Saturday, 31 January 2009

Now then, Smiler!

I felt like a twerp taking this photo, and I don't really know why. Maybe it was because it's not exactly a place where people normally stop and take pictures. They just fly through the barriers (just behind me here) and on to wherever they're going. Taking this, I did have a bit of an audience of puzzled ticket barrier "help" men behind me who probably wondered what the hell I was doing.

And then there's that whole "being a tourist in your own town" sort of thing to mentally deal with, which is a sore point for me because I regret my separation from this metropolis - and that I haven't been around to witness and live through its recent developments.

I must have got over it though by the time I exited the station, as I was greeted by a group of passing workmen with: "Now then, Smiler!" Which made me laugh. I had a friend at school who used to say that exact same greeting to people who were smiling. Wonder if it's a Leeds thing? I've never heard it anywhere else :-D

Leeds Blogs!
Two great Leeds blogs I've been enjoying recently are:
Leeds Daily Photo by Paul and
Leeds Grub by Katie.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Day Trip

Above is York City Station on a wet January morning. In a few hours, I shall be there, setting off on a day trip to Leeds, where I'll be meeting my old school friend in the Art Gallery Cafe. We haven't seen each other for a few years now, as she's been living abroad for a while, and is only here on holiday in fact - so I'm grabbing the chance to catch up. It will be great spending some time in Leeds with her. It's home town to both of us, and a place which has changed immeasurably since the days of our mispent youth!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Sightseeing Bus!

There are quite a few bus stops for the York City Sightseeing Bus along my normal morning bus route. The buses run all year round, have a running commentary, and you can get on and off as much as you like. Unfortunately I won't be reporting back about whether it's any good, because it costs £10 for a ticket, which only lasts 24 hours and seems to go where my normal bus goes anyway :-D

I buy a weekly ticket for the ordinary bus service, which costs £15 and with it I can travel anywhere on any bus within York. I intend to do some exploring some time soon.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Ghostly Gate House

I was in the village of Bolton Percy yesterday, about six miles to the south of York. It is a quiet little backwater and in parts, is one of those places where it seems not a lot has changed for centuries.
This gate house, glimpsed through the trees in the church yard, is believed to date from around 1467. It is now falling into disrepair, and is on English Heritage's buildings at risk register. Plans are underway, however, to conserve it by converting it into a holiday home to let. Much as I instantly dislike this idea, it does seem like the only way forward, as the money generated would pay for its upkeep.
Currently, the gate house is semi-derelict and one imagines it to be full of the ghosts of the past. Personally, I prefer it that way.

Monday, 26 January 2009

The Mutangular Tower

Here it is. The multangular tower. A rather nice piece of Roman architechture left in the Museum Gardens, once at the corner of the Roman military fortress of York. The small bricks at the bottom of the tower are the Roman ones. The top part with the larger bricks is from when the tower was rebuilt during the medieval period.

Here it is from the other side. You can see the difference in brick type more clearly here, that upper part with the "windows" being the later one. The red stripe in the Roman built section looks decorative but was apparently to cement the structure together

There are lots of Roman tombs all over this part of the Museum gardens. They have been brought here from other sites around York. Here, Little J is lamenting the fact that there is rubbish and graffiti around them. "That is someone's tomb, so why do people put rubbish in it?" he asked me.

Rowntree Park Lake

Rowntree Park is just near our house. I took the kids there yesterday afternoon, along with their friend and they played happily for ages in the playground. Then I looked round to find the lake and sky were pink, and managed to quickly grab this shot. The park closes at dusk, and the park keeper was already on the way over to us to say time up, jangling his keys, as I took this. 4.40 pm, if you wondered!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Ruby investigates Roman York in St Helen's Square - with "help" from Little J

My youngest son Little J is not particularly into historical stuff, unlike my eldest Erik who loved it when he was this age. Above is Little J on Saturday, pictured thwarting my attempt to photograph the location of the Praetorian Gate - the main entrance into the fortress of Eboracum (York) established AD 71. He had just bought a new game for his Wii with some Christmas money, and wanted to go home and play it. So he decided to pogo around me and my camera in protest.

Here is the same location, St Helen's Square, without Little J pogo-ing into the photo. The road you can see between the blue and black shop fronts there is Stonegate, and follows the line of the original main road into the fortress established by Roman soldiers who built the first city of York, all those centuries ago (there was nothing here before the Romans' arrival, at this strategic meeting point of two rivers, the Foss and the Ouse).

Nothing left of the Romans' gate here now, but five minutes away in the Museum Gardens stands a multangular tower that was part of the fortress's defences.

Ruby: Would you like to go and see it?
Little J: Oh, all right then! But can we go home, soon?
Ruby: Look, I'll do you a deal. If we can go see the ruins, we'll watch Mr Yellow juggling for a bit first.
Little J: Done!

Saturday, 24 January 2009


When belting into York Station to catch a train, it's always a relief if it leaves from one of the lower number platforms, as you know the platform is right there near the staion entrance.

If, on the other hand you get something like platform 5 - like I did on Wednesday, you have to leg it up these steps, and down the the ones at the other side before you can look for your train.

I love this clock at the top of the first steps going up, as I can look at it and work out how many minutes I've got. In this picture though, unusually for me, I had plenty of time, as my train to London didn't leave till 10.29. But that was because Ruby Senior, who is Organised, dropped me off at the station ;-)

NB The rose in the metalwork of the clock is the white rose of Yorkshire :-)

Friday, 23 January 2009

Ankle Boots and Chewing Gum at York City Station - and London!

I was very pleased with myself for wearing my posh ankle boots to go to London in yesterday. That's why I photographed them at the station, while waiting for my train. Look how the chewing gum splodges on the station floor match the pattern on my skirt. I didn't notice that when I took the picture, but it's actually quite cool.

Ruby Senior was doubtful about my choice of footwear for London. The boots have a heel, and I don't do heels, as a rule. She was also alarmed by the fact that I was still trying to zip the boots up when she took me to the station in the car. I had to push the passenger seat back to the max, rest my feet on the front dashboard, then give each zip an almighty prolonged tug to get
them up.
"It's not like you'll just be able to slip them off if they're uncomfortable."
"I'll be fine!"
London is crazy, and big. My feet were fine. To begin with. I was a bit teetery with the heels when getting on and off trains, but it was all going well, until I stood up after being seated during the meeting ... and felt like I was standing on knives.
I hobbled out in the direction of the tube station, with the gait of an old lady. I should have been brandishing my umbrella at the crowds, saying; "London is for the young! Make way! I need to get home!" I passed a couple of shoe shops, and cursed myself for not buying a sensible flat pair instead of the ones I was wearing. Then I saw the entrance to Marble Arch tube, which involved stairs, so I hobbled on along Oxford Street instead. I would get a bus! But none of the buses were going in the direction I needed.
In my semi-incapacitated state, I was also a sitting target for the army of distributors of a free newspaper called London Lite. Avoiding eye contact was useless. It was thrust in my face at regular intervals along Oxford Street, but a loud, assertive "No thank you" seemed to make it disappear again.
Then suddenly, I needed to sit down. Immediately. But there was no-where. So I staggered across Oxford Street, and got on a bus to take me back in the direction I'd just come from. I didn't know what to do with my London travel card on bus - whether it needed swiping or what - so I held it up cheerily at the driver who glowered at me and growled "Just get on." Charming. Then I found all the seats in the bus were taken. Aaargh, I couldn't even sit down in here!
Trying to distract myself from the knife like pain in my feet, I stared through the bus window, and found myself looking at an irate fireman in a fire engine whose siren was blaring. He was yelling and gesticulating and trying to move the engine. My mind blotted out these superfluous facts, as I am rather partial to men in unform, especially where rescue scenarios are involved.
A daydream was imminent. Help me, handsome fireman! I am stuck on the top of a tall pair of shoes, with knives in my feet. Carry me to safety, and away from this godforsaken metropolis, back to my home town!
The fireman turned and looked at me. Eek, had I been thinking out loud?
Then I saw him mouth: "Tell the driver to move the bus." He probably wasn't talking to me. I looked away. Then I looked back at him. His face was angrier now and there was no mistaking his nasty glare was directed straight at me. "TELL the driver to MOVE THE F*ING BUS and TELL HIM NOW!"
Aaargh, what a nasty fireman! His scary order propelled me straight down the bus on my painful feet and I stood in front of the driver's cab. The driver turned and glowered at me. Up until this moment I think I had been considering yelling the words "Move the f*ing bus!" but one look at his face told me this was a very bad idea. What I actually said, was "Excuse me. The fireman driving the fire engine has told me I have to ask you to move the bus." The bus driver looked at me with a reptilian grin, indicated the gridlocked traffic around the bus and said. "Ask him, 'Where to?'"
I decided that I wouldn't bother.
Opposite Marble Arch tube, I flopped out of the bus and onto a low sill outside a shop. I let out a scream of relief as I took the weight off my feet. Within seconds, a London Lite newspaper was in my face
"Have a paper, please darling."
"No thank you."
"Why not? It's free."
"I don't want it."
"Please, have a paper."
"No thank you."
"Take a paper."
"Take it."
"Why you don't want take it? I am just doing my job."
"If I took a paper from everyone who offered me one, do you know how many I'd be carrying by now? About six."
"Sick? You are sick?"
"NO, I said six"
"Take a paper."
"I don't want one. PISS OFF!"
"OK darling, have a nice day."
Yes, I thought, I will have a nice day. So I went in the shoe shop next to Marble Arch tube, and bought a pair of padded slip-ons, a size too big, because my feet were too swollen for anything else. Wearing them was bliss, and probably the highlight of the day.
Ee, it's grand to be back in York.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

View Through a Window

This is the view through our back bedroom window, taken just now at 5 to 9 am, Southbank, York.

When I lived away, and used to come up and stay here in my mother's house, I used to sit and look at this view and dream of coming back to live here. It is so very Northern, and feels like home for me. Although I can see why it wouldn't appeal to some (I also like mills, and cooling towers :-D).

And having just waxed lyrical about the North, I am now off down South for the day. London is calling, and I have a ticket to ride (how many more song titles can I get in?), leaving shortly and back late this evening. I've just joined a professional association that has about 7 meetings a year there, and today will be the first of those for 2009. I lived and worked in London for about 3 years - it'll be good to be back for a visit.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Squidgy Bits Rule!

Look! The council wants us to join the gym, and is telling us to say NO to our squidgy bits! Frankly, I am quite at peace with my own squidgy bits. I am sure we should all have at least some, anyway. It's probably when you're squidgy all over that it's time to start worrying. Nice red posters at least, but Ruby isn't joining the gym - I'll stick to riding my bike, thanks :-D

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

News about Terry's

A leaflet came through the door this week about the disused Terry's factory, seeking our opinions as nearby residents on the amendments to the council's brief for would-be developers.

Terry's is currently owned by the developer Grantside, who bought the factory in 2006 for £26 million. They put in a proposal to turn the place into loads of homes, a luxury hotel, offices and workshops, but the plan was thrown out by the council's planning department.

So the amended brief from the council says the developers may submit proposals for: a high quality hotel, conference and leisure facilities, shops, restaurants, and specifies that the development must benefit local people and have a "communal" feel.

I've been trying to get my head round it for a day or two now. It isn't stated on the information given to me why the last proposal was chucked out, and how the amendments will prevent that happening again - which surely, it the key piece of required information here. I think, if I remember rightly from what I read in the paper at the time, the main reason was the traffic congestion that it would supposedly cause in the area. I can only assume this must have been because there were too many homes planned as part of the last proposal (?). Why am I having to assume things? It would be nice if it was all made a bit clearer After all, this article in the Press yesterday tells us:

"It's one of the biggest and most crucial developments in York's recent history - and now the people of the city are getting their chance to reshape its future!"

Communicate to us clearly about it, then!

After residents have given their opinions, which we have until Feb 22 to do, the brief will be revised, and presented to the council's planning committee in March or April, according to the article in yesterday's Press. Then I suppose Grantside will have a look at it and submit another proposal. If they can still afford it, and if they aren't too p*ssed off by now.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Hockey in Halifax

Today in York, it is one of the most miserable days imaginable. Dark, cold, windy and raining hard. I just got drenched on the school run, and am now warming up with a cup of coffee while looking through the photos I took of Little J playing hockey for York City Under 10s yesterday in Halifax. We had sun, and lots of it, hooray!

Halifax is about 35 miles to the south west of York, on the edge of the Pennines, in my home county of West Yorkshire. It was good to see some hills - the area immediately around York, known as the Vale of York is completely flat. It was even better to the see the sun.

On the way there and back, we passed signs to Brighouse and Rastrick, famous for the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band which scored a pretty massive hit in the late 70s with the Floral Dance.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Angry Tree on Bishopthorpe Road

This piece of graffiti is on Bishopthorpe Road. Look at the photo below, to put it into context.

Building with whopping great hole in roof. Tree leaning over it in an aggressive stance. Did the tree actually inflict the damage? Or was it another tree, now gone? I really don't know, but one thing's for sure: Tree 1, Building 0!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The Knavesmire - a closer look

Knave - a rogue, a rascal - from the old English, cnafa
Mire - an area of wet, swampy ground; bog; marsh - from the Old Norse, myrr

The Knavesmire is a large area of undeveloped ground in York known as a stray. It is the haunt of dog walkers these days, and is low lying, flooding easily when it rains.

The York Races take place on the Knavesmire, with the racing track (not pictured) occupying a large part of it. Between 1371 and 1801 public executions took place here too, as I mentioned the other day. In fact horse racing in York started as a side show event for the crowds who came to town to watch the knaves being hanged. It didn't surprise me when I found that out. There is still a motley crew coming to town for the races these days too, with restaurants and pubs in the city centre hiring extra bouncers for the occasion.

But the Knavesmire has a strong character all of its own, which for me overrides the unpleasant aspects of its history. It is very atmospheric, especially in the early morning mist, and a great place for a walk - preferably with wellies.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Ruby's Morning Bus Ride #3 - Bishopthorpe Palace

The bus ride is nearly over. We stop at York College of Law while an early student gets off, and then continue on up Bishopthorpe Road, to Bishopthorpe. Since thorpe means a place in Old Norse, I guess "Bishopthorpe" means the place of the bishop. In fact bishops have been living in Bishopthorpe for centuries. And one still does. Not just any old bishop, either. This is an Archbishop.

Yes, Archbishop John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, lives in Bishopthorpe. We go past his palace every morning, and as we do, it has become a bit of a tradition to call out a greeting and enquire how he is getting on with his daily routine (please take note, I am with my young son when I do this).

The bus is going fast, but here comes Bishopthorpe Palace ... "Good morning Archbishop Sentamu! How are you today?"

"Are you up yet? Have you cleaned your teeth yet?"

"Or are you in your office already? Good-bye!"

Why do I get the feeling that this is going to be one of those posts you regret doing the minute it's up?

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Ruby's Morning Bus Ride #2 The Scary Statue of St Chad's Church

I tried to leave a cliff hanger yesterday, saying I'd post a mystery exciting scene which I pass on my daily bus journey to take Little J to school. But my cliff hanger was upstaged when I mentioned in passing the creepy statue outside St Chad's Church, which looks like a giant insect, and which scares me.

You wanted to see it ... Are you sure? Are you sure sure sure? Too late to change your mind now anyway, here he is :


I told you he was scary!

The first time I did the bus ride to school with my son, I was pointing out interesting things to him, to try and get him to enjoy the journey. As I glanced up at the statue above the church's main entrance, I was going to tell him to have a look - then I saw it properly from myself and my pointy finger went right back down, I can tell you. He has never noticed this and I shall not be showing him, either. *Shudders.*

I don't know what it reminds me of exactly. A fly? A half-hatched pupa ? I had a look at the church website to see if it said anything about who the statue is meant to be (St Chad himself?) but they make not a mention of it. I don't blame them!

Tomorrow, the mystery special place we pass on the final part of our morning bus ride, which also involves a special ritual ...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Ruby's Morning Bus Ride #1 - The Knavesmire

Every morning at 8.15 I leave the house with my youngest son to catch the number 11 bus to his school. Looking out for familiar landmarks has become a ritual.

First is the Knavesmire on the edge of the racecourse (pictured above), where in the cold weather we sometimes see kids skidding across the ice, because the middle of the Knavesmire is waterlogged and frozen over. Public executions once took place here (urgh!) - the most notorious person to be hanged on the Knavesmire being Dick Turpin.

Next is Terry's chocolate factory, then St Chad's church where there is an unpleasant statue above the door, which I think is of a holy person but looks like a giant insect, and I am frightened of it.

Knavesmire School is next, then Terry's again from a different angle, then a long expanse of road going past York Crematorium, York College of Law and the Bustardthorpe Allotment Association, whose name makes me laugh (I have a mature sense of humour).

The most exciting place of all is last, just before we get off - photo tomorrow.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Ruby in Tesco

Tesco in York is very big. It takes me ages to get round it. Rows and rows and rows of stuff. It's in fact a bit too big for my liking but sometimes I go there anyway because I know I'm going to find everything I want in the same store. Eventually.

Have you noticed lately that when brand names are pluralised - such as Shoot in that sign in the top right - it seems to be becoming more and more acceptable to use greengrocer's apostrophe (an appostrophe where it shouldn't be, as in "apple's 70p a pound."

Shoot's £1. State of that. I think I'll go and find the manager and say "Hello, my name is Shoot, can I have my £1, please?"

Monday, 12 January 2009

Changing View, January

Very January. The park by Clifford's Tower is deserted and colours, distinctly muted. You can just see the York Tour bus in the distance on the road, providing a splash of red.

I've decided to take a picture of this view every month, to see how it changes - a lovely idea which is not my own, but is from Marley over at Cheltenham Daily Photo. I've been really enjoying his recent Changing View series, which he began in September, and have been amazed at how much his scene changes in as short a period of a month - what a difference passing time and the seasons make. Thanks Marley for the inspiration - I hope you don't mind me adopting your idea for YDP.

Clifford's Tower is probably York's most well known landmark. Very distinctive up there on its hill, where it has been standing since 1069, built by William the Conqueror as part of his campaign to subdue the Northerners. Anyone out in town in York on a Saturday night will soon see it clearly didn't work ... ;-)

Sunday, 11 January 2009

The Spooky part of the Museum Gardens ...

When you go into the Museum Gardens through the main gate on Museum Street, and turn right as soon as you enter, this is what you see. Wander a little further down, and you see there are tombs inside this tunnel, and the ceiling is a Norman vaulted one.

This section of the ruins in the gardens is actually part of the remains of St Leonard's Chapel and Hospital, a place where the sick and poor came to be healed - in spirit as well as body, and was apparently the largest such place in the north of England. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1137, which is when these ruins date from.

Not pictured here (I'll post a photo when I have one!) is a spacious undercroft, off to the left from the tunnel, which has some beautiful arches. I was actually too scared to go down there and get pics the other day when I took these as it was getting dark! It was the prospect of meeting one of the dodgy types that sometimes hang around here that put me off though, more than the prospect of ghosts. Although I admit, that did also cross my mind. Eek!

This part above definitely does spook me a bit. It's the inside of the "tunnel" and the graves are Roman ones. I seem to remember reading that they weren't found on site, but have been found at excavations in other parts of York.

Funny how just across to the right beyond the park's railings is one of the busiest roads in York, with bus stops, people and loads of traffic. Then along at the end of this tunnel, which you can just see, is the forecourt to the library with people constantly coming and going. I can't help feeling in a totally different world just here though, and civilisation seems far away.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Gates to the Garden

I can't ever walk past the gates to the Museum Gardens without going in. They tempt me. They have everything: Roman coffins, an observatory, the Yorkshire Museum, benches and flowers, dodgy types hanging about among the abbey ruins (they would have sooo got moved on in Bury St Edmunds). There is even a burger van, on occasions.

The photo above shows The Lodge in the background. Just after I took this photo, I went to have a closer look at it. There was a poster in its window advertising the events of the Yorkshire Philosphical Society, which I hadn't heard about before.

Then I went to have a look at the spooky bit of the gardens, which I really like, but which frightens me a bit as well! Photo tomorrow!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Red Letterbox Day!

I am finding myself trying to seek out bright colour, in dull and dingy January, and when I do find some I feel very cheered. Especially by my local post box which has just been repainted. There's even a bit of a red splodge on the wall next to it - oops. All very nice and cheerful though. It's almost enough to make me want to start sending letters again, instead of emails!

Ruby has written a guest post today on the blog of her good friend and writing partner Karen, aka Almost Mrs Average of The Rubbish Diet. A link to the post is here: Ruby's Rubbish Surprise: reporting live from York. Do pop over and see my post about York's bins - or the lack of them, inspired by my post on this blog yesterday!

Thursday, 8 January 2009


The cat on the roof here looks like it's ready to leap down and check out all these tempting bin bags with who knows what tidbits inside, left out for collection on bins day.

Not that the cats in the neighbourhood get much chance for bin bag attack. Bags can only be left out after 7pm of the night before collection. And why no wheelie bins, you may ask? Well in certain areas of York where there are back access alleys to the houses such as this one, wheelie bins are not allowed - to avoid the problem of people leaving them out permanently, where they look unsightly!

All well and good, but even in the short window of available time, cat attacks can and do happen. Aaaargh! Here comes one now!

Addendum: This cat actually disappeared through a cat flap in the gate of the house where the leaping cat is positioned!
Pictured: Back access passage between Knavesmire Crescent and Curzon Terrace

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Home of the Chocolate Orange

The imposing builiding above (photographed yesterday morning on my way back home after the school run) is the home of the Chocolate Orange. Yes, it's Terry's, the chocolate factory! Or should I say, it was. Sadly, in September 2005 it closed its doors for the last time. Chocolate Orange production now takes place outside of the UK, at Kraft foods in Sweden, Poland, Slovakia and Belgium.

So what of the building?

Since its closure, the factory has been standing empty, but plans have been drawn up to convert it into a complex of luxury appartments, business and retail outlets, and a leisure centre. There have however been planning permission problems. And the project has not been mentioned for a while now. The hoardings advertising the development are still there (above) but with the current downturn in the housing market, I wonder if it is actually going to happen?

Monday, 5 January 2009


Is it just me, or is this not likely to get anyone else hot footing it into the newsagent for a copy of the Malton & Pickering Mercury either?

Or maybe some people think differently ...

Pics taken on a day out to Pickering, a bit further up into North Yorkshire than York.

Sunday, 4 January 2009


January can be such a grey, bleak month, without much sunlight at all. The berries on this otherwise bare tree provide a welcome splash of colour in Rowntree Park.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Penthouse Living

At the end of my regular riverside walk into town, I pass these appartments, just before I come up onto Skeldergate Bridge. Look at the penthouse flats on both of them!

For a long time, I have thought of these penthouse flats as my dream home. Imagine the views! Well funnily enough, while browsing houses online, I have noticed that there are appartments in the penthouse suite for sale at the moment - so I don't have to imagine the views any more, I can actually see them: Lookee here!! Click number 5 to see the view - WOW!

£485,000 for a lease on a 2 bed flat though? How bout no! Weirdly enough I almost like the houseboat moored below it just as much. Says she, trying to convince herself ...

Friday, 2 January 2009

Boats on the Ouse

Following on from Wednesday's post, this was taken a little further up the river when I was on my way home. In the background, down the river, you can Ouse Bridge, which features in Wednesday's photo. I guess these boats, moored by some of the new(ish) riverside appartments, must be privately owned. Handy if it floods!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

House Hunting 2009

This year, I'm going to be house hunting.

Having risen to ridiculously high peaks, the house prices in the UK are now dropping again, and will need to drop some more before I can afford to buy. So I'm watching, and waiting, and in the meantime, am very often tempted by houseboats and caravans ...!

I pass this particular boat on my way in to town. It was for sale a little while ago, but presumably has a new owner now. No, not me, but I was sorely tempted!