Atmosphere

 Posted by at 23:40 on 11 December 2013
Dec 112013
 

I had an appointment today in Denton, about 8 miles from home. As I was making my way there and back, I reflected on how different my life is here as a pedestrian versus in the US as a driver. There are pros and cons to both, actually; there are things I will miss when I finally do get my UK license and car. I will, however, enjoy having more free time.

For my 10:35 am appointment, I set off from home at 9:00 am, and made it exactly on time. I walked the mile from home to the Glossop train station, then took the train to Guide Bridge, and then walked the mile and a half to my appointment. I did get to see the beautiful sunrise this morning (while I was getting ready), and I got to be outside properly and enjoy the sunshine that hung around all day (being in a car just isn’t the same). On the way home, I was able to slow down and see what shops there were, and I discovered a fantastic one that I would’ve driven right past and never known about or visited – it has no parking, like most shops here. I was able to feel the atmosphere of Denton, Audenshaw, and Guide Bridge (parts of Tameside, the next borough to the west), instead of passing it by in the blink of an eye, never experienced.

More about the atmosphere, and why I live where I do…

Indeed, I’ve ridden in cars and buses through Tameside quite a few times, but never experienced it like I did today. I walked one way to my appointment and a different way back from it, but both ways found me surrounded by masses of red brick buildings. I get bored sometimes of all the stone in Glossop, but I have to say, the red brick was very mildly depressing. After I got home, Chris helped me put my finger on it: it’s institutional-feeling. It’s evocative of base housing, housing estates, and the like.

On the way home, I realized what else was missing once the train got to Broadbottom: green. We Glossopians talk about how we can see the hills around us from almost everywhere in town so much that I forgot what it was like to not have it. I realized that part of the feeling besieging me today was from the lack of nature: it was all flat; just buildings, buildings, and more buildings – very nearly all red brick. To rub salt in the wound, there were quite a few little signs of neglect creeping in – paint needed here, a mending of the footpath needed there – that sap the residents’ pride in where they live. I imagined what it must be like to live there …

Much ado is made in the local press, at least, about Tameside’s lower than national average longevity, worse health issues, etc. My immediate reaction to hearing something is lower than average is always dismissal: by definition, half the data points are lower than average. Duh. Tell me instead what the spread is, where this data point lies (how many standard deviations from x̄?), and whether it’s large enough to be concerned about on this particular occassion. They never do. I also want to know how much of this problem is caused by people not wanting to get things checked out because they might end up at Tameside Hospital, with all its myriad problems (absolutely no sense of respect for patients or patient dignity whatsoever, from my personal and secondhand experience, plus the higher than expected mortality rates – though after so much number-jiggling it’d take Charlie Eppes to find the truth).

Today, however, I began to wonder if the cumulative effect of living in that environment bears some responsibility for the poorer health of our neighbors.

My family and friends back in the US have often asked why I don’t move closer to Manchester, if that’s where the paid work is, and if any commute I might have is likely to be on the order of 1-1.5 hours each way. Anywhere closer to Manchester is Greater Manchester, which Tameside is part of – and Tameside’s largely no different from the rest of Greater Manchester. It’s flat, it’s faraway from nature, it’s crowded, it’s generally showing signs of neglect, it’s generally higher crime, and so on. That’s a large part of why I live where I live.

Life’s too short to be miserable in your surroundings. Having hit upon a place that, quite the opposite of making me miserable, sits right in my soul – such a rarity – I’m keeping hold of it as hard as I can, as long as I can. The community, the people, the land – it all just clicks for me.

All that said, however, I do sure miss driving sometimes. A car could’ve halved the trip time on this occassion (but only because it wasn’t during rush hour).

Who do you want to be?

 Posted by at 21:59 on 9 December 2013
Dec 092013
 

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One of the RSS feeds I subscribe to is from Snopes, the fact-verifying website we all turn to (or should) when we hear some outlandish tale. Recently, one came across entitled Pitfalls of Sending Cash as a Christmas Gift. In relevant part:

Now, let me tell you something which happened to a friend of a friend last Christmas. Her friend is a busy advertising executive and ran out of time to buy presents for family and close friends. So instead she decided to enclose some rather generous cheques with her Christmas cards, scribbling the message: “Have a lovely Christmas but, if you don’t mind, buy your own present this year!”

A little impersonal, but actually fairly practical, she thought. Except that a week or so into January, having not received the customary thank-yous from her relatives and friends, she found all the cheques in a drawer. In the rush, she had neglected to enclose them.

Snopes concludes this is a legend, and gives us an analysis of the general themes. I found the analysis of gift-giving in our society really interesting; this is something I’m struggling with philosophically these days – but more on that another time, maybe. I found the analysis of the gender issues staying with me, though, and that’s what I want to talk about (at least to start) in this entry.

Click for more …

The story contains an element of punishment for women leaving traditional duties behind in favor of competing in the business world. Working outside the home may cause them to have less time for family and friends, thus legends like this serve to warn women against taking up such lives by pointing out what could be lost or compromised.

This stayed with me because it doesn’t ring true. I currently am a homemaker, doing those traditional duties, and yet I experience endless confusion and quite a lot of outright hostility about my choice in this matter from nearly all who learn of it (friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers alike). Women can’t win by being homemakers, and women can’t win by succeeding in paid employment, either. We are, of course, supposed to do it all – a demand that leads to no end of mental health issues.

As this percolated in my head, I stepped back to take a larger view of things, as is my wont. Men, of course, have their own impossible-to-meet pressures from society. Indeed, any group you care to name runs into the same problem of not being able to win, such is the stupidity of the pressures. If we don’t measure up to all these conflicting demands, we risk rejection; this is a problem in a species bred for tribalism. The larger part of the problem, I think, is that we tend to internalize these societal pressures and carry them with us – so we have a very large population of folks constantly feeling like they don’t measure up, like they aren’t succeeding at life. This is no good.

Image from Blisstree.

Image from Blisstree.

I wondered why we have this state of affairs. The first lot that sprung to mind were those who benefit from it: the entire apparatus of capitalism. If you already have a population of individuals convinced that they’re not good enough, half the work of selling them the solution to their woes is done. I still think this plays a large part in this problem.

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However, something else occurred to me: I think our circles are so numerous that we find ourselves trying to simultaneously be all things to all people. This isn’t aided by the current social media explosion, of course: when in person, you’ll talk one way to your mates and another way to your parents; it’s only natural. When they’re all your facebook friends, you have to somehow talk to all of them at the same time; this is tricky.

Then I came across a piece in the business pages of the local paper, of all places, that made me ponder this some more. (It’s written by David and Duncan Wright of BSA Marketing.) On the surface, it has nothing to do with any of this, but since when did I ever settle for surface thoughts?

In a column about online marketing, Step 1 is to Turn Off Your Computer. The idea is to realize that the various places on t’internet only provide the channels of communication with your target audience – the how. You need to stop before diving in to consider what you want to say, who you want to say it to, etc. I especially like this line:

By leaping straight for the web browser before answering these questions, there is a real danger that you will just … be sold the next magic wand, unlikely to deliver any sustained marketing benefits.

I was blessed to be taught marketing by Dr Wolfgang Hinck, who I see has moved up to Dean of the School of Business at Berkeley College in New York & New Jersey. Congrats, Dr Hinck! He’s an exceptionally good teacher, and one whose classes I thoroughly enjoyed. One of the things he drummed into our heads was:

Marketing is Everything & Everything is Marketing

I saw the truth of it then, and I see it more with each passing year.

Image from here.

Image from here.

So I read this article about online marketing and immediately clicked it together with this other stuff I’ve been thinking about – and I realized how true that is for all of life. How often we leap into the speaking without the thinking! In this particular case, how common it is that we’re trying to be all things to all people all the time, instead of making decisions about ourselves first and then finding the right people to gather round us.

How much easier would it be if we first decide things like:

  • Who do I want to be?
  • What qualities and skills do I want to develop in myself?
  • What qualities and skills would I rather leave behind?

Once answered, we could dismiss societal pressures to be somebody else simply based on the fact that we aren’t that person – being that person isn’t right for us at this time. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s a start. Moreover, we can then gather the right people to us who help us further these goals we’ve set and who don’t criticize the decisions we’ve made.

We must, of course, be open to amending these ideas from time to time. A person should have many different answers to “What’s right for me now?” over the course of their lifetime. We must also be ready for our nearest and dearest to likewise go through these changes!

So, who do you want to be?

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Oh no I didn’t… Oh yes I did!

 Posted by at 01:07 on 7 December 2013
Dec 072013
 

A great British Christmas/New Year institution is the panto (fully, the pantomime). This is something that has to be experienced to fully be understood, as I discovered about a year ago when I went to my first panto.

I didn’t have high hopes, I must be honest. Pantos are generally derided by most people I’ve heard talk about them. I didn’t really know what it was, but I knew it was a play, mostly aimed at children, and it’s laden with puns and silliness. Obviously I’m a great fan of silliness, but I generally don’t like plays, children, or puns, so I’d always avoided pantos. However, they are talked about so much in December and January every year that finally last year – my third Christmas in England – I decided I had to at least go to one and find out what it was.

Everyone I’d heard talk about them before would only say things like, “There’s always a girl dressed as a boy, a man dressed as a woman, …” the list goes on. None of this told me what it actually was, though. So, off I went to the local theatre‘s production, with my WI.

It was an absolute blast! I was shocked!

They didn’t say there’s a lot of dancing – I like dancing, and last year’s group was particularly excellent. The puns were good; they weren’t the stupid kind. There was much slapstick – again, something I’m generally not fond of, but somehow it worked. The audience participation, though, I think, is what really did it for me. Interacting with the characters turns the evening into great fun.

So, now I’m sold – and hooked. I’ve just been to this year’s panto tonight, and it was an absolute blast again. I must say, Prince Orlando stole the show – my absolute favorite bit was his entrance. The community singing at the end comes a close second, though. I look forward to next year’s panto. If I was really dedicated, there are pantos in the surrounding towns, and I’m sure several in Manchester, but I think one per year will likely do me.

So now, at last, thanks to the panto, I’m in a Christmassy mood. The Christmas decorations shall go up on the morrow!

Eeek!

 Posted by at 23:26 on 4 December 2013
Dec 042013
 

I can hardly believe it: this is the first time this has ever happened, in my memory.

Yall, I have emptied both my email and paper inboxes!!! Shock, awe, horror – the running and screaming in the streets will start as soon as hit Publish, clearly. Obviously, The End Is Nigh!

Am I the only one who has trouble keeping these things cleared up…?

Now I can tackle the rest of my to-do list – right after this celebratory cake… and maybe some sleep. And hopefully, you’ll even get a proper blog post before too long!

Glossop Events Email Newsletter is now live!

 Posted by at 22:31 on 23 November 2013
Nov 232013
 

I’m pleased to announce that you can now subscribe for an email newsletter of the events on my Glossop Events Calendar!

My wonderful husband, Chris, has written some code that collects the upcoming events for the next week and a bit, and generates an email. Have you looked at the calendar lately? I’ve found quite a lot of things going on – there were eleven separate things to do before noon today! In order to keep the email at something approximating a reasonable length, none of the descriptions will come in the email: you’ll get title, date, time, place, and a link to the description.

The email goes out early on Friday mornings, and you’ll get events for the two forthcoming weekends plus the week in between.

I add things to the calendar whenever I see them, sometimes with very little notice, so don’t think the email is the be-all and end-all! Please check the calendar directly anytime you’re actively looking for something to do.

The sign up form is on the top of the right sidebar on this website, but I shall include a copy here as well:

Enter your email address:
For more information, see the list information page.

I could live off sandwiches

 Posted by at 17:58 on 14 November 2013
Nov 142013
 

We don’t have a television (for many different reasons), but we do enjoy watching certain shows very occassionally. Columbo is one of these, and we watched an episode recently. One thing we noticed early on about Columbo is that there’s an overwhelming prevalence of husbands and wives killing each other – so now we have a running joke, after watching an episode, to promise to each other we won’t kill one another. As you do.

One of the methods used in this most recent episode was poison, so I made Chris promise to not poison me. He duly did. Later on, as you can expect, he said he can’t cook or help cook anymore, so that he doesn’t accidentally poison me. Mmmhmmm.

“Okay,” I said, “that’s fine. If you’re not going to bother cooking, I’m not either – I shall live on sandwiches! Maybe the odd can of soup.”

“So you’re just going to revert to your college ways?” he asked.

“I’ll have to start buying ramen again, and making spaghettios,” I continued.

Okay, okay – I’ll cook, if only to save you from yourself!”

“There’s nothing wrong with living off sandwiches! I know, I’ve done it!” I cheerily objected.

“HOW HAVE YOU SURVIVED?!?” he demanded.

“Sandwiches are nutritious! Well, mine are.”

“That’s true,” he conceded. “It’s probably a good thing you have such high standards for sandwiches.”

(Lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions – why are these so uncommon on sandwiches? They make it far tastier!)


I often sing songs with lyrics I make up on the spot to entertain us while we wash dishes, or I make lunch or clean or whatever. Today as I was preparing one of the truly brilliant aspects of Thanksgiving leftovers – a turkey sandwich – I reflected back on that conversation. When I brought my sandwich out to the living room to eat (where Chris was coding away), I sung something about how wonderful sandwiches are, and how I could live off them. I turned to look at him, and he was just holding his head in his hands. Hee! 🙂

I’m afraid I must dash now – I’m hungry, so I think I’ll go fix myself a sandwich!

Whitby, part 2

 Posted by at 16:03 on 4 November 2013
Nov 042013
 

Carrying on from the first installment, we’ll finish our wander through Whitby in this exciting second half! 😉

After admiring the coast for awhile, we decided to wander through the town a bit and see what there was to see.

Wandering through the town …
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Some of the roads are very narrow. This was just wide enough for a car – and there were doors along that wall. Watch that first step! Thankfully, the super-narrow stretch didn’t last too long, and we had a bit of sidewalk then.

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Any ideas what this thing on the left is? It was in an antique shop full of breakables, and we were laden with backpacks, so I dared not go in to ask. It’s wood, with purple velvet, a half-cylinder compartment about 6″ or so long, and then a smaller compartment next to it. With the ink staining that smaller compartment, Chris wondered if it was for writing – I can see storing ink in the small space and the pen next to it, but what’s up with the velvet surface? Anyone happen to know?

The Whitby Gothic Weekend happens twice a year – apparently Whitby was chosen because of its Dracula connections. I forgot to mention we passed The Dracula Experience earlier, down by the waterfront. Whitby is where Bram Stoker’s Dracula landed in England, after the ship ran aground there after a bad storm, and Whitby has, to an extent, capitalized on it – so it was a Goth-friendly place readymade for the Gothic Weekend. Chris was surprised this was the only Goth shop we saw, however – apparently the coverage in Fortean Times makes it sounds like the place is just crawling with Goth shops, etc. In fairness, we only explored part of the town, so perhaps there’s more we didn’t see.

I was so struck that this Poundland – an everything’s £1 shop – had these historic photographs/paintings on its window shutters. They’re all by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (1853-1941), and these are from the Sutcliffe Gallery. Now that I look at it on the map, I realize we may have even passed that gallery later, when we were headed back to the bus. Huh. Might go inside to explore next time!

Also, we found an American-style diner! I glanced at the menu: it’s only cosmetically American, but hey, it was a bit novel nonetheless. 🙂

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Halloween isn’t done as much here as it is in the US, so this window display was something to pause and look at – and then when I saw the sign above it, “Suppliers to Hotel & Catering”, I just cracked up. I had to get Chris to take a picture (all my batteries had died by this point) – you can see his ghostly self if you look carefully. 😉 Also, though no one local here seems to understand what gourds are when I use the word, the gourds in the right-hand window were actually labelled as such! Word choices are so very localized – even down to individual households, really.

The last photo is of the rose garden at St Hilda’s Catholic Church. It was lovely – you’ll need to click on it for the larger image to see it properly.

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St John’s church is a Church of England church (Anglican) directly across the street from St Hilda’s. What struck us about this building, really, was the diminished soot covering the walls. It’s not clean enough to have actually been cleaned*, yet it’s not covered in pollution like the buildings I’m more used to seeing. Chris told me they didn’t do as much industry – mills, etc – up here in Whitby as they did down in our part. Not hard to believe – the air hanging thick with smog from the 40+ mills in my town was infamous. The Industrial Revolution, born in our county of Derbyshire, did have quite a lot of downsides – massive pollution was one of them.

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* Either by sandblasting or the really cool-sounding method they used inside John Rylands Library. As I recall (I can’t find mention of it online anywhere), the tour guides told us they sprayed a special foam that clung to the stone, then peeled it off. The pollution came off, I expect with a bit of the stone. They pointed out the corners where they’d not been able to clean it properly, as contrast. The corners were black; the sandstone is a dazzling array of light colors. When they did it, they got an entirely different building when they finished.

We were vastly amused at the Black Hole Ahead sign – glad they warned us! We didn’t find it, alas.

Exploring the park …

We found ourselves at the entrance to Pannett Park, so we wandered inside to see what there was to see. The first thing we found was the Lily Pond, which was quite tranquil – at least, until other people showed up!

We wandered along, and spotted the hugest monkey puzzle tree I’ve ever seen!

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It was at the entrance to the Jurassic Garden, which is, as the sign told us:

A pathway through the past

The path you’re on takes you through the Jurassic period. Each band represents a rock layer from the Yorkshire coast – the colors of the rocks and the length of each band is in proportion to the depth of the rock. The first rock, where you are standing, is the Redcar Formation and is the oldest, laid down about 195 million years ago. As you walk along the path you will travel through 60 million years of Jurassic time!

In each band of rock you will find casts of fossils, including ammonites, corals, and dinosaur footprints. These impressions are taken from actual fossiles in the Whitby Museum collection. … Alongside the path there are plants from the Jurassic period, including tree ferns, gingkos, and a monkey puzzle tree.

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I liked the crocodile best, myself.

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The garden at the top of the park – surrounding Whitby Museum and Art Gallery – was guarded by two gardeners – one here, and one on the other side of the garden. Thankfully, they let us pass – in and out again! We reckoned the sundial might work a tad better if it weren’t in the shade.

I was a bit confused about these rectangles patches for planting flowers, just in the middle of the grass. You can see one planted in the middle background behind the sundial, and one unplanted one in the far background.

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Our second rainbow of the day! Ironically for living in such a damp land, I see rainbows very rarely. I usually feel the presence of Papa, my grandfather, when I see one. I do hope he enjoyed touring around Whitby with us that day. 🙂 We took time to smell the roses in this garden, while enjoying the rainbow.

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The Play Area was neat! I never had anything that nice when I was a kid!

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Just past the play area, another view of Whitby. I’ll bet loads of local residents want to shoot whoever allowed Whitby Hospital to take such a hideous shape (it’s that black and white monstrosity in the centre of the frame). In terms of styles, the 1970s have a lot to answer for! Hopefully the contents are better than the package.

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Our last stop was the South Seas Garden, which is filled with Maori art (the Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand). The sign next to the figure is informative, if you’re curious.

This chunk of the park is right up against the perimeter, so from bird’s eye view, you’d see an eye-shaped path, with the sidewalk around the outside of the park forming one part, and the sidewalk through this chunk forming the other part. While we were there, this man and little boy passed by – the man stayed on the outside sidewalk, but the very focused and determined little boy (about 4 years old, I’d guess – he was walking quite well without assistance) picked up a heap of fallen leaves just outside the garden, then carried them through the garden, then met back up with the man (father? uncle? friend of the family? never know) at the other end of the little garden, having tossed his leaves into the air just as soon as he got out of the garden and back onto the main sidewalk. Kids. *shrug*

Wandering back to the bus …

Once we’d seen all of Pannett Park, we decided we should wander back towards the bus.

A few things caught my eye, like this intricate painting on the side of a bookshop, juxtaposed with the street name sign next to it. Also, I know the pub is named after one of Captain Cook’s ships, but it still strikes me as a treasure trove of puns to name the pub The Resolution.

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The Sherlocks shopfront looked interesting – I should’ve gone in and had a look around, really. I did wonder if someone made a typo originally on the Angel Hotel (Angler) and they’ve just rolled with it since.

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This busker‘s set up was delightful – and the music wasn’t bad, either, so I stayed and enjoyed a song.

This stone is Whitby’s war memorial. I’m used to cenotaphs (which I now see come in all different shapes), so this was a bit of a surprise. The cenotaphs I’m used to seeing have the names of the locals who were killed in war engraved onto plaques attached to them. The sign informs us that there used to be a War Memorial Hospital in Whitby, but it’s gone, and besides, they’d realized not all the names that should have been listed were. So they decided to create this memorial instead: a double plinth of locally quarried sandstone at the bottom, and a piece of Masi Quartizite from the far north of Norway, where the Green Howards (the Yorkshire Regiment) saw action in 1940, and lost many men. They don’t plan to engrave names this time; they’re leaving a simple “Lest we Forget” engraved in the sandstone.

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The sky was very moody. Also, the gates outside the public toilets were oddly arty.

It was nearly 5pm, so we prepared for the long ride home by hitting the loo and grabbing a coke for me. Then the bus turned up, so off we went.

A few shots on the way home …

On the road from Whitby to Pickering, we passed Royal Air Force base Fylingdales, a listening station – a relic of the cold war, the driver told us.

We also saw this very strange cloud.

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Then Papa said goodbye with a full double rainbow – we weren’t far enough away for it to show up all at once on camera, but at least coaches have great big huge picture windows, so we saw it all perfectly (helped that it was on our side).

I was absolutely shattered – too little sleep the night before, followed by a long day – so I promptly fell asleep then, for about an hour. Then Chris and I chattered away the miles until we got home, a bit after 9pm. A very late dinner was immediately followed by bedtime!

Whitby, part 1

 Posted by at 00:04 on 24 October 2013
Oct 242013
 

This past Sunday, we went on a day trip to Whitby, North Yorkshire (it’s a seaside town about 115 miles northeast of here). We went by coach (coaches are charter buses, but in addition to private charters, they run periodic trips that anyone can join without having to fill the coach). We weren’t impressed with the company we went with, but we had a good time in Whitby nonetheless. This post got rather long and full of photos, so I’m breaking it into two parts. Hopefully the load time for you will be measured in something less than glacial movements!

We both love fall (autumn), and love to see the show the trees put on for us. This trip was advertised as “Autumn Tints”, and was supposed to take us past trees in color. It didn’t, but ho hum. Just another kick to get the finances in order to buy yet another car so we can go on our own trips!

Off we go – a few shots from the coach along the way.

As always, click on any photo to see the larger version. It was a gray, rainy, yucky day when we left. It was lovely in Whitby, though, so I’m glad we didn’t let that put us off – you just never can tell. We were on the motorway (interstate) for part of the way. When I lament that there are too many streetlights here, I mean it: I’m leaving this photo with the streetlight in the way because I had too many like this. They put them every 25 feet or so on both sides of most of the road – and then they wonder why we can’t see the stars at night.

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When we finally arrived in the Yorkshire Dales & Moors – which I’ve heard so much about – I remarked to Chris that it looks a lot like the Peak District. It is actually really similar geography; the Peak District is just more popular than Yorkshire because of its easy access for the city folk (from Manchester, London, etc). I related this to my friend Wendy who – I can’t remember now – either her husband or herself comes from Yorkshire. She replied, “Long may it continue!” Heh.

When we passed this feature, I heard a girl and her mother near us. The mother said this is called Dinosaur Bowl; the girl asked if it’s because a dinosaur sat there and that’s the shape of it’s bum. Made Chris and I giggle. 🙂

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We’re here! We wandered through the commercial part of town first …

We got on the coach at 8am, and we arrived in Whitby at 12:30. It’s not actually that far – we were doing pickups for one and a half hours after we left Glossop, and then there was a half-hour stop at a really depressing motorway service station (these are like the ones you get on toll road interstates: exits with a few places to eat, restrooms open to the public, gas, usually some picnic tables, plus these have hotels in them). I was irritated, since I’d been told we’d arrive in Whitby around 11am – 150% of the estimated travel time is quite an error!

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Anyway, so we were there. We took a few pictures as we made our way towards a restaurant Chris had scoped out reviews for the night before. We usually take a packed lunch whereever we go – less variable in quality, quicker, and easier than hunting for restaurants – but I really wanted some seafood since we’d be in a fishing village.

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It was low tide when we arrived. The difference in height of the sea is something I first ever noticed in Blackpool (another British seaside town); I really don’t remember this from when I lived in Hawaii – and I seem to recall going to the beach quite frequently there. I don’t remember it in Virginia, but beachgoing was rare there. The tide height difference is so much in Whitby that these boats were just sitting on the mud! Wonder if you could get a quick paint job on your boat during low tide…

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Chris forgot his sunglasses – so we have him to thank for the sunshine. We finally found a restaurant we wanted to eat in – The Marine – which was very small and crowded, but it was nice, and the food was good. Chris had fish and chips – he doesn’t usually eat cod, but this was sufficiently good that he ate it (the menu hadn’t specified whether it was cod or haddock). I had the smoked haddock and mustard mashed potatoes, which was also tasty.

The hallway back to the restrooms, however, is covered in a black and white wallpaper that, in that confined space, made my eyes just about cross. In a room it would’ve looked nice, I think. The toilet stall I used had this picture hanging on the back wall. In case you don’t look at the larger version, I’ll just tell you: that gold fish looks distinctly like it is frowning. It made me “…” so much that I snapped this picture to tell Chris about it. Might make some think twice about ordering fish, I guess…

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Now feeling much better, we continued walking down the wharf to see what all there was. Above, you see the view of whence we’ve come. Below is the famous restaurant in Whitby for fish & chips – The Magpie – complete with the line (queue) going out to the street. Chris’d taken one look at those reviews and immediately decided to avoid them – apparently the portions are far too small and entirely too pricey. I had a look at the menu as we passed to see what qualified as too expensive – £12 for a single plate of fish & chips is rather a lot, really, when you can get a takeaway fish & chips in many places for £4. Obviously there’s some overhead for it being a sit-down restaurant, but not that much. As for the portion size, what’s listed on the menu doesn’t look small to me – all I can guess is that they’re not actually sending out what the menu says. What struck me most about this was that they don’t skin the haddock before breading it and deep-frying it. EW! Nosiree, count me out!

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The tide’s been coming in – ever so slowly – while we’ve been eating.

Below, some of the entertainments – this part looks just like the commercialized, gaudy part of Blackpool, meant to part you from your money. We whipped through here pretty quickly – interestingly, the fish market is dead center in this mess – stopping only to try to buy a map, but the machine ate my pound. Stupid thing. There was a map on display on the board, though, so we looked at that a bit, and found a few interesting-sounding things. Then we kept wandering.

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We found the lifeboat museum, but it was clogged with people, so we wandered on. We also saw this pirate ship 😉 running tours. There were many boats running tours and sea trips of varying lengths, which I was interested to go on, but was worried about the time, since we only had the 4.5 hours there. Something for our next trip!

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The last thing we noticed on The Strip, as I’ll call it, were these completely random figures flanking the doors to this restaurant. Um, okay. Whatever blows your skirt!

We wandered along the beach awhile …

We found the way down to the beach, and walked along it for a bit.

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Chris was so disappointed that there were no critters in these pools.

We also found this guy balancing rocks on their points. We didn’t stop to talk to him, so we havne’t a clue why he was doing it. It being such an impermanent thing, I vaguely wonder if he’s Buddhist, actually. Either way, they were cool to look at!

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These are beach huts. I’m told they’re Very British – so much so that the winner of a WI photo competition on the theme of “British Summer” was a photo of some beach huts (nicer than these, mind). I never noticed any in Blackpool, the only other British seaside town I’d been to before Sunday, so I was very confused when I was first told about them. Apparently, they’re to give you someplace to change into your swimsuit.

Chris was more confused to see them there on Sunday – he wondered why people these days don’t just wear their swimsuits under their clothes, like he did when he was a boy and his family would visit Blackpool for a week. Once I saw that they have a place to put a padlock, though, I realized they could also be useful as lockers. When Chris was a boy, his mum would watch their stuff when they went swimming (she doesn’t like swimming); if it was just him and I who went, we’d both want to swim, though, so we’d need somewhere to keep our street clothes, towels, keys, etc. Plus I suppose you could wait out rain in them. Besides, they might have a kettle, etc, in them as well, for all we know.

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The beach huts were along the path back up to the street level, so we went up there. We thought the large building just there might be the science museum we’d seen on the map, but it was yet more arcade, etc, “family entertainment” instead. Past that, we found a theatre (for plays), and just in front of that were a couple of food vendors, including this Tibetan one! I’m interested in Tibet, so would’ve liked to try some Tibetan food – if only we hadn’t just eaten! Hopefully they’ll be there on our next trip.

We also got a better view of the maze we’d passed when we’d walked on the beach – which was in use! 🙂

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This sign vaguely amused us, so we snapped a photo of it. We were also very confused by this arrangement of bricks and fence. It’s as though there was an opening that’s now been bricked up, but that fence is only waist high or thereabouts, so it’d be a very short opening! Really wonder what happened there.

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We found some monuments …
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We were wandering back the way we’d come (except much higher), and on the corner (as it were), where harbor meets ocean, they’ve put a few monuments and a lot of benches. While snapping photos of them, I saw the rainbow! You can just see it in the left picture above and in the right picture below (you might need to look at the large version).

The statue is of Captain Cook, who gets credit for discovering Australia. He apprenticed in Whitby, was based in Whitby, and used Whitby-built ships for his three “voyages of discovery,” as the sign put it. I thought the coat of arms (?) on the front was really nifty.

I’m not sure what the other monument here is – it looks like a ship’s mast with a ship atop it. There wasn’t a sign, so your guess is as good as mine.

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The sky was very moody.

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The whale bone arch is impressive-looking, though a bit morbid: these are the jaw bones of a blue whale. The whaling industry was big in Whitby for many decades – I’m heartened that the sign tells us they used all the parts of the whale, at least. These bones came from Alaska – a twinning thing, I think (the sign is hard to read); Anchorage and North Slope Borough are credited. Apparently the original ones, erected in 1963, are preserved in Whitby Archives Heritage Centre.

From this corner we also had lovely views of the rest of Whitby – here’s the other side of the harbor.

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We wandered away from the monuments …

…and the first thing we were struck by was this building that looks so very out of place. The word – Streonshalh – is the Viking word for Whitby, the internet tells us. It’s flats now, but I’d be shocked if it was built as flats. And look at it – it’s assymetrical. The bit on the left could’ve been an extension, but regardless, the rest of it is still assymetrical. Very strange. We can’t find anything else online about it, annoyingly.

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We saw this steam-powered bus go by! Delightful – and the friendly driver waved at us while we were snapping photos. It’s the Vintage Spirit. Then we found a bench to sit on and chill out, from where we saw the Board Inn. Chris didn’t realize it was spelled that way, and thought it was Bored Inn, and went on about it for quite awhile before I decided to correct him. Still, who does name their place that? Their website is entirely lacking in explanation, meh.

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We also had chance to admire St Mary’s Church and the ruins of Whiby Abbey, together with its 199 steps, and the many people going up and down them. Sadly, we were on the wrong side of the harbour and just didn’t have time to make that climb. Oh, shucks.

My friend Chris (a different one) tells me that next time, we have to climb up those steps and count them all, and when we get to the top, we’ll have the Whitby Wibbly Wobblies – since our legs will be ready to give out! Something else to look forward to … 😉

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Panning to the right, we see more of Whitby. After our rest on this bench, we’ll head off in that direction – you’ll see those pictures in the exciting conclusion, “Whitby, part 2”!

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Pumpkin Carving

 Posted by at 18:31 on 21 October 2013
Oct 212013
 

We really enjoy carving pumpkins for Halloween. Every October we go through about three sets of pumpkins – carving one set, lighting those every night until they mold, then getting fresh pumpkins and repeating. We don’t do painstaking masterpieces, like so many you see at this time of year – we just have a bit of fun. It’s a nice way to spend an evening. 🙂

Here’s the first set we made this year:

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Chris did his usual cyclops one, and I was impressed enough with the stem on this particular pumpkin that I made it into the nose. 🙂

This past weekend, we carved the second set:

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Chris went for a face again, but this time I tried a spiderweb. We don’t have very fine cutting tools – we just use kitchen knives and boxcutters – so this was a bit of a challenge. It came out okay, though!

We had fun with it, and had some pumpkin pie when we were done. It was a nice conclusion to our anniversary. 🙂

Wherein I ramble about pumpkins and pie …

I get really confused when people talk about carving pumpkins and then, afterwards, using them to make pumpkin pie: all I can think is they only use them as jack o’lanterns for one night? And then use them before they mold?

I tried making pumpkin pie out of pumpkins once (not ones I’d carved first, mind – fresh ones); the pumpkin was too wet. Pumpkin pie is a custard pie, so it’s very finicky: the pumpkin must be the right consistency. Pumpkins are grown extra large for carving, and they follow the same rule as all the other fruits and vegetables: the larger the fruit/vegetable, the less flavor it has. So, if you could manage to make pie from a carving pumpkin, it’d really just taste like the sugar, etc, you add, rather than pumpkin, I’m convinced. Moreover, there’s another rule: the larger the pumpkin, the stringier it is. That consistency isn’t appropriate for making a custard pie.

For pumpkin pies from scratch, you need a sugar pumpkin. I haven’t been able to work out if this is a different variety of pumpkin altogether, or if it’s just a smaller pumpkin. I don’t actually care, mind you: we’ll just keep using the canned pumpkin, which is always the right consistency and flavor. It’s one of the very few canned things I’d never do without.

We’ve tried coating our jack o’lanterns with vaseline (a tip we found online towards the beginning), but it’s quite messy and doesn’t seem to lengthen their life before molding, so we just leave them au natural now – which means we can chuck em in the compost, so that part’s better, at least.