My microwave blew up the other month.

It was all very chaotic.

The turntable was smashed to smithereens, the food inside splattered everywhere and – perhaps worst of all – lunch was completely lost. A bowl of soup now fodder for the kitchen bin. Serves me right for cooking it the lazy way, I guess.

After fooling myself for about three hours that I could manage life without a microwave I succumbed to ordering a replacement, and for a somewhat halcyon period after it arrived, all seemed right and merry with the world again.

But joy eventually turned to despair when this new microwave too, started going a bit crazy. After a few weeks, it would turn on by itself and start rotating about, as though a ghostly apparition was in my kitchen heating up a big bowl of invisible ghost food. Now I may come from a family that loves to eat, but I couldn’t think of any of my dearly departed relatives who would choose to re-emerge just to use a microwave. Many of them spent their whole lives without a microwave for god’s sake.

No. The somewhat less exciting reality was that my new microwave had a known manufacturing fault and needed to be returned, but the explanation behind the plight of the microwave is not the point of this post.

The point of this post is to showcase examples of the hidden impacts from what can sometimes seem like trivial, insignificant things.

To cut out a long and really boring bit of detail, I needed to post my microwave off within the next few hours to be able to get my refund, as I was only a couple of days from the end of the Return period. Taking it to the Post Office was no problem, but securely packaging it was. In all the joy and merriment of receiving my new microwave, and to save space in my flat, I’d thrown away the original box, which just so happened to be absolutely massive and tricky to replace.

I visited a number of shops to try and buy a replacement box so that I could hurriedly ship Micky M II back to Amazon in time, but nowhere sold ones anywhere large enough. I went to almost every shop in town to see if they had any boxes they wanted to shift, but it seemed I was out of luck.

A supermarket on the outskirts of town was my final hope and by that point, I had explained my request so many times that I was spluttering out my words with the same complete lack of panache as a faulty microwave launching lunch all over its insides.

“Hi, errere bleurghy bleh looking microwave box” – or so I’m sure it sounded.

The gem of a lady on the Customer Service desk politely endured my incoherence and disappeared for what seemed like quite a long time. She returned with a massive cardboard box that to my delight, was not only the size I was after but had also once been a receptacle for packs of Roast Beef Monster Munch. She explained that it had taken a while because she had needed to shelve its contents first.

After offering my profuse thanks, I took my box to the Post Office and had a long date with some sellotape and bubble wrap before posting my faulty item off forever.

Though it may sound extreme, I’m fairly convinced that by going out of her way to help somebody who wasn’t even a customer in supplying a surplus to requirements box, this lady saved me £80. There was no way I was going to be able to get the item sent off in time if not. So whilst she may have felt she was providing me with something of very little meaning or value, the hidden context – that she wasn’t aware of – meant that actually, she really was.

It made me think more generally about acts of kindness and how what may seem like small gestures can have a massive meaning and impact that we won’t necessarily ever get to know about. I am (fortunately) not £80 away from being bankrupt, but what if I had been? In these challenging economic times, it’s clearly not an amount people can just throw away.

In the town I live we have a thriving freecycling and sharing community where people give items they no longer need or want to people who do. It’s a wonderful initiative that is becoming country-wide and I’d love to see the impacts of the exchanges looked at in further detail, and hear the stories behind them. A top that no longer fits one person that may make another feel like a million dollars. An old karaoke set that was taking up space in somebody’s lounge and then brought a surprise form of entertainment to another family’s Saturday night. Functional stuff like food or USB cables that made somebody else’s day that little bit easier.

What might be of little value or seem a small gesture to some, can have massive meaning for somebody else.

Sometimes what’s in the box is much more than meets the eye. A true mystery box.

Song of the Day: Tears for Fears – My Girls (cover of Animal Collective)

The experimental music of 21st century US act Animal Collective may not to be to everybody’s taste (though it definitely is mine). But then how better to make a tune appeal to the masses than by drafting in a well loved ’80’s pop band to make a cover of it that sounds akin to something that would manage to get everyone – without exception – on the dancefloor. This cover sounds exactly how you might anticipate it would and it’s awesome.


I’m not usually one for an art gallery. If you were to plonk me in a random city and ask me to pick from a list of local attractions, I’d prioritise: a) anything that involves moving on water, b) anything that involves interesting food, or c) anything that will make my ears happy and my legs want to dance. I don’t think you can usually do any of these things in an art gallery (but if you can, please tell me about it!)

The Tate Modern is one of the UK’s most famous art galleries and I have been twice throughout my entire life. Once with a couple of friends (all I have is a fleeting memory of something we were chatting about as we descended an escalator), and once when I needed to quickly make use of the facilities whilst drinking from the pop-up places on the South Bank. I have often heard and read about how wonderful this place is supposed to be, yet I’ve probably never really embraced it properly. I love the concept of art, but mostly as written or musical forms as opposed to static ones. When it comes to the prospect of art galleries, I just don’t always get them.

On a recent day off work, I was in London with some time to spare and thought I should try and broaden my horizons by making a proper visit – alone – without the distraction of catch-up chats with friends going on in parallel, and with the time to move around on my own terms. To read what I wanted to read. To pass by what I wanted to pass by.

I ended up covering every square meter of the Tate within about 50 minutes (the recommended visiting time is 3-4 hours). I guess I just don’t have the sort of brain which is always receptive to what I’m sure are genius feats of creativity. During my trip, I was confronted by: some fluffy drapes hanging from the ceiling in the entrance hall that resembled something from the dodgy Ghost Train at Cassiobury Park funfair in the 1990’s, Cezanne’s paintings of a few discoloured apples that looked like something from a yellow-sticker haul, and a picture frame sculpted into the wall that just looked like somebody made a mistake with a chisel then tried to make it look intentional by completing the rectangle shape. Each of these things are no doubt way better than any ‘art’ I could produce and I mean no disrespect to the artists, but they just didn’t make me feel anything at all.

But, there were a few exhibits which really did make me stop, stare and think. Tracey Moffatt’s ‘Up in the Sky’ collection of photographs designed to capture indigenous and non-indigenous lives intertwined in a deprived town in the Australian outback, Martha Rosler’s representations of American airports as channels of the human body and transience of life, then this one, Cildo Meirele’s ‘Babel 2001‘:

It’s a tower comprising of 800 vintage radio sets ranging from the oldest at the bottom, to more modern ones at the top. They are all playing at the same time; different frequencies, at only slightly different volumes. “No two experiences of this work are ever the same”, reads one of the only exhibit descriptions I have ever been interested enough to read in full.
And that’s entirely the point of it. Meireles’ exhibit aims to remind us that as soon once we reach information overload, communication fails. Read one hundred random facts and you’ll maybe remember ten percent of them. Read three and you’ll probably remember one hundred percent.

Out of 800 radio sets that were all playing at once; I could only really recognise one song, an ’80’s number I never remember the name of. There were dozens of voices, but I couldn’t make out what any of them saying. A friend of mine went to the same exhibit a few days later and heard something else entirely. I found the whole thing incredibly clever, and very powerful. When one person speaks you’ll hear every word but when everybody is doing so at once, in different frequencies but similar volumes, nobody really gets heard, and that’s a shame.

We live in an age where technology has advanced so much, even since 2001 when this work was completed. The parameters of choice have become so broad, that we’re far less likely to be hearing or seeing the same things anymore. I have previously written about the impact of the likes of Freeview and streaming services on the day to day chats we used to have about television, but it doesn’t end there. These methods of communication and entertainment are designed to make our lives better and our minds more informed but I’m not always entirely sure that they do.

The more we have of something, do we still make the most of each individual component? Do we really remember each episode we’ve watched if we’ve binge-watched several series? Each book we’ve read if we’ve almost exhausted the Library? Or each stereo we listened to if there were 800 to choose from? Does knowing that we can pretty much find out anything we want to know within minutes thanks to the internet make us really feel more intelligent as a society or does it only make us set a higher bar for ourselves? I remember sitting in front of the computer in my early ’20’s, fresh out of Uni with no idea what to do next, knowing that in the hidden corners of the internet right before me I could probably find an opportunity that would change my life or kick-off my career, but feeling slightly pressured by that same knowledge, and simply having no idea where to start looking. I think I searched for a bit of advice, only to find dozens of people sharing a billion contrasting opinions that only added to the confusion, and ended up giving up and looking up recipes for interesting curries instead.

Among the vintage radios forming Babel, I recognised the Sony stereo that accompanied my school homework and thought back to the days when you couldn’t simply skip a song you didn’t enjoy, only manually fast forward. And though something like Spotify would have seemed the stuff of dreams back then, I felt some nostalgia for the days when you’d just have to listen to a song regardless, and would often grow to like it in time. We are very lucky with what we have now but there is definitely something to be said for keeping it simple, too.

I left the Tate, bought a coffee, and spent some time thinking about what I’d just seen. I then realised what I was doing, and acknowledged taking a step closer to realising what all the fuss about art galleries is about 😉

(But seriously, if you know of an art gallery on a speed boat, that serves unusual world grub and plays Weezer as you walk around please let me know)

Song of the Day: The Shins – The Great Divide (Flipped)

This is the sort of anthemic song you feel should have been around for years, but in reality it’s only a couple of years old. It’s just lovely. That is all.

“Ooh, the blind
Collective mind of man is all they’re offering
Then you bring a breath of life out of the emptiness
Your hand in mine, oh-oh-oh (your hand in mine)

The great divide”


If there’s one thing I don’t like so much about the Kent landscape (which I will otherwise wax lyrical about) it’s that it’s a little bit too flat.
I probably shouldn’t complain about that too much, because if it wasn’t then we’d all have to perform hill-starts more regularly, and would probably have slipped over countless more times in this past, particularly icy week. Plus, I can still feel my heart crunch when I recall younger times trying to carry my weekly grocery shop up a particularly steep alleyway in Lancaster that always felt as challenging to conquer as I imagined the ascending travelator on Gladiators would (the sausage roll and fags diet probably didn’t help with that, mind).
Either way, when you’re used to living in a county which is predominately flat – albeit beautiful – it’s easy to forget just how massively diverse the landscape is across the rest of the UK. Only in relatively recent years have I really started to realise and appreciate this; and because to get to these places requires resources which we don’t always have spare, it makes any opportunity to see them that little bit more precious.
I was absolutely stunned by Snowdonia when a close friend who grew up there first showed me around her home, to the extent where it seemed hard to believe that it shares the same island as the likes of the M25. Fresh air, clear water, wild ponies roaming around in heather-topped hills, and other mesmerising panoramics, were in abundance, and the best thing is that they were all free to see, and get completely lost in. As a bit cringe as the saying may sound, Snowdonia is an area that truly feeds the soul and I try to return whenever I can for some ‘lunch’. Every time I go, I realise I have still only seen a small fraction of it. My friend says that she often wished there had been more for young people in North Wales to do whilst she was growing up – more cinema complexes and McDonalds like we had plenty of in Watford – and I tell her that I often wished I’d had mountains and lakes nearby, instead of concrete consumerism and pollution. I always sucked at bowling anyway.

Both of us craving mountains over the Christmas break – but with North Wales seeming too far for the time we had – on New Years’ Eve we decided to visit the Peak District for a day, another area which I know shamefully little about and had only visited once previously. We spent the afternoon walking up Mam Tor – a route recommended by Much Better Adventures – and from the peak looked out at a huge expanse of land consisting of multiple counties of northern England. We also read a bit about the famous caves – some of which were still inhabited at the turn of the 20th century – and found out about the limestone quarries the area is famous for. It was a very wet, windy and slippery day (made more challenging by the fact neither of us were wearing the right shoes) but the harsh gradients enabled us to give our legs a good stretch so that by the time we eventually got back to the car – covered in mud and exhausted – we felt deserving and ready for some stodgy food at the pub. It had been a good workout and an even better exploration of some dramatic yet beautiful – and completely new to us – scenery. Well worth the four hour drive.

We weren’t there for long but it was enough time to make a big impression. I have been thinking about it a lot since, and have many daydreams about going back and seeing more of it. And so, since it’s January and a time to traditionally look ahead, I suppose it’s reasonable to state the following: I have absolutely no idea what assortment of good, bad or bizarre things 2023 may conjure up but as long as it features some hills and mountains, that’s okay 😉

Song the Day: Mikron – Lyre

Feeling electronica at the moment! This is a nice chilled piece from a duo of Irish brothers. One of those songs you can file away in ‘perfect for driving at night or working to’.


From the safe distance of three days, and combined with the presence of a couple of drinks in the pub, I fully agreed with my friend’s suggestion that to take a dip in the sea before sunrise the following Tuesday morning was a most excellent idea. Seize (or rather, ‘seas’) the day, and all that jazz.

By Monday evening I was experiencing more than a few second thoughts about this great plan. I really wanted to do it, but I also really didn’t want to do it. Life is perpetually freezing at the moment, with its sub-zero temperatures and heating rations, and so it would surely defy all logic to make it even more so.

I text my friend to see if she still wanted to go ahead, and stated that I would be happy either way – which was true – but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have felt a slight (read: ‘massive’) relief had she had a change of plan.

But she still wanted to go.

And as it turns out, I’m very grateful for that.

We met at Seasalter at 7:30am, whilst the sky was still that inky shade of navy blue that makes everything else on the horizon seem way more magical and mysterious than it does in daylight, the lights of Whitstable harbour glowing in the distance.

The air was fresh, but milder than the days that had preceded it. It actually felt quite nice. There was barely anybody about, apart from a couple of people walking their dogs, and a soothing silence, aside from the gentle lapping of waves.

Getting into the sea itself was not without some immense discomfort and anguish. My friend was much braver than I, and was able to submerge herself pretty quickly, whilst I merely paddled and shook my limbs about like an octopus trying to take off a t-shirt for a while in the hopes that it may warm me up. Eventually I followed her lead, and whilst neither of us were submerged in the water for long, we both felt so refreshed afterwards and were pleased to have got in. I was also glad to have brought along a hot water bottle, and the coffee felt extra amazing.

Though it hadn’t quite been a refreshingly cooling bathe on a hot Summer’s day, I was grateful to have had a fix of nature first thing, and grateful to my friend for encouraging me to do it.

I was washed, dressed and back at my desk for 9am. Just another reason why I love living near to the sea, and another reason why sometimes you just have to say yes.

Song of the Day: The Magnetic Fields – The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side

This is hands down one of the most beautiful songs ever made, in terms of both composition and message. For me it’s one of those ones you forget about for years then it comes on on the shuffle playlist, and sounds though you’re hearing it for the first time all over again. Just don’t try singing along from 3:05 onwards because you’ll run out of breath, I’ve tried many times over the years 😉


Out of the 150+ posts on this blog across the past eleven years, I’d guess that around 50% of them reference things seen or experienced whilst out and about in rural Kent. That was never the intention, I never really warmed too much to the idea of keeping to a main theme, even though a lot of people suggested it was the best way to create an established blog. It’s just testament to the local area that so many of my outdoor rambles have managed to inspire the content for the monthly post.

It seemed to start about ten years ago with a trip to the beach, continued with a maybe slightly-cheesy-in-retrospect ‘life lesson’ from the maze at Leeds Castle in 2015, a fresh glut of writing upon moving to Faversham in 2018 and then an even bigger one in 2020/2021, because walking outdoors was essentially all we were able to do.

And though we can thankfully do a lot more again now, there are still few things that I enjoy more than being out exploring the pretty unique surroundings of Kent (or perhaps it’s just because I grew up in Watford, where postcards feature the ring road and you feel privileged just to see a tree.)

(That’s possibly being a little unfair, you’ll often see one. But only one.)

Nonetheless, in over ten years of living here I’m still not bored of Kent, and despite having walked round the countryside near to where my parents live in Canterbury countless times, it took until now to learn that we have our very own set of pyramids:

Giza, Canterbury

The photo above features what is known locally as the ‘Tetrahedra Field’. It can be found at the end of a private residential gravel-track road leading out of a village just outside of the city. With minimal footfall, it’s of little surprise that hardly anybody knows of it, and though it could be easy to assume (I certainly did) that these stones are probably nothing of note, the reality is much more intriguing.

It turns out that these triangular structures lie on what was once the site of a World War I aerodrome. Their purpose was to generally get in the way of the tanks that were used by the opposition, and if you look closely, you can still see the letters and numbers which identified them. When the airfield was closed down in the 1940’s, they were all moved into the random field above, next to the railway line.

At first glance it may only look like a graveyard for unwanted giant Toblerones circa Christmas 1972 (though that too would be exciting) but it’s also a classic example of the benefits of looking at some things twice. I will continue to be intrigued by what other hidden gems and pieces of secret history we may have lying around us here in the Garden of England, and I want to go and find and write about them all, ha!

Song of the Day: The Bad Plus – Silence is the Question

Eight minutes that’ll change your life (I exaggerate. But I promise you, it’ll do something). I don’t normally have the patience for long songs, particularly if they start off too slow, and nor do I really listen to jazz, but I somehow stumbled across this one and it sucked me in. I’ll say no more, you just have to listen to it all in one go. Just amazing.


With everything that’s going on nationally and in the world at the moment, you have to celebrate every pleasure where you can at the moment, no matter how small it may seem.

Geocaching is one of my favourite things to do in my free time these days because it combines exercise with nature, and I like the challenge of trying to find things. It’s a hobby that many haven’t heard of, but with 35 million players all over the world, it’s actually hugely popular. ‘Caches’ are hidden pretty much all over the place, most often in points of interest, and people of all ages like to search for them whilst exploring the world.

With International Geocaching Day having taken place this month, I’ve been trying to get into the spirit of it by getting out and doing it as much as possible to make the most of the light Summer evenings. One of my favourite things about it is that the GPS map of the geocaches gives you reasons to take turns you’ve never taken before, explore new places, and find out new things about your surroundings. Geocaching has guided me to disused Underground stations, memorials for historic events I’d never heard of before, and seemingly random spots that offer some of the most stunning of views. All places I may well not have ventured if not for the game.

It was during one such occasion recently that a turn I probably wouldn’t have taken otherwise afforded me this beautiful panorama of golden fields and gorgeous horses:

It was a scene of pure peace against the external noise of current affairs, and during those moments of taking in the scenery around me, I felt I had discovered something very special and secret.

And these kind of moments make me wonder more generally, about what else is out there waiting to be found? What other beautiful views? What other contented creatures? Maybe sometimes we underestimate the potential for these things to be much closer than we think. Maybe it’s not always about going further, but simply going different. Not overlooking that plain old alleyway to our right, but wandering up it anyway and just seeing what’s on the other side.

Some years ago, I used to think that to see something really new and breathtaking you had to travel very far, but you don’t. You’ve never had to.

Not if you’re willing to look.

Song of the Day: Teenage Fanclub – Speed of Light

Classic Scottish indie. I borrowed this album from the library in 1999 and it doesn’t seem any less new now than it did then. Does this mean I’m officially old?

Actually, not sure I want to know the answer to that…


Harold & Madge
“You are the weakest link, goodbye!”
Beek-her Grerrrv – ha-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha.
Here’s our Graham with a quick reminder”

If, as reading the above, you either heard or visualised them within, then the chances are that you are a similar age or above to me and would have seen them on the television at some point. I feel confident that most people can identify all five and I feel that way because for many years the majority of us were all watching the same things, and I miss that.

During the 1990s there were several things I would religiously watch: Grange Hill / Byker Grove at 5:10pm, Neighbours at 5:35pm, The Simpsons at 6pm, Eastenders at 7:30pm (or 8pm on a Monday!) as well as all of the Saturday evening classics: Noel’s House Party (gutted I never received an invite), Blind Date, Casualty, Gladiators, and all the rest. Does this sound familiar to you? Chances are it does. Just the other week, among a small group of friends, we randomly established that half of us were still haunted by an episode of Michael Buerk’s 999 where the lady got her long hair stuck in a jacuzzi filter and almost drowned. It was probably only broadcast once or twice, in the mid-90s, yet several of us remembered it well. We think about it every time we affix our hairbands in the swimming pool changing rooms, yet I can’t tell you anything about what I watched last year.

Nowadays, even though my television gets turned on almost every evening in the hope of being mind-blown, there is nothing I regularly watch, and if I do get really stuck into something, chances are I’ll only chat to one or two others who watch it too.

It’s easy to understand why this is. In the halcyon days described above, there were far fewer channels, no such thing as Freeview, and only a fortunate minority of the population owned a satellite dish. The internet was still several years off being something the majority had access to, and barely anybody owned a mobile phone on which they could while away time sending yellow faces to friends. When the weather was a bit rubbish (and remember, this is England) there was only a choice of about four things to do of a typical evening, and they each had their own button on the remote.

There were no such things as spoilers, no world wide web to give away the plot, and you either watched a programme at the same time as everybody else or you didn’t watch it at all (okay, strictly speaking you could watch it back on a recordable VHS, but the success of that was always at the mercy of whoever was in charge of setting it up). Our interest in soaps, sitcoms and dramas was always about the characters, and not the cast’s messy personal lives. Those two things never intertwined, like the media manages to make them do today.

Whilst these days watching television would not be something I endorse people doing too much of, I do – in some ways – miss how it used to be. That’s not because I believe the standard of programming has decreased in quality, but that the way in which we watch it has.

As of December 2018, there were around 460 available television channels in the UK. Of course, not everybody will have access to all of these, but on Freeview alone there are at least 70, and that’s not inclusive of the fact that you can essentially watch any programme hosted by the main channels at any time if you have access to their free streaming hubs.

This magnitude of choice may have sounded very appealing back in the 1990’s – when the likes of the Antiques Roadshow being on would decrease the likelihood of an evening being fun by twenty five percent – but in my experience, it’s turned out to be anything but. In fact, it’s probably one of the key reasons why I don’t tend to watch much anymore.

Earlier this week, I returned from an evening walk feeling shattered and cold and in need of a nice Winter evening on the sofa. I liked the idea of being ensconced in a bit of escapism in the same way I was in the past, and after making myself that little bit more comfortable, took a look through the numerous channels to find something that I could get stuck into for an hour or so. Snacks were prepared for this event.

But it just didn’t happen.

By the time I’d found something I felt compelled to watch for longer than ten minutes, the snacks had long gone, but it wasn’t because there wasn’t enough on the listings to interest me – just the opposite – and I found it hard to settle on one. If I wasn’t fully absorbed by a programme within the first five minutes, my mind wandered to the other listings I’d seen and I’d change the channel and start watching something else. This wasn’t an isolated incident either; flitting between various channels and applications is often the rhythm of my television viewing, and maybe that’s why – in my mind – there isn’t a modern day equivalent of ’90’s soaps and game shows, even though some of those same ones still run.

But this post isn’t meant to sound as though I’m trying to make a first world problem of not finding anything mesmerising enough to watch on the telly. It’s about the identification that sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing. More options to choose from – whether they’re television channels, music streaming apps, careers, profiles on online dating sites, travel destinations or varieties or McFlurry – are undoubtedly a product of the modern age for which we can only be thankful and I would not wish for this post to undermine my gratitude for that. But are they really making us happier, or have they diluted the joy we once took from these things when they were that little bit more rare: classmates bonding over their opinions of Who Shot Phil Mitchell because we’d all watched it (Google now tells you within an instant, it was gravel-voiced Lisa, IF you’d forgotten); Growing to love Track 9 on the New Kids cassette because there’s no quick option to skip and only three other cassettes to listen to; that place you kept going back to on holiday every year because you loved it so much; that one conversation you had time for on MSN Messenger because you couldn’t access the internet for more than fifteen minutes a day. It seems to me that we used to appreciate these things so much more.

My recent fiddle with the remote is just the latest manifestation of something that I have realised numerous times. It’s not always what you want, or even what you have, that makes you happy. It’s just as much about what you do and how it makes you feel. The programme can only be good if you’re watching it. You may never realise how much you love a song if you always skip it after the intro. Distance from home is unlikely to be the reason your favourite holiday was your favourite holiday, and just how memorable can a conversation be if you are having three others at the same time? Spreading things too thin is only a good idea if the jam is toxic. You’re less likely to die after one bite. But if it’s a really tasty, non-toxic jam, you’ll enjoy that bite so much more if you’ve more of it on the bread, even if it means eating a smaller piece.

One of my favourite things about the television is that I learn a lot from it; I didn’t always realise how much.

Something else many will recognise: The BBC testcard was in use from 1967 and 1998 and its predominant function was to freak the bejeezus out of anyone who turned the television on too early in the morning. And some other technical function apparently.

Video of the Day: The Simpsons – Your Putter’s Name is Charlene

What more fitting for this post than to break from tradition by including a video as opposed to a song, and this particular one is an example of how the internet can ruin classic tv. For years I’ve laughed at the scene when Homer vehemently suggests that Bart call his putter “Charlene”. It just seemed so random, why Charlene? Is the putter reminiscent of Kylie Minogue’s character in Neighbours circa 1989 or something? Would the wedge be called Scott and the green itself, Madge? I would chuckle internally at my own poor joke whenever I saw this clip. But I recently found out that it’s actually just a copy of a line from a war film. So it’s nothing at all to do with Neighbours, and there’s a logic to it afterall. Damn.
But still. A classic scene.


There are three kinds of people in the world: those who see the appeal of Dungeness, those who don’t, and those who’ve never been.

“You either love it or you hate it!” chimes the well-known slogan of a popular brand of yeast extract. A very similar slogan would look perfectly at home on a poster advertising Dungeness. I have already written about it once, almost ten years ago to the day in fact, and though this post isn’t intended to be a repeat of that one, it’s relevant to the context.

In summary, there is so much which is undeniably beautiful about the place – the bold light typical of a peninsular, the gently rippling sea surrounding it, the whispering marshland, and knowing that a third of all plant species in the UK are there around you. Yet there are lot of other features overwhelming on the eyes which are not so traditionally beautiful – rusted corrugated iron in every direction, weathered bungalows, angry handwritten scrawls in windows telling people not to look inside, a silence which is as deathly as it is otherwise comforting and – the biggest blot on the horizon of all – the Dungeness Power Station.

To understand the appeal of Dungeness you have to see how this fusion of polar opposites is – in itself – a thing of beauty and awe. But why?

I am currently reading a book over which I am already lamenting the fact that I will one day reach the end of the final chapter. Gareth E Rees’ Unofficial Britain was a recent random purchase which I started reading over a couple of cups of coffee in town one lovely Saturday afternoon. The topics of each chapter – which include pylons, ring roads and roundabouts – may sound somewhat unappealing, but just like the power station’s relationship with Dungeness (which unsurprisingly features within the book) Rees demonstrates how the brightest of colours can sometimes be found behind the most grey of facades. The stories he tells about some of our landscape’s “ugliest” features are all based on fact, and succeed in convincing the reader to view them in a different way. He inspires us to appreciate the fact that a building need not be medieval, timber-beamed or smell of cloves in order to have a history or magical qualities. I won’t say any more than that, but anybody who sits in the “I like Dungeness” camp needs to read this book. You’ll love it.

Since I started reading the book it’s fair to say I’ve been paying a lot more attention to my surroundings, and trying to see “the Dungeness effect” in more places. Near my parents’ home in Canterbury there’s a section of the North Down Ways which is a cluster of rapeseed fields and orchards which during Winter is just one large beigey-brown patchwork quilt. Stitched across it is a row of electricity pylons, which traditionally evoke a sense of danger and caution. Earlier in the week I took a walk around the area to get some steps in and found myself besotted with how it all looked and felt in the late October sunset: the colours, the hums of power lines, the coolness:

Towards the end of my walk, the cloud emerging from the left in photo three had cloaked over the whole sky with a watery navy cloak, and I felt the Dungeness effect wash all over me again, in the same spine-tingling way. The music I was listening to at the time intensified this. It was from a label called Ghost Box Records, which describes itself as “a record label for a group of artists exploring the misremembered musical history of a parallel world.” Think electronic music. Think production music. Think scary ’70s public information films. The music was recommended in my beloved book and was consequently swiftly Spotify-ed up and enjoyed. And it really complements all of this.

I have often asked myself what it is about the likes of Dungeness, or these kind of grey views, or Ghost Box music, that makes them so captivating and unconventionally beautiful, and the only conclusion I can really muster is that it’s something to do with the way in which they somehow serve as dynamite to the imagination. They get right in to your senses and they might frighten you a bit, but they’re also blank canvasses upon which you can let creativity and imagination run wild without the presence of the wider public to distract it with loud conversations which hook you back into a reality which – with its pandemic and rising fuel prices – can ironically sometimes look more grim than any pylon or sheet of corroded iron. It’s no surprise that numerous artists descend upon – and rave about – Dungeness, the most famous example being the late film director Derek Jarman, who even owned a cottage on the peninsular which can still be visited today.

Sometimes it’s not so much about what you see right in front of you but their invisible companions. The stories. The memories. The feelings. The character. The inspiration those things provide.

That’s the beauty: tudor beams, immaculate topiary, or not.

If this post resonates with you – buy that book! And if it doesn’t, if you’re really not sure what any of this is about, let me know and we’ll arrange a trip to New Romney to look at a bunch of nothing. I assure you, it’ll be mesmerising.

Song of the Day: Belbury Poly – Farmer’s Angle

A fine example of Ghost Box music 🙂

Chapters 30-35

It’s an often recurring realisation of mine that the more I find out the less I feel like I really know. The older I get and the more I experience, the more I question things. It makes sense I suppose. Until you find a reason to question something, then why would you do so. It’s that classic, Socrates-inspired adage again: You don’t know what you don’t know, because you don’t know it. Each and every one of us have our own set of a billion things which we don’t know yet, and it’s both a little scary yet also achingly exciting to know (or do we? ha!) it. Astonishing lessons we’ve yet to learn, impactful experiences we’ve yet to have, and people we’ve yet to meet are floating around us like rubber ducks with hooks on their heads, waiting to be caught, and if we can manage to do so, we stand to win a prize. Hopefully a good one, perhaps a rubbish one, but either way, we get to keep it forever.

Shortly after turning thirty, I wrote a post here which seemed to resonate with a lot of my peers. It was a post that essentially celebrated the liberation in jumping off that high speed train which herds its passengers to each of life’s mainstream milestones without diversion. It was a post about seeing beyond the numerical context of age; and feeling more free by doing so. Turning thirty was an absolute highlight for me, predominantly for that realisation. It felt akin to removing the high heels after an evening trying to recreate Stomp on the dancefloor, and replacing them with comfortable flats for the walk home. And also because it was an excuse to throw a big party and eat tonnes of Frazzles and cake.

I still believe and stand by everything I wrote in the post, but in the same way that turning thirty taught me a lot, so too have the following five years. I continue to be mesmerised by the ways in which humans grow and develop, and how our experiences shape the people we become and the dreams we dream. I continue to believe in keeping well away from that high speed train and laying your own tracks instead, even if they do take you to somewhere that feels quite remote once in a while. If there’s one thing I’ve never had any reason to question it’s that you just have to be yourself and follow your instinct no matter how challenging and/or lonely it can sometimes feel. You can go to as many fairgrounds as you want but there’s no rubber duck out there that will tell you anything different to that, and if there is it’s the sort that’ll win you a really shit prize: think a counterfeit fiver, or a Dip Dab without the lolly.

But I suppose what I didn’t bank on discovering was how much more conscious of my age – and critical of my choices – that I would become, the closer I got to my mid-thirties. How much I would start to think a bit more about those numbers, and how historic “1985” would increasingly sound. I couldn’t have predicted how unsettled I would sometimes be by the connotations of the additional seconds it would take to scroll a drop-down menu when entering a year of birth, combined with the notable prevalence of grey hairs and frequent need to apply the Nice’n’Easy.

I had never wanted to engage my biological clock in a race, and I still don’t – and won’t – but I do have to concede that the prospect of old Clocky bothers me now much more than it used to. Mainly because it’s ticking louder, and the increased volume of that is just generally annoying. I’d really like to just take the batteries out of the blasted thing and bury it for a decade, in all honesty, so that I can unearth it in the future and look at it in the same way I look at a trouser-skirt, a clunky cassette walkman, or a glittery green jelly shoe now. Throw in a pandemic at the same time, and that’s a lot of reflection opportunity, and reflection, whilst important to do, isn’t always an easy experience.

When you’re reflecting in your twenties, all you have to really look back on is your childhood self, and so it’s easy to feel like you’re growing, but your mid-thirties is the first opportunity you really get to look back over a time in your adult life, when you thought you knew everything (or at least, a fair bit). And that can be a tougher match. We all felt “old” when we turned thirty, and that we had life and the world all figured out. Nowadays, we have the ability to both laugh at that idea but also know that our future forty year old selves are laughing at both of us from 2031. The eighty year olds have even more to say; and hopefully they’ve got a massive glass of sherry and a huge piece of cake in their hands as they say it, because I can imagine this calorie-counting-to-keep-healthy game will get really boring after a while.

As I approach my thirty sixth birthday, which will officially herald in my “late thirties” (urgh), I find myself wishing I could write to the girl who wrote “The Truth About Turning 30” and tell her that there have been lots of things she’s been right about, but also lots of things she hasn’t been right about, so to go out and embrace the new knowledge that’s out there for the taking, and never just assume that “this is it“. Explore the other carriages on the train. Look out of the windows a bit longer. Get out at one of the random stations and linger there for a bit. Understand that you won’t always get it right, and that there are a number of things you’ve got pretty wrong despite feeling confident in the ideas at the time. Own those mistakes. Accept reality: Be prepared for the fact that life gets indelibly more expensive and you’ll often feel like you have both your head and your heart clamped within a financial vice, no matter how much you vehemently believed that money shouldn’t matter. Be prepared for the fact that there will be certain stages coming up where the tracks you have laid – and continue to lay – feel very far apart from the main line, and it won’t always feel as easy as you think it should, so be sure to have a destination to focus on. Be prepared to acknowledge that your youth is gone and so too have some of the opportunities that come with it. In other words, be prepared for challenge, and the fact it gets harder, and have a response to that.

And with this in mind, it’s very hard to approach thirty six and feel excited about it in the same way one might an 18th, a 21st or a 30th birthday. These days I feel knackered after two beers and don’t have quite the same energy that youth enables. Yet, there is somehow a lot of comfort and security to be taken from this realism. To be prepared, to be ready, to make time count, and to know that the final passage from a particular chapter does not give away the plot of the whole book.

So, mid-’30’s peers, let’s take a look and see which ducks are floating around this particular ‘ground.

Song of the Day: Sufjan Stevens & Angelo de Augustine – It’s Your Own Body and Mind

This is just exceptionally lovely. Sufjan nails it again in this brand new release which Spotify has completed my Sunday with.

“One hand holds the candle
The other onе holds the flame
Infinite with it’s guiding light
Illuminating all things thе same”