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950 year anniversary of a ‘Good Thing’ (1066 and all that: a memorable history of england. yeatman + sellar). The town celebrates this after voting for Brexit which many think, was an acknowledgement for the predicament that the fishing fleet had found itself in during years within the EU.  So, to stop being conquered and thus able to become ‘top nation’ again, has a new meaning . . . mmmm . . .

1-filo

. . . here sheltering from the rain by The First Inn Last Out pub, we await the procession.  The rain stops and here it comes down the Old Town High Street . . .

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. . . drumming, shouting, clapping, explosions. This event continues in a Sussex town every week until November 5th when Lewes holds the culmination bonfire event celebrating and commemorating the burning of protestant martyrs and of a papal effigy following Pope Pius’ decision to restore the Catholic hierarchy. Images and models – guys – of  popular hate figures were placed at the pinnacle of the bonfire. Some discussed who might be honoured this year . . .

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4-filo

. . .  costumes are important, as are masks. There is an order for who wears what in the procession, for example, those dressed in striped smugglers tops should process before anyone in black tail coat. This year, a few Normans, but mostly it’s a motley collection and with surprisingly a good few tiny sleeping tots in push chairs – the overall feel is of bonhomie.

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7-filo

The crowd follow the procession to the Stade where the bonfire is lit and then the explosions, in the sky, commence. Great evening.

The poem needs to be read with any sort of English country accent that you can muster.

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12-stade

11-stade

I’ll tell of the Battle of Hastings,
As happened in days long gone by,
When Duke William became King of England,
And ‘Arold got shot in the eye.
It were this way – one day in October
The Duke, who were always a toff
Having no battles on at the moment,
Had given his lads a day off.
They’d all taken boats to go fishing,
When some chap in t’ Conqueror’s ear
Said ‘Let’s go and put breeze up the Saxons;’
Said Bill – ‘By gum, that’s an idea’.
Then turning around to his soldiers,
He lifted his big Norman voice,
Shouting – ‘Hands up who’s coming to England.’
That was swank ‘cos they hadn’t no choice.
They started away about tea-time –
The sea was so calm and so still,
And at quarter to ten the next morning
They arrived at a place called Bexhill.King ‘Arold came up as they landed –
His face full of venom and ‘ate –
He said ‘lf you’ve come for Regatta
You’ve got here just six weeks too late.’At this William rose, cool but ‘aughty,
And said ‘Give us none of your cheek;
You’d best have your throne re-upholstered,
I’ll be wanting to use it next week.’

When ‘Arold heard this ‘ere defiance,
With rage he turned purple and blue,
And shouted some rude words in Saxon,
To which William answered – ‘And you.’

‘Twere a beautiful day for a battle;
The Normans set off with a will,
And when both sides was duly assembled,
They tossed for the top of the hill.

King ‘Arold he won the advantage,
On the hill-top he took up his stand,
With his knaves and his cads all around him,
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and.

The Normans had nowt in their favour,
Their chance of a victory seemed small,
For the slope of the field were against them,
And the wind in their faces an’ all.

The kick-off were sharp at two-thirty,
And soon as the whistle had went
Both sides started banging each other
‘Til the swineherds could hear them in Kent.

The Saxons had best line of forwards,
Well armed both with buckler and sword –
But the Normans had best combination,
And when half-time came neither had scored.

So the Duke called his cohorts together
And said – ‘Let’s pretend that we’re beat,
Once we get Saxons down on the level
We’ll cut off their means of retreat.’

So they ran – and the Saxons ran after,
Just exactly as William had planned,
Leaving ‘Arold alone on the hill-top
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and.

When the Conqueror saw what had happened,
A bow and an arrow he drew;
He went right up to ‘Arold and shot him.
He were off-side, but what could they do?

The Normans turned round in a fury,
And gave back both parry and thrust,
Till the fight were all over bar shouting,
And you couldn’t see Saxons for dust.

And after the battle were over
They found ‘Arold so stately and grand,
Sitting there with an eye-full of arrow
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and. Marriot Edgar

 The Battle of Hastings

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Another year, another May, another Jack-in-the-Green and some delicate window displays, some enigmatic. One of the oldest public holidays in England – the celebration of Spring and the return of life to the land after long winter months. In this quaint seaside town, where passages and ‘twittens’ thread through the narrow streets that lead down to the net huts and fishing fleet on the beach, strange dressing up happens on this day . . .

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passages + twittens

. . . locals and visitors stop and converse . . . but there’s a  focus on arriving by the net huts where Jack will be released and burst out centre stage. For previous posts click HERE. Posts from 2010 will pop up.

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purple couple

big mix

The headgear always takes my eye immediately . . . so well crafted, so imaginative, so detailed, so individual . . .

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headgear 2

. . . but some simple.

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Often the couples dress as pairs but occasionally they can’t restrain themselves. The Hums, the couple below, are always intriguing and so beautifully ‘dressed’ – by themselves. Spend a few seconds looking at the craftsmanship of the back of her jacket and her headress – then Bob Hum’s shoes  – from Primark apparently.

hum's

hum's in parade

hum's rear

hum's hat

hum's footwear

Another couple who make returned visits . . . neat, elegant footwear

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elegant pair

. . . thank you so much for your gracious presence. Costume detail absorbs me. But to get bak to the main event, Jack, clothed in foliage is like the cows let out into the meadow, full of frolics . . .

clothing

jack

jack mask

 

floral

Following the Jack and the Bogies are Mad Jack’s Morris, the Sweeps and the May Queen, Hannah’s Cat, The Lovely Ladies and the Gay Bogies, Giants, visiting performing groups and the rhythm section in no particular order.

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A high vanatge point is useful . . .

up high 2

up high 5

up high

. . . but sometimes a lower position is required.

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Music and drumming and, of course, dancing are integral elements . . .

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music drumming

dancing

. . . motorbikes are also part of the day. A large exodus from South London, Kent and West Sussex arrive and fill the seafront down to St Leonards. Shiny metal, much revving and large leather nappies on the riders.

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large bikes 2

large bikes 3

large sweep

A mature ‘sweep’ with interesting headgear . . . quite delicate . . .

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large sweep headgear

. . . more costumes on the gregarious and the less so.

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headgear 8

head group

This year, a new group, displaying magnificent headresses  . . .  no clue on the concept or the rationale but good fun!

head

head 2

head close up

wolf head

headgear 7

But always time to greet friends and acquaintances when the procession has wound down to the Old Town High Street. Wonderful as always.

friends

 

headgear 9

last but one

last

This is the laughing-eyed amongst them all:

My lady’s month. A season of young things.

She rules the light with harmony, and brings

The year’s first green upon the beeches tall.

How often, where long creepers wind and fall

Through the deep woods in noonday wanderings,

I’ve heard the month, when she to echo sings,

I’ve heard the month make merry madrigal.

 

How often, bosomed in the breathing strong

Of mosses and young flowerets, have I lain

And watched the clouds, and caught the sheltered song –

Which it were more than life to hear again –

Of those small birds that pipe it all day long

Not far from Marly by the memoried Seine. Hilaire Belloc May

 

fire

October 19, 2014

1 Last night was our bonfire night in Hastings. The Sussex towns take their turn with separate commemorations during the wind up to the grand finale in Lewes on November 5th. The bonfire societies travel to each venue filling the streets with light, noise and pagan atmosphere. Effigies were burnt in Lewes in 16C highlighting the burning of 17 protestant martyrs alongside Pius IX’s decision to restore the Catholic hierarchy in England . . . 3 4 5 6 . . . great theatricality – I hope the images convey the drama. Health and safety go out of the window, thank goodness. As the drums roll, flaming torches are cast on the pavement, sparks catch alight and mothers, dressed up, with double buggies, dressed up, marching in the procession seemingly oblivious. 7 8 11 13 The lighting of the bonfire complete – families throng the beach – and the fireworks start. An excellent show this year and one from another.

14 15 16 17 19 Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.  Robert Frost  Fire and Ice

view point

September 7, 2014

1st

Wandering down the front to see a few Open Studios during the Coastal Currents Festival of events, exhibitions – sounds, sights + surprises – meeting passers-by, standing chatting and taking the opportunity to try to capture the limpid quality of the air.

electra studios

In the Electro Studios compositions of architecture, form and light. The work displayed is thought provoking but my intention is to convey the prospect and refuge character of the engagement . . .

electra

dog 1

. . . another visitor.

dog 2

To Seaside Road where the old bathing pool was sited. Cyclists and walkers use the path to access the beach huts at Bulverhythe and onwards to Bexhill.

electra 1

seaside road

seaside road 2

Up East Ascent, a vision of perfect peppers and a rather pleasing door.

peppers

peppers close up

east ascent

eamon

And from the Garage, Eamon is seen directing more painting of yet more pieces of modest furniture in tones of duck egg blue. All to sell. And he does quite easily.

sea

Back at the beach, silhouettes flicker and drift.

 

Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because –

because – I don’t know how to say it: a day is long

and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station

when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

 

Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because

then the little drops of anguish will all run together,

the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift

into me, choking my lost heart.

 

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;

may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.

Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,

 

because in that moment you’ll have gone so far

I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,

Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?  Pablo Neruda  Don’t Go Far Off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

c park

The Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve has over 267 hectares of ancient woodland, heathland and grassland together with 3 miles (5km) of cliffs and coastline.  Set within  the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, most of the park has been designated a Special Area of Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is a designated Local Nature Reserve. All this sets the scene for the peaceful and also should go someway to explain the problem that is occuring and identified at the end of this post. I thought to walk from Fairlight Place, down Barley  Lane where the verges are full now of a natural tapestry (the dog rose are especially glorious now – the oaks always) offering views through to the pasture only occasionally . . .

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. . . which make them special.

 

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Warm weather following months of rain mean wonderful growth on all plants. The interface of verge to stream to grasslands and meadows merge sublimely. Pieces of construction that are manmade are mainly of galvanised material . . .

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. . . but sculptural elements that emanate from nature are there too.

Some organised by man and some where nature is in control.

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c park 7

Ivy exploring the oak, ash and sycamore make interesting organic compositions in Covehurst Woods and then the big view

opens across Lee Ness Ledge to Dungeness.

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Turning up the track into Long Shaw and the meandering incline to Dripping Well, clumps of  ferns  are looking spectacular. The ancestors of these were dug up, potted up and taken by train to Covent Garden market in Victorian and Edwardian times. The sound is of gushing and falling water. and the visual is lush foliage, dappled shade, patches of sun and, on this occasion, a  single fox with a light brown coat, just pausing unperturbed on the path to watch and gauge before disappearing elegantly into the

undergrowth.

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The westerly  end of the Country Park at Ecclesbourne Glen is less peaceful recently.  The owners of Rocklands (caravan park) have erected a ‘bunker’, removed trees (which may have caused a landslip and therefore the closure of paths) and increased the number of mobile homes directly interfacing the park landscape. This has been done illegally but the owners have applied for retrospective planning which they may well obtain. The ‘bunker’ has been constructed on the footprint of a single storey building and so obstructs the pleasing views that locals and visitors were able to enjoy. As the council are custodians of the Country Park, we feel aggrieved and have received little useful communication. A peaceful protest in the form of a Sunday picnic was organised and enjoyed by 200 folk who love the park and appreciate not only nature but also this particular and special coastal environment. No representatives, elected council or from the government joined us. The ‘bunker’ is shown below and then an image of festive picnic. And someone made a video of the proceedings and the story to date  (thank you Bob + Peter). Click and listen  – it’s worth it.  Ah, little stone – how simple life should be.

building  picnic

How happy is the little Stone

That rambles in the Road alone,

And doesn’t care about Careers

And Exigencies never fears —

Whose Coat of elemental Brown

A passing Universe put on,

And independent as the Sun

Associates or glows alone,

Fulfilling absolute Decree

In casual simplicity — Emily Dickinson

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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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water

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.

 

1

‘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

2

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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last

last last

 

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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