Moving the goalposts

Mac said that the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, had posted a really amusing little poem recently. You may well have seen the ditty in your national newspaper, beginning with the words:


Goalpost-moving badgers

“Because the Badgers are moving the goalposts,

The Ferrets are bending the rules,

The Weasels are taking the hindmost,

The Otters are downing tools”

It continues quite charmingly through another eighteen animals, some twisting the facts, some losing the plot and some passing the blame. Sounds more and more familiar, every time he looks at it. It finishes with the Bustards. Well we all know who they are. Worth googling and reading more than once, although it turns out it’s inspired by this bedroom tax. Mac says he had no idea you could be taxed for having a bit of spare in the bedroom. Seems a little unnecessary as if any of the junior or indeed senior wives found out, taxidermy would be a more appropriate application.  By the way, Mrs Carty is still resisting the offer of becoming a junior wife, muttering that it’s exactly the sort of thing an oily git would get up to. She thought he’d be trying to stop her driving next. Mac incidentally had just begun excavating the garden looking for sources of new energy, maybe a fracking well, but has decided to stop digging. Well there’s always a first time.

Apparently the original phrase about badgers and goalposts was conjured up by that Owen Paterson, the Walter Gabriel of the countryside, providing the nation with light comic relief. He seems to know a fair bit about horses, wearing leather and fox hunting, so perhaps he’s on to something with this theory on football pitches. He obviously fills one of those unique traditional roles within his own village. When Mac was playing for the likes of Hartsdown Athletic or Thanet Hotspur at grounds like Garlinge Rec, he had also often wondered whether someone was moving the goalposts, other than the groundsmen of course. See, he’s always been rather short-sighted and most teams encouraged him to play at the back. Not sure why, because at least one of his extended family is buried in the next grave to George Best. There’ll always be a celestial kick-around somewhere in the skies above Belfast and probably a pint or two of George BestGuinness or perhaps Hobgoblin, to be topical. We draw the line at Bishop’s Finger. Peter Millsted, son of Mac’s eccentric Chatham House music teacher Harold, played for many years for Cheam Hockey Club and George would apparently slip in to drink quietly at their bar most weekends. Even when supposedly on the wagon. His in-laws lived just around the corner.

Harold Millsted belonged to the days before recycling and would roll his own with great ceremony, smoking the cigarettes down to the stub and then keeping all of the fag-ends. This he did religiously, keeping them in a small tobacco tin, probably Old Holborn, which was described as having a rich flavour with dark earthy notes. Very appropriate for a music master. Heaven knows what else he kept in his tin. He retired from the school shortly after a pompous new head arrived, who decided to ban the school song. Sadly most of the reprobates who meet quarterly in the Albion or up in town can still sing every damn word. “Here where the feet of Englishmen first trod the English soil, etc etc.”. Those were the days when there were lots of  fuzzy-wuzzy’s and they didn’t like it up ’em. Now they would probably be claiming for the whiplash injuries. At the very next assembly, Harold apparently waitedpiano hands at the piano until the new head paused for breath, struck up the opening chords of the old battle hymn and the whole school joined in, marching in strong battalions on the foe, seemingly the new head. Wonderful man, Harold, but he left shortly after.


Badger or beaver

To get back to the original tale, fullbacks were in those days not encouraged to cross the halfway line, unless needing to go to the toilet or slip off for a crafty puff. Mac always tried to get into the opposing box at least twice every game, but it appears that his finishing was always thought to be one of the reasons why he was a full back. Corner flags were regularly struck and broken. He had always wondered whether it was nothing to do with his shooting at all, but rather that indeed someone up there was moving the goalposts. Now he’s convinced it could have been the badgers. However his friend Andrew, who fancies himself as an ecologist, claims that there are very few badgers in Garlinge or indeed Thanet and it is more likely to have been beavers. Well he should know I suppose. If you look at the rather strange lists of animals and birds in the original Hall by the Sea, it was often a very unusual menagerie, so maybe some of the beavers mated and stayed in the area. It’s legal now anyway. Mac seems to remember the Cinque Ports pub having its fair share of beaver, including the barmaids. Obviously close to the water and six inches below sea level. In hindsight it might well have been an important historical beaver dam.

DreamlandThe Dreamland project is a wonderful and interesting challenge. Do you try to recreate a slightly smaller version of the original amusement park, charming and nostalgic, or do you look to newer forms of entertainment with games and simulation that could extend its usage all year round? A Dreamland can be whatever you want it to be. Mac said he had been flicking through the Dreamland Trust posts. He was glad to see that the team contained people who understood the industry and had been up to Blackpool just recently to talk to the professionals. Mac actually ran a two day creative session there when Geoffrey Thompson was alive and if they spent some time with the delightful David Cam, the Company Secretary, they will at least have come back with a full joke book. The giant Merlin team are probably worth a call as well, as the boys running it came up through Tussauds and were good guys as well. Not all of the folk in the industry are good guys.


A flying Tracey Emin bed?

Huge opportunity though for local association and sponsorship. Transeuropa will obviously want ownership of any ‘Wipeout’ ride and perhaps the neighbouring anchor tenant, Tesco, would be interested in a ‘Freefall’ attraction, given their current sales performance. The council will want to be involved in any ‘Hall of Mirrors’, where you can elude any scrutiny for days on end, or perhaps an  ‘Octopus’ ride. Plenty of spin there too. Not sure though if any of the political parties would want to co-operate in a ‘Tunnel of Love’, but they will all surely want to take their turn on “Muffin the Mule”, which is apparently one of the rides already purchased by the Trust. There’ll be quite a fight as to who gets to wear the ‘Mule’ costume.  Suggestions please on a postcard for sponsorship of other rides like ‘The Black Hole’, ‘The Whip’ or an ‘Oblivion’. Mac is also fairly sure there used to be a large pirate ship in Dreamland which swung lengthways. Why not replace that with a large flying Tracey Emin bed? A Vagina Monologue Flume?

Mac says he used to know a fair amount about the visitor attraction business and saw most of the larger concerns at close hand, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some wonderful people with great passion, but not easy getting it right or keeping the numbers up.  There is some talk in the Dreamland archives that they may include a new menagerie in the restored park. That won’t be easy and may provoke some heated discussion. By the way, the original bills for the Hall by the Sea do claim amusingly that there was at least one badger on display in the cages. Mind you, whatever you decide about the involvement of animals, keep the Bustards well away. They just tend to images-2break the bank and the evidence is often as black and white as the badgers. Mac thinks that Owen, ‘me old pal, me old beauty’, might well have shot the wrong species and he’s probably not alone in that view. Still, he’s glad you’ve won your court case. Just don’t let anyone move those goalposts.


You stupid boy

Ramsgate Volunteers

The Ramsgate Volunteer

Mac said how much he had enjoyed the recent post by the Ramsgate Historical Society about ‘The Ramsgate Volunteer’, edited by J P Kelleher. This was a wonderful mine of information about the local militia, which were first organised to defend the coastline against the threat of Napoleon and the French. Many of the names of the volunteers seemed familiar – Bing, Sackett, Mockett, for example. At least two of those were strong sporting families in the area when Mac grew up (Editor’s note – the term ‘grew up’ is subjective and might be challenged), so maybe have been there for generations. If you scrolled down the information, you found that by 1887 the militia had become the 1st Volunteer Battalion The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) and seven years later a Cadet Corps was even attached from Chatham House College. By then the last two Colonels had been from the Knocker family, so you can only imagine that the schoolboys were motivated to join by the reputation of the Knockers. Would have been the same in Mac’s day. Mac’s friend, Andrew, who actually taught at Chatham House as well as being a student, always used to fall about when acting in the school play, at the thought that a titter could run round the audience. Mac says he never quite understood the joke.


Don’t tell him, Pike

Most of the contemporary reports talked about the quality of the volunteers and their commanders and how ready the local men were to leap to the defence of their country. Initially all the companies were issued with pikes, so it was only a sad leap of imagination before Mac moved on to the subject of pikes and Dad’s Army. Of course, Captain Mainwaring’s, “Don’t tell him, Pike” was once said to be the funniest line in television comedy, but probably a little bland for today’s audiences. Do you remember the fuss at the end of last year, when it was announced that they were planning a remake of Dad’s Army? A woman was going to be in charge of the platoon and that Miranda was in the frame for the role of the Captain. That must be why the Intelligence Services detained her. Can you imagine a woman in charge of a seaside mission? The likes of Private Joe Walker and his developer friends would run rings round her. All those underhand deals. Could never happen, could it? By the way, if that Tom Ellis did hold Miranda for ten hours, he must be the most perfectly ruptured man in the country.  Not sure he’ll be able to get up the stairs in the new series of ‘Downton Abbey’ now.

They don't like it up 'em

They don’t like it up ’em

The Ramsgate piece was terrific, but Mac was a little cynical about the descriptions of the morale of the local volunteers, as described by their commanders. Leaders recruited naturally from the local aristocracy and the public schools. What was it Corporal Private Jones used to say? “They don’t like it up ’em”. Not sure you got that right, Jonesy. The joke, as you will well know, was that Captain Mainwaring was the grammar school boy, whilst Sergeant Wilson (the wonderful John Le Mesurier, who himself lived in Ramsgate) was the public schoolboy. However you get a much more accurate picture of the calibre of the local volunteers when you move on to the Sea Fencibles, also covered in the piece. They were founded in early 1798 as an anti-flotilla force from local watermen, fishermen and oystermen. Probably some deck-chair sellers and pedalo attendants amongst them. You learn more when Nelson himself was asked to command the south coast defences in 1801. He had up to eighty small craft at his disposal and was stationed for a while in the ‘Medusa’, directly off Margate. However Nelson steadfastly remained on board, except for one excursion to Deal, much to the disappointment of the local bigwigs.

British bulldog

So much for the British Bulldog

The reports of the Sea Fencibles show that they were tardy at turning out for training and reluctant to serve, despite all of Nelson’s encouragement and his reputation. They didn’t seem to realise that “they were all doomed”, if Boney ever crossed the Channel. These really were some sort of Dad’s Army. In one small ship, ‘L’Unite’, it was said that twelve had wooden legs; eight had ruptures and could not pull on ropes; and most were old and infirm. Indeed Nelson told St Vincent that only 385 of a possible 2,600 volunteers would serve offshore. Of those that agreed to serve, nearly all refused to serve for more than two days at a time. So much for the British Bulldog and Mac thought that was much more realistic than the glowing reports about the Army volunteers submitted by their commanders. You can only be grateful that Napoleon and his ruddy hooligans eventually decided to turn their attention to the Russians.

Lady Hamilton

Emma Hamilton

Lord Nelson

Lord Nelson

Mac wondered if his hero, Thomas Paine, would have enjoyed “Dad’s Army”. Having spent an unhappy time in Margate after his wife died in 1760, he might not have laughed at a comedy based on a Kent seaside resort. Or he might have concluded that nothing ever really changes and that we have always been governed by comedians. Much of Dad’s Army was also filmed in Thetford where Paine was born, so perhaps that would have been an attraction. By the way, in 1801 he was still in France, at least released from the Bastille death cell, but thoroughly disillusioned with Napoleon. Always a patriot, but a fierce critic of the Establishment, he was horrified at the thought of a French invasion of England and would have supported Nelson’s efforts. Nelson’s femme fatale, Emma Hamilton, was interestingly a regular visitor to Margate with her young daughter Horatia and in fact took her last holiday with Sir William Hamilton there just before he died. She bathed in the sea, took the ‘health-giving’ seawater and probably swallowed a great deal, so rumour has it. Amusingly Sir William was said to be missing his fishing back home and complained bitterly all the time they were there. Mind you, in 1801 Nelson had put in a strongly worded report from the ‘Medusa’ about the condition of the sick quarters at Margate, the quality of the local beer and the lack of bunting. Not sure what the local council was up to in those days. Perhaps there has always been some sort of dreamland they inhabit. Emma must have just come for the beaches – the nine miles of golden sands – and not for the quality of the local conveniences. Incidentally we do not know whether Nelson’s real wife ever visited Margate. There are no reports of Fanny being sighted in Thanet at all. Very different from the halcyon days of the 1960’s, so “don’t panic”.