No Quarter

There’s just something about pirates. Even before the dark and decorous treatment of a certain Disney franchise, there was always just something about them.

There’s the lure of the sea, of course. That primal pull to the dark blue horizon that steered the course of those reckless few. Then there’s the twisted honour, the roguish nobility, the treacherous camaraderie. The romanticised image entwined with the sinister truth. Not to mention the shameless dandyism of it all – buckles, beads, velvet and lace, topped off with a pistol and a single bullet.

What I think I’m getting at is, pirates are more than a little bit goth.

And once a year in that fishing and festival town of Hastings, goths are more than a little bit piratical. Hastings Pirate Day is yet another chance for Sam and I to spend an entire morning getting dressed, and an entire afternoon swigging ale and singing shanties in the shambling streets of Old Town.

Decked out in daggers and dead crow familiars, we join revellers in their thousands as the entire seafront is turned into a festival ground. We fill our tankards at the appropriately anachronistic establishments that Hastings Old Town does best, then spill into the streets and dance with abandon to the clash of fiddles and flutes drifting through disparate doorways. We wave our cutlasses menacingly as a crew of roguish seafarers blocks the road and demands plunder from unsuspecting vehicles (all proceeds to charity). And of course, we maraud a local chippy for Hastings’ finest battered fish.

The organisers have put on a fine show, with Celtic rockers the Dolmen belting out songs about dead cats, and displays and reenactments across the town. But the most impressive aspect of the event will never cease to be its devoted public, who pour their hearts and souls into creating startling costumes, some historically accurate and others truly fantastical.

Drinking and dancing with this scurvy lot is an experience as close to camaraderie as this black-hearted pirate queen is likely to come.

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