A Ramsgate Blog 86

This blog now comes to you from Ramsgate. Sorry about the hiatus. I flew back from Ghana overnight and that day picked up the keys and entered our new home. Since then I have been ankle deep in plaster dust. There is a lot to do.

I share the outrage over the lack of a prosecution for the manslaughter (at least) of Ian Tomlinson. On torture and extraordinary rendition, and on policy in Afghanistan, I feel events have completely vindicated me and my efforts. But there are times in life when you need to step back for a brief while from a public role and concentrate on your family, and this has been (and still will be for a few days) one of those times.

I really like Ramsgate. It reminds me a lot of Sheringham, where I grew up, Jamie and Emily went to prep schools in Broadstairs and Ramsgate respectively. It was a great port, from which many historic journeys started. You can still hop on a ferry over to Ostend. It feels vibrant compared to most of our larger seaside towns.

There is of course another side. Some time in the last 20 years, whether by drift of events or by conscious policy of Kent County Council or the Home Office (maybe someone can enlighten me), Thanet became a prime place to dump people the state viewed as problems. Asylum seekers – many of them genuine – drug addicts, rehabilitating offenders, problem families, all found themselves put into the crumbling and unwanted seaside guest houses of Thanet. Some people cashed in – our house was illegally and horribly converted into bedsits. The despair and seediness of it all were brilliantly chronicled in the film The Last Resort.

Ramsgate, of course, is not Margate. But if you need a policeman in a hurry out of hours they come from Margate, as we discovered when we came across a middle aged drug addict attempting to throttle his similarly afflicted partner – who was bleeding from a blow to the face – in Ramsgate High Street at 6pm.

Only the second time I have had to call 999 in my life, and I had only been in Ramsgate 24 hours!

Into this extraordinary mix you then disgorge from the newly built high speed rail link a crowd of largely young professional London commuters. I am in a sense one, though I won’t commute. The attraction is that 70 minutes from St Pancras you can pick up a perfectly serviceable three bedroom house with a good garden for £160,000. Or if you are crazy like us you can pick up a rambling 1834 villa with 14 major rooms, all in a state of decay, and a very large garden for £295,000.

The High Speed Rail Link is really impressive as far as Ashford, running on the Eurostar lines allegedly at 140mph. After that it continues on not so much at high speed, as not as slow as a stopping train. Until the high speed link, trains in the 2000’s took 15 minutes longer to reach Ramsgate from London than they did in the 1890’s.

With its refurbished marina, swathe of new restaurants and official council attempt to create a “cafe culture”, Ramsgate becomes a still more interesting social mix. The one really functional bit of our house was an expensive and comprehensive alarm system – I am scared to fart unless the police come hurtling round. The security bars on our neighbour’s house remind me of living in Lagos. Plainly there are social tensions, at least in the minds of the owners of larger houses.

I know that I feel resentment at all the “foreigners” (ie non-Shannocks) who swamped Sheringham. As a child if I walked down Sheringham High Street, not only would I know everyone I saw, literally half of them would be related to my mum. God knows who they all are now. And Sheringham does not have the brash yuppie-ism of the Marina area at Ramsgate and its pretence at being Cannes, for young locals to make fun of.

But so far I have found Ramsgate people entirely welcoming, and there is at least some anecdotal evidence that the local economy is benefiting. Both the tree surgeon and plumber have told us that most of their work at the minute is from commuters who have just moved down from London. The last couple of evenings I ate in a Lithuanian/Russian restaurant named CCCP, and in an Indian/Bengali restaurant named Spice Fusion which was opened by lads from London who moved down the same day as me.

Ramsgate. The fashionable place to live. It must be – the Murrays are here 🙂

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86 thoughts on “A Ramsgate Blog

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  • somebody

    Thank God for that. I was getting heartily sick of those photos of pineapples etc. Anyway much happiness in your new home. Why so big? Are you going to do B&B?! Nice bracing air for Cameron.

    New Tory MP I see, daughter of Duncan Sandys.


  • craig

    boring bob

    I take your point! I will get back to politics, in the broad sense, soon.

  • ingo

    Keep that non shannock builder away from the marble fireplaces, there’s no rush, its not getting cold yet.

    Make sure you wear masks with all that dust around, you never know what these old buildings contain.

    Do explore the Government grants for various energy saving measures and such like.


    See you early next month, Jamie comes first this time, see whether the bracing seas at Ramsgate compare to Sheringhams gentle waves here in Norfolk. Read the news about NCFC?

    Another thing, sea air makes you thirsty and tired….

  • glenn

    Good to see you back, I was wondering what had happened to you. Sounds like you’ve bought yourself a lot of work there! Good luck with the new house.

  • Strategist

    Good choice! I’m a big fan of Ramsgate. Keep an eye out for the products of the Ramsgate Brewery, some of the finest real ales in the country.

  • Jon

    Welcome back, Craig, and best wishes to you and the family as you settle into the new home.

  • glenn

    I like this… The economy is growing much faster than expected, we hear today on The World At One. “The government says that it demonstrates that it can withstand planned spending cuts.”

    Of course, if the economy was found _not_ to be growing much faster than expected, then this would mean we would need to implement deep spending cuts very urgently.

    What utter chutzpah. Naturally, nobody called them on it.

  • Michael James Reid

    Likewise, I wish you well in your new home. In the seventies I used to live in a village fairly nearby, by the name of Blean. At that period of my life I taught at a school in Canterbury for twelve years. I like Kent a lot and I do hope you and your family settle down to a happy life there.

    On another point, I follow a journalist by the name of Andrew Buncombe. He writes for The Independent. Despite his green armband identifying him as a journalist/reporter he was wounded/shot in the recent violent demonstrations that took place, here in Bangkok, in May this year. In his twitter message for today he referred to an article on rendition that was published in the Independent for today 23/7/10. Since you were very much involved in human rights as portrayed by your book I thought you might be interested in reading the article. The Title of the article is: “Uncovered: Britain’s Secret Rendition Programme”. written by Robert Verkaik.

    I have to say that I am very inexperienced at writing on the internet but I suppose that this is the kind of thing one does. I follow you, since I was impressed by “Murder in Samarkand”.

  • Chin

    Welcome back Craig. Good to have you back.

    While I’m sure you have all noticed the ‘I’ word used by Clegg, and the speculation whether other coalition partners would have approved, I came across this YouTube clip of the moment he says it. Watch Osbourne’s and Hague’s faces. Do they they strike you as someone surprised by his choice of words?


  • Mark

    Good luck Craig- I hope Ramsgate turns out to be an inspired choice; it isn’t as quaint and twee as Broadstairs, and wasn’t as damaged by negative social trends in the 70s/80s as Margate (the Cliftonville end in particular was a favoured dumping ground for social services departments looking to offload troubled kids from care homes at 18, or the semi institutionalised inmates of now closed mental hospitals).

    The weather there is often the best on offer in the UK , except when (shades of John Jardyce) the wind is ‘due East!’.

  • Anonymous

    I turn to this blog for a taste of humanity to sweeten the stench of much of British politics, with insightful comment on current matters, Like you, I find the Ian Tomlinson affair breathtaking/gut wrenching in its bare faced mendacity, and heartbreaking for anyone who thinks justice is important.

    I was hoping for a few comments about what appears to be a slow but accelerating unravelling of the British political establishment, with Clegg’s ‘illegal’ word exchange with your least favourite politician Jack Straw and the Gaddafi/Megrahi/Blair/BP/Scottish government affair coming under the spotlight. The scales seem to be falling from too many eyes now to sustain the massive pretence that makes up the British political system. Time for a colour revolution of our own? I am gratified to see your interest in earthy things. I am going for green.

  • Ben Newsam

    Craig, you poor dear. You have found the real world but it’s all a big mystery to you.

  • douglas leighton

    My identification details seemed to go adrift when I posted my comment.

  • ingo

    So you are going green,at July, are you?

    Consider this lukewarm response from Jenny Jones in quotation marks below, she is a LAM sitting on the Metropolitan Police assembly.

    If thats all we can expect from aprogressive party that prouds itself on its egalitarian principles? Does she say anything aboput democratic accountability, or what she will do to try and sort it out?

    “This decision by the MPS won’t please anyone. It won’t satisfy the family, who don’t have justice. It won’t satisfy the officer, as he hasn’t been officially cleared, just not prosecuted. And it won’t satisfy the police as their reputation will be damaged yet again. ”

    “Time and again, the police appear to get away with serious assault or even manslaughter. From Blair Peach to Jean Charles de Menezes, they aren’t being held to account for their crimes, and it’s damaging to their public image.”

    “A trial for the officer would have tested the reputations of the medical experts involved. I am confident that a judge would come down on the right side of justice.”

  • Abe Rene

    Good luck refurbishing your 14-room house. I wonder whether you intend to set up some kind of human rights institute there.

  • Richard Robinson

    I suspect a lot of seaside towns have this kind of problem ? They specialised in providing temporary accomodation, and now the seaside-holiday trade’s getting out-competed by the Med., etc, so they have take anything they can get, in a market where Councils are the main buyer ?

  • ingo

    Something that should happen all over the country tommorrow, spontaneously at 12 noon.

    Well it will happen here in Norfolk, spread the news and organise your own.

    If we cannot assemple in Londond and demonstrate without being physically apprehended or violently attacked by the police, then we have to do it locally from now on, everywhere, not convenient, easy to control, all in one place actions, easing the logistics for the Met.

    NO, from now on these demos will hopefully happen all over the country and spread their attention, now they have to work for their pensions.


  • Clark

    Congratulations on your move and best wishes to you in your new home. It sounds like a wonderful place with lots of character; I hope you have great fun getting it all fixed up.

  • Ruth

    Congratulations from me too! I know Thanet very well indeed and went to school in Ramsgate. The beaches all over the Isle are magnificent wth their sand, cliffs, rock pools etc. Really great for children. May be I’ll come across you there one day!

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Douglas Leighton,

    You said, ‘I was hoping for a few comments about what appears to be a slow but accelerating unravelling of the British political establishment.’

    With respect, rest assured the political swamp is bubbling with the breaths of a every insightful and aware British commentator.

    Craig has just returned – give him grace – Megrahi/illegal/the Met will burn for a long while yet.

  • writerman

    it’s amusing that Craig has choosen to live in a style and place remarkably similar to where I live.

    I’m not all that keen on having the builders in, and as a kind of therapy, and a change of pace, a rest from writing all day, I decided to restore our villa on my own. Fourteen years later… I’m still at it! It took us at least five years to get the jungle of a massive garden into shape.

    We still have a flat in the city though, when we feel like a ‘holiday’.

  • eddie

    Craig – how odd. I grew up in Ramsgate and left there when I was 21. I still have sisters living there and own a flat in Sandwich. I have always thought it was a place with huge potential and it has an amazing history and some stunning properties (which, if transplanted to London would quadruple in price). As you say, it has become run down in recent decades, and Margate is one of the most deprived places in the southeast, although the Turner centre may help to revive it. Turner painted there, Van Gogh lived in Ramsgate briefly and Dickens lived at Broadstairs. Parts of David Copperfield are set on the clifftop. I hope you enjoy living there and can add some energy to civic affairs.

  • Strategist

    Here’s another top class Ramsgate blog: from Eddie Gadd of the Ramsgate Brewery.

    Well worth checking out – and the latest post on Progressive Beer Duty is a minor masterpiece of the bloggers’ art: the personal and the political.


    But Gadd’s blog has one up on Craig’s: you can buy real ale on it!

  • somebody

    This on the ConDems’ proposal to alter the law on obtaining arrest warrants for the likes of Israeli war criminals like Livni. It would also apply to others. Remember how Thatcher allowed General Pinochet to escape British justice.


    SYNOPSIS – Stuart Littlewood views the UK Conservative-led coalition

    government’s decision to make it harder to prosecute Israeli war criminals

    under universal jurisdiction.

  • Iain Orr

    Craig – Welcome back to the unreal world of the Tomlinson decision and of Jack Straw popping up like a bad smell from a drain.

    Unless you already have it, there’s a housewarming present waiting for the event, with shared memories of Ghana and Ramsgate – strangely, Margate’s neighbouring acronym: are there any other such examples?

    It’s a book for your Grade II listed library: Fran Beauman’s “The Pineapple – King of Fruits” (Chatto 2005).

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