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)
Just a little walk: it's not far from here to the harbour, then across the meadow onto the village green, round behind the church and down the track to the shore. They've made a display in the old lifeboat house, about the lifeboats: tales of courageous rescues, a comedy photo opportunity (of the 'your face here' variety) and - completely simple, but I found it very effective - the painted outline on the floor of the boat itself. I sat on one of the benches, and watched the swallows, and the play of the light behind the clouds over Saint Cuthbert's island:

Saint Cuthbert's island

With a little goodwill, maybe you can see the slanting rays of light coming down onto the island. Those clouds keep trying to rain, and a few drops hit me as I left the beach on the footpath up through the field, but they didn't come to anything. I cut through the churchyard, but there's scaffolding there, too, between the church and the priory, so I turned, and discovered there's a dangerous tree round the other side of the church: it didn't look dangerous, it looked as if it was lying down and resting, but the notices said it was dangerous, and who am I to argue?

Past the shiny new village hall, and along the village street. Passing the Impressions Gallery I was invited in by the artist, and he told me that the excavation on the Heugh have found Saint Aidan's church - a bit of poking around the internet tells me that that is what they were looking for, but I can't find any up-to-date information.

Something to investigate tomorrow...
shewhomust: (Default)
The last few days have been full of busyness, some of it self-inflicted: cooking choices result in washing up, and did I really need to bake a loaf of bread? (Yes. Yes, I did.) Some of it was stubbornness about not being deterred from doing things which might more conveniently have happened at a different time: the farmers' market, the annual Eco Festival at the local church. Some of it will be rewarded when we return home at the end of the week, and find I have already done those things - mainly work, and the residents' association minutes. Some of it was me not responding well to the hot weather, and slowing down ...

Ah, well. What didn't get done before we left can be done when we get home. [personal profile] durham_rambler and I got away in time to meet [personal profile] helenraven from her train in Berwick, and here we are on Lindisfarne. [personal profile] valydiarosada and D. are unpacking their shopping into the kitchen, and I am writing this at the dining table with its view through the French window, across the patio and over to the Castle, which is elaborately scaffolded and topped with a canopy - just like home, in fact. But it's cooler than home, which is very pleasant.

Time for a stroll, I think.
shewhomust: (puffin)
It was 2013 when we first visited the Amble Puffin Festival: time to return. The Festival stays much the same from year to year, but Amble has seen some changes: the town itself is still slightly down-at-heel, scruffier than its smart neighbour Alnmouth, but there is gentrification afoot at the harbour:

Coble Quay

This smart new development is Coble Quay (25 apartments, the Fat Mermaid deli and bistro and a "Private - Residents Only" sign): I wonder if it will still look as smart when it is no longer new? There's a shed which is a seafood centre, which is in the process of setting up a lobster hatchery, and in its shade a little cluster of shops in what look like a row of bathing huts, selling the sort of things people buy at the seaside - no, not buckets and spades, not these days, now is is all handmade cosmetics and seaglass jewellery, and some rather nice prints, drawings of seabirds printed on old maps. When we had checked out these bijou boutiques, we crossed to the other side of the harbour, and spent the rest of the morning at the car boot sale, which is unchanged, all glittering beads and odds and ends of china, cheap DVDs and discarded toys. We bought a book each, and enjoyed the view of the harbour at low tide:

Low tide

Note the heron, which seemed to be coexisting amicably with some eider ducks. Note also how hazy it is. It's even clearer if you look across the river to Warkworth Castle:

Castle in the mist

This wasn't entirely unexpected - in fact it was part of my plan: if the weather is too hot, head for the coast, where a sea fret is quite likely to cool things down. Which worked very well for us in the morning, enough sunshine, but not too much. Towards the end of lunch (we started out at the Fat Mermaid, which was pleasant enough, but felt the pull of Spurreli's, and headed there for ice cream) the sky began to cloud over, and as soon as we set off to explore the town, it started to rain on us, quite heavily. So we didn't stay for the naming of the new lifeboat, but headed for home. The rain stopped as we reached the car, of course, and the drive home was even quite bright, at times, but just as we turned off the main road there was a loud crash, and then another, and hailstones the size of sugar lumps started bouncing off the car. A couple of hundred yards further on, it turned to torrential rain, and the thunderstorm which had been forecast - and the rain has been stopping and starting ever since.

Bonus seaside poem: I'm not a big dan of John Cooper Clarke, but the collaborative process seems to suit him. I think this came out rather well.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Belsay Hall

Belsay Hall is an English Heritage property in Northumberland: its most interesting feature is a Quarry Garden (a rock garden on an altogether grander scale), but the house itself is square and rather dull. Last time we visited there I described it as: "the shell of a stately home which uses the building and gardens as a setting in which to display contemporary art around a different theme each year." This memory gave me inflated expectations of the quilting exhibition which has been occupying the hall for the last couple of weeks - which was a perfectly pleasant exhibition of an awful lot of quilts, some of which I likd better than others, but none of which were particularly memorable.

So that was a bit of an anticlimax, but it was outweighed by this being a brilliant time to visit the gardens. Everything was in bloom, there were bluebells in the woods:

The path through the bluebell woods

That door at the far end of the path looks as if it ought to be the way out of the gardens: on the contrary, it leads back into the formal gardens. Have an iris (because I do love irises):


The route home leads through Ponteland, so we stopped at Waitrose and did the weekend shopping there.
shewhomust: (puffin)
I didn't mean to spend the afternoon looking at pictures of puffins: I do have work to do.

But [ profile] durham_rambler showed me a picture in today's Guardian, so I went looking for it to see if I could share it here. Not as easy as I expected. Here's the Guardian Witness feature, and here are today's photos: no puffins, but some nice pictures. I'd post the guiser Jarls queuing for their breakfast here if there were an LJ button alongside the FB, Twitter and Pinterest logos, but we are not worthy.

Oh, well. I finally tracked down my pictures archived by theme, and oh, look, there's an 'embed' option, hooray! Well, almost hooray. The code doesn't actually embed the picture, but it gives you this link:

Puffin vanity

Which in turn gives me the name of the photographer, and that allows me to find this story published in the Journal a couple of summers ago. I can't make the gallery feature work, alas, but in the meanwhile, have some piano-playing puffins:

shewhomust: (dandelion)
D. and [ profile] valydiarosada are with us, as is only right and proper, for the New Year. Our initial plan for today was to visit Dunston, where D. has an appointment to see a man about a wheel, and then go on to lunch with D.'s sister and brother-in-law. But they thought better of the invitation, having both succumbed to winter colds, so instead we went to Seaton Sluice for fish and chips at the Harbour View - and sculpture. The Gallery which I enjoyed in August was closed, but the many sculptures of Tom Newstead survive -

Neptune in his Christmas finery

Here's Neptune in all his Christmas finery - and proliferate. There is now an exhibition space - it may look like a shed,but it's definitely an exhibition! Here's one tiny corner:

Inside the exhibition

because I particularly liked the blue whale with teaspoons. There are more sculptures outside, though the sun was low and bright and made photography tricky. Nonetheless, have a Viking:


And now I must go and attend to my guests. I am neglecting them shamefully, and anyway, it's cold up here (we have a problem with the heating, which is not reaching the bedrooms or attic - though fortunately the rest of the house, and the hot water, are fine). I wonder if they've lit the fire yet?
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Like most people of my age, I have a number of low-level aches and pains which come and go, and which mostly I either ignore or suppress with painkillers. Sometimes if I'm tired, or if I've been sitting for too long, my back aches. So? Everyone over 40 gets backache. This is just context, not a plea for sympathy.

A recentish addition to my catalogue has been a pain in the sole of my left foot. It felt as if I'd trodden on a small stone, except that I hadn't, and it could be persistent. It's never been painful enough to be a problem, and it's always gone away as mysteriously as it appeared. Until Monday, when suddenly it was very painful indeed, can't put foot to floor painful, hobbling around the house painful, using a walking stick painful. "If it's no better tomorrow," said [ profile] durham_rambler, "we'll make an appointment to see the doctor." And I agreed, because I was confident it would be better tomorrow. Only it wasn't, it was worse, and we rang the doctor and - to our surprise - got an appointment for that afternoon. It was one of the shortest sessions I've ever had with a doctor: he prodded my foot, observed that it hurt, prodded to either side of the same point and established that this hurt too, but not as much, and told me I had plantar fasciitis, and that it would get better, but not until it was good and ready.

In fact, as with all the best magic systems, naming the monster - better still naming it in Latin, because surely all that Latin name means is 'inflammation of something in the sole of the foot', which I knew - went a long way to defeating it. He also gave me the useful information that the pain is always worse after inactivity and first thing in the morning, so that's not the time to judge.

On Wednesday I was still hobbling, and wasn't ready to walk to the Elm Tree and back, but was fine for quizzing, with a lift there and back - just as well, because the quiz included a round about puffins, and I'd have been cross to miss it.

And on Thursday we spent a day on Hadrian's Wall, with J and J, who were holidaying (that should probably be 'short-breaking', but I don't like it as a verb) in Hexham precisely so that J could fulfil an ambition to see the Wall. Warned that I was not as mobile as I might be, he had spent the previous day using the shuttle bus (route number AD 122) to explore Housesteads (and that very spectacular stretch of wall over Cuddy's Crags) and Vindolanda. So we took them to the Mithraic temple at Brocolitia, lunch at the Twice Brewed (which is now a bright smart pub with blonde wood furniture and tartan carpets: I remember it as very dark, and full of peaty smoke), to the quarry at Cawfields and up to Milecastle 42. I was quite surprised to manage this last, and declared that I wasn't doing any more scrambling - besides, the afternoon was passing, and if we were going to visit a fort, we should do so now.

Pictures of Chesters fort and museum )

We drove home in the dark, which felt strange - and then puzzling: why did it feel so strange? It couldn't be as long as that, surely, since we were out in the evening? Then realising that we weren't late, it was the darkness that was early. Summer must be over.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Annual visit to Whitby )

Two ladies of Redcar )

Tall ships at Blyth )

And we're going out again tomorrow, to visit J and J who are staying in Hexham and visiting the Wall.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
It's August and it's a Bank Holiday (not in the UK, admittedly, but we're all Francophiles here): we went to the beach.


Admittedly, that wasn't the original plan: we had meant to go out yesterday, but [ profile] durham_rambler spent much of the day rescuing one of our sites which had fallen over under attack from some bot in Ukraine. Going out today instead was no great hardship, but the museum we had planned to visit is closed on Mondays - so instead we went to Alnmouth.

We must have arrived when the tide was at its lowest. The beach was busy with families, and dogs, and one or two kites, but there was plenty of room for all of us. I pointed out to [ profile] durham_rambler that two of the children were wearing actual wetsuits, and their mother, a large woman in an orange swimming costume, told me: "Liodl. £12.99. We're holidaying in England this year." Good for them! We paddled in the shallows round into the mouth of the Aln, then back, and headed into the village for lunch (generously filled crab sandwiches at the Tea Cosy Tea Shop) and shopping: a nose around the At Old School Gallery, actual purchases at a shop whose name I didn't notice (I coveted David Hall*'s cormorant, and actually bought a book of his puffin pictures, because puffins!)

By the time we returned to the car, the tide had risen substantially, and the beach was a fraction of its former self. We returned via Alnwick, where Barter Books accepted the entirety of the two boxes of books we had brought: this has never happened to us before. What's more, there's a garage behind the bookshop which dealt with the amber light warning us the the oil was low, by the simple expedient of putting some oil in the engine. On the way home, we were a bit slow turning off the radio after the news, and found Geoff Ryman talking to us about Herland. That was unexpected.

All in all, a good day out. We should get out more.

*Checking his website now, I think I've admired his work before - surely I recognise that frog?
shewhomust: (dandelion)

Early on the morning of Sunday 13th August 1916, there was an explosion underground at Woodhorn Colliery in Northumberland. Because it was overnight on Sunday, only the maintenance shift was working, so only thirteen men - three stonemen, two putters and eight deputies - were killed. Only thirteen. It isn't one of the famous mining disasters: that "only" is more bearable when set alongside the 204 men and boys who died at Hartley, for example. Ir isn't immortalised in song, like Trimdon Grange, where 74 died. I wouldn't have known about it, had we not taken GirlBear to Woodhorn Museum, and seen the memorial.

Still, thirteen men dead. There's so much commemoration going on at the moment about the appalling slaughter of the Somme, and the impact on local communities - and it deserves to be remembered. But something very similar was a permanent part of life in mining communities.

The Chronicle tells the story of Tamar Armstrong, who felt the earth tremble and was alarmed for her boyfriend, rather than for her father who was also underground - and how guilty she felt about that first reaction, especially when her boyfriend survived, later to be her husband, while her father was killed - and so was his brother. I had to fill in a mini questionnaire to read the article, but it was worth it.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
We had a very good weekend. The Bears were visiting, and we did many interesting things:
  • On Friday afternoon, [ profile] durham_rambler and GirlBear and I went to Woodhorn Colliery museum, while BoyBear worked on his t'ai chi with a friend.

  • Saturday was the day of the Durham Miners' Gala. It rained. Fortunately, we had time to see much of the procession and to hear many of the bands before the rain set in for good. If the sun had been shining I'd have been happy to sit on the grass and wait to hear the speakers, but as it was we left before they even started. We walked home via Palace Green, and saw the banners waiting outside the cathedral, which I haven't done before.

  • On Sunday afternoon, there was music at Old Durham Gardens. We listened to a consort of (three) viols playing rather hesitantly, then avoided the Scratch Choir and wandered around the gardens instead. They seem to have planted lots of old roses since I was last there.

  • And in the evening, we deposited the Bears at a Sacred Harp House Sing, and went to see Gail, who showed us Dracula's Daughter, a curious 1936 movie, which starts very carefully at exactly the point where Stoker's novel ends, and then veers off into comedy cockney policemen (in Whitby), a Hungarian countess with hypnotic powers and a love interest called Janet who seemed to have strayed in from a screwball comedy being shot in an adjacent studio.

I have plenty more to say about any of these things, and I took pictures, too. But our builder has interpreted We will get our bedroom ready for you to start work in there on Monday 18th as Book the decorators to start on Monday 18th, and we will give you access far enough in advance to remove the fitted wardrobe, make good and allow the plaster to dry. So instead of having all this week to clear the room in an orderly fashion, we have been desperately trying to clear enough space around the wardrobe for the builder to start work on it first thing tomorrow.

Which means, I suppose, that we'll need to be up early, and that it's time for bed now. Have some old roses:

Old roses
shewhomust: (dandelion)
No surprise that at this time of year the Guardian Travel supplement hasn't had much of interest to say. But it's been making up for it with some very pretty pictures.

Last week they published three Instagram pictures from Max Avdeev taken in Yakutia. If there's a way to link to Instagram to show only photographs tagged 'Yakutia' by a single photographer, I have yet to find it, but the tag 'cold assignment' seems to be all his own. More photos on his website, especially these of Kotelny Island.

Thuis week, the Big Picture featured this amazing image from Chase Guttman (website), who has won Young Travel Photographer of the Year (same link leads to some fine photographs of Iceland in a younger age group). What amazingly well-travelled young people these are...

Poking around the internet I found this BBC article about another set of prizewinning photographs. My travel envy was alleviated by the realisation that my favourite set had been taken on Spittal beach in Northumberland (you have to scroll right down the page to see them).

These are all stunning photos, and I wish mine were half as good. But every now and then I'm quite pleased with one. This is my favourite from our pre-Christmas visit to London:

A red door in Somers Town">
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
On our way home from Kendal, we made a detour up to the Wall to see the Milecastle built of books by artist Dawn Felicia Knox.


The piece is called 'Simulacrum', and according to S., who knows about such things, is a reasonably accurate half scale model of a milecastle. The Hexham Courant quotes Lindsay Allason-Jones, who is, among other things, Chairman of the commissioning body, the Hadrian Arts Trust (they have a website, but it hasn't been updated lately). The idea, it seems, is to celebrate the introduction of literacy to Britain by the Romans. "It is because they did so that we know so much about Hadrian's Wall and those who lived here."

In this case, how should we interpret the temporary nature of the piece? Simulacrum is only intended to last a month. The same piece in the Courant quotes the artist: "The sculpture will begin to decay almost immediately - rain will permeate the books, the sun will crack the book covers and plants will begin to take root." Not yet:

Books do furnish a milecastle

The books are a bit windblown, a bit battered, but most of them are perfectly serviceable. I had to be firm with [ profile] durham_rambler: "Look, here's something by Jean Cocteau - Les... something..." "Les Enfants Terribles, we have a copy." (Do we? I'm pretty sure we do...). The literacy handed to us by classical antiquity has not composted down into our national psyche, it remains a defiantly undigested lump, the imposed culture of the colonial power.

Or something. I suspect I'm overthinking this. It's art, and isn't improved by being squeezed to extract the message. Have some eye candy:

Autumn leaves

One last twist, though. Simulacrum is a scale model of a milecastle, but it's about the actual size of a turret; and it is situated in Walltown Quarry where turret 45B is, in fact, missing, destroyed soon after 1883 by the operations of the Greenland Quarry. Because the Victorians may have placed great value on a classical education, but they weren't going to let that stop them quarrying this useful rock.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
... I hope I shall be able to visit Walltown before the end of October, to see the Milecastle built of books by artist Dawn Felicia Knox.

This won't be her first piece of work along the wall. Her website has some wonderful photos* of the books which used to make up a piece called 'There Are Gods Beneath Our Feet', now decaying slowly on an allotment in Wallsend.

*Yes, I am aware that 'wonderful photos' does not guarantee that the thing itself is wonderful, but still, wonderful photos! Go look!
shewhomust: (dandelion)
It's the time of year when heritage properties open their doors, and those whose doors were open anyway try to make it sound as if they were doing something extra, so that you will visit them. It falls this year at a time when we are busy enough with other things that I could wish it were not this weekend - but if not now, when? We've had a busy August, and if it were any later, we'd miss it. Hence this breathless, let me tell you what we've done so far, post.

With pictures, of course )
shewhomust: (dandelion)
The summer continues as grey as it was during our week on Lindisfarne: on the last day of July we dined on mutton strw, mashed potatoes and dried fruit compote, and didn't feel that this autumnal meal was in any way inappropriate; I lay snug in bed this morning and thought that the heather must be in bloom on the hills, and perhaps... and then rose, put on a warm jumper, and thought, perhaps not. I'd like to claim to be a hardy northerner, undeterred by weather, but the truth is that although I still have fun when the skies are grey, there are things that I don't do, that I would have done if the sun had been smiling. That applies today, it applies to much of our trip to the Western Isles, and it applies to our week on Lindisfarne.

Fun under grey skies, then: with photographs, obviously. )
shewhomust: (bibendum)
For the ten summers since we decided we were too old for this driving to Lindisfarne overninght (and then driving back again) lark, we have rented a house for a week on the island: different houses, some we return to, some once only. I suspect that Coble Cottage will turn out to be a once only.

Coble Cottage

It's a new house, replacing an older building, neatly fitted into the space, and I'd seen it under construction and wondered about it. The descriptions on the website were impressive - but so was the price. Eventually we agreed that it was worth a try, and that four bedrooms, all of them en suite, made it a good opportunity to invite the Bears to join us for the week. And that remains true, despite all my reservations about the place.

Long and not very interesting unless you are actually looking for a house to rent on Lindisfarne )

None of these drawbacks in any way spoiled my holiday; but I didn't warm to Coble Cottage as I might have.

tl:dr version - Coble Cottage is unusual on Lindisfarne in offering so many bedrooms all with en suite facilities, and if that is your priority, it delivers. Otherwise, you can probably do better.

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