York

I trawled the dark streets, looking for my fix. I was getting desperate. How would I get through tomorrow if I didn’t get it today?

Diesel, of course. I spent an hour on Wednesday trying to find a garage without a huge queue  and then panic bought a tank full of diesel. But since we were travelling up to York the following morning, I think I was justified.

We were fortunate that the traffic was very light on the motorways. The only slight delay was due to a wide load on the M5. We managed to reach the hotel, just north of York, despite my wrong turns, in a little under 6 hours.

After a quick freshen up, we headed in to York and the Minster. Its the 2nd largest gothic minster in Europe and in the afternoon sun the yellow stone almost glowed. We decided to climb to the top of the Central Tower despite the warnings of the 275 steep and narrow steps. It was hard going but the view at the top was worth it. It reminded me a bit of the view from the Hallgrimkirkja in Iceland, but York was much more compact, with the buildings of the old town crammed within the city walls. Only when you looked beyond the walls did you see buildingd with more space, larger gardens and wider streets.

The minster itself was huge and impressive but it seemed to have less character that Bath and Wells, probably because there were no old memorials or inscribed flagstones. The stained glass windows were more intricate and impressive, though.

We went in search of The Shambles, a street almost as old as York itself. It was once a street of butchers and slaughter houses and the shambles was the waste product of this business, which used to run down the lane. Today, the buildings are old and have suffered through time. Wooden frames sag, foundations sink and straight lines are non existant. The shops there today were modern, but their ceilings were low and each of the three storeys leaned in and overhung the lane, giving it a claustrophobic feel.

From the Shambles, we went in search of food and decided to eat at the Guy Fawkes pub. The claim was that Guy himself was born here. The place was very atmospheric and had bucket loads of character. The restaurant had dark wood panelling and candles on every table. The food was absolutely delicious and we both ate too much as a result.

Then it was time to find the ghost walk. We had seen several on our walk through the streets but the one that caught our attention was The Ghost Hunt of York, starting at the bottom of The Shambles.

From the moment our host, Mr Richard Rigor Mortis, appeared we knew it wa going to be good. He was dressed like a Victorian gentleman in top hat, bow tie and long coat. He gathered us all together with had gestures and then led us back up The Shambles at a slow, deliberate pace, all the time ringing a solemn bell. We met a second group at the tope of the lane and then we were off.

For the next hour or so we were enteretained, teased and scared by our host as we went from haunting to haunting. We learnt of the little girl who fell down the stairwell at her house, the child plague victime who waslocked in her bedroom and abandoned by her parents, the headmaster who murdered all his pupils and the ghost Roman legion. At one point, in front of an Italian restaurant, we pretended to be listening to a story until the diners were watching, at which point we stared at them, waved and approached the window before making faces at them. It was hilarious.

By the end of the hunt, we were both geting tired and so it was a short wak back to the car and a short drive back to the hotel, and bed.

The next blog is about Friday in Whitby.

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The continuing saga of the bathroom of lost dreams

When I started work on the bathroom (see DIM post) I thought it would be all over in a week. Shortly after the new fittings were fitted, I thought it might take a month as the walls were in pretty rubbish condition. But it’s been about 5 months now and through no fault of anyone else, I haven’t moved on.There have been weekends away and holidays and stuff and a hundred other excuses that don’t stand the test of time.

My bathroom without the carpet fitted

Bathroom without carpet

I was getting fed up of the multitude of carpets on the floor that needed cleaning and rearranging so I decided to fit a temporary carpet while waiting to make my mind up about what to put there permanently. Getting those curves right was fun.

Cutting the carpet

Cutting the carpet

 

This is a risk, of course, because the carpet may look good and then I’ll decide I don’t need to do anything else. But the walls still look awful so there is still hope.

My bathroom with carpet fitted

Bathroom with carpet

Now all I need is tiles or boards, or maybe a plaster skim. If I stuck posters up as a temporary measure…

 

Speed (Bonnie) Boat

We headed off to Cardiff this afternoon to take a 1 hour speedboat ride in Cardiff Bay. Thankfully the weather was gorgeous – the semblance of summer had returned just for us as if it was part of the booking for the ride. The water was blue and didn’t look too choppy. I was looking forward to the experience with nervous excitement.

The two people on shore organising and giving us the safety talk couldn’t agree on the number of people actually taking part. Was it 12 or 13. It was 13 and they laughed it off, saying ‘we’ve never lost anyone yet’. Of course, they may well have done so and just got the count wrong. We donned the lifebelts (‘they’ll inflate automatically. But if they don’t…’) and were told about the life raft (‘it’s a 12 man life raft… er… but they can take more than that’). Then we were led along the floating pontoon to the boat.

It was a large inflatable/rigid boat (‘even if the inflatable part punctures, it will float’) with 12 seats (two people had dropped out and one had been added since the count – spookily we were now 12 as predicted by one of the counters). It was impossible to guess where to sit to guarantee staying dry, and I chose the seat that would take mots of the spray. I didn’t know that at the time, though.There were no seat belts and the advice we’d been given (‘hold on to the bar and push yourself into the seat’) seemed inadequate.

Then we were off, slowly, gently leaving the berth and heading out past people relaxing in waterside cafes and restaurants. Seagulls and ducks reluctantly floated out of our way. The water was smooth, the blue sky had a few white clouds. Everything was…

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrgghhhhhhh!

Getting Wet

Getting Wet

The acceleration was tremendous and without warning. Suddenly we were blasting out across the water of the bay, bouncing over the tiniest of waves, banking into turns and watching the spray pass close by. We jigged and jinked around the water for a few minutes and abruptly slowed to a crawl again as we approached the lock gates. This short burst of speed had only been a warm up. The open sea beckoned. We shared the lock with a couple of sailing boats and waited a few minutes for the water levels to equalise before sirens heralded the gates opening.

Then we were off, slowly at first as we negotiated the buoys out into the Bristol Channel. Then the engines kicked us forward again and we were off. The water was much more choppy now and the boats slammed down after each wave. It felt like someone was hitting the bottom of the boat with a sledge hammer. We shot forward, heading away from Cardiff and towards Steep Holm and Flat Holm. The skipper was skilfully manoeuvring the boat around to give us the best experience of speed and excitement. As Steep Holm neared, we crossed currents and bounced around on them.

Steep Holm

Steep Holm

We turned sharply, heeling the boat over until I thought I was going to fall in to the sea and test the lifebelt’s automatic inflating mechanism. We headed back the way we came and each wave of spray landed on me. We turned again and circled the island before seeking out the roughest parts of the channel.

Racing a Jet Skier

Racing a Jet Skier

Then we were heading back towards Cardiff Bay. The combination of speed and sun had dried me out and the skipper, spotting this, made sure I got another couple of drenchings. The we were racing a couple of Jet Skis and despite our full load of passengers, we were outrunning them as they were struggling with the waves. We did a number of figure of eights around a buoy close to the beach and then we headed back to the lock gates. We waited there for 10 minutes or so as the lock filled up with sailing boats. A brief blast across the bay signalled the end of the trip and we drew to a gently halt at the pontoon again.

Returing to harbour

Returning to Cardiff Bay

It was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to go again. The photos here don’t do it justice.

In the lock

Sharing the Lock

Megaspeedforcedoominator

I went with friends to a theme park yesterday. Great place, friendly staff, lots to do. So many things, in fact, that I’ll merge them all into one. This could be the greatest ride in the world. Hold on tight.

Rollercoaster

This is fun?

You get on after buying the entrance ticket. The ride starts off slowly at first, allowing you to see the full extent of what awaits you. It gives you the opportunity to top up with sugars, caffeine, saturated fat and salt and takes you on a short circuit of the park. Then, without warning, it starts to rise steeply and the carriage slows, anticipation building as you wait for the inevitable drop. At the top, you teeter for a moment on the edge of indecision – which thing shall I see first? – and then the rush starts.

In a blur you race down at breakneck speed, caffeine and sugar surging through your veins. Look, an amusement arcade flashes past giving you barely enough time to fire some coins into the slot before you’re off again, spinning around and battering your way through the crowds of screaming school kids. Quick, there’s a ‘shoot em up’ arcade game; look, air disc hockey; a train, animals, lights, water. The ride lurches around and you’re upside down. Below you, in the vomit zone, there are meerkats, an adventure playground with swings and slides and ladders, boats, bikes. Diiinooosaaaurrrrs! Woosh, down it screams, like you do, in an impossible dive and you feel you’re not going to pull out quickly enough to avoid the hyper hot dog barf burger outlet.

But you need the energy and the ride needs more fuel, too. The fast food is so fast it’s in your hands before you know it and in your stomach even quicker. The ride starts to clank back up again, going higher this time, way above the water and the noise and the movement and you look around trying to figure out what’s coming. Then you see it. Your stomach churns, you realise all that liquid sugar and chemicals have gone straight to your bladder. You question whether it’s acceptable to cry and you wonder how you can get off and still maintain your dignity. The inevitability of being strapped into a carriage locked onto the rails that lead to only one place hits you almost as hard as the concrete lintel would if it were 6” lower.

At the top, for a moment there is calm as the ride slows down to tease you. It’s going to be alright. Everything will be fine and you sigh your relief, ensuring no one sees you. But the ride lied. You plummet with ever increasing speed down, down, past vertical until you are heading at terminal velocity towards…

… the souvenir shop. And at the point where you are resigned to an instantaneous death by branding as you collide with a box of 500 Megaspeedforcedoominator key rings, the ride suddenly brakes and it slows, to pass rows of things you never knew you needed but which you cannot live without.

The ride is over. Clutching your Megaspeedforcedoominator key ring, you leave the platform and head towards the photo booth to see what a picture of you snapped at the point at which you realised all was lost and your life was over looks like.

It’s a photo of you at the entrance, buying your ticket.