Coastal Currents is back in Hastings (and surrounding area) with a lovely thick brochure and lots and lots to see. So, in a ‘it’d be rude not to’ frame of mind, I ticked a couple of things off the list whilst undertaking other essential tasks in town (getting a hair cut, drinking a coffee, that sort of things).
First, to St Mary in the Castle, where in Wayward, six female artists have offered a response to the building. The lines and brickwork of the Crypt have provoked the most literal of the connections through the use of stylised patterns. My favourite involved sculptures created through the growth of mushrooms. The twisting, splindliness reminded me of a lot of Dale Chihuly (I mean this in a good way). I also liked the black coffin grimly defiant in one of the recesses. I apologise for not making a not of which artist did what.
Second, just off the Stade, we have Jaye Ho’s Dazzleship. In full on ‘what it says on the tin’, this is a fishing boat onto which has been applied World War One dazzle camouflage. This follows up a previous dazzle ship display that featured in St Leonards two years ago. It’s nicely distracting and looks good when set against the ongoing industry of the fishing fleet behind. I think I may need to go back on a less grey day to get the full colour impact.
The last time I was at the Saffrons, the boys from Pier Pressure beat their drums and let off their flares. Today, their signs were on display but the boys were not, instead the off-game noise came from an end-of-season cricket match, a well-attended display of bowls and the distant thwack of croquet. Quite a few of those taking part in other sports took time out every so often to see what was happening on the football field. The question was easily answered: Eastbourne Town were putting on an authoritative display to power past their visitors Dartford and so progress to the next qualifying round of the FA Women’s Cup.
It was 6-0 at half time. The first goal was a sweet strike from Catherine Hyland after seven minutes. The Dartford goalie made some neat stops and the defence tackled hard but they just could not clear the ball deep enough or retain possession long enough. Town were relentless. It really looked like we could be heading for a record margin of victory (at least a personal one – for a women’s game my most one-sided game finished 8-1). That that didn’t materialise was due to a combination of a switch of fortune (posts were struck, balls drifted just wide) and a step up in harrying defence from Dartford who put a proper shift in to restrict their hosts to only one more goal: Meg Woods adding a seventh on 66 minutes.
At half time, whilst snaffling a coffee from the committee room (I had permission) the conversation turned to Town’s chances for the season. Apparently they have struggled for goals in the past. Overrunning a side by all seven goals in seven would, on the face of it, make something of a mockery of that. But they will be aware that there will be tougher tests ahead in the season, not least Aylesford who they will face in the next round, also at the Saffrons. For Dartford, they will lick their wounds and return to league football but they should, at least, take some pride in how they kept going right to the death.
I brought the camera along. The spots of rain (and my incompetence) played havoc with the autofocus but what survives can be found here.
What they don’t tell you is how much you will end up living and dying with athletes whose names you don’t know in contests you hardly cared existed. Yes, there’s Bolt, Farah and the rest on the posters but what actually makes you sit in wide-eyed joy are things like a women’s triple jump final whose lead chops and changes and is, in the end, won by less than an inch: Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela taking the gold ahead of Caterine Ibargüen of Colombia.
That was the first evening of two that we were fortunate enough to attend. Fortunate in this case being twofold: we were lucky in the ballot for seats but also lucky to be able to afford (albeit with severe wincing) to move up a grade to claim our spot. Still, wherever you are in the London Stadium the atmosphere and views are spot on. It really is a lovely place. West Ham are more fortunate than even our luck would allow.
London in August did sometimes feel more like the seaside in winter. No matter. This was a crowd determined to be happy. Not in any forced New Year’s Eve kind of way but in that easy manner that comes from knowing what you will see will entertain and enthrall. That all human emotion would be on display. But also that no one is going to care if you need to rush your child to the loo because they are not prepared to wait until after this particular high jump.
I’m sure some people were bored. I didn’t sit near any giving off such vibes. I’m sure many people were cynical. It’s hard not to be. Some performances require sellotape and steel will to stop the eyebrow raising. Athletics is the rawest of sports in how it feels to find out its heroes dope. It really is that test of body against body, and it’s meant to be an equal test of ability. Nobody is that naive. But sport rises above even its dirtiest instincts. The effort, energy and dedication on display cannot be faked. They could all be drinking Ben Johnson’s magic potion but its lonely, determined training and single-minded focus that gets them here. Or at least that’s my feeble-minded take to rationalise it.
And, in the frenzy of this happy, lovely crowd you can forget it all anyway. I can say, with pride, that in the women’s 1500m I saw a race for the ages. With equal pride I can say that for the final 100m of the men’s 4×400 I was shamelessly, jingoistically Trinidadian as they surged past the USA. The British bronze was safe, we could find our voices to will on the underdogs. The men’s high jump was pretty good too as was Omar McLeod’s 110m hurdles glory. And a beautiful silver for the British women’s 4×400 too.
The final action on the track though was a horde of photographers and assorted media following the messianic Usain Bolt as he took a final lap. A bronze and a DNF were the great man’s return in this, a games too far. His walk felt a lot more like a changing of athletics’ guard than did the handing on the baton to Doha for the next world championships. Sadly, that felt a lot more like business as usual for the IAAF.
When the tickets arrived, I looked over the events we were to see. I made careful note of the van Niekirks of this world and which of those would be performing for us. But, like I say, those guys are the hook. It’s when you’re willing Majededdin Ghazal to bronze in the high jump that you know that they’ve got you, and that you are so very glad that they have.
Your reward for driving this bit of the coast at this time of night at this time of year is this lit up fountain. It didn’t used to be lit up. Drive on knowing that it’s the little things that make the difference.
Behold, the steed. A wheeled steed ready for the deed of traversing not only London (and Surrey) for one-hundred miles of cycling pleasure but, also, une journée en France via an early morning ferry the month before. Those challenges lie ahead. The training starts now. Set the Strava to go and let’s begin.