Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where He Leeds, You Follow

It has been brought to my attention by a couple of people that my blogging has been a little lax recently. In my defense, there's virtually nothing to tell. For the last month I've been sitting in my room staring at the wall. I actually stuck some pictures to the wall, to make it more interesting. Before that all I had to look at was a political map of India that one of the previous tennants left behind. I've been wistfully reading Lonely Planet guides about places that are warmer than here, which is everywhere.

My Irish flatmates moved out a few weeks ago, and the other tennant won't help, so it's been left to me to find the replacement. I've spent a fair chunk of the last 3 weekends vacuuming and scrubbing the bathroom so the place looks like less of a sty. A couple of Kiwis are moving in at the weekend, which I'm pleased about.

So given that I've done nothing interesting recently, it's a good thing that I've never reported on my trip to Leeds:

In December, someone sent me a link whereby you could book cheap hotel rooms in January. I tried to get one in Bath or Chester, but they were both booked out, so I tried Leeds and it was available. Why Leeds? Well, I had complained to my brother that the flaw in the brilliant London museums was the lack of weaponry or military history. He told me that all the good historical weaponry was at the Leeds Armoury, so I was keen to see it. It was my birthday in January, so this was my present to myself. In the end, the train ticket was so insanely overpriced as to render the whole trip expensive anyway.

I needed the trip. There was sad news from home and my job was going terribly, and to be honest I spent a lot of my time in Leeds sighing and blinking back tears. It's not all strawberries at Wimbledon, over here.

Anyway, I arrived at midday on Saturday and headed straight for Kirkstall Abbey. It's quite a long walk out of the city and it was bitterly cold. The website says 3.5 miles, but it seemed more to me. Kirkstall Abbey is an old ruined Cistercian abbey. I spent quite a while there.

Kirkstall Abbey

On the way, I detoured to try and visit the industrial museum which is at an old mill, but it was closed and would've been boring if it was open. But near there I spotted this ruined shed:

Ruined shed

In the evening, I went to the Leeds museum. The staff were friendly and it was well presented, but there just didn't seem to be any very important exhibits. It felt like a small-town collection.

A few weeks ago, one of my flatmates was telling me about an article in the local newspaper about some students in Cambridge who have to make do on a food budget of 20 pounds per week. I was a little surprised at that, as my weekly food bill is about 10 pounds. I'm living to an extreme budget over here (I don't think I've had takeaways since I left London almost 6 months ago and I've only bought meat a couple of times), so in Leeds I treated myself to a meal at a nice Italian restaurant.

The next day, I got up early and walked across town to the Armoury. Although it was freezing again, I passed 5 guys fishing in the river. The only thing these guys were catching was plurisy:

I was also struck by this sign. I'm not sure of the exact context, but it's almost the exact opposite of the ones I saw on the Golden Gate Bridge last year:

Leeds Armoury

This is where Leeds is spending all it's historical preservation money. It's absolutely top-notch. I forget which, but one of these suits of armour was owned by Henry the 8th.

Henry the 8th's Armour?

I'm not sure if you can make out that photo of the stairwell, but those are all weapons and suits of armour going up 5 floors. That place is worth a visit, and it even has a touch of Kiwi:

The orc Lurtz

The weather has finally started to improve now. I'm in a rush to get my touring bike finished, and then there should be some more to report. A budget store chain called Lidl's is having a sale on cycling gear this week, but there isn't one in Cambridge, so on Saturday I'm going to an exotic sounding town called Letchworth to try and stock up on supercheap bike stuff.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

S'no Good

I'm well aware that this post comes heavily infused with hypocrisy. Firstly, a while back I posted a criticism of B&W photography. Today's photos are nearly all B&W. What can I say? The snow lends itself to dithering. Secondly, earlier this week I sent a message to a former colleague saying that the snow isn't that bad, and that the English just like to have something to moan about. I'd like to revise that response, please. The snow isn't deep, but after 6 days of it, damn I'm cold. It's fricken' freezing in here, Mr Bigglesworth.

Incidentally, the next person who emails me to gleefully tell me that it's 34C in Christchurch at the moment may find me on their doorstep, punching them in the nose. With a couple of brief exceptions, I've been pretty much in Winter for 10 months now. This isn't easy, people.

Anyway, in the previous post, I mentioned that I hoped to get into town at the weekend to get some photos. I did indeed spend this morning roaming Cambridge taking snaps and if these shots don't make you feel cold, even at 34C, I'll be pretty surprised. You've seen some of these scenes before, only warmer.

Old school bike and snow-covered punts

More snow-covered punts

Light reflecting off the Cam

Did you notice that this one isn't actually B&W? If you look closely, you can see a guy in a red jacket. Wow, this is like the "Schindler's List" of travel blogs.

A smoking chimney

Church of Great St Mary

A mud puddle with broken ice

Shortly after I took this shot, I slipped on the ice. Actually, it was probably the 30th time that I'd slipped on the ice, but this time I went down hard. A little tip here - if you shout "FUCK!" at the top of your lungs, it will ensure the maximum number of people turn around to see you looking like an idiot. The doctor says I may've fractured my dignity.

Two geese chilling out

A snow crocodile

The Henry the 8th Gate

Strolling on Jesus Green

Snowy houses

Jesus Ditch, frozen

There are birds here, like small Pukekos. They were running around on the ice on the ditch, so it wasn't thin.

King's College

King's College again

Magdaleine Bridge

Park bench in the snow and ice

Several shots of swans on the Cam

Hopefully, you're all feeling as cold and fed up as I am now. However, if there hasn't been quite enough pathos yet, how about a kid's kite stuck in a tree?

Leeds trip to follow some time soon. Bye.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Shivering in a Winter Wonderland

There are so many exciting locales around here: Iceland, the Arctic, the North Sea. Of course, I've never been to any of them, but I have experienced their cold weather fronts. The current one comes from Russia, and as you may've seen on the news, it's given England the heaviest snow dump in 18 years. The snow on Monday was heavier, but my camera had a flat battery. I'm hoping the snow falls again at the weekend so I can get some pictures in town.

Snowy street

I'll probably walk to work today...

When the best part of the forcast for the next 5 days is for a bit of sun mixed in with the snow on Saturday, that says it all, doesn't it?

Speaking of Iceland... The Icelandic banks were offering some great interest rates, so many English (including numerous councils) had invested with them. When the banking system began to wobble, England used anti-terrorist legislation to seize the money still in England, thus ensuring the collapse and nationalisation of the 3 Icelandic banks. This left the Icelandic people owing hundreds of thousands of dollars each. I haven't heard much discussion about this here, but I found a really interesting article that AA Gill has written about it: