Saturday, 26 November 2011


Illuminated fish parade in Durham

No blogging for a while because we’ve been travelling. When Lois was a student at St Andrews, she did a trip around Scotland on a bike and envied people in campervans. So, we did the trip in our new van. We also took in the Lumiére in Durham on the way.
The Lumiére was fascinating, I hesitate to say illuminating, because most of the time I had no idea what was going on or why. For example, a parade of children walks through the streets each child holding illuminated fish, made of paper maché. The fish are about 2 or 3 feet long and on sticks so they appear to float above the crowd. An enormous Heron, similarly illuminated, leads them. Why would fish be led by a Heron? Don’t Herons eat fish? Or has someone just discovered that Herons are now into fish farming? Anyway, it filled the street with a massive crowd all saying oooh and aaah. If you get enough kids from enough schools taking part, I guess you are guaranteed a big crowd of parents, aunties, uncles and other associates. I loved the huge perspex bubble over the statue. Filled with polystyrene balls and fans it made a snowstorm, like those little models you turn upside down.

One thing I did notice was the body mass of the people in the crowd. Mostly they look thin and fit. Durham centre is largely pedestrianised and full of steep hills that everyone must walk up and down to get anywhere at all. Have they solved the obesity crisis by getting everyone to take more exercise? It ought to be possible to compare obesity in hilly towns with flat ones. Someone should get onto it.

Throughout the town there are fixed displays, often exploiting reflections from the river that winds through Durham. Other features light up ancient buildings in novel ways, sometimes telling stories, sometimes just making ancient beauty visible. I found it hard to take good pictures because there were so many people milling around that it was very difficult to get a clear view of anything. 

After Durham, we set off north, hoping to find a service station to park at overnight. Unfortunately, we missed the last one on the A1 because the car park signs were confusing and we rapidly found ourselves in a position where there was no way back. A 23foot motorhome is not an HGV, not a coach and not a car or a caravan, so sometimes, particularly in the dark, it can be hard to guess where they want you to park.
Lois doing her own breakfast

Further north we found the road closed, with diversion signs. Very diverting, in that we spent the next hour in low gears winding and zig-zagging around parts of Northumberland, gradually running low on fuel and wondering what sort of maze we had stumbled into. We eventually emerged onto the A68 and found a lay bye with a sign that implied that there would be a snack truck during the daytime. We took that as an indication that it might be OK to park for the night slept. In due course, I had breakfast served by Sally who provides meals to truckers every day from 7am until 2pm. Such roadside meals are awash with gluten, so Lois ate in the van.

Sunrise on the A68
The truckers told us there was a fuel station a few miles south, so we went back that way. Unfortunately, the crucial sign giving directions was almost invisible behind a mass of foliage and we ended up on the A69 going east. As luck would have it, we had enough fuel to get into Newcastle, so filled up and spent the morning at the Sage centre and the Baltic Gallery.

The Baltic had an exhibition of the Turner Prize contestants. I’ve looked at many Turner exhibits over the years but this one did the least for me that I can remember. OK so it’s good to give one’s scoffing muscles a work out from time to time, but fortunately, there were another exhibits in the Baltic, and they were more fun, as was the graffiti on the walls outside. 

The most northerly surf beach on mainland UK
From Newcastle, we went to Aviemore, too soon for snow, but a good chance to check things out. The next day we headed on north until we could get no further.

Along the way we started getting messages that there had been progress on the house selling front so headed home rather than on around the north and west of Scotland.

We came down through the Great Glen, not seeing any monsters on Loch Ness, went through Glen Coe, around Loch Lomond through the traffic in Glasgow and down the M6. 

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