Day 9 – Sun 20 Sept

22 09 2009
Me up north - not grim at all.

Me up north - not grim at all.

Plans … what are they eh?  The idea had been to set out for the Angel of the North quite early in the day and then travel down to Leeds.  However, Jane suggested a walk along the beach at Whitley Bay and it was such a lovely day I couldn’t refuse.  They say “it’s grim up north” but really this isn’t true.  I think they’ve been making it up just to get attention.  The sunshine was glorious and at one point I was actually hot.  And this with no cardi on, walking along a beach alongside the North Sea.

Before I knew it, it was almost 1pm so we said our goodbyes and I left for Gateshead.  I had seen the shadowy figure of the Angel the previous night on my way to Whitley Bay and was very excited about getting there because this was the reason my road trip became more than just a visit to a few friends.  I wasn’t disappointed – it’s wonderful.  Like Stonehenge, I’ve heard people saying it’s not as big as they thought it would be.  It’s HUGE!  I don’t know what people are expecting.

The Angel of the North - seeing this is another ambition fulfilled.

The Angel of the North - seeing this was another ambition fulfilled.

Needless to say I took hundreds of photographs – I know I won’t get anything that’s not been done before but it was a joy to shoot.  The light, again, was glorious.  I was even happy that there were people around its feet and the hill surrounding it.  Normally I’d want an unadulterated shot but this is public art at its best – so the public should really be included.  It was fun watching people go further and further back to get it all in (not easy, even with a wide angle).

And yes, I did just stop to look at it as well as taking photos.  I have learned to do this over the years – though it did take me a while to realise I was seeing everything through a lense.  I have improved.

Off again and this time heading for York where I’d originally planned to have lunch and meet up with Cheeky.  It turned out she wasn’t coming into York this weekend so I didn’t worry too much about timing.  On the way there I heard a clunk on the car on the passenger side and it seemed as though a stone had hit the underside.  I wasn’t unduly worried but then I could hear a regular clicking sound.  I also thought I could sense that something was hitting the road to make that sound so I pulled onto the hard shoulder.  I checked the front of the car and there was indeed a piece of plastic from under the front, hanging down and touching the ground.  I moved it back and up, checked again and could find nothing else.  I set off again but the sound came back.  It seemed to get worse when I was doing about 50 or 60 mph and I decided to get off the main road.  I turned off for Darlington and noticed that it started scraping when I got down to 30 mph.

Of course it was Sunday so the first garage type place I passed was closed.  Then, just as I was getting into Darlington itself I spotted a motor parts and accessories shop.  I pulled over and went in – said I realised it wasn’t what they did there but would someone be able to take a quick look at my car to confirm (or otherwise) that there was no more damage to my car than this bit of plastic.  I really just wanted another opinion for peace of mind.

They were lovely and the one guy got down on the floor and said it had come away because my tyres were a bit too wide and that had dislodged it.  He tucked it away properly for me and when I drove off it was fine again.  They were Motormania in Darlington – go and buy lots of things from them.

I arrived in York as the light was going.

I arrived in York as the light was going.

So I was on my way again and finally made it to York.  The car parking was interesting.  I didn’t have enough change on me so tried to pay for parking by phone.  It wouldn’t work and I didn’t know what to do except try again.  Another failure.  So I decided to try to enter my card details again and I think I must have miskeyed it the first time because after that it accepted my security code and payment.  I felt a bit odd walking away without a ticket to display on the car though.

I walked into the central part of the city (inside the wall) to discover that I had missed the York Food Festival and that the light had gone from the buildings.  No matter – I just wanted a cuppa so after a short walk around the town I went to the Bridge Street Cafe and had a lovely mug of tea and some onion rings to keep me going.  This after having no change again had caused me to lurk around the ladies’ loo until someone came out of a cubicle so I could get in without putting a coin in the slot.  I was so good at the start of the journey about remembering to keep change but had run low.

Finally I got myself to Leeds and arrived at Victoria and Craig’s.  It was lovely to see them both and spend some proper time with them.  I have seen them both at Glastonbury many times in the past but never had the chance to chat to either of them for any length of time.  They made me feel very welcome and I had a lovely evening there with them.  Lovely Thai takeaway too – yum!  Oh and the most comfortable bed so far on the trip.

Miles travelled – 134, (total mileage – 1,101)

The magnificent Angel of the North at Gateshead - by Antony Gormley

The magnificent Angel of the North at Gateshead - by Antony Gormley


Day 8 – Sat 19 Sept

22 09 2009
Brenda seeing me off from her balcony - shes dead posh.

Brenda seeing me off from her balcony - she's dead posh.

Left Brenda’s later than planned – about 11.30 – and headed off to Bradford after a breakfast of three oatcakes with cheese.  Was very tired en route – presumably on account of the oatcakes – so pulled over to services for a sit.  Carried on to Nik and Shay’s in Bradford.  I was struck by the lovely bricks – golden coloured but stained black by the heavy industry of the area.  On the way the road rose up over what I assumed were moors  on either side – mostly empty apart from a few buildings, and also not many cars on the road with me.  It felt like I was on my own there.  Nik said it was part of the M62, Saddleworth Moor – the highest (above sea level) stretch of motorway in the country.

Grabbed my daily self portrait in Nik and Shays mirror, surrounded by Aoifes art.

Grabbed my daily self portrait in Nik and Shay's mirror, surrounded by Aoife's art.

Had a wonderful Indian meal – a takeaway from their local Gujurati restaurant which was a welcome change from the usual Bangladeshi/Sylhet fayre I’m used to.  Amazing flavours and such variety.  And, as expected, a warm welcome and great company.  Before I knew it, it was past three o’clock and I was ready to head off again, this time towards Teesside to see Mandy.

I had to stop for a little while at the services and there I finally got around to joining the AA.  I had meant to do it before leaving the island but their site was down the night before I set off.  Had to do it all over the phone and was nearly tempted to go for the monthly payment deal they had which would have given me the tow home option as well, but when she gabbled the terms and conditions at me I queried the bit about services and she confirmed that I had to get the car serviced annually to be eligible for the bit where they pay for stuff to be done if they can’t do it.  No thanks – I can’t afford to get my car serviced, let alone do the stuff they suggest needs doing.  Got basic roadside cover.

Had a lovely hour with Mandy chatting – nice biscuits too! – and was amazed by her incredible collection of dragons.  Soon I was off again, travelling further north. I arrived with Jane in Whitley Bay at around half past eight (I think! – I’m getting behind with these blogs and I’m losing bits – knew this would happen).  On the way I could see the dark figure of the Angel of the North alongside the road but didn’t dare stare at it for too long while I was driving.  Quite exciting though – and it was a little spooky in the dark.  Jane’s mum was staying with her so it was nice to meet her for the first time.  Once again the plan for an early night was thwarted by ‘second wind’ and good conversation.

Didn’t take many photos today – too busy travelling.

Miles travelled – 237, (total mileage – 967)

Day 7 – Fri 18 Sept

22 09 2009

Today was the 100th birthday of Lawrence Stanley Lee – the artist whose stained glass windows I was photographing at the start of this road trip.

Starlings near Crosby Beach - very noisy but cute.

Starlings near Crosby Beach - very noisy but cute.

Brenda and I went to Crosby Beach to see Antony Gormley’s “Another Place”.  I love Antony Gormley’s work and this was a ‘must see’ for ‘one day’ – couldn’t believe I was actually going to go there.  It was dull and overcast when we got there and we thought it was going to be a cold day.  The tide was in, though had been on its way out for a couple of hours.  Brenda and I took a few photos of the few figures that were emerging from the water, and some very noisy starlings who were congregating around a couple of tractors and the fence by the car park.

We went off to find town (near the beach are no shops or anything – superb) so Brenda could go to cashpoint and we could eat.  The only place that seemed suitable was a Subway – Brenda’s first time.  I’ve been in Subway several times but I still can’t understand a word the staff say and I’m still not sure how it all works because I bumble through the choices like an idiot.  Is it just me or are they trained to be unintelligible?

I had put a few of my roadtrip photos onto a small memory stick so I could print them at a Kodak Kiosk (in Boots) but for some reason the files had corrupted between putting them on this morning and getting them to the kiosk.  The plan had been to send them as postcards using these cunning self-seal postcard frames.

The sunlight at Crosby was spectacular

The sunlight at Crosby was spectacular

We went back to beach after lunch and spent ages there photographing the statues.  The sun had come out and the water and the beach were glistening.  In the distance was a wind farm – surprisingly still.  The turbines across the estuary were turning slowly but the ones in the sea were motionless.  No idea why or how.

Each of the figures was different.  The few near the promenade were just rusty but as you went further away from the shoreline they became more and more encrusted in barnacles and many had mussels clinging to the feet.  Fascinating how each figure had become an individual according to the way the life had grown on it – facial features either disappeared or, in some cases, grown to produce hooked noses, prominent chins or lopsided features.  One had so many barnacles that the arms and the torso were as one.

Brenda hiding behind her camera

Brenda hiding behind her camera

Brenda headed back to the car before me and by the time I got there she’d got us a cuppa which was most welcome.  We sat for a while watching the starlings again, who were all standing in the shadows of the parked cars (and possibly also sheltering from the breeze) – and many were being fed chips or bits of bread by the occupants.

We made our way back to Mow Cop, calling at a corner shop for oatcakes, and the chipshop for chips (and a pickled egg) on the way back.  Spent the evening looking at the photos and I managed to post a blog entry.

Miles travelled – 126 (total mileage – 730)

Heading back to the car, I couldnt help looking back for another shot - several times!  Theres a real person in this one.

Heading back to the car, I couldn't help looking back for another shot - several times! There's a real person in this one.

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