Rochester is the jewel in Medway's crown. I love the High Street, with its blend of shops, galleries, restaurants, antique shops, cafes and second-hand bookstores. We even have a traditional ironmonger, a top class butcher and a bakery, which ensure it remains a living "high street" and not just a tourist attraction.
Rochester is also very proud of its Dickensian connections, so much so it has not one but two Dickens Festivals each year. History records that Dickens lived at Chatham and at Higham, never in Rochester, but let's not allow facts to get in the way of a tourist attraction. He did, however, read, visit, drink tea, buy his underwear and do all manner of routine things at various buildings along Rochester High Street - as the faux blue plaques proudly confirm.
Just ahead of the winter Dickens Festival I asked a local friend what it as like. "Tens of thousands of tourists come each year, and most locals also attend - though usually only once!"
The highlight of the festivals is the parade of Dickensian characters; this appears to consist of the local Conservative councillors and their wives and friends, all wearing the clothes they did when they were first elected.
Looking through some publicity shots from today, I came across this delight; Chatham & Aylesford Chairman, Cllr Peter Homewood, parading with his friend Susan Haydock. I understand Sue found a pattern for one of those 1970's knitted lavatory roll dolls and
up-scaled the dimensions.
And here is another scene - a genuine Dickensian motor scooter, as featured in Great Expectations and Benidorm.
And here (below) is Medway Mayor, the lovely Cllr Jose Iles, with husband Steve (note the council security guard behind in case someone attempts to knick the Mayoral chain!)
And here, Medway Council demonstrates their new recruitment policies which have led to improved diversity in the street sweeping task force:
And finally, my own ward councillor Ted Baker, resplendent in his blue canvassing jacket.