Category Archives: Holidays

Better than a postcard…

We’ve gone on holiday by mistake

Well not quite, but that’s almost what it felt like. Without much notice, I found myself heading upto Northumberland for a few days and the Mrs came with me. The reason for this will become apparent but it meant we had a good 3 clear days available to us – even if the clarity was of diary commitments rather than the weather which obviously hadn’t received that message! It’s the first time I’ve been to Northumberland for any time. This Devonian Expat has made it to various places considerably further North than she ever thought, but you can’t get any further away from Devon before reaching the national border! It meant I was rather keen to explore and eager to see what is so special about this area of which I’d heard so much about. All the people I’ve met who have spent much time in the North East have praised it very highly.

So, our travels started with a good drive through mid Northumberland along the coastal road with a rather keen castle-spotter telling me about each as we found it. Devon’s not big on Castles… Northumberland on the other hand… We stopped for lunch at a really beautiful village (with a motte and bailey castle, apparently) for lunch. Should you ever find yourself in Warkworth and need a bite to eat I would very highly recommend the pub on the left, although the one on the right looked good too. Also, the cake shop with the chocolates looked an experience worth having although we were rather stuffed from the food at the Mason’s Arms. The whole area is beautiful.

We headed over to join the coast road in order to see the views… we hadn’t, however, managed to combine this sightseeing trip with appropriate weather. It was foul! Visibility was non-existent and it’s worth saying this was the weekend of the severe weather warnings and flood alerts for Northumberland! Despite this, the environment still managed to look good. We headed up through Seahouses to Bamburgh, whose Castle was the most impressive in stature of all we saw that weekend. Bamburgh, too, was very beautiful but very different to Warkworth. The plan was to stay there for a couple of nights and head over to Holy Island. The weather, however, suggested this wasn’t the best plan.

The following day, rather than head to Lindisfarne (barely visible due to the morning weather), we went back and explored a couple more coastal settlements. Seahouses offered us a good set of proper fish and chips as well as a look over the very large waves to the Farne Islands. It wasn’t the day for a boat trip round there either! We carried on, and the weather improved so we set off for yet another castle… Dunstanburgh. Accessible from Craster, it’s a walk along the coastline and it was truly stunning. The rough seas had brought with them the beauty of a soggy and windswept environment but it also meant only a few people had decided to do the walk. The moorland, complete with sheep, went right down to the coastline. The coast I’m most familiar with has cliffs but these gentle slopes meant we had such a great view. The castle looked like it had always been there; it’s ruined form looks truly part of the landscape and I could never imagine it in its fully functioning state. We didn’t make it over to the castle itself, and heard later that the tide made it inaccessible. What, for me, was also an interesting part of the landscape was both a sad but rather striking aspect of the pollution. The strong tide had left a track of foam in its path. The foam formed interesting shapes and danced in the wind, reminiscent of some of the mythical creatures seen in Hiyao Miyazaki’s films. They did almost seem to have lives of their own, especially when the wind caught them and they began to dance. Our return to Craster wouldn’t have been complete without picking up some of their world famous kippers, and the smell of the sea and the smoke house was definitely a defining memory.

Our evening trip included a trip to Seahouses for some fish and chips which we duly ate in the car while watching the sea and the lighthouses of the Farnes. The final element of the trip was a visit, on the final morning, to the RNLI museum to Grace Darling, a heroine of the area who I’d never heard of. It turned out she was a figure of celebration in the Victorian era who, along with her father, had been involved in a notable rescue. It turned out that she didn’t want to be a famous person so I shall not linger on her any longer, however interesting her story was.

What made the holiday so special was the knowledge that we didn’t have to rush around and see everything in that visit. While it’s not an area I’d seen much of before, I would almost certainly get the opportunity to go again as the Mrs and I will be moving to the North later in the year.

The holiday had been something of an accident, rather than a mistake, because I’d been up North for a job interview, and it was one I got. I found out the night before we set off on our Northumbrian mini-holiday. It is hugely exciting to know where we’re going, that we’re going together and we can settle. I always intended to move from this job towards the second half of this year and now we know to what role I’ll go, and when. Horray for these things, and horray for an exciting and beautiful place to settle.

Back in Time

The weekend was spent in a long planned and much anticipated break with some friends. We availed ourselves of a company perk of v cheap accommodation which turned out to be fantastically welcoming and well equipped but somewhat behind the times.

The weekend presented a great opportunity to catch up and enjoy company and scenery alike. We shared cheese and stories, cheese and wine, cheese and mead (yay) and cheese and cheese. Spot a theme? On Sunday we, like the good Christian children we aren’t, went to the local church service. Never have I wanted to wretch the poor limp, lifeless body of the service out of the preacher’s hands so soon into a service! Technically I don’t even think it had started!

It’s probably worth clarifying before going any further that this was a guest preacher who’d never been invited before and I strongly doubt will get a return invite.

On appearing at the pulpit she had the normal time for notices to sort her papers but she evidently didn’t as when she arose she then explained she needed to find the right pages so we’d start with ‘a half minute of silence… Amen’. I can’t honestly say it was any the more obvious she’d found them when she carried on but I guess she must have!

A time of praise would also have given her the opportunity to get sorted and for us it presented what in hindsight was the best of the time. During it, however, our concern and disapproval was clear amongst the five of us. A very formidable school marm-esque lady (of uncertain name) led the singing. At one point she informed us our singing wasn’t good enough so we’d have to do it again better. On another she apparently told off the choir and the computer in the same breathe for apparently not using the right words to a hymn (the computer had spelling errors apparently… It didn’t. It had the wrong words spelled correctly). The finest moment, however, was suggesting all cold callers should be met with bible in one hand and tea in the other to be invited in for discussion. It turned out she only meant religious door salespeople e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses. She made it perfectly clear that she wanted them to be banned from proselytising but that opportunities for us to convert the heathens were important for us. Kinda worrying for these 5 hellbound liberals when that’s the lightness.

As we returned to the main ‘preacher’ she continued in her dithery way through a kids address which would have been effective in anyone else’s hands. Well, almost anyone. Praise lady had a go in a way which only managed to further condemn this failing activity. Afterwards the kids were removed to a safe distance for junior church. The mrs wanted to know if she could be a child on this occasion.

On their departure we were introduced to the hymn with the immortal imagery that our walk with Jesus is like walking a dog (for him or us, we wondered? I also wanted to know whether if I clicked my heels together three times Jesus and I could go home). The Mrs finally gave in at this point and cracked up in tears and laughter. We weren’t sure whether the looks from the woman in the row in front were of sympathy or solidarity, or both.

The prayers, all of them in one go, were shared in appropriate style: wittery, incoherent and unpc. They included little direction but many uncertain uses of the words please and ‘Jesus I just erm’. Highlights included ‘the dark parts of Africa’ and only prayers for the Christians. Even the lords prayer was introduced with something like ‘i wonder if we could now say the lords prayer, erm, please?’

Our one reading was shared, despite two being listed (and the second being more interesting) and the sermon began. Well, you could say it was a sermon, or you could say it was the incoherent, disorganised, inappropriate ramblings of an ill-informed, ungifted and otherwise hopeless person trapped in 1930’s levels of political correctness and who represented not only an affront to my denomination or faith but to all even nominally religious everywhere. On this occasion perhaps I should call it the ‘sermon’!

After declaring her position as one who was pleased that the church followed the lectionary because it challenged her and others to look for something from the readings rather than just decide what to say and find scripture to back it up. If she’d managed to do this we’d have all found it more palatable. She didn’t. She didn’t even seem to have a theme through what she’d said, despite having proposed one at the beginning. What we did learn from her was that she couldn’t work from the lectionary and the whole of Mark was appropriately bastardised and yet she still failed to make a credible point. The only memorable point, however, was that Jesus is a voyeur but only of Christians. Apparently he doesn’t watch other peoples lives. If that’s not an advert for defection nothing is! She also clarified that Jesus hears everything we say and sometimes we should hold onto that and be quiet. We all wanted to suggest that this was one such occasion. She didn’t, however, say anything about the reading we’d heard.

As the ‘service’ drew to an end we had to sing the wrong hymn, thus confirming we were not singing from the same hymn (book) sheet. As we joined hands with those around us for the grace out eyes were met by pleading apologetic eyes who also were uncertain about which of our many sins had led to such punishment.

As we turned to leave the sympathy continued with an invite to the next service with the very obvious subtext that it could in no way be that bad, and should we be brave enough to return on that occasion we could even get an apple for our troubles. Bribery is always the way forward. 😉 More covert apologies were offered and we made the swiftest exit we could get away with. On our return to our own space all 5 of us cracked up in equal measure of tears and laughter. Never have any of us been to a service which has led to such levels of disbelief, anger, frustration and entertainment. The people seemed lovely and welcoming but the service really was an experience to be beheld but certainly not one to ever be repeated!

(aside: is it inappropriate to tag this in the ‘worship’ category?!)

A Knitting Disaster

As mentioned in my last blog post, I’m notoriously bad at finishing knitting but as part of my lenten discipline of doing something unrelated to work for half an hour (at least) each day, I packed some of my older projects with me to do on my holiday.

I opted to complete a pair of socks I knitted the first of over two years ago and merrily undertook the work.  Having established that the needles I’d (relatively) recently bought were the size I thought was right, I started.  After only a short while I realised the gauge was too small, so on a visit to a knitting shop bought the next size up, and restarted.  The sock was duly knitted each day, with me reaching the last 2 inches before the toe earlier today.  I was delighted, as was the Mrs who was looking forward to her socks – both of them.

Then, having had this nagging feeling throughout that the sizing was wrong, I checked the size of the three different needles I had to see whether I was using the right ones.

The 2.5mm fitted perfectly into their marker on my measure, as did the first of the 2.25mm ones (I had an odd needle with me).  When I came to put the final set of 2.25mm needles into the marker I discovered quite why the gauge was wrong on my knitted work – they were only 2mm needles.  While that difference might seem very tiny, I compared the socks and established that the second one was significantly bigger than the first. 

It meant to my great frustration that I had to undo 5 days worth of knitting and an almost complete sock.  Gutting!

Breaking with Tradition

Last weekend was a momentous occasion… it was the SCM conference.  That’s not the momentous bit… I didn’t go!  For the first time in a very long time (7 years) I didn’t go and it was great.

I understand the conference was great but so was my weekend.  I took the opportunity to get a change of scenery and trekked up to West Yorkshire to catch up with a uni friend, on half term.

My friend and I embraced our shared passions for different forms of crafting and headed off to a rather wonderful centre of inspiration, which either of us only ever go to when together.  On this occasion her husband was left at home so he didn’t have to have the joys of paper, glitter, fabric and yarn inflicted on him again.  We both had a really lovely time and if you’re ever in the Skipton area (and into crafting) it’s well worth a visit.

The two of us had great fun.  She’s all set for making her wedding scrapbook and I’m on a card making mission.  After this we headed back home and made the most of celebrating her baking skills.  Half term had allowed her, and a former colleague, to reunite for a baking day.  My friend, a rather excellent cook, had managed to create a pile of Mocha Cake, Cherry Bakewell Cake and Rocky Road.  So much for my diet, but it was worth it.

On the Sunday morning I set off bright and early (for half term… 11ish) to head back in time to meet the SCMers as they returned through my local station.

They returned looking inspired yet tired from a good weekend.  From all accounts it was a great event but not one I felt I missed, save for the company.  I was a nice change of form to do something completely different during conference weekend, a time in the calendar which was so much a part of my life for a long time.

My biggest challenge arising from it is to now make the time and effort to catch up and visit all the friends I would have spent time with at the conference but didn’t… Diaries to the ready…

Blackpool-on-Vltava

About a month back, I surprised the Mrs by announcing we were going on holiday, if she could get the time off.  It was agreed that I wouldn’t tell her the destination so it became known as ‘Blackpool’, following the suggestion that it really wasn’t necessarily the best holiday destination in the world.

The real destination was known by many friends (and my family) but we had lots of joking about the forthcoming trip.  On a recent visit to see Rambling Folkie and boy, there was much confusion when the boy decided to ask RF about her trip to ‘Blackpool’ who got very confused as she couldn’t think of a visit to the Lancashire town.  It was further compounded when I started talking about the Blackpool Tower…  The first one being in Blackpool, the second one being somewhere a little different.

Blackpool Tower
Blackpool Tower
Petrin Tower
Petrin Tower

Following our return, I got an email from a friend asking how our stay in Blackpool on Vltava was, and I decided it was a good name for the place.

So, a little about our trip…

It was a really lovely week.  It was great to have the time to explore a new city, and we were ideally located for it.  Right in the heart of the city centre, we had ample opportunity to go round exploring on foot.  We explored the old Jewish town, went in search of random architecture, saw the famous clock chime and drunk Grog.  We also went to the opera, which was a rather enjoyable experience.  The setting was magnificent, in a beautiful building and the opera itself was no less impressive.

So, with castles seen, beer drunk and a fair few miles underfoot we returned to the UK and came back to work with a reluctant clunk this morning.

All in all it was a highly enjoyable trip and, if you’re unlucky enough, you’ll get photos inflicted on you soon.  Now I’ve rediscovered how to use flickr!

Well, it’s less than 9 months!

After only 3 months I reappear, this time. Life’s been a little busy again lately – as the last post hinted.

Since last writing I’ve left my job and moved out of my flat – both of which are exciting but a little time consuming. Almost 4 years ago I started this blog to talk a little about what it was like to live in community (of the nun variety), then I moved on and eventually started working within another, very different community of people right across the country and the wider world. I met the most amazing people and had a great time but I’ll write in more detail about that on another occasion. This is now going to be another turning point for both me and this blog, so between now and the next major step we’ll have short intermission (during which time I hope to write more frequently).

So forgive me for talking little over the last year and indulge me in a short witter about the last few weeks since leaving SCM.

The first weekend the other half and I went to a wedding in the Far East (well, further east than we’d been before… East Anglia ish), and however nice that was it immediately proceeded some more exciting (for me) activities. In the week before I finished work a friend had phoned me up to ask my plans and on hearing I had a couple of days said “Can you help us move our boat?”. This led to interesting mental pictures of picking up said boat and carrying it but fortunately that wasn’t what was planned. So we arrived, late on the Sunday night, to a 62 foot long narrowboat and crew that appeared to have been in the wars and the friend then left us with his wife for the three of us to move the boat. I’ve never been on a narrowboat before but I certainly think it’s an experience worth repeating! We cruised slowly down river and worked our way through the locks and got to know each other better. The minor confusion was that both my other half and my friend’s wife have the same name… I’m sure there’s a conspiracy where such people are taking over the world as I know far too many of them! Eventually, I got the opportunity to drive. 😀 In typically NC-styley, I managed to crash into the overhanging trees twice but steered very well under the narrow and low bridge, and round 2 very, very tight corners (the kind that would have been challenging in a car). We saw the most amazing scenary and wildlife – there were so many herons and kingfishers, and we even saw a water vole! The other half is all set to become a canal pirate now!
On the second day we stopped at a town and went ashore for lunch. During this time we realised we’d got suitably used to being on the boat that we still thought things were gently swaying. At the end of the travels we decided to nip by and visit a friend of ours who’s currently imprisoned in a well known university. We kidnapped him, drove him out of the city limits and even out of the county. After such an achievement, we fed him top notch pub grub, then unfortunately had to return him once again. Having never been that far east before, I think we’ve both decided we’re up for another visit (and getting to go on the narrowboat again is only a small incentive, honest).

After such a nice relaxing few days, gaining very good arm muscles, I then packed my flat up and moved out to become (for the short term) a probationary co-hab (bonus marks for getting the reference) but am looking for a new set of accommodation as I need somewhere to go until March then things change again.

But cutting a long time short, we get to this week which has been particularly nice. Starting with the Mrs’ birthday, we went out with her friends for a nice night out but it marks us all getting old. After the meal, we went to the pub… for a cup of tea and we were all back home by 11! What’s happened to us? We’re all aging! This followed me getting my hair cut a lot shorter and now I can see many more grey hairs. Oh dear. 😉 On Tuesday I took a brief tour of the country to go to a job interview south of here, and to a gig north of us. The gig was amazing – we went to see The Imagined Village. If you haven’t heard about the project, you really should follow the link and look them up. A collaborative venture involving people like Martin and Eliza Carthy, Billy Bragg, Benjamin Zephaniah and Simon Emmerson it’s bringing a new expression of folk that even appeals to a determined non-folky like me! It was really a top evening and it was great to catch up with some friends while abroad. Hearing England Half English to John Barleycorn was great, as was Scarborough Fair on the sitar and seeing Eliza Carthy bouncing around the stage. Billy Bragg was teased lots for his pearly king outfit, and Simon Emmerson for his dog film. For me the highlight over all that was Benjamin Zephaniah’s reworking of Tam Lin. All in all it was a really excellent evening!

So yesterday concluded the nice week as C, the Mrs and I went all met up for lunch and then after the day we went out for a meal and a good evening was had by all. This was nicely concluded by a surprise phone call from Tractor Girl who had met up with Orthodoxy so I got to speak to them both! It was great!

With that, I’ll had to bed and I’ll try and write again soon. I owe my successor a leaving speech!

Driving

I’ve been thinking about driving a lot recently as it appears to be the main activity during my week off (this week), Rambling Folkie and another friend have passed their driving tests.

I took my mother on holiday to the end of the country today – or at least it felt like it. Okay – the journey there was fine. We stopped in the Eden Project on the way and it was really cool. Last time we went, all 5 of us (family) visited but we couldn’t really go round the humid biome for very long, so we started there… It was a really lovely.

After dropping mum off, and getting her settled in a bit I turned round and came back. About half way through the journey I decided I was too tired to keep going and needed to find somewhere to stop. It took me an hour and driving over large chunks of Dartmoor before I found somewhere sensible. In the end, the journey was only about 30 miles longer on the return than the outgoing journey. It did, however, take twice as long as the original route seemed to. It was also interesting the effect that Dartmoor, a couple of days worth of reminiscing, darkness, and driving on my own makes. I suddenly remembered all the myths and legends (well – probably not all of them) that I learned when I spent huge amounts of my childhood exploring the moors. It was a little spooky and that seemed really silly! At least the recollections of the moor also provided me with enough knowledge to get back to where I wanted to be… without the use of maps.

Anyhoo… I’m tired now and need to sleep. Tomorrow I’ll be taxi service for my grandmother and on Monday I’m going to another fair city – about as far away from where I am now as mum’s holiday location but in another direction.

*Yawn*

Holiday reports again…

Yesterday was the second full day of my holiday in Swansea. We had much more of an informal day as the grown ups had responsibilities like work to do. I spent the day on my own and embraced chilling out. At the end of the long hard day of nothing, the others returned and Sarah cooked for a gaggle of us. This, slightly larger, group enjoyed supper, a fair amount of icecream and a glass bottle or two four of wine.

I performed a little favour and fixed a broken dress. It was a little entertaining to be trying to fix a pale and delicate dress after drinking much red wine and having more in the glass. I’m not daft enough to try mixing both completely and the dress ended up much better for it’s little surgery. It also meant I could enjoy a little wine without worrying. And I certainly enjoyed a little wine. 😉

Speaking of surgery – it’s amazing what happens during an evening with friends. Having mentioned in yesterdays post that I hurt my foot, I ended up having it assessed, prodded and poked by a more than able friend. It certainly feels better for the erm… examination.

It was a really lovely evening and it finished rather early this morning. It is so lovely to spend time with such a great group of friends and a wonderful last evening of my visit.

I have to go and pack my stuff now as I’m due on a train in an hour. It has been a really good trip and I hope to be able to catch up with folk again soon.

Holiday Reports

Woo and yay. I’m currently on holiday. Having decided that I wanted to get away, I called on some Swansea friends to see if they were willing to put up this poor, tired, resident of Birmingham who had a hankering to see the sea and catch up with some friends. They willingly took me in so I arrived here on Tuesday night after a day in the convent and it has been great to see them all here.

Yesterday all three of them, one of me and toddler blonde went off exploring Gower and Mumbles. We ended up playing with kites on the beach. I only flew one but thought it was the best sized one…
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Jen’s was much, much bigger. Toddler Blonde seemed to really enjoy the trip to the beach and managed to walk for miles and miles. It was really great to see the sea again and even get to go paddling. As is usually the case when I go anywhere near a beach in my flipflops I hurt my foot. Typical but have taken the advice of my elders and betters so soaked it to make it better. Poor foot. Eh well – I have to get my souvenirs somewhere.

It’s really been lovely to spend time with Toddler Blonde. Last time I saw him was at Greenbelt and that wasn’t for very long. Before that I last saw him when he was about three months old. Now he burbles away to himself and is a complete charmer. I decided to pinch his hat for a while on the beach and he came to get it back.

Fortunately it fits him a little better than it fits me.
To give the little star a chance for a nap in the car, we went for a drive round Gower to show me the sites and allow the boy to rest. We stopped on the top of Cefn Bryn and indudged our love of beautiful countryside and group hugs. It really was lovely.
After that we stopped just in Mumbles for some luxury hot chocolate and a wander along the prom. As we left the cafe, I heard what really must be the quote of the day:
“No, boy. Don’t chase after the girls. You’ll never have a car that long.”
The little chap seemed both interested in the limo and the teenage girls who poured out of the door.

All in all – it was a really excellent day, rounded off nicely by girly gossip and a glass of wine. It’s been such a lovely time so far. Tonight we’re going to have a slightly larger get together and all I need to do before then is write my church service for Sunday. 😉 I’ll get there by then.