Thursday, 27 August 2009
Beside the seaside
But it was not always that way - fifteen or twenty years ago, Whitstable, like Faversham, had a rather sad and down-at-heel air. These were small towns which seemed to have been left behind as the century moved on, towns where money was tight and the small shopkeepers appeared to hang on by their fingertips.
But as the world became wealthier so have these towns gained an air of prosperity - Whitstable especially. Where once there were only one or two interesting little shops, to be visited occasionally when there seemed nothing better to do, now each year the number of chic and trendy emporia seems to expand exponentially. And all the lovely old houses in the centre of town sport a new coat of paint.
Now dear old Whitstable boasts shops whose style (and sometimes prices) speak more of London than East Kent. It is no longer a backwater but a charming, stylish, happening, place to holiday - and a fun place to visit, quite apart from the delights of sitting beside the sea.
Faversham, lovely old town that it is, struggles a bit more. Yes, there are some great gift shops and a wonderful market, as well as some other little gems - but it cannot support the range of independent food shops that you find in Whitstable. And the reason, I am sure, is that on one side of the town is a large Tesco, and on the other the old Co-Op is soon to be a Morrisons supermarket.
So it was very worrying today to see that planning permission is being sought for a large supermarket in the centre of Whitstable. I hope that doesn't happen, for what would become of the wonderful cheese shop, the butchers (plural), the delicatessen, the cupcake shop, the sweet shop, the ice cream shop, the greengrocer selling the sort of produce you could have grown in your garden if you had one ... In truth, all the things that make Whitstable such a wonderful little town.
And today - what did we visit on our holiday outing? We had a quiet coffee in Samphire, and I knitted for a bit. (You can tell by the name of the cafe that it was a very good coffee.)
We spent rather a long time in the bookshop on Harbour Street - which in a tardis-like way has the most wonderfully compendious and comprehensive collection of books on knitting, crochet and cookery - it has other books, too, but you can probably guess where my interests lie. Not only that, it does cards, and mugs, and notebooks by Rosehip and Moleskine. I could have spent all day there, but parental duties called, and once more we found ourselves in company and homeward bound.
But I thought of you, too, and brought back some lovely photos to show and tell - the joy of small things, once again.