Ode to Old Erith

The following poem, ‘an Ode to Old Erith’, Robert the Devil’s stomping ground, written by Pat Watson in 1982, mentions ‘Bob the Devil’.


It was always a shabby, funny town, when I was small:
It’s only claim to fame, I suppose, was the River,
which ebbed and flowed in muddy brown and grey regularity,
providing an ever changing picture of dreams for the eyes of the young and old,
or the idle, to dwell upon.

It was always a strange, little, sprawling town,
with nothing at all of importance to merit a place in the shape of things to come.
Here it nestled, like a favourite, comfortable, patchwork shawl, the fringes of which tapered towards the creeks of Slades Green and Crayford;
dwelling a moment at Bexley and Welling;
crossing to Bedonwell and Bostal.
Beneath the folds haphazardly tumbled Northumberland Heath, with upper and lower Belvedere here, and Barnehurst there;
in between glowing a patch or two of changing green, as the woods and parks filtered through the embroidery of stitches
that held it together with fields and ditches;
eventually sweeping around and down
past abbey wood marshes
and back to the river.

It was always a friendly, squat, little town,
with industry forming a warming collar
around it’s neck; the ribbon of water wandering by firmly held in it’s place,
loosely tie-ing a flexible knot of strength
against the fogs and mists
of all that threatened the pattern of sleeping security.

Quickly, quickly, write it down
before those that remember have long been forgotten,
with nothing to show
and no-one to know how reshaping
and raping could possibly happen,
and why such a garment lies in tatters,
threadbare and worn, and all that matters
is sadly forlorn and desolate now,
abandoned, exhausted-
and those that permitted such devastation
have gone, long gone …
moved on.

Just for a moment indulge in nostalgia,
name a few names for memory to conjure
the magic that hustled and bustled under
the harlequin cloak, before the plunder
of planning and banning and closing
tore the patches asunder.

The Causeway of old, with convenient railings
on which you could lean to gossip, and yarn,
and gaze on a scene of rocks, and mud,
and pools of water in which you could paddle,
when the tide was out, with wagers to swim
to the other side of the river –
there was even sand
for children to dabble.
Piers and jetties, chains and things,
wet warm timbers, ropes and rings
which held the dinghies and yachts and boats
buoys and floats bobbing
when the tide was in.

The fat black barges gliding by
with ochre brown sails riding high in the water
like graceful swans;
the diligent tugs, tooting and fussy,
pushing and shoving, eternally busy.
Tramps and Cruisers and Men-O-War;
Coasters and Colliers and Steamers galore;
port and starboard, for and aft,
every conceivable waterway craft,
casting off and heaving to –
the Pilot’s Hut with the tide times on view.
Regattas and pennants and flags a –blowing,
never-endingly coming and going watermen,
merchantmen, rowing and rowing-
straining backs and muscles aquiver,
Doggett Men too-
the pride of the River.

The coal, the grain, and the flown mill;
Fraser’s Pond and Bunker’s Hill-
the Cinder Path, the Rec’. the Terries,
the Seamen’s Home; picking blackberries.
The Ritz, the Rialto, the Oxford, the Rex;
the Locomotive- Sunday School texts.
The Cobbler, the Smithie; the disinfect can;
the Sea Scouts, the Saw Mills; the School Board Man.
Frank’s Park fireworks, Callender’s Band
tightly packed in the small bandstand.
The betting slips; the Registrar;
the Library Museum; the four-ale-bar;
little boys fishing with tiddlers
in jar.

The ‘Rose and Crown’ and the ‘Wheatley Arms’ ;
gipsy weddings, the crossing of palms.
St. Fidelis; ‘Bob-the-Devil’ ;
running round tombstones in the
Old Church yard to ward off evil;
the wicket gates at the level crossings.

Swiftly, swiftly, paper and pen,
put down the words and
remember them ……..

Gone are the Cobbles, the alleys,
the paths, the trams, the prams,
the open air baths.
Bye-Brothers; Linwood’s the Salvation Army
on Burton’s corner every Sunday.
The gutters, the shutters, the Home-and-Colonial;
the World Stores, the Maypole, the neatly professional
patting of butter with spatulas wooden;
kippers for tea, faggots, pease pudding.
the Fibro; Selfe’s; Penton-and-Deans;
shrimps and cockles and coffee beans.
Starkey’s, and Randal’s printing presses;
the local paper done on the spot;
gammon from Davis; the wet-fish shop.

The hub of it all was Mitchell’s Store,
the very core of the town, with personal
assistants, yards of material measured
with care, the buttons, the cottons,
the crimping of hair; second hand furniture
round the corner; three brass balls if you
wanted to pawn a thing on two;
the Knackers’ Yard; the Late Night Final;
the Laundry; the Dairy; the Men’s Urinal.
checks of tin from the Co-op Stores;
Mence Smith’s; Dales; and pails
of manure yours for the taking;
barber’s poles; Groom’s and the smell
of baking.

It was always an honourable, vulnerable town ….
that could be the reason for knocking it down!
Tear out its character, flatten its face-
we’ll soon think of something to put in its place.
Never mind what, and never mind where …..
move it around a bit- up in the air!
Let’s have some changes- let’s have some ‘go’-
What were we putting here? Someone must know!

And so it went on, and on, and on …….
until all that we knew of Old Erith had gone
It took them some time to take it apart;
dying by stages, a work of ‘art’ you might say,
in a way –
All that was good was whittled away, and all
that was bad was left to decay
of its own accord.


I could write more but I’ve gone on too long,
progress, we know, has got to go on- but
why did it happen and where did it start?
We’re left with a town without a heart,
not better but worse than we had before!

There’s very few left who remember it now,
the new generation could not really care
about something they never would know or share.

Sadly, sadly, read it through,
the ones who recall it all-
you, and you …….
the ones who grew up with me
when I was small – born here,
and taught here, and worked here-
you know what I’m writing of-
you understand and,
if you’ve a moment or two in hand,
go down by the River …….
yes, it’s still there- and stand
and share with me dog-eared regrets
for the ‘used to be’-
of the rough little, gruff little
Erith we knew, and read to yourself
this Obituary.


Written by Pat Watson
March, 1982.

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Sumburgh Head

Wet and horrible

Windy and grey

Spray going everywhere

It’s not a nice day

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Sea-medals, chocolate and barges.

Watching half-hearted (or so it appears) attempts to board a barge in order to connect the trail rigging doesn’t do much for a chap’s sorely tested patience. There have been times this morning when it could have been argued that the Ramsgate girls under tens seacubs brigade would have  made a more enthusiastic go of it. Goodness me, awful to watch. No names no pack drill but the installation contractors out here deserve to have their seamedals taken away and their chocolate ration stopped. Us armchair warriors would have got it sorted, well sorted.

Bouffanted to start with prior to boarding this fine vessel, the old barnet was starting to get a bit out of control. Ten Euros and a ten minute visit by a  crewmember armed with a set of clippers and a great deal of tood has left old allatsea well and truly ‘skinheaded’. If only he’d brought his Doc Martins with him, he would have looked the part for sure. Turned up jeans, tight teeshirt, braces and a well  practiced sneer. He’ll do without the tattoos though. Horrid things. What was it that some wag pointed out t’other day? ‘Tattoo is a word with a silent W’ Judging from half the population of dear old Fannit though, they really don’t seem to care. Perhaps they think that the word ‘Twat’ is complimentary? Allatsea, often referred to as one,  has decided to believe it so. Ahem.

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Missing Margate?

Stuck out west of Shetland with the wind rattling round his lugholes wasn’t doing much for allatsea’s well being. Then the good old Thanet Gazette came to the rescue with the following.

MARGATE’S celebration of all things vintage takes place this weekend.

Organised by Old Town traders and supported by the town’s burgeoning retro business, the second edition of the summer spectacular promises the best in old-fashioned food, style, fashion and music.

Here’s the provisional schedule:

Both days 10am to 5pm:


- Food, craft, vintage and retro market stalls in Market Place

- Antique and Vintage Fair at Margate Media Centre, King St

- Thanet Classics Cars, King Street

- Deal Classic Bikes, Duke Street


11am Hotsy Totsy, Market Place

12pm-7pm Live music at Market Place: Lydia Crosher, John Doggerel and the Bad Poets, Nyle Holihan, Gabe and the Ottermen, Rough Comforts

7pm Vintage Soul Night, Morgan’s Dance Hall, 46 High St

Rebellious Jukebox, Westcoast Bar, King St


11am Solo Acoustic sets, Duke Street

12pm, 3pm Tiger Terry, The Rockahillys play rock n roll, Duke Street

1pm Adamski plays Neowaltz

1pm Paul Messenger’s Gerry Marsden tribute

3pm Electric Beatles, The Parade

3pm Kids’ Evacuee Tea Party, Market Square

7pm Vintage Quiz, Morgan’s, 46 High St

Well aware that the label ‘Grumpy bastard’ is going to be used, allatsea is quite glad to be where he is this weekend.

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A Humanist perspective

Some people believe that what is right and wrong never varies from situation to situation and that it can be expressed in constant and unchanging commandments.

They often look to religious texts or authorities to discover what they think a god wants them to do.

A humanist view of morality is different.

Humanists do not look to any god for rules but think carefully for themselves about what might be the best way to live.

This approach means we have always to be empathetic and think about the effects of our choices on the happiness or suffering of the people (or sometimes other animals) concerned.

We have to respect the rights and wishes of those involved, trying to find the kindest course of action or the option that will do the least harm.

We have to consider carefully the particular situation we find ourselves in and not just take any rule or commandment for granted.

We have to weigh up the evidence we have available to us about what the probable consequences of our actions will be.

This way of thinking about what we should do is explicitly based on reason, experience, and empathy and respect for others, rather than on tradition or deference to authority.

It might sound hard but luckily most of us do it most of the time without really thinking about it.

Morality is not something that comes from outside of human beings, gifted to us by an external force like a god.

When we look at our closest relatives in the animal world, we see the same basic tendencies we recognise in ourselves – affection, cooperation, all the behaviour needed to live in groups and thrive.

It is clear that our social instincts form the basis of morality and that they are a natural part of humanity.

Of course that is not the end of the story.

The long experience of tens of thousands of years of human beings living in communities has developed and refined our morality and we are all the lucky inheritors of that hard work.

But it does not mean that there are not people who do harm, or make bad choices.

But ultimately, morality comes from us, not from any god. It is to do with people, with individual goodwill and social responsibility; it is about not being completely selfish, about kindness and consideration towards others.

Ideas of freedom, justice, happiness, equality, fairness and all the other values we may live by are human inventions, and we can be proud of that, as
we strive to live up to them.

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Weather woes and valve distortion

It has been said that the weather runs the show all the time. Certainly in this offshore construction malarkey it does. The one wott allatsea’s involved in at this moment is no exception. The weather’s running the show and the show’s no go!! Blimey, it’s going on and on this WOW (waiting on weather), on and on and on and on and on and on.

The remnants of Bertha are to blame  currently. The depleted low is just sitting in the Northern North Sea causing frustration out here west of Shetland. Northerly air streams and water wott is too big to do wott they need to do. Great gnashing of teeth yet again.

Dear old Robin Williams is dead. Sad news indeed. A bit of a comedy hero in the Towers household and a fine actor to boot. A loss to this dreary old  world.

On the home front memsahib seems to be holding up well. Deserted by her husband for the duration of 2014’s summer she’s not letting that stand in her way. Bless. I’m reminded of that old cockney classic ‘Fings ain’t what they used to be’. I never recognise the house initially when I return to the Towers after an extended trip offshore. For a start it’s tidy and well ordered. Free of the constant clutter and detritus present when a certain fatbastard is in residence. It can take days to fill it up with trip hazards and internet bargains again.

Is anyone out there in blog-reader land familiar with Blackheart guitar amplifiers? Have they gone out of production? Can’t find any stockists in the UK. The Whitstable amplifier company ‘Cornford’ produced arguably the finest hard wired, valve driven guitar amplifiers in the world. The great and the good of the music world adored them and (expensive) stock flew off the shelves as fast as they could make it, yet they went bankrupt a couple of years ago!!! How can this be? Very sad. Allatsea was going to buy one in 2010 but he, as usual, prevaricated and bought a cheap solid state modelling amp from Line 6. Stupid boy!! Not that the Line 6 Spider is kakk, it’s not. It’s wonderful at what it does but it’s not a Cornford. Sigh!!!!! That said, nephew Tom Allatsea, who is a real musician in a real band reckons it’s Randall gear that cuts the mustard and nowt else. Noted Tom, but that said, you are ‘death metaller’ and that genre does require certain characteristics from its gear that perhaps a bedroom chord basher doesn’t.

Turn the knob to eleven and rock on.

Lobito 2005, warranty surveying at its best.

Lobito 2005, warranty surveying at its best.

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Gran knew her stuff

From the front line, Atlantic Frontier

It weighs in the order of 8500 tonnes and it’s turning up on location a tadge earlier than expected or indeed, needed. So the reasoning behind this scheduling must be that they want to hang their washing out on this steel latticed behemoth? Surely there’s no need when there’s a perfectly good 24 hours a day laundry service available onboard our hugemutha*ucka SSCV? Aah, perhaps they’re going the organic route on such matters?


The mammal watchers have arrived on scene too, a sure sign that they hope to start banging away with the world’s largest pile driving hammer (MHU 3500) sooner rather than later. I hope so. The nerves and sense of ease are never really relaxed until such time as the piles have been driven and fully grouted. Get the buggers in is what I say.

The ones for the subsea storage vessel are 96 inches in diameter, 68 metres long and weigh quite a lot, around 400 tonnes. Crikey. Big yes but not yet on the scale of some the mono-piles used in the windfarm industry these days. Some of those darlings weigh in at around 800 tonnes, have wall thicknesses of 80mm and diameters of 8.5 metres. As my dear old granny said when I told her about them, ‘Fucking Jeessus H Christ’ she blurted, shocked to the core. Aye Gran, indeed!! They’re big muthas.

So all is well out here at the moment other than the weather hasn’t read the script and doesn’t realize, it seems, that it’s August. Things should be gentle and stable. They’re not. Gnashing of teeth can be heard for miles as frustration sets in and timescales get squeezed. Frankly I blame it all on Concord. Hurtling about the skies for 30 years polluting our lovely upper atmosphere (cheerfully forgetting the zillions of other belching jets and myriad nuclear explosions from the air test heydays) with its four smelly old turbojet engines. ‘Ghastly, pointless thing’, said Gran, ‘give me a 500 Knot, high bypass turbo fanned wide-body any day’.

She knew her stuff did Gran.

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