Hastings Battleaxe in Chichester – a curate’s egg.

Our short trip to Chichester this week was indeed a curate’s egg. A lovely visit to one of our favourite places, the Pallant House Gallery, an exciting inspection of some real shops, less exciting encounters with Covidy masses and an extremely dodgy experience at the Premier Inn.

Pallant House Gallery – a lovely old building

Do people still use the expression ‘curate’s egg’ to describe a mixture of bad and good? I doubt it.  A while ago I read an alarming article – perish the thought I think it was the Daily Mail so I am not going to quote a reference here. Anyway, it said that many young people don’t understand words that us older ones take for granted. These included ‘sozzled’, ‘bonk’, ‘boogie’, ‘disco’, ‘randy’, ‘henceforth’, ‘wally’ and ‘kerfuffle’. Get a life, youth, I say.

Talking of youth, that was the downer about walking the streets of Chichester – big groups of young people, probably students, who were not into giving any other pedestrians social distance space. But that went for the adults too.  It is strange how different places have different cultures. In my last post I mentioned how the people we encountered in Essex were really good and considerate.  The same applies to us in Hastings too – I have been told that our compliance and good behaviour is one reason that our Covid cases are so low.  But I really enjoyed looking at the shops. It is the first decent shopping centre we have been to since the start of lockdown in March.  Sadly, Hastings town centre has very few good shops left – even the Clarks shoe shop has now turned into a low-rent ‘outlet’ store full of sad remnants. We went to Tunbridge Wells early in the summer to meet friend Shaun, but many shops had not opened yet and the place looked very sad. Chichester was bustling however – Seasalt, WhiteStuff, Mistral, any number of independent clothes shops, Lakeland – and good shoe shops. I bought a new pair of black biker boots.

I’ve written at length about Chichester before so I won’t get into it again – see this post.  The Pallant House Gallery is really excellent, with one of the best book shops you could ever visit. I just thank goodness it isn’t nearer Hastings because I’d be spending a fortune.  But you can visit it on-line… Resist!

As well as items from their very extensive permanent collection they had a wonderful exhibition of the work of Barnett Freedman (1901-1958). For anyone who might not know he was a commercial designer and artist who produced some of the best known images of the mid twentieth century – book jackets, posters for the London Underground etc. He was also a war artist.

One of Freedman’s best known images – a lithograph for Lyons Corner Houses.
One of Freedman’s paintings


Alongside that, there was an exhibition of the work of his friends, including Ravilious, Edward Burra, Enid Marx and  Edward Bawden. It was strange to see some of the works we had known from the Jerwood Gallery cropping up in this exhibition.

Edward Burra – fishermen at Hastings. Remember this from the Jerwood?

A few years ago we acquired an original Enid Marx linocut print from Pallant House. Here is one of our favourites from the exhibition, and here is ours, of her two siamese cats, Sam and ‘Ari.  Enid is also pictured with one of the cats on her shoulder.

Tiger Tiger by Enid Marx
Sam and ‘Ari by Enid Marx. Sorry it is wonky – hard to photograph on the stairs.

enid marx | Tumblr

Finally, there was an exhibition of artists’ illustrations for Gilbert White’s ‘Natural History of Selborne’, including lovely things by Thomas Bewick, John Piper, Eric Ravilious, John Nash and Gertrude Hermes. Oddly, the exhibition featured works by Edward Fitch Daglish, a name I remember cropping up frequently in my dog-infested childhood. I used to hear it as ‘Fits Dog Leash’. Turns out he indeed judged, and wrote books about dachshunds up until his death in 1966. Gosh some of those dog friends of my parents had great names – think Ambrose Spong, Amyas Biss, Olga Frei-Denver, Barton Emmanual, Buster Lloyd-Jones… Anyway, who knew that Dog Leash was actually a famous wood engraver… here is one of his birds. Turns out he was friends with John and Paul Nash and Eric Gill…

So, what of the Premier Inn? Reading the post about Chichester above, I see that we stayed in it back then, and were happy with it. Not so this time.  If I had really thought hard about it I might have guessed that the city-fringe ‘Leisure Park’ it inhabits would have taken a beating during the pandemic. Indeed, the huge cinema, bowling rink and many eateries were closed, and much of the enormous car park was empty.  The Premier Inn was looking a bit sad. The weather had been a bit grim, so we had decided to eat in their little restaurant. It was absolutely fine last time… however,  they were only offering a reduced menu with the option to take food up to the room. We went down, made our choices, paid, only to be told there was no rice – about two thirds of the menu depended on rice. To cut a long story short, the room was empty, dark and bleak. A cardboard box of pasta gunk which tasted of cardboard and hand-sanitiser, plus another box of tasteless pizza were dumped on a side table, with some plastic cutlery. Two bottles of beer and two plastic glasses… It was doubly annoying to discover that breakfast the next day was served to our table on proper plates with proper metal cutlery.  Ah well…

On the way back our bacon was saved, as on so many occasions, by a stop at Middle Farm. Socially-distanced Covid-safe cafe. Check. Loos. Check. We’ve been going there since Grand daughter was a baby.  She loved the animals then. Now we just love the coffee, cake, plants and cider…

Thanks to good old Middle Farm!


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