Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Illustration by Derrick Moss.

Illustration by Derrick Moss.

The old man at the Stade

Hot’s Sean O’Shea continues his dialogue with the the old man at the StadeThey talk about the Council’s plans for a new Hastings Harbour Quarter and some associated fears and fantasies.






OMS: Here we are.

SOS: Are we?

OMS: We are what we’re not and we’re not what we are, as some philosopher once said.

SOS: Any more gnomic one liners like that and I’m off. Where did you get that one anyway?

OMS: Might have been Kierkegaard, or could have been Sartre, I’ve forgotten.

SOS: Sombre folk. You read too much philosophy.

OMS: I’ve forgotten too much philosophy.


SOS: Something must have happened.

OMS: How do you mean?

SOS: Well, I haven’t seen you for at least a year and suddenly you turn up out of the blue.

OMS: Out of the blue?

SOS: Well, how else?

OMS: That puts me in mind of the amniotic sac.

SOS: Here we go again. The amniotic sac!

OMS: Yes.

SOS: Christ. What’s that?

OMS: It’s a bit like the sea but in miniature.

SOS: Go on.

OMS: It’s a bag of fluid inside the mother’s womb where the unborn baby develops and grows.

SOS: I don’t get the connection, but I bet that it wasn’t blue.

OMS: Well, I suppose it was a bit more on the yellow side.

SOS: Is that how you remember it? You must have an astounding memory to recall your life in the womb.

OMS: Well, maybe it was a bit more green or brownish. I might have had a shit you see.  That would account for the colour.

SOS: Is it common for baby’s to crap in the womb, or were you just a precocious little sprog?

OMS: No. Usually they wait till they’re born before they begin to scream and shit themselves.

SOS: You must have had a premonition of your life to come then. Or you could call it – a pre-motion.

SOS: Anyway, something must have happened down at the Stade to draw you out of your cave. Tell us what’s ailing you?

OMS: I’m not ailing.

SOS: Well, you look as if you’re ailing, or bothered about something.


OMS: It’s the Aurora.

SOS: The Aurora! Isn’t that the goddess of sunrise whose tears are supposed to turn into the morning dew? Or, less poetically, a luminous atmospheric phenomenon, probably electrical in nature?

OMS: No on both counts. In this particular instance it’s a harbour plan cooked up by the Council to build, what they call the Aurora Marina that is reportedly going to provide enhanced facilities for the fishing fleet and over a thousand homes, near the cliff –uncomfortably close to my cave! They say it’ll create jobs, improve public transport, be good for the community and protect the environment.

SOS: So, cunning plan eh. Trust the Council to come up with such a daft idea. As you don’t go anywhere, you’ve no need for improved transport, and I know that you’ve got an auld cormorant living with you that supplies you with all the fish you can eat. Since you’ve spent your life trying to stay out of people’s way, I imagine community improvements, whatever they might entail, are hardly likely to benefit you either. And as far as the environment goes, there can’t be many people left in Hastings who are as well integrated with the environment as you are. Not a footprint are you likely to leave. So there’ll be little or nothing left to clear up after you’ve gone.

OMS: Nothing.

SOS: Very little.

SOS: So who’s lining their pockets?

OMS: Who knows? They’re not likely to tell us.

SOS: Well, you’re not moving in with me, so remove that hung-dog look on your face. We’d drive each other mad.

OMS: Have I asked to move in with you? Your street-gaff on the hill with all the traffic whizzing by would be the last place I’d want to rest my weary bones.

SOS: So, what are you going to do?

OMS: Well, nothing’s happened yet.

SOS: Nothing happens all the time.

OMS: So you’re confident that nothing will continue to happen, ad infinitum, in spite of the Council’s plans?

(Long pause)

SOS: They’re a clever shower you know, the Council. I suspect they’ve had their eyes on you for some time, lurking up there in your little hole, paying no taxes and coming and going entirely as you please. It’s against the law you know, to live in the caves; and you’re no St. Francis.

OMS: No one notices me.

SOS: How can you be sure?

OMS: I told you I’m invisible.

SOS: So you say, though you look pretty real to me. Admittedly you have this capacity just to disappear without warning for long periods, but that’s not uncommon and I’ve got used to it. In fact I’m usually relieved to see you go. Are you going to make a list then?

OMS: A list of what?

SOS: Well, your remaining effects, goods and chattels. You must have a few things up there: a pot, a pan, a blanket, your meditation mat, a candle…and perhaps a few philosophy books. 

OMS: I don’t need to list these.

SOS: Well, they might come in handy to someone else. You might want to specify to whom you’d like to leave them.

OMS: I’m not anticipating dying – at least not yet. However, I may want to take my bits and pieces to another abode, if life becomes unbearable at the Stade. I may find another place to live where life might be slightly less unbearable.

SOS: Is that possible?

OMS: It’s conceivable.

SOS: But is it probable?

OMS: Hmmm…

SOS: So you think that things could get difficult with all the lorries and diggers going to and fro and all the noise, mud, dust and disruption?

OMS: Quite likely if this daft scheme ever gets implemented. We’ll all be covered in dust, writhing amongst the fishing boats and net huts, peering out of the darkness like a lost chorus in a Greek tragedy.

SOS: Who wants it anyway?

OMS: Not many that I’ve spoken to. There are fears that people might become displaced by a load of rich geezers in yachts, a bit like a re-enactment of the Norman Conquests. The whole area could become a theme park for tourists, and become unaffordable for ordinary folk to live in or eat. The locals could end up just waiting on the rich.

SOS: Well, you’re all right then. There will be a consultation, the people will make their objections clear and the Council will have to bag their plans. End of… democracy will triumph. Goodbye to the Aurora Marina.

OMS: That’s not what happened with the town centre toilets. People were consulted, and as far as I know most didn’t want them to close. It didn’t stop the Council though. They were closed on Fools’ Day 2017 in spite of all the protests and objections.

SOS: Yes, I recall covering the story for this magazine. Well, if you’re really stuck, maybe we could come to an arrangement

OMS: That’s kind of you but no thanks.

SOS: We would just have to ensure that we stay out of each other’s way, and agree a few compromises. For example, I’ve not very keen on birds, cormorants in particular, and I know that you’ve got a particular affinity with them. In fact it’s clear that you prefer them to human beings. Indeed you’ve told me often enough that the company of any class of animal is preferable to human beings.

OMS: Let’s not catastrophise. This scheme may never happen. It wouldn’t be the first time a Council plan bit the dust.                 

SOS:               But each day brings its petty dust

                           Our soon-choked souls to fill,

                         And  we forget because we must,

                              And not because we will.

                         I struggle towards the light; and ye,

                          Once-long’d-for storms of love!

                          If with the light ye cannot be,

                            I bear that ye remove.

OMS: Arnold?

SOS: Matthew

OMS: Absence?

SOS: That’s the title.

(Long pause)

OMS: ‘Twas one of my mother’s favourites…..You seem to have a poem for every occasion.

SOS: It’s my upbringing. We used to learn things by heart back then.

OMS: Let’s call by the Dolphin and drink to that.

SOS: Drink to what?

OMS: To ‘storms of love’ and all life’s other follies…


SOS: You’ve never mentioned your mother before; she must have been quite a character.

(Long pause)

OMS: I was an accident apparently and a surly child to boot. It was impossible, but she did her best.

SOS: It’s all that can be expected, I suppose – and you haven’t changed much.

OMS: We managed to forgive each other… in the end.

SOS: How do you mean?

OMS: I forgave her her carelessness and she forgave me my eccentricity.

SOS: Let’s drink to that as well.

OMS: So, to forgiveness.

SOS: Cheers.

OMS: Do we include the Council?


SOS: Well, maybe that’s a step too far…

OMS: (Exit weeping)


The Stade is a shingle beach, situated in Hastings Old Town. It has been used for beaching boats for over a thousand years, a use which continues to this day.

The Dolphin Inn is a traditional Old Town pub situated opposite the historical fishing huts in Rock-A-Nore Rd.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a Danish existentialist philosopher. His books include: Fear & Trembling and Stages on Life’s Way.

Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, and political activist. His books include: Nausea and Being & Nothingness.



Posted 10:36 Monday, Dec 18, 2017 In: SOS

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