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

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Food, Glorious Food

In Newcastle today I knew that I would find someone to photograph.  What I did not know was that this was the final weekend of the annual EAT! festival run as part of the NewcastleGateshead Initiative.

In the past the festival has included some great ideas (restaurants in people’s homes), some spectacular stunts (dining suspended from the top of the car park made famous in Get Carter) and some pretty strange ideas (did I dream the 3D map of Tyneside made from cake?).  I’m not sure what was on the agenda this year, but I knew I’d get some colourful images and these are in the gallery below. (click on the first image to open an enlarged slideshow)

Remarkably I managed to walk my away around many of the stalls without succumbing to the temptation of colours, textures and aromas.  Incidentally the chap featured in the header wasn’t present at the festival – he’s still somewhere in my garden unfortunately!

Anyway, before I reached the gastronomic gala, I had already found today’s portrait.  He was sitting outside the Theatre Royal having a drink with a friend, and the combination of hair, glasses, beard and T-shirt gave him a cool celeb-like look.  Sort of Elton John meets Giorgio Armani by way of Bruce Willis.  Actually he’s called Lenny.

Jubilate!

The Kinks – The Village Green Preservation Society – Stereo Version

Britain’s longest reigning monarch to date has been Queen Victoria, who was queen for over 63 years (although as she became queen at 18 she had a good start).  Until now she was the only monarch to celebrate a diamond jubilee which she did in 1897.  This was at the height of empire, and Britain was at the height of her powers as a result, so the celebrations were lavish.

Here in Whitburn the event was marked by installation of a drinking fountain in the village green, though in the decades that have followed it has suffered some wear and tear; the ornate bronze workings that topped the structure have long gone, and there is no longer a water supply.

Today marked the completion of the first phase of restoration of the fountain, funded by a collection amongst the village residents, and initiated by two leading lights of the village; John Shield, one of the churchwardens and his able assistant Ken Smith, the Rector.  The project was launched to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, and with this being the weekend of many of the official celebrations it seemed fitting to aim to complete the work in time for an official unveiling today

The first phase has seen a new inscription on the west side of the fountain, and a general clean up of the structure.  With a little research in Durham Records Office, it is hoped to be able to replicate the original metal work on top, and fit two ornamental covers over the concrete that was used to fill the holes left by the original spouts.

To mark the occasion in true celebratory style John suggested that residents along the main street in the village might wish to congregate for a picnic, and so one of those rare expressions of quintessential Englishness ensured.  Flags and bunting were strewn liberally, red white and blue clothing was virtually compulsory, and picnic blankets and tables disappeared under sandwiches, cakes, and bottles of fizz. 

Special mention must go to a particularly patriotic trifle…

Some 200 people were expected, but it felt like many more made an appearance, probably passers-by drawn by curiosity at the throng enjoying the sunshine on the green. John and his band set up outside his farmhouse to provide entertainment,

the kids enjoyed a bouncy castle,

and a moment of formality was provided when the Mayor officially unveiled the fountain.

We have only lived here for 9 years, but it was clear that there is still a community at the heart of the village who know each other well and it felt great to be a part of it.  We just need an excuse to do this on a more regular basis!

There were many people who could have featured on my blog today, but there was a woman near us who stood out as an obvious choice with her Pre-Raphaelite hair.  Actress, model and musician, Alicia was an English rose on this most patriotic of days.