As I've confessed to everyone who will listen, in my head York is a small, sort of industrial city -- Glasgow or Manchester-esque.

Wrong. And I should have known better.

York is a magnificent medieval town, not untouched by tourism, of course, but still lovely. I had such fun there, and walked my feet to the bone seeing as many corners of it as I could in my short visit.

Here are a few glimpses to share with you...

Clifford's Tower is a motte & bailey castle, and not even the first on this site. The Original Killer Bill [William the Conqueror, of course] didn't like the one that the locals had built, so had it knocked down and replaced by this one.

I walked the walls, the remains of which still circle much of the old city including the crowded and cool alleys of The Shambles.

[The term 'Shambles' actually stems from the time of William the Conquerer and refers to the benches or shamels on which the meat was displayed in this butchers' area of town.]

I was lucky enough to be walking through the streets on the last day of the Mystery Plays, street plays depicting the death of Christ and other religiously significant events; traditionally -- and still -- put on by locals. The casts, all ages as you can see, parade through the streets with their sets and actors and then set up and perform in the city's squares.

The background to these plays was the magnificent Minster. It was here that I missed my broken camera most sorely, as the gargoyles were just sumptous in their Mastery Of The Ugly.


The windows, on the other hand...

I think my favourite part, though, were the many [and I mean MANY] crypts in which the various clergy take their eternal rest. No stiff formality for these guys...

Just chillin' with the cherubs, man.

Also had a GREAT visit with a young Canadian friend who is currently in residence, a few Yorkian ghosts and a number of old dead Vikings. It was a fantastic visit -- I can't wait to go back.

Next up -- a peek at a Highland Games, including some great shots of the heavies doing what they do best at the World Caber Tossing championships.


More soon....!





Loving ... and Leaving London

A second quick peek at this City of Cities.

There is no other, really.

I've talked about the food at the Borough Market before. Have you ever seen pakoras the size of these?

The smells of this place are AMAZING!

Another day, after exploring the Nightingale Museum, I think, I took a stroll through the Leake Street tunnel, which is also known as the 'Banksy Tunnel' after an event he sponsored there in 2008. I couldn't pick out any of his work [which I have found in random places around the world before], but it was truly a thing of graffiti beauty.

In my day at the British Museum, I found this remarkable creation in the Clocks and Clockwork room:

It is a mechanical galleon, an automaton from the 16thC. It was built to announce the beginning of a banquet, and once set in motion would trundle down the length of the table. Reaching the end, it would stop and the main gun would fire, igniting the fuses for the guns along the sides, which would then fire in turn.

Who wouldn't want their meal announced by an exploding robot sailing ship?

Speaking of Excess, one hot afternoon, I took a trip to Hampton Court. I've never been, and considering Henry VIII featured as a character in SHADES OF RED, I thought it high time. The palace was breathtaking, and filled with details like this dragon guarding the palace:

It also had the most amazing truffula tree protecting the front gate:

I feel the need for thneed...

Another night, after working at Southbank, I noticed that LIMBO was playing, so on a whim, I bought a ticket. How to describe the show...

Well, imagine a circus that takes place pretty much in your lap, with fire eaters, comedy, contortionists, aerial mayhem, dance and magic, all set to the inimitable beautiful musical catastrophe that comes from the genius who is Sxip Shirey. 

[This is a shot of Sxip, brandishing his trademark megaphone, taken in the seconds before the show began JUST as they announced a ban on picture-taking].

It was a Most Excellent evening, SO not to be missed if you are in London.


My final night in the City was a special one. My daughter, her boyfriend and I made the trip to Canary Wharf [via Docklands Rail, which I'd never travelled on before] and had a lovely dinner under the Reuters tickertape.

And then we went to watch the Pythons.

Yeah, you heard me. Monty Python -- or at least the remaining members, in their penultimate performance ever. There was even a bonus bit of Eddie Izzard, which was wonderful.

A little piece of history come to life. Unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime -- all cliches apply. I watched from my seat and was 11 years old again. It was brilliant. And of course, after all the applause was done, it was clear how much the Pythons appreciated the adulation...

A perfect ending.

Other adventures remain in the offing, however, so there will be


More soon...!





Loving London...part the first

I've never spent a full week in London before. Too expensive, mostly. But this year, I planned to meet my girl here a week after I arrived, so... well, instead of the research day trips I had planned, I ended up staying here. Every day I went for a little run around Battlesea Park and then into Chelsea for tea. And after that? I found a cool place to work. It was supposed to be a place I hadn't been to before, so I could see the bits of London I've not seen on previous trips. In the end, it worked out perfectly! Here's where I washed up...

The British Library

It was Sunday, so not much was fully open, but I found a quiet place upstairs, worked and people-watched. I'm sorry to have missed the comic book display they had on, but it was closed. Next time! And hey, check out these standing desks!


The Florence Nightengale Museum

I didn't know much more of the 'Lady of the Lamp' than regular common knowledge before I waltzed through this museum, housed in the Thomas & Guy Hospitals on the south bank. Learned a whole lot in this tiny museum, though, and found a good place to work nearby afterwards. Got any nursing questions? Now that I've been, I've totally got you covered if you're suffering from dysentary or perhaps need a quick amputation. Call me!



The Southbank Centre

This is a shot taken pretty much right outside the Southbank Centre. Not a bad view! The place itself is an Arts Hub -- a huge facility for holding big events. [The London School of Fine Arts was graduating its latest class there when I was in residence], and the focus of their attention this summer appears to be LOVE. A celebration of all kinds of love, using images and text from ancient Greece -- the place was humming, and it was great fun to work there.

The Victoria & Albert Museum

So I originally set out to visit the V&A children's museum, which is on a different site, but I got lost. I have been to the V&A before, but only briefly, so I had a lovely wander through before I settled down to work. SO MANY PICTURES, but will settle on these to give you a tiny taste.

I held lustful thoughts for this beautiful writing box, with lots of drawers and compartments for secreting away pens and ink and Important Documents of Questionable Nature. I have all my ink stashed in an ordinary desk drawer at home [though I do have a beautiful hand-made pen case for all my writing implements, courtesy of the talented Kathy Kenzie].









And to finish today, here's a shot of a man who has run afoul of someone he should just not have messed with...

I didn't get her name, but I know I REALLY want her on my side when things get tough!

Well, I thought I could do this all in one post, but clearly I just love London all too much, so


More soon...!




Góða nótt, Iceland...

What a wonderful few days in a magic land.

Today on the train I was drawing pictures and making lists of everything I could remember...the Blue Lagoon, Gull Foss, Geysir, volcanoes old and new, the [ahem] unique Phallological Museum, tooling around Reykjavik by bike and evidence of Vikings everywhere! All I can say is that if life ever hands you the opportunity to visit this marvellous place, go. You will be made most welcome.

A tiny glimpse:

This is Gull Foss -- the Golden Falls that rush beside and through Iceland's great rift. This country is entirely volcanic, being in the unique position right at the confluence of the North American and European tectonic plates. Iceland is slowly being pulled apart -- at a rate of about 2 cm every year -- and the great rift is where it happens.

Gull Foss -- the Golden Falls

Nearby to Gull Foss is Thingvillr, an important place in the history of Iceland. It was here the world's first parliament met, where decisions were made and covenants kept. Miscreants were drowned for their crimes in these translucent waters, and marriages were made and celebrated.

Right in the heart of the rift valley, Thingvillr fills your eyes with the most amazing landscape. The current President has his summer house here, where the land has cracks that have never been explored. Apparently the cave diving is incredible. I don't think I'd have the courage to try.

Thingvillr drowning waters

Speaking of the waters, these are the waters of the Blue Lagoon. This is a volcanic hot spring, enormous in size, a small part of which has been walled off for human use. The waters are rich in sulphur and silica and have traditionally been used to bring relaxation and health back to those who bathe in them. This is a hot springs culture -- every neighbourhood and small village has a pool, and every pool has a 'hot pot', but the Blue Lagoon is really something special.

The colours of this water are so vivid they can be seen by satellite.Back in the city, the sky darkened enough one night for me to get this shot of moon rise:

Reykjavik moon

Reykjavik was rife with adventure. I will spare you the photos I took from the Phallological Museum, but suffice to say I believe the Icelandic National Handball team are ... well-represented there. It was QUITE the interesting experience, and an hysterical way to spend a rainy hour.

Instead I offer you a shot of the home of some of the Hidden Ones, the elven people who can only be seen by very few believers. This particular rock had been the source of many construction woes at the site where it was uncovered. When an expert was brought in, it was decided that the hidden ones who lived inside needed relocating to a place of their own choosing. Once the rock was moved to the centre of town among several houses and by a children's park, the construction proceeded unimpeded. Such is the power of the Hidden People.

The Hidden Ones live here.

I'll finish with the moment, long after midnight one night, when I watched the sun dip --briefly! -- into the North Atlantic:

Icelandic sunsetDidn't stay down there for long, however. Sun rose again before 3.

Takk, Iceland. I will never forget you!



More soon...




Not Done Yet...Food Edition

If you follow my twitter feed, you'll know by the 'where am I?' post I put up today that I am not in Iceland any more.

I flew all night and washed up on the shores of London, England this morning. More on that later, as I am not done with Iceland yet. I am already dreaming of returning...

Iceland is a fishing nation, and though I didn't meet any Icelanders who admitted to enjoying eating shark and whale meat ... it was there.

oh, it was there...

A little more startling for me was the casual display of this famous dish:

Apparently sheep's head is a regular go-to. I took this [admittedly hasty and therefore sadly hazy] photo in the bus station cafeteria.

If it's on the bus station menu, you know it's gotta be easy to find.

But the thing that shocked me most was how Puffin seemed to be on menus everywhere. I don't know why I was shocked. I mean, apparently it is little more than a colourful chicken.

And yet... I've been angling to see a Puffin in the feathers since my adventure in Orkney a couple of years ago. They are adorable!

Is he not adorable...?

Apparently, he is also very tasty. I will spare you [and my own soft heart] a picture of Puffin Pie.

I've decided the trolls must be behind this. They want the cute puffins out of the way so they can control the tourist market.


Yeah...that's gotta be it.

Okay, that's it for me. I am typing this with my eyelashes on the keyboard, I swear. Will do an Iceland wrap-up next time.


More soon...!