K is for Kent

My first visit to Kent was the bleakest introduction possible to one of England's most fascinated counties. I struggled with some nefarious illness, smallpox or cholera - actually tonsilitis I think. I recalled the taste of dried beans in my mouth. I tried to convey this to my parents but they didn't get it. On the third day, I thought I was better. I walked weakly along the seafront of Margate with my father to the grey sands and a chill enveloped me.

It's strange to think my parents ended up in Kent so many years after that early family holiday and now my father is more likely to be the one walking gingerly in the cold wind like a five-year-old with tonsilitis.

There's a lot more to Kent than Margate but for some reason, that holiday was suffocated by the British summer. Even the famous white cliffs of Dover were shuttered and grey and my parents declared themselves disappointed with Dover Castle. I'm not sure how anyone can be disappointed with Dover Castle but such is life.

Kent is a rich tapestry. There are prehistoric ruins and the stump of the last lighthouse that was abandoned by the Romans before the barbarians arrived from Germany. In the dark days of the 1940s, the white cliffs became a symbol of the last outpost of civilization in Europe.

There is far too much to Kent to describe in these lines. It stretched from the ragged ends of London to the sweeping North Downs, the marshes and coasts and the magnificence of Canterbury and its great cathedral. Then there is Rochester and its gaunt castle.

Still, it took me many years from the taste of beans in my mouth and the gloomy guesthouse with its mirky wallpaper somewhere in the 1970s for me to warm to Kent.


Popular Posts