Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas....

Have a simply super time at Christmas from everyone at Tonbridge Blog (that'd be me then!) Feel free to talk amongst yourselves for a bit. Just click the comments button below and get blogging. You could say something nice you'd like to share with the folk of Tonbridge or else you could form your very own Christmas Grumpy Tonbridge club....

Your turkey roast's gonna cost ya this year....

With food prices set to keep rising your traditional turkey roast and trimmings Christmas dinner could cost you dramatically more this year. According to the Office for National Statistics recent report some of the ingredients have risen by over 50%. Whilst some like carrots and potatoes have actually fallen on average bacon and sausages have gone up by well over 10%, red wine by over 14%, turkey itself up nearly 4% and crackers for your cheese course up a whopping 51%. I blame it all on the bankers and the politicians myself. They get all the pleasure while the rest of us gets the blame! Anyway Happy Christmas....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tonbridge Street Lighting update....

Credit where it's due. The council(s) seem to have got their act together at last and, from what I can see, all the street lamps at the north end of Tonbridge High Street appear to be in working order. A few weeks ago there were at least seven out. Have the Highways department been reading Tonbridge Blog or something? Whatever the reason we should all be grateful for small mercies. The Christmas lights do look absolutely lovely this year. Not over the top or tacky, but tasteful and just right....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas is coming. Let's all fast....

At the Tonbridge Civic Society talk earlier this week Pat Mortlock gave us an excellently delivered insight into Christmas celebrations down the ages. Many of the traditions which we have grown up with and which we'd all be loath to let go have, in truth, only been around for a relatively short time or are adaptations of much older traditions. The Christmas tree, for example, many people think was "invented" by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband. This is only partly true in the sense that he embraced it and made it a popular way to celebrate the event. The evergreen tree had been used in stately homes though long before the 19th Century. You could argue that it's roots (no pun intended) stretch back as far as pagan celebrations of the mid-winter festival. The turkey is also fairly modern in it's association with Christmas although game birds had for centuries been eaten as part of the feasting. As had roast beef, sheep, pork and goose but definitely not fish (that was associated with periods of restraint, like Lent and Advent.) Some would say that Oliver Cromwell had the best idea of all. From about 1653, as effectively dictator of England, until his death in 1658, the pruitan ruler banned Christmas as a celebration and people were asked instead to fast and to think of Christ's birth. A bit harsh you might think but then again hasn't it all gone a bit too far the other way in modern times?...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What is the Tonbridge Zeitgeist?...

As we approach Christmas news days, as they say in the business, tend to get slower and slower. The papers start writing "news" stories about what has been in the news during the last year and what the most popular trends on the internet have been. If you will they try to determine what is the Zeitgeist or the Spirit of the Age. It seems that, perhaps unsurprisingly, Facebook, ebay and YouTube are among the top searches according to Google. Top people searches include Kim Kardashian, Victoria Beckham and Emma Watson. Subjects high on the list were things like What is AV? (I still haven't a clue!) and high on the shopping list were Asda (really?) and travel Las Vegas. What do they tell us about the Zeitgeist then? Well search me! So what were the top subjects looked at on Tonbridge Blog during the year? The post about Tonbridge Has Talent back in February scored high on page views presumably among people who wanted to see the videos; the SIBA beer festival report seemed popular; as did Retro 66 Barbers Turning Blue for some odd reason and One Man's View of Tonbridge. But by far and away the highest number of page views, 22.117 to be precise, was for the the shortest piece I think Tonbridge Blog has ever posted about allegations against the local catholic priest. So I'm not quite sure what that all says about capturing the Tonbridge Zeitgeist. Singing, dancing, vanity, moaning, guilt and religion. Yep that just about sums us up!...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mr. Books Bike is a gonna....


The Wreckage Yesterday
Well it's an end of an era for Mr. Books. The shop bike has served me well but, as you can see from the picture taken yesterday, it is no more. In the words of the  Monty Python team it has ceased to be! Originally the Mr. Books bike was bought (on ebay as a matter of fact) to get around the fact that our county council didn't seem to like having small businesses who wanted to promote themselves by putting signs out on the pavement. When one morning they confiscated my A-board it forced me to think up a more creative way of having a, in a manner of speaking, High Street presence. Mary Portas would have been proud of my ingenuity in the solution I came up with. So the sign on the bike was repainted and the old 1940s delivery bike has been wheeled out every business day ever since. Of late though I must admit to having got a little lazy in not bringing her in every night and leaving her to the will of drunks, oiks and yobs passing by. She's been kicked, ridden on with people giggling and shouting whilst sitting in the front basket at 3am; she's been sat on, jumped on, twisted about and, eventually, as you can see, completely wrecked.  So yesterday I carried her back to the shop one last time to save her from yet more abuse. Having taken off the hand painted Mr. Books sign which, by the way, was more than the original cost of the bike, the intention was to take her to her final resting place: my back garden. There she'd have become a feature and had plants growing around her and would have been able to live out the rest of her days in peace and tranquility with only the sounds of children playing, birds singing and squirrels squeaking. Later in the day I mentioned her plight to a regular customer in the shop but when we went out to have a look blow me down if the bike hadn't been nicked. I was flabbergasted that anyone would still want the wreckage of the poor old thing. You just can't keep anything if it's not nailed down can you. Still, look on the bright side, she weighed a ton and at least I didn't have to load her into the car to carry her home and, I suppose, in a way, someone will put her to good use again eventually. Here's the Tonbridge Blog tribute to her: 
Outside Tonbridge School for the Book Fair

On High Street duty in happier times!
En Fete for the Tour de France coming through Tonbridge
Even the thick snow just made her look prettier

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tonbridge High Street in the light of Mary Portas Report....

I don't know whether or not Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, visited Tonbridge during her pretty in depth study of the British High Street, as part of her work for the Government, but our town is certainly a case in point. Many of the factors blighting our own High Street can be seen in her report and recommendations which was published this morning. Expensive parking discouraging shoppers, too many charity shops, absent landlords all too willing to leave store units empty for years rather than reduce rents, a lack of joined up thinking by councils, too tight planning regulations, high business rates etc. etc. I won't go on because you can all read the report. I would certainly urge anyone with, or thinking or starting, a business in Tonbridge to have a read because, apart from any thing else, there's some great free advice in there. On the whole I found her report to be positive and optimistic about the future of the High Street so long as communities embrace them, shoppers spend more of their pounds in them and retailers get more creative and innovative....

The Leaning Christmas Tree of Tonbridge

My gosh those winds weren't half fierce last night. Bins blown over, rubbish strewn down the street. There's bound to be some roof tiles missing but it looks like my house escaped the worst of it. Which is more than can be said for the poor old Tonbridge Christmas tree next to the town bridge. It seems to have acquired a definite lean to it over night. I'm sure the council will be along to sort it out though before too long. 'ealth an' safety and all that!...

Farmers Market. The Best Way to Shop?

I went along to the Tonbridge Farmers Market on Sunday. On a very drizzly, cold, wet morning it was nice to see so many stall holders and visitors there even before 10am when I arrived.  I managed to pick up some bags of mixed apples and pears (at £1.70 for a huge bag full can't be bad!) Also went a bit mad on the cheese stall as usual, I do like that Lord of the Hundreds and Sussex Oak. I picked up some wonderful Christmas gift boxes of real ale from the Sussex Brewery stand and then some little stocking fillers from various craft stalls. Oh, and I even spent some money at organiser, Steve the Chilli Man's, stall. I bought some wickedly hot olives marinaded in evil strenth chilli sauce, mixed with some milder ones and sun dried tomatoes. Lovely stuff. £50 well spent I'd say and that is definitely my way to shop. You can keep your shopping malls and retail parks with their huge queues and hoards of shoppers desperate to get the latest toys. Give me a good outdoor market and a High Street any day. Right Mary Portas?!..

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tonbridge Farmers Market this Sunday...

In a Pickle for pressies? Try the Great Preservations Stall
It's December. It's nearly Christmas. It's the second weekend of the month. we know what that means don't we? The Tonbridge Farmers Market in this Sunday. There are nearly 70 stalls booked in for this ever expanding brilliant market. If it gets any bigger it will have to spill out of the car park at the back of Waitrose and along the pavements of Avenue Du Puy! What with it being a festive special theme there'll naturally be quite a few indepenedent breweries and vineyards coming along like: Big Tree Cider, Dudda's Tun Kentish Cider, Fallen Angel Brewery, Hepworth Brewery, Meopham Valley Vineyard, Pine Trees Farm Apple Juice, Rent a Cherry, Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard. You'll be able to buy your Christmas turkey there as well as masses of other foods for the season and the feast. There'll probably be more crafty type stalls there than usual so you could even go along and get most of your presnts there as well. It must be said that Steve, aka The Chilli Man, who organises the monthly event has done a fantastic job in making it so successful in such a short space of time. I for one can hardly wait!...

You Shall Go To the Ball....

Don't forget to book for Tonbridge's very own panto if you're stuck for something to do. I'm told it's going to be quite special. Details below. Best way to get tickets is to go along to the Angel Centre or phone the box office on 359966. See other events on at the Angel Centre....

Cinderella - Friday 16 & Saturday 17 December  Presented by Tonbridge Lions Club and produced by Clips Theatre Company, Cinderella tells the story of a young girl whose life is made a misery by her ugly sisters and wicked stepmother until, in true panto style, her dreams come true with the help of her Fairy Godmother.  Performances take place at 7.30pm on Friday 16 December and 1pm and 6pm on Saturday 17 December.  Each performance will raise much needed funds for local charities.
Tickets cost £10 for adults, £8 for children/concessions and £30 for a family ticket.  Places are limited, so please book early to avoid disappointment!  To book your tickets please contact the box office on 01732 359966.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tonbridge Blog spat with Higgsworth continued....

Good to see that the Courier gave Tonbridge Blog the right to reply after their self-styled curmegeonly columnist, Higgsworth, had a dig at Tonbridge Blog after I'd taken a rather tame side swipe at his writing efforts. Okay I did refer to it as "pointless" but only in passing and with my tongue firmly in my cheek. So there really was no need for him to diss this blog by saying that I "hurled spite and bilge."  If I do it's always with good humour I'm sure you'll all agree. Anyway as I said in my letter to the KSC I actually intended no offence to Mr. H. as I do rather enjoy his weekly little rants. Here's the letter if you missed it:


Blogging can be a bit of a lonely experience at times. In fact often you don't always know who, if anyone, is reading it or, indeed, whether there's much point to it at all. So it's always nice to get feedback of any kind, this time, from the unlikely source of your Higgsworth column. A couple of weeks back I had a little side swipe at Mr. Higgsworth who had taken exception to my referring to his column as "pointless." It was only a light-hearted passing comment on my blog in a piece about my dislike for the way fireworks night has been stretched into weeks and weeks and I was actually referring to the curmudgeonly style I myself had adopted for this particular post which had made me sound a little like Higgsworth. It seems to have struck a bit of a raw nerve though with Mr. H. as he apears to have had a real go at Tonbridge Blog in his offering in the Courier last week, saying that TonbridgeBlog thrashes his keyboard to hurl "spite and bilge." Woah there Mr. H. no offence mate, calm down, because actually, in truth, I quite enjoy reading your weekly little rants and feel that there's probably a brighter personality just itching to get out of that self imposed curmudgeonly straight jacket! Let's meet up for a Christmas drink and I'll forgive you!

TonbridgeBlog  

December Tonbridge Insider out now....

Hope you've already received a copy of the new look Tonbridge Insider through your letterbox. There should be 5,000 copies dropping on door mats around about now but, if you don't get hold of your copy, then fear not. You can pick one up from a number of places including the Library, Mr. Books, various newsagents and other shops and sandwich bars. It's always worth a read, especially my bit of course!...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

One for the kids of Tonbridge....

Question: What goes "oh, oh, oh?"

Answer.... Santa walking backwards!

Question: How can a snowman lose weight?

Answer.... He waits till it gets warmer!

These and many more childrens jokes can be found on the Woodlands Junior School web site. (A word of warning though. Grown ups might find themselves chuckling as well!)

Friday, December 2, 2011

All I want for Christmas is to watch the Tonbridge Rock Choir....

I wasn't able to make it along to the Christmas lights switch on last weekend but, having seen these clips of the Tonbridge Rock Choir, I wish I had been able to. Watch these and the others on YouTube if you want to get in the festive mood. The sound quality is just good enough to get the feeling of what it's like to see them live. Watching this and having watched Gareth Malone's South Oxhey revisited the other night on the telly makes me want to oil my vocal chords and get out there for a sing song. There's two things the Government can't take away from us during these times of austerity: Laughter and Singing. And they're both free!...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tonbridge and Sevenoaks Street(un)wise...

A new magazine just popped through my shop letter box. In fact the November and December issues both popped through at the same time. It's called Streetwise and, without wishing to be unkind, it just looks like a it's full of advertisements which are strung together with a load of nonsense editorial. I mean total nonsense; unfunny jokes and photos which have little or no value. It looks like a cynical way to tap the local advertising dollar. I do of course declare an interest in that I write a monthly page in The Tonbridge Insider but, really, that has nothing to do with my first impression of this rag. Surely content should count for something, a bit of relevant editorial here, a heart warming story about a local personality there. At least The Insider attempts to inform, educate and entertain a little doesn't it? Streetunwise could, and most probably does, have the  same editorial (if you can call it that) in any other town. They are just repeating words to save costs and distribute it in as many unsuspecting towns as they can before they're found out. It has no relevance to Tonbridge or Seveenoaks at all. The magazine  proclaims itself as "The Funny Little Local Mag." A pointless waste of paper is what I call it! It makes The News of the World look like Newsweek Magazine....

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More on A Boards....

Thanks very much for the anonymous comment yesterday tipping off traders that there is a new scheme called 'A Board Aware' which seems to be allowing businesses to use A Boards so long as they do so with consideration for pedestrians. It is particularly aimed at avoiding obstructions on the pavement for mothers with push chairs, wheel chair users and disabled people. Now that seems fair enough to me. I would say that my A Board has always complied with this new Kent County Council initiative so I do feel a little like I'm being forced to agree with the rather obvious. That said I suppose there's always that small minority of traders who just don't care about anyone else and will stick their board in the middle of the main A21 if they thought that they could get away with it. The vast majority of traders though are much more thoughtful citizens and are part of the community themselves; they probably have families themselves and, generally, would want to totally minimise obstruction of the pavement.
Anyway I've applied for my special window sticker that tells all my lovely customers that I'm on board with the A Board Aware scheme! I'm quite sure that they'll all feel much warmer towards me for that and spend even more of their hard earned cash in Mr. Books! If you're really interested, and I've no idea why most of you would be, then here's the email I sent to KCC Roadworks Licencing (yes it really does fall under their jurisdiction.)

"Hello, I've just found out about this excellent new scheme and would like to sign up to comply with the requirements of the scheme.
The A board to me, especially in the current difficult economic climate is an essential way of drawing people off the High Street and into my shop. I would go as far as to say that I would find it incredibly difficult to survive without one. I would always be responsible when placing the board on the pavement outside my shop being always mindful of pedestrians. In fact this is relatively easy for me, being on the corner of Bank Street where there is a very wide pavement at the apex of the junction with the High Street. I would never place the A board on the main thoroughfare of the pavement or public highway.
I would be delighted to display a window sticker demonstrating that I fully support the A Board Aware scheme. My business and contact details are below and please see pictures of my A Board in typical position,
Regards"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A-Boards on the High Street....

I saw a lady out this morning taking photos of  A-boards, you know: those wooden and metal swinging signs that stand outside shops and pubs. Was this a photography project of some sort I wondered to myself as I approached her, realising that I knew her. Perhaps she's building up a portfolio of the most interesting designs to put in her file, I thought. I didn't ask her what she was up to but she offered an explanation anyway. She was sick of seeing the boards the length of the High Street, getting in the way and ruining the look of the whole street. I was in too much of a hurry to get into a debate with her about this subject but felt like saying something and sort of wished I had; but that's the beauty of a blog you see: I can say it now! She had a go at the council and the Highways agency for not doing something about this appalling, asthetically unpleasing, sight, as she described it. It would be unkind for me to name this lady and I'm quite sure she meant very well but I have to say that it would be a bad time for the council to clamp down on this problem. You see A-boards are on the street for one reason only and that is to drum up business, to get the passer by to think: Oh I must go in there or Oh I never realised there was a cafe down there. Without these signs, mine included, many businesses probably would struggle even more to get people to stop and walk those few yards into their shops. I can of course see both sides of the argument, and businesses need to be careful when placing them on the street, but what would she rather see? A-boards along the street or a street full of empty shops for that is the stark choice facing us at the moment. It's not as if they're a new invention is it? They've been around as long as shops and Inns have. Time to get real I think.... 

The great lights turn off....

Once again I had to miss the switching on of the Christmas lights down Tonbridge High Street. So I'm yet to see them in all their festive glory. My kids went along and reported back to me that they'd enjoyed the whole thing. The only question I have is: What's with the fireworks? I thought we'd had Guy Fawkes night and the preceding two months of fizzes, cracks and bangs that go with it these days. Did we really need any more? I know we all need a bit of Christmas cheer but I just don't get it with the fireworks all the time. Summer festival of music? Oh let's finish each night with a firework show and pollute the air over the town and wake up all the kids and disturb all the dogs in the town centre.  Summer Carnival? Why of course they wouldn't be complete without more of the same! Christmas time, a time for rejoicing and Peace on Earth? Let's ruin it with yet more of them. Still at least the tax payer wasn't picking up the bill for it this time. What? What's that you say? The borough council paid for it out of their Leisure Services budget? Surely not in these times of austerity! It's just a shame that they can't get their priorities right and actually sort out the street lights at the north end of the town as well. It really is becoming pathetic now that a town like Tonbridge constantly has 6 or 7 lights not working on the short stretch between the Ivy House and the Big Bridge. Apparently they are, and I kid you not, the wrong type of bulbs! That is to say Kent County Council, who are responsible for the Highways (which includes street lighting) push the problem back to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council because these lights are not the standard type and, because they're in the Conservation Area of the town KCC cannot replace the whole light. I know that Tonbridge Blog has moaned on about this before but it really does beggar belief that they can't sort this problem out between them. Lights are supposed to be for the whole year and not just for Christmas!...

Neighbourhood Watch....

Don't be caught out like the gravelly voiced TV presenter Mariella Frostrup was recently when she innocently (so she says) placed 2 pampass grass plants on the balcony of her London home. What's the problem with that you might well ask? Well you should perhaps be aware, as Ms. Frostrup apparently wasn't, that pampass grass is the national symbol for swingers! So if you spot any houses in you neighbourhood with these wonderfully flamboyant plants growing in their front gardens you now know the possible reason. Quite a few growing in Hildenborough when I last drove that way. Well there's not much else to do out there!...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Trains through Tonbridge....

If the previous YouTube clip from local rapper, Danny Who, was just too much for you then you can always calm your nerves down by watching this train clip. It's a video of, well, a train passing through Tonbridge station. It seems to me that every other YouTube clip of Tonbridge is a train passing through Tonbridge Station. I'm afraid I just don't get this train spotting thing. I'm not trying to knock someone's hobby here but really, what is the point? Aren't trains just, pretty much, all the same these days? Now steam trains, that's a different matter. Now you're talking!...

Welcome to Tonbridge....

Local rapper Danny Who's Welcome to Tonbridge has over 32,000 hits on YouTube making it one of the most watched clips of anything on the site relating to our town. Is it social comment or is it just a bit of a rap rant? I'll let you decide....

Even Barbers Feeling the Cuts....

Is it economic doom and gloom everywhere and all around us or are the green shoots of recovery beginning to push through? On the news Philip Green is explaining why his BHS, Burton, Evans etc. clothing group are suffering a profits downfall of 38%. Also in the news only yesterday it was feared that 150 year old travel agents, Thomas Cook, a name almost synonymous with package holidays, might be in deep doo doo. Shares plummeted on the stock market and people feared the worst. Closer to home I'm certainly finding it tougher than ever this year as people tighten their belts, shops close left right and centre as their leases run out and the shopkeepers think: what's the point! I've just had a conversation with a barber who is finding things very slow at the moment. Now you wouldn't think that barbers would be suffering would you? Sales of up market hair care products yes maybe but just getting your barnet cut? Surely people don't stop doing that do they? Well it seems that even looking good has to go by the wayside as people decide to delay that trim just another couple of weeks. I notice that even David Beckham is growing his hair longer and slicking it back so maybe even Becks is feeling the pinch! Can things get any worse? But cheer up everyone it is nearly Christmas....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Text: Murder....

A local author by the name of George Wensley has just brought his book in to ask me if I'd like to stock it in my shop. It's a murder mystery, based in Eastbourne, called Text: Murder and, from what I've read so far, looks as if it's well worth a read. It occurred to me after my discussion with George that maybe Tonbridge book groups should support local authors more often. It would be an excellent way to get the book reviewed and, if the book is any good, word would spread to others in the town and beyond. Maybe feedback could be published on TonbridgeBlog for all to see. That way if the book is any good it may not be overlooked as is very often the case. Not a bad thought really. The book is available at Mr. Books, naturally, priced £7.99 instead of the RRP price of £12.99. If you're quick you can have the only signed copy in the shop....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Civic Society Talk tonight....

TonbridgeBlog is looking forward to going down to the Angel Centre tonight for a Closer Look at Old Tonbridge. The Civic Society are hosting a talk by Pat Hopcroft and Anthony Wilson, of Tonbridge Historical Society, who will tell us about what the town used to be like and show us some photographs of Tonbridge which we don't usually get to see. The Hist Soc have written many authoritative books about our dear town down the ages and TBlog hears that they may be planning another one. Go along tonight and you may well find out more. Non members are usually welcomed for a small charge on the night. This will be my first TCS talk of the new season but, since I'm a member, I won't have to fork out. There's free tea or coffee and biccies and some excellent company. The show starts at 8pm with refreshments from 7-30pm. You can see the society's full programme of talks on their web site....

Speed Cameras: A Fair Cop?

I've only ever been nicked for speeding once before. I was coming back down the hill from Frant into Tunbridge Wells about seven years ago and didn't spot the speed camera sign, didn't slow down quick enough, saw the flash in my rear view mirror and thought: "It's a fair cop!" A few days later the official looking letter arrived from Sussex Police, with photographic evidence and I paid up without much of a moan. Last week, driving back from Uckfield and Crowborough, I had a really easy, pleasant little trip and didn't think very much of the journey at all. Clear roads, a little foggy with sunshine breaking through from what I remember. So imagine my surprise then when, a few days later, I got another little official looking letter from Sussex Police with those dreaded words "Notification of Intended Prosecution" Apparently I'd been clocked doing 53 in a 40 zone through Eridge Green! No photos were sent to back up the allegation, I have to request them in writing. I can't recall the incident at all, I can't say I noticed anything unusual in that area, I didn't nearly cause an accident, I don't consider that I was in any way driving dangerously that day. In fact quite the reverse, I'm pretty sure that I'm a considerate, careful, experienced driver. I don't feel that I've been taught any lesson, other than perhaps to always drive like a learner in Sussex, since I didn't realise I'd committed a crime. I always get the feeling that the emphasis of GATSO speed cameras is to catch you out after the event; far more effective for me are those signs which light up in front of you to tell you that you're speeding and to slow down. They work for me and make me do just that. Speed cameras just make you feel resentment and frustration. Yes I know that if I'd driven slower then I wouldn't have got a ticket but I can't be the only one left feeling cheated by this experience. I think I'll stick to riding my bike, I can go as fast as I like, it keeps me fit and it hardly costs a penny....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I don't want to sound uncharitable but....

One interesting piece in the local papers this week and also in the national news, thanks in no small part to Government retail "Csarina" Mary Portas, is the whole question of how many charity shops should be tolerated in Britain's High Streets. The Queen of Shops, Ms Portas, seems to be putting a strong case forward for their numbers being limited so that the High Street can breath more easily and be potentially more appealing to more upmarket retailers and customers instead of being, half boarded up, no-go areas. Now, I'm not suggesting Tonbridge has become that but, let's face it: it isn't what it once was. Question is: can this practicably be achieved? Is there even a problem? Shouldn't market forces just determine their number? Maybe, in the current economic climate there just wouldn't be any other business people willing to risk taking out leases and all the other costs involved in shop fitting and setting up the a business. But should charities be given preferential treatment on rates and, in many cases, rents when there are non-charity businesses trying to compete for the same shop units. It's my understanding that many landlords actually quite like charities being in their properties because these organisations are perceived as fairly safe bets being, often, national or global businesses with many other similar successful shops in other towns. In effect they are proven success stories. On the other side of the coin though you might take a longer term view and say that the increased numbers of charity shops, and Tonbridge has 12 in the town centre by my reckoning, is blighting once vibrant High Streets, which had a broad range of traditional shops, and driving many shoppers to other nearby towns where charity shops melt into the background because there's a much wider choice of other shops. Being a retailer myself in the town I am up against some charity shops who have far better locations than my shop, an army of volunteers (Oxfam aims for 40 so it has been reported) professional shop fitters, retail analysts and experienced managers all at their disposal. Fair competition? Oh and they also get free stock! It's difficult to argue against charity shops without sounding, well, uncharitable but it is tough at times to compete with them. However, like most small business owners who love what they do, I personally will keep going for as long as I possibly can, until the bitter end if necessary. It does seem though somewhat ironic that many of these charities seem to have much deeper pockets than the businesses they might be helping to drive away. It will be interesting to see the reaction to Mary P's report when it comes out and to see whether anything actually changes....

PS. The 12 Charity shops in Tonbridge are, in no particular order: Bridge Trust, Hospice in Weald, Scope, British Heart Foundation, Help the Aged, Oxfam Books, Shelter, Mencap, Hospice of Hope, YMCA, Barnardos and the Tamworth Childrens Hospice.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Throwing stones in my glass house....

Blogging can be a bit of a lonely experience at times. In fact often you don't always know who, if anyone, is reading it or, indeed, whether there's much point to it at all; most of the comments left tend to be of the negative variety which, I suppose, is because it's alot easier to moan about stuff than it is to say positive things. So it's always nice to get feedback of any kind, this time, from an unlikely source. A week or so ago I had little side swipe at our dear friend Higgsworth at the Courier who took exception to my referring to his column as "pointless." It was only a passing comment in a piece about my dislike for the way fireworks night has stretched into weeks. It seems to have struck a bit of a raw nerve though with Mr. H. as he mentions Tonbridge Blog in this week's offering in a none too favourable light. No offence mate, calm down there, because actually, in truth, I quite enjoy reading your weekly little rants and feel that there's probably a brighter personality just itching to get out of that self imposed curmudgeonly straight jacket!...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Exclusive: Olympic Torch coming to Tonbridge and Malling....

It seems that Tonbridgeblog was wrong. Yes I know that's hard to believe but, on this occasion, I'll have to hold my hands up and admit it. The Olympic Torch, so I'm reliably informed will after all be coming to the borough of Tonbridge and Malling. Oh yes, on 20th July 2012, you'll be able to witness the historic, symbollic flame. But don't get the bunting and party hats out just yet for, unless you happen to be a resident of Borough Green, or have very strong binoculars, then you still won't be seeing it in your town. The torch will be winding its way through the village on it's way to Seal and Sevenoaks and still won't come within ten miles of Tonbridge. Yep I reckon that calls for another one of those DLT moments: Quack, quack oops!...

(PS. For younger readers of this blog DLT was what Radio One dj Dave Lee Travis used to call himself. On his morning show he used a number of sound effects like the quack, quack oops, trumpets and other devices to achieve a humorous effect. Or at least so he thought. I once saw DLT live and he came on stage dressed as Darth Vader so you sort of get the idea of the size of the man's ego. To say that he thought highly of himself is an understatement and would be a bit like saying Hitler had rather strong views!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

War Memorial Deserves Better....

I don't want this to sound in any way uncharitable or disrespectful to our war dead or people who are serving their country and risking their lives right now. I have nothing but the deepest admiration and respect for them and I really mean that. But I can't help thinking that the plans, as pictured in the Kent and Sussex Courier last weekend, for the refurbished war memorial in Tonbridge costing around £250,000 could be improved upon. The artist's impression looks for all the world like they're just going to cut the grass, clean up the pavement areas and trim the hedges. Unless that cost includes years worth of ongoing repairs and maintenance how is that a quarter of a million quid well spent? Our war dead deserve better than this token effort....

Free Parking in Tonbridge??..

Tunbridge Wells car parks already charge on a Sunday and, according to a local press report last week, they are considering doing the same into the evening. If you're reading this Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council: DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!!!! It's enough of a problem putting off potential customers for traders in busier, more vibrant town centres and that Tonbridge definitely is not. In fact I'd say that there's a substantial argument why Tonbridge should have free parking reintroduced most days, at least for the first two hours, if our council is serious about encouraging shoppers here. At the moment why would they come apart from for essentials when they can park free at Bluewater for nothing, catch a train to London, park free in Paddock Wood or pay similar charges with much more choice in Tunbridge Wells? Is it the job of the council to milk shoppers dry, impose ridiculous fines, discourage trade and therefore traders from doing business in the town? The answer to that has to be a resounding NO! Please take a long term view on this TMBC, forget about short term gains in revenue, before there are no shops left to save....

Tonbridge Goes Cheesy Crackers....

This looks like the right place Grommit!



The Tonbridge Farmers Market on Sunday was fantastic. The weather helped as hundreds of people gathered around the sixty or so stalls. Ten of those stalls had come especially since it was Cheese Day at the market. I couldn't believe my fromage-loving eyes when I was confronted with all manner of the fermented curd from farms all over Kent and some from further afield. Wonderful stuff and, to cap it all, Wallace and Grommit came along to join in.  That Wallace does like his Wensleydale you know! And so do I and bought about a months supply of different ones while I was there. Other than cheese there were all manner of other tasty treats from pickles and chutneys (anyone know the difference?) Kent apples and pears, meat, fish, beers, wine, cider, breads, chillies, sweets, cakes, olive oils, I could go on and on. In short it was a foodies' delight. There's even a covered food area where you can sit and enjoy your produce or try some hot food from the many stalls around that area serving everything from crepes to pork and apple burgers. Yummy! Just one slight complaint though: no crackers for sale anywhere. Not so much as a Jacobs cream one in sight! Despite this I'll still be back every month without fail. The market takes place every second Sunday of the month and is worth putting in your diary....
Do you think we ought to seize this bottle of cider Sarge?!
Crepes: A little French touch to the market

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I want to buy some cheese!...

And don't forget that the Tonbridge Farmers Market is tomorrow, that's Sunday, at the very genteel time of 9-30 to 1pm. So you could even have a bit of a lie in and still be able to get down there at a reasonable time. There'll be lots of produce left whatever time you arrive as there are over 50 stalls there. It really is like a food festival and well worth a visit if you haven't been already. I'm particularly looking forward to it because I think tomorrow is "cheese day" and I simply love the stuff. From the single most popular cheese in the world, Cheddar to Cheshire, Wensleydale, Brie, Roquefort , Port Salut, Danish Blue, Red Leicester, Lord of the Hundreds Sheeps Cheese, Goats Cheese, Danish Blue, Gorgonzola you name it I'll eat it. In fact that rather reminds me of that famous Monty Python Sketch, one of their best ever. I remember a mate way back in my Sixth Form days who once recited the whole sketch from start to finish. Some feat I can tell you. If you, like me, have fond memories of that sketch you can read about it and see a full list of the cheeses here or even see it on YouTube here Otherwise just go to the market tomorrow and taste a few for yourself....

Angel Centre Events....

....And here's the list of the other events and meetings coming up at the Angel Centre soon. Okay it makes pretty boring reading but useful nonetheless. I wonder what they do at the Gassers and Rubber Fanciers Club. The mind boggles but I'm told it's all very innocent and they stand around talking about miniature planes and modelling. (A likely story!)

REGULAR EVENTS - MEETINGS, CLUBS & SOCIETIES
Tonbridge Modern Sequence Dance Club meets weekly on Monday and Thursday at 10am in the Medway Hall - beginners welcome.
Weight Watchers sessions take place every Tuesday at 12.45pm and 6.15pm in the Jubilee Room. Contact 08457 123000 for more information.
Blood Donors Session will take place in the Medway Hall on Thursday 17 November and 29 December.  For further information contact the National Blood Transfusion Service on 0845 771 1711.
Tonbridge U3A  Meetings held in the Medway Hall at 2pm on the first Wednesday of every month.  Next meeting on 4 January, speaker Edward Perry - Presentation on "Food." For further information visit http://angelcentre.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d0a2e25d89396abb14c533532&id=9aa4d8f0e7&e=c7037b3930.
Tonbridge Flower Arrangement Club will meet on Wednesday 23 November and Wednesday 8 December at 2.15pm. New members welcome.
Tonbridge Civic Society will be held on Tuesday 22 November, speaker Pat Hopcroft & Anthony Wilson - "A closer look at old Tonbridge." The following meeting on Tuesday 13 December, speaker Pat Mortlock - "A Country House Christmas."  Meetings are held in the Riverside Lounge at 8pm, for more information visit http://angelcentre.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d0a2e25d89396abb14c533532&id=41f8ec79f2&e=c7037b3930.
Tonbridge Decorative & Fine Arts Society  Meetings held monthly at 2.30pm in the Medway Hall - new members always welcome. On Thursday 24 November - 'Gourmet art? Cheers!"  Meeting on Thursday 26 January - David Roberts - "Artists Extraordinary."  For further information contact 01732 884728 or visit http://angelcentre.us2.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=d0a2e25d89396abb14c533532&id=b51331c4d4&e=c7037b3930.
The Society of Friends Meetings will take place on Sunday 20 November and Sunday 18 December in the Vauxhall Room. For further information contact Mrs Heydecker on 01732 365781.
Tonbridge Townswomen's Guild - The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 14 December from 10am to 12 noon.  The Guild meet on the second Wednesday of each month, new members always welcome.  For further details contact Mrs Knight-Smith on 01732 361751.
North Tonbridge Flower Arrangers  Meetings will be held on Thursday 24 November and Thursday 8 December - 7.45pm for 8pm.
Tonbridge Gassers & Rubbers Fanciers  Meetings will be held on Saturday 26 November and Saturday 28 January 2012.
Tonbridge Historical Society Next meeting on Thursday 8 December, speaker Raksha Dave - "Behind the scenes at Time Team."  For further information please visit http://angelcentre.us2.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=d0a2e25d89396abb14c533532&id=ac6b684500&e=c7037b3930.
Line Dancing  Friday at 1.30pm and 7pm.  For more information contact Mary on 01892 538322.
Zumba Classes held each Monday from 8pm to 9pm and 6.30pm to 7.30pm for Zumba Gold, please contact Nicky on 01892 616123 or 07761 481544.  Email nicky.zumba@btinternet.com.
Little Kickers Football Training  Classes take place on Sunday morning at 10am for children aged 18 months to 4.5 years.  For further information please call 0208 4320982 or visit http://angelcentre.us2.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=d0a2e25d89396abb14c533532&id=30e75d9c80&e=c7037b3930.
FAIRS, SALES & EVENTS
Friday Fleamarket - takes place weekly from 8am to 1pm in the Medway Hall.  Contact Mrs Carmichael 01732 456196 for further information or to book a stall.
Kids & Kaboodles Nearly New Sale - Saturday 19 November & 25 February. Newly new sale for boys and girls from birth to 7 years old.  Held on the last Saturday of every month from 2pm to 3.30pm. For bookings and further sale information please visit http://angelcentre.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d0a2e25d89396abb14c533532&id=ac8b022109&e=c7037b3930.
Area Planning Meeting - Thursday 24 November at 7.30pm in the Riverside Lounge.
Antiques & Collectors Fair - Sunday 27 November from 10am to 4pm.  For more details contact Mrs Fuller on 01732 463575.
Senior Citizens Christmas Party - Thursday 15 December from 2pm to 5pm. This popular event includes live entertainment from local band More Tea Vicar, a Christmas tea with sherry, chocolates and hot drinks, plus a fabulous raffle which will be drawn by the Deputy Mayor of Tonbridge and Malling Councillor David Davis.
The party, which this year has been sponsored by local company Fidelity Worldwide Investments and organised by Angel Centre staff, is guaranteed to get all who attend in the festive mood!  Tickets cost just £2.50 per person but, with only 250 places available, please book early to avoid disappointment by calling the box office on 01732 359966.  
Cinderella - Friday 16 & Saturday 17 December  Presented by Tonbridge Lions Club and produced by Clips Theatre Company, Cinderella tells the story of a young girl whose life is made a misery by her ugly sisters and wicked stepmother until, in true panto style, her dreams come true with the help of her Fairy Godmother.  Performances take place at 7.30pm on Friday 16 December and 1pm and 6pm on Saturday 17 December.  Each performance will raise much needed funds for local charities.
Tickets cost £10 for adults, £8 for children/concessions and £30 for a family ticket.  Places are limited, so please book early to avoid disappointment!  To book your tickets please contact the box office on 01732 359966.

What's on at the Angel Cinema...

And just to show you that I do care about cinema in Tonbridge as well as T. Wells and Sevenoaks here's the listing (what there is of it) from the Angel Centre....

ANGEL CINEMA 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (15) - Wednesday 30 November/Thursday 1 December - 4.45pm (ends 7.15pm) & 7.45pm (ends 10.15pm). Tickets can be purchased on the day or booked in advance by calling the Box Office - 01732 359966.

The next film(s) will be shown on Tuesday 10 and 11 January - programme to be confirmed. 

Rum Diary....

In the absence of Tonbridge having a cinema or an arts centre I was forced once again last night to venture over the hills to Sevenoaks Stag theatre and community arts thingy or whatever they call it. I wanted to see the new Johny Depp film Rum Diary which turned out to be an excellent choice. I'm not a huge fan of him as Captain Jack Sparrow but as Paul Kemp in this latest movie he shows himself as a very versatile actor. It's funny, full of philosophical one liners, dark and depressing in places, uplifting in others. The story, from what I can gather, is a little known one by Hunter S Thompson, an LSD taking, heavy drinking award winning journalist and cult novelist who died a few years ago and to whom the film is dedicated. It's a partly auto- biographical account of Puerto Rico in 1960 from the point of view of an idealistic, but Rum soaked, journalist working on a failing corrupt newspaper, played by Depp. It probably isn't everyone's cup of tea but I certainly enjoyed it. It's on at the Odeon as well if you prefer the comfort and large car park of that place but I'm growing rather fond on the, ever so slightly seedy, Stag Theatre with it's excellent screen and soft wide seats with lots of leg room. The pop corn is only £1.50 a large tub for salty or buttery which also helps!...

P'd Off with the PO!...

I was in a rush this morning to open up my shop. You see, even though I'm the boss and there's only me there, I still have a strong work ethic and want to get there on time. So imagine how delighted I was to see the queue at the main Post Office snaking almost out the door this morning. I had no choice really but to wait in line and take my turn. I've moaned about this in the past but I'll do it again and again until they do more to prevent it. It just isn't good enough to see 2 open out of a possible eight counters. Did they not realise that it's Saturday morning and more people are around to go about their business? After a few minutes, to give them their dues, two more clerks arrived (they probably call themselves sales consultants these days.) They ambled up to their counters stoney faced and with all the enthusiasm of a group of people on Death Row who'd just heard that the Governor's final decision was not what they'd hoped to hear!  Then there was a man with bags full of change and all sorts of forms he needed help with which you can't complain about since that's partly what the PO is for. There was an annoying woman who had all the time in the world doing what looked like her Christmas cards (in November for Christ's sake?!)  Even when she'd finished she was happy to stand and chat to the assistant. Again that's up to her, a bit inconsiderate perhaps, but still no real complaints. The chap serving though should have had the presence of mind to very politely ask her to stand aside so that he could serve one of the other thirty or so customers who by this time were seething in the queue behind. So instead of arriving at my shop in the nick of time I arrived twenty minutes late quite utterly P'd Off. They simply need more staff and better training at the PO that much is clear. While they're at it why not reopen some of the half a dozen sub Post Offices they've seen fit to close in the last few years....

Friday, November 11, 2011

Christmas comes early to Tonbridge....

I've been sent the details of Tonbridge Christmas Festival events coming up soon by those lovely people at Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Leisure Services and it looks like we're in for a right old treat. It'll mostly be happening on a stage near the Big Bridge a bit like last year's. And, of course there'll be lights being switched on, bands playing, finished off with a gigantic fireworks display over the Castle. (It's a wonder that building has survived at all these last thousand years!)
There's even a fun fair with white knuckle rides and all sorts of stalls and treats from Friday November 25th right across the weekend. Then on Sunday 27th at 5 pm Mayor Brian "Whiskers" Luker will be switching on the lights helped by a load of jokers from a local Panto (well it's a tough thing to do on your own you know!) There'll be fun and games before that even with Carol singers at 2pm and musical entertainment before and after the lights. Can't wait.... Full details HERE



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More on The Tonbridge Insider....

It seems that the Tonbridge Insider will indeed live on through its new owner, John Dickerson. I've just had a chat with him and he seems really switched on and has quite a few ideas to make the magazine more eyecatching and prominent. I must say that the feedback I've been getting of late has been very positive indeed so it would have been a real shame to see it go down just when it seemed to have turned a corner. John tells me that he is upping the circulation so that most of Tonbridge should get a copy through their door. If you don't receive one you can always read it online as a virtual magazine. I'm also pleased to say that the Tonbridge Log column will live on in the Insider. You won't find it in the November issue but I better get writing though as he needs copy for the December issue asap. Damn it what'll I write this time? I'm sure I'll think of something!...

Tonbridge Events....

If anyone has any social events they'd like to advertise then click on the comments box below to tell the folk of Tonbridge all about it. It won't take long and you are potentially reaching at least four people who live in the town (actually quite a few more than that)....

Forget, Forget the 5th of November....

Sorry to start the week sounding like a curmudgeon, after all I wouldn't want to end up sounding like that Higgsworth chap who writes that pointless column for the Courier every week, but I'll admit it I'm glad that Bonfire Night is over. There I've said it. As a lad I was never over keen on fireworks but at least then they had a certain novelty value since most experiences are fresh when you're growing up. With time fireworks have got bigger, brighter and increasingly loud so I suppose that should have kept my interest levels up. In recent years though I've just grown bored of them and wish they'd just, well, fizzle out. You can hear them from mid October onwards banging away, whirring and crackling until, by November 5th, they have virtually no impact because we've all had both ears full for nearly a month. I wouldn't mind it so much if it was just kept to the night itself. This year there was no excuse since the 5th actually fell on a Saturday and, despite the weather forecast, turned out to be a lovely clear, gently moonlit night. (So why ruin it with a load of unnecessary explosions some might say!) I'd have settled for that though and might even have enjoyed watching them for three minutes or so from the safe and free viewing point of my kitchen window. But oh no! They went on into Sunday and then even last night a few pops and whizzes and bangs could be heard across Tonbridge. Fireworks might be a bit of traditional fun for some but, I suspect, they've become yet another excuse to have a party and get drunk for many more people who probably aren't even aware of the religious discriminatory history attached to the night. (although I think they still burn an effigy of the Pope in Lewes every year so it ought to be pretty obvious!) Let's face it they are unnecessary, polluting, dangerous, smoke inducing, hazardous, annoying and many other descriptive words of that nature. Can't we just have a year when we forget them altogether?!..

Tonbridge misses out on Olympic Torch route....

I note from press reports yesterday that it's estimated that 95% of the country will see the Olympic torch as it passes through hundreds of towns and villages up and down the land. It's going up and down mountains in the Highlands, it's crossing water in the Lake District, it's travelling on a chair lifts over the Needles on the Isle of Wight, it's abseiling down the Dock Tower in Grimsby, it's coming through Tunbridge Wells, and on to Maidstone, Seal and Sevenoaks. Is it coming through Tonbridge though? Is it heck! By the look of it it's another missed opportunity....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Tonbridge Insider Lives on....

I've kept it under my hat until now but the future of The Tonbridge Insider was looking pretty bleak for a while but now, so I'm reliably informed, it has found a buyer to take over and continue the publication in it's current format. Hopefully the change-over will be fairly seamless so you'll still see lots of information about local activities, clubs and events every month. It would have been a shame to see it go down the pan as it is Tonbridge's only stand alone publication. The Courier tries to pretend to represent the town but, really, how can it, being based in Tunbridge Wells and with all those other towns and villages in its catchment area? It has to try to please all but probably never quite pleases anyone. Then there's the Kent Messenger which, as far as I can see, hardly anyone in Tonbridge buys. That's a shame since actually, if you go back only a few decades, the Kent Messenger was the Tonbridge Free Press or at least the TFP morphed into the KM. So Tonbridge Blog happens to think that the Tonbridge Insider is an important publication for the town and I wish the new owners success with it (with or without my services.) Part of that future success, and a reason for its near demise, will be dependent on the number and quality of the advertisers it attracts. I thought that, despite the recession, the magazine had turned the corner on that score but maybe it just wasn't happening quite quick enough to make it commercially viable. So, if you have an advertising budget and you want to attract very local customers, The Insider should be an important consideration. Tonbridge Blog might be another possibility since it attracts the same kind of audience online. In fact without even trying this blog has started to carry several commercial links, google ads and the odd advertorial for local businesses due to its having built up a sizeable audience. But for Tonbridge Blog that's just an extra bonus; for the Insider it's their lifeblood. Without the advertisers the magazine just can't exist....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Local matters....

Let readers of Tonbridge Blog know about any local issues, local gossip or maybe just get something off your chest. Just click on the comment box below and say what's on your mind....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Let's have a Community Arts Centre in Tonbridge please....

Went to see that new Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris on Friday night. I'd heard it was Woody back to his best and so it proved. It was excellent at least, not sure it could beat Annie Hall or Manhattan though but that's beside the point. Leading man, Owen Wilson, was so convincing as the successful, yet unfulfilled, neurotic screen writer that he may as well have been Woody Allen himself thirty years ago. Just a shame I had to go all the way to the Stag Theatre in Sevenoaks to see it! To use the correct name that should be The Stag Community Arts Centre. Sounds like a good place to me so why can't Tonbridge have one? I've never been to the Angel Centre Cinema so I can't comment on the screen and sound quality. I'd love to see up to date films there so put some on and people will go. The next showing at the Angel seems to be Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on November 30th which sounds great but why so infrequently?...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Last Bookshop film update....

Some regular readers of Tonbridge Blog may recall my mentioning that Mr. Books shop was used as a set for part of the independently produced short film, The Last Bookshop, which is a fictional, surreal and humorous, with-a-serious-edge, account of life when the internet has completely taken over and books have all but been forgotten about. It seems like an age since the film crew turned up at my humble little shop, which was one of a handful of bookshops they used in the making of the film last winter, and still the final version isn't out yet. I understand from the production company's blog that they would like to air The Last Bookshop on the internet (which in itself is a little ironic!) but they are embargoed from doing so because of the entry requirements of most film festivals. Personally I'm very much looking forward to seeing the film, not least because Mr. Books is actually featured so I wish they'd just get on with it and invite me to the premiere! It sounds like a worthwhile and innovative project and I wish the team great success with it. Have a look here at their blog if you want to find out more and to read some of their interesting thoughts about the book trade....

Friday, October 28, 2011

Up above the streets and houses....

I managed to whip out my camera phone whilst biking to work the other day to bring you this picture which I've called "Rainbow Over Tonbridge." Okay it's not that creative a title but it's simple and it is what it says! Just below the line of the trees, right over in the far distance, at the very end of the rainbow is the pot of gold. I cycled towards it that day for hours and hours but was never quite able to reach it. One day perhaps!...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Who was Shakespeare?....

Ever since I opened Mr. Books about six or so years ago every so often an old fellow pops his head in the door of the shop and starts talking to me about Shakespeare and how it's his belief that the man history credits with writing the timeless great plays wasn't actually the real author. He goes on and on (and on) about how it was probably one of about three or four diffferent men, all of them of noble birth. My customer, Michael, expresses that his favoured candidate is one William Drayton who happens to be his distant direct ancestor. He does rant on a bit, well okay then alot, but I've always suspected that he wasn't just slightly crazy and hoped that he did actually know what he was going on a about. Certainly, from what little I knew on the subject, I understood that there was at least a grain of truth in his argument. It wasn't the first time the subject had been debated. Now they've only gone and brought a film out about the subject haven't they. Anonymous, which premiered yesterday, postulates that the man William Shakespeare was just an actor, and an illiterate one at that, the real playwright actually having been Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford. So maybe my slightly barking mad customer Michael Drayton isn't so far off the mark. Trouble is, whilst there's no concrete proof that Shakespeare was Shakespeare of Stratford Upon Avon, or for that matter Shakspere or Shakes- peare, equally there's no hard evidence that it was De Vere or Drayton, Christopher Marlowe or someone else. The debate will go on probably forever but the film is, by all accounts, well worth watching....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More quotes....

Another installation at Margate's Turner Contemporary gallery. Art or just a load of T-shirts with quotes on them stuck on a wall?...

We'll 'ave a day down Margate: Turner Contemporary

Turner Gallery or Lok n Store?

Macho Football culture with a twist!



What's this hoodie holding?
On Sunday I visited somewhere I was meaning to go to all summer: The Turner Contemporary art gallery in Margate. My first time in the town and it was a beautiful day. the first impression of Margate as you drive in off the M2 is of a run down Victorian resort in huge need of a facelift. At the Gateway to the sea front is the vile 1960s block of flats. Had it been in Tonbridge I feel confident, if not absolutely certain, that the local Civic Society would never have allowed it to be built. It truely is a blot on the landscape if ever I saw one. That said the bay itself, particularly on a sunny day such as last Sunday, looks very beautiful and, if you squint a little, quite idyllic! The art gallery itself is housed in a purpose built and very modern looking building in- keeping with the works of art themselves. Some might say that the building is just a little too contemporary and functional looking and might even be confused with a storage depot or a supermarket distribution centre or something along those lines. I'm sure the committee which made the decision thought it through and that there's a perfectly sound artistic reason for the way it looks! Whatever you think about the architecture of the outside of the building you cannot fail to be impressed by the contents of the gallery itself. After all that is the main point of going there. At the very least many of the works are thought provoking and inspirational. The current exhibition, Nothing in the World But Youth, is all about Youth as the title suggests. A celebration of the multi-sided complexities of teenage life, a look at the confusion and developing inquisitive minds of the young person and a deep focus on the darkness, joys, depressions, violence and anxieties of the young mind. All of course expressed in a multitude of ways through paintings, sound, video, photography, sculpture and you name it. It works on many levels. If you're middle aged like me (God I think it's the first time I've admitted to being that!) you can recognise the imagery and the feelings represented, perhaps even reminisce. If you're young, and therefore the subject matter of the exhibition, then (if you can even be bothered) you'll see it all from a totally different angle and some of it will stick in your mind and inspire you. You may not even realise it has but it probably will. I know that to some readers this may all sound a tad pretentious or even art farty but, you know what, sometimes that's not such a bad thing. Oh, and if you're a fan of more traditional art, then there are several original paintings by Turner (as you might expect, being named after him) and then there's Rodin's Kiss, if you like that sort of thing! which is there on loan for six months. They don't let you take photos but I managed to smuggle a few out for you to enjoy. Other than the cockles and whelks and the fish n chips I can't think of a better reason to drive the hour and a half to Margate. Treat yourselves to a bit of culture and sea air without the same old train journey into London....
My sister's bedroom from the 1970s
Not a bad effort by Rodin!

Quote of the week....

Watching Stephen Fry's excellent TV programme "Planet Word" over the weekend, which this week was all about the written word, I was struck by one quote on the wall of a featured American bookshop which kind of sums up the whole spendour of the book in its physical form. I'm not sure that you could apply the same thoughts to a Kindle or other such electronic device:

 “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind.
Books are humanity in print.” ― Barbara W. Tuchman

Friday, October 21, 2011

Most Horrible House in Tonbridge....

I see from reading the Slade Area Residents Association newsletter (always a treat!) that they will be holding their annual Halloween competition. I love the way the community around this area of Tonbridge get into the spirit (geddit) of things. The basic idea is that people dress and light up their houses with ghoolish and scarey things. Prizes are given out, at the judges discretion, for the most "Horrible Houses!" So if you're of a nervous disposition steer clear of the old, some say haunted, part of town next Monday night. Get your competition forms from head witch Kathie Foster Smith!...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oh me oh my!...

It looked like a giant bird in the sky but, my gosh, you wouldn't want it coming down on your roof would you?! This hot air balloon stopped me in my tracks cycling home from work last week. It looked like it was about to make an emergency landing on the girls grammar school fields, at the top of Deakin Leas, but I believe it went on to land safely in the Sportground Park. It made quite an exciting end to my day though and I was able to whip out my trusty Sony Eriksson camera phone to capture this shot for you....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Fair done and dusted....

Alice in Wonderland: One of the many wonderful pop up books on display at the fair

If you missed the West Kent Book Fair, held at Tonbridge School on Sunday then you missed a treat, especially if you are a book collector but even if you're not. There were books on display and on sale on every subject imaginable with prices ranging from 20 pence to about £5,000. There were paperbacks, childrens board books, first edition novels, many signed rare books and, my favourite of the day, a huge table covered with the most weird and wonderful pop up books. The fair was well attended by both dealers and serious book collectors and, rather encouragingly, by casual visitors who were curious or just happened to be passing by. The nice weather certainly helped to attract at least 300 people along. Most of the booksellers who exhibited seemed to be going away happy at the end of the day's trading so, with a bit of luck they'll all be back next year. As for me, from an organiser's point of view, I was very pleased with the whole day but it's always good to get it out of the way. It's almost certainly my hardest day's work of the whole year so it was nice to put my feet up yesterday and drink coffee and listen to music all day while my house keeper looked after me. If only! I had to clear up the signs, and books and off load them all into my storage facility and then do my weekly household chores like emptying the bins and cleaning the toilets at home. Oh and then I'd booked in at the dentist to have a much needed crown prepared. So actually about as unrelaxing as it gets!... 
 
The Pop Up Man himself. Clive Sayer (You may recoginise him from Beat and Track music shop)


Friday, October 14, 2011

Have your dreams analysed at the West Kent Book Fair....

Every so often you meet someone who's quite quirky and unusual. Even less often you get such a person taking a table at the West Kent Book Fair which, if you didn't know by now, is on Sunday at Tonbridge School from 10am to 4pm in Old Big School hall. Laurie Sheppard is a writer originating from the Phillipines and has published books on faith healing and dream analysis among other alternative therapy topics. She'll be on hand signing her books and talking to anyone who wishes to discuss her work. So if you've ever wanted to talk to someone first hand about a recurring dream or something like that then now's your chance. She'll be around for the whole day. Find out more about her on her web site here

New Tonbridge School Uniform is all Pink!

My most bizarre sight of the week has to be the boys of Tonbridge School this morning when I was over there organising final bits and pieces for my book fair there this Sunday. Quite a few of them had taken pink day, the breast cancer awareness event, to another degree by wearing all sorts of weird and wonderful attire. Very strange to see the fresh faced sporty hunky chaps going about their normal school day, trying not to look self conscious, wearing pink tights, bunny ears and, in some cases ballet tutus. It was early in the morning so perhaps I was in a hynagogic, semi dream like, state and halucinating! If you're are reading this boys then I want to see your best photos to post on Tonbridge Blog. Now there's a challenge....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Big Society alive and well in Tonbridge....

Is this what David Cameron is talking about when he speaks of The Big Society? Actually I don't like that soundbite of a phrase but can't see much wrong with this particular voluntary service which can, quite literally, save lives. I've been sent some blurb by the local team leader. Now Tonbridge Blog doesn't normally just publish verbatim stuff that people send in but, in this case, I'm making an exception so deal with it!


Community responders have been operating within the South
East since December 2000. The schemes were first introduced
in an effort to provide early pre-hospital care to communities we
have particular difficulty in reaching within those life critical early
minutes following cardiac arrest, a heart attack, patients who
are unconscious or suffering any other form of life threatening
illness or injury.

Whilst South East Coast Ambulance Service performs very well, we have to recognise
that there are some areas within the community that are extremely difficult to reach quickly. Even if we significantly increased our ambulance resources, we would still not be able to deliver the
speed of response necessary to get to some patients with life threatening conditions. This
is where the role of the community responder is vital.

Volunteer responders receive training in basic life support and in the use of an automatic
defibrillator (machine to shock the heart) by the Ambulance Service. The 999 Emergency
Dispatch Centre (EDC) is then able to send a community responder to life threatening
calls within their local community, to provide the care and comfort necessary whilst the
ambulance is on its way. Community responders are not a substitute for the ambulance
crews, but are an added bonus for any patient they may attend. Working with the
Ambulance Service, community responders can ‘buy time’ for the patient until the crew
arrives. Since December 2000 over 7000 patients throughout the South East Coast area
have already benefited from the intervention of community responders.

Our aim within South East Coast Ambulance is to provide the appropriate care to life
threatening emergency calls within 8 minutes. Sometimes, particularly in the case of
cardiac arrest calls, this can still be too long and this is where the community responder
role is of particular benefit.

There is currently only one community responder in the Tonbridge area however we have at least three people waiting to be trained and consequently start their role as a volunteer. The training to become a community responder is funded by the ambulance service, however the cost of the kit for each responder has to be raised by their local scheme. The cost of each kit is approximately £1700, thereofre I would be extremely pleased to hear from anyone who might be able to help with a donation or even to help with fund raising. Additionally if anyone is interested in becoming a volunteer responder and would like more details, please contact the Tonbridge team leader, Claudine Phillips on 07859 933640


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Fair this Sunday and not much else to report....

This week I am mostly organising the West Kent Book Fair which is at Tonbridge School on Sunday the 16th from 10am to 4pm. I'll be running back and forth from my shop to Old Big School hall, talking to porters, newpapers, radio stations, putting up posters and banners etc. etc. There won't be alot of time for twittering and blogging so you'll all just have to talk among yourselves for a few days. There doesn't seem to be that much going on in the town. I think we're all in that period when Summer is over and it's too early to be gearing up for Christmas. I'll just take each days as it comes....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dwain Chambers, Athlete, Drug Cheat, Role Model? Speaking at a Tonbridge School...

I hear that Dwain Chambers, the athlete and reformed drugs cheat, will be speaking at a Tonbridge school soon. He'll almost certainly tell his audience how tempting it is to give in to the desire to want to be the best at any cost. He might tell the children how much pressure you are under from the people around with vested interest in your success and from your peers to do the wrong thing. He'll no doubt tell them how he succumbed to that temptation and was found out, and banned from competing for two years and received a lifetime ban from the Olympics. But is coming clean and talking about it to impressionable school children and other vulnerable groups enough to cleanse him? Would he do the same again for glory if he thought he could get away with it? The International Olympic Association (IOC) are currently being legally challenged by other reformed drug cheats and under pressure to lift their life time bans. If they are successful then it'll probably mean that Dwain Chambers, who is British 100 metres champion, will be able to fulfil his dream of competing at London 2012. But is this right?...

Steve Jobs 1955-2011.

I love the simplicity of Apple's tribute to their founder, Steve Jobs, on their web site today. Quite touching. What a natural born world shaker....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Tonbridge Insider is out right now....

See the October issue coming through your letter box any moment now. Or, if you like you can read it as a virtual magazine here

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In the local papers....

Thankfully there were no pictures of me running in the Tonbridge Half Marathon in the Courier's Four Page Special! Most of the pictures seemed to be of Dame Kelly, Gawd bless her, and the winning athletes, such as Councillor Maria Heslop. Now admittedly she did run the 13.1 miles in less than half my time but then again she's probably one of those people who've been training all her life and did cross country at school while I was doing long jump and hurdles and drinking beer. 400 hundred metres was my limit until about ten years ago and even now I feel like breaking into a slow walk whenever I run over about 3 miles. It's all to do with the make up of your muscle fibres apparently. (That's my excuse anyway!) The winners probably didn't even ache the next day! I bet I can still beat them over the 110 metres hurdles though!

The other thing that stuck out in the papers was the salary of Tim Haynes, Tonbridge School's Head Master which apparently is worth holding the front page for. At public schools they're still called, quite rightly, Headmaster instead of the more modern Head Teacher which doesn't sound nearly as disciplinarian and traditional to me, that alone ought to worth another 50k! His salary, which is on public record, is quoted as £210,000, which has risen from £160,000 in less than 3 years. My first reaction was: Blimey I wouldn't mind some of that! and secondly: So what! There are plenty of people with less responsibility, and probably far less talent, earning way more than that (right bankers!) I should imagine running a school of that size and importance is the oraganizational equivalent of being Chief Executive Officer of a fairly sizable company. It's not public money so can't they pay him what they see fit? In any case this is most likely the sort of salary that they would have to pay to get the person they want. That said is he really worth any more than a good grammar school Head or, for that matter the head of a comprehensive school with discipline problems? Waddaya think?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Barmy Balmy weather....

Make the most of this unseasonally hot sunny weather, it won't be with us for many more days. Knowing that makes it all the more reason to savour it although, in truth, I'd prefer it to be slightly cooler than this especially since I'm working today and Sunday. If only August could have been like this! If the weather holds I think I'll have one last canoe trip down the Medway canoe trail before I cover Tallulah up for the winter. Let's hope I don't capsize (again) at those lock gate water shoots. Great time to stretch your legs and see the Autumn colours along the Wealdway between Tonbridge and Langton Green especially. Or a cycle ride around Bewl Water is just as nice for that. Or you could just sit in the garden with a long cool drink and read a book....

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tonbridge High Street Advertising Banners....

If anyone was wondering how come Sevenoak's Stag Theatre managed to get their pantomime banner with pictures of Dirty Den emblazoned across Tonbridge High Street then you'll be pleased to know that they have agreed to have them removed. It's a bit ironic when the Tonbridge Arts festival and other events in the town have been unable to get permission to have their advertising banners across the street when the Stag managed it isn't it. What a flippin cheek you might well think. As usual with council matters it beggars belief how these things come about. I'm reliably informed that the Stag applied, quite legitimately, to the council and gained the correct permission to erect their banners. The confusion of course is in that phrase: "the council." The council in this case is not Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, who we'd like to think would never have given their permission, but Kent County Council who have jurisdiction over the highways and pavements which, apparently, includes the air above the roads as well as the actual tarmac! The result, in this case, was permission being granted to a Sevenoaks organisation who clearly met the safety criteria when previous Tonbridge applications have been unsuccessful for whatever reason. Joined up thinking? I think not!...