Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Back to the Lakes...

I spent 24 hours at my favourite Yorkshire Dales campsite, and processed my latest batch of pix. I met my 'neighbours', in a caravan on the next pitch, so we sat outside, drinking wine, watching bats and listening to the tawny owls in the woods. We finished off with home-made toffee vodka, made, I was told, from Werthers Originals!

Back across the Pennines today. The Romahome is getting a service, and its first MOT. I'm getting an MOT too, with a visit to my GP in Windermere. My 'cough & cold' combo is getting worse, not better...

Dry stone walling, lesson one, at Reeth Show...



Monday, 29 August 2016

Reeth Show...

It’s been a year or two since my last visit to an agricultural show in the Yorkshire Dales. I spent a few hours at the Reeth Show today. It’s been that rarest of things: a sunny Bank Holiday. The show was reassuringly familiar: a tent full of vegetables, jams, children’s artwork, adorned with rosettes. Lots of tiny girls on ponies. A fell race. A beer tent that some farmers never left. A man commentating over the Tannoy, who seemed to love the sound of his own voice a bit too much. Stalls selling mud-coloured clothing to the gentry. A hog roast. Displays of old tractors.

The camel race was a bit of a novelty though. I turned to the woman next to me and said "You don't see that everyday". "Only in Yorkshire", she said. Not strictly true, but it made me laugh…

























She would have got my rosette...

























What the hell is this all about?...


Sunday, 28 August 2016

Hitch...

In the middle of last night I was watching Christopher Hitchens on YouTube, airing his trenchant views about religion (yes, I know what a good time looks like). He was attacking a fairly easy target - Commandments 1 through 4 of 10 - when a bolt of lightning lit up the sky, followed, a couple of seconds later, by a deep bass rumble so loud and resonant that it made the vehicle shake. I feel proud that, even under the influence of strong cough medicine, I did not for a moment imagine that the thunder was God castigating me for my unbelief…


Saturday, 27 August 2016

Masham...

Spent the last 24 hours in Masham, parked up in the square, but mostly inside the van. Feeling rough and reading the Koran: not a good combination. I shall write a review of the book, a mere 1,400 years after it was published…

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Yorkshire...

Enjoyed a great day’s cricket yesterday, with John, an old chum from York. The sun shone all day, Yorkshire prospered (against Notts) and, still sniffling with a cold, I self-medicated with crap lager.

The ground, off Marine Road, is one of my favourites. You walk in through old-fashioned turnstiles. The staff bid you welcome and, unlike at Headingley, don’t sullenly search your bag for anything as inappropriate as a camera with a long lens or a favourite bottle of wine. The first sight of the ground always makes me gasp; it’s hard to believe that a full-sized cricket ground has been shoehorned into a residential area, with the residents of many terraced houses able to watch play for free. I got to the ground far too early, but at least I was able to grab a couple of seats in a stand where we’d have a good view and the sun at our backs. 

On the previous day Yorkshire had quickly subsided to 51 for 6. They could have been bowled out for less than 100, which would surely have meant the game was lost. But they rallied… and the lower order batsman pushed the score to an acceptable 282. Game on. We watched the Nottingham batsmen recreate the traumas of the previous morning. But their tail-enders offered little resistence, and Notts were bowled out for just 98. For the rest of the day Yorkshire piled on the runs. By the time we staggered off to get something to eat, they were 200-4, 388 runs ahead. With two more days to play (though rain is due today), Yorkshire ought to win and keep their title challenge alive.

During the lunch and tea intervals, the crowd wanders onto the playing area. Kids play impromptu games with bat and ball; old guys wander out to “look at the wicket” and pretend to be able to “read” it. Kids can play cricket anywhere they want, though there’s obviously something special about being on ‘hallowed turf’…

Some kids aren’t so young…


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Cricket...

Got a bit of a cold. It seems strange to be sneezing and shivering when the weather is so warm and balmy… but I’ll struggle through. Looking forward to a day’s cricket tomorrow - Yorks v Notts - at Scarborough…

Ralph Cross... used as the emblem of the North York Moors National Park...


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Just good enough...

In my favourite pubs there’s usually a hole in the toilet door where some disgrunted punter has head-butted it. There may or may not be a hook on the back of the door to hang a jacket on; there may or may not be toilet paper; there may or may not be soap by the wash basin; there may or may not be hot water; there may or may not be paper towels to dry my hands on; if there’s a hand dryer it may stubbornly refuse to work when I rub my hands together. There’s a name for a pub with hooks, toilet paper, soap, hot water, paper towels, dependable hand dryers and all-round cleanliness: they’re called Wetherspoons.

Twenty years ago people weren’t crying out for big, barn-like pubs which all look the same, no matter where you go. Yet the pubs seem to thrive when others, many others, are closing down (and the two facts are not unrelated, I assume). I was in some town recenty where there were two cavernous pubs side-by-side on the main street. One was Wetherspoons; the pub next door was a Wetherspoons look-alike: long bar, cheap beer, food on demand whenever you wanted it. But while the Wetherspoons was full, the counterfeit Wetherspoons was almost empty. The public had voted with their feet.

The Wetherspoons ‘offer’ obviously appeals to a lot of different people; the pubs try to be ‘all things to all people’ and damn nearly succeed. At 8am a steady trickle of people wander in for breakfast, including a lot of guys - single or working away - who want to start the day with a nourishing meal and a cup of tea or coffee. But if they want to wash down their ‘traditional breakfast’ with a pint of strong lager and a whisky chaser - and, grotesquely, a few of them do - there’s no-one to say “Hang on… do you think that’s wise?” Wetherspoons are morally neutral. If they’ve got it you can have it. You can order anything on the menu from 8am to 11pm, and you’ll never be told that what you ordered has run out. If you want peas instead of beans, or beans instead of peas, that’s fine too.

Breakfast is just the start. Women come in for morning coffee; families come in to eat; business people come in for lunch, knowing that the food won’t take long to arrive. Older couples come in for an early evening meal, before the place gets really busy. The night will probably end without too much trouble; I’ve never seen drunk men brawling outside a Wetherspoons.

I have to admire the business concept, even though the pubs themselves are hard to love. I pop in for cheap food, clean toilets and dependable wifi, and because I don’t feel out of place sitting on my own. The people I meet seldom have a bad word to say about Wetherspoons, though their appreciation is generally lukewarm. The company thrives because everything they do is ‘just good enough’, and, when the customers pay for their meals, there are no ‘hidden extras’. Palpably, that’s what a lot of people want…

The foreshore, Whitby...


Wood Nook...

You can walk from the Wood Nook campsite... if you can follow the farmer's instructions...


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Campsite...

Had a good session last night, at the Fox & Goose in Hebden Bridge. Today is wet and gloomy, so I've decided to spend the day at my favourite campsite in the Yorkshire Dales, near Threshfield. The 'leisure' batteries could do with a boost, via the electric hook-up, so they'll hold their charge for longer; it's a good opportunity to get all my gadgets charged up too. I've got pix to edit, upload and keyword, so appreciate having dependable wifi...

Old waymarking stone on the North York Moors...

Friday, 19 August 2016

Grosmont...

The last time I was at Grosmont station, I had gout. More mobile yesterday, and got a few pix...


Thursday, 18 August 2016

Whitby again...

Busy taking pix along the coast, while the weather’s amenable, including another day in Whitby. It was good to do a tour of the town before the crowds arrived. In Thirsk this evening, parked up in the square; with free wifi I cued up a hundred pix and hope they’ve all been uploaded by the time I get back from the pub…

Lazy angler, Whitby...


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Ravenscar...

It’s years since I last took the cul-de-sac to Ravenscar. It was planned to be a holiday resort to rival Scarborough, a few miles to the south. Roads were laid out, sewers were dug and a few houses were built. Plots were put up for sale, but, since Ravenscar sits at the top of a cliff, with a long climb down to the rocky beach, nobody wanted to buy.

The Raven Hall Hotel still sits on the headland, with great views north to Robin Hoods Bay. It’s a somnolent sort of place, where the unspoken promise to guests is that nothing ever happens here and nothing ever will. The Bulgarian national football team were billeted in the Raven Hall Hotel during Euro 96, though it only took a few days for the players to request a move to another hotel because, in blighted Ravenscar, there was “nothing to do”…

Croquet at the Raven Hall Hotel...


Gull...

Maybe the gull that stole my pastry yesterday...


Monday, 15 August 2016

Robbed again...

I’ve learned nothing. I bought a pastry in Scarborough and took a bite. Even before I could regret my purchase - it was dry and tasteless - I was mugged by a herring gull: a flurry of wings and my pastry was gone (along with my dignity). Thankfully, that was the worst thing that happened to me in Scarborough, and I got loads of pix.

It’s hard to go hungry here. There’s a fish & chip shop on every corner; down on the promenade, overlooking the harbour, they are even more plentiful. But the smell of fish & chips, so appetising at most times of the year, holds little appeal on a hot day in August… though that didn’t stop visitors queuing up for a take-away. I had a pint of lager shandy instead, and a sit-down in the cool shade of an unpopular pub…

So we're buying and selling babies now? Stop the world, I want to get off...




Sunday, 14 August 2016

Bempton Cliffs

Spent the morning at Bempton Cliffs, an RSPB reserve. There were thousands of gannets still nesting on the limestone cliffs. It takes a few weeks for the young gannets - known as ‘gugas’ - to take flight. I saw them, perched on their tiny ledges, exercising their wings. It’s amazing how they keep their footing; with one wrong move, or a sudden gust of wind, they would plunge headlong into the sea… where they’d be prey for marauding skuas.

According to an information panel, the head of a gannet is “sunshine yellow”. Hmmm, I’d say the colour is more like the nicotine-stained fingers of a heavy smoker. The gannets share the cliffs with smaller numbers of fulmars, kittiwakes and herring gulls. The fulmars fly on stiff wings, with barely a wingbeat and, seemingly, the minimum of effort. Superficially, they may look like gulls, though they’re actually related to albatrosses…

Viewing platform, Bempton Cliffs...


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Wedding...

West Yorkshire I know pretty well, North Yorkshire too. I’m on less sure ground in the south and east of the county, which means that I can still find many places that I’ve not visited before. I took photos yesterday at Burton Agnes Hall, a rather fine Elizabethan house, near Driffield, then at Sewerby Hall, near Bridlington, where I caught a wedding in progress. Bride and groom, family and friends, were all dressed up for the status-enhancing occasion. I’m no great fan of weddings, but, looking on the bright side, at least it wasn’t mine… 

Nuptuals at Sewerby Hall...

























Burton Agnes Hall...


Friday, 12 August 2016

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Twiddling my thumbs...

I’m parked up by the marina in Hull, as the rain is tip-tapping on the roof. I’d planned to take more pix of Hull today, but will have to settle for plan B. I’m surprised, after two years ‘on the road’, that boredom isn’t more of a problem. With TV now a distant memory, I don’t have the most obvious remedy to hand: no list of channels to scroll through, no inane programmes to distract me from the existential void. I don’t even have the distraction of housework to keep idle hands from mischief (though the vehicle could do with a tidy-up). The existential void ain’t so bad, really…

Oliver Burkeman has some interesting thoughts about 'doing nothing'.

The evocative ruins of Guisborough Priory...


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Schadenfreude...

A traffic warden giving a parking ticket to a Porshe Carerra; it's not often I can use 'schadenfreude' as a keyword in my online portfolio...


Monday, 8 August 2016

Fish & chips...

Whitby ‘does’ tourism so relentlessly and wholeheartedly that it seems churlish to complain. The town is dedicated to relieving visitors of their spending cash as quickly as possible. - along the sea-front to the north of the River Esk, and the warren of back-streets to the south, where tiny shops sell tourist tat. I’ve never seen so many pubs and chip shops in so small an area (OK, maybe Otley in the ‘good old days’), yet everyone seems to be spinning a profit. Despite being able to buy their fish and chips from dozens of places in town, people were patiently queueing to enjoy a proper sit-down meal at the Magpie CafĂ©. It has the reputation of being the best fish & chip shop in Whitby - and therefore the best fish & chip shop in the country - but I had a take-away the last time I was in Whitby and it was OK at best…


Paranoia...

After Darlington, I took some pix in Middlesborough. I remember doing a photographic job, years ago, for the Middlesbrough Tourism Unit. The tourism officer had the unenviable task of attracting holidaymakers to a town whose biggest attraction was the Transporter Bridge, and my job was to take photographs for their brochures. All things considered, I thought I’d done a good job. But when the tourism officer reviewed the pix, her brow furrowed. The people looked a bit ugly, she said “They’re Middlesborough people”, I explained. The budget hadn't stretched to bussing in more photogenic people from, say, Harrogate or Ilkley.

Local people had seemed very suspicious of a man with a camera. Today the main concern is whether I’m photographing children (to the point where, if children are about, the lens cap goes on and the camera is slung over my shoulder). But when I photographed Middlesborough market, many moons ago, one guy wanted to know if I’d been hired by his wife to take photographs of him (there was a story there, but I didn’t get to hear it). Other stallholders, equally paranoid, wanted to know if I was working for the social security department, on the lookout for people who were working and claiming benefits (if I was, it looked like I’d found some)…

The sea view from Saltburn...

Sunday, 7 August 2016

13 item breakfast...

Darlington: a man engrossed in his work (knowing he could be replaced, at a moment's notice, by a hatstand)...


Saturday, 6 August 2016

Darlo...

It’s a long time since I spent a day in Darlington (town motto: ‘You’re never too far from a Greggs’). I lived here - for six months, many years ago - on Greenbank Road, and discovered that my grandfather, also John Morrison, was the minister at the Methodist Greenbank Chapel, at the end of Greenbank road (the chapel has since been demolished to make way for a car park). I never knew him; he’d died before I was born.

The centre of town is much changed. The name of the big shopping centre - the Cornmill - has the requisitive semi-rural associations, while being as charmless as any other shopping mall. I remember when every pub was called ‘The Railway’, filled with old guys staring at the point where the wall met the ceiling. But even Darlington now has posh places to eat and drink.

Escape reality? In Darlo that’s more likely to be something grown under strong lights in the attic…


Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Games...

The Olympic Games in Rio have been in the news for the last couple of years, mostly for the wrong reasons, and now the games themselves finally begin. Radio 5 - my radio station of choice - will be the ‘Olympic station’ for the next three weeks, and talk will be of “medalling”, “world records” and “personal bests”. The event has grown way too big; in 2016 it seems like a celebration of global capitalism. Somebody will run faster than everybody else. Somebody will win a medal and then fail a routine test for performance enhancing drugs. Someone will emerge from the sporting shadows to become a household name, “winning the hearts and minds of the nation”. Someone will wrap themselves - literally - in the union jack…




Tuesday, 2 August 2016

York...

I spent yesterday in York, taking pix and looking up an old friend who I’d lost touch with. I didn’t fancy driving around the city, at the busiest time of the year, looking for a (very expensive) parking space. So I did something I’ve never done before: I used one of the half-dozen ‘park & ride’ schemes, which operate from various places on the ring road. It was hassle-free: easy to park, five minutes waiting for a bus, and another five minutes travelling into York.

York itself was anything but hassle-free. The area inside the city walls felt very small, and the number of tourists, mooching about with their cameras and selfie sticks, seemed inappropriately huge. Whatever it is they come to see, what they must see most of is each other. A lot of locals rely on the tourists for their income, but this dependence makes them surly and grumpy. Maybe they should consider a course of Bile Beans...