It was The Ambassador’s Daughter’s birthday so what better treat than an outing to Margate, taking in the ‘Turner Contemporary’ Art Gallery.
Unfortunately, only two of the exhibition rooms were open and, as the gallery has no works of its own to act as a permanent collection, the offerings were a bit thin.
However, in the spirit of contemporary art, I took the opportunity to create my own work in this hallowed space – ‘Jacket on Bench with View of the Sea’. Naturally, pop-up art is always going to be a bit thin on intellectual content – that’s the nature of spontaneity – but as I’ve always been fascinated by the endless oscillation of the tide and the creation of new realities, ‘Jacket’, brings us face to face with the darkness of our existence as a metaphor for vegetarian ethics Wittgenstein Kafka zeitgeist UFO fishcakes – you know the sort of thing.
Tracy Emin and Turner? I can’t quite see the connection; it’s like me associating myself with Henry Ford – faintly ridiculous.
In some ways, Margate is the poor cousin of Ramsgate. Much money has been spent on restoring the latter – I learn that the town has more listed buildings than any other in the country – whereas Margate, despite having a more interesting ‘Old Town’ (reminiscent of ‘The Lanes’ in Brighton) appears neglected and slightly shabby.
Leaving Margate, lunch at the Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Café on Manston Airfield beckoned and we were not disappointed. Ham, egg and chips were especially warming on a wet and blustery day. There were two museums on the site – the café building houses excellent displays of material contemporary to the Spitfire and Hurricane – examples of which are also resident. My only complaint was the rather unnecessary attention drawn to the fact that some of the aircraft instrument’s paint was radio-active; bright yellow stickers in the cockpits and a large sign attached to the Spitfire’s hatch rather spoilt the displays.
In the RAF Manston Museum, a few yards from the café, there was all sorts of interesting stuff from the station’s history when it was first a Royal Naval Air Station until it was closed in 2014 having been a commercial airport since 1999.
Returning to Ramsgate there was another attraction which we managed to see a small part of before it closed for the day – the Ramsgate Tunnels. Ramsgate Station was originally about a mile from the sea-front – a fact not lost on holiday makers when it came to choosing between Ramsgate and Margate (whose station was closer to the beach and wasn’t at the top of a steep hill). To rectify this, a tunnel was constructed in 1863 that took the railway down to the beach, terminating in a new station adjacent to the harbour. Eventually, after several ups and downs in its fortunes, the line was privately converted into a narrow gauge electric line and continued to operate up until the 2nd World War when a network of tunnels was extended from the main tunnel and the whole used as an air-raid shelter. Ramsgate had been heavily bombed in the 1st World War so it was a welcome facility for the inhabitants of the town. The line re-opened following the cessation of hostilities and eventually closed in 1965. We were entertained with this information (and a lot more detail besides) by ‘Emma’ in the ticket office, whose passionate interest in this and the history of Ramsgate was a delight.
So, when in Ramsgate….