Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Hastings Battleaxe Blogoversary - and Happy New Year!

Yes, it's a horrible word, but in the 'Blogosphere', celebrating the anniversary of your blog's start date seems to be what you do.  Maybe because so many quickly fall by the wayside .  
     What are you supposed to do on the big day? have a cake with candles? Crack open a bottle of
champagne?  There are websites offering 'widgets' to put on your blog that count down the days until your blogoversary, but that sounds seriously naff.
     Hastings Battleaxe will have been going for two years as at 21.03 on 31 December. What on earth was I doing, hunched over the computer teaching myself how to use Blogger on New Years' Eve?
     I do know it took much fiddling about before I managed to generate my first post, which got precisely 18 page views. With currently around 2000 views per month, this blog is still small time, but traffic is still steadily increasing month on month, which is good for a 'hobby' blog.
     In December 2011 we were at the start of our new life in Hastings. We had only been living here full-time for two months.  Most people thought we were crazy - we had no friends or family here, no work ties, nothing except the belief that Hastings would be a good place to spend the rest of our lives.
     So, looking back at that first post, what has happened? I can almost feel I can call Hastings my home. Our forever house is sorted, and suits us very well. Our new neighbours are lovely, and we feel lucky to have joined such a nice little community - but their Christmas lighting practices are no different.  We have Digby the cat. I am busy with the Writing Group and now the WI, and am Battleaxing happily on both their committees. We still often rejoice at our good fortune in living by the sea, in an area with so many places to visit and walk in - I know Hastings Battleaxe reflects all this.
     On the regrets side, while I don't miss Birmingham, or our former home there, at all, I miss our friends. I have met some really nice people here, but as yet, it is too early to think of them as close friends.
     A couple of our friends in the Midlands have received bad news, health-wise, this year. I sincerely hope 2014 will turn out positively for them.
     When you move, as well as all the practicalities and the emotional wrenches, you also have to find new doctors, dentists, hairdressers etc. We now go to the surgery down Harold Road, and while I am not sure that the doctors are as good as our old lot, you can get to see one wonderfully easily - booking on-line, even for the same day. In Birmingham everyone had to ring the surgery at 8.30am, and you could never get through, and when you did, you were then subjected to some sort of 'triage' call-back system, after which you were a nervous wreck and often still without an appointment. I guess it is a toss-up. Is it better to have a good doctor you can never see, or a less good one who is readily available? I think, on balance, the latter, because often you just need antibiotics or whatever.
     Dentists? Our next-door neighbour has recommended theirs, in Bexhill, but I can't comment yet because he hasn't done anything except look in my mouth and exclaim at what he sees as the unskilled botchery of his predecessor.
     Hairdresser - grrr. I am back to square one. I mentioned that Ronni had suddenly legged it to London? Well, allegedly, it had something to do with royal 'Rootmageddon'. Kate appeared in the tabloids a few months ago with greying roots on show. She was reported as fleeing to her hairdresser, who is presumably now struggling with massively increased business. I gather that's where Ronni has gone.......
Great sale at Robert Dyas!
     Changing the subject, one of my great New Year pleasures is Sales. On-line stuff is no fun for Battleaxe, I like scrabbling through the rails. Not so much this year though - too many started before Christmas, which is cheating. Shows what a state the economy is really in. Best sale of all is clearly Robert Dyas in Hastings. Great bargains there.......
     Last year I posted my New Year's resolutions on here. I won't again, they are still much the same - am still not thin. However, like last year, I may get round to posting Thoughts on Bombastic Battleaxe. Looking at last year's rant, unfortunately things in the wider world have got worse. Our government is a disgrace.
     Can any local Battleaxe readers recommend a good hairdresser hereabouts?
      Happy New Year!


Friday, 27 December 2013

Weather gone mad - and Hastings Battleaxe M and S fashion tip.

Well, we survived the pre-Christmas Eve storm relatively OK - the wind kept us awake most of the night - at its peak, gusts bashed and bludgeoned the house so violently it was quite frightening. I gather the winds were hurricane force just off the coast.
     In the morning we had lost a fence panel and our Christmas lights were all over the place - the singing
Whoa - devastation!
Santas scattered. More storms were expected so we put them all away.  Neighbours had lost lots of fencing, roof tiles and telly aerials so we were quite lucky.
     At least we had power round here - looking at the map of power cuts Hastings was one of the only places to survive in this area, even though we had some of the strongest winds, so lucky again. We have had a few power cuts since we came to Hastings - more than in Birmingham, not surprisingly.  I said to Philosopher that perhaps we should keep a box with candles, camping stove etc, somewhere handy.
    The storm seemed to be much worse than the one a couple of months ago, but the response from Government etc has been non-existent - last time they were having COBRA meetings etc, but now there are still thousands with no power and no water and flooded out and nothing has been said on the media.     Presumably the Tory toffs are enjoying their Christmas breaks too much to be bothered. It also seemed a bit off to see the Royals haw-hawing about at Sandringham when many people had a ruined Christmas  and were suffering considerable hardship. It would not have hurt Wills and Harry to have taken a helicopter for a couple of hours and delivered a few turkey dinners to oldsters or something.
     I don't know if I have mentioned on this blog, but a couple of times in really wet weather we have a little stream that flows down to the road from under the house. We have christened it 'Hamilton Springs'. It first appeared this time last year, and the neighbours said it had only appeared once in the last 20 years before that. Well, this year it has appeared three times more, and this time it was rushing away very strongly. I took a little video of it, which I will try to post.

Boxing Day was a complete contrast - an absolutely stunning sunny day, so bright it hurt the eyes. We emerged and went for a walk along the sea from St. Leonard's to the Bexhill Retail Park. I have had a rant about that cycle track/path before on this blog (see here) but this time we noticed that some of the unsuitable plastic grid surface has been ripped up by the sea anyway. I wanted to look in the new Marks and Spencer for some thermal vests in the sale. 
     'Thermal vests!?' I hear the squawks of horror, but these are not normal vests, oh no. When we had the neighbours round for drinks, Linda from across the road was wearing a sparkly purple long sleeve T shirt layered under her dress, which turned out to be from Marks thermal range. It looked excellent, so I went in search of more. It is really hard to find decent, well-shaped, thin layering T shirts to wear under tunics,
M and S cafe
dresses etc., and these are not only thin but warm too.
     However, typical, I managed to track down leopard print, grey, black and teal blue, but no sparkly ones left. When I looked on-line, the range seems to have disappeared. They are either £15 or reduced to £10. I would totally recommend them - if you can find any!
     Needless to say, even though the new Marks is very large, the range of clothes is still dreadful - frumpy, unflattering colours and cuts. They have paid new people hundreds of thousands to design the range, but it is no better than before. However, the new store does have a cafe with a lovely sea-view.
     Last night, the storm was back again - not quite as bad, but it broke another bit of fence, and a big tree blew down in Harold Road. Anyway, here is sunny Bulverhythe - hard to believe it was only yesterday. We are just waiting for Anna and Gareth - they are driving up from Devon.

Sunny Bulverhythe - Boxing Day

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Happy Christmas from Hastings Battleaxe - and a Google weirdness....

Just back from the Midlands. Grim drive in pouring rain. 
     Have had punishing, but very pleasant, few days of catching up with friends and family.
     On Wednesday we drove up to my sister's near Bedford and stopped the night.  As well as Pat and David, it was nice to see my niece Sara and her youngest son Joe.
     Next day we went on to Brum, and from then until Saturday lunchtime was a continuous round of catching up and eating - we are talking coffee, lunch, tea and supper with different people each day, including fetching Eve from her last day at school. She had won a prize draw with £50 worth of vouchers!  Not that she would tell us anything about it, of course. You ask her what she has been doing at school and she says 'I don't know...'. Still, I remember how boring it was to be asked such questions by grandparents or even parents.
     I feel incredibly fat and it is not even Christmas - on Tuesday, I had an enormous meal down here with the WI Committee ladies, on Wednesday an Indian meal with my relations, on Thursday another lovely meal with friends, cooked by Sue, with whom, as usual, we were staying. 
     The crowning glory/horror was a meal the next night at Carters, a very classy Moseley restaurant. We went with Philosopher's old friend/colleague Alan, who is very into Fine Dining - I have to say we are not.... Anyway, they just serve a five course set menu. No room for veggies, food faddists or allergy sufferers round there, because the ingredients included black pudding, pig's cheek, raw fish and beef.  It sounds terribly gluttonous but the portions were tiny Heston-type creations like black squid ink crackers with dots of mackerel pate foam on top. And don't forget the devilled nasturtium leaves.....
     It was fiendishly expensive. Don't get me wrong, I love my food but I can only stretch the value of any eating experience so far - swallow it down and that's it.  It seems the restaurant is getting national recognition. Fair enough, the young people who run it were very pleasant, and if you appreciate that type of experience, then that's the place for you.
     This will be the last Battleaxe blog before Christmas. Have largely done my Christmas shopping, except, would you believe, a copy of the Highway Code which Philosopher wanted - don't ask me why.
     Anyway, must get on and make mince pies - neighbours are here for drinks this evening.
     Before I finish, here is our Christmas tree.  It is a real tree in a pot we got a few years ago and which has been lurking outside ever since.  It is good to give it a moment of glory but actually it is a bit dead in the middle and the branches are too feeble to hang heavy baubles on.
     I have only taken this picture and posted it to see if Google grabs it and makes it twinkle. It happened with a picture that Philosopher took, and I see it has now happened with this. Google has apparently invaded my iphone camera roll, pinched the photo and the tree now appears twinkling on Google+. All very strange and a bit spooky. So far it is not twinkling on this blog. Oh.... yes it is....

   Have a Great Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Beautiful day at Beachy Head

Thought I'd include a bit of glorious sun at Beachy Head to brighten up the grey, wet weather we have mostly had this week.
     Hard to believe this was only Wednesday.... Having said that, this morning we were sitting outside drinking coffee in the sun at the West Hill Cafe.
     We combined a pre-Christmas trip to Waitrose in Eastbourne with a walk. It was absolutely sublime. The
Blue skies....
sky was really as blue as in the first picture, the air was fresh and clear and the sun was glittering on the sea so brightly you could scarcely look at it. There were lots of paragliders floating about - the breeze was obviously just right for them to drift over the edge of the cliffs, and then, astonishingly, to glide back up to land safely on the top again. It must have been wonderful for them, but very scary. No way would I go gliding off the edge of Beachy Head on anything....
     I've mentioned before on this blog how being up on the top of those cliffs raises my spirits - it's hard to describe, but it is like one's whole self expands and lightens. Full of hot air, I guess.
    We encountered the Chaplain, and fell into conversation with him as we walked along. He pointed out a peregrine falcon to us. He seemed a bluff, no nonsense sort of bloke, more like someone who would come and service the boiler rather than an empathetic soul who would dissuade anyone from making that final leap. But I'm sure I do him a disservice.
     Later, Philosopher and I idly speculated about what manner of Chaplain would be best to talk to each of us, if we found ourselves in that predicament. I fancied a softly-spoken grizzled ancient sage type, but knowing this area and my luck I'd end up encountering one of those beardy beery old geezers who do Jack-in-the-Green. Philosopher wanted, at the very least, a  properly ordained man of the cloth, presumably so he could argue appropriately with him.
Paragliding over the edge....
     One should not be flippant about these things. I just googled up the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team. They (women as well as men) are not ordained (sorry Philosopher), but are volunteers specially trained in 'crisis intervention'. I was astonished, and somewhat humbled, at how much they do. In an average week they deal with around 15 incidents involving  'suicidal or despondent' persons. Sadly, in most months, 2 or 3 people will jump to their deaths. 
    For us, fortunately, we could end our walk with a pint of Harveys and a nice lunch at the Beachy Head pub.
    What else? Christmas Party at the WI on Tuesday, my first event as a committee member. It was hard work, but clearly most meetings will not require so much rushing around.
     Have now finished Christmas shopping, and we had the Big Switch On of our Christmas lights a few minutes ago. As last year, our house totally out-sparkles our neighbours (most do nothing....). We have the good old singing Santas installed down the front steps - last year they sang and danced at all odd moments, day and night, but Philosopher says he has sorted them this year - kicked them in the whatsits most likely.
     We are off on our travels shortly - to see my sister in Bedford, and up to Birmingham

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Horrors at the White Rock, then Battleaxe the writer gets a boost

I think I can safely say I have never seen anything as bad as the Christmas Crooners show at the White Rock Theatre.
    Went on a WI outing. The person who had booked the tickets had legged it up north and didn't attend. Hopefully she didn't know what we were letting ourselves in for.
    It was supposed to be a jolly Rat Pack tribute singalong with Frank and Bing thing, but instead it reminded me of one those films/plays/novels (sorry, I can't think of a single title) about sad, ageing variety artists on tours of low-rent provincial theatres. They sit in their stained vests in their dingy dressing rooms, toupee in one hand, fag  in the other, bottle of scotch on the side, and bitch on about everything and everyone.
    The curtain lifted to a discouraging screech of electronic feedback, to reveal a tatty set with a plastic Christmas tree and a seedy, bored-looking backing band, who turned out to be Bulgarian (you could not make this up...). Then on
came 'Frank', 'Bing' and 'Nat'. Three ageing blokes in ill-fitting, shabby tuxedos, trailing retro-style mikes with long wires which, by the end, were tangled into a tantalising spaghetti heap which they kept tripping over. We were longing for one of them to crash excitingly to the floor, or for 'Nat', who had obviously put on a bit too much weight, to burst out of his trousers.  No such luck. The singing was dire, the jokes corny and the choice of songs poor - too many slow and boring numbers and not enough sing-along fun. We all needed to swing into 'New York New York', or shriek along to 'My Way', or even to sing some carols, but the opportunities for audience participation were too few.
     I am obviously an innocent when it comes to White Rock attendance - some of our group produced plastic water bottles of wine from their handbags to zap up the evening. As ever with the WI, we made the best of it and had a laugh - we were sitting along the back rows of the stalls, but even so we were all conscious of the £14.50 we had paid for our tickets - and that was at a cut-price group discount.
     I just googled up 'Christmas Crooners' and indeed they do tour low-rent provincial theatres - Southsea, Cleethorpes, Hull, Buxton. Apparently they have been going for eight years. Heaven knows how - I have seen better shows in residential care homes. I guess part of the trouble is that the White Rock is such a cavernous great barn of a theatre. Things like that could do with a more intimate venue.
     Friday night was something completely different, the Annual Presentation Evening of the Hastings Writers' Group, at the White Rock Hotel. We had a record attendance - the room was packed. A real live London literary agent came to award the Catherine Cookson Cup - she only looked about 16. I expect such people to be either hard-drinking tweedy silver foxes, or savage sharp-faced women in red lipstick and little Chanel suits. But then I still expect doctors to look older than me.  The cup was won, deservedly, by Mike Walsh.
      Philosopher came and did the photos again - he was not happy with the lot he did last year, but unfortunately this year's were not much better - the lighting in that room is truly terrible.
     We also had a performance of the winning play from the competition judged by Shaun McKenna. Two pleasingly handsome young men took part, sons of Amanda, the winner. Not that I looked at them, of course.
     This year, unusually, the winners of the regular competitions throughout the year were not the usual suspects who win all the time, but a range of different people. You may have noticed that I have won a couple of times, and when the points were totted up, in the end, the winner of the shield for 'Writer of the Year' was - me.
     I have never won anything like that before, and I don't think it did me much good. Far from rejoicing when I got home it ended with a positive drama-queen storm of overwrought weeping and wailing. Heaven knows why but it involved what 'people' might now expect from me, that I was a complete fraud anyway and that the photo of me collecting my shield made me look like an over-ripe fuzzy strawberry. Poor Philosopher was not amused.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Christmas shopping insanity - and the real Hastings BattleAxe!

Well, we've had Black Friday and today, apparently, it is Cyber Monday when we are all supposed to be buying off the Internet. That Black Friday thing is new to us Brits - just another way of getting us to dig into our rapidly emptying pockets.
     Battleaxe is sorry to sound like a curmudgeon (no, I lie, I am not sorry at all, I love it) but I am fed up of
Ant and Dec for Morrisons - yuch
turning on the telly and seeing endless Christmas adverts - generally for supermarkets, with gormless-looking people stuffing themselves with revolting-looking food - yum yum lovin' that Iceland three-bird roast.... Then if it's not food, it is beautiful young things prancing about snowy streets dressed in Christmas party clothing - or lingerie.
     I am fortunate enough not to have to face Christmas without much money. The pressure to buy and buy, and fill your house with tat, is appalling.
     Talking of insane consumerism, yesterday we drove up to Dulwich College for the Mid Century Modern show and fair - Anna had a stall there.  As well as contemporary makers like Anna there were halls and halls full of Scandi/Ercol type furniture, lava vases, 50s Poole pottery, atomic lights, orange plastic, Finnish glass - pretty much like our front room, but at ridiculously high prices. We saw telly antique experts and Jenny Eclair among the crowds - and many snappily-dressed Metropolitan persons looking to nab a little bargain for their Hoxton loft apartments.  No sorry, not nab - they 'source' stuff.
     Anyway, Anna had no seat by her stall. We said we'd mind it while she had a break, so thought we'd buy
Eric Buck stool
a stool to perch on, and then take it home with us. We casually asked the price of a nearby admittedly quite elegant 60s stool - £495! Apparently, it is Danish, designed by someone called Eric Buck. I don't think so.....
     I suppose I am the last one to talk about buying stuff when I devoted the last blog post to the troubles with my new iphone, so I'll stop now. It's working fine now, by the way.
     What else? Have just got back from the hairdressers - great trauma there, Ronnie, who has done my hair for the last three years at the George Street salon, has done a runner - taken a job in London and disposed of the salon. He has passed the business on to a girl called Eliza - she did mine this morning. I don't know what to think as yet. I feel a bit irked because it was hard to find a decent hairdresser when we moved down here, and I don't want to go through it all again. I find it hard to make hairdressers understand that I want my hair wild - it always ends up too tame.
     Have been having a relatively busy time - Tunbridge Wells to meet friends Bob and Alison. Now there's a fantastic shopping destination..... then lunch out with the WI Committee laydeez - it is good to go out with a whole tribe of Battleaxes (sorry girls but there you go). One feels less conspicuous.
     We watched Time Team about the site of the Battle of Hastings last night. Only mildly interesting for us
The real Hastings Battleaxe?
locals, apparently the real battle site might be in the road outside the Abbey wall - not actually very far from the Abbey church anyway. One wonders why have they never done a proper survey of the battlefield by the Abbey before now?  They did mention that there is a real Hastings Battle Axe - in Battle Museum, which was apparently found near where they thought the battlefield might be. They carbon-dated it - pretty inconclusive (as was the whole programme), but it is possible that it was used at the Battle of Hastings. Here it is - a rusty old thing, methinks.