Did that holiday really happen?

I suppose it must have done.  I keep on seeing the horror stories on the media about heat and fires all around the Mediterranean, but here in Hastings, right now, it is cold, windy and wet. Hastings Battleaxe has been busy, busy… a massive gardening marathon, various cultural outings and renewed efforts to help Andy McConnell sort out his glass hoard. The weather has been thoroughly unsummery – too many chilly, dark, windy, wet days – like today…

View from my study window just now. The sea is down there somewhere…

Ugh, look at this. High Summer in Hastings… Is it any wonder that the holiday feels unreal?

Anyway, here is our dear friend Tom Kelly performing at the Jenny Lind pub last Sunday evening. He had a really excellent audience – the place was packed. He has moved on from his sea shanties to a mixture of political songs, gospel-ish things and old music hall favourites. Sssh, don’t tell Tom but my favourites are the music hall songs. Nothing like a rousing chorus of ‘My Old Man said Follow the Van’ to warm the cockles of the ancient Battleaxe ‘eart. Never mind ‘When Father Papered the Parlour’. That used to be one of my Dad’s favourites. Tom has a truly excellent voice – he sang the whole thing on Sunday totally unaccompanied…

What was with the gardening? Battleaxe readers will know that the Villa Belvedere is virtually surrounded by big hedges, including a massive old privet hedge at the back of the property which must be nearly 20 feet high. We have an extremely quick-growing and messy eleagnus hedge that runs down the sloping front garden, plus another odd hedge (griselinia) in front of the house that had grown so big we could scarcely see down to the sea. (Battleaxe handy hint – don’t plant either of those!) There’s also a big old bay tree out the back that forms a sheltered sitting-out ‘bower’ underneath its lower branches. All this gives privacy and greenery, but is a chore to maintain. Once a year the redoubtable Fred, helped by his daughters, comes to cut and shape everything. For the week before he comes Battleaxe and Philosopher are busy clearing the undergrowth so he can get to the hedges etc, and the week after is spent clearing up… This year the vegetation has gone absolutely mad – a very hot dry spell followed by lots of rain. Here’s a very dull photo of a load of our garden greenery on a wet grey day. You can see how big the back hedge is – and that is after Fred had cut around 2 feet off it.

But that is done now, so on with the next bit of garden horror – the reinstatement of the side garden that Battleaxe mentioned just before holiday, see this post. No more decking – it is going to be brickwork, raised beds, a flagged path and the remainder gravel over membrane. Boy, is it an expensive exercise.

The weather in southern Europe is a worry – for us, mostly on two fronts, my daughter and family in southern Portugal, and our much-loved escape place – Cirali in Turkey. Daughter Clara phoned me yesterday – they have had fires up near Lisbon, and apparently there was a small fire near their village, quickly extinguished. In Turkey, there has been a big fire in Kemer, about 20km from Cirali, now also apparently under control.  This photo is not near Kemer, it is Iskenderun, but it is typical of the mountainous scenery round the places we go. You don’t want to see this heading down towards you…

Why are Greek fires so particularly troublesome?  Obviously I feel sorry about the people of Rhodes etc but British tourists? You’ve got to wonder why so many chose to fly out when they could have seen on the internet that their resorts were threatened/burning. I know many people would have paid hard-earned thousands for their holidays and would be reluctant to lose the money, but even so. Also, those holiday companies are just plain greedy.

Let’s finish with Andy McConnell (how come he’s off spending his time doing articles like this?) And  See this earlier post.  Crikey, has this been going on since May? Well, on it goes. All the work so far has been carried out by the original three local volunteers – me, Tess and Simon. It’s not that we were specially keen to do the work, it is just that Andy has not summoned any more off his list… Battleaxe has only been over for one day since she got back from hols, and it was hard work. One of Andy’s particular interests has been decanters – he must have close to a thousand of them… Unfortunately, the market for them has collapsed. In particular, cut-glass stuff is out of fashion. Nobody wants them.

He apparently had been more than a bit despondent about this, and it is indeed sad to find your life’s collected works so unwanted. But something has to happen to them, and the latest news is that they are all to be shipped up to an auction house in Stourbridge, together with the much more saleable Scandinavian glass, and indeed, all the rest of it.  So, all the decanters have to be at least wiped, and packed up… many hundreds of them are not even in boxes, they have just gathered dust on open shelves.  What a chore… made worse by the fact that as soon as we thought we were at least getting to the end of a shelf, Andy would produce more boxes from somewhere, full of yet more… Here are a couple of photos.

He keeps producing yet more…


A tiny part of the decanter collection…

Battleaxe reckons we could get through the whole job in about 10-13 days of concerted effort, but the trouble is that us current volunteers can only attend sporadically, and Simon has now got a job, and Andy is always off and about doing things, sometimes apparently at random. I told him that I was sure I could recruit a band of Antiques Roadshow-loving local, efficient WI women to sort the job in no time (us WI women are surely one of the most formidable workforce ever). Andy is very entertaining company and has a big fan-base. Trouble is, he’d have to plan ahead and map out his time over the next few months… I don’t think that is going to happen.







  1. Val
    July 27, 2023 / 6:44 pm

    The weather everywhere leaves something to be desired, Stephanie. Ours is similar to yours although I think not as bad yet, but these fires in the Mediterranean countries are appalling. I feel desperate for the people living in Greece, France, Spain and Portugal. It’s either heatwaves or soaking rain. We are hoping to get away on the boat but we’re holding off until it settles a bit. even then, we won’t be going all too far, I think.

    • July 28, 2023 / 4:13 pm

      Climate change is really happening. It is hard to believe some people are still in denial.

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