I am writing this with the central heating turned on at home in Lewes, UK. It’s a rainy day and it is difficult to understand how only two weeks ago I visited the Kent seaside harbour town Whitstable on a hot summer day when the beach still sported sun worshippers in their swimming gear.
When the soaring temperatures of this wonderful English summer made not doing very much if you can help it, a national pastime.
I had never been to this quirkily eccentric town before but I became an instant fan. It’s unlike anywhere else that I’ve visited in the UK. People enjoy themselves here, or so it seemed to me. There is much more to it than you’d think at first walking down its main shopping streets, smart though they are in a pleasantly seedy kind of way.
There are some good pubs and restaurants including the famous Wheeler’s Oyster Bar which has been serving Whitstable oysters to discerning oyster-lovers since 1856. I like to think Whitstable aficionado, Charles Dickens enjoyed some here too. http://www.wheelersoysterbar.com/
Frightened of missing out on lunch because I arrived there early afternoon, I found another restaurant, Birdies, named in homage to jazz genius Charlie Parker who as far as I could tell, never visited Whitstable even if he is so obviously loved here to this day.
It was all very smart and I was not surprised to discover that the town has a new nick-name, Islington-on-Sea. Londoners wanting to escape to fresh-air and open-spaces without sacrificing decent coffee and somewhere to read the Sunday papers, have started to come down to Whitstable in very orderly hordes. They appreciate European-style cuisine in restaurants in no hurry to chuck you out too so Birdies is very popular. Not only does it have an interesting mix of continental European cooking but there’s some American influence there too along with classic Whitstable seafood, whelks, lobster and, of course oysters.
You can’t avoid Whitstable oysters in Whitstable even if you want to – they are everywhere.
Oyster shell recycling sites have a charming 19th Century quality.
The shells are being returned to the seabed to build up new habitats for the next generations of oyster.
Like the ever-present redshanks, you don’t even have to go to restaurants for a good seafood platter. This seafront oyster bar is surely dining out perfection.
They’ve even got a pub on the beach here.
On a hot summer afternoon, what better than a pint of locally brewed ale outside the Old Neptune where the sea virtually laps your feet. http://www.neppy.co.uk/
Whitstable feels like a very out-of-doors kind of place so I wondered around admiring how thin a line there is here between inside and outside.
I want to be there now – who needs a roof? Then again, I want summer back too.
These wonderfully ramshackle buildings are part fishing cottage, part beach hut and part dream home.
I was suffering from definite house envy looking at these unconventionally beautiful buildings.
Whitstable, Islington-on-Sea or hippy commune. Whatever it is, I love it.
I’m getting into gear for the imminent publication (31st October 2013) of my novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, the story of a young fogey living in Brighton in 1967 who has a lot to learn when the flowering hippie counter culture changes him and the world around him.
You can already pre-order the book from the publishers, Ward Wood Publishing:
…or from Book Depository:
…or from Amazon: