Yes, I had a totally fantastic time and can only hope to blog a few memorable moments. Like the train which failed to get up the hill, the cold-induced delirium of night-time swimming, drinking games with the gorgeously feminine voices which followed, giant scary sea creatures at the aquarium, the wonders of Wordplay, the views of the sea and everyone’s amazing company. Onward to next year!
Particularly in light of the numerous ‘Leeds?!’ reactions I had to my holiday plans, let me start off by saying how impressed I was by the city. Admittedly, yeah, we stayed confined to the centre, but that was still enough to really rate what they’ve done with the streets. I’ve said for ages that cities can be made so much nicer by aggressively stripping out the cars, but it only takes two minutes strolling down wide, clean, beautifully pedestrianised streets of Leeds to know how true this really is. True, it is a little shopping focused, but not entirely, and it nevertheless very clearly illustrates the pressing need for change elsewhere. There’s no chance of such progress in London under Boris, of course, but once he’s been dispensed with we should start looking very seriously at which parts of central London can be rid entirely of private vehicles whilst maintaining decent public transport networks.
Anyway! On Thursday night Lucy and I were delighted to meet up with a certain Andrew Kings and eat out to Pizza Express, who very thoughtfully gave us plenty of time to chat before bringing us any food. (Some kind of conspiracy?) We did end up with free dough balls, though, which is almost as good as free cheese. And it was so lovely to see Andy again after about 0.69 x 10^2 years! (HH – you are so on the list for next time.) Feast your eyes:
Friday was our turbo-tourist day, during which we ended up at the most fascinating exhibition on social order, ‘Rank’, at the Leeds Art Gallery. Aside from being genuinely interesting, it also felt pleasingly like a very pleasant form of exam revision; in any case, I’m sure I’ll be able to drop it in to my next DoS meeting. In the evening we culminated this rather cultural day with a performance of The Tempest at The Grand. I haven’t read the play, and Shakespeare can sometimes be rather difficult to follow in these cases, but as it turned out it was both easily accessible and very entertaining. The RSC were giving it all a rather clever African and colonialist theme, which I thought worked very well, raising questions about your sympathies without being too heavy-handed about it all.
(There is a story about the above photo, by the way. Although we laugh about accent stuff most of the time, when buying these ice-creams I have to admit that I couldn’t quite follow every single word the guy said. That’s how we ended up with ice-creams with everything on: when in doubt, just say ‘yes’ and hope it turns out well.)
And then on Saturday we headed back home, after seeing The Young Victoria in the morning, a film which I will spare much comment aside from the fact that I was perhaps the only person in the world disappointed that we never reached the repeal of the Corn Laws. And thus concludes our Easter holiday in Yorkshire… aside from one, very important thing. Books! Obviously, us geeks try and fill gaps with reading, so I finished off Book Club’s 100 Years of Solitude before moving on to Valis and Animal Farm. The last one, I feel, has probably lost most of its power given that I felt I knew exactly what was about to happen at most points… the effects of history, I suppose. But it was Valis with which I really struggled – for most of the week – and I’m certain that this was not quite the best Philip K. Dick novel for me. (William Blake gave me enough trouble: I just don’t do mystic.) So, suggestions please: what’s his best work?
Up next: return of the dinner party…
In order to serve you better, the next couple of posts will emerge in an exciting multi-part serial format, with all the narrative runarounds and painful padding of a children’s television drama. And it would please me greatly if you could all try not to do anything notable during this period, so that I don’t fall further behind. All agreed? Good. So if you’re sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin…
For the first half of my Easter holiday with Lucy – the countrysidey bit – we were based in the Crakehall Watermill. This was an awesome B&B and exuded friendliness to the extent that our hosts were printing and annotating bus timetables with suggested visits, offering to give us lifts to the nearby village and bringing fresh milk in a little flask every evening. Reccomended! Plus, check out the surroundings…
On Tuesday we visited the village of Hawes (pronounced the way you wish it would be) to fulfil my primary life aim: to visit a cheese factory! And the most exciting part of a cheese factory, as you might imagine, is the free cheese. A very wide selection of free cheese samples, in fact. I think the countryside is onto a winner here, personally. As did the friendly old man sitting on a bench outside this dairy paradise, who started talking to us through the age-old method of opening with a joke (it wasn’t the best, but then it was better than most of mine) before moving on to extolling the benefits of the North. (Which was a bit of a running theme that day, actually, as a woman on the bus had already told her friend about the pressures of living at a ‘frenetic pace’ in, erm, Oxford.) The conversation swiftly moved on to why there “has to be a creator” because “a Big Bang would only be messy” and reached a bit of a low when he introduced us to a companion as “this man and his girlfriend or wife”. Beating a retreat, this man and his girlfriend or wife walked back through Hawes where the BNP had taken to handing out leaflets at the market. I really am annoyed at myself for refusing one with a smiling ‘no, thank you’ – damn British instinct – and would like to amend the record to a ‘fuck off, thank you’ if possible. But it did really highlight the peculiarities of a place that can be so warm and friendly to some and so viciously exclusionary to others.
We set aside the time on Wednesday to attempt a real and proper walk through the Dales. Armed with water, a few sweets, a map and a healthy sense of optimism, we made our way through the beautiful countryside to seek out the village of Redmire. There were ups and downs, of course. At one might we may have darted across a railway, jumped past a troublesome gate and had to scramble over a wall in order to regain some semblance of a footpath. And the mighty Redmire was perhaps a little too village-like, offering no possibility of lunch after all, but help was at hand in the form of a well-timed train, and we ended up somewhere slightly more populated tucking into the best burgers and milkshakes ever. Success!
Stay tuned for Leeds…
Hello there! I’m back, and the first thing you should do is check out my photo gallery and make yourself all jealous and\or amused at the dry predictability of summer holiday snaps. Go on, do it now – I’ll wait. Done that? Sure? Right, now for a drop of the accompanying written commentary…
Some holiday things:
- Firstly, there was the reading. As already alluded, book club has really spurred me into action and this holiday I finished The Lost Continent before reading White Teeth (absolutely loved it), Finity (silly sci-fi, though fun in places) and The Time Traveller’s Wife (a great read, though curiously lacking much tension). I then started Lolita which I’m now half-way through and struggling with: at times the book just succeeds in creeping me out.
- True to my modern history roots, one of the most interesting bits of the holiday was the ‘Story of the War’ walking tour in Dubrovnik. An excellent guide made it utterly compelling.
- Watching something in German makes even the most banal of TV hilarious. Special mention to the host of a phone-in quiz TV channel at 1am, who alternated between a hushed silence and manic shouting that the prize money had just reached DEN DHOUSAND! euros.
- Buses in Dubrovnik are cheap, crowded and not averse to attempting to chop someone’s arm off in their doors. Pretty decent in all though, which we ascribed to the grand powers of the imaginary TfD.
- Jakov appeared at the airport!
Back in the UK: it was AS and A2 results day on the 14th, which means mega-congratulations to Lucy, Josie, Lou, Andy and everyone else at Waseley, as well as Maya, Fliss, Sanna and everyone else who was either failed to let me know how they did yet or I’ve forgotten. Yay!
And now I must return to my swiftly reducing Outlook pile of outstanding items, which include a better quality photo of me and Ken, a business project (more on that later) and other assorted things which demand my time. But if you feel like pulling me away from such stuff for post-holiday reunions, please do get in touch
So, we sit. The Self family sit on the hotel balcony overlooking the sea. Each chair is positioned precisely to minimise eye contact with any other member of the family, but granting splendid views of each other’s (tanned) backs. What are we doing? Why, reading, naturally! An old French novel of epic confusion, The Time Traveler’s [sic] Wife, some Dan Brown, an issue of Nature and Finity. I’ll leave you to decide who was which, naturally.
Two French holiday-makers stroll past. Looking at us, one concludes to the other “well, they are English” in an obvious attempt to explain such eccentricity. Not, obviously, in English. But as it happens, it’s not so impossible to find non-English speaking English, and my parents happen to belong to such a niche. So there.
I felt like correcting them – “British, actually”. But I didn’t. The weather’s lovely, though.
(Apologies for the writing style, but we have honestly all been reading a lot.)