A Christmas Carolyn

Sometime ago I was talking to Carolyn, an old friend and colleague, about the challenges of spending Christmas Day on your own and the consequent trepidation that I was feeling.  As you would expect from such an experienced coach and counsellor, she wasn’t going to let me get away with that for long, and we ended the call with me having made her two promises.  (How does she do that?)

The first was that I would get out and about with my camera and vicariously experience other people’s pleasure; seeing kids out and about with new toys and bicycles.  The second was that I should do whatever it took to enjoy the full Christmas experience at home, so should stock up with food, drink, films and the TV schedule and keep myself occupied accordingly.

Appropriately enough on a day when the rules of time and space have been rewritten,  I seemed to get my timings wrong for the first element.  I didn’t get up too soon, or rather, once I’d texted the one person I know would be at work at 7.30 today, I went back to bed and did resurface too soon.  I had a leisurely breakfast, showered and dressed, prepared some food for later and only then did I pick up the MKIII and head for Durham.  It was 10.05 when I arrived and even though I then undertook another of the day’s text conversations it was still way too early for signs of life in the city.  I wasn’t quite alone, there were the odd couple strolling here and there, an occasional elderly churchgoer, and of course some Chinese students taking pictures of each other.

These aside the roads, streets and alleyways were largely devoid of life,

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the Palace Green similarly deserted,

and even the great edifice of worship itself stood silent with not a carol or chorister to be heard, APW_5703_4_5 and while the Wear was in spate from recent rains, it flowed silently and unbroken by oar or hull.

APW_5718 As I left the city to prepare my lunch, the nature of my timing error became apparent as a steady stream of vehicles developed, all bound for the Cathedral.  I’m guessing that the morning communion service was at 11.00.  Still I was not downcast.  The clear skies and fresh air had done the trick, and I even had time for a sneaky selfie in a barber shop window.  Given the time of year I should have photoshopped a large red “E” to the right.APW_5713

I had no problem with the second part of Carolyn’s advice however! APW_5731

Mirror, mirror, like a wall

Fulwell, where I grew up, is dominated by the great white limestone guardian that is Fulwell Mill. It stands on a hill looking down the mile or so that runs down to the sea, a position it has held for over 200 years, though it is a long time since it has operated commercially.

In my youth it was already disused, making it and the land around it, which was a former quarry, was a frequent haunt for kids in the area. We would often climb up the outer wall to the first story platform, taking advantage of the well-worn mortar between the limestone blocks.

Nearby a short slope by the equally moribund lime kilns was our venue for sledging in what seemed like the everlasting winters of childhood. With a busy road at the foot and an adjacent car forecourt it isn’t the attraction that it once was. Just as well that we rarely get enough snow now.

There is a third industrial relic here, one that I only recently discovered, although it has been there for nearly a century. It stands dejectedly on a piece of waste ground behind some allotments, looking like nothing more than three concrete walls, yet it is an incredibly ingenious device. It’s a mirror.

Not a looking-glass, but a mirror nonetheless. The clue lies in the fact that the back wall is convex; this is an acoustic mirror, installed to detect approaching Zeppelins during the first world war. It deserves better treatment.

I’d approached  Alison near to the mill to be my portrait when a familiar face appeared. I worked with Carolyn about 20 years ago. Serendipitously she now works for the council and was able to add to my knowledge of the mill. Although fully restored to working order in the 1990’s, it was badly damaged in a storm a few years back and closed as it was unsafe. The good news is that repairs are planned which will see it open once more, though perhaps not fully functioning.

Carolyn’s clearly wearing well. It’ll be good to see the mill do the same, and how lucky to find two subjects with great smiles and great light in their eyes..

Welcome to the Costa Roker

Sun, sea, sand and Sunderland.  Time to make the most of the weather and so many ways in which to do it:

For some it’s a time for romancewhile other prefer a different type of companion.

Some want to get active

while others just want to chill.Some want to sit and enjoy the sunwhile others want to put their bucket and spade to use!

Some want to cool their feetwhile some want to keep everything out of the sun.Visitors come from far and wide (Carolyn & Celine)There’s even a handy car wash…and entertainment for the ladies.People even dress formally to eat ice cream!

Photographers come to do their thing…

which for me means finding a portrait, and on Roker Pier, amongst the sea angling fraternity I was bound to find someone.

This is Ian, who joked that he would have caught a fish by the time I’d returned from the lighthouse end of the pier, and then when I did so explained that he’d had to let it go because it was too large.  The perennial one that got away.  I was more successful I think!