Canvey Island – Berlin – Ramsgate

February 4, 2009

Canvey Island – Berlin – Ramsgate – 2008

I never made it to Canvey Island, perhaps I never will. An enclave of under 50, 000, below sea level, Jarrow-on-Sea. Tribalism, clear among Essex folk is tenuously linked in my mind with the ice age and Anglo Saxon invasion. From a regular flight, on a clear day, the whole of Estuarine England can be seen in one view. Charlton, refers to Kerl, roughly ‘Lad’, so the fit Germans left Sheppey to them, and sailed up the ever narrowing Creek to Twickenham, the tidal end to found their first rugby club and penetrate the rich interior revolving round Silchester and Roman Surrey.
Berlin. I lived in Berlin 1978-80, 1990-1997, returning there regularly in between and since.
I circled Berlin on the ringbahn, which takes about one hour, to see what has changed. Commercial development in the east, mainly. Sudbahnhof added. The rail structure now a target cross-hair. I hate the new parliament, love the new stations. At least there is a vista to Main Station. Norman Foster’s original plan would have been best. I had spent a whole week circling the Wrapped Reichstag! Once, in deepest dark winter our flight circled Berlin for hours. The snowploughs battled to clear the runway, temporarily overcoming nature, so they did.

Living in West Bridgford, working in London, in February 2009 I had reason not to return to Nottingham, so, like a nomad, visited somewhere different every weekend, starting with Ramsgate.
Ramsgate. Out of Charing Cross, staying at a hotel on the cliff, arriving in darkness. Referred to as North Foreland on the Shipping Forecast. Under cliff, stuccoed and timber white painted Queen Anne Regency whatever partly ripped out sea hotels, car parks and ubiquitous post-modern café. Rough seas lash Ramsgate harbour. No foot passengers to Oostende, only cars. One is aware this is the Isle of Thanet. Manston, first target of yellow nosed Messerschmitt not far off. It is possible to walk from Margate to Ramsgate under squat chalk cliffs. Margate Coach Station tucked under cliff, east of the town just like in the 1950’s. With coasters anchored offshore before turning at right angles south to Broadstairs it is acutely obvious and nice to know, this is Thames south river mouth.

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