Back from Oop North… Holidaying in England

Hello, I”ve been in the internet hinterland that is Northern England visiting family and various museums hence the lack of posting. Here’s a what I got up to.

First up, took my two gorgeous nieces and family to Magma in Sheffield. It’s huge, think the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern times 3, and that’s just the bit they renovated, the actually full size mill was over a mile long.. one of dozens in the city employing huge numbers of people. Britain doesn’t have industry like that anymore. It’s weird to think of this as history, as there’s probably people alive who worked at that mill. Talk about dark Satanic mills; still, makes a change from castles and halls. It’s split into fire, water, air and earth sections. It’s a bit Millenium dome in approach, but works better, and you can use a full size JCB claw in the earth section which was great fun for me and my bro in law.

Next stop was the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, where we spent hours exploring, I was granted access to the archive and I finally go to look at the contact sheets of Tony Ray-Jones (of which I’ve written about before). Absolutely fantastic, all the mistakes and china graph mark ups.. loved it. Other great stuff included Smash Robot Family, Morph, IMAX projection room and this great statistic….

Then on to Lincs, and Normanby Hall and a nice peacock. Next day we went to a new retail park near Scunthorpe, where giant outlets sell things to giant sized people… Maybe these huge retail parks will be the museum spaces of the future?

Next a day out to Flamborough head (or something like that) for a chippy lunch and a walk along the headland. Next day we were off into Brigg for a trip to the farmers market, where I bought some cheese of this man, Who when asked the difference between his ‘Double Barrel’ cheese, and his ‘Vintage’ cheese, said “well, this one was susposed to be that one but it went a bit wrong, it’s more of an art than a science cheese making’ Bless that Man and his organic unpasturised fantastic cheese! Were he selling to Tesco’s they’d say, ‘sorry, it’s not what we ordered’ and he’d have to throw it all away. They don’t even sell unpasturised cheese anyway.. and it tasted great. Brigg also boasted a proper butchers, with a queue coming out the door, a sight not seen much in Britain these days.

The last place we saw on the way home was Barney’s Cafe du Chauffeur. Maybe the French text fooled me, in my mind I imagined this place run by a French chef and his English wife. Maybe offering traditional French Trucker food, such as a hearty steak frite, and maybe a slice of tarte au pomme. All washed down with a glass of vin rouge. Alas it served the usual, chips with everything.. Truckers must be THE most unhealthy people in the World.

So, in all, the most time I’ve spent up North proper in over ten years. There were some good things, like fish n chips and little high streets and vast open countryside, some great museums that were outside London. And some bad bits like crap food, massive soulless American style retail parks and desolate run down areas in parts of Sheffield and Bradford having lost the steel and manufacturing trades years ago. Grimsby too had lost it docks, I’m currently reading Cornucopia, by Paul Richardson, here’s what he says on Grimsby: “As it turned out, there was only one place in Grimsby still serving food at ten o’clock.. a big Victorian gin palace recently given a make over by it’s brewery masters. As I contemplated the menu a great weariness came over me, followed by a moment of rage as I realised that, in this once great fishing port, there was not a single item of fish to be had here, bar the tuna mayo sandwich.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
March 2005

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