Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The De La Warr Pavilion, and a walk round Bexhill

All this time, and I've never done a proper blog about Bexhill.
      We started with coffee at the De La Warr Pavilion. We go there so often with visiting friends who want to see it that we rarely go on our own. I know they have had massive cuts to their budget, but the standard of the service was a bit shabby. The coffee, as so often, was too weak, sticky ginger cake was not sticky, and the knife to cut it was dirty. The building is, unfortunately, also starting to look less than perfect.. Damp is seeping in, paint is bubbling, and there are rust stains on the walls.
      This is disturbing, considering it was only refurbished at a cost of millions in 2005. We were told not long ago that the contractors for the refurbishment did not deliver the work according to specification - it was skimped, hence the current over-rapid deterioration. Whatever is going on, it needs sorting. The building, designed by Erich Mendlesohn and Serge Chermayeff in the 1930s, is acknowledged to be one of Britain's  greatest Modernist masterpieces.
       What a wonderful building it is.
1937
Today
Today

Mendlesohn's original drawing for the staircase - RIBA archive
Staircase today
Stairwell
       We looked at the current exhibition, 'I cheer a dead man's sweetheart.'  This is the last line of the dark, disturbing, but beautiful poem 'Is my team ploughing' by A E Housman. Incomprehensibly and stupidly the exhibition blurb tells us that the poem:  
       'serves as an allegory for the influence of the past and its evolving significance in contemporary painting practice.'
       Eh? Did they even read the poem? It's actually about death. We thought the show was utter rubbish and I won't waste any more words on it.
       The De La Warr specialises in contemporary art horrors. See previous blog.

       Shopping in Bexhill is worlds away from the arty ambience of the De La Warr. We always assumed the place to be full of affluent elderly, and indeed, there are many beautiful 1930s homes around the town. However, these affluent types clearly don't shop in Bexhill itself. Imagine streets lined with little shops from the 1950s. Think sewing, crafts, knitting wool shops, 'fancy linens', old-fashioned tobacconists, ironmongers, and florists dotted between junk shops and many, many charity shops. There is an indoor market which would make the market of a run-down town in the Black Country look flash. In fact the whole place is a bit like Black Country-on-Sea. Think places like Lye, or Rowley Regis, which still have Ladies Outfitters with yellow cellophane on the windows to protect the huge bras from the sun.
      In all our visits, we have found no decent coffee shops, no decent pubs either. There are plenty of old-style cafes, filled with distinctly un-affluent looking elders.
      The 'Trattoria Italiana' is fine for eating - I've mentioned it before, and I've heard good things about 'Bistro 45' but never tried it.
       However, we enjoy a browse. There are two decent women's clothes shops, 'La Loba' in St.Leonard's Road, and 'Chameleon' in Devonshire Road, and of course 'Maud's' vintage shop, also in St. Leonard's Road. Sackville Road has plenty of junk/antique shops. There is also a very up-market place, 'Era's of Style', in the old station in Terminus Road, full of French armoires, stuffed bears, distressed urns, Eames chairs and other over-priced Londonista life-style essentials. Needless to say, we don't shop in there.
       Just one last thing, to change the subject, the Jerwood have now put my piece on their website (see previous blog). They have censored it to remove any faintly Battleaxe-type material - the result is bland. Here is the link.
Who shops in here?

Original mosaics on the pavement

Nice tobacconists

I just like the name....
Mauds - worth a browse
Obviously not much demand for these in Bexhill