Friday, 31 October 2008

Spooky Trees

Mad pollarding in York, by Skeldergate Bridge.

Mad pollarding in Bury St Edmunds, by the Norman Tower.

I always think there's something a bit otherwordly about severely pollarded trees. So I thought this would be a good post to do for Halloween. And the Bury St Edmunds photo was taken in the Great Churchyard.

Ruby is in Bury St Edmunds for the week, where she formerly lived and blogged. This post is part of a series to run until her return to York, comparing the two towns.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Big Hair at St Williams College

The day I got married I had big hair. I went to get my hair done in a salon somewhere quite near the scene of this photo on the morning of my wedding, and came out with a massive bouffante. By the time I had my photo taken looking out of one of the top windows of the courtyard inside St Williams College (above), where we had our wedding reception, it had flopped a bit, but was big compared to how it normally is. Had I fallen out of said window, there was still a good chance my hair would have worked as an already-open parachute.

Although big hair was a change from my usual flat hair, all things considered, I would probably not go large on a haircut again.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Iconic Statues

There is a very good opportunity for a silly photo if you are posing next to this statue. You can actually hang your bag / umbrella / whatever you have with you, from Constantine's extended hand. Very irreverent of course, but in York, no one much minds. This statue has been here only for about 10 years but has quickly become one of the city's iconic symbols.

So what does the Roman Emperor Constantine have to do with York? Well, he was actually proclaimed Emporer in York, in 306, and the statue's plaque tells us that after his conversion to Christianity, he "established the foundations of Western Christendom."

This is a statue of St Edmund by Elizabeth Frink. He stands rather spookily between St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the Great Churchyard. There is an ongoing local campaign in East Anglia to reinstate St Edmund as patron saint of Britain (he was ousted by St George). The original St Edmund, King of East Anglia was killed by the Danes in 869, at Bradfield just outside Bury St Edmunds. Don't try hanging anything from this statue. The locals would lynch you.

Ruby is in Bury St Edmunds for the week, where she formerly lived and blogged. This post is part of a series to run until her return to York, comparing the two towns.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


"I know, having visited York, that you come away thinking nice Minster - shame about the toilets'." Richard Chisnell, Director of the British Toilet Association.

Above is Splash Palace - as York's Public Conveniences are known locally. I've always thought they were OK as far as public toilets go, but apparently no-one else agrees. So this building in Parliament Street will be flattened next year and the debate is on as to what, if anything, should be built in its place. An opportunity to showcase what the town has to offer there, thinks the York Tourist Board. Whereas others think it will open up the town centre if nothing is there. New public toilets will be round the corner near Newgate Market.
On to toilets in Bury St Edmunds. Where do I start? Here is a town where there is major toilet trouble. The old main public loos were knocked down as part of a project to build a new shopping centre. New temporary loos were set up in portakabins, right next to where building work is going on, meaning there is now quite a hike from Bury's current town centre to go to the lav. This has caused lots of complaints, and dissatisfaction that the council is effectively moving the town centre from its age old location to where the new shopping development is. Toilets are but one aspect of that particular story.

Ruby is in Bury St Edmunds for the week, where she formerly lived and blogged. This post is part of a series to run until her return to York, comparing the two towns.

Monday, 27 October 2008


I didn't get my act together quickly enough today to continue the series comparing York and Bury St Edmunds. That will have to happen tomorrow now. In the meantime, here is a photo taken somewhere between the two towns as my eldest son and my daughter share ipod music on our journey.

Sunday, 26 October 2008


In the centre of York is a park known as the Museum Gardens. It has the ruins of an Abbey in it, St Mary's Abbey (1006-1539). Above, this section of the ruins makes a nice setting for one of the paintings in The Grand Tour. When I took this photo, a big sound system erected right next to the ruins was playing Gregorian chants (don't know if that's the right term; it was monks singing in Latin).

In the centre of Bury St Edmunds is a park known as the Abbey Gardens. It has the ruins of an Abbey in it: The Great Abbey of Bury St Edmunds (1020ish-1539). Like St Mary's in York, it was pillaged for building materials after Henry VIII's dissolution of the monastaries in 1539. But this abbey had a flint and rubble core, so when the stone cladding blocks were taken off (few remain), these weird and wonderful shapes were left. One of my Bury St Edmunds blog readers who used to play in the Abbey Gardens as a child called this part shown above "The Chicken and the Kettle."

Ruby is in Bury St Edmunds for the week, where she formerly lived and blogged. This post is part of a series to run until her return to York, comparing the two towns.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Ticket to Ride

I have a ticket to ride, ladies and gentlemen.

This afternoon, I shall be boarding a train at York Railway Station with my 3 children (although one of them is no longer a child) and heading back to Bury St Edmunds for half-term week.

Bury St Edmunds is where I lived for 11 years. Most people in York haven't heard of it, so I explain that if the map of Great Britain looks like a witch riding a pig, with Cornwall as the pig's trotter, and Wales as its head, then the pig's arse is East Anglia. Bury St Edmunds is somewhere in the middle of the arse. I shall be there until next Sunday night.

Throughout the week, I shall be running a series of photographs which compare York, where I now live, to Bury St Edmunds.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Guess the weight anyone?

This squash is in the window of the greengrocer's, Millie's, right next door to the Pig and Pastry. For a £1 you can have a guess at the weight, with the chance of winning £50 to spend in the shop. All proceeds are going to the children's ward at York District Hospital. I haven't had a go because I'm useless at weights and I really have no idea. If anyone else does, give me a hand and post your guess below! I might enter yet. A bean or two from Millie's negotiable if I win with your guess ;-)

Through the window you can see the terraces on Bishopthorpe Road. The road leads, unsurprisingly, to the village of Bishopthorpe, where the current Archbishop of York resides.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Ruby and the Open Door in the Shambles

Open doors are irresistible. They are just asking you to go through them.

And so it was that I came upon an open door a few buildings down from 12 Shambles.

I went through it, and followed the staircase up, with pictures of film stars watching me all the way. At the top was a landing and then another staircase with more film stars. Up again. First there was a hairdresser's, then some offices. Up a few stairs, down a few stairs, along another corridor. And then I met a nice man who has a therapy practice at the top of the building and he let me have a look at the room where he works.

I entered through the doorway pictured above at number 15, but by the time I was in the therapy room on the top floor, I was above number 19. It could have been a room like this where Gails Man's great-great grandfather, William Riley lived in the 1880s, as the building above 19 is similar to the one above number 12. Although I suspect the decor would have been quite different.

What I love about this room is the fact that the windows are almost the same height as the wall itself. Imagine having a bed by them. The view through William's window could have been very much like the view through this one. Only with quite a lot of butcher-y things going on down in the street below. Here's the view as it is today:

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

12 Shambles

I received an email recently from Gail's Man at Nottingham Daily Photo, telling me about his own connection with York.

He has roots here, right in the very heart of the town. His great-grandfather, William Riley, a chimney sweep, lived at number 12 the Shambles in the 1880s. And his uncle, William Everett, was born just round the corner, at 30 Little Shambles in 1898.

Today, I went to investigate 12 the Shambles, pictured above. One of the street's characterful medieval buildings, it is now a sweet shop, and the manageress was happy for me to have a look round and take some photos - and interested in the story of the building's one time inhabitant!

Inside it looks every part the olde worlde shop - but it would of course, like most of the shops in the Shambles, have been a butcher's at the time William Riley lived here.

The beams are fantastic. I even had a peek behind the shelf units and you can see the same wooden beams across the walls. From oak trees that lived quite a long time ago!

You can see evidence that this was once a butcher's on the top photo as the heavy window sill is where meat would have been displayed, and also on this pic (right) behind the shop sign, meat hooks are still visible (some bent to accomodate the sign). In Victorian times, meat would have been hanging outside most of the shop fronts in the street.

No meat today - just lots of colourful sweeties. These pictured are all traditional Yorkshire boiled sweets. They had Yorkshire mixture too, which was always one of my favourites as a kid.

There are another couple of storeys above the shop, which I presume was where Gails Man's great-grandfather lived. These are all offices now, and I didn't manage to venture up in this particular building, although I did in an almost identical one a few doors down. But that's for tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008


Shambles, more popularly known as The Shambles.

It's apparently Europe's most visited street. It also has the claim to fame of being Europe's best preserved medieval street. I walked down it with a friend recently, who set it looked like a film set, but nope, it's the real thing!

The word Shambles is from Anglo-Saxon shammels meaning "little shelves/booths" and the word Flesshamels means literally "meat shelves." The Shambles was once the home of York's meat market, where meat was displayed by butchers on the wide wooden slabs at the bottom of the window frames.

These days it can be a bit hard to imagine that this was once a meat market. It would also have been - a bit of a shambles, frankly, as animals were slaughtered in the street, and all the waste - guts, offal and blood - was thrown down a runnel in the middle, hence the expression shambles, meaning a mess.

These days there are some very nice characterful little shops there - some of them touristy, but none the worse for that. Interestingly, there is another City Daily Photo blogger who has a connection with the Shambles. Who could it be, and what's the link? Tune in tomorrow to find out ;-)

Monday, 20 October 2008

The Pig and Pastry

What could be more welcoming on a grey October morning, than the Pig and Pastry on Bishopthorpe Road? This is the local cafe I mentioned in a previous post - where I met with friends on Friday morning. As well as a cafe, it's also a deli, and there's a lovely warm, friendly atmosphere. It isn't in the centre of York, but isn't too far from it either - and I'm lucky enough to live just round the corner. I think this could well become a regular haunt :-)

I took these photos this morning. I need to investigate the range of cakes and pastries they do further next time I go in. The pastries being put on display, fresh from the oven, looked sooo tempting. The Pig and Pastry is relatively new on the Bishopthorpe Rd parade of shops, but is already extrememly popular!

Pig & Pastry, 35 Bishopthorpe Rd, York YO23 1NA. Tel: 01904 675115

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Swing in Davygate

There was a bit of swing going on this afternoon on Davygate. In the mood, na na na na naaaah! Not that they played that (when I was listening) but it reminded me of that a bit.

In the background is St Helen's Graveyard (a little bit of preserved graveyard off Davygate) and you can see the copy of the painting "Lady Cockburn and her three eldest sons" by Sir Joshua Reynolds, part of The Grand Tour in York.

To follow on from my last post, I had a really good time at the Pig and Pastry by the way, and met a very interesting new friend :-) The Pig and Pastry might become a regular haunt - rather good, and not at all far from the new chez Ruby.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Bits of the Minster #3

For me, this was the obvious shot of the Minster to take, and is the first one I took, in fact. I probably didn't put it on first because it seemed obvious.

It's difficult taking pictures of something that everyone takes pictures of, because of the need to make it different, and capture something original. Photos taken from an odd angle to make the thing look different can look as cliched as those taken as a straight shot, which is why I wasn't too thrilled with the one above. It's sort of a mixture of "straight on" and twisted angle, to get the lampost in as well. But having left it to "rest" for a week or two, I don't mind it as much this morning.

About this morning. I am excited. I'm going to meet the friend of a friend that I mentioned before. We shall be having coffee (and possibly a cake :-) ) in the Pig and Pastry. In fact I had better go and get ready now ;-)

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Alternative transport

Best granny-mobile ever. Look! It has a buggy board on the back for grandad!

My kids were really excited to see this today, as it made them remember when we used to have a buggy board to go on the back of the push chair, for one of them to stand on. It might even be in the shed in Bury St Edmunds still.

The above photo was taken in Rowntree Park, less than an hour ago. It's worth pointing out that the pair are actually heading towards the skate park :-D

Friday, 10 October 2008

Harvest Festival

Little J's school had their harvest festival today in St Andrew's Church, Bishopthorpe. Next year I shall know to camp outside the night before to get a place near the front. A good thing about where I sat though, was that it was right behind Kay, one of the only 4 people in York that I know so far, making me feel a little less like Ruby-no-mates. She's the mum of one of Little J's new friends, and we had exchanged a word or two in the playground.

Then during the service, the vicar got up to say his bit. I admit, I was only sort of half listening to him but I suddenly became aware of him saying " ... and then you just say to yourself, 'Oh God! I can't be doing with this!' " I noticed Kay in front of me leaning across to the lady next to her, and whispering: "Did he just say Oh God?" So I leaned forward between them and said, "He did! He said Oh God!" And we all sat looking at one another in a nice, companiable, astonishment sharing session.

Afterwards, Kay invited me back to her house for coffee, and showed me round the village of Bishopthorpe. She's going to introduce me to another one of her friends next week. So it seems I will soon be knowing five people in York :-)

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Big Fish

It was misty in York this morning. I had a perfect idea for a misty photograph to post, but could I be bothered to go out into the cold morning with my camera? Could I heck. Bad blogger, Ruby! In fact I've been having a bit of an "I wish it was the weekend and I really can't be arsed to do anything" day.

I have cheered up now though, having forced myself to get a few things done, and just having eaten a nice smoked salmon sandwich for lunch. That's not related to the picture above, by the way - in case you were thinking I might suddenly launch into something like: "At the fish farm this week ... " ;-)

The picture is in fact another one from this weekend, when we visited Burnby Hall Gardens in Pocklington. We were all feeling a bit tired when we arrived, having just spent three hours at the hockey tournament, but the sight of all these huge, very tame fish in the lake cheered us up instantly. Especially the kids, who were feeding them (tubs of fish food are available for £1).

There's definitely something a bit magical about Burnby Hall and Gardens. It's like a setting for fairy stories or something. Wanna go back there soon. But in the meantime I have the thought of a return visit to another very special place to keep me occupied. The countdown has begun. 16 days before a week's holiday in Bury St Edmunds :-D It's going to feel strange going back as a visitor.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

A newsagents on Stonegate

A newsagents like they used to be, on Stonegate. I like this shop. Like quite a few shops in York, it's just a proper independent shop. It doesn't consciously try to be one, but it carries on the tradition of the way these kind of places have always been. I admit to being a bit of a Borders fan, and I like WHSmiths as well, for the sheer variety of things they have in there. But shops like this make me remember my childhood, and the very similar place in Leeds I walked past on my way home from school - where I would often stock up on penny bubblies, get a quarter of Yorkshire mixture, and buy my favourite comics. Worth nipping in to support them by buying a paper and a mag whenever I can, I reckon.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The man who wasn't Anthony Worrall Thompson

I don't know many people in York. Not many at all. In fact, outside of my family, I know only four other people so far.

Coming to live in York after my eleven years in Bury St Edmunds is bizarre, in ways I had never imagined. In Bury St Edmunds I knew a lot of people, and if I didn't know them, I very often knew them by sight. It was that kind of town. In York, I never see a familar face. Just recently, however, a strange phenomenon has begun to occur - I keep thinking I see people I know. Everywhere.

Today on King's Staith, for example, I was sure I saw the man from the Waterstone's Bury St Edmunds children's book department. He was leaning against the railings, talking on his mobile phone. I was all ready to run up to him, shouting, "Hello! Hello! What are you doing here?" but then I got nearer and it wasn't him at all. And I have lost count of the number of times I've thought I've seen Hoffy, and other people from around Bury. It's as though my brain expects me to see people I know, and is compensating by making strangers look familiar.

And then there are the celebrities. I saw Eddie Baird from Amazing Blondel in town the other day (wasn't him, pity) and at Little J's hockey match on Sunday, one of the dads, for a few marvellous moments, appeared to me as Anthony Worrall Thompson (above). Imagine that! "Ruby, come and eat this specially prepared Sunday lunch with all the trimmings ..." How 'bout YES!

I think I need to start getting to know more people in York ;-)

Monday, 6 October 2008

A Grotesque Old Woman

One of the things I'm enjoying about the The Grand Tour in York, is that sometimes there has been a cleverly fitting, or even ironically fitting choice of location for the paiting.

"The Grand Tour" consisits of reproductions of priceless, famous paintings, hanging all around the city, and was a joint project between York Art Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Here we have "A Grotesque Old Woman" by Massys (1465 - 1530), and we are told about the painting that "it was probably intended to satirise old women who try inappropriately to recreate their youth." The location is - slap bang between two York beauty salons on Grape Lane.

You gotta larf :-D

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Park in Early Autumn

It was a bit of a golden autumn afternoon here in York today. Not that we were in York for most of it, and not that this picture was taken in York either, but the York connection is there as my youngest son Little J is wearing a York hockey shirt.

The picture shows Burnby Hall Gardens, Pocklington, where I spent this afternoon with Ruby Senior and both my youngest kids. Little J had been in a hockey tournament all morning. Won 2 matches, lost 2 matches, and did a lot of leaping about in the process, as he always does. So here, you can see him having a well earned rest by the lake.

Burnby Hall Gardens is famous for its water lillies, of all different kinds. I shall revisit next year in the right season. I'd never heard of this place - it's gorgeous, and it seems to be a genuine well kept secret of the area.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Autumn Fruits in Little Betty's

My favourite shop window display in York at the moment is in Little Betty's, on Stonegate. Betty's is a very famous, widely celebrated cafe/cake shop in York, with other branches around Yorkshire too. I love the main shop opposite Borders, and have a very nice blog friend who works there :-) I also love Little Betty's. Walking in Little Betty's is like walking back in time.

The above marzipan fruits etc from the current window display look so autumnal and are just the sort of thing that makes me love this season - I was pretty much brought up to associate the time with creating, hoarding, and getting excited about festivities to come. At some point, I think I need to have a celebratory autumnal visit to the cafe upstairs in Little Betty's rather than just looking at the lovely things is the window.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Bits of the Minster #2

What a lot of clever people got it right. It is indeed the Minster that you see when you come out of the Shared Earth shop and look left. I avoided putting down the Shared Earth shop address in my last post, 1 Minster Gates, incase it made it too obvious, but it was anyway :-D !
Technically speaking, it's only a bit of the Minster that you can see, so this photo fits in nicely to my Bits of the Minster series! On the top left in the photo, you can see the Shared Earth shop sign. The shop jutting out there on the right is an antiquarian book shop which I intend to go and visit sometime soon. Ruby Senior has a couple of antique books on the shelves here gathering dust, so we're going to take them in and see if the bookseller is interested. On the bin in the foreground is a poster advertising the York Ghost Tours. I've never been on one, but that's another thing to do at some point - there are lots of ghost stories associated with York. And at the top right of the picture you can see a signpost indicating the way to the Museum Gardens, and the National Railway Museum. Things to blog another day.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Shared Earth Shop

On our Monday evening walk round York, my daughter wanted to go into the Shared Earth Shop. It was one of the only shops open at that time (around 5.45pm) and was brightly lit with its door enticingly open, so we could see all the colourful bits and pieces inside. So in we went. My daughter scampered off immediately, so I strolled around looking for a nice photo to take. I just had my camera pointed to take this shot of all the bags, when she stepped into the doorway there, to tell me to look at the little trinket box she was holding. So above, you can see the Shared Earth shop bags, with a bonus view of my daughter!

I love all the bags here. A year or so ago, the "real bag vs disposable bag" issue was not as big as it is now. But now, just about all the shops are stocking proper bags, and encouraging us to use them, rather than buying plastic. Is this the same in other places?

Tomorrow I'll post the sight you see when you come out of this shop and turn to the left. Can anyone guess what it might be?

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Camera Date at the Castle Museum

On Friday I made a date with my camera and went to York's Castle Museum.

My camera is a Nikon D50 - a beginner's digital SLR. I've always used it on automatic. Why? Well, sort of because:
a) I initially found it quite big and intimidating after years of little point and click cameras
b) you can get passable results just using it on automatic
and c) because I have a mental block about anything too technical.

Anyway, on Friday I sat in the Museum grounds by the old mill, put down my writing notes, and tentatively plucked a daisy growing on the ground beside me as a subject for my first manual endeavours. After about half an hour of reading my camera manual, I figured out how to override auto-focus and I focused on the daisy myself!! Whoo-hooo! The result is above. Only an OK photo, but the sense of acheivement was quite huge.

Next camera date, I shall be overriding something else - wonder what?!