Thursday, 15 November 2012

Come dine with us, Mr Sewell

So Brian Sewell, the art critic whose distinctive voice just articulates 'poshness' quite delightfully, has dared to elegantly 'dis' Whitstable, the Gazette reports today.
In his Sunday Times column published last weekend, he apparently called the town 'lifeless' and 'overpriced'. Although before commenting on this I'd prefer to read the whole article myself to put these remarks in context, I'm afraid that though the newspaper was in this house briefly before recycling day which happened to be on Monday, I didn't have time to wade through its multiplicity of pages. I regret that now, as I've just found you have to subscribe to read the ST's full article online. I really don't want to pay the Murdoch shilling twice.
Here's a link to the first few paragraphs, which are free:
I will just have to assume the Whitstable Gazette has carefully read the whole thing and reported it accurately. I anticipate a barrage of responses on the letters page next week.
Mr Sewell is known for his colourful commentary and, while trawling the internet for the Sunday Times piece, I came across him describing the Turner Gallery in Margate as a 'white elephant' and 'alien, brutal and bleak'.
I'm delighted that he seems to spend so much time in East Kent. One does wonder why he comes back if he doesn't like it, though I understand from the Gazette that he spent considerable time in Whitstable as a child so there's a nostalgic pull. Something deeply psychological going on there, perhaps?
As one who, at only five feet tall, has difficulty fighting her way through the holiday-mood amblers in Harbour Street and the Harbour area generally in summer to go about her business, I can't agree that Whitstable is 'lifeless'. Everyone knows that in fact this tight little town is full to more than bursting point on certain weekends, and if the buzz is less in winter, so much the better for those who live and work here.
As for 'overpriced', I gather he is particularly referring to restaurants and there, I'm afraid, he may have a point.
While there are two or three independent middle-priced establishments where I'm happy to pick up a napkin for a celebration or treat, when it comes to the more-frequent casual 'can't be bothered to cook night' it's more difficult. More often than not we tend to (deep breath) end up in one of the chain outlets where there's no need to book, you can eat for a tenner, and don't have to dress up first in order to satisfy a basic need.
And let's face it, there is a large elderly population here who just don't feel comfortable in what they feel is a fancy restaurant (my Dad is one of these).
As for the top-end places much publicised in those Sunday supplements which I rarely have time to read, one look at their price lists has me scurrying to the kitchen for pots, pans, a recipe book and some local ingredients. They'd have to be 10 times better than my own cooking and offer me a table when I'm hungry, not in two weeks time, to get my custom. Come to think of it, nothing beats our home fried fresh cod bought off a Whitstable boat on a Saturday.
Come dine with me, Mr Sewell?