The Wonder of Wetherspoons

Christmas and Culture in Margate

We spent Christmas with Team H in Margate and as Team AK were also coming down we volunteered to stay at the Premier Inn.

Premier Inn is a British hotel chain and the UK’s largest hotel brand, with more than 72,000 rooms and 800 hotels.

On our various trips and breaks we do stay at blogworthy bed and breakfasts and hotels of character and weirdness, but Premier Inns are a good choice if the location is handy. You know what to expect; the rooms are big enough, the beds comfortable and everything is purple. The Margate Premier Inn is by the railway station, looks out to sea and the walk to the home of Team H takes us within view of many cultural landmarks.

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We have stayed a good few times and never had a room with a sea view, this time we did, but the view was blocked by the air conditioning unit on top of the Brewer’s Fayre pub and restaurant below. But the winter afternoon was drawing in and it was time to check in with the rest of the family, then back to the sea front for another family tradition – dinner at Wetherspoons.

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J D Wetherspoon plc is a pub company in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Founded in 1979 by Tim Martin, the company operates nearly 900 pubs and a growing number of Wetherspoon hotels. The company is known for converting unconventional yet attractive premises into pubs.

Another chain where you know what to expect, Tim is obviously a chap who, unlike most politicians, cottoned on to what people want. Cheap pub food, refillable coffee cups, meals served from morning till night and a relaxed place where you can take your granny or your grandchild. As you order at the bar, or with your smart phone, you can wander in and out for a handy loo visit or perhaps hang out all day. The added bonus for writers is that you can watch all sorts of people and for photographers many of the branches are in amazing buildings rescued from neglect. Another interesting fact; it is claimed that every Wetherspoon has a different pattern of carpet, inspired by the location and specially woven; you can even buy a book about them.

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The Margate Wetherspoon has just been refurbished and now boasts comfy booths where you can charge up your various electronic gadgets. The walls are adorned with framed snippets of the town’s history. It is called The Mechanical Elephant, recalling the creature that used to give rides along the promenade in the 1950’s. This little bit of history inspired my short story ‘Thanephant an Elephantasy’ which was included in Thanet Writers’ anthology ‘Shoal’.

On Christmas Eve morning it was time to return to Wetherspoons for breakfast, but first another cultural landmark. At this end of the main sands is the Victorian Nayland Rock shelter. In the late Autumn of 1921, the bank clerk poet T.S. Eliot came to Margate on doctor’s orders to convalesce. He was in a fragile state physically and mentally and took a tram to sit on the seafront every day. While looking out at the expanse of grey water, watching children playing and war veterans exercising on the beach, he drafted part of The Waste Land.

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“On Margate Sands/ I can connect/ Nothing with nothing/”
I have to confess I haven’t read The Wasteland, but I have just downloaded it onto my Kindle for 99pence.

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Margate is on the Isle of Thanet, a real island until a few hundred years ago. It is on the east coast of Kent, but actually faces north across the Thames Estuary, so the sea can be grey on a grey day. The first day trippers used to come by steamer down the Thames.
On Christmas Eve morning the sun had come out and on the beach we saw the new attraction, a recreated bathing machine; the steam arising from the roof gives a clue to its secret, it is actually a sauna. I was almost envious of the chap emerging from the sea to clamber inside.

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Near the Mechanical Elephant is Dreamland. Amusements have been on this site since 1880, it was first called Dreamland in 1920 when the Grade 2 listed Scenic Railway wooden rollercoaster was opened. After going into decline early this century and being closed down there was a public campaign to restore the park and it re-opened in June 2015.

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Dreamland’s morale has been greatly boosted by the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery in 2011, bringing a big buzz to the town. Cheap property prices and a fast train route to London have brought artists and fresh blood into the town – DFLs Down From London. The gallery is built on the spot by the harbour where the painter JMW Turner’s landlady had her boarding house.

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At the end of last year the Turner Prize took place in Margate, the four artists exhibited at the gallery and the award ceremony was held in the Hall-by-the-Sea in Dreamland. It was an unprecedented event as the prize was shared between the four artists.

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Our Christmas break finished with a family breakfast at Brewer’s Fayre. If you are staying at Premiere Inn and want breakfast this is where you go, sneaking in a secret door at the back…

Brewers Fayre is a licensed pub restaurant chain, with 161 locations across the UK, known for serving traditional British pub food and for their Sunday Carvery.

There are several advantages to be enjoyed, refillable coffee cups, up to two children under fifteen can eat for free at the breakfast buffet and there is a soft play area where your toddler can end up well beyond reach and stuck there forever unless you persuade him to come down in the slide tube. If your child is a strapping fourteen year old they will be too big for soft play, but can eat twice as much as the adults for free!

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Where do you like to stay when you are away? How many doctors these days advise their patients to go on holiday to convalesce and write?

Part of my novel ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream’ is set in Margate.

28 thoughts on “The Wonder of Wetherspoons

  1. Despite having lived in Kent for a great many years, I think I only went to Margate once. I heard it’s undergoing quite a regeneration; I must make the effort to visit. Sounds like a good Christmas, Janet. I’m a big fan of family traditions 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When we were kids, back in the early 60s, we used to visit Margate once a year to take in Dreamland and the summer variety show. Thanks for the memories, Janet. Fortunately there was no sign of Tim Martin back then!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My family went there in the 1950’s and it was my first taste of live theatre. We stayed in a tiny boarding house but all I can remember about it was that it was in a mews and had a back patio, not a garden.
    I would read your book if it was a paperback but my kindle died and I haven’t replaced it.We do have problems with our modem so I just get books out of the library.
    Kent used to be my favourite county, especially as I was a Councillor there, but nowadays it has to be Sussex as it gives me inspiration for most of my novels.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Julie, good news, the book is available as a paperback from the same link above on Amazon.
      Our daughter and family went to the pantomime a the lovely little Theatre Royal in Margate.

      Like

  4. Janet, loved reading about Margate and your time there! Weatherspoons, or Spoons as my son calls it, seems to have become his second home. Oh, I do like the ‘secret’ doors to Brewers Fayre from som premier inns!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This article is a joy!
    I am a huge fan of Eliot. His ‘Wasteland’
    is an all time favorite, and at the other end
    of the spectrum, so is his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
    Hard to believe the same person wrote them, except for the
    delightful mastery of language.

    And then there is JWW Turner. As I was reading I glanced up
    and to my left at a print of his Buttermere that hangs beside
    my desk.

    You have made me want to visit Wetherspoons.

    Great writing on a great subject!

    Sarah

    Liked by 2 people

      1. The beach looks similar so perhaps that is why it w named Margate. It reminded the really settlers of home? The architecture is radically different though, more modern although there is a pier further north of Margate, and we have two of the largest sand islands positioned off the coast. The bay between has dugongs, dolphins and whales, which might differentiate it from your Margate?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I don’t think Margate can claim any whales, there is even some dispute as to whether this is the English Channel or still part of the Thames Estuary. The first day trippers used to come on steamers down the Thames from London. On a clear day you can see the lines of windmills out at sea and at night their red lights twinkling.

        Liked by 1 person

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