Sunday, 10 December 2017

Saturday morning in West Kent

“Rejoice, we’re on our way out”; so screamed the banner headline on the front of the Daily (hate) Mail. I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to be rejoicing about, but I had a good inkling, so without further ado I inverted and turned round the stack of Little England’s favourite daily, leaving would be purchasers to be greeted with an upside-down sports page, and carried on with my shopping. I doubt many residents of Kings Hill would bother buying Middle England’s finest rag anyway, but there’s nothing like making sure.

I don’t expect many of you will have heard of Kings Hill, so to put you out of your misery, it is one of several new villages built in Kent since the 1950’s. It occupies the site of the former RAF West Malling airfield, which was one of the front-line airfields during the Battle of Britain.

The airfield was decommissioned by the RAF in 1969, but it remained in civilian use until the late 1980’s, when work started to transform the site into a new village community of mixed residential and commercial properties. The latter are mainly fancy-looking office buildings; some of which are corporate headquarters for faceless companies. The development work began in 1989 and seemingly continues to this day.

As its name suggests it is situated on a hill, close to the small market town of West Malling. It is a cold and windy place and I don’t like it at all, but it does have a reasonably-sized ASDA, and that was the attraction, for Mrs PBT’s at least, which led to us making the 20 minute journey over from Tonbridge.

The drive over was the second best part of the morning, with the drive home being the best, but at least this did allow us to appreciate the Kent countryside on a cold winter’s day; even if it was from the warmth of the car.

Now Mrs PBT’s prefers to do supermarket shopping on her own.  She is quite insistent on this, so there are no joint moments of indecision in the aisles whilst Thursday evening’s meal choice is debated. This suits me perfectly, but what to do with the time, before I receive my summons to assist her at the checkout?

Shopping locally in Tonbridge, poses no problems as I can head off into the town on errands such as banking, man-shopping or just generally having a look around. With Fuggles now open I can also pop in for a swift half depending, of course, on the time of day.

The other food-shopping destination are the Tunbridge Wells retail parks at North Farm; a destination which is now much easier to reach following completion of the upgrade to the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury. Whilst Mrs PBT’s is in ASDA, I normally head over to Gregg’s where I can pick up a half-decent cup of coffee and take advantage of their free Wi-Fi.

Kings Hill is a different proposition altogether. Cold and draughty, even during the height of summer, there is nowhere to sit out and watch the world go by. The only other shops are an opticians, a Chinese restaurant and a Costa Coffee. I have resorted to the latter before, out of desperation, but it is pricey and full of “yummy mummies” and their “charming” children. Perhaps they make up the bulk of the Daily Fail’s target audience in Kings Hill, in which case they may have had to look a bit harder on Saturday for their fake-news fix.
After disposing of our household’s collected re-cycleable items in the correct bins, I popped into ASDA, to pick up some cheap beer and sort out their newspaper display.  I took my purchases back to the car, and then wandered around aimlessly, not relishing the prospect of handing over my money for an over-sized cup of frothy coffee; but also not keen on returning to the supermarket.

My wanderings took me past Kings Hill’s only pub and it was here that an “A” board caught my eye. Fresh coffee and tea available inside at prices a lot more amenable than Costa’s. The pub in question is called the Spitfire, which is highly appropriate in view of the role played by the aircraft and also RAF West Malling in the nation’s history. The name is doubly appropriate as the pub belongs to Shepherd Neame, and Spitfire is their top-selling ale-brand.

This would be the first time I’ve set foot inside the Spitfire, but given my known aversion to Shepherd Neame beers this is hardly surprising. A decent cup of coffee was a different proposition though, so I decided to bite the bullet and step inside.

As the photo’s show, the Spitfire is a monument to brutalist modernism. This means it does not look out of place amongst the rest of King’s Hill’s buildings. The modernist look extended through to the interior as well, but the pub seemed well patronised, and after ordering my coffee I had difficulty in finding an empty seat and a spare table.

I was happy to hand over my £2.00 for what was a very reasonable cup of coffee. I much prefer to give my money to a “local” brewery such as Shepherd Neame, rather than a multi-national chain like Costa Coffee. The only thing was it seemed as though some of the “yummy mummies” thought the same too. Perhaps it was my fault for choosing to sit in the raised area with the comfy sofas, but there really wasn’t anywhere else free.

Fortunately, the group with the noisiest and worst behaved child departed, not long after I’d sat down, leaving me free to people-watch and skim through the emails accumulated on my phone. I didn’t see much cask being served; Spitfire (obviously), plus Whitstable Bay Pale were the beers on offer, but I didn’t witness that much lager being poured either. Most of the customers were either like me and having a quick coffee or were larger groups who had called in for lunch.

To end, I can think of far more enjoyable and productive ways to spend a few hours on a Saturday, but needs must and all that. I will remember the Spitfire though as a place to retreat to, the next time Mrs PBT’s decides  to shop at Kings Hill.


Anonymous said...

Great post on real life, Paul.

What is "man shopping" ? 😉

Curmudgeon said...

If you're turning around copies of the "Daily Mail" it comes across as absolutely pathetic, Paul. Frankly I would have expected better of you.

Paul Bailey said...

You sound like my poor dead mother, Mudge – “expecting better of me”. You obviously don’t know me that well.

Burning the hate-filled rag would be a much better idea. By the way, haven’t you ever done something that’s a little mischievous?

Syd Differential said...

Just out of interest - in the EU Referendum Tonbridge and Malling voted LEAVE by 41,229 to 32,792.
It's probably a bit late to be sabotaging Daily Mail displays now Paul !

Paul Bailey said...

It’s never too late Syd, and it’s worth considering that Tonbridge & Malling is a bit of a mish-mash constituency, running from Snodland in the north to Tonbridge in the south. The district was created in 1974, by the merger of Tonbridge Urban District with Malling Rural District, plus the parishes of Hadlow and Hildenborough from Tonbridge Rural District. Many people in Tonbridge claim the town got the areas no-one else wanted!

The southern part of the borough is the more affluent; whereas the northern areas are less well off. At the risk of sounding patronising, places like Aylesford, Burham, and Snodland are most likely to have voted Leave; not that it matters now that St Theresa has waved her magic wand and made everything hunky-dory again with those pesky Europeans.

Russtovich said...

OK, let's get this back on track. :)

"It occupies the site of the former RAF West Malling airfield,"

Interesting. They've done something similar to a few places in Canada, like Greisbach for example:

With regards to the large ASDA, the 20 minute drive and Mrs PBT wishing to shop on her own, all I can say is... heh. :)

I am in a similar situation. A large Costco about 40 minutes away; Mrs Russtovich insisting on shopping on her own (thank god!), but sadly, no handy pub nearby (although the Costco does have a *cough* food court):

I'll leave it to your imagination as to what it looks like (hint; mere feet away from checkout with plastic tables and chairs that are bolted to the ground).

So while I can feel your pain my commiseration is somewhat lacking. :)

"After disposing of our household’s collected re-cycleable items in the correct bins"

Hah! Our town council finally pulled their finger out on this and as of six months ago we can take all of our recyclables to the bins and dump it all in together, no sorting! (we do have weekly pickup at home but it's limited to what can fit in a small blue bin and with my wife's catering business that is never sufficient for us).


PS - "What is "man shopping" ? ��"

Agreed. I thought man shopping was the "just generally having a look round". :)

Russtovich said...

Argh. Ok, how come smileys don't work for me, even when I'm copying from a previous comment? (sigh)

Paul Bailey said...

Mrs PBT's doesn't drive unfortunately, so I have to act as chauffeur as well as grocery packer!

Paul Bailey said...

"Man shopping" - sometimes "just generally having a look round", but also buying the few items us men occasionally need. Primarily beer, but also visiting the local outdoor shop for hiking stuff, or doing the rounds of charity shops.

It's amazing how many CD's, maps and travel guides, I've picked up from such places.

Russtovich said...

Mrs Russtovich drives, but she prefers to let me do it if possible. :)

As to man-shopping; what you say makes sense. Plus, DIY* stores and perhaps computer stores if only to mainly browse.


* - that's the way you say it over there for hardware stores like Home Depot and the like over here, yes?

Curmudgeon said...

"haven’t you ever done something that’s a little mischievous?"

Of course, but I haven't behaved like a juvenile Trotskyist when I'm sixty years old :P

Paul Bailey said...

Sixty is the new forty, and not liking certain hate-filled newspapers does not make one a raving leftie.

qq said...

Interestingly the last three Sheps pubs I've been in didn't have Spitfire on draught - and only one had bottles of it visible. Surprised me for what is in theory their benchmark beer.

Nick said...

Hi Paul,

Good work protecting the fragile minds of Kings Hill in turning the Heils around.

Can I ask where, and what, is the sculpture at the top ?



Paul Bailey said...

Hi Nick, according to Wikipedia, the sculpture is "A different ball game", by Kevin Atherton. It consists of a 10 ft (3.0 m) diameter reflective ball being pushed in different directions by three life-size bronze figures which were cast from local people. It is situated on the roundabout between the business park and the residential area at Kings Hill.

I didn't know this either, even though I must have driven past the work dozens of times.