Um – brella – come rain or shine #rain #sun #tradition #London #history #umbrella

Let me share a quote with you that seems appropriate in the current ‘crazy’ weather climate, affecting a vast number of people across the globe.

Here it is, direct from the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival, a sometimes quite rainy area of land inhabited by Scots: 

“I like to imagine the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it ‘brella’ but he hesitated.” 

Um, firstly I think it’s rather presumptive to assume it was a man, but let’s think of the ‘he’ collectively.

The name umbrella evolved from the Latin umbella – a flat-topped rounded flower and the term umbra, meaning shadow or shade. In Italian, Latin’s closest modern-day language, the term for shade is ombra and for umbrella, ombrella.

While we play with names and definitions here are a few more of notable interest:

Un Parasol (French and Spanish) protects against the sun, para means stop or shield and sol is sun.

Un Parapluie (French) is an umbrella, para (shield against) pluie (rain). 

A Parachute (English, French) – para (shield from) a fall.

The oldest reference to a collapsible umbrella is 21AD in Ancient China. Then we follow the umbrella, in all its forms, through the traditions and customs of dynasties such as Ancient India, Siam, the Middle East, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the Aztecs and Europe.

In The Middle Ages (of Britain) a cloak, not an  umbrella, was often the desired clothing against rainstorms.

In 1768 a Paris magazine stated:

‘Those who do not wish to be mistaken for vulgar people much prefer to take the risk of being soaked rather than be regarded as one who goes on foot; an umbrella is a sure sign of someone who does not own his own carriage.’

It would not be long before umbrellas became a fashionable item; an accessory not only to shelter from the rain but to avoid the heat of the scorching sun (the sunbeams being particularly piercing in India, for example). 

By the 1750s the British people had got over their natural shyness and promoted the umbrella’s general use.

One such character, Jonas Hanway, founder of the Magdalen Hospital, dared the reproach and ridicule – the staring, laughing, jeering, hooting, heckling and bullying – of hackney taxi-cabs, of carrying an umbrella in London, everyday for 30 years, dying, nice and dry, in 1786.

There is a small street in London’s Fitzrovia, leading from Oxford Street winding itself to Tottenham Court Road, called Hanway Street, reputed to be named after our man. His popularisation of the umbrella was more successful than his attempt to introduce stilts into London, keen to avoid the muck and grime of the 18th century streets. 

Clearly he likes the theme of ‘avoidance.’ 

Ironically Umbrellas are the most ‘left’ items in taxi-cabs. 

They are sometimes extremely annoying but desperately useful articles, not everybody wants to ‘sing in the rain’ or have ‘raindrops keep falling on their head’…
Global National Umbrella Day is 10th February.

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The Last Bank Holiday of the Year, August 2017.  #holiday #Hastings #beach #festival #music #Boyzone #weekend

What better way to spend the bank holiday weekend than down on a British beach, with summery British weather & a wild mix of British people all having a thoroughly good time. Everyone entertained by Hastings Old Town, spending their English pound and speaking in their English tongue, turning pink and trying new things. Watching and observing, or taking part and letting go.

The weekend started with a big Boyzone concert on Hastings Pier. Ronan Keating and fellow Irish lyrical lads were singing till late, out at sea, under an orange moon and far from the madding crowd. Girls were ecstatically happy, the boyfriends were less-than pleased.

Safe parties on the beach, picnics, swimming, sailing, church-bells, wrapped fish and chips to individual tapas, it can be original or fancy, working classy to posh and arty.

Everyone is welcome.

By next week this pebbly beach will be a desert, not from stones to sand but from lots of people to very few. But it won’t be long before we can fish out and dish out a new festival, The Seafood and Wine Weekend, in 3 weeks, for example: the celebration of British wine and seafood; a feasting festival, with plenty of live music and tipsy-ness.

Wherever you are in Britain, I hope you’re taking full advantage of the last, long bank holiday of the year. It is still summer, despite an early crop of apples, signifying a shift into autumn.

Hastings is merely a stone’s throw away from London… lots of things have happened since 1066…

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Pirates & Piracy #pirates #Hastings #records #drummers 

Piracy in Hastings Old Town has become a mid-July, summer celebration and each year, along buccaneer mile, a little variation keeps it ever-exciting and wildly entertaining. Pirates from all over the country, county, cities and o’er the seas come to revel and rollick.
This year includes, ‘The Tigers’ free-fall parachuting, and landing on the end of Hastings pier; fierce and feisty drummers – Section 5; drinking gin before 11am; beards, parrots and real wooden legs; the creation of the largest pirate flag in the world on the beach and filmed from air; drinking whisky after 11am and everything else onwards; dancing and a full pirate orchestra performing Pirates of the Caribbean music as well as folk band, The Pyrates from Holland, and ‘light’ Opera (Pirates of Penzance); Jack Sparrow and entourage in drunken swagger parading along the seafront. He really looks like Johnny Depp.

Arrrgh…a jolly good time had by all!’

Please take note Hastings features in The Guinness Book of Records for the most recorded pirates in one place … that’s 14,231 Pirates.  I was one of them.


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Pirates party before pub refreshments.

May-Day Merry-making #May #bankholiday #green #tradition #Spring #festivals #flowers #Hastings

This year May Day falls on the First of May, not since 2005 have the two come together so poetically. If you are a Morris-man or woman you will have been up since dawn, dancing and rejoicing, celebrating the release of Spring.
In Hastings Old Town, the capital of the East Sussex culture scene, we have gathered flowers, greens and specially-made wreaths to adorn our streets (Hawthorn blossom is called ‘May‘ because it will be picked at this time of year) and long, colourful ribbons to dress the houses, shops, pubs, cafes and churches.

 Bells, bangles, bikers, green men, green women, drummers, fiddlers, singers and sweepers, one and all prepare for the Jack in the Green parade, winding its green garlanded way around the old streets and on to Hastings Pier for more dancing and revelling.  

Everyone will be ‘a-maying‘ from sunrise to sunset. A Spring holiday of feasting (on local organic bread), drinking (on the local pub’s homemade beer) & cheering the most spectacular May Parade. 

Hooray! This is Hastings, no battles here. It’s alive with ‘ye olde world’ tradition and armfuls of green hugs. Come be merry-made…

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The Long run of Winter  #WinterSolstice #winter #dark #light #December #short #Christmas #climate #festive #calendar 

Today, 21st December, is the shortest day of the year in the U.K. – known on the calendar year as The Winter Solstice.

In Hastings, East Sussex the sun will rise wearily at 07.58 and set quickly at 15.53.  

If it is a grey day (& it is) it’ll seem exceptionally short, and the light will be poor and bland, if it is sunny (maybe tomorrow) make the most of the rays as a lack of sunshine, especially around the Christmas period, can make you feel very low. 

On the positive side, the shortest day of the year will now give way to a gradual lengthening of days. This means that the cloudy, misty, oppressive days will become longer ones, so even more reason to grab the sun when it rises and shines. 

A short pre-Christmas day is best spent enjoying the colour of the festive lights, fiddling with wrapping paper and sticky, pretty bits of string, reaching for a spicy, warm mulled wine and filling the house with scents of cinnamon & orange and roast potatoes. There are lovely ways to spend this seasonal month and many pleasures to gain from living the cycle of a temperate climate, even in those darker days.
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Highlighting the Highlife in Hastings  #Hastings #Battle #1066 #celebration #October #fireworks #bonfires #parades

From the 8th to 16th October 2016 the Old Town of Hastings, East Sussex is celebrating & commemorating the great Battle of Hastings that took place 950 years ago exactly on 14th October 1066.  

There will be two enormous parades:

1. Come dressed as an Anglo-Saxon or a Norman warrior and join the fight for a feisty procession. Friendly weapons of the 11th century variety allowed.

2. Fire breathers, bonfire societies, and drummers join forces to light the East Cliff beacon and rumble through the old town wielding burning torchlights, culminating in a gigantic 🔥Bonfire on the beach, and a spectacular 💥 Fireworks display above the black skies of the English Channel (perhaps even visible from France over 20 miles away).

Also…. 1,066 people will be taking on the 17 mile foot race following the 1066 country walk from Pevensey (where King William landed) to Battle (site of his famous victory).

This 950th anniversary will be an eye-popping (sorry King Harold) momentous occasion – its been sitting in the calendar waiting to explode onto the scene for many-a-year. 

Now we’re warming up because here it comes and Hastings Old Town (the most extraordinary place in the world) has it completely covered. 

Prepare to be amazed at what a town can do!

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Hare & Hawthorn have it! #books #bookshops #poetry #story #Hastings #local #AleisterStratton #EastSussex #history #hare

It is with great pleasure I now happily announce that my two poetry books, Poems & Lyrics, and Ever Truly Yours and my short story novella: The Case of Aleister Stratton (special, signed pre-release copies) are now available to buy in a lovely, local bookshop and bindery in Hastings Old Town, ‘Hare & Hawthorn.’ A unique little shop with beautifully bound new and old classic books, illustrated paper, mugs and pens all chosen and selected to the owner’s taste. This special, individual shop is found down one of the many twisted alleyways in one of the oldest towns in Great Britain.

Hastings of East Sussex, known as the 1066 county, celebrates its 950th anniversary in October, 2016. It is wonderful to be part of its fabric of history.

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Check out… ‘The Case of Aleister Stratton’ http://www.aleisterstratton.com

The latest – my ebook and novella coming now, coming soon!#free #novella #Hastings #London #AleisterStratton #mystery #ebook #book

Be one of the first 1000 to download a free, pre-release ebook: 

http://www.aleisterstratton.com

A launch and a landing – my new novella ‘The Case of Aleister Stratton’ is now available as a free, pre-release ebook.

Released worldwide as both an ebook and a paperback book on 5th September, 2016.
It is, however, possible to buy a proper printed pre-release, signed book right now through my email: kate@katebarnwell.com or publisher at http://www.grosvenorartistmanagement.com

This means you receive the book (something to hold and own) before the rest of the world; it is signed and it comes with a hessian bookmark: £4.99 plus p&p.
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Drumming up support #RNLI #charities #lifeboats #pirates #Hastings #Shakespeare #TheTempest #parades #drummers 

In this photo The Drumskull pirate drummers are drumming inside the Hastings Lifeboat Harbour Building (RNLI Hastings. Saving lives at sea since 1858). The echo of the beating drums is defiant; a pounding and thunderous roll.

A small sense of irony in that pirates are raising money for lifeboats, but what a wonderful thing! Hats off to anyone and everyone who raises and contributes money for charities big and small.

William Shakespeare is said to have derived some of the inspiration for his play, ‘The Tempest’ from a shipwreck that began on this day in 1609, as described by Silvester Jourdan, “… we were taken with a most sharpe and cruell storme upon the five and twentieth day of July, Anno 1609, which did separate us from the residue of our fleet…”

Luckily for the crew, on their way to Virginia, they fell upon ‘the islands of Barmudas’ where they remained for 9 months, ‘fruitful and inchanted.’

Back in 2016 it’s time to enjoy the summer season whether on the English coast or abroad or maybe some exotic island.  

Remember to pop a bit of money in a charity box; a few savings.

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Signs that Stick (Out) #OnThisDay #War #signs #life #death #Hastings

Speedy lives, racing around, lots to do, no time to stop, then one day or some odd day, or some particular day comes along and in it there’s a sign; you stop to read it – twice, no more than a simple 3 minutes of your time, but what it says is striking…

On this site stood

The Swan Inn

& 1,2 & 3 Swan Terrace

destroyed by enemy action 

at about mid-day on Sunday

23rd May 1943 with consider-

able loss of life.

After that, you walk away much slower, much softer and much more removed from all around you, and furthermore you contemplate a situation of absolute pain, horror and devastation precisely 83 years ago, down that same path you casually wander today.

The land on which you stand has played many a-parts.

Pass with a new eye and a different tread.

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Swings and Roundabouts #HastingsPier #seaside #beach #summer #May #concerts #cinema #funfair

This carousel (see photo) is particularly special, it has a new and permanent home on Hastings Pier, East Sussex, also known as the ‘1066‘ county, in England.
The original pier was built in 1872; it was the marvellous work of architect genius Eugenius (yes, real name) Birch using the screw-pile technique, an engineering feat of Victorian proportion. It has weathered many storms and given immeasurable joy to the town and to seaside visitors; pier promenading being a classic attraction.
In 2010 a fire destroyed many parts of the pier, but now after 6 years of strong community spirit and sheer determination, and a good deal of cash…donated by the townspeople and matched by the National Lottery Fund (no government grants were given)… the pier is back for the future in 21st century fashion offering a new kind of ‘fun’fair.
There is an open-air cinema, presenting the original films ‘Jaws‘ & ‘Star Wars‘ – perfect for out at sea and under the stars.

There is a sold-out ‘Madness‘ concert mid-May; if not booked on the pier you’ll be able to rock about on the beach and for miles around.

From 10am – 10pm you can eat, drink and be merry; ride, swing and relax; dance, dawdle and stroll. 

The People’s Pleasure Pier of Hastings 2016 awaits…roll up and roll on summer!
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Time to rage against the ‘dying of the light’  #solstice #poetry #December #Hastings

In the UK, the 21st December is the shortest day of the year – the ‘winter solstice’.

In Hastings, East Sussex – beside the sea and looking out about 40 miles across the channel to the northern beaches of France – the sun rises at 07.58 and sets at 15.54.

Every day the sun will set exactly one minute later, ‘come rain or shine’ as Sinatra once sang. However sunrise works at a much slower pace increasing (not decreasing yet) by one minute every few days.  

In the first week there is no noticeable difference, but you are happy in the knowledge that ‘the days are getting longer.’ What a great relief!

Naturally the sunset and the sunrise do not determine the weather conditions – these are a whole other phenomenon.

So whatever you are doing – indoors or out – you’ll be gaining priceless light minutes in which to do it, which will add up along the way…!

‘As the blinding shadows fall,

As the rays diminish,

Under the evening’s cloak, they all

Roll away and vanish.’

From ‘Night And Day’ by R.L.Stevenson

‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light…’
Dylan Thomas

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Tune in to the story of Hastings and the television #Hastings #television #history

Hastings in East Sussex, England has a long line of extraordinarily illustrious accomplishments and now I must ‘get on my high horse’ and add another ‘string to its bow’ by claiming it also as the birthplace of television.  

The glorious television (TV) has become a customary piece of household furniture and has allowed us access to the whole world, and to our favourite programmes – fiction, non fiction, semi fiction…so much to choose from and still you hear a voice shout, ‘there’s nothing on!’

Well for the television we must thank, Scottish-born engineer and innovator, John Logie Baird (14th August 1888 – 14th June 1946).  

In the year 1923 he was unwell, and a dose of sea-air was prescribed. He rented a workshop in the new district of Hastings and from here he built the world’s first television set. He used a series of miscellaneous items including a tea chest, old hat box, darning needles, sealing wax, scissors and bicycle light lenses. Amazing what can be achieved when you are sick and bored indoors – perhaps this is exactly what got him started; a television to heal boredom and sickness.

In March 1925 his first public demonstration of moving silhouette images was delivered to a captivated audience in Selfridges department store, London.

From William the Conqueror to John the Television Inventor… 

I am ‘over the moon’ in saying this was ‘one giant leap for mankind‘ (!)

  

A piece of potted history of all important proportion – William conquers as Harold falls 14th October 1066 #history #OnThisDay #Hastings #kings

In the year 1066, English soil saw 3 kings of England. Firstly, there was old Edward the Confessor, who on his deathbed is thought to have named Harold Godwin as his successor. However he had already made William, Duke of Normandy his heir in the 1050s when Godwin was in exile.

With three claimants to one throne – there was also the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada, this year was not going to end well for some-bodies.

Well, it did start favourably for Harold. He threw back the challenge from the north at Stamford Bridge, killing his Norwegian namesake. Then, weary and exhausted, his army travelled south, but slings and spears were no match for Norman cavalry.  

A spear in the eye for Harold was the final blow; he was mortally wounded, William headed to the capital to secure his position.  

This is the famous Battle of Hastings (14th October 1066) but the Battle never actually took place in Hastings, it was fought in the now aptly named town of Battle, where there is a re-enactment every year on the exact battlefield. Too many battles

Should you wish to come visiting on re-enactment weekend, you will find the trains from London Charing Cross to Hastings via Battle, packed with Normans and Anglo-Saxons (“please ensure you are travelling in the correct part of the train!”). 

This time they mean it.

The sight of costume-dressed burly men with wooden sticks freaks and terrifies many tourists who are innocently en route to Hastings for a cultural break. You just have to explain it all to them quite simply, and calmly even when they think you are half mad…

“This is the Hastings train; this part of East Sussex is unlike any other place you’ll ever visit; for us this is just another ordinary weekend!  Take a cup of tea and settle in…”

Hastings has the original Norman castle, situated on the West Cliff; it was established by William before the battle and made with Norman materials brought over on the invading boats.
So this is where it all began, 1066 and all that!

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It just dawned on me… Aleister Crowley #poetry #birthday #Hastings #poet

Aleister Crowley (12th October 1875 – 1st December 1947).
Poet; chess-player: ‘nobody ever beat him;’ traveller; artist and occultist, labelled The Beast was born on this day 140 years ago and died in Netherwood boarding house (sitting 500 feet above sea level) on The Ridge, in my town of Old Hastings, East Sussex.

He chose room 13, at the front of the house, with extensive views of the Norman castle, Beachy Head and the sea.

He was described by his landlady as “popular, pleasing, charming; very erudite; a good companion, a stimulating talker and quite unlike anyone else; from the day of his dramatic arrival, he was clearly no ordinary mortal.”  

He had a large collection of friends, received many visitors, and parcels of chocolate from America – when rationing was rife in Britain. In fact from his room permeated the smell of a strong molasses-tobacco; it was stacked from floor to ceiling with his books and packages of chocolates.

He often took long walks along The Ridge, leaning on lampposts, palms to the sun.

But during his lifetime, he promoted himself as “the wickest man in the world” and “the devil incarnate.”

On the evening of his burial, the coffin travelled from Hastings to Brighton for cremation, there was a tremendous thunderstorm with lightening that continued all through the night; his good friend remarked, “Crowley would have loved that.”

He had an extraordinary presence, and an unusual persona, was distinctively different, possessing secret magical powers, beyond all ordinary comprehension, and keen to make friendships with the inquisitive and intelligent.

Netherwood house was demolished in 1968.

“But this is dawn; my soul shall make its nest

Where your sighs swing from rapture into rest

Love’s thurible, your tiger-lily breast.”

‘A Birthday’ by Aleister Crowley, 1911
It just dawned on me…
 

Plain sailing

How about this wonderfully picturesque, cartoon-style map! The great, wide piece of water in middle is the The English Channel (the French call it La Manche) separating two independent and staunchly proud countries, Great Britain (we have Great in the title) and France.
It’s across this dividing line of water that King William of Normandy sailed in 1066, claimed victory over King Harold and planted his castle in HASTINGS and his mark forever.

The distance is around 25 miles and on extremely clear days, standing on the cliffs, you can see the outline of our dear cousins on The Northern tip of France.  

How times have changed, now we are all friends, we even have a connecting ‘Eurostar’ tunnel, for those who don’t fancy a sailing trip. We have our spats and quarrels occasionally, but this is natural). We are happy to break bread and share wine with each other, (provided we agree on whose wine and whose bread)… ‘Ah c’est la vie!’

  

The Hut that weathers the storms

This dinky little Victorian hut is not a time machine or the Tardis; it is quite simply, a weather hut, where the day’s (twice daily), month’s, year’s vital statistics are recorded and presented. It holds all sorts of fascinating facts on the weather for Hastings, East Sussex and has been doing so (come rain or shine or War) ever since 1875. It is rather unassuming, blink and you might miss it, but, since the weather is such an essential talking piece in Britain, it is always great to be several steps ahead of everyone else.

For example in May 2015 there was 92% of the normal average sun, & 174% of the normal average rainfall. Aren’t you fascinated?! Isn’t this a real conversation starter?! What about cloud cover, thunderstorms, & day by day averages – yep it’s all there for you to peruse…either this will keep you up at night or send you to sleep.

Here are some of the extreme conditions witnessed in Hastings in the 20th century:

Highest temperature 32.3*c, 27th June 1976

Lowest temperature -11.2*c 5th January 1894

Most sun in a year 2147 hours in 1911

Most rain in a day 62.7mm 18th August 1952

There is a very happy man in a very haphazard hut, checking, calculating and charting all these details for the next generation. In truth it is totally British and totally charming to be continuing this tradition. The weather will never stop play!
  

The World according to Oysters

On a day like today, out in the June sun, the sky a deep, jewel-like blue; there’s a calm, rolling sea, a safe shoreline, fresh oxygenated air and endless space.
You may look to the horizon and say the words:-

“The world is mine oyster!” Well you won’t be catching oysters from this boat in this English Channel but you will mean so much more when you look back on this proverb with ‘its highly memorable condensed bold imagery of its commonplace fact of experience’ (quite a verbal mouthful – break it down!)

What you are really saying is “I can achieve anything I want, go anyway; I have the opportunity (time and money) and the ability (health)!”

‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ (Shakespeare’s play, written in1600) was the first to make use of this phrase:

Falstaff: “I will not lend thee a penny ”

Pistol: “Why then the world’s mine oyster, which I with a sword will open.”

The world doesn’t have to be expensive or exclusive or difficult to access; maybe we just have to change our perspectives…this view is free and makes you feel instantly liberated. Anyhow it’s food for thought (although while we’re on oysters, I hear they are quite a required taste!)

  

Hastings and battles

Here is a view that must be over 150yrs old, in the quintessentially English Old Town of Hastings, East Sussex, which in 1066 (Normans versus Anglo Saxons) became the most famous landmark in the world.  So what came next? Well over time 19 new Hastings would pop up on the global map.

Let’s list them: Hastings, Somerset, England… Hastings, Barbados…Hastings, Sierra Leone… Hastings, New Zealand…Hastings, Tasmania…Hastings River & Hastings Range, New South Wales, Australia… Hastings, Victoria, Australia… Hastings Island, Louisiade, Archipelago.

In America: Hastings, Minnesota…Hastings, Michigan…Hastings, Iowa… Hastings, Nebraska…Hastings, Oklahoma…

Hastings, Florida…Hastings, Pennsylvania…Hastings on Hudson, New York 

In Canada: Hastings, Ontario…Hastings, Nova Scotia…

Hastings, New Brunswick.

Phew what a legacy! If you ever meet someone and throw Hastings into the conversation 9 times out of 10 you will get the answer “ah Battle of Hastings, 1066!” The original is always best – and there are no battles anymore-except the town Battle, where the 1066 battle actually took place!