Working for unity, cohesion and pride in a community where everybody belongs and in which everyone is free to participate

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Why "A Community In Action"?

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I have been asked this question more than once, bearing in mind that many of the articles, particularly the more recent ones, have focused on issues of national and even international import.

The short answer is that when this blog began I was a community councillor for Isleworth, and the majority of my material was based upon my experiences in that role. Now that I, although still a proud activist with the ICG, have effectively moved on from matters local electoral, it could be said that there is a case for changing the name.

I have resisted the temptation to do so. We are all part of a community, indeed in most cases we are probably part of more than one community. As well as our local neighbourhoods there are also communities to be found on the web - not least on Facebook, communities revolving around work and communities centred on our individual social and sporting interests. Indeed, cliché though it may be, we are more than ever a global community.

It is my hope and aim that readers and users of this blog will become something of a community in their own right. What binds all communities is a common interest and common action. Let's leave it as it is.

Incidentally this blog now has its very own Facebook Page. If you get a moment please click here and like us. Many thanks.

Hounslow Animal Rescue Table Top Sale - ROWE Centre - Saturday, 18th October

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There will be a table-top sale this Saturday, 18th October at the ROWE Centre in Unwin Road, Isleworth to raise funds for Hounslow Animal Rescue.

Opening times are 11.00am till 1.00pm. Refreshments will be on sale, and I believe a nominal entrance fee will be charged with all proceeds going to the charity.

Please come along and give this worthy cause your support.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Leaders’ TV Debates: Middle-Aged, Rich, White Men Telling Us What’s What, Again

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Excluding the Greens and other parties in favour of Ukip will leave the election debates devoid of even a modicum of diversity

by Alex Andreou


Broadcasters yesterday announced their proposed format for televised election debates. Sky and Channel 4 are opting for a presidential style, David Cameron v Ed Miliband head to head; the BBC will repeat its 2010 format which included the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders; and ITV will have the same three, plus the surprise inclusion of Nigel Farage, probably holding a pint of bitter.

This structure has caused much reaction from the four parties involved about the inclusion of Ukip. Farage – displaying the same sort of one potato two potato mathematical complexity that yielded “29 million Romanians and Bulgarians” – reckons if one MP means inclusion in one debate and Ukip wins the Rochester byelection, then surely two MPs means inclusion in two debates. The other leaders have expressed anger at Ukip’s elevation.

What is less clear is what any of them believe should be the position regarding parties that hold the remaining 28 seats in the House of Commons and their exclusion from the debates. The Green party has threatened legal action over its leader Natalie Bennett’s omission. Good on them.

COMPLETE NONSENSE

The inclusion of Ukip to the exclusion of others is complete nonsense whichever way one cuts it. If one goes by number of MPs, questions regarding the exclusion of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish parties loom large. The answer is, I suspect, that these are not national parties, followed by the non-sequitur that they must therefore have nothing to offer to a national debate. For a triumvirate that only a month ago was pleading with Scotland not to break up this “family of nations”, relegating all non-English parties to the children’s table is unfortunate in the extreme.

If one goes by how parties did at the last general election, then the exclusion of the Greens – who had an MP elected – in favour of Ukip is irrational. Perhaps convincing a constituency that electing the same MP wearing a different rosette represents real change is a magic trick worthy of TV. And how about the Social Democratic and Labour party that has twice the number? The broadcasters have cited the recent European election as a measure of Ukip’s popularity and irrefutable evidence of its worthiness for inclusion. But if that is the criterion, one must question the inclusion of the Lib Dems, who polled lower than the Greens on all measures and came a joint sixth with a host of other parties in terms of MEPs.

The only way to justify the inclusion of Ukip in these debates is by somehow extrapolating its future popularity in the next election by looking at meaningless opinion polls. Essentially the broadcasters are saying, “We think they will do well, so we are pre-emptively including them”. It is not up to a TV executive to be making any such subjective assessment. If you want to open the debate, then do so properly. Make it a panel discussion that includes genuinely diverse views.

I am certain that the expectation the inclusion of Ukip might make for salacious TV has also not been far from TV executives’ thoughts. It is the natural extension of the bizarrely dominant idea that if you include a person saying something sensible in any debate, you must also include the polar opposite, even if inflammatory and illogical, “for balance”. Which is precisely what has secured Ukip its popularity in the first place.

MONOCHROME PALETTE

However, the exclusion of parties such as the Greens, the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru has another deeper effect. It excludes anyone who could lend a modicum of diversity to these debates; who might challenge the status quo on the environment, on devolution, on constitutional change, on free-market economics, on gender politics. What we have ended up with – again – is a platform of two, three or four rich, privileged, white, straight, middle-aged, male, career politicians from a tiny part of south-east England telling the rest of the country what is what.

This monochrome palette, this disturbing example of what Grayson Perry recently described as “the default man”, is bad for political engagement and grossly unrepresentative of the country. It ensures that large swaths of the voting population will flick on to the debates, see a pictorial representation of the same dull grey suits talking in soundbites and switch back to Britain’s Got Talent, secure in the knowledge that, if Britain does indeed have talent, politics is carefully sealed from any hint of it.

Reproduced with acknowledgements to The Guardian

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Reunion (Part One)

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Next month I will be going along to a reunion with some old friends and acquaintances from Worple Road Primary School at an Isleworth pub (the reunion is at the pub, not the school). I am really looking forward to it.

Most of those who will be attending weren't in the same year as me, and I probably didn't spend a great deal of time in their immediate company even when I was at school. Nevertheless there is something about the distant past, almost like a gravitation pull of some indescribable kind, which draws me to places and people with whom I spent my formulative years. It's like when I made certain fateful decisions towards the end of the 1970s which were to take me along an erroneous and destructive path for such a very long time a part of me stubbornly refused to join me on this hellish adventure, opting instead to sit back and wait for me to make a safe return to the sanity and security of my childhood days when I had compassion in my heart and the tuneful ditties of the day in my mind and in my soul.

It was one of those friends (who was in my class) who remarked on Facebook recently that there is something uniquely special about the friends we grew up with, and that is so true. As children we see things differently - colours are more vivid, shapes and textures more pronounced. We also "learn" things together which the adult world takes for granted. Innocent things have their own importance and the absence of the cares and concerns of adulthood help us to truly absorb the beauty of all that is around us.

There is a lump in my throat as I write this, so pleasantly unsettled am I by the thought of this impending coming together late in November.

I attended reunions from Isleworth Grammar School in 2001 and Worple Road again in 2002 and they were fantastic and memorable events, but there is something about this one which promises even more. Maybe it is the urgency of the situation that we all feel as we race relentlessly through our fifties. Let's face it, some of our number are now almost within touching distance of retirement!

The only thing that compares with it for me was a series of reunions that I enjoyed with some old friends from my Church youth club back in 1990/91. The down side of those - even those, in the company of my dearest and most treasured friends from the most unique and wonderful period of my life - was the feeling of raw emptiness they left in their wake when the evening was over and everybody had gone their separate ways. We coped with this only by organising repeat reunions, each with less novelty appeal than the last, until one day we all simultaneously kind of dropped the idea.

I don't think that will happen this time. We are a spiritual diaspora, spread around the UK and even the world. We cannot get together every month or two on a whim, even if we wanted to. But neither, I hope, will we leave it another twelve years.

The Tattle

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The Tattle is an excellent 16-page magazine published by a group of residents living in properties owned by Isleworth & Hounslow Charity Ltd., a local provider of affordable housing for people in need who meet certain criteria laid down by the Trustees.

As a former Trustee myself (until I developed my own financial difficulties on a scale which rendered my status with such a charity something of an oxymoron), I recognise the fine work that I&H does. Indeed my wife Caroline still serves on the Board and so I hear enough to convince me of the dedication and hard work of all those involved. The charity manages a number of properties in the local area, with the recently-built Tolson House, in Parthenia Drive off North Street in Isleworth, being the jewel in the crown. Activities provided for residents include a film club, craft sessions, yoga, aerobics, tai chi and regular outings.

The Tattle is independently produced by residents, albeit fortified I believe by support from the charity itself, and even boasts an editorial board of eight people spread out amongst the various properties. The layout is extremely professional, revealing an obvious acquaintance with Publisher technology on the part of the Editor.

Features include articles both about the activities of the charity and its residents, and the local area in general. In the latest issue this is complemented quite interestingly by an informative memoir from a German resident about living with the Berlin Wall.

It is initiatives like this from within the community which come together to create a bond between local people and to define what we are. I wish The Tattle continued success, and hope that other local people might take inspiration from it. Let a thousand flowers bloom, as somebody famous once said.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Clacton, Rochester and the Challenge of First Past The Post

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I had always been certain the United Kingdom Independence Party would win the by-election in Clacton. Every factor that could point in the party’s favour did so:

1. First of all Clacton was, as it happened, UKIP’s most winnable seat in the United Kingdom to begin with, at least according to the people who have ways and means of calculating these things.

2. It was a by-election, which meant voters did not need to have any fears (or hopes) about who would be running the country the next morning. The “Vote UKIP – Get Labour” mantra much beloved of the Prime Minister David Cameron did not apply here.

3. Being a by-election all media attention was focused on Clacton rather than upon a country-wide contest as would have been the case in May next year.

4. The contest was all about UKIP. It was about a sitting Member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, who had resigned his membership of the Conservative Party and joined the Eurosceptic group amid a blaze of publicity. Try as the establishment parties might to focus the discussion on the NHS or the economy, this by-election was never going to be about anything other than the United Kingdom Independence Party and its political programme.

5. Carswell was always going to gain kudos from the fact that he had resigned his seat and reverted to the electorate, to give voters a chance to approve or disapprove his decision to change party mid-term. Let us be in no doubt that as a decision it was tactical rather than courageous. Carswell was smart enough to understand that sitting as an anonymous backbencher for the remainder of his elected term was a sure-fired way of courting defeat at next year’s general election, where conditions would favour the big parties. By raising his profile and winning back his seat by a huge majority he has given himself a good fighting chance of retaining Clacton next May. Nevertheless he and his party were able to make much of the fact that he had been willing to incur a certain amount of risk in going back to the electorate to allow them to have the final say on his decision.

For these reasons a UKIP victory was always on the cards. But the magnitude of the win (with some 60% of the votes cast), considered alongside the fact that an unfancied UKIP candidate in the former Labour stronghold of Heywood & Middleton in the North came within a whisker of also being elected on the same night, has persuaded me to reassess my previously held view that the forthcoming contest in Rochester would prove a by-election too far for UKIP. I now believe, as indeed do the bookies, that Mark Reckless will be back in the House to keep his new colleague company when the votes are counted in Kent.

So will Carswell’s victory be the death knell of two-party system as we know it? I suspect not.

Whilst I would expect UKIP to hold Clacton next year and also possibly to gain South Thanet, where Farage himself will be standing, in the total seats stakes the party will still be languishing some considerable way behind the unfashionable Liberal Democrats, in spite of the fact that it is likely to win more votes. The reason for this is because the Lib Dems cottoned on to the fact many years before UKIP did the same, that disproportionate power can be gained by concentrating all available campaigning resources in a small handful of areas.

UKIP, of course, are talking up their chances of scoring well in May 2015 because, frankly, they have to. The ball is rolling. If they are going to have any chance at all they must at the very least create an air of confidence. The task before them though – the discontinuation of the endless dreary ritual engaged in by millions of voters of voting against the party they dislike the most every bit as much as for their party of preference – is a massive one. Cameron knows what he is doing when he tries to frighten Tory-leaning UKIP voters with the prospect of a Labour government. Expect a significant chunk of the UKIP-friendly vote to revert to the big parties when the real election comes around.

Unsupportive though I am of UKIP’s main policy planks I nonetheless rejoice at the implications for the old system of the results in Clacton and Heywood & Middleton, because there are few evils in modern politics to match the ongoing fraud perpetuated against the voters by the Con-Lab duopoly. But I do fear we have a long way to go yet before we will see, as one day we certainly will, the replacement of the rotten old system by something more open and inclusive.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Scottish Independence: Has Westminster Bitten Off More Than It Can Chew?

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Although I’m not Scottish and I don’t live in Scotland I found myself captivated by the recent referendum campaign, and deeply disappointed by the failure of a majority of Scottish people to reach for the stars when the opportunity was within their grasp.

As a free-thinking activist with a lifetime of experience of fighting against the system under one guise or another I was unsurprised by the manipulation, the dishonesty and the sheer nastiness of the Westminster campaign for a No vote. Not only was no stone left unturned by the three UK establishment political parties and their controlled media, but no stone was not crawled from under as Team Westminster set about its business of trying to frighten, browbeat, cajole and bully the Scottish people out of claiming what was rightfully theirs. The elderly in particular were identified as being vulnerable to warnings that they would be left with no money, no oil, no NHS, no pensions, no hope and no future without the protective arm of the Union wrapped tightly around them.

To begin with, Team Westminster persisted with the pretense that it was actually three teams, each individually fighting the good fight for their own selfless, altruistic reasons. The truth was, of course, that the Tories were a party beholden to a unionist fanbase whilst Labour and the Liberal Democrats stood to lose politically from the loss of their Scottish parliamentary seats. Party before people as always.

Then, shortly before the big day, when a rogue opinion poll bucked the trend by placing the Yes campaign ahead, the three stooges turned up all at once in the obvious belief that their combined celebrity would impress the Scottish people where all the fallacious arguments and threats about currency and EU membership apparently hadn’t. A joint promise of sorts was made, with Scottish people being taken to the Hadrianic equivalent of Mount Hermon and told that all this could be theirs if only they would renounce the credo that is independence.

FEAR TRIUMPHS OVER HOPE

Sadly, on the day fear triumphed over hope. Around 55% (2 million) of the Scottish electorate voted against their own independence, with 45% (over 1.6 million) in favour. This, so the beaming BBC pundits told us, was a death blow to the romantics and the dreamers who had campaigned for self-determination.

What followed next was quite extraordinary. Membership of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), which had been a little over 25,000 on the day of the referendum, rose to 57,000 within a week of the poll. The SNP now has three members in Scotland for every two the Liberal Democrats have in the whole of the UK.

Radical socialists, greens and other pro-independence groupings have urged fellow Scots to support the SNP at the 2015 general election and in the Holyrood ballot a year hence, to demonstrate for once and for all a decisive mandate in favour of independence.

Representations have been made to the appropriate authorities by Yes campaigners who believe there to have been serious malpractice in the conduct of the counting process on September 18th. And social media groups, forums and online chat rooms have veritably exploded with activity, with thousands of otherwise very ordinary and typical Scots (and even a few non-Scots) beginning to discuss the mechanics and logistics of revolution.

As any fool could have predicted, the promises made to Scottish voters by the Unholy Trinity very quickly transpired to be so much hot air, as the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties immediately embarked upon an unseemly squabble about what it really was that they had (literally) signed up to. For the Tories, concessions to the Scots had to be accompanied by similar powers granted to the English so that Scottish MPs would no longer be able to vote on English-only issues, just as English MPs are not currently allowed to vote on Scottish-only matters. The so-called West Lothian question.

PLOY

Typically this was a ploy. In the event of a future Labour or Labour-led government being elected throughout the UK, an English-only parliament with a Conservative majority could basically ignore it on most issues and treat it with indifference. Labour protested, not unreasonably, that there had been no mention of this in the agreement they had hastily signed up to on the eve of the poll.

Labour strategists oppose the question of an English parliament being made into a condition of pledges to the Scottish people being honoured. But then they would, wouldn’t they?

Meanwhile Scotland sits and patiently waits. Assuming the result is not declared null and void, Scotland remains a part of the UK for now but with seething, festering resentment brought forth by righteous anger. The SNP, transformed overnight from local political party to a potential liberating army, bides its time. And Labour, who treacherously led the No campaign in the belief that the continuance of the Union would increase its chances of forming the next Westminster government with the help of Scottish seats, now faces the very real possibility that come next May it might not actually have any.

Macmillan Coffee Morning - Isleworth Working Men's Club, 26th September

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This Friday, 26th September there will be a Macmillan Coffee Morning at Isleworth Working Men's Club, St. John's Road from 11.00am till 1.00pm.

It will include an auction of a signed Brentford FC football and a raffle with first prize champagne afternoon tea for two at The Hilton, Syon Park and many more exciting prizes.

The event is being organised by local girl Jo Manwaring who also staged a similar event last year, which was highly successful. Cakes and refreshments will be available.

Everyone is welcome.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Thought For The Day

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Some people say both our major political parties are identical. Nothing different about them whatsoever.

Of course they are not identical. The whole point in having two parties rather than one is to provide the people with a choice. Those who don’t like one can safely vote for the other. One offers one set of policies, the second offers another. Something is provided for everyone.

Think Punch and Judy, rather than Punch and Punch. They look very different and they are always to be seen fighting for the benefit of the audience. Only those who trouble to look behind the screen will notice that the same guy has his hands up both their arses.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Notting Hill Housing Trust - We Are Not Worthy

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Brilliant. After day upon day of pushing letters through people's doors and then being squeezed into one corner after another of a small, overcrowded flat I finally get three hours to myself to do some important work that has been put onto the back-burner for three months and guess what? An electrician arrives, unannounced (Notting Hill Housing Trust never see any value in making appointments with us lower orders and in the manner of their patronising, pseudo-socialist kind invariably assume that we are always indoors because none of us estate dwellers ever work) and declares that he is going to perform a completely unnecessary "test" on our perfectly functional electrics and "update" some entirely adequate equipment in accordance with sundry (unspecified) new laws. Evidently this involves drilling holes in various walls and ceilings and leaving little piles of dust on every surface he can think of.

Meanwhile a number of serious deficiencies with our flat which were reported eons ago but the rectification of which do not conform to The Plan remain unaddressed. I guess in fairness I should mention one real positive development in the fact that NHHT have finally, after 18 years, installed (nay plonked) some very unsightly giant green tins outside of our blocks which I am guessing are for the storage of our bicycles. They have now been there for two whole months. I am looking forward with eager anticipation to the moment when it finally occurs to one or other of these intellectual colossuses (collosi?) that we will need the keys to them.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Do Not Deport Wadih Chouery

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People who live near or use South Street in Isleworth will probably know Wadih Chourey, whose brothers Joseph and Camil run the long-estabished Joseph's Patisserie opposite Isleworth Public Hall.

Wadih, aged 44, who has Down's Syndrome, has lived in the UK since 1997 when he came from the Lebanon with his parents as his life was in danger from gangs who were victimising him and encouraging him to commit crime on their behalf. Since then he has been a popular local figure, undertaking simple tasks in support of the family business and enjoying the trust and sense of responsibility that this brings. He is happy, helpful and always pleasant.

His parents have both since passed away and as a result of this he faces deportation by the Home Office back to his native Lebanon. His brothers, and his many friends in the community, fear that he would be in danger if he were to be forced to return. He is not capable of living independently, needing help to wash and dress himself.

Local people believe that Chourey has been an asset to the local community, he is integrated and is a popular local figure. His removal would appear to serve no useful purpose to anybody. A campaign is underway to prevent the deportation and this campaign is fully community-led, having been initiated by the Old Isleworth Four Roads Residents' Association.

The decision is currently at the appeal stage and I would invite readers of this blog to sign our petition to say Do Not Deport Wadih Chourey.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Two Nights in Two Towns

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For the past two weekends Caroline and I have taken advantage of extended rest periods at my place of work to spend a couple of individual nights by the seaside – first at Cliftonville, near Margate, and then at Southend.

At Cliftonville we stayed at the iconic Walpole Bay Hotel on Fifth Avenue. The hotel is simultaneously a museum, with antique furniture and artefacts strategically placed throughout, along the corridors and outside each of the rooms. Particularly quaint was the wonderful trellis gate lift which services every floor from the heart of the Reception area.

Cliftonville has a special significance for me as it was the place we used to travel to as a family for our summer holidays when I was a child. In those days however it was much, much different. Then the coastal road was dominated by several hotels run by Butlin’s – Queen’s, St.George, the Norfolk and the Grand – and over many years we both stayed at and used all of these. The hotels operated as a boxed set so that residence in one allowed for full use of all of them, including bars and dance halls, amusements, shops, television rooms and a children’s cinema with doubled up as an entertainment theatre.

TOP OF THE POPS

The mobility between TV rooms was particularly useful. In those days even the best hotel rooms did not have a television provided, and so by having three hotels with three televisions showing each of the three channels one was able to watch whichever side one wished at any time without there being any arguments. My particular penchant at the time was for Top of the Pops, so I would head to the Grand which, if memory serves me correctly, was the appointed venue for BBC1. There I and thirty or so others of a similar age would occupy the small viewing room and listen enthusiastically to the dulcet tones of Brian Connelly or Noddy Holder.



The Queen’s Hotel was on the opposite side of the road to the others and featured a large swimming pool, which later became a dolphinarium. It also hosted a spacious hall in which bingo was played and where I once (unlawfully) won the then immense sum of fifty pounds on the final, Friday night full-house.

Back on the “main” side and almost opposite the Queen’s was a really useful seaside shop, which sold all sorts of stuff from the usual beach paraphernalia and saucy postcards to Ghurkha knives and boxes of stink bombs (“Stinkbomben”, I seem to recall).

A short walk in the direction of Margate took one to the lido which boasted several amusement areas as well as a large entertainment bar where, during the later visits of my Margate period I would enjoy a refreshing (and again unlawful) Sunday afternoon pint of lager whilst listening to the liberating sound of the Wurlitzer. Oddly, my most abiding memory of this period was walking into the ladies’ lavatory by mistake and being observed by scores of puzzled people swiftly departing it again.

This all happened back in the 1970s. In those days Cliftonville was a popular and thriving holiday resort which complimented perfectly the brighter lights and seaside sounds and smells of Margate itself, a mile or so along the road. The Margate experience was epitomised by Dreamland, too grand to be labelled a funfair but too puny to be thought of as a theme park in the modern sense of the word. As well as providing amusements and rides Dreamland was also a zoo. Plus of course Margate had a pier.

TURNER CONTEMPORARY

By the time I visited Margate in the 1990s it had come to a sorry pass. Dreamland had been renamed Bembom Brothers – it was later to change back to Dreamland before closing entirely. The old seaside shop was derelict, the seafront was ghost-like due to the lack of any discernable activity at any of the adjoining buildings and the once proud Butlin’s hotels were no more. One of them seemed to be operating independently, still within the trade, but the character of Cliftonville had altered astonishingly. Whilst I happily acknowledge the duty we all possess towards those less fortunate that ourselves, the number of residents who were clearly living under the local authority’s duty of care, including by no means a few from various parts of Eastern Europe, had altered the demography of the town irreparably. This was no longer bucket and spade territory by any stretch of the imagination. All that seemed to remain was the sturdy old harbour and the hideous early 1960s tower block overlooking Dreamland – apparently called Arlington House – which can only have bypassed conventional planning procedures as no serious local authority anywhere, at any time, could seriously have considered it appropriate development in the surrounds in which it stood.

It is from this low ebb that Margate (and Cliftonville) needs to be considered today. Dreamland is still derelict, but its much anticipated relaunch is well under way (it is scheduled to open again next year). Plans are afoot for Arlington House, if not to demolish it at last then at least to make it somehow less of a slum. The fame and recognition achieved by local girl Tracey Emin and a local connection of some kind with the painter Turner seem to be in the process of transforming the town into some kind of oasis of art. A new building at the old pier head named the Turner Contemporary, observed not unreasonably by Caroline to resemble a large public convenience, opened in 2011 and has already attracted over a million visitors.

The harbour itself has more activity than of old too, with two excellent little bars and a café having been established. Here we enjoyed a couple of pints of Old Rosie cider at the folky Harbour Arms (which at 7.3% ABV meant at all times having to remain alert to the severe drop into the drink from the unfenced harbour wall).



Cliftonville had changed too. The magnificent buildings of my childhood holidays, once proud hotels and later hostels for those in need, are now smart flats. It’s becoming “nicer”, property prices are doubtless on the up, but the spirit and soul of Butlin’s (pre-Bognor megadump) are long departed.

SOUTHEND

Over in Southend I had less to ponder upon. I’d only been there, at most, four or five times, the most recent being in February 2013 when I had checked in for the night at the splendid Ilfracombe House Hotel in Wilson Road before flying to Portugal from the absurdly-named “London” Southend Airport the next morning. Having had a good experience at this modest but wonderfully well-run little hotel on that occasion I took the risk of taking Caroline along on Bank Holiday Monday, and I’m pleased to report that the experience was repeated. Immaculate rooms, friendly staff, a relaxing comfortable bar and unhurried “eat as much as you like” breakfast combined to make a perfect stay in spite of the horrible Bank Holiday weather.

During our stay we took a stroll up the 1.33-mile Southend Pier, the world’s longest leisure pier, and back – all in horrendous driving wind and rain. A nice and very popular café at the head of the pier breaks the mission up nicely, and we returned for fish and chips at one of the many such outlets along the seafront. Those of a less adventurous bent could always take the train, which travels to the pier head every half hour on the half hour, and returns exactly fifteen minutes later.

All in all we did a lot of driving for two nights in two seaside towns, but it’s nice to get away. Next stop, as normal, will be the Isle of Wight.