Saturday, August 26, 2006

Country towns and rural landscapes (Part I)

Last Friday through to Tuesday we got away from London down to Sussex. Friday was the Eastbourne air show, which finished with an excellent display by the formidable Red Arrows. The precision of their flying is incredible, but these days it seems more difficult to enjoy watching them without thinking about the military machine that makes them possible. I realised for the first time the propaganda value derived from these sorts of displays.

On Saturday we took a leisurely drive along the coast, stopping off in Bexhill-on-sea for coffee and to look at the De La Warr Pavilion, a Modernist arts centre designed by architects Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff in 1935. The recent renovation has restored the sleek magnificence of the building, the low, simple form of which is accentuated by the promenade and beach at Bexhill. Strangely, it does not look out of place against the Victorian sea front cottages next door. The pavilion now contains a theatre and two art galleries, one of which was hosting a thought-provoking exhibition by former Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller.

On the way into Rye we stopped off in Winchelsea, which claims to be the smallest town in Britain. It certainly is picturesque and unspoilt, its houses, pub (the town once claimed four), and community shop clustered around a large churchyard. Winchelsea has an excellent tea room, which, for anyone who knows Rosemary and me, was obviously not to be avoided!