Sunday, 24 November 2013

Dark iClouds over Hastings....the shock of the new?

Making new bits of technological equipment work is far too traumatic. 
     The beautifully designed shiny new things nestle excitingly in their lovely boxes, but the experience of unpacking them is always overshadowed by a sense of dread....what will happen when the 'on' switch is pressed.
     Chez Battleaxe, I thought the arrival of Philosopher's Windows 8 computer would take a lot of beating on the trauma scale - the howling and cursing went on for weeks, and can still erupt again if anything new is tried. 
     However, this week I got a new iPhone 5s.  Philosopher is getting my 4s instead of his old one, partly because he wanted a better phone camera - and that one is good.  I have been with Vodafone so long I get very good deals, so decided to upgrade.  I won't go into the boring nerdy details of it but suffice it to say I could not download my stuff off the iCloud onto the new phone.
    After much wailing and gnashing I eventually phoned up Apple - they now appear to have located their help centres to Greece.... I guess people there must be desperate for work....and cheap.  This was Greek tragedy.  First, I spoke to Christos, who had limited English. Failing to help me after an hour, he passed me to a 'senior', somebody or other  Mikalopolous. This bloke's English was a bit better, but after spending ages explaining the problem again from scratch and trying further fruitless solutions it became disturbingly apparent that his technical knowledge was no better than mine. The icloud still refused to let fall one single drop of data, and my poor new baby phone was getting weak with exhaustion after been reset to start again so many times.
    To cut a long and boring story short, there was much screaming round the house and a disturbed night spent composing irate letters to Jonathan Ive in my head. The next day I plugged the phone in to my creaky old computer where luckily, it found a not-too-old iTunes backup to download to itself.
    Apart from the fact that my computer is so old, I could actually manage perfectly well without the cloud thing, but after so much hype of its marvels, and paying good money for backup storage, one expects it to work.
    On the technology theme, many of us hereabouts have had trouble with our broadband. It is slow at best,
BT box - how do they ever find anyone's line in here?
and apparently water has got into the cabling somewhere BT can't find, making it flicker on and off randomly. You are not talking superfast broadband here in Hastings... and 4G, forget it. We scarcely have 3G, and we have to have a special booster in our house to get a mobile signal. The other week we lost our Sky broadband and landline telephone altogether. Without the booster, which is powered by the internet, we have no mobile, so were reduced to going round to the neighbours.... Sky customer service is actually very good, but they are dependent on BT for the cabling. We were briefly connected to someone else's line by mistake - not surprising, looking at the apparently chaotic interior of this BT box.  But enough technology griping now.

     Had a nice morning today pottering round on the Stade taking photos - Philosopher is entering another Stade photo competition, this time the them is 'winter'. A bit difficult right now because the weather is very mild. I took some zany pictures too. 
     I do believe those Stade fisherpersons take a positive delight in keeping their fishing beach as messy and squalid as they can. It's a sign of their independence from the rest of us boring and conventional landlubbers. 
     You can't tell me they need mattresses, old sofas, gas fires and even a piano littered around their fishing boats and fishing clobber, but the chaos does make for good images.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Redoubt Fortress, Martello Towers, Writers' Group, Women's Institute

We went to Eastbourne and visited the Redoubt Fortress on our way to Waitrose.
     Philosopher has bought a book on Martello Towers and it mentioned the fortress, which apparently oversaw all the 74 towers from Seaford to Folkestone. We didn't even know it existed.
Redoubt fortress - Eastbourne
     It is an interesting circular structure, with a series of barrack rooms opening onto a central courtyard. It is now a military museum for the former Royal Sussex Regiment and Irish Hussars. The museum was wonderfully crowded, with cabinets full of every imaginable category of uniform and accoutrement. A nineteenth century officer could expect to have a minimum of ten different uniforms.  Shakos, pelises, glengarrys, bandoliers....   How about
Officers' sports uniform
sabrage, the art of opening a champagne bottle with a sabre....or nose clips for horses to wear in battle.... And as for the medals and decorations.... cabinet after cabinet. Some big-wigs had so many medals and fancy decorations hanging off coloured ribbons that it must have been a struggle to know what to wear.
     It was actually quite moving. All gone for ever.
     The Martello towers are interesting - there were 8 on Pett Level alone. What a massive business, building, fitting out, supplying and staffing all those towers, the fortress- and there was another at Dymchurch, the Royal Military Canal, the Royal Military road, all in preparation for a French invasion that never came. The guns in the Redoubt fortress were only ever fired once, at a passing French ship, and did not hit it.
     On Monday last week our old friend Shaun McKenna came down to stay and to judge the Writing Group play-writing competition. Jenny was unwell and couldn't come with him, which was a shame. Shaun was fantastic with the group - dished out really quite hard-hitting feedback in a way that had them begging for more. I think too he really got the message across about how the actual writing is only a tiny part of being successful - you have to hustle and get the contacts, and then sell your work to them - often much tiring and abortive effort for no result. I was very pleased how well he was received, and also that he seemed to enjoy it  - it is always a bit risky subjecting friends to things like that. My play got nowhere - at least the others couldn't think it was a fix!
     Tuesday was the AGM of the Women's Institute, and Battleaxe is now a member of the Committee.... I warned them I was bossy.... I don't know what I'll have to do yet.
     It was coincidental that Shaun came earlier in the week, because we have just said goodbye to another old friend Karol Kulik, who we also met in Turkey many years ago.
Annie Soudain, Set Aside - we have this in the kitchen
Karol, Shaun, Jenny and us were a gang in Gumusluk, and we have stayed friends. Karol now lives in Lyme Regis - she used to live in Goudhurst, and lived in Rye for a time. We took her over to Rye yesterday afternoon. They had a nice Annie Soudain exhibition at the Rye Art Gallery - we have got a couple of her prints. Karol used to paint quite a bit herself, but is now one of the leading lights behind the annual Lyme Arts Festival.
     We went down to the Old Town today for Karol to see the Jerwood - she was as unimpressed with the temporary exhibitions as we were....
     Weather has been sunny for the last few days, but now wet again....fortunately it seems to have largely cleared out my virus.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Wet, wet, The Habit of Art at Bexhill, Hastings herring festival

Readers of this blog often say that life in Battleaxe Land seems to be a continuous round of sunny walks and cakes in quaint tea rooms. 
     Well, not this week, I can tell you. The weather has been evil. It has rained incredibly hard for long periods. At the beginning of the week 'Hamilton Springs' - the  little stream that surprised us by suddenly flowing from under the house one time last winter, made a second appearance, burbling busily down the drive and out down the road.  Last year the neighbours said it hadn't been seen for 25 years, and now it appears two years running - what does this mean? I tried to photograph it but it was hard against the light, and by the time I tried again it had dried up once more. Yesterday it was incredibly wet, and it was out there yet again.....
     Couple this wetness with still being infested with the same horrid cold/virus thing I mentioned in the last blog post, and this week has not been the best. I went to the doctors on Monday - we still go to the Harold Road Surgery opposite where we used to live before we moved in here. I did quite enjoy sitting in our little study and peering across into Dr Chisholm-Batten's consulting room, hoping that one day he would forget to draw the blind.... This time I saw Dr Till. He was rather disturbingly friendly because he had a medical student with him - much manic laughing.  Anyway, he prescribed antibiotic eyedrops and said it was a random something-or-other virus and I'd just have to be patient. Yeah well. I can function, but with no smell, no taste and fog in head. At least my eyes have improved
    For at least two days it has been so wet that I didn't go out at all - I don't like that, it makes me restless and fed up.
Anna's things
   Went to Battle one day - Anna has supplied us with a sample kit and price lists to take round any likely outlets that might be interested in stocking her range of goods.  It is not as easy as it might first appear, because she has gone for quite a high-end, cool, clean-lined minimalist aesthetic, and most house-wares/gifty type shops go for the exact opposite - all felty stuff, dried twigs, lacy bits and Cath Kidston. There is one suitable place in Battle, however, and the woman was quite enthusiastic. I had a big house-wares shop in Tenterden in mind, but heard on the local news that it has burnt down!
    Thursday evening we popped down to the Stade Hall to see an exhibition of photographs of local fisherpersons by John Cole from the Writing Group.
He'd pictured them mostly looking very cheerful - including Maggie from Maggie's fish and chip place - did I ever say we had eventually managed to get in there to eat? We had to sneak in with the Hastings Museum Society, would you believe.....
     Friday night, to the De La Warr to see a NT film re-run from 2010, 'The Habit of Art', by Alan Bennett, with one of the last performances from Richard Griffiths as a rather unlikely W H Auden.  It was very good, very funny and quite rude - probably the best NT film we have seen. The plot touched on old age and approaching death - quite poignant as we, the audience now, knew one of the lead actors would die shortly. The De La Warr auditorium made a change from our sticky old local Odeon, too. We had a nice meal in the Trattoria Italiana beforehand - definitely a Battleaxe Recommended Restaurant.
      Saturday, we went to a 70th birthday party - Shirley from the WI. Had a nice time and ate too much.
Hastings Shanty singers
      Sunday, today, oh joy, it is a sparklingly sunny day. It is the Herring Festival again - seems only five minutes since I was writing about Herrings and Cattern cakes this time last year. No cattern cakes this time, no herring eating either - they are so damn repetitious. We briefly heard the Hastings Sea Shanty Singers, including Tom Kelly, husband of WI Jan. There was supposed to be a Blessing the Nets ceremony, but the vicar had got in a muddle and gone to do the Remembrance Sunday thing instead.....
     Spent a bit of time on the Stade taking photos - there is another photography competition coming up which Philosopher wants to enter - judged by John Cole. It is a small world round here....

Monday, 4 November 2013

Hastings Half-term, Great Storm? traffic traumas, Brum again....

Last week was grand daughter Eve's half-term.
     On Monday morning we drove up to Beaconsfield Services to collect her from her Dad - yes, I said drove, and yes up the A21, even though it was The Morning After The Great Storm....a bit of an anticlimax, really. I was awake for ages in the night waiting for the roof to blow off, but our house is substantially more solid than our rackety old Victorian heap in Birmingham, and clearly the wind was not that strong anyway.
     Before we left we went down to the sea to look at the waves, which were big but not awe-inspiringly so. 
Waves at Rock-a-Nore
There was one tree blocking the A21, which was cleared away before we got there, and a few odd saplings and branches sticking out of the hedge into the road, but nothing that exciting really, and hardly any cars, so made better progress than usual.
     In the evening when we had brought Eve back I went down to Writers' Group.  It was the results of the journalism competition.  I wrote a rather dull piece about the Hastings-Bexhill Link Road, but it managed to win third prize, so I'll put it on Bombastic Battleaxe.
     Next day, we went to see 'Turbo' at the Hastings Odeon - a formulaic and not very good animated film about a super-charged snail that won the Indianapolis 500..... Yes, I know.... The cinema was packed, and Eve is not very good with crowds..... And the crowd was very noisy, possibly because the film was not that gripping - rustling wrappers, scoffing popcorn, clinking cans, talking, wriggling about.  I empathise deeply with Eve, but the difference is that  she voices her displeasure in a loud voice.
     By this time, also, I was getting a cold.....
     The next day was sunny, but Eve was feeling a bit poorly, so we just went for a a walk on the beach at Pett Level and did lots of beach combing.
Eve and Grandpa at Pett Level
 Set off for Birmingham on Thursday to take Eve back to her Mum - the traffic all the way up was absolutely horrendous, and the journey took hours and hours.  Something is going to have to happen about the state of our roads - another few years and the M25 will no longer be useable. We have been travelling around the same bits of it for around seven years now, and the traffic density increases year by year.
       We stayed, as usual, with our kind friends Sue and Alex, and, as usual, had frenzied round of catching up with friends - me with sore throat like sandpaper.......
       Came back on Saturday - we had tickets for a piano recital at the Stables - the second prize winner of the Hastings Piano Concerto Competition, but I didn't fancy sniffing and snorting all through, so Philosopher went on his own. I stayed in and watched 'Strictly'.  Lordy, that Bruce Forsyth is an embarrassment - why can't he retire?
        Today, I woke up with throat better but my eyes stuck together - eesh - conjunctivitis...... Now, in the evening,  I look like Nightmare Fright Battleaxe - appropriate for the time of year I suppose.... I just hope nobody I was with catches this particular bug.