I started this blog on 26th August 2011, ten full years ago. Since then I have become ten years older, greyer, stouter. I do not pass judgment on whether I am wiser by a decade; only that the last 18 months have made me more cynical. This morning, our last in Hastings, I sat on the shingle beneath Hastings Pier and, like this couple, contemplated the sea on a warm and pleasant morning.
And the next ten years? If you’re still interested, follow along.
It’s just a field, home these days to a number of sheep (two of whom were a source of great interest to the visitor at the bottom of the pic). But on October 14th 1066, around 7,000 men were slaughtered here in one day at the Battle of Hastings, and the victor, Duke William of Normandy, instituted a regime that, basically, continues to rule the island of Great Britain into the present time. (One wonders how different human history might have been if the two antagonists, neither of whom had a particularly direct claim to the throne of England, had just cut cards for the privileged, or agreed to do six months a year each.)
It is understandable that the tourists would want to come and see the place — as we did on this pleasant, bright Sunday. But I guess the import of what happened on this spot 956 years ago, the scale of the death and mayhem, will never be fully apparent. These days we walk round and take our pictures and listen to the soothing tones of the ‘audio guide’ and then go and have lunch in the nearby pub. Battle is worth a visit though, whether you are English or not.
Note also — it’s day 3,650. But thanks to three leap years having interspersed themselves over the last decade, I am not quite at the point where I have completed 10 years of this blog. I assume I will make it to Wednesday, though.
Clare and (for the third time in four days) Joe amble along the rim of the country. To the left, nothing until Dieppe in France. To the right, the town of Hastings, home for the next few nights. The evenings draw in, but summer remains with us.
When I was growing up in Sussex there were many of these ‘sunken lanes’ around the place and I guess I never really gave them much thought. But seeing a track like this, embedded between two earthen banks, is a sign that the way is of great antiquity. Their sunken nature is not natural, it is the result of erosion, taking place as people and livestock use the track over hundreds and, probably, thousands of years, over and over.
While on a walk in the South Downs today (bagging a County Top), I turned a corner and was suddenly confronted by this most magnificent example. Actually I’m surprised the shot ended up with so much light in it, because to my eyes this was a dark, enclosed tunnel through the landscape, exactly the kind of place where you can picture Frodo and his mates hiding from the Black Rider early on in Lord of the Rings. It’s called Tennyson’s Lane in tribute to the poet who had a house nearby, and in 1905 Arthur Paterson wrote the following about it, words that are still true today:
Trees meet overhead, copsewood surrounds it, and later, it is hedged by high sandy banks thickly overgrown with plant and scrub; squirrels and rabbits, and all other small woodland creatures, disport themselves over it. It twists and turns, and to the stranger appears to lead nowhere in particular.
This is one of those shots that is more about the personal significance than the photographic quality. When I was growing up in Crowborough we knew members of the Chappell family, who owned this pharmacy and (though it’s not so apparent on the picture) a health-food annex to the right-hand side. In fact I think I put in my first ever example of what might be considered a day’s work in the latter, aged about 13. So I do have enough of a clear memory of this place to know that in forty or more years it has not changed ONE BIT. You’d have thought that they’d have spruced up the sign at some point — but no. It’s 1975 all over again.
Seaford Head is one of those unsung places that few people seem to have heard of despite it being just as dramatic as places like the White Cliffs of Dover, Beachy Head and other places that look rather like it. If you like this shot, catch it before it all crumbles into the sea, like most of the rest of the east and south-east coasts of England eventually will….
What yesterday’s football shot did not make apparent was that I have transferred down South for the coming week, firstly in leafy rural Sussex — specifically, Crowborough, where I grew up. This place has appeared on two previous days of the blog, back in July 2013, but I really don’t make a habit of returning. Why am I doing so this week? Well, I could elaborate on the details but basically I just want a quiet place to hang out, start my sabbatical and get some inspiration to start writing what I have to write. And, so far, it’s largely provided these things. (The fact this was taken on a golf course has no significance, I can assure you.)
One thing I always do forget about this place, though, is quite how hilly it is. Crowborough is definitely the place to bring anyone that you want to disabuse of the notion that the south-east of England is flat. We are hundreds of feet in the air here, and in the distance, those are the South Downs, some 20 miles away. The south-east may not have the mountains of the north, but it certainly has the bloody hills.
It’s getting on for a decade since I last tried to get myself (more precisely, my left knee) round 13.1 miles, but Clare still does it now and again in her regular 2:45. Hence, the Brighton half-marathon has become an annual staple of the blog, this is at least its third appearance. Well done to all the finishers, in whatever time they make it; I know what it takes…