Category Archives: Mary
Arthur Harold Raby, my father-in-law, died on Tuesday 5th February. He was eighty-five. A bluff Yorkshireman with a dry wit, he drove railway engines for his whole working life. His final journey as a driver was an Inter City 125 express from London, terminating at Doncaster. Arthur terminated at Scarborough at about half past four in the afternoon.
This post is not so much about Arthur, however, as about his funeral, and the people I met there. East Riding Crematorium in Octon, near Driffield, is a quiet and beautiful place. Grassy lawns and reflective pools, and inside a lovely stained glass window showing a boat buggering off into a beautiful sunset beneath a rainbow. ‘Ship of Souls’ it is called, and made me think of the ending of the Lord of the Rings.
Amongst many cards we received was this from Arthur’s Salvation Army friend, Albert Skinner, one of only three people ever to be made an honorary citizen of Filey. “Please excuse scribble,” he says, in writing far better and more legible than mine, “But it’s not easy at 94.” Albert did attend the funeral, although it is hard for him to walk now, and he proudly wore his Sally Army uniform. The service was led by the lovely Major Susan, although I kept forgetting and almost called her ‘Major Barbara’ a few times, and once ‘Major Tom’.
I also had lovely talks with relatives not seen for a very long time, including a fascinating chat with Mary’s Uncle Bob, a one-time FIFA referee. He once sent off three players and booked eight in one match. For swearing. Imagine that happening now, eh? One of Arthur’s domino mates was an ex-goalkeeper who had played at Rawmarsh Welfare, the now-defunct football club next to the street where I grew up. We used to sneak in through a hole we’d dug beneath the boundary wall.
I called shotgun to sit in the front of the limo going back through the picturesque villages that dot the East Yorkshire countryside. Wood-panelled dashboard, gorgeous interior, and a driver who was also a grave-digger when he wasn’t driving. Another fascinating chat.
We’d arranged a ‘do’ at Arthur’s Snooker Club, one of the places he played his dommies, and a belting ‘spread’ it was. They also had Theakston Mild on draft – win! A tear came to mine eye when they told us that they have honoured Arthur by creating ‘The Arthur Raby Memorial Trophy’, to be competed for annually by the club’s domino players.
Arthur would have loved that. Sithee, Dad.
As usual, Sunday is a day of collecting #SUNDAYPICS, and today’s theme of Comfort Food prompted me to have a quick look back through our photos to discover a random collection of comfort foods that I have thought worth taking a picture of. Here they are, foods to improve your mood, in no particular order. Be warned, there’s quite a few. I obviously enjoy photographing food.
My American readers may like to view this as an introduction to typical British food.
First up – fried eggs from our own hens, on a toasted muffin, with Snowgirl Sauce (copyright @snowgirl1972). Gorgeous colours, eh?
Fresh cream apple turnover now – perfect with a glass of rosé.
Next up – home-baked chocolate cake. This one was for Cat’s last birthday: guess who got to scrape out the bowl.
These little mini-waffles from ASDA are inexplicably delicious and addictive. Here they are nestling up to a home-made chilli.
If you’re in the mood for faggots, you can do no better than Mr. Brain’s – the best.
PIES! Take your pick – which is your personal favourite?
Pick Your Own strawberries – you can’t get fresher, or tastier, than when you’ve just plucked them yourself.
To some it may seem boring, but I adore a simple cheese sandwich with really fresh salady stuff. No dressing, please.
Go on admit it – you’re impressed by the size of this one, aren’t you. Hot dog, fried onions, mustard, ketchup – the perfect fill-up when you’re pissed as a fart.
Chippy chips! Proper fat chips splattered with salt and vinegar. Yum.
Chinese takeaway – a Friday night special.
A nice cup of tea and a cream scone. Elevenses.
Pub lunch number 1 – Gammon Steak Sarnie, a big Cornish, and froffee coffee.
Fresh veg from the Farmers Market – oh, the possibilities.
Pub lunch number 2 – Calf Brains and mustard and a pint of bitter you can’t see. (not really; tis beef that I’d piled up weirdly).
Poppets Chocolate Raisins. Mmmmmmm.
Home-baked mince pies, courtesy of @little_mavis.
A fry-up breakfast. Note the absence of egg, cos we were in Scotland and didn’t have any, but the addition of fried fruit pud, cos we were in Scotland and DID have some.
Various delights from the German market in Manchester. Insert YOUR joke here.
Chocolatey marshmallowey nutty ice-cream mix on a sunny day at Beacon Farm near Whitby. The BEST ice-creams ever. No, really.
Friday was our last full day in Speyside, and we had yet to investigate the Loch that was just five mintues awat from the cottage. First though, we had a last trip into Elgin to see the town centre NOT on a Sunday. Big improvement. There are several thousand charity shops, which we investigated, and a geeky comic-SF type one where I bought the goodies on the right. The Four Marys FTW! We also found the exact jacket for which Ellie had been searching for weeks.
We’d probably never have noticed Millbuies Loch if our Twitter chum @edinburghjo hadn’t told us about it. This secluded little treasure gave us a relaxing and peaceful stroll. Except when I fell over, obviously, and bruised my right buttock.
Buzzards “skee”-ed above, and water-boatmen “ski”-ed on the placid waters (ha ha, see what I did there?), surrounded by towering trees. The loch is well-stocked with fish, as evidenced by the anglers in the boat there.
I like this photo that Mary took, cos of the perspective.
Mary sur le pont.
A beck burbling into the loch.
So, on to Wednesday, and a fairly long drive out to Inverness in a frigging deluge. Twitter friend @hardyduncan had told us we would be able to park “down by the castle”. Well OK, but when we reached the city, we could see no sign of anything remotely resembling a castle. We did see, for a very long time, the back of a white van carrying sausages, as we inched into the city via a mega traffic jam. Finally, though – AHA! – a car park sign! After a lot of pratting about going round and round looking for a space, still in pouring rain, I managed to get us parked. Aaaaand relax.
As we explored, the rain stopped and the weather brightened up, as you can see in the photos. The city itself? Somewhat meh to be honest, and completely interchangeable with almost any other city centre, except for two things. One, EVERYBODY seemed to be smoking. Them Scots, eh, with their battered Mars Bars and the smoking? Tsk tsk. And Two, the river.
Seen from up near the castle (oh aye, we eventually found it, although it didn’t look incredibly castley – that’s it, the brown thing on the right there), the sweep of the river is a delightful thing, and tis most pleasantly bordered by soft green banks and verdant trees.
Crossing the water by means of a footbridge that swayed and bounced disconcertingly to the rhythm of our footsteps (Ben hated that!), we walked upstream (again, as recommended by @hardyduncan) to Ness Islands, a series of small wooded islands in the middle of the river.
Eventually we made it down (or up?) to Ness Islands, in bright sunshine now. These little islands are joined to each other, and the banks, by a series of well-made bridges. The islands boast plenty of British native trees, as well as a fascinating collection of sculpted tables and benches.
In one place, an imaginative sculptor had carved a fallen tree trunk into something slightly more interesting.
To sum up then, a fine day at Ness Islands, but you can keep the city thanks. Oh yes, and on the way home we stopped in the small town of Nairn. It was closed, and is best forgotten, I think, although perhaps it might have made a better impression if we had headed down to the beach.
A while ago, Mrs. Wombat (@little_mavis) was musing on Twitter with a number of the Twitterati about where, mathematically, might be the axis of all our locations. The closest she could come up with was “somewhere in the Peak District”. This set cogs a-whirring in the impressive brain of one of our best FWWNMs (friends whom we’ve never met) – the singularly dashing @captain_doodle.
Rather efficiently, he arranged a Peaks Tweetup – a gathering of folk who communicate through Twitter. These events, it seems, usually take place in a pub, but Rich had more grandiose ideas, and eight of us (if you count Ben, who has his own Twitter account @GoodBoyBen) met up in the Derwent Valley for a ramble/hike/tweetup. Rich even produced a magnificent PDF document as a guide and souvenir of the day.
Our Captain had promised (hang on, let me make sure I quote this correctly) “Starts with a gentle reservoir-side stroll, then a bit of a steady ascent (nothing rock climby) to the top. Once you’re up there it’s pretty flat the rest of the way, taking in some unusual rock formations, then down”. Sounds fairly easy, yes? Lying git.
After we’d strolled past the rather impressive dam, we needed to climb these steps to even reach the “gentle reservoir-side stroll”. Look how nippily I’m hauling my bulk up those steps. I had to refresh myself with a little @matronmim before proceeding.
To be fair, the initial stroll was quite gentle, and it was here that we first realised the beauty of this sort of tweetup. The fluidity of the walk meant that conversational groups were constantly changing, so that all of us mixed with all of us, rather than just nattering to the person sitting to our right, as might happen in a pub. Here’s the ladies in action – @shelley279, @vickyperry, @little_mavis and @matronmim.
Vicky had brought a selection of SWEETIES, so we stopped for a Sweetie break. @Domburf helped himself to a Sherbet Dipdab thingy, which lasted him a very long time. At least those bits he didn’t squirt over his companions did.
It went on forever, but at the top the views began to be unremittingly magnificent, and our curses at Rich turned gradually into appreciation.
We continued along Derwent Edge for what seemed like, and actually were, hours. Occasionally we stopped to laugh at the mincing hairy-backed jogger as he camped past us one way or the other, his orange bumbag gradually easing down his shorts until…. well, ew. Sadly, we were all too busy laughing to take a photo. We did take this photo, though, which is one of my favourites –
A short time later, we were in the pub, footsore but happy. It really was a bobby-dazzler of a day, and I was chuffed to discover that these people whom I only knew through their 140 character witterings popping up in my Tweetdeck, were actually the wonderful characters that they had appeared to be online.
So thanks to Shelley, Dom, Vicky, Mary, Mim and particularly Rich for giving me a day to remember and making an old man very happy. Let’s definitely do it again soon. Maybe with a little less walking, or we’ll all end up in the same state Ben was in at the pub:
Oh, and if you want to see more photos of the day, there’s a video here:
It’s not often that you visit a new place where you instantly feel welcome and properly relaxed. For the Wombats, Brook Farm is such a place – a beautiful farmstead over 400 years old in the Welsh Marches. There, our Twitter friends Sarah & William (@nicelittleplace) run a B&B and Self-Catering cottage, and being in dire need of a break we spent a wonderful two nights there. And before you start sighing, this is NOT an advert – I just loved the place so much I HAD to blog about it.
Brook Farm is reached by narrow country roads, and sits back from a very quiet lane, close by a small humpbacked bridge over (what else?) a brook. We were welcomed at once by two friendly dogs – Harry, who is a Large Münsterländer, and Dixie, who isn’t. They did their best to entertain us whenever we saw them. Sarah was extremely friendly and welcoming too, of course, fresh from tending her amazing garden, of which more later.
The rooms are very pretty and arse-meltingly comfortable, and the book-lined sitting room was perfect for me in the evenings. Gentle music, complementary home-made damson vodka, and a wide selection of books (I chose “Scott’s Last Expedition” and a small volume of Pepys) and the moistest, tastiest cake ever made me want to just sit there for hours.
We decided what time we wanted breakfast, and next morning, half an hour before, Sarah delivered a tea-tray to the bedroom door. Talk about civilised! For my first breakfast I chose “lovely scrambled egg with flakes of local smoked trout”. It was indeed lovely, delicious right down to the edible flower. Full English on the second day was unbelievably ‘full’, and again nommy.
The gardens are a bit special too. Extensive, beautifully tended with a variety of plants painting the ground, they include woods and a brook. Various cats slink about the numerous buildings. I particularly enjoyed the flavoursome tiny strawberries which we found scattered along a bank.
Altogether a fantastic place. Really. It did us a lot of good. And listen, if you DO want to investigate more (and why wouldn’t you?), checkout the web page HERE or contact Sarah as @nicelittleplace on Twitter. You’ll be so glad you did.
Well now, here we are with a couple of hours to spend in Bristol while Cat goes to her UWE interview. Bristol is bathed in Spring sunshine. Where shall we go first? Being female, Mary wants to find some shops, so let’s go looking, eh? First, we find this, which is large, old and churchy. I conclude that it is a large old church.
Shortly, we arrive at St. Nicholas’ Market, a fascinating collection of stalls, including foods from around the world, second-hand bookshops, unusual clothes shops and more. I suspect that the University students use it a lot. Also, it is quite beautiful – check out the shadows thrown by the roof: Interesting clobber at this place, too – After a meander around the market, which would have made a #wander all of its own, we headed back down to the Harbourside. From here we strolled down towards this footbridge, which has what appear to be two giant cream horns sprouting from it,
to photograph a rusty chain and a mooring bollard. I’m either sensitive to texture and spatiotemporal context, or I’m an eejit. Make up your own mind.
I also photographed these pretty flowers, though.
Four cranes loom menacingly over the south end of the harbour, from where can be seen a row of pretty houses near yet another church.
We still haven’t found any shops, have we? Around the next corner we stumble across the Aquarium, outside which is this proud beastie. Anybody got a giant cup and a huge sheet of paper?
I liked this clock that will always tell the right time.
Now we catch sight of a few shops, but they sit on a very steep hill. I am reliably informed that @AhcomeonnowTed once cycled up this hill. How mighty-thewed must his thighs be, eh?
At the top (and along a little bit), we get this expansive view over Bristol.
On the way back to the Park and Ride we passed this extremely attractive graffiti in a passageway – Finally, out of the bus window, I snapped this shot of the coloured houses on the hillside. A Bristolian Balamory, if you will.
Cat’s interview, though, did not seem to go well, since those taking it appeared to go against what they had told us at the Open Day regarding Foundation years. Time will tell.
Mum being eighty-two (and wonderfully spritely with it, I must say), we headed to her place in Knott End to spend the day with her. I had told my “internets” (as Mum calls the friends whom I have never met), and she had scores of online good wishes for her day –mostly on my Facebook page, but also from some lovely Twitter peeps.. which reminds me, I must get around to collecting them all together (I foresee lots of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V in my future) and printing them out for her to keep.
After Mum had opened a couple of small gifts we had taken for her, which included a pair of tiny Guatemalan worry dolls (“but what have I got to worry about?” she said), and a rather fine “wine-coloured” scarf (which you can probably tell me the real colour of), we showed her the collected Happy Birthdays from the online world (hurray for mobile broadband!).
Here is her response –
Mum had also received a book from the Wombettes Cat & Ellie, together with our Julia’s sons Michael & Danny, expressing the love and respect they had for her. This, of course, was the best gift of all. Here she is leafing through the book while having a bloody good gossip –
And finally, because you couldn’t see them that clearly in the above vid, here are the kids personal greetings to their Granny. I’ll do them in age order, because I’m congenitally unable to put them up randomly:
For centuries, like Ulverston, Grange over Sands was only accessible by crossing the sands from Lancaster by coach or on foot. Virtually untouched by Britain’s industrial revolution, the local fishing community remained quietly alone until the railway came in 1857. Wealthy businessmen from Lancashire and Yorkshire settled here taking advantage of the bracing air and wonderful climate. These men built some fine houses, hotels and grand terraces.
The River Kent used to flow past the town’s mile-long Promenade. But subsequently the river’s course migrated south, away from Grange. The “sands” (mudflats, in truth, with dangerous quicksand at uncertain points) became a grass meadow now frequently grazed by small flocks of sheep. More recently due to sustained easterly winds in the early part of 2007, the river has begun to switch its course back across the bay, and it remains to see whether the ‘sheep-meadows’ survive.
Why the history lesson? Why, because Grange was the target of our latest Good Day Out, where we had arranged to meet my BFF from hundreds of years ago (left), and blogger extraordinaire, Liz. A fine day was called for, but bloody buggery arsehole, it was lashing down as we hoiked Ben, the big yellow dog, into the back of Monique the Meriva and heaved it up the steep hill out of the village.
Ninety minutes later we were easing along country roads into Grange-Over-Sands in bright sunshine. Hoo! And even Ray! Pootling along the main street through Grange, some sixth sense told me to point Monique down a steep, windy street as tight as a gnat’s chuff. At the bottom, we found a car park where the Pay and Display machine was out of action. Score!
Liz always was reliably unreliable, so she turned up the expected thirty minutes late with OH Phil. “Oh look! There’s a tunnel under the railway line! Let’s go and look at the beach, the famous ‘sands’ under Grange” we all cried in unison. You see, at this point my history lesson had not been learned, and naturally I assumed that any place with ‘Sands’ in its name and described as a Victorian resort was, well, sandy. It isn’t, as you can probably tell from the surreal photo at the head of this blog, and this photo of my beloved Lady Raby and Liz strolling along the prom prom prom. We had decided to circle the town, so we strode out along the promenade between the railway line and the grassy beach. There were no brass bands, but I hummed “”Tiddely-om-pom-pom!” nonetheless, cos that’s the way I roll. Between the railway and the promenade itself were pleasantly, imaginatively arranged and well-kept flower beds, and plenty of benches for the sitting down. The cast iron benches were interesting, featuring squirrels eating what appeared to be grapes. Or just possibly squirrel intestines, which would make the benches a tribute to Zombie Squirrels. There’s a movie just waiting for the green light.
We passed the ruins of the old pier, jutting out into the grassy beach, then at the West end of the promenade, we discovered a strange, curved tripod structure. “iPLAY” it announced, as if that made everything clear. Ben worked out that it was designed for weeing up, but we were canny, and read an instruction board. Aha! Twas a game! An activity, designed for “fun and exercise for children of all ages”. Mentally nine years old, the lot of us, so of course we had to try. Phil, Liz’s hubby, was first to try, and scampered about like an eejit, while the tripod legs shouted at him his next instructions, and the rest of us laughed nervously while trying to work out how we were going to do it while avoiding looking like middle-aged divvies. Notice, in the above photograph, how excited Ben isn’t.
Now Liz had a go, bounding about with great enthusiasm. “iPRESS!” yelled the machine gleefully, “iTURN!”, “iPULL!”, “ YOU HAVE LOST A LIFE!” Liz achieved much the same score as Phil, and now it was the turn of my Mary.
Mary was leaping and hopping and sprinting. The machine cried out –
“iPUSH!”, “iSTAMP!”, “iPUSH!”, “iTURN!”, “YOU HAVE REACHED LEVEL TWO!”. What??? There’s a level two?? Oh yes, matey, and Mary went on to show us there was a level three as well. She was most impressive. That’s my girl! Sadly, no-one photographed my own lithe athleticism, but suffice to say thet the machine cheated me. I did not reach the much-vaunted so-called level two.
We sauntered through the town, which was most delightful with some fine looking houses. We came upon a pretty bandstand. No band, sadly, but it did have a feature rarely seen on bandstands – a moat. By now, Ben was getting tired, and we were getting tireder, so we looked for a pub, eventually stumbling across The Lancastrian, right in the middle of town. Good pub – the beer was fine, the staff and landlady extremely friendly, and the dinner was GIGANTIC. Seven quid, yeah, but GIGANTIC. Also, they happily served the delicate ladies with “child’s portions”. Phil and me are tough men, so we imediately went for the GIGANTIC.
After no little time, we left the pub and walked off a little of the weight of the food, although Phil undermined the benefits by spotting The Chocolate Shop, and deciding that it simply must have his custom. The park, actually the NORMANDY VETERANS MEMORIAL GARDENS, was really pretty, and like everything else in this likeable town, was well-tended, tidy and clean. A large variety of amusing and exotic ducks inhabited the large pond. Also in the park we found Picklefoot Spring, which a plaque told us has never run dry. It also told us that the name Picklefoot came from the walnut pickers who frequented the spot in days gone by.
Along Windermere Road there was a plaque describing
the history of EGGERSLACK TERRACE, an old terrace of stone-built houses. As Mary was reading aloud the plaque to the more illiterate of us, an old dear emerged from the house next door and engaged us in what turned out to be a fascinating conversation. Her family had lived there for centuries, and she regaled us with delightful tales, including a scary description of how, before the coming of the railway, the tide occasionally would flood all the way up the street past her house, which was easily several hundred yards from the “front”.
And finally to the station – a pretty station, in fact, with an unusual addition. A second-hand bookshop was tucked into the end of one platform, the cosy interior heated by an aromatic, crackling coal fire. We purchased some aromatic, crackling books (including an Arthur Bryant about Pepys) while Ben sat prettily on the platform and waited patiently. Then finally we sauntered back along the promenade, and said our farewells.
Grange Over Sands – a wonderful, surreal place, Get there if you can.
Mary drove Cat two hours North to the Brampton Road campus of the University of Cumbria; this is collated from her notes. The campus is small, on the north side of Carlisle. Apparently, non-sequiturily, there are a lot of Swedish students. There is one other campus in Carlisle, and others in Lancaster, Ambleside and Penrith. The campus tour was with a large group, which included a noisy toddler, with the result that some things the guide said couldn’t be heard. The area being created for computers was interesting, being a balcony in the library building (see right).
The presenter for the talks, in a very small lecture theatre, was engaging and interesting. The University does not guarantee campus accommodation for all first-year students, but they will find accommodation for them . All students (we think) get a bursary of about £1000 per year, although we do need to check this if Cat decides the place is for her. IT facilities are available round the clock at Fusehill Campus and in the library. Students can do evening classes in Media, Textiles, Ceramics, Woodwork, and Jewellery and in any case can use the equipment in any area (band saws, sewing machines etc.) once they have completed an induction session.
Illustration, which is Cat’s particular interest, is a BA degree. Students who the tutors feel are not quite ready for the course but show promise may be offered a place in year 0 which is a foundation entry course and is actually another year in Further education (no fees but no grants/loans). NOT to be confused with a foundation degree. In the first year, Graphics and Illustration do the same course. Workshops are communal 1st year students work in the same area as third years. Most work is marked on screen and need not be printed. Colour copies are 75p each. Students will typically fill three or four sketchbooks per term.
The second year sees Graphic Design and Illustration beginning to separate, although there is still some common ground. In Year 3, students are expected to concentrate on their strengths, and are expected to work on at least four projects.
In year 1, three weeks are given over to a language project, while one week is spent on Creative Writing. In Year 2, students produce a website. Work Placement is undertaken in Year 3. The University has connections with the design company, Pentagram.
Overall, Cat was pretty impressed to the tune of 8/10, but says that Loughborough leads the way still. Here’s her thoughts at the moment –
- Cumbria (Carlisle)
- Glyndwr (Wrexham)