Monday, 29 October 2012

Stade Colour competition - success....and more successes

In a previous blog post I described how Philosopher and I went down to the Stade so he could take photographs to enter for the Colour on the Stade competition, which is part of the Brighton Photo Fringe festival. We felt that we may have got the thing a bit wrong - that the judges were looking for something more experimental.

Well, despite this, one of his photos was selected as part of the final 50 to be framed up and hung in the exhibition, which runs in the Blue Reef, the Shipwreck and the Fisherman's Museums until 25 November. As we suspected, the winner was thoroughly experimental - here is the link to the Observer:

Last Saturday evening we went down to the Stade for the prize-giving and the opening of the Exhibition.  Philosopher didn't win, but it was excellent to be selected.  Here he is looking at his entry, which is in the Shipwreck Museum.  He looks like a deranged hoody.

Coincidentally, one of my colleagues from Hastings Writers' Group, Amanda, also had a photo selected to hang in the Exhibition - hers is in the Fisherman's Museum.

There is a People's Favourite prize still to be won - you can go down and vote.

All this success is going to our heads - last Friday was the annual Writer's Group Charity Quiz. Philosopher and I were on a team with Amanda and her husband, and two people from the local charity we were supporting - The Association of Carers.  Our team were on sparkling form, and won - the first time any of us had been on the winning team at such an event.  The charity received £50.00 as a result.

Finally, of course, we are still reeling from Battleaxe's success - winning the Daily Telegraph Just Back Travel Competition. Mind you, I doubt there is anyone still left in the world to whom I have not boasted about this:

I am now busy on another entry - for the Guardian this time, to win a luxury holiday in Turkey.

Half term this week - have got Grand daughter staying..... wet today.....

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Royal Opera House, National Theatre - in Hastings Odeon...

Well, we have been to sample the 'live feed' performances beamed from illustrious temples of Metropolitan culture to us provincial yokels. In our case, down the road in the sticky-floored Hastings Odeon.

A couple of weeks ago we saw the National Theatre play, 'The Last of the Hausmanns', starring Julie Walters - that was excellent, and the cinema was absolutely packed out.  The film experience, where you see lots of close-ups of the actors, worked very well for a stage play.  We even had ice-creams delivered in the interval.

A couple of days ago  we went to see Swan Lake, from the Royal Opera House.  Much to our surprise, the cinema was much emptier - I would have thought it would be very popular. Zenaida Yanowsky danced Odette/Odile.  I have not seen Swan Lake on stage since I was at school, and Act II, with the swans by the lakeside, was just as romantic as I remember.

However, normally, one views ballet from a discreet distance. I think the cinema close-ups did reveal the physical effort behind the magic a bit too much - the rivulets of sweat running down bony chests, the puffing and panting, the taut stretched sinews. It was not helped by the fact that Odette was an angular, muscular, 5' 8" grown-up woman.  Seigfried looked weedy in comparison. The dancers work hard to make it look effortless - all that smiling - but this time you could really see it is a tough job, undertaken by very fit, very strong athletes performing at the limit of their physical ability.  However, the Corps de Ballet were lovely - the white swans, floating across the stage in their floaty long white tutus.... Classical ballet is a strange business, so frozen in time.

We will go to more of these cinema live productions - I think they are an excellent idea. Of course, the audiences we have seen so far are exactly the same middle-class crew you would get in the theatre, so the principle of bringing high culture to the masses might not as yet have caught on.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Psychology of supermarkets - Winchelsea and Pett

Lordy me, the weather is just terrible today - it has rained solidly.  We have only been out to Sainsburys.

The Philosopher said that he doesn't like how most people in the supermarket look so grim and bad-tempered - is that people's default 'off-guard' expression? I said I perceived them as looking more preoccupied than grim, but I thought the space was so large and the crowd so big, the experience had become depersonalised, and people did not therefore feel the need to look pleasant. So, he says, do people only bother looking pleasant in case they see someone they know? I dunno. If someone goes into the corner shop, they generally look pleasant - is that because they know people, or are they trying to appease/reassure the others because they are a few people in a small space? Oh, I dunno.

Anyway, we did meet someone we knew in Sainsburys - Robin from the Lilac Room. I had on a nice new jacket I got from him last winter.

Less of that.  Here are some lovely photographs of Winchelsea and Pett, taken by the Philosopher earlier in the week.
Winchelsea - Royal Military Canal

Winchelsea - Royal Military Canal

Pett Level

Pett Level

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Badgers appear, for real.....

One thing that surprised us when we came to Hastings was all the talk of badgers.
     When we first moved to Harold Road, I brought many plants in pots down from Birmingham, and was mystified to find them either eaten or churned up.  Add to this strange large muddy footprints on the steps coming down from the top garden - not a dog or a cat, too big for a fox.  'Ah, it's the badgers, ' said our elderly neighbour.

When we moved up here things grew more exciting.  Our neighbours have a set in their garden, and presumably also they trot down here from the Country Park. The Philosopher soon embarked on an all-out war of attrition to keep them out of our back garden.  They dig under the back fence, he fills the holes with concrete blocks, they move the blocks, he reinforces the fence base with planks and metal stakes.  They break through the side gate, he reinforces it with netting.  They tear the netting off, he.... and so on for ever more, presumably.  Once in, they dig up the lawn and flowerbeds.

On Saturday, we were down in the Post Office Tea Room, and the lads were telling us that badgers came into their garden - they live near us - and frightened their chickens to death. Literally - only one hen survived, and the Philosopher was honoured to eat a scotch egg made from her one daily offering.

All this talk of badgers, and we had never seen a wild live one - until last night.  I was just driving off to go to Writers' Group, and the Philosopher was looking out of the window, and he saw Mr Badger emerge from our neighbour's garden, and trot across the road in front of him.  When I returned, I was very envious, and went to the window to take a look myself.  I peered around for a few seconds, and then, to my surprise, there he was again.  Clearly illuminated by the streetlight, he strolled casually along the pavement, and  eventually snuffled off into a garden across the road. He was a much bigger animal than I expected.  Clearly, we will need to do more watching.
I don't approve of this badger cull business - it seems a very lazy way of dealing with a problem.  I'm not sentimental about animals, but I don't hold with what I see to be the needless killing of these interesting creatures.

I was brought up in the country, but you never saw much wild life then - in those days, anything that moved was either shot, poisoned, poached, trapped by gamekeepers or dismembered by dogs.  I remember the horrible 'gamekeepers' gibbets' - lines hung with sad corpses of weasels, stoats and birds of prey. It is different now, and very different in towns - in urban Birmingham we used to have fox cubs playing in the garden, and woodpeckers visiting our bird feeder.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Walk at Fairlight - puzzled by Bradshaw

Once again, I look back on a glorious sunny day from dark, dull one.  On Wednesday it was sparklingly bright.  We went up to the Country Park and had coffee and cake at the Coastguards Tearoom.

The Coastguards is a welcome stopping place on Country Park walks - we once saw a green woodpecker in their garden.

After coffee, walk. The night before, we had watched a repeat of one of Michael Portillo's railway journeys on TV - he went from Hythe to Hastings.  He came up to Fairlight with his Bradshaw, and after looking at the Dripping Well and talking about the Victorian passion for ferns, started talking about the view from the Coastguard's lookout.  It so happens that the Philosopher found a facsimile Bradshaw in a charity shop not long ago, so I'll quote what the book said:

'Let the pedestrian make his way, however, to the signal house belonging to the coast-guard station at that point, and he will have a panoramic view around him which it would be worth his while walking from Cornhill to Cairo only to behold and then walk back again.  The whole forms a complete circle, the sweep of inland scenery extending to the hills in the neighbourhood of London, and the sea view reaching from Beachy Head to Dover Cliffs, and stretching out to the heights of Boulogne.  Among many minor objects visible may be enumerated ten towns, sixty-six churches, seventy martello towers, five ancient castles, three bays and forty windmills.'

Well, we went to the Coastguard Station to have a look, and you can't possibly see all that.  The picture below shows what you see looking down towards Rye, and you have to walk over the other side of the hill to get the view to Beachy Head.  Did Bradshaw actually mean the view from North's Seat - before the trees grew up, obviously.  All very odd.
 Anyway, poor Philosopher had a bad knee, so I decided to walk home on my own, because it was such a lovely day.  I always feel a bit strange as a woman walking on my own - you don't see many solitary walkers of either gender striding through the countryside, but fewer women.  I need a dog to keep me company if I am going to do much more of it.  It was very muddy underfoot, so cut back to Fairlight Road via Tilekiln Lane. It only took me 50 minutes to get all the way back.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Walk to Bexhill, De La Warr and more...

Well, it is hard to look out of the window now and remember the gloriously sunny weekend, so I'll write about it to remind me.

Our friends Dave and Carole came down for the weekend from Brum.  It was their first visit to Hastings so we wanted the place to put on a good show for them - things didn't start well because they got stuck in terrible traffic on the way down - apparently the A21 was really bad.  Now, I've said this before but I'll say it again - why are we bothering with the controversial Bexhill Link Road when the real issue is people getting down here in the first place?  Not that we personally care whether communications are improved - we prefer Hastings cut off, but on the other hand it is not great when we, or people we know, get stuck on the way in or out!

Anyway, the next day was sparkling sun, so we decided to walk to Bexhill - our guests wanted to visit the De La Warr Pavilion.  Unusually, we walked all the way from our house - we wanted to show them the Old Town first.  I had to pop into the 'Books Born in Hastings' event at the Town Hall - Hastings Writers' Group
had a stall, and as Battleaxe has just become Publicity Officer on the Committee I thought I had better take a look.  Philosopher took D and C for coffee at the Jerwood - open today, thank goodness.

Weather was fabulous, and very warm.  It is a longer walk than you think, though, when started from right at the top of Clive Vale!  Me and C had to peel off and get a bus for the last bit, from the Retail Park. Lovely clouds over Marine Court:
We were lucky to get a table for lunch outside in the sun on the terrace at the De La Warr.  All very civilised, hopefully friends liked it.  They have still got the wobbling bus on show, and a new exhibition by someone called Ian Breakwell, which looks interesting.

Anyway, no way were we walking back again - caught the bus after waiting for ages.

D & C (that sounds a bit gynecological)had to leave early on Sunday, so we went to Rye Harbour.  If possible, an even better day - absolutely dazzling.  We walked to the sea - King Canute's armchair had vanished.

Had coffee in the Avocet Gallery.  We treated ourselves to a lovely little embroidered picture of a flower called 'Jack Go to Bed at Noon' which I have often seen at Rye Harbour.  It has beautiful seed heads. I collected some seeds earlier in the year, which I have still to plant. I looked for a picture on Google and found this lovely Flower Fairies illustration:

Friday, 5 October 2012

Oh no - Jerwood again - I promise this is the last...

Blogging about the Jerwood is getting boring. 
Trouble is, I really, really want the gallery to do well for Hastings - I want it to be successful and an asset to our town.  I want to enjoy it for myself.  I want it to be one of the shiny 'string of pearls' of gallery projects along the south coast - but at the moment it is more like a knot in the string than one of the just makes me so cross....

Back from sunny Sorrento, we were a bit downcast by soaking Hastings - but yesterday was a fine and sunny morning.  We had a few errands to do down in town, so decided to walk down, and use our shiny new Jerwood membership cards to have a nice luxury coffee in the nice sunny cafe, to banish those post-holiday blues. Blow me down - the place was shut.... and had been shut, what is more, since 24 September, and not re-opening until 6 October.  The notice on the door said it was because they were hanging a new exhibition.  Why on earth does that necessitate closing the whole gallery? And for so long? What must out-of-town visitors who arrive in Hastings wanting to see the gallery be thinking?

When I got home I had a look at the Jerwood website.  Since it opened in March, it has been closed for a period in July for a re-hang - but they did open for a couple of days for free to coincide with the arrival of the Boat on the Stade (why can't they do that all the time?). It was closed for 12 days in September/October, is due to close for another 12 in November/December, and for a stunning 26 days in January/February.  That makes a total of 60 days closed in the year, over and above its normal Monday closure, and its very short weekday opening hours of 11am to 4pm.  (On a previous occasion we arrived at 10.30 and failed to get in!) The year's membership we thought we had bought is actually only valid for10 months.

Now come on, guys, are you 'avin a laugh, or are you just playing at running an art gallery?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Return to Sorrento De De De De Deee Da etc

Dee..d aaaa….Torna a Surriento.  Well, we did, six years after our first visit.  That song was composed on the terrace of our hotel, the Tramontano. It is hard to sit in a restaurant in the town without some itinerant musician invading one’s personal space to wheeze out the tune on an accordion. 

Never mind restaurants, on the packed rush-hour train to Ercolano (for Herculaneum), a Latin busking band got on and played ‘La Bamba’ very loudly up and down the crowded carriages. 

‘This would never do in England,’ I hissed at the Philosopher, while directing best frosty Battleaxe glare at the musicians. The Italian commuters had less restraint  – they shouted, swore and shook their fists until eventually the buskers departed, empty-handed.

The Philosopher preferred Pompeii, which we visited last time, but I liked Herculaneum.  It was quieter, the houses have surviving roof timbers, stairs, iron grilles at the windows, and even furniture. I had always thought it was a modest little fishing village, but it was actually the ancient Roman version of Sandbanks, or Padstow – luxurious large second home villas for wealthy patricians, with shaded terraces overlooking the sea.  Those wealthy Romans knew how to live, dividing their time between the baths, gossiping in the Forum and reclining, sipping wine, on their couches.  Not too great for the slaves though.

Sorrento was very crowded and very hot. Now a popular wedding venue for English couples, the Tramontano is near the old cloister where civil ceremonies take place.  Please, English people, can we cut down on the huge (usually strapless) meringue wedding dresses, fascinators and dodgy pastel mother-of-the bride outfits?  It is unfair to gripe. I got talking to a bride by the hotel pool and she told me her wedding day had been the most perfect and beautiful experience she had ever had.

We love grand old hotels, and the Tramontano is a fine survivor, wonderfully unchanged since our previous visit. It perches on top of the cliffs, with huge gilded salons, wide marble staircases with slightly threadbare carpets, and a lift going right through the rock to the duck-boarded bathing platform below.  A young man takes you down in the lift, and more young men run up and down the platform with drinks trays, and straighten the immaculate rows of sunbeds and umbrellas. In the be-swagged restaurant, the same classic band of waiters seem to work in all these hotels –  there is a tall, thin slightly snooty one who serves the wine, a round jolly one who takes the orders, an ancient one who trundles slowly along with a single fork on a linen draped trolley, and a young handsome one who whips the silver covers off the plates, to reveal the dubious creations of Chef Alfonso.

Then there are the campari sodas, sipped on the bar terrace as the sun goes down, looking across the bay to Vesuvius... ah, never mind those Romans.....

Our bedroom was in the oldest part of the building – the former home of the poet Tasso.  The ceiling must have been eighteen feet high.  I spent much time on the balcony gazing across at the volcano, willing a wisp of smoke to appear from the top.  Nothing happened.

This time, we also went to Paestum - on a coach for a day.  Our guide was a frightfully posh and slightly scatty elderly English lady (what a job to have, eh), who as well as being obsessed with the ancient Greeks, was also obsessed with food.  She actually made the coach take a detour to a buffalo farm, so she could buy some fresh mozzarella for her husband's tea.  The buffaloes were wallowing in a noxious mire of mud and liquified dung, but were very friendly.

Paestum was great - it was so quiet... how rarely today you can visit a site like that and hear..silence.. If the voices of the ancients were there, I could hear them.  I picked up a genuine handle from a black pottery Attic vase - it had just been turned up in a mole-hill. We saw handles just like it in the museum, which has amazing Greek tomb paintings.

Enough of this. Had a great time.  Back to amazingly soggy Hastings. It clearly rained most of last week and is raining still.