Whitstable Blog

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06th October 2008

It's been a while again ...

Summer seems to be most definately turning to Autumn again, and the leaves are just about to start coming off the trees. I'm in he process of making a page about The Crab And Winkle Way - a cycle / walking route stretching from Whitstable to the neighbouring city of Canterbury. I think it's about a seven mile walk, and I've taken lots of photos, so once I've made the page (complete with little pop-up photos), I'll post all the photos here in sequence so that you can have a look-see.

Not sure what to tell you about Whitstble at the moment, other than seasonal changes. New shops have sprung up, and some old favourites like Hatchards menswear have sadly gone, as well as a long-established bookshop. There are a couple more art galleries and boutiques, and everyone seems to be doing quite well despite the current economic strangeness. Visitors have been flocking to the town and enjoying the delights of the beaches and sights, and although the high season is coming to an end, the weekends are still very busy here.

Speaking of beaches, I keep getting emails about whether it's ok to walk dogs on them, and keep sending the same reply - that i see people walking dogs along the beaches all the time, and there are fouls bins all the way along to clean up after your pooch, so i think it's a council-sanctioned activity, but, for a definitive legal answer, you'll have to ask Canterbury City Council. The Council have decided to close the Whitstable Tourist Information office, and they informed me that all enquiries about coaches/dogs /wheelchair access /town events can now go through Canterbury City Council, as The Horsebridge Community Centre in Whitstable is taking over duties, but it may take a little while before they're up to speed. (I think I'll update that info on the 'Whitstable Beaches' page now ...)

Whitstable Beaches

17th February 2008

This evening's sunset ... . . . .

Sunset 17th February 2008 Whitstable Kent

Nice eh ...

10th Jan 2008

I'm back again. A man i know called Mr. Peter Gander has aked me if I'd like to place one of his paintings in my blog, and since he's a fine fellow, and it's a beautiful image of Wheelers Oyster Bar, who are featured in my restaurants section, I've said yes, so without further ado, may i present Mr. Peter Gander's painting...

 

You can use this link to email Peter Gander

Wheelers Oyster Bar by Peter Gander, copyright Peter Gander 2008

8th January 2008

June to January - that's a bit of a stretch...

So what's happening in Whitstable? It's January - not much. At this time of year, i think the whole nation's slightly tired and a little worn out by the recent holidays (that doesn't sound right), and Whitstable feels a bit grey, and quiet - but we're out of the darkest month now, and very very slightly, at the corners of each day, the light is staying just a little longer, and the great counter has been reset for another year. I like it, and there's been some beautiful sunny days recently when i ventured forth, camera in hand, to do a little reconnaisance. If you're facing the sea, standing on the beach in Whitstable, then to your left is a town called Seasalter, and there are some marshes there - marshes that were under threat, but seem to have been given a new lease of life as a potential nature reserve. I was down there photographing a property which is now featured in the self catering section, and i took some photos of the marshes - i really love it there - it looks like plains - a place where there really should be wild horses romaing around... anyhow, have a look-see..

Seasalter Marshes   Seasalter near Whitstable
next town along from Whitstable   Click for larger version

I've also been making more pages for shops and businesses in town, and it's going pretty well - i keep watching the statistics, and it no longer feels quite so much like press gang - the visitors really are coming, and the pages I'm building for people are getting viewed. I wasn't sure quite how it would all work out, but it seems to be moving along nicely. (insert smiley face). The only drawback is the sheer amount of time it takes to liase with people to formulate the text for the pages, and take photographs - i underestimated the fact that it's the 'consultation' process which take the most time - finding spots where schedules coincide, and there's enough time to sit with clients and really work out what the page will say, and what the shop or business is all about. So, whilst the resource is growing, it's not making me anywhere near a rich man, but break-even point seems to be getting closer, which is what it's all about for now - how to make a living doing something which i actually enjoy whilst not ripping everyone off. It's quite a thing. If i had previously been offered the same job working for someone else, it would be have been an amazing opportunity to me - taking pictures, writing, talking to business owners, creating graphics, preparing promotional stuff, learning about the accounts, and web marketing - so I'm glad i've managed to get this going by myself. (insert another smiley face).

What has been very sad news of late is the fact that the Whitstable branch of the Canterbury College outreach centre is going to close soon due to its funding being cut. This is a very bad sign. What the centre, which was on Whitstable High Street, did was give me access to computers and computer courses free of charge, five days a week whilst i was on job seekers allowance - i didn't even have a computer at the time, and only went in there by chance as my then flatmate wanted to see about a basic computer course. About a month later, i signed up for a course - the first of many, was introduced to web design, and off i went - i was there most days, all day, using their computers free of charge, and learning to make websites - i got my first introduction to Search Engine Optimisation there, and was kindly given loads of material to take away and learn. The staff were nothing but supportive, and without that place, and those people, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this - i wouldn't have thought of it, and i wouldn't be able to. The centre, to me, was a sign of a genuinely civilised approach to local education and retraining in the U.K, and the fact that it's going is very disappointing, and, in my humble opinion, a step firmly in the wrong direction. It's a shame other people in Whitstable people won't be given the same opportunity.

thanks to Jane, Gill, Ronnie, and everyone who worked there.

Here are the shops and businesses I've made pages for since my last entry - Pure beauty salon in Whitstable, Mosaic a boutique in Harbour Street, Buttercup, another boutique in Harbour Street, L'image, who sell and source antique French decorative furniture, Whitstable Fish Market - self explanatory, Wheelers Oyster Bar, one of the most famous fish restaurants in town, The Crab and Winkle Restaurant, another of the most famous restaurants, The Pearsons Arms, a recently revitalised and much lauded restaurant in town, Buttercup Studios, a self catering flat in Harbour Street, Sibertswold Cottage, a self catering property in Shepherdswell, Kent, Whitstable Beach House, a self catering property in Seasalter, The Film Cafe, which has opened in the Archive film Centre, The Pearl Fisher bed and breakfast, White Doves Cottage bed and breakfast, Turners View bed and breakfast, Belmont House bed and breakfast, The Oyster Guest House, Alliston House bed and breakfast, Windy Ridge bed and breakfast, The Cherries bed and breakfast, and a book about Wheelers Oyster bar and its recipes called The Oyster Seekers.

I've also built a page in the 'places of interest' section about Harbour Street, and one about Whitstable beaches, and I've added a new Whitstable self catering section, and a section for accommodation in Kent outside Whitstable.

I hope people are finding them easy to use, and worthwhile. There are more currently in production.

18th June 2007

So i've started adding businesses to my Whitstable Shops and Businesses page, and now i'm playing around with the SEO, so that each of the individual pages gets ranked well under their own search terms. It's quite a process. So far I've only added pages for Windy Corner Stores, Skin Illustrations, and Forest Woodcraft, but i'm working on others right now - The Archive Film Centre. The idea is to make a search engine friendly page for each business - they're all slightly different in layout and design, although common elements are there, and i'm trying to incorporate at least a little of the company's own logos and feel into each page, while still keeping them in harmony with my site.

I'm going to prepare more of these, all addressing different areas of the site. It's fun - hard work, but fun.

I've migrated the look of the proposed restaurants page to the page i have about Whitstable Visitor attractions and i've changed it around a little - i think it looks quite nice - my design skills aren't the best, but i'm learning, and playing with layouts more and more, and enjoying the results. It's a great feeling to design a page, and reckon it actually looks quite good. Have a look if you have time...

Bye for now,

Tom

2oth May 2007

Hi everyone,

Hope all's well. I've been a waiter for the last few weeks, moving awquardly among the tables of a fine local establishment called Samphire, owned by a man named George, and frequented by a vast array of people wealthier than myself. Thanks to the glorious invention that is 'The Tip', i have recently purchased a lovely new external hard drive, and an all-in-one printer/scanner/photocopier/fax which should be arriving any day now. Needless to say, the thought of preparing glossy 'promotional materials' has me all excited - I'll show you what i've got so far ......

This one is for local restaurants, and shows my proposed restaurants page, and how the structure will work....

Restaurants in whitstable page

It's a change from the current restaurants page, and hopefully slightly better looking.

This next one shows statistics to the site, and hopefully its marketing potential ......

Statistics to See Whitstable

30th April 2007

Hi everyone, how's it going out there? I've been up to more shenanegans with the site (that's probably not how you spell Shenanegans), and check this out.......

Shows traffic to site etc...

He he he.... 1568 unique visits this week.... which to me is quite amazing. Originally this site was going to be called 'Tom's rampaging monkey homepage'.... honestly.... i went to a computer course at Canterbury College in Whitstable (which just had its funding cut), and someone asked us to pick a subject for our first little test site - and for some reason (don't delve too deeply) rampaging monkeys came to mind. But it was a content issue that got me thinking about the town i live in, after all, how much can you say about rampaging monkeys? That's a rhetorical question. And so, i thought, 'maybe i'll make a site about Whitstable. it's a great place, i live here, i can write about things, lots of content etc', and as it grew, i really started enjoying it. Here's what the old site looked like - not the absolute original, but the second update - i don't have a copy of the first unfortunately..

An old version of the site

As you can see, it was originally called 'mywhitstable.co.uk', but i soon realized this name was already taken, and belonged to a well-established Whitstable site. So that gave way to 'SeeWhitstable.Com', and off i went, and now it's no.1 in Google when you type in the word 'whitstable'. Wooooooooohhhhhhhoooooooooo! heh heh. I don't mean to sound like a bit of a #!#@#!%, I'm just really quite happy it's doing well, and it's even got to the point now where people are asking whether they can advertise on the site, so, out i've sold, and i've been trying to re-structure the site with a bit of a fiscal slant to see if i can't make a small amount of revenue from my newly found 'marketing platform'.

It's great really. I don't know if anyone remembers 'Press gang'? With the guy from Lock Stock in it, who i was sure was American, but who turned out to be English...... with the curly hair....... also in that show currently running about the hotel where they all try and act slick and get whatever their guests want ..... it's not a very good show...... anyway, 'Press Gang' was an eightees kids' show about starting a newspaper, and i liked it. This feels a bit like that. Which is a good thing. If a tad immature.

I recently went and met with some other Whitstable website owners, (Oystertown.net), and (mywhitstable), and the hammock jokes came thick and fast .... which were actually very funny, (I've sold a few by the way!), but with this site, i'm actually going to try and see if i can make it both a useful resource and financially viable. How do you do that? I'm just learning. I've always looked at business people and thought they come from an alternate I'm-a-go-getter-type-naturally world, where the idea of asking for money for the slightest of service brings no feeling of awquardness whatsoever .... sociopaths..... but now I'm going to try and find out how it works, and it's a whole new learning curve. The world of practical economics - not my forte, but one with which all of us must eventually engage. So here i go. I've made a shops and businesses page, which isn't the most beautiful, or populated of resources, but it's an idea of where to start, and hopefully it'll grow and mature over time.

Hope my little trip down memory lane and ramblings haven't bored you to tears, I haven't written anything in a while, and thought i'd let you know what's going on.

It's been emotional,

Tom

15th February 2007

Speaking of interesting and therapeutic ways to relax .... who likes hammocks?

14th February 2007

Been a while .... i made a page about a flat in Malta that I've been asked to feature on the site, so if you wanna have a look, or fancy a stay on the island, check it out.

Other than that, i've been working on some other websites and doing some temping, the festive season came and went, and now spring's that little bit closer. Whitstable seems to be plodding along fairly well, I've been playing a lot of darts at the Neptune, did a little bowling, found out about Wednesday night open mike at the Smack, it snowed a little, rained a little, and one night it was so foggy that the light from the tennis courts cast my shadow in the actual air on West Beach - it was amazing - a shadow me walking about ten feet to my right - i didn't even know that was possible!

Hope you're all well,

Tom

4th August 2006,
9.01 a.m Main Square outside Statzione Centrale, Milan.

I'm sitting outside MacDonald's waiting the ten minutes before i can get something to eat..... and i know, - come all the way to Italy and eat MacDonald's for breakfast! But i'm tired...... the train from Paris was a little too warm, and the beds....... (just had a phone call), anyway, i'm tired, so i'm after sugary refined tastes right now. I'm sitting at the edge of the square outside Milan's central station, the sun's out, and the place is coming to life. The city's normally much busier than this, - it's the beginning of the Italian summer holidays, and a great swathe of the local population have made their annual exodus to the cooler coastal climes, so Milan's a little deserted, and the annual sales have sprung up all over town, trying to lure back some of the punters. This is a city well known for its expensive tastes, shopping habits, and general love of shiny things. It's mainly upon this slightly material charachter that Milan has built its reputation, don't get me wrong, it has some really beautifull architecture, is steeped in history, and is well known for it's designers and artists, but everything seems very business-oriented here, and the general pace seems in line with any major metropolis. Nice place to visit though, really, and i'm glad to be here this fine sunny morning. Besides, i left my shoes on the train from Paris by accident, so the sales might come in handy. For now, i'm back to the old flip-flops and shorts..... time for some sugary snacks.

Milan Stazione Centrale
A Milan "shopping arcade"
Milan square
Milan "shopping arcade" interior

The route from Salerno to Malta by ferry - that's where i'm heading.....

6.51 p.m,
Rome Termini Station

I haven't actually been in Rome today - apart from to get off the train for a quick smoke - we're just passing through on the way from Milan to Salerno - three hours further south. From there, i'll catch a two-day ferry to Malta where my family live. I'm looking forward to the sea round the coast of Southern Italy, with a stop in Sicily and then Tunisia before making the final leg to Malta. The skies opened during the ferry ride to Calais yesterday morning, and it rained harder than i've seen in a very long while. It looked great though - there's something really magical about heavy rain out at sea - watching all the drops cascading back to their source - grey sea, grey sky, and a merging horizon in the distance. Completely surrounded by water. Very refreshing. It wasn't cold at all though, so i was able to stand out on deck with some tea, take a few photos, and talk to a man from Wales on his way to France where his daughter was appearing in a ballet. I love the way everyone suddenly starts talking to each other when they travel - i guess it's that we're all in slightly unfamiliar surroundings, so we all have something in common, and the social ice is a little thinner. It's nice. Anyway, it was good watching the rain - no matter how hard it hit the sea, and in what quantity, the gentle swell and roll of the water seemed completely unphased, - like a calm mother slowly going about her purposeful business while the children clamour for attention all around her. Very reassuring. I like the sea.
As i've moved steadily Southward, first to Paris, then Milan, and now Rome, the temperature's risen - i didn't get any shoes in Milan by the way, it's far too hot for shoes now, i'll get some on the way back. I did, however, visit the Duomo - the cathedral at the heart of Milan, where the columns leave you slightly in awe at their shear size, and it looks like the dwarfen city from Lord of the Rings. I also had tea in one of the most ornate 'shopping arcades' (i don't know what else to call it) i've ever seen. Good tea too.

rain at sea on the ferry from Dover to Calais
Duomo - cathedral at the centre of Milan
The columns inside Duomo Cathedral The great Dwarfen city.....
At the cafe in the arcade

I just looked out of the window, and it's gone all rustic again. Every so often you see a house or a church which makes you stop and almost laugh at how accurate the fantasy of an Italian rural rustic setting actually is. There are mountains in the background, and a great plain of greenery stretches from them to the train i'm in. The plain is full of farms with rows and rows of olive trees - all in season - short and wide set against the reddish-brown earth. It's as though the little farm houses dotted about are all in a little oasis of their own as they peek from behind the trees which surround them. We're getting closer to the mountains now, and the tops are concealed by low-hanging cloud. The faces look shear, and the mountain-sides unpopulated - all except for one section, where a village seems to be perched on a high-level plateau, overlooking, and secluded from the valley through which i'm now travelling. Must be quite a view up there. There's another one a'top one of the low-level plateaus on the mountain side. This one looks to be mainly sandstone, with an outer defensive wall round its perimeter - it looks almost biblical in the yellow light of the early evening. I love sandstone at sunset - it starts to look like a white-ish gold. We're into the hills now.............

Tom

5th August 2006,
Somewhere off the coast of Italy

 

Found a free sun lounger, so i'm up on deck taking in the breeze. The ferry's on its way to Valletta, Malta's capital, with a short stop in Tunisia, on the North African coast. We'll be arriving in Tunisia at about eight this evening, "Maybe seven", said a member of the crew, "If the wind is good."

I've become a bit of an information centre for the free sun lounger next to me - they're in short supply and high-demand, and previous enquiries as to it's use have resulted in its being left idle as i pointed out its two broken legs. Not so for the last customer, a Tunisian, i think, who shrugged and grinned at my caution, and dragged the chair away to wherever his friends are. The Tunisians make up a large part of the ferry's passengers, all heading home from Italy, and they're sleeping everywhere, and looking really comfortable doing it - inside, outside, wherever there's a decent-looking space, a passenger seems to have made a little home for themselves. They don't seem to be begrudging the fact, or uncomfortable in any way, a whole family's asleep on the landing next to the door which leads to this deck - it helps that it's hot - try that sort of thing on an English ferry, and you'd soon be a popsicle, but here, the weather permits it, and so, the ship and its reclining passengers roll steadily southward with an air of idle relaxation, and un-furrowed brow.

I found a sunlounger, so thought i'd write a bit.......
over the side - salerno to Malta via Tunisia
The big blue shimmer
excellent place to relax

Last night was a different story altogether.... On arriving at the port in Salerno, the queue for tickets was practically insane - 200 or so people at one in the morning jostling for position near the one booth serving both as a ticket office, and a check-in. It took about an hour, and to be honest, i was just glad when it was over and i was on the boat ready to set sail.

Early hours at the Port of Salerno, after a very serious queue.

For anyone who ever comes face to face with this most arduous of queueing scenarios, - be not afraid of its four and sometimes five abreast nature. Tire not as you shuffle inch by inch towards the neon-lit shack. Falter not at the strange cries and smells which abound. For in time, you too shall be checked in, with the comfortable knowledge that even though this was a time of great hardship, and personal sacrifice, all is well, and henceforth, never again shall ye scorn the single-file nature of a domestic queue, and exhault in its virtuous composition. (I've been watching that 'Kingdom of Heaven' again... i really must get out more.)

My lounger's on the upper deck, with the sun behind me, and i'm facing the side of the ship, looking out to sea. On my right, a lower deck is filled with families, sun-worshippers, and groups of hubbley-bubbley smokers in the shade. Another level down to the right, i can see all the parked cars, and further behind them is the back of the ship, and the long trail of disturbed water marking our path. There are a few clouds dotted about in an otherwise clear blue sky, and the sea breeze blowing across deck is keeping everthing nice and cool. I wasn't sure how i'd react to being on a boat for so long - turns out i'm fine with it thank God.

Watching the waves break.. The top deck Front of the boat

There was a slight moment of panic this morning as i realized just how far out to sea we actually are, but it only lasted a few seconds, and then i relaxed. I'm loving it now - everywhere you look there's shimmering metallic-blue sea extending to the horizon. I spent about an hour staring over the side, watching the ship's bow-waves breaking the water into foamy white surf. Right at the front of the top deck is amazing - a limitless expanse of blue water dappled by sunlight - i'll go back there later, and just watch.. I like it here.

2.53 p.m Somewhere off the coast of North Africa

And all at once we came upon a great island, shrouded by mist....

And from its depths, there came a mighty roar........
 

5th/August/2006
Eight minutes to Nine, Coming into Port of Tunisia.

Night is settling in, and the entrance to Tunisia is an enormous natural inlet of water. Mountains lit by the moon mark the left edge, and to the right, bright lights line the coast. Our ship is slowly making its way through the middle, to the main port of Tunisia - the last stop before the final leg to Malta. It's a humid night, the sea has calmed, and people are milling about on the decks waiting to disembark, or enjoying our grand entrance, and the sight of a new continent. This is one of the most Northern points of Africa, and is a hub for trade with Europe. It's amazing how close our two continents actually are - these are trade routes which have been used as far back as is recorded, despite whatever the changing fortunes and times have brought. I'm off to get a better look......

On the way into Tunisia....
Everyone was out on deck to see Tunisia....
Moon over the mountains marking the left side of the inlet leading to Tunisia's main port.

He he, i worked out how to embed sound files..... never tried it before............... New Slang, by The Shins, from the Garden State soundtrack......................

And whilst you're listening to that.............. here's some more photos from my trip ....

Dover cliffs on a rainy start on the ferry breaking waves
man relaxes inside the ferry Eurostar reflection metro doors crossing Paris
Overnight to Milan leaving Paris full speed through the night
sleeping compartment reflection.... and another.... night time stop in Dijon....
three hour stop in Milan. Italian countryside heading South from Milan Rome Termini clock
Reflection at Rome Termini A very scary bridge in Salerno, Itlay, from where i caught the ferry to Malta .. it runs straight over someone's roof garden. Big sea from front of ferry to Malta
Sea reflections off the Ship's bridge window - up front Island near North Africa - everyone was out watching - it's out in the middle of the sea...... Nice tune eh.....
The mountains and moon at Tunisia Tunisia by night. Ball of sun - Malta in the background
Valletta port entrance - Malta Fortifications in Valleta Malta Valletta Harbour - Malta
Ferry arriving - Mum's photos doors opening. Arrived..... thanks Mum!

During my first 5 years in Malta, we lived in Qawra, here's one of my favourite places there......

Qawra beach. The stone is beautiful.. Sandstone
Salt Corner Used to jump from here
Waves Always loved the colour... Me....

Here's the sunsets from this spot in Qawra, and outside my house in Whitstable.....

 

Qawra sunset, from my old favourite spot Whitstable England sunset, outside my house
Qawra, Malta Whitstable, England


After about a week, i went and stayed at my brother's flat whilst he went to Serbia, these are the next pictures i took - from his flat - God bless air conditioning......... thanks Frank and Ivana!

Frank's balcony sweeping right... we're in an area called Sliema... On the left, the coast road takes you to Balluta, about five minutes walk, and then on to Spinola and St, Julian's across the bay Looking directly across at St. Julian's The area at the bottom of the shot is a garden walkway, and sandstone beach - i went snorkelling with my brother Mike.. To the right, the corner is called Exiles, and there's a really nice little cafe/bar there..... if you follow the road, it takes you into Sliema proper...

And here's some of Spinola Bay, across from my brother's flat, and near where my parents live...

Spinola bay, Malta Across you can see Balluta, and Sliema Directly across is the beginning of Balluta, my brother Pete lives near here..... Spinola Bay Paparazzi restaurant, Spinola Bay, further right, and you're into St.Julian's
 
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