Saturday, October 31, 2009

Witch part of Tonbridge is haunted?...

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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thanks Tonbridge Insider!...

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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

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

Fine Scribes 5....

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

First Prize Winner

Oh, Foolish Child...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Edward Jones

Second Prize:

And Then The Shredding

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Anthony James

Third Prize


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

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

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

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

by Vaughan Stone

Words really do fail me for once....

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

Mr. Books hits back at Amazon!...

Just my small protest against the might of global retailing!

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

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

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

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

Friday, October 23, 2009

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

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

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

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

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

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

Shake it all over!...

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

Cheaper meals at the Ivy....

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Schools Roads and buses....

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

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

Mark Richardson"

His reply:

Dear Mr Richardson,

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

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

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

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

Thank you again for your comments.

Yours sincerely

Paul Carter
Leader of Kent County Council

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

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lazy Sunday afternoons....

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

Poetry in Tonbridge could be all year....

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is Mr. Books stuffed?!..

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

Friday, October 2, 2009

Daylight robbery....

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

Business as usual in Tonbridge....

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