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.

How was it for You?

How was your New Year – hopefully better than Brian’s. Enjoy Grace’s story.

Anecdotage

January is my least favourite month-cold, dark and seemingly interminable. Many like to begin the month with a party. Here’s a story I wrote years ago about a New Year’s party that did not go according to plan…

The Rescue Party
Brian Meadon peers out into the darkness and is forced to admit a grudging fascination for the way the snowflakes are looming out of the sky and settling in an ominous and ever growing heap on his car’s windscreen. His initial feelings of hot anger and frustration with the car’s failings have ebbed away to be replaced with somewhat colder resignation. There is still just enough light outside to make out the writing on a road sign beyond his lay-by. ‘Stoodley Interchange’, it asserts, taunting Brian with confident superiority, even though accumulations of snow are creeping up its legs.
Settling back into his driving seat once more, Brian decides…

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Silly Saturday – Unresolution

One of my New Year resolutions has been broken already, on the second of January; to cook dinner on time. As Cyberspouse had cooked dinner on the first of January this was a record failure to keep a resolution. Another resolution failed; to go to bed earlier, as opposed to early in the morning. The most obvious excuse is that I have been kidnapped by aliens, my memory wiped so I have no recollection of hours stolen.

This picture cannot be taken as an accurate representation of dinner  ChezTidalscribe.

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Or it might just be that I was busy keeping up with that other New Year favourite with writers and bloggers – GOALS. Some bloggers have blogfuls of goals, while the rest of us are just trying to keep up with self imposed targets of writing blogs and interacting with other bloggers.

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I did fulfil one big goal I set myself in January 2019 – finish my novel. Not too difficult as I had been writing it for *** years. The ‘final manuscript’ was finished in July so I’m not sure what happened between then and November.


Perhaps goals are easier to attain than resolutions, the latter implies a bit of soul searching. You can have a goal to eat less meat, but you will need a resolution to become a vegan, especially now it is officially a philosophy. Ethical veganism is a “philosophical belief” and so is protected in law, a tribunal has ruled for the first time. It makes my resolution to just cook dinner on time seem more attainable.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50981359

I can do it when we have visitors; there is a good incentive to have a meal ready so adults don’t stay too late and little children don’t get hungry and grumpy or tired and grumpy and can be put to bed on time.

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What are some other attainable goals writers and normal people can aspire to?
Look into joining a gym – this is much cheaper than actually joining a gym and only going once.
Take advantage of goals set by others. Use less plastic. Sainsbury’s supermarket has now dispensed with those annoying flimsy plastic bags, that I could never open, for their loose fruit and veg. Now you must take your own containers or buy some netting bags.
Start a novel, much easier than finishing one.
Go to bed at a reasonable time; taking your lap top with you because you have a bad cough and need to sit propped up in bed.
Cook meals from scratch. Avoid buying any food in plastic packaging and you will find yourself cooking from scratch…
Cut down on computer time – buy a puppy of a large energetic breed or acquire an energetic human toddler. You will spend lots more time outside, off line AND get plenty of exercise, so no need to even look into joining a gym.
Cheat – Blog about running or cycling twenty miles a day, post a few pictures you took while parked at that scenic viewpoint… we will never know it’s not true.

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Have you bothered with resolutions or set any goals?

the battle (do or . . .)

I have been following Frank Prem’s unique poetry for a while and quite recently read his ‘Devil In The Wind – voices from the 2009 black Saturday bushfires’ , little realising that a worse nightmare was unfolding in Australia. It’s already Saturday in Australia and as we sleep tonight Frank speaks for many towns and people facing fearsome fires.

Frank Prem Poetry

today is the day
(for the moment
at least)
that they say
might bring the creature
to our doorsteps

it will start out cool
then boil up
later on
into searing

looking out the window
the smoky haze
is not too bad
today

though I can still taste
yesterday’s plastic
in the air
and the stench
of burning rubber

mostly
what I notice
making the ground
seem like
a carpet that has come alive
is the flits
and the flights
of a cloud
of small blue butterflies

and we will stay

it has been decided

that
is our plan

stay
in the township
though
we will not seek
to defend
at our door

there are places
to run
to be as safe
as anywhere else is

and we will do our best
to survive
along
with all our neighbours

I will go
to my workplace
in the afternoon
to undertake…

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Friday Flash Fiction- Paragraph Planet

Paragraph Planet is a creative writing website which has been publishing one 75-word paragraph every day since November 2008.

http://paragraphplanet.com/

Any writer can submit, but the word count must be exactly 75 words. The first paragraph is one I had accepted a while ago; we became addicted at writers’ group to thinking of new 75 word paragraphs.

As Long As

How cleansing to see your overlarge house blown to matchsticks in a cyclone. How purifying to see the detritus of modern life swept away in a tidal surge, to know Gaia has won, to face God naked. I put these thoughts on Facebook, take my meal out of the microwave, turn up the heating and settle in my reclining chair to watch the news and soaps on 3D television… As long as it’s not me.

Real Life

… real life experiences, being born, don’t remember. Make a list: rolling down a grassy slope, cycling with the wind in your face, ditto galloping on horseback. swimming in the ocean, standing on a high hill, making love, giving birth, sailing a yacht, flying, escaping mortal danger. And the ultimate, dying, not asleep in bed, that would be cheating… how much time there is to think in the seconds it takes a plane to plunge, engines ablaze…

Cold

A crystalline cold dawn; heavy snow had reached their valley for the first time. His master had just made it back. Usually Nicolai hated the long winter nights, but each breath that seared his lungs brought hope. In late afternoon the clear sky brought a violet shimmer to the virgin snow at the graveyard. Nicolai thrust his stick through crystal layers; it juddered on the iron cold ground. The master would not be arising tonight.

Ten Seconds

Years of training for ten seconds. In other events you can change tactics, put on a last minute spurt. Diet, training and mental attitude will help me reach my ultimate speed; my reflexes honed for the starting block. I lost my job, friends and family; but I’m racing for my country at the Olympics. Men’s one hundred metre final. The starting block feels unreal. I hear the pistol; for a second I hesitate.

You can read more flash fiction in Someone Somewhere

 

What is the shortest story you have written?

New Year’s Day 2020

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It’s lucky there will be no news this decade ( see Silly Saturday’s blog No News ) because I detest all those news reviews of the past year, sports reviews, who is in the New Year Honours list and lists of those who have died.
Instead I offer my review of the past decade, which will be of no interest to anybody else…

Firstly, what didn’t happen.

It was the only decade in my life when I didn’t move home.

I didn’t become a best selling author.

I didn’t get a mention in the New Year Honours list.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-new-year-honours-list-2020

I still didn’t get the hang of LinkedIn and Twitter.

What did happen?

My mother has entered The Twenties for the second time in her life, she was born in 1926.

Our three offspring are all living in places we would never have guessed at the beginning of the decade.

We acquired three more grandchildren.

I became an Indie Author and published nine books.

I became a Blogger.

I was nominated for three blogger awards.

blogger-recognition-2019liebster-awardsunshine-blogger

So what do we call the past decade and what will we call the new decade?
Answers in the comments.

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Happy New Year and Happy New Decade.

Are you looking back over the past decade or looking forward to the new one?

Silly Saturday – No News

Here are the news headlines.

At the international summit of newscasters it was unanimously decided to cease broadcasting news. This was in response to research that shows a constant diet of disasters and war has a detrimental effect on the mental health of individuals and the population as a whole. Experts also believe that constant attention to the behaviour of the worst world leaders and the narcissism of celebrities only encourages them.

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And in other news…
Cleaners were called to aisle nine at a Sainsbury’s supermarket after an incident involving a customer and a large jar of pickled beetroot. Broken glass was found at the scene, but no injuries were reported.

A family of five were left to survive on pot noodles when their planed meal ended in disaster. Mrs. Smith was quoted as saying ‘The butter was already melting in the frying pan for the omelette when I suddenly realised I had forgotten to buy the eggs.’

A man was left penniless when his local cash machine would not dispense any money. He was forced to walk two hundred yards up the high street to the next machine.

Residents were evacuated safely from a two storey block of flats when a fire alarm was accidentally set off.

 

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A passenger revealed the details of her nightmare journey when roadworks caused a traffic diversion. ‘I would have caught the number fifteen if I had known, I don’t usually get the number fifteen because it goes all round that estate where my sister used to live, though I used to get it when she did live there. Anyway, I got on the number fourteen outside Boots and low and behold I thought why are we turning here? I’m going to be late for the dentist… I started going to him in town as the ones round the corner were useless when I needed my root canal done. Five minutes late I was, though I needn’t have worried as the chap before me took extra time…

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Work has been delayed yet again on a pensioner’s shed after his drill bit broke. Staff at his local B&Q saved the day by showing him to aisle 17b where he found the correct size.

The search continues for a five year old missing since Boxing Day. The white and tabby cat named Tibbles was last seen under the Christmas tree. His owner, who asked not to be named, said he had never gone missing before and blames herself for being away from her computer. ‘He usually drapes himself over the keyboard as soon as I sit down at my desk.’

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Record numbers of shoppers did not attend the Boxing Day sales.

An unknown author was unable to post her blog as her new computer said ‘NO’. Returning from the Christmas break she switched it on, only to read constant messages saying it was updating and restarting.

blogger-recognition-2019

Friday Flash Fiction – Up In the Air

When Karina left her home in Bolivia to spend the last few weeks of the year with distant relatives in England, she was looking forward to curling up with a book by a roaring fire, Christmas shopping in large brightly lit stores and snow. She did not expect it to involve rubber suits and colourful parachutes.

The drive in the dark from Heathrow Airport had been endless; on the map of little England her cousins’ town had looked close to London.

When she was woken up the next morning it was still dark.

‘Sorry to wake you early Katrina,’ said Aunty ‘it’s an ordinary working day for us, but you relax and enjoy the start of your holiday. You won’t be on your own, we have students staying with us and I have four more coming in for a lesson this morning.’

There were young people coming and going and she wasn’t sure which were her cousins. One expectation came true, it was cold, the house was freezing. She was sent out to the shops with two of the students, as Aunty had to wait in for ‘The Gasman’ because ‘Centralheatingsontheblink.’

Outside, the prevailing colour was grey; the sky, the buildings, people’s clothes. But the students were friendly, assuming her to be one of them, completing a tally of one from each continent.

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The next morning was Saturday and the house had taken on a more relaxed atmosphere and brighter aspect; looking out of the front window Katrina realised the sky was a washed out blue instead of lowering grey.

‘Isn’t it a wonderful day,’ said Uncle ‘we have a treat for you, the boys are getting the gear ready, there’s a good breeze, you can help your aunt pack a picnic.’

Katrina wondered nervously if a treat for a girl from a land locked country would be a trip on a boat and if so, what sort of water was involved? In a house full of people she had soon realised that each assumed someone else had told her what was going on.

Outside the front of the house several young men were hoisting huge rucksacks onto their backs; a couple of girls beckoned her to follow. The sun was not as bright as back home, but it was so low in the sky it blinded her. They set off down the road and it came completely as a surprise to Katrina when they arrived at a cliff top and the ocean opened out in front of her. The sky above the water was blue, but a cold wind caused her to shrink inside the borrowed coat.

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Down a winding path they came to a beach and were not alone; people were strolling as if it was summer, young children played on the beach dressed in boots and bulky clothes and dogs of all shapes and sizes ran circles around everyone. Stranger things were to follow. She trailed after the others to a quiet stretch; her relatives looked as if they were setting up camp. Bags were ripped open; the young blokes dragged black rubber suits on, hauled out boldly coloured kites with tangles of line, then strapped themselves into harnesses. Karina thrilled to see the curling waves, but hoped she would not be expected to go near the sea. Even as she wondered what would happen next, the kites had floated into the air and turned into parachutes dangling the men like puppets; they jumped onto small boards skimming the waves. She watched the wind take them out to sea and her stomach flipped as a black and red curved canopy soared up, taking the young man high up into the air…

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Christmas Day

christmas 2019

Wherever you are today, enjoy your time and these last few days of the decade. I have to come off my life suport system – or rather my old recycled desk top is being replaced by a newer recycled, upgraded computer. I am quite expecting everything, words, pictures, email, Facebook and WordPress to be lost in the ether, never to be found again, but hopefully I shall see you all again on the other side.

The Power of the Written Word

My fellow Remainer and local blogger Grace sums up well what the past year has meant for many of us and also pays tribute to those people we meet in real life. Lots of us belong to groups of all sorts and they are an important part of our lives.

Anecdotage

So 2019 is grinding towards an end, and what a complex, mangled year it has been for us, here in the UK.

On our small island with its natural water barrier between us and the world, a civil war of words has raged since 2016, over whether we should pull up the drawbridge to our sea moat and withdraw into our brittle little shell or continue to relate with our nearest neighbours in the same convivial way we’ve enjoyed for 50 years.

I’m disconsolate to say to my overseas readers, not only that the drawbridge fans have won the war of words, but that all of we ordinary citizens, those of us who don’t have huge investments squirrelled away or are not hedge fund managers, who are not the fabulously rich elite and right wing newspaper owners, we have all lost.

I can’t dwell for too long on an issue…

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