Tuesday, December 31, 2013

HNY Everyone....


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




This one obviously flatters me!

P Off...


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

New Year's fitness....

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

Flood defences....

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Message to Tonbridge....


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




I'm dreaming of....

I wet Christmas....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Merry Christmas....

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

Angel Centre Cinema, Clubs and Events....

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


FORTHCOMING EVENTS - JANUARY 2014                         


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

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



ANGEL CINEMA

January

Philomena (12A) - 2 hours long

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

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

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

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

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

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



EVENTS

January & December

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

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

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

December

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

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

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



REGULAR EVENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas....

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sorry John Lewis beat you to it!...



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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mr. Books Confession....

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

I'VE JUST READ FIFTY SHADES OF GREY!

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

PS on Business rates....

It now appears that endangered local businesses like bookshops, bakers and butchers will have to pay mostly full business rates but if the Church of Scientology,  and possibly other cultish sects wish to open a place of worship in Tonbridge they might well be exempt. The C of Sc have just won a landmark case which recognises that religions don't have to be confined to ones which worship a supreme deity. Would you Adam and Eve it?!..

Council in a Pickle!...

Some time ago I sent a letter off to the Rt Hon. Eric Pickles MP. He of the large frame and looking like he's definitely eaten at least 3/4 of the pies! But I think his rotundity (is that a word?) gives a false first impression of the man and for me he's one of the more impressive of the government ministers. In my letter I pointed out to him how Business Rates, over zealous parking wardens/high charges and preferential treatment of charity shops are crippling small businesses, such as Mr. Books, and acting as a disincentive to business start ups and expansions. I'm quite sure he's had similar exasperated business people from all over the country making the same sort of complaints. To his credit he has passed my letter to someone who has written a lengthy reply outlining the action the government are taking on these issues. Much of this was announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement but it's still worth highlighting some of it. It seems that the Department for Communities and Local Government has been clamping down on parking policies of local governments and are about to introduce legislation against aggressive parking policies which will, for example, allow "grace periods" when parking outside shops on double yellows, just like in the old days. An end may be in sight then for situations, and it does happen, like the old man stopping outside the chemists, in the lay by outside my shop only to return to the car a few minutes later with the dreaded Penalty Charge Notice stuck on his windscreen after the lurking parking warden has done his dirty work. Let's hope so. Other measures mentioned in the reply were the confirmation of the £1,000 discount for two years of all retailers in shops with a rateable value of less than £50,000. So that would be most small shops on Tonbridge High Street but not, say, Waitrose and other supermarkets and probably not, say, the Oriental Buffet and Starbucks, who might fall just outside. The smallest of businesses with shop premises will have their rate relief doubled for a further period and this, effectively, means that they will pay no business rates. This was the case in my smaller older shop on Bank Street for example. Furthermore, businesses reoccupying a vacant premises will automatically receive rate relief of 50% for 18 months.This would apply to quite a few of the premises in the shopping arcades at the south end of the High Street and the boarded up unit at the end of Church Lane. Opportunities therefore are perhaps being created for such people with an entrepreneurial streak. The reply from Mr. Pickles department also confirmed that local authorities have wide ranging powers of discretion to grant business rates discounts "as they see fit." So, in theory at least, they ought to be able to offer increased relief to say butchers, bakers and, er hum, bookshops but not, say mobile phone shops. The only thing is that Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council seem to be interpreting these discretionary powers under the Localism Act 2011 (which I'm sure everyone has read!) in a completely different way to those for which they appear to have been intended. The only way I'm aware of businesses getting further business rate relief, over and above statutory ones, are by applying for a "Hardship Relief" which is, effectively, means tested and very involved. So what is happening to the money set aside for this extra rate relief intended as a stimulus to the High Street? Search me! Perhaps a spokesperson for the borough council would care to elaborate....

Small Biz Uk??

Well Small Business Saturday came and went with a bit of a fizzle. I honestly can't say that I noticed any uplift in trade whatsoever. Might take a few years to catch on. Perhaps it was more successful in other towns. Another great American idea which us Brits aren't quite ready for? They're also trying to make Black Friday and Cyber Monday British traditions along with Halloween which has already caught in in a big way. Will they catch on here? Time will tell but my money's on Yes they will. The likes of Walmart, who are behind such retail schemes, have very deep pockets indeed....

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday....

I'm sure that you all knew this already but just in case you didn't. TOMORROW IS SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY. What does this mean? Well you can of course read more about it in a Guardian article here. But basically it is what it says. It encourages the public to go into their local town centres and buy from small retailers and other businesses. Naturally, they did it in America first where it has been successful for a couple of years already. Apparently that opposition shadow minister fella, Chuka Umunna, who's out to make a name for himself, was astute enough to bring it over the pond. TonbridgeBlog has always of course been a great supporter of all things local so is right behind this one. I just hope every independent shop (including mine of course) sees a huge surge in business tomorrow. I keep saying this I know, but it is perfectly possible to do ALL your Christmas shopping right here in your home town. Save petrol, save time and save your local community shops while you're at it....

Thanks George, that's Grand....

As I read it George Osborne yesterday gave the High Street a shot in the arm. If I am getting this right, and I think I am, he gifted me £1,000 a year for two years as a discount on my business rates. Effectively that's straight in my back pocket and therefore very welcome. Don't underestimate the impact of this measure for small retailers; in my case that's over a third reduction in rates. I'd love to see them removed all together for a period of time, that would be a massive boost to high streets everywhere, but I'll take this for now. The Chancellor went further and said in his Autumn Statement that retailers taking up vacant shop units would have business rates halved and that there is to be a review of the whole business rates structure. And not before time; it may be too late for some enterprises who will have found life too hard these last few years and will have given up the ghost but for new kids on the block these are encouraging signs. There's probably never been a better time to start a business if you have an idea or have found a gap in the market. Commercial rents are pretty low and business rates are becoming lower. As far as shops are concerned TonbridgeBlog predicts opportunities in the High Street for a men's fashion shop, a gadget style shop, a traditional sweet shop, artisan baker, camera shop and an electrical retailer....

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pursued by Bishops....

Bishop James Langstaff, The Bishop of Rochester, paid Slade Primary School a rare visit earlier this week. TonbridgeBlog is reliably informed that he took the assembly, told the children about Advent and enjoyed a sneak preview of the Nativity play.....
Bishop James (back row) standing with the children and staff at Slade last Monday. Who's the lad with the cool shades?!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

If only dogs could drive!

Thought I'd share with you a rather unusual, but charming, explanation as to why one of the many deliveries of books I receive is running a bit late. There's certainly a few odd balls in the book trade and I can feel myself turning into one of them by the day!

"Hello M.,

Firstly, thanks again for your order for A Fight For A Life. The Story Of A West African Convert And His Friends by Frances M. Hensley which is already on the way to you, this being merely a note to confirm when you should be in receipt. I would appreciate your feedback and confirmation that it reaches you in good order. You should receive this by Monday, 9th of December 2013 at the latest and I will check in with you after that date to ensure it has been received and meets your expectations.

May I also apologise, profusely, for the delay in shipping your book. I am a one man operation and sometimes it is simply not possible for me to get to my, rather remote, storage unit quickly enough. Not my usual service I can assure you, but until I have minions, or the Jack Russells master the art of driving or serving customers properly this does, occasionally, happen. If I can be of any further assistance don't hesitate to contact me. Any questions can be directed to me by replying to this email. I take customer service seriously and if you are unhappy in any way, please, tell me - I am always trying to improve my service to keep customers coming back... and my Jack Russells in the lavish lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

Kind regards,


David Gower-Spence, Owner.
BookLovers of Bath"

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Magnificent Tonbridge Christmas Lights Switch On and Fireworks Extravaganza....

....Sorry I missed it!
I was doing a book fair in Dorking. I did hear the music and fireworks when I got back. You couldn't not hear them from anywhere in the town! Hope everyone enjoyed it and no doubt the local paper will have lots of lovely pictures....

Russian Roulette....

Tonbridge's Anthony Horowitz fans will remember queuing up outside Mr. Books on a cold  afternoon back in February. They will almost certainly also already know that his new book, Russian Roulette, which was actually being written at the time of his book signing here, is in the shops and available to order from Mr. Books. Anthony's assistant has just mentioned to me that he will be talking to fans at the St. James Theatre in London on Sat. December 7th at 11am. Some tickets are still available if you're quick....
Anthony Horowitz and a nervous looking Mr. Books at February Book signing

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hans Christian Andersen's tales alive at Mr. Books!...


The picture doesn't do it justice. Come and see for yourselves
That Raven is watching you!

And here it is the pictures you've all been waiting for..... The new Mr. Books window display. Very Christmasy? Well sort of but actually with some very dark undertones. It's loosely based on the story of The Snow Queen which, as I'm sure you all know, is a Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Story which tells a moral story of the fight between good and evil. You know the usual kind of folk lore stuff. It looks far better when you see it live so come and have a look when you're passing. No, make that come and have a look by dropping everything and making a special trip tomorrow!
Mrs. Books can be proud of her creation I hope you will all agree. In fact I think I might start hiring her out!...

An Entrepreneur at Work!....

A rare photo of Yours Truly taken by someone who came into my shop calling himself "Schubert" which I think is his made up photographer arty name and not his real name, who wanted to shoot me for a series he's doing called "Entrepreneurs at Work." for a photo web site called blipfoto. Not the most flattering picture I've ever seen of myself but pretty natural none the less so I quite like it. I like the sound of "entrepreneur" as well. Never really thought of myself as that....

The Snow Queen....



Like all great fairy tales The Snow Queen is a story of good triumphing over evil. It tells how the innocence of a little girl saves her little boy friend from certain damnation after his heart has become corrupted by the evil from a shattered magic mirror. What's this got to do with anything? Come and have a look at the latest window display at Mr. Books Bookshop to find out!...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Selfies....

Egg Head



Caught in the sites
I heard on the news this morning that "Selfie" is the top new word to enter the Oxford English Dictionary this year. Now I know that some of you Tonbridge Blog readers object to our ever changing language so some will view this as a change for the worst. I just see it as a great opportunity to play around with some images of myself and post them here for you all to ridicule me....

Good Morning Piccadilly....

School Report....


Slade Primary School are the only primary school right at the heart of Tonbridge. I have a special interest in them as my daughter went there from years 3 to 6. The motto of Best Team Happy may not be some age old Latin phrase but it typifies the ethos of the school. Mrs. Resch who has been Head Teacher there since 1999 has had a huge influence on the school. As a front person for a school they don't come much better for first and indeed lasting impressions. The only thing is, even though I've known her for seven or eight years now, both through the school and socially, I still find it hard to call her Vivienne. I can't put my finger on why other than that's just what you do where teachers are concerned, even with someone as warm as she is . So, Mrs. Resch is what I shall continue to call her. Best Team Happy is what they are all about and it shows. Right from day one the children learn that they should do their best, work together and be happy themselves and help others be happy around them. As an ethos for a school goes it's not a bad one is it. So imagine how flattered I was when Mrs. Resch walked into Mr. Books a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would help them out with their public relations to enable them to reach out more to the community and tell them what the school is all about.....

The Week ahead....

What's happening this week? Any events going on that you'd like to share with the people of Tonbridge on TonbridgeBlog?
Up and down the High Street nearly all the shops have their Christmas windows dressed and Mr. Books will be doing the same later in the week. Consultant Creative Director, sometimes known as Mrs. Books, promises that it could be her best yet and, knowing what she has planned for it, I think she could be right. You'll have to wait and see....

Saturday, November 16, 2013

BOok ArT attack....


A while ago I wrote to the schools in Tonbridge asking if they'd like to take part in a "Book Art" competition for a bit of fun (and some book token prizes.) For a while I thought that no one had received my email and I put the idea away as another one of my whims. Then, right on deadline, two schools' art teachers arrive with bundles of beautiful book art of all descriptions. The brief was pretty wide open and was to come up with a unique piece of art which, in some way, involved books. I knew that the interpretations would be wonderfully varied and so it proved. We've only had entrants from Hillview and Hayesbrook so far so come on Judd, Hugh Christie, Weald of Kent and TGS. Maybe it'll be too late for this year unless you're very quick but it could be back next year by popular demand. Here's a few of the entries sitting in the window at Mr. Books where they'll be on display for about a week....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gary Bunt: Artist....


Apparently Tonbridge artist Gary Bunt's paintings sell for quite a sum these days. Good luck to the guy as he fought a well publicized long fight with cancer some years back. I'm not sure I'd pay thousands for any of these but I do really like several of them. Lowry-esque with a hint of Beryl Cook thrown in for good measure. See what you think here

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tonbridge Tree Huggers....

Nick Clegg keeps writing to me even though I was only a member of the Lib Dem party for a year and haven't been for about five years. Now he's banging on about green issues when, as he points out, most Tories on the other side of the Coalition have quietly let it drop. This is what he had to say:

"Dear Mark,

This week I made one of my most important speeches of the year. Miss it? I wouldn’t be surprised: it was on the environment – an issue that used to be the height of fashion across Westminster but has now fallen out of the political vogue.

I met with green groups so that they could hear direct, from me, that the Liberal Democrats are as committed as ever to the green agenda. Back when the Coalition formed, the Conservatives said they wanted this to be the greenest Government ever. We haven’t forgotten and every day we’re holding them to their word.

It doesn’t make for a particularly quiet life in Whitehall. To be honest, I think the Tories find it baffling. They’ve decided that there are no longer votes in green issues because people are too busy worrying about the economy – and they can’t fathom why we still care. And yet last month all of us sat to hear Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, set out the threat of climate change in the plainest possible terms. He said politicians need to stop asking if climate change is happening, or if humans are responsible for it. We need to get on with tackling it. What more do the doubters need?

You would, on this occasion, expect Ed Miliband to get it. He is a former Climate Change Secretary after all. But Labour’s populist promise to temporarily freeze energy bills would be a huge blow to our green commitments. Not only is it a con – with the energy companies bound to hike up prices before and after the freeze – but it would also massively undermine investment in our renewables industry, threatening clean energy and thousands of jobs.

So it’s up to us to keep pushing policies that protect our environment – whether that’s our 5p charge on plastic bags, cutting greenhouse gases, or getting more low carbon cars on our roads.

I’m green because I want to hand on the best world possible to our children and grandchildren – tell me why you’re green too.

Best wishes,


Nick Clegg"


So is he just a sandal wearing namby pamby tree hugging liberal or are these policies still relevant as we come out of one of the worst recessions in centuries? What do you think and does it have any relevance to Tonbridge?...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Neither Trick nor Treat....

Walking in south Tonbridge last week I noticed this gem in the window of a house (which shall remain numberless) on Woodfield Road.

"We do not celebrate Halloween in this house
so please do not disturb us"


So are they just miserable people with no sense of what young folk like and no willingness to adapt to modern ways or have they got a good point? Back in my youth they'd have been prime candidates to have their gates lifted (now there's another tale!) if indeed they had any gates to lift....

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tonbridge Books....

Walking with a history lesson sounds good to me. Margaret Beston's poetry always moves me


About to be reprinted. Just as well as Mr. Books is down to last 3 copies
If you want to buy someone (maybe yourself) a book with a local connection this Christmas then why not consider one of these. All very decent in their own right and yet all quite different. All of course available at all good bookshops.... and Mr. Books! Prices vary but none of them will cost you anything like a take away meal for two....
Bob Turcan's is a nice enough pictorial guide. Three Chevrons tells us the history of the
thousand years of the Clare family -as in the Tonbridge Castle founders if you didn't know

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween everybody!...

Don't go falling asleep in the bath now!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Italian cuisne in Orpington anyone?...

Found myself in Orpington last night, for reasons I haven't got time to go into but wanted to mention the restaurant we ended up eating dinner in called CafĂ© Medi. Didn't look much from the outside and right on main drag of the High Street nearly put us off. But £12.95 for set priced menu sounded good to me so in we went (not before having walked the whole length of the street and back to see what the choice was.) Let me just say that it was really fabulous not just for the price but fabulous full stop. I think it's a popular place anyway but, if you are ever over that way pay them a visit and you almost certainly won't be disappointed. Apparently the head chef is a bit moody (aren't they all?!) but, hey, if the food's that good who cares so long as he stays in the kitchen! You can see their menu here

Ann Treneman at Mr. Books last Saturday....



And here is Ann Treneman during the book signing event at Mr. Books and standing proudly outside the shop just before.
"It was great of Ann to agree to come along last Saturday and it's not every day that you get The Time Political Sketch Writer, a journalist with such a fabulous reputation in my small independent bookshop in little old Tonbridge," said a thrilled Mr. Books! "Oh and there are still some signed copies left in stock in the shop." He added....

Jane Austen? Hardly recognisable....

I loved this story in The Telegraph about Jane Austen being given the "Katie Price treatment" as her face is to feature on the new £10 note. For a moment I thought it was referring to something else but that part of her anatomy appears not to be in view so I suppose it must be talking about the way she has been 'touched up' to use a photographer's parlance. As many of you will know Jane Austen's family come from around these parts and there is a very active Tonbridge branch of the Jane Austen Society. I'm sure they'll be tickled by the story....

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sweet smells....


Blimey those Drytec smells in Tonbridge can be a bit overpowering!...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Will it be 1987 Storms all over again?....

Let's hope not but it could be time to batten down the hatches if weather reports are anything to go by. Are you listening Michael Fish?! Bob Ogley, who found fame by writing In the Wake of the Hurricane and many other Kent history books, will have his pen at the ready!...

Ann Treneman at Mr. Books tomorrow....

She's The Times political sketch writer, she appeared on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday to give her views on the stories in the Sunday papers. She's very approachable and I'm sure won't bite and she'll be signing books and talking to customers at Mr. Books from 2pm to 4pm tomorrow (that's Saturday.) This is a great chance to meet Ann and perhaps have her sign her latest book, Finding the Plot 100 Graves to Visit Before You Die, for you. It sounds a bit of a deadly topic but I assure you it it'll be worth getting hold of a copy.

"It's a slight departure from Ann's usual political sketches but it's still a great read and is written in her usual deadpan (geddit?) style!" Commented Mr. Books.....

Tonbridge People Power....


Thanks for the masses of comments coming through about the new Angel Centre development it shows that, when there is something major happening in the town, people really do start to get involved. Whether it changes the outcome remains to be seen but a bit of people power often goes a long way....

We pay our taxes: Amazon vs Hive.co.uk

This is my comment to the boss of Amazon who reckons that they are a benefit to the UK and that they do pay their taxes. Read the article here:

"I didn't hear any mention of the way his company has virtually destroyed the traditional bookshops in the UK and other countries. I didn't hear anything about how they have used tax advantages to undercut prices in order to create a virtual monopoly market for themselves. Use Hive.co.uk as a very competitive online bookseller. They are the initiative of Gardners Books who are a family run, large wholesaler who supply most of the independent bookshops in the South. Every book, cd or dvd you buy from them is similarly discounted and provides a small commission to your nearest or favourite independent bookshop. Oh and I believe that they do pay fair taxes...."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sainsbridge!!..

I've just come back from the Regeneration exhibition at the Castle and can confirm that there is indeed great interest in this Sainsbury's project. In fact you'd be forgiven for thinking it was the church Christmas jumble sale there were so many people milling around and trying to get in. A right old scrum going on, so there was, for what is now the last hour of the exhibition. Having now seen the plans I repeat what I said earlier: What's not to like? Considering how busy it was in the Old Council Chambers the staff, who all sported Sainsbury's badges even though most worked for the architects involved, were all very helpful and informative. I probed a bit deeper by asking one of them a few questions about the parking issue, particularly at the proposed cinema, and he said that this had been the number one concern during the weekend's public consultation. He emphasized this by saying that he wished he could hold up a neon sign which says that there would be plenty of parking, in fact far more than there currently is across the two sites. Congestion in the town centre could be another issue but, it seems, parking is covered off. If you like your sports then the facilities at the new leisure centre will be right up your street, much better than the current ones on offer at the Angel Leisure Centre by all accounts. The cinema itself looks like it will be a much needed, state of the art, modern complex and a real asset to the town. Sainsbury's will be, well, a supermarket and a big one at that. You'll be able to buy lots of, er, food and drink in there and there'll be lots of parking right outside. In fact much like any other large super market. It may be the crucial thing so far as dear old Sainsbury's are concerned but, sorry, I just can't get too whooped up about that bit of the project.
I guess the only negative that I can think of, provided they are as good as their word on the parking front, is the loss of Beales which currently is Tonbridge's only department store. But then that might open a door for some other group to move in like M&S or House of Fraser, perhaps even a John Lewis. Overall Tonbridge Blog is very positive about this development and can only see it being a strong stimulus for the town....

New shopping environment, a cinema. What's not to like?...

Quite a few comments coming in on the so called Regeneration of Tonbridge Plans, being exhibited for public consultation at the Castle, which is not surprising since it is likely to be the biggest development in Tonbridge for the next decade or so. The loss of parking seems to be an issue and some are concerned about the effect of shops possibly wanting to move off the High Street into the new units around the Angel development. I've got mixed views on this. On the one hand I can understand fears about the loss of parking spaces but would this really stop shoppers coming into the town? I doubt it will make too much difference. Wouldn't they be more likely to come to Tonbridge if the quality of the shops and the shopping environment were improved? Perhaps we should be thinking about how we improve access into the town by bicycle and public transport as well as by car. I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion that parking charges should be on exit from the car park. This simple measure would do away with the need to guess how long you were going to stay when buying a ticket and would usually mean shoppers would stay longer. Very simple and very effective. Incidentally it would also do away with the laughable sight of two or three traffic wardens hovering over cars in the Angel car park whose tickets are about to run out. (It happened to me on more than one occasion.) Less revenue from parking fines from the council though so maybe they'll stick with the current crazy system!
A cinema in the town would be a big plus and I for one would support it. Anyone with teenage children will know what an absolute pain it is having to drive over to the Odeon and then back again later in order to make sure they are safe and don't have to walk back to High Brooms across deserted retail parks late at night. So we shouldn't underestimate how good it will be having a cinema. That said it would have to be comfortable, state of the art and not some flea pit....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tonbridge Town Centre "regeneration"


A note from Tonbridge Civic Society I thought I'd share as the proposed plans are pretty significant for Tonbridge. Plus here's a link to Tonbridge and Malling BC's information about the project 
 
"This note is to give you details of the Public Exhibition concerning Sainsbury’s and the Council’s plans for the town centre.

 

The Exhibition will be held in the Council Chamber at Tonbridge Castle:

·         from 10am to 8pm on Friday 11 October and

·         from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 12 October.

 

We have been informed that the Exhibition will be set out in two parts, with a common theme of economic regeneration for the town centre.

·         Sainsbury’s will be presenting proposals to develop new facilities including new shops and restaurants to complement the existing town centre, a new larger Sainsbury’s supermarket, and a multi-screen cinema.

·         The Council will be displaying its plans for a proposed new leisure and community centre on Bradford Street car park.

 

This public exhibition is intended to provide the opportunity for local residents and businesses to come and see the proposals and to discuss them with representatives of Sainsbury’s, the Borough Council and their advisers.

 

The Council has indicated that feedback received from the exhibition will be used to refine the plans before planning applications are submitted."
 
Anyone got any thoughts on this. Shall we just let Sainsbury's do whatever they like with their our town? Happy to lose Tonbridge's only department store, Beales??..

 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

National Poetry Day is this Thurday....

Still some tickets left for National Poetry Day evening of poetry being held at the library this Thursday. Advanced tickets available at Mr. Books at £3 each or take your chances on the door. I think you might even get a glass of wine included in that price so it cannot be bad....
Poetry Society
Forward Arts Foundation

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Real bargains outside Mr. Books for £1....

Mr. Books has been selling loads of books priced at a round pound from outside the shop today. No wonder when you consider what some of them were. For example there were some hardback Terry Pratchett first editions in amongst the usual selection of paperbacks. Some lucky customer just picked up the complete works of George Bernard Shaw for a quid also. It's always worth having a quick browse if you're up this end of town....

Juice Master....


The Funky Fresh Juice Book [Plus Jute Bag & 7Ibs Book]Despite the bad night's sleep last night (see earlier post) I have become an over night fan of Jason Vale the self proclaimed Juice Master. The often unlikely blends of apple, celery, spinach, lime, pineapple and ginger for example are absolutely delicious over ice. I bought a juicer last week really just because I didn't want to waste the bumper crop of apples we've had this year on my one tree. It has been very effective at juicing all those apples I'd usually discard but has become much more than that. Think I'll try the carrot, apple, beetroot, celery, lettuce and avocado recipe later on. I'm so impressed that I've approached the Juice Master himself to do a book signing and demo at Mr. Books. He's sold millions of his raw diet and recipe books and watching his videos there's no wonder why, he just oozes enthusiasm for the delicious juices. Let's hope he can squeeze me in!...

A Mad night....

Feeling very tired this morning. I now realise that getting home and making several energizing juice drinks, Jason Vale Juicemaster-style, with my new juicer machine, having a very late Chinese takeaway (their fault not ours) half a bottle of Pino Grigio whilst watching the first two episodes of Mad Men Series 5 on dvd and then, to cap it all, staying up till 2am to watch 10 Rillington Place, the story of serial killer Reginald Chrisitie does not a good night's kip make!...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mr. Books Dilema....

This may sound a bit like a book title but actually this is no joke. Sometimes blogging can be a bit of fun. Sometimes it can be a way of breaking local and even occasional international news. Today I'm getting something off my chest.
I've been getting quite anxious over what to do with Mr. Books now for quite some time. Since moving from around the corner 16 months ago the shop has become a lot busier and, whilst not what I'd call thriving, the move has more than paid for itself. So why be anxious then? Well, you only have to pick up a newspaper or, as is increasing more likely, an i-pad, to see that bookshops have been closing at a rate of aprox. two per week across the country. So you might appreciate that it's not just my dilemma. The thought of struggling by for very little profit for another ten years or so is a little heart breaking. I love what I do but, as I always joke, this is the hardest I've ever worked, for the longest hours and for the least money! That's fine so long as your labour of love is occasionally rewarded. Those rewards are becoming less and less frequent as more and more people buy online, or cheap from supermarkets or, worst of all, down load e-books. Then there's the dreaded charity shops whose proliferation has choked the market still further. The rise of Oxfam Books, a dedicated charity bookshop with over 130 shops and a huge book barn in Huddersfield, might be the final nail in the coffin. There's little point in barking on, as many book dealers do, about how Oxfam pay little or no business rates, (Mr. Books pays around £3,000 a year btw) get all their stock free and have an army of volunteers. Little point really at all as it's all been said lots of times before. In short with all these combined forces it's becoming more and more difficult for it to make any kind of business sense having a bricks and mortar shop. You can only hold back the sea for so long. Eventually, inevitably it will break the defences and come crashing over you. Whilst new book sales have picked up a lot since moving onto the High Street one is still left with the feeling that you are being thrown the scraps from afew groups such as the lovely community minded folk, the older people who aren't computer savvy and those people who still like good old fashioned service. The problem is, and to a large extent I don't blame them, people will generally vote with their pockets and they have more and more opportunities to do so. Consequently the physical High Street bookshop is being hit from all angles and not really being helped very much by anyone. So what would I do instead? Well the obvious choice would be to do what 95% of book dealers do which is to trade online, by catalogue and at book fairs. The London Book Fair I often attend usually earns me more in a day than the shop does in a good week. That with no overheads, no lease agreement, no long term risk. Most book web sites charge around £30 per month and once again, there's no long term commitment. To be honest the only advantage of having a shop, apart from the sheer love of it, is the amount of books which get offered to you means you have constant supply. That said at present my storage is bursting at the seams. The books come in a lot faster than they go out!
The other possibility, and definitely my preferred solution, is to genuinely turn Mr. Books into a community shop with the community having a part share in the business. I haven't thought this through in any great depth yet or, for that matter, costed it out, but it might work something like this: several individuals, societies and interested bodies get together with myself and decide the value of the business, I keep half the business and they the other half between them. It could possibly be turned into a registered charity which becomes non profit making and gets all the benefits enjoyed by these organisations such as huge business rate relief. I myself would provide expertise and still help to run the shop along with volunteers and young work experience people helping out.  If anyone is interested in this idea then please do get in touch. I hope it wouldn't be too big an exaggeration if I said that it could help save part of the heart and soul of our little town....

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Litter bugging me.....

Litter is a constant nuisance in Tonbridge and pretty much every other town up and down the land. Why don't people just put their cans, bottles, crisp packets, cigarette butts and, especially, kebab wrappers in a bin, or carry it home with them? It really is that simple. Other countries cope with litter by better education and instilling a sense of civic pride in people. The sign outside the Alms Houses on Pembury Road, next to the Police Station, sounds a bit of a desperate, feeble plea against the inevitable and just shows how big a problem this is. Will it make the slightest bit of difference though to the kind of selfish, ignorant morons who are either too drunk of stupid to care? I doubt it....

Heritage Weekend.....


I think the organisers of Heritage Weekend in Tonbridge were quite lucky in the end as they just about missed the worst of the storm which swept across England that day. I'm told that most of the strange folk dressed as medieval knights, merchants and peasants slept in their tents over night so they were even luckier to escape the eye of the storm. I did manage to go along briefly on Sunday to the Medieval Fayre and got to see this little fella. It's a Pygmy Owl and the cutest thing you've ever seen. Some people say that I have a bit of an owl-like face so maybe I have a soft spot for these nocturnal creatures being as they may be an ancient ancestor! Less cute was the open air toilet which made me wretch slightly even though it was clearly a fake; if you look closely you can just about make out the rat crawling among the foul mess. What's that? It wasn't a fake? The exhibitors had actually been using it? That's just disgusting!....
Number two 13th Century style!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Heritage Weekend....


Apparently it's Heritage Weekend today and tomorrow. Medieval events going on the Castle lawn, stuff happening at the parish church. Free entry to the Castle Gatehouse and probably other things. Please someone tell us more. I may even open up Mr. Books on Sunday to mark the occasion....

Tonbridge Blog & Tonbridge Mirror.....

Hope you like the new name. I thought about making it just The Tonbridge Mirror but considered this a step too far in one go so, depending on the reaction it gets, the name change could become a permanent fixture. I thought Tonbridge Mirror because this blog could be said to Reflect (geddit?) the events, views and opinions of it's readers. As you know TBlog always likes to take into account the views of its audience!...

A night out in Goudhurst....


Now I'm feeling a little groggy today after a bit of a late night. No not the sort of late night that my 19 year old son puts himself through. You know what I mean: pre-lash at his mate, Tom's, house, followed by Spoons till 10-30, Fusion till 4am and doner kebab on the way back to another mates house where he's crashing down for what little remains of the night. No not that sort of late night. My younger teenage daughter and her friends were going to a party in, of all places Goudhurst and my wife and I had, in a weak moment, offered to drive her there. So we thought, rather than drive there and back twice we'd spend the evening in Goudhurst or Cranbrook. Last night was a rotten night for driving with the rain lashing down all the way down the busy A21 so I was in a pretty irritable mood when we finally arrived. Dropped daughter and friends off in some quiet country lane at a stranger's house, gulp, and then had four hours to kill before the pick up time. Tried the Peacock, on the main road to Cranbrook, first but felt a little uneasy in there, you know like that scene from American Werewolf in London when the two back packers walk into the pub on the Yorkshire Moors and all the conversation stops whilst the regulars observe them. Well it wasn't quite that bad but getting somewhere close to that. There was no one eating in there even though the menu looked okay. It was a rainy night but that didn't excuse it so we went with our instincts and walked out. On to the Goudhurst Inn which looked very nice and plush indeed. The menu wasn't cheap but looked affordable enough. Posh Beer Battered Fish and Chips and mushy peas on the side for £13.25 that sort of thing. We'd noticed an Italian ristorante, as they say in Naples, on the way through so we asked in the pub about that and the reports were quite glowing so that's where we ended up. We made a mental note to go back to the Goudhurst Inn later for a night cap if we had time. The Italian is called La Zia Maria and it was lovely. Lovely food, even though we only had pizza, lovely friendly service, not over attentive or sucking up to you but just the right balance. It certainly seemed natural to the waiters. The spiciness of mine was a little too much though I have to admit so that'll teach me to go for the Piccante! Should have opted for the Quattro Staggioni probably. The deserts looked fab as well and we tried the tiramisu which was divine and, we were told, home made. The selection of beers, as is nearly always the case in this type of restaurant was a little limited and I can't really say much about the wine as I didn't have any but I'm sure that the list was fairly extensive. It would have been nice to have seen the odd micro brewery, craft bottled beer on the list but maybe that's just asking to much. The waiter even pointed out to me when I tried to leave a tip that we'd already paid a 10% discretionary service charge which was honest of him. Oh and he also brought a small glass of cold milk for me to cool down the mouth after that chilli pizza. All in all I would definitely recommend La Zia Maria and we will definitely return soon. Even the name of the place itself gives you a nice warm feeling. Doesn't quite have the same ring to it in English but it means The Auntie Mary and everyone has one of them don't they? Named after the owner's favourite Great Aunt with an old black and white photo of her given pride of place. We rounded off the evening with that night cap in the, now mostly empty, Goudhurst Inn in the outside covered area by an open fire. Then that drive back to Tonbridge in the rain....
Image of La Zia Maria set in the pretty village of Goudhurst