Poetry, Pier and Jack-in-the-Green. Busy in Hastings Battleaxe Land!

Have been insanely busy since I last did a blog post – this is more like a diary entry…. Last week we went to London for the day to visit daughter Anna, I went on a WI book group outing to Smallhythe Place and Tenterden (have blogged about both those places before), went up to London to read poems at the Poetry Place in Covent Garden with my Stanza Group, went to a WI Coffee Morning, visited the newly opened Hastings Pier with Philosopher, and most exhausting of all, worked my socks off getting ready for, working on and clearing up after the WI traditional tea-room event at the big annual Hastings Jack-in-the-Green festival. I could write a separate post on all those things, but I will just give some highlights. I think this photo from the Pier is the best picture:

Stunning view…

    Firstly, poetry. Have also blogged about this event before – I did a Stanza Bonanza reading this time last year. This time, our team of six were up against a group from Tonbridge – quite a local derby!  Having done it before, I was not quite so nervous. Also, I find it so much easier to do things like that in front of strangers. My fellow team members had all heard the poems before when I took them to our local group and that feels OK because we are all in the same boat. I don’t even like showing my poems to Philosopher…  I need to take part in more local ‘poetry slams’ etc. to get used to performing in front of people I know.
    Reading out your own poems is hard even for a show-off like Battleaxe, because there are three potential trip-up points – the risk of making an idiot of yourself as a performer, the fear that your poems are actually rubbish, and the self-revelatory material that seems to seep into the poems. I often seem to find myself writing about my childhood – I’ve noticed that other slightly older poets do also – it must be a sign of incipient second childhood.  Anyway, I think – or hope – I did OK. Like last time, our Hastings gang had an excellent variety of styles – some serious, some pure performance, some light, some heavier etc.

Some of the Hastings and Tonbridge Stanza Bonanza team participants

    I’m not going to copy any of the poems here like I did last time, partly for technical reasons – when I copy them from Word it seems to remove all the formatting. Two of the three poems need a very particular shape on the page, and fiddling around with them would take ages…. yes, I know, excuses…
    However, I will give a quick boost to one of my fellow poets, Tony Peek, who has just published a fabulous book of kids’ verse. Adults love his stuff too! Here’s the link to his web site.
    The new Hastings Pier is fantastic. It has created much controversy in the social media world…
    One thing about Hastings is that a small, but vociferous, band of change dinosaurs lurk here. Maybe it is the same in all small towns, but goodness, they get on my tits. It is hard to believe, but you still mention the Jerwood Gallery on social media and out they trundle, moaning on about how the site should have stayed as a coach park. A grungy coach park with a nasty dilapidated 1960s block of loos? Purleese. Even if they disapproved of the gallery in the first place, it has been here since 2012, is here to stay, and they may as well enjoy it. Philosopher and I were down there the other morning, sitting out on the cafe balcony in the sun…. lovely. There’s a new Prunella Clough exhibition in there now – some interesting and agreeable paintings.
     If it is possible, the Pier attracted even more frothing and foaming than the Jerwood. Waste of money (despite the fact that it was paid for by the Lottery and community fund-raising), too bare, too ugly, too everything. Never mind that the restoration of the thing was a difficult project that some of us feared would be impossible. Never mind that this is the beginning of the project, not the finish… What would the moaners rather have, a mass of burned-out twisted metal?
     In fact, the views from the Pier are just glorious.
     Pared back to its Victorian basics, the wonderful expanse of decking is uplifting – it looks and feels enormous – a real, solid, massive construction striding bravely out to sea, something to be proud of. It takes us back to a time when a walk along a pier was an experience in itself, without the need for tacky amusements and a clutter of buildings. The lower restaurant cafe served us excellent coffee and good cake, and serves a wide variety of food. The cafe on the upper balcony is more basic, but the space is sheltered by glass walls, making it a great sun-trap with incredible views. I suppose if I have one concern it is about wind – traditional piers have wind-breaks down the middle, for good reason.
    Interestingly, since the pier actually opened, the moaners have gone a bit quiet…..

Lower cafe
Upper cafe
There’s the sea! It’s lovely to see little kids on hteir hands and knees, peering…
Incredible expanse….
Sparkly water at the very end….
Different view of St Leonard’s

    Lastly, Jack-in-the- Green. Every year, our WI puts on a charity traditional tea/refreshment room on the main parade day, upstairs in the Jenny Lind pub, in the Old Town High Street, right on the procession route. Last year, I got some good photos of the parade passing below us. This time, I didn’t even have a chance to look out of the window. Every year we have got busier and busier, and this year, as the weather was a bit damp, it was totally manic. People were having to queue for tables. The room was absolutely packed – the fact that many of the customers were wearing huge costumes – wide crinoline dresses, spiky floral headgear, antlers, green leaves etc., made navigating the room treacherous. Our WI gang worked so hard – and worked so well as a team. As I’ve said before, if you could capture that spirit and put it in a management training book, you’d make your fortune.
    Battleaxe took the picture of the team, so she is missing from it – as are a couple of others… It looks a lot of us, but we needed at least four in the kitchen and all the rest running round waiting on customers and clearing/relaying tables.


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