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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Gosh Still More News...and I Nearly Forgot

After visiting Durham (a couple of weeks ago!) we went on to Beamish Museum, a few miles to the north but still in County Durham and had a great day. It is an enormous open air museum with a farm, colliery, High Street with shops and trams, buses and trains. In fact it is difficult to describe how good it is and these photos only show a glimpse. We were there for hours and haven't finished seeing it at all. The little dogs got carried when we approached buildings and managed to get away with peeping into the indoor exhibits although normally dogs must stay outside. It was not crowded....the north-east of England is not crowded. Beamish is not cheap but is it worth every penny. Go early, stay late, take a picnic.
Mick took this pic of us celebrating a ride on a steam train. One of the earliest with no roof or seats. It was towed by a replica of "The Rocket" and coal was the fuel that got us up to 15 miles an hour. We went forward for a quarter of a mile and then came home backwards. Not sure whether the driver/engineer came to work in these really sooty clothes every day or whether he actually got that dirty in the first half hour. There are lots of people dressed-up and wandering around in costumes. In the buildings there are schoolmasters, postmistresses, farmer's wives, grocers, dentists and music teachers and outside there are farmers, labourers, wood workers/charcoal makers and transport controllers. All of them are full of information about their role and their general history. They bake bread in the coal ovens in the cottages and make clippy rugs. One of the tram conductors told some young teenagers to go and line up properly...and they did!
Yes, Di was lurking in the bottom right-hand corner of the last shot. The blokes were in the "garage" drooling over the old cars etc and we had been into the sweet shop and bought some fabulous fudge. The dear dogs had spent the day trudging along coal-dust pathways and were black up to their skirt edges, and quite weary. In fact we all were and headed off on one of the last trams to the car park.
We had a lovely picnic at lunchtime on the tables at the farm with the geese cackling loudly nearby waiting for our cast offs, and I tried to load those pics as well but the system went into meltdown
Cheers Gillian

Monday, 19 October 2009

Rain Frogs and Toads!

In this picture I hold a toad between my thumb and forefinger to show you how small a toad can be.In the north of England we have always called such small amphibia "rain frogs or rain toads" because they hatch very quickly after a bit of wet weather and seem to have come down with the rain. They don't last long.

Here he is again trying to get away. I believe they have them in Scotland too. I have even come across them in Australia.
This little one is only an inch long. Cute and harmless when small as this.
Cheers Gillian

Saturday, 17 October 2009


Bill Bryson exhorted everybody to visit Durham in his "Notes from a Small Island". He is now Chancellor of the University and I don't think my blog post will usurp him but it is a beautiful city and well worth a visit even if you have to go out of your way.
We went, on the way to Beamish, with our visitors and didn't have enough time there but here are some views to show you what it looks like on an ordinary day. This first view is from Milburngate Bridge looking over the Wear river towards Prebends Bridge.

It was not very early in the morning but the day was calm and a mist still lingered over the river. The next view is looking through Elvet Bridge from the bank where the rowing boats are lined up for hire.

We climbed up to the Palace Green to admire the Cathedral, the Castle and the grand selection of buildings; all using the same stone and demonstrating a full range of architectural styles through the ages.

Cheers Gillian

Friday, 16 October 2009


We journeyed north through Corbridge and Hexham to The Wall.
The grandeur of Hadrian's Wall persists in all weathers. The general haziness seems to be part of the "mists of time". Our guests were thrilled to be there and experience "the wall" even if it wasn't as enormous as they had expected from their childhood memories of pictures in school textbooks. This impressive stretch is at Cawfields a few miles north of Haltwhistle. This is about halfway along its route from Newcastle to Carlisle.


We were expecting guests so I ordered a large chicken from the local farm shop. We have always bought wonderful meat from there and were looking forward to a roast-dinner-feast. Clarissa weighed in at 3.3 kilos.Whether she was a retired athlete or whether my inexperience in cooking such large birds was at fault, I don't know but after the reasonably tender and very tasty breast meat was devoured, the rest of the meat refused to leave the carcass and fought valiantly against the attack of a very sharp knife.
The yorkshires were assisted with an extra spell in a very hot oven and ended up too black. The sprouts were overdone because they had to wait for the yorkshires. The parsnips could sole shoes because they had been in too long and the cauliflower cheese sauce had congealed because I had made it the day before to save time and used cheeses sauce granules. And we cannot for the life of us explain the green colour of the inner meat of the chicken. No!!! it wasn't grotty, it was a pretty pistacchio green confined to two small muscle areas. We didn't even give that to the cat.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Oh Dear!

I ordered a mincer. My fantasy included making all my own, preservative-free mince from identifiable cuts of meat. I had dreams too, of making fine sausages and having acclaimed sausage sizzles on a BBQ in the garden. The aromas would cause passers-by to beg for a taste and offer me large sums of money for the recipe.
Tigger and I studied the instructions. They were very simple and she was very confident and encouraging.

But it didn't do anything that I expected it to. I went through half a loaf of bread and a pork chop (boneless!!!) and all I got was a large blockage. I took it out and reversed bits and re-assembled it in case something really simple had gone knife blade on back to front. The result was the same.
Usually when things don't work I press on determinedly until I resolve it, but this got taken apart, washed and re-boxed for another go another time. The pork chop got binned. And I am still disappointed.

Not as disappointed as the driver of this Wagon and Drag which took the roundabout at the end of the road with a bit too much gusto, today. He can't put this back together and have another go. The wagon is still almost upright but the second trailer is right over and they are still joined together. They had to unload all the contents onto other vehicles and then two cranes lifted the useless bits onto enormous flatbed trucks to get taken away.
I wasn't the only one there with a camera. An interested audience gathered for most of the afternoon. Enormous machines and enormous mistakes are always fascinating to watch.

Cheers Gillian