Category Archives: Art

Yorkshire isn’t always so bad…

Yesterday, I went with my parents to Richmond in Yorkshire to escape Durham for the day. While there, we visited the Station, which is, among other things, an arts space, cinema and cafe. Around the place were paintings, I think mostly by local artists, for sale at incredibly high prices. I think, if the worst comes to the worst, I may take up throwing paint randomly at a canvas and calling it modern art. If the man I spoke to is right and people really do pay hundreds of pounds for that sort of thing, I’d be rolling in it! The food in the cafe was very nice (if a little pricy – £4 for a sandwich and salad) and the atmosphere was pleasant and relaxed.

While we were there, we paid a quick visit to Easby Abbey, which is a ruined abbey owned by English Heritage. It’s quite extensive and parts of the ruins are in pretty good condition. The lack of signage made it difficult to work out what was what, which is a shame, but it’s set in really lovely countryside, and the views make up for it somewhat.

I guess I really needed a day out of Durham, and this did help give me a much-appreciated break. My mum’s comment about my waistline was less helpful, but then I’ve figured out that while my parents are great at the big things (they’re helping me out of my interesting financial situation, which is a huge sigh of relief), the little things are always going to wind me up!

All-in-all, my day out proves that Yorkshire can be ok 😉

Durham Mystery Plays, Fascism and general life stuff

The other day, TractorGirl and I went to see the Durham Mystery Plays, a series of modern attempts to carry on the tradition from the 15th Century of using drama to re-inact stories from the Bible. The most famous series of these is probably the York Mystery Plays, though they have also been revived in Chester. Most of the cast were sixth-formers who did a really great job.

The first play, ‘The Fall of Lucifer’ was at the Gala theatre and based on Britain’s Got Talent; the second was at the Cathedral, ‘The Fall of Creation’ and was an operatic piece with lots of schoolchildren running about, and the remainder, four based on the Old Testament and four on the New, were down at the Sands, a sort of park about five minute’s stroll from said Cathedral.

I think the best and most thought-provoking was ‘God’s Day Off’, imagining what God found when he couldn’t resist taking a look at the Creation on the seventh day. It shows God not being too impressed with the consequences of giving human beings free will and perhaps regretting his decision. It got me thinking about the vulnerability of God and the risk of creation. Probably the most fun play was ‘Noah and the Fludd’, where they made a ‘nark’ to save them and God was a feisty North East women. I don’t think the play in the Cathedral really worked; it wasn’t possible to hear what was  being said most of the time and it all felt a bit silly. I do wonder what the young people re-telling the Abraham and Isaac story made of it…

The day after that, we went on an anti-fascist demonstration with United Against Fascism. I’ll upload photos when I get around to it. The English Defence League came to protest in Newcastle and even on match days I’ve never seen as many police. According to UAF, we outnumbered them; the Police seemed to suggest the numbers were about even. Either way, I think it was really important to stand up against fascism in whatever forms it takes these days. The scary thing though was listening to a bunch of young lads on the train home talking about it all as if it was all great fun. Quite how young some of the lads being groomed are is frightening, as is the level of violence that was casually talked about. One wonders if they really have idea of what they’re getting mixed up in and the consequence for those affected by them.

On a lighter note, my search for a job continues. I have a phone interview to arrange at some point and also an assessment for what they (the uni disability people) think is dyspraxia, which will make my life a lot easier when it comes to psychometric testing. On top of that, I am trying to refresh my memory of my PhD thesis ready for Tuesday’s viva. Apart from a wobble yesterday, I think all of that is going well. But, now for once the sun is out, so I’m going to enjoy working outdoors for a while. TTFN 🙂

Confessions of a Would-Be Folkie (and kd lang fan)

Before I started going out with TractorGirl, I was never particularly into folk music. Classical or 1960s cheese was more my scene. However, over the last few months, I’ve got quite into folk.

It started with a quiet evening spent in TractorGirl’s flat watching a DVD of a Ralph McTell concert. Next thing I know I’m being dragged to a gig by Show of Hands at the Gala Theatre. The supporting act for the evening was Flossie Malavialle, a French singer who came to England in 2000 to improve her English and ended up in Darlington, like, on the English folk scene.  While I liked Show of Hands, I much preferred Flossie and ended up buying her Tour Collection. Ever since then, I’ve been quite a fan of ‘French Bint’, as Tractorgirl calls her.

A little while later and I made my first trip to the Sagein Gateshead to hear Martyn Joseph. Decided that he wasn’t so much my cup of tea, but it was still a fun evening. Most recently, I’ve seen Fairport Convention twice, once in Durham doing an ‘acoustic evening’ – which just meant they sat down(!) – and once at the Sage, supported by Flossie. I also heard Joan Armatrading at the Sage and learnt the limits of my synaesthesia – I passed out at one point as the combination of the volume of the music, lighting and the Media Player-style backdrop was too much. I sometimes get sensory overload when bombarded with too many stimuli but that’s the first time I’ve flaked out!

My favourite gig recently was in a little parish church with Maddy Prior and Nick Hennessy. He told stories and played such diverse instruments as the harp (which I’d never heard used as a solo instrument before and was really beautiful) and a suitcase! She sang some random songs about ravens. The nicest part of the evening was sitting next to TractorGirl with her just resting her head on my shoulder. It was lovely being so close, feeling her hair brush against my cheek, while listening to great music. One of those moments you don’t want to end…

Over the last few months I’ve also discovered the music (and drop-dead-gorgeous looks) of kd lang. My favourite song at the moment is ‘Constant Craving’, with which I  leave you:


A Little Light Relief

My last two posts have been quite heavy, so here’s a little light relief:

I went to see Joan Armatrading with TractorGirl at the Sage on Thursday. I enjoyed what I can remember of the concert, but she was going for the stadium effect and so there was a screen with Media Player-style visuals as well as very bright lights and especially loud music, so it all got a bit much for my synaesthesia and apparently I fainted! TractorGirl’s blog tells of how I mistook Joan Armatrading for Joan Armitage for Simon Armitage, a middle-aged male poet. I’m special!

Earlier in the day, I had been to the Baltic to pass a few hours. While there, I bumped into a friend from undergraduate days who was there on a works do, which was random but lovely. In terms of the art, on the ground floor there was a series of three videos by Jordan Baseman about a woman who likes nature and flowers and all that, a man talking about his life of crime and a gay man discussing his first sexual experience in the days when homosexuality was illegal in the UK. I found the latter very moving but didn’t really rate the other two. The rest of the art was bizarre; some bright flashy lights and texts from Iraq war files by Jenny Holzerand something completely random and unintelligible by Raqs Media Collective, which I think was meant to be about falling in love, but just seemed unfinished.


Gordon Brown has had an unfairly hard time in my opinion for calling Gillian Duffy a ‘bigoted woman’ when being driven away from a walkabout. I think her views on immigration and on Eastern Europeans were bigoted (where are they all coming from – Eastern Europe of course, silly old bat!) It has made me more inclined to support Brown; at least he said what he thought! After the hustings, I think my local Labour candidate is a good bet, so that settles the question 🙂


‘The Cellar Door’ is one of the multitude of Italian restaurants spread throughout the centre of Durham. My previous visits there have been somewhat of a let-down. The service was slow, they never had the wine I wanted and the food was ridiculously greasy. Well, things have changed! I went there with Stewpot yesterday for dinner and it was much better. The food was edible and I didn’t feel I was about to lose ten years off my life. Service was better as the man who always wears a shirt that is too small wasn’t there and the wine was ok. I would now recommend it.


Finally, life is a bit mad at the moment. I have two job interviews coming up in the next week that would see me doing something rather different to maths PhD work but would both be interesting in their own ways. Prayers for those (Thursday 6th and Tuesday 11th) would be appreciated 🙂 I am doing a science and theology talk on Thursday as well, it’s election day and at some point I have to write an essay on Mission-Shaped Church for my theology course. In addition to all the busy-ness of the next few days, I am absolutely sick of hearing stuff about homosexuality. These last two blog posts have opened a can of worms, and so if anyone talks about it to me, they are liable to get this kind of reaction:


The Infidel

Yesterday, TractorGirl and I went to the Tyneside Cinema (apparently the best preserved newsreel cinema in the country) to see director David Baddiel’s latest film, ‘The Infidel’.

It’s about a Muslim man, Mahmud Nasir, who discovers when emptying his dead mother’s house that he was adopted and that by birth he is Jewish and called Solly Shimshillewitz. At the same time, his son wants to marry a girl whose new stepfather is a Muslim extremist and expects the family to live up to his definition of a ‘good Muslim’. In trying to get to see his dying father, Mahmud gets lessons on ‘Jewishness’ from a cabbie, Lenny Goldberg, but finds himself caught in an interesting cultural muddle.

I really enjoyed the film; it’s very funny and handles difficult issues by taking the mickey thoroughly. I would recommend it. Even the Guardian liked it!

The Infidel scores 8.5/10.

While we were there, we saw  a trailer for Russell Crowe’s latest film, ‘Robin Hood’. It looks like another CGI spectacular, with dialogue that the knobs who comment on things like The Review Showwould love. Think I’ll give it a miss, especially as Crowe reminds me too much of Jon Culshaw from Dead Ringers and I can’t help wonder if the film is a spoof as a result!

We also saw a trailer for ‘Four Lions’, about a group of inept terrorists, which looked very funny and we will be going to see.  Afterwards, we discovered that there are various nice cafes at the cinema, which makes it ideal for an arty day out, maybe along with a trip to the Baltic. All in all, a good day 🙂 I’ll leave you with a trailer for ‘The Infidel’: