On Margate Sands. 

Today I am off to Margate to meet my Nan who is visiting there on a coach trip with her social club. Whilst she is travelling several hours to get here, I’m just popping a little along the coast on the train for a few quid return. So. My question here is: Is Margate worth a visit? Either for £3.80 return, or a few hours stuck in a coach enduring (though she seems to enjoy it) bingo. 

The title comes from T. S. Eliot’s poem ‘the wasteland’ where:

“On Margate Sands.

I can connect

Nothing with nothing.

The broken finger-nails of dirty hands.

My people humble people who expect

Nothing.”

 

I’m not going to go into an analysis of this here, but even for someone who hasn’t taught lectures on it and seminars and spoken to reading groups (yes. I know. I’m very cool) it’s probably clear that this isn’t an overly positive happy reference. ‘Nothing with nothing. ‘Dirty hands’ etc. 
Well, does this have a resonance with Margate today? Others seem to think so. Or, at least, did think so.

Take this article for example: 

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/books/2009/nov/09/ts-eliot-waste-land-margate

Boarded up windows and a complete lack of inspiration. Since then, however, the town has seen lots of money pumped into it and a regeneration. The (new) old town is quaint with (new) old English pubs where sawdust strategically adorns the stools and floor and the local guest ales scream tradition and greatness. However; this alone is enough to scare me off entering today as well as the fact that antique shops in this area are selling simple old deck chairs for 45 pounds(!!!!) making me question the cost of lunch… and lunch is on me. So. Onwards we go… 

… To the pier! The pier is full of eateries and bars with the great added bonus of having communal seating – meaning one of the group can get a salad from one end, another can get cheese smothered fries from a different shop and the third person can get a local ale (or two) from the pub and skip the wasted carbs of solids. Then of course there’s the view out from this seating. It’s lovely. It’s sand, it’s sea, it’s little boats, its sunsets, its birds soaring. It’s the coast. You can sit here for hours of relaxation with a pint connecting nothing with nothing as you simply enjoy your surroundings and detach yourself from the world’s stresses. See what I did there? I twisted the words and made them positive. Isn’t English literature fun? 

If you want to laze on golden sand and enjoy the sun and go for a refreshing, invigorating, English swim and have ice cream or fish and chips whilst stared at intimidatingly by seagulls then be my guest. Margate appears the perfect destination for this and there hundreds doing just this today. 

This isn’t for me though. I’m more likely to be up on the pier with the raised up view and the pint wondering after a while if there is anything more to see as I get a little bored. And now that I’ve had lunch up here with my Nan I am wondering just this. Should I just go home now? Or is there other stuff to see whilst I’m here? 

Well, there is other stuff! Of a sort. There are footpaths that seem to stretch all along the Kent coast meaning I could get from here along to other haunts like Ramsgate or Whitstable. But it’s half 4 and I only have 12% battery. So not today. There’s also the Turner Contemporary gallery which has a fabulous view out to sea from the safety of its inside cafe. Fully recommended for a winter’s day. All the food is local. And the delightfully camp chap behind the counter is always a charmer. The gallery itself can also be wandered around for free with rotating exhibitions occasionally worth looking at. Sadly, today they are not worth looking at. And I’m out of here by 4:36 – Which included a stop at the toilets and a perusal of the gift shop. 

There are also a few quaint streets around the old town worth a stroll with nice old buildings and the like and coffee shops etc away from the coast. 

So maybe this is indeed a destination centred on the beach and its views. But then, it’s the seaside… so I guess this is in fact ok! The beach is clean, the water is the colour English coastal water should be – greeny bluey brown, and there are plenty of places to eat and drink with coastal views. For my £3.80 I am more than pleased! 👍🏻. For the price and access from Canterbury I’d give it a 4/5. Travelling from further afield for a day trip then I’d say there are better places. But if you’re already holidaying nearby or if you’re in London and want a day at the coast then here is perfectly good. 3.5/5. 

HOWEVER if you are fortunate enough to come on a day with a gorgeous sunset then this is a 5/5 star destination! Check this out! 

So there we have it :). Next month I’ll be having a similar day meeting Nan for her coach trip to Ramsgate. So keep your eyes peeled for a similar post of there. 

Peace out, 

Matt. 

Traveling with a Camera.

A large part of traveling for me is about seeing new things and capturing it on my camera. Yet, as I sit down now and think about it, carrying around a large expensive DSLR seems an unnecessary and silly thing to do. So, rather than write a blog piece for you with tips on travel photography like intended, I’m going to write a stream of consciousness style discussion with myself trying to justify my decision to always have my camera as the first thing in the bag.

For anyone interested, this is the camera in question.

img_8843

For anyone that’s backpacked or hiked etc, you’ll know that you become a snail with your bag the all-important, all antagonising, centre of focus be it when you’re trying to cram everything in initially, to worrying about its security when on a train or in your bed at night or when you’re despising every thread of its being as you lug it around upon your sweaty, cramping, crippled-over-never-to-feel-the-same-again back. And therefore, having all these extra things to fit in there is a nightmare.

And, there’s the accompanying stress from the risk of theft or simply losing it. Without naming a price, it’s fair to say that the collective cost of this stuff is more than I’d care to lose and if you are traveling around a lot there’s an increased risk of theft. Take this terrifying opening para from Kathryn Walsh’s article in USATODAY for example:

“One second of inattention is all it takes to lose your camera to an opportunistic thief. Camera theft can happen anywhere, but it’s particularly common in many European cities. The European travel expert Rick Steves recalls the summer when four of his travel companions had their cameras stolen and warns that some Spanish thieves will even smash the windows of your car — while you’re in it — to grab a camera. Protecting your camera isn’t merely about holding onto the device itself, but keeping the photos of your European adventure safe.”

Walsh goes on to give a number of sensible suggestions on preventing such, so check it out if you’re intrigued. Looking back on my InterRailing ventures in my teens, I can safely say that I did none of these things. I didn’t have a protective sleeve for the camera, let alone a nondescript one, nor an anti-theft strap, it was simply in my side shoulder bag alongside half eaten bags of sweets, my wallet and leaking sun cream. No doubt a lot of luck came into me never having any issues with theft on any of my many travels and looking back now this is concerning. Especially when I think of all the times when I’ve had ‘even one second of inattention’. For example, recently over Christmas when I went to California I left my camera on a rock just off the path whilst I set it on a timer for a series of egotistical vanity shots of me sat in a tree. (The photos were rather striking though it must be said)

Then there’s the actual photos themselves. We probably all have a very decent quality camera on our phones and you can pick up a compact one for a decent price which is strong, good quality and slips into your pocket. Take our Instagram page for example (SHAMELESS PLUG: @budgetbudgie). Whilst many of the photos are taken by me with the Pentax, and I personally feel them to be far superior incredible images worthy of likes in the thousands, they rarely receive any more acclaim than those taken on phones or with a compact. So what’s the point of bothering lugging it around if the end result for me gets the same acclaim and same reward as ones taken on another device? Thinking about that now it is rather frustrating. Infuriating even.

So where’s that bring us so far? 1) Extra heavy things to lug around in the limited retail space available when traveling. 2) High risk of theft and/or simply losing it or it getting damaged. 3) The photos don’t get any more favorable attention on Instagram than those taken on phones or compacts. Negative. All negative. But, no doubt you see where this is going? After all, I said at the start that I always take the camera with me and I have no intention of stopping. So, now there must indeed be positives to justify why I do.

Well, the first of these exposes a vulnerability to you here dear readers, so please don’t use it as my undoing. My memory is god awful. Like, truly, truly bad. For example, I was a part of the InterRail travels J brilliantly wrote about in his two blog posts – check them out if you haven’t done so already – and more than that, I was more than a third (more than two thirds) responsible for the planning and organising of the trip, and yet I remembered nearly nothing of what he outlined to happen. The photos are therefore essential for me so that I know in the years that follow that I did actually go to these places and that I had a good time.

Next up, traveling is expensive and buying souvenirs is too. And, most of the time, they’re not actually that good – though can be fun to browse the shops for. Photos meanwhile make fantastic souvenirs and you can do whatever you want with them once home. For example, brag to others you’ve been by posting them on social media, get them printed in a nice photo book or print the odd one and blutack them around your room. Here are a few pics of my travels which hopefully shows their worth as souvenirs:

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(SF Port from a ferry. Swiss mountains with Al and J. Monarch Butterfly cluster in California. Yosemite National Park)

Finally, I just enjoy taking the damn photos! And having fun on your travels is the main goal and main point. So, in a lovely hippy conclusion:

Do what makes you happy my friends. Do what makes you happy x