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Two coastal walks and a birthday observed [Apr. 17th, 2014|10:35 pm]
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I had no real expectation, when we explored a stretch of Sunderland's coastline, that the projected continuous coastal path would ever become a reality. But county by county a path is being traced around the coast of England, and on Tuesday we joined fellow members of the Ramblers' Association to celebrate the completion - and opening - of County Durham's coastal path.

The plan was that the region's local groups would each hold a walk before converging on Seaham for a short ceremony followed by tea at Seaham Hall (a fancy hotel which promotes itself heavily as a wedding venue: it is, after all, where Byron got married, and we know how well that turned out). I don't usually walk with the group: they walk too fast for me, and don't allow for stopping to look at things. But the day's walk was advertised as three and a half miles, leisurely, and I was interested to see how the new path tackled some of the problems - and willing to swell the numbers, too.

It was a lovely bright day, not too windy, perfect for a stroll along the coast. But our walk leader had different ideas, and for reasons known only to himself led us at a brisk pace inland. He was suffering quite badly from toothache, and perhaps his judgement was impaired. And it wasn't a bad walk - too much main road, but some pleasant denes and parkland, and I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Dalden Tower, the remains of a medieval pele tower, which was completely new to me:

Dalden Tower, niche


The route of the walk - which was more like five miles than three and a half.

I was more philosophical than I might have been about the non-coastal nature of the walk, because J. had offered, as a birthday treat, to take us, on a day of my choosing, for a day at the seaside, with a walk along the beach and fish and chips for lunch. My first thought was to go out today, which is my birthday, but there were other things we wanted to do today, so yesterday J. drove us up to Cullercoats and we walked back along the beach to Tynemouth. After a little recreational shopping (the bookshop in the Land of Green Ginger was closed, but I had fun in the wine shop) we caught a bus, which would have saved us the walk along the front if it hadn't then turned inland and taken us just as far from our destination.

By the time we reached the Harbour View in Seaton Sluice we were well ready for our fish and chips - which was just as well: you need a good appetite to eat there.

I had wondered whether the sculptures we saw on our previous visit on New Year's Day would have survived: but more than that, they had multipled. The girl on a swing had been joined by a mermaid, there was a valkyrie in one of the gardens, and Popeye clutched his tin of something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike spinach, observed by a peg-legged gull:

Peg-leg gull


Today we went swimming, shopped at the Farmers' Market and did some errands: and tomorrow we have another excursion planned.
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Fiddle de dee! [Apr. 14th, 2014|09:28 pm]
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We have been out three nights in a row. Today has been quiet and work-filled at home, but the rest of this week will be full of excursions. This is all very pleasant, if disconcerting. Briefly, then:

Friday evening was Horizontal Sunday at the Bridge: they are a trio of Folk Degree graduates whom we know from the student shows, and the venue is the legendary Bridge Hotel, above the Tyne by the High Level Bridge. The upstairs room has windows on two sides, and the trains rattle by - and the cars with their blue lights and sirens - but somehow it's a good atmosphere, and it was a fine show. We may or may not have been the only people there who were neither fellow students nor related to the band - oh, apart from one group who were the family of a very young ex-pupil of one of the band, who got up on stage in her cat-jumper and cat-ears Alice band, and played one very nervous fiddle tune for us. Which was fine. I like Horizontal Sunday more and more, and fortunately they have a selection of tunes on YouTube so I don't have to explain why.

On Saturday evening we went to dinner with friends we don't see often enough - but we had run into them at the Spiers and Boden gig at the Sage and made this date. They live a couple of miles away round the edge of town, and it was a beautiful evening, so we walked there - and back, which meant we could stay late and keep talking (and drinking - excellent Lebanese wines, some of which were not Chateau Musar, and was sauvignon blanc) and it was all good.

Last night we were at the Sage for Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, two fine musicians who have been playing together for a long time and are clearly very easy with each other. And yesterday was the last night of their tour, so they were well into their stride, and even more relaxed. Phil Cunningham does most of the talking and tells the jokes, and Aly Bain drops in the occasional dry remark: Shetlanders aren't very demonstrative, says Phil Cunningham, and claims that the Shetland Times printed the story of the Shetlander who loved his wife so much that he almost told her. Nothing restrained or undemonstrative about the music, though, and occasionally it put on such a turn of speed I'm surprised there wasn't smoke rising from the bow.
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Spam of the day [Apr. 12th, 2014|11:42 am]
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Header text: kudo
Full message: but goddesses also. 'What

What indeed?
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On reflection [Apr. 11th, 2014|06:23 pm]
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Mostly, when I photograph reflections - and I do, it's a recurring motif - I aim for a nice clear double image, as above so below. This Flickr blog post illustrates the potential of the opposite approach.
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Ichabod: the glory is departed [Apr. 10th, 2014|10:14 pm]
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Buying the Top Shelf edition of The Bojeffries Saga makes the third time I have bought some of these stories: I already own many of them in Warrior, and the 1992 collection from Tundra. And I don't care - they still make me laugh. Words by Alan Moore, from those golden days when he still thought writing comics was worth doing, pitch-perfect art by Steve Parkhouse - and since there is no separate lettering credit, presumably Steve Parkhouse did that, too, and it's worth saying so, because it is wonderful.

I've always had a soft spot for Ginda Bojeffries, the daughter of the family. How could you not love someone who yells at the unwary stranger who has addressed her as 'young lady': "I am NOT a 'young lady'! I am a PERSON! - I have thoughts and feelings TOO, you know! - You find the idea of a female who can cause nuclear explosions by squinting up one eye threatening to your manhood, DON'T you?" and ends up slamming the door in his face with a cry of "And don't come back until you're PROPERLY EVOLVED!"

As you see, this isn't a review. I know my limitations, and the nearest I could come to a review would be quoting all my favourite bits - and that's not fair to anyone.

Yesterday I read a friend's copy of Nemo: The Roses of Berlin, the latest bulletin from the world of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Kevin O'Neill's artwork is gorgeous (if you can look at the scarlet pages and see the glorious colours rather than the blood and flames) and the book itself is a handsome object. But the story is a grotesque parody of a Boys Own yarn, a prop for all the clever allusions, not so much a story as a crossword puzzle. It's a challenge to the reader: can you stomach the violence? well, then, can you recognise all these cultural allusions? Think you're so clever, do you? All right, then, can you read German? Yes, I can, up to a point, and I did, but I didn't get much out of it.

The one new story in the Bojeffries collection, After They Were Famous, also requires the reader to decipher some of the speech, as accents are rendered phonetically (hyper-phonetically? and how would Moore's own voice look, given this treatment?). I didn't like it very much. It has some funny moments, but not enough of them or funny enough. Its depiction of the modern day reminded me of the end of LOEG: Century, which I didn't like either, finding it petty and mean-spirited. Or perhaps I just don't like who Ginda Bojeffries has turned into.

But that's not what I set out to say. The good stuff is still good, that's the main thing. In fact, I had forgotten just how good it is.
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Sunday, Sunday [Apr. 8th, 2014|10:31 pm]
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My browser is all open tabs and locked posts - drafts posted as private until ready to face the world. (More than one because something I had thought lost, eaten by internet failure, reopened itself from previous draft when I wasn't expecting it to. Some you win...) Time for some serious tidying up. First, the short version of the last two Sundays:

Needlework for Mothers' DayCollapse )

Carlin Sunday at Causey ArchCollapse )

ETA photo, now that Flickr is with us again...
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Poisson d'avril! [Apr. 1st, 2014|02:39 pm]
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This morning's Guardian reports that a new book co-authored by a lecturer from the University of León has identified the Holy Grail as a chalice in the keeping of the church of San Isidro in - surprise! - León.

I am disappointed that this is not Saint Isidore of Seville, patron saint of the internet, but a completely different Saint Isidore. Follow the link to Wikipedia for some sweet miracles, though.

The Guardian reports the story deadpan, but rather gives the game away by explaining that the Holy Grail is "the mythical chalice from which Christ sipped at the last supper".
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Where was spring? [Mar. 30th, 2014|03:33 pm]
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The clocks went forward overnight: another sign of spring. But after several days of sharp, cold showers, today we have mist. Whatever happened to spring? A rhetorical question to which I know the answer:

Spring in the orangery


Spring was on Monday. Luckily we didn't miss it, but took the day off and went to Gibside. It was so sunny that I decided to leave my waterproof in the car - and didn't regret it, my jumper was warm enough.

There have been changes since we were last there: the new car park is now open, much closer to the entrance and down by the river. So our exploration of the grounds started with a stiff climb up, past the new ticket kiosk, then through the walled garden, now completely dedicated to garden plots but with not much happening at the moment (that is, a stretch of fallen wall is being repaired, but there's not much growing). The orangery was a blaze of daffodils. We tried to strike down through the meadow to the river, and were rewarded with some dramatic silhouettes of the orangery against the sun, but hit a dead end, and had to retrace our steps to the junction of the paths, and reach the river past the ice house. We had soup for lunch at the café in the stables, which has moved across the courtyard, been spruced up and lost its second-hand books (they will be back, elsewhere in the stables, later in the summer, apparently). We looped round the monument but didn't detour, paid a brief visit to the old house, and returned along the avenue to the chapel.

I wonder why John Bowes decided to make so complete a break when he built his new house / museum by the Tees?
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I love my greengrocer [Mar. 28th, 2014|01:56 pm]
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We went shopping in Durham in the rain, and came home with golden beetroot and purple potatoes.

Also with purple beetroot, and white-with-golden(ish)-skins potatoes, but that's less interesting.

And English asparagus - perhaps it is spring, despite the rain.
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All the news that fits into five things [Mar. 25th, 2014|09:51 pm]
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  • I hadn't come across Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Borders, until Dick Gaughan told us about him - "He's English!" He is attempting to strengthen the bonds that unite the United Kingdom, and discourage the Scots from voting for independence, by organising a mass show of unity in which thousands of people link arms in a human chain a human chain from coast to coast. The only problem is that this chain will run along Hadrian's Wall. Given the location of his constituency, I'm pretty sure he knows this isn't the border, and he's careful in interviews not to say that it is. And I can see that it wouldn't be easy to organise a chain along the border itself, which runs through some remote country, and some sizeable rivers. But treating the Wall as the dividing line is just asking for mockery.


  • Talking of the Wall, the Hadrian's Wall Trust is to close for lack of funds. I'm still trying to process this information.


  • Library porn! "It's bigger than the Lit & Phil," says durham_rambler.


  • As we parked by the river to go swimming this morning - hooray! the students are on vacation and there is room in the pool on Tuesdays! - two herons flew low along the river and under Pennyferry Bridge. One flew on, the other doubled back and stood for a few minutes right opposite us, before flying back the way it had come.


  • The recipe supplement in Saturday's Guardian offers its ten best chickpea recipes. Some of them are just variations on familiar recipes, but some look worth trying, if only to satisfy my curiosity: chickpea, parsnip and saffron soup, for example, or the chocolate cake... The only snag is that most of the recipes use tinned chickpeas, and I use dried (I love my pressure cooker). Does anyone have a rule of thumb for converting quantities, or do I have to proceed by trial and error?
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