Sunday, 14 December 2014

Gray's Emporium Tearoom, St Leonard's, and some pre-Christmas browsing.

Well, am out and about again, browsing round St Leonard's, the town centre, and the Old Town. Pity I missed both the St Leonard's FrostFair and the Old Town Christmas shopping day.
     It was an absolutely beautiful day on Saturday, and we went for a snoop round St Leonard's. The clouds rolled back to reveal crisp blue sky and a clear, hard winter light. Philosopher and I never tire of looking at the sea - it is never the same twice. Here is the view from the seafront car-park just as the clouds began to clear.
St Leonard's seascape
     Our first stop was at Gray's Emporium, a new cafe that has opened in the refurbished art nouveau shop in Kings Road. It is lovely to see this beautiful shop so sympathetically restored. Tea and coffee were both very good, and we even had a timer on our table to time the brew of the tea! Oh, and home-made soft amaretti cakes - delicious. Pleasant staff and good loo. Battleaxe would recommend this place, and I hope it does well. They also do nice looking lunches.

Gray's Emporium - what a beautiful old shop
     Battleaxe was slightly put off writing about St Leonard's after the post on Best coffee and cafes.  The piece was taken up and published by Hastings Online Times, which is always nice, but for some totally unknown reason it then attracted an absolute firestorm of vitriolic criticism from outraged St Leonard's types who thought I had left out/misrepresented their precious caffs. Read and marvel here!  It was all so patently ridiculous and over-the-top that I couldn't even feel angry or injured, just curious to know what on earth was going on. Have these people nothing better to do?
     Just for the record, a few weeks ago we did try the cafe in SHOP in Norman Road, the omission of which seemed to be particularly inflammatory, and it was OK.... nice cake, good coffee and I'd probably go again, but I wouldn't walk across hot coals for it. Sure, St Leonard's is on the up, but it has a bit to go yet!  
     Back to Saturday, we went to visit the paintings in the Baker Mamonova Gallery - they had a little exhibition of Russian industrial art, mostly from their own selling collection.
    I liked this huge one. It was painted in the 1970's, artist unknown. Classic Soviet propoganda picture.
Cutting edge 1970s Soviet technology
    Going back to Kings Road for a moment, it must have been a very high-class shopping street in the past. The Gray's teashop is an old dairy, and further up, the shop which is now Jempson's must also have been lovely.
    Here's an old, rather poignant photo of Christmas lights in around 1910, plus a photo I took on Saturday.
Kings Road past.....

.....and present
    I like to spot quirky and creative decorations around Hastings and St Leonard's. Here's my favourite shop window: Heaven on Sea, at the bottom of Marine Court. Just lovin' that glittery Croc in the glittery pirate's chest. Ugh, I could never like Crocs.... Philosopher has a pair which he swears are incredibly comfortable, but between you, me and the entire internet, they are a total turn-off!
Glittering croc....
    Not spotted much else of note this year, apart from this wreath on a door in the Old Town. A very creative person must live in that house! I loved last year's as well.
2014 wreath

Last year's - love the birds

Monday, 8 December 2014

Rye Harbour - nature, walks and lovely cakes!

I've never done a proper post about Rye Harbour. It is one of our favourite places - so open, with amazing views of skies and water. 
Rye Harbour - space.....
     Saturday was a sunny, crisp day - the nicest day since I emerged from the Conquest, so off we went. I felt a real need for emptiness and wide horizons.
     When we first moved to Hastings I very much wanted to visit Rye Harbour, because I loved the pony books set in the village, written by Monica Edwards, who spent her childhood there. The books combined all the curry combs, snaffles, pasterns and throat lashes a girl could wish for with rattling good adventures about smugglers, ghosts, wild times at sea, and even, as the characters grew older - boys.
'Wish for a Pony', the first book in the Romney Marsh series by Monica Edwards. I had this edition - and oh, how much I also wished for a pony....
       Monica Edwards' father was Vicar of Rye Harbour, renamed Westling in the books, and the locations are all very recognisable. The vicarage where she lived is now a B and B, the village stores are still there, but unfortunately there is now no ferry across the river.
       Interestingly, it was Monica's father who conducted the mass funeral of the victims of the notorious Mary Stanford Lifeboat Disaster in 1928, when seventeen men died, virtually the whole male population of the village of Rye Harbour. Monica incorporated the disaster into one of her novels, 'Storm Ahead'. The isolated old Lifeboat House, now disused, is still a very visible landmark on the marsh.
Memorial to the men who died in the Mary Stanford disaster, Rye Harbour
The Mary Stanford Lifeboat House, far away in the distance.
      Just to digress once more, the 'Priscilla McBean', the sister boat of the Mary Stanford, has just been restored and stands in a new dry dock beside the Old London Road, Hastings.
      However, back to Rye Harbour. We have walked there at all times of year and in all weathers. Much of the marsh area is now a nature reserve, and there are hides where you can peer out at the birds on the various pools. Philosopher and I are hopeless. 'What's that bird,' we politely ask the enthusiasts, and promptly forget as soon as they have told us....
      However, one day we did see a seal at the mouth of the river. It is  also interesting to watch the gulls fly above the tarmac path with mussels, then drop them to break the shells.
      In addition to the nature, the changes in the tides are amazing - sometimes the river is just a muddy trickle, sometimes a wide torrent that laps the edge of the footpath. Then there's the beach, and the sea.
      We combine walking with visits to the Avocet Gallery and Tearooms in the village. Battleaxe has mentioned this place before, but Peter and Morgan who keep the gallery are very pleasant, they have lovely things to look at and for sale, and the cakes are just to die for - especially the upside-down cakes.
      Peter Greenhalf is a photographer and his brother Robert does woodcuts of  birds and other nature.
      We have taken many, many photographs during our visits, here are some of my favourites.
Storm brewing above the hut

Hut at high water

Sunny morning by the old wharf

Looking down the channel to the sea

Beach at low tide

Lichen and blossom
  And finally, a couple of paintings, similar views to some of the above:
Looking down the channel with Eric Ravillious
Karl Terry - looking up towards Rye


Sunday, 30 November 2014

View from The Conquest Hospital, Hastings

Well, not much view, actually. My room overlooks an inner courtyard. The ward bays have lovely views down over a lake, but Battleaxe, oh luxury, has a room on her own.
     It didn't start out like that. After my operation I went into an incredibly noisy bay - right by the Nurses' station, and excellent creatures though they are, the concept of whispering at night seems alien to them.
     There was a very old lady next to me with dementia who spent her time shouting 'Nine Sardines! Sardines for tea' unstoppably, interrupted by the occasional nurse who shouted down her ear 'ARE YOU IN PAIN DARLING?' 'NINE SARDINES' , she replied.
     There were people wheeled in from theatre, constant shrill  bleeping machines, miscellaneous groaning and wheezing.... By 3am I was feeling very overwrought and threw a wobbly.  Bless the staff, this room was empty so they moved me in. With luck, I'll get to stay here.
     I don't know how you'd get any sleep in some of those beds. Mind you, many of the other patients seem so out of it they'd scarcely notice.  I think medical care for the frail elderly is a massive  challenge for the NHS.  This ward, Gardner, is supposed to be  an acute surgical ward, but there are elderly patients in here who should probably be cared for somewhere else. Battleaxe must be the youngest currently here, except for a bloke who fell off a horse and he is very poorly.  
     Clearly, the staff spend a disproportionate amount of their time simply ensuring that the very elderly are kept fed, clean and safe.
     The care I have received so far has been very good.  The ward is clean, and the staff are pleasant and efficient, if overworked.  There is a 'Matron' in charge, who is actually a bloke.  He does get involved in hands-on care rather than being shut away in an office, but clearly there is a terrifying volume of paperwork. Outside my room there is a board full of action plans, targets, performance indicators etc., and another outside the staff room full of Pathways to every outcome possible.  Does all that management stuff  really make any difference? I'm just so glad I don't have to pretend to believe in it any more....
     I get the care I need partly because I can ask for it. I was just up at the Nurses Station twanging my horrible compression stockings to get someone to put them on. I don't know what happens if you are old and confused and don't have anyone to speak up for you. The staff are constantly on the go go go, trying to do several things at once.
     Someone, I think it was Jim Breeds, asked me to comment on the food. I am probably the last person to ask because I can eat virtually anything and just loved my school dinners.  They have an extensive menu of yummy school food - shepherds pie with carrots, hotpot, jam sponge and custard, macaroni cheese etc., which I am happily scoffing  my way through. I think some people complain, but then they always would. The food is hot, tasty and varied, and they are happy to provide healthy options like side salads to go with the stodge. It seems fine to me.
     Clearly, I can't post my usual photos, but here are a couple of food pictures..... Hotpot, apple crumble, roast beef and chocolate sponge.

    So, finally, what is Battleaxe doing here?  Well, am not going into details on the inter web, but my consultant, a very small, fierce and highly-regarded lady, has used a new procedure on me which she wants monitored in hospital for five days. It seems a lavish use of scarce NHS resources but she was adament.  I am not totally sure she totally appreciates quite how stretched the care on a ward like this is at weekends. Philosopher could look after me just as well at home. 
    Don't get ill at the weekend, people.
    Overall, I am pleased with the Conquest.  I had a chat with an inspector doing an unannounced  check on our ward, and told him that in my view people would rather have one decent local hospital rather than having spurious choices.