Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Battle of Hastings

In September 1939, my mum and all her fellow schoolmates were evacuated to Hastings. It seemed an odd place to evacuate people to - pretty much the first place a Nazi invasion force would land - but there you go. She was billeted wth the Drake family in a house at the end of a road which looked out on a field and beyond that the sea. She spent nine months there going to a school, rotating with the local schoolchildren (morning) and incoming Londoners (afternoon) before someone realised that Hastings was maybe not such a good move and they got shunted to Brecon. Anyway, mum had never been back. It was 72 years ago so chances were the house wasn't there... but it was (an looking surprisingly modern). We spent a nostalgic half hour re-living the times and talking to a neighbour, who wasn't old enough to remember the Drakes but it made mum's day.

Amazingly, our good friends Ian, Sam & family live just a few hundred yards round the corner - the other reason we were here. Great to catch up with them in their lovely forever half-finished home plus a classic fish & chips lunch on the seafront. 

The Battle of Hastings quip refers not to the Nazi non-invasion, but the attempts by the Jerwood Foundation to build a contemporary art gallery on the semi-blighted seafront where the usual crappy funfairs, carparks and peeling B&Bs prevail. But the fact that fishing boats still unload catches in a small section of beach next to weird & wonderful black fishing huts has aided & abetted those who simply hate art. Personally I think it's a good thing and could help regenerate Hastings, much in the way Tate, Contemporary Turner and De La Warr have done so for St Ives, Margate and Bexhill-on-Sea. Funnily enough, we stopped off at the De La Warr Pavilion on the drive back home and... I was unimpressed!  Lovely architecture and a fine Catherine Yass installation within, but that was about it. Phew, art eh? 

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