Tag Archives: history

Do you have a spare 5 million? If so, I have a bargain for you

And I’m not joking. This really is a bargain (for those who have around £5M). For that, you could bag yourself Bleak House – the former summer home of Charles Dickens, and the very place where he wrote David Copperfield.

Bleak House

Imagine what a wonderful and inspirational place this would be to live in and run writers’ retreats at. I know this sounds like something that is going to lead to a punchline, but it isn’t. Plus it’s in a great location, right by the sea, so has wonderful sea views, and the icing on the cake is that it’s only about 20 minutes away from where I live, so I can come and visit you, (Yay! Right?).

Inside of Bleak House

I spotted the article about it in our local online newspaper (KM’s KentOnline) this week…

Article about sale of Bleak House

I would certainly dispute the last line on that snippet though – one of the most renowned, yes, but one of the most expensive, certainly not! There are plenty upon plenty of more expensive properties in the country. Take this example, a fourth floor apartment in one of London’s most prestigious areas, £25m, nearly five times as much as Bleak House…

London flat for sale

A very nice apartment, yes, a very nice location, sure, but does it come close to living in somewhere like Bleak House in Broadstairs? With its history? As I say, Bleak House is quite a bargain by comparison. Direct trains from Broadstairs into central London only take 1hr 20mins too, so it’s really quite perfect in every way.

And look at these other excerpts from the news article…

Excerpt from news article

See the bit in bold? A mere 3 years ago it was only £2m, and now it is £5m, wow! How much could it be worth in the future?

I genuinely can’t understand why millionaires aren’t racing to snap it up; it’s been on the market since October. And I’m also really surprised that it is just available for general sale for anybody to buy like that.

And look at this bit…

Excerpt from newspaper

It’s already operating as a business, geared up for bed and breakfast, so perfect for running those writers’ retreats, right? So who wants to come in on it with me? And when I say “Come in on it with me”, you need to put in all the money and I’ll…erm…help run the writers’ retreats. Ooh and I can make cakes too; writers need cakes.

Long term followers of this blog may just remember that I did a short video about this very house a few years ago when I was part of Limebird Writers. Here it is again… (sorry that it’s really hard to hear me during part of it because of the wind.)

So I did a video about it, and now it’s up for sale, that means it’s destined to be mine, right?

Would you buy this house if you had the money? Can I visit?


It’s The Way I Shell ‘Em

Shell grotto skylight

I don’t think anyone outside of the UK is likely to get the joke in my headline, but never mind, it gave me a chuckle.

We’re returning once again to the list of challenges y’all set me just before Christmas. Today I take on the one set by Sue from Travel Tales of Life. First Sue suggested Flyboarding, she then went on to suggest a polar dip, Via Ferrata, caving, ziplining, stand up paddle boarding or a bobsled ride. Anyone who follows Travel Tales of Life will know that these are all things she has probably done herself, so kudos to Sue for not suggesting something she wouldn’t be willing to do herself (unlike some of the suggestions other people made, ahem, yes, you know who you are).

Sue was clearly thinking “Adrenaline”, I was clearly thinking “Gift shop” – which one of those activities would likely come with a good gift shop? And then I spotted it – caving! Close to where I live is the old seaside town of Margate, and in Margate is the Shell Grotto cave that I’ve been meaning to visit for years, so this was the perfect opportunity. I appreciate this probably isn’t quite what Sue had in mind when she suggested caving, but as far as I’m concerned:

CAVE + ME IN IT = CAVING. It adds up right?

The Shell Grotto is a small but fascinating place. A mere 21 metres long, but with walls covered in a whopping 4.6 million shells; what a feat of shell-sticking! The shell grotto was apparently accidentally discovered in the 1830s by a school boy who fell into it through a hole in the ground while trying to retrieve something. Let’s just pause on that for a minute and imagine – you’re a schoolboy and you fall into this magical shell-covered underground world that nobody knows about – this is the stuff of great adventure stories right?

There are many theories, but nobody actually knows exactly how old the grotto is, or why it was made in the first place. I can understand how they might not have figured out the original purpose yet, but I can’t understand why they haven’t been able to do the dating – I don’t think that’s beyond the scope of modern science. Maybe Jacqueline could come over and help them.

Click on any pics you want to make bigger…

Entrance to grotto

Now don’t tell me this entrance isn’t adrenaline-inducing, look at the steep twisty stairs, and the handrail!

Walking through to shell grotto

No shells yet, but whoa! Scary!

Vanessa in shell grotto

Ooh now we see the pretty shells

Old photo of ladies at grotto

It’s like I’m there with them

Shell grotto altar


Vanessa peeping round shell corner


I’m fairly certain that Sue also suggested that after the activity, I should stroll along the seafront to a charming cafe so that Neil could buy me a beer and some lunch (no need to check, I’m pretty sure that’s what she said).

Vanessa with a beer

Looking at shells is thirsty work!

  Vanessa's lunch

Anyone have any suggestions about why this grotto was created then?

Old grotto poster

Apparently We Have Black Friday in the UK Now?!

Black Friday
photo credit: sea turtle via photopin cc

Apparently we have Black Friday in the UK now. Turns out it’s been creeping in for a few years, but didn’t enter my radar until yesterday when I happened to catch a TV advertisement for a retailer’s Black Friday deals. This morning I decided to go online to see what Black Friday deals I could find, and discovered that even at 7am, the websites of major retailers were overloaded and I couldn’t get in to them. One site even offered me a queue number to wait in line to see the bargains. That’s right, like at the deli counter! I’m supposed to sit here staring at the computer screen, clutching my virtual ticket, waiting for my number to be called. As if I don’t have anything better to do. You know, like writing a blog post about it instead.

For those outside of the US who don’t know, Black Friday is a day of big retail sales that comes the day after Thanksgiving, semi-officially kicking off the Christmas shopping season.  It’s a day-after-Thanksgiving-thing, and we don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK. But as we do love to take on American things over here, we seem to have taken on the day-after-Thanksgiving-thing, without having the Thanksgiving thing.

But wait! I say we don’t have Thanksgiving here, and it turns out I’m wrong about that too. I should have realised what was happening when I started to see Libby’s canned pumpkin for sale in our supermarkets. I did a bit of online searching  and discovered that according to this article in the Telegraph, one in six British people now celebrate Thanksgiving. I had no idea.  The history of Thanksgiving makes it a little strange for us to be celebrating it here, but that’s ok, I’m all for it actually. Friends and Family getting together to share a delicious meal and think about what they’re thankful for. It’s a good thing right? After all, Thanksgiving would hardly be the only festival that is celebrated without much thought being given to the history behind it.

Interestingly, alongside this, I have seen blog posts and comments from Americans, lamenting the demise of the traditional Thanksgiving over there, with families getting together less, and retailers, too anxious to wait for Black Friday, opening on Thanksgiving day itself…hold on a cotton picking minute…do you see what’s happening here? That’s right, we are slowly and very sneakily stealing Thanksgiving from the Americans!  Gradually taking it as our own as the Americans stand there helplessly watching it sail across the pond. Oh the irony.

Back to today. Not wanting to be outdone by our American friends, I already see online news items talking about police being called to calm down surging crowds at UK Black Friday sales, with fights breaking out and arrests being made. I do love a good bargain myself, but I really have no desire to be part of all that. So instead I shall just sit here, clutching my virtual ticket, staring at my screen, and waiting for my number to be called.

What do you do for Thanksgiving, and/or Black Friday? What else do you think us Brits should adopt from America? (If there’s anything left that we haven’t yet adopted).

Finally a quick belated congratulations to Linda Larrabee! Linda is the lucky winner of a $16 Amazon gift card which she won by getting the most right playing Truth or Fiction with author Lorna Lee. Linda doesn’t have a blog herself, she’s just a fan of Lorna’s, and who wouldn’t be, right? If you want to see what the answers were, I’ve updated the original post with the answers in red. If you didn’t win, you can console yourself by reading Lorna’s wonderful book, Never Turn Back, details here. You’re welcome.

You Never Know When You Might Come Across a Time Travel Portal

View of historic buildings through a window

I had a class last night. We were in a room at the uni that I hadn’t been in before. The picture above is the view from where I sat. I was struck by the contrast of old and new; the modern(ish) classroom, with the glimpse of history just outside. I imagined that the window was a portal to the past; I could simply step through and would find myself in some oldy worldy historical times of yore (I’m not very good with history, so don’t push me on dates). Some might say I should have been concentrating on class rather than imagining the window as a time travel portal, but I say – where’s their spirit of adventure?

Maybe I would come across Shakespeare suffering from writer’s block, I could tell him about the future and his block would be instantly unblocked. I’ve always thought he missed a trick by not writing about time travel. Who doesn’t love time travel stories right? I’ve seen Back to The Future, so I know you’re not supposed to change anything if you go back to the past, but surely the addition of one little time travel play amongst all of Shakespeare’s works isn’t going to upset the space-time continuum too much is it? I’m pretty sure generations of school children would thank me.

Or if not Shakespeare, maybe I could help some peasants with their revolting. If I brought some IT equipment through with me, I could produce some posters which I think would help them get their message across much more effectively. (What do you mean the building on the left doesn’t quite fit with revolting peasant times? Stop trying to ruin my adventure!). Or maybe there will be a princess that needs rescuing, I can totally help with that, I’ve seen Disney films, I know what to do. And then if the princess wanted to let me try on some of her dresses afterwards to express her gratitude, well, it would be rude to refuse.

I asked my classmate sitting next to me what she could see out of that window, I asked if she could see the time travel portal too, or whether I was the only special privileged one. I wondered if she would tell me that all she could see was a modern office block and some cars. She didn’t answer though, she just gathered up her books and moved to another desk. Some people are so strange.

Given a choice though, I’d probably rather have a portal to the future. We already know  a lot about the past, but we don’t have a clue about the future. I’d like to see what we’ve made of ourselves and the world around us in the near future: 25, 50, 100 years from now. I daren’t go too far into the future because there might be nothing left to go to, and then I might not be able to get back, I don’t really know how it all works, but I’d better play it safe. Maybe next week’s classroom window will have a portal to the future, and then I’ll be able to find out, in my imagination at least…

If you came across a time travel portal, would you choose to go forwards or backwards? What would you like to see? Do you wish Shakespeare had written about time travel? And do you think a princess would consider a pair of jeans to be a fair swap for one of her dresses?

Two more of my articles published

I have two articles in the September 2012 issue of the Canterbury Index magazine. The first is a look at some of the history of pubs in and around Canterbury. The second is an interview article with the wonderful comedian, writer and broadcaster, Jon Holmes. As always, click on the pictures to open up a bigger version…

Front cover of the Canterbury Index magazine

Article about historical pubs in Canterbury

Article about Jon Holmes

You can go to the online version of the magazine by clicking on the link below. The pubs article is on pages 10-11, and the Jon Holmes one is on page 13: