Monday, May 18, 2015

Ah, what a Cathedral

Cloister, Durham Cathedral,  photo by Mary M Payne
I am back at the Cathedral and talking to Brian Peaden who speaks to me as I am admiring the archways and shadows.  He is a retired local and a member of an amateur photographer's group.   He sees that I am taking a photo of the cloisters but missing the secret. 

  I have been oblivious to the little hole inserted into the brick at the top of the archway that makes up part of a sundial formed on a meridian line and Brian explains it to me.  

Brian  Peaden 
A Meridian line (meridies : Latin for midday) was drawn in the cloister in 1829 by the then headmaster of Durham School : Dr. Carr and William Wharton of Dryburn.    A piece of stone in which there is a circular opening ( with a thin edge) of about an inch... has been inserted into a piece of stone at the top of one of the archways.  You can see that in my second photo.  

 Near noon, the sun is almost directly opposite the hole and the light streaming through the hole falls onto the pavement below.  When the sun is low (as near the winter solstice), the light will fall on the opposite wall where there is another sun dial.  

" by observing the time of the first contact of the circular spot of light with the meridian line, and also the time of last contact and taking the mean, I have found that the instant of apparent noon can be ascertained within a second of time"   says the late Rev. Temple Chevallier. 

 Hmmm.  Sounds like something that would interest Ian. 

If you look closely you can see the sundial on the floor at the left edge of the photo.  I think it must have been about 11am when I took the photo.  

Cloister showing meridian hole  photo by Mary M Payne

Shadow showing meridian hole and sun dial to far left  photo by Mary M Payne

After this little discovery,  I plunge back into the imposing interior of the Durham Cathedral, "the largest and most perfect monument of the Norman style of architecture in England." 

 And besides being the film realization of Hogwarts school of Wizardry has a most astonishing history full of intrigue, politics, imprisonment, and death.   Read it here:

This time the sanctuary is calm and I stay a while.   I light candles for Monsieur and I..... as today is our Anniversary and for Josh III whose birthday is today.... May 11.   I am not a church goer myself,  but I do love the candle ritual. 

Main Entrance and west side of Durham Cathedral  photo by Mary M Payne

Gravestones in front of Durham Cathedral  photo by Mary M Payne

Gravestone statuary at Durham Cathedral  photo by Mary M Payne

Eastcorner of Durham Cathedral facing entrance,  photo by Mary M Payne
Museums and libraries facing on Durham Palace Green  outside of Cathedral photo by Mary M Payne
 After leaving I look around the outside at what is today known as Palace Green.   It was once the city market place and undoubtedly was rather chaotic and noisy.... not calm as it is now.   Surrounding the green are buildings of different periods:  These include Cosin's Almshouses, Cosin's Hall, Moneyer's Garth, the Palace green Library and the Music School.  There is the Abbey House as well with remains of medieval fortifications and the Master's House of Durham University. 

After a peek inside some of these,  I head down the pavement through the old town to find lunch.  

I settle on a cafe serving a "club sandwich" which is not a dainty little thing.... but huge and full of ham, chicken and cheese enough to feed four.   But, alas, there is no salad, no tomato, no lettuce with that.   
 I read later that the price of vegetables and fruits has increased 90% in Britain while the price of industrial food has gone down 20%.  Yipes. 

After I do another spin around town,   I decide to head back down the river path to call Monsieur , to wish him a happy 24th Anniversary and watch the river scene. 

Old mill on the  River Wear  Durham,  photo by Mary M Payne
Durham Cathedral from River Wear  photo by Mary M Payne

   I decide to end the day back at the botanical gardens. 
   The indoor cafe at the gardens offers botanical books which I scan while I enjoy a piece of lemon drizzle cake.  Yes,  I have at last found what my craven "sweet tooth" was looking for. 

With the flower book , tea and cake,  I find a tranquil corner and  identify.... the "forget-me-nots" I have been seeing everywhere in the verges.  They are also showing local art on the walls.  

   New discoveries and new thoughts.... that's what makes up an inspiring vacation....  and the people you spend it with,   that's so true. 

"I wandered lonely as a cloud"  photo by Mary M Payne

 Now its home, down the footpath, to my lovely, lively friend Leslie and her family and tomorrow I'll be back in Nice. 

This is an English enchanting.  photo by Mary M Payne

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Botanical Gardens

Its my last day in Durham and I have decided to go to the Botanical Gardens of the Durham University and then back to the Cathedral.

   On the way I will pass some colleges of the University.  

Ian, with whom I am staying,  is a math instructor at the University.  I should say, in truth, he is a math wizard and just happens to be a popular professor .   I would not even be able to talk to him on the level of his abstruse subject.  I might as well try to speak a dialect of Ethiopia.   But luckily for me,  you would never know this unless you knew that his mind operates like this.  It is easy to speak to him. 

 He informs me that all of these different colleges that I see on the "campus" are really just communities of students who live and commune together, as constituent parts of the larger university...a bit like a dorm.  There are not actually instructors giving different classes at each college.

  It is completely different from the system in the United States or France.  In the U. S.  the word "college " is used interchangeably with "university".   In France it is different still:  a "college" refers to a junior high school where you will find young people 11-15 years old. 

  There are some beautiful colleges in Durham.  My favorite of those I have passed is St Mary's College.

Stone marking the college of St Mary's   photo by Mary M Payne

Walkway to St Mary's College, Durham  photo by Mary M Payne

 I take the footpath past it to the Botanical Gardens.... seeing many  students on the way.    I pass a flowering cherry tree not realizing it will be the only flowering tree I see that morning. 

Cherry tree , Durham   photo by Mary M Payne

The cherry looks out over this lovely view of the distant Cathedral. The view could be the subject of a John Constable painting.

Durham Cathedral,   photo by Mary M Payne

At the Gardens, I ask for and get a "troisiéme age" discount known  as  a senior discount.  Troisiéme age is what it is called in France.    I sort of like that , it gives one a sense of entitlement for getting this far in life and it denotes a" do-over", erasing all the failures.   Start over in your third age, good idea...everything else has changed!  

The grounds are lovely in the Botanical Gardens.   But except for a few magnificent pots of tulips, NOTHING is blooming today.   I guess I kind of expected flowers so I am temporarily disappointed.   And the promised sheep in the pasture of the gardens were removed in March. Humph.  

Pots of tulips, Durham Botanical Gardens,  Photo by Mary M Payne

 But there are some lovely walks,  and best of all there is a WIND.  The magnificent trees in the park are singing like a chorus of wild things.....which I suppose they are.  I picture all of the tree spirits drinking wine and playing cards and generally wise cracking.  It is more than soothing, it is cacophonous.   Still I love sitting on one of the many memorial benches and don't want to budge.  A gaggle of young school children go by with their teachers, but no one else.  

 But finally , the Cathedral is calling to me again.  I must go and give it some more time. 

Tree spirits communing..Durham Botanical Gardens  photo Mary M Payne

Family and Friends

A vacation is to do everything differently from what you normally do at home.  It was nice to just be with a family doing their ordinary things like grocery shopping,  checking out fun finds at the charity shops on the way,  walking in the rain,  visiting a friend and watching a family movie together ( Arietty..good film).    

  One night we enjoyed an English fry-up ( scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, sautéed tomatoes and mushrooms and toast).    It was fun  too ...reading bedtime stories, swapping jokes and playing games with a resident nine year old.   

 One day we sat on an airy terrace with a heat lamp enjoying a glass of wine and the next day we were cozy inside with a fire in the fireplace ( my request...we don't have working fireplaces in Nice, its forbidden).   The weather was variable ...  not time yet in Durham to get out the summer clothes. 

Here are a few pictures of another English garden with yet another English rose with pink cheeks.   On the day we saw the bluebells,  Leslie's friend was kind to give us lunch and all the tea and cake we could consume that afternoon.   The girls played on the slide and swing, the hens clucked and it was the perfect English afternoon. 

   Then it was home to feed Samson and Delilah, eat our dinner, and lights out. 

Leslie and Z on the way to lunch at a friend's house

Looking from the hen house .

Another English Rose

Delilah and her brother Samson wanted cuddling and food, in that order

Sunset from my bedroom window

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bluebell Woods

Today the girls and I are off to see the nearby bluebell woods.   A bluebell wood is a woodland that in springtime has a carpet of flowering bluebells under a leaf canopy.   The thicker the canopy from summer,  the more the normal ground cover is suppressed and the bluebells have their moment of glory in the spring.  

  This just has to be one of the joyful "perks" for living in a rainy, cool climate.   I found out that this woodland wonder only occurs in England, Ireland, Belgium and sometimes in the north of France and the Netherlands.

Here are my pics of our morning stroll in the nearby woods.  

Durham University Bluebell Woods  Photo by Mary M Payne

Durham University Bluebell Woods  Photo by Mary M Payne

Close up of bluebells,  Photo by Mary M Payne

Durham University Bluebell Woods Photo by Mary M Payne

 Cherry blossom Crown     photo by Mary M Payne

Bluebell Woods Durham University   photo by Mary M Payne

Zelda and Leslie, Bluebell woods   photo by Mary M Payne

Bluebell woods with Zelda    photo by Mary M Payne

Durham Old Town and Oriental Museum

Tower of Castle of Durham, Photo by Mary M Payne

After the Cathedral I decide against seeing the Castle opposite which is open to the public....  only a few rooms and not the tower, though.  

Never mind, I don't need to see every monument and I do want a cup of tea.    I pop into a tiny tea shop  to write in my "cahier".

Love the milk jug and clever teapot with cup

After a few minutes, I decide to get a lunch with my tea and order a tuna melt that comes with coleslaw and chips. 

 Its ok but the coleslaw is swimming in mayonnaise.  The cafe has  a nice atmosphere and I have my eye on a cupcake for dessert.

  I order a red velvet.    I haven't had an American style cupcake for about 10 years at least.  But this cupcake is not great .. so I eat a bit and leave the rest.  I will get my sugar rush elsewhere or tomorrow.  I seldom eat desserts so when I do , they have to be delectable.  And I'm on holiday for heaven's sake.  I am going to indulge. 

 I wander out to see the town.

Market Square , Durham,  Photo by Mary M Payne

The Market Square is nice so I dawdle there for a few minutes and see that the town is full of  the familiar chain stores ...not many original boutiques.  There are a Waterstones Books,  a cheap version of W. H. Smiths without the books,  Boots Chemist,  Tesco's , Greggs pastries.   etc. etc.   

The shops are uninspired but the stroll is new.   I buy a pen at Smiths,  3 pounds sterling for a nice ballpoint but not the top of the line.  Things are pricey , I see. 

Market Square, Durham   Photo by Mary M Payne

But look how clean everything is , it is an agreeable little town.    I go into Waterstones to browse English books... 

River Wear Butterfly Photo by Mary M Payne

then I  take one of the footpaths along the river to go see the Oriental Art Museum of Durham University.   This is the best if not only Oriental Museum in the Northeast and I find out it has a fabulous collection.     
I see some examples of every Asian country represented in this small but beautifully presented museum. 

  I find out that the Egyptians buried small mummies of snakes to ward off evil going into the next world.  I find out that as the Chinese venerate jade, they made jade "armor", knee pads, breast plates and the like.... of jade to cover their dead for burial.  
My favorite few minutes was spent on a video of the way the Chinese make ceramics in the ancient style:   hand thrown in a kiln of bricks made the same way they have always done and hand painted.  All the artisans are ancient, very old men in this video except the young male and female painters.  What does that tell you about a disappearing art form? 

Here is a little info from the site of Durham University Oriental Museum.
"There almost 7,000 objects in the Oriental Museum's 

Ancient Egyptian collections, ranging in date from the Pre-

Dynastic (5500-3100 BCE) to the Coptic periods (after 395 

CE) and covering almost all categories of object from 

monumental sculpture to woven sandals. 
The core of the collection was formed by Algernon Percy, the Fourth Duke of Northumberland (1792-1865) in the mid-nineteenth century. The Duke had developed a fascination for Egypt following his visit to the country in 1826 and in later years he developed large collections of both British and Egyptian antiquities, which he proudly displayed at the family seat of Alnwick Castle. 
The Duke’s collection of over 2,500 objects was largely purchased via English auctions rather than during his travels in Egypt and included material originally acquired by James Burton and by the British Consul, Henry Salt. It was fully published in 1880 in a lavish volume written by Samuel Birch and illustrated by Joseph Bonomi and it remained on display at Alnwick well into the twentieth century, prior to being removed to the British Museum for conservation shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.
In the 1940s the decision was taken to sell the collection. Both the British Museum and the Brooklyn Museum expressed an interest in acquiring all or part of the collection, but the Duke’s successors were keen that the collection should remain intact and - if possible - in the North East of England. Happily, Durham University had also indicated its desire to obtain the collection and, thanks to the generous assistance of Dr and Mrs H N Spalding, was able to raise the £12,000 asking price. 
In 1971 the University’s holdings of Egyptian artifacts was substantially enlarged by the acquisition of part of the collection of Sir Henry Wellcome.   Wellcome, a founding partner of the well-known drug company, amassed one of the largest private collections ever made in the fields of archaeology, anthropology and the history of human health. After his death in 1936, it took more than 50 years for his Trustees to distribute the collection among museums and libraries across the UK. The Oriental Museum was fortunate to receive a collection of around 4,000 Egyptian artefacts. This material greatly strengthened the museum’s holdings of amulets, stone tools and other Pre-Dynastic objects. "

Thursday, May 14, 2015

First look at Durham Cathedral

morning in Durham, Mary M Payne

Leslie and Ian live in Durham in a lovely house in front of a tangly wood.  I have a cozy new room at the top and can open my dormer windows and capture the morning and evening light....looking for the pheasants that I can hear cough-calling to each other. 

Today the adults have gone off to their respective jobs and Zelda is in school.   I am headed to wander around the old town of Durham to have my first look at the Cathedral.  On my approach, across the river Wear,  I am stopped at every turn with a photographer's moment.   

Durham Cathedral  photo by Mary M Payne

River Wear, Durham...Photo by Mary M Payne

Pulling myself away,  I am impressed with how spotless and well ordered the surrounds of the Cathedral are and the town itself.   Although the Durham Cathedral is a big tourist draw, there is no entrance fee.  A sign says that it takes 60,000 British pounds sterling A WEEK, to support the life and buildings of the Cathedral and I have no doubt this is true.   

Durham Cathedral :Photo by Mary M Payne

Durham Cathedral, Photo by Mary M Payne

I wander around the cloister but fail to find the I ask a "man of the cloth" I find walking among the picturesque "out buildings".   He graciously agrees to escort me.  

Cloister, Durham Cathedral , Mary M Payne

   He is actually a methodist minister there for a conference.  On the way I am treated to a history lesson. He tells me that in 2003, the Anglican church agreed to re-unite with the methodists.  It seems that John Wesley never gave up his standing as an Anglican Church priest and now the two churches are united again.   I spent some time in the Methodist Church as a child and thought they were as similar as "chalk and cheese" but who am I to say. 

His discourse and mini sermon to go with it is interesting but after 10 minutes chat , I am anxious to see the inside of the Cathedral, so I thank him and step inside.  According to wikipedia: 

The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham, usually known as Durham Cathedral and home of the Shrine of St Cuthbert, is a cathedral in the city of Durham, England, the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Durham. The bishopric dates from 995, with the present cathedral being founded in AD 1093. The cathedral is regarded as one of the finest examples of Norman architecture and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with nearby Durham Castle, which faces it across Palace Green.

I wander among groups of hushed school children and many female priests ( priestesses?)  acting as greeters.  It is several minutes before I realize that I am not allowed to take photos indoors.  

Durham Cathedral,  Photo by Mary M Payne

Durham Cathedral,  photo by Mary M Payne

Durham Cathedral, photo by Mary M Payne

 I am always of two minds in spaces dedicated to the father , the son and the holy ghost" ....that last always being a puzzle to me....

 but I am in no doubt of the majesty and splendor of this space.  

 I sit in a pew and meditate until the teenagers and their band leader.... setting up for the next mass....break the spell.  Then I wander back down to the river for some quiet.