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Wednesday, 26 September 2012


We often go down to the Wear River, which flows just to the north of Bishop Auckland, and walk along its banks while watching the water tumble along. It can be a deadly trap to people playing in or near it. A young lad was drowned last year and a 16 year old boy drowned just a couple of weeks ago. It was the last of the "hot" days and he was bathing in the river with friends and got into difficulties. The river has narrow fast stretches full of weeds.
The river has changed since then into a raging torrent throughout. The same rains which have closed the A1 for forty miles have cut both roads from here to Darlington, and have filled the river to bursting point. The city of Durham is awash and large areas are under water. This is the bench where we often sit and watch the water meander past. If you can't get the video to work, this is a still of the same part.
The water is not only fast moving but very deep. The bench is usually many feet above the water level and a footpath goes along in front of it on  the top of the river bank.
Nearby, there is a terrace of cottages near the viaduct and the first one is aptly called "Wear Cottage". Unfortunatel it is below the level of the river right now! The river is behind the levee bank in the right of the pic.
The home-owners and their next door neighbours are pumping out the overflowing drain so that they can sweep their own overflow into it. The blue pipe leads over the levee and into the river. While we stopped and chatted for a few minutes the level of the excess rainwater rose inches to cover DJ's feet. They were losing the battle then... and it went on raining all day.

We were badly upset when the rain came through our roof and down the walls from the newly rebuilt chimneys! We thought we had that problem fixed.  But we have little to worry about in comparison with some others. I hope you are all staying dry.
Cheers Gillian

Friday, 14 September 2012

Bus Passes and The Baltic

The other day, we went bus travelling. It is a great thrill to be able to travel around free when you are over sixty. But it doesn't make up for the slashing of interest rates on savings. The "Good old Days" fed us a steady income of interest on all our savings and investments and I, for one, had to give up renting and put a small sum into buying the cheapest available property. There are lots of comments on how badly people are suffering since the banking collapse, but pensioners and investers had a stream of income wiped out overnight. So good on the bus pass. BUT we left home too early and had to pay 50p each for getting on the first bus before 9.30am!
At the Bus Station in Bishop Auckland we met a woman who had caught the school bus down the Dale to Stanhope, and then caught the 9-0-Clock to Bishop. Like us, she was catching the 9.59 to Newcastle. Then the 12.30 to Berwick and the 4.30 to Kelso!!! All the way to Scotland (and back) for nothing. A friend would meet her and her roll-on-off small case.
We decided to catch the bus to Gateshead so that we could visit the Baltic

and the Sage
It was a lovely day, now and then, and we went into Baltic to see if there was anything worth seeing.
Not really. It is a change over period . Mark Wallinger showed off his wall of numbered bricks and his wonderful display of pebbles on a giant chequer-board floor cloth. There was a movie showing people putting up scaffolding and then taking it down again. We watched a small part of the construction.
On the next floor was a sound installation.......
IT WAS FANTASTIC. It was Janet Cardiff's "The Forty Part Motet". It's been around since it was first exhibited at The Baltic, ten years ago, when The Baltic first started. walk into the room, empty, bar the forty speakers each playing their own singing part. Standing in the middle is absolutely stunning.
Then we walked across the Millennium Bridge and on and upwards to the to the town centre of Newcastle.
After a trip to The Cafe Royal for lunch, we went to the Grainger market and bought scallops and cod for meals we have now eaten. The Cafe Royal fed us a wonderful open sandwich with a small jar of tomato sauce for dipping our french fries into. We decided to have a go at making some such ketchup ourselves and soon.
The X21 took us safely home to Bishop.
Iceland were selling 2lb tomatoes for £1.50, so we decided that we would have a go.
This book has a good recipe in it and so we started. DJ did the nasty job of peeling and seeding the toms. I did the nice job of selecting and making up the spice package and stuff like that.
It seems to have worked but is more to my tastes than DJ's. Next time I will be more traditional with my sugar and spice ratios.

It's very tasty and anyway, at least one of us loves it.
ALSO....DJ fixed the easel teaser. It's a great solution because nothing has to undergo a permanent change.
He has made a piece of added height. It is two sheets of ply joined together with inch square dowel. One piece of ply is half an inch higher than the other so that the canvas can't fall out. It's also big enough to hold a cheap block canvas. At the moment I'm painting "working on the boats at low tide...St Malo"
Art classes are on again. the first one was a disaster for me. I love working in oils but acrylics are much more easily packaged and travelled with.
But I'll be back next week to learn more.
Cheers Gillian

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Changing View at Seaton Carew

These last few days have been really lovely. I wouldn't call it an "Indian Summer". It is too breezy and anyway the original inhabitants of North America weren't "Indians", and the balmy late summers are named after a North American phenomenon. The explorers thought that they had reached India. The residents were dark but slightly reddish....hence Red Indians. The "fall" brought weather like we are having now and became an "Indian Summer".
We were down at Seaton Carew last week. There were some people, probably gypsies or tinkers, taking their horses for some exercise in the sea. One bloke was simply exercising his horse and trap. He led it into the sea and other, more nervous horses followed it.
This one was in the sea for the first time. Ridden bare-back down the beach from the carpark, where the horse-box was parked and then followed by the next one.
They all had a grand time in the sea.
I have a fascination with Seaton Carew Beach and have photographed it and painted it...
This is the view of the Steel Works at Redcar...
This is a bloke on the beach...
And this is it at home.
BIG PROBLEM is ...What do you do when your ceiling is too low for your easel? Do you really cut a bit off the top. I paint happily on the table-top easel but I have looked forward to this stand up easel so much and so I'm a bit disappointed that it can't be  raised to my standing level. As you can see it is not able to be raised any further. The rest of the house has higher ceilings but the rooms are already designated for other uses...bed, bath,TV etc.
I bought a great, big cheap canvas at Lidl for £5 and the easel off Amazon for £60 so the easel is more important than the canvas.
Cheers for now and hope you all have some good ideas.

Sunday, 2 September 2012


Bletchley Park, Blenheim Palace and Balloons along Hadrian's Wall. That's a summary of the last week.
We have been away for a few days visiting friends and rels "down south". We first visited DJ's aunt with results of his research into her brother and DJ's uncle who was a Lancaster Bomber pilot who was shot down in WW2. Then on to Oxfordshire to visit friends for a couple of days. This is new country to me and they took us out and about.
Bletchley Park was a great day out for me. It is the place where massive work was done to unravel the codes and ciphers the Germans used in WW2, so that their messages could be intercepted and understood.
Their sandwiches were pretty awful so they gave us some cakes to make up for it so watch out in the canteen, but all the displays were fascinating. So much stuff to see and understand.

The next day was spent visiting pretty villages and strolling round the grounds of Blenheim Palace. This is the home of the Marlborough family and is where Winston Churchill was born. The pretty village of Woodstock is nestled beside it.

 The gardens were the work of Capability Brown and are sweeping parklands with lakes and bucolic architectural features.
It costs a mighty £11.50 to stroll around this area, unless you are a local and have access through a gate hidden round the side. Our friends have friends who know a local so we accessed the park via the gate. It was very beautiful, but, as children we lived on Highgate Hill opposite Waterlow Park and it was just as majestic and beautiful and it was free. It had been bequeathed to the public for use by the "gardenless" and that was us for sure.

This weekend was the showing of the "Connecting Light" installation at Hadrian's Wall. It had been glowingly reported on the TV. WE set off after tea with warm clothes, a flask and a torch. We were met at the second full carpark by this.
But prevented from entry by arm-waving blokes in hi-viz jackets. The car park was full again. I rolled down the window to ask where next and was told "DUNNO". The light showed the next message...
So we did just what all the others were doing.
For those of you who know the Wall, this was at Housesteads. From here there was a half mile climb up a steep hill in the dark to view the highly rated "Art Installation". A bit of a struggle underfoot and breathing-wise but small kids were doing it so I plodded on. There was meant to be a line of meteorological balloons designed to pulse in various colours along the Wall. Here is the first one.
Ooops. No colour, no pulse, no neighbouring balloons to carry the light theme along. This one had fallen down and the others had too or they had simply stopped working. It was dark and hundreds of disappointed people were milling around. We left. People were still arriving and the place was almost gridlocked.
A few miles along the road home we found some at Brolitia which were still alight, but the moon had outshone them all, all night.
The moon was wonderful but simple cameras can't capture it. We had some exercise and enjoyed the drive and our coffee. The organisers had totally failed to plan for and cope with the large numbers who turned up and the blustery conditions on top of the wall. If anyone out there wants some suggestions for improvement please contact me.

Back home today. Tinker had been in the cattery for the first time in her short life and for five long nights, so has not left my side since returning. She is asleep beside me now. Probably with a very sore neck as a result of trying to climb into the dishwasher through the gap under the open door and not being noticed while it was being shut. The door was difficult to close!!!
Ah well, maybe she will be more careful with open doors and drawers.
Cheers Gillian