Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 4, 2017 by cliffdean


Illiterate in Odessa

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 4, 2017 by cliffdean

Beneath the street light of an intersection I’m once more like a five-year-old, peering at the jumble of shapes on the sign, referring back to the bit of paper I keep folded in my pocket. I’m like all those children with whom I’ve sat over decades of teaching as they attempt to decode the squiggles, trying to distinguish one from another, trying to remember the sound each is supposed to represent. Except that for me there’s already a contrary alphabet firmly installed in which some letters sound the same, some look similar but say something else and others are alien. The sounds too are sometimes new. The pupils with whom I now feel so much in sympathy are those for whom those squiggles remained mute.

One strategy is just to remember the entire shape of the word and match it to the tiny lettering on the grid of streets on our folded-out map, but the words are so long… Then a breakthrough – the same I heard from our own children during their first year of primary school as we’d be driving along and one would suddenly exclaim, “That says STOP.” With me it’s “P…U…S-H-K-I-N.. It says PUSHKIN! And that’s Ekaterina!”

For six blocks we’ve marched through alternations of light and deep pools of shadow along avenues where the tall trees lean against ornate crumbling facades, providing multiple trip hazards in the form of their erupting roots, remaining  stumps and hollows along with drains and displaced cobbles and, sweating, have just about given up our search for Roz Marin, when I spot black hats silhouetted in the distance. There was a Jewish restaurant much closer to the hotel but this is supposed to bethe best. Inside, it’s boiling hot and devoid of diners, closed; the figures  I saw are crowding instead into the tiny adjacent baker’s, where trays of sweet-smelling bread are being unloaded from the ovens.

What next? Head for those lights. But it’s a fairground, with just shawarma stalls, and beyond it a dark park.

Dark is not threatening though. The figures moving through the shadows are just strolling: old people, young couples, families with young children out in the warm night.

If we walk to the end of the park we should come to the sea.

Indeed we do, but between us and the water is a nocturne of hulls, superstructures and gantries.

Time to turn a right angle and once more enlist my crumpled bit of paper, passport to the word-world of Cyril, in the search of the lights of Deribasivska Street with its restaurants, giant illuminated fruits, horses decorated as giraffes and crowds strolling confidently along repaired pavements (but most girls wear flat shoes all the same).


Prince Albert resurrected

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 2, 2017 by cliffdean

Log ago – seven years in fact – in my first post concerning Alexandra Park, I referred to a mysterious statue relegated to a derelict greenhouse:


Further research confirmed that it portrayed, as I suspected, Prince Albert and came in fact from the long-gone town centre memorial.


Just now however, I was delighted to learn that this neglected bit of Hastings history has been accorded a  more dignified position by the museum.


In passing #2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 2, 2017 by cliffdean

In passing #1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 2, 2017 by cliffdean


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 13, 2017 by cliffdean

Following a day of uncharacteristically heavy rain, we were glad to get out at Dengemarsh on a bright and typical September morning, relishing as ever the first view from the slightly raised Springfield Bridge across the back of the RSPB reserve, over wildfowl, Cormorants, Common Terns and a cruising Marsh Harrier.

Big crowds of Lapwings kept surging up, trialing 3 Ruff just below. From high up in the blue came the call of Golden Plover – at first just one still with a black belly flashing in the sunshine but then a flock of maybe 100 which stuck around for the rest of the morning either circling semi-visibly in the sky or settling for a while on an island adding their fluting chorus to the wailing of Lapwings.

We soon began to pick out raptors across the horizon: Kestrel, Hobby, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, and then high up a Carrion Crow was persistently harassing a smaller falcon  – a Merlin.

Another nice thing about coming in from Dengemarsh Road is that you meet very few people. The second we met at the crossroads by the hide (has this spot got a name?) was an RSPB guy who informed us that we’d missed some early morning action with a fall nearer the point – in fact there was a Wryneck still there at The Desert. It would be easy to locate since there would be a crowd of people watching it. While there have been occasions when I’ve really wished for such a crowd when fruitlessly searching for some interesting yet needle-in-a-haystack bird, I generally avoid them. The RXbirdwalks way is not to rush off after something supposedly more exciting but to visit a promising location and just see what’s there.

So we continued looking at a few warblers in the scrub and scanning the sky for birds of prey, and while watching a flock of 4 Buzzards, a big bird came gliding over the willows – an Osprey! There had been one or two about all week but – it’s not a zoo – you can’t be sure of seeing one but this bird stayed around for about 20 minutes, gliding, hovering & diving – inexpertly it seemed because after several unsuccessful lunges it caught a rather small fish and flapped off to consume it atop one of the many vertical structures Dungeness has to offer. A spectacular bird, one that I don’t see all that often and rarely as close as this, a useful opportunity to check the plumage details that made it (apart from the amateur fishing) a young bird.

It looked much closer at the time! Thanks to Stuart Barnes for the photo.

Reasoning that the open sky offered the best spectacle, we spent some time on the Viewpoint though by that time there were fewer birds in the air (apart from Golden Plovers) but a distant Peregrine put up a cloud of Starlings over at the chicken sheds. On the small pools to the west (I don’t know what they’re called either) we found Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk (8th raptor species) & Bearded Tits then, proceeding with effort over soft and sticky arable land, arrived at Brickwall Farm beside which 4 Whinchats and a very scruffy Stonechat perched in a weedy patch beside a skeletal barn.


An Unanticipated Insight Into The History Of Wheelbarrows

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 11, 2017 by cliffdean

During a walk from Rye through East Guldeford to Camber & back up the Rother some vexing questions were tackled thanks to the Wonders of the Internet.

The first concerned the tools available to those who constructed the huge mediaeval sea defences such as the Wainway Wall. While I’d go for (wooden) shovels loading pack-horses, another view was that wheelbarrows would also have been used. I contested this since I had some dim & distant recollection that these essential items, rather than having been created by God as a helpful afterthought sometime late on the Sixth Day, had not been introduced since the thirteenth century.

A few minutes’ squinting at my phone, without glasses and in bright sunlight, revealed that, though I was not wrong, the story is a long one, meriting an extensive entry on Wikipedia. The first records come from China in the second century CE. These generally had a centrally-mounted wheel and could carry large loads of drawn by an animal & steered from behind by the carter. Some even had sails to assist them.

“…during the Red Eyebrows Rebellion (c. 20 CE) against Xin dynasty‘s Wang Mang (45 BCE–23 CE), the official Zhao Xi saved his wife from danger by disguising himself and pushing her along in his lu che barrow, past a group of brigand rebels who questioned him, and allowed him to pass after he convinced them that his wife was terribly ill”

Some evidence exists that they were used in Ancient Rome:

“The 4th century Historia Augusta reports emperor Elagabalus to have used a wheelbarrow (Latin: pabillus from pabo, one-wheeled vehicle]) to transport women in his frivolous games at court.”

Their role in transporting women is clearly a chapter still to be written.

The wheelbarrow did not appear in Europe however until the late 12th/early 13th centuries, and these models had the familiar front-mounted wheel. There is no account of the wheelbarrow’s whereabouts during the intervening centuries.

While there seems to be no Wheelbarrow Museum, there is one for Lawnmowers, from which you can purchase a Wheelbarrow Mug. And while you’re waiting for that to arrive, you can watch many videos of Extreme Wheelbarrowing and Wheelbarrow Tricks on Youtube.

Well, that was enough excitement to keep us going till we arrived in the land of Evolving Bungalows they call Camber.

Here, collapsing wrecks, vacant lots and humble 60s style structures, erected at a time when Camber was on the edge of the known world therefore exempt from architectural values, are being designerised into cool new seaside hideaways.

Which led us across the road, up the back of the dunes (where Elms predominate, I noticed for the first time) and across Rye Golf Course where we naturally fell to speculating on the exact location of the Camber Sands Station on the old tramway route. While the Camber Golf Links Station remains in good condition, with rails too, the terminus seems to have vanished entirely.

Martin King has sought out some old maps and a  Google Earth image showing the station’s original site.

Last thing: 4 Common Seals hauled up on the side of the Rother just past the industrial zone.