It’s hot. The Council have sort of sorted the parking situation (although I still don’t believe people will ‘park and ride’ and what’s wrong with the bloody train?) It’s Oyster Festival Week! I’ve got a blinding hangover, so just bear with me.
Now you have to understand that as a DFL myself, the wife and I trudged down to Whitstable year after year for this event, but I don’t remember it ever being quite so – mental. The Harbour felt more like a Tokyo tube station at rush hour than the quaint little fishing village we first discovered back in the 90s. The truth is, I’ve done everything to avoid the chaos since I moved here five years ago, but today I braved it – just for you!
I took a wander along to Tankerton at lunchtime then came back along the seafront with a wave of tourists headed in the same direction. You can tell which beach huts are owned by DFLs a mile away – they are all festooned in Cath Kidston bunting. It’s hateful. Any thing that jolly ought to be stopped. Burnt in fact. As I well know, beach hut burning was a thing in Whitstable. Maybe someone ought to bring it back.
We overhead the dappy teenage ‘life guard’ at the designated ‘it’s alright to drown here’ bit of Tankerton beach remark, with surprise that she hadn’t noticed a massive Thames barge sailing right in front of her. ‘Has that been there all the time?’ she asked her pimple faced colleague. ‘Uh, dunno.’ He replied. Doesn’t bode well if you are hoping to get rescued does it?
Some innovative approaches to bbq apparell. Nice.
We came around the corner at the public bogs (which bizarrely have a new dwelling being renovated above them – nice – constant smell of urine and used needles outside).
The vista that presented itself just reminded me of this –
That’s right. Beirut. That all too familiar granite works chug chugging out it’s throat clogging plume of dust and asthma inducing smog, looming over a beach that resembled Torremelinos in high season, but with the sound track of war drums echoing across the bay. They weren’t war drums but they certainly got my adrenalin up. The sound is produced by this group of pudgy, bored women (mainly) who all wear pink and spontaneiously drum for no reason at all and in no kind of pattern, arragement or order. It is one of the most annoying features of the Oyster Festival. They also randomly ‘flashmob’ in supermarkets, shopping centres and parades. It’s loud, irritating and their smug painted faces make me feel, at the very least, like committing some sort of criminal damage.
I stopped in front of the Continental, immediately aware that if I was to proceed further – for you – I would need some alcohol. So, while the wife went for a dip (through the seaweed), I lit the rubbish throwaway bbq and cracked open a bottle of Prossecco. Nice. Then the drunnming stopped. Thank god.
Weirdly, we spotted this lovely young lady – I think she used to be someone. Didn’t she get sacked from the TV because she was too thick? Something like that. I think she’s from Chatham.
It’s amazing what a man can put himself through with half a bottle of good booze inside him, but even that didn’t prepare me for sheer madness that was the Harbour. As we left the beach by the waterski club, we overhead a particularly stupid tourist point at the shingle and pronounce, ‘That’s where the priest performs The Naming of the Oysters!’
THE NAMING OF THE OYSTERS!!!! What did this woman think the vicar would be naming them? Bob? Gary? Or, in honour of the DFLs rammed into the town, Tarquin? So DFLs just got very stupid.
We laughed and laughed right up to the queue outside the row of portaloos when we finally realised that we were going to have to penetrate the dense crowd in order to find more booze. The population at the Harbour seemed to be made of up average DFLs (as you’d expect), extremely drunk sunburnt shouty locals (as you’d expect), famous people (more in a minute) and swathes and swathes of Japanese people!
We saw – Thick Girl from Chatham, Gemma Arterton, Iggy Pop and – and this TOTALLY DID OUR HEADS IN – Prince Harry!!!!!!!!!
More beer. Lovely. Bought a shower curtain from my great old friend Laura at Hot Rocking Belle. Pip bought another vintage style dress. All part of her DFL costume to play her part in the theme park that is Whitstable. Anyway, was good to see trade so flippin good for all my friends. We survived the main part of the Harbour (two pints of lager) and got round to the West Quay, bought a burger from my old buddy Karl at Burger Bros and caught the last few choons my best pal Mark was spinning on his wheels of steel.
Anther DFL in ‘costume’ – he’s come as a sailor!
Burger Bros – best gourmet burgers in town. Usually at the Coach and Horses – although not really a pub I would ever dream of going in! Don’t be mad. We just get them as a take away instead.
Chilled out choons. Great singer-songwriter, tasty burger and more beer. The sun went in a bit too which helped. Finally I felt a bit less panicky. Then we made the mistake of GOING INTO TOWN… We overheald Stupid DFL number 2 point at a random clothing boutique and announce ‘That’s Dawn Porter’s FAVOURITE shop!’
We got some more beer then settled at the beach by the Horsebridge for another hour. Astonishing. People sitting, literally sitting, on top of old crab legs, shells and fish spines. Children picking them up – playing with them. Just URGCH!
Of course, there were beards everywhere – here are some I spotted –
There were the Japanese –
And these do-gooders – the Street Pastors! They seemed to be largely helping dogs become less overheated with the power of God. Totally pointless. Anyone who lives in Whistable knows 1) Everyone gets wasted at the Oyster Festival 2) The people that really ‘need help’ are more likely to headbutt a middle aged Christian do-gooder poking their smug kindly faces into their own private drunken world.
Can you imagine the reception they’d get if they tried to help this lot?
Then we saw these cheeky fellas. That put a smile on my face, largely becuase it made DFL children cry. By this time I was feeling very very grumpy.
Now, you know my feelings about buses, but we’d been invited to a bbq at a big house up in Tankerton and we just couldn’t be bothered to walk up there, so we got the bus from the Horsebridge. Oh look, The Prince Albert. It’s been refurbished but really, you can’t polish a turd right?
Got a fedora on? No need to USE THE PAVEMENT then!
Yes, I am a DFL, but this DRIVES ME MAD. Just-use-the-bloody-crossing!!!!! Nice beard though…
So, no sunset for us. I can’t say I really ‘enjoyed’ it. I am glad people came and spent loads and loads of money, but for me, the whole thing has lost the cosy, intimate, uniquely Whitstable feel it had before the festival grew and grew into the monster it has become. I probably will head down to the mud tug tomorrow, but I’ll be taking one crucial precaution first –
Necking a bottle of this!! Cheers.