shewhomust: (bibendum)
We are in Willington. No, not that Willington - the Willington seven miles from Durham, where Stile restaurant used to be, this Willington is in Derbyshire, on the Trent and Mersey Canal:

Evening on the canal

We are on our way to Shrewsbury for a birthday celebration. When we were first invited, we had great plans to make a holiday of the trip, and explore this part of England. but as the date came closer, we realised that it was hemmed in by other commitments. We have managed to shoehorn in a day (tomorrow) to visit a National Trust property we saw ages ago on television, and have wanted to see ever since.

[personal profile] durham_rambler had a date this afternoon to be shown round the County Hospital development, and I should have gone too, but chose (and it was my choice) to put the time into clearing away lunch and packing the suitcase, so that we could set off as soon as he got home. A longish drive puts us here on the outskirts of Derby, dining at the Dragon on mussels (eating mussels by the canal, as we did at Easter|) and a burger, after a short stroll along the canal in the evening light.
shewhomust: (ayesha)
A couple of years ago, the BBC decided that what we needed, to get us through the first day of the working week. was an hour of quizzing to look forward to. So they programmed University Challenge, followed (not necessarily on the dame channel) by Only Connect. And it was good. Not necessarily to everyone's taste, of course, but then, what is? It pleased enough people that the BBC started to make a feature of it, and to promote 'Quizzy Monday'.

It was too good to last, of course. The BBC decided that no, Friday night is Quiz Night! (What? Why?) They are now trailing Only Connect as a double act with Mastermind. Even if I watched Mastermind (which I don't - it has John Humphrys in it), quizzes would not be my Friday night entertainment of choice: give me music, or comedy, or not watching television at all...

The new season of University Challenge began a couple of Mondays ago, and last Friday Only Connect started as well. But we have the technology, so we time-shifted it to its proper slot, immediately after University Challenge. It's a small victory, but we settle for what we can get.

And followed it with a half hour programme about how Orkney has become 'the cruise capital of the UK' shown earlier this evening, which barely acknowledged that there might be a downside to this, and didn't mention the impact on archaeological sites at all. Very odd.

Us watching three television programmes in one evening is also very odd.
shewhomust: (ayesha)
[personal profile] durham_rambler discovered from the local paper that timbers from the 'Willington Waggonway' were on show for one day only at the Stephenson Railway Museum, and we took time out yesterday to go and see them. This was part of the same 'Festival of Archaeology' as the presentation we went to last week, about the Lanchester Diploma, though I suspect both events would have happened sooner or later anyway.

We'd never heard of the Stephenson Railway Museum, either - it turns out to be a small but good collection, right next to the Silverlink shopping center. They'd set up a container outside the building, containing a young woman (who turns out to be Dominique Bell, Project Coordinator) and several lengths of untreated timber:

Waggonway timbers

These are mainly the wooden rails of the 'Willington Waggonway', a late 18th century waggonway, built to carry horse-drawn coal carts - which makes it a rare survival of one of the world's first railways. THe timber at the left of the bottom shelf is irregularly shaped because it's just the branch of a tree, used as a sleeper to support the rails.

Ship's timber

This rail has been recycled from the timbers of a ship (if I've got this right, the peg sticking out of it on the left is part of the railway, whereas the peg going across it further right is part of the construction of the ship).

Here's Dominique's blog post about her 'waggonway adventure' - going to York to collect the treated timbers for display. Obviously, they are trying to raise money to treat all the surviving timbers.

Some of the treated timbers were on display inside the museum, and I'm afraid I didn't find them anything like as exciting as the untreated ones outside; but I suppose if we want them to survive, it has to be done. There were plenty of other things to admire in the museum, too, shiny engines and suchlike, and we enjoyed our morning there.

In fact, we were sufficiently in holiday mood that we decided to lunch at the Citron Vert, a new 'French bistro' in High Pittington (formerly the Duke of Wellington) which we had seen reviewed in the Durham Times.

They weren't busy when we arrived, despite which they didn't have a table set, gave us the table hard by the counter and kept us waiting for the menu. That wasn't auspicious, but it picked up from then on. The table rubbing elbows with the staff meant we could chat to la patronne (the staff aren't French, but the enterprise certainly is!) as she opened the champagne and made kir royale for the party in the window, who were celebrating someone's birthday (they were displaying a balloon that said so). We both chose salade niçoise from the short menu (the black olives were the sort you buy ready stoned, which don't taste of much, but the eggs were cooked just right, and the anchovies were excellent, and plentiful), and a glass of Touraine sauvignon. I'd wondered how the Durham Times review had managed to square its ratings for quality and value with the prices they were quoting, but the answer may lie in the prices they weren't quoting: the wine, especially by the glass, was not cheap, and the sauvignon was pleasant but not special. However, when la patronne asked how we were doing, and we said what it a pity it was that they didn't offer rosé by the glass to accompany the salad, she said oh, but they did, it just hadn't made its way onto the menu, and poured me a complimentary half glass of Anciens Temps rosé, which was exactly what I would have chosen - pale, dry, with a faint caramel edge. I see from their online menu that their dinner menu includes a café gourmand, which I would probably have preferred to the chocolate brownie (nice enough, not as squidgy as I like it and the ice cream frozen too hard) I did have.

So if I had to give actual marks (which happily I don't) they would include quite a lot of on the one hand, on the other hand. But I think they are aiming for the right targets, even if they don't always hit them.

Also, our bill was handwritten on a picture postcard, and our card was one of the set issued by Penguin, showing the covers of their books: we got the Puffin edition of Heidi. I'm not that easily seduced, am I?
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Each year S. spends a week in Durham at a Classics Summer School, and each year she invites us to gatecrash the evening session at which James McKay, one of the tutors and also, in his own words, a 'poet and reciter', reads poetry. This is fairly loosely connected to the themes of the summer school - one year, I recall, he simply read Sohrab and Rustum in its entirety. On Tuesday the menu was more mixed: some of his own stuff, some Byron (not for the first time) and a generous helping of 'my latest crush', James Elroy Flecker (hooray).

He began with The Old Ships (it is the obvious gateway drug) and ended with To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence ("I'm not going to do The Golden Road to Samarkand - you can look it up!") and plenty more in between. His reading was a little over-emphatic for my taste - readings almost always are, I'd rather you let the words do the work - but it was a pleasure to sit back and listen. Here's a sample:

(On Soundcloud, if that embed is not working.)

Of his own poems, I particularly enjoyed the one in which he used dactylic hexameter (not from the forthcoming collection, apparently, but the one after): I hadn't even known that was a thing in English, but yes, apparently so, and McKay recommended A. H. Clough's Amours de Voyage (article links to the Gutenberg text). But, wait! There's more, because that article also refers to Clough's The Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich, a phrase I know as part of my father's vocabulary - though I never knew where it came from, and couldn't have spelled it.

The evening ended with a chunk of Byron's Beppo. Which was fun, but a bit of an anticlimax.
shewhomust: (Default)
Yesterday afternoon, on my fortnightly binge of "gardening" - which means, hacking back brambles and uprooting rampant buttercups and other weeds, ready for the garden waste collection the following morning, I found and ate a ripe blackberry. Just the one, in a sheltered, sunny position (under the kitchen window), but even so, this is very early, isn't it? I think of blackberries as an autumn fruit, and July 25th as the beginning of the summer holiday season (because it was Grandma's birthday, and often coincided with the start of the school holidays).

It's going to be a good year for blackberries: the brambles in the garden are heavy with fruit, and although I am cutting back yards and yards of new growth, that's not where the fruit is.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
And, speaking of holidays...

I enjoyed writing that post about what we did on my birthday, and making pretty patterns out of words and ideas. But if it weren't for sorting through my photos, seeing those patterns would have stopped me seeing things that didn't fit the pattern, our walk around Bouillon the previous evening, and the fact that we started our exploration of Trier that same day, still my birthday. I could have told you that I lunched on excellent chips, sitting on the steps of the fountain in the marketplace, enjoying the sunshine - but it took my photos to remind me that we also visited the cathedral. What can I say? My memory has its priorities.

It's a perfectly good cathedral. Living in Durham, I'm a bit spoilt for cathedrals, and after Trier we visited Aachen, about whose cathedral there will be much more, in due course. Also, in Trier the Cathedral has to compete with the Basilica. But it's a good cathedral. Here's how it looked from our bathroom window:

Cathedral view

More pictures under the cut )
shewhomust: (Default)
We had a lot of catching up to do with J: she has been house-hunting, she has been on holiday. So we invited her to dinner last night, and to stay the night, so that she could tell us all about it. As a result, [personal profile] durham_rambler has spent the morning searching the internet for information about the property with which she has fallen in love, and I have been looking for information about Trieste, which sounds like a good place to visit.

With that in mind, an interesting piece in the WSJ and Trieste Tourist Office. Best coffee in Italy, allegedly.

J didn't come empty handed. She brought me a blue shirt, passed on to her by F., and not quite right (there was a reason, but I've forgotten it): it is a shade of blue which always makes me think of GirlBear, so it may not have reached its destination yet - we shall see. Also the last remains of a putizza, a characteristic cake from Trieste and Slovenia which combines innocuous looking panettone with nodules of concentrated essence of Christmas cake, to which chocolate has been added. And half a panettone, which we didn't touch last night, and divided up this morning. I shall make bread-and-butter pudding tonight (without the butter).
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Towards the end of a cold February day in 2016, Mark - also known as 'Whitney' - Houston's metal detector gave "a perfect tone" (whatever that may be) indicating the presence of an interesting quantity of metal at an interesting depth. He dug it out carefully, although his first thought when he saw it was "what a stupid place to discard an old motorcycle battery!" - a little stack of plates of metal. But he took it home, and started - very carefully - to clean it up, setting the washed plates on the windowsill to dry. It happened that the light caught the wet surface in such a way that he could see writing on them, and what's more, he could see enough to recognise that the writing was Latin.

The pictures on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database give an idea of what it looked like at the time, and the bit that really impresses me is that armed with this, the internet and a network of other metal detectorists, he was able to identify what he had found, to the point that when he contacted the PAS, he was able to say "I think I've found a Roman diploma."

The Lanchester diploma )
shewhomust: (Default)
We visited the local allotments for their Open Gardens afternoon; you pay an entrance fee (which goes to charity) and then you wander round the allotments and chat to people (and occasionally they invite you to sample their raspberries, which is no hardship). Lots of sweet peas this year - not a spectacular flower, but such a pretty scent. Lots of sweetcorn, too. I had thought there were two reasons why you can't grow sweetcorn here: we're too far north, and anyway, there are badgers on those allotments, and they are very fond of sweetcorn. As if this weren't enough entertainment, there was a theme. Last year there were scarecrows, but this year there was Art, and visitors were asked to vote for their favourite piece. I liked a bold, almost abstract painting of some pears on a royal blue background, displayed alongside some actual (bought from M&S, because of course it isn't the season) pears, on a royal blue towel, but I think this has to be the winner:

Vincent's chair

There was fruit and veg and quite a bit of jam on sale at the entrance (this may have been [personal profile] durham_rambler's favourite bit), so were came home with gooseberries and tayberries and jostaberries (a cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant and - this is important! - not prickly).
shewhomust: (ayesha)
In the Guardian (where else?), taste testing home made posh crisps. I can't decide which is my favourite quotation from the article:
  1. Their size and fragility mean they’re not as filling as a real crisp, but they could work well as a crisp amuse-bouche before proper crisps are served.

  2. Because the idea of healthy crisps appeals to everyone.

  3. In terms of taste it’s right up there with the radish.

What do you think?
shewhomust: (bibendum)
That previous post from Bouillon took me by surprise: until I sorted through the photographs, I didn't realise how much I had to say about that evening walk. What had stuck in my mind was the following day, the Monday - Easter Monday, in fact, and it happened to be my birthday. This wasn't a big deal. We hadn't particularly planned to be on holiday on my birthday, it just so happened that when we looked at dates, the period that worked best for us had my birthday in the middle of it. So we were on holiday, every day was a special treat, and a birthday, well, that's just another day.

I woke up, however, feeling every bit of a year older - more than a year. I blame hotel pillows, I can never find the right combination of 'enough but not too much': for whatever reason, I woke up with a painfully stiff neck, and spent much of the day moving very cautiously, and not looking up.

Easter Monday, say my notes, is the new Sunday. We'd been surprised the previous evening how much was open; now we were surprised all over again how much was closed. Specifically, the pharmacy: there was no chance of replenishing my supply of paracetamol. But the Castle was open, which was the main thing, and we enjoyed our explorations - in the rain.

Then a longish drive to our next destination. Birthday: a day for crossing borders with no observable difference on the two sides, between one year and the next, between Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. The best thing about the drive was something we saw trice on the motorway, a heavily wooded bridge carrying a strip of undergrowth to allow wild animals to cross the road safely. This is a Wildbrucke in German and a passage à gibier in French; if it has an English name, I don't know what it is.

Then we reached Trier, and it stopped raining. There are many things to say about Trier, but for the moment what matters is that it was a major Roman city and doesn't intend you to forget it, so [personal profile] durham_rambler celebrated my birthday with the Roman menu at Zum Domstein.
shewhomust: (ayesha)
Previous years: 2005 (with explanation); 2006; 2007; 2008; (2009: we were in Iceland) 2010; 2011; 2012 (briefly; 2013; 2014; 2015; 2016 (briefly)
DMA Website
Guardian report

The promise was that this year's Gala would be the largest since [insert your comparator of choice here], that Jeremy Corbyn, fresh from his triumph at Glastonbury, would pull in a massive crowd. This is a good thing. It's great that the Gala, which at one time seem likely to disappear like the mining industry itself, is going from strength to strength. And if my heart sinks when I'm promised a massive crowd, well, that's my problem.

Paradoxically, our first impression as we set out on Saturday morning was that the town was emptier than usual: we could hear no music as we walked down the hill, and the North Road was empty, blocked by a council truck parked across the end (someone had stuck a blue NASUWT flag in the back, so we knew they had passed this way). Usually we'd be running into crowds as we climbed Silver Street, but this year we reached the Market Place before we ran into the banners and bands, and it wasn't difficult to make our way past Magdalen Steps, usually a pinch point. That's where I took this picture:

Unison in purple

There were plenty of people wearing red, and the NASUWT's blue was everywhere, but I appreciated the effort Unison representative had made to wear purple (and handling phone, banner and coffee at once shows real skill).

More of the same: more words, more photos )

And that's all for another year. We accompanied [profile] samarcand and co. to their hotel, and had a drink and a chat, and then we made our way home...
shewhomust: (Default)
Of the places we visited on our spring holiday, Bouillon was the odd one out: a small town rather than the 'city break' centres of the rest of the trip, which makes it a much more typical stop for us. My Routard guide says it is one of the major tourist centres of Wallonia, a boast whose modesty delights me. But - again, according to Routard - it has the biggest castle in Belgium, and the history to go with it:

Swans on the Semois

want to know more? )

Time to take the road to Germany.
shewhomust: (Default)
That summer feeling, where doing not very much still fills the day from end to end, with plenty of breaks for reading or poking about the internet. Time slips by, yet nothing seems to have happened - or at least, nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, rounding up a few things -

Last Friday we went to a wine tasting at Majestic wines. We'd dropped in the previous day, in search of rosé, and since the tasting was of rosé, and the price of the ticket was redeemable against buying wine, and we weren't doing anything else, it seemed worth a try. We weren't sure what to expect, but we caught the bus, in the pouring rain, and were welcomed into the shop by Mike who had served us the previous day and was our 'wine guru' for the evening, busy putting out chairs for the six customers. That made it one of the smallest tastings I've ever been to, and definitely one of the least formal (we were not - quite - rowdy, but we may have come close). Mike had put together half a dozen wines from six different countries at a range of prices (and showed us, with evident regret, the Bandol which his budget wouldn't cover). The hit of the evening was a Côtes de Provence in a fancy square bottle, which I thought pretentious and not very interesting, certainly not justifying its price. I was disappointed in the Chapel Down (and I wish I'd been taking notes, because I don't remember why), intrigued by the Muga, which had the flavour of Cava but without the fizz, could have done without the Route 88 White Zinfandel (pink sugar-water) and of the six preferred the Breganze Pinot Grigio, an easy-drinking blush. But I didn't like any of them as well as the La Serrana we had bought the previous day, deep raspberry red with a surprising tannic grip, and how can they possibly sell something drinkable at that price? After which we caught the bus home to a takeaway pizza and a bottle of decent red. A fun evening, good company, I'd do it again.

We've been enjoying Doctor Who. The series began while we were away on holiday, so we've been watching on catch-up, and were following along a week behind transmission. On Saturday we watched the last two episodes back to back in one feature length extravaganza - and I'm glad we did, because I would have found the cliff-hanger irritating and the second part dragged out. As it was, I didn't feel it earned its extra lenth, but that was less obvious since we'd chosen to watch at extra-length anyway. The series as a whole has been very uneven, which I suppose is what you get if you have different authors for different stories. and there have been bits of dialogue (usually when the Doctor has to say something particularly high-minded) when I've just thought 'no!' but I tend to blame the writer rather than the actor. Overall, I've enjoyed Peter Capaldi's Doctor, and I'm sorry we have entered its end-game. Nardole was fun; Bill was fine, though the University setting was one of the more alien worlds the Doctor has visited. Initially I greeted the rehabilitation (or not) of Missy as a pretty threadbare plot device (I still don't buy the idea that the Master is the Doctor's oldest, bestest friend, he just happens to be evil) but it grew on me. She gets all the best lines...

We were at the Lit & Phil last night for the launch of Peter Mortimer's book The Chess Traveller: the proposal was that Pete would start from a randomly selected point and proceed from there by bike to a sequence of other randomly selected points, at each of which he would engage a total stranger in a game of chess. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, of course, and the sections Pete read out were very funny about what did go wrong - as always with Peter Mortimer, I'm half amazed at what he achieves and half baffled how he gets away with it. But looking forward to reading the book.

At the market this morning I bought a red hat. Nothing special, and not expensive, just a floppy sun hat with a wide brim, in a strong deep red, lined with dark green. Only later did I realise that I was already wearing purple (with which it doesn't go). No-one can say they had no warning...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I posted at the time about how we spent Easter Saturday morning: we went to church. That is, it was grey and rainy and seemed like a good opportunity to visit the cathedral, and admire the famous altarpiece. Later in the day we found ourselves back in the cathedral square, and I took the classic photo of the building head on, and glowing in the evening light, but I prefer this shot from the morning, as we navigated through the back streets - the not very many back streets, because our hotel was so ridiculously central - towards that tower:

The back way to the cathedral

Rest of the story behind a cut to spare your bandwidth / patience )

We hadn't registered our cards until quite late on Friday morning; we could have fitted in another museum visit before we left Ghent on Sunday. Instead we went to the book market, and I don't regret it.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)

  • Poking around the internet, looking for something else, I found this article about the decline in puffin numbers in Iceland. It dates back to 2013, and blames the mackerel, heading north on the warmer waters and eating the zooplankton which would otherwise feed the sand eels (ans eating the odd sand eel, too). The evidence is circumstantial, but persuasive. In passing, it suggests that the technique of catching puffins in flight using a net on a pole is actually less damaging to the puffin population than the previous method of catching them from the burrows: "Pole netting targets the tremendous wheels of flying puffins that form just off the colony cliffs. Thousands of birds spend hours flying in an arc out to sea, then banking and coming back low over the cliffs. The birds that do this are mostly adolescents. They have free time, and they spend it endlessly reconnoitering the cliffs, trying to learn what it takes to find a burrow and a mate." Of course: birds that spend their time flying round aimlessly in circles, what could they be but adolescents?

  • I described the practice of pole netting in a post last year about a television programme, also about the decline in seabird numbers, presented by Adam Nicholson. I am now reading his new book, The Seabird's Cry and hoping for more up to date information. I've barely started it, and have only just reached the chapter about puffins, but I loved this hint of how they spend their winters: "Winter puffins, dressed in grey, float in silence, picking at fish and plankton alone on the surface of the sea." Something very chilly about that wording.

  • And one puffin-free item: Harry Potter, the Durham connection. I am mildly shocked at the idea that Durham University is offering a Harry Potter module as part of its English degree: the course, as described, sounds like a very good way to teach civics to schoolchildren, but not the material for undergraduates on - oh, wait, can I even assume that it's a literature degree? Better stop here and go to bed.
shewhomust: (puffin)
So that was the end of our stay on Lindisfarne. Memo to self: a half-week in a holiday cottage is shorter than a full week than you would believe possible. Also, much as I enjoyed our trip to Scotland last year, I do love spending time on Lindisfarne. But now it was time to go home. We could do something fun on the way home, though, couldn't we? [personal profile] durham_rambler had a request for what we might do. And it began like this:

Stairway to Heaven

More pictures under the cut )
shewhomust: (bibendum)
After dinner I went for one last walk.

Down to the harbour, over the Heugh and down the other side to the beach immediately across the water from the sandbanks where the seals hang out. I couldn't see any seals, but I could hear them cooing to each other. The tide was quite low, so I walked round the headland towards Saint Cuthbert's island. The sun was just breaking through a grey sky, tracing a faint silver path across the wet sands:


Photograph taken at 9.20 pm. The solstice is past; the nights are drawing in.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
At Pilgrims Coffee café yesterday, ordering lunch, I spotted the 'scone pudding', which appeared to be a version of bread pudding made - you'll never guess! - from leftover scones., and thought: I'll come back for some of that! Today, after lunch at the Ship (fish and chips, in my case), [personal profile] durham_rambler and I slipped away from the family party, and went back for a slice of cake, and cup of the coffee that [personal profile] lamentables and [personal profile] abrinsky had praised so highly.

If you do the same thing yourself, be warned - don't take your cake to the outside tables:

Let them eat cake

[personal profile] durham_rambler was very amused: "They're after your cake!"
"No," I said, "They're after your cake!"
They were quite fearless in pursuit of it, too:


But in the end, it was my cake that they got. I was laughing too much to defend it. This is not a criticism of the cake - the one corner I got was very good: but it was worth a slice of cake to sit back and watch the little birds mobbing it, and to feel the wind of their wings, and to watch the lone blackbird surveying them with an affronted air, clicking his beak impatiently (and audibly), as if wondering why they weren't giving way to his superior claim.

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