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/

wow

Advertisements

East Kent Health: new “super hospital” for Canterbury

Peculiar link between health and a developer’s profits

Mark Quinn, managing director of Quinn Estates, has offered to build a “super-hospital” in Canterbury, in exchange for permission to build 2,000 new houses.

Will the nurses and ancillary staff working at the hospital be able to afford these properties, I wonder?

How many of them will be social houses at affordable rents?

I think we already know the answers to both of those questions.

Don’t you think there’s something peculiar about a system that links the health needs of a whole region to the profit requirements of a property developer?

Mark Quinn is a businessman, not a charity, and one thing is certain: he expects to make money on the deal, or he wouldn’t be offering it.

Meanwhile we learned this week that Virgin Care, part of Richard Branson’s business empire, appears to have been paid a settlement by the NHS after it failed to win a bid to provide children’s services in Surrey.

The company immediately started legal proceedings. According to the Daily Telegraph, board papers for one of the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) involved in the case state that its “liability” amounted to £328,000.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

That’s £328,000 of public money reportedly paid out by the NHS to a private company, whose multi-billionaire boss resides on a Caribbean Island for tax purposes.

East Kent CCGs have also given contracts to corporations and are equally open to being sued.

Of course, if the new hospital is built in Canterbury, that would mean a downgrading of services in Margate and Ashford, something I’m certain that the people of those two towns will resist.

The idea that we have to go begging to property developers, or that the choices on offer force one region to compete with another in a bidding process, is surely a measure of just how degraded the service has become.

In 2005 Jeremy Hunt co-authored a book which called for the replacement of the NHS with an insurance market system on the American model.

That process is already well underway. Let’s hope we can stop it before it’s too late.

*************

From The Whitstable Gazette 07/12/17

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, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

fax: 01227 762415

email: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

wow

http://www.cjstone.co.uk/

Whitstable News: Closure of the Whitstable Times

Loss of rival newspaper is cause for real regret

The last edition of the Whitstable Times came out last week, leaving the town with only one newspaper.

It’s a sad day. The Times has been reporting from this town since 1864.

I wrote for the paper from 1999 to 2008. There were two columnists at the time, myself and Steve Regan. We were a bit like a double act, always winding each other up: Steve from a right-wing perspective, and myself from the left. John Nurden was the editor.

Steve and I stopped writing for the paper after the financial crash of 2008, when the owners decided they could no longer afford to pay the columnists. I got a job with the Gazette and have been writing here ever since.

People will remember the Times’ office in Cromwell Road. It was opposite the old Royal Mail delivery office, so I could finish work in the one and step over the road to the other in less than a minute.

What the loss of the Times highlights is two fundamental things. Firstly it shows the failure of the capitalist system to defend people and their jobs.

Money was sucked from the real economy in order to shore up the banks. Many businesses went under and the austerity narrative began to drive the political agenda. The paper was forced to sell off its assets, becoming ever more distant from the town.

The offices moved to Canterbury first, and then to Margate, during which time it was also downgraded to a free paper.

The second thing it shows is the impact of the internet on people’s reading habits. Many people simply do not read newspapers any more, preferring to get their news from social networking platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

But these sites do not generate their own content: they are dependent on news gathered from other sites, and on their users to share it around.

It’s important that Whitstable still has a proper newspaper like the Gazette to represent it, but I can’t help thinking that the news landscape has become a little more one-dimensional with the loss of its historic rival.

*************

From The Whitstable Gazette 05/10/17

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: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

*************

Some CJ Stone stories from the Whitstable Times

Whitstable Housing: Neighbours

neighboursBad neighbours make situation impossible

A friend of mine has been having trouble with his neighbours. They moved in about two years ago. First of all they were just annoying. There were so many of them, parents and grandparents and a multitude of siblings and their spouses, plus children. A real extended family.

They were always coming in and out, shouting and banging doors. They did everything at full volume, using the foulest of language.

Later they became more aggressive. They began threatening him. They smashed his front window and wedged something against his back door so that he couldn’t get out. They nailed his back gate shut and threw a bucket of rotten eggs over him.

Well these were assaults, weren’t they? My friend became frightened and phoned the police.

It took over two and a half hours for the police to arrive. When they eventually did get there they said there was nothing they could do.

My friend has felt trapped ever since. He is a disabled person. He has epilepsy and is on medication. Stress and anxiety tend to bring on his fits. He daren’t go out in case he meets them and they start the abuse again.

He feels like a prisoner in his own home, always having to check before he can step out of his front door. He has been forced to get a CCTV system, which has put him into debt.

He has lived here for 21 years and never had trouble with his neighbours before. Now here’s the thing: he lives on one of the council estates. He’s complained to the council and asked to be moved, but there is no available housing.

He’s tried getting a house swap, but no one has shown any interest. What this brings to light is the state of council housing in the UK today. Only the very vulnerable, and the most anti-social, are being housed: hence the impossible situation my friend finds himself in, as an epileptic, prone to anxiety, living next door to violent bullies.

Whatever happened to the “homes fits for heroes” of the post-war period, that’s what I’d like to know? We sold them off for a mess of pottage.

*************

From The Whitstable Gazette 21/09/17

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: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

250 word max please

Whitstable Weddings: Rob and Tara Jeffery of Gillingham

So first of all a happy anniversary to Rob and Tara Jeffery of Gillingham, Kent, who were married this time last year.

The reason I know this is that I accidentally walked in on their wedding. They were holding their reception at Beacon House on the beach, which happens to be on my round.

I dropped the letters off and came out of the gate onto the path. There was a large crowd in all their finery, taking wedding photos. A sudden cheer rose up.

That stopped me in my tracks. What was going on here? I looked around to to find out what it was they were cheering and it appeared that it was me. That must be the first time ever, in the whole 500 year history of the postal industry, that a postal worker got cheered for delivering letters.

It turned out that Rob and Tara are postal workers too, along with a large percentage of their guests. They wanted a photo with me.

I was reluctant at first, being a bit shy, but they managed to persuade me. So there I was, a red-faced postie in his hi-viz waistcoat, flanked by the bride and groom, posing for a wedding photo on Whitstable beach.

They liked the photo so much it now hangs on their living room wall they told me. This was last week, when I bumped into them again on the anniversary of their wedding. They were sitting on the bench at the Hotel Continental end, contemplating the view, when I drove by.

They waved, but I didn’t recognise them. Who were they waving at? Not at me, surely? Who waves at postal workers going about their daily business?

But, once again, it did turn out to be me. They came down to Beacon House, and greeted me at the gate.

“I bet you think we’re mad don’t you? Only you were at our wedding last year. We took a photo, do you remember?”

How could I forget? And we had another photo on the beach outside Beacon House to commemorate this occasion too, and the two of them gave me a huge hug.

Hugs for postal workers now. Sometimes life is so gloriously unpredictable.

*************

From The Whitstable Gazette 07/09/17

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: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

250 word max please

Whitstable: my kind of town


Mentioned in the New York Times, Whitstable is a unique Kent coastal town just over an hour by train from central London. CJ Stone liked it so much he decided to move there.

The sea wall where I ate my lunch in 1981
The sea wall where I ate my lunch in 1981

There’s something about Whitstable. It’s not only its physical appearance – those white-painted, weather-boarded fisherman’s cottages in their homely terraces, or the Victorian Christmas card shop-fronts up and down Harbour Street, or even the network of back alleys that embroider the town in a criss-cross pattern of secret destinations (some well-established enough to have acquired names) – but there’s something else too, something less substantial, but no less real. It’s an atmosphere, perhaps; a mood, a feeling. A sense of history, not as some dry academic thing, confined to the library and a dusty book shelf, but alive, in the very streets, in the lay-out of the town and in the people who choose to live here.

People’s first sight of the town is usually coming down the hill from the A299, London to Margate road. You see the town below you, strung out along the North Kent shore at the confluence of the Medway and the Thames, with the Isle of Sheppey dividing them. On a clear day you can see the far-off hotels and tower-blocks of Southend glinting on the Essex coast. But whatever the light, the view is dominated by the estuary, the colours always shifting, from iron-grey, to green, to brown or blue.

I first came here in 1981 or 1982. I was visiting a friend in Canterbury. We caught a bus to Herne Bay, about six miles further along the coast, and then walked to Whitstable along the sea front. It was early Summer. We had cherries and soft cheese with us for lunch. And, when we arrived in the town, we sat down on the sea wall in a place backed by off-balance wooden sail lofts, looking out across the ruffled estuary, and ate our lunch. I knew then that I would like to live here.

Most people fall in love with Whitstable at first sight. I’ve been living here since 1984.

Continue reading…

Whitstable holidays: American Sea Scouts visit Kent

My brother came over from America earlier in the year. He had a bunch of sea scouts with him. They were from the Sea Scout Ship 876 from the Syracuse region of central New York State.

When they arrived at the scout camp near Maidstone, the manager gave them an American flag which he had in his collection. It was very old, having only 49 stars on it.

They ran it up the flagpole and stood to attention doing the sea scout salute, which is the same as a normal salute, only using three fingers instead of four. Whenever the leader wanted their attention she would hold up three fingers and everyone would go quiet.

There were sixteen of them including the adults. I know this because they had a routine: whenever they had gathered together they would each call out their number with varying degrees of energy and enthusiasm. I quickly became number seventeen.

I had booked a holiday from work, and tried to spend as much time as possible with them. My nephew, Isaac, was there. They called my brother “Mr Stone”, and me “Uncle Mr Stone”.

On the Monday they were supposed to have gone out on the Greta, a working Thames barge moored in Whitstable. Unfortunately the manager forgot to put it in the book and the Greta was in dry dock at the time.

Instead they spent the day in Whitstable with the local sea scouts. My niece, Beatrix, who lives in the town, joined them after school. They went out paddle boarding and also took turns on the back of a jet ski. The driver was showing off, skidding across the water and doing somersaults over the waves.

Afterwards Beatrix decided she wanted to join the sea scouts too. She was breathless with excitement. I could see why. It looked like a lot of fun to me.

Other trips included a visit to Chatham dockyards, home of the British Navy, as well as to Dover Castle and to Greenwich Observatory. Being sea scouts it was Naval history they were most interested in.

The highlight for me was a day out in Canterbury. We went on a punt along the River Stour, which was a revelation. It was the first time I had seen the city from this unusual angle, ducking under the low bridges and seeing the backs of all the old buildings. The talk was entertaining too.

I think the women were far too distracted by the sleek, tanned, muscled legs of the young men doing the talking and the punting, however, to notice the backs of any old buildings.

We also visited the Cathedral and, despite the fact there were works going on, and the nave was shrouded in scaffolding, they were still hugely impressed. Most of them had never seen anything so old before.

They drank in the story of Saint Thomas Becket and the murder in the Cathedral with a kind of hushed awe. It reminded me how deep and compelling our history can be.

Afterwards I took a party of them round the cloisters, where there was a rehearsal going on. A choir were singing to the accompaniment of tuned glasses full of water, which made an eerie, ethereal sound. It was really moving, and a privilege to have witnessed it in the historic atmosphere behind Canterbury Cathedral.

I asked one of the lads what he thought. “Cool,” he said.

You can’t get a higher accolade from a teenage boy.

*************

From The Whitstable Gazette 24/08/17

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: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

250 word max please

Whitstable People: Ritchie Harnett

House prices are driving people away.

People on Island Wall, Nelson Road and the adjoining streets, will have noticed that they have a new postman.

This is because their old postman, Ritchie Harnett, has moved to Grimsby.

There’s been a lot of talk about house prices in the paper recently. Ritchie’s move is the perfect illustration of that.

He has a growing family to care for and needed more space. He simply couldn’t afford to get a bigger house in the town on his income.

His family have lived in Whitstable for generations. He was born and brought up here. He went to school here. His relatives are here. His roots are here. Everything he has ever known is in this town.

On the other hand, most of his contemporaries have long since moved away. They too, like him, couldn’t afford to live in Whitstable any longer.

It’s a five hour drive from Whitstable to Grimsby, which means it will be very difficult for his Mum and Dad to get to see their grandkids.

On the plus side: the house he has brought up there is four times the size of the one he lived in in Whitstable, with a garden five times the size. He says his new kitchen is the size of the ground floor of his old house.

Also, his new office is within walking distance of his house, unlike the Whitstable office, which is eight miles away.

He probably never would have wanted to move had the delivery office not been shifted to Canterbury.

Ritchie was very popular with his customers. I spoke to one of them who told me they trusted him implicitly. There was even a petition going around trying to persuade him to stay.

Let me assure them: their new postman is just as trustworthy and reliable, just as honest as Ritchie, and will serve them just as well.

Nevertheless it is a measure of everything that is wrong in this world that postal workers and other people doing essential jobs, such as Ritchie, can no longer afford to live in the towns where they were brought up.

There is a chronic shortage of affordable housing in the UK, something which needs to be urgently addressed.

*************

From The Whitstable Gazette 10/08/17

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: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

website: kentishgazette.co.uk

Whitstable review: The Lynching by Jackie Walker

MP must defend Israel free speech

I went to see Jackie Walker’s one-woman show, the Lynching, at the Whitstable Labour Club last week.

Jackie Walker, in case you’ve forgotten, was the Vice-Chair of Momentum, the organisation created to support Jeremy Corbyn, before she was accused of anti-Semitism and suspended from the Labour Party.

The show is obviously still in its developmental stage, and a bit clunky in places, but there were some excellent bits. One in particular stood out: a small questionnaire she handed out during the interval.

It asked three questions: 1) If I criticise a Jewish person, am I anti-Semitic? 2) If I question the legality of Israel to exist am I anti-Semitic? 3) What do you think is meant by anti-Semitism?

I answered “no” to the first question, “no” to the second question and “racial discrimination against Jews” to the third.

Jackie pointed out that how we understand the answers depends upon the context. If the questions were asked of an anti-Semite, then the same answers I gave would, indeed, be anti-Semitic.

I think that was a really clever and subtle point, and it is in this context that the criticisms against Jackie Walker can be understood.

What was most important to me was the opportunity to hear first hand the words of someone who has been hounded so relentlessly in the press, so I was rather astonished to hear that there were voices being raised within the Constituency Labour Party at the fact that the show was allowed to go ahead at all.

Pardon? I thought we believed in free speech? Not so it seems. Or not when there is a slim majority to defend.

Here is Rosie Duffield’s response:

“I could really have done without all this within my first few weeks in an all-consuming new job where my priority is helping desperate, struggling constituents with their asthma-causing mouldy flats or grandparents who’ve been on trolleys in hospital corridors for more than a day.”

To which I reply: well that’s your job Rosie, it’s what you’re paid to do.

Meanwhile it is our job, as concerned citizens, to try to get as close to the truth as possible. Hearing both sides of an argument is the first step in that process.

*************

From The Whitstable Gazette 27/07/17

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: kentishgazette:thekmgroup.co.uk

Up ↑