Whitstable Shops: where a postman buys his socks

I’m a part-time postman. I walk, on average, between ten and twelve miles a day, three days a week, throughout the year. That’s about 1,500 miles a year: a lot of walking. I go through about two pairs of shoes a year. And yet I’ve been wearing the same three pairs of socks for the last three years.

How could this be?

They are mighty good socks.

Not only that, but I can wear them for a week, or even more, and they never smell. They are soft on the feet and very comfortable. They are made of bamboo fibre, and are, quite simply, the best socks I’ve ever bought.

I wear them in conjunction with merino wool socks made by Bridgedale, which I bought in 2008 and have been wearing ever since. I have two pairs of these. The combination of the warmth and comfort of the merino wool on the outside, and the softness and hard-wearingness of the bamboo fibre next to my skin, is perfect for the kind of gruelling regime I put my feet through on a daily basis.

The bamboo socks are made by a company called Bam, who make bamboo clothing of all sorts. I’m sure you can get them on the internet, but I, personally, buy mine at Herbaceous in Oxford Street, Whitstable.

They cost £4.50 a pair, which is quite a lot for a pair of socks, but, when you consider how long mine have lasted, that is actually a great investment.

Seriously: every time I’m forced to put on a different pair of socks, I regret it. They load up with bacteria and smell like ripe Camembert within a day. The bamboo socks never do. They are still fresh and clean-smelling even after several days of heavy use.

I love them so much they’ve become the standard Christmas present for all of my male relatives. How could that be wrong? Everybody needs socks, and who wouldn’t be pleased with the most comfortable, soft, long-lasting and sweet smelling socks in existence?

The reason I go to Herbaceous to buy them is that the owner, Belinda Murray, is an independent trader, of the sort who should be encouraged in our town.

She not only sells socks, but also wholefood, herbs and spices, eco-friendly washing products, ethnic goods, scented candles, jewellery, incense, and a large selection of gifts, like statues of the Buddha, sandalwood soap dishes and sun-catchers.

Belinda works very hard, and for not much of a return. It’s difficult being an independent trader in Whitstable these days, what with all the big supermarkets circling the town like vultures, but, actually Herbaceous remains very competitive.

Why not pop is and take a look some time? There are some great gifts on sale and you might be pleasantly surprised at the prices.

Plus you can buy a few pairs of bamboo socks while you’re at it.

Herbaceous website: http://www.herbsandremedies.com/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Herbaceous-182513695129169/



Whistable shops: the new Aldi

High Street shouldn’t worry about shops up the hill

I bumped into one of my customers the other day. It’s been a while since I’d seen her.

“Where have you been?” I asked. “I was worried about you.”

“I’ve been lying low,” she said, doing this ducking motion, like a soldier in the trenches avoiding incoming fire: “keeping my head down.”

She was pulling one of those shopping trolleys. It was obviously packed to the brim.

“I’ve just been to the new shop,” she said. I guessed she must have meant Aldi. She lives on the top of Borstal Hill. Even so, it’s quite a trek.

Shopkeepers in the town are worried about the new shops at Estuary View. I don’t think they have much to fear.

It’s not Champs the Baker or Longs the Butcher who are threatened: it’s Tesco and Sainsbury.

People who live near the town will still use the High Street. The threat there is from the High Street supermarkets.

Personally I never shopped at Morrisons and I was pleased when it failed.

I had a flatmate who was signing on at the time. He’d been threatened by the Job Centre. He was told he had to take a job at Morrisons, despite the fact he’s a qualified teacher.

It was minimum wage, and virtually a zero hours contract. He was told if he didn’t take the job he would be sanctioned.

Such is the relationship between Job Centre enforcers and the low-wage economy.

At least Aldi pays its workers well and offers all the proper benefits, like sick pay and holiday pay.

It’s a German company, and that is one of the reasons for its success. Aldi workers are much more relaxed than people who work in other supermarkets, which contributes to the atmosphere in the shop.

Anyway, back to my customer. She said: “I’ve only got one complaint.” And she mentioned the name of a well known TV magazine and told me its price. “£1.75!” she declared, in mock outrage.

She said she’d spoken to the Assistant Manager and suggested a much cheaper magazine.

“It’s for the workers!” she added, only half-jokingly. You could almost imagine her doing the clenched fist salute.


From The Whitstable Gazette 23/03/17

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE

fax 01227 762415

email whitstablegazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

Whitstable Shops: The Cheese Box


I’ve just got back from the Cheese Box in Harbour Street where I bought some creamy Irish blue cheese and some toe-curlingly tasty Kentish farmhouse cheddar.

I have to say, I love this shop. It’s not only that they have such a range of really interesting cheeses in there, each one with it’s own unique and particular flavour, or that they will let you try a sliver or two before you buy, or that they can tell you where they got it from, who made it, and by what process; it’s also that the very nature of the shop itself, selling locally sourced product at a reasonable price, represents the future of retailing in Whitstable.

Buy cheese in the supermarket and what do you get? Some homogenised yellow pap with only a vague resemblance to cheese, produced in some sterile factory from cows that have never seen the sky, entirely without character or flavour or any local connection.

Cheese Box cheese, on the other hand, tastes of the very soil where it was produced. It is regional and specific. It has personality, it has character. It is organic. It is alive. It is everything a proper cheese should be. I have no hesitation in recommending it to you. If you haven’t tried the Cheese Shop yet, then do it now.


There’s a number shops in Whitstable which I would also recommend on the same basis. Proper butchers, proper bakers, proper greengrocers. I won’t list them all now. At some point I will write columns on all of them.

That’s what I love about Whitstable. There are real shops here. It’s not like Canterbury, which has become a theme-park parody of itself, catering almost entirely to tourists. Whitstable is still a functioning town with functioning shops, despite the looming presence of the out-of-town supermarkets with their viciously exploitative cut-price offers.

It’s hard for the local shops to compete.

But here’s the difference. You can walk to the High Street. You don’t have to use a car. So by buying your groceries locally you are not only encouraging small businesses, you are saving the environment at the same time.

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