The North (…and I mean NORTH!)

Thursday 8 February

We decided to venture up to Workington, Cumbria for a short visit. Turns out, IT’S BLOODY MILES AWAY! From Brighton it was a 7 hour train journey, with a change in London and just over an hour to wait in Carlisle. The Euston to Carlisle journey takes you North, with the Lake District on your left and the Yorkshire Dales on your right. It was a truly beautiful stretch of the journey, with snow capped peaks and majestic scenery wherever you looked!

Carlisle is a fairly pretty town. We didn’t have time to properly explore (there’s a castle and a few interesting museums, as well as Hadrian’s Wall) but we had a nice stroll through the cathedral grounds which were very impressive.

The oldest (non heritage) train in the world finally arrived to take us to Workington. It had old slam-doors and crept in to the station at a snail’s pace. We were genuinely worried.

We arrived at Workington and first impressions, after such a long journey, in the grey, mizzly, almost-dusk… Well, let’s just say we weren’t immediately bowled over by its beauty!

We found our digs, the sweet but classy Workington House. After resting and freshening up, we headed off for dinner and nightlife – a pub quiz at The Bounty.

A friendly atmosphere, well priced grub and drinks, a decent quiz – thumbs up from us! We (sadly) came in second, behind a team of 6 though, so no great shame.

The following day we said our goodbyes to Tom and Mary at Workington House and went to explore the town. Interestingly, the nearest big town is Cockermouth…

The Helena Thompson Museum was a great find. Our guide Steven was really knowledgeable and had so many stories and facts. The collection itself was also really interesting – Victorian, mining, shipping, birds, farming, local history – all sorts!

A quick stop off for a cuppa (and lemon meringue pie) and we were off to get the train again.

Au revoir Workington…

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Christmas Eve and Boxing Day in Wales

Powis Castle

Christmas Eve in Shrewsbury and we took a drive over the border to Wales and Powis Castle. It’s a National Trust property and as non-members the woman on the door gave a REALLY hard sell to try and get us to sign up. The castle is really beautiful and was all decked out for Christmas. After a good wander we checked out the gardens.

Rodneys Pillar

To walk off the Christmas Day excesses and blow away the cobwebs from being cooped up indoors all day, we took a gentle (ha!) stroll up Rodney’s Pillar and were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow and a stunning view (including snowy Snowdon in the distance).

A stroll round Staithes

Thursday 21 December 

Before heading off for a drive, we stopped in at Bothams to pick up a couple of their famous lemon buns. Basically this is just a soft white roll, topped with lemon icing. Don’t be deceived though, it really is the tea cake of kings! Apparently the local way to eat one is to tear the bun in half across the horizontal and then make a sandwich, thus avoiding sticky fingers! 

We spent a lovely few hours at Staithes, 20 mins up the coast from Whitby. A beautiful little village with a couple of pubs and galleries, it was fairly quiet despite the mild weather. 

Fans of CBeebies show Old Jack’s Boat will recognise the village and Bernard Cribbins’ cardboard image is plastered about all over the place in case you were in danger of forgetting.

Staithes general shop had an interesting selection of wares for sale but their pricing caused some confusion. Some in ‘old money’, some entirely in pence and many (presumably) missing decimal points.

We spent our final night huddled over a Scrabble board at The Middle Earth Tavern. I won’t mention who won… 

 

Northern Christmas travels

Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th December

We decided to take a bit of extra time off to visit family and do some travelling this December. After a few days with the Lucky family in North Lincs we head on further north to Scarborough. A proper seaside resort, it was a regular for me as a child and winter or summer, you couldn’t get me off the sand (this visit was no different!). 

During closed season it’s pretty quiet with a lot of the attractions shut for winter. There wasn’t a donkey to be seen and the funicular railways sadly weren’t operating.  We did manage to visit the Rotunda Museum though. An interesting collection of fossils and curiosities, with a gallery devoted to the Jurassic history of the Yorkshire coast, all housed in a beautifully restored and maintained late Georgian building.

We strolled along the prom, had a browse in the local shops and enjoyed a bit of cake while there was still some light.

As the sun set we drove the final few miles up the coast to Whitby, where we’ll spend the next few nights.

Of course, you can’t visit Whitby without having Humble Pie ‘n’ Mash or Magpie fish and chips…

Smallhaddock and chips at Magpie

We spent the last couple of evenings enjoying the local public house entertainments. Tuesday at the The Endeavour for Brighton priced pints, hot chestnuts and live blues. Wednesday at the Board Inn for an impromptu quiz (that we did pretty badly at). 

Brixton and Mudchute

We took the day off and went for a trip to London today. There was around an hour and a half before our lunch reservation so we headed straight across to Brixton. The venue was The Clink, located inside HMP Brixton. Since you aren’t allowed to speak about the experience on social media, I’ll just say, look up the website and consider visiting. Reservations only, no walk-ins (for obvious reasons). It’s definitely up there with the best meals I’ve eaten out.

We rocked down to Electric Avenue (sorry…) and enjoyed a walk through the market, made a quick stop at the Bowie memorial and then jumped back on the tube towards the DLR.

After a very pleasant ride across to the Isle of Dogs, we had a visit to Mudchute Farm. Wow! So many friendly animals to visit and all wanted a scratch or a stroke! It was pretty cool seeing Canary Wharf in the not-so-far distance.

Squirrels were super tame here but sadly we had no food. They would definitely have eaten from my hand, assuming they’d taken the time to leave the bins alone…

The standout animal of the day however, has to be the resident pair of Tamworth pigs. Initially the pen looked empty but then we heard some snoring from inside the house. “Coo-eeeee! Piiiigs!”, I called, hopefully. What followed was terrifying…

PLAY Expo Manchester 2017

Saturday 14 to Sunday 15 October 2017

This weekend we attended the PLAY Expo in Manchester, “The North’s biggest gaming expo”. With the menfolk there on official journalistic business, doing interviews and suchlike, I had a fair amount of free time to wander and play as I liked. The arena was broken down into areas with something everyone and only occasional minimal queuing.

Arcade cabs

There was a huge selection of arcade machines, ranging from Centipede and Galaga right through to Time Crisis and DDR. The vast majority were working with technicians on hand throughout the event. We checked out a good range including Popeye, Road Runner and Circus Charlie. The newer machines were definitely more popular so it was a good opportunity to try out some of the older ones that you don’t tend to see in modern arcades.

Retro consoles
Literally hundreds of consoles were set up in rows with a game library for the newer machines – go up, select a game, sit and play! Although emulation these days is such that you could download and play any one of these titles at home on your PC, it’s just not the same as getting that slightly sticky and at times unresponsive controller in your hand. We played a few rounds of Soulcaliber II on GameCube. Point of interest, it was originally intended to be released on Sega’s NAOMI board – what a great name! I also revisited a few MegaDrive titles and shook my maracas to Samba di Amigo.

Pinball mania!

I’m a huge fan of the pinball machine. There’s something very satisfying about the whole experience. Hands in position on the flippers, release the ball and almost zen-like, become one with the machine to perfectly time each press. I was amazed firstly by how many tables they had but mostly by how popular they were. The whole area was full from start to finish and it did require a bit of hovering to snatch up a place. While a lot of the newer machines had gimmicky features, I much prefer the older, more basic style. Nautilus was a great example and it also had clear sides so you could see all the circuit boards and inner workings.

Cosplay stage

We weren’t let down in terms of cosplay talent. Some highlights include Evil Morty (my personal favourite), Vivi (FFIX), IT (remake), Princess Zelda. The cosplay stage held some interesting talks and performances, unfortunately not well attended, apart from the masquerade showcase.

Overall it was a great weekend made even better by our temporary roommate, Neko.

 

 

The long drive home…

Friday 27 August 2017

We had a long drive ahead of us so this morning we had a couple of hours to do a bit of shopping in Whitby before setting off.

We managed to fit in a quick visit to the RNLI Lifeboat Museum, situated down near the beach and also the tiny Whitby Jet Heritage Centre, with the last remaining Victorian jet workshop set up as a museum within the modern workshop and shop.

At midday we set off and took some sneaky pics of Fylingdales as we drove by (shhhh!).


Another funny place name for the list (must be said in a strong Yorkshire accent), Ugglebarnby.

Dartford Bridge = home is almost in sight.