Month: February 2013

Friday Flashback

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Tynemouth Priory

I’ve been thinking about my past… No, it’s not deep and sordid, but it is interesting. I’ll have to sort though all those old photos of my travels currently in a shoe box under my bed and show you some. Highlights? Taj Mahal, Sphinx, Mayan Pyramids, Egyptian Pyramids, worlds longest reclining Buddha and to many castles to count. But I do like a good castle, especially a ruin that I can clamber around.

One of my favourites is the Priory in Tynemouth, the chapel of which dates back to the Thirteenth Century and the site itself is thought to have been occupied since Roman times. It has a moat which I was convinced used to be filled with crocodiles, a gatehouse and Keep with portcullis (for all that boiling oil) a well (for wishes) and a graveyard in the middle.

These days the only way in is through the box office and a hefty fee, but it didn’t always used to be that way. The Priory perches on the edge of cliff, overlooking the River Tyne and the North Sea. Bits of it have fallen into the sea over the years which is why they way I used to sneak into the back with my friends is now gone.

The sure footed among us could clamber up the cliff face and get into one of the old ruined windows. They’ve either been enclosed to prevent cliff side assaults by nimble kids or fallen into the sea altogether. Shame, there’s something quite magical about sneaking into an old ruin….


A good (zombie, vampire, cannibal) ghost story….

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It’s V.E.T. day for the cat, there’s a blizzard blowing outside and the Internet is down. Although I am writing this at noon my time by candlelight, I’ve no idea when it will arrive in cyberspace… So while I am cut of from the collective, I’ve thrown another log on the fire, stirred my cauldron and picked up a book, a gift given to me by a very good friend before I left Edinburgh. It’s a book of Scottish Traditional Tales, so that I wouldn’t forget my time in Scotland, and those of you who know me, know how much I love folklore…So gather around.

I let it fall open, the candle flickers and page 50 begins “Once upon a time…” great! It’s all about a miller and his pregnant wife. She is craving liver in the middle of the night (can anyone say zombie apocalypse?) and sends him into town to buy some. Well, the shops won’t be open for hours and the miller, wanting to please his wife but also wanting to get some sleep, cooks up a cunning plan. Remembering that a corpse has very recently been buried in the graveyard, he digs it up, removes the liver, takes it home and cooks it. Perfectly reasonable. The wife is unaware of the origins of the liver and gobbles it up! Later on, the miller goes to work and there’s a knock at the door. It’s the corpse. Obviously. So she asks it why it looks rotting and why it’s entrails are hanging out and where oh where has its liver gone (again, don’t you love the logic of folktales?) And ‘It’ shrieked, “you ate it” and tore her to pieces, naturally. The End.

Part of me thinks this is a little unfair – the woman had no idea she had consumed the liver of a dead corps, her husband the miller, dug up the corpse, removed the liver, cooked it up in the middle of the night and fed it to his pregnant wife… Great guy… I know, I know, cautionary tales keep us on the straight and narrow, teach through gruesome and grizzly stories what not to do. In this case, eat dead humans. I can see the value of this in the light of CJD (mad cow disease), Ebola and a whole host of other bad things, like becoming a zombie, a vampire or just a common or garden cannibal. And clearly, ignorance is no defence! Which is why the wife, ignorant of her crime was torn to shreds.

However, what really struck me is the section of the book this tale was in – Children’s Tales. Teach ‘em early…

Happy Tuesday!

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Why? Because in about 20 minutes, I’m going to get dressed – for almost sub zero temperatures and the threat of a blizzard – and cross several soggy and possibly icy British fields to get to the grocery store for nuts, wine and cat food. How can this possibly be happy? Well, for starters, I haven’t left the house in days and feel like I’m developing carbuncles on my backside. Secondly, it’s a celebration. ‘The child’ left this morning and won’t be back till Sunday, along with all the other pesky relatives, and my mother’s bible study will be over for the week by the time I get back (I hope). The cat is exhausted and cranky from avoiding the grasping sticky fingers of ‘the child’. So about 5pm on a Tuesday, the residents of the retreat here on Chicken Road collapse, exhausted and indulge in our favourite tipple. For me, it will be a glass of wine and a bag of mixed nuts. Happy Tuesday!

Here’s Johnny!

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Why am I watching The Shining alone at midnight? I don’t know what scares me more, Jack or that 70’s orange carpet. Oh no, the cook’s just arrived, I really hope he doesn’t get it. But he just did. And I screamed and scared the cat. I’ve just realized I’ve never seen this all the way through… It’s the music, the red bathroom, that crazy man in a bear suite, and that even crazier elephant cord dress the wife is wearing. I can’t believe the poor cook came all that way to be axed. Literally. Hope I didn’t give the plot away to anyone…

Redrum, redrum… there’s so much blood!

I need Flossy the cat to come and protect me, or at least a pillow to hide behind… Run! Run! Run to the snow cat and don’t’ drop the knife!

All work and no play makes Jack and Dull boy…

Phew, it’s all over… I’m such a lightweight, Jack scares me, the Overlook Hotel scares me, heck even the orange carpet scares me. I think I need to watch The Little Mermaid or The Muppets before I can go to bed….

Smog, Perfume and Hilary Clinton

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What is going on in the world? I’ve just turned on the news. Those of you who know me may be shocked, but I’ve seen the episode of Miss Marple being aired so I’m on Aljazeera and what do I see? Smog in Delhi has visibility down to 15 metres, a piece of whale puke sells for $100,000 – I’ll expand on that it a moment –  and someone has blown up a mosque! What?? Where do I start? With the mosque. Although I’m not a follower of any institutional religion, I respect anyone’s faith and recognise that religious belief provides millions of people with enormous comfort and provides the more wayward among us with a moral compass. Thus, I am horrified that anyone thinks it’s in anyway acceptable to bomb a place of worship. The smog – what are we doing to our planet? And finally, that oh so valuable whale puke… Dug up on a British beach by a man and his dog, the aromatic mass is valued at $100,000. Used in high-end perfumes for its musky aroma, the ball of vomit – which looked like a mouldy cheese, matures over time to become… priceless. So we spray ourselves with mouldy whale vomit? I’m speechless… Crazy as my life is on Chicken Road, I think I’d rather live with the three c’s; kids, cats and coffee. The only sensible thing I heard on the news came from Hilary Clinton. She said, and I paraphrase horribly, that women and girls should be treated as equals, with respect and dignity, this will change the world and the global economy. I couldn’t agree more – where do we start?