Monday, 30 April 2012

Lighthouse spotter's badge

I was off this weekend on a short break to Camber Sands, organised by my wife and a couple of her friends. On these jaunts I expect nothing more than salubrious digs, a decent meal out somewhere and a catch up in the pub with my wife's friends' husbands.

However, any trip to the coast will always have me scrabbling for my copy of Lighthouses of England & Wales and I was pleased to see that Dungeness was a distinct possibility.  All that stood between me and it was whether or not I could sway "the gang" into visiting a desolate headland that was also the home of a nuclear power station.  It didn't seem likely and crazy golf at Hastings was very much on the cards, until it started raining cats and dogs.

So, Dungeness. What a weird place, tons of beached boats and rickety little shacks, some kind of military type stuff (on the way my wife shouted out, "A tank!" but I wasn't quick enough to spot it) and a whopping great nuclear power station.  For the lighthouse spotter Dungeness offers exceptional value, with two and a half lighthouses situated there.

Only the old lighthouse is accessible and I zoomed to the top of that (stopping to take some snaps of some pretty, colour lens things). At the top I went through a little hatch onto an outside parapet, the view from which was staggering: the sprawling settlement of Dungeness, the miniature railway carriages (looking a bit like a centipede from this height) and off in the distance the white cliffs of Dover (I think).  The weather had turned lovely and you can sometimes see France from the top of the lighthouse, I didn't notice if you could or not.  I was slightly nervous to be honest and when the breeze got a bit frisky I was back through the hatch.

Back on the ground floor I got chatting to the custodian of the lighthouse and bought a lovely little cruet set, more as a token of support of their efforts in keeping the place going than anything else (I rarely add salt to food and I don't think I've ever added pepper to anything).  Old Dungeness is one of the tallest lighthouses in the country apparently and I read later that they do a certificate for reaching the top. Tragically I was not made aware of this at the time.

I love the whole Victorian-ness of lighthouses but while I was there I thought I ought to check out the new lighthouse (built 1961). You can't go in this one but I had a good squint and was quite taken with it, it's a bit Chris Foss I think.

Also on the list were the acoustic mirrors at nearby Greatstone* which longstanding readers might remember once featured as this blog's header picture.  Sadly I couldn't find out if there were any guided tours on, time was limited and my fellow holiday makers were in any case unwilling to wade through waist deep water and indulge in a little minor trespassing to check out, in their words, "giant lumps of old concrete".

The day before I'd nipped into Rye to pick up some groceries and chanced upon the excellent Grammar School Records shop, possibly the most impressive looking exterior of any record shop I've seen. I was a bit doubtful though when I went in, a surfeit of Alan Parsons Project-type record shop I thought.  But very quickly I found an immaculate copy of the Tom Tom Club's first album, which I snapped up straight away.  (Incidentally, Tina Weymouth's comment, that despite being young and hip in Seventies New York, she'd been shocked by the antics of the Happy Mondays in the Bahamas, used to be one of those things that made me feel proud to be British.  Sullied now though by Shaun Ryder's support for the Tories.)

Anyway, I rate Wordy Rappinghood higher than other early rap, far funnier and more fluent than anything I've heard by the Sugarhill Gang and it knocks Blondie's Rapture into a cocked hat.

* A distinct lack of ancient megalithic monuments, another of my holiday favourites, in the area.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

My two cents

I read today that Matt Groening has said that The Simpsons' hometown of Springfield is in Oregon, though there is some skepticism in the media as he has, in the past, made claims for other states. Anyway, you'll be glad to know I have my own (concise) theory. Once upon a time, whiling away the hours, I was scrutinising an atlas. And, yeah, there in Illinois I saw there was a Springfield quite near a Shelbyville.