Thursday, October 14, 2010

North York Moors

Spent a marvellous weekend in the North York Moors. We drove up to Pickering, which was to be our base, and checked into a nice B&B before heading out on to the moors.

Over the top we passed the imposing Hole of Horcum, one of several huge natural ampitheatres in the area. Legend has it that it was creaed by a giant scooping the earth up, before throwing it to create a nearby hill.

Hole of Horcum

We dropped in to Robin Hood's Bay, one of our candidates for the Yorkshire Tea advert which so captured my imagination early on:

Unfortunately we'd left it quite late to reach the bay, so the scene was darkening, windy, cold and wet:

Bleak but pretty - Robin Hood's Bay

Not perturbed, we headed off for a walk in the remaining light.

Marching along the rainy clifftops

I can imagine the scene being fantastic during a storm, as the sea walls are high flat concrete and so would encourage waves to crash over them on to the small village itself. We made do with creeping down a slipway towards the advancing waves before screaming like schoolgirls and retreating when the bigger waves washed up towards our feet.

Soon it was dark, as we arrived at the Boggle Hole, where there is a youth hostel, in a fantastic spot.

We headed inland from here, unfortunately (I now realise having checked the map) on the wrong side of the Mill Beck stream, passing several signs saying private, no entry, trespassers will be shot. This would not be a good start to our weekend. Boggle is the local word for hobgoblin and it felt like he was at play!

The hostel

The rain started coming down too as if to punish our trespass, but we made it back to town eventually and found a suitable establishment to warm up, the cosy Laurel Inn. We dried our clothes by the fire, and I enjoyed a good pint.

Across to Whitby, the plan was to eat at the famous Magpie Cafe, the home of fish and chips! Not that either of us were particularly in the mood for that local staple, but it offers plenty of alternatives.

The Magpie Cafe on a better day

Anyway, the queue ran out down the steps and along the road, and in such a bitterly cold wind too! We tried several other recommended places, including Greens and Ditto, all booked up, presumably because of Valentine's Day the following day. And so we ended up at the Pakistani Shafiq restaurant, overlooking Whitby harbour. We were hesitant until we opened the door and warm air and a delicious curry smell hit us. Sold, and indeed the food was very good.

The following day we spent in Pickering itself, and wrapped up with dinner at the White Swan Inn, which is almost 500 years old.

It was nice, but slightly over-rated perhaps. Every other restaurant in town was dead though, so at least we had some company as we enjoyed dinner, with scallops and duck.

In the morning it was a pretty drive across the Wolds into Hull and work, and far preferable to going the long way round on motorways.

For more information about the area, please click here: The moors will have to be revisited, particularly in summer when the heather flowers, which is supposed to be very pretty.

Monday, October 11, 2010

So long Sargent..

Sargent and the Sea was an exhibition at the RA which ended a couple of weeks ago. It had been on for some time and despite the appeal of the the stormy banner I ended up having to whizz along after work to catch it just before it closed.

Sargent is famous for society paintings such as "Madame X" but this exhibition is, as the name implies, all about his paintings of the sea and coast in particular around northern France. I wasn't sure what to expect, but was hoping for a print that might be suitable for Preston Parade.

On the Sands

Sargent was American but thanks to an adventurous mother was born and spent much of his youth in Europe. In his early 20s, he was classically trained at the  Ă‰cole des Beaux-Arts, going on to exhibit at the Paris Salon then Royal Academy. He met such greats as Degas, Rodin, Monet, and Whistler, and developed a style which was French but with influences including Turner, Gainsborough, the English watercolourists, and Whistler.

He painted the coast from his holidays to Normandy and Brittany, plus further afield including Capri and Whitby! Here in England, he painted fishing boats. The question is, did he have fish and chips at the Magpie?!:

Fishing boats in Whitby

Sargent went on to develop his skills in watercolour, which took over from oils by the time of the scenes in Venice in the last room.

Boats II

I found it interesting that he had customised his style to suit the French and American academies, in particular the two different versions of the Oyster gatherers.

Oyster Gatherers of Cancale

Neapolitan children bathing

Wharf Scene, 1879

The real masterpiece for me is the painting of the violent Atlantic which Sargent experienced and captured on a crossing back from the US:

Atlantic Storm

I came away slightly disappointed. Critics were mixed in their feedback - The Guardian said “It is hard to believe the painter ever stepped outside...”  , but overall I enjoyed the show. What was missing, given the title, was more paintings of the sea itself. I didn't find the supporting notebook sketches particularly interesting, and there were too many. More of the Atlantic Storm!

I'm running the London Marathon 2011!

Apologies, dear readers, it's been a while. Lots of updates to come, I've been rather busy. And will continue to be so, now I've been accepted for the London Marathon 2011, woohoo! I've never run a marathon before, and doubt I'll run any more after this one, but I am really happy to be ticking off one of my lifetime ambitions. It will hurt, I will suffer, but I will come through and hopefully in a respectable time (my definition of respectable, not yours!). is my sponsorship page, please do visit and pass it on to others. What charity? I've chosen the Royal British Legion. The following is the text from the sponsorship page explaining why:

Dear all,

Running a marathon has always been a once-in-a-lifetime ambition of mine, and of course, where better than in my home town of London? I understood the odds to be around 1 in 5 if entering without a charity place, so imagine my bemused reaction when on applying for my first time, I received a place immediately!

I wasn't sure which charity to choose, my initial though was the Dogs Trust in honour of Lucy and Poppy, but the Royal British Legion has always been close to my heart, honouring and supporting those who have given so much to us, including my own grandparents, Kathleen and Cliff, and Daphne and Tom.

The Royal British Legion safeguards the welfare, interests and memory of those who are serving or who have served in the Armed Forces. We are one of the UK’s largest membership organisations and recognised as custodians of Remembrance. We also run the annual Poppy Appeal.

Right, time for some training! I'm not going to pretend this will be easy. Then again, how hard can it be, it's not like I'm wearing a diver's suit or a gorilla costume!

Wish me luck, and thank-you for all your support. If you'd like to find out more about my training routine I'm sure I'll be blogging about it at

Kind regards,


Monday, March 08, 2010

Ukrainian Sandwiches in Hull

Lena's Deli in Hull is a real find. In a city surprisingly bereft of decent non-chain eateries, Lena's serves up wholesome Ukrainian-style nosh with a deli twist.

Today I had a toasted ciabatta with russian sausage (basically a light-pink garlickly salami thinly-sliced), cream cheese, pickled cucumber and tomato. Delicious! One of those sandwiches where you think it's going to be a struggle to finish, but oh no, no issue at all!

They had home-made fishcakes behind the counter which would be great I suspect with their curious salads, which include buckwheat, spicy carrot, vitamin and others. We tried the salad last time, was marvellous.

And cakes too. Today they had slices of Sharlotka, a Russian apple cake. Plus some very moreish-looking muffins.

Where is it? Across the road from the BBC building at the western end of Queen's Gardens. Stop by from 9am - 3pm Monday to Saturday - there's nowhere to sit inside but that's what the park's for - at least after it warms up somewhat!