Archive for Towns

Hastings:Revisiting my hometown.

Having just nearly completing my blog, complete with photographs and a run down, something went wrong and I have lost it all Grrr. It is not in drafts, nowhere so, if I can remember what I wrote here goes again!

I left my hometown of Hastings over twenty years ago now. A huge wrench from a big town to rural England, eight miles from the nearest supermarket. It took me about a year to adjust but I never looked back after that year. I like to visit my old haunts and see how it has all changed but there is nothing that would make me go back to Hastings. One of the places we lived was an old mansion that had been converted into flats. It had once been an old school and still had the Quadrangle in the centre, complete with bell. It was an art for the boys to  lean through broken panes of glass on the hallways upstairs to try to throw something to ring it. Few succeeded without being caught. The history in Hastings goes back a long way, and for me, it was the Old Town and the fishing fleet that always captured my interest. We lived in the old Coastguard Cottages above the hotels that lined the seafront. It was situated on top of a cliff with only a low wall and a chain-link fence to prevent us children from falling down to the back of the seafront hotels. Across the road was what we thought of as a garage. It turned out, after we’d done some research, that it housed a lift and the mechanism that carried Queen Victoria from the seafront complete with her horse and carriage. The houses dated back from the 1600s and to us it was a terrace but back then, when they were surrounded by cliffs and fields, the cottages were separate houses but all connected by a passageway from the first house to the last. If the coastguards were summoned, who ever was on call would run the length of this top floor passage between each dwelling and knock up those sleeping to attend the rescue.

The cottages were in the shadow of the castle on top of the cliff one side and steep hills the other side of the houses. A small shop round the corner was said to have caves at the back that led to the Castle. We decided to go and have a look. Unsure as we were to go in and ask because it was no longer the dusty old book shop but an adult shop, we decided our research was important. The guy inside was really helpful and explained that it was true. The tunnels had been filled in but it was possible to see where they had been and also where the rain still seeped through the rooves of the caves from above. The Old Town and Castle were all connected and the history of smuggling is all well documented.               

THE OLD TOWN

I sip tea from a polystyrene cup

and watch the crowd jostling,

gulls squabbling,

fishermen hauling their trawlers

stinking of sea and diesel; and fish,

a writhing ballast in black and white and rainbow.

Excited gulls in sudden flurries,

screeching above the crowd,

at each-other, 

fighting over shrimp nets and cages of crabs

for a scrap of fish belly.

On the kerb a stranger struggles

with the buckles on a rucksack

cursing with the mutter and squall of life,

clutching a brown paper bag

with sun blackened hands,

oblivious to the families on blue plastic seats,

eating chips,

or ice-cream with chocolate sticks,

and the men rounding the harbour with their catch

dragging rope lines and chains.

Disturbing the sands, leaving their footprints

among vinegar papers, wooden forks,

a plastic bottle, driftwood, seaweed                                             

and me with my polystyrene cup.

Watching.

 The East Hill lift towers above the Old Town and is a life saver unless of course you should wish to walk the hundred odd rock hewn steps to the top of the cliff in order to get to the Castle and the Caves.

The picture on the left shows the castle in the background and the little building the lift that used to come up from  the seafront below.   Everywhere in Hastings you can see wonderful architecture that has been built over the years. Nearly every place in Hastings and the Old Town has a story. There is even said to be a curse on Hastings and many of the poorer people that live on the streets will attest to its strength. I guess I was one of the lucky ones that ‘got away’.

I have shown you one or two of the places behind the scenes, there are many more but at the end of the day, Hastings is a lovely place to visit for the history, the buildings, the Fish market and its pints of shrimps, Oh and the beach..

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