Tuesday 31 August 2010

A Little Local History

I have been working on my history of Ramsgate and have decided that this needs to start in some sort context with the geography of the Isle of Thanet.

It is an interesting thought that after about eight hundred years of trying to conserve and reclaim as much land as we can from the sea, things seem now to moving towards letting nature take its course.

I am wondering if many of the more senior academics working in the field of ecology and the environment were once hippies and have been pondering the line from the Sex Pistol’s song. Never trust a hippy.

It does look as though the worst case scenario in terms of rising sea levels over the next hundred years is about two metres (about the height of the average door) and I do wonder if the simple solution isn’t just raising the sea defences by this much.

One thing I am fairly certain of is that the people who ultimately make the decisions as to whose homes and land is swallowed up by the sea will all be highly paid and be able to afford to live on high ground.

Anyway here is my very rough start of my history, the pictures are small and low definition at this stage, as it makes them easier to manage http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/rh/

Monday 30 August 2010

Ramsgate Bank Holiday Monday, sonic junk and some reflection on digital cameras

After a very slow start I did get out and take some pictures today, what happens to the sensor of my digital camera is mostly akin to bugs on a windscreen, I did my best to get off what I could.

Some thoughts on the pictures, the first lot are at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id18.htm

The arts event people evidently managed to erect the large white tent despite the wind, I thought they could possibly end up stranded there supporting it like caryatids.

ITV were there filming the Sol Cinema, something that has evidently excited the media as it was on BBC Meridian news earlier.

I don’t think the traffic lights were to do with the arts festival, although who knows with modern art, they had been removed from the road and were next to each other on the paved area in front of the clock house, still operating as though directing the traffic.

I wasn’t able to get a picture where you could see one showing red and the other green as these are the newer type of traffic light and the light emitted by the leds is very directional.

The next lot of pictures are at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id19.htm one rather unusual and dangerous aspect of the festivities was the traffic on Harbour Parade, as there was nowhere to park and the road is a dead end its presence there was utterly pointless, however I was told that when they had stopped it yesterday they had so many complaints that they had let it all in today.

I took some more pictures of the pictures on the great wall as the light was good.

There was a moderate sea running and the waves were creating some amusement, for me they were the best aspect of the day.

More pictures at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id20.htm I had recently had my lunch so I didn’t sample the tea and cake at the Italianate greenhouse, but intend to go back and try it.

The Sonic Junk Machine (modified milkfloat) was operated for us and it is likely that I will put a video of this on youtube for people’s edification.
Some thoughts on the arts festival, I am afraid family and shop commitments meant that I didn’t get to see that much of it.

The people I spoke to, both spectators and artists seem to have had a good time and a lot of fun.

One aspect that particularly pleased me was that it was spread over so much of the town.

The only thing that really annoyed me was that I couldn’t get TDC to promote it on their homepage.

This is the second time that Ramsgate and Margate have had events on at the weekend and I have asked the council to promote them both on the council’s homepage, with the result that only the Margate event was promote there.

Sunday 29 August 2010

Sunday Ramble Ramsgate History Book, Margate Lifeboat’s 150th Anniversary and a few other things

I am engaged in the task of producing another general history of Ramsgate in book form, the last time I did this was about five years ago when I produced The Ramsgate Story, on this occasion I started with John Huddlestone’s unfinished manuscript. I think the result has been useful to people, certainly the feedback I have received about the book has been very positive, click on the link if you want to buy it http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/the_ramsgate_story.htm  

Recently several local historians have died taking their knowledge with them, in one case the historians collection of Ramsgate material was lost too. What happened was a case of good intentions going wrong, mixed with there being no really satisfactory custodian for a local history collection relating to Ramsgate.

The historian in question left everything to a church in Ramsgate and in monetary terms the most valuable thing he possessed was of course his house. In practice leaving everything to the church means, leaving everything to the diocese and with the charity commissioners there to ensure that the most money is obtained with some haste, the main objective is to get the house cleared and ready to go on the market.

My understanding is that the diocese has a house clearance firm from out of the area that they always use and I think it likely that the Ramsgate material, which I believe contained among other things the manuscript for a history of the town, was lost. Probably thrown away.

A big problem with local history books is that anything substantial, in this instance I mean anything larger than my staple bound books is liable to be produced in a limited run and when that run has sold it is very difficult to get a reprint done.

The two main Ramsgate books published in recent years being, “The Ramsgate Millennium Book” published in about 2000 and “The Book of Ramsgate” by Charles Busson, published in 1985. Both books are very hard to obtain and would be expensive (in a three figure sort of way) if you can find them at all.

Then there are of course the 130 local publications that I produce and manufacture here in a sustainable way, however I am finding that I am spending much more time answering people’s questions about local history, than getting more information into print.

Much of the problem here is that none of the books about this area have been produced with answering a lot of these questions in mind. One of the difficulties being that many people are trying to run long before they can walk, by this I mean they are engaged in the most difficult aspect of history, in that they are either trying to trace the history of one person, usually an ancestor of theirs who isn’t in any way famous of the history of one building, namely the one they live in.

Anyway for my sins I am trying to write some sort of general history of the town, that also tells them how to use the information, that is available, to help them with this task.

One of the problems with any general history is where to start, you can’t reasonably start a history of Ramsgate from the beginning i.e. the big bang and move forward.

Apart from some of the information not being available, there wouldn’t be much point.

Another problem is how quickly recent history seems to be lost or forgotten, significant things that I can remember in Ramsgate from only 30 or 40 years ago seem to have just vanished. No pictures no one local that remembers them, just gone, a good example is a boat I worked on, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2007/12/friggin-in-rigging.html

The thing was over 100 feet long and over 100 feet tall, was a hive of activity in the harbour for several years and frankly if it wasn’t for the pictures I took, I think Ramsgate’s involvement would have been a lost forever.

Back to now, various pictures on the camera card are publishing to the internet as I write and I will add some comment related links etc as I ramble on.

Due to the rather lazy way I publish pictures to the internet, essentially copying and pasting about 100 at a time to a webpage, when they appear on the internet it is the first time that I see them.

This link takes you to the first page of pictures taken last week http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id15.htm here are my thoughts about them:

Washing off work has started on the Pavilion, well with the workers van actually.

The Pleasurama cliff façade is getting noticeably worse and I do wonder if weeding it will be sufficient before building so close to it.

Once again it looks as though number three slipway is essential to the smooth operation of the windfarm, so I don’t know what will happen if the proposed development there, is built rendering it unusable.

They are rapidly building a new Georgian house in Kent Terrace, on top of the Belgian Café.

The next lot on this page are from Thursday in Broadstairs.

Several rather weak attempts to photograph the squirrels in the park, without a telephoto lens and in poor light.

One of the most electrically illuminated pedestrian crossing posts I have seen yet, only the public sector can waste money by putting one illuminated sign, saying exactly the same thing, a few inches above another.

Here is the next page of pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id16.htm

Our one and only beach hut, that faces the wrong way, is still in operation as a command post for Stalag Ramsgate Harbour, pity they don’t spend the money on a manned diving station, then perhaps some of the Ramsgate lads and lasses would be competing in the 2012 Olympic diving team.

I don’t understand the traffic lights on Harbour Parade, as the only thing in the traffics way there, is the traffic lights.

The teenage adventure park on the Pleasurama site is improving, I am tempted to put my roller skates on and have a go.

The pictures continue with my walk in Ramsgate early this morning.

There are some new problems appearing with the cliff wall adjacent to Marina Road.

I gather that various developments are being discussed with TDC for the Marina swimming pool car park, this will be a very demanding site both from the point of view of cliff stability and storm protection.

I have often put it to the council that this site would be the best for Ramsgate’s new swimming pool, as it would make our seafront an all weather swimming leisure site.

Work on the Marina Restaurant seems to have met with some sort of delay and I am still annoyed about losing the parking spaces there.

The activity going on from the railings, of what was the deck for Ramsgate’s beach huts, is apparently exercise for the rugby club. Gossip about this that I heard on my walk follows: “Some of them can hardly walk afterwards. The homeless couple camping under the deck get a bit of a rude awakening, rugby players and loud music.”

My understanding is that they have refused temporary accommodation as they would be split up, my understanding is that this involves single sex accommodation with drug addicts and so on, I suspect the winter weather will get them in the end.

Some of the rules of the welfare state would be much better if the people who make them had to try them out.

The beach shower on the main sands is permanently turned on with the resultant waste of water, I know if I report this to TDC it will be the responsibility of some other organisation, something that puts one off.

Work is going on to repair the roof of the pavilion, it would be nice if the council told us exactly what is going on with this building, rumour suggests only half a job, leaving the inside an asbestos contaminated mess, with the modern buildings still inside that formed the old casino and night club.

The final page of pictures at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id17.htm

These are of Margate Lifeboat’s 150th celebrations, perhaps I should have been more loyal to Ramsgate and gone to the Summer Squall art festival, sorry to say that if it is a choice between modern art and a lifeboat I have a very good think. If the art doesn’t seem to involve conventional materials then usually the lifeboat wins, as it did today.

As I said before Margate is looking a bit better this year, I think more is being spent on basic infrastructure, roads, drains, etc, than is being spent in Ramsgate, it certainly didn’t feel as depressing as it did last year.

The children wanted to go to McDonald’s and the "Last Airbender" toys that came with the Happy Meals may be the subject of some hazard among the adults, when the children have gone to bed, I will be running the book and may be taking fixing bribes from children as the afternoon progresses.

For those of you without children McDonald’s has nothing to with the farmer oft the subject of song, his name is spelt differently, this is an American food café chain imported with the needs of the young in mind.

Like many things imported from the new world, it contrives some unusual features with its Britishness, the most notable being cold slow, fast food combined with being told to “have a nice day” a phrase that sounds artificial on the Englishman’s sorry unsex me here, or is it now, to quote the bard, as I have been politically incorrect.

This is the first time I have succumbed to my children’s wishes since they have introduced Wi Fi, they have also introduced improved coffee perhaps the two are synonymous.

A word of warning here you have to fill in an online form in order to use it and also succumb to their advertising, the connection time is limited to half an hour, this may relate to usage in America where they have fast, fast food.

I was trying to find out what time the Red Arrows were due in Margate via their connection, when I finally made it I did get a very strong signal and concede that I probably won’t have to fill in the online form, if I ever go there again, but anyway I failed to find this information.

An unfortunate incident happened with my digital camera when I was filming the antics of the RNLI vessels, the batteries failed and while I had it apart for inserting new ones, a rather large wave hit the sea defences, landed in the camera and on me.

I will ramble on some more later I expect, Sunday dinner is imminent, sorry about the rather wide spacing in the post, I am using the new post editor and this happens when you paste from MS Word. I post this way as I touch type quickly and badly, so it is the best way.

I think the pictures of the various parts of the rescue display speak for themselves, sorry about the bits in the camera, strange really there were loads of other people taking pictures, some with much more advanced cameras than mine, I wonder what happens to all the pictures.

Margate now has a dedicated charity bookshop, I couldn’t buy much in the way of books for stock as the prices were too high, but the quality of the stock is very good for a charity shop and the prices reasonable if you aren’t buying books for resale.

I would say that it is well worth a visit for any bibliophiles among my readers.

My children were somewhat disappointed that they couldn’t go into the sea and be rescued by the RNLI so thanks are due the firemen who allowed them to play with their fire tender.

Saturday 28 August 2010

Peter’s New Blog

Peter of Naked in Thanet fame has started a new blog http://thewestbrookwanderer.blogspot.com/ and I have just been enjoying his latest post, a walk from Folkestone to Dover with lots of pictures.

I have used one of his pictures above to illustrate this post and recommend you go and enjoy the rest of them.

Friday 27 August 2010

What’s on in Thanet this bank holiday weekend and some help from the council

There are several events on this weekend in Thanet, I think the largest is Ramsgate Arts Festival, The Summer Squall Festival, I have had a number of emails about this and have published them on the web for anyone interested, click on the link for them http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/SummerSquallfestival/

The festival also has its own website and here is the link for that http://ramsgateartsfestival.co.uk/

I have tried to get the council to mention this on their main homepage but it hasn’t appeared there yet.

From my point of view, because of my interest in local history, the event that most interests me this weekend is the celebration of Margate Lifeboats 150th anniversary here is the link to their press release http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/2010/08/margate-lifeboat-station-prepares-to.html

This event is on Sunday and I will try to get along and take some pictures.

Many thanks to the council who have put it on their homepage.

The picture above of Quiver No.1, stationed at Margate between 1883 and 1898 Credit to RNLI Margate.
I don’t have a great deal about the work of the Margate Lifeboat in the early days, here in Ramsgate we are lucky to have Storm Warriors of the Goodwin Sands that describes the work of the Ramsgate Lifeboat see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/id333.htm
The lifeboats in this area cooperated considerably and there is an excerpt in The Cry From the Sea and the Answer From the Shore, another book I publish see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/id335.htm I have published the relevant bit at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/810/id11.htm

Thursday 26 August 2010

Royal Sands Development, work to start on the Pleasurama site

I have been reliably informed that work on the site will start next month, the first stage will be to set up all the Portakabins site security and so on. This will be followed by the ground works, pile boring pipe laying and so on. Steel frame construction should start by 1st March 2011.

There seems to be some different opinions about what work is going to be done to the cliff façade, the nearest I can get at the moment is that the council will probably replace at least one more block panel and they may well weed it again.

There seems to be no doubt that the development will still be very close to the cliff, something that I am not at all happy about. There also doesn’t seem to have been a proper site-specific flood risk assessment.

Over the past six years during which I have had an interest in this development there have been several announcements that work on it was either going to start, or even in one case that it had already started, frankly on those occasions I was unconvinced.

This time the information has come from two sources, one from within the council and another from the contractor that actually intends to carry out the building work.

I can only say that I am fairly convinced that work is actually going to start this time.

At the moment what I shall be pressing for is some sort of drop in session, at some prominent and accessible venue in Ramsgate, so that local people get some chance to get some idea of what is going to be built, what building materials are going to be used and so on.

One very important factor that seems never to have been properly addressed is what it is going to look like from above and how the view from the bandstand area of the cliff is going to be effected.

The two main concerns with this development are the development’s safety and appearance and I think it would be fair to say that were the plans, that I understand are going to be built to, presented today, they would be rejected on both counts.

My main safety concern relates to the stability of the chalk cliff and the condition of the concrete cliff façade, however I don’t think this would count for much even were the plans to be presented today.

I won’t go into this in detail again here, pretty much everyone in Ramsgate must know the council have spent around a million pounds on having the cliff façade repaired and painted. Anyone who wants to can look at the condition of it now and make up their own mind as to whether or not they think the work is satisfactory.

The safety consideration that would have had to be addressed were the plans to be presented today is the flood risk, the environment agency have designated this as a flood risk area.

The following is what they have to say about it:

“The land is in an area that has a significant chance of flooding which means that the chance of flooding each year is greater than 1.3 percent (1 in 75). This takes into account the effect of any flood defences that may be in this area.”

Anyone who missed their assessment of the site can read it at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/ea/

The bottom line here is that if the planning application was made today a professional assessment of the flood risk would have to be carried out and its recommendations adhered to.

The council tell me that they have ticked all the right boxes that were required when the planning application was first made and there is nothing they can do to force a flood risk assessment to be carried out before the work starts.

Of course while the situation is as it is now, the development will to a lesser or greater extent be blighted as it is being built without following strong recommendations from the environment agency.

I find it particularly concerning that the developer appears to intend to proceed in this manner, after all a flood risk assessment could show there was no problem or could require relatively minor modifications to the design.

To go ahead with a twenty million project without first having this assessment done seems like driving a Ferrari around without insurance, in fact it just doesn’t make sense.

Since the plans were first submitted there have also been additional restrictions to what can be built adjacent to a conservation area and I don’t think that the plans would comply with these either.

Oddly enough when the opportunity to pull out of this development came up last year, because the developer had failed to comply with aspects of the development agreement. The decision was put to the council cabinet with a recommendation from the council’s director of finance to pull out.

Well I suppose we all know what happened and I would say that the decision to continue with the development rests firmly with our elected representatives.
It’s my day off today and I will add to this post as and when I get time.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Thanet District Council Snub Broadstairs Water Gala

It is Broadstairs Water Gala today and I have been badgering the council to promote it in some way that is noticeable on the council’s website.

I know that I keep going on about this but it is very important, in this age when most internet sites are about intense advertising and promotions based not on what is good but on who has paid the most, dispassionate local government sites are an important source of local information.

In a general sense going to a district council’s website should be an accurate way of finding what’s on in that area, in Thanet this just isn’t the case.

With the council’s website hompage what is there, that is much worse that no information, is wrong incomplete and misleading information.

On the right hand side of their homepage http://www.thanet.gov.uk/ they have a section called “Events” the top event is “An evening with World Tree Music 27 August 2010” this event has actually been cancelled. It has been rescheduled for 22nd October, although this information isn’t available on the TDC website.

There is no mention there of the main TDC funded event this week “Dunkers and Dippers” and no mention of today’s main Thanet event Broadstairs Water Gala.

Dunkers and Dippers does come up on their header banner, providing you have installed the right software and are prepared to wait long enough for it to appear.

Before I go into what the council has done wrong, I will outline what they could do right, with a couple of hours work using free internet facilities, something that would both save them money and make the site work properly, giving much more accurate and up to date information.

First the search box that doesn’t work properly, this needs replacing with the free Google one, like the one on the sidebar of this blog.

TDC as a “government agency” qualify for a free one without advertising.

Next the press releases, these need to be published directly by the press officers, a blog embedded in the TDC press releases page, with all the press officers “team members” and either comment moderation or comments turned off would do this for free, as would plenty of web publishing freeware.

Next the “what’s on” the same solution for the press releases would work fine here, obviously the tourist information team would need to be the ones with direct access to the web publishing. After all they go to all the main Thanet events and erect their information tent, something that must be considerably more expensive than putting the information on the web.

Now what has gone wrong.

The business with the search facility is ongoing I have tried to use it on and off for the last few years and occasionally pointed out to them that it doesn’t work properly, sometimes they fiddle about with it but it is obvious that they lack the resources and experience of Google in the web search business.

They have several options with Google search facilities, the basic one that is free performs about twenty times more efficiently that the TDC in house solution does on the occasions that it is working at all.

Press releases, I had a long and rather tedious attempt to get them to sort this problem out last year and they have come up with a sort of half solution.

I don’t think they liked the idea of embedding a blog and just letting the press officers get on with it, the solution was free worked properly and meant that the IT officers never had to bother about the press releases again.

The problems that I identified last year were that the pictures that the council take to accompany releases either just vanish or only appear as thumbnails, that sending the information off from the press release department to the IT department for publication caused delays and mistakes and that the releases didn’t have feeds. The only thing that really seems to have improved is that they now have feeds.

Events there are many solutions here, plenty of them are free, but in the end all that is required is just what’s on for the next few days listed in date order.

What the council IT bods have tried to do here is produce an automated system to list events, using it the phrase that comes to mind is “beam me up Scottie”.

The first problem here is that computers just can’t differentiate, by this I mean that they can’t easily tell the difference between a quiz night where 50 people may turn up and something like Folk Week where 50,000 people may turn up.

There is also the business of surrealist events one of the events listed on their homepage Murderers Magicians Madmen & Monarchs 16 September 2010 doesn’t appear to have a location. It says when it is even what it’s about and who the lecturer is but not where, once again this is what happens when a computer lists events.

I am adding to this one in-between bookshop customers, I have put the post up incomplete to remind people that the gala is on today.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

70th Anniversary of Ramsgate Blitz



It is hard to imagine that seventy years ago today a bombing raid in Ramsgate killed 29 people. Hard also to accept that these events are slipping from living memory, when I was a child “the War” was a major topic of conversation among all of the adults, now for the most part it is becoming hazy memories of the very old.

Ramsgate is peculiar in as much as it was pretty much the first town in the UK to be blitzed, it is also among the last to lose its bombsites, with several still remaining after all this time.

I publish a booklet about the 1940 raid and most of it is available on the internet, click on this link for it http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/1940/id3.htm if you want to buy the booklet click on this link http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/id130.htm

A bit of an odd approach I know, either buy it or read it for nothing, but there you go.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Ramsgate Lifeboat Open Day 2010

Despite the peculiar Ramsgate climate, although there were times today when it was thunder and rain the sun is now shining, we did manage to get to the lifeboat open day.

I took the inevitable pictures and the children had a wonderful time playing with a real lifeboat.

The pictures are at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id14.htm they may take a while to appear as my antique laptop is struggling a bit.

Looking at the lifeboat station with my booksellers hat on I noticed one of the books on their bookshelves is “Storm Warriors or the Ramsgate lifeboat at Work on the Goodwin Sands” I publish a cheap reprint of this book and have published a fair chunk of it online, click on the link to read it http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/storm/index.htm

Oh and last years pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts4/id16.htm for anyone who wants more.

Thanet District Council’s website.

Once again a look at the council’s website, homepage, I hope this isn’t going to become a weekly occurrence.

I have heard in rather a roundabout way that the council’s IT department has been trying to resolve the issues that I have highlighted, so this is for them, and I hope it explains more fully what is going wrong.

First the search box, there is something the matter with this, although just what it is defies ordinary computing and seems to relate to what it does to your browsers cache, I am using Internet Explorer version 8, fully updated. This is what most people are using at the moment, I have tried this on more than one computer.

First off their search box didn’t work at all, returning no results for the word “Thanet”.

Next I tried clearing the browsers cache, after which it worked like it usually does, when it works at all, by this I mean that it returns about 20% of the results that Google returns for the same domain http://www.thanet.gov.uk/

I next tried using the advanced facilities on the councils webpage that comes up when the search box works at all, to be precise I tried searching by “date most recent first” I got one result for this and then tried a different search word “Pleasurama” this took me to an error page url, I have copied this onto a webpage as it is so long click on the link for it http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id13.htm this link takes you to the copy of the error page just in case it has vanished http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id12.htm

Next the strip of links called “Events” this is another really bizarre feature of their homepage as it doesn’t seem to list any of the main events happening this week.

I have looked into the coding of this part of their website and this bit seems to work automatically from feeds, in the same way that the recent posts on other blogs links on this blog works.

Since I first mentioned this, these events have been revised so that they now show both when and where they are taking place, this is some improvement.

The real problem stems from the pages that these feeds come from, this is a website within the council’s main website called, “Thanet District Council Community Information Portal” the url for this is http://communityportal.thanet.gov.uk/home/

When it comes to unusual websites this one ranks fairly high, as soon as you arrive and discover that the latest news is dated 13/07/2010 there are only two other news items and one is dated 2008.

Even the link to the TDC homepage doesn’t take you there, it seems that this site is the result of some sort of EEC grant funding. One hears about aspects of the EEC that are just plain crazy and I suppose this one is just another example.

What though is totally bizarre is that selected events than seem to be taken from this site within a site and put on http://temp.thanet.gov.uk/events.aspx?eventid=100 or perhaps they get there automatically, one way or another they produce the feed http://temp.thanet.gov.uk/feeds/EventRSS.aspx that seems to produce the list of links on the TDC homepage.

Following these events through though takes you into a bizarre world where very little makes any sense the first event “An evening with World Tree Music 27 August 2010” has the url for the Minster in Thanet website, http://www.minster-in-thanet.org.uk/index.shtml this isn’t even presented as a proper link but copying and pasting it gets you the site.

Following this through to their What’s on in Minter page you get the information:

Friday 27th August World Tree Music CANCELLED NEW DATE 22nd OCTOBER.

The picture is of a Chatham House production.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Cyril Parfitt exhibition Ramsgate Custom House now

There is a two day exhibition this weekend of Cyril Parfitt’s work in The Custom House Ramsgate, I managed to nip out of the bookshop for a mo this morning and take some pictures of it, click on the link for them http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/810/id10.htm this link takes you his website http://www.cyrilparfitt.co.uk/

Don’t forget when visiting this exhibition that the Sea Art Exhibition is still on in the Belgian Café that is almost next door.

Sorry the camera doesn’t do justice to his work, I hope to get a chance to have a longer look tomorrow.

Albion House Ramsgate, Cash in Your Attic?

Many thanks to one of my readers who sent me pictures of chairs and other furniture from Albion House going off to auction in Canterbury.

Friday 20 August 2010

Thoughts from the maize maze

Yesterday was my day off and being the summer holidays some sort of entertainment for the children, that didn’t leave the adults mazed, was required.

One of the things that is very effective at this time of year is the maize maze http://www.quexpark.co.uk/default/quex-maize-maze.aspx at Quex neat Birchington, this costs £1.50 per person, the more adventurous adults can join in, while those of a more sedentary nature can remain outside the maze.

I opted for the maze, it is big enough and complex enough to get lost in and I can recommend it for that purpose.

I have to admit to a steak sandwich at Quex Barn first, children’s meals there are £5 and it is a very easy place to eat with children in tow.

While sitting there waiting for children to eat up I spent some time researching Manston Airport on the internet, this was supposed to give me a clearer idea of the drinking water issues there, what I turned up instead was that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is due there today.

With the peculiar failures of the councils main website http://www.thanet.gov.uk/ and their tourism website http://www.visitthanet.co.uk/ it is surprisingly difficult to find out what is going on here in Thanet. I also use the sidebar on Eastcliff Richard’s blog http://eastcliffrichard.blogspot.com/ and http://www.kent.all-in-one-place.co.uk/

This is one of those gritty problems, I just don’t have time to do a what’s on in Thanet website and the council seem to be spending our money on doing this, but missing many of the important events that are on in the next week, while at the same time promoting events that are on at some random time in the future.

The main problem here is that people from outside the area would normally expect council run events websites to be inclusive and therefore trust them. By this I mean that if the councils websites doesn’t list important events, then people are inclined to assume that those events don’t exist and to look no further.

The main events, for the next few days, that I have noticed and that they seem to have missed altogether are the Manston flypast today, and the Ramsgate lifeboat open day and fishing boat race on Sunday, see http://www.ramsgatelifeboat.org.uk/rl-home.htm

Perhaps they just didn’t think them important enough, the Battle of Britain, the lifeboat and the local fishermen, this would seem unlikely. Perhaps they didn’t know about these events, the Manston flypast did seem to be a bit elusive but Ramsgate Lifeboat open day and the fishing boat race are annual events, click on the link for a few pictures of Ramsgate Lifeboat open day last year http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts4/id16.htm

Anyway so much for thoughts from the maze, here are the pictures that were in the camera http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/810/id8.htm including some taken in the maze, not very exciting visually as it is all maize.

Anyway I armed myself with the telephoto lens today and went out to try to get some pictures of the Battle of Britain memorial flight. I didn’t get any, either I missed them or they didn’t come over Ramsgate, perhaps they didn’t come to Manston at all.

I did after practicing on some sparrows in the garden manage to get some of the boats taking part in Ramsgate week, here they are http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/810/id9.htm

Now a strange reflection from the maze of life. There are several pictures in this week’s Gazette that are attributed to me, strangely enough they are not mine. The local papers do often use my pictures and sometimes they don’t credit them so I suppose this makes up for that.

Thursday 19 August 2010

The Great Wall of Ramsgate More Pictures of More Pictures

Here are the next lot of pictures I think they went up at the end of yesterday click on the link for the pictures of the pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id11.htm

Oh and here are the rest of them if you missed them http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/Julylaptop3/id9.htm

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Kent International Airport Drainage Discharge Consent

This Environmental Permit application consultation began today and closes on 15 September 2010.

The link below gives details about where you can view the application and where to send any comments that you may wish to make.

Additionally, an advert will be appearing in the Thanet Times this week to advertise the consultation period to a wider audience.


for anyone interested I have put the application up on the web at http://www.thanetonline.com/kia/id2.htm most of the interest is in the letter at the end.

I have put up odd documents about this before at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/drink/ and have had a glance at the latest consent.

100,000 litres seems to be an adequate interceptor to protect Pegwell Bay the largest planes flying to from Manston hold about 250,000 litres of fuel I seem to remember.

What does concern me though is the runoff onto the grass as this goes straight to our underground drinking water reservoir beneath.

Here are some of the plans http://www.thanetonline.com/kia/id4.htm that go with the text, there may be others to come the documents are not easy to unscramble and convert into something that opens in a conventional webpage.
There is rather a lot of information coming my way at the moment, I have decided the best thing I can do is just publish it as I get it, any help interpreting it would be gratefully appreciated
The picture is from the book that I publish Twilight of the Pistons see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/1997_twilight_of_pistons.htm

Monday 16 August 2010

Pleasurama, Royal Sands Development Ramsgate Development Agreement

I have finally got around to this very large document and am working through it, I did ask for it in digital format but what I got was a big pile of paper.

I have been photographing the sheets of paper in-between customers in the shop today and have put what I have done so far on the internet at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/pda/ the links there take you to different sections of the document.

I don’t really know if anyone else wants to tackle it, however I am fairly certain that if I only put up the parts I think are relevant there will be a lot of anonymous comment saying that I am editing it to prove my point of view.

Well I suppose I should state my point of view once again and I will try to do so here as I get time.

Well I suppose the links along the bottom of the post Cardy Construction Limited, , , , give a fair idea of my point of view, so you can always follow them.
This development that never actually starts, certainly blights Ramsgate and I suppose one of the worst aspects of it is that while the delays go one year after year, the fact that the developer doesn’t allow the empty site to be used for anything that would help Ramsgate’s economy is something the concerns me the most.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Sunday Ramble, council’s website, drains, blue flags and more.

First I thought I would check the situation with Thanet District Council’s website homepage that I covered last Sunday.

I tried the search box at midday today and neither the search terms “Ramsgate” or “Margate” returned any results, I have tried it a few times during the last week sometimes it worked partly and sometimes no at all.

I am not going to write about all of the things I mentioned in last weeks post see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/08/sunday-ramble-about-thanet-district.html a few of the minor things I mentioned last week have been fixed, but none of the major problems have been fixed properly.

The only fairly large change is that they have removed the strip of picture links to their Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/ThanetCouncil this was a sensible move as they just haven’t been keeping it up to date.

I have been, I think, reliably informed that the drains in Harbour Parade have been fixed, I will be requesting some technical details about these, I already have an official complaint about them with TDC that I put in a few weeks ago, when I warned them that there could be a problem.

This sort of thing is often difficult and is to do with being an engineer in the head, this is all a bit “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and I suppose that those of you who have read it have some idea of what I mean.

For those of you who don’t I will try some sort of explanation. I used to be an engineer, I won’t humiliate any universities or companies involved here, just say that things were somewhat more flexible in the 1960s and 70s and I got about a bit. Eventually I moved into the world of bookselling and by 1978 I was a charter bookseller running an independent bookshop. Engineering though is a state of mind that means you see things in a different way, you just can’t stop doing this, the complaint to the council was due to a smell of drains where there shouldn’t have been a smell of drains. This suggested to me that the surface water drains were backing up contaminated and needed looking at urgently, the reply that I got from the council’s engineer however seemed to imply that he was treating my observation as though it had come from someone who is not an engineer. All very difficult and I am afraid this may result in the council receiving a bill for compensation, that it can ill afford, from the businesses that were flooded.

I am afraid that the council have had a string of engineering observations from me over the last few years, some have resulted in action, like the bulge in the Pleasurama cliff façade, some just get ignored. This is all rather difficult when say it relates to observations involving a council owned structure that I think may collapse killing people in the process, the councils argument is rather along the lines of, it hasn’t collapsed yet so everything is OK.

Sometimes of course I actually get to talk to the engineer involved and then I get proper answers that I understand, this can even result in helping to identify solutions. As an example of what I mean, I will give you the case of the recent sewage pollution incident at one of out Blue Flag beaches, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/08/blue-flags-summer-sewage-sand-and.html if you missed it.

“From a purely engineering point of view, what happened was this:

Pump failure 10 July Military Road pump station, engineer sent; wet well went to high level, 120 to 150 Litres per sec sent to Wetherlees.

Wet weather between 02.00 and 04.30 12th July 7.6mm rainfall. Pump No. 2 failed 02.00 resulting in emergency discharge early am.”

Anyone who couldn’t follow that, please leave any questions as a comment.

So early on the 12th of July Southern Water would have know that there had been a spill of sewage into the sea from the outfall pipe next to Port Ramsgate, as this is between two bathing beaches, whatever the tide and wind conditions this was likely to cause a beach sewage pollution incident in Ramsgate. My guess is that this would have been a problem for up to 48 hours after the discharge, but it’s only a guess testing this theory would be fairly easy.

Now what should have happened is that Southern Water should have contacted Thanet District Council early on the 12th July and the council should have taken down the blue flag and put up a brown one. Sorry I am being facetious or is that faecesious here, what the council should have done is taken down the blue flag and put warning notices at beach access points, tourist information centres and told the life guards to stick up their no swimming flag.

What actually appears to have happened is that as the unglorious 12th was on a Monday this happened to be the day that the environment agency do their seawater quality tests – if this had happened on another day of the week I don’t suppose anyone would have been any the wiser – the test for Ramsgate Main Sands showed high levels of faecal coliform bacteria levels (poo).

When Southern Water and TDC received the result of this test (eight days later, after the problem had gone, the test the following Monday had an OK result) the matter was looked into.

Anyone still reading this should be aware that I am adding to this bit at a time between doing other things, a walk down to Harbour Parade, some games of pool in The East Kent Arms, lunch BLT sarni from Netto etc.

What I am writing is much more about trying to frame questions and recommendations for the EA, Southern Water, TDC etc. and I will put the post up now and probably add some more to it as things occur to me.

Here are the pictures I took during the day so far http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id10.htm

Trying to keep on track here I think this is a good place to state my objectives.

1 That people swimming at a Blue Flag beach shouldn’t expect the water to contain excessive quantities of sewage.

2 That Ramsgate and the other Blue Flag beaches retain there Blue Flag status.

3 That 1 and 2 are achieved without considerable extra expense.

What I think has gone wrong here is that although all of the proper things are done at the level of employees who actually do things: the Southern Water engineers have proper warning devices and keep proper records; the environment agency samples are properly taken and the laboratory tests are properly carried out; the lifeguards put up the red flag when they are told it isn’t safe to swim. All of this is fairly expensive and relates to properly trained and qualified people, hopefully being paid fair wages. The problem has occurred at management level, by this I mean we have paid for all of the proper things to have been done to protect us but the administration has failed to put into place a proper system of communication and behaviour ensuing from the communication.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Monster Bass, Jazz, Funfair, Flooding, Photos, it’s all happening in Ramsgate today

Some thoughts on today’s lunchtime photos.

We had a minor rain shower today, not like the serious ones that flood the cellars of the businesses in the town centre or turn King Street outside my bookshop into a river.

Some of you may remember my posts http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/06/sewage-in-ramsgate-harbour-update.html


and so on.
I think there is just the possibility that the council’s actions i.e. capping of the surface water pipe that was draining into the harbour may have contributed to the surface water draining into the cellars in Harbour Parade.

The fish restaurant in this picture is called Atlantis, possibly this was tempting fate.

How very kind of Margate Town Partnership to put on this event for us.

I did wonder who had broken into the Pleasurama site until I saw the diving suit, I don’t normally mention this sort of thing, but as it is now obvious, good padlock but the gate just lifts off.

Southern Water were much in evidence today, one way and another

As was Atlantis.

The mayor and mayoress Dave and Liz Green got the full camera treatment see the rest of the pictures.

Proud Seahorse is one of the Jazz venues see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/Wantsum2010/

Click on the links below for the rest of the pictures

There will be more to come.
More pictures at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id9.htm it was a long shop day today, we did manage to get out for a bit at the end and before the next shower.

Looking at the pictures, it is pretty obvious that putting the fence along the shoreline didn’t work, I wonder what happened when they found out.

The children’s pedal cars on the roundabout must be pretty old, they don’t make toys that strong nowadays.

The amount of police and security guards at the monster bass, wantsum jazz is really quite amazing as this was about six in the evening the likelihood of some sort major security problem seemed unlikely.

This is very strange as later in the evening when groups of people who are often very drunk make their way to the takeaways up my end of King Street, there is usually no police presence.

Perhaps antisocial behaviour is deemed to more acceptable in other parts of the town.
We were hoping to eat in Age and Son or Eddie Gilberts but both were fully booked, so got a takeaway at The New Hong Kong in King Street, £17 always good value.

Friday 13 August 2010

Thanet District Council Snub Wantsum Jazz Festival, Red Arrows, Lark in the Park and Ramsgate week but push Monster Bass

Lots happening in Ramsgate this weekend, first the free jazz festival, nothing on the internet about this and certainly nothing on the council’s website, or at least nothing I could find apart from some bits in the monster bass program when the jazz festival is performing on the main stage. Anyway I have done what I can from available material see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/Wantsum2010/ for program and pictures, any more material, just send it to me and I will stick it up on the web too.

Monster Bass loads on the council’s website about this http://www.thanet.gov.uk/news/latest_press_releases/monster_bass_preview.aspx and http://www.thanet.gov.uk/leisure__culture/monster_bass.aspx oh and the program here http://www.thanet.gov.uk/leisure---culture/monster-bass/programme.aspx

The Red Arrows are at Manston too and I just got some pictures of them over Ramsgate click on the link to see when they will be flying over http://www.raf.mod.uk/reds/teamnews/index.cfm?storyid=6000DA52-5056-A318-A8D6D0657E3BEC1F nothing on the council website about this either.

Sorry the pictures of the Reds are a bit fuzzy, I didn’t have the right lens for plane spotting with me and I suppose I wouldn’t have had time to put it on the camera if I had, click on the link for today’s lunch break pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/810/id7.htm

Here are a few thoughts on them, from the top:

Ramsgate town centre was too busy to take pictures.

Tourist information centre another council owned asset empty, no rental income, carbuncle on the town, no apparent advertising of it as available.

Harbour Parade closed to traffic and a fun fair going up.

No sign of the Maritime Museum opening for the events this weekend.

Red Arrows over Ramsgate.

A large area of the beach has been fenced off and I think we are in for a bit of a blow this weekend so that should be interesting.

Ramsgate Week starts Monday and no mention of this on the council’s homepage either.

Click on the link for the Ramsgate Week website http://www.rtyc.com/ramsgateweek.htm

Lark in the Park is in full swing at Government Acre click on the link for their website http://www.larkinthepark.com/Groups/74716/Lark_in_the/Ramsgate_Lark_in/Ramsgate_Lark_in.aspx

I know that I am rubbing this one in a bit, but this is what the council are promoting on their homepage see http://www.thanet.gov.uk/ today, the links are copied from there.

Monster Bass comes to Ramsgate

Millmead Childrens Centre Surestart Summer Fete

An evening with World Tree Music

Lions Fete at Victoria Gardens

National Blood Service - Birchington Village Centre Association

An evening with World Tree Music

Quiz Night24th Annual Model Ships Rally

Coast along for Water Aid Saturday 11 September 2010

Walk On The Wildside

Murderers Magicians Madmen & Monarchs

Margates Big Event

There is nothing wrong with the events, but only one of these events is on this weekend and two have already happened.

Thursday 12 August 2010

The Gardens at Quex Park

On to the gardens, I really did need to walk off my excellent lunch and these are my favourite gardens, the first lot of pictures are at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id5.htm I will try to something about them.

One of my ancestors was a gardener, unfortunately one of my parents generation, all of whom are now dead leaving me in the rather exposed position as the eldest survivor. I now wish I had listened more to what he had to say when he was alive.

Apart from the first few pictures taken waling across the lawn, the rest here are in the walled garden.

Having looked at the pictures there really isn’t a lot I can think of to say.

Here is next page http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id6.htm and where as I could have had a go at describing my lunch and why I liked it, even the art there and why I like that, this garden and why I like it is is definitely beyond me. It needs Wordsworth – not the Graham Greene character, the poet – no actually I am not that keen on him perhaps Blake, I really am out of my depth here.

Here is the next page of pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id7.htm still of the garden, ah yes there were some very big leaves, I tried to give some idea of the size by putting my hand in the picture. Idiot that I am I then realised that no one would know what size my hand is so I used a pound coin.

This next page is back in the main garden http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id8.htm sorry two pictures are in their sides, it’s the first time that I have seen them too.

I have done some blog posts and put up some pictures, linked to the posts, of Quex before so if you want more of this sort of thing here is the link http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/search/label/Quex%20Park

My Little Pony, but not for lunch, at Quex Barn

More of my day off, lunch at Quex Barn, I had the two course £10 special, it was so good that I had eaten the first course, rump steak with trimmings, before I remembered to photograph it.

The picture is of mi afters, bread pud, I don’t aspire to being a foodie, but I know what I like and I like the food, atmosphere and good WiFi connection at Quex Barn.

They had an art exhibition on the walls there too, another good place to display artists work. I liked some of the pictures too, but after various comments I have made about the Turner Contemporary I think I would only get into trouble if I let my aspirations as an art critic run amuck.

Oh and I did give a sugar lump to the pony, he was rather friendly and rumbled at me in an equine sort of way,

Link to the pictures, the pony was right in front of the window that was in front of our table http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id4.htm

Westgate on Sea in Thanet, Saint Saviours Church, pictures

It is my day off today and went to some places in Thanet, the pictures are publishing now. This is the first stop I noticed an art exhibition was on in Saint Saviours Church Westgate on Sea. Interesting to me as it gave me a chance to look as one of our churches that I hadn’t been inside before.

Click on the link for the pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810b/id3.htm

Westgate on Sea has some marvellous Victorian and Edwardian seaside architecture, development of Westgate on Sea started in 1865 the church was consecrated in 1873, I won’t indulge in historical detail here but will mention a few things in the pictures.

As you see this is a very good place to hold an art exhibition.

Does anyone know what the holes in shelves on the backs of the pews are for?

Also a good place to hold a local history exhibition.

The 93 free on the end of the pew meant that it was free, I think a fifth of all pews had to be free to sit in, the remainder in the late 1800s would have cost about 10/- per year to rent, this money, 50p as I direct conversion, would have gone to pay the “incumbents stipend” (vicars wages) of course 50p was worth a lot more in those days.

I will stop rabbiting on and publish this post up.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

A Few Ramsgate Pictures and thoughts

Here are the pictures on the camera card these taken on Monday http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/810/id5.htm a few thoughts on them.

The new Cornish Pasty Co is open.

Ramsgate Town Partnership another deserted TDC asset not on the list of council to let see http://www.thanet.gov.uk/business/regeneration/commercial_premises_list.aspx as you see the list hasn’t been updated like much of the council website, so who knows just how much they have vacant that isn’t returning any rent.

Then the historic vessel pontoon still empty.

The Maritime Museum still closed.

Vista now open and it seemed fairly busy.

The Tug Portwey see http://www.stportwey.co.uk/ on no1 slipway.

Work is getting underway on the pavilion.

The hanging gardens of the Pleasurama cliff are now a fairly prominent feature.

Next today’s photographs http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/810/id6.htm

There was a dog swimming around in the outer basin, seemed quite happy and obviously unaware of the ban on dogs being there.

The security guards were there with their beach hut.

A blue sticker has appeared on the water quality sign, which seems to roughly translate as not such good water quality after heavy rain.

Then I heard a lot of banging about on the Pleasurama site, this transpired to be coming from an impromptu skate park that seems to be developing there instead of the development, good to see the site being put to some use.

Then something that amused me come one o’clock the security guards with the beach hut on the east pier seem to both knock off for lunch at the same time, so we go from the expensive protection to none at all.

Vista didn’t seem to be busy at all today, the rest of the places in the café culture that are usually busy seemed as busy as ever, I don’t know if this is significant of anything,

Finally back to King Street where the pavements and road surface is taking on a bit of a third world look.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Blue Flags Summer Sand and Sewage

This relates to the post “Surfers Against Sewage are calling for 5 Thanet beaches to be stripped of their Blue Flag status” click on the link to read it http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/08/surfers-against-sewage-are-calling-for.html

This is a high profile news story that is potentially damaging to our economy and to the Blue Flag status of our beaches.

Unfortunately this article coincided with a sewage pollution incident in Ramsgate last month, frankly looking at the history of sewage pollution for the last 13 years – the statistics about this are available on the environment agency’s website – this sort of incident happens occasionally at a great many of our beaches and I would think on a great many beaches worldwide.

A similar incident happened in Margate, July last year, there is an interactive map on the environment agency website and by dragging the map around and clicking on the appropriate place, you can view details of any major beach in the country, click on link for it http://maps.environment-agency.gov.uk/wiyby/wiybyController?value=CT11+8NY&submit=Search%09&lang=_e&ep=map&topic=coastalwaters&layerGroups=default&scale=4&textonly=off

Anyway yesterday I contacted Thanet District Council to see what they had to say about the pollution incident and publicity about the Blue Flag status of our beaches, I was only able to get their response to the media coverage of the “Surfers Against Sewage” article, click on the link to read it http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/810/id3.htm

OK this is where it gets a bit complicated, as far as water quality goes the Blue Flag status is based on testing carried out by the EA over a number of years, click on the link for the Ramsgate main Sands tests http://maps.environment-agency.gov.uk/wiyby/wiybyController?latest=true&topic=coastalwaters&ep=query&lang=_e&x=638683.9583333334&y=164857.83333333334&scale=4&layerGroups=1&queryWindowWidth=25&queryWindowHeight=25 this is a reasonable scientific approach for this purpose.

The problem however is that one criteria for Blue Flag status (criterion 28 click on the link for the whole thing http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/810/id4.htm ) says that if there is a pollution incident, then the blue flag comes down and warnings go up.

Now the EA tests happen on a Monday and the results take eight days to reach the council on Tuesday week, this means that using this method any sewage spill will have probably gone away by the time the council gets the results.

One way around this would be local processing of test samples but even this wouldn’t help that much as the bacteria takes 24 hours to grow, so once again you probably wouldn’t really know until it was too late.

So now we come to the problem of where the sewage comes from, working on the principle of whoever put it in the sea would be likely to know that they had done so.

If you look at the picture above you can see that the discharge (red stripe) near to the main sands was a large one compared to anything that happened recently during the summer months which is when these tests are done.

The only source that I can think of that would cause these levels of Faecal coliform bacteria is the emergency discharge outfall pipe opposite Granville Marina (about where Nero’s used to be)

What this does is to discharge what is in the sewer there when we have a particularly heavy rainfall and the sewer can’t cope, I don’t think records of daily rainfall here are available on the internet, click on the link for the monthly ones http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/stationdata/manstondata.txt although these haven’t been made up to July yet.

During this period I was somewhat involved in concerns about the drains in Harbour Parade and believe I would have noticed any particularly heavy rainfall, we would be looking at one of the biggest summer storms in about ten years going on the previous records and I am sure this didn’t happen.

This then leaves us with some sort of accidental discharge, probably from the outfall pipe, my understanding here is that alarms should have been going off at Southern Water and that there should be some sort of procedure in place where they tell the council and the council put up signs at the beach.

Now the problem here is that if we don’t find a way here of alerting the council to serious sewage discharges and get them to implement the proper emergency plan, then we will lose our blue flag status.

I have tried contacting both the council and Southern Water about this, despite promises from both of them to contact me about this they haven’t.
Let me be clear about this, I don’t think this problem is peculiar to Thanet District Council, there are discharge outlets all around our coastline and the coastline of every densely populated part of the world.

What comes out of these pipes is regulated and controlled to a lesser or greater degree, this is dependent on a number of factors not the least of which is self regulation in industry.

It would be my guess that the situation in the UK is better controlled and documented than many countries.

Despite all of the legislation and apparent conformity to rules and regulations, we still appear to have a situation where it is possible to go to a blue flag beach, where nothing is apparently wrong and yet everyone is swimming around in sewage.

In Ramsgate I am conscious that this happened adjacent to where it is planned to build a major development without basic safety precautions strongly recommended by the environment agency.

In this case this can happen because the council have obeyed the letter of the law, the problem in this case and with the sewage leak is that these are safety issues, box ticking while ignoring public safety isn’t a viable solution.

Sunday 8 August 2010

A few pictures of Broadstairs Folk Week

This was a visit primarily for children to look in the tents selling the amazing things that appeal to them and going to Morelli's for an ice cream, with the numbers of people and keeping an eye on the children photography wasn’t easy so there are not that many pictures and they could be better.

Here is the link http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810a/id6.htm I will try to get over and take some more this week.

Sunday ramble about Thanet District Council’s website.

This is a long old ramble and not much recommended as it is rather depressing, as soon as I can I will get some folk week pictures up on the top of the blog, just a case of it needs saying and I hope that the council will take some notice of it.

This is about the shortcomings of the councils, something I would far rather not be spending my time on, I much prefer the local history and frankly would rather be spending time on that.

The problem with the council is that it is only the bits I see as citizen that I can judge what they are doing from, for all I know the bits that I can’t see may be functioning perfectly ok, however from some of the bits that I do see it is obvious that a lot of our money is going into something and what is coming out is just poor.

Something that I see all to often is their website and frankly despite trying very hard to get them to mend the some of the most basic broken bits it still seems to be something that doesn’t get fixed.

I am still trying on the absolute front end of this, getting them to get the homepage reasonably functional, much of the problem is I think that they just don’t seem to understand what is wrong.

There homepage is http://www.thanet.gov.uk/ I am not going to take it all apart here but just a bit starting at the top.

The search box, you have to try this to believe it, the first time I did I thought it was some sort of temporary glitch, I am sorry to say that it isn’t.

Here are some search words to try in this search box: “Ramsgate” “Margate” “Broadstairs” “Thanet” All these words return the following result: Sorry, no pages found containing your search terms.

Quite simply this most basic website function just doesn’t work and hasn’t worked properly for over a year see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2009/05/search-thanet-district-council-website.html

Back in May of last year I pointed this out to the council, found and sent them the script for a search facility that does work, engaged in a long and time consuming dialogue with them and at the same time added the facility to search their website to the sidebar of this blog. This facility returns 370 results for the search term “Ramsgate” from the council’s website.

I do wonder though just how much of our money has been pumped into the councils attempts to write a better web search script than Google can, which from the correspondence I received from them seemed to be the way they have been going for the last year.

Next we come to their Adobe Flash Player header banner, this is promoting some major Thanet events but not the main one this week, once again this is something I tried to sort out with the council last year.

I have tried a slightly different approach this year, this started with my blog post http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/08/thanet-district-council-snub.html I am afraid that I deliberately couched this in terms that the council wouldn’t like hoping to attract some anonymous comment a member of the council. For one reason on or another they don’t usually comment under their own names about this sort of thing, certainly there is very little blogging on councillors own blogs recently.

This was mainly because I knew that if I approached the councillors directly or made some sort of official complaint one way they would use to avoid this issue would be to misunderstand what I was talking about. I would say to most people of reasonable intelligence promoting one major local event on their website while ignoring another is an indefensible position.

Well I did this and got what I needed and sent off the complaint on Friday, here is a link to what I sent http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop810a/id5.htm needless to say they didn’t actually do anything about the problem.

What I did get was an email telling me that I would receive a response within ten working days from customer services and nothing from the cabinet members who I had copied it to.

Coming down the council’s homepage we now come to, news, as I publish the Thanet press releases blog http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/ this interests me, since I started communications with the council about this some aspects of this part of their website have improved.

The solution that I suggested was that the council’s IT department set up a way that the council’s press officers could publish the press releases and associated pictures directly to the internet.

Many of the problems that have occurred during period (over a year now) that I have taken an interest in their press release publication, have been because the IT officer publishing the press release hasn’t written it and doesn’t understand properly what it relates to. These problems are often compounded because of the time they take to put right, that is if they are ever put right.

One way that I suggested that they could resolve this issue was to embed a blog into the council’s website and make all of the officers team members, I really don’t think that they liked this idea as it would have cost absolutely nothing from an IT point of view. Free solutions to otherwise expensive problems seem to be very difficult for councils to comprehend, with the current economic situation, somehow they are going to have to grasp this nettle.

I think the problem here is that it took some time for local government to catch up with the internet, and regulation of what internet facilities they can use seems to have started at some totally random point. As far as I can see the council use Youtube and Twitter but draw the line at Google and Blogger, hence the search facility.

Their approach seems to be putting money into trying to produce in house solutions, instead of using free facilities that already exist, they have got some way with this.

Feeds, these are the mysteries internet codes that allow updated content to be noticed, simply a way of letting people know when something new has appeared on a website, most of us use this on blogger almost without thinking about it as it is built in. the most common use of this is the recent posts on other blogs thingy on most of the local blogs sidebars. This is something that they have now mastered for part of their website, when they put up something new on that part of their website it now appears on the sidebar of this blog. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen when they put up a new document, like the notice of a meeting or some major planning application that effects a lot of local people. This does happen for the press releases though.

The next thing is pictures, sometimes they manage to get one of their very good pictures up with their press release see http://www.thanet.gov.uk/news/latest-press-releases/rainham-school-visit.aspx as an example, for the most part though they only manage a thumbnail that you can’t expand, that is if the photo ever sees the light of day.

This raises the obvious question about the cost i.e. why are we paying for photographs that don’t ever seem to reach the light of day?

Another problem is the amount of time press releases take to appear, on occasions a press release promoting some local event has actually take so long to appear that when it does the event is over. On the whole they seem to be getting better at this although still some of the press releases that I put on my press release blog take ages to appear on the council’s website, the latest one http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/2010/08/changes-made-to-asset-disposal-plans.html appears to fall into this bracket.

There is also of course the business of actually attempting to communicate with local people, by this I mean some sort of moderated comments, the only place the council do this is on their planning site, there they have chosen to set the site so that any public comments are not visible to the public.

What comes next, well there are all their links down the left side and I may get to some of them if I get time, on to the right side of the page is “do it online” I will have a go at this some other time as it seems to be about paying things and joining things, something that would make it difficult, the first link precludes my participation as I don’t owe the council any money.

Have your say is something I have had a go at before and I will endeavour to have a go now.

The first link is called “asset management consultation update” it takes you to a page that starts:

“Cabinet meeting
Decisions on the future of 11 sites proposed for disposal as part of the 2010-11 asset management process will be made at a meeting of the Cabinet on Thursday 5 August at 7.00pm.”

It would seem that the update needs updating.

What I can’t find is the results of the consultation, by this I mean what the people who took part in it said, I will try the next links just don’t apply to me so I can’t really test them.

I don’t live in community housing, am not young, couldn’t get to the big event and so on.

Then we come to a section called events, this one is truly bizarre, partly because they already have the visit Thanet site that I believe lists these already and partly because each of these links to events takes you to part of the councils main website where the information is just odd.

Here we go:

1 Millmead Childrens Centre Surestart Summer Fete - 17 August 2010
17 August 2010 Tuesday 17th Aug 11-3

2 Lions Fete at Victoria Gardens 29 August 2010 Fete, stalls selling craft, bric a brac etc Also games such as coconut shy & trap the rat. Refreshments.

I won’t go on from here as you see the second event tells you where it is but not what time, you can follow the rest of these through if you like, why the council should be using their homepage to promote what are mostly relatively minor events arrange in some sort of random time scale, some are not even in this month, while at the same time ignoring this weeks main event, is just beyond me.

Back to the middle and focus on Thanet:

The first link is called “Great events for young people” this takes you to a page that has a graphic on it saying “Why not do something less boring instead read more” I immediately clicked on, read more. This takes you to an error page explaining that the page it points at doesn’t exist. It wasn’t that bad as there was another link on the page that worked.
Next is a link about next years census, I will look at that next year.

The next one seems to be the one about social housing.

Then there is one about council procurement from local businesses, the council used to buy local history books from me for their tourist information offices, this stopped when it became to difficult for the people working in them.

Then there is shop local first, I haven’t got involved in this one as it involves giving discounts, I decided long ago that I would aim to have the best and most keenly priced book stock in the area and a simple problem then comes up which is if you are going to take money off you have to put it on in the first place.
Next is Margate’s Big Event, this is promoting an event held in June it even had a video of the 2009 event, not this years.