Some fairly pathetic snow, but snow nonetheless

Tuesday February 09 2021 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

An email brought unexpected good news late on Wednesday night. Eleanor has been granted an indefinite partner visa for New Zealand, Yay, Yay and Yay again! While we (mainly me) expected this to be the case we were taken aback by how quick the application was processed. We didn’t expect to hear anything until at least May or June. This means we can now start to plan a move to Auckland, where most of my family are, for at least the short term.

This is very exciting, but also a little terrifying at the same. There is a lot of thinking and planning to do and I definitely need to get through the emotion of it and start thinking practically else nothing much will happen. I will do a separate post on this at some point. I think.

I took Friday off work as it was forecasted to be the only nice day of the weekend, it is also a non-working day for Eleanor so we could hang out and talk free from the constraints of work. We walked along the seafront under a weak winter sun to Hastings and started to formulate a plan and think about some of the things we need to do, which seems to be an awful lot. The big question for me is whether I keep the flat and rent it while we are gone, or sell it now as the market appears to be good and I will make some money. I have a real estate agent coming to value it on Wednesday, much as I should be led on this by my heart; I am going to be led by the pound.

[edit] I am writing this on Saturday and the estate agent has advised me my flat is worth a little more than I expected, so at this point in time I am going to sell, more on that decision soon, once it is made. [/edit]

Sunday

I have been following the weather forecast all week as there has been a promise of snow for some time, and today is the day, with falls expected to start around 3 or 4 AM. I was excitedly up and out of bed at 7, pulling up the blinds to check outside; then making coffee and going back to bed. Rain. Bloody St Leonards.

However, the snow did come soon after we got up, then continuing to snow lightly all day, though not enough for it to stick around. Still, we wanted to get out for a walk and feel the snow so we didn’t linger in bed too long and were outside by 9. Not bad for me on a Saturday.

When we left home the snow was barely falling and it wasn’t too cold, though it got colder and the snow fall got slightly heavier while we were out. There were hints the snow would start to settle later in he day by the time we got home 90 minutes later. We walked down to the seafront via the lovely St Leonards Gardens, which are just along the road from my flat. The snow was falling a little heavier now, but the ground is so wet and warm that none of it is settling.

I am about to send a letter to mum with some photos of the grandkids and one of El and I. As we don’t have any recent photos of us I decided to try and take some using the self timer on the camera. It took a couple of goes to get it right.

Rather than walk the seemingly traditional way towards Hastings we chose to walk in the opposite direction towards West St Leonards. As is often the case I was surprised at the number of people out, we even saw two people taking their daily dip; one of them wasn’t even wearing a wetsuit. Hardy folk on the coast.

The wind started to pick up and the snow was coming down a lot more heavily and it started to get cold so we looped back up the hill to home and watched the snow falling, but barely settling for the rest of the day. This was as good as it got, and the first time I have not hated these view blocking trees in my neighbours garden.

Monday

A small amount of snow fell overnight and with yesterdays colder afternoon followed by a much colder night a small amount had settled on the ground on Monday morning. I took a photo out of the bedroom window, over my neighbours and down the coast towards Bexhill and Eastbourne.

I was out the door soon after, and back to the park, yet again disappointed at the lack of snow on the ground. I took a couple of photos as this really was going to be as much snow as we will get this winter.

There was a little more snow on the seafront promenade and I was surprised to find about a dozen people on the beach and in the sea.

Tuesday

To my surprise there was a little bit more snow overnight, and a little bit more on the ground inthe morning. Today I avoided the park and went straight to Milk and Hustle, our friendly neighbourhood coffee shop for a takeaway flat white. Since we have been living here a number of places have opened selling coffee, but Milk and Hustle are by far the best, and they are really nice people too. Like all good coffee shops, a flat white is the same price here as it is in central London.

On non-rainy days my routine is to get a coffee and walk along the sea front a short way while drinking the coffee, then back up the hill for breakfast and (sadly) work. On rainy days my routine is to stay in bed longer. I often take a photo on my phone and post it to twitter, but this morning I brought the camera for the last of the snow photos for the winter.

Stormy St Leonards seas.

November 15 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

And so, just like that, another month has passed. More time that didn’t go anywhere, but gone nonetheless. Lockdown 2, the not quite as good sequel to Lockdown, started on 5 November. Given the country’s feeling on going back into lockdown I am a little surprised the events of 1605 did not come back to haunt this government. I suspect they were taking the mickey locking us down on Guy Fawkes night. Maybe they just hate fireworks as much as I do.

We went for a walk into Hastings yesterday, Saturday, to pick up some fresh fish and a few bits and bobs as I wanted to cook something different for dinner; Malay fish with black bean sauce. It was as good as it sounds. It was a nice day for a walk, even though it was windy and autumn, the sun was out and it was not cold. It was jacket and t-shirt with no jumper type weather.

I noticed that it was just past high tide when we walked and as the weather was turning stormy over night I started getting a little excited about the possibility of another windy high tide photo walk in the morning.

When we woke up the weather had not disappointed and it was howling out there. YES !!!

Wrapping up for the rain I packed the 5d camera and a couple of lenses and we headed down the hill to the sea front. I was very excited, child in a sweetshop excited as we walked down the hill and I could see the sea was roaring angry. In my head I was wishing Eleanor to pick up the pace, though it is only a short walk from home to beach. Patience is not my middle name in circumstances like this.

Last time we had this weather I walked up towards Hastings and into Bottle Alley, this time we chose to walk in the opposite direction towards West St Leonards and into the face of the howling wind blown rain. We were drenched in minutes. It was great. I used both the 70-200ml and the 16-35ml lenses, though changing lenses was a fraught affair.

We were both surprised and not surprised at the amount of people out walking and taking photos. These storm and high tide combinations are magnificent and there were a lot of Instagram images later in the day. There were a number of runners as well which was more of a surprise, it would have been hard work!

Photography was hard too, the rain was heavy and wind blown, so I was constantly wiping the lens clear, the wind was not helping with steady images either. I didn’t get as many good photos as I wanted, but I did get a few that I liked. My favorites are these three taken from inside one of the shelters on the promenade as the worst of the rain hit. The sea was very close!

As we were walking up the hill towards home I noticed I could clearly hear everything that Eleanor was saying to me. The thunder of sea, the howl of the wind and the rain hammering on our coats and the ground made it quite difficult to hear anything as we were walking just a couple of hundred of metres away. It was great being able to share the joy of the experience as we walked.

I loved having the big 5d camera back; all clean and repaired, except for a broken USB connector which means I cannot download the photos off the camera. I have ordered a CF card reader, but it is not due to arrive until later in the week so it was a little disappointing having to wait really see the photos I took.  I very much enjoyed taking photos again.

I quite like this rather abstract image of the roof of the house below and on down to the sea taken out of my closed bedroom window at the end of the day, with the window reflecting back the yellow light of the room. 

Taken out the open window with no light reflection.

August

August 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea

Summer. Holidays. Sun (on occasion, I am in England remember) and warmth; beach, swimming, walking, relaxing, lager and rose wine, cheese and salad. Yep, we had all those things, and probably more, though photographically this post is going to be more about clouds than much else. We had some mighty fine clouds in August, and some pretty good rain at times, the inevitable result of some extremely hot days.

The more I thought about the month the more I thought the weather summed up how I was feeling. It was not a bad month, but it had its grey and heavy moments. For most of us the UK relaxed its Covid-19 lockdown rules; we can go to pubs and restaurants, we can get a haircut, we can buy books and records from proper book and record shops and pretty much everything is now open. Admittedly nothing is as open as it would be in more usual times. Masks are compulsory in shops, and bars and restaurants ask for a name and number when you arrive. I have accepted that this is the way it will be for a long time, I still need to accept that not everyone is going to abide by those rules. I am getting closer to acceptance; though still mutter under my breath. Still, it is good to be out and about.

August has been OK at work too. Things do not feel as frantic as they have done, though like the weather I sense a pending storm of demand. August is the eye in the middle of this disruptive year, with Covid-19 mostly behind us. However, the winter demands of flooding, flu and cold are on the radar and the Brexit debacle looms over a horizon that is drawing ever closer.

Some good friends of ours from Walthamstow have just bought a flat in the absolutely lovely Marine Court building. The building needs a ton of work, and the public interior is straight out of The Shining. I love it. The building was constructed in 1938 and was the tallest building in the UK at the time, it is designed to look like a cruise ship, which it does quite well. I can see it from the flat. On one of our visits I took this photo of some fantastic clouds as they moved across the sea. I am going to get a big print of this…




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.

Visitors

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.

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.

A minor, yet uncomfortable experience

Sunday 31 May 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea (ish)

After completing the tenth lockdown post last Sunday I decided to make it the final one. Ten is a good solid number, and it seemed to be the right time to end. To be truthful, I was bored with them myself. A week later and I am not just bored with the blog, I am just bored. Period.

We are entering a new and more relaxed lockdown this coming week. Groups of up to six can meet outdoors, and they can meet in a garden, not just in a public place. I am utterly convinced this is too early to be relaxing any rules, the weather has been too good so there has been much relaxing of rules already, and the infection rate is still too high. But, what do I know? I am an IT guy, not an epidemic specialist. I won’t mention the Cummings thing and what message this sends, it made me too angry.

While it is good things are relaxing and some form of normality; this supposed new normality, is returning, I am not convinced that this covid event is winding down so I see any longer term plans as being foolish and not really worth making. Hence the bored. I am seeing the current way will be normality and it is not as good as the old normality, and I am one of the lucky ones. I have a good job, a great partner, I live in a good house with a garden and am lacking for nothing. Apart from being able to plan for travel and doing the things I want to do without any real or imaginary constraints. I want to go and see a band!

Anyway…

I had an online flat resident’s association board meeting on Tuesday so used my common sense and drove down to the flat on Monday afternoon, walking down to the beach soon after arriving. I could just as easily done this from London, but it was easier to be closer to the issues if I was there. That was my reasoning anyway. The beach was busy, I am fairly sure there were more people on the beach than I saw on any day last summer. Lockdown rules. A number of people were swimming, however I just had a couple of cans of lager, listened to music and read. It was nice and I felt better for it.

I took a few photos from the flat in the afternoon, I have not taken one from bedroom looking back towards Hastings and over the Marina Court building before, it is a great view. One of the things I am trying to deal with as part of my board membership is getting the neighbours to trim their leylandii trees. This window is on the fourth floor of my building.

The sunset was pretty good too.

On Tuesday I took the opportunity of actually having a lunch break to go for a swim, it was high tide early afternoon, and yes it was cold. I did not stay in long, but at least I got in. I intended to repeat this on other days but didn’t.

For my morning walk on Wednesday I walked around the Burton part of St Leonards and took photos of some of the old buildings. Starting in 1827 James Burton, and his son Decimus, designed and built St Leonards as a seaside retreat for wealthy Londoners. My novel is set in this period and I wanted some printed photos of the place to help me visualise the area.

In the evening I walked down to the shops to buy some fruit and biscuits. On the way home I had one of those uncomfortable ‘do I or do I not’ help situations, exacerbated by social distancing and worry about either getting sick or making some else sick. A couple were walking up the hill ahead of me when the woman starting having what looked like a minor fit or seizure, her partner grabbed her and was trying to hold her up and walk her to a nearby bench. I ran up and asked if they were OK and he assured me they were fine, and she just needed to sit down. As we were speaking her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she just started to slump toward the ground. He was struggling to not drop her and I momentarily wondered whether I should help. Only a for a split second, though my immediate thought was ‘is this safe?, if I touch them could I get sick?’ you know, those sort of things. Of course I helped, grabbing her from behind and helping to gently lower her to the ground where we stood. Someone pulled up in a car from the nearby care home, and another passer-by was calling an ambulance. As we tried to place her in the recovery position, she snapped out of it and appeared to be instantly fine. Once she was sat up and speaking I carried on home. Washing my hands more thoroughly than normal.

The following day, Thursday, I was back in London. With Eleanor’s son now coming back to London and starting teaching again in a couple of weeks we have decided to move down to St Leonards for the duration, or at least for a few week. I am looking forward to this.

The new way, Week eight.

Saturday 09 May 2020 – Walthamstow and St Leonards-on-Sea

Ho hum, another week done. It was a good week, it started and ended well, though the middle bit was frustrated by work; not the act of working, working is far better than the alternative. This week would have been as frustrating if life was normal and I was in the office, with the commute as a sort of additional negative bonus.

New Zealand continues to relax its rules and next week they will be taken down another level, I am a little (lot) envious. Here in the UK we continue to receive a stream of mixed messages as talk of relaxing some of the restrictions is being socialised in the media. A large portion of the population is against relaxing anything while the infection rate and number of deaths are so high. A poll this week showed 81% were against relaxing rules, I have never seen such strong opinion on anything in this country. Obviously things will be relaxed a bit, hopefully not by too much.

This started Eleanor and I thinking about maybe moving to the flat if her teacher son comes back to London to work and to live with us. This, in turn made me want to go down for a couple of days. So I did and it was welcome. Spending some time on my own, and allowing Eleanor the same, was something I needed; sun, sea air and records by artists beginning with an ‘S’ also helped.

Some positives from the lock down;

  • Cleaner air, though this is slowly receding as more vehicles are on the road.
  • More cyclists, everywhere, this is very heartening and now there is talk of improving infrastructure to encourage people to continue to cycle and walk once some form of normality returns.
  • I am listening to loads more music, even occasionally moving out of my music bubble.
  • Working from home is much more of a thing. I have done a day a week for quite a while now, but working from home all the time is the new normal and I hope to be able to do more days each week if returning to regular office hours ever happens. 
  • Eleanor and I are alone together, there are no foils in the house, and we are  constantly together every single day, we even share work day tea breaks and lunch. This has yet to be troubling and is a very good sign that our relationship works extremely well and I am extremely grateful and happy about this, as is Eleanor.
  • The best thing has been family group video calls, something we have never done before and something I very much look forward to.

Sunday
Best sleep in ages, which was slightly unfortunate as I was late for a family video call, which was lovely, warm and funny and really appreciated. We sang happy birthday to my eldest son who is 30 tomorrow and my nephew who celebrated his 18th last week. My mum and sisters, who can sing, must have cringed at the awfulness of it all. It was joyous in its terribleness. I should never sing where people can hear me.

I finished last week’s post in the morning and then walked to Walthamstow Wetlands in the afternoon while El worked. It was a great walk and I wrote about it here.

I made proper meat burgers with sweet potato fries for dinner, I miss burgers and may have to order a delivery burger sometime soon. The burgers at Half Man Half Burger in St Leonards are just the business and now I am drooling thinking about them. Next time I am down they are on the menu.

In the evening we co-watched more episodes of ‘Fear the walking dead’ with friends over Skype.

It was the best day in ages.

Monday
We were up early and I took a morning walk over to Walthamstow village for fruit and vege, stopping to take some photos in St Mary’s Church on the way.

As I type this on Friday I have no recollection of what happened at work, though I know Monday and Tuesday were just full of meetings, so perhaps I have blanked them both from my memory. It is a four day week and I am having a day off, so something to look forward to.

Dave Greenfield the keyboard player from original UK punk/new wave band The Stranglers was taken by the virus yesterday. He is just one in a vast number of unnecessary deaths, but the first that has impacted me in any way. I created a Stranglers playlist not that long ago, and will listen to it tomorrow.

In the evening we had a Zoom chat with Eleanor’s sons both of whom are in different towns to us. Eleanor’s youngest is a teacher and may have to come back to stay later this month if the schools re-open. This means we may go and stay at the flat to reduce any risk of infections coming home from school. It was a good catch up.

Tuesday
I took a walk around the park and then visited the local Tescos for bread and crisps, before another day of meetings, seven in total today.

I made these spinach and feta pastry things for dinner and they were good.

Wednesday
It was a funny old day. I started work really early, before 7:30 as I could not be bothered going for a walk. I had stuff to do as I have taken tomorrow off ahead of the long weekend. It was a really busy day, at times frustrating, at times liberating. There is a lot going on in my area at the moment and I do not know what to make of it all, anyway the work day ended satisfactorily enough.

El and I went for a short walk around the park before slumping in front of the TV, watching another couple of episodes of Devs which I love and am dragging out to make it last as long as possible. We started a movie that was truly awful and got turned off, finishing the evening with a really good documentary on the ground breaking photographer Lee Miller. Though I am not sure photographer sums up Lee Miller, she was that and so much more, an extraordinary, complex women.

Thursday
Last weekend I decided to take a leave day from work. I have a bunch of flat related admin to complete and don’t get the chance to do this during the week. I could make the chance, but I try not to sit on the laptop too much in the evening. Friday is a bank holiday, one I won’t be celebrating, other than by not going to work.

It made sense to use a normal work day for this flat work, take a day of annual leave I will otherwise not get to use and go to the flat. I know, some people will say I am breaking the rules; but, the flat is my home, the only home I own, I am not going to be staying with other people, and to be frank those people can go f*ck themselves. I need some time on my own, and anyway the big headlines this morning said the rules will be changed on Monday; though the government is now denying this, possibly due to the negative public reaction.

The drive down was uneventful and reasonably quick, the motorway was quiet for rush hour, but the road into Hastings was as it normally is. Soon after arriving I was out the door for a walk along the sea front.

It was lovely. Fresh sea air, warm but not hot, not too many people, the promenade was really clean there were people swimming in a way too cool sea. To counter this there was the normal number of cars on the road, the usual speeding on the side roads and of course the ubiquitous St Leonards double yellow line parking. No one does double yellow parking like Hastings and St Leonards.

It was a short walk to Hastings old town and back, but it was so nice to not be walking in Walthamstow, variety, spice of life, etc.

After taking this photo on my phone and walking on I noticed a woman glaring at me from behind the dark of the closed window…

Apart from one work conference call, important enough to dial in on my day off, I played records all afternoon and did little else.

The highlight was the sunset, it was glorious. I miss St Leonards sunsets and the mostly uninterrupted view I get of them.

It was a good day.

Friday
VE Day, Victory in Europe, celebrating victory in Europe, a victory over fascism, or at least the Nazis. Fascism never really went away; Franco’s Spain and Tito’s Yugoslavia for example, it is now making an unwelcome return in too many places. I do not celebrate the day, especially now it has been taken over by the flag waving, braying brexity mob. I had a lie in, then did all the flat admin stuff that was my main excuse for coming to the flat. I didn’t do much else with the day; chilled, read, listened to records.

I went for a walk late in the afternoon, it was warm out, much warmer than the flat suggested it would be; like yesterday, I wished I had worn shorts, not jeans.

There were fewer people out than I expected for a warm bank holiday. Hastings has not been badly impacted by covid19, which is remarkable given how high it places on the chart of relative deprivation, and the link between deprived areas and high covid mortality. The lack of folk out maybe shows that they take the messages of distancing seriously.

Saturday
I was wide awake by 5, had coffee and read the news and the socials by 6 so I got up, tidied, packed and drove back to Walthamstow, arriving there before Eleanor started work at 9. Best drive time ever, and I stuck pretty much to the speed limit. I loved my small break away, and would like to spend more time in my own home. This is not practical yet, and I would rather be with Eleanor than on my own for a few weeks.

After a couple of weeks of procrastination I finally made it out the front and trimmed the privet. I had to wear my covid mask as the pollen was killing me, one of the reasons for pruning it back, the other was to provide another foot of footpath width. Contributing to making social distant walking just a tiny tiny bit safer. I acknowledge that the hedge is not exactly straight…

We got this through the letter box, a zine from one of the local coffee shops, with a Phlegm picture on the front. This one is going into a frame, I love a bit of Phlegm!

In the evening we had another Fear the walking dead TV watching session with Skype friends, this time we both ordered takeaway from one of the local Turkish places. We finally managed to finish series three, which I actually enjoyed.  We will start the next series next week hopefully.  It was a fun evening, though I was exhausted from being up at 5;30 and by 11:30 I was ready for sleep.

As i said at the beginning, it was (mostly) a pretty good week.

This coming week will be interesting, new official guidelines come out this afternoon (Sunday). What changes will they bring ? and how will the nation react? 

The new way, Week one.

Saturday 21 March 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

And so it begins. A new but, hopefully temporary, stage of existence. Something so utterly predictable, yet something we are all so utterly unprepared for. A global pandemic. The Corona virus, Covid19.

I have been following the story since it was first reported in Wuhan, though not with any particular dread. I knew it was coming here and was going to impact us, and have been, on reflection, kind of just hanging around waiting for it so I can move on, to here. Now.

I am one of the very lucky ones.

  • I am fit and well (I think) as is Eleanor.
  • I have a job that allows me to work from home; I work for an organisation that encouraged us to not to come in to the office.
  • Eleanor has just started a new three month contract two weeks ago, and can work from home too.
  • I have some where to live that is comfortable and secure; in fact I have a choice of two places to live.
  • Eleanor and I have no at risk family members living with, or near us that we could possibly infect. My dad and both Eleanor’s parents are dead, and mum is in NZ.
  • Having my mum, sisters, son and grandson in NZ, a son and granddaughter in Australia and my daughter in Sri Lanka is stressful, and at times worrying, but there is nothing I can do about it. At this point in time they are all well and safe, and it is easier to not worry about them knowing this.
  • Both of Eleanor’s sons are living elsewhere and we have the house to ourselves. This means space for us to both work and not get in each other’s way. We can look after each other and it is easier to be cautious when it is just the two of us.
  • We had stocked up a little on non-perishable food a while ago; we have a ‘Brexit’ box. This means that we did not have to buy much, and certainly avoided the panic buying madness. Food wise we are good, at least for a while.

Last Tuesday we had a test work-from-home day with the whole department out of the office. Most of us work from home at least one day a week, but never at the same time. This was a test of the technology, and how we could all use it at the same time and how it would work for those who have not regularly worked from home. It was pretty successful. This was fortunate; later that day we, along with 2000 other colleagues, were advised to not go back to the office until further notice. Perhaps 12 weeks in the future.

Eleanor had at least one more day of working in the office, so on Wednesday I decided to drive down to St Leonards and work from the flat for a few days. I was hoping to be able to share working between London and St Leonards over the work from home period, though realistically expected this to not be achievable, and I was right with that. While there are no enforced travel restrictions yet, unnecessary travel is advised against and I can see there being a proper locked down ordered. I did not want to be left stranded away from Eleanor for a long period.

Working down there was the right thing to do. I got to experience being on my own ALL the time for three days, and I didn’t particularly like it. I can cope perfectly well being on my own, just having contact and the odd cheery word with someone in a cafe, shop or bar. Without even that small amount of face to face human interaction things felt different, weird and uncomfortable. I also worried that if I got sick I could get stuck inside for a few days on my own, if I got really sick then that could be dangerous.

Everything is very different now. Though things are yet to fully be locked down, a lot of places are shut, most of the cafes and some of the pubs and restaurants in St Leonards and Hastings have closed. My go-to bar, 1200 Postcards shut the doors, hopefully not forever, before I got down to the flat. I stayed in Thursday evening, cooked and took a photo out of the bedroom window. Gloom settling in.

I finished work at 4:00 on Friday and took a walk into Hastings to pick up a book I ordered. I took a couple of photos on the way.

The council have been grading the beach after the all the winter storms, I love the patterns made by the tracks of the diggers.

Back in St Leonards I popped into Graze (only two people in there, so I could stay 2 metres from  the other punters) for a glass of wine, suspecting it would be my last time in a bar for a while. Soon after I arrived at 5:00pm the government announced that as of tonight all bars, eat-in cafes and restaurants had to close. I don’t disagree with the decision, hard as it will be on the places I frequent and support, and I will miss going out for a drink and for coffee. My bank balance will be less displeased.

Saturday morning I went for a final quick walk, it was a glorious day, though cold. I love how Goat Ledge have chalked boxes on the ground for customers to stand in while they queue for a takeaway, and keep the required two metres apart.

I also popped into Lucy Bell Gallery, a photography only gallery to look at an exhibition based on, and to raise funds for the preservation of, Prospect Cottage. The late Derek Jarman’s cottage on Dungeness Beach.

I ended up buying a print of a Richard Heslop image. ‘Adam and Eve’, taken from the Jarman film ‘The Garden’, which was shot at Prospect Cottage, by Richard.  The print arrived here in London this morning, a week later. It will look great, framed, on the wall back in St Leonards.

I drove back to Walthamstow, knowing I will not be back at the flat for possibly a long time. I found, and still find this quite upsetting.

Penelope Isles, Winter Garden, Hanya @ The Piper.

Saturday 01 February 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

I was contacted earlier in the year by Mark who I met at a Walthamstow Rock n Roll book club event last year. One of his friends has been looking at flats in St Leonards and has made an offer on a place not too far from mine. He wanted to know what I thought of the town, so I gave him a run down on St Leonards and mentioned The Piper had recently opened and had some quite good gigs.  A couple of weeks back mark got in contact to see if I wanted to go and see the band Penelope Isles at The Piper. I said yes, so tonight we did.

I offered Mark the flat’s spare room for the night, our first overnight visitor since my sister stayed in May. We left for dinner soon after Mark arrived at the flat, choosing to eat at The Royal; a recently refurbished, re-opened, turned into a London priced gastro-pub near Warrior Square station. The food is very very good, worth the price, and it is an enjoyable place to eat in too.

We arrived at The Piper about 9:00, time enough to catch the last couple of songs of the first band Hanya, they were OK. I didn’t hear enough of them to form a proper opinion. The pub was packed and I heard one of the organisers say that the 145 capacity venue was sold out. El and I found a spot at that back, we could still see OK, but it was slightly less crowded and the sound at the venue has always been good no matter where you stand.

I went closer to the front for a couple of songs of the second band, Winter Garden. They weren’t really my cup of tea, nothing wrong with them, they had a very good guitarist, but the songs didn’t really set me on fire. I did like some of the guitar and looped synth noodling between songs, there was a great gothy noodle of the intro to Neil Young’s ‘Hey hey my my’ that would have been a good cover, though it was just an in between song thing sadly.

I have listened to Penelope Isles debut LP ‘Until the tide creeps in’ a few times in the past couple of days. It is OK, a gentle dream pop LP, something to listen to and enjoy, though it didn’t catch my attention as immediately as the Hey Colossus LP (the last band I saw at The Piper) did. Though after seeing them live, performing most of those songs, a grittier production would have suited that record better in my very non-expert, but very biased opnion.

They have some very good songs, but the LP is a little too shiny for my taste. The track ‘Gnarbone’ was so much punchier live, a highlight of their set. The recorded version does not capture the possibilities the song offers; noise, feedback, looped pedal generated squeals, all the things I like from a live band. I have no desire to see a band doing their studio thing!

Noisy squealy feedback things during Gnarbone.

I very much enjoyed their set; they are a great live band. What set them apart from the other bands that performed tonight, apart from the songs; was stage presence, they really know what they are doing, and how to work the crowd. There was nothing they did that was massively different to the support acts, but what they did do, they did so much better.

El and I both went to the front for their set, standing to one side, against the wall. I had the GX800 camera with a fast lens, so it was great for low light. The lens is not very wide and as the place was packed it would not have been any use if I stood in front of the band, so I stayed were I was and just took photos from there.

Unusually for The Piper the light was really good, thanks to some visuals from Brighton’s Innerstrings. I have been to shows with their light system before, most recently a gig in Dalston, and it does make a massive difference. I hope they come back to The Piper

I suspect Penelope Isles will be big one day, so go see them while you have the chance to see them in a small room. Small rooms are always best.