Back to St Leonards

Saturday 01 September 2018 – St Leonards-on-Sea and Hastings.

I am a bit drunk as I let myself in through the front door of the airbnb I am staying in tonight. The house is Tudor, according to my host, it is the second oldest building in Hastings. I struggle with the lock, it turns 180 degrees to home. My (wine, gin, whisky) addled brain eventually works it out and I am in. Creaking quietly up to my first floor room, every board of this ancient staircase creaks. My door squeaks open and bangs closed, the latch doesn’t work. I then realise no one else is home, and the floors and doors can make whatever noise they want.

Barefoot I feel every dip and rise in the wooden floor, it’s not just the old walls that are uneven. In the morning I discover the floor has quite a slope, perhaps I was less drunk than I thought.

The room is lovely, white and wooden, noisy from the street. Headphones on I try Eno’s ambient Descreet Music as a means to sleep, whisky helping. Though morning may have regrets. Much like today almost did.


This is my third visit to Hastings and St Leonards in recent weeks. I have offered on a flat in St Leonards. Two bedrooms, the top floor of a building built by the admiralty in 1884 to house retired senior naval officers, it is red brick and I really, really like it.  The flat is in the roof, pretty much  under the word ‘flat’ at the start of the sentence, in the picture below!



I fell in love with the first flat I saw online when I started looking for flats in this area a few weeks ago. It is not this flat in St Leonards, but one in Hastings old town. It disappeared off the market almost immediately, before I could get down to see it. Last week it was online again.

The vendor of the St Leonards flat had yet to get back to me on my offer, it had been rather cheeky. In case if fell through I decided to come down and have a look at this Old Town flat as a plan B. El and I came down last weekend, and it is really, really nice. Just off the high street, out of the way up a steep path and view over the roofs of the old town and out to sea is magnificent. I decided I would offer on it as well and see how things worked out.

As this place is so close to the centre of old town nightlife I thought it wise to come down for a Friday night, find an AirBnB nearby and see, and hear, what it is like of evening. IS it really noisy? Is there closing time trouble? Junkies and drunks sleeping in doorways etc.

After booking an old town AirBnB the St Leonards vendor accepted my offer, I gave the Hastings old Town vendor a chance to do the same, but they didn’t so St Leonards here I come. My first property purchase in the UK. Assuming all goes through of course.

Even though staying in the old town is not relevant I went ahead anyway. St Leonards does not have a lot of night life so the old town, a 30 minute walk away is where we would likely go anyway.

I caught the train from London after work, sneaking off slightly early and getting a train from Victoria Station just before 4:00. The Victoria to Hastings line is the slowest of the three from central London, taking just under two hours. It is a direct train, but it stops in a lot of places. I like trains so was not unhappy with the trip and I should get used to it.


Walking alone out of Hastings station into the early evening sunlight I was overcome with a wave of despondency. Why was I buying here? Not wanting to come across sounding like a complete middle class snob, but it was all so chav. Street drinkers, bad tattoos, run down cars, smokers in doorways. I know everywhere is like this, but I want it to feel like I am perpetually on holiday when I come here. I had a moment of regretting buying here, even though the weather is nice, it just feels a bit grim in this part of Hastings. My steps were heavy as I made my way down from the station to the sea front.

As soon as I hit the sea, my mood lightened. Walking along the promenade towards the old town and watching the skates and bmxers, the dog walkers and the families strolling I knew that I had made the right call. The brief flash of regret was regretted and disposed of.

I dumped my bag in my room in the creaky old AirBnB, after a quick chat with the owners I made my way out the door again. They have lived here for five years and are now looking to move to St Leonards themselves, somewhere quieter.

Tonight is the opening of Coastal Currents, a month long annual art event in Hastings and St Lenoards. The opening party is free and is being held in the big waterfront bar where I spent my first evening last time I came down. It is early evening am hungry, I checked out the pier, but didn’t fancy eating here. I did stop for a glass of wine and to take a few photos up the beach.


I was warned by the BnB hosts that I might find it hard getting a table in any of the eating places. It is the last weekend of the holidays, the weather it lovely and the art festival opening is on. They were right. By the time I had walked to St Leonards, taken a walk by my flat to see what the street was like on a Friday night (dead) there were no table at any of the cafes. I made my way back to the sea front and stopped in to the Goat Ledge cafe for another glass of wine and an excellent fish burger and fries. It was pretty packed, but it was nice sitting on the beach listening to the dark sea behind me.

As I was leaving a load of people on brightly lit bikes riding from Hastings pier to the opening party stopped in at the cafe. I took a few photos.


I was lured in to the opening party by the wonderful sounds of Velvet Underground on the sound system, though discovered this was just a trap, once I had bought a gin and tonic the music had turned to some terrible house music. Not knowing anyone here I didn’t hang around for long before walking back to Hastings. There are some lovely Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian buildings along here, slowly being repainted and during the day it is quite nice, the evening equally so.


As I arrived in the Hastings new town I heard The Ruts, ‘Babylons Burning’ being played loudly by a cover band from the local ‘biker’ bar, crossing the road I stopped in for a look, just as the band finished. The pub is not my cup of tea, but I could see myself in there for a punk rock covers band on the odd and right occasion. I put a tick in the positive box and walked on. Two doors up from my BnB there was another pub, there are a lot of pubs here, all open and doing business, another good sign. This pub had a blues band going, knowing I would not be able to sleep and as it was close to throwing out time I ordered a Jamesons and sat at the back and enjoyed their last couple of songs. At last orders I had one more drink and basically waited till the place shut before heading to my room, and then not sleeping for a while.

I was up early on Saturday and off before 9:00, stopping for an excellent coffee on the pier and an OK fry-up in a greasy spoon cafe. 


I walked back to St Leonards, past the flat for another look, it is just as quiet today. I would have expected nothing else. The flat is in Helena Court, at the top of Pevensey Road, a ten minute walk up a hill from St Leonards station and the main shopping streets. It is not somewhere you would go unless you needed to. There are a lot of hills here.  Once I have settled and the flat is mine, I will post some photos of the interior.

There is a lot happening in St Leonards, it is another glorious day, loads of people about, there is street market in Kings Rd, the cafes are bursting, there is chatter and smiles. I stopped at a specialist photography gallery which had an exhibition of photos of David Bowie and talked to the owner for a while. Everyone I have met here has been nice.

I think I will be happy here !

Edinburgh Fringe

Sunday 05 August 2018 – Edinburgh.

A quick post, I am trying to catch up with a big backlog of photos I have taken in various places. As I commented in the last post I am going through a ‘cannot be bothered with the blog’ moment. Admittedly the blog has lasted way longer than I expected, so I am not killing it off.  At least I don’t think so anyway.

Beyond his life as a Phd student El’s eldest son, Joe is a playwright, magician and theatre producer. He has been producing a show at Edinburgh Fringe for the past couple of years. This was the first year I have actually been in the country while Fringe is on, and able to visit. Edinburgh during Fringe is mad; and massively expensive. We had a packed couple of days ahead, starting with an early morning train. Train travel in the UK is an interesting thing. Highly and often deservedly derided, it can be extremely expensive, is often utterly unreliable, can be crowded and uncomfortable, but when it works it is brilliant. Today worked. The journey to Edinburgh from London is one of my favourites, booking early and travelling first class makes it that much more enjoyable. I can eat and drink the cost difference with ease.

We arrived early afternoon Friday with enough time to get to the small theatre for Joe’s first show ‘Creating Rumours’, a play set during the recording of Fleetwood Mac’s album ‘Rumours’. People who know me well, will know that this would be a real test of love. I fucking hate Fleetwood Mac, though I mostly enjoyed the show. The funniest thing about it was Joe with curly hair.

In the evening we went to see the stand-up comedian Reginald D. Hunter in a pre-festival warm up show. I have not seen or heard of him before, though El assured me I would enjoy it. She was right, I did. He was brilliant, if a little unpolished. This was a pre-fringe warm up and tickets were cheaper than they would be in the full show, he did acknowledge he was refining material and somethings wouldn’t work.

The walk back from the edge of the old town to our hotel in the new town was pretty special. Edinburgh is an amazing city, I love the place. It looks magnificent, the people are brilliant, it is busy, it buzzes, there is great food and drink, and, yeah it is a good place to be. Unless you want sleep. Then forget it…

On Saturday morning we visited the ‘Rip it Up’ history of Scottish pop exhibition at the Museum of Scotland. I 98% liked it. They had also made a three part TV series that we had seen, it was pretty good, though it had missed a lot of music I like, some of which was covered in the exhibition. However…. Why were The Exploited not mentioned once? Scotland’s finest and most enduring, and maybe even endearing punk band. Great to see Mogwai were represented though.

We took a long walk around the old town for a couple of hours before going to see the second of Joe’s productions ‘Strangers – Pairs’ a series of two piece magic vignettes. Much more my cup of tea.

That evening we went to see David Doherty, another stand up comedian. Unlike last night this was the proper show and it was utterly brilliant. I enjoyed last night, but this was another level of excellence. I laughed, a lot.

The sunset, and fireworks on display as we crossed the North St Bridge were amazing as well.

It was another relatively sleepless night, I got up once, around 3:00 as I thought someone was being killed in the street outside, the screaming was terrible. It was just idiots. My love for the city centre was waning. You know you are in a hotel that caters for a different market when there is a bottle opener screwed to the side of the desk!

On Sunday morning we visited the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. I am not a big fan of portraiture, which I guess is reflected in, the often, absence of people in my photos, however I really enjoyed the gallery. Designed around a history of Scotland, the paintings and the corresponding notes on the artist and the subject were informative, had a consistent narrative and made sense. The light was amazing and I convinced El to let me take her photo, again.

And that was it for Edinburgh. A quick weekend, lots of food, a whisky or two, some shows, some overcrowded madness, little sleep, but still, it is a great city. Fringe is madness, maybe not my thing, too many people, too expensive, but there is a big buzz in town and who can argue with that!

Back to Edinburgh Waverley Station for the train home. More lovely light and a last portrait or two.

Flat Hunting, St Leonards version

Wednesday 25 July 2018 – St Leonards and Hastings.

Oh I do want to be by the seaside.

I know I have banged on about it often enough over the past couple of years, but I have finally done it. I have found a flat I want to buy!

After months of procrastination, mind-changing (and laziness) I took three days off work this week to use up the last of my annual leave allocation. I spent the time in St Leonards and Hastings looking at flats. I eliminated Hastings during the week and decided to focus on one area and not two. I did the consult the font of all knowledge on things local; the ‘Down From London (DFL)’ BookFace group before making that decision. Though both places have their social issues; this is quite a deprived part of Britain, St Leonards just seems quieter, and that is important to me.

I arranged four flat viewings through various agents for Tuesday and took the train down on Monday morning, planning to spend those days looking round the area, doing some writing, photo editing and generally catching up. I didn’t too much of the writing and editing and catching up, but I did read most of a book.

I booked myself in to a lovely Victorian B and B on Pevensey St as two of the flats I wanted to view were in the street, so it made sense to stay in the area. The other two were on Warrior Square, which I think will just be too noisy. Though one of those Warrior Square flats was lovely. The B and B was brilliant, full or Victoriana, Russian and English religious icons and symbols from China and the far east. The owners were very well travelled and I was a bit jealous of all the things they have accumulated on their travels, though the house is very busy.

As it is a Victorian B and B there is no TV (thankfully there is wi-fi J ) and no shower. I was forced to lie in a bath each night and read my book, something I very much enjoyed.

On Monday night I had dinner and a glass of wine at Azur, a beach side restaurant and bar, it was OK, but it did have a great view though!

After breakfast on Tuesday I stopped for a great coffee at Graze. Key for me in enjoying this as a place to buy is to find one or two places that I can stop for coffee or a glass of wine, as well as having the option for a more traditional pint-of-beer style boozer pub. I have to have places that cater for me. Graze had a very good wine menu and I went there later in the evening for dinner, and again for more wine on Wednesday. One box ticked.

Tuesday I was meeting an ex-work colleague for lunch about three miles out of town, along the very long seafront, towards Bexhill. It was a glorious day and perfect for a walk. I took pictures as you would expect.

A lot of photos…

I even took some images that may (or not turn up in the exhibition I have in October. I have decided to print some really large (A1) prints of close-ups of plants with huge amounts of blurred backgrounds. I brought the big old Canon 5d with me so I would be forced to actually take photos seeing as I was lugging such a weight around.

I was knackered after a very hot walk so caught the bus back to Hastings after lunch. With some food and water inside and the lunch time and bus ride sit down I was re-energised and took a walk around The Stade. The Stade means ‘landing place’ in the ancient Saxon language and contains the largest beach launched fishing fleet in the Europe. It is a pretty cool place, full of old and new fishing boats, ancient and not so ancient tractors and bulldozers used to move the boats into and out of the water. Photographically it is a great spot, and another reason I have chosen this as a place to live, even if it is just part time.

Wednesday was flat viewing day, I didn’t have a lot of time for much else, I visited a couple of local shops to chat to the owners. There are a number of small independent shops around St Leonards and Hastings, lots of antique shops, second hand places, a great wine / beer shop and I even discovered a good record shop. It is all looking up. Everyone I spoke to was positive about the place, it is on the up. Though incomers like me are not 100% welcome, or so I understand. I saw no negativity.

The good news is I really liked one of the flats, it pushed all my buttons and I loved it when i walked in the door. Pending a visit at the weekend with Eleanor I will offer, I really value her opinion and she will see the things I miss and view it with head and not heart!

I did not do too much after the viewings, it is tiring looking at flats. After a rest I walked down to the waterfront for lunch at one of the beach cafes. I tried Goat Ledge and had the best fish-finger sandwich ever, another bonus find! After lunch (and a respectable gap, I was a boy scout and know you cannot go swimming immediately after eating) I took to the sea. It was not too bad. It is a pebble beach, and stretches for miles in each direction. It never gets crowded!

In the evening I met up with some of the Bookface group I am a member of and went to see a local light jazz singer perform at an album launch in one of the pubs in Hastings Old Town. The music was tiresome, but it was good to meet and chat to others who have made the move down from London, and see that there is some nightlife as well. The pub was packed, as were some of the others.

Thursday, I was back in the car and back to London. Mission accomplished. Successfully. I liked St Leonards and Hastings.


El and I came back down the following Saturday, she loved the place as much as me, though pointed out it needed a lick of paint, and a bit of love. I never noticed the paint. I have offered, it has been accepted and I am now in the process of purchasing.


I seem to have lost interest in the blog in the last few weeks, I have huge backlog of things I would blog if I had the time and the motivation, but it is waning. This wont be the final post. I am thinking of just doing some photo posts for a bit until I catch up with myself. I also want to write better, and that takes time and I have to be in the right headspace, somewhere I do not find myself in very often these days.

There will be more, maybe once I have moved.

Thanks to those who read me. xxx

Greensted Church. The world’s oldest wooden church.

Saturday 21 July 2018 – Chipping Ongar, Essex.

I love the names of some English Villages. ‘Chipping Ongar’, it couldn’t be anywhere else but England. It is not too far from home, just north of the M25 motorway into rural Essex.

Though we didn’t go into the village, our destination for this drive was Greensted Church in the countryside outside.

Greensted Church is the oldest wooden church in the world and one of the oldest wooden buildings still standing in Europe. The wooden walls date back about 1000 years, the brick work from the 16th century and the white wooden tower from the 17th.

It is a beautiful building.

A walk along the River Lea

Saturday 14 June 2018 – Walthamstow to Liverpool St.

I am pretty sure I start every post off with the fact that I have been very busy and I am way behind with writing and photo-editing. I can at least say this time that I am up to date with photo-editing. However, I am now six weeks behind in post writing, with five left to do to just catch up, and now I have two big things on that are consuming all my non-working hours.

After a small amount of negotiation I have an offer agreed on a flat purchase in St Leonards-on-Sea, on the East Sussex coast.  I have taken a few trips down there over the past couple of months, more on those trips in a later post. Naturally I am very happy with this. Though of course it will mean I will have a lot less money.

I also have an exhibition of photography coming up in October. My favourite local cafe are giving me their walls for two months and I am going to show 13 photos, they will be big photos!

That is the future dealt with, now back to the past!

It was one of those nice Saturdays back in July, the middle of the longest and hottest summer for many a year. There was a record out I wanted to buy and I thought it would be a good idea to take the 8 mile trip to Brick Lane on foot. Most of the journey is quite nice, along the River Lea and canal tow paths.

I also wanted to get some images I could use for the exhibition, some close up shots of grasses and plants as I passed through Walthamstow Marshes, the Middlesex Filterbeds and along the Lea itself.

So here they all are!











It took me three and a bit hours to get to Rough Trade, and they didn’t have the record I wanted. I was in no way disappointed, it had been a great walk.