One half of TheBigForest has been working for a few weeks in County Durham. It’s a long way from the sunny shores of Brighton but what a beautiful city Durham is. Walking over the cobbled Framwellgate Bridge to enter the city, up to the market place, glancing at Silver Street then down Saddler Street and over Elvet bridge. A tiny ancient city which has, the guide books tell me, scarcely changed over 200 years. Its sort of Harry Potter land full of odd nooks and leaning buildings and a beautiful cathedral in the swoop of the river Wear. Most of my photos – snapshots from the i-phone – were taken in the evening or at night after a days work but I so wanted to explore.
It’s such a pity that guide books seems to homogenize rather than celebrate difference. I suspect the copy is written by people who don’t really know the location so everything is described with a kind of cut-and-paste breathlessness. Durham ‘where stylish boutiques and quirky craft shops jostle for attention alongside the big name brands’. TheBigForest prefers ‘Durham where stylish dog treats and old fashioned greetings cards jostle for attention alongside unknown brands’. Just visit the indoor market and be amazed.
There was a man singing Thomas Tallis in the market square, I went on a long bus ride through ex-mining villages and loved hearing people’s conversations and I stayed at a wonderfully faded hotel which dates back to the 16th century. Actually the bathrooms date back to the early/mid 80’s and the signage and doors to the early 70’s (the problem with working in design is that the visual historic hints are all too obvious) but it was very clean and the staff were friendly so I was more than satisfied (take a bow the Three Tuns Hotel, on New Elvet) and please hire me to bring create a sylish makeover and boost your profits).
There is a distinct lack of restaurants in the centre of Durham so I ate in the hotel. An Agatha Christie dining room of 30’s oak panelling and 60’s starched table cloths. For a couple of nights I was entertained by Janet and Gerry who spoke as though they were very bad actors in a village hall amateur dramatics play and VERY VERY LOUDLY. I wondered if they lived this performance in their day-to-day lives or if it was something created for hotel dining rooms. I wrote plenty of their wonderful expressions in my notebooks, I think the description of someone as a pillow of society (a pillar of society) was the best.
So I’m home and I want to go back but as a tourist………………..and when its warmer as it was very much colder than the south of England and I’m only just beginning to thaw…