A strange week for Hastings Battleaxe

Indeed. On the one hand, we have had some wonderful warm sunny days and we have been out and about, seeing people and doing things. On the other, a sobering encounter with some unfortunate migrants, prices and Covid cases rapidly rising, and Battleaxe has had some very sad personal news… But let’s start with some photos taken in the Country Park a few days ago. Views like this remind Battleaxe of how lucky we are to live here by the sea – we’ve lived full-time in Hastings exactly ten years this month.

Last week I was down at the Sea Angling Club on the Stade with my WI Book Group – we have taken to meeting down there for lunch. It is cheap, quiet and comfortable. While we were there, the lifeboat arrived, laden with migrants. We watched them arrive and straggle up the beach right in front of the club balcony. Men, women and a few tiny children. They were met by many policemen and volunteers with blankets, dry clothes and food. Battleaxe had to close her ears to comments from some of the other club patrons – how those migrants were bringing in Covid and TB, and would go straight into town and get nice accommodation while Hastings folk were homeless. Deluded. It occurred  to us that we don’t actually know where they are taken – to a processing centre somewhere. Then they are stranded in limbo, in some cases for years, while their asylum claims are processed, with no chance to work, no money, no proper accommodation. It was brought home to us that they arrive with nothing. Nothing whatsoever. Just their wet clothes.

When we left the club, they had been loaded onto a coach. We smiled, waved, mouthed ‘Welcome’ in the hope they could see that there were at least a few friendly faces in this nightmare Plague Island they have struggled so hard to reach, presumably in the mistaken belief that this is a land of peace, hope and prosperity. Mistaken belief surely, but listening to the lies so many of our own deluded people happily swallow, how can we blame the unfortunate migrants for believing a different set of lies?   Here is the piece in the Hastings Observer about it.

This photo is from the Observer
Taken by me – you can see one of the little children

Outings where? These three for a start: Last Saturday we went to a Hastings Philharmonic concert in Winchelsea Church. Not much to say really, Quite pleasant, a trifle chilly, but principally notable for the soloist, Stephanie Gurga, who played a Bach piano concerto with considerable gusto. She had on the most astonishing dress – all body-con sequins and straps. Every time she bent forward to take a bow I thought a wardrobe malfunction was inevitable. She was described in the programme  as being organist at some Swiss church,  so I expected some earnest, devout, bespectacled frau of a certain age in a twinset and tweed skirt… Wrong!

Battleaxe also went to see the film ‘Spencer’ with friend Jenny Wiles. It has received fantastic reviews, but honest,  readers, I thought it was dreadful. I know it was supposed to portray the awfulness of Diana’s mental illness but she was just so annoying… I guess one is just too old to find the Diana story novel or interesting.

Then, yesterday we went to Tunbridge Wells for the day to meet Shaun McKenna.  Had lunch in Cote, and prowled a few shops. Went into Hoopers. What a joy it is to visit an old-style up-market department store. How few are left… Ah, the warm blast of  perfumed air as you go in past the snooty ladies behind the make-up counters. The foodhalls in the basements… the handbags… the shoes… the escalators going up and up past Ladies, Homewares, Furniture to the sparkly Christmas displays on the top floor.  The restaurants …. When I was little, I used to love visiting those stores with my mother.  In London, D H Evans and Dickens and Jones.  Then as we moved round the country, Elliston and Cavell in Oxford, Kendall Milne in Manchester. In its heyday, Rackhams in Brum… Much earlier, the famous department stores in Dublin: Clerys, Brown Thomas… and of course Roches. Willy and Eileen Roche were great pals with my parents, and Diana Roche was my early childhood playmate. The Roche family was even more rackety than my family (if considerably richer!) so Willy and my father Jim Rhodes must have got on really well.  I just said to Philosopher, it is one thing to have rackety parents, but useless because my parents were so bad at it. No off-shore accounts in Jersey for us…  See this from the Irish Times.   I see Diana died in 2014… which brings me on to my own sad news….

Earlier this week my sister Pat died. I knew it was coming, but it is still a shock…  She had been diagnosed with terminal, untreatable ovarian cancer only in late September, and was given around two months. Very sadly, the prognosis was right. I have mentioned in previous posts that she was very ill, but had not wanted to dwell on it. Pat was born in 1938, so she was substantially older than me. Although we were brought up together as children, and shared special memories of a turbulent life with our dodgy parents, our lives have grown apart. She has a very large extended family to whom she was very close. Their values and lifestyles are totally different from ours.  At the moment, I feel I have gone through the first phase of loss – learning of her diagnosis, going to see her, and coming to terms with the fact that like many dying people, she did not want to see anyone in her last days. She died at home, cared for by her husband and daughters, peacefully, and in no pain.  I am sure the grief will return around the time of her funeral, but at the moment, I am OK. But it is very sad – she was my only sister.  RIP Pat.


  1. Angela
    November 21, 2021 / 4:40 pm

    So sorry to hear about your sister

    Like you I love a departmental store and frequented Oxford and Regent Street when grew up in London. Such a retrograde step to do away with so many. Let us hope Hoopers continues
    The shops in Hastings town centre are dire! Are there any?

    • November 21, 2021 / 4:54 pm

      Indeed, Angela… I think those shops may return when people realise what they are missing..,

  2. Paul McQuillan
    November 21, 2021 / 5:41 pm

    So sorry to hear about your sister Steph. It is hard to loose a sibling. We go through a lot with them, one way or another.
    Clerys and BT in Dublin a must do pilgrimage on any visit to the city. Love to you and N. xx

    • November 26, 2021 / 3:48 pm

      Thanks so much Paul. Its is hard. I don’t even know if Clerys is still there – or BT – so few department stores left now… See you soon, S x

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