Margate holds great memories for me because as a child it was THE destination to go to. Oh how you could brag at school in September that you had been to Dreamland, eaten candy floss and paddled in Margate’s sea. It was ever so sad to return there years later and find the beautiful town in such decline.

Margate, Kent‘Why can’t somebody invest money in this seaside resort and bring it back to it’s former glory?’ was a thought spent by many over the past 20 years.

The huge tower overlooking the seafront seemed to drag the town down even further and the sad closed up fish and chip shops, cafes and amusement arcades that lined the coast all boarded up and covered in graffiti didn’t help either.

So on our recent camping trip to Manston Caravan Park I was delighted to witness the busy rebirthing of the Old Town in Margate.

Hayley, my sister in law and I left the children with their dads for a child free afternoon and we drove off to have a look at the Turner Contemporary Gallery on the seafront which opened in April this year. It’s a beautiful white building with clean crisp lines and large open areas, the terrace outside dotted with colourful chairs to drink a coffee whilst watching over the busy beach in front. The entrance houses a massive art piece by Daniel Buren, the enormous window overlooking out to sea has been framed using his characteristic 8.7 cm vertical stripes to highlight spacial features and make us look at them differently.

Turner Contemporary Gallery, Margate

My attention was quickly taken with the words written everywhere, even up the staircase making the walk up to the next gallery a thought provoking experience, Douglas Gordon inspired by Turner’s magnificent sunsets and the fact that on his death muttered ‘The Son is God’ has incorporated these thoughts into his work.

A fascinating room was given over to Conrad Shawcross, an exhibit in movement hung from the ceiling and the three ‘propellers’ turned as regular as clockwork going over and over the same movement tirelessly, centre to the room a bronze sculpture starting as a thin cone on the floor and as it rises spiralling beautifully out and finally in the opposite corner of the room drawings that seemed to be made with a classic spirograph. It wasn’t until we spoke to the lady on the door of the room that we discovered his work had been inspired by the Projections of a Perfect Third. We learnt that the perfect third is a musical chord that in the past was banned from churches and being played in public as its notes provoked intense emotions from whoever listened. He discovered the precise mathematical ratios represented by harmonical chords and represents them in his art.

Ellen Harvey’s work displayed in ARCADIA, a three quarter scale of the Turner Gallery in London depicting her hand engraved scenes of Margate around the room in the exact positions that Turner’s last exhibition was displayed. the type used for the word ARCADIA the same as the sign for Margate’s Dreamland amusement park.

And Russell Crotty’s paper globes hanging from the ceiling that on closer inspection reveal his written words of what he saw, felt, thought and heard as he walked along the landscapes depicted in his art.

I would thoroughly recommend a visit if you’re in the area and then to finish of the perfect Margate trip have a walk around the Old Town and discover the most fascinating shops, galleries, boutiques and eateries popping up all over and adding to the rebirth of this magnificent town.

Margate Old Town

We also popped into the Pie Factory and found a display of old postcards from post war times all of which had been deemed to mucky for either Ramsgate or Margate back in the day, all 128 postcards can be found in the Cartoon Archive catalogue I learnt that by buying 4 for £5.00 I was contributing to the regeneration of Dreamland itself and discovered there is a fabulous project underway to restore the Amusement park keeping the historic rides including the fully restored and working scenic railway. And rather than be a dry museum it will be a living, fun filled amusement park to enjoy with the family just like back in the day.

I for one can’t wait for it to open so I can relive my childhood fun trips.

This weekend the weather wasn’t brilliant but it was time for us to get out of the house and have a day out so we decided to go to the beach. The sea air would do the world of good to clear up lingering coughs and colds, it was time to introduce the girls to crabbing and sand castles and fish and chips, a firm favourite used as a special occasion on beach days. So car packed to the hilt, it’s amazing how much stuff goes with you, off we set arriving at the beach just in time for lunch. Daddy ordered fish and chips and with the windbreaker up we sat on our mat and enjoyed a very welcome meal. Funny how it tastes even better at the beach isn’t it?

We had buckets and spades and I took some photos, happy of the change of scenery at long last! I mean there’s only so many shots you can take of the girls and flowers in the garden before it becomes a bit tiring!

Just spending one day ‘out’ made me realise how much time we’ve spent around the house since last summer and I am so ready for the good weather to arrive and beach trips to take place again.

Other exciting news to tell is I have been invited to a champagne cocktail by Proctor and Gamble, Check. Me. Out. It’s to take place in a swanky hotel in Soho and I shall get to see the launch of their 80th celebrations of which I am part! I’m so excited, my vlog and posts will be added to their website P&G Proud sponsor of mums along with all the other lovely ladies who joined in and exhausted themselves in the name of research for them. Could this be the start of something new I wonder? Bring it on, I am so ready for challenges and who knows this could lead to a prosperous and famous career….I just might start working on my Oscar speech later this week, of course you’ll all be the first to see it :)

Have a great week all, I’m off to my retired wardrobe to see if there is anything in there fit for rubbing shoulders with the champagne posse. Toodlepip

So S is for Scary, Stories and Supplies today for my entry in Jenny Matlock’s Alphabe Thursday now all I need is a monster aged 8 or over…..

Have you ever heard of 826 literacy project? I hadn’t until yesterday, quite by chance via Twitter and that gives me a fourth S today Serendipity but I digress dear reader. The 826 National is a nonprofit tutoring, writing, and publishing organization, set up to assist students aged six to eighteen with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. Work is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

Sounds brilliant doesn’t it? This is one time that I want to be 10 years old again!

Currently there are 9 centres dotted all over the USA and now, luckily for us, some very hard working people who you can read about on We Made This have secured funding from the Arts Council and The JJ Charitable Trust the author Nick Hornby jumped on board and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies –  Purveyor of Quality Goods for Monsters of Every Kind opened back in November 2010 for the delight of kids across the land and I WANT TO GO NOW! Only I need to be aged 8 – 18…even my best attempt at a monster disguise won’t let me get away with the loss of that many years!

The shop was established in 1818 and has been supplying Britain’s extensive monster community since. In fact you can find a whole range of Tinned Fears each containing a specially commissioned short story from authors like Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith, there is a wonderful selection of Human Preserves and a very handy Neck-Bolt Tightener amongst other necessary monster wares. The beadier eyed beast will note that the shelves of the shop conceal an entrance. A secret and well disguised portal that leads to the Ministry of Stories which has been architectured and designed in the smallest detail to feel really special and it certainly looks special.

The Ministry has already held numerous workshops which monsters both locally and from afar have given their thumbs up. The BBC themselves were suitably impressed and the journalist from The Guardian gave a glowing report. But let’s be honest – would you dare write a bad review on a monster supply shop? – not me!

So if you have some monsters lying around who need a little inspiration or a creative outlet to create the next Harry Potter then you really should rush down to this place…I’m going to kidnap my niece and nephew (aged 9 and 11) whilst they’re sleeping and leave my twins in their beds so their parents won’t realise, that’ll get me my ticket into the Ministry of Stories. How are you going to get in?

I confess to stealing each and every single photo from the We Made This blog and I am now on a 24/7 monster watch. Aaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhh

Group photo in Tate Modern, London

I only have to think the word Italiani and I have a smile on my face. I can say, hand on heart, they are the friendliest, noisiest, chattiest and most patriotic people I know. You cannot BUT be pulled to them and their view on life. They are convinced theirs is the best diet in the world and turn their nose up at our poor English cuisine, you will not, I repeat, will not win a discussion with them over food, trust me just leave it, even if your dad is Gordon Ramsey. They know their country is one of the most beautiful in the world, after all it offers everything, sun, sand, mountains, skiing, countryside, good food EVERYWHERE and they produce most of it themselves. And I would urge anyone thinking of a visit to go, having worked for a few years at the Italian Tourist Board and lived in Italy myself for close to 20 years  it’s like a second home to me.

I was lucky enough this week to have my very own ‘italiani’ over in London for a few days. My best friend Enrica with an entourage that puts Madonna to shame, her husband and their beautiful daughter Vittoria (asleep in her buggy) Max’s two children from his previous marriage and Enrica’s sister who has a very impressive camera and I dread to think how many photos she took home of London with her. Sadly for us, the weather wasn’t palying ball, as we stepped out onto the South Bank to make our way to the Tate Modern the heavens opened and as we raced for the final tunnel that would lead us to the Art Galleries’ entrance we found it was blocked off for repair! Aaaarrrrggghhh! We lugged the two heavy buggies up steps and raced them round to the old power station that houses this marvellous Exhibition house and that is why dear reader we look like drenched rats in our photo :)

We were lucky to catch up with Serena too who is over for six months to improve her English and work/live the London life for a while. And as we stood here for our photo, in the Turbine Hall below us a carpet of sunflower seeds laid out wall to wall. It’s only on closer inspection you see the artist Ai Weiwei has hand crafted each seed from porcelain. 100 million seeds forming a seemingly endless landscape. Go here to see a video fo the man himself and the beauty of his sculpture.

This is my entry for I in Alphabe Thursday over at Jenny Matlock’s and now I’m heading over to see what everyone else came up with.

Photo credit – Tate Modern

At the end of April we went on a family outing to Godstone Farmwith our 21 month old twin girls. A short drive from the M25 brings you to the farm in the Surrey countryside where an ample ‘green’ car park awaits.

godstone farm

The total entrance fee was £8.00 with no time restriction and as we passed through the gates we immediately came across a map of the farm and large posters inviting us to wash our hands after viewing the pets.

There is no set course to follow but wide paths lead you in between the various animal enclosures where through wire fences you can spot turkeys, goats and even llamas. Further on, is a large shed where from a balcony you can see the lambs and calfs in pens. A blackboard listed the births and all around were information posters with information on gestation and the growth of the animals.

godstone farm

On leaving these enclosures there were child sized sinks inviting everyone to wash their hands with warm water, plenty of soap and paper towels. For our girls this was just as exciting and quickly became a highlight of their trip around the farm!

godstone farm

The restaurant on site has a fairly priced menu that covers most tastes and the souvenir shop is full of ideas from cuddly farm animals to jigsaws and pictures to hang on the wall.

Other animal enclosures include guinea pigs, rabbits, pigs, ducks and donkeys, each full of explanatory posters on their life cycle, their feeding habits and even their names, some can even be held under supervision.

godstone farm

Once the children tire of the animals there is a large soft play area with a small cafeteria where they can let off steam, a huge sand pit full of buckets, spades and diggers. A very well equipped park with ships to play on alongside the slides, swings and climbing frames.

Godstone Farm may ring a bell as it was the focus of media attention last September following an outbreak of E Coli resulting in 36 children being affected and the hospitalisation of a few. The farm was shut down temporarily and these issues have since been thoroughly dealt with.

Hygiene is of paramount importance and members of staff can be seen touring the farm constantly. A little common sense and extra care washing small hands after visiting the pets and I can promise you a fun packed day with some delightful memories for your little ones.