Statues topple, and Hastings Battleaxe is still fed up…

Well, to be honest, not as bad as last week, but being fed up obviously appeals to Battleaxe readers – last week’s post was so popular. Everywhere is awash with anti-racism protests and statues are toppling all over the place.  Battleaxe had better take a view I guess. No, I said take a view, not take a knee. At this age one sometimes has trouble getting up again…  The pandemic rumbles on and our economy is knackered. Will the Government be held to account? No, of course not. Round here, everything is just so much effort. Pop out for a pint of milk? Find a mask, queue outside the shop, edge slowly round one-way route, queue again 2m apart, pay contactless with plastic, apply hand sanitiser, get home, take shoes off, wipe milk container, wash hands. Also, the sunny weather has gone…

Last sunny-ish walk, North’s Seat.

I suppose we are in week 12 now, but you can scarcely call it lockdown any more, it’s just tiresome.  Thank goodness I am not a parent with school age kids. You’d just go mad.  God, I remember how bad it was when I was a single working parent and she brought a note back from school saying she couldn’t go in until I had taken her to the nit lady. That would reduce me to tears, never mind this. Many shops are opening in Hastings on Monday, but there are no toilets in the town, not even in Debenhams.  It’d have to be a quick visit…

Battleaxe used to be reasonably on message around race issues. In the 80s she worked in the Equal Opportunities department of Birmingham City Council. I had to do terrible things… imagine talking to groups of male, middle-aged maintenance supervisors about anti-racism… Later, the company I ran had an entirely black staff team. Did they think I was racist? Possibly, but the only time I remember was when I asked Fay, the office manager, what it was like to go to a black hairdressers, where a visit took literally all day. She was angry but I was genuinely curious. Sorry Fay if you are reading this, to be honest I still don’t know what I did wrong. But, I did see, and hear, about the everyday casual racism they experienced.

Oh, less virtue signalling and get to the point. Thing is, after all this time, I probably use out of date terminology. Persons of colour? BAME?  I dunno. These days, if you get the words wrong you are in trouble. However, even though Battleaxe is out of date, I am astonished by the comments I read on social media. Anything to avoid addressing the point. ‘All Lives Matter’,’whataboutery’, ‘I’m not racist but…’, ‘this country is not racist’, ‘I never notice people’s colour..’,  ‘some of my best friends…’ People are just terrified to admit they might be racist.  Battleaxe is an educated, middle-class, comfortably off white woman who has had life very easy. Am I insufficiently conscious of my white privilege? Undoubtedly. Do I feel chastened and guilty about it? Probably not sufficiently. But I do still challenge racism if I see it, despite my unreconstructed state.

Talking of taking the knee, how ridiculous do some people look? Don’t get me wrong, I have hopes for Keir Starmer, but really, man… that suit is just too blue. And you, Angela. It would help to wear a slightly longer skirt…

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer takes a knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests

However, what I actually think is this. Our British culture has been twisted, perverted and ruined by the legacies of colonialism, elitism, Empire, slavery and exploitation. Our ridiculous obsessions with WW2, Churchill, Great world-beating little Britain, royalty, Brexit, Tories, Boris Johnson, deference, social class etc bears this out. If younger people are now tackling our poisoned past, it is for the best. Much might have to be torn apart before any change happens.  Us oldsters, even if we are lefty liberal, will inevitably struggle to understand what is going on.

Now is the time': London's Black Lives Matter rally looks like a turning point | US news | The Guardian
London last weekend

Statues? Sure, it was illegal to pull down Colston but given the grief the thing caused, and Bristol City Council’s years of havering, I think it was understandable. Statues are not history and we shouldn’t hold them up as idols. In most cases they are not art either. Yes, let institutions and local authorities get them off their pedestals, but put them in museums or special gardens – we can’t pretend history never happened. I quite liked reading that Bristol plans to leave Colston daubed with red paint, and tied up with ropes.  This is a good article, too.

Slavery statues: Injustice does not need to be set in stone - The National

Enough of that. This week I took part in virtual meetings of the Foreshore Trust to allocate grant money to charities. Of course it is confidential and I can’t say much but so many groups of people suffering real hardship, so many charities struggling to survive, so many well-loved Hastings institutions under threat. So many applications, and so little money to go round. A sad business.

The weather has now collapsed, and our walks have been curtailed. Shame, because I have recently signed myself up for a virtual walk from France to Santiago de Compostela. In a bit, we’ll be retracing the route we covered when we went to Spain last year. It is quite fun, and quite motivating. You can track yourself on Google Maps and street view, and they send you virtual ‘postcards’ and information about the history of the route.  Am just ‘walking’ through some obscure village beyond Pamplona, with this lovely little church…

Am also starting to put our Lockdown Walk photo book together. So many lovely photos to choose from. The book will start with these two: the same point at Winchelsea Beach photographed on 21 March and 6 June.




  1. Valerie Poore
    June 14, 2020 / 10:23 pm

    Another great post, Stephanie. I enjoy your honest take on things. I had a long conversation with my daughter the other day about the BLM issue. I went to a very multi-culti school as a child; she went to school in South Africa, first to a whites only primary school (the law then), but later to a totally mixed secondary school. We started off with different responses to the BLM movement but ended up on the same page, being that we both feel the only way to solve the problem is through good, totally mixed education. I see the results of that at the university where I teach, and it is my hope for the future. On the other hand, I hope you don’t have to endure lockdown too much longer.

    • June 18, 2020 / 3:11 pm

      Thanks Val. We do live in stramge, difficult times. Who would have thought our lives could change so much in a few short months.

  2. Catherine Emmitt
    June 19, 2020 / 12:12 pm

    Excellent questions on our present state of uncertainty about the past. And the present. Oh and that honeysuckle is one I breathe every day on my walk down to the sea. It cheers me up every year.

    • June 21, 2020 / 4:26 pm

      Am glad you enjoyed the questions… and the honeysuckle!

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