Sunday, 13 April 2008


My friend Ellis told me that Whitstable is like a cross between Weymouth and Aldeburgh and I see what he means. It is cute, full of gift shops and seems to have more than a passing interest in the gourmet side of life...yet its undercurrent of old rockers and barflies gives the place a funk in its thigh that delivers it from tweeness.

I arrived (after a detour through the pebble-dash cacophony of Bexleyheath looking for a carwash), found the spot I thought was mine and got settled in. The sun was ablaze, a skiffle band got everyone swaying and the place was teeming with kids imploring their parents for ice creams - the perfect spot!...then, as I was almost set up, came the most brimstone and fire hailstorm ever. I quickly battoned down the hatches and sat in the van getting pounded - the van shook, the noise deafened and all the people vanished into unknown places of dryness and warmth.

Then it poured with rain. Then the sun returned. Then it poured with rain. Then the sun returned - and so on for the rest of the day which found me serving hot chocolate one minute and white chocolate ice cream the next. Some people came to complain about my being there but when I explained what I was doing it was all smiles and good luck. One guy did point out to me that I was actually in the wrong place entirely but wasn't hard-nosed enough to make me move.

If my tour is an exploration of British friendliness and hospitality then Whitstable has passed with flying colours. A mixed group of punters - from proper hard-nut, spiky haired mums to old fishermen and high-flying couples from the city. Some had seen me and Jimmy on the telly and were delighted to be able to get their hands on Willie's chocolate some just wanted to shut their kids up. I loved it - even the hail - and would return in an instant if invited.

Thanks for having me Whitstable!


Anonymous said...

Do you know is this 'Willie cacao' fairly traded?

Petra Barran said...

It's about as fairly traded as it can be. Willie owns his cacao farm and has good relationships with the owners of the other farms he sources from; he imports it himself and processes it himself...and he certainly trades very fairly with Choc Star!