Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Hastings Scone Survey continues

Wet days, wet days.... Sunday was nice though.  Made a Scone Investigation Visit to the West Hill Cafe.  If ever we had doubts about moving to Hastings - which, at the moment, we don't - a walk on the West Hill would blow those doubts away.  When we first brought our grand-daughter to Hastings we were renting a little house in Plynlimmon Road on the West Hill - she, a city child, took one look at the space and rushed across the grass towards the sea beyond, arms outstretched, shrieking.  We puffed after her, trusting that she wouldn't throw herself over the cliff in her excitement.

Sunday was a fabulously fresh, clear morning - you could almost believe you could see France. I felt like running around, shrieking, myself.

Mr Hopeful at the West Hill Cafe
The West Hill Cafe is wonderfully ramshackle, given its stunning location, views etc.  Every time we go we fear that it might have been taken over by Jamie Oliver to become a high-class gastro-restaurant.  The outside tables are cracked and wobbly, and they are one of the last surviving providers of those classic English cafe stainless steel teapots and milk jugs which tip their contents all over you and the table instead of into the cup.  There is always a seagull waiting hopefully on the parapet - there he is above.

I confess, we didn't actually have a scone after all that, but chose a date slice instead.  Yummy.  Their coffee is good too.

We are a bit preoccupied with our new house at the moment - the builders are in residence, knocking walls down.... we won't move in for around 6 weeks.  It's all kitchens, bathrooms, windows....quite stressful.  This house we are living in now, further down Harold Road, is up for sale.  We have had two lots of viewers already, with another expected tomorrow.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Scrabbleman - a Hastings puzzle?

Scrabbleman? No, Scrabblewoman

So, I've seen the BBC News, I've read about it in the Hastings and St Leonard's Observer.... the Philosopher said to me last night, "Do you fancy a game of Scrabble?"  He gets the board out, and would you believe it, there are no tiles left apart from 'Z' and 'X'.

"What's happened here?" he says.

"Make up your own mind, Monkey-face" I replied, quick as a flash.

No really, Scrabbleman isn't me.  Battleaxes don't do anonymous subversive artistic statements.  But two questions occur to me:

- Why are the people responsible for stuff like this always men? 
- At what point do the things cross the line from being messy graffiti to being intriguingly amusing art?

I don't know the answer to either of these questions, and am too busy with our new house and the Great Scone Survey (see previous blog posts) to think about it very much.  Just been down to the Land of Green Ginger in the Old Town High Street with some friends. 
     I noticed out of the corner of my eye they had no scones today, just as well, because I had the Twice-baked Cheese Souffle which is very filling and totally fantastic.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Good Scone Guide to Hastings

Up-date! The complete Good Scone Guide has now been published on my sister blog.  See the complete piece now on Bombastic Battleaxe

For one of the regular competitive writing exercises at the Hastings Writers' Group, we have to produce a travel piece.  I thought the Good Scone Guide might just be a little different.  However, it requires the sampling of many scones in many different cafes - not much hardship there.  Forget your cupcakes, for me there is nothing to beat a fresh, warm, fragrant, fruity scone with butter and jam.

I have made my test area very wide - reaching from the Hastings Garden Centre, almost in Bexhill (yummy scones mentioned in a previous blog post), up to Sainsburys in Sedlescombe Road, and all the way across to the Coastguards Tearooms in Fairlight.

We went up to the Country Park for a walk this morning. The bluebells were out on Brakey Bank, looking lovely in the sun, and the shaggy Highland cattle lying in their field looked just like a Victorian watercolour against the yellow gorse and the sparkling sea.  I know writers to the local paper moan on about the cattle in the park, and the consequent land enclosure, but they do look picturesque to me.  Called in to the Coastguards to do my research - we like the place, but today their scones were disappointing - not fresh, and the jam was a bit cheapskate.  I know this guide won't be serious, and the quality of the scone-eating experience must depend on when the baking has been done, but a place only has one chance to make a good scone impression.*

Yesterday we went to the Cafe des Arts in town, again purely for research.  They were just getting their scones out of the oven.....
* November 2012 - I feel sorry I said this - the Coastguards is actually one of our favourite places - love their little dog!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Battleaxe finds home with Pre-Raphaelites

We will be on the move soon from our present interim house in Harold Road to our forever home further up the valley where we can look straight down to the sunlight on the sparkly sea.... one of the reasons we moved to Hastings from Birmingham.

While idly trawling Google about our new locality we discovered that our new house is one of a small cluster built on the site of Clive Vale House, formerly Clive Vale Farm.  In 1852 Edward Lear lodged at Clive Vale Farm, and Holman Hunt came to join him.  At the house, Holman Hunt painted one of his best known works, 'Our English Coasts or Strayed Sheep' (see below), along with 'Fairlight Downs, Sunlight on the Sea', and the flowers round the bottom of the 'Light of the World'.  Holman Hunt and Lear were visited at Clive Vale by Millais and other Pre-Raphaelite frequenters of Hastings.

What would we do without Google?  More house-work and gardening, for sure.  Another riveting thing it threw out was the Harold Hotel and Temperance Tea garden, on former Clive Vale farm land at Pinders Shaw.  Apparently there was a large ground set aside for open-air dancing..... What an energetic lot those Victorians were....

Less of this.  Tomorrow we go back to Birmingham for a couple of days to show our grand-daughter a good time for the Easter holidays.....

Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday in Hastings Old Town

One of my fellow members of the Hastings Writers Group told me about the annual Stations of the Cross Procession or Passion Play in the Old Town.
     She was playing Mary, Mother of Jesus, so the Philosopher and I walked down to have a look.  Both of us were astonished by the scale of the event - I have never seen such a thing before, except perhaps in Italy.  Several hundred people, many of them singing, followed as Jesus was scourged through the streets from St Clements via St Mary Star of the Sea to All Saints, where He was finally crucified. Although neither of us follow any religious faith, we were moved by what we saw, and followed the procession ourselves.  It was a particularly beautiful crystal clear sunny spring day, and even a non-believer could feel a connection between the symbolism of the Easter story and the annual cycle of the death of winter in preparation for the new growth and renewal of spring.

Good Friday in Hastings Old Town

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Turner Margate vs Hastings Jerwood - Jerwood wins!!

OK, I take back my gripes (only small ones, remember) about the Jerwood. 

Yesterday we went to Margate for the first time to visit the Turner Contemporary.  The first, and main, thing that struck us was the nauseating smell... a terrible rotting, sewage-like stench coming from the beach.  It wafted into the ground floor of the gallery and all around the gift shop, and made sitting outside on the cafe terrace really unpleasant.  We felt too embarrassed to ask a local if their town always smelt so bad, so I looked it up on Google.  Yes, indeed, Margate is well known for its smell of rotting seaweed. It is worse in hot weather, and worst of all in the corner of the harbour where the gallery is sited.   Apparently they dredged the seaweed away before the Queen visited the Turner.... why don't they do that all the time?

Next, the building.  It reminded me of  a ferry embarkation terminal - they have one a bit like it in Dieppe, I think.  I expected to go inside and see rows of green plastic seats bolted to the floor, and bored kids shrieking round the vending machines.  It looked too stark for its surroundings, and inside felt institutional and bare.  Don't get me started on the content.  One room was devoted to some bloke's walks, and then there was the Turner exhibition. We are not that keen on Turner anyway, and they seemed to have collected up all his wispiest and most wishy-washy water-colours.  When the Turners have gone they will have nothing because there is no permanent collection.

The whole thing has been blown up into a huge, ridiculous hype bubble. They had some quote from a critic up on the wall:  'Magnificent paintings worth crawling on your hands and feet to see'.  (Crawling on hands and feet? Knees, surely). I don't think so. OK, so the Turner has free admission but our Jerwood is far, far better,  both in architecture and in content.  Its view of the junk on the fishing beach is as nothing compared with the awful smell in Margate.

We left the pongy harbour zone behind, and walked up through the town to see the Shell Grotto, which I had always wanted to visit.  The grotto was good, but what struck us most was how terribly run down Margate is. Far, far worse than Hastings and St Leonard's - it felt a bit unsafe, and I kept my iphone well hidden from view.  Going back to the topic of hype, it really puzzles me how anyone can think that putting a shed on the harbour with a few pictures in it could really fuel the massive regeneration process needed for the town.  Poor Margate.

After, we went on to Broadstairs, which I really liked - a wonderfully old-fashioned place with pretty beaches and a lovely 50s lice-cream parlour.
Margate Shell Grotto

Broadstairs Beach

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Hastings - Dog Poo capital of England?

The Philosopher is surprised it has taken me so long to get round to this. It is no use, I have to succumb to a rant about the horrendous volume of dog poo on the streets of Hastings and St Leonard's.

It seems specially bad at the moment - possibly because we have had so much fine weather.  It seems particularly noticeable on the roads round the West Hill - I guess a lot of people take their dogs for walks up there. 

It is a mystery to me - we have moved here from Birmingham, which has a much higher population density, but far less of a poo problem.  Why are so many Hastings dog-owners so lazy and inconsiderate?

It is hard to know what to do about it if the dog owners are not prepared to take responsibility.  We lived up on the West Hill for a while when we first arrived here, and I remember our neighbour tackling one offender.  His response was to tell her to 'F... off' and that 'he knew where she lived.'

Indeed, when we were out walking last weekend, we passed an aggressive-looking man out with his son and three staffie type dogs.  One dog did a huge steaming pile in the middle of the pavement.  To be fair, the son did say 'Dad, clean up the s..t'.  Cowardly though it sounds, and especially for someone who calls herself 'Battleaxe', I couldn't bring myself to turn round and see whether he actually did pick it up.  I knew if I did look, and he had left the pile untouched, I would not have been able to stop myself running after him and remonstrating with him.  I was afraid of getting a faceful of abuse or worse.  I imagine a lot of people must feel like me, and it is impossible for the Council to police every area all the time....

This gives all dog owners a bad name. We will be getting a little dog soon, and I don't want to be lumped in with the squalid few.