The next day was marked by a few fascinating discoveries. Jan and Gary (Jan’s partner) met us over breakfast and told us of a time when Gary had walked into “Awabi” to turn down the bed only to discover one of its occupants naked on the bed in the lotus position with her partner approaching (also naked) clutching a selection of oils and a very large candle. Gary had been unable to show himself at breakfast the next morning. I was slightly perplexed why Jan and Gary had felt it necessary to tell us this story. As we left to explore Whitstable with more purpose I noticed that “Old Saybrook” was located directly above Jan and Gary’s private quarters. The day was full of many delights and discoveries, but for the purpose of brevity I shall concentrate on those I deem most interesting.
It appeared a TARDIS-like building with a tiny entrance leading to a number of architecturally mundane rooms containing a range of treasures both magical and prosaic. My companion was particularly taken by a collection of old packaging and beyond that a display of insects from large to miniscule each pinned to a piece of card. For me the chief interest lay in a small collection of miserable looking pearls collected in the town and a small model of a train passing over a tunnel about to be entered by a horse and cart. The Museum was also the site of our discovery of “The Peter Cushing Trail” a fascinating leaflet detailing the habits and hangouts of the late actor.
One of the places listed was Mr Cushing’s local shop an eccentric little place, which didn’t seem to sell much in the way of groceries but did provide a delicious freshly cooked pizza and a delightful and at that stage needed, cup of coffee. The Pizza was provided by a young chef with a bad limp. My companion informed me he had fallen the night before while drinking. The shop itself was full of interesting odds and ends, not as far as my companion and I could tell, for sale but rather for the enjoyment of Mr Keeler’s guests. One little boy was thoroughly enjoying an electronic pinball game. I am not convinced his pleasure was equalled by any of the other customers. While enjoying my coffee however I noticed, amongst the magazines and games, an interesting book with a brightly printed cover. The Complete Book of Magic written by the fortuitously named Peter Warlock (a member of the Inner Magic Circle) looked to be an informative volume introducing the novice to the workings of conjuring tricks. I immediately hunted it down on Amazon and had a copy sent to my flat in Ipswich.
Egged on, badgered even I found myself sneaking downstairs from the box office into the bowels of the Playhouse. Actually it turned out to be a bar filled with quite a variety of people, old and older chatting away. My obvious discomfiture soon attracted attention and we were approached by one of these denizens. A tall grey haired man introduced himself as the director and asked us if he could be of assistance. I would have been happy to have said my hello’s and goodbyes at this point but I soon found myself on a little guided tour both historical and physical. We soon found ourselves facing the stage and looking round the plushly appointed auditorium with some pleasure. I commented that perhaps I should put my companion on the stage for her forwardness knows no bounds.
The Oxford Bingo Hall
We entered the bingo hall a little more nervously than even the playhouse (well I did) The lobby was empty except for the large blue sign proclaiming its welcome over the double doors before us. Pushing through the doors, we were met by an enormous room whose décor combined faded cinematic glory with 80s Sci-Fi set design. There were rows of tables each equipped with flashing lights, switches and coloured markers. These descended in ranks towards ‘the stage’ a mixture of game show scoreboard and fast food outlet, to the left of which stood a sort of understated (relatively) pulpit. Four Ladies seated near us bade us to join them as they were waiting for the next game, which started in an hour and a quarter. Interested as we were in attempting this pursuit, we were directed forward to talk to a tall man dressed in black. As he explained the house rules I noticed he had a strange accent, which I couldn’t quite place. Unfortunately we had realised our train departed within the hour and so we made our excuses and left.