Saturday, 25 March 2017

Goodbye to Cornwall, and the cooler side of Bournemouth

In my last post I wrote about the first part of our holiday, now for the last bit.  We are now back in Hastings, having returned a bit early - the weather was dodgy. We broke our journey overnight in Bournemouth. Can it be cool? Yes.

Impending storm - view from our house
Evening view

Our house from the coast path
    Plenty of cliff walks, but only a few classic coast path episodes with yellow gorse, blue sea and grey rocks. I like to take those pictures away in my memory. Sadly, Philosopher has a bad hip so couldn't do many walks, and unlike our Brummie friends, I am a fair-weather walker - after a bit, one grey and misty cliff path looks much like another.  Also, although our Hastings Channel sea is not like Cornwall, we do live in a seaside place and can look at it whenever we want. Oh there it is, outside my study window - looking blue and sparkly today. 
     This is the Cornwall I like - Carn Goose on a sunny afternoon:

   We spent a day in Penzance, where Philosopher and I visited one of our favourite places, the Penlee Gallery, where there was an exhibition of the best things from their own collection. They have such wonderful paintings by Cornish artists, the Newlyn and St Ives groups. The atmosphere and the light captured in these paintings enhances the Cornish experience for me. Here are a few examples. Internet reproductions never quite capture the light properly....
Frank Bramley

Henry Meynell Rheam

Walter Langley
    Another day, in St Ives, we re-visited the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden, which we discovered last year. I put plenty of photos on that post, so here is just one - the misty view of St Ives church from the garden.

      We visited the gardens at Trengwainton. I am particularly fond of the spooky mossy trunks of the ancient magnolia trees:

      Here are a few more classic Cornish views:
Cape Cornwall
Near Zennor

Walking down to Porthgwarra
Looking across to Lands End from Sennen Beach
     Our last view of Cornwall for another year..... Marazion. The clouds are drifting away - typical,  when we were on our way home.

     Then back to Hastings via Bournemouth, to break up the long journey and visit an exhibition at the fabulous Russell Cotes Gallery It was sunny when we got there.....
Looking across to the Isle of Wight
     This time we stayed at The Green House, a profoundly cool award-winning 'eco-hotel' full of hipsters, with organic goose-down duvets, waiters in tight black jeans and a variety of artisan gins in the bar. I'd booked it after careful research because last time we stopped in Bournemouth we ended up in an old-style unreconstructed place full of blue-rinse oldies on full-board holidays. Battleaxe recommends the Green House.  It is a pretty, nicely-restored Victorian Gothic house and is excellent value. The restaurant is good too, even though their vegetables were served dangerously close to raw. Perhaps our rickety teeth yearned for the over-cooked cabbage in the oldsters' hotel..... We had a comfortable night and the breakfast was excellent.
The Green House
      The Russell Cotes Gallery is just totally fantastic and Battleaxe would urge everyone to visit it. I wrote plenty about it in my last post on Bournemouth. The old Victorian house is fabulous. Then the pictures... the rooms... the collections.. the loo...
      This time they had an exhibition of twentieth-century art from their collection.  We have a print of this one in our bathroom at home - another thing about this gallery, they have an excellent shop selling reproductions of their own paintings.
Spray - Harold Williamson
   The main collection specialises in Victorian pantings and Pre-Raphs.  I say specialises but one of the joys of the Russell Cotes is that Mr and Mrs RC collected just about anything and everything. The place is absolutely crammed from top to bottom. Here is one of my favourite pictures:
Jezebel - Byam Shaw
     Got home to discover to my horror, that I had put on five pounds in weight. I knew the 'pint of Tribute and a packet of crisps' approach was bad, but that is very,very bad......

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Cornwall again...foggy trip via Lyme Regis to Sennen Cove

This time we are staying in a fabulous house in our usual spot, Sennen Cove. It's the most westerly house on the English mainland.  Had a very foggy drive from Hastings, with an overnight stop-over in Lyme Regis.

Sennen Cove

Sennen Beach

      The fog was incredibly thick. We didn't stop for our usual picnic in the New Forest - couldn't see anything. Driving towards Lyme Regis we couldn't even see the car in front of us. As usual, we stayed with our friend Karol, who we met in Turkey years ago - she has a house with views across the bay with towards Golden Cap, but we couldn't see any of it. No usual walk round Lyme, or any photos - too damp and foggy. 
      Bit of a shame really, because it is a pretty journey, right across the very bottom edge of England - see last year's road trip post.
      Next day was just as foggy. The Beast of Bodmin Moor could have been lurking by the roadside without us seeing it. The weather made places like Camborne look even more depressing than usual. Many towns down the spine of Cornwall are very grey and drab - and very deprived. Cornwall voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, presumably not realising they will lose most of their subsidy from the EU.....
      This year, for the first time, we are staying in the same house as our friends Sue and Alex and Sue and Graham. Chy Ryn is large. We have a massive living/dining room with a big picture window overlooking the sea, five bedrooms, three of which also have sweeping sea views, and three bathrooms, so that suits us fine.  We thought we had all got too old for cramming into low-rent (literally) holiday cottages, and fancied a bit of luxury. Here is a link to the house particulars.  Looks fantastic doesn't it?  We can all lounge on our beds watching the Atlantic rollers sweep majestically past in front of us, and the gannets plunging into the water. No seals as yet... However, it is still a rented house. Do such places ever have sharp knives in the kitchen? Can one ever get to grips with the oven? Or the microwave?
      Battleaxe and Philosopher are used to having our own living quarters - neither of us are good at communal living after years of boarding school etc, but so far all is well - the house is big enough to provide plenty of privacy.
      Weather is currently damp and cloudy. Part of me longs for an enornous storm - the pictures of the waves breaking over the rocky headland at Sennen were all over the news, and the edge of that same headland runs down to the borders of our 'garden', more a patch of rough grass leading down to the rocks.  The wave photos I have taken so far do not quite compare with the storm photos....

Beautiful waves
     We've walked over to Land's End, and yesterday we went to Marazion.
St Michael's Mount at Marazion
Today we went for one of our favourite walks, to a little place called Treen, down a very pretty lane to a little cove, Penberth, and then up and over the cliff to Logan Rock.
    We got talking to some old Cornish geezer who was threading his mackerel fishing hooks onto a  long line.  He told us that the slipway at Penberth was obstructed by boulders washed up by winter storms, and they were waiting for 'the government' to send a digger to clear them away before they could do any fishing. Philosopher and I were speculating what contribution the fishermen of Penberth could make to the nationally important fishing industry. Absolutely none whatsoever.

Looking down to Porthcurno

Logan Rock
The camellias, magnolias etc on the little lane, which runs down a sheltered valley, are always beautiful. 
On the way to Penberth

Lane down to Penberth
   However, one householder had festooned the trees with fishing floats and buoys. Not too keen, personally.

   Then drink in the Logan Rock pub in Treen village.  Battleaxe must stop drinking beer at lunchtime, but it feels part of the Cornish thing to swing into some rustic bar and  'Pint of Tribute and packet of crisps please'.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Hastings Piano Concerto Competition finals - Battleaxe's chest expands with pride....

Well, it shouldn't be my chest that is expanding with pride, but those of the organisers and sponsors. But as a Hastinga, one can't help basking in reflected glory.... we went to both nights of the piano final at the White Rock last Friday and Saturday. It is one of the biggest events of the year hereabouts....

      Battleaxe shouldn't even have been there at all. Well, I told you I was ill. (By the way, I see that Spike Milligan's tombstone has been returned to Winchelsea churchyard, with that epigraph removed...)  Have still got vile lingering sinus infection thing, made worse by over-exertion at the weekend.  Went to the theatre on Friday night, then up very early for absolutely exhausting time lugging black sacks and screaming at everyone at the WI Jumble Sale, back to bed, then up again for the theatre on Saturday evening. Yes, it was crazy, but I didn't want to miss it.
     So why was Battleaxe's chest expanding?
     The Hastings International Piano Concerto competition has been growing year on year. It is now massive, with international auditions in Germany and America and contestants from 29 countries. The support and sponsorship of Sarah and David Kowitz from Fairlight Hall has played a huge part in this, as has the energy of the director of Frank Wibaut, the Director (see earlier post).  Lots of work is done by volunteers, which keeps the cost down a bit,  but it is still an expensive enterprise
     For the first time this year, we had a full orchestra - the Royal Philharmonic. We have had the RPO for the final in previous years, but it has always been the smaller Concert orchestra. I did wonder how they'd fit onto the stage of the White Rock, but they all crammed thenselves on, even the lady harpist (are they always ladies?). She only did a few plinks and a glissando in the very first piece before packing up and going home.

Full orchestra - plus harp
     The bigger orchestra did make a big difference to the sound quality, and considering how little time they must have had to rehearse, it was brilliant. There were a few spare seats on the Friday night, but on Saturday the theatre was absolutely packed, all 1066 seats of it. One thing I never like - no sooner have you got yourself tightly wedged into your seat, coat under your legs - the White Rock is not known for its spaciousness - but you are asked to 'be upstanding' for the Deputy Lord Lieutenant or somesuch. Me and P turn into instant republicans and stay seated....
     Because I was poorly, on both nights Philosopher dropped me off at the theatre before driving miles to park the car, and I pushed my way into the crowded foyer. It reminded me of walking into the Prince of Wales pub in Moseley, Birmingham, many years ago, where you could be sure of finding someone you knew within the first five seconds. Sorry to those I met in the White Rock who embraced me before I had time to tell them to beware of germs...  Another brief digression: our friends Sue and Alex were down from Birmingham a while ago and we took them to a Hastings do. They were astonished at the amount of kissing and embracing that went on. Obviously folk are more reserved Oop in t'Midlands....
      On the second night one familiar face I encountered was Michael Foster, our former MP, dressed up in velvet pantaloons, tights, buckle shoes, sword etc as High Sheriff of East Sussex. You wouldn't have seen a get-up like that in the Prince of Wales....
     Anyway, the standard of piano playing was higher than ever, and unlike last year, we heard six different pieces over the two nights, which was a big improvement. First, we had Rachmaninov's  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Remember the Julian Lloyd-Webber version that was the theme for the South Bank Show? That was in Battleaxe's cello 'playing' days, and I remember laboriously sawing out the tune. Then two different Rachmaninov concertos, a Gershwin concerto, and joy unconfined, a Beethoven.
     All six finalists were very good indeed - the jury must have had a hard job. The eventual winner was a young American, Kenneth Broberg, playing the Gershwin Piano Concerto in F. Here he is, pictures from Facebook.

     Like most of the audience, I enjoy trying to pick the winner. Last year I succeeded, but not this time, mostly because I didn't know the piece he played. I'd picked the runner-up to win, Hans Suh, who played Rachmaninov 3. However, the win was well-deserved, and the young man seemed to have a particularly good relationship with the orchestra. It must have been a less-familiar, more jazzy piece for them, too.
Bad photo of the winner getting his prize - and look, there are the pantaloons...
     So, am off to Cornwall on Friday, staying in the most westerly house in England, right down at the edge of Senen Cove, nearly at Lands End. Next post will be from there.....


Friday, 3 March 2017

Hastings Battleaxe feels oppressed. Strange night at Barefoot Opera 'ballet' - and bad cold.

Oh dear. Am so busy. Have just developed evil cold and have WI Jumble Sale tomorrow, which is massive amount of hard manual labour.  Tonight and tomorrow we have the Hastings Piano Concerto competition finals. Have umpteen things next week and then we are off to Cornwall on Friday morning for just over two weeks. Don't know where to start really. Oh yes, last Sunday we had a very strange outing to St Mary in the Castle for the Barefoot Opera 'ballet'.

      I put ballet in inverted commas because it was barely that.  It was a recreation of  'The Loves of Mars and Venus' the first ever modern ballet production, created by Mr John Weaver for performance in the Drury Lane theatre in 1717. The score, and much of the detail of the performance has been lost.  We enjoy Barefoot Opera productions, but this did somewhat stretch our goodwill to the limit. The actual dance bit was very good, but over in a trice, padded out by long explanations from the head music person, and a dance historian. Now, how can it be so hard for two successful, sophisticated grown women to speak loud enough to carry their voices to a not-very-big-audience? The excellent Jenny Miller, head woman of Barefoot Opera, scarcely had to raise her voice to be audible. 
     Oh goodness, have just looked up the Barefoot Opera site to post a link here, and find a Hastings Battleaxe review of an earlier production...  Sorry, I don't suppose they will be publishing this one...  Anyway, much of the material that I think the two women talked about was then repeated all over again as part of the actual production as a sort of dramatic monologue, which meant that the actual dance bit took - what - fifteen minutes at most.
      I know this was the first production of this particular show - it is off to Cambridge next, and I'm sure they will iron out the glitches.
     Still, it was interesting, and Battleaxe always enjoys events at St Mary in the Castle - it is such a wonderful old building.  All le great et le good de Hastings were there...... Photos from Le Internet.
     The building dates from 1824, well after the ballet, but it did feel like an appropriate venue.

St Mary in the Castle - outside and in.

   Yuch, I feel that poorly am going to have a sleep. Let's finish with something positive and cheerful. What? Oh, I know.
    If I had to choose a last meal in the condemned cell, I'd choose a jam doughnut from Jempsons, with a nice glass of champagne. I just love those doughnuts. They are so jammy...  Here they are, waiting to be eaten, in Jempsons in Battle.  I had one earlier in the week. Not with champagne though, but actually, seem to have had rather a lot of Aldi champers on other occasions this week.....
What would you choose as your final meal?