success and of every success of my daughter.

I curse you over the shredding machine,
I curse you because I am still not rid of you.
I spin like some little kite of paper strung up in the sun and wind:
Somewhere between contempt, indifference, rage, admiration and desolate sadness.

Here, over the shredding machine, a life is dismembered
Far more definitely than at your cremation service,
Here I shed my tears onto scraps of paper.
In dismembering your life I dismember much of my own.
In condemning my mother’s life I also condemn my own.

by Anthony James

Third Prize

Waves

Surrounding us each moment of the day
And of the night, those silent radio waves,
Invisible and clothed in mystery –
But true!
Those other waves that dance beyond the spectrum,
Caress with soothing fingers to bring healing
With content
And relaxation if in gentle doses,
But full of menace if untamed by oceans
Of ozone.

The gentle lapping of the waves upon the beach
Seems more in tune to touch our understanding
And summon feelings of security
And blessed peace.
But violent walls of water summoned up
By cataclysms deep beneath the sea
And far away,
Can smash their way in devastating might
Through unaware communities. We fail
To understand.

Humanity's desire to circumvent
Disasters of this kind, will gladly take
The willing hand of science to protect
Its legacy.
That willing hand already has devised
The way to trap and harness those long rays
Of infra-red;
But why so long to overcome the snags
In mastering the force of wave and tide
For energy?

Let us then enjoy the tingling touch
Of morning sun as he so gently strokes
Those sensual receptors on the back
and shoulders.
Take time to listen to the patient pulse
Of wavelets as they happily seduce
The shingled shore.
Let us revel now in all the beauty
And the wonder of this vast creation
We fear to lose.

by Vaughan Stone

Words really do fail me for once....


Now really is there any need for this mess boys and girls. Actually that is a bit of an assumption that the litter louts (do we still use that phrase?!) were boys and girls so apologies if it turns out that a bunch of old grannies are responsible for the mess! I saw this shameful sight one evening recently on my way home from work whilst walking through the park near the tennis courts and the footbridge to Bradford Street. Now I'm a pretty tolerant kind of a guy but come on: Where's the manners, the general decency, the civic pride? Just nowhere to be seen I'm afraid. In its place we have neglect, a lack of moral fibre, a complete lack of respect both self respect and respect for the town and others. There is a bin within twenty feet of this table and I'm sure that most others seeing his picture will be equally horrified if not altogether surprised....

Mr. Books hits back at Amazon!...


Just my small protest against the might of global retailing!

No Kindles just good old fashioned books at the Book Fair ....


The West Kent Book Fair in Tonbridge went really well at the weekend thanks for asking! There was a near record turn out of visitors, booksellers had come from far and wide, four authors were signing books, lots of people took advantage of the very reasonably priced hot drinks and snacks. In fact the whole atmosphere was just right, though I say so myself. It took a lot of hard work organising the event, which happens twice a year, and I'm always slightly disappointed that only a few hundred people out of the million or so in the catchment area have time and/or can be bothered enough to turn up, but the main thing is that those who did go and the booksellers, who mostly had a very good day, will be back next year. So put these dates in your 2010 diaries, if you already have them: Sunday May 2nd (same w/e as the Tonbridge Garden Show) and Sunday October 17th, to coincide with the Tonbridge Arts Festival, of which more another time....

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ten things to do in the half term holidays....

(1) Go to the West Kent Book Fair at Tonbridge School on Sunday (of course!)
(2) Take the kids to the park for a game of footy
(3) Go the the Odeon at North Farm (why oh why can't we have a cinema in Tonbridge?!)
(4) Go to Scotney Castle/ Bodium Castle/Sissinghurst before they all close for the winter.
(5) Do the Crowborough to Tonbridge stretch of the Wealdway (you'd be amazed how picturesque it is.)
(6) If that's too strenous for you try one of the Tonbridge Civic Society's 14 Walks (you can but these in my bookshop, price a mere £2.50.
(7) Throw a traditional jelly and ice cream/pass the parcel party at home (TonbridgeBlog predicts a comeback of this type of low cost party!)
(8) Have a family photo competition with the theme of Medway river life (honestly the kids'll love it and it gets them out doors away from their i-pods and computer games.)
(9) There's always boredom buster days at the Angel Centre if you're really stuck.
(10) er, that's it....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hillview Dance Platform: An unexpectably brilliant night out....

Wonderful, fabulous, fantastic, stupendous, rich, cultural, delightful, emotional and unexpectably moving are just some of the ways I would describe last night's Hillview School for Girls "Dance Platform" which I was fortunate enough to be attend last night. The event was held at the E.M. Forster Theatre at Tonbridge School, which really is a superb facility and isn't it wonderful that they share it with the community. The famous author, who incidentally attended the school, would have been proud indeed to have been associated with this display of Tonbridge talent. Most of the dancers were students from Hillview but actually also entertaining us were girls and a few boys from quite a few primary and senior schools in the surrounding district. I did have good reason to go along as actually both my son and my daughter were performing. Obviously I therefore particularly enjoyed their performances, since I haven't seen them practice this year at all, so I didn't know what to expect. Apart from that the routine, which I believe was called White Noise, performed by the Youth Dance Company, was most memorable because basically I rather liked the loud tecno/electric pulsating music, by Pendulum, and the way the dancers interpreted it's varying tempo. But there were many other great routines, which included not only brilliant modern dance and ballet but also, what could only be described as I would say, gymnastics and acrobatics in some cases.
Hillview is a school which specialises in the perfoming arts, so I shouldn't be altogether surprised at the level, depth and capability of the dancers but I didn't expect to be completely blown away by it. It was great to have such an unexpectably brilliant night out....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Fairs are not boring, really they're not....

Not much to comment on at the moment unless you happen to be a bookie in which case the Tonbridge/West Kent Book Fair is on this Sunday at Tonbridge School. It's not a school event, that just happens to be the venue (I do someimes wonder if members of the public get confused by this or am I being patronising in saying this?) Anyway, putting the finishing touches to this event is what's occupying my time at the moment so come along on Sunday, bring your friends, bring your families, turn off the TV, drag the kids away from their mobile phones and X-Box 360's and Sony Playstations. There's coffee, tea, biccies, local authors doing book signings and telling you how to get published, poetry, oh and quite a few thousand books for sale on a range of subjects so long it would bore you to death if I listed them all. What do you mean you already are!...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Calling all Weald of Kent girls from Class of 1998....


Well Sara Clark did you manage to get to live in a mansion with a heli-pad in front by last year?! You may have forgotten what you probably said off the cuff in 1998 but I'm afraid that this just demonstates the power and longevity of the written word. Things come back to haunt you. Sorry that I've singled you out, nothing personal it's just that your comment just happened to be interesting enough to catch my eye. I could equally have picked on Holly Fairweather who said that in ten years time (ie. by 2008) she would be "a top publisher living anywhere but Tonbridge!" Bit cheeky Holly but again you probably just thought of that on the spur of the moment and I'm sure that you probably now realise that there are a lot worse places in the world than this little corner of Kent. These comments and those of all the 1998 sixth form leavers of the Weald of Kent Grammar School for Girls are immortalized in the 1997-8 Year Book which Mr. Books has just acquired. I'm sure a few of the teachers have a few more grey hairs since then. It would be interesting to know if many of the girls achieved their "In ten years time" ambitions. What to do with such a book? I could auction it in the shop I suppose; some of those girls are probably well off by now!...

Shake it all over!...

Someone has nicked yet another one of my business ideas. TonbridgeBlog has noticed that there's a new cafe/shop just about to open called Sweets and Shakes. I've always thought, since the closure of that tiny sweet shop on Botany, that there was room for a traditional-style sweet shop in Tonbridge and, more recently, I said to a friend that Tonbridge is crying out for a smoothy and shake bar, which would appeal to thousands of under 18s. I'd even come up with the name for it and everything! Now they're about to do both in one hit. Good luck to them cos Tonbridge needs all the entrepreneurs it can get. It's the right end of town for all the school and college students, although not sure about being right next to McDonalds with their price advantage, they might end up blowing Sweets and Shakes out of the water. Personally I'd have looked for a shop on Quarry Parade, which is where just about all the West Kent College students and most of the children from South Tonbridge's many schools walk past twice every day....

Cheaper meals at the Ivy....

TonbridgeBlog has noticed that the Ivy House Dining Room and Bar (quality restaurant but casual) has had to set its sights a little lower. It now has a large board out front enticing the affluent ABC1's of Tonbridge to try its new £9.50 lunch and diner set menu. Has anyone tried it yet? Are they served on tiny plates or do you get a sizeable portion. I might wait for the £5.50 menu and then give it a try!...

What have you been up to for the last twenty years?...

Fire up the Golf GTi, take it for a burn up on the A21, brush off your double breasted sharp suits and attach those wide red braces which have been lurking in the corner of the wardrobe all these years. Get a weird haircut with a ridiculously long quiffy fringe, polish off your Loakes brogues. Forget Abba and 70s retro fashions. Cos Spandau Ballet are back! Gary Kemp and Tony Hadley have buried the hatchet and are just starting their European tour after 2 years of legal and actual fighting. Yes the Eighties are back. I moved to Tonbridge in 1989, when the whole 80s thing was just about over. What was it like here in that decadent decade? Any different to now? Post you classic 80s memories below....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Schools Roads and buses....

In the latest copy of AroundKent, the news paper of Kent County Council, which I have never actually bothered to read before, I noticed that the esteemed Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, was inviting comments from the public in small letters at the bottom of his leader article. He mentioned many subjects which are close to everyone in Kent's heart such as traffic congestion and schools, hospitals and police. Not being one to shy away from doing my civic duty I put pen to paper (actually finger to keyboard) and penned him my thoughts particularly relating to schools and the Kent Freedom Pass, which if you don't know is a scheme which has been running for a few years allowing all school children from 11-16 years to travel anywhere in the county "free" I say free but actually there's a £50 annual "administration fee" But still better than paying the £700 a year it would cost for your son or daughter to travel to Tunbridge Wells and back every day with those lovely people at the (non)Arriva bus company. My main issue is that whilst passes for 11-16 year olds is all well and good, what about all the sixth formers and college students who are, let's face it, more likely to come in by car, thus clogging up the already overloaded roads, and who would benefit even more from having the freedom pass. If TonbridgeBlog hasn't bored you to tears on this subject and you can be bothered to read on here is the letter wot I wrote to Mr. Carter at KCC and I'm pleased to say that today I received his reply, which follows. Make of it what you will, but I thought it was quite positive and particularly noticed the litttle PS:

"Hello, in the latest issue of "AroundKent" you mention "...planned infrastructure, schools, railway capacity etc..." In my view it seems that one of the most obvious causes of the traffic capacity particularly on the stretch of road between South Tonbridge and the St. Johns area of Tunbridge Wells, although I've a pretty good feeling it applies elasewhere in Kent, is the admissions policies of the Grammar Schools in the area. Judd School in Tonbridge, as an example, is a highly selective school which only admits students who achieve virtually full marks in the 11+ Being as this is the only boys grammar in Tonbridge this policy natually means that most of the boys from Tonbridge who pass their 11+ are forced to go to school in, Tunbridge Wells, usually at one of the two boys grammars on the St. Johns Rd. Someone must have studied what effect this has on local traffic before 9am in particular but, I'm betting, without that the traffic would be much aleviated.
It's almost certainly true that KCC's Freedom Pass, which my son currently benefits from, has helped the traffic situation to some extent, as many of the students who would otherwise have got lifts from parents are now, more sensibly, taking the bus. However, what of six formers and college students, like the vast numbers who pour into Tonbridge on a daily basis? They have no freedom passes available to them and are also, in many cases able to drive, thus helping to overload already full roads and when they arrive they often have no choice but to park in residential parking areas within a walk of their schools/colleges. Surely, if the intention is to get cars off the road, the Kent Freedom pass would be even more applicable to these older young people than the younger ones. I realise that your finances are being heavily scrutinized at present, but surely this would be money well spent. Please let me know your thoughts on this,

Regards
Mark Richardson"

His reply:


Dear Mr Richardson,

Thank you for your constructive e-mail dated 6 October.

I take your point about school travel movements and traffic congestion. This was one of the key drivers in the introduction of the Kent Freedom Pass which is having a positive impact on school traffic flows as you mention.

Kent County Council did seek some Government help with cost of implementing the Freedom scheme. This would have helped us to extend the scheme for 16-18 year olds. Sadly, we have had to bear the cost of the scheme without such assistance.

We are currently reviewing the Freedom scheme and are looking very closely at the possibility of including 16-18 year olds. The ultimate decision will depend upon the cost.

Thank you again for your comments.

Yours sincerely

Paul Carter
Leader of Kent County Council

p.s. I agree, super-selection does not help congestion!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lazy Sunday afternoons....

Tomorrow will be the first Sunday I've had off for three weeks. The last two I've been exhibiting at book fairs in Farnham last weekend and Dorking the Sunday before, getting up at around 6am when everyone else in the street was still fast asleep (Get out the violins.) So yes I'm going to enjoy tomorrow, I'm going to have a typical British Sunday washing the car, making sure the garden is ready for the winter and spending time with my family. I may even buy the Sunday Telegraph and plonk myself in my favourite chair for a couple of hours while my Sunday roast settles itself. Then I'll go for a stroll around Barden Park Lake chatting and watching the kids race around on their bikes (actually they'll probably want to stay at home and fiddle with their i-pods and mobile phones but let's not ruin the image!) Ah yes the Great British Sunday alive in Tonbridge....

Poetry in Tonbridge could be all year....

I must have been busy this week because, as one sharp commenter was quick to point out, I missed National Poetry Day (Thursday.) Well actually to say I missed it is a little of an exaggeration; what actually happened is that I thought about it in the weeks before it, shelved it, put it to the back of my mind and then a day or two before thought that it was too late to arrange anything of my own so thought I'd go along to someone elses event. In the end I did absolutely nothing. I mean I didn't even read a poem from a book that day let alone perform one at some arty event. Shame on me! I do have to be in the mood for poetry actually and can't always just turn it on. When I was doing the monthly poetry evenings, which used to be at the Ivy House (when that establishment was still a seedy pub with no pretentions of being an upmarket posh bistro- "but casual") I'll be honest with you and say that sometimes I was dreading the prospect of spending 3 hours with people who where really up for a bit of poetry because they'd chosen to go along that night. I always managed, after a couple of pints, to loosen off my togue and vocal chords and get into it but it wasn't always what I wanted to do. Equally there where times when I was on fire and you couldn't get me to shut up. So apologies to the poets of Tonbridge if you didn't have an outlet for your intense desire to read out your skilfully crafted verse, but we don't have to wait for a made up national poetry day to do it again. All we need is a suitable central venue and a willing landlord....

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is Mr. Books stuffed?!..

As Leonard Cohen once sang: "I have seen the future and it is murder!" Well I've just read an article about the new Kindle in today's Telegraph which amazon are launching in the UK soon. Essentially it is an electronic book reader and their vision is of course to have every book ever printed, and every newspaper at their at your finger tips. Will it catch on? Are the printed book's days numbered? Is Mr. Books stuffed?! I'm still not convinced that it'll be that popular after the novelty value has worn off but then I would say that wouldn't I. Don't get me wrong there is some merit in these devices but I still don't think that they'll replace paperbacks and newspapers any time soon. They are part of who we are. Can you imagine being worried about getting your Kindle wet and full of sand on the beach? Or not being able to rustle your copy of The Times or be able to hide behind it on the train into Town. Then there are collectable books; how can you collect a first edition if it's virtual?!..

Friday, October 2, 2009

Daylight robbery....

I hear they are making a blockbuster film of the Tonbridge Securitas robbery. I don't know about you but I reckon that it'll be a fantastic story; whatever you think about the gang of thugs that carried out the heist it will make great viewing once the film makers have added a few personal stories and perhaps a smattering of a love interest. As someone who very often drives past the building where it all took place four years ago I still find it staggering that there was that much money laying around in there. In fact, so I understand, they would have got twice as much loot if they'd had a bigger lorry and, but for a serious miscalculation of the weight of ten pound notes, they would have done. Maths obviously not the gang's strongest point then. Who will they cast in the main roles? My money's on Sean Bean and that fella from Guy Richie's Snatch, maybe even Ray, Sexy Beast, Winstone as the Big Daddy of the operation. I'll pay good money at the cinema to see that. And here's a moral dilema for you: what would you do if you found the missing 30 million quid in some waste ground while out walking the dog?! (A) Report it to the police like a good Tonbridge citizen. (B) Gather up the loot and hide it in the garage for a few years before spending it all slowly on dream holidays. (C) Leave the country and the wife/husband with the cash then and there, never to return. (D) You fill in the gap!...

Business as usual in Tonbridge....

Not much going on really thus not many posts this week. Actually it's usually a good sign for my book business if I'm not posting on TBlog, it means I'm busy selling books, posting books to book collectors in far off lands or, in this mornings case, organising and distributing posters for the West Kent Book Fair (which, by the way, takes place on Sunday October 25th in the magnificent surroundings of Old Big school hall at Tonbridge School) and deciding which bargains to put in the new £2 section at Mr. Books shop. I didn't even make the Angel Flea Market this morning where I often like to go for a browse of the weird and wonderful array of treasures, junk and antiques, nor indeed did I make it along to the old lady market otherwise known as the Tonbridge Country Market for my usual Victoria sponge cake or almond and jam tarts. It's a busy old life sometimes but more often than not enjoyable and fulfilling. How about yours?... (that's a cue for lots of varied comments by the way!)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Something Missing in Tonbridge?...

You would have been forgiven thinking that there was a major incident at the back of Somefield this mornng. There were police officers a squad car hastily parked at an angle in the road and a large crowd gathered to gawp at the scene. On closer inspection though, those police women did look a bit too attractive and there was something not quite right about the car. Then I noticed that we had suddenly acquired a new police station in Tonbridge. It turns out that a film crew has descended on the town and they are using the long vacant building alongside the river as a pretend police station for a TV series, starring Pauline Querk, called Missing. No never seen it myself but apparently it was very popular last time around hence the recommissioning of a new series, which will be shown next year. An hour later after having witnessed this scene in Bradford Street I'm sitting in my bookshop when in walks a familiar looking face. It probably sounded pathetic but I could resist saying "'Ere, aren't you that Rob Carver off The Bill..." (at least I didn't say "allo allo allo!") "That's right," the chap replied "...although I haven't been on The Bill for many years now..." Well he was the last time I tuned in and, if I remember correctly he had a bit of an alcohol problem and was having an affair with one of the WPCs, but that's by the by. Turns out that the actor, Mark Wingate, is also filming in Tonbridge on Missing; I think he said that they'll be around for the next two or three months for the programme, so look out for more dramatic arrests and long arms feeling peoples collars. I had quite a long chat with Mr. Wingate who fortunately for me loves books and has given me his wants list (I shan't tell you what's on it!) Keep 'em peeled!...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Germans are coming!... to off load their debts....

Interesting article appeared today on the Telegraph web site with the heading: "Tunbridge Wells the 'debt capital of Europe'" Apparently near bankrupt Germans are coming over here having built up large debts in Europe in order to declare themselves bankrupt. This is due to Britain's far more lenient bankruptcy laws. Why Tunbridge Wells then? Apparently they like the area, it's quintesential Englishness appeals; it's also close to Ebbsfleet, so they can go home easily with all the money they've saved. Actually zee Tonbridge town ist just as gut and even closer to the Eurostar station. But we should probably keep quiet about it on this occasion!...

88 squillion quid is a lot of brass!...

I had a bit of a West Kent College day yesterday. Because of an arts festival project I'm getting involved in they had asked me to exhibit at their freshers day fair, which was from about 9am to 2-30pm on the car park outside the Speldhurst building. They couldn't have pickd a better day to be out in the open air. The Indian Summer sun was beating down on us, while the fresh breeze kept us from overheating. I spoke to alot of foreign students who all had the same questonaire to test their English skills, which, in most cases were badly lacking. I hope they catch up soon otherwise they'll be eaten alive at Tonbridge Saturday market. There were student bands and dance groups, some of which were incredibly good. I didn't sell many books, but no harm in putting Mr. Books name around town I say and I did go home with a bit of an unexpected sun tan. Some of the traders there were bitterly disappointed as one colourful character commented: "I'd have been better off if I'd got up this morning and burnt a five pound note!" But really what did they expect at a student fair? The Absolutely Fabulous girls to drop by with large bundles of cash?! There were some wonderful looking characters and creations on display outside the canteen area as students did what they do best together: hang out in largish groups, smoking, talking, sipping coffee and water, posing and eyeing each other up. Another less kind and I might add bitter and twisted older lady stall holder remarked that she thought that young people today had no direction "They seem to be just drifting!" Her colleague with her on the stall was even less kind and thought that National Service should be brought back to knock them all into shape and bring back respect. I told them that I thought that nothing had really changed that much since they were young but felt like saying: "Listen you bitter old gits: You two are market traders whereas every one of these young 'drifters' is here for a reason they have a course they have therefore a direction in life ergo, by definition, they are not drifters." But it would probably have been wasted on them!...
Then in the evening, remember I said at the start that I'd had a West Kent College day, I went along to the first talk of the season on the Tonbridge Civic Society programme of events held upstairs at the Angel Centre. The subject was something I did want to know more about, West Kent College's new multi million pound face lift. This is a massive project that will be a major contributor to Tonbridge and the surrounding area. Vice Principal, Chis Hare, told us broadly what the college is all about and where they expect to go, but the most interesting bit was by a representative from Dyer, the architects on the project, who took us through the building almost literally with the aid of computer graphics. It will be an amazing, state of the art building which is bound to attract an even wider audience of young adults eager to learn the mainly vocational subjects which the college offers. There'll be a skyline cafe with panoramic views right across the Weald of Kent, there'll be an incredible, versatile studio and theatre, health care facilities, even an open air theatre and conference area. All of this will be available in off peak hours to members of the community of Tonbridge. Yes there are bound to be teething problems and yes there will be more than a few issues over things like students parking in residential areas, but that will all be ironed out in time. Won't it be worth it for such a tremendous facility right on our door step? Mind you 88 squillion quid, which is what the project is costing, is a lot of money in anyone's book!...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Book quote number One....

Well someone's got to carry the flag for books haven't they!

"Next to acquiring good friends, the next best aquisition is that of good books." C.C. Colton (who he?!)

Christmas coming too early....

After having read the report in the local rag about card shops in Tonbridge starting to sell Christmas cards already (in mid-September for goodness sake!) I don't know what you all think about this subject but I'm reminded of a poem I wrote a couple of years ago about Christmas festivities coming too early and leading to confusion:

Christmas Comes Too Early
Christmas is coming
The Easter Bunny's getting fat,
Please put a penny for the Guy
In the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny
Some sweets will 'ave to do.
We shopped right through
Till New Year's Day
And missed it all, Oh drat!

Hand car wash update....

Google ads have been busy again as underneath the last posting about the car wash sign on the roundabout near the library is an ad for, yes you've guessed it, where to find your local hand car wash place! So there you have it: the hand car wash people should have advertised on Tonbridge Blog instead of wasting all that time standing in the cold breathing in exhaust fumes!...

A sign of the times?...

Have the police finally got tough with the Hand Car Wash kid on the roundabout? He seems to have disappeared from the face of Tonbridge. I'm all for a bit of enterprise and if they can make a few bob washing cars then good luck to 'em I say. But it's a shame that there can't be a way of stopping them standing in such a prominent location at the southern gateway of the town for whole days on end. It does look tacky to say the least and the people who organise it obviously know that there's a loophole in the law which allows them to stand there with their luminous sign. Pathetic really when you think about it isn't it. Now then does anyone fancy getting six quid an hour holding a placade for the Tonbridge Book Fair on October 25th?! I might as well expolit the same loophole, I've got a business to run you know!...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A saucey weekend!...

Went to the Penshurst Craft Fair on Sunday and concluded that it is really just a glorified market. Interesting, but really just a big market place. Why then does it cost over a fiver to get in? £5.80 to be precise, so that's £11.60 if you're a couple (thankfully children get in free.) To be perfectly honest with you all I had some freebie tickets, since I agreed to put a poster up in my shop for them so I shouldn't complain now should I! There were a staggering number of cars parked up by the marquees for the three day event when we arrived for what was to be a whistle-stop tour of the fair. Two hours later I was still walking around, stopping to talk to the traditional hurdle fencing guy, who sounded like a cider drinking country bumkin from the 19th Century. His prices certainly weren't 19th C though! I did manage to pick up a large blue breakfast cup from a pottery, which was £9 but just what I've been looking for for my morning coffee, and very individual. The lady told me I could stick it in the dishwasher and the microwave so that was good enough for me. Having said that if the handle falls off I'll have to wait for the next craft fair in May since I've no idea who she was. There was some serious money being made there I can tell you. Mind you those exhibitors have to take about £1,000 over the 3 days before they've made a penny. You see those stalls don't come cheap at around £700 for the average sized pitch. I know it sounds alot but the fella who was doing a roaring trade on the home made curry sauces stand told me that they would normally expect to take in the region of £6,000 at this fair. That's a heck of a lot more than Mr. Books takes at the average book fair I can tell you; maybe I'm in the wrong game after all and need to brush up on my ethnic and traditional culinary skills! What should I call this new venture? Why Mr. Sauce of course!...

24 hour slow news....

In a shock report we tell you how, in Tonbridge today, absolutely nothing new happened! TonbridgeBlog reported that the news was so slow as to have almost dried up. We'll bring you all the latest on that as events unfold....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Slow news day....

As someone pointed out in a recent comment this time of year is indeed the silly season when it comes to reporting news, or should that be no news. In the days of 24 hour rolling news channels who struggle to make even coherent sentences on slow news days, and who leap on an international disaster like a child with a new bike for Christmas, I always find it refreshing to recall that famous clip on the news in the early days of television when the news reader was heard saying those immortal words: "...Today there is no news to report...." I kid you not, it did actually happen. Sometimes it would be nice if todays news channels and newspapers were a little more realistic instead of making up the news as they go along....

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Tonbridge plinth....

Here's a link to the One&Other Plinth web site which shows Tonbridge's very own actor/poet/entertainer Karl Niklaus performing and larking about 30 feet up in Trafalgar Square. It takes a lot of guts to stand up there in the first place by all accounts, let alone to keep a crowd entertained for a whole hour. I haven't watched all of it but he seems to be doing his best to keep everyone involved and I've just heard him say "Release the spoken word into the world!" It's given me an idea as well. Maybe we should have a Tonbridge plinth during next years arts festival. I'll put it to the committee but who would we have perform there apart from Karl of course. I'd probably give it a bash for a laugh. Any other takers?....

A moan about mobility scooters!...

"TonbridgeBlog really should have a moan about mobility scooters" said one recent comment. I'm not sure about this as the Courier are doing it to death already in their usual way. You know the picture on the disgruntled mother who's child has had a near death experience on the streets of downtown Tonbridge. She has a serious looking glum face and the photograher, who's seen it all a million times, knows he can extract every ounce out of a feeble story if the little toddler who has cheated death is also in the frame looking equally glum. Sorry if that sounds a little cynical for a moderately serious topic but actually I think this is a storm in a tea cup. There's a very nice, if a little grumpy, old chap who stops by my shop parking his disabled mobile outside; he comes in to buy books on stamps and I honestly can't see him being a menace on the pavement. Look at it from their point of view they mostly can't walk more than a few yards without serious difficulty so to many these electric scooters are a lifeline, they allow them to go shopping or out and about to visit friends when they might otherwise be house-bound. The pavements are busy in the town centre, but no where else; the roads are too dangerous for them to go very far on. These scooters only travel at a top speed of 4 mph, which is only fast walking pace afterall and they mostly go at 2mph. Yes maybe there is a problem with some of the latest models which are capable of up to 8 mph, although even this is slower than a teenager's bike or even a skateboarder. How many accidents have there actually been; I've only heard about this one and maybe it was an accident waiting to happen. One thing is for sure though, for the Courier newspaper it was a story waiting to happen! One letter to the paper, which they printed, asked if their was training available for "these people..." I'm not sure that referring to disabled people as these people will win this letter writer many votes of support but maybe she had a point about the training. I'm sure that the vast majority of the drivers/riders are safe and sensible, just like most cyclists and pedestrians are, so can you impose laws and regulations just for the careless few. I would wager that most have driven a car for many years, so will quickly be able to grasp the hang of a slow moving scooter, maybe those who haven't ever driven should be given a test rather like the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) test for motor bikes and scooters which teach the rider the basics in around three hours. Should they be made compulsory though? Have your say by commenting below....