Looking at Margate

Friday, 28 June 2013

Until Thursday I’d never been to Margate, but I’ve had a soft spot for the very English beach resort ever since the first edition of the Lonely Planet Britain guide, back in 1995. We hadn’t been very kind to Margate and our researcher Richard Everist wrote that:

‘Looking at Margate, God got so depressed she created Torremolinos.’

Photographs of the mayor of Margate appeared in the press, wearing a Dad’s Army tin helmet and clutching an old rifle, standing on the beach ready to repel incoming travel writers. His subsequent media appearances probably increased his re-election prospects a hundredfold. He sent us an autographed copy of his appearance on the beach. We sent an autographed copy of the book in return.

Turner Contemporary 271◄ So finally I took the high speed train to Margate (that didn’t exist back in 1995) and visited the superb Turner Contemporary, a wonderful beachfront gallery which opened in April 2011. We were privileged to be shown around by the gallery director Victoria Pomeroy. The current exhibit is Curiosity and runs until 15 September and features an assortment of curiosities, like:

Curiosity 542

• A stuffed walrus dating from 1893. Never having seen a real walrus the taxidermist didn’t realise they were flabby, wrinkled, folded beasts. He produced a walrus that looks like an over-inflated balloon, ready to explode.
• A Rolodex collection of business cards from the US Los Alamos nuclear weapon site, presumably they were useful if you needed some Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction assistance.
• Over 2000 annotated slides of ‘darkness,’ each of them an image of a carefully recorded area of totally black, starless sky.
• Beautiful little glass models dating back to the 1870s of invertebrate sea creatures.
• Photographs of assorted papal dignitaries looking through telescopes, next to a copy of Galileo’s 1610 treatise on his observations for which he was convicted of heresy.

The Sportsman 542

▲ Then we drove along the coast for a very long lunch at a very trad looking pub with very good food – The Sportsman at Seasalter near Whitstable.