Monday, 28 April 2014

Sovereign Harbour, Rye Harbour - Granny Battleaxe on patrol

Last week we had grand-daughter Eve staying with us. She is now at the awkward age where playgrounds and play centres are too babyish, and adult things too boring. Mind you, I won't miss having to sit in those hectic warehouses full of screaming children....
     We went to Sovereign Harbour near Eastbourne, a purpose-built marina, retail and residential area, a much bigger and more modern version of Brighton Marina. The cinema out there was showing the latest Muppet film and Eve quite wanted to see that. Philosopher and I had briefly visited the outer fringes of the development before, and came away vowing never to return, it looked so tacky and horrible.
     However, this time we explored further, looking for somewhere to have lunch, and to our surprise it was very pleasant.
     There is a big 'Waterfront' area with many cafes and bars with wide terraces where you can watch the boats, and the harbour itself is very large, and interesting to walk round. The different basins are crossed by paths with lift-up bridges for the boats to pass under. One duly lifted to allow a fishing boat to pass just after we walked over it, and the route to the sea is protected by giant locks with enormously strong gates to protect the harbour and keep the sea level constant. Again, we saw a lock open to admit a boat. Beyond the locks, there is an outer basin before reaching the sea, and this has to be dredged constantly to keep the silt at bay - we saw the dredger at work.
Sovereign Harbour - the Waterfront

View from the Waterfront
Bridge opening

Could do worse than those apartments....

Sea lock gate opening

Sea lock
     I am astonished to hear myself say this, but we will go back again!
     By the time we had eaten our lunch and walked all round, Eve had gone off the cinema, which didn't worry us - I don't like Ricky Gervaise anyway.
     Another day I took her on the WI walk to Rye Harbour. It is odd there are so few harbours on our stretch of coast. Nothing between the 'luxury mooring' at Sovereign Harbour, and Rye, which is scarcely a harbour at all, more of a silted up river inlet - the boats have to wait for high tide before they can get in and out.
     Eve hadn't been going to sleep until really late and was so tired she scarcely spoke all the way round. It was a lovely sunny morning and there were many birds about - none of us knew what they were.  We all invaded the Avocet tearoom en masse for coffee and cakes. Blog readers will know that this is a favourite place of ours - little time to chat to the proprietors on this occasion.
     Back to Birmingham on Friday, the worst car journey we have ever had. The M25 was blocked by a lorry crash and oil spill, and the M40 was closed by an accident. We had to leave the motorway at Banbury and wend our way through the side roads. On top of this, we had to drive through torrential rain. Fortunately, Eve eventually subsided into a state of catatonic boredom, half asleep across the back seat. We left the petrol station at Sainsburys in Hastings at 1.20pm, and it was after 7 before we dropped her at her Mum's.
    As usual, we stayed with our good friends Sue and Alex, and the next day, instead of rushing round lots of people, Philosopher and I went up to the City Centre on our own. We went to the Museum and Art Gallery to see the Grayson Perry tapestries.  These are a series of woven panels about class in Britain based on Hogarth's 'Rakes Progress'. We thought they were clever, and sometimes quite funny, but only kept our attention for a short while. Certainly they were better than a lot of the so-called art we have to pay money to see down in the south.
One of the Grayson Perry tapestries
   The Art Gallery is one of the things I miss the most about Birmingham. So many fabulous things to see, all free, in such a beautiful old building. We visited some of our favourite pictures, and also looked at 'The Blind Girl' by Millais. It is strange to think that he did the rough sketches for that picture here, at Clive Vale Farm, where the Battleaxe's house now stands, when he visited Holman Hunt. Personally, I have never liked this as much as others, for example 'Boer War' by Byam Shaw, which unfortunately was not out on display, and Ford Madox Brown's 'An Autumn afternoon', which was hanging up.
'The Blind Girl' with Winchelsea in the background

'Boer War', John Byam Shaw

'Autumn Afternoon' by Ford Madox Brown. Hard to get the colours right in the reproduction.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Good Friday Procession in Hastings Old Town - and general Easter thoughts.

Well, that's it for the Mini-eggs for another year.  On Friday we watched the Old Town procession, which enacts the Stations of the Cross. It does not fail to impress, even for a pair of atheists like us.
     It starts at St Clement's Church, and winds it way through the streets, stopping at St Mary Star of the Sea, and finishing with the crucifixion at All Saints. Jesus is accompanied by soldiers who kick, beat and flog him in a disturbingly authentic manner, and a crowd, including his mother, dressed in biblical robes, who shout and remonstrate with the soldiers. There are also various clergy persons and a mass of on-lookers, many of whom chant and sing as they go.

Jesus starts his walk

He falls

Beating and scourging
     We first heard about the event because one of my Hastings Writers' Group Committee colleagues, Janet, plays Mary, the mother of Christ.

Makes a change from the Writers' Group
     Last year it was terribly cold. Jesus kept his robe on throughout because he had on long johns and a T shirt underneath. Not totally authentic. This year, it was warm enough for him to be stripped of his raiment and the soldiers to draw lots for it, as required.
Up the hill to All Saint's

The finish...
       I'm sure it is bad form to blog about religion, but it is Easter, after all.
       Battleaxe was brought up as a traditional Anglican.  At boarding school, we were dispatched to the vicar for confirmation classes as soon as we showed signs of puberty.  In common with many of my class-mates, I went through a very devout phase, fasting, fainting, seeing visions etc. This did not last, mostly because God did not cure my teenage spots, despite much earnest praying.
       I like singing hymns, and the ritual of a traditional service. My fantasy church would use the book of Common Prayer, Hymns Ancient and Modern, the King James Bible, have no kids running up and down the aisle, no embracing your neighbours, no guitars etc. We'd have sung Eucharist, anthems, choirs, the lot. At the same time, this church would have cast off its ridiculous attitudes to women, gay people etc. Some chance of all that. This sounds like very muddled thinking, but for me, any sense of transcendence or spiritual uplift comes through ritual, the more mysterious and picturesque the better.
      A few weeks ago we went to a Buddhist burial ceremony, where ritual is all important. They don't bother about the meaning or the modern relevance of the chants, the ringing of bells or bonging of gongs.
      While I'm at it, there is currently a row in the media about Mr Creepy Cameron saying that this is a 'Christian country'. Of course that is not strictly true, only a tiny percentage are practising Christians. However, it is largely the case that our unwritten 'way things are done round here' is based on a history of Christian values.
      Presumably, Cameron is trying to make some sort of muddled appeal to the Tory heartlands, but for us Brits, these things are probably better left alone. I don't agree with an established Church, and I would prefer ours to be an officially secular society.  However, to have a true secular society, we would have to have written codes, like France, and we would never agree what was to be in them. Having said that, our wooly minded liberal ways leave us open to be pushed around and bamboozled by religious fundamentalists, bigots and bullies, of whatever faith.
     Enough of that. Yesterday we met grand-daughter Eve in London - she is staying until Friday. Roll out the Battleaxe Granny.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

New computer, WI Speaker Selection, and spring flowers

Slight delay in posting, Battleaxe has been somewhat busy. 
     First thing, I have got a new computer. The old one was Windows XP and Office 2003, and had got so slow I could make, and drink, a cup of tea while it lurched painfully into life. I avoided Windows 8, having seen Philosopher's troubles, and got Windows 7.
     All sorts of annoying things have happened, not the least of which is that the faithful old 'Picture Manager' that I used to edit my photos has disappeared. I had to import a special programme, Picture Gallery, which is far more clunky.  Have also had to download the latest version of Word. Grr, it looks so complicated. Why oh why? Why update something only to make it worse, not better.
     Anyway, so far, touch wood, it works.
     Have been busy with other things too. Yesterday I went to a WI Speakers Selection Day over in Northiam, with Marion, one of my WI colleagues. It was a bit like a polite version of Britain's Got Talent. Throughout the day hopefuls stood up and tried to convince us that they should be included in the WI Speakers' Directory.  Unfortunately we didn't have buzzers to get rid of the useless ones - the day would have been over much quicker.  We had: one geezer talking about the history of town criers, dressed in his uniform. Actually he wasn't bad - at least his voice was loud enough to wake the snoozing ladies at the back of the hall. Then some bloke who had hiked round the British coast for charity, worthy but yawnsome. Then  a woman who looked like a games mistress barking at us about grizzly bears - no. Then a nice young man talking about beachcombing on the Sussex coast. I thought it was really interesting, my colleagues not so much, unfortunately. But beaches are my thing - see last post.
     Then, after lunch - a nice ploughman's made by the ladies of Northiam WI, the ultimate horror. A seedy bloke with his shirt unbuttoned too far, who sang to a small guitar. He addressed us as if we were residents of a care home, with song choices to match. Don't get me wrong, I like the Andrews sisters as much as the next woman, but when the song is prefaced by:
     'Which of you lovely girls remember these lovely girls? Eh? Of course you do.....' No, No. Considering the group of women right in front of his nose had an average age of 30, I didn't think he was trying. Still, at least he avoided The White Cliffs of Dover.
     Then another nice young man from Batemans talking about Rudyard Kipling.... and so on.
     I was sitting with Marion and a fun group of women including two from Wonky WI based in St Leonard's. We had a good laugh.
     Today we had two Philosophers in the house - one of Nick's former students came by with his wife and two little children. No philosophy was discussed however - the call of the beach was too strong. 
     Finally, of course, the weather has been just fantastic, and I have been outside gardening. To try out my new IT capacities, here are some flowers currently in bloom chez Battleaxe. Tulips have been excellent this year.

Dicentra - one of my favourites

Vibrant pink tulips

Even more vibrant orange tulips, with pansies

Osteospermum. It is perenniel here in Hastings

Blowsy yellow tulips

Unusual Australian mint bush. This would only have survived indoors in Birmingham

A wash-tub full of red tulips

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Natural Sculptures on the Beach

Where we live, the sea tries as hard as it can to move the sand and pebbles down the coast to enlarge the vast pebble wasteland at Dungeness.
     Seaside towns try to stop this by building groynes, or breakwaters.
     Did you know that the strict definition of a groyne is a structure running down the beach and out to sea, while a breakwater runs along the beach, parallel to the shore?
     Over time, the constant beating of the sea against these structures grinds them down into fantastic shapes. Different coloured bits of rope and net tangle themselves around the wood, and small stones get stuck in strange places....
     The weathered wood has inspired and intrigued many artists and photographers. Here are some of our pictures, and a few paintings of local scenes by artists we like.
Rye Harbour

Rye Harbour

Pett Level

View of Eastbourne

Dilapidated groyne in blue sea - Eastbourne

Pett Level

Winchelsea Beach

Winchelsea Beach

Winchelsea Beach

Winchelsea Beach

Winchelsea Beach

Rather rude? Winchelsea Beach

Winchelsea Beach

Rye Harbour


Pett Level - I like the stones stuck here


Paul Nash - Dymchurch 1935

John Piper - Littlestone on Sea 1936
Paul Nash - Winchelsea Beach 1934

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Two London Exhibitions - De Chirico and Artists Textiles

Had a lovely spring day out to London. One of the last days of catching the train to St Pancras - the Charing Cross line is now apparently fixed, after several months.
    It is a funny journey on that line - a bucolic - and slow - diesel chug across Romney Marsh, stopping at Winchelsea, Rye and Appledore. Oast houses on the hills in the distance, mist, sheep, herons and egrets standing at the edges of the ditches. Then all change at Ashford to the HS1 which hurtles up to London in 38 minutes. Talks are going on about extending the fast line to Hastings - not in our lifetime, methinks.
    Our first stop was the Estorick Collection, in Canonbury Square in Islington, to see a small De Chirico exhibition. We have been there once before - it is a lovely old house set in a pretty garden - unexpected for north London.   The permanent collection is Italian art, and mostly Futurist Italian Art to boot - very esoteric (heh heh).
The Estorick Collection Gallery
    The De Chirico show was small, but interesting - to be honest, I have never known much about him. I know he was born in Volos, Greece (we stayed the night there once) and his style is mostly metaphysical, but I don't really understand what that means. There were a number of his sculptures, many of which seemed to be either ancient Greek looking draped figures with bits of ancient temple, or couples sitting together with their innards on show. Here are a few examples:

De Chirico - The Architects

De Chirico - Hector and Andromache

De Chirico - don't know the title

Large statue?
    We had lunch in the nice little Italian tea-room at the gallery, took a stroll down Upper Street, and then caught a bus down to London Bridge.
     A few weeks ago Philosopher met Anna in London and they went to an exhibition called Artists Textiles at the Fashion and Textile Museum. He said I'd really like it, so we went. It was indeed fabulous. I had no idea that so many great twentieth century artists also did fabric designs. Some of the fabric was just stunning.
They also showed it made up into wonderful vintage clothes, including Horrockses 1950's dresses. When I had my retro clothes shop in Birmingham I had several of these on sale - I hope no fabrics by great artists, because I would have priced them at a fraction of their true value.
     The Fashion and Textile Museum was founded by Zandra Rhodes, and is always worth a visit. It has a lovely little cafe and a great shop - we had tea and scones after our visit to the exhibition.
      Then it was back to St Pancras, whizz down to Ashford, then far too many people crammed into the  over-short diesel for a hot and sweaty pootle back to Hastings.
Salvador Dali - Spring Rain

Saul Steinberg - Paddington Station

Graham Sutherland - Snowdrops, Horrockses
Picasso - Musical Faun 1963
Eduardo Paolozzi, Horrockses dress 1953
John Piper - Chieza del a Salute 1963
Andy Warhol - Melons 1963
Circus - John Rombola
Joan Miro