Sunday, 29 August 2010


Phew.. just got back from a weekend of museums,  history and shopping in York. It's a few years since I last went to York and it never fails to live up to expectations. The B&B was a last minute booking and although oxygen was needed to climb the stairs to the bedroom, it was lovely. First stop was hitting one of York's sightseeing buses. I love the city open top sightseeing buses, not for the fact that you get your blown about and your face sticks in that Amanda Holden botox look, but because they give you a whistle stop tour of the city's prime locations and historical nuances. I also love being able to jump off and on and leisure. Not literally of course.. more's the pity. First stop was the Castle Museum. I remembered the Victorian Street from a school trip about 140 years ago and it's still there in all its glory. Fab-u-lous. Also great was the old York gaol and the cell holding highwayman Dick Turpin before he was executed. Then it was a quick look round York Dungeon which was very macabre but perversely very interesting. After an hour or two of looking at exhibits of torture and maiming, it was time to grab something to eat in a small eatery which supplied great food and a very cool live jazz band. Nighttime activities were finished off by going on the very wonderful Ghost tour. You are taken on a twilight tour round York's streets by an actor luvvie who tells very creepy stories whilst other actors jump out on you at opportune moments. Cue screaming and much laughing, it's really great fun. 
Today the Railway Museum was given the once over simply because it was free which made a pleasant change as you get used to dipping your hand in your pocket on numerous occasions in York. The railway museum was good, but made even better by people watching. Sit back and watch old men, young men and young boys mesmerized by steam trains. Occasionally, an older man would wax lyrically to his eyes-glazed-over wife about 'big ends' or the 'Scotsman V1-453 engine shaft'. And you watch in wonder at how a man lovingly caresses a steam engine's axle and then imagine when he last did that to his wife's thigh. 1974 probably. The same date British Rail first started selling shite sandwiches. After seeing many, many steam engines and after sitting in the carriage of a Japanese Bullet train, it was back to the all together more pleasurable and girlie pursuit of shopping in the Shambles. York has some great shops and many are independent, classy outlets which tempt you inside at alarming regularity. After a few miles walking on York's castle walls and taking photos of the Minster from every angle, it was regrettably time to leave York as a month's salary had already gone on one of York's car parks. 
Heading home and a quick stop at Saltaire in Bradford. It's a place I'd read about and always fancied a look at. Salt's Mill dates back 150 years or so, back to the days when Titus Salt owned a woollens mill employing over 4000 of Bradford's weavers and spinners. Old Titus was a bit of a philanthropist and rather like the Cadbury's dynasty in Birmingham, he built Saltaire around his factory containing decent housing, school, infirmaries and playing fields for his staff. Being part of the 'do as I say, and not as I do' school of philanthropy, old Titus feels the need to own his employees completely by ensuring total abstinence from alcohol for all his staff. Of course, old Titus had a few drams of whisky on the side, but heaven forbid his employees should have a glass or two of beer after working a 60 hour week in the mill... 
Anyway, interesting place all the same. It now contains a David Hockney art exhibition and many floors of art, books and a very good restaurant to boot. There was also a contemporary home section with funky furniture and funky prices to match. You could seriously spend some dosh in here, the goods are THAT good. It was with much regret that I left Saltaire. I like the place very much. And I suppose despite his stance of alcohol, old Titus Salt did improve his workers lives considerably. It was also with a heavy heart as you drive away that you remember despite all the social problems of our Northern industrial heritage, there still remains these reminders (albeit these days in different forms) of how great we once were as nation. The railway museum at York containing supreme examples of our engineering prowess, and Salt's Mill which employed 4000 and made Worsted wool which was exported across the world. Legacies indeed of a once great manufacturing nation. Sadly, as you drive through Bradford, there are constant reminders of past greatness replaced by call centres and boarded up and tatty buildings. Still, that's history folks, as sad as it is. Back to the present and back to remembering how great it is to escape for a weekend away. Can't wait 'til next month...


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