Saturday, 24 January 2009

The trees around Nunhead on Tour 8: Further North

The same day we toured the soaking gardens of Alnwick, we ventured on to Lindisfarne, Holy Island. Known for being wet. We just had time to cross the causeway, park, take a few shots and feel the wind, and return. Or so we thought. This is what it looked like as we crossed onto the Island:-
The sea was already creeping in, and we didn't think we had much time.
No time to get out of the car to photograph the causeway, certainly.

So, we arrived and parked up and squinted into the squally distance (past a tree, hurrah!):-
We squinted sideways:
Then we (OK, I) panicked, got in the car and drove back across the encroaching seas...

Ah well, another day we might get closer.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Obama Spin Laden

OK, so I may be a glass half empty kind of person, but all the same. The weight of expectation being placed on Obama, the sense of uncritical relief that a discredited, right-wing conservative executive is finally leaving, the notion that the new bod is a great communicator, who has also brought together a collaboration of many different talents, the use of the family to help with the message, the sloganising - they all remind me of someone else.

The parallels aren’t exact, of course, but where we now have the Bob the Builderesque “Yes We Can” we once had “Things Can Only Get Better”. Just as with Blair, people are projecting all of their hopes on Obama, in reaction to his predecessor. There is a desire for radical change being invested in a politician who I suspect is profoundly uninterested, at heart, in the concept.

The only direction left to the new President is down; he will disappoint. Not all of the time, not everybody, and not every day. But he will disappoint.

Like I said, glass half empty.

The trees around Nunhead on Tour 7: Alnwick

A wet August day in 2008: North of Newcastle is Alnwick Castle (where I believe Blackadder 1 was filmed) and Gardens. The Gardens were busy; lots of people looking at the water features, fountains, pools etc. Clambering up the mound and looking at the cascades (see below).
Almost invisible below is the entrance to the locked Poison Garden - organised tours only. We enjoyed it - and I found out why Yew trees are associated with churchyards (Voldemort has a Yew wand, remember).
This is the view towards the fountain gardens - they are really something - carefully designed and whooly unexpected. (There is a shot of one at the end of this post).
The cascades again - a slightly different shot
And lots of events - announced by a rather wet-looking town crier:
The fountain I promised...
OK so it was wet, and Gardens aren't really my thing (Kew excepted), but this was really good fun and sufficiently varied that I enjoyed it enormously...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Friday, 2 January 2009

The trees around Nunhead on Tour 6: Durham

Bill Bryson is right about Durham. He called it a "Perfect little city" in Notes from a Small Island and correctly eulogises the view from the main East Coast rail line (crossing the viaduct, looking across at the cathedral and castle). However, since we came in by car, I have no photos of that view here. Sigh.

Technically, and incontrovertibly, Durham cathedral is the most wonderful in Britain (Bryson says "on planet Earth", but I haven't seen them all). I couldn't possibly do it justice here (not least because photography is not allowed inside). Still, here's the view from South Street:

The sanctuary knocker on the main door to the cathedral is a copy, a replica of the original which can be seen in the small museum in the undercroft (recommended).
The closer you get, the larger it looks:

Even the ceiling in the undercroft cafe (scones, jam and cream obligatory) is a joy:-
Surrounding the cathedral are nooks and alleys, leading around to cathedral close.

Further afield, we strolled down the Bailey (did I say, we stayed at Chad's - it was outside term - on the Bailey. Tatty rooms full of blocky elderly furniture in the shadow of the cathedral. The boys' room looked out on the Bailey itself, and might have been Dave T's room in the '70s - not sure, I can't remember accurately enough. Our room looked out on the gardens that lead down eventually to the Wear. Food in the mornings was a proper college dining room atmosphere, complete with middle-aged northern women calling us "Pet". Just perfect). So anyway we strolled down the Bailey to Prebend's bridge - and this is what we saw (traditional postcard views...)
The words are from Sir Walter Scott:

The view down towards Framwellgate bridge...
This is the view looking the other way from Prebend's. I thought I'd include it for the trees...

... and the straight down view. Given the title of this blog, when we then went for a walk along the river (and visited the small archaeological museum they have set up there), I felt some photos of trees were called for.

But that damn cathedral keeps getting in the way.
Of course, if the catehdral was the only massive old building in Durham it would be fantastic enough, but the other side of Palace Green is dominated by the Castle. A few years back we stayed in the Bishop's bedroom, when we came up to the North East for a wedding. So it was only reasonable to look in again...

The view of the cathedral from the castle...

and the castle keep from the cathedral...
.. and some of the rest of Palace Green...

The problem is that all of this doesn't really seem to do justice to the flying visit we paid to Durham. I havent mentioned rowing up the Wear past the sports fields, the Italian meal on Saddler St; the horrible studenty bar they have opened there; popping in to the proper pub (Shakespeare's Head) also on Saddler St to discover there was still a couple of beardy folky people in the back bar playing Northumbrian folk music (which I hate) to an appreciative crowd (the beer was good tho'); buying a piece of Chaucer criticism from what used to be the SPCK bookshop; calling in at Collingwood to look at the changes and seeing who I could spot from a 1978 photo on the wall. All the alterations to the City that seem to have left it looking just the same. Anyway, did I say there is this impressive cathedral there?