Durham Weekend

Anybody whsceneryo knows me will tell you that I’ve had a lifelong love for North Yorkshire.  I devoured everything I could find on the subject.  I loved Last of the Summer Wine just for the scenery and read James Herriot books, picturing the scene in my head.  I blame my Grandparents.  They went often and were full of tales of how beautiful it was.  Even as a child, I loved scenery and the countryside.

I never had much experience of the North East, never really thought of it as a holiday destination until about four years ago when hubby and I visited Newcastle.  I found myself falling in love with the laid back pace and friendliness of the locals.  I surprised myself by preferring it to York which I imagined I would love.

My love for the North East was sealed recently by our weekend trip to Durham which was more through necessity than anything else. That said, some friends of ours have visited and highly recommended it.

Hubby had a bow that needed repairing and the bowyer would be at a Medieval Market, the last of the season.  Driving to Durham was much easier than shipping the long bow back to the Netherlands!  It was a seven hour drive from Kent (including breaks) and at times it felt like we were in one big traffic jam all the way here.

We stayed in the Premier Inn at Bishops Aukland.  Quite pleasant with a Brdinnerewers Fayre attached.  Very slow service and if you are looking for posh nosh, this is not the place for you!  I was excited to find that Brewers Fayre do an all you can eat fish and chip night, sadly not on the nights that we were there though!

The Medieval Fair was held at Brancepeth Castle which is a beautiful location to have it.  The steampunk attired gentlemen at the front gate informed us that it wasn’t usually open tocat the public.  It’s home to a couple of academics and some lodgers.  I was pleased to discover a cat lived there too.  We made friends with him/her while we were eating breakfast – a full english breakfast from the snack wagon.  Delicious and a bargain at £5 each!

The market was quite small but had lots of interesting stalls.  Most notably forbrancepeth me were Fairbow (I would say that because he is who we came to see!) and a stall selling some beautiful instruments.  The harps caught my
attention, especially when a lady started playing ‘Greensleeves’.  I stopped what I was doing and watched.  It was such beautiful music, haunting and she played it so well.  I’ve never had any interest at all in playing the harp but at that moment I really, really wanted to.

Hubby and I had finished by 12:30pm so we decided to head into Durham.  Park and Ride would be the best option we decided as we had the large car with us so we could fit the bows into it.  It wasn’t far – 3 1/2 miles.  We were pleased to find that the parking spaces were plenty big enough. We didn’t have to wait for a bus.  There was one there waiting.  Even if we had, they were every 10 minutes.  You could buy your ticket on the bus.  A bargain at £2 each.  Cheaper than parking in town and less trouble too when you have a big car like ours!

We met a friendly, older couple on the bus who advised us that the best places to see for half a day were the Cathedral and the Castle.  There were plenty of restaurants and shops the gentleman told us but hubby and I have always been more Cathedral and Castle than shopping! Once we were off the bus, the couple pointed us in the right direction.  It was only a short work, although some of it was on a steep hill.

We stopped at the World Heritage Site Visitors Centre on the way up where a volunteer told us about the Cathedral and Durham in general. Sadly you could only see the Castle by way of a guided tour because it is part of Durham University. I’m not a big fan of guided tours.  I prefer to wander around, soaking in the atmosphere and environment at my own pace.  We opted not to have the guided tour.  Maybe next time we are in Durham because there will be a next time!

The Cathedral was impressive, alone it was worth the trip into Durham for.  I found the durham-1staff who worked there were very pushy about the exhibition.  Monks chambers where you could see the exposed ceiling.  I found that off-putting.  It really was quite a hard sell.

Some of the Cathedral was closed off for a wedding which was a rather grand affair.  We had tea and scones in the Undercroft restaurant while it was going on then after looking at the Lego model of the cathedral (very impressive!), wandered round the grounds before heading back to the park and ride via Split and Glory which is a heavenly ice cream parlour!

Thanks to the gentleman on the bus we knew where we were going.  While we were waiting for the bus an interesting old lady who smelt of roses told me how the Three Tuns Hotel, which looks like it has been closed for some time, used to be a dancehall.  All the young people used to go there to dance and the men would ask the ladies to dance!  It was a beautiful image.  She painted such a vivid picture.

Relaxing Saturday night before a long drive back on Sunday.  I felt a bit sad that we didn’t have time to stop in Yorkshire on the way back home but that’s one for next time!

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

I came across this book after reading about it in an article.  I can’t remember exactly what article it was but I seem to remember it being in Psychologies Magazine in a column by Sally Brampton, who sadly died earlier this year.

Reasons to Stay Alive is a refreshingly honest and raw account of Matt Haig’s struggle with mental illness.  Written in a humorous fashion, that does not detract from the seriousness of the illness, Haig manages to keep it upbeat in a book that could easily have featured on the more morose.

Whilst not a traditional self-help book, if you have ever suffered from depression or panic attacks in particular, you will recognise something of yourself in this book.  It’s true that mental illness is different for each person but there are some things that it has in common.

This book made me laugh out loud in places (Things you think during your 1000th panic attack), not at the condition but in the wry fashion in which Haig tells it.

Definitely worth a read, Haig tells readers that you can get better and you will find a way that works for you.  For him it was the love of those people around him, running, yoga and literature but the recovery is as individual as the illness.  What works for one may not work for another.

Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriaty

CONTAINS SPOILERS!

 

Liane Moriaty never fails to disappoint with her books and her latest offering, Truly Madly Guilty, is no exception.

I want to like her, I really do but I cannot jump onto the Moriaty fan-wagon and sail merrily off into the sunset when she produces such mediocre writing.  There’s always a twist which is anti-climax and leaves you wondering why you waited the whole book for this.

In this book the twist centred around a BBQ and what really happened.  The answer is not an awful lot.

I find Clementine wholly unlikable and Sam a bit wet.  In fact there is nobody in the book that I could relate to at all.

The exception for me has been ‘What Alice Forgot‘ which was the first book I read of Moriaty’s.  A good start and I hoped for more of the same.  Sadly I have been disappointed and she has failed to deliver with other books.

‘Truly Madly Deeply/ will be the last book I read of Moriaty’s.  I don’t think she will be able to recreate ‘What Alice Forget’ and I have found subsequent books lacklustre with characters I don’t actually care about.

Carrying Albert Home – Homer Hickam

I am currently on a self-imposed book-ban.  I have hundreds of books on my ‘to be read’ pile and it’s not getting any smaller.  The Sunday mornings wandering round boot fairs have not been helping!  I’ve been getting books from the library where possible but sometimes a book leaps out at me and won’t let go.  I have to have it!  Right away!

As far as addictions go, my book addiction is fairly tame.  There are worse things to be addicted to.  Hell, I don’t drink, smoke or take drugs.  Friday night is more likely to find me sitting on the sofa with a good book, the cats and a cup of tea than at a wild party (I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wild party in my life!).

So yes, sometimes there are those books.  Any fellow reader will know what books I’m talking about and ‘Carrying Albert Home‘ looked different enough from all the usual dross that frequents Tesco’s shelves to be interesting.

I wasn’t wrong.  This a magical tale set in 1930s America.  The Great Depression is starting to bite, although it doesn’t have a big impact on Elsie Lavender and her stoic husband Homer who live in the coalfields of West Virginia.

Elsie is dissatisfied with her lot.  She lived in Florida before her marriage and longs for more. Her only memento of that time is her alligator Albert, who was presented to her by her ex-beau when she married Homer…

Then one day everything changes. Homer’s patience runs out when Albert chases him from the house in just his pants much to the amusement of the neighbours. Homer declares ‘it’s me or the alligator’, not altogether sure who Elsie will choose.  Elsie doesn’t seem sure either but eventually she decides that they must carry Albert home to Florida….and so begins their epic adventures and road trip.

It’s a charming tale that is described as a blend of fact and fiction.  Some of the tales are so tall that they can only be fiction!

This book reminds me of ‘A Man Called Ove‘, not in content but in style.  It is that same eccentric mix of crazy, quirky and original.  It is memorable in a market of bland, forgettable books, the kind of book that you would recommend to a friend (in fact I did just that yesterday at another boot fair!).

I found Elsie to be slightly selfish and self-obsessed and Homer to be weak but this didn’t detract from the story.  It wasn’t enough to make me hate them either.  It just showed their flaws, made them human.  Albert was absolutely adorable.  His relationship with Elsie reminded me of my relationship with my cat.  It really made me smile.  I’d love to have an alligator if it was allowed and I didn’t think they’d eat my cats!

Hickam is an engaging writer and I’m looking forward to reading his memoir, ‘Rocket Boys’.  Sadly the library doesn’t have it in stock so it looks like I’m going to have to indulge my guilty pleasure of buying books.  That’s going to be tough!

 

Alice Through the Looking Glass (movie)

I have discovered a joy for going to the cinema alone.  I have friends who will go with me but sometimes they don’t want to see the same movies as me and I end up missing out.  The first time I did it I felt a bit awkward but nobody seemed to care less, least of all me.  It was quite enjoyable too because I was able to give the film my undivided time and digest it afterwards.

Anyway, there is a point and I’m coming to that…yesterday I found myself with a free day so I decided to go and see Alice Through the Looking Glass.  I’d ummed and ahhhed about it since it came out and it seemed to be getting very mixed reviews (though I’m not sure if some of that was to do with the Johnny Depp wife beating accusations that surfaced around the same time as the movie came out).  I thought I’d missed out but one of our local cinemas still had a couple of showings so I took myself off to the first showing.

It wasn’t on the board so I thought maybe it wasn’t showing.  It was but for some reason it wasn’t listed on the board.  I paid for my ticket and off I went.  Settled into my seat in the deserted cinema and waited.  It transpired that I had the whole cinema to myself which was bliss!  £8 for a private cinema experience seemed like an absolute bargain!  I’ve often wondered if cinemas run a movie if nobody has bought tickets for it…

I’m one of the few that loves the trailers.  I’m a bit of a movie buff and I love to see what’s coming up.  As I had the cinema to myself I used my phone to note down any upcoming movies that I wanted to see whilst cheerfully munching on breakfast!

The movie itself was magical.  I think it benefited from being seen on the big screen (I saw the movie in 2D) because the landscapes were huge and very colourful.  You got a real sense of scale on the bigger screen.

I’ve often remarked in the past that movies are like a bad trip.  This was deliciously eccentric and if there was any trip involved it was a very good one.  It had a fabulous cast but for me, Sacha Baron Cohen stole the show as Time.  He was hilarious in places, eccentric but fierce when he needed to be.  I loved him.

Johnny Depp was fabulous as always (he played Hatter) and Mia Wasikowska played a fantastic Alice who had the potential to be annoying and whiny but managed to pull off ballsy and determined.

Essentially it’s a story of the unbreakable bonds of family and friendship.  Very well thought out and for me,  the right measure of laugh out loud, eccentric and pantomime villains to keep me happy.

I loved it and would definitely recommend it.  I might even consider going to see it again!!

 

Folkestone, Kent

I’ve lived in Kent most of my life and as a child, Folkstone was one of my favourite places to visit.  It’s on the Kent coast but isn’t a stereotypical coastal town that is overcrowded with arcades and ‘kiss me quick’ hats.  It’s there if you look for it but the harbour area is beautiful.  Definitely worth a stroll if you are in the area.

I parked in a car park by the harbour – £1 an hour or £6 for 24 hours.  Bargain!  The town centre is accessed by a very steep lane, aptly named Steep Street, where you can also find the Artists Quarter.

If I’m being honest, the town isn’t great.  It has the usual chains and has a general air of neglect.  I did enjoy the Artists quarter though.  It reminded me of The Lanes in Brighton, only much, muc20160704_104048h smaller and without the buzz.  A lot of the shops were closed in that area but that appears to be the normal on a Monday.

I did find a hidden gem which I’d highly recommend – Steep Street Coffee House.  It caught my eye because at first glance it looks like a book shop with row upon glorious row of books of every description.  It was love at first glance and the tea was good too!  It had a lovely, relaxed atmosphere, although it does get busy at lunchtimes.  If I were being picky I’d say the breakfast options but I’d be happy to just go in there and soak up the atmosphere.

I spent some time in the harbour watching th20160704_102511e local fishermen bring in their catches. They had an audience of teenage European tourists who seemed fascinated both by the process and the boats themselves.

One of the best sights of the day was a chef from a local restaurant going to get his fresh fish for the day.

I finished off the day in Rocksalt which comes highly recommended both by friends and by tripadvisor reviews.  I wasn’t disappointed at all.  It was a sunny day, perfect for eating outside overlooking the harbour.  Service was good and my lunch choices where delicious.  I’d definitely recommend.

Starters: Tomatoes, Golden Cross Goats Cheese & Anchovies on Toast20160704_133316

Main: Folkestone Huss in Anchovy Butter & Landcress

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Dessert: Custard Doughnuts with Kentish Raspberries

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All in all a good day was had by all.

 

Little Free Library – Penenden Heath, Kent

I have long been an advocate of swapping books and sharing a story that you love.  Growing up I devoured books, there were never enough to satiate my enormous book Little Libraryappetite.  That has definitely spilled over into adulthood if my teeming bookshelves and library habit are anything to go by.

Eleven years ago (has it really been that long?!?) I discovered Bookcrossing which was revolutionary to me.  You label a book, release it once you’ve read it and the idea is that the next reader journals to let you know where the book has been.  In my experience I have a very low success rate, especially when the book is released in the wild rather than being given to another person.  Even if the book is given to another person  I often find that it isn’t journalled.   Don’t be put off though. It is a real buzz to get an email telling you that a book that you released years ago has had a new journal entry!

I first heard about Little Free Libraries a few months ago and was excited to discover that one had opened locally to me in Penenden Heath, Kent.  I’ve been meaning to visit and finding myself with a free day, decided that today was the day!

It was relatively easy to find, although parking was a little difficult as the library was on a residential street.  I managed to turn round at the end of the road and find a parking space.

The library was well maintained, had a guest book for people to list what they’d put in and what they’d taken out.  I wasn’t the first bookcrosser to visit this Little Library!  I took 3 books and put in 4 which was definitely a plus.  It’s rare I come away with less than put in.  Usually I put in 4, I take 4!  I’m such a book hoarder!

I will definitely be visiting again and recommending it to local bookworms.  I hope others visit regularly to keep the selection of books fresh and to keep them moving on.

Little Library 2