Tag Archives | dover

St Columba’s ruin

February 2

In the late 1800s “a large and handsome” church was built at the bottom of Dover High Street, not far from the Town Hall. Its tower, rising to a height of 80 feet, was “a striking feature”, and the whole “an ornament to the town”. When first opened on 7 September 1904, it became a United Reformed Church dedicated to St Columba, revered as a warrior saint, and often invoked for victory in battle.

As well as being a place of worship, St Columba’s was also a focus for the community, and for many years used as a drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees in Dover. Work was progressing to convert the church into flats but, sadly, on 22 September 2007, the building caught fire and was severely damaged. Only the ragstone shell has remained these 7 years, like an open wound on the High Street.

Yesterday, as I walked into town, I saw surveyors, yellow-jacketed against the rain, with theodolites, picking their way carefully over rubble. A hunk of rough wood blocking the entrance to the church had been pulled open revealing its fallen, charred remains. I crossed the road and asked what they were doing. They said they were seeing what could be done with the old building. When I asked for who, the surveyor said ‘for a client’ – he wasn’t permitted to tell me more than that.

I spent today in the shop, rubbing down wood-filler on the front door while it was quiet. At home I cook chilli-con-carni, and after recording the Dover Community Radio Sunday news, settle for a quiet evening.


Politics and ping-pong

February 1

After meeting Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, yesterday when he visited Dover, many thoughts I have about the town began to crystalise. But more than regeneration, employment, education – all the usual concerns and subjects, I started thinking how disconnected our whole system of government is between local and Parliament.  They should do away with parties and just have MPs. Having general elections every four years is actually counter-productive. Too many projects that the outgoing party have begun get rubbished and all the money spent on them wasted, as the incoming party wipe the slate and start again. There’s no continuity.

Meanwhile, I dreamt of being in a modern detached house on a steep bank. A huge torrent of muddy water came, causing a landslide, taking the house with it. I sat in the front window with others as we were swept down and along the road with other houses.

Later, I rather enjoyed walking the dog in the pouring rain, safe under a big golfing umbrella. In magpie mood, I brought home a heart-shaped piece of chalk, and a large piece of heavy bark, washed up at the base of a waterfall.


Little earthquakes

January 31

The shadow chancellor visited today. I am seated next to him and ask what he can do for our poor war-scarred and disheveled town. His eyes are blue-grey and very direct. He listens carefully and answers as politicians do, but seems interested. The device I use for interviews shows a jagged graph, like seismic waves, but nothing said today will shake the earth.


Widows and windows

January 22

I passed several people in the High Street, some young, some old, and could not guess who it was with the ganja smoke waft.  Muddled thoughts – I have been painting window frames this morning – the sashes reminding me of my old house.  I listen to the story of the woman who chained herself to a tree to prevent it being felled.  At the parish council meeting they discuss the problem of a lonely swan on the Mill pond, her mate killed by a passing car.



January 3

At the pharmacy counter we queue with patients, patience, suppressed impatience, harbouring our ailments. We nod politely, then avert our eyes. A woman with reddened nose; an old man, bent with bones; a new mum, anxious in her milky, talcum love. There is a second counter to the side – another queue. They tread the spot, greet each other, joke until they reach the front – a plastic bottle which they drink, every drop, and wipe their mouths in gratitude or some other cocktail of emotion.  All medicine, and medicine for all.



You climb the narrow ledge and path
and grasp at tussocks on the way –
plait your fingers through coarse strands
held in soil, thin as old man’s skin.
You climb.
Below, reduced to toys, the ferries come and go,
make trails that wash against the weed-black boulders
far below.

This is where one finds perspective,
high at the crumbling edge of knowledge,
where rusting gun stumps wart the downland,
and cropped grass heals the scars of bombing.

Here sanity splits a cliff from sky –
foothold from wild precipitation.
Here lingers ropes of twisted air –
despair which took that step too far.
You dare yourself a lean and peer,
your hands’ extended fingers, upward curving at the tips,
are a remnant instinct – twinge of wings.

You pull away,
scream inwardly at your birdbrain devil.
Something calls you back,
like the kittiwake’s echo off polished stones,
the wind through picked-clean shells,
or the bitter sap of wild cabbage
in your nostrils’ flare.

You try to brush the white stuff from your clothes,
but take a little of Dover home.

© Caroline Fox Betts 2010