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A View of the Sea

The small town of Westgate-on -Sea isn't quite on the edge of the known universe, even though on some days the Isle of Thanet may feel that way, which is possibly why Turner painted his dramatic sunsets there.



Uncomfortably close the the crumbling grandeur of Margate, it's home to the elderly, a million screaming seagulls, my mother and increasing numbers of refugees, many of whom enjoy a cheap meal of sausage, egg and chips in Beano's 'Turkish' cafe, which thirty years ago used to be a more stylish 'Flamenco' bar owned by my father.

Eight miles from the city of Canterbury and three miles from Manston, Kent's isolated international airport, Westgate feels left out of the digital revolution because Broadband hasn't yet arrived and BT appear to have a problem finding it on the map, even though, not 100 yards from where I'm sitting, there is a very large BT exchange bristling with aerials.

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This part of Britain need to be a priority for the government's connectivity programme. An explosion in the young population - my old school, The Charles Dickens, needs 600 more places - and high unemployment, both sitting at the end of a railway connection which should have been condemned after the last war and I don't mean the one with Iraq either.

I alluded to this area in a feature I wrote for The Observer in 2000, called "Welcome to the Aftermath of the Old Economy" and it seems that very little of any real consequence has happened since the arrival of Burger King, other than a growing army of refugees from Saddam's Republican Guard setting up temporary home in Cliftonville, the next town along from Margate.



What, I wonder, does 'Broadband Britain' actually mean to the people here, very little I suspect? A rfast, eliable train service to London, 90 miles away or the channel tunnel, 30 miles away might be a good start but then of course, I wrote to John Prescott, as transport Czar about this at least five years ago and of course, nothing happened.

And will Broadband Britain really make a difference here? I doubt it until the other more pressing issues such as schools, houses, refugees and trains are sorted out first. Shooting a few bloody seagulls would be a help too!

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