Wednesday, 19 March 2014

You don’t have to be mad but someone has to, a midweek ramble about shops in Ramsgate world wars, insanity art and pots.

Sorry there hasn't been much in the way of blog posting for a while, my children gave me man flu, and although I am recovered now I have had few days where my reality felt like a cold sauna.

In these circumstances like the gluttonous confectioner the bookseller retires into reading his stock of books. In truth I have done little else but read, the direction of my reading is something I have to blame the Turner Contemporary for because the next exhibition there, starting on the 28th of March is to be Atmosphere by the artist Edmund De Waal. On the face of it he is a studio potter who makes expensive pots e.g.  and I approached reading his biography in a spirit of the sceptic and one who would be concerned about the proximity of a very expensive pot.

I looked at pictures of him and his pots on the internet, his pots are rather white and apart from his amber eyes so seems he, sort of difficult to tell where he stops and the white clay begins.

A photo would infringe copyright so a quick sketch of my impression of him.
 Edmund De Waal: The Heir With Amber Eyes, ah yes the book The Hare With Amber Eyes, which is about the history of a collection of Japanese netsuke (bag toggles) he inherited.

Much of his book related to the conflicts of the first half of the 1900s and antisemitism which then got me onto reading the Ken Folletts “Fall of Giants” and “Winter of the World”

I think Ken may look a bit like this, I do a rough sketch of the person I am reading, mainly because I am so bad at remembering names and faces. 

Anyway the direction of my reading took me on to Sebastian Faulks “Birdsong” which is about the trenches in WW1 and then on to his book about insanity in victorian times “Human Traces“ which I am reading at the moment.

This raises the interesting question. Is insanity a necessary component of humanity? i.e. can you get a level of consciousness above animal consciousness without madness being a component.

On to Ramsgate issues. obviously the big one is the imminent closure of Manston Airport, frankly I didn’t think it would be very long before the new owners viewed the spokes of their transport hub, 75% of which is sea and concluded that fish bought few airline tickets.

My take on Manston is that what was most damaging to the local economy was the state of uncertainty. Obviously a thriving regional airport would have involved some employment and local regeneration impact, on the other hand no airport and the end of uncertainty about the amount of future aircraft noise disturbance has its benefits too.

To a greater or lesser extent from the time civil aircraft have flown from Manston, around fifty years ago, Ramsgate has been under the cloud of uncertainty over the potential future aircraft noise. Don’t misunderstand this, I am not talking here about a successful regional airport with a quantifiable future, but the uncertainty that we could easily have say thirty flights an hour.

I would be expecting a considerable rise in Ramsgate property prices based on this news.    

On the shop front things are still very much food focused with another butchers opening in Harbour Street

and an Italian restaurant opening in King Street

In my own bookshop I am reviewing the repricing of the books that I did last year, I have started again on the paperback fiction and although I doubt I will need to do the whole shop again for a while, taking the books of this fairly large section and looking them up on Amazon and Ebay is a very useful way of determining secondhand book pricing trends.   
  As you see it is a fairly large section about 5,000 paperback fiction titles, the average price being about £1.50.

My main competition Amazon and Ebay have had some changes which I have to respond to, I guess the main one being the Amazon Prime £10 minimum spend which seems to have shifted the under £2.81 (the post inclusive price of a book listed on Amazon for 1p on to Ebay.

I am mostly using the cheapest end of "sold listings" on Ebay for price comparison and would say that most secondhand paperbacks can be obtained that way for less than £2.50, the main exception being very new titles and classics in translation, i.e. more Plato with your potato.   

The real disaster area being fairly recent paperbacks where the author isn't well known or only seems to sell in the supermarket, which we put out for 50p the photo is an example of 50p paperbacks on the shelf at the moment. A lot of these don't sell at 50p and make their way onto the 5p shelves and then to paper pulp. 

There appears to be one new non-food shop imminent in Harbour Street.

The Kitchen in King Street is going in the auction with a guide price of £140k see which would assume a rent of about £14k pa, around £300 per week and rates of around £150 rates. £20,000 per year rent and rates seems a tad high to me

I will ramble on here


  1. Good timing by Manston's owners on the day when George Osbourne said this in todays budget "And because we want all parts of our country to see better links with the markets of the future we’re going to provide start-up support for new routes from regional airports, like Liverpool, Leeds or indeed Inverness. "

  2. So, all you anti-Manston doom and gloomers, what do you propose happens now? Much as I'd love to see a return to the farmland and footpaths of pre-WW1, I suspect the reality will be yet more low cost housing with little supporting infrastructure such as shops, bus stops, etc.

    1. I see someone has started a pro airport petition via 38 Degrees, it has nearly three thousand signatures already. Mind you they site facts instead of cite - put me off a bit....

    2. Not sure why it's addressed to Roger Gale rather than Ann Gloag either, but this at least proves how popular the airport really is with most locals.

    3. If 3000 people each put a thousand quid in they could keep it going for another six months. But they won't do that will they? What they really want is for the taxpayer to fund their dream ? They want it to succeed but they aren't prepared to put their own money behind it.

  3. Peter, go on a long bike ride to the former airfield at Kings Hill and you will see what can be done. Shops, schools, doctors and dentists, offices, pub, sports facilities, houses and of course bus routes. Manston does not have to become a housing nightmare,

    1. Sounds nice, but can you really see all that happening just a couple of miles away from both Ramsgate and Westwood Cross? I can't.

    2. I envisage small to medium sized developments linked by pathways either reinstated or created, with trees (and dare I say - bushes) planted either side. Oh, and somewhere to stop for tea and cake, of course, and to top up with garden plants.

    3. Kings Hill, welcome back. I thought you'd moved to West Malling.

  4. I see that Simon Moores is saying that unrestricted night flights is the answer, something I agree with (but then again neither I nor Simon live under the flight path)...

    1. I live under the flight path close to the threshold and night flights would not disturb me, especially in the knowledge that they were bringing prosperity to the town.

      I accept that life is not all about me. Manston was there before I was born.

      Besides modern aircraft are not that noisy, there will not be that many and modern aircraft are getting quieter all the time.

      I used to spend nights at Hatton Cross which is part of LHR.

    2. I've lived next to Margate Station for over 15 years. During the first few months they often woke me up early in the morning, but now I never hear them. So people soon get used to things.

      Besides, I'll miss watching the planes fly over whenever I visit Ramsgate.

    3. Meanwhile we have local politicians doing lots of talking - but only when it suits them! Ian Driver has said that anything built on Manston should create substainable employment, but ignores my questions when I asked him for business suggestions, and Clive Hart said he'll do what he can to help the airport, but ignored my question (on Twitter) when I asked him if that includes allowing more night flights. At least the Tories (Roger, Laura, Simon) have made their thoughts and intentions a little more clear.

    4. I asked Ian driver similar questions on his website. He did not reply and subsequently deleted my question.

    5. Perhaps his vision of what creates "sustainable employment" conflicts with his (current) "Green" status?

  5. Kings Hill: big houses cramped together with postage stamp gardens. If the PR is to be believed Kings Hill is doing well, a commuters paradise, so clearly what they need now is an airport.

  6. Someone on Twitter has asked an interesting question: Can those on the TDC planning committee (ie Kim Gibson) give statements for / against the airport? Anyone?


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