Monday, 13 February 2017

Guest Travel blog post - Hastings, East Sussex by Author Madeleine Reiss

Today I'd like to introduce Author Madeleine REISS to my blog. She's talking about her love of the beautiful town of Hastings in East Sussex. Thank you Madeleine


I managed to get all the way to 51 years of age without ever visiting Hastings, which is quite an achievement given that my mother lives in nearby Eastbourne. I was always dazzled by the lure of Brighton with its shops and restaurants and I never made the short journey further down the coast. I think all I knew about the town before I visited was its 1066 battle - although the famous skirmish actually took place seven miles away, and the fact that celebrated resident John Logie Baird made a prototype television out of an old hat-box, a couple of bicycle lights and some darning needles while he was living there.

Hastings from the West cliff

I first visited the town when it was in the midst of its annual Jack In The Green Festival in which residents and visitors cavort in costumes covered in leaves and dance and sing their way through four days of celebration which culminates in the symbolic killing of poor old Jack, an act that is said to release the spirit of summer. I seem to remember that despite his murder, the skies stayed resolutely overcast. Although I find Morris dancing less than riveting, I fell in love with the town almost instantly.

Morris Dancers outside a fish and chip shop
I am drawn to places were you have to put a bit of effort in to discover their beauty. It is fair to say that parts of Hastings are still a work in progress and the town has perhaps more than its fair share of social problems, but nevertheless, it has a subtle, luminous beauty that knocks a lot of smarter seaside resorts right out of the water. There is that light for a start. A lemony yellow hue which bounces of the sandstone cliffs and makes the sky all smeary, like a painting by Turner. The town beach is lovely because despite being within spitting distance of amenities it still feels slightly wild and the sea is the sea in all its uncluttered glory.

Hastings Seafront

In the Old Town to the east, there is a wealth of beautiful Georgian houses and narrow streets laced with narrow passageways called ‘twittens’, and lots of independent shops and galleries selling locally sourced crafts and paintings.  There is not one, but two funiculars which take you to beautiful cliff top walks and down below, on the Stade, is the Fisherman’s Museum which is definitely in my top ten museums of all time. It houses an albatross in a glass case and an effigy of a member of the Winkle Club, a man in a shell-covered suit who bears a startling resemblance to Tony Blackburn. To the west is St Leonards, which became part of the town in the 19th Century and has its own share of interesting architecture including Marine Court, an art-deco building shaped like a liner.
The Albatross at the Fisherman's Museum
Tony Blackburn's alter ego (Famous UK DJ)

I never saw Hastings pier in its former incarnation before sea, suspect business decisions and fire destroyed most of it, but recently I visited the newly opened version which is wonderfully wide and made for walking and playing on. The old pier features in my novel as a place where my lovers went as children and then later as adults. It seems to be a symbol of Hastings. Despite neglect and damage, it didn’t ever, quite, disintegrate but hung on, knowing that better days would come. The fishing fleet, although sadly diminished, still thrives, still launches its boats in the same way it always did, although rusting tractors have taken the place of horses. It is this mixture of resilience and the ability to adapt that makes me love the town. The cliffs may crumble, buildings may fall into disrepair, you may even think that the town’s heyday has been and gone, but all the time the place is hanging on to its treasures, knowing they will glitter again, showing them quietly to anyone with the patience to notice.

Hastings at Sunset

BOOKS SET IN THE AREA - Courtesy of Author and 
For books set in Hastings why not try one by the author of the blog post Madeleine Reiss, currently at the time of writing only 98p for the Kindle, and a perfect Valentine read; and one by Susan Elliot Wright. 
Title - This Last Kiss
Author - Madeleine Reiss
Buy linksAmazon UK // Amazon US
Synopsis - As original as One Day and as heartbreaking as Me Before You, This Last Kiss is the perfect emotional and romantic read.
Rora Raine is finally coming home to Hastings, twelve years after she left her grief-stricken father, and fled the love of her life, Carl.
Struggling to support her bright but troubled daughter, Rora has convinced herself she'll never love again.
When she meets a bumblingly charming stranger, Rora's heart begins to thaw. But, try as she might, she can't run from true love forever.

Title - The Secrets We Left Behind
Author - Susan Elliot Wright
Synopsis - It was a summer of love, and a summer of secrets…She has built a good life: a husband who adores her, a daughter she is fiercely proud of, a home with warmth and love at its heart. But things were not always so good, and the truth is that she has done things she can never admit.
Then one evening a phone call comes out of the blue. It is a voice from long ago, from a past that she has tried so hard to hide. Scott knows who she really is and what she has done. Now he is dying and he gives her an ultimatum: either she tells the truth, or he will. And so we are taken back to that long hot summer of 1976 to a house by the sea, where her story begins and where the truth will be revealed…

Have a look at Hastings from the air. It will give you a better feel to the Town. 
The Battle Fields are also a tourist site to see. 

Madeleine Reiss was born in Athens. She worked for some years at an agency for street performers and comedians and then as a journalist and publicist. She has two sons and lives in Cambridge with her husband. She works part-time at a brain injury charity and writes for the rest of the week. She has published two novels- 'Someone To Watch Over Me' and 'This Last Kiss’ and is currently working on her third novel.
Twitter: @MadeleineReiss

Thank you so much Madeleine for contributing your marvellous piece on Hastings.