The COG, still riding high from his triumphant performance reading bus schedules in the Hastings rail station while waiting for the bus to Bodiam, said, 'We could take the bus to Hastings.' We were sitting in the bay window of our sunny sitting room at the time, both of us on the internet waiting for Lord Justice Leveson's report, which was due at noon. I considered his suggestion. I could see the sun on the ocean, sparkling in the distance over his shoulder. It seemed a shame to waste such a lovely day by staring at a computer screen. And, anyway, by the time we got back from Hastings the Guardian would have read the 2,000 pages of the report and digested them for us so there seemed no reason to hang around.
And that is how we arrived in Hastings. By bus. For free because we are old age pensioners. God, I love this country. We walked to the bottom of our street where the bus appeared almost instantly. Two and a half hours later (with a short transfer in Eastbourne) we arrived in Hastings.
Once there, we realized we had no map and no idea where exactly to go, apart from a vague memory that we had once seen a sign that said 'Old Town' pointing sort of over there. So we walked in that general direction. We did have one major landmark- a ruined castle on the highest hill. It's not too big a stretch to reason that the Old Town would be near the castle.
Did I mention that we were looking for the Hastings of Foyle's War? Our previous excursions to Hastings had not been promising. In fact, I believe I have previously said some unkind things about Hastings, which I hereby recant. I was wrong. I'm sorry, Hastings. I called you 'unlovely' and 'worse than Rye,' I shouldn't have been so, um,... hasty.
The Old Town of Hastings is awesome. There's quite a large area of medieval to 18th century houses now filled with antique and vintage shops and art galleries and wonderful little shops selling wonderful things. It's like the Brighton Lanes and the North Laine combined, but, in many ways, with better shopping. The kind of place that would be lots of fun with my sisters, though it was also fun with The COG. We followed some steep and narrow stairs that wound up the hill aside many old houses. At the top we found an open park with glorious views in the twilight. There are some smugglers caves up there, too, but we did not explore them.
We wandered around to entry of the castle, which is closed in winter, then wound down the stairs again to the shopping area to look in more windows. Finally, once it was fully dark, we found the bus again. The views from the bus were quite splendid, in part, coming to Hastings, but, as it was dark there were no views. The COG amused himself by taking pictures of our reflection in the bus windows. I amused myself by watching the COG.
One small moment bears remembering: near the end of the Eastbourne to Brighton part of the trip, a guy in a hoodie stumbled up the steps of the bus and sat in the seat across the aisle from us, at the front of the upper deck. He carried on a slurred conversation with his own reflection for a few stops, then rose abruptly, rang the stop bell, and left the bus at Peacehaven. Through the big window, we held our breaths as we watched him stagger across the street barely missing, or being missed by, heavy and fast traffic. When we saw that he was entering Roy's Liquor Store, we smiled. No surprise there, even the fumes he had been emitting were heady. Then, the lady who had been sitting behind him sniffed and said, 'it would have been no loss if he'd been hit by one of the cars, ' which sort of shocked us. We smiled politely, but privately squeezed each other's hands to signify disapproval.