Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

fashion-woman-girl-women-34075Uplift – different voices with books for you (plus local literary info)

How are you getting on in these strange times? We seem to be getting together more in online groups and that’s how this week’s post came about. Jackie Oxbury and Paul Green commented on last week’s post. This week they talk to Angela J. Phillip with recommendations they think you will like.

Based in St Leonards, Jackie is a folk singer and a crafter. Here are two books that she would like to recommend.

220pix-Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2017)

Every now and again, in the life of a reader one finds something very, very special. For me, it is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of The Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt is cultured, elegantly charming, endlessly entertaining and something of an enigma. He is the absolute aristocrat. During the political unrest in Moscow in 1906, the count removed himself to the safety of Paris but he chose to return to his beloved homeland in 1918, settling himself within the Metropol Hotel in central Moscow.

We join him four years later on 21 June, 1922 at his appearance before a Bolshevic Tribunal. Epitomizing all the Revolution wanted to remove, Alexander was almost certainly destined to be shot – and yet, there was that poem………… His sentence, when it comes, is surprising. He is to return to the Metropol and remain there for the rest of his life, not in the splendour to which he is accustomed but to a tiny attic room. Should he ever leave the hotel, he will be shot on sight.

What follows is a tale abundant in humour, history and humanity. Everything is here – love, friendship, loyalty, heartbreak, philosophy, stupidity and beauty. The count learns to lead a full and inspiring life within the limits of his confinement, constantly restoring a sense of order whilst surrounded by chaos. Throughout the challenges and adaptions he has to make to his life, he never loses his love for Russia. The story twists and turns over the next thirty plus years, building to a thrilling and surprising climax.

Amor Towles’ writing flows with elegant beauty. His style is precise and wonderfully descriptive. His humour delightful. The story layout is well structured, bringing every section to a satisfying pause and the tantalising little quirks in the timeline keep the reader captivated.

As we adapt to the limitations of movement that we are currently experiencing, this gem of a novel is truly inspiring.

220pix-PlatoPlato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein (2016)

Back in 2007, a Swedish friend happened to mention that the book he was currently reading made him laugh out loud. So much so that as he travelled to work on a commuter train, he was frequently asked “What are you reading?” Now Stockholmers, like their London counterparts, are not known for talking to strangers, particularly on their way to work. I had to ask the same question. Being given such a title, I was intrigued and had to find out more. The subtitle is Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes.

At that time, my eldest grandson was reading philosophy at Exeter University. It is not always easy for a grandmother to have conversations with the younger generation, so it seemed to be a good idea for me to take a crash course in his subject. I purchased a copy.

Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein both studied Philosophy at Harvard. Platypus was their first collaboration. My copy is a beautifully bound hard copy with quirky illustrations. A joy to hold. The book covers all aspects of Western Philosophy – Logic, Existentialism, Ethics, Language, Social and Political et al. Ten sections in all with subdivisions. There is an informative summary entitled ‘Great Moments in the History of Philosophy and an amusing glossary’. All are explained and explored by jokes. These are not always very p.c. by today’s standards but funny nevertheless. However, some are portents of changes in the wind, for example, in the section Philosophy of Law, the lady who takes the boat out with fishing equipment in it p168 in my edition.

Based in Bexhill, Paul is an established writer of novels, drama and poetry. You can see his website here.

220pix-The Grey Area copyThe Grey Area by Ken Edwards (2020)

There’s an eerie blend of familiarity and mystery in this remarkable novel by St Leonards-based author Ken Edwards. The private eye Phidias Peralta, an illegal immigrant, lives and works in a storage unit at a deserted business park at Deadman’s Beach, assisted by his PA Lucy, a single mother struggling with her hyper-active son and the expectations of her ex. A local businessman tasks them with tracing his elderly aunt, who has been missing for over a year. They encounter increasingly sinister challenges in the quest, unaware they are under observation themselves.

The sense of unease is reinforced by the vivid evocation of place – sprawling foggy marshland, beaches covered with rusting fishing boats, hamlets with derelict pubs, run-down corner shops, a ghost-map of the East Sussex coast and its communities. Edwards also has a keen ear for street dialogue, the nuances of class, and the absurdities of everyday rituals. He’s subverted the generic conventions of the detective story to create an absorbing and thought-provoking narrative about the enigmas of time, memory and perception. It occupies a unique zone. And the ending is…

220pix-MourningMourning by Richard Makin (2015)

Trigger warning: if you are looking for ‘character development’ or the machinery of plot or three act structures and the whole narrative template we’ve inherited from Aristotle via Hollywood script doctors, this is not for you. It’s the final volume in a trilogy by St Leonards denizen Richard Makin – the first book Dwelling was featured in HOT in 2014 (see Richard Makin).

Like its predecessor, it’s a dazzling extended prose poem in which points of view, personae and imagery shift constantly, often from sentence to sentence. Are you reading the abstract of a scientific treatise or an occult procedure? You have to keep on red alert. Makin’s use of language is extraordinary, both in range of vocabulary and in its wild juxtapositions of images . Each paragraph is another micro-world in which events unfold and fold into themselves with great clarity but possibly on parallel time-lines. The voices can be intimate, persuasive, needling their way into your brain. You’re not sure whether you’re reading or being written. Yet there is pattern and rhythm in the flow and you just have to go with it, to emerge weirdly refreshed. Read it again. And again.


Thanks to both Jackie and Paul. If there is anyone reading this who would like to contribute to the weekly post, please get in touch with me at .

We’ve had spring weather recently (despite the flurry of snow on Sunday). Green buds are shooting and new life is coming which always reminds me of this poem by e.e.cummings

220pix-EECummingsIf up’s the word

if up’s the word; and a world grows greener
minute by second and most by more–
if death is the loser and life is the winner
(and beggars are rich but misers are poor)
–let’s touch the sky:
                                with a to and a fro
(and a here there where) and away we go

in even the laziest creature among us
a wisdom no knowledge can kill is astir–
now dull eyes are keen and now keen eyes are keener
(for young is the year,for young is the year)
–let’s touch the sky:
with a great(and a gay
and a steep)deep rush through amazing day

it’s brains without hearts have set saint against sinner;
put gain over gladness and joy under care–
let’s do as an earth which can never do wrong does
(minute by second and most by more)
–let’s touch the sky:
                                with a strange (and a true)
and a climbing fall into far near blue

if beggars are rich (and a robin will sing his
robin a song) but misers are poor–
let’s love until noone could quite be (and young is
the year,dear) as living as i’m and as you’re
–let’s touch the sky:
                                with a you and a me
and an every(who’s any who’s some)one who’s we

by e. e. cummings (Selected Poems by e.e.cummings)

top image from
News & Events

Events have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Please note that the Hastings Literary Festival 2020 is cancelled.

After the virus is over – Staglit Tuesdays at the Stag Inn in the Old Town 6.30 – 8.30 pm  Monthly.  This is a chance for writers to read short extracts from their work and sell their books – and for readers to listen & comment. If you are interested in attending these events and/ or you would like to read from your work, please contact Angie and you will be included on the email list.

If there are any announcements you would like to appear here, please get in touch with Angie

Writing Competitions

Hastings Literary Festival 2020 – all writing competitions sadly cancelled.

Short Story

Hastings Writers’ Room. Theme Misrepresentation (1,500 words) deadline 30 April 2020. Fee £6. First prize Gold membership of Retreat West (worth £100). Please check rules and conditions at Hastings Writers’ Room

Early Works Press. Short Story competition. Entry fee £5 per story up to 4000 words. £10 for over 4000. Maximum 8000 words. £200 first prize. Deadline 31 October 2020. Please check rules and conditions at Earlyworks Press.

Flash Fiction

Hastings Writers’ Room. Flash fiction five/ twenty-nine – submit FIVE stories, each with max 29 words, deadline 31 May 2020. Fee £7 for five stories. First prize Gold membership of Retreat West or cash alternative £100. Please check rules and conditions at Hastings Writers’ Room

Early Works Press. Flash Fiction competition 2020. Max 100 words. Deadline 30 August 2020. First prize £100. Please check rules and conditions at Earlyworks Press.


Writers’ Groups

Please get in touch with the contact person for each of these groups to check current arrangements. What appears below are arrangments in force before Covid 19.

Hastings Writers’ Group meet fortnightly on Mondays 7.30 – 9.30 pm at the White Rock Hotel. Membership is subject to vacancies and costs £80 per yr (or £40 per half year). For more details please see the website.

St Leonard’s Writers  meet on Wednesdays 1 – 3 pm at St Ethelburga Church in St Saviours Rd. There is a small joining fee and weekly contribution (see website for details). Contact person: David Edwards For more details please see the website

Shorelink Writers meet most Monday evenings between September and July  in the Tesco Community Room, Tesco Extra, Churchwood Drive, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 9RB. Small donation for each meeting. Membership is subject to vacancy so please get in touch first. Contact /
For more details, please see the website.

Old Town Writing Group meet Wednesdays 4 – 6 pm in The Stag Inn, All Saints St, Hastings Old Town. Free. For more details, please see the website.

CALL FOR WRITING GROUPS & BOOKGROUPS TO GET IN TOUCH – Do get in touch if you have any announcements you would like to make. Please write to Angie


Please contact the bookshops directly to check their current arrangements. 

Bookbuster 39 Queens Rd, Hastings
Go to Bookbuster’s Facebook page to see more.

Printed Matter Bookshop 185 Queens Rd, Hastings TN34 1RG
Please see Facebook page for more details of these and other events.

The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards
Come and look at the Bookkeeper Bookshop Facebook page to see more.

The Hare & Hawthorn Bookshop 
51 George St, Hastings Old Town
For more information see the Hare & Hawthorn Facebook page

600pix-AJP-sky banner-squashed

Hi there – how are you coping? I’ve had two online meetings so far and there are music sessions, too. The ones I’ve been involved in have used Zoom software and it seems to work fine. Has anyone tried using Skype for more than two people? Or Google Hangouts? Google Hangouts are free if you have a google account,  but the downside to Zoom is that you have to pay for it.

The shop over the road is practising physical distancing. People are waiting outside to go in singly but I haven’t seen anyone wearing masks. The fishing ponds behind our house are closed but people are going for walks – fewer than before. Most people seem to be observing the government advice.

Thank God.

I’m sure we could still do more. Stay in more. Be more careful. Wash our hands more. I’ve started using the hand cream that’s been gathering dust for years and soon I’ll need some more (hand cream suppliers should be booming).

Did you clap for the NHS? I haven’t got the words to describe how grateful I am for the work they do. Porters, cleaners, surgeons, nurses – each one is risking their life for us. I pray that by the time this post goes live that the government will have managed to finally (finally, finally) get the personal protective equipment they each need. Pray, too, that proper testing is underway at last. I heard from friends in London that they don’t know whether they’ve had Covid 19 or not.

I ordered proof copies of my next two books from Amazon and have been told they will arrive in early May. Can’t complain about this. They are not essential so I’ll have to wait. As far as I know, Amazon are still shipping published paperbacks with only a few days to wait.

The worst shopping experience has been trying to order groceries online. We’ve tried several times and there are never any delivery slots. Back to walking up the hill to Aldi. Last time Paul went, the checkout personnel didn’t have protection but that was over a week ago. Hopefully, things will have changed by now.

I’m aware the government is issuing instructions to local councils that all rough sleepers should be housed but does anyone know what is actually happening?

Back to the eternal proof–reading. Francis was right when he said it was never-ending.

Once again, thanks to those of you who have written to me. It is a pleasure to hear from you.

If you haven’t already done so, you can sign up for the newsletter at  – the  signup form is on the right-hand side as you scroll down. I shall post something soon.

Comments and suggestions on anything and everything are always welcome.

Thanks so much for reading and sending me your thoughts. Stay safe!


Angela J. Phillip


Posted 09:00 Tuesday, Mar 31, 2020 In: Hastings Bookchat

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