Saturday, 26 January 2013

Buying Clothes for Foxy Battleaxes - why is it a High Street Nightmare?

Why indeed? Buying clothes on the High Street is becoming increasingly difficult, partly because designers seem to be going through a bad patch, but mostly because the shops only cater for skinny young women.
     No, I'm not thinking the classic range in M and S, either. Don't start me on M and S....
     I don't much like buying clothes on-line - I like to feel the fabrics, hold the garments up against me, try things on....
     This is just a short post to say that I have just put my personal guide to clothes-buying, and a list of my favoured brands, on Bombastic Battleaxe.
     Went to Battle earlier in the week - investigated the clothes shops. I always look in Enigma - distinct danger of Pagan Priestess, and Raggs - tendency towards Mad Cat Lady.  I found another - Farrago - small stock but really good.
     I'm lucky with Philosopher - he actually enjoys looking at women's clothes, and has a good idea of what suits me. Being  a man, he has the odd blank spot - including a mysterious liking for skin-tight leather, and he does eventually get bored.... Why don't more women's clothes shops have man corners where they can sit down in comfort and read Supercar Monthly or something?
     To change the subject completely, we have a fox wandering about outside, even in broad daylight. His screeching and barking is quite annoying.What is up with him? (I think he is a dog-fox). Is he hungry? Is he establishing his territory? Quite likely that is it. I have just looked it up - this time of year is the start of the fox mating season.
     Here he is, photographed by the Philosopher,  I did worry he was starving but he looks well enough - according to the Fox Website:
     'A recent study in Bristol found that  on each fox territory there is at least 150 times as much food available as is needed by each fox'.
     I'm not sure that applies here - not sufficiently urban.


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Snowy Hastings...memories of Biba

It has snowed solidly all day so far. I think it is one of the first Sundays I can remember that we have not ventured out of the house at all.  On Friday night we were due down at the Arts Forum to see the opening of the latest exhibition - there is a portrait of our friend Joe Fearn on view - but it was bucketing snow then as well.....   
     Snow looks quite deep now. In this little road, we have to look after ourselves - the Council kindly fills a bin of grit and salt for us to shovel as we please.
     This is our view right now. Where is the sea? Where is the sky?
     This morning, Battleaxe has been occupying herself putting some items on Ebay. A random collection of items, some of the last things left over from our previous life.
     If anyone out there fancies a 30s cheval mirror, a 70s G plan stool, a 50s stool, a 50s lucite lamp with crabs and fishes inside or a 70s Biba poster, go visit 'Grannystephsattic' on Ebay - they go on 7pm tonight (Sunday) for 10 days. See, I told you they were random.
Grannysteph has done 895 transactions from her attic since starting the Ebay account in 2006.
     First, it was surplus stock from RetroBizarre, the vintage clothes shop I had in Moseley, Birmingham. Then, we started clearing the Birmingham house - that has never really stopped - until now. I think we are finally at the end.
Here is the Biba poster. I have had quite a few Biba items to sell over the years - another very rare shop display poster, various make-up pots, a tea-tin - and they have all sold incredibly well.
     Apparently this poster was produced for sale in the shop in 1974, but the company went bankrupt before they could be displayed. I used to love wandering round the enormous, ridiculous Big Biba store in High Street Kensington - all mysterious dark purples and midnight blues - in fact, the place was so dark you could scarcely see anything - and customers shop-lifted stuff shamelessly (honest guv, not me). Lots of ostrich feathers, mirrors, fringed lamps, exotic brown and gold packaging, wonderful decadent Deco styling....  
     Newly married to the first Mr Battleaxe (in 1974) I was torn between Biba style, the bright orange, cream and brown Habitat look, or Laura Ashley sprigged florals and Victoriana to do up our first little home in Peckham.  Eventually, Habitat won. Say what you like about the 70s, winters of discontent etc., it was a very vibrant, creative decade.
     There is a major Biba exhibition at Brighton Museum right now - it is on until April. I will persuade Philosopher to take a day out - it is ages since we went to Brighton.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Holman Hunt in the Tate - and at Clive Vale Farm

We went up to London to see the Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition at Tate Britain....
Viewing big exhibitions is an absolute ordeal.. The massive crowds are soul-destroying. This was in its last few days, so we thought it might be emptier - no chance. I don't know why we do it.
     We got there about 11.30am - no tickets until 3.30pm. As the Tate is partially closed due to building works, there is only one Ladies - enormous queue, a crowded, hot tea room - enormous queue and struggle for a seat, and then an even more enormous queue to actually get into the exhibition. Battleaxe doesn't do queues very well.
     When you eventually edge your way into the exhibition, the crowds are five/six people deep in front of the paintings. You either have to join in the slow snail-trail shuffling round each room, where you find yourself deposited for a brief moment in front of each picture, viewing it from about two feet away with everyone breathing down your neck so you can't appreciate it, or see nothing.
     Generally, we opted for nothing.
     Why are so many people into this? It is as if looking at sights, or the viewing of things, are ends in themselves. Its as if they were sacred objects - like Hindus having 'darshan' of a God, or alternatively like ticking them off on a checklist. Wherever you visit, there are crowds and crowds, just looking...Why?
     Having said that, I particularly wanted to see Holman Hunt's painting of Fairlight, 'Our English Coasts', which was painted when he was staying right here - on the site of this house - the former Clive Vale Farm.
     When he worked on his canvas, Hunt would have seen the same view I can see now out of my study window - without the houses, of course. In 1852 it was fields and downland.
     We spotted the painting. I elbowed my way savagely through a crowd of Chinese people to stand right in front of it and gawp at the whirls of paint on the canvas. Did it hold any particular resonance? Not really.
We wonder whether another painting Hunt produced at Clive Vale Farm, 'Sunlight on the Sea - Fairlight Down', shows our view - from a bit higher up the hill behind us. Possibly you can see the farm buildings there in the middle.
     This painting is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber - sadly, it was not in the Tate Exhibition.
     From what I read, it is surprising that Hunt had time to do much painting while he was at Clive Vale Farm.  By the time he had stomped over to Fairlight Glen to sketch for 'Our English Coasts', taught Edward Lear Italian, and helped him with his painting, entertained Millais and taken a few walks with him to Winchelsea, entertained Arthur Hughes, Thackeray and Coventry Patmore....still, they didn't have any telly back then.
     The Battleaxe household has just acquired a new, bigger telly - Smart, apparently, but we won't use that - who wants to surf the internet on TV? We made up our minds to have a new one on Saturday morning, I ordered it on-line Saturday at 4pm via Amazon, at 10am on Monday morning a guy was standing on our doorstep with it, and at 10.30 it was all set
     It is only 150 years since Holman Hunt and friends were here, tramping earnestly through the muddy fields - how different the world is now. But the great change had already started in 1852. The railway came to Hastings in 1851, bringing the first waves of tourists and trippers.  In 1862, the land at Clive Vale Farm was sold for development - the new suburb of Clive Vale appeared, and the view above would change for ever.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

All Saints Street, Hastings - curious things...and Life of Pi

Well, hard times are here - the post Christmas diet has started. No alcohol during the week, only one square of chocolate a night.... urgh. 

More walking is needed, too, so when yesterday there was a rare glimmer of sunshine, we walked down to the sea via All Saints Street.
     As well as some of the prettiest houses, and the most interesting peeks up twittens and down steps, there are some curious things if you look closely.... here is a sample:

     I always like the Piece of Cheese Cottage.....


 This says 'Go back to bed'. Why?

 I like to peer into this window - the interior is full of bits of rock, and more skulls - I assume it is someone's studio.....

     One of the oddest things is an old cottage with a huge bust of Wagner in the window, with attached notices. The owner has put one of those strange square code devices beside the bust - I held my iphone up to it and to my surprise it went rattling off to this website.  How high-tech was that.
     Well, I do agree with Herr Wagner about the disgraceful dog poo situation and the new estate agents in George Street....
     Clearly, Battleaxes would have much in common with Valkyries - Battleaxes are less obsessed with death though. Philosopher is far more of a Wagnerian  - they are showing Parsifal from the New York Met as part of the 'Bringing Culture to Us Knuckle-dragging Provincials' initiative at the Hastings Odeon in March.  He plans to go - it lasts 5.5 hours.....Battleaxe will give it a miss, and polish up her horned Valkyrie helmet instead.
     I actually did have one of those helmets once, but only plastic, with long fair plaits attached.  As you do, I somehow acquired it years ago in Blackpool, while carousing drunkenly along the seafront with a group of fellow conference delegates - would you believe they were human resources people working in social, this Battleaxe has really lived.... The helmet ended up in grand-daughter's dressing up box.

The other night we saw Life of Pi. I liked it reasonably, Philosopher not so much. It was terribly long. How much more could we have watched that boy sloshing round on that boat with that tiger? Not much.  The 3D felt a  a bit unnecessary too. We both wondered why given the boy was old enough to have a girlfriend back in India, his head hair grew long (and he had underarm hair) he did not grow any facial hair at all....

Friday, 4 January 2013

Pett Level - how can a submerged forest be preserved for 6000 years?

Blimey, it is well into January already.....
     I have not yet started implementing any of my New Year's Resolutions.  I never start on 1 January - people are tired and strung out, the fridge is full of tempting Christmas left-overs, there are half-drunk bottles and half-eaten boxes of sweets on the kitchen work-top, and relatives still lurking in the house. I shall start on Monday 7 January.
     Christmas and New Year in the Battleaxe household were somewhat marred by illness - first me, and the Philosopher then caught a flu-like malady. It was very long-lasting and debilitating for both of us. He is not yet totally restored. Add to that the terrible wet weather, and it feels as if we have done nothing for ages.
     A couple of days ago I summoned up the energy to go to Tunbridge Wells to the sales. I don't think I've written about those particular shopping delights in this blog, but oh the joy of Fenwicks.  It manages to collect most of the brands I like together on one floor. But, bargain-wise, I was far too too late. A ravening swarm of locusts had swept through the place before me, snatching up everything in their path. All that was left were either sizes 8 or 22, plus a few sequin vests and a couple of tribal print onesies.  I am writing about the challenges of shopping for stylish Battleaxe clothes on Bombastic Battleaxe.

     Today we went to Winchelsea for coffee followed by Pett Level for a walk. The tide was very low, and bits of the submerged forest were sticking up out of the sand. I squelched out and photographed some of the blackened branches and trunks. Apparently the forest dates from around 6,000 years ago, when the sea-level rose at the end of the last ice-age. How does the wood get preserved? I know wooden wrecks are preserved for a few hundred years, but this wood is far older.
     If you prod the wood, it is soft and sodden, like peat, and there are many sea creatures living in it. I can't imagine it can last for much longer? Comments would be welcome.

We also noticed that the recent wet weather has caused a couple of cliff-falls and mud-slides.  A tree, still upright, has slipped down the cliff and is now apparently rooted on the beach at the bottom. I had a good peer at the newly exposed  material to see if there were any fossilised dinosaur bones sticking out, but it looked very soggy and unstable, with little trickles of water still running down. Any fossils would be more mud than stone, and one would do best to keep away from the cliffs - remember some poor young woman died in a cliff fall in Dorset back in the summer.

I collected up a few bits of driftwood for my Creative Endeavours, plus a few pretty stones - Pett Level has an excellent selection.
     I still haven't used the ravishing power tools I got for Christmas. Philosopher went out to our garden studio shed today, switched on a fan heater to warm the place and dry it out and fused all the power to the house - I suspect moisture has got into his carefully laid wiring. The power is now back on but the door bell seems to have gone mad - it keeps ringing itself. We will have to get an electrician to sort out the shed.