Yesterday I drove over to Hastings stopping off at Bexhill on the way. The gossip in Brighton is often that Hastings is an option. A sort of cross between how Brighton is supposed to be and a fall back position. Brightonians argue through the ideas that Brighton has become too expensive, trendy, busy, full of tourists….(take your pick) and that Hastings may be an option.
Hastings has excellent architecture, lots of interesting passages and back streets and, indeed, it seems that the alternative set may be moving in if one judges alternative by cowboy hats, chopper trikes, idiosyncratic shops and sartorial inelegance – not that I decry such inelegance; on occasion I admire it.
We ate in a nice little restaurant which was perhaps a tad too expensive. (£18 for a steak – in Hastings?! With my reputation?!) though the fish was good value and the ambiance excellent. Later we had coffee in a quaint though ghastly little sea front cafe which appeared to have been decorated by some kind of second world was appreciation society. Churchill and Union Jacks everywhere.
As we drove back Ditchling Beacon looked very impressive on the horizon.
Any discussion regarding relocating to Hastings usually ends with the observation that there is no work there and the rail and road connections are not good. That, then, usually is the end of the matter. However, perhaps there is another reason. On arriving back in Brighton we drove down Grand Avenue and the city felt busy and switched on. It was dark and the lights beckoned us to the pubs. To be sure, Hastings, is a nice little town but it is just that. A little town. One gets the feeling that after frequenting the gaggle of little shops and pubs downtown for a year or so one might feel a little constricted. It lacks the anonymity of a city. As Brighton does to some extend compared to London. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it is, perhaps, difficult when one is not used to it.
Of course, this is not the end of the debate. With me, it is rather like my yen to emigrate to America or move back to London. A constant theme which will, most likely, rattle around my head until the day I die.
It is the curse of those who have travelled and lived in different places to always feel dissatisfied as everywhere will lack something from somewhere else. A city will feel too big or a village too small. Africa will feel too foreign while England too mundane. Many years ago I attended The Isle of Man TT motorbike racing and we did some pubbing with the locals. They told us that The Island full of retired ex-pats who the locals term “When I’s” because they preface most statements by the words “When I” - As in “When I was in Bahrain” or “When I was in Aden”.
A friend is about to go to AntArctica to live for a few months. When he returns, will he yearn for the interminable bitter cold? Perhaps not but he’s bound to miss something.