The MV Amsterdam.

Wednesday 22 July 2020 – St Leonards-On-Sea.

Tips of the wooden rib cage of the MV Amsterdam spearing out of the sand of Bylverhythe beach is what I expected to see as I strolled sand exposed by the receding tide on this heavily pebbled beach. I saw nothing but sea, shingle, sand, rock banks; both man and nature made, dogs, dog walkers and families, and the deserted equipment of a fisherman no longer in sight. I carried on my hunt.

Checking my watch as I reached the end of the beach I realised there were still 15 more minutes to low tide. I paused briefly, before turning my back to the setting sun and walking back in the direction of St Leonards and home, stopping when I reached the point where I thought the wreck was buried. Peaking out of the almost full low tide I spot wood not stone and know I have found my objective.

The MV Amsterdam set sail from Amsterdam in January 1749 on her maiden voyage, bound for the Dutch colony in Java, Indonesia. It didn’t get very far, caught in a storm and losing her rudder in Pevensey Bay, it foundered on Bulverhythe Beach, St Leonards. 8 years later the wreck had been swallowed by the sand, leaving an almost intact hull buried, supposedly full of goodies. It has lain there ever since.

I spent the next 30 minutes pretty much in the same spot, taking the occasional photo as the tide continued to go out, hoping that the tide would recede enough to just leave sand and the exposed rib tips.

Others wandered past, some stopping to take a photo on their phone, others seemingly wondering why I was just standing there in the setting sun, camera in hand.

The outline did not fully reveal itself, even at the full low tide. I need to come back when that low tide line is even lower than tonight’s.

It was nice to be out my camera, inspired to take it out after a visit from friends last week. While I didn’t get the image that I wanted I did get to enjoy myself, and took some photos on the way.


Friday 17 July 2020 – Bexhill and St Leonards-on-Sea.

Exciting news this week. The desk and the office chair I ordered online both arrived, and the best bit was I liked them both. This gave me the opportunity to do a little rearrange of the sitting room, putting the desk where I had the record cabinet. The room feels better balanced now, and I like working at the desk, it feels good. Hopefully an inspiration to write more.

After a few days of not such good weather we finally had a decent couple of days in row. Nice. Much as I like being here in any weather a nice bit of sun, matched with a gentle sea breeze is all the nicer. We decided to do something we have not done since 8 March. Take some public transport, and catch a train. It was strange to be thinking of these things after so long.

Six minutes down the line is Bexhill. Not the longest journey, but it is better to break the ice in a small and stress free way. Though naturally the train we planned to get was cancelled and the next one was 11 minutes late. Signal failure. Situation normal. It felt good. Wearing masks is now mandatory on public transport, though it is not policed. As our train slowly pulled into St Leonards Warrior Square station from Hastings I looked at the small number of people in the first few carriages, mostly not wearing masks. Our carriage was almost empty and the other passengers were masked up, as were we. The message regarding wearing masks on public transport is out there, some people just do not care.

I took a couple of photos on my phone out of the carriage as we moved along, trying to recapture a little of the project I started before lockdown taking photos out of train windows, though missing the mark a bit.

I don’t mind Bexhill; like Eastbourne it has an older population that Hastings and St Leonards, but in every other way it is more like St Leonards, a little faded, jaded and run down, but with some interesting shops. Not that we were thinking of going to the shops.

We were thinking of going to De La Warr Pavilion to see if there was coffee on offer, but it was all closed up. Though interestingly (to me alone) the little record booth that was inside the pavilion was open on the outside and I must admit I was tempted to go visit. I have been very well behaved in the past couple of weeks, certainly in comparison to the early part of lockdown when I bought a few records more than I should. Working at the flat all day, sitting next to the record player as I have a lot more time to play them, none of the purchases are wasted. I like records.

The walk from Bexhill to St Leonards takes about an hour and a half, and is mostly taken right along the shore line, it is a lovely walk and one I could do any time, especially if we stop for lunch at the vegetarian/vegan Bathing Hut Cafe. Today I had the halloumi burger, which was as good as the full English I had last time.

On Thursday we had our first Walthamstow visitors to the flat, Caroline and Andy, and they were staying the night, which was fabulous. I took Friday off work so I could the day with them. They arrived after work and we immediately packed up and went for a walk to the recently reopened pier. We were hoping for food, but none of the new food huts were there or open so we just stayed for a drink in the late afternoon sun. The pier company has recently tendered the running of the pier to an events company, so there are loads of socially distant tables in a huge beer garden. It was nice to be out and even nicer to be out with good friends.

Andy had recently bought a new camera and brought it along, a full frame Sony. It looks amazing and he loves it, he should know he is a professional tog.

We walked into Hastings to look for food and ended up buying takeout Thai from a street stall and beer and wine from the pub over the way, then eating them on the street watching the world go by. It was a really nice night out, The noodles were excellent and walking home in the dark, through the lit Bottle Alley was really enjoyable.

On Friday we walked down to Bathing Hut Cafe for brunch, and to introduce our guests to the vegan offerings close to home, I had the quesadilla which was as good as the last two things, it is my favourite day time eating place that is certain. After eating we walked in to and around Hastings Old Town, showing our guests the delights of Old Saints Street before stopping for a drink outside one of the bars in George St.

We eventually ended up at Farmyard Cafe for an early evening dinner, ending what was a really enjoyable 24 hours with close friends. Hopefully the start of others coming down to visit, or maybe buy something to…

To mirror the new desk inspiring more writing at the start of this post, Andy’s photos and use of his big camera was an inspiration to get out more and use mine, or at least take a photo from the bedroom window.

Memorial, by Phlegm

Sunday 29 July 2020 – Walthamstow.

As soon as we decided to go to work and stay at my place in St Leonards for a few weeks, my favourite street artist came to Walthamstow to paint some doors. Typical.

I have been a fan of the work of the, primarily, Sheffield based artist, Phlgem for quite some time. I remember trying to find one of his pieces in Sri Lanka when I was there in 2013. There are plenty of great murals all over London to make up for not finding that particular one. There is a fabulous large piece at the end of Walthamstow High Street, and an earlier wall has sadly been painted over, but he does have a history in this area, living in Wanstead for a short period. It was quite exciting to know there has been further work added to the growing collection of high quality street art in Walthamstow.

Now that restrictions are slowly being relaxed and shops are opening Eleanor wanted to come back to visit her hairdresser and for us to spend time with family. I took that opportunity to organise a walk to Blackhorse Lane to check out the paintings, which are possibly called Memorial. It is painted on the doors of the indoor climbing centre Yonder. I loved it, as always.

Photos below. Fabulous as always.


Sunday 05 July 2020 – Eastbourne.

The day started like most others this past week; grey low cloud, drizzle and high wind. Coffee in bed seemed like the right thing to do; immediately followed by a second coffee in bed. We made it out of bed just before 9 for an enjoyable video call with my sister in New Zealand. During the hour we were online the rain stopped, the cloud was blown away by the strong wind; clearing the sky. A nice day beckoned. It was time to make the planned, yet to be achieved trip to Eastbourne, a 30 minute drive along the coast.

I last passed through Eastbourne in Jan 2018 when I took a walk along the cliff tops to Burling Gap. I vaguely recall visiting as a child in the 1970s, though that is as likely to be a false memory as it is true. Eleanor has been twice before, and it rained both times. We both wanted to visit on a sunny day.

I parked as soon as I found a spot within an easy walk of the yet to re-open pier. It is very windy.

As we walked towards the pier we came across an oddly shaped white beach hut, which turned out to be shaped as a tooth, and is a memorial to Beachy Head Lady, with this message on it;

‘Along this coast near Beachy Head a young woman of sub-Sarahan African origin was buried one thousand eight hundred years ago. She spent most of her life thriving on a diet rich in the fruits of the sea and from fertile downland fields. Her story is recorded in chemicals hidden within her teeth and in her fragile bones. But how or why she arrived on the shores to make a new home so long ago will probably remain a mystery.’ I really liked this message and it intrigued me enough to try to found out more; as every good message should.

Beachy Head Lady is thought to be the oldest known person from sub-Saharan Africa to be found in the United Kingdom. It is not known when her remains were originally found, though they were recently rediscovered in the museum in a box marked 1956-1959. Further information on the original discovery remain quite sparse, which adds somewhat to the mystery. I chose to not dig much further. Mysteries are good.

It is a funny old day, as many have been in these barely re-opened post-Covid emergency days. It is a sunny, though windy, summer Sunday. There are a few people about, but not as many as expected. The shopping areas are mainly open, so places for people to go. There is an air of reluctance and tension in the air, as well as a touch of the ‘she’ll be right mate’ attitude you get from those who think Brexit is a good idea and social distancing is stupid. I did not see a lot of masks being worn, though they are yet too made mandatory in England.

We walked along the front, past the pier and the place where the street drinkers were gathered in a vaguely intimidating fashion when I was here last time. I don’t remember anything specific, but I knew I was very keen to use the public toilet and they were all bunched outside and I walked for ages till I got to the downs before finding an appropriately unpublic tree. The things you remember.

We walked as far as the Martello Tower where we stopped for a hot chocolate and sat in the sun feeling like our skin was being peeled from our faces by the sun and the wind. The hot chocolate was very nice, as was the Martello Tower and its little peace garden.

Leaving the tower we were walking in the direction of the Towner Gallery when the wind whipped the camera strap that was not around my neck or any other useful (or useless) part of my body and tore the camera from my hand, cracking the rear screen when it hit the ground. Damn. Three camera in three years; all broken by me not being careful enough. Lucking the camera still works,  and it has a viewfinder, though I have to use auto mode as the screen displays(ed) the exposure settings. I could at least take some more photos today.

Auto mode does not suit my style, and with three small scratches on the lens, it is now time to replace the camera. A choice I did not want to have to make again after the stress of finding and buying the small Panasonic GX800 last year, a camera I have not really learnt to love. It may be time to sell that as well and buy a single replacement. Choices and decisions. I hate them both.

The Towner Gallery is fabulous. I have seen photos and read about it, and it was a pleasure to see it at last, I love the look of it, so funky and modern. Sadly it was still closed, but it opening in a couple of weeks, a good reason to come back to Eastbourne.

We picked up lunch from a Mexican food cart, in a very un-social distant queue, not many people wearing masks either. My nachos were tasty, there was an awful lot, though the chips were stale which was a good thing really. They went in the bin, not that I like wasting food!

We walked along the sea front for a while, stopping for an ice cream in a faded little park with a faded little tea-shop and then walked back to the car and I drove us home.

Mission accomplished. A day out to Eastbourne and it wasn’t raining.

St Leonards-on-Sea

Saturday 04 July 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

It has been a couple of weeks since the last post, the daily updates having finished, though life has yet to fully return to normal and we are still in some form of lockdown. Though lock down is not the right term anymore. Under some restrictions is a better term.  I refuse to use ‘new normal’.

El and I are at the flat in St Leonards, we have just entered week four and, apart from rubbish weather in the past week, it has been successful. This is the longest El has been away from Walthamstow since 1988. I find this incredible, but in reality this is more usual then being away from a home  town for any length of time. Before I went travelling and my expectations changed, I had not been away from ‘home’ for longer than a couple of weeks since 1988 either. Anyway I am glad that she is taking this time away from Walthamstow with me, and we are planning on being here for another two weeks before heading back for a few days; El has a haircut and it is her birthday and we will have a small gathering in the garden. Fair reasons for heading back to London, though we will be back here for the foreseeable.

On the subject of haircuts and long periods, El cut mine yesterday, it was the longest it has been since 1986 and the goth phase. I have been moulting everywhere and finally got sick of it being in my eyes all the time. The barbers opened yesterday, along with pubs and restaurants, but I don’t know any barber here and am not sure I want someone breathing on me that closely quite yet. I also like my barber in Walthamstow, we moan about Arsenal for the 30 minutes I am there.

A before and after… I really like it, a good job was done.

I took four days out of work the week before last. I needed it as things were getting stressy and I was grumpy and tired and probably not a lot of fun to be with. We had some glorious days and I managed a swim, some walks and a lot of reading and had a good run at a short story I am writing. I was pleased with the time off and felt a lot better for it.

I am working at the dining table and sitting on a dining chair, the table is fine, but the chair is not good for my back and I am constantly uncomfortable. I have a new office chair arriving tomorrow and I am very pleased about this, hopefully it will be good. I would not normally buy a chair off the internet. I have a desk coming in a couple of weeks and can set up a little work area in the sitting room, El has a desk in the spare room to work at. The hope is to be here all summer, until we both have to go back into the office, so decent working conditions are critical.

El does not work on a Friday so we went for a drive in the Kent countryside to the Chapel Down winery where we bought a couple of bottles of wine and had a little picnic. It was very nice being out and about again and the snacks we bought were very nice. Yay for summer and picnics in the sun.

On Sunday we had breakfast on St Leonards beach.

Then the weather turned to crap and it has been bad ever since, today being the first proper sunny day for over a week, though it is still ferociously windy and was raining when we woke up.

Outside of working we did not get up to much, we walked most days, though not all. I did a few house chores, like stuffing something up the chimney, which El amused herself by taking a photo of being elegant.

El has started painting, so I took a sneaky photo of her in revenge, though she is far more poised than I was.

I have been doing a lot of reading, and some writing, as well as taking the odd photo, like some dead flowers in the living room; now in the bin. I have been trying to do more photography, but the weather was a bit too challenging. I don’t mind the rain, but the wind was too much.

Yesterday the pubs re-opened in England, a decision I think is very premature and I wasn’t going to go to one. However, I saw a message on social media that my favourite little bar ‘1200 Postcards’, the bar mentioned in my last post, was going to re-open, and well I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to go back to show some support for the business, I really didn’t think it would re-open, plus I wanted to re-establish myself there. I waited for the worst of the weather to be over and set off for a walk, taking the little G16 camera with me.

I was very tempted to take this metal stork with me, if I had been on the way home and not out I would have grabbed it from the ‘free to take’ pile outside a house down the road. I may wander past there this week and see if it is still there.

The cloud was very low and the wind was howling down the beach, but it was nice to be walking, there were a few people out, there always is, and Hastings was quite busy.

I found this old spray painted ‘Punx’ in bottle alley, I was listening to punk rock as I walked so it seemed appropriate to take a picture. I have walked though bottle alley dozens of times and have never noticed this before. I am wondering if it stood out more as everything was wet.

I have not seen this before either, though I have seen others from ‘Scrabbleman’, and know there are more around the sea front.

It was great arriving at 1200 Postcards, Dave, the owner welcomed me with a loud ‘Phil!’ and seemed as pleased to see me as I was him, and I felt good that I had made the decision to stop for one pint. I will return when things return to something more like they were before.

My family shared photos on Whatsapp this week, and I love this photo of my eldest son and my granddaughter in Australia and the photo of my mum, sister, son, niece and grandson at his 6 birthday party.

A big news story…

El and I have decided to move to New Zealand! From mid-next year or how ever long it takes to sort El a visa and then for me to find a job there, we expect this to be a long process. Updates as they come in.