Sunday, 28 April 2013

Jerwood Gallery Hastings: William Scott - at last, an exhibition that Battleaxe likes!

What a fabulous bright day today. Flawless, crystal-bright blue sky. We visited the new William Scott exhibition at the Jerwood. 
     Called 'Divided Figure' it focuses on his drawings and paintings of the female form. Apparently this year is the centenary of his birth.
      This is the first Jerwood exhibition I have enjoyed viewing. Strange really, because much of Scott's work is just as abstract as the stuff in previous exhibitions. Don't ask me to try and explain why I get some pleasure out of this, and just felt confused irritation on viewing the others. Somewhere in there may lurk the difference between good modern art and bad modern art. The pictures shown here are just a random selection I found on the internet. Of course they don't let you take photographs in the gallery, and I couldn't be bothered to go through my usual routine of outwitting the attendants with a hidden iphone...
The picture of eggs and lemons was not on show, but I like the freshness of it.. The picture at the bottom is probably his best-known image, again not on show in this exhibition.


      We walked down to the Old Town via the West Hill, and, as so often, stopped for coffee and a date slice at the cafe.  Here is a slightly different view of the cafe  - normally, photographs show the view looking across the valley from the cafe to the Old Town.
     When we first drove across to Hastings from Brighton, a good few years ago now, we took the lift up the hill and sat on the cafe terrace.  Looking back, our few moments sitting there looking out at the view kindled our first spark of attraction for Hastings.
      I've got a busy time ahead - London tomorrow, friends Sue and Anne coming down from Birmingham from Tuesday to Friday, then on Sunday morning we are off to Germany for a week.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Hastings Museum and Art Gallery....a night in the Museum. Birthplace of television?

As friends of the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, we get invitations to exhibition openings and private views, so we decided to go to an event along last Friday. I don't think Battleaxe has ever blogged about the Museum - we do actually find ourselves wandering in there quite often, usually as part of a walk via Summerfields Woods. It is a pity it is so tucked away up Bohemia Road, because it has some lovely paintings and many interesting things. .
Rock-a-Nore by E Leslie Badham
     The exhibition in question was a collection of paintings of Hastings Old Town by a nineteenth century artist, W.H. Brooke, and also by local artist E.Leslie Badham, who painted the Old Town in the 1920s, together with some up-to-date work by local students. The event was surprisingly busy, with many of the Hastings great and the good d'uncertain age, and lots of anxious students standing round videoing stuff on their phones and trying to look arty.  We peered earnestly at the pictures, drank a glass of wine and listened to the Mayor say a few words.
     Apparently Leslie Badham was commissioned to paint the buildings in the Old Town, and as well as being a faithful record of buildings and ways of life that may have changed or disappeared, his work is also surprisingly vibrant. Poor Badham was killed in an air-raid on his house in Priory Road in 1944.
Man with large horn....
     An oompah oompah music group then started up, the Iron Boot Scrapers I think they were called. I can't describe their music but there was a bloke in a boater playing one of those huge horns, as shown, very loudly.
     Don't get me wrong, they were OK, but not quite our taste, so we sneaked off into the dark depths of the Museum to revisit some of our favourite things.
      Now, here is a puzzle about Hastings.  On the signs as you come into the town it says 'Birthplace of Television'. When we first came here we looked round for something like a John Logie Baird Discovery Centre, or a Television Trail, or whatever, but there is nothing - just a plaque over a shop in a funny little arcade in the town centre, which was his workshop, and a display in the Museum.
      The first ever television image was actually shown at his home at 21 Linton Crescent  in January 1924, where there apparently is another plaque, but we have never seen it. I didn't even know he lived or worked at Linton Crescent until I looked it up on the internet just now.

Oh, of course, let's not forget the Wetherspoons in Hastings, 'The John Logie Baird'. We have not been in there yet either. Perhaps it is heaving with early television memorabilia.  More like just plain heaving, by the look of the place.
      It is hard to know, scientifically and historically, quite how significant Baird's work in Hastings actually was - the best-known television demonstrations were in London, but it is clearly important, and part of the town's history that maybe could be made more of.
      Anyway, as well as the new show we also revisited an existing exhibition of paintings by women artists from the Museum permanent collection.  There were several by Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, one of the founders of the women's rights movement, who stayed up here at Clive Vale Farm in the 1850s, a few years after Holman Hunt. We are told that Barbara and her companion, Anna Mary Howitt, were very excited to discover that the paint-spattered table that Hunt had used was still in the house, and was the very table they were using for their work.
Upper Durbar Hall
     We very much like the Durbar Hall. When we first saw it we thought how great it would be to hire it for our 25th wedding anniversary, but as it turned out we didn't move down here until well after that.
     Interestingly, I recently read a book called  'The Bolter' by Frances Osborne (the unfortunate and presumably misguided woman is the wife of George, but that does not affect the quality of the book, which is riveting). Idina Sackville, the notorious  multiply divorced debauchee who was a leader of the Kenya 'Happy Valley' set in the 1930s and 40s, and the subject of the book, was the daughter of Muriel Brassey and Earl De la Warr. Muriel's father, Thomas Brassey, acquired the Durbar Hall from a colonial exhibition in London in the 1880's, and erected it in their London mansion, to house his wife's collections. Lady Annie Brassey sounds a like a woman after Battleaxe's heart - she seemed to collect just about everything from all over the world. On Brassey's death in 1918 the Durbar Hall was bequeathed to the Hastings Museum, where it still is used to display some of the Brassey collection. It is very much the nineteenth century colonial English person's idea of Mughal romance.....
  What else?  Grey Owl, Robert Tressell, the St Leonard's Bathing Pool....... That reminds me, that is another project that seems to have run into the sand - the idea for a 'Lido' on the Bathing Pool site. I don't know how they could think of it as a Lido anyway, when the plans did not include a pool, but whatever it was, it clearly is not happening. It is a huge site, and needs to be used.  What a pity the pool was demolished - Lidos are all the rage these days, but I imagine something so huge would be impossible to maintain.
     It was a nice evening - we finished it off with a visit to the Chinese take-away in Mount Road, which had been recommended to us by our neighbours.  Neighbours were right - the food was excellent.
Bathing pool 1933
Bathing pool site now

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Rye - shopping with Battleaxe

Never mind all ye olde worlde cobbled streets and ancient stones, what we do in Rye is potter round the shops. Given our tastes, it will be a somewhat eccentric collection mentioned here.....
     We always follow the same route. First, we cruise the antique shops down by the quay. The big place on the corner, Quay Antiques, generally has nothing but tat, but today we found: a very kitsch 60s round chrome wine bottle holder, just right for a raffia chianti bottle, a nice 70s Hornsea tiger mug and an old terracotta garden statue of a fox - his ear is broken but he has personality and was only £15.00. There are a number of antique shops down there of varying expensiveness and interest - the vintage kitchenalia shop is good, but it has got too expensive.
     Had coffee in little gallery/coffee shop - I don't know what it is called. Every time we go in the woman is carefully spreading jam on a homemade sponge cake. Every time I say 'Is that going to be just jam, or will it have cream on as well?' She says she is going to put cream on, so I say I won't  have any. However, today, ground-breakingly, we had a slice to share, and I actually scraped the cream off. Very good it was too.
     Then we wander up to the High Street, looking at a couple of antique shops before hitting the proper shopping strip. I used to like a particular mad pagan cat lady clothes shop, but it has gone off....
      Visited one favourite, the Herald and Heart hat shop, and bought myself a new sun hat.  They do great brightly coloured, big floppy raffia hats that you can roll up and pack for holidays.. We are off to Turkey in September so will need yet another one.
     I love David Purdie's photographs - we had a look in his gallery in the High Street today. Compared with
Pig by David Purdie
many local artists he markets his stuff well  - he sells plenty of cards of his work, which at least means visitors to the gallery at least buy something. His posters are only £19.95, and he sells mounted prints in standard shop frame sizes. Clearly it pays off - I see many of his prints are on sale in John Lewis. As well as land and seascapes he does farm animals, which I particularly like.
Great Dixter by Louis Turpin
     Then, next door to the Rye Art Gallery.  This has even more eccentric opening hours than the Jerwood- it closes for lunch as well as being closed at other odd times, but today we were OK. As well as items on sale, the permanent collection is excellent, and they usually have small, but interesting, exhibitions. We particularly like a contemporary local artist called Louis Turpin. Our friend Karol in Lyme Regis has two large canvases by him - unfortunately his work is now very expensive. They have several in the Rye collection. Our favourite, of a cabbage field, does not reproduce too well, so here is one of Great Dixter instead.
Edith's House
      We ate lunch in a little place close by, Edith's House, which is relatively new. We found it last time we visited Rye with our offspring Anna and her partner Gareth. I see the place has gone from nowhere to number one eatery in Rye on Tripadviser. It is quite small, very quirky and cosy, and the food is reasonably priced and delicious. I had red Thai chicken soup, and Philosopher had smoked salmon and avocado platter. The boys in the cafe have a funny little French bulldog who sat for most of the time with his chin on Philosopher's knee, looking beseeching.
        We always used to go to Haydens, but last time we went there we ended up with a table next to a Yummy Mummy with her clearly estranged partner and a small child who was so badly behaved we literally felt ill with rage and could not eat our food.
         Pub-wise, if we want such a thing in Rye we always go to the Ypres Castle.  It has a good garden for the summer.

New to You
       After lunch, down the steep cobbled hill, looking in at the craft fair in the community hall as we passed. Nothing there for us today. Then, across the main road and into Glass etc., the shop belonging to TV antiques glass guru Andy McConnell. More often than not, Andy is in the shop, and very friendly he is too - I have taken him pieces of mine that I can't identify. Today he was out and about, and his wife was in charge. There is always nice stuff to look at, but nothing there for us today either.
     Onwards along Cinque Ports Street, looking in at New to You retro homewares shop. It has a great collection of kitschy stuff, but oddly we rarely find anything we want. Today was no exception.
      However, in one of the other antique shops further I found a spaghetti cat for my collection. She is so very very repulsively bad she is good....Was so pleased by this I scarcely noticed that it had started to pour with rain.

New spaghetti cat
      Battleaxe has done a new post on Bombastic Battleaxe, moving away from spaghetti onto more serious things - no, not the demolition of the welfare state, nor the death of Mrs T, but some local issues I get worked up about.
      On the theme of Mrs T for a moment, it is funny how it has brought old-style left/right ranting out again - in the coffee shop in Rye there was a Daily Mail with a truly ridiculous two-page spread article about how 'Trots' are infiltrating all our establishment institutions. I haven't heard the word 'Trot' for years.....

David Purdie - wood

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A Sunny Hastings day...West Hill, old military vehicles, dead Maggie Thatcher...

Sunshine....well there was, honestly - it was there on Sunday. Maggie Thatcher died yesterday - media in a frenzy of overblown adulation, Facebook in a frenzy of overblown loathing. Personally I can't get worked up about the death of a senile old woman - I quite fancy her Extra Care package at the Ritz, though.
     Back to Sunday - out we went, and walked across to the West Hill. We have found a lazy route which means not having to drop right down off our hill and have gut-busting climb all the way up again.  We meander through the streets of Clive Vale, cross the Old London Road where it joins Priory Road, and then cut down North Terrace, Halton, Bembrook Road, across the top of the open space. Views are fantastic.
      It is always a surprise to me to read that statistically, the Broomgrove and Farley Bank/Halton estates are in the most deprived 1% in the country. Coming from Birmingham, where there were some real shockers, and of course, having worked on Castle Vale, the Hastings estates don't look too bad at all. No mattresses, not much graffiti or litter, no prowling youth. Maybe it is because the estates here are so much smaller - they blend into their surroundings. Run-down big city estates are worlds on their own, and the likes of us would not be strolling through them on a sunny Sunday morning while admiring the scenery.
At the Blue Dolphin....
     Most of the homes here have stunning open views. Yes, yes,  I know that reflects of the fact that these places were built in the inaccessible windy outskirts etc. and you can't eat views, but if I was poor, I would still rather sit on my balcony looking at the sparkly sea than at a big city concrete wasteland.
    When we reached the West Hill we actually managed to sit outside on the cafe terrace for coffee, although my backside was practically frozen to the cold metal of the chair.
     Then down to town - things finally seem to be waking up for spring.  The pubs and cafes had put their tables outside, the seaside tat shops were open, the Amusement Park had come to life.
      I felt bad passing the Lilac Room - their lovely spring and summer clothes have been on display for weeks and nobody can be buying them - even though the sun was out it still did not feel the time to strip off and try things on. Gave Kate a guilty wave and scuttled past.
     We ate fish and chips at our favourite chippie - the Blue Dolphin on the corner of the Old Town High Street.

Hauling up the lifeboat
      The lifeboat was out - they had had a practice launch. I spoke to the geezers because I saw that the tractor was laboriously and slowly dragging the boat up the beach on rollers, while its caterpillar treaded trolley sat idle.  The men told me they have always done it like that. The boat is sent down to the sea and launched on its trolley, but apparently the tractor is not powerful enough to pull boat and trolley up the beach together. . The men said it takes over 30 minutes to drag the boat up the beach, during which time they couldn't launch it again - not the time to be drowning, methinks. Get a bigger tractor, says Battleaxe
                 On the Stade Open Space one of the frequent (or so it seems) parades of old military vehicles had assembled. The people who drive and care for them dress up in the appropriate costumes - it is clearly a serious business, although these guys are clearly enjoying themselves.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Hastings to Bexhill cycle path - cold walks

 Well, the morning sun has streamed through my study window the last couple of days - I had to draw the curtain to keep it out. There have still been frosts, though, and it is very cold, with a continuous, bitter, icy wind.
Portrait bench on cycle path. Money better spent on tarmac?
     Yesterday we swaddled ourselves up for a  walk to Bexhill.  The fairly new cycle/pedestrian path from the end of the seafront to the Retail Park is a real design mess-up.  It is a great idea, and several cycle sale/hire places have opened up, presumably hoping for increased trade because of the new off-road route, but using the path is not good - and dangerous - for walkers, and must be ten times worse for cyclists.
      Much of the new route runs between the railway and the boulders heaped up to keep the sea at bay, and has to be shared between walkers and cyclists, with no demarcation between the two.  Walkers tend to either have dogs, be older, because it is flat, or families, because of the beach.  Many cyclists ride very fast, and think the path is theirs by right. Yesterday, a bloke whipped past us at about a million miles an hour - we nearly jumped out of our skins because we did not hear him coming up behind us. Philosopher shouted at him to slow down. He turned in his saddle, gave us the finger and let out a stream of effing and blinding, while nearly mowing down two fat dachshunds belonging to the people in front of us.  Without slowing his pace for an instant, he vanished into the distance, pursued by a chorus of angry shouts.
     Granted, that was extreme, but cyclists pose a real danger to walkers. Further on, the path descends sharply to the cafe and the tunnel to the Retail Park, past some fatuous Portrait Bench with bronze sculptures of odd bods. People emerging from the tunnel and crossing the path onto the beach cannot not possibly see cyclists charging down towards them.
      For cyclists, it must be really disagreeable. First, avoiding the walkers, their children and their dogs must be made more difficult by the surface of the path, which is absolutely useless.. Part is loose pot-holed gravel, and the long stretch by the railway is made of heavy plastic mesh, which is supposed to hold gravel, pebbles and sand into a compressed surface. It has not worked at all. The bad weather has washed all the infill away, leaving bare plastic - a ridged, yet slippery, surface. In other places, the sea has thrown drifts of pebbles on top of the mesh, which sit loose and dangerous, on its surface. Walking on the mesh is unpleasant, and I guess riding on it with an ordinary bike would be close to impossible - you would need a mountain bike. Braking must be very difficult.
    Why is there not tarmac on the path with a white line dividing walkers from cyclists?
    Anyway, our walk did not last long - by the time we reached the Retail Park we had got too cold, so gave up, had a coffee and caught the bus back again.
Snow clouds at Rye Harbour - we came home!
Our lives seem to be measured in cold walks at the moment - the day before that we had a freezing walk at Rye Harbour, which we again gave up, and today we walked across the West Hill down to town via the many flights of steps. Philosopher had noticed a shop in Queens Road that advertised old-style light bulbs.  Far too much dog-poo on those steps - the West Hill area is particularly bad for it. We were meeting friend Joe in Costa in town - he has decided to move to Hull.
     We are off to Birmingham tomorrow - showing grand daughter a good time and staying with friends Sue and Alex for a couple of nights. We are not having her to stay this holiday - the range of entertainments in Hastings when weather is like this is a bit limited.
     Anyway, to cheer up a bit of a bleak post, here, as so often, is Digby. Here he is enjoying his Easter egg. It is a special cat Easter egg from Pets at Home, made of catnip and powdered yoghurt. Talk about luxury nonsense.