Saturday, January 31, 2009

Twittering...

Don't let this put you off TonbridgeBlog, but has anyone tried Twitter.com I still haven't quite got my head around the point of twittering but the site has gained a massive following. Stephen Fry, for example has around 90,000 twitter "followers" Mind you he is interesting and gets around the world a bit these days. My own twitter has one follower so far and I'm not sure how you get any more or how they hear about you. Certainly worth a look though....

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dumbed down Courier...

What a dumb article in the Courier today asking people in the street what reasons they have to be cheerful with the recession and all. Just because they are closing offices and making reporters and freelancers redundant doesn't mean that everyone's feeling depressed. For God's sake! Why, does life suddenly come to a dramatic halt just because a few banks have been careless with our money? Do babies stop being born? Do people stop having amusing conversations and comedians stop being funny? Do we stop having nice food? Or enjoying a glass of wine? Does Easter not come this year and birthday parties stop being fun? Does the sun stop shining on the white frosty fields? Does Radiohead's music suddenly become really depressing (OK bad example!) We're all still alive and kicking for Christ's sake. We'll come out the other side of this recession the better for it, you mark my words; leaner fitter, stronger. So sod off Courier and find some real news to report. (It's all gone down hill of course since I stopped writing for them!)...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

TonbridgeBlog original site now closed....

The original Tonbridge blog has now been stopped. But don't get the violins out yet as this new improved TonbridgeBlog seems to work just fine and, if anything, is getting more comments than the old one. Maybe people trust Google more or something, who knows. So at the moment this is the address for TonbridgeBlog: http://tonbridgeblog.blogspot.com so spread the word. Within the next few days and with a bit of luck I should be able to point www.tonbridgeblog.com to this site but if not then we'll just carry on here....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bone kickers in Tonbridge?...

There seems to be a team of archaeologists digging around the foundations of the old council offices reception, which has been recently demolished; presumably no one has been able to dig there for well over a hundred years so they could make some interesting discoveries. Two questions. Have they found anything yet? Secondly: why does the council need to spend our money on a new reception area when the old one was just fine? TonbridgeBlog will try to keep you updated....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tonbridge Juddians Groundsman resigns in floods of tears....


The groundsman at the Tonbridge Juddians Rugby Club was today sacked in a scandal over lies he told the club Chairman that the pitch would be ready in time for Saturday's game. He was seen out early with his garden fork prodding holes the length of the first team pitch but, unfortunately had to give up as the water began lapping over the top of his waders. I did my best he told the passing dog walkers, but I only got my ten meters swimming badge at school, I shouldn't have applied for the job knowing that the pitches were on a flood plain. Olympic gold medalist Rebbecca Adlington has been hastily approached as a temporary replacement!...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tips for the recession Part One....

The RECESSION is here so come to terms with it!

Stop worrying you may yet keep your job and even if you don't you'll still be alive.

Stop saying cliches like CREDIT CRUNCH and GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS; they're all made up euphemisms for Governments to avoid saying that they've really messed up.

Spend your way out of the recession? If you've got any money, which most of us have, so stop holding it back for a rainy day and take advantage of the panicking retailers who have to meet their year on year performance target or face a dressing down by their major shareholder committees.

Read your way out of recession? Well I had to get that one in didn't I, being a bookseller and all! But it is true, you can buy a paperback by a favourite or even new author and spend the next three or four nights in, saving electricity (no telly) and saving money by not going out and saving even more money on food if the book is so gripping that you simply cannot put it down.

Start a new cheap hobby like amateur dramatics, or metal detecting or something.

Buy Tonbridge Civic Society's publication "14 Walks" for a mere £2.50 and do all of them this Spring. You'll be amazed at how wonderful the countryside is around about.

Don't join a gym to get fit, you'll only be wasting your money and fooling yourself. It's the doing of exercise that gets you fit, not the taking out membership. So go running, cycle to school or work, walk to the shops, go swimming in the fitness lane, do press ups at home, join a football or athletics club. Hell you could even make love love more (but remember to take precautions folks!)

Buy your beer from the supermarket cos whatever claims the likes of Sainsbury's make about responsibly selling alcohol, they have to sell it dirt cheap cos they're so scared in case Tescos and Asda nick 1% or their market share.

Start a sideline business such as buying and selling antique toys, it'll not only make you money but it may save you money as well since you won't have any free time anymore. You might even enjoy it and go for a complete career change.

Don't go to watch football, unless you've already bought a season ticket; it'll cost you a small fortune, make you unfit and turn you into a narrow minded yobbo in all probability. Go to watch the Tonbridge Juddians instead down the park. It's free, you can stand right on the pitch and watch some outstanding rugby and the beer's cheap in the club house after the game.

And lastly (for now) I once had a Scottish friend during my days working in Canary Wharf, and this was when the economy was bouyant, who (obviously) never bought a round of drinks and used to go from bar to pub to bar, ordering a soda water with ice in each one. I kid you not. It didn't cost him a penny; tight you may think but not a bad tip now if you must keep going out in these straightened times....

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hands off me buns....

The Old Lady Market, sometimes known as the Tonbridge Country Market is back on after, I must say, rather a lengthy Christmas break. Even the House of Commons went back a week sooner! It was today, from 8-30 to 11am and they do some terrific home baked cakes (by old ladies who know what they're doing in the kitchen) quiches, chutnies, jams, flap jacks, home grown fruit and veg, ham and meat from a proper local butchers, bread fom Rusbridges of Southborough (a proper family baker) and much more. Never mind if you missed it, the sprightly Old Ladies will be back next Friday and every one thereafter until Easter at least. But get there early if you want the Victoria sponge cake. Come to think of it don't go at all, then there'll be more choice left for me!...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A gentleman should always have four umbrellas....

I'm quite a fussy bugger when it comes to clothing (I know you wouldn't believe it to look at me!) and I've recently lost an umbrella, which I suppose isn't strictly speaking clothing at all, but I'm going to include it as such. Now you need a good umbrella in a town as wet as Tonbridge seems to be on occasion, one you can rely upon in a down pour. I've been all over the place trying to find the right one; you see I've owned quite a few in the past. Some have blown inside out with the first strong gust of wind and been thrown straight in the bin. "You buy cheap you buy twice!.." as me brother always used to say! Others, like my trusty fold up Fulton with crook handle, lasted somewhat longer and withstood some real down pours on my way to and from the railway station, in the days when I worked in London. I've had golf umbrellas, gentleman's black town umbrellas, full length, short ones, even children's ones have been used when I couldn't find mine. Most have gradually, slowly but surely, been weakened, lost a thread here, snapped a hinge there, until eventually and inevitably they've fallen apart and ended up ruthlessly disgarded in the nearest bin. I've got it into my head that I want an umbrella which will last me the rest of my days and be passed on to future generations of Mr. Books! So over the last month or so, I've been patiently perusing the umbrella racks in Beales where they are pretty much all Fulton. The "Windbreaker" ought to be a good bet with a name like that, and at £15 seems quite reasonably priced, but I'm not sure that I can trust another folding one to last me a lifetime. They are bound to have more weak spots than a full length one if you think about it. I found a sturdy looking one in Cotswold Outdoor shop by Jack Wolfskin, the mountaineering and walking clothing specialist, in Tunbridge Wells the other day, priced £20, it has flaps to allow the wind to get through to prevent it from turning inside out in strong winds; but it looks very plastic and cheap and is probably not much stronger than any number of golfing umbrellas on the market. Also it has a straight handle and I prefer the crook handled variety (I did say that I was a fussy bugger didn't I!) I've even gone to the trouble of finding out the umbrella used by that mad bloke on the Coast and Brittannica TV programmes: if you aren't familiar with Nick Crane his trade mark seems to have inadvertantly become his trusty Bark Ash walking stick umbrella, which I now know came from that amazing establishment in New Oxford Street, London called James Smith and Sons. Now they, I discover, have been making gentleman's umbrellas since about 1850. And they do actually still make them in the basement of their premises, below the shop! I reckon they must make a bloomin fine brolly to have lasted all that time. There's a great article on a web site called Bown's Bespoke, I just stumbled across during the course of this hunt for the perfect rain protector, which extolls the virtues of a good umbrella and indeed goes on to say that a gentleman should own four umbrellas. He goes on "...But a black umbrella with brown shoes… banish such a sartorial solecism!.." I'll leave you to find out the rest of his reasoning on that one. Anyway with all this wet weather in good old Tonbridge I can waste no more time; I must visit James Smith and buy that Ash walking stick brolly so I too can wander around long lost highways and byways with my crook handle poking elegantly out of the top of my rucksack, ever prepared for that sudden soaking. The only snag is that it'll knock me back around 150 squid! Now let me think about that one....

Bookworms of Tonbridge unite....

John Adams bookshop is closing very soon. That's now official. That's a sign of the times alright. High rents, Amazon, an expanded WH. Smiths and an absent owner will all have played their part in the loss making business. (By the way John Adams himself hasn't actually owned the shop for at least seven years if you were wondering, he sold out just at the right time.) So then my humble little shop in Bank Street is to become Tonbridge's only independent bookshop. I didn't particularly plan it that way when I opened for business nearly four years ago but I have to confess it will probably help me along somewhat, especially on the new book sales, which have been growing quite a bit over the last year anyway. So come on people of Tonbridge, Amazon and WH. Smiths are rich enough already, come and order your new books with MR. BOOKS (what do you mean it's cheaper on Amazon and anyway you don't really care if Mr. Books closes and we have a High Street full of pound shops and charity shops. Suit yourselves!)

I spy a bargain!...

I haven't read the London Evening Standard for a bit. When I last bought a copy I'm sure it was only about 35 or 40p. Now I hear that it's gone up to a pound! (What's that you say?) That was for ownership of the newspaper group itself? Get away with you! It turns out to be true though, as you'll know if you've been following the story. And it gets even weirder when you hear that the new owner of the once great paper is an ex-KGB Russian agent, now Oligarch (whatever that is!) I reckon it must mean he has enough dough to splash out on a paper which is currently making estimated £100 million a year losses just so he can be photographed with the rich and famous. So come on Comrade Lebedev, it may not have quite the history of the ES but it's not losing any money and it's readership is on the up, not in terminal decline; so how about a cool million squid for TonbridgeBlog?...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In the mind of a tonbridge teenager....

There's a great piece of software called Pivot which allows you to create simple stick insect type animations. My son told me about it and begged me to put a link on TBlog to his creations, which he's posted on YouTube. (He wants to get his viewing ratings up) I'm quite impressed with his work actually; they demonstrate some of the dark forces at play in the teenage mind if nothing else! If only he'd put that much effort into his homework!.... Link 1: Sylar and link 2: Matrix

Saturday, January 17, 2009

More rubbish talk from TMBC....

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council have put up posters around the town stating that they are going to clamp down on litter louts (my words not theirs) Heavy fines will be the order of the day with a zero tolerance-type approach. I'll try to post a pic of the poster soon but maybe some of you have noticed them already. Is this the way forward or is there a wider social issue that needs addressing? Certainly I get really pissed off with the amount of crap that accumulates on a Friday night on the Bank Street/High Street corner where, judging by the cartons, late night kebab eaters gather. Nothing wrong in that, it's their stomach linings being attacked not mine, but why throw the wrappers down on the pavement, spilling the half eaten contents out for the rats to finish off, when there's a bin about five feet away? It is a question of attitude half the time, it's certainly not a lack of available bins, so maybe a rocket up the arse in the way of a fifty quid on the spot fine could be the answer....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Courier desparately seeking new community columnists....

I must declare my interest here: I was, as many of you will know, the community columnist for the Kent and Sussex Courier for several years up until a few months ago when they decided to abruptly not pay us any more whilst expecting us to do roughly twice as much work on a voluntary basis. I used to enjoy writing the column most weeks and tried to make it a bit more than just when the flower arrangement society was meeting by adding in some local interest tit bits and a little Tonbridge history and gossip. Around two thirds of the columnists dropped out at the same time as me, including some who had been writing their columns for nigh-on 15 years. So desparate to fill in the gaps (or columns to be precise) have the Courier become that they have approached some one very senior in the Tonbridge Civic Society to ask if they could find someone to write a Tonbridge column since it is such an important community role. If it's that important then why don't you stop arseing about and pay someone to do it instead of going cap in hand to people who, frankly, have more important things to do for the community than write your column. You, being a commercial organisation, just want to sell newspapers to a community which you seem to be doing your best to allienate. You're part of the newspaper group which, among others, publishes the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Evening Standard and hundreds of prime regional titles. So you can afford to cough up the paltry ten or twenty quid a week for these community columns, you've shot yourselves in the foot and now it's time to get real before you lose even more of your ever dwindling readership....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Matt's world: The great debate on racism....


He just does it everytime with his quirky view on the world. I'd love to live in Matt's World....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What recession?...

Everyone I speak to when I ask "how's business?" say that they are "doing ok, not much difference really...." To be fair most of these people are small businesses, who run their own barbers, bike shops, book shops or newsagents, etc themselves. I myself am up in terms of year on year sales revenue, but then my business is still growing and coming from a low base, so it's hard to tell what that indicates. Even some of the big stores groups we read about under headlines such as "More city gloom!" are only showing falling sales of around 2 to 3%. So is this so called recession based on just pessimistic expectations? Are we in effect talking ourselves into it? Should we be saving for the rainy days ahead, or should we be, as the Government are trying to encourage, spending our way out of recession? Just carry on as normal I reckon. We might even emerge better off for it all. Prices in most shops will have come down to more reasonable levels, restaurants might stop ripping us all off and start giving us all value for money and many businesses will be more streamlined and therefore more efficient in a year or so's time....

Knole Park once belonged to Tonbridge....

I went for a lovely family walk around Knole Park on Sunday; there was frost on the hills and it was a beautiful sunny afternoon. Some of the steeper hills reminded me that I'm still not completely over my Christmas bout of flu but other than that it was an almost perfect winter walk. The deer always look so spendid in the frost or snowy whiteness. I think I'm right in saying that the park, once upon a time, belonged to Tonbridge and not to Sevenoaks. Still the Sportground park can look nice too....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Still Keane for Tonbridge....

There's an article on the Grauniad web site today about ex-Tonbridge schoolboy band Keane if anyone's interested. I quite like some of their stuff, but I didn't have any idea about how much they'd gone off the rails with the drugs and alcohol and all that; or is it just one almighty ruse to make the baby-faced public school boys appear more Rock n Roll? We may never know and most of you will probably never care!...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cold weather update....

The river's frozen solid, my central heating has gained a mind of its own and decided to come on, even though it should be swtiched off, what more? Yesterday the school children at Slade primary school had to use a different entrance because, at the usual one, the gates had welded together due to the frost! This morning a neighbour's car wouldn't move from the middle of the road as it seemed that his hand break had frozen. It makes you wonder how on earth they cope in Scandinavia, Alaska and Siberia doesn't it....

Insommia....

I'm bleendin knackered this cold Saturday morning, in fact I hardly slept a wink. The reason? some idiot just down the road had a bleeping burglar alarm going off and on and off and on all sodding night. Why someone didn't do anything about it or knock on their door, or call the Police I'll never know. But then, come to think of it, neither did I! That's the thing isn't it: we all expect someone else to do it. The other reason was that, somewhat mysteriously, my central heating was on all night despite the fact that it wasn't turned on (cos obviously I got up three times in the night to check!) If I was David Icke, remember him, I'd probably put this down to the interference of extraterrestrial beings, but I think that it can only be explained by the cold weather; in fact I'm rather hoping that the frost themostat next to the boiler explains it otherwise there'll be an expensive plummer's bill sometime soon. Now I'm not usually a worrier, in fact not even a minor earth tremmor would normally disturb my slumber, but these two annoying things combined meant that I know I have to face the day, and a dinner party this evening on virtually zero sleep. Get the violins out! Actually, if it's quiet in the shop today I may just catch a little shut eye. So if you happen to come to Mr. Books today to take advantage of the amazing sale and I appear to be dead in my chair, give me a nudge to wake me up....

Friday, January 9, 2009

In the dark on Street lighting again....


I don't want to sound like a Moaning Mini (what do you mean it's too late!) but when are the useless sods on Kent Counnty Council's Highways Department going to sort out the street lighting on Tonbridge High Street? The picture doesn't make it that clear but just in the stretch from Silvermans Jewellers to the Ivy House pub (all of 75 yards) there are not one, but four lamps out. It's bloody incredible how incompetent these clowns can be. We've had this one before of course, the KCC Highways Dept. will inevitably blame Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council for insisting on a certain type of street lamp in the conservation zone, which this area is in, and therefore they are stocking the wrong type of bulb! In other words one dept. is blaming the other for the incompetence and in the meantime nothing gets done and we're all left, quite literally, in the dark. Sort it out for God's sake before some poor soul gets run over, murdered or mugged....

Foggy Icey Tonbridge....


Foggy icey Tonbridge looked eerily beautiful this morning. The mist hung over the river Medway like a scene from a spooky Dickens ghost story. The was an inch layer of ice on the river beneath the bridge (although don't be tempted to ice skate on it obviously!) If only we could have had this seasonal weather on Christmas Day.....

Keep your hand on your mouse!...

Bradley Wiggins, the Olympic gold medalist cyclist, has an interesting take on blogging during his interview in today's Guardian, although he fully admits he's not really a computer man (so what does he know?)

"I'm not really a computer man, to be honest. I check my emails every couple of weeks. I've always shied away from computers, the internet and all that. I'm a bit more traditional really – pick up a newspaper, pick up a phone. One of my team-mates in America the other week summed up blogging for me. He said, 'Blogging is something you do in between masturbating' and I thought that summed up the world of blogging for me...."

Enough said I think!...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Take a London Eye Flight....


I went for a day trip with the kids on Monday and they were keen to go on the London Eye. I wasn't too fussed but sometimes you have to go with the flow, especially when you might otherwise be called the worst Dad in the world all day! When we arrived at the ticket office opposite the eye I was shocked to find out that it was over 15 quid just for my "flight" (it's not a ride or an experience but a flight!) So for the three of us it was going to be over 3o quid just to go on a (very) big wheel. I've not been on one at a funfare recently but I'm pretty sure that the last time it cost me around 50p, not £30. I couldn't pull out though after we'd got that far could I, so I just paid up and grumbled under my breath about what a waste of money it was etc. We moved on to the actual giant ferris wheel (no queues on this freezing cold Monday morning, thankfully) and precariously entered the ever moving "pod" which we shared ineviably with a group of Russian tourists, who no doubt thought that the flight was too cheap! The camera came out pretty quickly as we very slowly began to rise up above the London skyline. The kids were really excited as we rose above the Houses of Parliament, level with the BT Tower to the West and the Gerkin in the City to the North East. I have to admit that the views were absolutely staggering; you can see the arch of the new Wembley Stadium clearly in the middle distance. You can see Battersea Power Station as if it's almost right beneath you. In the distance you can see Shooters Hill and the countryside beyond the sprawling mass of London in every direction. You can see the transmitters at Crystal Palace and the towers of Canary Wharf and the docks beyond in the East End. If it weren't for the North Downs you'd probably be able to see Tonbridge on a clear day! Was it worth spending over thirty quid on? Well what can you get for that these days? Do you know I'm going to say it was worth it for a once in a lifetime experience, the image of those views will stay with me and especially with my kids for a very long time. So go on, if you haven't already, take a flight on the London Eye....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Easy to leave comments?...

A reader has commented on original TonbridgeBlog that it's difficult to post a comment. I don't think it is really and frankly, once you've set up a Google blogger account, which also can be used on thousands of other blogs, it's an absolute doddle. So if you have a few difficulties at first, keep trying as it could be your passport to the whole blogospehere!...

Can we have proper traffic "Wardens" back....

And the most popular rant of all on early Tonbridge Blog, back in winter 2006, was without doubt on the subject of Traffic Wardens (ooooh don't get me started!!) Of course the story has moved on because they are now called "Civil Enforcement Officers" which really is a joke! Anyway here's that early posting:

Now no one is claiming that the old style proper Traffic Wardens were the most popular public servants in the world. But at least they weren't the leeches that the latest "Parking Attendants" have become! Only this morning I witnessed an "attendant" booking a car with children inside at the layby at the top of Tonbridge High Street. Had the occupant gone into a bar for an early morning shot of alcohol? or maybe the bookies to fuel her gambling habit? No, she had nipped into a charity shop to drop some clothes off! Her reward for this concern for fellow humans? A £30 parking fine! In the last week I've seen a motor scooter booked (that has to be a first, where do you even put the ticket?) for momentarily parking on the wide pavement at the corner of Bank Street; I've seen a car with a ticket slapped on it outside Slade School, parked for around two minutes because they were a little late taking the kids in that morning. There must be countless other cases of ladies being ten minutes late back to the car park for the crime of lingering over a coffee; or men trying on one more jumper in Beales and loosing track of the time. These parasite "attendants" patrol the streets like neo-fascists, proudly wearing their military-style uniforms; what is it with someone who wears a uniform when they don't have the experience, the training, or any real authority! It really does go to that part of their heads that brings out the ugly side of them. Proper "Traffic Wardens" were not popular but at least they had the proper authority of the police behind them, and therefore limited police powers to move traffic on and keep the pavements and the roads flowing. They were, in effect, a kind of community police officer, with a primary focus on traffic duties, but also with a limited amount of other police powers, and a duty to serve the community. Moreover they had a certain amount of presence and respect. Traffic "attendants" have nothing but a high tech booking pad and about as much respect from the public as a burglar; often they have only about as much integrity and tact.
They are draining the life blood out of Tonbridge (and this town is not alone); they discourage shoppers, they are over zealous, they have no real purpose other than to raise money for the local council. Traders don't want them, shoppers don't want them, I doubt whether the police want them. In a nut shell get rid of them and bring back proper wardens.....
What do you think?? Have you say by clicking on the comments link below....

A poem by Robert Service....

A lovely old fella, probably in his nineties, came into my shop back in late 2006 when TonbridgeBlog launched and introduced me to a poet from the first WW. I was moved enough to post this poem. Thanks to that lovely old gent (George I think was his name) I haven't seen him for a while now so I hope he's still in good health.)


Robert Service was an ambulance man during WWI, his brother was killed in action in 1916, which inspired him to write some beautiful poetry in an anthology called The Rhymes of a Red Cross Man. Here is one of them with November 11th in mind:
The Lark
From wrath-red dawn to wrath-red dawn,
The Guns have brayed without abate;
And now the sick sun looks upon
The bleared, blood-boltered fields of hate
As if it loathed to rise again.
How strange the hush! Yet sudden, hark!
From yon down-trodden gold of grain,
The leaping rapture of a lark.

A fusillade of melody,
That sprays us from yon trench of sky;
A new amazing enemy
We cannot silence though we try;
A battery on radiant wings,
That from yon gap of golden fleece
Hurls at us hopes of such strange things
As joy and home and love and peace.

Pure heart of song! do you not know
That we are making earth a hell?
Or is it that you try to show
Life still is joy and all is well?
Brave little wings! Ah, not in vain
You beat into that bit of blue:
Lo! we who pant in war's red rain
Lift shining eyes, see Heaven too.

TM Youth web site....

And this was TonbridgeBlog's attempt to appeal to a younger audience in the early days of the site in the late summer of 2006. Did it work? Probably not judging by the total lack of anyone under the age of 20 who turned up at the meeting, with the exception of my son of course who was obviously dragged along there!

Having attended the Tonbridge Civic Society's talk on Youth development strategy for the town and borough I came out feeling that there was a real effort going on to reach out to the young people of the borough of Tonbridge and Malling. But....hang on a minute.... where were all the young people? Do they not read the notices in the paper or pick up the society's flyers or look at the notice boards in the Angel Centre to find out when relevant meetings are taking place? .....Well frankly no they don't, and why should they? they are too busy being young and, often, rebelious. They look at the internet and You Tube and MySpace and long for i-pods and the latest 3 mobile phone. Robert Styles, the top bod on developing of youth activities on TMBC, did a splendid job of delivering a speech about the council's activities in this area (and they are many and diverse) and the two girls of six form age who sit on the youth forum also peformed very well in telling us it from their point of view. But they were grammar school girls and the problems in the town are generally not caused by grammar school girls. There may be some who do, but generally speaking grammar school girls, and boys, do not go around tearing up seats at the park, throwing shopping trollies in the river, and progressing to sticking needles in their arms to inject drugs, and robbing old grannies! Noticeable at the meeting was the "us and them" attitude of some of the older age groups present at the meeting, as though some how youths were a separate part of society and kind of in the way of normal cosey life. It was voiced for example that some felt intimidated by youths in large groups skate boarding on the unofficial skate park that is Sainsbury's car park. Why did some of "them" just hang around when there is far more to do today than there was in their day, when people found their own entertainment?!
In a nut shell "youths" is a hateful word, because we should only be refering to "young people" (and they are a very large and diverse group of people.) In my view the programme only scratches the surface unless it finds a way of tapping into the really run down housing estates and schools which serve these areas. They need to talk to young people on their level, who understand their problems. I was very encouraged by the effort and commitment which seems to be being put in but dismayed by the lack of interest shown by the poor turn out for what is a crucial issue, and the 'attitude problem' displayed by some older members of the audience who clearly either never had a proper youth or, more likely, have long since forgotten. Comments below please....
If you are a young person who has "bovvered" to read this far then you may also be interested in the TM Youth web site which explains things far better than I ever could because it's written and designed by young people....

Tunbridge Wells is 400 years, well wow....

Here was another one in the eye for the upstart daughter town in the early days of Tonbridge Blog:

Tunbridge Wells celebrates its 400 year anniversary this year, you just might have caught that in the local newspapers! Well woopee! Tonbridge is at the very least 2,000 years old, has had a Castle for at least 1,200 years, if you count the Saxon one which was there before the present one. It has an old town which is steeped in history, a thousand year old parish church and a really nice river running through it which must be at least a million years old!....Just thought I'd mention it....

400 Years on at the Wells of Tunbridge and what's changed?

Another gem from the early days of TonbridgeBlog, this time I'm ranting about those naughty but nice ladies of Tunbridge Wells in the 18th Century:

Interesting to read all this nonsense in the local news about some Tunbridge Wells folk objecting to the potentially raucous behaviour in their back yard at the forthcoming 400 years celebrations. Maybe they think it might lower the tone of their neighbourhood.
I happened to read an extract from Daniel Defoe's book A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain todaywhich was written in the mid-Eighteenth Century. There is an amusing section on Tunbridge, by which it is referring to the mother town, which talks about the carryings on at the nearby wells
...."Yet Tunbridge (Wells) is a place that a lady, however virtuous, yet for want of good conduct may as soon shipwreck her character....nay some say no lady ever recovered her character in Tunbridge, if she first wounded it there, without some apparent folly of her own." He goes on to refer to the "....malice, the busy meddling, the tattling from place to place, making havoc of the characters of innocent women at the coffee houses....I left Tunbridge for the same reason that I gave as to why others should leave it, namely that my money was almost gone, so I retir'd to Lewes...." Maybe the genteel folk of the daughter town will now realise that bawdy and raucous behaviour is a long standing tradition in the town!

Conspiracy theory in Tonbridge....

And here was another rant on Tonbridge Blog when the site was in it's infancy:

Having read the Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, a few months ago and the lesser known Holy Blood and the Holy Grail a few years ago, I was struck by the possible connections with the town of Tonbridge. In the book the search for the grail took our hero and his attractive partner all over France, Italy and Britain but there was no direct mention of our fair town. Was this because there is no connection or was it a cover up?
Lets examine the flimsy evidence: the Grand Masters of the Priorie de Sion, revealed in both the Da Vinci Code and the HB&HG, included at least two members of the De Clare family. The De Clare family were given lands by the Duke of Normandy after the Conquest. They built the town's magnificent castle and thereby founded Tonbridge as an important town for at least 500 years. The De Clares also had the Priory in Tonbridge built. In the Da Vinci Code doubt is cast on the usual beliefs about Mary Magadalen; indeed it is strongly suggested that she was effectively the wife of Jesus, that they had children and that, moreover, the search for the grail is actually the search for the bloodline of Christ. The site of Tonbride Priory does not appear on modern OS maps but it does on older ones. Recently I looked at a replica of the 1895 OS map which clearly marks the site of Tonbridge Priory. I almost reeled backwards when I saw that the name of the Priory was the Priory of St. Mary Magdalen (remember I had just read Dan Brown's now infamous book, so my mind was working overtime!) There is now hardly a trace of the once important priory; there are some clues such as Priory Street, Priory Road, St. Mary Magdalen House old people's home and one or two others in South Tonbridge. But there is no plaque, not a stone of the old ruin remains for anyone to view, it's hardly mentioned in tourist guides, most people in Tonbridge don't even know (or probably care about its existence) The ruin was left neglected up until about 1842, when with the coming of the railway to Tonbridge it was unceromoniously torn down, the coffins of the priors and monks were dug up as presumably were those of some of the De Clares, who were buried there. It's hard to see how, even when the railway was King, that this was allowed to happen without any regard for conservation and history. The site is now roughly the picture above, railway tracks, waste land and a car park. Some old books say that the then Head Master of Tonbridge School stepped in to ensure that some of the stone coffins were saved and he then insisted that the rest of the work be carried on under wraps and that the workers be sworn to secrecy. For some years, maybe even until this day, a few of the coffins lay in the grounds of Somerhill House and the Porteeves House. There are no books written about the priory, only titbits of information in other books. Then there are the old tales about secret passage ways from the Castle to the Priory, which historians doubt would have been possible to construct under the river at the time. Well maybe, but the pyramids were built 3000 years before that, and the De Clares had just built a huge motte and baily castle complete with a complex moat system, so its not beyond reason to think that they could have had the capability is it?
Conspiracy theory? Very Probably....

Tonbridge blog....Ain't bovvered! well you should be

And here it is! The first ever TonbridgeBlog posting back in June 2006. As true today as it was back then. Crossing over to Google Blogger, I didn't want to lose any of the best bits from the old version of TBlog so I've copied many of them below. Read them cos it took me ages; in the meantime here is the first one:

Isn't it about time this town of ours, so steeped in history, had a web log site. This is an open invitation to the people of Tonbridge, past and present to post their views on any aspect of the town, its surroundings and its people. You can comment on any of the articles posted by Tonbridge blog. We cannot promise to publish every article sent in but there is a good chance. You can be as honest and frank as you like; this is an opportunity to have your say and and be heard. The subjects on which you could post views are almost without limit. You may have a view on the town's leisure facilities, shops, litter in the streets, building 'grot spots', schools, restaurants, yobbish behaviour in the streets, lack of policing, the Securitas robbery, Kelly Holmes, book fairs, the garden show you name it........ Lets hear from anyone who cares about their town, because let's face it we all should care a little at least. Young or old, fat or thin, able bodied or invalided have your say. 'Ain't bovvered!' Well you should be.....

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year....

Happy New Year to all Tonbridge folk and especially the ones who bother to read this blog. Well I've had a crap Christmas due in the main to feeling ill practically for the whole festive season. Today though, feeling the best I've felt for a couple of weeks, I decided to go for a News Year's Day walk, as did half the town judging by the number of people out and about. Now I like a long walk but, due to the recent bout of flu and all that, decided to play safe and just park up at the Hayesden Country Park and take it from there. I noticed the pay and display signs on the way in which reminded me of the hoohaa in the Summer when dear old Tonbridge and Malling Council installed the machines. Not thinking for one moment that they'd be charging on a Bank Holiday, I didn't even bother to check before proceeding on a two hour stroll up to the flood barrier and then around Barden Lake and back. When I arrived back to the car, something prompted me to check the pay and display notice which confirmed that the council are indeed charging "every day" which presumably means what it says. Penalty charge £50! I breathed a sigh of relief as I realised that there was no sticky penalty charge notice stuck to the windscreen. It was only sheer luck that I didn't drive away from the park feeling robbed and cheated on this New Years Day. As I drove out I saw that about one in 5 cars had displayed a ticket in their windscreens; in fact the council could have made a killing if they'd bothered to send a parking goon along. Maybe they have a heart after all; naah I reckon they were just short staffed. Anyway Happy New Year; Let's hope it's a good one without any tears etc. Below is a selection of the best of Tonbridge blog from 2008 before I switch over to the new fangled technology of Google blogger for you to feast your eyes on if you get the time. Let's face it some of you may have lots of time on your hands soon what with the recession and all that; sorry to be a doom merchant....

Really having a wonderful Christmas time....

As Paul McCartney once said in one of his lesser moments of musical genius: Really having a wonderful Christmas time. What was he banging on about. I've had the flu, in fact I was in bed for two whole days, mostly either in a pool of sweat, or else freezing cold and unable to get warm. I still feel like crap, having hopefully got over the worst, my throat is so sore that I feel like I'm swallowing razor blades, so I have to keep popping paracetemols like they're jelly totts just to keep the pain at bay for a few brief hours. Have you got the violins out yet?! I'm sitting in my shop when I really should be at home in bed, which is what it looks like I'll be doing tomorrow. To cap it all the postman (or woman) delivered three letters to me which should have been delivered to 2a Bank Street, which is, rather qwerkily around the corner from my shop, which is number 2 if you follow me, and not next door, where you might expect it to be. So I had to redeliver them to the correct address; on my return I opened the one remaining letter, which was addressed to me, but incorrectly addressed to 2a Bank St. just to confuse further the already bemused postie. On opening this letter I thought maybe a Christmas card from a friendly, but little seen neighbour, or a letter with a nice seasonal message in it to lift my spirits; what did I get this Christmas Eve to warm the cockles of my heart? why a letter accusing me of sharp practice that's what! And I can assure you that this is a first for me. Apparently I had bought some books from a lady at my shop and she was "taken aback" by my offer and therefore, rather bizzarely, accepted it in her confusion. I'm pretty sure that this lady was refering to a small box of paperbacks, which I would say that since her next stop was probably the recycling bins, she has done ok, and since I still haven't sold any of them, I'm still well down on the deal. Since this confused lady left no return address I cannot reply to her Mrs. Disgruntled of Tonbridge letter; if I could I would probably say think before you accept offers for books which you are about to throw out, it's not that tricky: if you're not happy you just say no. Although you probably have other deeper problems at the heart of this I am no meany or sharp practicer, so since it's Christmas, in the spirit of good will and all that, you can have a free ten quid book voucher to spend in my shop. I hope it cheers you up more than your letter cheered me up this Christmas Eve. Like I said: Really Having a Wonderful Christmas Time....

Don't get in a depression, spend your way out of the recession....


Mr. Books' message to the nation!...

Post Office Credit card anyone?...

"Do you have a credit card Sir?" said the nice lady, rather awkwardly I sensed. "Yes I do and I'm very happy with it!" Came my reply. "Did you know that the Post Office offer a credit card with supadoopa interest rates and 0% balance transfers...." was her rather feeble repost, spoken very half-heartedly, as she probably sensed my cynicism. Inside you feel like saying, "for God's sake I just want to post some letters and parcels so just get off my back will you; if I want a credit card, I'll bleedin' ask at the bank or respond to a junk mail out leaflet, you people ar ethe last place I'd come to!" but you don't actually say it, even when they persist. Then there's some guy standing at the door as you walk out, you have to avoid his gaze otherwise he'll try to sell you another card, or Post Office Insurance or a mobile phone contract, maybe even Post Office double glazing! It's becoming like that scene on the great 1970s classic comedy film, Airplane, when the trouble shooter arrives at the airport and has to knee-drop and karate chop his way through a sea of charity collectors in the airport terminal before he can get to handle the crisis. Please Post Office just do what you do best, leave us alone and stop being greedy by selling us stuff we don't want....

Tonbridge Castle circa 1260 AD....


Back by popular request is the Thirteenth Century strategic plan for the town centre. Some say that it was better in those days! Imagine the man power that would have been needed to build that ditch and the castle mound. Just think about that the next time you're walking your dog towards the park, or parking your car in the Upper Castle fields car park.Imagine trying to attack the walls of the castle, having just marched for ten days across boggy marsh land, and then being faced with spears, arrows and boiling fat and oil as you attempt to climb the steep hill to the strong hold....

Goodbye Woolies?...


This was the scene at Woolworth's store in Tonbridge only about half an hour ago; it must have been even busier earlier on today because, from what I saw many of the shelves were half empty. They were fifty deep at the tills and people were behaving like it was the church jumble sale rummage stall. I'm not entirely sure what it says about the mentality of some of the people of Tonbridge or for that matter the rest of the country because this scene has reportedly been mirrored from Cornwall to Aberdeen. I think it's sad though that a once great stores group can fall so spectacularly; it seems that no one is safe, but then again why should they be? But it's even sadder, in my view, that, when the mighty have fallen, the hyenas are sure to move in; I'm not talking about the corporate hyenas but more about everyday, normally sane people, in short the likes of you and I. We love a bargain, we just can't help ourselves. I will stress however, at this juncture, in order to sort of defend my precarious position, that, in the words of actor Bill Nighey on a more unsavoury topic, I was only doing it for research purposes, honest! One thing's for sure though, Woollies in Tonbridge alone, will have taken more in sales revenue in the last couple of days than my modest little bookshop does in a whole year. Now just think about that for a second. How can a store which can generate that amount of sales be about to go under; what must their overheads and staffing costs be like? How could they have gone so badly off track? Where's the long term strategy for the business? Yes, I'm sad to see them go, if indeed they don't miraculously get bought out by someone on the cheap like Alan Sugar at the eleventh hour, but you can't really say that they don't deserve it. My old MD used to say to me that Business changes, and you have to change with it! Woolworths haven't....

KMFM ads a turn off....

Neil Faraday of KMFM, our friendly purely local radio station, with all you fave pop tunes, gave TonbridgeBlog a huge positive plug this morning on his extended breakfast show (very extended actually since it was about 11am) so a big thanks to him as he goes off, according to Myma Seldon whose next on air, to do his Christmas shopping (I guess that's that one of the perks of doing the early show- you get to bunk off the rest of the day while everyone else stays around till late afternoon!) Go easy on him fellow Tonbridge bloggers; remeember he had the guts to state his case on quite an emotive subject and put his name to it. Still it gave him something to fill the airwaves with on his show. Since Neil is such a fan of TBlog I'll say this: I like KMFM radio on the whole. They play some good music, such as Duffy's Raining on our Parade playing as I write, they plug community events, and they have some fairly interesting discussions and phone ins. The only bad things I feel forced to mention are the bleedin annoying adverts. At least that Just MOTs ad has changed to just another jingle instead of the mind blowingly excruciating ads they used to play featuring some bloke who just couldn't get it into his thick skull that they just only did MOTs. Mind you at least I remember it, (but I've never been there anyway.) I know they have to air these ads otherwise they would be out of business but really please can we have some standards because, for me at least they are a total turn off. In fact that's it, after the Iron Maids ad I am turning you off!...

Glow in the dark barbecue tongs!...

He was born in Aberdeen on the 4th April 1976, that means he's 32 years old, and these are the things he likes according to the KMFM website: "Cooking, gardening, going to the pub and buying useless rubbish on Ebay are Neil’s favourite pastimes. He’s bought all sorts on there including an original Bullseye silver tankard and barbecue tongs that glow in the dark." His name is Neil Faraday and he's the breakfast DJ at KMFM, our Tonbridge and West Kent local radio. I only reveal this information to demonstrate my earlier point about why it's sometimes a good idea to be anonymous! It took me ten seconds to obtain this information because it's already "out there" Fair enough for Neil, he wants to keep a public profile, and I suppose that's true of me to some extent; but it's clearly not always the case. The only thing I would wish is that these "anonymous" people actually get themselves a catchy little "handle" That's just as anonymous but far more creative and interesting. Here's a few suggestions for future bloggers: Tonbridgeblogette, Tonbridgefan, Tonbridgehater, Angrytonbridgian, cybertouretter, letmeatem, kmfmmole, voiceontheradio, tonbridgestreetsweeper, tonbridgepoet etc. There you can have those for free!...

Fireworks and religion don't mix!...

The posting on Christmas airbombs seems to have stirred up a hornets nest alright. There are obviously mixed feelings on this one and in some cases people can't even decide what they think and can see both points of view on the subject of whether or not fireworks are awaste of time and money. Neil Faraday of good old KMFM I know I was a little defensive in my reply to your comment, and you do have a point about the religious implications of the fellow bloggers (not mine as I had hastily assumed.) I will say though that anonymous blogging is quite a liberating thing (see earlier posting on Cyber Tourettes) It allows the freedom to express ones thoughts without fear of any comeback. Most people who read this site know who I am but I wish it weren't so sometimes. I suspect that your true views Neil are somewhat different from your Smashie and Nicey mellowed pc man on the radio views. Maybe we should both open different anonymous accounts and really stir things up. That is if we haven't already!...

An air bomb for Christmas!...

Returning from the Dorking Book Fair, where I occasionally exhibit, last Sunday evening I was confronted with Police road blocks, with policemen looking very serious indeed; there was no way I was going to persaud them to let me through. The whole High Street was closed to traffic which caused me to take an I'm in-the-know locals detour around the back of the Slade, through the narrow myriad of terraced streets to my shop; a route which has saved me several times in the past on similar occasions. As I was about to open up my shop in order to unload the ten or so large boxes of books, folding bookcases and equipment I heard an incredibly loud bang causing me to nearly jump out of my skin, then another, and another, then the sky lit up as I felt I should dive for cover. Was it Amageddon? Had God decided this was the moment to wreak his vengence on mankind? Had Al Kaeida picked on the old market town of Tonbridge to launch another assault on Western civilisation? Had the IRA broken the Good Friday agreement? Of course not; it was just our friendly council letting off some steam, well fireworks actually. It was the start of Christmas, it was the start of the Panto season. I didn't get back in time to see the great light switching on ceremony, no doubt the girl from the soap in the panto advert was doing the honours this year like that cheeky boy next door type, Barney, did last year. All good fun, and I don't want to sound like Scrooge, but why the fireworks; they're massively over rated, but used more and more at all times of year. Christmas? Let's have some fireworks! Grandad's 70th birthday? Why not let off a few air bombs to remind him of the Blitz! Your first child, and he's a boy. That's lovely; have you considered a rocket launcher and box of industrial power roman candles to mark the occasion? That way you can contribute to global warming to save on heating bills and the need to buy over coats! These ridiculously expensive and extravagant wastes of energy and resources are just not required, what ever the occasion. Or is it just me?!..

Any one for the Malling edition?!..

Aparently several disgruntled, former Courier Community Life correspondents have signed up for the opposition. Who's that then? I hear you all ask. Why the Kent Messenger that's who. They are rather missing a trick though by continuing to stubbornly call it the "Malling Edition" If they called it the Tonbridge and Malling edition they'd probably add thousands in circulation at a stroke, all for the cost of a tiny bit more ink. I was "approached" but declined the kind offer of around ten quid a week to pursue other interests! But thanks all the same. I repeat the battle cry of a few weeks ago on these very pages: BRING BACK THE TONBRIDGE FREE PRESS!!!!

Loads of hits....

TonbridgeBlog achieved a massive 29,000 hits in the month of November. Not all of them were painful! Keep 'em coming and please let's have a few more people commenting, it makes it far more interesting for us all....

Ronnie and Reg in Tonbridge?!..


A walk along Tonbridge High Street today caused me to do a double take, I thought I'd been transported to the Mile End Road in the East End, as I noticed the sign outside the Castle Inn on the Big Bridge luring people in to eat their pie and mash lunch specials. The Cray twins, Reginald and Ronald, Ronnie and Reg to their family and close muckers. Smashin lads they where, used to treat their mavver proper, buy er flawers an that! The streets where safer in them days, and make no mistake. You kept yer nose clean, didn't cross the twins, paid up on time, with no nonesense, you'd occasionally get a slap but that was all. Oh yes appy days the 60s....

Give cyber Tourettes a try!...

There's an old fellow who wanders around Tonbridge muttering to himself. He grunts and occasionally swears at passes by. The other day I was on the other side of the road and couldn't help looking at him; I could hear him grunting at me under his breath "...what you f'in lookin' at..." Now some people who didn't understand might get offended by such behaviour. Not me though. He can't help himself of course as he has clearly got Gilles de La Tourette Sydrome, better known simply as Tourettes. It is described in medical dictionaries as a condition whereby sufferers are prone to involuntary grunts and tics, often vocal. In effect, I suppose, people who suffer from this condition are saying what's on their minds. Probably it's on all our minds but we just learn to control it, some better than others it has to be said; we've all met people who say they "speak as I find!" But that is different to Tourettes, that is called being from Yorkshire or Lancashire! Blogging is, to some extent, a kind of modern day Tourettes. Let me explain: it allows us to voice things which are on our minds, but we wouldn't necessarily want to air those thoughts in polite company; especially so if your comments are made anonymously. You can let rip, sound off, get things off your chest. So go on give cyber Tourettes a try!...

BRING BACK THE TONBRIDGE FREE PRESS!...

I've just been exchanging views with a local resident outside Bronsdon's newsagents (as one is supposed to do in a proper community) about whether the Courier is doing Tonbridge a disservice by crapping all over its Community columnists one week and then closing down its local office on the High Street the next. The view which seems to be gathering momentum (see some of the comments below) is that Tonbridge needs its own dedicated newspaper. BRING BACK THE TONBRIDGE FREE PRESS! I hear you all cry as one. Would that it were that simple. Firstly our Tunbridge Wells-centric friends, the Courier Group, own the now dormant title, secondly who would have the will? and more importantly the resources to start it up again? Actually probably plenty of people have the will, but would they have, or be able to gather the expertise? Then there's blogging; it costs me around £8 a month to keep this site up. How much for even a modest newspaper? The newspaper groups, make no mistake about it, are in a state of confusion over the internet. They don't really know what to do or where to go with it. Should it be free content, and risk losing a potentially huge source of revenue, or should it be the paid for subscribers route at the risk of a low, but potential more valueable, readership. That's why there is such a hotch potch of styles out there. Compare this with the tried and tested papers where they are all pretty much of a muchness in each section, be they red tops, mid market or qualities, they all copy each other. The answer my friends is not blowing in the wind, no but it is starring us all in the face. Expand TonbridgeBlog! I hear one or two of you cry half heartedly. Yes we could; it would mean getting some staff, technical expertise, a team of writers/photographers. What do you mean "and a new editor!" It could be done and would be a damned sight cheaper than re-launching a paper. Would it carry advertising though? now there's a dilema. Maybe Tonbridge Free Press online only edition. There you go Courier there's a free bit of advice for you, only get someone else in to do it, or you'll only cock it up! There are possbilities out there but I'm not sure that the traditional route is viable any longer. Withing about 30 years we'll have a complete popuation who are no at all daunted by computers and internet shpping, who are so totally used to it that using it is second nature. What chance have weekly newspapers got then against the much cheaper and much more immediate powers of the interactive web log?...

Any one for a Crappy Media Person job?...

Are the senior people at the Courier group so divorced from reality that they can't notice when they've cocked up and end up rubbing salt in the wounds? In the last few months they have decided to turn Community Life columnists into "Community Media Partners" asking them (including me) to, not only work for no payment, but also to sell ad space to local businesses on their behalf to go on a community blog. On top of that they have managed to lose a laptop with all out bank details and addresses contained on it, presumeably not security protected, thus exposing all their freelances, and I understand many staff, to the very real possibility of identity fraud. More than two thirds of the columnists have now, mysteriously decided that now is the time to call it a day, some of them after 14 years of service for £9 a week. But, hang on I nearly forgot, they did give us £3 a month, yes that's right a month, expenses. Just enough to be able to buy a copy of the newspaper each week (which of course they made us pay for!) I remember nearly four years ago, a time when I was more used to national newspaper fees, laughing out loud when Jane Davies, their editorial office manager, told me during our only face to face meeting the rates of pay. She managed to keep a straight face but I'm sure she must have been embarassed down inside; if she wasn't then she should have been. During my time at the paper I was only once asked to go to any kind of social function, the Heart in the Community Awards; this was the only opportunity they provided us with to meet up with a few of the other columnists (possibly to share ideas and improve our columns, who knows.) Not that I really expected it but we had no Christmas party, no annual gathering, no visits to the print works, no meeting with editorial staff, no organised trips, in short bugger all. Now to cap it all, they have the audacity to ask us in their ..."sorry you've decided not to continue with writing your column..." final parting letter if we could "urge" some other suitable friend to phone Jane Davies with a view to becoming CMP's (the abbreviation for their new title which probably really stands for: Crappy Media People) So here you go, here's an invitation to someone out there: Does anyone want to write a community column for a local newspaper which is going slowly but surely down the pan, become an unpaid advertisement sales person, never get to meet any of your colleagues, get virtually zilch expenses, recieve no free copy of the newspaper in which your column appears, and potentially have your identity stolen by some Russian mafia henchmen when they lose you details. Any takers?...

A winning poem....

Great structure! wonderful imagery! Are these among the components of a winning poem? Well the judges of the West Kent Book Fairs annual poetry competition certainly thought so. John Dench, who some of you may know from his days of being a creative writing tutor at the Adult Ed Centre in Avebury Avenue, Tonbridge, as Chairman of the judging panel was particularly impressed with Margaret Beston's poem, Darning, which satisfied all the requirements to win this year's competition and a prize of £100. In fact Margaret has also won third place in the previous two year's competition so she must be doing something right. I suspect that it's because, like all powerful writers, yes she writes with good use of structure and imagery, but mainly because she writes unashamedly from the heart, she lays her soul bare. If you want to buy a copy of an anthology, Fine Scribes 4, of all the winning poems, you'll be able to very soon, priced £4.95 from one good bookshop at least. Here's her poem:
Darning

On those winter afternoons
with her chores all done,
the pinny hanging neatly by the door,
she would change into a frock,
release her hair from its turbaned scarf
and put some lipstick on.
Then we would settle by the fire,
re-darning darns in my father’s socks.

Practised fingers worked the needle
drawing wool through wool,
weaving a mesh of warp and weft,
granting a short reprieve to worn-out heels
before relegation to the cleaning box
and pairing with the Johnson’s wax.

As chilling mist like dank grey cobwebs
descended on the grainy world beyond
the glowing focus of our room,
we watched for fairies dancing in the flames
as she talked to me of ‘home’ –
of waking to the riddling of the range,
the turf fire heating for the breakfast soda bread;
the smell of wood in her father’s workshop,
catching handfuls of shavings as they fell;
of the Ceilidhs in the kitchen,
chairs pushed back and all the neighbours in.

On those winter afternoons
she caught me up like a loose strand
drew me into this world I’d never known
and she could never leave behind.

Margaret Beston

RIP Tonbridge Courier....

lovely old lady from the Tonbridge WI came into my shop yesterday to ask if I'd put a piece in my Courier column about their Christmas bazaar. "No madame" I said, "I'd love to help you but I don't write it anymore!" This is the fifth such request I've had since Friday and the answer has been the same. The lovely old lady, who by the way is always on the bread stall at the Friday Country Market, also said "That's strange because the Tonbridge Courier office is closing...." I've just checked this out and indeed it is to close. In fact, so the office informs me, they are packing up tomorrow for a move to the Tunbridge Wells building and I get the impression that the staff are less than pleased about the move and that's putting it very mildly. This is of course a familiar pattern when big businesses are struggling; they start to chip away at the small sattellite areas, first the community columns and other freelancers are hit, then it's the Tonbridge office and others on the periphery, and no doubt they'll be secretaries and receptionists who are about to lose their jobs, then the full blown mass clear out to "restructure" and "rationalise" the business sections. The net result is, oh sure a more "streamlined" business to show the shareholders and the board will receive their fat Christmas bonuses because they'll have reached their cost cutting strategy performance targets, but it will be a business cut to the bone and maybe into the bone. So the long term effect is it will be most likely be devastating for the business. In this case they will lose an office in the town where, so I believe, the newspaper was born. It has already lost it's Tonbridge identity long ago, so this will just be another nail in the coffin. The combination of this office closing with the self-imposed loss of all three Tonbridge Community columnists in one go will hasten the decline of a once great local newspaper. Before too long, if that moment hasn't arrived already, there'll be absolutely no reason for the good folk of Tonbridge to buy a copy at all; it will have no relevance for them. No weekly "surgery" in Tonbridge library, which is what they have put in it's place, will ever make up for being in the town and having an ear firmly to the ground. But still there's always Tonbridge blog to fall back on!...

Lest we don't forget....

In Tonbridge this morning I heard a very loud firework going off. "My God!" I thought to myself, ...."haven't we had enough of these ridiculously powerful rockets, bangers and air bombs going off for one year! Give it a rest lads will you!" Then a couple of minutes later an equally loud bang. Had some one been shot in the town centre? was it a lorry back firing? Is Tonbridge a terrorist target? Then I realised it was the two minutes silence which I'd just missed, although I don't think I said anything to myself anyway during that time, so I just about got away with it. They let off the cannon (although I think it is a big banger actually) at the Castle as a mark of respect for the fallen in the War To End All Wars. They tell us "Lest we forget!" "Pro Patria Mori" and other patriotic sounding phrases. We watch Wilfred Owen programmes on TV and suddenly become very thoughtful. All very well you may be thinking, you wouldn't have it any other way, those men made great sacrifices for us all so that we may have our freedom. I do agree with alot of that sentiment, don't get me wrong, but I cannot help thinking at this time that it will be better when enough time has passed and that all the people who served in WWI, and indeed WWII, and all their families, are just a distant memory in the minds of our ancestors, a bit like the Napoleonic Wars are to us now. Then we will truely put it behind us, the world might then be a safer place, and we will move on without dwelling on the inhumanty of men still within living memory....

Shock Report: Green Grocers opens on Tonbridge High Street....

What's this? Surely it can't be! It is you know. It's a green grocers shop. Remember them. They used to be everywhere. They were the shops where you'd get your fruit and veg from before Asda and Tesco started to take over the world. Well someone, Bishops of Tonbridge, has had the guts to give it a go, taking on a shop which I happen to know will be costing them about £25,000 a year in rent alone. They are going to have to sell an awful lot of cabbages and apples to pay for that. That is for sure. Good luck to them. They are going to need your help too, without wishing to preach and sound like Jamie Oliver, stop going for the easy option of buying shiney looking (but often tasteless) fruit and veg from Sainsbury's and Somerfield and make the effort to support this business (apologies if you already do!) It's all too convenient to only go to one shop, but it has to be worth the effort when they source top quality, tasty food and they actually talk to you when you're paying. They serve you, instead of just taking your money and there is a big difference. What next a High Street butchers shop? Any takers?...

Democracy is coming to the USA....

Does the Leonard Cohen poem/song still ring true?...
"Democracy"It's coming through a hole in the air, from those nights in Tiananmen Square. It's coming from the feel that this ain't exactly real, or it's real, but it ain't exactly there. From the wars against disorder, from the sirens night and day, from the fires of the homeless, from the ashes of the gay: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. It's coming through a crack in the wall; on a visionary flood of alcohol; from the staggering account of the Sermon on the Mount which I don't pretend to understand at all. It's coming from the silence on the dock of the bay, from the brave, the bold, the battered heart of Chevrolet: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. It's coming from the sorrow in the street, the holy places where the races meet; from the homicidal bitchin' that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat. From the wells of disappointment where the women kneel to pray for the grace of God in the desert here and the desert far away: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. Sail on, sail on O mighty Ship of State! To the Shores of Need Past the Reefs of Greed Through the Squalls of Hate Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on. It's coming to America first, the cradle of the best and of the worst. It's here they got the range and the machinery for change and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. It's here the family's broken and it's here the lonely say that the heart has got to open in a fundamental way: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. It's coming from the women and the men. O baby, we'll be making love again. We'll be going down so deep the river's going to weep, and the mountain's going to shout Amen! It's coming like the tidal flood beneath the lunar sway, imperial, mysterious, in amorous array: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. Sail on, sail on ... I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean I love the country but I can't stand the scene. And I'm neither left or right I'm just staying home tonight, getting lost in that hopeless little screen. But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags that Time cannot decay, I'm junk but I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

And finally... My last ever Courier Central Tonbridge column....

Well it's good bye from me! Here is my very last column in the Kent and Sussex Courier, due out in tomorrow's paper; I've been the Central Tonbridge Correspondent for nearly four years but it's time to call it a day. This is the unedited version, which is usually quite a bit different from the edited version once the subs have hacked it to pieces. Don't worry Tonbridge blog will continue and hopefully blossom into a wonderful must-read Tonbridge source of information and gossip:
A gentleman visited me this week desperately seeking a book which will give him information on giant vegetable growing. The Tonbridge allotment holder claims to have grown a beetroot weighing in at over six pounds and was keen to learn whether this was anywhere near the record. To my amazement I found that there is a book called The Biggest Beetroot in the World by Michael Leapman. Anyone who knows the answer to this or who has grown bigger vegetables please contact this column.

The West Kent Poetry Competition results were announced at The West Kent Book Fair last Sunday. The competition, about to enter its fifth year, has attracted a very high standard of entries each year and this year really was quite exceptional. The winner who received a prize of £100, was Margaret Beston, from Tonbridge, with her wonderful poem Darning; runner up was Silent Night by William Wood; third place went to The Not so Few by Trevor Lawrence. There will be an anthology of the winners, published by Green Arrow Publishing available from MR. Books Bookshop, Bank Street, Tonbridge, or by mail order, further details are on www.mrbooks.co.uk Chairman of the judging panel, John Dench, commented that the standard of the entries was very high this year but that he felt Margaret’s poem has all the right ingredients: beautiful imagery, combined with good use of alliteration and verse structure.

The ever popular Nellie’s Folk Night will be held at the Ivy House pub on Monday from 8pm in the main bar. Bring along an instrument or your vocal chords or simply just go along to listen.

Popular local speaker and author, John Ray, will be speaking about the RAF in the Second World War on Friday November 7 at 8pm in the Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. Admission is £3 on the door with all proceeds going to The Royal Star and Garter Home.

Poetry at the Pub will be held at the Ivy House, on the corner of Bordyke and Tonbridge High Street, on Thursday in the main bar from 8pm. The event is totally open mike and attracts a wide variety of styles and people aged from 18 to a gentleman called Gerry Stubbs, who is 88. The event is on the first Thursday of each month.

There will be a postcard collectors fair at the Angel Centre on Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

For one night only on Saturday November 8 at 7-30pm The Little Bridge Theatre Company will present A Time to Remember, a one act recital of song, poetry and personal testimony in honour of those who have served there country. Tickets are £5 and can be bought on the door or in advance by phoning 01732 362348.

It’s always a pleasure to wander along to the Angel Flea Market, today and every Friday from 8am to 1pm, where there are a whole range of things available from World War One bayonets and militaria to jewellery and buttons. Organiser Sue Carmichael has been working tirelessly over the years to make the weekly event the success it has become.

The Tonbridge Country Market will be selling its usual mix of lovely fresh cakes, including my personal favourite the almond sponge cake, together with home grown fruit and vegetables today (Friday) from 8-30am to 11am in the scout hut, Lambert’s Yard, just off the High Street.

And finally, I have very much enjoyed writing this column and have hopefully kept you all informed and, sometimes, entertained. During the few years that I have been writing I have heard stories of courage, stories of achievement in the community, selfless work for others. I’ve learnt about bell ringing, Tonbridge Ware making, wood carving and other almost forgotten crafts. I’ve had the pleasure to hear from event organisers, artists, businessmen and publicans. But all good things must come to an end so a big thank you to you all. If you wish to stay in touch go to my web site www.tonbridgeblog.com or visit me at MR. Books Bookshop at 2 Bank Street, Tonbridge.

Tonbridge: The new Hay on Wye?...


For those of you that wanted to come to the Book Fair, but couldn't, or wouldn't, because of the orrible drizly weather, you probably missed out on the best one to date. We had books, lots of books, old books, new books, educational books, rare books and yet more books. We had poetry, storytellers, childrens stories, and lovely cups of tea and coffee with biccies. There were lots of really nice books at the fair but easily the most eye catching were Clive Sayer's display of pop ups; he'd brought along a small selection from his collection of over 5,000. If you click on the link above you can just about hear the revving of the Harley Davidson motor cycle! Now that would fill up a whole shop of just pop up books. If Mr. Sayer ever wishes to give up his Beat n' Track music shop on Quarry Hill Parade, Tonbridge, he could open a Pop up Books shop. Now there's an idea. Maybe in five or six years time there'll be several book shops in the town and we could become a mini Hay on Wye, which if you don't know, is a small town in Wales which hosts a massively successful, long running literary festival and has over 40 bookshops squeezed into a its narrow streets. Book lovers heaven on earth!....

Would you bend down for 5p?...

The other day I was walking past the parking ticket machine at the Castle car park and noticed a shiney new 5 pence coin on the floor. A whole shilling, two tanners, a week's wages in Victorian times for the working class man. No one else around, all I had to do was bend down, grab ahold of it and I could have been 5p richer. But I didn't, maybe because I've had a bit of a sore back recently, maybe because I was in a bit of a rush; but I think mainly, simply, because it wasn't worth the effort. Afterall 5p will buy you virtually bugger all these days, not even a sachet of tomato ketchup at the chippie. When I were a lad (and it doesn't seem so very long ago) I could buy a sixpenny mix which was chips, mushy peas and batter scaps for, well sixpence, that's six old pence, half a shilling. My God, I thought to myself afterwards, now I won't even reach down to the ground for it. Also this week, I was short of silver change for the Somerfield newly imposed car parking charge; some lads were at the machine who I asked to change some copper coins for a 5p. They were very helpful and said "...here have 10p instead of 5p mate..." and they wouldn't take my coppers, saying that they didn't want that "shrapnel" filling up their pockets. So, there you are, there's a business idea in these harsh economic times: stand around change machines asking anyone for 5 pence coins. Within a week you may collect a small, if heavy, fortune....

Marc Chagall windows at Tudeley....


If you are ever passing around that bend at Tudeley on your way to Paddock Wood or Five Oak Green you might just catch a glimpse of the old Saxon Church down the end of a short lane on your left. Unless you are particularly interested in old church buildings you'd probably pass it by in your haste to get to the giant Somerfield over at PW. If you did have the time, actually you should make time, park up next to the church and stroll inside. You'll be taken aback at the beauty of the stained glass windows, which are by celebrated artist Marc Chagall who apparently only ever designed this particular set of windows as a one off project. They really are quite breath takingly stunning, especially if the sun is shining through them. Go there on a quite day, in a reflective mood and you'll be rewarded. There is a sad note to the windows though as they were commissioned by the Goldsmid family of nearby Somerhill House to commerate the death of their daughter, Sarah Venetia, who died in a sailing accident off Rye in 1963 aged only 21....

What is it with these Billy Bunter annuals...

I couldn't believe the audacity! I've just this minute caught a tea leaving sod nicking books in my shop. Red handed, bang to rights. He obviously didn't realise that I could see him and thought he was invincible or something. He was busily filling up his anorak with Billy Bunters, and I've had around 15 of the same type stolen already over the course of the last few months, so I accosted him saying words to the effect "Do you want to stop nicking those books?" He obviously tried to deny the crime so I think I may have, in the heat of the moment, grabbed hold of him momentarily to stop him walking out of the shop with the swag. He then went around the back of the shop and put the books down, which had been up his jacket. I then invited him to leave the shop in no uncertain terms and asked him if he'd rather I called the Police. He said "Naa you don't wanna do thaat!" So off he toddled around the corner off to rob some other poor unsuspecting shopkeep or, very likely some old granny. They really are the scum of the earth these people who will prey on the weak and vulnerable the easy targets, the small businesses who haven't invested a fortune on security equipment. Well if you are out there mate, I've got your number, I've got your face on a security recording and you'll never come in my shop again. I suggest you give Tonbridge a wide berth as well you thieving tosser, unless of course you live here, in which case I'll probably see you around. Go and get a job instead of pretending you're some kind of mafia big crime Billy Big Shot. I've got news for you, and you probably already knew it deep down anyway. YOU ARE LOW LIFE SCUM.....

Sainsbury's skaters....

Just when you thought it was safe to go shopping at Tonbridge Sainsbury's again along come those ruffian youth hoody types! Mind you, whatever you think about them, you just have to admire their balance and poise. See the YouTube clip HERE of them in action at Tonbridge skate park, some old buildings in London and of course the unofficial skate board ramps, better know as the Sainsbury's car park . If hanging around shopping arcades and derelict buildings were an Olympic sport then who knows how far these kids could go....

Go to PORC to see incredible stunts....

That's Penshurst Off Road Cycling to you and me. Now you won't catch me doing any of these tricks on my bike but I have to hand it to these kids at PORC they are quite amazing. Some of the down hill bikes (I'm sure that's probably the wrong name for them) cost around £4,000 each. The kids wear elbow pads, knee and chin pads and boy do they need them. You should see some of those runs; most people wouldn't even attempt to climb down them, let alone ride down them! Some kids just have no fear. The jump bikes I discovers are different again. I'm probably wrong but I think they are more like BMX bikes, the bikes that have fixed wheels and really low seats, which you see teenagers doing wheelies on in the Tonbridge Sainsbury's car park. In the street they look ridiculous, like a clown's bike but at PORC they look totally in place, not out of place. Click on this link to Alternative Tonbridge blog to see the videos and I'm sure there's som even better ones on YounTube. OK these kids probably spend all of their spare time at PORC when they should be doing home work and they probably have really indulgent parents who buy them all the expensive kit but I really was flipping flabergasted at some of them....

Let me read it out next time Richard....

As today is National Poetry Day (of course you knew that didn't you) I offered to read out a poem live on KMFM, as indeed I did just that last year on the lovely Vanessa Elms show on last year's day of celebration of the verse. DJ Richard Walters decided that he wouldn't trust the uncertainty of live radio braodcasting and decided to perform it himself instead of letting me do it. The poem was The Credit Crunch, by Mark Richardson (who he?) as seen below. He did his best bless him, but you see Richard, it is quite difficult to perform a poem when you're reading it for the first (at best second) time. So just let me read it out next time mate. Thanks for the plug for Mr. Books Bookshop though, I need all the help I can get so I don't want to sound too ungrateful. Incidentally Poetry at the Pub, open mic nights, are held at The Ivy House and not at Mr. Books bookshop as you said; I do welcome anyone to the shop who wants to come in and perform their own material, but 30 people in the shop might be a bit of a squeeze and I can't risk someone spilling red wine on me set of leather bound Henry Fieldings! Right, for now, I'm Frank Bough, which rhymes with off...

Roger McGough does it better than me....

Look, it is true, I'm not being modest. Roger McGough, I do admit does poetry better than me. I love it and I love perfoming his and other's poems out at open mic poetry gigs and I do quite like some of mine but he does write some wonderfully observant stuff, it has to be said. So, since he's always reading out other poets works on Radio 4's Poetry Please, I feel sure that Mr. McGough won't mind if I recite one of his which seems particularly appropriate in these uncertain times:
The Leader
I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee, I'm the leader
I'm the leader
OK what shall we do?
(Roger McGough)

The Credit Crunch revised poem...

Credit Crunch
(Don’t you feel so sorry for those City Boys?)

Those City Boys
They love their gadgets and little toys
They love their Porsche and Ferrari cars
Fully kitted,
With sat nav and anti-speed check radars
Fitted.

They swagger and they sway
No one gets in their way!
Another round of drinks on the tray.
More shallow girls wanting to play.
Off with some wedge to a modern art gallery
Not connoisseurs but with big fat salaries.

They’re the ones who say
They’ll call us
So long as they get their big fat bonus.
Telephone number pay cheques of which most of us can only dream
To them are just the standard,
Cos they’re the cats who always got the cream.

They’re the boys with loadsamoney
So I have to say it’s not very funny
That now we suffer from the “credit crunch”
Those City Boys, well, they’re out to lunch!

No, no it’s not with champagne and caviar
This time
But, just like the rest of us,
They’re queuing up at the sandwich bar!

Poetry? Yes please , if we can only understand it....

As you are all no doubt aware the Poet Mick Imlah has just won the Forward Prize, which is the sort of Oscars for Poetry. His anthology The Lost Leader was apparently a clear winner, with absolutely no arguments between the judges (in itself unusual) I do hope that it's not as high brow as last year's winner, Sean O'Brien's The Drowned Book, because if it is I don't think that I'll be able to understand hardly any of it. And this comment is coming from someone who loves modern poetry in it's various forms and organises a monthly poetry night. I'm afraid that some of these judging panels can be so up their own arses inward thinking that the rest of us are just left to feel excluded from the academic inner circle. Of all people Joanna Lumley, spoke out about this very thing in the Daily Mail recently, so it's not just me. I will be buying the new winner's anthology though because I suppose you have to stay open minded. The biggest growth area in the poetry world is Spoken Word poetry by the likes of Polar Bear and Scrubious Pip, (well they have to have catchy names don't they!) and it's easy to see why: they're far from high brow, they appeal to a much larger (and younger) audience and they sound good and are often set to music. Different forms which cannot be compared you might say; well people (like me) do compare them and decide which are more thought provoking and entertaining. There has to be a balance between the two surely....

More ghostly connections....

More on the Ghosts of the White Horse Inn: whether or not you believe in ghosts, spooks, gouls, witches, orbs etc. etc there are people around who take the subject very seriously indeed. One such organisation, who of course has a web site, is Ghost Connections, who are based locally, and have connections all over the South East, nationally and across into the other side! In fact I've met some of them in Mr. Books. Strange that they didn't pick up on any ghostly vibes but then again maybe the spirits have taken up residence since their last visit (does it work like that?) In fact Tonbridge blog is going to contact them to see if they'll conduct an orb test, or whatever they do, in the upstairs rooms of the Old White Horse Inn. Sends a shiver down your spine just thinking about what foul dark forces they may discover up there....

Ghosts of the White Horse Inn, Tonbridge....

For a few months now I've been hearing noises in my bookshop, coming from upstairs. Floor boards creaking, things moving around, loud bangs as objects drop to the floor. Very spooky happenings. Or is it that some new office staff have just moved in upstairs; that would be the easy way to explain it to the sceptic! Do you believe in the paranormal, do you believe that there's someone out there, that disturbed souls wander around our town. The building where Mr. Books stands is actually part of a row of houses which are at least 500 years old, not far from here people would have been tortured and executed and murdered at the 1,000 year-old Castle. In fact the site of the Old Fire Station is about where the live stock where slaughtered and sometimes public executions where held in medieval times, tortured souls. Warners solicitors offices were previously Bank Street School, before that they were the Workhouse, where people in abject poverty went when they had no other choice. Many of them died before their time of disease and the strain of the hard existence. More tortured souls. So it's not surprising then that there should be at least one ghost in the Mr. Books building, which used to be the market traders' pub, The White Horse Inn. Now you might think that this is just a publicity stunt, that no ghosts exist. Tonbridge blog is actually a big sceptic about these matters but even I cannot deny that I have had a cold shiver when ever I've gone into the upstairs rooms. The previous occupants moved out after only a year, the recruitment consultants, who where there before that went bust and mysteriously left everything as if they had had to up sticks in a great hurry. White boards were left in mid training sessions, coffee cups were left undrunk, windows were left open; dust was left to settle and before long the rooms resembled a shrine to a different age. Ok I am exagerating slightly, but the current occupants have told me that they've felt a presence in the room at the very top of the building, that radios have suddenly lost most of their sound if they've been played too loudly, as if someone was trying to tell them something, as if someone, or something, was being disturbed from its sleep. T blog will report more on these ghostly presences if they'll let meeeeeeee.....

Poetry, Poetry and more poetry please....

Actually you didn't miss an awful lot on Alternative Tonbridge blog whilst T blog was down, just me ranting on and on about some more poetry:
Don't forget that it's National Poetry Day on Thursday October 9th, which unfortunately does not this year coincide neatly with Poetry at the Pub, as it did last year, which is a shame, which takes place on on Thursday October 2nd at the Ivy House pub at the corner of Bordyke and the High Street in Tonbridge, where, I'm told the mentalist landlord is going on hunger strike in protest of the death of the pub trade because of greedy property owners who know nothing about running a boozer; and if you've really not had enough Tonbridge's West Kent Book Fair will take place at Tonbridge School on Sunday October 26th all day and will include Traditional Storytellers and Poetry at the Fair, another open mic session but this time in the amazingly accoustics of Old Big School Hall, which (pause for breath) is at the tail end of Tonbridge Arts week, which this year goes on for a whole month. Now that was a long sentence, which is why poetry is so much better than prose!...

TJ's 124: Folkstone 0....

I'm told that last Saturday Folkstone Rugby Club were on the end of all the pent up frustration of players who had suffered their worst season ever last year. The Tonbridge Juddians clocked up a whapping 124 points to nil against the visitors in the first home league game of the season. It's too early to tell whether or not this means that all the hard work and recruitment of two professional coaches, not to mention the influx of some talented new players who have been enticed to join the club, has paid off but you have to say that the signs are pretty good!...

Hunger strike for mad Tonbridge landlord....

Blimey who'd be a pub landlord. This appears to be a genuine open letter to the boss of Enterprise Inns, who own the property and lease out three Tonbridge pubs to Colm Powel, a self proclaimed "Mad Irish Landlord" who has started a web site called Dying for the pub trade. I'm pretty sure that the three in question are the Punch and Judy, near the Police station, The Ivy House, and the, now closed, Station House. So incensed is he that he is prepared to go on hunger strike to make his point about the slow lingering death of the pub trade. Now that is mad! (And thanks to the anonymous commenter for drawing this one to my attention. Good luck to him because I'm sure it's a noble cause; although I would say that other pubs seem to make a bit more of an effort with service, I speak mainly of the Ivy House here, where I sometimes frequent. I like the place but it could be so much better with more attentive bar staff instead of a succession of ever changing student and foreign barmaids who, no doubt, do a great job during the couple of months they are there before they move on; and a manager who is actually there now and again would be nice. As for the Station House well I only went to that particular den of iniquity a few times and it's the closest Tonbridge had to one of those road houses you see on American films were they have pool table brawls and the regulars slap the barmaids on the butt at every opportnity and if they have live music on the band better be behind chicken wire for the bottles and cans of beer are sure to rain down on them (although probably not at their prices!) The P&J as it is now known, is probably the best run of the three, which isn't saying a great deal; and the food used to be very tastey. If you could actually breath in there (before the smoking ban) then that was an added bonus....

Susan Adams throws in the trowel!...

It hasn't reached their web site yet but I can exclusively reveal that Susan Adams has decided to call it a day on the annual Tonbridge Garden Show after 15 years of organising the event. She's apparently fed up with nanny state style safety regulations, such as having to call the traffic controller "Traffic Controller" instead of Pete or Andy, and having to put EXIT signs over the obvious exits of the marquee. She's sick of having to pay £45,000 in costs to put on the show and sick up to here of contractors taking the piss and being jobs worths, had it with the red tape of it all. In short she had enough, sick of it, fed up, pissed off with it. Do you get the idea! I'll be honest and say that, having taken a table at the last show and comparing it with the shows of ten years ago I would say that the event has seen its glory days, despite the claims of over 15,000 visitors, and it is probably a wise time to finish it. But good luck to Susan and Dick in their retirement; perhaps they can now just enjoy their own garden instead of worrying about sorting everybody else's out. So if you want to book a table for next year then make some other plans to sell your dodgy hard wood garden furniture; or if you were planning to go and buy a new chimaneya or new metal arbour arch tough luck buster; you'll just have to go to Notcutts in Pembury instead....