Gibside ~ November 2021

I last did a small post on Gibside back in 2013, that no-one just about has seen. Sophie and I did visit in 2016 but the 365 back then got in the way of me doing a Fraggle Report that time. Anyhoo, in November gone, we went looking for autumn, the best time to visit there.

The History Bit ☕️🍪

Gibside,  a country estate, set amongst the peaks and slopes of the Derwent Valley.  Previously owned by the Bowes- Lyon family. It is now a National Trust property. The main house on the estate is now a shell, although the property is most famous for its chapel. The stables, walled garden and Banqueting House are also intact.  It is also the childhood home of Mary Bowes, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne (24 February 1749 – 28 April 1800), known as “The Unhappy Countess”, who was an 18th-century British heiress, notorious for her licentious lifestyle, who was married at one time the 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. She and the Earl are ancestors of Queen Elizabeth 2nd. We’ll get to Mary in part 2.

The Gibside Estate was aquired by the Blakiston Family through marriage around 1540, and Sir William Blakiston (1562–1641) (Willy 1) replaced the old house with a spacious mansion between 1603 and 1620. Jumping forward to 1693, Sir William’s great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Blakiston, married Sir William Bowes (Willy 2) (1657–1707) and as a result the Gibside property came into the possession of the Bowes family in 1713. The joined forces of the two influential families and the aquisition of Gibside gave the Bowes family an even greater influence in the north of the county and a share in the immense wealth that was to be acquired from the coal trade. The Blakiston estate included some of the area’s richest coal seams.

After Willy 2 came George, who inherited the estate in 1722. Dad to Mary, the “Bowes heiress” who married John Lyon, the 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. John had to change his surname to Bowes due to a provision in her father’s will that any suitor had to take the family name. This was a device to continue the Bowes lineage in the absence of a male heir. The estate remained in the Bowes and Bowes-Lyon family until the 20th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries though they carried out many improvements including landscaping, Gibside Chapel, built between 1760 and 1812, the Banqueting House, a column of Liberty,a substantial stable block, an avenue of oaks and several hundred acres of forest. The top floor of the main house was remodelled as a giant parapet and the building was also extended to the side.

Following the death of  John Bowes (the 10th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne) in 1820, it belonged to his legitimated son, yet another John Bowes 🙄 until his death in 1885 (he is buried in the Gibside chapel), when under an established trust, it reverted to his cousin Claude the the 13th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. It had been the main residence of John Bowes’ mother, Mary Milner, by then Dowager Countess of Strathmore, and her second husband, the politician, Sir William Hutt, (who had been John Bowes’ tutor), until the latter’s death in 1882, which was the last time it was permanently occupied by the family.

I’ll be using photos from across the 3 visits, as we didn’t do everything everytime.

Gibside Chapel (2013)

The mausoleum chapel at the south end of the ‘Grand Walk’ was built following the death of George Bowes owner of the estate, in 1760. The Greek Palladian-style building was designed by James Paine for Lord Strathmore, who had inherited the estate. George Bowes was finally interred in the mausoleum on its completion in 1812. The building is Grade 1 listed on the National Heritage List for England.

Interior (2016)
ceiling detail (2016)
pulpit (pulpit)

The Banqueting House is an 18th Century gothic folly, built 1751 by Daniel Garrett for George Bowes. Restored in 1980 by Charlewood, Curry ,Wilson and Atkinson and is now a holiday home you can rent from the Landmark Trust, so you can’t go in it unless you book a ticket for one of their public heritage days, hopefully we’ll do that this September. Of course if you have £900 and 3 people to share it with you can have a 3 night stay there. It sits atop a small hill with views over the Derwent Valley, and there’s an octagonal pond at the bottom of the hill.

The Banqueting House (2021)
and in 2013
View of Derwent Valley. (2013)

The ‘Column of Liberty’ was commissioned by Sir George Bowes and begun in the 1750s. It reflected his politics as he was a Whig – a liberal political party in the UK which in the 1680s and the 1850s contested power with their rivals, the Tories -(Conservative Party). Set at the top of a steep hillock, the monument itself is a Doric order column, and topped by a standing bronze female figure, originally gilded, carrying a cap of liberty on a pole.

You can see it for miles and here it is, very tiny, seen from the far end of the avenue of oaks known as the Grand Walk.

Column of Liberty. (2021)

Hope you’re not seeing it on a phone screen 🤣

A bit closer then..

And then we’re right there..

Lady Liberty

That will do for today and next time we’ll have a look at the Countess Mary Bowes’ life and times, and see the main house and the orangery.


Raby Castle ~ August 2018 ~ Interior Part 1

The History and external shots of the grounds can be accessed thusly:-

EXTERIOR….Part 1 HERE.  Part 2 HERE. Part 3 HERE

Now we get to the inside of the castle and will start off in the Entrance Hall,

Entrance Hall

described as “one of the boldest conceptions of its age and the first truly dramatic interior of the Gothic revival” due to its elegant Gothic vaulting.  I’m not sure why, but it was decided to construct a carriageway through the castle, presume they were too lazy to ride around the outside. John Carr of York got the job and did it by raising the roof, completing it in 1787 when the 2nd Earl of Darlington’s son returned from his tour of Europe, but the construction did affect other parts of the castle.

swords and guns on the wall in the entrance hall


Park Carriage parked.

One of the parts of the castle that was affected by this new carriageway was the chapel.


So saying, the chapel, originally part of the 14th-century construction, has been messed with on a few occasions.  After John Carr raised the floor 2 1/2 meters for the carriageway to happen, in the 1840’s Scottish architect William Burn was employed and he then lowered the chapel floor by a meter. The window at the south of the altar was covered over in the 17th century and re-opened in 1901 when the 9th Lord Barnard was doing his alterations.

At the rear of the chapel is an arcade decorated with 20th-century portraits of people associated with Raby during the Nevill years, Ralph 1st Earl of Westmoreland, his 2nd wife Joan Beaufort,  Bishop Hatfield who gave them the crenelation license, Lord John Neville, Cicely ‘The Rose of Raby’,  Y’all know who I mean as they all take part in the History bits in parts 1 & 2 which I’m sure you read before starting on this post 🤣.

John, The Bish, Ralph, Joan & Cicily

The likenesses were taken from tomb effigies and stained glass windows.

The Barons’ Hall, where seven hundred knights once gathered to plot the doomed ‘Rising of the North’ in 1569,  was also altered by Mr.Burn.

The Baron’s Hall

He extended the Hall 17m, over his newly created Octagon Drawing Room, and the original hammer-beam roof was replaced with a more elaborate one. However, the Barons’ Hall still retains part of the Minstrels Gallery and a window from the Nevill period.


Books in Baron’s Hall


Now that’s what I call a candlestick!

There’s also a rather gruesome death mask of Harry George, Duke of Cleveland in the Hall.

definitely dead

Well, that will suffice for now, more to come as it’s a big old place, in fact this might be classed as a serial! Stay tooned for more Victorian and Regency interiors.

Seaham ~ part 3 ~ St.Mary’s

The Church of St.Mary The Virgin, is on the list of the top 20 oldest churches in Britain.  It’s also the only surviving building of the original Saxon Village of Seaham Harbour. (now just Seaham). It was founded by King Æthelstan in 930AD and has 7th C late Anglo Saxon masonry and early Norman masonry in its nave, and a 13th-century chancel and west tower.  Over the 16th-century porch door is a late 18th-century sundial with an unusual verse, now illegible, which begins: “The natural clockwork by the mighty one wound up at first and ever since has gone…” which doesn’t make much sense as it stands, but that’s all that can be read.

King Æthelstan was our first proper king according to modern historians at least, grandson of Alfred the Great and son of Edward the Elder. At first King of Mercia, he then went on to be King of Wessex too when his brother who was King there died.  In 927 he conquered the Vikings who were ensconced in York and became the first Anglo-Saxon ruler of the whole of England. He also had a pop at Scotland forcing Constantine II to submit to him. Of course neither the Scots or the Vikings were likely to take all this lying down so they all invaded back in 935.
Æthelstan defeated them at the Battle of Brunanburh, a victory which gave him great prestige both in the British Isles and on the Continent. After his death in 939 the Vikings seized back control of York, and it was not finally reconquered until 954.  As well as being a good politician, centralising government, bringing important leading figures to council and arranging his siblings marriages to foreign rulers, he was also very pious, and was known for collecting relics and founding churches.  More legal texts survive from his reign than from any other 10th-century English king and they show his concern about widespread robberies, and the threat they posed to social order. His legal reforms were built on those of his grandfather, and his household was the centre of English learning during his reign, laying the foundation for the Benedictine monastic reform later in the century.

The church was closed when we got there, so we wandered around the gravestones as you do, and took some pictures of course.  The church is now a way North from Seaham as it is today, and overlooks the headland.

View from St.Mary’s

It has some old and interesting graves, if you click through the picture you can read most of them,

Lord Charles Stewart Reginald Vane-Tempest-Stewart, died in October 1899, aged 19. The 2nd son of the 6th Marquess of Londonderry.

I can’t find out what he died of or how, his elder brother was in the army, and survived to become the 7th Marquess, but there’s no mention of military service for Reg. Very mysterious considering his pedigree.

Dear World….


Elizabeth in the bloom of life, died age 17 in 1772


Thomas Robinson…He was ‘useful’ a lot!

Death in mining explosions was all too common back in the 1800’s.  The Seaham Colliery suffered an underground explosion in 1880 which saw the deaths of upwards of 160 people including surface workers and rescuers.

William Richardson- he had an explosive end…

The enthusiasm for the Volunteer movement following an invasion scare in 1859 saw the creation of many Rifle, Artillery and Engineer Volunteer units composed of part-time soldiers eager to supplement the Regular British Army in time of need. One such unit was the Seaham Artillery Volunteers formed at Seaham in County Durham on 14 March 1860, which became the 2nd (Seaham) Durham Artillery Volunteer Corps’ (AVC).


In 1870 there was a head-on collision at Brockley Whins between a coal train and an express passenger train, caused by a pointsman’s error and a lack of interlocking. Mr. Reed died of his injuries sustained there, 2 months later.


Next to the church is what used to be the Vicarage, c1830, restored c1990 and was built by Lady Londonderry  for the Rev O J Creswell. No info on him either :/


I think it must have been converted into (expensive) appartments now judging by the (expensive) cars parked on it’s drive,


So that’s the end of our Seaham trip, numpty me forgot to get a shot of the church itself 🙄 so Sophie has lent me hers at the top of the post.

All pictures are embiggenable, and more photo’s of our day out can be found HERE

Fraggle Report~ Saltwell Towers & Park~April 2017~part 1

The History Bit

Saltwell Park is a Victorian park in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England. Opened in 1876, the park was designed by Edward Kemp and incorporates the mansion and associated grounds of the Saltwellgate estate owner, William Wailes, who sold his estate to Gateshead Council for £35,000. Upon opening, it became known as “The People’s Park”. The park was expanded in 1920 when the council purchased the adjacent gardens to the Saltwell Grove estate and added these to the park. This extended the park’s total size to 55 acres. Towards the end of the 20th century, the park had fallen into disrepair, but between 1999 and 2005, it was subject to a £9.6 million restoration project, funded collaboratively by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Gateshead Council and is now host to around 2 million visitors per year.

The park is split broadly into three sections. Saltwell Grove, the southern section, is an area of grassed open space with a bandstand to the western corner. The central area contains the centrepiece of the park – Wailes’s former home, the Grade II listed Saltwell Towers and its surrounding belvedere walls. These have been fully restored and are now a visitor centre. There are also three war memorials, a yew-tree maze, a dene and an area containing several species of caged animals known as Pet’s Corner. The largest section of the park is the Northern Fields section which contains a four-acre boating lake with a wooded island at its centre, as well as three bowling greens and two pavilions.

Sophie and I have visited Saltwell before though I haven’t done a report on it before that I can find, so I am combining photo’s from the two outings, but Sophie and I went this weekend specifically to photograph the wonderful path of cherry blossom trees that appears at this time of year. But other stuff first!

Saltwell Towers

Saltwell Towers, former home of William Wailes and later to lawyer Joseph Shipley (founder of the nearby Shipley Art Gallery), was the seat of the former Saltwellgate estate and has been described by a BBC report as a “fairytale mansion”. The building is a dark red and yellow brick construction with asymmetrical towers, tall chimney stacks and corner turrets. It has been used for a number of purposes, including as a hospital during the First World War and as a museum from 1933 to 1969, but was then abandoned and fell into considerable disrepair. However,after a £3 million,five-year refurbishment programme the restoration was completed in 2004.

There is a Boer War memorial in the central section of the park around 100 metres south of Saltwell Towers. This consists of a bronze angel perched on a granite plinth and is dated 1905.

The Charlton Memorial Drinking Fountain, a stone and granite fountain inscribed in memory of George Charlton, the mayor of Gateshead between 1874–75.

The ‘Salte Well’ at the west entrance to the central section of the park is dated 1872 and is a sandstone construction with a basin in the central alcove.

There have been animals kept in Saltwell Park since June 1877 – initially, these included monkeys, deer and a raccoon. Caged animals are still kept in the north-east of the park in an area called “Pets Corner”, where there are a peacock and peahen, pheasants, rabbits and guinea pigs kept in a pair of aviaries built in 1880 and paid for by John Elliot, then chief constable of Gateshead. The aviaries are stone and wrought iron, octagonal constructions which were listed at Grade II by English Heritage in 1973.

I don’t like to see caged birds in such a small enclosure. Plus the spaces between the bars make for impossible photography!

The principal feature of the northern section of the park is a boating lake. This has been in situ since a tender to install a 4 acres lake with an island in the centre was accepted in August 1880.

More to come, so stay tooned!


Fraggle Report~ Tynemouth Murder Mystery Tour~part 1~ August 2016

Back in August Sophie got given a Murder Mystery leaflet about Tynemouth.  It involved following clues that would give you a persons name, or something that could be used as a weapon, eliminating the ones we found to be left with the name of the murderer and weapon used.  We had to walk all around Tynemouth to find the clues, took pictures along the way and solved the mystery.  It took us all day and we learned some history too.

Tynemouth’s history dates back to an Iron Age settlement and its strategic position on a headland over-looking the mouth of the Tyne continued to be important through to the Second World War. Its historic buildings, dramatic views and award-winning beaches attract visitors from around the world. The heart of the town, known by residents as “The village”, has popular coffee-shops, pubs and restaurants. It is a prosperous area with comparatively expensive housing stock, ranging from Georgian terraces to Victorian ship-owners’ houses to 1960s “executive homes”.

The clues

We took the metro to get to Tynemouth and there’s always a flea market there on a Sunday, but decided to defer shopping until we’d finished the mystery. We set off looking for our first clue but I couldn’t resist a shot of these pampered pooches on the way out of the station.

then on to our clues..

The former King’s School was named in reference to the three ancient kings buried at Tynemouth Priory: Oswin, Osred and Malcolm III. Its most famous old boy is Stan Laurel, one half of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. Hollywood film director Sir Ridley Scott, and racing driver Jason Plato also attended the school.

also I took incidental shots as we trogged along

The clock tower and drinking fountain was built in 1861 by Oliver and Lamb. Made from polychrome brick and ashlar with lead roofs in the venetian Gothic style. It’s a Grade 2 listed building.

The headland towering over the mouth of the Tyne has been settled since the Iron Age. The Romans occupied it. In the 7th century a monastery was built there and later fortified. The headland was known as PEN BAL CRAG, the place where now stands the Monastery of Tynemouth was anciently called Benebalcrag by the Saxons.
The monastery was sacked by the Danes in 800, rebuilt, and destroyed again in 875, but by 1083 it was again operational.       Three kings are reputed to have been buried within the monastery: Oswin, King of Deira (651); Osred II, King of Northumbria (792); and, for a time, Malcolm III, King of Scots (1093). Three crowns still adorn the North Tyneside coat of arms.   The queens of Edward I and Edward II stayed in the Castle and Priory while their husbands were campaigning in Scotland. King Edward III considered it to be one of the strongest castles in the Northern Marches. After the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Edward II fled from Tynemouth by ship.

A few more ‘parts’ yet to come for this report, stay tooned 🙂

(info from wiki)

The York report 9 ~ York Minster Interior

Finally got to the last post on York, and this time inside York Minster.

The Nave







York as a whole, and particularly the minster, have a long tradition of creating beautiful stained glass. Some of the stained glass in York Minster dates back to the 12th century. The Minster’s records show that much of the glass (white or coloured) came from Germany. Because of the extended time periods during which the glass was installed, different types of glazing and painting techniques which evolved over hundreds of years are visible in the different windows. Approximately two million individual pieces of glass make up the cathedral’s 128 stained glass windows. Much of the glass was removed before and pieced back together after the 1st and 2nd world wars,and the windows are constantly being cleaned and conserved to keep their beauty intact, which was happening to the magnificent East Window, so we didn’t get to see that a.

The West Window constructed 1338






The choir screen has a statue of every King of England

Choir screen
Choir screen

choir screen
choir screen




lost his head
lost his head

We went into the undercroft, the vaulted cellar below ground level. It has archaeological remains covering all of York’s history, from the Roman fort to the Norman foundations. There’s an exhibit of artifacts on display in the undercroft normally, including a luscious Norman-era 12th century relief of sinners being tortured by demons in Hell’s cauldron known as the Doomstone.

The Doorstone
The Doomstone


Norman Pillar
Norman Pillar

Lots of tombs and shrines in the walls of the Minster



There are 2 interesting clocks in the Minster, a medieval mechanical clock where 2 armed figures strike the 1/4 hours

Medieval mechanical clock
Medieval mechanical clock

and an astronomical clock,  installed in the North Transept  in 1955. It was first conceived in 1944 and designed by R d’E Atkinson. The clock is a memorial to the airmen operating from bases in Yorkshire, Durham, and Northumberland who were killed in action during WW2. It’s quite a complicated clock to get your head around as Atkinson based the design on the appearance of the sun and stars from the viewpoint of a pilot flying over York, and if you are interested how it works HERE is the link. As it happens damage to the clock’s mechanism was sustained during the fire of 9 July 1984; after 10 years’ reparation work, vergers ceased winding it owing to inaccuracies of time-keeping. 😦

astronomical clock
astronomical clock

The Chapter House, where the day to day business of the Minster was run, was begun in about 1260 and is a superb example of the Gothic Decorated style which was then all the rage.

The entrance to the Chapter House is along a fairly low passage, which gives no hint of what is to come. You pass through a twin arched door…

to the chapter house
to the chapter house

…where a wonderfully carved Madonna and child stand, and enter into a circular space ringed with low stalls.

Madonna & child
Madonna & child

Then when you go inside, the stained glass windows are beautiful, and led your eyes up to this gorgeous ribbed vault ceiling.

chapter house ceiling
chapter house ceiling

Hard to believe it’s made out of wood, but it is. A masterpiece of medieval architecture. I tried a panorama with the iPhone, which didn’t work too well, you can see the roof lines are all jittery, but it gives you an idea..

jittery pano
jittery pano

around the chapter house
around the chapter house, stalls details.


Finally, whilst doing the tour underneath the Minster to see the Roman Fort ruins that still are visible (The Minster was built ovee part of the Fort ruins) we came across this wonderful Viking Horn.

One of the few surviving artefacts from the beginning of the eleventh century, the Horn of Ulf is a large elephant tusk which was carved in Salerno in Italy.  The figures on it are believed to have been carved by Islamic carvers.

It belonged to a Viking nobleman, or thane, called Ulf or Ulphus.  Ulf owned large estates around York and throughout Yorkshire.  The Horn acted as a land deed and was given to the Minster when the land transferred in to the ownership of the Dean and Chapter of York.

It was lost during the Civil War but came back to York Minster, having had the silver mounts added during its disappearance.

The Horn of Ulf
The Horn of Ulf

So that ends the York Reports, hope you’ve enjoyed the journey, next time, Mount Grace Priory 🙂

laters gaters




websites I used for researching history during the reports:-

York Press ~Horn of Ulf

History of York

Britain Express



The York Report 8 ~gargoyles and carvings.

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I love gargoyles and York Minster has a fine collection so I took some photo’s of them. When I researched what gargoyles are all about on Wiki, I found that really they are just a form of plumbing!  “a gargoyle is a carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between. Architects often used multiple gargoyles on buildings to divide the flow of rainwater off the roof to minimize the potential damage from a rainstorm. A trough is cut in the back of the gargoyle and rainwater typically exits through the open mouth. Gargoyles are usually an elongated fantastic animal because the length of the gargoyle determines how far water is thrown from the wall.” Also they were viewed in two ways by the church throughout history. The primary use was to convey the concept of evil through the form of the gargoyle, which was especially useful in sending a stark message to the common people, most of whom were illiterate. Gargoyles also are said to scare evil spirits away from the church, this reassured congregants that evil was kept outside of the church’s walls.


laters gaters



The York Report 7~York Minster exterior

York Minster, the 2nd largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe. And what a beauty, I could spend many happy hours in this stunning place. But first a potted history 🙂

Starting out as a wooden building in 627 AD (1388 yrs ago!!) in the 630’s it was rebuilt in stone then fell into disrepair by 670. A chap called St.Wilfred took over and repaired and renewed it. Then in 741 it was burnt down, and consequently rebuilt with even more impressive stonework. The church and the entire area then passed through the hands of numerous invaders, and its history is obscure until the 10th century. The church was damaged in 1069 during William the Conqueror’s harrying of the north, but the first Norman archbishop,Thomas of Bayeux, arriving in 1070, organised repairs. The Danes destroyed the church in 1075, but it was again rebuilt from 1080 in the Norman style. Basically, up until 1230 it was up and down like a lady of the night’s undergarments, but the present building was begun in about 1230 and completed in 1472. There is constant restoration work going on, and at the time of our visit, the Great East Window is in the process of renovation at an estimated cost of £23 million, so we couldn’t see that unfortunately as it is quite spectacular by all accounts.

I took a lot of shots so this will be a 3 part post, and in this first one I’m concentrating on the exterior.

Firstly, there’s no way my little fuji could take in the whole building, so I tried to do a panorama which kind of worked, but isn’t all that great.

York Minster pano
York Minster pano

I tried pulling it about in PS but couldn’t quite get the bottom part right, so Phil’s head is a bit stretched. But I had a go and learned a bit about warping and the like so not a waste of time. This was an evening shot and the light was lovely on the sandstone.

Front door
Front door

This is the door you go through to get in and it’s the west end of the building.

North Transept & Chapter House
North Transept & Chapter House

This is the view of the minster from The Treasurers House which you can see in the previous post if you click on the link. The chapter house has the pointy roof, and that long set of windows on the left is The Five Sisters window.

North Transept
Bird house

while I was photographing the tower a chap asked me if I was trying to photograph the peregrine falcons, I didn’t know what he was on about at first, but apparently a breeding pair of the birds are nesting in the top window there. Didn’t see them though.

side view (north)
side view (south)

side view, (north)
side view, (north)

chapter house
chapter house

detail from the south side
detail from the south side


The grounds of the Minster have a seating area done in the same kind of stone, and with decorative motifs in keeping with the carvings on the Minster.

in keeping
in keeping

and also there is a really lovely war memorial


I also took some hipstamatic shots on the iphone

front door hipsta style
front door hipsta style

Visitors entrance hipstamatic
side door hipstamatic

looking up
looking up

The thing I loved best about the building were the gargoyles, so many different ones, you can’t make out many here, but that’s for my next post.

laters gaters


a little catching up to do

Haven’t been taking many photo’s of late, have been thwarted by the flu, the weather, life in general.  I did manage to sit and have lunch by the sea one afternoon, and took a series of people walking past the gap in the dunes, which amused me as I was sitting in the car at the time, had a Warhol moment 🙂

Beside the seaside
Beside the seaside


On one of my client visits I went by Ludworth Tower, I have shot this before but had another go as it may just fall down one day though it was built in 1422, so nearly 600 years this wall has been standing. Also I liked the crow sitting on it 🙂 I do like crows.

Ludworth Tower

I joined a colour wheel project over on Ipernity and the first colour we had to do was Pink, so I dragged Phil out one evening and we went up to St.Mary’s Lighthouse as I knew it was being lit up pink every night in October for breast cancer awareness. As it happened the sky was doing it’s own pink thing too, but we were bliddy cold with the wind coming off the sea.

Pink clouds
Pink clouds


St.Mary's in the pink
St.Mary’s in the pink

Last weekend we had Phils son and his family over and I got a couple of roids of his kids.


Matty & Phil
Matty & Phil

Last night Phil and I went out on a date, dinner and the cinema, dinner at MacDonalds lol, it filled a hole, as Phil says, and we were pushed for time so cheap and cheerful.

Phil at Macs
Phil at Macs

then onto Cineworld where we watched Fury, a war movie starring Brad Pitt in a tank.


The movie was 2 hrs 15mins and it was OK, not a patch on Saving Private Ryan, which is still our benchmark war movie, but it was fun, and I don’t mind looking at old Brad for a couple of hours. However the seats in our cinema leave a lot to be desired, I was SO uncomfortable, my bum hurt and I couldn’t wait to get out.

Also yesterday I had to make a ‘spooky’ photo for the Sunday challenge group, and so faffed on in photoshop with a picture I took in May back in the States, at Rochester cemetary,

this is the original

Rochester cemetary
Rochester cemetary


and this is what I did with it


Steep learning curve to turn day into night! 🙂

Today have been back to work, the weather is meh, and the A1 Western bypass is just godawful with roadworks, as they’ve decided to widen it which is going to take forever. I had to go both up and down it today, and each journey of 6 miles took an hour!!! Fedupski me or what. I heard on the local radio that the whole North East is full of bliddy roadworks all over, and I can attest to that, it’s making my work life even more grim than it is normally 😦

A1 Western bypass.

Well more of that to come for a while so I’ll just have to suck it up and leave earlier when going Northwest.

Books I’m reading..still going with the Jack Reacher series, really enjoying these books by Lee Child, on number 15 now, think there is 4 more to go.

TV..started watching The Knick, really good as its about surgery -“A look at the professional and personal lives of the staff at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital during the early part of the twentieth century”. And Clive Owen stars, someone else I can happily look at for a couple of hours 🙂 The surgery bits were really well done, as an ex – operating theatre sister I was very impressed with the realism.

Am supposed to be going down south again next weekend to see Helen then on to see Ben & Lewis, but I have a huge tax bill to pay which is going to wipe me out, so not sure yet if I’ll make it 😦 life huh, does have it’s challenges now and then. Well quite often really. So fingers xt for a good sales week this week, and a lottery win would be good too.


laters gaters




Gothic Exercising.

The theme for my photography challenge this weekend was ‘anything gothic’! I acquired some gothic jewellery dirt cheap on amazon during the week with a view to photographing it fetchingly against some black velvet or whatever plush fabric I could come up with, but by Friday had decided it would be much more ‘gothic’ to wear it and shoot it in a graveyard. I worry about myself sometimes. Anyway it became apparent that I would need help mainly to get the bloody hand piece and the gothic choker done up as I couldn’t manage it myself :D! Hubby was working Sunday so I sent out an SOS to my pal ‘The Rev’ and he said ‘That sounds like fun,’ so we met up on Sunday and first went to the pub to discuss the shoot.  Eventually we decided the best cemetery would be a fairly deserted one down in Escombe, about 3/4 hr drive, and off we went. The weather was just right, dark grey clouds with rain when we set off.  The 1st inkling that things were not going to go as planned was the cemetery seemed empty of graves! Am sure I remembered loads more when last I visited!! Found a suitable one though after tramping through mud and grunge towards the back of the cemetery.  My first idea was to shoot myself with hands around a grave as if I was a vampire arising, so I set up my camera on a low POV using a gorilla pod for stability.  Except the ball shaped feet of the Gpod and mud didn’t really equate to stability!  Then I did so many test shots trying to get the exposure right and the camera angle right that my flash unit sucked up all the juice of my camera and I was left without any power to take any pictures! Bliddy marvellous, my spare battery was on charge at home, (note to self- organisation is the key to skill and efficiency!)  So thankfully Mike had his camera with him, but it’s different to mine, so I ended up being creative director, and Mike the camera man. Of course just to throw another spanner in the works, the sun broke through just as we began the shoot!  I did a fair few of my self in a long black cape looking mournful and hugging trees, and some of myself crawling out from under an overgrown monument, but these shall never see the light of day 🙂 but I did manage to get the ‘hands around the grave’ shot and one of the gothic earing, both of which are below.


The processing involved reducing the exposure to kill the sunny day sky, and then into Nik FX pro to add some graduated fog and a very small amount of detail extraction.  Then back to lightroom for some final tweaks and a medium vignette to help with the eerie light feel.


For this shot I went straight to Nik FX to add a vintage film filter and then to PSE 11 for spot removal of my worst wrinkles 😀 and to add a dark centre to the red blobs of lippy that we used to make the puncture wounds. I did try the skin softening filter but that just looks quite false even at low opacity so left it alone. All in all a fun day out trying something very different, so a good exercise and a challenge met. Thanks to The Rev who is a most excellent photographer and chum, Next time though I’ll just get out the velvet……