Holidaying at home is the theme – self enforced, but we’re making a good fist of it. Until Saturday just gone at least. We headed for the coast – not Folkestone for fresh day-boat fish, but for a change, Hastings – you know Battle, 1966, Norman the Conqueror, Harold and that arrow, etc.
My goodness, what a shock. We’d been out of season once before and bought good fish. The fish in the shops today was below cat food standard – hungry cats at that. Dead eyed dicks if ever. The streets sprawled with ample flesh, tattoo’s and barely dressed girls, many with can in hand - talking ‘Sewer English’ (three stops down from Estuarine).
What to do – we’d driven there to make an afternoon of it and it was nine degrees below the worst that one could expect. It was the location for Hugh’s Fish Fight as I recall – one chippie there even had chalked boarded ‘Hugh’s Baps’ – I never did get that bet on with Paddy Power.
Gulls Flying Upwise Down
I want to use the late great saxophone player, Ronnie Scott’s joke about even the birds were flying upside down – but I’ll leave it for those of you who used to hang out in Pre-RIP Ronnie Scott’s Club.
We found one shell fish stand – tasted before we bought to check for NBC on the cockles and whelks (non brewed condiment – what people think is vinegar). All A1 OK.
No safe looking bars to drink Guinness – all full of pugnacious humanity spilling onto the street.
We’d come prepared with a mini picnic - egg mayonnaise sandwiches, salami, olives, bread, cucumber and lemon. S Pellegrino, but no wine.
Oyster Slurping – Shucking Habit!
I had two oysters at the stall – witnessing alongside that disgusting English habit of drinking down oyster and juice all in one and exclaiming “Aaarghh!” - I looked the other way and thought of Sir Toby Belch.
One hour was enough to bear. We drove home ready to make a splendid holiday pasta of seafood.
One tip. If Hastings ever comes up on your culinary radar, blank it. The place is a tip. Worse was, it was all our fault - we were thinking holidaying at home and we broke the rules – and did we pay a high price for the sheer awfulness of the trip.
The Tranquil in the Mayhem
One word in its favour. Walk westwards away from mayhem and you’ll find a near deserted small beach. As I was reminded by Joy (refer: www.walkwithjoy.com) , there’s always beauty in Nature when you look for it, even in the most unlikely places.
The best was the lone poster advertising the local Seafood Festival in September – a large dead brown fish on a plate tail to camera, a bottle of red wine with two partly filled, smudgy glasses each holding what looked like fermented wine at differing levels – a second plate carried crab sitting alongside two very sad, pale pink boiled prawns, all largely obscured by the wine bottle. Can’t wait – well actually I can.
Back home and we cooked a dreamy meal, eaten under the trees - pasta with cockles and finely sliced whelks in a fresh tomato sauce, followed by two small corn fed chickens (home cooked on the rotisserie - filled with fresh thyme and lemon). Fresh made chilli oil for the pasta primi piatti and the simplest of sauces for the chickens – stock, a few crushed dried cepes and a piece of pancetta that was dangerously close to eat-by date.
So, even after the shock of the seaside blunder, you can holiday at home in joy filled splendid circumstance.
We added the freshest and squeekiest of courgettes to the outdoor feast – sliced, de-seeded and dried off in E/V olive oil – then a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. They were half eaten by the time this shot was taken.
Back to the lucky retailers and our holiday-less summers. Will they rise to this exciting challenge to make a miserable reality into a dreamy shop?