While we were in East Kent recently we revisited Dover Castle. I lived with its comforting presence for the whole of my youth - it watched over me as I was pushed in my pram, was just behind me on my first day at school and in the summer holidays it was always there, in the background.
It is situated high on the cliffs so that almost every part of the town possesses its own personal and spectacular view. We hadn't been inside the castle's square keep since its English Heritage makeover (E.H. has renamed the keep - it is now The Great Tower!) I was eager to see whether the new, brightly coloured furnishings were a distraction or if they helped tell the castle's history in a more realistic way than the empty stone halls and secret passageways that, when I was a child, I could explore at any time with my friends. I'm not sure there was even an entry fee for children, though perhaps it was 6d.
The views are still amazing and inside...
... there are still mysterious nooks and crannies to explore.
But, hang on, I don't remember this.
Who's eating here tonight?
"Where's my banquet?"
It's Richard II, well known for being a little difficult in his final years.
What did we think of Richard's colourful new décor?
The bright furnishings are restricted to the main chambers of the keep and are surprisingly authentic and beautifully handcrafted. Contemporary illuminated manuscripts were the inspiration...
..and we thought they worked well!
Back down to earth in the shockingly sad old town that is present day Dover, we found a very good restaurant called The Allotment.
Once a traditional wine-merchants shop (I remember visiting with my parents to stock up for Christmas) it still has its original stained glass window.
It faces Dover Town Hall and, as I looked out, the years rolled back to when, along with grand, banner-bedecked town council chambers, it housed a small dusty Museum and held prestigious events like my school speech day where I once provoked a sharp intake of collective breath by wearing the shortest mini dress in the place onto the stage. But, as you walk through the town, the landscape becomes more depressing...
..until just behind the seafront a menacing hulk, Burlington House, comes into view, with its accompanying multi-story car park. Both buildings, constructed in the late 1970s, were condemned 7 years ago and have been empty since then.
A few yards further on, in what used to be the prestigious heart of pre-World War II Dover, we came across this shocking scene.
No longer the "Gateway to Britain" but a bit of a dump. Heartbreaking.