Plain Jane 130614Plain Jane: Is Thanet really only known for the shipping forecast?

As regular readers will know, I am an ardent proponent of this fair isle as the thinking punter’s destination of choice.

And have long puzzled why, with its wonderful coastline, quirky towns, easy links to London and the continent (would help if we still had an airport, of course, but I’ll contain my wrath on that one for this week), it isn’t positively blooming a la, say, Whitstable. Or Aldeburgh. Or any number of any places that haven’t actually got any more to offer than we have but manage to be chi-chi and sought-after in a way that our neck of the woods still doesn’t quite manage.

If the area were a book, I would suggest a relaunch with a new title and cover design. Because not only is “Thanet” a particularly unlovely word – but nobody has ever heard of it. And even if they have, they don’t know where it is.

I am writing this from the ever-fabulous Chez Castillon in the Dordogne where I usually tutor others who wish to be best-selling authors (you know what they say about those who teach) but on this occasion am being forced to swallow my own advice. That is, I am “on retreat” charged with producing a huge swath of the novel I should have finished two years ago, before my agent has apoplexy.

By way of experiment I threw the question open to my companions, a bunch of intelligent, sophisticated, well-travelled writers. “What does ‘Thanet’ mean to you?” I enquired in jolly tones at breakfast. “Totally Happy And Not Ever Terrible,” piped up Clare, which wasn’t a bad effort for a woman with a hangover.

“Rhymes with Gannet,” offered Katie, who’d also had a late night.

“Where is it?” I tried.

“Sounds as though it should be near Reading,” said AJ. “It’s where the oysters come from,” said Jo, who was at least in the right county.

“It is on the coast,” declared Judy with authority. Where exactly? I asked. “In Essex”.

“No idea,” intoned Betty.

Catherine, a fellow-devotee of the Shipping Forecast, was confident. “I know where each waypoint is. And North Foreland is in Thanet.”

“I only know where it is because you’ve told me you live there,” finished Clare.

A search of Google is no more inspiring. “Thanet is a local government district of Kent,” drones Wikipedia, hardly making it sound like a must-go. Next up is the website for Thanet District Council (and if that won’t put ’em off nothing will) followed, as I type, with a photograph of the local Tory leader leader Bob Bayford on this very newspaper’s website, who is trying to be gung-ho about his party’s chances against Ukip.

Nothing is screaming Glamour, Style or Come Visit Me.

And even if, like me, you spend every bank holiday thinking that might actually be a damn good thing cos there’s enough of ’em clogging up the pavements already, in the absence of any other notable industry, visitors are Thanet’s best hope of future fortune.

I am wondering if we shouldn’t go the way of Staines in Middlesex who, in 2012, renamed themselves, Staines-upon-Thames in an attempt to go upmarket. Would “Thanet-Upon-Sea” work? “Thanetstable”? “Thanetgate”? “Thanet-really-not-that-far-from-the-M2-honest”?

Ideas on a postcard please. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – or its title– but sadly, folks, it seems we do…

JANE will be running “Write and Sell Short Stories” at Chez Castillon, in France, October 4-10. See http://janewenhamjones. for details. Gazette readers receive a ten per cent discount – say THANET when booking. And be ready to explain where it is…


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