A day-trip… to Waitrose

Yes, I know, this sounds really sad, but believe me, it isn’t. What are we to do if the nearest Waitrose is 20 miles away?
A lovely sunny day, too.  First, we drove over to Battle to view the Burstow and Hewett general sale. We are after another small chest or similar for our bedroom. Usually, they have mountains of unloved brown furniture stacked to the ceiling, but just when we actually wanted something, there was nothing suitable.

Tennis lawn

     So, we headed off to Eastbourne and parked by the Towner Gallery.  We really like the Towner – there is always something interesting to look at, and they have a cafe overlooking the Eastbourne tennis ground. Today, preparations were underway for the big pre-Wimbledon competition, and the grass for the outside courts was just being readied – a vast, wonderful expanse of green, with a solitary tiny bloke walking across it, very slowly, pushing a mower.
     One small architectural niggle about the gallery, the walls have been built too high below the windows to make it easy for people to look out and take full advantage of the views – to see the the tennis lawn from the cafe, we had to sit on high stools to see over the sill, and the outside seating area is bounded by a chest high concrete wall. 

Towner – exhibition reading corner

     The Towner has a really excellent permanent collection – we were wondering, given that Eastbourne is a relatively small place, where it all came from. They are starting a series of sessions to enable the public to view the reserve collections – we will go along one time.  Today, we saw an exhibition of portraits – several Sickerts, about five Christopher Woods, Edward Bawden, Ravilious, David Bomberg – oh, loads of stuff.
     It is hard to avoid making comparisons with the Hastings Jerwood. Firstly, of course, the Towner is free. I do think they try a bit harder, too. Here is the little reading area they set up in the portrait exhibition, with books to look at, and some feedback and comment cards. I know the Jerwood has much less space, but they could do something like this without too much trouble.
     After the gallery, we usually either go for a walk on Beachy Head or cruise a few shops, but today we put the car in the Waitrose car park and explored the Manor Gardens, which are accessed through a mysterious doorway in a wall, across the road from the supermarket. Turns out the eponymous Manor is the old home of the Towner. The gardens were curiously spooky – slightly overgrown, and divided into hedged ‘rooms’ with interconnected paths – people kept appearing from around corners and vanishing again – perfectly harmless Eastbourne citizens walking their dogs, but the whole atmosphere was somehow unsettling and faintly sinister. Normally, when we visit such places I think to myself how nice it would be to sit under a tree with a book,  but I think being alone in these gardens would have been positively scary. It is hard to photograph a spooky atmosphere….

The Counting House

     Next, lunch at our usual pub – The Counting House, adjoining the Waitrose car park. Sat in the sunny garden and had a pint of Bombardier and some fresh sardines. Excellent, except that as usual, by the time we had finished we were almost too sleepy to totter round the supermarket aisles, which was what we had come for in the first place! Managed to collect our usual haul of items unavailable in Hastings, except, disaster, no diet Bunderberg ginger beer.

     On the way home we called at the Athelas Exotic Plant Nursery in Hooe – had a cup of tea in the Farm Shop cafe. I wanted to take some pictures for my forthcoming Garden Centre blog, but also to ask their advice. Last summer we bought a palm tree from them – everyone in Hastings has them in their gardens, often thriving in the most dismal conditions, but would you believe ours has started to turn yellow and looks sick. The bloke thought the clay might be causing a wet pool round its roots, so today Philosopher dug down and we have made a drainage trench for the ruddy thing – it didn’t actually appear that wet though. The nursery is a beautiful place to visit – more later.
     So, a supermarket run taking the whole day? Impossible? Indeed not.

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