Kentish

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We were in Kent last week, staying on Romney Marsh. I’ve only ever travelled through Kent before en route to Dover but exploring it was fantastic. As a bonus the weather was good too. Just down the road is Dungeness, one of the bleakest and most beautiful places in the country. Plus it’s got an enormous nuclear power station which adds to the drama along with the masses of shingle flats and a pair of lighthouses. This one, the older of the two, is open and you can climb to the top.

Dungeness is also home to a community of artists and bohemians who live in a scattered collection of wooden cottages, some converted railway carriages. This one, Prospect Cottage, was the home of Derek Jarman.

Kent’s coastline is dotted with reminders of the past and it’s relationship with France, only twenty-five miles away. During the Napoleonic wars a string of Martello towers were built, against the threat of invasion. This one is Martello tower number 25 and is situated in a car park next to a small amusement park.

From a later conflict and threat of invasion, this World war Two era pill box looks out over the marsh.

Right behind the site we were staying on are some sound mirrors. The listening ears were constructed in the late 1920s, a form of acoustic sound detection and early warning of approaching enemy aircraft. Within a few years they were superceded by radar. There are three at Romney; this thirty foot concrete dish next to a smaller one and a two hundred feet long curved concrete wall. They’ve been closed off to the public due to vandalism and damage, now marooned on a man made island in a nature reserve. There’s a swing bridge for guided tour access (but not while we were there).

Musically, Kent means Billy Childish to me. We didn’t get to Chatham, it’s north Kent not south. This song is from the second album he did with his wife Nurse Julie and Wolf Howard as The Chatham Singers, a blues-gospel thing.

The Good Times

 

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Gallows Eyes

One of my favourite Billy Childish songs today. In 2005 Billy produced yet another album, this time sidestepping the three chord garage-punk to make an album of two halves. Most of the album is poetry readings, many of them nakedly honest, some funny, some quite uncomfortable to listen to. The first seven songs are something else entirely. Recording with Wolf and Nurse Julie as The Chatham Singers, they strip it right back and play seven songs of ragged Delta blues, Billy coaxing some lovely warm guitar tones and Wolf and Julie keeping time on bass and drums. If they sound like they were recorded in his kitchen, it’s probably because they were. This one is particularly good.

The Man With the Gallows Eyes