Here's a photo of a seal and its pup at Donna Nook, which is a lovely place this time of year, on the NE Lincs coast. The seals think that it's an ideal place to come out of the sea for breeding. In fact, so we learnt, over 2,000 pups have been born there in the last six weeks or so. A great day out for all the (seal) family and not bad for us humans as well!..
I'm now living in exile in North East Lincolnshire in a small village. Whether the quiet eventually drives me insane remains to be seen. At the moment I'm enjoying an idyllic existence. Feeling refreshed and raring to go after a whole month off work. The longest holiday I've had in over 13 years! Keep posting your comments and please do support your local independent bookshop wherever you are. I'll probably post a few pictures from my new base here before, gradually, fading in absolute obscurity and the memory of my Tonbridge existence and the footprints I left there being all but swept away....
That's it then. The last day in Mr. Books is almost half over as I write. Lots more on Twitter about this for anyone interested. I'll be leaving the town in less than a week after 28 years but, for now, I'm savouring the moment of spending my last few hours in the shop. There will be a new Mr. Books, starting tomorrow in fact. How's that for a seamless handover! I'll let him announce himself when he's ready. I may continue with the odd post in exile but, for now, it's goodbye from Mr. Books and goodbye from me....
And now the news you've all been dreading.... Tonbridgeblog will be moving up north very shortly. By the end of July for good and in dribs and drabs in between. The blog may continue as Tonbridgeblog in exile or something like that. Maybe I'll start a Tonbridge Wicked Whispers Blog revealing all the secrets many customers have told me over the years! Actually I'm probably not that cruel, or am I?! The shop is almost sold but not quite, so we'll see what happens on that front over the next few weeks. It's been nice knowing some of you and it's always good to get comments however harsh and cutting some of them can be. I hope life treats you well and I'm sure some of you will be joining me up north before too long. Especially after the Corbyn revolution as none of you will be able afford to live in the south east when you're paying 90% income tax! Au revoir...
I bought one of these at the Tonbridge Farmers Market from a chap who claimed that it was made entirely from recycled materials and that it would be crawling with bugs of all kinds within weeks, they'd make it their home. A bug hotel as it were. Well, after about eight months of being on my garden fence more or less undisturbed, by humans at least, all I can say is that the only evidence of insect life are the cobwebs coating the "rooms" of the hotel. And, as any fool knows, spiders aren't even insects! Although, I suppose, most people would still call them bugs!
Nice piece in the Courier last Friday with one of my favourite photos of me of all time I think. The snapper did a great job in capturing me, surrounded by books. Almost as if he was reaching into my very soul (surely that's going too far... don't you mean sole? Ed.) Lovely comments by our MP, Tom Tugenhat as well. I must give him that tenner!
Sorry to drop this bombshell on you all this morning my loyal Tonbridgeblog die hard readers who've stuck with me through thick and thin. Let's face it, of late, it's been very thin! Yes I'm off back to my roots in NE Lincolnshire near the sea which I've missed all these years. I will be around for some months yet though so don't despair too much for now. More on the move as it unfolds but, in the meantime my thoughts are turning to what to do with the Bookshop. The lease is up quite soon so my choices seem to be: do I renew the lease in order to then assign it to a new owner at a later date. Sounds risky ish to me. So what are my other options? Well one would be to just walk away from the business I've build up for almost exactly 12 years. I really don't want to do this and would love to see the bookshop carry on with a new owner who has lots of fresh ideas so that they can put their own spin on it. Then there's a third way: I could just continue to own the shop business and employ a manager. It's all very exciting but scary at the same time.....
This shop unit on the railway bridge has seen better days. Next door isn't doing much better. Dodle turned out to be, well, anything but and it's probably many businesses ago since this was the Discount Mini Market. Shopkeepers take the advice of someone who has made the mistake of opening a shop away from the main drag. However cheap the rent is you'll end up regretting it. Anyway, from a purely photographic point of view I really like this shot because it shows a bit of imperfection, faded glory and history. All summed up in one washed out façade. Ahh yes the power of pictures!...
Lovely row of boarded up shops. The first thing many visitors see at the gateway to the town
Last night I had the great honour of saying grace, addressing the haggis, and reading, nae performing, some Robbie Burns poetry at the Auld Fire Station. Not once did anyone mention the obvious joke about burns at a fire station. At least they'd have been able to put it out quickly!
If you've never been to a Burns supper then you should take the opportunity as they are increasingly common even as far south of the Border as Kent. Chef Russell, of Kitchen of Kent,did us proud with a four course meal of Scottish fayre. What a feast it was with the highlight, of course, being the Haggis & neeps. The "great chieftain of the puddin' race" was ceremoniously carried in by the chef on a silver tray and I, an unworthy Sassanach surely, was given the honour of addressing it and hacking it wi' a knife. Whilst this would have almost certainly been a lynching offence in Glasgow I really did give it my best shot and hopefully would've made even the great man, Robert Burns, himself proud. I have a confession though as I did cheat a little by performing a hybrid of the real version and the Anglicised translation. I think I just about got away with it even among the kilt-wearing, diehard Scots of which there were several present. For one night only I thoroughly enjoyed being Markie McBooks. You can tak' ma books but you'll never tak' ma freedom! Ladies and Gentleman, both Scots and Sassanachs: The Haggis!
Addressing the Haggis (Markie McBooks Version!)
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.
The groaning trencher there you fill,
Your buttocks like a distant hill,
Your pin would help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour wipe,
And cut you up with ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm reekin, rich!
Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive:
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by
Are bent like drums;
Then old guidman, most like to burst,
Is there that over his French ragout,
Or olio that would sicken a sow,
Or fricassee would make her spew
Wi' perfect scunner,
Looks down with sneering, scornful view
On such a dinner?
Poor devil! see him over his trash,
As feeble as a withered rush,
His thin legs a good whip-lash,
His fist a nut;
Through bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his ample fist a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
And legs, and arms, and heads will sned
Like taps o' thistle.
Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her grateful prayer,
Gie her a Haggis
Without wishing to go all arty on you all, I love the way the morning sun accentuates the colours in this glass sculpture at the entrance to Botany captured, if I say so myself, quite perfectly in this photo taken last week. It'd be great to see more sculptures around the town such as on the roundabouts as you enter Tonbridge. Guy Portelli are you reading this??Suggestions please....
I hear that Robert Masters, Head of Judd School for many years is stepping down. According to a report in the Kent and Sussex Courier recently he seems to have gone soft in his old age as well. The school, it would seem, has relaxed its policy of chucking out poorly performing sixth formers when they don't make the grade in their AS-level exams as many other schools still do, often leaving them high and dry with very little option of where to study next. What an old softy eh! What next? Will they start allowing more students who pass the Kent Test/11+ who live in the town of Tonbridge to attend the only boys grammar in the town? Don't be ridiculous. Now that would be just going too far wouldn't it?..
Happy New Year everyone. Being a bookshop owner I'm naturally drawn to the arts in general. In particular it would be good to see more live art in the town. Could we utilize the central library for this? Or even this space in the heart of the High Street? I'm not sure what the street planners were thinking of when they built this little cluster of benches but they seem perfect for use as a small performance area. Almost like a mini Covent Garden! Poetry, street dancing, book readings, acoustic guitar players, folk singers and more. It's be great to see in that little corner of Botany....