Sunday, 29 August 2010

Corbridge - Part II

So, what else did we see and do in Corbridge?  Bill had recommended lunch at the Black Bull, which turned out to be excellent advice.  


It was a traditional olde-worlde place with coal-burning fireplaces and leather chairs that made me think 'Gentlemen's Club' (Except these days the lap dancing parlours have usurped that name.  

I feel a rant coming on, so we'll move on now...)

After lunch we headed to Bishop's Yard, which was a major find.   You'll never know how much discipline I had to use.  

 Actually, given we were on the train I couldn't really buy much, but boy did I see loads of temptations.  

Lawrence Stephenson Antiques was in the

most beautiful building, light and airy.  They had loads of lovely old furniture.  

It was rather conservative compared with the other places we found.  

I took their business card as they do furniture refinishing and some of mine could do with a touch up.  Mind, ever since I had my buffet refinished I've lived in terror that someone will put a wet glass on it, so maybe it's better to leave it shabby.

Then we visited the folks I'd read about in Country Living.  Their shop was fairly amazing.  It's call REfound Objects.  Their website is really clever, I think; all those words that end up having RE in them. 

Yes, that is a light fixture made from wine bottles...
The warehouse is an amazing space, particularly in the sunlight.  


I have found that sunlight can make even the worst streets look almost inviting.  

I did my best to get excited about the goods they were selling, but interesting as some of them were, in person they looked 

a little weird, or at least not of a style that would fit into my house at all.  

I couldn’t get excited about any of it, even to things 

that looked very attractive on the website.  The article did emphasise that the buyer didn't chase the market, but stocked what 

appealed to him and perhaps we just don't like the same things.  Or, it may well be that it was such a jarring contrast to the 

place we'd visited before I couldn't adapt to what I was seeing.  

Looking at some of my photos I think this is most likely the case and I've just about talked myself into some of the items in building this blog post!  

However, given how drawn I was to the magazine article and to the website, I found that a salutary lesson to remember about shopping on the internet.  

All that said, I'd go back again to see it, because it is a fascinating place.

I have two or three more wonderful finds I want to share, and Blogger is not behaving well, so we'll just have to continue this in the next post!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Corbridge - Part I

In planning our day out, Vivien came up with a couple of interesting ideas, but one was gallery pretty far away and the other didn't open until noon. I googled 'art galleries in Northumberland' and found a fair concentration in Corbridge, a pretty little village west of Newcastle, about a 30 minute train journey.  I couldn't believe that in the 20 years or thereabouts that Vivien has lived up here, she'd never been to Corbridge, but that just made it all the better to go, didn't it?

In addition to art galleries, I listed craft and clothing shops and took note of the pubs that Bill recommended for lunch. Of course there was the shop I'd read about in my thrifted magazine (or was it feted? - sorry) in Bishop's Yard.   I just knew we were going to have a good time, and sure enough we did.  The bad news is that my camera packed up. I’ve pushed a button I didn’t mean to and messed up the ‘shutter aperture’ or the 'f-stop' and had no idea how to fix them.  The good news is that Vivien had a cute little point-and-click jobbie that she let me use.

Apart from a short lived deluge, the weather was glorious. I had to remind myself that I was still in the North of England, only about 30 miles inland from the coast. We met up at the Central Station and took the train into the village.  We both remembered our past lives wherein the train station was the beginning of a very long day of meetings in London or Birmingham.  It's a lovely thing to remember all those sprints over the bridge to catch that 6am train when they are behind you and the present, leisurely, trip is just for fun.  We met up at a civilised hour - 10 am only to find that every westbound train didn't stop at Corbridge, so we sat and had a cup of coffee.

Corbridge is a rather posh little village that sits on the River Tyne. The train station is a short walk over river on the stone bridge where some impressive houses have exquisite views.  

Corbridge also has some seriously ancient history.  It is near the Roman ruin, Corstopitum, on Hadrian's Wall.

The first little shop we came to was called Craft Works at the Forge.  Even had my camera been working properly, I wasn't sure photographs would be allowed.  I can tell you it had airy-light leaves shaped into metal bowls, kits to make felted wool bags, wreaths made of lavender, crocheted wire jewelry and fabric hearts with sayings embroidered on them.

Then there was a kitchen shop that had all those things you don’t know how you lived without, like polka dotted tea sets and a basting brush made from the new silicon material instead of straw, aprons with catchy sayings, small Thermos's in a rainbow of colours and even glass jars exactly like your marmalade comes in, for only £1. 

We visited the church, 

the site of which dates back to the 600s. 


It had a pele tower with slits for arrows, something I don’t normally associate with a church. 

It was called the 'Vicar's Pele' and the sign said
This tower, the finest of its kind, was built about AD 1300 for a vicar of Corbridge and was lived in as a fortified vicarage until the early seventeenth century.

We got caught up admiring these stained glass windows. 


The words at the bottom read:  

To the Glory of God and in Memory of Mary Tiffery, wife of Daniel Stephens, J.P., of Ravenstone, Corbridge.  Born in Brixham, S Devon 25th Sept 1843.  Died in Newcastle, 19th Feb 1917.  

Which is neither here nor there, except that Ravenstone still stands, just south of Corbridge, and it is an impressive estate. Thank you Google maps!

We were leaving the church and got swept up by a woman with shoulder length white hair who was telling another lady about the church’s history. The white haired woman -- your quintessential WI type -- raised her voice to tell us she was the church historian and though she wasn’t going into her whole spiel, we would want to hear this tidbit. At that point it would have been rude not to stop and listen. 

The inside door, which I’d just photographed, was of etched glass and we were told it had just been put up in the last 6 or 8 years in memory of someone named Atkinson. We should know who that was, we knew someone named Atkinson, but of course neither of us had a clue.   Turns out it was put there in memory of a Mrs. Atkinson whose son is named Rowan, aka Mr. Bean. They weren’t from Corbridge, only nearby, she didn’t know where.   According to Wikipedia, he was born in Consett, County Durham, about 17 miles away, but perhaps his parents lived nearer Corbridge later on in life.

There was a plaque just outside the church yard that impressed the heck out of me: 

The scene of stormy events in the past.
In 796 Ethelred, King of Northumbria was slain here.  
In 918 King Regnal the Dane defeated the English and Scots armies here.  
In 1138 King David I of Scotland occupied the town.  
In 1201 it was searched by King John.  
It was three times burned, by Wallace in 1296, by Robert Bruce in 1312 and in 1346 by David II of Scotland.  
The present bridge, built in 1674, was the only Tyne Bridge to survive the floods of 1771.  
In 1948, Shelley's beloved partner, Bill, was born at the Corbridge Maternity Hospital.
OK, it didn't say that last part, though it's true, but really, there has been a lot of swash buckling gone on there, hasn't there? 

We did eventually get around to finding one of the art galleries, after admiring the lovely stone buildings,


some really wonderful architectural details

and the horse troughs-cum-flower pots.  It always strikes me that any English village that has any self-respect will turn any


vaguely upturned structure into an excuse to plant flowers.  I'm in full support.


In addition to flowers everywhere, this village seemed to favour sundials. Seems a perfect example of that

saying about the triumph of hope over experience, but then I'm a real cynic about sunshine in this part of the world, though that particular day did prove me wrong.

The gallery was called Off the Wall, and it was really a shop, but never mind.  We both really liked the paintings by Peter Rodgers.  They reminded me vaguely of L.S. Lowry's work, something about the black figures and the familiar city scenes.  What's not to love about scenes from Newcastle, Venice and Paris?

I also liked the Raku clocks and I'm sad I can't show them to you.  They were built like simple little houses.  Turns out that raku is a Japanese pottery technique for producing an oxidized finish, nothing to do with the shape of the structures.  The process looks like a pyromaniacs dream.

There is a lot more about Corbridge to show you, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Button Embroidery

Following up on an article from Threads magazine, I dressed up this simple top with buttons from my enormous stash.  

You begin my machine basting a boundary for the area you want to define.  I used washable marking pencil and some jar lids to draw a scallop on the reverse side of my top.  


Then I set the stitch width to its widest and sewed along that line.


The thread is a pearl cotton, which proved a real challenge to locate.  After visiting the flea market, a specialist needlework shop and the two main department stores in town with a 'haberdashery' -- I couldn't make these quaint olde words up -- department (John Lewis and Fenwick), with no luck at all, I was sent to a hardware store in Whitley Bay, of all things.  They have a little crafts corner and there was the white pearl cotton embroidery thread I wanted.

You can only use flat buttons for this, not ones with a shank.  The object is to create a sort of spiders web over the buttons.  My object was to cover a small stain I couldn't wash out, but also to try this embellishment.  

I learned a few things I would do differently:  

  • Not go twice between two buttons - parallel lines aren't spider webby enough
  • Unlike in the magazine pictures, space the buttons further apart.  Getting the tension of the threads right is tricky and spacing doesn't hurt the look.
  • I got everyone on more or less the way I wanted, but then I went back and make more 'web' to enhance the look beyond the need to secure the buttons

I expect I'll do this again on something else, perhaps a jacket lapel or the wrist of a sleeve.  I've got loads more buttons...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Yorkshire Day Out

A friend of ours, Terry, decided he wanted to do a race in a small village in North Yorkshire and invited us along.  I hadn't been in top form for the last couple of weeks and so wasn't fit to do even a short race (especially not one as hilly as that), but thought it would be a good day out.  

There were several races planned for the day, for varying age groups, but Bill and Terry were only going to do one.  My first job was to see them off at the start. 

Terry had recommended I should go see the 14th century village 

church where they had a list of men who died at Culloden

You always hear about the losses of the Scots - who lost the battle - more than Englishmen who died.  

I was surprised to find that the church inside looked almost identical to the one Jane and I had seen in Kettlewell a couple of years ago.  


Given that Kettlewell is very close, Bill surmised that a single architect will have been responsible for building Anglican churches.  


Even though the site of the church has remnants going back several centuries, the main part of the building is in fact 19th century.

Having duly visited the church, I went back to the village fete (pronounced FATE; I say that as I was never sure, having never attended one until I came to England; for all that, it's a French word.) 


I found table upon table of books and magazines.  I've been really good of late, but couldn't resist the Country Living magazines.   

I was proud of myself at bargaining them down from 50p each to 3 for a quid.  


Mind, I probably could have had the whole lot for a couple of pounds, but I didn't want to carry them around while I waited for the guys.   

Everyone and their dog, literally, seemed to be out on the village green.  I thought these pooches were so lovely I approached the lady to ask about them.  The beige dog is an Italian Spinone (I didn't catch the name properly and thought about spaghetti or a musical instrument); 

the charcoal coloured dog is a Bouvier (I restrained myself from asking if it was named Jackie).

Terry and Bill both came in about the same time and we went back to the car so they could change out of sweaty clothes.  Don't ask me how this happens, changing clothes in a field in broad daylight; it's just one of those things runners learn to do.  I never gave it a thought until writing it here. 

Then we got hotdogs from the stand that had been throwing delicious scents at me ever since we arrived.  Then to the pub so they could have a pint.  

The pub turned out to be one of the last in the country that serves ale in jugs.  The guy behind the bar stooped down to draw the requested beers out of the kegs into a jug and then into the pint glasses.  I had a plain tonic as I figured I'd be driving home, but we ended up staying several more hours to watch the fell races and all so the pint didn't matter after all.

At some point I pushed the wrong button on my camera and either the shutter speed or the aperature setting are demanding to be set.  Will have to look up how to set them and what to set them to.  Anyhow, we stayed to watch the fell race, run in two age groups and by a subset of the people who had run the previous race.  


The term 'fell' is one I only met after coming here.  It's not because when you've done the race you fell down a lot, though that is generally speaking the case with me.  It was amazing to watch these people run straight up and straight down this horrendous cliff.  It must be genetic, as they included mere kids and old gadgies alike.  


Just watching wore me out, so I was glad to get into the car and tackle my magazines and my knitting project on the way home.

Funny enough, Vivien and I had planned another day out, to Corbridge, and in one of the magazines there was an article about two former fashion industry types from London who had moved to Slaley and opened an eclectic shop in Corbridge.  

I was meant to buy those magazines, obviously.