Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Will Hastings Battleaxe get political?

Oh, of course Battleaxe will get political, she wouldn't be a Battleaxe otherwise, would she?  I don't think anyone could ignore what's been happening round here - we must be the laughing stock of the world. Philosopher says give up and stick to fluffy kittens, so here is Digby looking suitably fed up.

OK I'll be quick about it.  Skip this if you are totally Brexited out. And everything might be different again in a week's time....
    Battleaxe voted Remain. We should never have had this Referendum in the first place. The issues are far too big to play around with, or to be used as tools for securing party unity (yes, you Mr Cameron).  Britain is a small cog in a huge global economy. Being part of Europe is our best chance of survival. The Leave campaign was based on a fantasy notion of  'Brave Little Britain' that is hopelessly out-dated, if it ever existed. It peddled lies and progaganda, tapping into the worst fears of the population, and was high-jacked by nasty, intolerant elements of society. Boris Johnson is a cunning, lying charlatan who used the Leave campaign to further his own ends.  Don't get me started on the role of the mass media in whipping up fear and hatred. The Remain campaign was just feeble, and demonstrated how out of touch the Westminster elite are with the mood of the nation.
     Battleaxe is sick and furious at the Referendum result. We have had our European citizenship stolen from us. The Leave vote is so wrong for the political, economic and social future of the country, and the result was too close to use as a basis for such massive constitutional change. Battleaxe is fed up with being told to shut up and stop whining by Leave supporters, who scarcely seem to have grasped the magnitude of what has happened....
     Battleaxe is also sick at what is happening now. Prime Minister resigned (and rightly so). Boris? Boris likely to succeed.......... oh heaven preserve us.  No politicians seem to have a clue about the way forward. Upsurge in racist incidents/hate speak..... The country is divided....
     Battleaxe rejoined the Labour Party after the last election and voted for Corbyn as leader, mostly because she wanted to see the party shaken up. Well, she got her wish..... He was responsible for an ineffective, half-hearted Labour Remain campaign. He may have 'principles' but he is no leader, and now needs to go. The Labour Party has lost its traditional support in the North and Midlands as well as in Scotland - can it even survive?
     And as for the football!  Iceland? Battleaxe feels sorry for the English fans that keep on hoping, but really, those overpaid, posturing idiots...  the complacency of the incompentent English manager....

     Grrr - enough now. Ask oneself, what can I do? The government? Powerless. Labour Party? Have agonised, left and rejoined for far too long - had enough of that.
     As local WI President, I can at least try and ensure that our group sticks to its values of inclusiveness, tolerance and helping others.  There should be no politics in the WI, and I will do my best to keep it that way, while making it clear that yes, we are inclusive, and yes, we are tolerant.
     Football - I do think I'd make a better England manager than Roy Hodgson, but I can't see me getting the job.
     Phew, what else?
     Trouble is, I can't enjoy much at the moment.
     Stress and unhappiness always turn me towards compensatory spending. Philosopher has sensibly diverted me from a planned shopping trip to Tunbridge Wells, but even on a limited regime of Old Town, Bexhill, boot fairs and street markets, I have managed, since Friday morning, to accumulate the following:
     - a dress from the Lilac Room (on sale)
     - a Royal Doulton bowl (a present for someone else)
     - a canvas bag (Hare and Hawthorn, Old Town)
     - a jacket (Bexhill, on sale)
     - a 1950s serving plate (boot fair)
     - a pair of vintage lace shoes (boot fair, only £4 honestly)
     - a cushion with a dachshund on (street market)
     - an early Pears print (street market)
     - a large shrub (unusual Olearia nummularifolia - street market).      
     Not bad, eh?  If many others react like me, we could keep the flagging UK economy alive. 
     The street market, by the way, is a relatively new one in the yard off Roebuck Street in the Old Town. We went for the first time on Sunday, and it was very good indeed - lots of interesting stalls.
Street Market in the Old Town
     Following that, we strolled across for lunch at the Nazar Turkish restaurant on the sea-front.  Hadn't been before, and liked it. We have been to Ada, in Robertson Street many times. We like Turkish restaurants, and Turkish people - always go looking forward to practising our limited Turkish. Our efforts always amuse the staff rather than impressing them.....
      The one really good thing this week - our bathroom is now done. It looks excellent, and both the new shower and the new bath are first class. Oh, that's another thing I've bought - expensive bath unguents for wallowing in the new tub.  If anyone wants a recommendation for a plumber, contact me - the guy is fantastic.
New bathroom chez Battleaxe

New bathroom at Castello Battleaxe
      To finish, a view of St Leonard's Gardens. We walked through there this morning on our way to a funeral.  It was for Peter, from whom Philosopher has taken over as Chair of the local Workers' Education Association. His wife Liz is a writer/poet friend. It was a very moving service at St John's church in Brittany Road, but secular, well-chosen verse and music.
St Leonard's Gardens


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bournemouth, Swanage, Portsmouth - travels with Battleaxe, three piers!

Excellent few days break, starting in Bournemouth (where they charge to go on a pier not nearly as good as Hastings), to Swanage, then up to Portsmouth and the Historic Dockyard, staying in Southsea.


View across to Old Harry Rocks

Hotel Riviera

View of the Isle of Wight from our room

Bournemouth beach from the West Cliff
On the face of it, the weather looked terrible, but we missed every single violent shower. Most of the photos show threatening storm clouds in the background...
    In Bournemouth, we stayed in a funny little place, the Riviera, right on the top of the West Cliffs, with excellent views across to the Isle of Wight from our room, and an easy stroll down to town. At first, we were delighted that it was a traditional seaside hotel, frilly curtains, eccentric staff, clanking metal grille lift, strange meal hours etc. but we soon tired of the traditional seaside hotel disadvantages - shower emitting feeble trickle, not understanding Earl Grey tea...
     At breakfast one morning Philosopher asked for just bacon. The ?Greek deputy manager gawped, incredulous. 'You.... child...' he sniffed.
    Bournemouth has a pier, which we could see from our bedroom window, but on inspection is was very tatty and uninteresting, and we were charged £1.10 to go on it! Hastings, please note!
Bournemouth pier - tatty

    Our best discovery in Bournemouth was the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum. We saw this strange, turretted Victorian building from the pier, and investigated - and were totally astonished.

Russell-Cotes Museum
     Neither of us had ever heard of the place, but it is totally fantastic. Built in 1901 by wealthy collector Merton Russell-Cotes, it is in its original condition, and full of beautiful paintings and objects collected during extensive overseas travel. It is not entirely clear where they got their money from. Russell-Cotes owned and ran the enormous and very fashionable Royal Bath Hotel in Bournemouth, but it is hard to imagine that they made that much money from the hotel alone.
     There were wonderful pre-Raphaelites and much, much more, all in an incredibly ornate Victorian setting. Battleaxe would one hundred percent recommend a visit. Here are some photos:

     The Ladies loo was fantastic - all coloured, embossed tiles and ancient plumbing.

      We scarcely saw anything of Bournemouth, it didn't look that interesting.  It has great sandy beaches, and apparently, three funiculars - of course, we did go on one....The next day we set off for Swanage via the Sandbanks Ferry.  Battleaxe and Philosopher do love a ferry.
Sandbanks to Swanage ferry
      In Swanage, we made straight for the railway station. I've been to Swanage before - on a geography field trip when I was 16. I can't remember a thing about the place, and didn't recognise it when we got there.  I think we came from Winchester (where I was at school to do my A levels) on the train. The line closed in the 1970s, and has only recently been restored as the heritage Swanage Railway.
Swanage Station

      As blog readers will know I'm sure, Battleaxe and Philosopher also love a steam railway, and waste no opportunity to take a ride. Off we went, to Corfe Castle. Rustic leafy ride...

      Corfe is a wonderfully picturesque station with its views of the ruined castle - I've seen this view on old railway posters. We didn't go up to the Castle - weather looked too dodgy.

      The whole place seems to belong to the National Trust, and was like being in a model village. Philospher has old-style model villages on his list of loves, and Corfe has one, so we went there first. It was in a very pretty garden. If she's honest, Battleaxe can take or leave model villages, but I was pleased to see that in the model of Corfe village, they had included a model of the model village, and in that model, you could just see a tiny model of the model village - but then it got too small.... All a bit surreal.

      We had lunch in the Greyhound pub - the first pub I ever went in on my own pretending to be an adult, with my friend Plum, on that long-ago field trip.

       Spent some time talking with the landlord, speculating what we might have had to drink. I only ever drank dubonnet at home, and could scarcely have asked for that (I hope), and neither Plum or I liked beer... so we decided cider would have been the most likely.
        The pub has gone all bleached wood and gastro now.
        Chuffed back to Swanage on the choo-choo, and went onto Swanage Pier - very small, and very much in need of restoration, but still charging 90p for 'strollers'. I see they have just set up a restoration campaign.

        Next day, we moved on to Portsmouth, and the Historic Dockyard. Neither of us had revisited the Victory since we were small.  We got tickets for all attractions, which were valid for a year - for comments on mind-numbing cost of all these things, see later...
        We did the Victory first - fortunately it was quiet. Philosopher was disappointed because the ship had no masts up - I think they only go up on special occasions now.  I was struck by the sheer number of guns - the noise of battle must have been terrible, and it is not surprising that men were permanently deafened. Conditions on board were terrible full stop.

View from the window of Nelson's cabin - new destroyer

Hammocks for the men....
         Next we visited the little WW1 Monitor gunboat, the HMS M.33, the only surviving ship from the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. Built in only seven weeks, conditions on board were very basic. We saw an incredibly effective - and poignant - film show with sound effects about the Gallipoli battles. Terrible once again, and I think for both of us, the highspot of our visit to the dockyard.
        After the war, the ship was sent to Russia, and we saw the cat door for the ship's cat, Mrs Muggins, who was rescued once after falling overboard, and suffered a burnt tail when the ship was shelled.
M33 in her WW1 'Dazzle' paint

        Then, to the museums to look at the collection of ship's figureheads, followed by the harbour tour, on board a big catamaran. It was excellent - what with going to Hamburg, this is the second such tour we have been on in a month.  Hamburg was interesting becasue of the huge container ships. Portsmouth had a number of naval vessels in dock - several destroyers, a mine-sweeper and the aircraft carrier Illustrious, currently being decommissioned. There were also loads of big passenger ferry boats.

        By this time, we were worn out, so resolved to leave the rest of the things for a future visit. Drove across to Southsea, and our final hotel, the wonderful Royal Beach, on the sea-front at Southsea. A great place for lovers of grand old hotels - high ceilings - chandeliers modelled on those on the Titanic etc., but also faultless in terms of service and facilities. We had a huge room with a sweeping sea view across the Solent and the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour - I could have sat by the window the entire time just watching the ships go back and forth.  Battleaxe would totally recommend the hotel - and it is very reasonably priced, too.
       The hotel was right opposite yet another pier - the Southsea South Parade Pier, now sadly closed, and with an uncertain future.
Royal Beach Hotel

View from our room

View from our room

       So, we had a great time. English trips cost money. It is one thing for us, a couple, but what if you have a family? We were talking over £300 for hotels (and those were bargain basement rates).  Meals, drinks and refreshment breaks, approx £170. Ferry £9, pier admissions £4, Russell Cotes admission £12, train tickets £25, Model Village £7, Historic Dockyard £59. Then fuel, odd things we bought....


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Hastings Old Town Gardens - and a visit to the Crown

Just a quick post - down to the Old Town to visit a few open gardens, and rectifying an omission - one of the places to be in Hastings is the Crown pub in All Saints Street, and Battleaxe has never been.....

Unusual  roses - I forgot to ask the owner what sort they were?
     The Old Town gardens are quite special - hidden away at the back of the little houses, up Twitterns, down steep steps. Half the fun is looking at the views and the roofscapes.  Today was dull, so pictures a bit less shiny than those from our last visit to the gardens- would you believe in 2013?
     It was good to meet an enthusiastic Battleaxe reader on our way round the gardens. I didn't catch the lady's name, but hello, I'm glad you enjoy the blog!

Roofscapes and twitterns
     Some of the gardens did not seem to be particularly advanced, but still plenty of colour to photograph:

     On our way from Tackleway to the High Street we passed the Crown pub - haunt of hipsters, cutting edge locals and DFLs. It's had excellent reviews. We 'd never been in, so rectified that, and had a half of some obscure beer and a packet of cheese and onion crisps - scarcely testing the range of hospitality offerings to their maximum, but it's a start. Wide range of food and drink on offer, and the staff were very pleasant.
   Very attractive interior. Battleaxe liked the fresh flowers on  the tables, and the artwork. It was very quiet, so could take some pictures without imposing on others.
    Nice loos - very dark though, somewhat remisicent of an Amsterdam coffee shop. You may well ask about this one's familiarity with Amsterdam Coffee Shop loos. Ask away, but I ain't tellin'....
   Anyway, we will return.
Loved these flowers at the Crown

The Crown
    Next big blog post will be a guide to the best local pub gardens. On our way up the High Street I popped up to the Jenny Lind garden to make sure my pictures were up-to-date. I'm glad I did - the climbing rose was just stunning, and smelt incredible. I'm not waiting until the pub gardens post to put a picture here.
Rose at the Jenny Lind
    Tomorrow we are off on a four-day trip to Bournemouth and Portsmouth - will write about it later.
    Our new bathroom is coming on well.....
     Battleaxe feels compelled to write a post about the EU referendum - I am feeling increasingly uneasy as the date approaches. The campaign for Leave gets more rabid and xenophobic every day, and it looks like a worrying number of people are falling for it....  However, I'm sure blogs like mine should not get into politics. I'll see how desperate I am in a few days time.