Toilet protests and music at Fairlight Hall. A day in the life of Battleaxe….

Well, social/local media has been so full of the toilet protest I scarcely want to write about it further, but I’ll sum it up here, and it did make a great contrast with a very civilised musical luncheon at Fairlight Hall straight afterwards.

Loo protest

     All this was last Saturday. The loo protest seems so teeny tiny in comparison with the stuff going on in the wider world, but hey, it makes a change from Brexit and Trump. Toiletgate is still very much alive because on Monday evening I will be speaking for five minutes about loos to the Hastings Borough Council Cabinet meeting. I’ll report back on that later.
     Like most local authorities, and especially those, apparently, who serve the most deprived areas (why, you may ask…), Hastings BC is facing savage government cuts to its funding. In the current year, the Council has to make up a a £1.2 million shortfall. One proposal to save money is to close public toilets, most notably those in Ore Village, and in Harold Place in the town centre. Our WI members were collectively incensed about the plan, and it seemed a good idea to harness this energy into a campaign – excellent profile raising material.
     However, if I am totally honest, I’d rather see toilets close than further cuts to social care etc.  I think the Harold Place loos are particularly difficult to justify. Not only is the building utterly hideous – a strange, over-large Grecian temple-style eyesore slapped right in the middle of the view from the town centre to the sea front, it is very expensive to maintain, prone to anti-social behaviour and there are alternatives. Battleaxe has to be absolutely desperate to even consider going in there. I think I’ve only been once in the five years we’ve lived in Hastings.

Harold Place loos – totally hideous

     On the other hand, Hastings is a resort town, anxious to attract more visitors. The nearest public loos are quite a walk away. Why doesn’t the Council charge for the things?  They’d stay in better condition and raise some revenue.
     The Ore loos are eminently more saveable. They are in a deprived neighbourhood which needs all the help it can get, have recently been refurbished and are cheap to run and maintain. Once again, Battleaxe has never actually used them. Have popped in twice, once with friend Jan to ensure we were not inadvertently campaigning to save a vile smelly pit, and once to stick a poster on the wall.
     So, I/we organised a protest. It was a horrible wet morning, but loads of people turned out, including plenty of our WI members, and our two local councillors. Philosopher made some placards and other people brought their own products as well – all very jolly.  We had excellent coverage from the local press, and I was also on Radio Sussex. Would you believe they phoned me up at 7.10 in the morning – good thing I was conscious.  Here is a link to the Hastngs Observer article.
     We got a bit of a petition signed – some of the sheets nearly dissolved in the rain. That’s the reason I’ve got the speaking slot on Monday. If you hand in a petition, you get your five minutes. Again, if I’m honest I can think of things I’d rather be addressing the Council about, but there you go.
      Battleaxe quite enjoyed the protest business – plenty of opportunity to shout at people. However, as with all protests I suppose, what do you do with the masses once you have assembled them, fired them up, shouted, waved the placards, taken lots of photos etc? I now realise this is why so many protests end up with people setting fire to cars, smashing shop windows etc. What else is there to do? All wound up and nowhere to go… that sounds like a placard…. Fortunately, in our case, no cars were torched and the windows of the Co-op stayed intact. We had a ‘loo queue’ for photos.

The loo queue
Loo queue…

Folk lined up along the road shouting at passing traffic for a bit, and drivers hooted at them in a friendly manner. Then, fortunately, the rain came down harder, and we all went home.
     A good thing too, because at 12 noon me and Philosopher were due at Fairlight Hall for the annual Patrons and Members recital and lunch for the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition. Had to throw off sopping wet woman of the people kit and struggle into frock…
     Talking of woman of the people, I noticed that on my video interview with the reporter from the Hastings Observer, I look alarmingly like my mum, but have adopted a woman of the people voice.
This link might play the video
      Then, something completely different…..

We’ll be at both nights of the final.

     The Fairlight Hall do was a complete and utter contrast to what had gone before. There we all were, ensconced (I love that word)… ensconced in comfy chairs in the elegant sitting room, in front of a log fire and admiring the fabulous art works, while listening to Frank Wibaut playing the grand piano. It was lovely. No photos of course, but I’ve written about the Hall plenty of times.
    He played some Debussy, and a four-handed Mozart piano sonata with a young woman whose name escapes me. I wonder how many of  my fellow listeners have ever been in a public toilet in their lives? Probably never been on a bus, either. Mind you, my mother would never use public toilets. One always had to stop at a hotel – a ‘Trust House dear’. What happened to Trust Houses? They were always old hotels in the middle of provincial towns with chintzy lounges and retired Squadron Leaders propping up the bar.
    After the music we had a very good lunch. We sat with some WEA mates of Philosopher’s. He is Chair of the Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill branch of the WEA (Workers Educational Association). Sadly, not many workers in his bit of the organisation.  There is another bit that runs access courses for educationally disadvantaged adults – but they aren’t exactly workers either.  The courses Philosopher is involved with are things like art appreciation and film studies, mostly attended by earnest ladies. The ladies would love him to do a Philosophy course, and he’d have them eating out of his hand, but he doesn’t want to do it….


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