Tomorrow, or later today, I drive back home - after a little light piano tuning. (No, Jason, not tuning light pianos. Not that at all.)
The Raven Hall hotel was fine. Pretty much fine. Fairly OK. Not bad. Not /too/ bad.
1) Lovely setting - definitely the best hotel in Ravenscar.
2) Good size rooms and generous beds.
3) On the whole nice cuisine. Breakfasts were OK.
4) Friendly staff - nice atmosphere.
5) Beautiful grounds, indoor swimming pool and putting.
1) Dining is expensive, at up to 28 pounds per person, plus drinks.
2) My steak was definitely too old, and they told me I was wrong.
3) No central heating in the rooms or corridors.
4) Our corridor was a building site by day.
5) English is a tough language to communicate in here.
6) Nowhere local to go for an alternative meal.
7) Entry to dining room is only via smoking room.
8) The “Extremely Hot Water” wasn't.
The overall feeling that TL (PMV) and myself share, is that the place is within easy reach of greatness. More imaginative cuisine, slightly lower prices, nicer room decor and greater attention to detail would probably do the trick.
It's been a nice time away, a good break.
Plenty of time to chat to TL about the future and how things might work out. Plenty of time to think of ways to minimise the impact of her departure from Huddersfield on her family, friends and school.
Plenty of time to realise that the world is still a beautiful place, and that our obsession with the changes in our lives has a tendency to put things out of proportion.
There is always time to worry, yet we often need reminding to take time to relax a bit.
Go on, take a couple of deep breaths right now:
Out.....right out.......stop......and In.........all the way in.......hold it.......then out again.....
Repeat this twice.
Now, smile for a moment, in a kind of mellow, wistful way.
The only really clever thing to do when stressed out and concerned about all the stuff flying around in one's life is to go away and attempt to forget about it all, if only for a while.
However, I am a realist and know that this is rarely possible. I have, at least, done the going away part of the process and so I'm in Ravenscar with TL. It's a cheery little village right on the coast, half way between Whitby and Scarborough.
We're staying at the Raven Hall hotel, a delightful place whose mere three stars seem inexplicable until you actually come and stay here.
It offers Lama trekking. Sounds great, eh? Pity the Lamas, you might think? Not a bit of it. The trekkers (75 quid per person) walk /alongside/ their Lamas. Some may say (and I will own up to being a fully paid-up member of this group) that this is a lot to pay for a packed lunch and the opportunity to be spat at by a potentially disgruntled Lama. I'm not sure I ever saw a gruntled one.
So what's hiking.... person trekking? Is this a whole new market?
Whitby is just up the coast from where we are. It has the happy knack of looking good.
Unfair picture, perhaps. TL is not nearly as p^$$&d off as she looks. I'm not sure anyone should look unhappy when eating freshly made doughnuts.
Why include this picture? Well, it's the doughnut-eating view. Fancy a cup of TAS anyone?
Just to the left of the doughnut-eating position they landed some live crabs. Quite a lot of live crabs.
Weird buskers. God bless 'em. They were playing the blues. Perfect.
A long hunt brought us to the Market square and the Holy grail of decent coffee. I pleaded for the most evil and indulgent coffee available.
It was fun, pointing myself at TL and waiting to see what she would do for me. I suppose laughter was inevitable.
At the end of the day, I can honestly say that we enjoyed a helmet full of pleasure.
The shops were great, we bought interesting things:
Like an ancient map of Northumberland, reprinted onto parchment. It shows Newbiggin clearly.
Like a couple of Russian Dolls, with many many little Russian Doll-ettes inside.
It's fascinating, knowing that I will, quite soon, live somewhere entirely different. Ten years in Stanley brings a certain expectation of existence that is totally shattered by a move some thirty miles north. They are, for the most part, changes that I welcome, but the void that exists between now and then is what is hard to bear at the moment. On the one hand, little has changed, whilst on the other, everything has changed.
The reason for the move north is to be near the sea and near to friends like Jason & Antonia, Chris & Alison, Ian & Rebecca, Christine & Steve, Tim & Brenda and John & Ann. (no specific order there, folks - nor an exhaustive list.) Not only that, it represents a chance to become part of a community for the first time - something which I find attractive, having lived a good distance away from my friends all my life.
It's a wild ride, and not one I'd recommend. That said, it has its compensations - like spending a couple of days with my PMV in NBBTS looking at houses.
A sneaked shot in the Victorian Tea Rooms, to show the luxurious surroundings and classy clientele. Here we enjoyed a cup of tea and a bite to eat. The tea, TL informs me, tastes strange - but mine seemed to taste fine, as did most of the breakfast I had (not pictured).
A quick tip to anyone wanting to eat a sausage at this establishment - probably best not to bother, unless you like turkey and spleen flavour.
Rather than drive back to Stanley, we drove up to the Sun Hotel in Warkworth and spent the night, before returning to NBBTS for more house viewing on Friday. It's a nice little Hotel, which wears its two star rating bravely, and certainly is undaunted in its pricing. I salute them.
PMV Hard Egg Brekky Breakfasting
After two days and a good few houses viewed, the field has narrowed itself considerably. It's been useful to find out what is attractive, and what is not - where to go, where to avoid - what is possible, and what is not. The two places above both have just about everything on the tick list.
More than that, they are welcoming and I feel excited about the possibility of living in either. So, if you are the proud owner of either of these fine buildings....well...as soon as some houses down here are sold, expect a call.
The enticing half-term break afforded me an opportunity to escape for a bit of a day to Lindisfarne with Jac.
It was nice weather, too. Most unexpected. The drive up was pleasant, and we stopped off in Almwick for a quick bite.
The cafe we went in is great. When they need to be in the cellar, they lock the door, and open the floor.
Mind the step!
Jac's teacakes looked lovely, and my BLT featured
some amazingly flavoursome bacon. Smashing.
The view over the harbour. Always stunning.
Jac says that the castle looks like it's wrapped in a cloak. I think I know what she means. Here she is on her way
back from photographing some ageing locks and other crevices.
The car park there is jam full - it's half term. So why is the extremely popular and useful bus service to the castle not running?
I despair of the British sometimes.
We rushed back afterwards, after an interesting meal at a pub, which I shall choose not to tell you about, mainly because I have no pictures. The journey back was frustrating, and the traffic got very bad towards Newcastle.
Fiona, Jac and myself took full advantage of the chicken curry we prepared a little later. It was a good end to the day.
One of the best things to do when in Huddersfield is go to Bradford. Ask anyone.
This view, for example, is readily available from the free-entry National Museum of Photography, right in the centre of Bradford. Simply take one of the lifts to the top floor of the museum. You can actually only take one of the lifts to the top - floor 6.
Whilst there, take a moment to peek into the projection room of the IMAX cinema, housed in the same building. It's an awesome 3D capable 70mm projection system, displaying truly awesome movies. If you get a chance, do pay a visit. The amazing films play all day, apart from Mondays.
The one we saw, featured 3D footage, supposedly set on the moon. It was narrated by Tom Hanks. The 3D effects were great, but maybe not the best subject matter for this treatment. The other 3D feature “Aliens from the deep” was probably a better bet. I'd certainly return to see that.
Heck, anything looks good on a screen as high as a multi-story car park - but in 3D - Wow! Things literally shimmer in front of one's eyes. Dirt flies up - it feels real. It's a substantial illusion, and an impressive one.
Here's Liz, on the famous magic carpet.
The rest of the museum is great, although the emphasis is very much on video rather than still photography. There's a news studio, lots of stuff on special effects, including a magic house for the children and various film and TV set mock-ups for us to film and vision mix.
We enjoyed the TV Heaven booth, playing old episodes of “The Avengers”. Liz put in a top-notch performance on the Magic Carpet, nimbly displaying my wonderful Yehlex bag. There's even a half-decent coffee shop on the ground floor, selling half-decent coffee.
If the museum and IMAX cinema aren't enough to delight you for a full day, there's an ice-rink just around the corner and, of course, all the legendary curry-houses of Bradford to enjoy.
I'm due to travel on those trains again tomorrow. I do seem to be blessed with absolutely the worst experiences of travel on trains, yet I am going for it again for two reasons:
1) I like trains, always have. I used to be a train-spotter when I was younger.
2) My most psychic experience happened whilst train spotting.
3) They're actually cheaper than using my car right now.
1) Self explanatory - I just, for some reason, like trains. I think they're great. You show m a train and a train station and I feel instantly happier. I love the experience of travelling on trains, it so much nicer than travelling by air (en avion). In short, for me, a train is a nice thing. I do, however, feel some sadness and ire at the way the train system in this country is being run. The Swiss still seem to do it best. Never rushing, but always 100% efficient. I digress.
2) At Honley station, with my erstwhile friend Richard Armitage (a co-loser) I predicted the numbers of five diesel multiple units, before they came in view. I even underlined them in my train spotter's book, such was my confidence.
3) My tickets to Huddersfield tomorrow cost 9.50 each way, making them just slightly more than you might pay on Easy-Jet to Malaga. The most expensive option is to drive down in my fuel-guzzling Scorpio and pay around 50 quid.
It's fair to say, that in visiting Bristol, one has first to journey there. This fact, is as obvious as it is unimportant - except that, on this occasion, I was travelling with those dear people on Virgin Trains. Even that should not, of itself, be a problem. Have a look at this picture, though. They think that the route to Chester-le-Street from Newcastle is via Leeds. This was, for me, my first nagging doubt. The first, as it turned out, of many. More of that later. Well, more of it right now, actually.
Upon entering the carriage, I could not help but notice how warm it was in there. Really quite very a lot warm. Stifling, in fact. The cheery train manager passed by and said that the carriages had arrived a little warm, but the air conditioning would soon sort them out and not to worry. Reassured, I settled down in my comfortable and roomy seats. I must commend Virgin on the accommodation in economy class - it's roomy and well supplied with things like power sockets. I felt that I might enjoy the journey as soon as they sorted the heating, or maybe turned it off completely. It was, after all, a very warm day.
As the journey progressed, it became clear that the carriages would not be getting any cooler. Quite the opposite. Without the fresh air from the station, via the open doors, the carriage quickly descended into sub-tropical heat, added to by the humidity of the kitchen next door, throwing out loads of nice hot steam. I did not have a thermometer with me, but it must have easily reached the low 30s Celsius. Everyone was perspiring freely and getting gradually more distressed. The train manager made it increasingly clear that nothing would be done about the heating problem, and that we must simply put up with it. I asked him personally if there was anything he could do, because after a three hours of this, we were all in quite a state. A hot day with the heating on full in a sealed carriage is not a pleasant thing. Three hours into the five and a half hour journey I started to feel really quite ill.
So what was the train manager's response to my enquiry? It was remarkable. He came at me with a stream of abuse, mainly surrounding his inability to do anything about the situation, and my cheek in bringing it up. Stabbing me with a desperate finger, he asked the killer question: “Why should I disrupt this service, just because of your discomfort?” Of course, I had no answer. He was right. Our discomfort was not his problem, nor should it ever be.
I will be sending in a complaint for to Virgin Trains. I await their response with interest.
I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads with something akin to heat exhaustion, and not quite in the mood to do what I had to do. Still, after a quiet Sunday, plenty of liquid and some nice food, I soon felt better.
In between doing work things, I got a quick whistle-stop tour around Bristol. I stuck my camera out of the window a few times and randomly clicked the shutter. The results were surprisingly good, and so I plan to use this as an approach in the future. Sure, the pictures all needed straightening out, but they look OK in the finish.
The Clifton suspension bridge is a sight of substantial beauty. I was glad that I got a good look at it. This picture was taken during an extended sortie in Jo's faithful Citroen, whilst we tried to locate some quality coffee in Bristol. We were substantially unsuccessful. Such coffee as there was offered no nearby parking, and so we were forced to retreat to Sainsbury's. The coffee there was OK, and I bought a length of sausage, which pleased me quite a lot.
The time was all too short. I got everything done that I set out to do, had some great conversations, met some people and saw a city that had previously been quite foreign to me. Job done. I'm actually quite proud of my careful selection of technology to take with me for this trip. My little camera served me well, and my ultra-compact recording system worked at treat for the vocal material I wanted to bring back with me. I really should have remembered to take a mic cable with me, but we found one that did the job at a really old fashioned guitar shop.
I do like this wall. I sat on it a fair amount, looking for some fresh air in a city that seems short of it. It was great at night, watching the busy insects forming a moving tapestry beneath my feet. I felt like a teenager again, except that there was no crowd of others with me. We numbered three at most, and that only briefly.
Nevertheless, a great wall. If you ever need to contemplate anything and are in the St. George area of Bristol, I highly recommend it.
The journey home was also a nightmare, due to my through train being terminated at Birmingham New Street, and the passengers all being transferred to an already packed train heading north from somewhere else. After two hours of standing and tightly packed in the lobby area of the carriage, I was feeling pretty ill and exhausted, so I got off at Wakefield and spent the night in Huddersfield. I was glad I had the option. When I finally arrived home yesterday afternoon, I felt like I had really been through the mill, thanks to Virgin trains.
As ever - never again, till next time.
Thanks for reading - I realise this has been a long posting.