Sunday, 25 November 2012

Herrings and cattern cakes at Hastings Herring Festival - and Skyfall

Well, honestly, this wet weather is getting a bit much.
     It rained solidly yesterday - we went down into town and saw Skyfall at the Hastings Odeon.
 Shared the cinema with most of the population of East Sussex, who had clearly had the same idea to cheer up a wet, miserable Saturday.  Our screen was packed tight with mega-huge tubs of popcorn and erupting super-size cups of fizzy pop - and that was without all the damp steamy people. Lots of quite small kids too, who wanted to go to the toilet lots of times - unsuitable film, and all the pop, I guess.
    The film was quite classy, but we didn't actually like it that much compared with the earlier Bond movies - too little action and too much talk, and the plot seemed contrived. No wonder the kids got bored.
     Wind howled alarmingly round the house all night - we both slept badly.
     Today looked sunny at the start of the day, so we went down to the Old Town - I wanted to photograph shops for my Top Ten shops blog post (coming soon).
     It is the first Hastings Herring Festival this weekend. Went to the Eat Cafe for coffee and had a traditional Cattern Cake - sort of spicy shortbread made with caraway seeds - nice, but frightful lot of bits in one's teeth.  There seemed to be lots of talk of 'Catterning and Clemmening' - some old Sussex tradition to do with celebrating the feasts of St Catherine and St Clement, where kids went round door-to-door demanding stuff. I don't quite know what this has to do with herring.... Needless to say, being Hastings there were lots of big beardy blokes in Morris/bonfire type kit, and even the odd corset.  In the tents outside we had chunks of cooked herring on bread.  Apparently herrings are undergoing a revival - I had loads as a child - bony things, but tasty.

    One of the first things I ever did when we came to Hastings was to buy some enormous kippers from a fish stall in Rockanore - they stunk the house out for days.
    We went and looked at the sea - there was a police helicopter hovering and lots of people gawping up at it - perhaps they were looking for a body - and then it started to rain again.
     In the interests of blog research I wanted to have fish and chips at a cafe on the Stade -  in a black hut at the top of a staircase called Maggie's, which seems to be just about as hard to get into as the latest Heston restaurant or similar.  Tried ages ago with friends the two Sues, only to be shouted at by some harpy woman who said we couldn't come in.  Today was no better - we had only just tried to climb the steps when a comedy fish-wife, looking like Michael Palin dressed up in Monty Python, came and shrieked furiously at us that it wasn't open and that we weren't to ask her anything because she was from over there...Philosopher said he was never going back anyway, it looked too grim. Ended up with these platefuls at the Blue Dolphin chippie instead....

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Stables Theatre, Hastings - 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist'

Had friend from Brum, Jackie, to stay for a couple of days.  Weather evil, unfortunately, with very strong wind. For some crazy reason she fancied swimming in the sea, but luckily it was too rough....Yes, I know I said earlier in the year that I wanted to swim in the sea more often, but completely draw the line at a wet, windy November day. I think I would have a heart attack.....
   We nearly got blown off the top of Beachy Head, then took Jackie to sample the delights of the Eastbourne Waitrose - we needed to stock up on a few totally vital items, (including President Spreadable butter, Bunderberg diet ginger beer and Waitrose dried fruit cereal topper!)  and secure a Heston's whole orange Christmas pudding.  Then had lunch at the Counting House pub - so handy for Waitrose, dears.
    Last night we went down to see 'The Accidental Death of an Anarchist', by Dario Fo, at The Stables Theatre.  It was OK, entertaining, and funny, but not totally great - I thought the guy who played the leading character 'The Maniac' was very good, but the acting of some of the police persons was not as convincing.  The play should really feel quite topical - particularly in the light of the recent farce around the police commissioner elections - but for me the production was a bit dated - they could have made it more powerful by linking it to modern goings-on more.  This was a pity because they had clearly taken a good deal of trouble with the set, and including film footage of Italian anarchists etc

Theatre was surprisingly full - quite a high average age audience....I know we like the casual atmosphere of the place, but in some ways it would be good if people did dress up more. I don't mean a parade of Oscar frocks, but guys and gels, lets get a bit less frumpy for our evenings out....
   Will do another Top Ten list for next blog post - probably favourite shops.  It actually takes ages to do, sorting all the pictures etc.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Favourite Hastings and St Leonard's views - one year today!

We have been living in Hastings for exactly one year. The place is starting to feel like home, but we will always be newcomers to the locals here...
     The visual appeal of Hastings struck us immediately.  Before we moved here permanently, we rented a little place on the West Hill, right by Emmanuel Church - we would keep spotting the tower from all over town. Philosopher took a series of photographs of it and posted them anonymously through the Vicar's letter-box. We learned that in WW2, the Germans used the church as a landmark when they flew across on their way to bomb London.
     Here is the tower, photographed from Shearbarn - nearly a mile away across the valley.
This collection of views is not exhaustive - it is just what occurs to me now....

The West Hill
It always lifts my spirits to walk across from the Croft Road end and see the view open up ahead, and then to sit on the terrace of the cafe.  The view in the other direction, to Beachy Head across St. Leonard's, is also brilliant.

The East Hill
Fantastic views of the Old Town, right along the coast to Beachy Head. The first one is from 2010, before the Pier burnt down.....

The Country Park
Loads here. As I have mentioned in blog posts before, these lovely views have long been favourites of artists, such as Holman Hunt. A bit lung-busting to get to them, though...

St. Leonard's
Burton's St Leonard's at its best, the view from St Leonard's Gardens.  The gardens were designed in the 1830's by James and Decimus Burton to show a series of elegant panoramas. They have been well restored.
Here is a splendid view of Marine Court.

The Old Town.
Most friends who come to visit us have no idea the Old Town exists - they think of Hastings as a series of dilapidated and run-down Victorian terraces inhabited by drug-dealers and East European gangsters.  Shame about the cars in this view of the High Street.

Alexandra Park
This is the path we call 'The Ride', through Shornden Woods.

View of the Old Town down Ashburnham Road
Very Italian.

Views from the windows of the Jerwood Gallery.
Every window has either a view of the Old Town, or the Stade.  I particularly like the 'No to the Jerwood' signs, still there!

The sea and the sky
Bit of a cop-out, but coming from a city in the centre of the country, this was what was really important to us about the move to Hastings. I could look at the sea for ever.

Our very own view - down the valley to the sea from our house. 
I had to include this! We have one of those monocular things set up to watch the passing ships.  I will sit here quite happily, dozing in the sun, when I am old...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Autumn colour in Alexandra Park, Hastings

Beautiful sunny day today.  We went down to Alexandra Park.  Coffee at Eat Cafe, sitting outside in the sun - last time this year?  Ever since we moved to Hastings, we have loved the park - the trees, the ponds and lakes, the woodland walks - the variety.  Today, we felt it was probably our last chance to see, and catch, some autumn leaves.  (Is it right that if you catch a leaf falling from a tree you have a day of happiness next year?) We went from the cafe through Shornden Wood along the woodland path we call the Ride, around Shornden Reservoir, and round down into the lower park via Vale Road.
     I was lucky enough to see a kingfisher by one of the ponds at the top of Buckshole Reservoir - it was perching on a dead branch, and flew off with a flash of brilliant turquoise. No time to take a photo, I'm afraid, but I'll let these other pictures speak for themselves.  Some are taken by me on the iphone, others by Philosopher.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

De La Warr, Towner Gallery, Beachy Head, Rye Harbour, Bexhill Link Road...its a full life.

Just had friends Alan and Judy down from Brum for the weekend.  Alan is the Alan Wenban-Smith of  Link Road feasibility enquiry fame. He still stoutly maintains there is absolutely no sense in the project, and did yet more stout maintaining after far too long sitting in the traffic on the A21, the main obstacle to the development of Hastings. We agree totally.  Here is the link to his 2011 report for the Hastings Alliance.

On Saturday it was pouring with rain in the morning, so we took the car - more gnashing of teeth as we crawled past Glynde Gap - for coffee in the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. We looked at the Ian Breakwell Exhibition - very strange - and then drove to Eastbourne.  Called into the Towner Gallery and caught virtually the last day of the excellent 'Points of Departure' Exhibition, about the Sussex sea-coast.  Philosopher and I had been to see it some months ago, but it was well worth seeing again.  We like the Towner, it has good exhibitions and an excellent permanent collection, however, I think our own Jerwood is a better building.

We then drove up to Beachy Head, and had lunch at the Beachy Head pub.  I have said this before, but given its location, that pub could be an absolute dive and people would still flock to it.  In fact, it is perfectly OK. After, as it had stopped raining, we went for a short walk.  The weather was very strange - deep grey looming clouds, but over the Seven Sisters and towards Brighton, the sun was breaking through, giving wonderful lighting effects, and as the afternoon wore on towards sunset, the view grew more and more dramatic. A group of young people were obviously filming some amateur dramatic production right by the cliff edge - the last we saw of them, they were being hotly pursued by the Chaplains.

Today, needless to say, the weather was totally different, so we went walking at Rye Harbour.  Lovely bright sun, warm enough to sit on the beach and admire the glittery sea. As at Pett Level last week, the recent stormy weather had produced good beach-combing opportunities.

 We wanted to stop for lunch at the Coastguards Tearooms but they were shut....curses.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The sea, the sea......Pett Level

Glorious sun today.  We went down to Pett Level.  Less than 48 hours ago the sea was as shown in the photographs on my last blog post.  Look at it now.
Little innocent wavelets lapping at the shore, me sitting on a breakwater sunning myself.

Did some good beachcombing, too - lots of interesting bits washed ashore.  That's something I have not mentioned - one thing I want to do is to make arty objects out of driftwood, pebbles etc. Loads of people do that sort of stuff round here but mine will be special. 

We popped into Winchelsea on the way for coffee and home-made Battenburg cake at the up-market and civilised Winchelsea Farm Kitchen.  It has a nice little garden for sitting out in the summer, and various cozy rooms inside.  The shop is full of food to die for - I can scarcely drag myself past the counter without developing insane urges for game pie or whatever - I do not give in.  Even so, readers of this blog would be forgiven for thinking that Philosopher and I do nothing but visit eateries and wander about looking at the sea.  About right, I guess, with perhaps a bit of shopping thrown in.

Less positively, we still have vile colds.  Caught them from grand-daughter.  Here she is dancing on Beachy Head this time last week.  The pool is a strange big rain puddle that had accumulated right at the very edge of the top of the cliff.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Out and about, shopping in St. Leonard's, Arts Forum, sea puts on a show

Well, half-term passed - weather was not great, took granddaughter back to Birmingham on Wednesday.  Returned a day early because we were supposed to be staying in Much Wenlock with friends John and Jan, but John was ill.  We went to see friends Shaun and Jenny in Stratford on Avon, and returned to damp Hastings on Friday.  House was freezing. Philosopher had stomach upset and slight cold, and now I have the same.

On Saturday some sun appeared, so we walked up to St Leonard's.  Had coffee in Smiths - good ginger cake. Shopping is really looking up in that area - several new retro/antiques shops have opened in London Road/Kings Road and Norman Road, and a really nice clothes shop, Who's Wearing What.  Have been in before and liked it, but when I went in today, I felt the women were too busy yakking to their cronies and not desperately interested in any other customers. However, it is worth persisting with, because clothes are lovely.

As so often, had lunch in the Post Office Tea Room - tragic news from Philip and David - their solitary chicken, mentioned in previous blog post, had died unexpectedly....cause unknown.  Sounded like SUCKS (sudden unexplained chicken killing syndrome) to me.....

After lunch, we called into the Arts Forum to see a photography exhibition including work by John Cole, one of my Hastings Writers' Group colleagues.  The exhibition was called 'Hard Graft - Ships, the Land, the Ring', and consisted of gritty black and white photographs from the 70s and 80s, showing people, mostly men, at work.  It also included photographs by Bruce Rae - husband of Annie.  All powerful stuff and worth seeing.  John's were of boxers, photographed in America (he is American)  Next door was more gritty stuff - pictures of a derelict Italian hospital - reminded us of an exhibition we saw of derelict Soviet buildings - at the Royal Academy I think.

Last night, there was the most tremendous rain, hail, thunder and lightning - we did not sleep well, and the weather was still terrible this morning.  We drove down to Rock-a-Nore.  The wind was incredibly strong and the sea was just mountainous, seething, boiling and brown - have never seen it so violent. Walked to the breakwater on the beach at the end of the car park - I felt really scared - the wind was so strong I could barely stand up, and could only cling onto the cold wet railing, watching the huge waves roar and crash just a couple of feet away.  Some utterly mad bloke in a wet suit and with a little surf board suddenly climbed over the railing beside me and jumped in - he vanished totally and reappeared some time later closer to the beach.

Frozen cold and blown to bits, we went to the Jerwood for lunch - never mind the art, the views of the waves from the cafe were just tremendous. Grub in there is fine, and quite reasonably priced.  I must say - as long as you can catch it open - the gallery makes an excellent Members' Club. It is good to be able to call into the cafe and use the nice classy loos!