Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Thursday 7 May 2015

Newcastle Cathedral

Do you know, in all the years we’ve lived up here, we hadn’t ever been into Newcastle Cathedral until last bank holiday Monday.  It seems silly, as it is so easily reached from the town centre, but for some reason I had managed to miss it all these years.  I’m quite sorry that it took us all of ten years to actually make a pilgrimage inside, as it is a lovely if externally-unimposing building.

Like most things in Newcastle, the Cathedral is heavily tied to the region’s industrial past.  Indeed, most of the cathedral’s footprint was extended from its humble parish church status to the cathedral form you see today in the C18th and C19th, when the growing upper classes required church authority be centred in Newcastle rather than Durham.

Thus, most of the cathedral is very typical Victorian; with heavily ornamented carved screens and reredos and lots of stained glass.  Unfortunately, in the process of adding on and ‘improving’, the Victorians didn’t do much in the way of conservation of the church’s historic ornamentation, so a lot of character was lost in the process.  The Victorians have a lot to answer for – as does Oliver Cromwell (but that’s for a whole other time!)  Thankfully, the Victorians did like their churches and cathedrals heated, and did a stellar job of installing radiators to keep the place warm in winter!

Whilst not as light as Wells and definitely not on the same scale as the great Gothic cathedrals of  Lincoln or Peterborough, Newcastle has a certain charm about it.  Indeed, it is barely larger than a large parish church, even with the Victorian add-ons, but I think that is something that runs in its favour as it feels far less imposing than visiting Lincoln cathedral.

The stained glass is almost entirely Victorian, with the exception of one tiny circular piece of Medieval stained glass taken from what was the All Hallow’s church before it was demolished in the C18th (why?!) to build the more ‘modern’ church(!) that can be seen today.  Whilst I’m a big fan of preservation and conservation of the original, I am partial to a bit of Victorian stained glass, so I will go with it.

Not all of it is Victorian, however, there are a few pieces of more modern stained glass too.

My favourite window(s) in the church are in a side chapel and are dedicated to Northumbria’s two saints: Oswald and Cuthbert.  Above is the window dedicated to St Cuthbert, filled with local wildlife.

And sitting at St Cuthbert’s feet is an eider duck – or Cuddy duck as they’re known in these parts – as he was the first person to protect the birds from all harm.

Whilst this one is dedicated to St Oswald, with much more exotic creatures (like a Mandarin duck!).  The stained glass itself isn’t old, made in 1933, but I do love the windows a lot as they hold a lot of meaning for this region.

The altar is splendid but typically Victorian.  I mean, it couldn’t be more ornamented if it tried and they ended up blocking the beautiful window at the far end.

In an attempt to make the place more grandiose for the wealthy industrialists, the wood carver was sent to Exeter cathedral to make copies of some of the misericords (though we don’t think he copied the very lewd carvings he would have seen there!).  We did meet and get talking to one of the volunteers, who took us on a sort of impromptu tour of the cathedral, pointing out all of these things that we might otherwise have missed.  We were very lucky, as there was hardly a soul there and we got to ask a lot of questions and find out a lot about the cathedral’s history.

This is the Thornton Brass and the picture does not do it justice – it is huge.  In fact, it is the largest brass in the UK and is quite something to behold.  It would originally have been the top of the family’s tomb, but was moved and mounted behind the altar.  It is a Flemish brass, probably pre-1440 and pays homage to Roger, his wife and their seven sons and seven daughters.  If you look hard enough, you might also see the family dog hiding!

The best bit about stained-glass windows?  The wonderful patterns they make on the floors when the sun is shining.

The oldest part of the original church has been made into a separate chapel for quiet contemplation.  It is hidden a bit from the main part of the church and has been used as a charnel house, too (when the church decided to disinter the bones of all those who had been buried within the church – and later cathedral’s – walls).  It is much cooler than the rest of the cathedral and has a proper church ‘smell’ about it; my kind of place!

Stained glass was added at the edge of the vaulted ceiling and commemorates the region’s heritage.  All in all, we had a great time visiting it and I will definitely be visiting again when I can.  I would recommend finding a volunteer to ask questions and also buying a copy of the guidebook to get some added info (we never buy guidebooks, but did buy theirs as we were interested enough to do so!).

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Rosa Xanthina in Bloom

A definite sign that spring is here and summer is coming! What better sight to behold :)

Monday 27 April 2015

Newcastle’s Splendid Bridges

In yesterday’s glorious sunshine, we opted to visit the Quayside market in Newcastle.  Not having been to it before, we were excited about what we might find.  As it turns out, we ended up getting off the bus a stop later than anticipated (our fault) and ended up on the Gateshead side of the Tyne.  I’m actually really glad that we did have this slight detour as I was able to get some splendid views of Newcastle from the swing bridge (the red and white one) before we walked over.  On the Newcastle side we were instantly met with a cacophany of market stalls and screeching birds.  Did you know that Newcastle is home to the farthest inland colony of kittiwakes? The birds have taken residence on the struts of the famous Tyne Bridge and seem to be expanding as they now occupy the stone corbels on the Guildhall too.  As lovely as they are, their mess is less so and I pity whoever has to come along after they’ve fledged!

The market, held every sunday, is a new-things market mostly which sells gifty and foody things in abundance.  We wandered around enjoying the atmosphere and noting down ideas for future birthday and Christmas ideas.  We stopped for some churros (shared between Mr VP and myself!) and ate them overlooking the banks of the Tyne, just a short walk from the Sage Gateshead, the Baltic and the Millennium .  Quite a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning!

Wednesday 31 December 2014

The Old Year: 2014 in Review

You’ll have to excuse me while I panic at the thought of 2014 being over – I was just getting into the swing of things, and last I heard, it was September!  Time it is a-flying.  It has been such a lovely, if challenging year.  It started by joining a gym and taking up swimming again, which I really enjoyed.  I took a lot of power-walks along the rivers of Cambridgeshire, we had an amazing weekend in Southwold at the beginning of March, and then we were thrust into the rush of packing up and moving in March/April.  Before we knew what was happening we had found a delightful rental house, moved, Mr VP had changed jobs and we were ‘back’ into our new and exciting life in Northumberland.  We arrived just as the last of the blossoms in Cambridgeshire were fading and the first of the cherry and hawthorn blossoms were beginning to flower up here – we had the longest, most luxurious spring in my memory.

Summer was a holiday for both of us, and just what we needed after a stressful move.  We visited Coquet Island and saw puffins and seals, we spent our wedding anniversary picking strawberries, we walked for many miles along our favourite beaches old and new, and we made the most of every spare moment we could.  At the beginning of September, we began the mammoth task of house renovation.  This turned out to be not only extremely stressful and difficult, but also very educational and I know a lot more about things I didn’t even know existed (like building regulations and how best to choose decent workmen).  After three months, we moved in to an almost-finished house and that’s where we are now.  We’re still mostly living out of boxes as we’re still waiting for the floor to be laid, but with the lights on, candles lit and the fire going, it is very homely indeed.

If 2014 was about movement, then 2015 will, I hope, be about growth.  Moving house twice in seven months is unbelievably stressful and having to pack-up one house and oversee works in the other is tear-your-hair-out worthy, so I would like to settle down in 2015, yet still grow and develop. At some point I plan to return to my studies, either this year or next, and I would like to increase the time I spend doing good and useful things.  It sounds obtuse, but it means me taking on more challenges and making more committments to myself and the life I would like to create.

I always have a bit of a panic at the end of the year, as I worry about the future and what is to come.  I suppose it’s the not-knowingness that New Year represents that worries me the most, but each year I keep trying to let that worry go a bit more and spend a little bit more living as in-the-moment as I can.  I have had such a glorious year in 2014 that I am eager to see how 2015 will pan out and how we’ll grow and change to meet the year.

So that’s it for 2014.  Here we sit watching Guardians of the Galaxy (Mr VP’s pick), having nibbled at some of the buffet food I’ve made (the homemade sausage rolls and olive palmiers have gone down a treat!) and toasting ourselves in front of a warm fire.  We might not be awake come midnight, but we’ll usually be woken long enough to welcome the new year by the fireworks going off around and about!

To all the lovely blog readers who stop by, I would like to wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2015 for you and yours.  Thanks for reading and see you in 2015! :)

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Fenwick’s Christmas Window 2014

Oh, how I have missed doing these posts!  Each year, the Fenwick’s store in Newcastle puts on an amazing window display.  It has been all sorts of literary and themed windows in the past, from the ‘enchanted forest’ to Gulliver’s Travels.  This year it was Alice in Wonderland and it was very well done.  I particularly liked the spinning room around Alice and the detail that had gone into the whole window.  If you’re in Newcastle, do make sure that you pop by and see the whole audio-visual spectacular of the Fenwick’s Window.  I also added a couple of photos of Newcastle’s lights, as they have been nice this year and look brilliant against the background of the European Christmas market that was on in November.

Monday 10 November 2014

NaBloPoMo 2014: Day 10. Grainger Town

After showing you around one of my favourite parts of Newcastle the other day, I thought I’d show you the main, and one of the most beautiful, parts of the city: Grainger Town.  Named after Richard Grainger, a Newcastle man born and bred, he ascended the ranks of society through the connections he made from his building work.  After marrying well, he became more influential and went on to shape the whole style of Newcastle city centre, as well as some of the suburbs.  The Monument is one of the best places to sit down and people-watch, and serves as a permanent reminder of the man who changed the entire look of Newcastle.  It is also one of my favourite places to stand and gaze up at the enormous Georgian architecture, huge stone crescents and ‘Tyneside Classical’ stylings of the buildings.  Thanks to this man’s vision (with the help of architect John Dobson), we now have one of the most beautiful cities in the world (in my humble opinion!).