Welcome to my blog, which I started way back in December 2002 - long before social media was a thing! With the advent of Facebook, Twitter etc. I don't write that often here now, but you never know when I might feel the urge to do so.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
We're on the road again - driving the 67 miles up the A1 from Acaster Malbis to my home town - Bishop Auckland in County Durham - a place I've not visited since the last time I saw my parents in July 2002. That seems like a lifetime ago - I'm not the same person by any means, and my parents have long since moved away (without telling me, which I can't for the life of me understand. I certainly couldn't do that to any of my children).
As I'm not in contact with anyone in the town these days this visit is basically one for the memories...and a chance to show Beth my "roots". Afterwards we plan to drive to Durham - a town of which I've always enjoyed visiting. It's probably something to do with all the bookshops...
It's been a fullfilling and tiring day. We arrived in Bishop Auckland at about 11:00, driving first to Etherley Lane - the road where I spent my childhood:
The old corner shop (not shown in the picture) is still there, as is Latherbrush railway bridge (over which I used to walk on the way to Etherley Lane Primary School). The railway line going past the back of the house is overgrown now though. I remember how the house used to shake when the freight trains went by, and the cracks we used to find in some of the walls as time went by.
It was odd going back there, but somehow cathartic...I guess I've been needing to do this for a long time.
Afterwards we drove into the town centre and down the hill at Newton Cap Bank to the river, where we spent a little time walking around and enjoying the tranquility.
Our final stop in the area was Binchester (on the road to Durham, where we were heading next), where two of my grandparents once lived. The house on Peel Street is still there, and the village looks as windswept and precarious as ever. Despite that, it endures. Amazing really.
We arrived in Durham in early afternoon, dropped the car at the park and ride and took a bus into town. Perhaps not surprisingly, we found ourselves walking towards Durham Cathedral. I've been there before of course, but this is the first time I've visited since I found my Faith, so this visit was especially poignant. The architecture of the building is as intricate and amazing as ever and the sense of timelessness is something that just can't be ignored. It's almost too much to comprehend.
After a light lunch in a local tea shop we wandered around the town for a while, popping into shops when we found one that was interesting or unusual. Before we knew it the end of the day was rapidly approaching and we stopped at another teashop (called Rumbletums, no less!) before heading back to the car for the 74 mile drive back to the cottage.
Tomorrow we're planning to spend a chilled day out before going to a New Year gathering in the evening.
Footnote: There is a large collection of images of my hometown taken in 2004 on FILMAR Photography's site at http://www.filmar.co.uk/photo_36955.html. Well worth a look if you're a Bishop ex-pat like myself.
Friday, December 29, 2006
As is always the case with holidays, our first full day in York didn't go quite as planned. First of all, the bus we were waiting for to take us into town didn't arrive (the fact that there was some confusion over which bus stop we should go to didn't help) so we ended up driving to the park and ride at Askham Bar anyway. It was £7 for a 7 day ticket, which isn't bad at all.
We'd arranged to meet Nikki (an old aquaintance of mine) and her friend Liz in a bar called Varsity in the town centre at 1:30pm, but it was half an hour later before they finally arrived. Unfortunately both of them are smokers so the environment was less than ideal for us. Still, the place was friendly enough, and the food wasn't bad.
We chatted for ages, although they mostly seemed to want to talk about trans stuff - I'd far rather discuss other subjects which are more relevant to me now, and of course Beth is bored silly by the subject.
Although we'd only planned to meet them for lunch we ended up going from there to another bar called the Living Lounge. This place was far more to our taste (and they do some mean cocktails...) and after a while we retired to the restaurant for a light meal (who needs a main course when you can have a starter then dessert? )
It was a long and fun day but we really could have done without the stench of cigarette smoke being on the clothes we wore during the day. Ugh.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Beth and I have just arrived at our holiday cottage at Chestnut Farm just outside York. This is the first time we've had a holiday like this (actually, it's the first time we've had a holiday since we met in 2004) so this is a new experience for us.
The cottage has a bathroom and double bedroom downstairs and an open plan kitchen/lounge upstairs. They even set up a Christmas tree for us in the lounge. Despite its small size it's very cosy - just what we need for snuggling up together on cold winter nights!
Like (I suspect) most professional people these days we're more used to staying in hotels* than this style of accommodation so we overlooked a few things like towels and a hairdryer (I packed it, but Beth unpacked it saying they'd surely provide one :doh. Next on the itinerary is a trip to the local supermarket. One thing we can't buy there is an internet connection, so we're going cold turkey for a little while. I'm writing this on a PDA in case we find an internet cafe on our travels...
* Remember I spent nearly two months living in hotels while I was in Thailand for surgery in 2003-2004. I'm pretty familiar with how they work, and the cottage is a really pleasant change from that sort of routine....well that was interesting. After we'd unpacked we headed off in search of those little things we missed and ended up driving around York before finding a supermarket (Tescos - ugh!). By the time we got back we were both ready to munch and as I write this Beth is cooking something hot 'n' spicy with the ingredients we bought.
It's dark here, so what better than to light up a couple of candles and chill out with a glass of Cabernet Savignon?
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
When I was little I remember my family gathering each year for Christmas, and all the celebration (and drama!) that entailed. Those days are long gone now, and with the unexpected direction my life has taken it's the sort of experience I never expected to have again.
As often transpires with life, I was wrong.
When I first met Beth's parents they welcomed me into their family, and over the last year in particular we've visited each other often. A month ago the four of us also attended a family gathering in Harlow where I met more of the Mackenzie "clan". It was a blast.
This year we planned to spend Christmas with Beth's parents before heading up to York for the New Year (both of us have history and friends there, so it seemed like an ideal place to go).
Although I guess I shouldn't be surprised, I have to say that yesterday (Christmas Day) felt very special to me - as well as the four of us, Beth's Nan visited, along with her brother Ross and three of her cousins. Beth's latest creation (chestnut cheesecake) went down a storm with everyone (Ross's face was a real picture when he saw it. Of course I caught it on camera so the whole family has had a good laugh at it!).
Despite my perpetual migraine (it always strikes when it's least welcome) we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Throughout the day I took photos which I've copied to Beth's dad's PC so they can print them out later for the family album. It was looking through those pictures this morning with the family which made me realise how special this Christmas has been.
The contrast with my birth family (who couldn't be bothered to send us a card, and didn't even answer the text I sent them yesterday wishing them Happy Christmas) couldn't be more acute.
You know what? Stuff 'em - it's their hangups that are the problem, after all. I have a new family now.