Have you missed me? Well, I’m back in the Bubble. I’ve been out of the country for a year and that’s why I haven’t blogged. And before I hear any of you saying ‘Der, you can do it from anywhere in the world!’ The real reason is that I really just couldn’t be bothered. Soz!
We’ve been in the States, mostly in New York. The wife was given an amazing opportunity we couldn’t refuse, so we put the girls in boarding school (not entirely my preference) and off we went. It’s been epic! Obvs, not just a crucial supporting role for me. I had lots of very important film opportunities, let’s just say documentary type opportunities, to explore out there too. Lots.
Anyway, I’ll be giving you the odd anecdote about my adventures state-side in good time, but this post is mainly dedicated to what’s the same and what’s different in Whitstable since I’ve been gone.
So, I’d like to invite you to take a little virtual walk along the High Street and around the famous sights of the town and help me re-familiarise myself with my adopted home and the people in it
Bretts – Oh yeah. There it is. I can feel my alveoli swelling with dusty gunk already.
The Gorrell Tank – Still not repaired it then? What a surprise… Trade must have been good this year. Not!
The old Post Office sorting office – I understand there’s been all sorts of drama about this shutting and various doomed attempts to take it over as a community space. Simple solution that would really serve a lot of people like me in the town is to invite Waitrose to open a new store here. I’m going to start a campaign!
The Handsome Sam – Good good, another micro pub – shame it’s at the boring end of town. Probably give it a swerve.
Another café in Harbour Street – exactly what the town needs. As my office can be anywhere, the more alternatives, the better.
Another gallery – exactly what the town needs. Looks like they are actually attempting to exhibit good art too. I’m in shock quite frankly.
The Post Office has vanished! And turned into a mobile thingy. Didn’t really use it to be honest – flattening that eyesore has made way for more much needed housing for people to relocate to the town. There’s no going back to the way Whitstable was before (see previous post). Embrace DFLs and enjoy the London cultural influences they bring! The town needs their money.
New accommodation for unaccompanied young men at the old Ladesfield care home – been watching reaction to this on Facebook, particularly the volatile and mostly aggressive opinions on the group ‘Overheard in Whistable’. I think it’s quite right the empty building was used but it seems there is a lot of angry townspeople who disagree. Negative opinions are mostly ‘not in my back yard’ right wing knee jerk hot air from what I’ve read. These children need to live somewhere! It’s only when you’ve lived in a truly multicultural city like London or New York – then come back – that you realise how bland the town is. Come on Whitstable! Let’s face it – you’re whiter than a vanilla Minimilk! A diverse community is a rich community. One of the happiest outcomes of the growing Eastern European community in this and neighbouring towns is the Polish food aisle in Tescos! Who can honestly say they don’t love that? No one, that’s who. Looking forward to the Syrian, Iranian and Libyan aisles in the future.
Another observation – distinctly less beards! Now this isn’t a bad thing for me. I read an article in the Guardian which suggested we had gone beyond ‘peak beard’ and we’re now, as a society about to enjoy a new bald chin era. It also suggested a phenomenon called ‘Negative Frequency-Dependent Sexual Selection’ – where women favour men with a different face-barnet to every other male in the room. Well I’m alright then! I’m one of a few with a great big beard in the town now. Move over baldies – restrain your women – I’m back and I’m bearded! Lol!
One thing I’m glad to see is no different at all: Georges Mini Market. A mecca. I’m not sure what we humble townsfolk would do without it. I buy all my beard products in there for half the price. You have no idea how expensive serum is in America!
Now this brings me on to a little anecdote about my time in the US. There weren’t many beards around in the circle of friends we’d become part of, so while Pip was away one weekend, feeling homesick, I decided to go out in the city and see if I could grab an early evening beer in a place that reminded me somewhat of Shoreditch. Sure enough, I came across a bar that seemed to have a higher than average proportion of similar looking beardies like me. I had a couple of (to be honest, piss poor, weak) American beer and chatted with a couple of fellas at the bar. I popped to the Gents and just as I was relieving myself, the young man next to me introduced himself as ‘Wolf’, then asked ‘Are you a Fozzie Bear lookin’ for love?’ I zipped myself up so quick I nearly became a eunuch! I mean wtaf? No! So yeah. Did a bit of googling on that one. Looks like it’s a thing. Not my thing, but it seems it’s not just the girls that love my face-locks.
So, there’s two reasons why I thought I’d start writing my blog again. First, the wife is away – we’re back in the country but she’s now working all over Europe, so I’ll have plenty of me-time to write. Second, I’ve been roped into some project with a local woman who has suggested it would be a good idea to ‘drive up my stats’ before it starts. Not really sure what she means or why, she’s keeping it all very mysterious. But apparently my role as ‘fully assimilated DFL’ is core to the project. Whatever.
Ah, it’s lovely to be home. I’ve missed those sunsets!
Now all that summer madness is over, time to get serious about what it takes to be accepted as a newcomer in a small, seaside town. Those, like myself, who have made a succesful transition to happily be part of the community will tell you that as a newcomer, you have to make some changes. This can be a painful process, so I’ve come up with a guide of how to make those changes in an incremental way, that won’t be too uncomfortable.
You’ll notice that this guide is specifically for men. I will address the female issues of assimilation in another blog, if I can be bothered. This one’s for the guys.
First, a little pre-amble. Unlike The Borg (pictured), Whitstable locals don’t necessarily want to assimilate you. There is and will always be a stale crust of villagers that want to keep the ‘them and us’ divide alive and hateful. Ignore them. They probably aren’t even from Whitstable themselves. However, there needs to be a serious period of pre-relocation mental preparation.
Pre-Relocatioin Mental Preparation
So you’ve ‘fallen in love’ with Whitstable because you came to the Oyster Festival have you? Great. The next year, remembering what a marvellous buzz it was, you come down, this time for Harbour Day. Grand. The next year, you think, ‘Ooh, I could live here’ and start to seriously fantasise about how much better your life will be if you could waft about drinking coffee in Harbour Street in your beard – full time. So, on the strength of maybe half a dozen spring/summer/autumn visits you make preparations to move.
I urge you to visit on a Tuesday in February. No! Better still. On a Wednesday. A lot of the shops shut on a Wednesday afternoon. You know, like in France. Can you believe it? Now you try and find something to do in February on a Wednesday afternoon in Whitstable that doesn’t involve:
a) Going to a cafe/deli
b) Going to the Horsebridge to wander around pretending to look at some god-awful local artist’s ‘work’.
c) Dragging yourself around the local museum
c) Getting drunk.
THERE IS NOTHING TO DO.
‘Hang on!’ you say, ‘we could catch a matinee!’
NOPE – NO CINEMA
‘Ok, we could have a fun, ironic time in the amusement arcade!’
NOPE – TURNING IT INTO ANOTHER SUPERMARKET
Here are some things you might want to do though – crown green bowls (outside) or Indoor Bowls, aqua aerobics, yoga/pilates in a church hall, Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous in another church hall, visit a church, confess in a church, walk along the beach in the bitter, howling wind and rain, go to a knitting group, attend a mindfulness workshop, take up kite surfing/windsurfing, commit Hara Kiri or GO HOME.
Let’s rule out kite surfing, because that is actually cool, but it requires kit and planning. The paucity of choice on that list is likely to make you opt for c) Getting drunk. Now this isn’t a bad idea but you must proceed with caution. There are a few tasty boozers that you simply shouldn’t attempt to go in. You’ll get served, but whether you’ll be welcomed by the other punters is a moot point. I don’t need to tell you which ones to avoid. Your expertly honed ‘cool radar’ will identify the ones that you won’t feel comfortable in, just from the outside and the state of the smokers huddled around the doorway. Lucky for you/us there are some very good ‘assimilation transition pubs’, where locals and DFLs can co-exist like Ebony and Ivory. Go for it, but don’t act like a cock.
If you survive a Wednesday in February and you still want to move here, passionately – proceed to my guide below.
Ok, onto the guide. This takes FIVE YEARS. You can’t rush it – it’s a process. Like pregnancy, but obvs, much more manly than that.
1. Go out as much as possible, avoiding the above mentioned boozers. Try not to act like a nob, but if you do, you can be safe in the knowledge that the locals actually quite enjoy DFL nob-watching. The get competitive about it. If you are firmly in nob mode, your ideal is to get quoted in the ‘overheard in Whitstable’ group on Facebook. This is a hub for locals to discriminate against DFLs and propogate the fallacy that they are unobservant, arrogant, crass and dim-witted. Play along! Let them have their sport! You’re the one driving a Porche!
TOP TIP – Much mirth is had when DFLs can’t properly identify the Isle of Sheppey. I recommend you go to the Black Dog/stand outside Harbour Books/Sundae Sundae or the Health Food Shop and ask loudly where the ferry for Denmark disembarks from. It’ll make their day. They have so little to do in the winter months, they need this. They need YOU. Look upon this as a contribution to the cultural fabric of the town. Be generous.
2. Re-think your wardrobe. You’re a resident now. You need to realise not everyone who lives here is a sailor – by trade or recreation. You can stop wearing your Breton top. I know this is hard, but you need to give it up. I’m thinking of starting a support group at the Horsebridge – on a Wednesday afternoon in February. Lol!
3. Take up a hobby. Yes, this is the kind of advice elderly bereaved people get to encourage them out of their lonliness, but it’s a good one. Obvs, you’ve had to give up all that free culture in London and there is, quite frankly, sweet FA to do in Whitstable. Don’t bother getting excited about the Canterbury Festival either, unless you’re over 60. A sporting hobby is great. Weight training, squash, tennis, windsurfing and kite surfing are all good male bonding options. Well, maybe not tennis.
4. Even if you have primary school age children, don’t expect to make friends with other parents. If and when I can be bothered, I’ll cover this under the Women’s Assimilation blog. My instruction to you is cultivate separate friends – in the pub and through your chosen hobby. Leave the chummy couples dinner to the wife to organise. You might not like her choices but the chances are the other husband won’t either. You are merely a pawn. Accept it.
5. If you are single/don’t have children, don’t expect to make friends with locals in the first year. This is about expectation management. It takes time. You might think you’ve de-nobbed your behaviour and dress, but to them, you are still a glaringly annoying London twat. Don’t even expect any meaningful exchanges with locals until year 3. Fact.
6. When greeting other (DFL) males, give up the street style bro-clasp and either opt for a back slap or a trad handshake (eugh, yeah, I know.) Again, it’s all part of letting go. Deep breaths.
In the meantime, enjoy the view and start going to pilates on a Wednesday afternoon. You never know, you might meet hot women there. Bonza!
A crucial year in the transition. This is potentially the most painful as you have to start being pro-active in order to fit in. It’s not just about a nob cessation anymore, it’s about contributing something to the town. Much easier if you’re a parent.
Year 2 advice for DFL Dads
1. Volunteer for every event on the calendar so you can stand about in a branded tee-shirt looking smugly at the tourists knowing it is plain to see you are not one of them. Another thing to volunteer to do is reading at your kids’ school. All the mums and teachers will LOVE you and word will get round that a male has given up their spare time to help little kids.
2. Run a face-painting stall for children at the castle over the May Day bank holiday. People will think you are kind, nice, funny, generous and community minded.
3. Supervise the grotter building for Oyster festival, or organise a street party.
4. Go to a carol service at a local church. You need to get in with the local vicar, in the unimaginable event your kids’ don’t pass the Kent Test. Believe me, you do not want them going to the local school. Only other option if grammer is out, is a church school in Canterbury. Do not be embaressed about going to church for this reason; 99% of the other parents are only there because of the Kent Test. You might even make friends! Or find God!
Year 2 advice for childless DFLs
1. Go to the pub. A lot.
2. Attempt to shag a local woman, but be careful. Check her teeth.
3. Start a micro brewery
4. Make artisan cheese and sell to the local restaurants. Have a stall at the Farmer’s Market. Women love cheese. They’ll think you are earthy.
This is the year you can relax a bit and try and make a few local friends.
1. Start aggressively patronising local shops. Yes, it will mean it takes three times as long to get your weekly shop done and it will be twice as expensive, but it gives you an excuse to have a bit of chitchat, bit of banter. They love all that.
2. Consider your language and use of the consonant T. A tough one but, if done subtly, it speaks volumes. It says, ‘I’m one of you now’ but they won’t even know why. Try this exercise: Say ‘what’, now say ‘whogh’. The ‘what’ has a voiced T, the ‘whogh’ has an unvoiced T. It really is that simple! Similar words you can apply this technique to are ‘Awigh?’ (as a greeting), havn’gh (haven’t), gogh igh? Well, have you got it? Lol.
3. Don’t start using the local patois. That’s trying too hard. Don’t double negative or they’ll be onto you. Don’t say ‘in-nigh’ (see T sound instruction above) instead of ‘isn’t it’. Do not EVER say ‘ain’t’ even ironically. They’ll think you’re still a nob. Just drop the odd T, that’s all.
4. Try and find out where these local traders (yes the very same ones that put you in ‘Overheard in Whitstable’) drink and be there when they are. Buy them a drink. They won’t refuse in case you say bollocks to their £47 per week meat/veg/bread/fish bill. Soon, you’ll be japeing along with them, dropping T’s all over the place.
5. Offer to put a workshop on as part of one the festivals that uses your expertise in what ever (probably) media area you work in. Offer it for free. It’ll give them a certain cultural cache to have your name in their brochure.
You can’t relax yet. You may be on first name terms with every parent in your child’s class, half the traders, a dozen bar staff and everyone at the gym, but you’re still an outsider. So, what to do.
1. Open an actual shop. You don’t need to actually work in it. You could give a local person an employment opportunity! Sell stuff from London they could never get here. Or, sell stuff from London to other people from London. It doesn’t matter!
2. Start a pop up shop or event. It doesn’t matter what it is. Kebabs, pancakes, striptease, Cuban cigars, Curried insects – whatever! Do it in an igloo or a yurt on the beach. You’ll make a bomb.
3. Get a normal job. The kids are older, they don’t need you to walk them to school. Get a job with a builders, or as a painter and decorator. Think what it’ll do for your creativity! Think what Franz Kafka would do….
4. Go one step further and learn an oldy-worldy trade. Like, er, blacksmithery. Make swords and women’s belt buckles and other stuff and sell it in your shop. You’ll have that dishevelled dirty hand look of a tradesman, but with the intellectual sensibilities of a Londoner. If you are single, this will really help you pull a local woman.
5. Wangle your way into the local paper as a Whitstable Oyster. Yeah, cringey right? But it has a strange kudos beyond it’s denotative vileness. It has connotations that you have been accepted. Eveybody in town reads this rag. Probably for the obituaries, but they all know who the ‘Oyster’ is that week. It’ll give you a twisted accreditation beyond any actual cool ever could. As far as they are concerned, if you’re a Whitstable Oyster – you’ve arrived.
6. Be on some sort of panel, or join a protest group (you know like ‘Make Whitstable One Way!’) or start turning up at Council Meetings with your arms crossed and ask political questions.
7. If you’re single, marry a local (continue to check her teeth), but make sure you do a proper audit of her family history. It won’t make you a local, nothing ever will, even marrying in, but your kids will be. That’s the ultimate ‘fuck you’.
You’re in. Everyone knows your name. Poeple chat to you in the street. No one points and laughs anymore. You can start to relax – but only a bit.
This is the period when you can start integrating London cultural hipster behaviour into their culture. This is true integration and how communities grow and develop. It’s how Britain got great – a melting pot of creed and culture that grew strong and proud by taking the best and evolving into something bigger and better.
1. Re-introduced the hipster bro-clasp when greeting any male local who is under the age of 50. They’ll love it! It’ll make them feel ‘street’. Your cool will rub off and compensate for their lack thereof.
2. Kiss women on BOTH cheeks. Locals only kiss on one cheek. It’s v provincial. In year 5 you can introduce the doubler. You have to be quite assertive or there could be all manner of awkward body language. Grab her firmly by the shoulders and theatrically ‘mwah’ one cheek then the other, pulling her side to side so she is in no doubt what to do. You’ll only need to do it once to each female. They’ll like it. They get to kiss you twice as much. ps. Make sure your beard is silky smooth or you might get a slap.
3. Have a garden party and invite a mixture of DFLs and locals. Warning – don’t invite people who have been here less than 3 years. Too risky.
4. If you’re feeling really brave, reintrode a quaint old tradition that even the locals have abandoned – get your own pewter tankard hung up in the micro brewery/transition pub of your choice. That way, you get ‘Oh, here’s CK, get his special tankard!’ You’ll get respected. And get it engraved too, in case someone tries to nick it.
5. Start slagging off other DFLs. Let’s face it, they are bloody annoying. Once you’ve been here that long, even you will become incandescent with rage at the Regatta (none came this year – see images from my previous post to see why), Oyster Festival and Harbour Day, just like I do.
One word of warning: Don’t bombard the group ‘Remembered in Whitstable and Tankerton’ on Facebook with half memories and anecdotes. You’ll get a life ban. It happened to a good, very close friend of mine and REALLY upset him. They are worse than Mumsnet.
Right, what I’d really like now, is some other advice for people on how to assimilate – from YOU. Maybe you did it and there was something that worked for you (please – no women – you have your own gender biased strategies – this is just for the guys.) Maybe you’re a local and you have a different view to me about what is the correct way for a newcomer to fit in. Whatever it is, I want to hear it.
Right, off to the pub for a pint of artisan ale in my pewter tankard.