Employment as a traffic warden and supporting Tottenham Hotspur Football Club is something of a double whammy as far as social handicaps go.
Having said that, I was on my daily run along the seafront a few days ago when I found myself running alongside a delightful Spurs supporting traffic warden named Jim.
Jim was born in the Old Town, although he confessed to having moved to the far away climes of Clive Vale. We discussed our memories of the Old Town and Hastings generally but, even though my own association goes back to 1964 – round about the time when Jim first saw the Old Town light of day – I felt that I was something of an interloper on the Old Town scene.
I remember back in the 1980s when the term ‘weekender’ was used somewhat derisively of people who had purchased holiday homes in the Old Town. I daresay that some of them are now full-time residents who consider themselves as locals. I also remember Councillor Fred Mitchell, a genuine Old Towner from a fishing family, providing me with a list of fishing family surnames for canvassing purposes – Adams, Ball, Joy, Mitchell, Venness and White among them – because in those far-off days I was the Liberal Party election agent. “Just say that you’re calling on Fred’s behalf,” he said.
On the other hand, I was chatting to a lady outside of All Saints’ Church a few Sundays ago. It transpired that she had moved to the Old Town from London about a year ago and adored Hastings and its idiosyncrasies. She felt really at home. Residents who are ‘down from London’ can soon put down roots and feel that sense of connectedness which makes somewhere into a genuine home.
I’m a much earlier ‘DFL’ although I have genuine family roots here; a great-grandfather used to run a grocer’s shop in London Road and a great-grandmother was born in St. Leonards. One of the pleasures since becoming priest-in-charge of St Clements and All Saints has been meeting people with whom there is a shared memory pool of Hastings people and places going back decades.
And yet we are all temporary Hastingers as Old Towner Fred insisted on calling us. The use of ‘Hastonian’ or ‘Hastleon’ was absolutely incorrect he said. The Hastleons are a well-regarded musical drama society approaching its centenary but all of us – Hastinger or Hastleon – strut and fret our hour upon the stage before our individual final curtain.
As the Bible reminds us, we are strangers and pilgrims upon this earth wherever it is that we make our home. Like Abraham, Christians look forward to the heavenly Jerusalem city whose maker and builder is God. For all of us, whether we believe in the life to come or not, it is a reminder that we are simply temporary residents upon the earth with all that implies in terms of our responsibility for it and our stewardship for future generations.
Hastinger or DFL? Perhaps we are all weekenders.
The Reverend Paul Hunt is the part-time priest-in-charge of St. Clement’s and All Saints in Hastings Old Town. Both churches are closed for public worship because of the pandemic but St. Clement’s is open for private prayer each Saturday from 11.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.