Bookshops, log fires and trains

A few weeks ago, we had a quick visit to Northumberland for the weekend. From where we live in Yorkshire, it’s only a couple of hours drive away and to use that well used cliche, it is a hidden gem!

Castles, deserted beaches with seals , lighthouses and unspoilt towns all just a couple of hours away.

Our first stop was at the town of Alnwick…in summer very popular with visitors to it’s castle (the location of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies) and also the renowned Alnwick Gardens.

But our winter visit was focused on a warm and cosy tea shop for lunch, then some Christmas shopping in the town centre which has a great array of independent shops rather than the ubiquitous array of vape shops, tattooists and charity shops that seem to abound on many UK High streets. Alnwick also has the most wonderful second hand bookshop, Barton Books in the towns old railway station. It is huge and has a stock of over 200,000 books…that’s a lot of books!

It is wonderfully eclectic in style with a model railway above the bookshelves, several eating places in former waiting rooms complete with log fires and is very dog friendly.

What’s not to like?

A short post I know, and no earth shattering revelations of science, politics or general knowledge , nothing of great amusement to be repeated to your friends…but sometimes in life, its the simple things that are the best and this was one of those weekends!

I hope you enjoy these posts ….please do comment and share. Meantime I wish you a good weekend…..

Got to be In it, to win it!

We all have family and friends who have had great plans for lottery wins, but actually in many cases they don’t actually buy a ticket…meaning their chances of winning are of course….zero!

The reality is, even if you buy a ticket you have a greater chance of being struck by a meteorite than actually winning the top prize of millions of pounds.

I haven’t actually met anyone who has been struck by a meteorite to find out if it is a positive life changing experience, but for the moment I am going to assume no and hope for the money option rather than the ‘get hit on head by high speed fragment of planet option’ .

Much as gambling (thankfully) does not excite me and brings out the natural cynic in me…”You will never see a poor bookmaker” etc.,

like many people I am drawn to the allure of a prize draw..not so much for wanting ‘something for nothing’ but more for enjoying the unexpected. If you speak to a comper (I know this term is more used in the US than in the UK and people might be thinking I have misspelt compere!) they will tell you that participation in the big TV draws is spectacularly high and therefore the odds low. Conversely enter a competition on social media and the odds of success are much higher as the entries are lower, sometimes surprisingly low!

Last week by chance I came across an opportunity to win a book when I was perusing Twitter. I duly entered the draw from an on line bookseller (the aptly named Dead Good books who specialise in thriller novels) Well to my surprise, I won a copy of the latest novel from bestselling author Claire Douglas. The novel is set in Wales and the book seller had not only sent me the book but a packet of Welsh cakes.

Ok, so I didn’t win a car or a holiday…but I got something sent with imagination and personality…you can’t put a price on that!

Just add salt…

The town of Saltaire just north of Bradford in Yorkshire was founded by philanthropist and mill owner Titus Salt.

Salt had mills in the city of Bradford but decided to build a large new textile mill, known as Salts Mill and create an entire model village on the banks of the River Aire, near Shipley.

This allowed him to provide much improved accommodation for his workers away from the slums of the city.

The name Saltaire derived from his name and the name of the local river, the River Aire.

Salt created a village of stone houses for his workers with running water, bath houses and even a hospital and an institute for recreation and education.

The village also had a school for the workers children, allotments for the families to grow fresh vegetables, almshouses and a park.

In December 2001, Saltaire was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

So what now…rather than just be a preserved relic of past Victorian ideals, Salts has a vibrant new life.

The mill is home to art by way of permanent exhibitions of Yorkshire artist David Hockney’s work, a truly amazing book shop and some other specialised retailers.

This is no ordinary bookshop..on the ground floor of the mill it has a cathedral like feel, grandeur and ambience.

On the higher floor, a more esoteric style where presentation and space is the emphasis.

Every window provides a backdrop of Salts vision..rather than a shopping mall, retail park or mundane high street.

I can’t think of many bookshops adorned with fresh lillies!

Everywhere in the building there is evidence of both Hockney and the original purpose of the building and this just adds to the magic of the place.

Salts mill draws the crowds for its history, the books, the art and even the restaurant and tea shop.

I visit regularly – its a great place on a winter sunday, a rainy summers day or whenever the mood draws you.

If you are visiting West Yorkshire it’s a “must do” visit. A great example of getting preservation just right.

Salts is very alive with many one off events and opportunities to embrace books, music and art in a wonderful setting…oh and yes it’s completely free other than special events.

Sure you have to buy books if you want to take them home..but otherwise it’s there to enjoy!

Why this blog? Click to find out more about me and why I write the blogs

The bees knees….

My grandfather was a doctor and naturally inquisitive and always striving to learn more. Even with something as simple as looking up a word in the dictionary he said you should whilst the book is open read the entry above and the entry below. In this way you will learn more things, admittedly maybe not things you need to know, but that might enrich you.

In the electronic world we live in some will argue that these opportunities don’t arise now…but I disagree. In our news feeds etc. there are often adjacent articles that may catch our eye and will be worth our attention.

I can testify to this as recently as yesterday. The said adjacent article intrigued me…’Large Investment for Bee Network’.

From more detailed scrutiny I learnt of a brave and bold initiative to create 1000’s of miles of cycle tracks in the Manchester (England) area including links to major tourist areas , city centre and outlyng towns to revolutionise cycling in the city.

Now I don’t live in Manchester, not really cycle that much but I do strongly support anything that gets people outside, doing healthy stuff and reducing polution so a tick in all three boxes there. I also embrace any kind of good news story so for this alone, I thank my grandfather. Manchester has been in the worldwide news spotlight in the past but for very troubling reasons – most recently the terrorist attacks at the Ariana Grande concert in the city’s arena.

Oh, and in case you are wondering why the name Bee network? The bee has been the symbol of Manchester seen in city emblems since the 1800’s representing it’s tradition as an industrious city. A very apt name for the evolution of transport in this resilient and growing city.

Sometimes in life you need to go and find the good news, it doesn’t come to you.

Why this blog? Click to find out more….