On Saturday, we went to Hastings. We go there perhaps twice or thrice in a year. Like all seaside towns, Hastings is at its best when the weather is fine. Saturday was a cold and breezy day but at least the sun came out for our visit.
Both Tigger and I were brought up at the seaside so we enjoy our trips to coastal towns and usually make straight for the beach but the wind was so cold on this occasion that we preferred to stay inland and to explore the streets.
Hastings is well known for having given its name to one of the most famous battles in English history and the fact that the battle wasn’t actually fought there. William the Conqueror and King Harold in fact fought some 6 or 7 miles to the north-east at a place now called (reasonably enough) Battle. William build an abbey in commemoration of his victory on the very spot.
The etymology of the name “Hastings” is disputed but the most likely origin goes back to the time when Danes, Vikings, Angles, Jutes and Saxons – that bunch of ruffians and vandals who helped shape the English character – were roaming about, carving out territories for themselves. It seems that a certain Hæsta, a chieftain or kinglet, settled there and the place became known as “Hæsta’s people” or Hæstinga.
Modern Hastings is a quiet and pleasant little town but with a air of uncertainty to it as if it can’t quite make up its mind what to do or be. The horrid modern shopping centre points to one possibility – to modernize and become one more characterless town filled with all the usual big store names. Let’s hope the citizens of Hastings have more dignity and more love of their town than to take that route.
We walked down from the station and into the old part of town. I wanted to visit the antique shops and look for rings. The antique shops there include some of the most unusual and fascinating ones that I have seen anywhere. I did see some rings I liked but none fitted my big fingers. (Shopkeepers always tell you rings can be resized but beware: some rings cannot be resized at all without destroying the design and there is always a risk of damaging or weakening the setting if there is a stone. It’s always best to buy a ring that already fits.)
Food is never far from our thoughts and as we progressed we looked out for eateries with promising vegetarian offerings. We settled on the Jenny Lind pub as this advertised a fruit and vegetable curry. In the event they didn’t have any. I suppose we should have left in disgust but we settled for a vegetable chilli instead.
There are two museums in Hastings and this time we went to the Town Museum, just up the road from the pub. I have to say it was rather disappointing. It was small, but that is not necessarily a disadvantage: big museums can be overwhelming and leave you “museumed-out” long before you complete your tour whereas a small museum can be digested in its entirety, leaving you with a pleasant sensation of completeness. Some of our favourite museums are small ones.
No, the problem with this museum was its old-fashioned, uncared-for atmosphere. It was a collection of objects with typed labels arranged where they fitted in display cases with little thought given to presentation. Such a shame.
Our next stop was a small, rather quaint tea shop. We settled for a cream tea, not good for the waistline, perhaps, but delicious and very satisfying. After a visit to a dusty museum followed by a ramble round the streets, I was gagging for a cup of tea and enjoyed a pot of the finest.
The return train journey was rather long as it took in a lot of small towns before regaining the Brighton line to Gatwick. In particular it went though a certain town where your Tiger was born. The recorded voice announced this as “West’m” but we always called it Westham, with the emphasis on the ‘a’. We mean to visit the town one day soon and see the house where I was born, assuming that it is still standing.