After an absence of quite a few years, I visited Whitstable recently.
Main reason for the visit was to see my friend Chris Clark’s exhibition on its opening day. Chris is one of the two lovely people behind Frame & Print in Maidstone, who were wonderful hosts for my own exhibition, a year ago as I’m writing this. Chris had filled the little FishSlab Gallery (yup, it used to be a wet fish shop!) with a great selection of her unique collage work. On a busy day in the middle of school half-term week, she was getting lots of visitors.
Whitstable is a place of mostly bad memories for me, unfortunately. I’ve mentioned in this series of blogs that I once had a super job which, while actually very demanding, gave me great freedom. That’s because my boss at the time genuinely believed in his team maximising the use of their annual leave, and was very receptive to requests for unpaid leave on top of that, if you had what he called an “extra-vehicular activity” you genuinely wanted to see through. There was always a relationship of trust that you’d still get the real work done.
Thus it was that I got time to spend really quite a lot of time in the Alps, working with a great little holiday company, improving my German and French and learning Italian, and stuff like that. Sadly, all good things come to an end, and in the dog-days of the post-Thatcher Tory government, the outfit I worked for was wound up. I found myself working in Whitstable, in a job I hated, with a team I never really got on with, and having to commute 35 miles each way for the privilege.
I was amused to discover how little Whitstable seemed to have changed -visually at least- since the last time I was there. It seems to have become a magnet for a host of good-looking Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants. I don’t remember what was there before them. When I worked thereabouts, our regularly-frequented lunch haunt was a pub/restaurant run by relatives of the Kray Twins.
Even less had changed down by Whitstable Harbour. The whelk boats were just in, and everything was very busy and very pungent. It was here, back in the day, that I discovered I had a severe allergy to such sea-food. I’d made it to my early 40s without ever trying any (unadventurous or what?) but was persuaded by colleagues to try a local produce paella on the occasion of a colleague’s birthday. Ever had anaphylactic shock? It can be a killer. I was so lucky a colleague present was a firstaider who had a son with a medical condition that occasionally required the swift and decisive use of an adrenaline Epi-pen. She carried one in her handbag at all times! Being stabbed in my thigh sure beat nearly choking.
My blog titles are always musically-related. Having read this far, you may be wondering what musical reference this blog’s title relates to? Well, one of my favourite singer and musicians, Chris Wood, is from not far away from Whitstable. He performs a song called “One in a Million“. It was written by the extraordinary Hugh Lupton, who is from East Anglia, but could very easily have been set in Whitstable. Listen and you’ll see what I mean. And I mean “see”, because this is a song that really does play a video in your head!