Monday, 21 May 2012

Hastings Battleaxe's Brummie heritage comes to Hastings

This device is a fly-press for punching and stamping metal, made in around 1910 by a company called Hazelwood and Dent in Branston Street, Birmingham.  It is standing outside Leigh Dyer's West Street Incurva studio, waiting to be winched up on the chain to the workshop, to start its new life.

The fly-press on its way to a new home

     Hazelwood and Dent was my grandparents' family firm - my grandmother's maiden name was Florence Hazelwood.  My mother was always economical with the truth, and I didn't learn about our metal-bashing past until recently - she clearly thought metal-bashing not quite the thing.  (She always said she came from genteel Solihull, or 'Soleyhole dear', but in fact, she was born in far less salubrious Acocks Green).  However, Hazelwood and Dent made machine tools for the Brummagen jewellery and medal-making industry, and the fly-press would have spent most of its working life in a little back street workshop in Hockley. As well as small things like this, the company made huge die-stamping presses, used in the Birmingham Mint - quite likely there were some in the Royal Mint also.
    The factory closed down in the 50s, and for a long time the building was a seedy nightclub - I went there once, without realising what the place had been.  Now, the building has been demolished and the site incorporated into an apartment development - Great Hampton Lofts.
    Being crazy, as I am, I bought the fly-press off Ebay, and was astonished to discover how heavy even a small machine like this is. For many years it gathered dust in our house in Birmingham. When we moved to Hastings I nearly gave it to the Birmingham Museum - they didn't have a Hazelwood and Dent machine in their collection.  I am glad I didn't - the press would have spent the rest of its life unused and unseen in the museum store.  Instead, it came with us.  I met Leigh, the talented local metal sculptor, at last year's Coastal Currents Open Studio days and asked if he would like the fly-press - but it has taken practically all year for me and the Philosopher to get round to getting the press down to the Old Town.  Still Leigh has it now, and it is great to think of the machine still having a useful life.

Here is Leigh's new Winkle on Winkle Island.....


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Secret Hastings - the Garlic wood

The first year we came to Hastings, the Philosopher and I stumbled on an amazing sight - the hidden wild garlic wood in Alexandra Park at the top of Shornden Reservoir. We have visited every year since.  If you go across the top of the park - what we call the 'Blow-Up Lawn' (because it reminds us of the park shown in Blow-Up (the 1960s classic film starring David Hemmings - the park where he sees the murder) - a secret path leads to the garlic.  This year it was not as good as before - the weather I guess, but it was still impressive, and the smell of wild garlic is overpowering.  However, others had been before us - it is discouraging that people drop litter in bits of the park they think are unfrequented...  Anyway, at least all that garlic should keep the vampires away.

Talking of spooky things, I also like the huge old tree you pass on the way to the garlic.  It is like one of those scary trees that comes to life in a fairy story.  Here is the garlic and the tree.

Garlic in Shornden Wood

Spooky Tree

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Jack in the Green - Battleaxe's shame....

No, I'm not ashamed to admit it - here I am, a Hastings resident, and I didn't go to the Jack in the Green festival. 
     Don't get me wrong, if required I can haul myself into a corset and wench about with the best of them - I have a drawer full of the things. But it is no use, Morris dancing and all that goes with it is just not for me.  All those beards and beer bellies... no, no, noo.  Yes, I know they have women's troupes, or 'sides' as we are supposed to call them, but women seem to be a bit of a late add-on.  I once worked with a woman whose husband was a leading light in the Morris movement, and as a woman, she wasn't even allowed to dance, or belong to his gang.

     I am prepared to acknowledge that Jack in the Green is a revival of an authentic ancient pagan ritual, but it has all the feel of Victorian recreated  'Merrie England' for me. 

     Anyway, I musn't be churlish, because I know it is a huge thing for Hastings,  draws lots of people into town etc.  It seems a little strange that it coincides with the big bikers' day - as far as I can see Mayday Monday is a complete bummer for getting about, and as for parking outside your house, forget it. Anyway, here's a picture, so non-Hastings folk can see what I missed.  Thanks to Hastings On-line Times for this.



     As it was the first rain-free morning for days - there were even a few rays of sun, the Philosopher and I went to tackle the garden at our new house.  My goodness, Hastings has some spectacular clay - I am surprised there is not a pot making industry here.  Having said that, I have read there was a brick-making works just by what is now Saxon Road.
     Anyway, digging at the clay wore me out but doesn't seem to deter the badgers, who have been having a fine time excavating holes in the lawn.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Battleaxe in Hastings Tip shock.....

Just took a load of garden rubbish to the Pebsham tip.  To my disappointment and astonishment, the metal container where the tip geezers used to pile things that had some value, and then sell the stuff for a pittance, has gone.

Since I have been in Hastings I have had several old chimney pots for planters, umpteen other planters and terracotta pots, a set of shelving, a filing cabinet, a Victorian wooden plant stand and various garden tools - all from the tip.  Visiting the little hoard made tip visits worthwhile, and most important of all, stuff that could be reused was salvaged.  We really liked it after the big city Birmingham tip we used to visit, where you had to drop stuff down off a walkway into huge skips where it was way beyond reach.  Sure, I expect the blokes in Hastings made an illicit few bob out of their trade, but so what?

Now, you are not even able to save stuff from the heaps once it has been dumped - what a waste.

I spoke to the blokes and they wouldn't say much - just muttered grumpily and darkly about 'politics'.

In other places I have seen charity stores at tips - e.g Hove, Stratford-on-Avon.  I think this would be a really good idea for Hastings. I shall start a campaign.

Anyway, after that trauma we had to call into the Garden Centre for a restorative scone and a cuppa - the place was heaving.  I guess gardens are suddenly growing with the damp weather.  Birds must like the damp too - this morning I saw a blackbird in the garden with his beak stuffed with worms and grubs, still trying to extract more without dropping the first lot.