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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lights Lots and Mid-Week breaks

A couple of weeks ago, Durham had its Lumiere Festival. We drove to the park-and-ride and found that hundreds of others had too. The queue for the bus was long enough to fill three buses so we walked into town and struggled up the hill and onto the Palace Green outside the Cathedral. Thousands of others had done the same and it was pitch dark so that the lights would show up better.
They did. The cathedral was bathed in glorious scenes from the Lindisfarne Gospels. We watched awestruck before flitting off down a side alley and skirting the thousands more still climbing the hill to see the next show.The Market Place was decorated with a giant snow dome and there were other installations all over the city. We didn't stay for much that evening because the crowds were overwhelming but we came in on the Sunday for Comedy Store at the Gala Theatre and battled the numbers again, but saw some more displays on the way.There was criticism of the crowd management and it was so poor that it can only be improved but Durham is a city with narrow, winding, steep city streets and not much can be done about that.
The village of Blanchland in Northumberland also gets crowded on fine summer days but last week it was almost empty. It has parts as old as Durham. All its front doors are painted red because the whole village is owned by Lord Crewe, just as the Lord Barnard (Raby) properties up and down Teesdale which have dark blue front doors.Much of the original mediaeval layout remains. The post office is housed in the castellated gateway and the pub has a fine reputation for its food. We were staying nearby at Derwewnt Manor Hotel on a bargain midweek break.

We were upgraded to a suite with the largest bed I've ever seen and a balcony with a view and a sitting room etc. The food was good, sometimes "very" and sometimes "quite". We enjoy cooking and it made us glad to get home and get on with some of our own.

Talking about bargains before I get on with the food... I bought a job lot of boxes at auction which had lots of railway memorabilia...old pics, pamphlets, way-bills etc. most of which I have since re-listed on ebay but the pics are not very interesting so on with the food.

When I first moved in here there were some good supermarkets handy. Lidl and Aldi were both within walking distance. But there was nowhere which sold good fresh bread. But now Sainsbury's and Lidl have in-house bakeries for par-cooking fresh bread and the local farm shop has started to produce really great loaves. Left over bread can now be a problem. Fresh bread odours waft around all our favourite shops. So it was time to make some bread pudding.

Lovely stuff.
And DJ caught a snippet of arvo TV which showed the Hairy Bikers de-boning a chicken and stuffing and roasting it so....

Off to the farm shop for a chicken. The farmer and his son were both grinning broadly as we left at the thought of the mayem about to occur in our kitchen. Both had expressed extreme reluctance to do it for us and were really glad we didn't want them to.

DJ sharpened up the knives and set to following the guidelines he had found on the internet. Getting the leg and wing bones out was the worst bit but the final effort was one piece of skin and meat, a pan of meaty bones for soup and a very happy cat. It was covered with a layer of stuffing made from pork mince and a gourmet packet mix and then sewn up with a bodkin to resemble a chicken shape. Roasted for an hour, it came out looking like this and beat the restaurant food at Derwent Manor, hands down and thumbs up.

Cheers Gillian

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


I went to Watson's Auctions this morning to buy a large brass Asian statue which I was going to use for hanging my jewellery on. It lives in a tangled mess in a basket on the chest of drawers at the moment. Buddhas and similar statues were fetching quite a high price so I bought a job lot of railway memorabilia instead. It was much more fun and sorting through all the boxes on return was like christmas in the old days.
One of the old books is shown below. I shall tell you more about the railway stuff in another blog because this book has enthralled me.

It was published in 1927 and tells the story of two children going for their first ride in the car that Daddy has bought. Gender roles are clearly stated! Men were easily flattered at an early age. And quite good at pretending they knew what was going on by mentioning magnetos whilst looking under the bonnet of a car.

I suppose Dolly got quite good at making sandwiches and setting out a picnic in much the same way.

The earlest campervans are also demonstrated as are many "other" sorts of vehicles.

Even way back then, Ozzies were visiting "the old Dart" and travelling around in jolly charabanc loads, landing on distant rels for a feed and stop-over for a month or two, visiting old buildings and pulling beers in the local for a job. Americans wisely stayed home. Luckily they ALL enjoyed camping out in the woods, regardless of the grizzlies.

And as for those Africans. They were always smiling even when they were the butt of a bad pun and the whole village was loaded onto a mere two wheeler.

Cheers for now Gillian

Sunday, 6 November 2011


"Limestone Landscapes" is a project, currently being run by Durham County Council and they put on an education day. The morning was spent in the classroom being taught all about the Magnesian Limestone unique to Durham and its place in the geological history of the world. There was a lovely power-point display, free map posters and lots of rock samples to covet.
Then we all trooped off to Coldknuckles Quarry for some fieldwork.
At the bottom of this quarry is a deep layer of sand known as The Yellow Sand. It is the remains of Permian sand dunes formed about 250 million years ago when England's climate was dry and tropical. It is mined and used as building sand. It can be seen in its dune layers, cross-bedded from the changing winds of the desert. At the top of the sand is a thin grey line of Marl Slate which forms the boundary between the sand and the Magnesian limestones. It is about halfway up the picture and above it are the layers of limestone.
It's the Marl Slate that has the fossils in it and the quarrymen dig it up and pile it out of the way as they go down for the sand. Lots of folks come round and fossick in the dumped slate, including me.

The aim is to find a fossil fish. People do, and so did I. Well a good bit of one. I'm not sure if it's the tail or some fins. I shall have to do more research.

At the top right is a piece of plant, then something unidentified, then some sand balls and then some calcite but on the left is the big trophy. I knocked the edge of the block of slate with the hammer and it split open to show the fishy tail.
We then went down to Blackhall Rocks to study more of the limestone in the cliffs, but the tide hadn't gone out far enough to see the best bits.

A bloke in the carpark was exercising his Harris Hawks and held them for me to photograph. He has a couple and takes them along the cliff top each day training them to return for their food. He said it is all done by making sure that the bird is hungry enough to return and he ensures that by weighing them between flights and feeds. Then we decided to drive down the coast a short distance to Seaton Carew to catch the fireworks display. We arrived in time to get a seat at "The Almighty Cod" for a fish and chip supper. When we went in there was a queue outside the take-away section, about twenty people long and when we came out it was well over twenty yards long and more. All three fish and chip shops had enormous queues and there were thousands of people milling around waiting for it to start.

It was short but grand.

Today is a well earned rest and newspaper day before we head off to the Comedy club at the Gala Theatre in Durham.

Cheers Gillian