Monday, 1 August 2016

A Grand Day Out in Durham - 1: Walking in the Places

I say this a lot.  But I am very behind in my quest to write blog posts.  Very behind.  Today I'm going to start writing a little about a day out that feels like it was a very long time ago - June 3rd.  By the time I finish writing about the day more than two months will have passed since that day.  It's a strange thing.  On the journey back to Newcastle I was planning out what to post about the day and I was really looking forward to posting the pictures that I'll be posting in a few days time.  I had it all planned.  I had even linked it to a news report from that day and the horror people on Facebook had been expressing over something that I didn't find in the slightest bit horrific.  I found the reactions quite crazy if I'm honest.  People have a lot of ideas about death and about what should happen to a corpse and it seems that they count it a terrible thing when people have innocent fun in a graveyard.  But that's not for today.  You can look forward to lots of pictures of graves in a few days.  A bit of excitement for summer!

I got home that day.  Ready to write.  And then wrote something else.  Oops.  And then kept writing it and writing more and more of it.  For June 3rd turned out to be the day on which Blob Thing began his blog.  I managed to keep up my own blog through June with photos of other days out and even some writing.  But Blob's blog has grown and these days he is almost impossible to shut up.  I don't mind too much.  People say that a writer should write something each day.  Something.  I'm not sure that when they say that they quite mean free writing a long ramble about a soft toy.  At least it is something.  I am writing.  And for that I am glad.  Blob's blog has now happened every single day for sixty days and I am surprised by this.

But I am very behind.  And so today I want to say something about a trip to Durham and post a few pictures taken at different points in the day.  From tomorrow I'll be posting pictures of some of the places I walked round that day.

Blob Thing has already posted about the day.

Now it's my turn!

One thing you notice as you walk round the old city of Durham is the number of little alleyways and passages and narrow staircases.  I find things like that quite exciting.  I dare say that there will come a day when I will attempt to explore every single one of them.  There's one with a special radical bookshop at the top and next time I'm in Durham I want to pay that a visit.  On this day I explored a few.  The main street up to the cathedral was very busy and I wasn't feeling great and it was a pleasure to leave the people behind.  Some steps led up here and I just wanted to enter into the quiet.  Newcastle has some great steps hidden away that run to and from the riverside but I think the narrow steps of Durham are almost more joyful.  What do you think of this?

At the top of those steps the path turns a corner, runs past and under the buildings and then turns again and leads here.  I was really very pleased to find this.  The main street could wait.  This was worth exploring and I wanted to know where it went.  I confess that as I turned the corner and saw this sight I got a bit happy flappy.

So where did the steps lead?  I will tell you.  They led along a narrow path.  The path continued.  And then it turned and went down a path.  Down some steps.

And straight back to the main street up the hill - assuming it was the same street which I'm not sure of as I haven't quite mastered Durham geography yet.  I walked round the city centre during that day.  And then on a later day I arrived in Durham after a long walk and found myself in the city centre and didn't recognise anything.  It was a large piece of city centre that I had entirely missed when exploring the first time.  For a while it was quite confusing.

Yes, I walked up lots of steps.  I walked down lots of steps.  I passed no ways off the path that would lead anywhere.  And I arrived almost back where I began.  Worthless?  No.  It was well worth it, for the journey not the destination.  I often think that about towns anyway.  The journey means more to me than the destination.  If I hadn't explored I wouldn't have found a sight that made me happy flap.

Back on the main street to the cathedral I had no choice but to follow it.  That's not true.  I had choices of course.  But I wanted to get to the cathedral and walking back down the hill wouldn't have been an efficient way to get to a bit building at the top of it.  So I walked up with all the other people.  I was on the proper tourist trail too.  Which was fine because I was being a tourist.

At the top of the hill I spotted a post box.  There is a long family tradition to photograph post boxes and who am I to break that tradition.  I quite like them too although I am not a true post box nerd and can't give you the serial numbers of all the different types or spot which foundry made which box.  I liked this box.  It's a Victorian hexagonal post box.  They're quite rare.  It's not the only one I've ever seen as there are at least two in Newcastle.  One is in Jesmond and the other is in Chinatown.

After visiting the cathedral (photos taken outside will follow in the next post) and the cathedral grounds and not particularly enjoying the experience I wanted lunch.  I wanted it to be a cheap lunch.  And I wanted it to be somewhere quiet.  Walking back down the hill I struck lucky.  I spotted a cafe sign pointing into a building.  This was Alington House, a place used by lots of community groups through the week.  It was definitely quiet.  There were two other people there.  And it was cheap.

It's true that the menu was very limited.  Very limited indeed.

I could have a ham and cheese toastie.  Or I could have a cheese and onion toastie.   Or I could have a ham and onion toastie.  That was the entire menu.  But that's OK.  I like toasted sandwiches and they allowed me to have something that wasn't listed on the menu:  A ham, cheese, and onion toastie.  It was well filled and well made.  The food and a good mug of tea only cost £1.50.  For my purposes it couldn't have been better for lunch.

After lunch I walked down the hill the rest of the way and decided that it would be very nice to walk round the outside of the old city.  The River Wear in Durham bends almost back upon itself, with the cathedral at the top of the hill in the middle of the bend.  If it had bent back much further then the cathedral would be sitting on an island.  I walked from the bridge at one end of the bend to the bridge at the other end and enjoyed it a lot.  Photos will follow in a later post.

I could have left the river.  Not far past the first bridge, heading up from the riverside path, there were these steps.  Another of the many passages to explore.  And there were paths and steps and passages scattered all the way along the route.  At one point there was a path that only began half way up the hill.  I just had to explore that one because it was only half a path.  It led up to a well of some kind.

After walking by the river on a warm day and having explored the charity shops too - in which I bought one CD, an album by Beccy Owen that I've played quite a bit - I was tired.  I wanted to have a drink.  And then I wanted to go home.  I'd had enough of Durham for one day.  So I walked up a hill because a sign pointed to a cafe - not that I went to the cafe, but the sign pointed to it.

Part way up the hill was another sign, pointing to the Crushed Chilli gallery.  I was knackered.  But I decided I'd take a look.  I liked it.  The owner makes lots of things out of glass and she allows other local artists to exhibit and sell what they've made.  She was very friendly.  One day I might go back and join in one of the workshops she runs and make my own glass item.  Blob Thing enjoyed himself too.  He blogged about the gallery a month before blogging about the rest of the day.  It was his fourth ever post back in the days before he started to develop a life of his own and an ability to talk more than is usual for a toy.  That post contained only 241 words, almost the shortest of any of them.  This morning he dictated 1700 words to me.  Yes, that toy has taken over my life!  Here he is, enjoying the gallery.

From the gallery I (we) walked further up the hill.  There was a church there and inside the church was a choir practising sacred choral music.  In that church, unlike in the cathedral, I could have taken photos.  But I didn't want to disturb the singers too much.  This is the church of St. Margaret and personally I preferred it to the cathedral.  It felt more real.  In the background you can see Durham Castle and the cathedral.  The cathedral had drained me.  A lot.  St. Margaret's didn't.  I was feeling a lot better.

Blob has already posted pictures of himself outside the church.  Here's the one he took of me.  (Or perhaps I took it myself and am only pretending that a soft toy can take photos and dictate long blog posts.)

Here's the church from the other side.  That path leads to a gateway.  I decided to explore and see what lay beyond.  I am immensely glad that I did.  The resulting photos will form two blog posts in a few days time.  I absolutely adored the graveyard beyond and the fact that so much of it wasn't clean and sterile and uniform like a war grave cemetery but was overgrown and many of the gravestones weren't in their original position.  I loved wandering.

Yes, I like graveyards.  I do.  I spent time in one just a couple of days ago and maybe one day that will form a blog post too.  Maybe.  Bothal churchyard was great - and yesterday I was regaled with stories about how the whole village is owned by one man who chooses who to rent the houses too and how there is a tale that the entire place is a large witches coven.  It's a good story.  As for me, I may write a story based on the place - or at least based on the inscription on one of the graves.  It happened to rhyme and I think playing with it might be enjoyable.

After all that exploring I felt a lot more energetic than I had done after leaving the cathedral.  But I still needed that drink.  And it really was time to get home.  Up another hill I found a wonderful place for a drink.  This is the Jumping Bean.  I recommend it.  At that time of day it was quiet too.  I decided that it would be a good place to return to when I'm visiting Durham.  And so I bought a customer loyalty badge.  Blob has blogged about it.  He enjoyed being there.  I think I'll be blogging about it too.

So that was Durham.  Serious advice:  If you're there then wander quickly round the cathedral.  And then explore.  There are surprises to be found and I personally think they are a heck of a lot more thrilling than the atmosphere of the cathedral.  I felt quite oppressed and squashed there and was so glad to get out of the building again.  Tomorrow I will write of it.  Or I will write of it when I manage to write of it.  Blob Thing might take over again!

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