Style: Whitstable - the new Chelsea?

Not if the town can help it. CJ STONE on the spirited fight against DFLs (Down From Londoners)

Jarvis Cocker is definitely one. Ulrika Jonsson was thinking of buying a house here, so she's one too. The place is Whitstable in Kent, and both Jarvis and Ulrika are DFLs. That's the term Whitstable people use to describe visitors - Down From London.

Whitstable is a curious, possibly unique seaside town nestling on the Thames Estuary about 60 miles from London, and recently it has become incredibly fashionable. Almost every national newspaper has carried a major article about its peculiar charms. Several TV shows have featured it. You can see the Isle of Sheppey from the beach and, on a clear day, the tower blocks of Southend glisten on the horizon like modern fairy castles. It is characterised by picturesque fisherman's cottages, Victorian shop-fronts and criss-crossing alleyways. Once it was a smuggler's town. Since Roman times it's been famous for its oysters.

W Somerset Maugham wrote about it; Turner painted it; Eastenders have traditionally visited it on summer day trips, supping bottled Guinness from the off-license and eating oysters from the original Wheelers on the High Street. These days, however, there is a new breed of visitor to the town. Trendy media figures jostle with TV producers and City analysts for a seat in the overpriced Oysterhouse fish restaurant on the beach, or discuss their latest projects in over-loud voices at the plush Hotel Continental on the far side of the harbour. The Hotel Continental used to be called the Harbour Lights and was a biker's hang- out until the early Nineties, before it was raided for drugs and closed down. Now all of that has changed.

I went to the Hotel Continental with two locals: Charlie, an affable builder, and Bunny, a layabout with a nice line in bad-natured banter. We asked one of the waitresses if anyone famous had visited recently.

"Oh yes," she said, with a slightly bored air. "We had Jarvis Cocker down here in the summer. He was sitting with a piece of string tied to his foot. He was pulling the string to make his leg move up and down."

Later we went to another pub, at the top end of town. The DFLs only go to certain pubs and restaurants, and hang around the lower part of the town near the beach. I spoke to the landlord. "Do DFL's ever come in here?" I asked.

"Nope," he boomed. "And I wouldn't serve `em if they did."

Someone sitting nearby said, "What's that mean? What's a DFL?"

"You know, rich, fashionable people, down from London," I said.

The problem with the DFLs, I was told, is not so much the occasional visitor charmed by the peculiar ambience of the town. It's the ones who stay and then try to change it. One story I heard involved a London couple who bought a house next to the British Legion. The club had a Hammond Organ and regular sing-along nights. Sometimes things could get rowdy, with people singing at the tops of their voices and stamping their feet. Until the DFLs next door complained to the council and had the sing-alongs stopped. The Legion had to be sound-proofed, and these days the occasional sing-alongs are much more subdued affairs. The same DFLs have since tried to get music stopped at another local pub.

Other DFLs had a bench removed from the beach. The specific problem involved a security light that would go on every time anyone moved. So, of course, local teenagers would stand on the bench and set the light going. The council suggested that the light should be switched off. The complainant refused. The bench was moved instead.

Meanwhile the town is changing. The junk shop on Harbour Street closed down last week, as did the watch repair

shop - to be replaced by little chi-chi restaurants or delis, no doubt. House prices have risen by a third in less than a year. People are becoming bitter. Hence the term "DFL".

It could mean you.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living