“Let’s go to battle,” Liz said to me. I looked at her askance. As far as I knew, we were not in a fight. Also, she’s a trained fencer and I am not, so she has an unfair advantage if we’re battling. “No,” she said, “Battle, the town built up around the site where the Battle of Hastings took place.” Aha.
The year 1066 is famous in Britain for being the last time England was invaded. Duke William of Normandy came across the Channel, killed King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, and shortly thereafter assumed the crown as King William I of England. He commissioned the Domesday Book, which was the earliest extensive listing of property distribution in the Western world. He spent most of his reign back in France, and left England to his second son upon his death. I sometimes wonder if this is the root of animosity between France and England; England’s thinking, “You conquered us and then couldn’t even be bothered to stay?”
Liz and I took the train down from London, and then made lots of jokes about “striding into Battle” as we walked from the station up to to the English Heritage site. It was fine weather when we were there, but of course it had rained earlier in the day, so our walk around the battlefield was utterly muddy.
The battlefield is just that, a field that slopes up to the ruins of the abbey that William built as atonement for the bloodshed that took place there. There’s a path around the field, with plaques along the way that lead you in chronological order through the battle. I also used the audio guide from the visitor’s center, which was excellent.
We squelched around the battlefield and did a little fake fighting (I was on the losing side–told you she’s a fencer), and then we walked around the abbey. Built as it was on a hillside, the abbey had some odd heights inside it, where the farther up the hill you went, the lower down the ceilings were. I would have thought architects would have compensated for that, but no matter, it just made the ruins a little more mysterious.
After we strode victoriously out of Battle, we took the train down to Hastings, which was a larger town than I’d expected. I walked to the ocean’s edge to put my fingers in the water, and managed to soak my shoes through, making that the second time that day they’d been soaked through.
But never mind that, or the fact that the funicular closed just a few minutes before we got there. Because there was a tiny train, and the tiny train was still running. We gave our money to the kid whose mom ran the train, and then took a comically short ride along the waterfront that was part working docks and part gussied-up tourist attraction.
We ended up near the old town, and found that there was a sort of traveling music show going on. We picked a pub, grabbed a drink, and watched as different acts came through for 20-minute performance slots, before they moved on to the next participating pub. It was mostly folk or new folk,and pretty good, but one woman stood out as sounding like a new Sandy Denny. The whole pub hushed as she sang part of her set a cappella, and it was almost a disappointment when the instruments joined in to back her up. That was a lucky find.
Hastings being a major fishing town, clearly we had to have fish and chips for dinner. But most places were either shut for the night or full to bursting with the music fest crowd. Finally, we found a mom and pop place, and sat down to a good meal served by the most distracted servers I’ve ever encountered. We worked out that they were trying to close for the night, but they kept letting customers in. I wanted to share with them the secret that if they wanted to close, they had to turn people away. Advanced Restaurateuring, right there.
Or at least they’re confounding me. I have most of a post on Battle/Hastings written, but getting the photos is proving more difficult than I’d thought, since my phone doesn’t want to give them up, and my computer insists it has no storage available anyway, and my blog uploader won’t take more than one and none of the edited versions, and… I realize this is mostly an issue of user error and outdated technology, but it does feel a little like the machines are conspiring to keep me from getting what I want in this area. Sneaky machines.
Anyway, more posts to come soon, I hope!
The actual line in the song is “Hope I die before I get old,” for fuck’s sake. My feelings on this are complicated because of course Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey have continued touring well beyond middle age, never mind while in the blush and fury of youth, and some of their later stuff is great, and I loved seeing them in concert in 2002, when they undoubtedly rocked.
But still. This shirt. It’s all the smugness and sellout commercialism of the Boomers in one t-shirt. Burn it to the ground.
I voted in the UK for the first time yesterday (my mom is British so I have citizenship, fortunate me). Everyone told me how easy it was, and that was not a lie.
First, I went online to register. I entered my National Insurance number (which is basically proof of ability to work based on my citizenship; the number is used on tax forms and things). If you don’t have such a number, they have other questions but you may still be able to vote. Then you enter your address so they can determine your constituency–and here’s the big difference from voting in the US.
Back in the US, a lot of states are making it more difficult to vote, by insisting on photo ID, stripping prisoners of the right to vote, insisting students only register in one district, not permitting temporary addresses, etc. In the UK, the registration site explains how to use the right address if you’re in a hospital or prison, if you’re a student, and even if you’re homeless. If you can’t provide an address at all, you can contact your election office and you may still be able to vote. This is great! This is removing barriers to voting rather than creating them. That’s what we should be doing.
For the actual voting, I went to my polling station, which was literally around the corner from my house, stood in line for 7 minutes, gave my name to an election officer who checked it off a list, took my paper to a booth, and put an X next to the candidate of my choice. Dead simple.
The election may not have gone as I’d hoped, but the process of registering and voting gave me hope for how we might help enfranchise people back in the States.