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104 acres of a local nature reserve sit high above Hastings; the area is known as St Helen’s Woods. Some of these woods belonged to the estate of Ore Place – with the open land grazed by ponies in the past and still grazed by a few today.  We wandered down through the oaks to Bill Vint Meadow – one large specimen has succumbed to disease but the texture of the bark is there for all to touch and caress . . .

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. .  out in the sunlight, the campion rises within the new bracken. We were here to see the first orchids  and the bright light of a sunny afternoon meant glaring images.

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Yellow rattle, red bartsia, buttercup and clovers are well established with the green winged orchid and spotted – all beneficial and attractive for woodland moths. The large oaks and ash spread pools of shade over the wildflower landscape where streams in the valley link to the 5 ponds.

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Back at Ore Place, there is a dwarf landscape on the roof – very little top soil, so a dry environment, where linum, succulents, verbascums, dianthus, armeria, sisyrinchiums and thymes and origanums flourish  2nd year on . . .

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. . and a dwarf lupin bouncing over the stone mix looked great with the Eschscholzia californica. Interesting contrasts. Today, we talked about Cuba, fishing, dogs, gardens, horses, yoga, counselling and a dog called Psyche from A Life of Bliss  – but most readers/visitors and my companions are too young to know about this! Ah, the time has come when one is the oldest of the group. Neruda might have understoond, I feel.

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Goodbye, goodbye, to one place or another,
to every mouth, to every sorrow,
to the insolent moon, to weeks
which wound in the days and disappeared,
goodbye to this voice and that one stained
with amaranth, and goodbye
to the usual bed and plate,
to the twilit setting of all goddbyes,
to the chair that is part of the same twilight,
to the way made by my shoes.

I spread myself, no question;
I turned over whole lives,
changed skin, lamps, and hates,
it was something I had to do,
not by law or whim,
more of a chain reaction;
each new journey enchained me;
I took pleasure in places, in all places.

And, newly arrived, I promptly said goodbye
with still newborn tenderness
as if the bread were to open and suddnenly
flee from the world of the table.
So I left behind all languages,
repeated goodbyes like an old door,
changed cinemas, reasons, and tombs,
left everywhere for somewhere else;
I went on being, and being always
half undone with joy,
a bridegroom among sadnesses,
never knowing how or when,
ready to return, never returning.

It’s well known that he who returns never left,
so I traced and retraced my life,
changing clothes and planets,
growing used to the company,
to the great whirl of exile,
to the great solitude of bells tolling.

Oh adioses a una tierra y otra tierra,
a cada boca y a cada tristeza,
a la luna insolente, a las semanas
que enrollaron los días y desaparecieron,
adiós a esta y aquella voz teñida
de amaranto, y adiós
a la cama y al plato de costumbre,
al sitio vesperal de los adioses,
a la silla casada con el mismo crepúsculo,
al camino que hicieron mis zapatos.

Me defundí, no hay duda,
me cambié de existencias,
cambié de piel, de lámpara, de odios,
tuve que hacerlo
no por ley ni capricho,
sino que por cadena,
me encadenó cada nueva camino,
le tomé gusto a tierra a toda tierra.

Y pronto dije adiós, ricién llegado,
con la ternura aún recién partida
como si el pan se abriera y de repente
huyera todo el mundo de la mesa.
Así me fui de todos los idiomas,
repetí los adioses como una puerta vieja,
cambié de cine de razón, de tumba,
me fui de todas partes a otra parte,
seguí siendo y siguiendo
medio desmantelado en la alegría,
nupcial en la tristeza,
ni saber nunca cómo ni cuándo
listo para volver, mas no se vuelve.

Se sabe que el que vuelve no se fue,
y así la vida anduve y desanduve
mudándome de traje y de planeta,
acostumbrándome a la compañía,
a la gran muchedumbre del destierro,
a la gran soledad de las campanas. Neruda Adioses.

 

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‘Finally’ is used in the title as I feel bad that this post didn’t make it on the day – very poor from the this blogger’s perspective. The alexanders are in full flower now and best to search for the young shoots  if they can be found. It’s an acquired taste but would surely have been foraged at many hundreds, maybe thousands of May Day festivals. Background information and for previous posts on this colourful extravaganza that dominates Hastings Old Town every year on May Bank Holiday. click here

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The crowd was thick down at Rock-a-Nore waiting for Jack to exit the net huts and see the light of day again 12 months on. Headdresses are the first thing that catch the eye with the usual mix – lots of foliage, horns, feathers, tat and more thoughtful compositions – which merge together when folks get closer and closer straining to see when the procession might start . . .

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. . .  a few look nervous about the whistling, loud bangs and unidentifiable noises. Or is he just bored?  Some intricate costumes need close inspection and some couples just look so dapper without much decoration . . .

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. . lots of green and relief to see some red – but who is he, or she?  Finally we get underway and Jack appears festooned with ribbons and his neat crown ribbons.

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For me, the day would not be the same without this couple. They appear in all previous posts and in many guises but all exquisitely designed and crafted. Today, he (Bob) becomes the pope in the foreground and his female companion just hidden behind – well, she shouldn’t be there anyway. A pope with a partner?

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Her hat is something to wonder at – equally the footwear . . .

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. . his mitre held many sprigs of spider plant and a mackerel for good measure. And he had a furry tail.

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So a good deal of banging sticks from The Sweeps and some with garlands and clogs from somewhere more refined than Hastings surely?  A very neat group . . .

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. . . and the fire eater, nicknamed ‘the baby’ goodness knows why as this year the ‘baby’ has developed adult chest hair. He received applause quite rightly from the imbibers at The Dolphin when doing his stuff.

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fire-eater-jack-in-the-green-festival-hastings-1184664 Here his is last year ( image from the web).

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As the procession moves up All Saints Street and then crosses The Bourne to descend The Old Town High Street, I meandered around looking at a property that wasn’t quite right but it was very green and then on to stare at a few shop windows with the usual bits and pieces displayed outside. Also enjoyed the reflections that were offered up . . .

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. . . and find a place by Café Maroc to see it all again.

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And I can see and admire it all for the third viewing when they reach the top of Croft Road (the home of the famous allotment) before the procession turns left and then just makes a short flat run to the castle where jollifications, eating and drinking and making merry can really start.  The pope is already looking forward to the final events. It’s a steep hill, a hot day and many struggle under the weight of costume and heavy musical instruments. Bye-bye  Jack, until next year  – goodness knows where I’ll be then.

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If you were to think of painting May

you would think of a locus of appearances –

the nature-goddess yanked from the soil

like a snake from a hole and shaping herself

 

as a tortoise or a sheaf of barley.

 

You would look with a clear eye

of Aphrodite Kyanopeis at her washing day

and see the starched iris, the hyacinth,

the sickle-blade of every stainless shadow,

 

and you would dream of a going-into-blue

like a stippled brushwork of wisteria

and the blue glaze of the sky where the bees meet,

 

then also of its exact golden opposite,

 

for honey is the colour of sun through eyelids

and above all the pure food of the Oracle,

transparent as the truth her handmaids the Melissae

 

etch on the air by their way-of-buzzing,

their way-of-flying.  Alison Fell  6   May  from Lightyear

 

 

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At the de la warr, it’s difficult to ignore the views out and concentrate on the work within. For me, the world beyond the windows offers up good compositions especially if the views are uninhabited.

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The strong grid of the light diffusing blinds makes an interesting additional layer. I snapped away,  the gallery assistants looked doubtful but then pleased, when eventually I turned to absorb the compositions on the walls.

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The current exhibition ‘I Cheer a Dead Man’s Sweetheart’  – the last verse of Housman’s ‘Is My Team Ploughing’  – shows work of artists in Britain today who refer to the past combined with a conceptual and contemporary journey in their method and practice.  The poem is on the wall in the atrium and having read it, it seemed as though the building also enhanced the ethos of the exhibition.

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At 135, All Saints Street in Hastings Old Town, it’s possible, on the odd occasion, to view a house built in 1500’s. Alistair Hendy has restored this house, especially the exterior, to something like it might have been. Guttering and down pipes are a nod to gentrification but windows, beams and the ‘jetty’ overhang are now revealed having been masked by the Georgians in their love of the flat façade.

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A small group of us were welcomed into the parlour which could have been a shop in earlier times. There is electricity and other services all discreetly hidden but the house is lit with candles to give an ambience of the past. All the fires were working – wood smoke covered us in a pleasant manner – as we wandered around the ground floor being mindful of the low thresholds, changes in level and admiring the eclectic taste of the furnishings – things Alistair likes as and not necessarily truthful to ‘period’. It’s his home after all.

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Looking down to the new kitchen which leads on to what supposedly was the town mortuary but is now the dining room.

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Outside in the enclosed courtyard, giant hogweed, tree ferns and a huge gunnera fill the space . . .

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. . .  and on the first floor, a box bed with a view out to the street. May 5th is Jack-in-the-Green day and decorations are up. A post on this will follow as usual (last years is here).

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all saints

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The thunder box and the chair mounted on the wall took my eye as did windows with the original glass. Shutters, quite rustic, are a recent addition. The floor below the  zinc bath required extra support – discretely done to the conservation officer’s satisfaction. Not a good idea to ask too much about the local conservation officials in this house . . . folks here know the brain ache that accompanies this relationship.  . . .

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. . a touch of Vermeer above and quite exquisite other touches to conclude. Lots of wonderment and looking in.  It’s worth a visit.

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Caught in a fragment of forgiven light

The past’s refracted and the present lies

Waiting to be caught. Now feeling dies

 

At the year’s edge, the dark-to-be of night

And then the migrants homing and the spring

New as always, meaning everything.

 

Day has its attitude of sovereign height,

Birds discourse, the long hours spread, we are

In the best moment of the travelling year.

 

Now the dark is light and sound is sight,

Winter written off, summer is then,

Spring is the season for begetting man. Elizabeth Jennings  Caught.

 

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