So, as I was saying yesterday, my car only just managed to wend its way home after Sunday's show and the engine sounded like a rocket launcher as we pootled along the motorway. By the time we arrived home, she was complaining bitterly. Unluckily for me, the auto-centre is what I would term 'a significant hike' from my house, so when I limped my little Saxo gingerly along the road for surgery yesterday morning, I knew I'd be in for a long, tedious wait while she was fixed ...
The Royal Star Arcade coffee shop
... and that was when I remembered a comment Yvonne made on Sunday about enjoying my blog walks! So, rather than mope around in town for hours on my own, I slipped my point 'n shoot digicam into my handbag so you could join me while my catalytic converter was being fitted!
The Royal Star Arcade built in 1989 on the site of the old Star Hotel - where I used to disco way back in the days when strawberry lipgloss was 'cool'!
The first picture is a bit of a giveaway; after popping into a book shop to hunt down a new paperback, I decided to indulge myself with a cappucino and pecan and maple syrup danish pastry. Several chapters of my book later, I remembered my camera and began to snap discreetly as I went on my way ...
Middle Row, I used to go to disco's here too when I was a girl! Sadly the street is fairly run down these days - a real shame; but if you look above eye level, there are still plenty of clues to Maidstone's history ...
Fortunately it stayed dry while I was walking and it was quite warm, so although the skies were heavy with cloud, rain didn't interfere with my play.
These days Maidstone suffers in much the same way as many other towns, with boarded up shops, gum plastered pavements and general air of 'can't be botherdness', but if you know where to look, it is still possible to enjoy the best of this historic County Town and after more than thirty years of residence, my feet have traipsed all over the town and know exactly where to take me ...
The Bell Tower, All Saints Church
All Saints Church is a beautiful building, whether you 'got religion' or didn't. I won't whitter on here like a history teacher, suffice it to say this is a fourteenth century church and not only was my niece baptised here, I have also attended many charming Christmas carol, Easter and Harvest Festival services here whilst working with the infant department of All Saints C of E Primary School, which is across the road. One day I'd like to look out at Maidstone from the top of that magnificent bell tower!
The Archbishop's Palace
Taking these pics for you gave me the perfect excuse to slip down the steps behind the Bell Tower to show you 'The Archbishop's Palace' built by Archbishop Courtenay in 1396. I think this is probably the most impressive building in Maidstone. These days it is the town's Register Office and many a bride and groom have been photographed with the front elevation gracing the background (including two of my sisters in fact!) but my favourite view is here at the rear of the building, where it dominates the riverside.
The Millenium Bridge
Surprisingly perhaps, modern mingles quite comfortably with medieval in this area. I'm guessing no matter how rich in history an area is, life moves on demanding practical solutions to modern day needs - no matter the romance of yesteryear! I confess that when the Millenium Bridge was opened in 1999, I shuddered at the concept of something so blatantly contemporary being built across the Medway close to the Archbishop's Palace and All Saints Church, but when I realised this little metal bridge could bring the local 'B &Q' do-it-yourself store so much closer to me, my ire began to soften ...
I have no idea how many times I have crossed this ancient bridge. As a child I crossed it twice a day to reach school and as an adult, who knows how many times to reach the shops! I think it's one of those purposeful constructions that is used so frequently, it becomes almost invisible with time. It was rebuilt in 1879 and now draws traffic away from the town centre but I think it lends the town a sense of permanence and has a certain solid, supportive charm ...
I couldn't resist including this recent glaring monstrosity. A 'Travel Lodge' now perches on the side of the river upsteam from the historical buildings ... talk about a blot on our landscape!
Invicta Regimental War Memorial
I think Maidstone is like many towns, a mix of the old and the new. It's a little jaded around its rather scruffy edges, but like the river that has always flowed through it, the town moves forward reflecting current times, whilst quietly remembering its past.