Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Farmers Market in the High Street?...

Interesting how many people are commenting about how well the market in the High Street worked on last Sunday's Taste of Tonbridge day. Tonbridge Blog has always said that the railway carpark location for the Saturday market is not a good one and was only ever meant to temporarily house it. So why don't we grab the initiative, seize the moment and strongly request that at least the monthly Farmers Market be held along the High Street as a trial. That way shoppers would be drawn onto the street instead of a car park at the back of Waitrose and shops would have a reason to open up on Sundays. If it was a regular event car drivers would know where they stood and could plan around it. In any case the effect on traffic on Sundays would be minimal. This should be the moment to push for this. Are you reading this Steve the Farmers Market organiser and Tonbridge and Malling Council officer responsible and Highways department official at Kent County Council and Tonbridge Lions marshals. Actual this last sentence kind of highlights why it probably won't happen. Too many cooks spoiling the broth?!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Make Tonbridge Amazing!...

I've just discovered this YouTube link which I think may have been part of the Mary Portas pilot bidding. Can we make Tonbridge amazing? Have a watch and let's hear thoughts....

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dragon Boats in Tonbridge....

I hope the Dragon Boat racing goes well this weekend as part of A Taste of Tonbridge Day and just a quick reminder that I do loan myself out to boat crews. If they are short of a team member I'm your man. I do a bit of canoeing, I'm 6'2", I've even got my own paddle oh, and two strong arms. I'm reasonably fit for a bookseller I guess so how about it? I'll have my swimming trunks and nose clip on stand by! It's about time we made more use of the river running through our town and I'm looking forward to watching the races. In or outside the boat!! Might open up Mr. Books in the afternoon as well to enter into the spirit of things....

Tonbridge Open Studios....

I managed to visit several of the South East Open Studios in the Tonbridge area over the weekend and was mightily impressed with many of them. In fact it was a lovely peaceful way to spend my Fathers Day morning. I particularly enjoyed going to Hadlow as there is a little cluster of studios in the village centre which you can get round in less than an hour if you're pushed for time. A couple of them even had tea, coffee and cakes for sale at school fete type prices.  The studio which really stuck out for me, even if just for the beautiful garden, was Lucy Prescott at Natal House in the shadow of the Hadlow Castle tower. Even the drizzly rain didn't stop my enjoyment of looking at some really quite striking glass and metal sculptures majestically sprouting from the flower beds and hanging from tree branches. Open Studios is a smashing idea where the public can just visit without appointments at the allotted times in the programme (you can of course view them online if you prefer) see artists at work, get tips on how to improve techniques or even buy some of their works. Most are still open this weekend so go and take a peek for yourselves....

What's In the Tonbridge Mirror this week?

 Hope you like this new innovation. It is, quite literally, a Mirror of Tonbridge which is used in Mr. Books as a What's On type notice board. Originally it just happened to be a spare space in the shop but I thought it was quite appropriate to let it "mirror" what's going on in the town. I'll probably make this a regularly updated post. Oh look I see in the Tonbridge Mirror that it's A Taste of Tonbridge day this Sunday with Dragon Boat Racing and market stalls all up and down the High Street. Soon the Tonbridge Arts Festival will be upon us with it's shows on the Castle Lawn and talks at K College. Then in the Tonbridge Mirror there's a music Festival called Music on the Hill later in July. What's that you say? That's Kings Hill? Well it's still Tonbridge and Malling Borough isn't it?! Apparently it's worth the ten mile trek over that way as well so I'm told. Keep looking in the Tonbridge Mirror to see what you can see....

Do I enter again or not?


Tonbridge Half Marathon 2013
Sunday 22nd September  

In support of the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust, Carers First and other local charities 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Warning: Tunbridge Wells folk realise Tonbridge is better!....

Some fellow bloggers from over the border in the upstart daughter town,Tunbridge Wells, have written nice things about Tonbridge. The Anke's a couple, who each have an influential blog on their adopted town, sort of a His and Hers of the blogsphere, came a for a visit last week and Mrs. A has posted a lovely write up of their visit and some even lovelier photos including one of Yours Truely. The new Turkish Restaurant gets a big thumbs up as well. Yes it's true Mr. & Mrs A we have a park and a swimming pool, a castle and much older buildings than your quaint young town. We also have shops, some of them nice independent ones, and some very nice eateries.They are very welcome to come and visit our town any time they like but let's hope that they don't spread the word about Tonbridge too much. I mean we don't want a full scale invasion now do we! Read it here 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Favourite Takeaways anyone?...

Some of my favourite takeways like The Daily Rice and Avebury Avenue Fish and Chip shop have already been mentioned on Tonbridge Blog over the years but what are yours? Let's hear what the best are in Tonbridge. Are they charging too much or is it about right. How often can we afford them? Are they healthy or should we make the effort to cook every day so we know what we're eating? Are so called free deliveries really free if these food businesses give you a discount to collect or is this just a clever ruse? When you can easily spend £50 on a family curry or Chinese carry out isn't this stretching the budget too far? Nothing like putting businesses in the spotlight to improve services and quality!...

The Ghost of John Adams Bookshop!...

This is a letter sent by Doug Jeffers, who some readers will remember was for many years the owner of John Adams Bookshop which was opposite the Post Office, to Shepherds Directory which publishes an influential weekly newsletter for the rare and secondhand book trade. Although it is somewhat off the wall, to say the least, it does raise some serious questions which we are all aware the High Street is facing thanks to much publicized campaigns from the likes of Mary Portas. Doug closed down John Adams a few years ago sighting the opening of Oxfam Bookshop as his main reason for leaving Tonbridge. He decided instead to concentrate his efforts on his Balham bookshop which, sadly, he's now decided to close as well. Here's his letter to Shepherds:

Business Rates We are closing very soon after 23 years.
  The reasons are the depredations caused by large corporations, facilitated by the free-ride given them by governments of every stripe. The first lesson of the 'Free Market' is that that there is no such thing. The 'big battalions' which can do a job for government are given privileged status: financial institutions, private utilities, supermarkets, internet and phone companies all facilitate the retreat of the state and herald the 'Corporate State'. Mussolini must be smiling up or down as his dreams are being fulfilled!
  So I am closing down because:

  1. At my last rent review, coffee shops like Starbucks were mentioned as a comparator - this is a surprise as they are a struggling company which hasn't made a profit for 13 years! But they do useful work in giving our under-employed MPs somewhere to sit and wi-fi their John Lewis catalogue.

  2. The rent goes up, the rateable value goes-up. Landlord's profits go up and mine go down so illogically (curiouser and curiouser) I more tax and rates! If landlords had to pay this tax, it would slow their hand when it came to raising rents and their huge lobbying influence would stay the hand of government from raising rates. The rentier economy - the property boom - got us into this mess in the first place and now the present government is squeezing the last dregs out of retailers to make us pay the deficit. Something like 26 billion p.a. is paid in commercial rates!
  They have deliberately raised the multiplier to 45% and moved the revaluation back two years because businesses are prisoners of a lease-system where upward-only rent clauses are prevalent and tolerated in law and landlords costs are mitigated by service-charges and often a 'hidden rent'. Lease holding rate-payers are low-hanging fruit for the government, because unlike Starbucks and Amazon, and other privileged cosmopolitan aristocrats of the economy, the bailiffs can visit their address without a plane-ticket and international warrant.

3. But it's not that the government doesn't care. Tony Blair's 'sofa government' has been improved by feeling-down the back of the sofa for the TV remote control. Out-of-touch MPs - Eton, PPE at Oxford who have never had a proper job - can find out about today's Britain by watching reality TV (which amounts to about 75% of programmes these days) and then get the 'experts' (someone who's been on TV) to fix the country for them - Jamie Oliver, Sir Alan (three bags full!) or Mary Portas. Poor Mary - the unscrupulous con-men in government pushed her out into the tumbleweed 'high streets' with a few pantomime horse outfits and a whole Million Pounds in her little purse. As Noel Edmunds would say "a life-changing amount of money." (compare 25 billion).  Our pantomime horse outfit never arrived (and anyway I'm not going to be the back-end and that's final!) so we are shutting-down.
  Did I mention my rates have increase by 125% in three years and that I pay considerably more per square metre than the Sainsbury superstore next door?
  Wouldn't starting zoning from the back of the shop be closer to a progressive taxation- system especially in these days of 'click and collect' which is making warehouse space as valuable as high street frontage?

4. I'm so angry about the insult of the rates I nearly forgot 'Oxazon'! Amazon, as it is widely known as, struggled for more than eight years before they made a profit. Yes, I know, us booksellers are pushing for that record at the moment.
  Someone up there in the great candy floss machine of the money market kept dipping their stick in to keep them going until they achieved monopoly position. Meanwhile, they trailed the great wooden horse of internet bookselling up to our ramparts and we all rushed and pulled the necrotic parasitic beast inside.
  For us 'second-handers' while Amazon was delivering crushing volleys of lefts and rights to the body a new corporate giant arose from an unexpected quarter: the Big Society.
  Oxfam fervently abandoned its conscience domestically and joined the capitalism game. They employing a big-hitter from the city who rolled out a chain of 'Conranised white cubes' which chimed with the minimalised modernity of middle-class culture - more and more of less an less. If they claim innocence of delivering the knock-out blow to second-hand bookselling, they are at least guilty of holding the bully's coat and delivering sly and sickening kicks to our ankles.

5. Apart from the weather having a nervous break-down this year, our shop has had other severe environmental problems. As soon as the snow clears or torrential rain stops, the privatised utilities, or the railway, or TFL, or somebody arrives to dig up the pavement outside, and palisade the shop against passing trade. Obligingly, at quiet times - like Christmas.
  As TV cook fans will know, freshly-dug trenches have to be 'proved' like dough for several weeks before they can be worked on, and allowed to settle for a similar period afterwards before they can be filled-in. This gives the prisoner time to try to claim for collateral damages such as broken windows and ringing up Paris to find out when the hole might be filled in. Isn't business so cosmopolitan these days? They even have a French phrase for the powers that these organisations have over you - 'droits de seigneur' which, I believe, has vulgar sexual connotations.

5. Mrs Thatcher abolished UBR to stop Commie-councils from raping business with exploitative business rates to pay for the feckless poor. And so our story ends where we began, except that it's the government that is raping businesses to bail-out the feckless rich.

6. So if the government would only start looking after the voting-tax payer and stop playing little boys games: if it could lose its fascination with things 'big'; big funerals, big Olympics, big London, big 'small wars', big society, big business, big ideologies (yes, free-market is an ideology) and provide some bigger government for small business, perhaps, as even Lord Young has recently claimed, we could start to cure our economic woes from the bottom-up by soaking-up unemployment. The 'clones' might get less of a kicking from the 'clowns'.

To booksellers everywhere 'Good-bye and Good luck'. Doug Jeffers - MY Back Pages, Balham - and yes Closing sale Now On!