Pelham Plaice

A strange day. A couple of months back a sizeable chunk of the front of our (rented) house fell into Pelham Place, the wide stretch of pavement that separates us from the busy A259, the beach, the English Channel and ultimately, France.

Yesterday I bought a big bag of freshly caught plaice from the fishermen just along the road from  in front of the beach where the fishing boats are landed. (Hastings has the only beach launched fishing fleet in Britain).

Today was the day when an engineer, a surveyor, the landlord, the letting agent, two builders and several blokes who just tagged along for the free tea all turned up and proceeded to cut holes in the walls to try and determine what, if anything, was still holding our 19th Century building up.

All this whilst I beheaded, de-tailed, filleted and breadcrumbed 15 slippery plaice. The kitchen was knee-deep in finely crushed cornflakes (the best breadcrumbs!) and the hallway was full of sawdust.

It turned out the building (built sometime between 1815 and 1825) was originally timber framed, to which  an outer layer of bricks had been added, followed by a decorative render.

The town and cities of Britain are full of interesting buildings, thrown together in a completely haphazard manner with virtually no overall plan, sacked by invading armies, burnt down in Great fires, bombed,  ripped asunder by property developers and “improved” to fit the fashion of the day. New building are made to look old, Old buildings are made to look new(ish) and nearly every building has a story. A lot of architects in this country appear to have been early pioneers of the Microsoft operating system mode of thought; glue a bit on to what’s already there, add a few rooms, a floor or two and a bit of extra roof, brick up windows and doorways when no longer needed and pray to god the damn thing doesn’t collapse!

Ours was originally built by a master gunner, who having survived defending the Mediterranean from Napoleon’s navy decided to settle in Hastings and become its first coastguard – protecting the great, great, great, grandfathers of the fishermen who caught that bag of Plaice we will be eating for the next month!

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