Friday, 3 August 2012

Day 36 begins


Day 36 begins

I couldn't believe my luck to be sitting here at the head table here at the dining room in Durham Castle. Kings and even Queens, the diamond jubilee celebrating Queen had been here only a week ago, and here was I a pauper, in this very room eating as if I were a member of the royal family. And I have no idea what I shall be doing tomorrow. Well I was eating like there was no tomorrow actually, as I don't know when I would get such opportunity again....
As I ate, a man and his wife at the table with me began chatting and I learned that they were here archiving all the volumes from the library. They were photographing them I believe to make sure that the texts won't be lost if something happened to the original copy. It sounded like a very detailed and difficult, if not time consuming job indeed. Michael and Jane Gunn, were from the south of England, but Michael being an artist and Jane an archive photographer also were well used like myself, to being all over the place and traveling and staying away from home for long periods. We swapped cards as they were keen to read about what I was doing and where I might be over the next few months. 
 Michael Gunn.

Also at the table was a woman who worked at the University and she was originally from the States. Because of her specific request I shall refrain from mentioning any more about her, other than to say we had a very good chat about many topics and she was very interested to know why I wanted to walk all the way around Britain.
When breakfast was over I said goodbye to my new friends and made our separate ways out into the day. I spoke briefly with the people at reception about leaving my bag for the day and asked if I could join the 10.00am tour of the Castle. Apparently I needed to get a ticket from the Library on the square outside the gates of the Castle, near to the Cathedral. As I was about to leave Ian, a young man came up to me and asked if I would be on the tour and said he was taking it this morning. I recognised him now I thought of it from yesterday afternoon, only he didn't have his gowns on now. When I came to the library for my ticket he was already there and vouched for me being at the Castle as a guest, as the trip was free for guests. Wow another saving...Thanks Ian..

The tour began at 10am and I began to learn so much about the old place and the kitchens and the architecture and the history surrounding the place in general, including all about the shenanigans of the rugby team one night and a very large butchers block table, that is now permanently at the top of the Castle in the common area outside the dorms of the schools elite students who get the best rooms at the castle for all their dedicated assistances to the university. There seems to be also serious politics about the use of the double doors in this dorm. One open door means it is ok to enter even without knocking, the two closed means ffffff.........something else..... (see pic 8)

The tour was full of tiny glimpses at the goings on of the ruling gentry and their egoistic designs at being more successful than their predecessors. Parts of the Castle were added and taken away over the centuries depending on the whims of the Bishops who lived and ruled from here. Right up until it was given over as a seat of learning by Bishop Van Mildert in 1837. Since it had been in constant use by the students of Durham during the terms and by random people like me, at others. 

About University College

The University of Durham was founded in 1832 by Bishop Van Mildert and the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral. After Van Mildert's death in 1836 the Castle was handed over to the University and became University College in 1837, the oldest of the Durham Colleges. Early generations of students lived either in University House, now Cosin's Hall, or in the Castle Keep which was reconstructed in 1840.
The College is an academic community within Durham University of around 700 undergraduates and 150 postgraduates, and members of University staff attached to the College through the Senior Common Room. All members, both academic staff and students, share a common aim: the pursuit of knowledge. There are many other aspects of College life: cultural, sporting and social, but the main purpose of the College is academic.
The mission statement of our College summarises our aspirations: 'To sustain and enhance a lively residential and non-residential academic community in and associated with Durham Castle within which students can enrich their experience of university life and develop valuable life skills through a wide range of academic, sporting, social, cultural and religious activities'.
The kitchen has been in constant use for well over 800 years, though apparently the food is fresher than that. Well I can vouch for that actually. Burp...!!
So Ian who really loved this place you could tell, was a very informative host for the tour, he put his soul into our 45 minutes of entertaining with stories facts and the odd anecdote or two. We finished up in a tomb like vault beneath the castle that is now the reason why the Unesco. people recognised the Castle as a world recognised heritage site of importance along side the Cathedral.
I set out into the town and Chloe at reception said that I could still use the facilities here whilst I waited for the chance to buy something to repair my trousers. I met up with my friend for lunch at the Flat White Cafe, she offered to pay and I was served a lovely sandwich of Wendsleydale cheese and chutney with salad. We chatted, about all sorts of things till she had to leave and I then got into talking with the staff here, Aaron, Peter, and Adam who were all amazed at my challenge to walk around the U.K. and said that they would have a look at my blog. I add here a link to their Facebook page, Twitter as it was a great lunch and really comfortable and enjoyable place to spend a few hours as I continued to write some poetry and soak up the ambiance.
I popped in to the indoor market and bought my webbing to fix the trousers and went back to the Castle to get them fixed. Chloe was not on duty, but Wendy said it was not a problem to use their iron and soon I had done the chores and was ready to go. I have to say that the staff of the Castle and the people of Durham in my view are really friendly and I owe a debt to the Castle in particular for their Kindnesses.
Passing through the market square I saw that stalls were being set up which seemed odd as it was mid afternoon. At a cake stall called DessertHeaven, the owner Rachel and her daughter Dayna told me that it was a new market to Durham and was afternoons only. They had been elsewhere this morning and so I had gotten the first views of their spoils, and they all looked delicious. I had to opt for only one piece, (shame) but well I am walking lots so will soon burn off any unwanted calories from this treat.

The route out of Durham was all uphill for the first mile or so, and I worked up a sweat. I was really quite full of energy though after a few days off walking all day. I was heading roughly towards Chester-le-Street. An old roman encampment to the north. I passed a lot of nice houses on my way out of the town, it seemed more affluent here than some other towns. At the outskirts I passed a couple of new commerce centers, with the usual superstores and tried to decide if I needed any supplies or not. I figured that I could cope with what I had if the next town was not too far away.

On the back lane I met a young man cycling towards me who didn't look like he was from around here, and he was covered in hi viz, and even had a number plate strapped to the back. He said he thought it would be more visable to the traffic coming up from behind.
John was from Colorado. He was a young man who was doing some sight seeing of the whole of the United Kingdom by bicycle, and he was staying at Catholic priories and seminaries as he journeyed around. He was very talkative and surprised by my project to bring a bit more harmony to the world as I walked from place to place. His angle was steeped in his faith and I admired his fortitude to cycle all this way. Mine was my faith in the goodness of strangers to supply all my needs by acts of random kindness, through the encounters I have with everyone as I walk to new environments daily and feel the rhythm of their lives. You can be the judges of whether the great British public deserve a medal or not, as you read what occurs from one new place to another. John had to be at Durham in a short while so I assured him by bike he was only about 20 minutes away from his destination. I recommended the castle tour and the Cathedral as I was now an expert on local history. It was great to have spoken with him he like myself was full of things to say and facts to share. A pity he was going in the opposite direct as I would have liked to have spoken for longer. Still he did invite me to go to Colorado, (I hope that was all John, couldn't resist that...)

The road to Chester-le-street was a windy and thin track. Several times I had to dive into the bushes to avoid cars coming towards me on the narrow lanes. Most drivers were accommodating and grateful of my skill and dexterity to avoid them. It was a little after 8pm by the time I arrived at the old fortress town. I walked through along a very long straight road, typical of the Roman's and chose a pub called the High Crown. I want you to understand now, that my frequenting public houses is not because I like a wee dram or the local beers so much, but it is often the best place to meet people who are eager to chat and this pub was far more quiet than the others at the moment, as they were showing Olympic football. I thought that I might be able to type for a bit, but the lighting was too low and then I got into conversation with initially Andrea the bar manager and Sam and then Lesley and her daughter Kersha. The lady and her daughter were initially from Liverpool, and she told me that they had come here because of certain low expectation levels of the local people there and other social problems that they feared would be detrimental to their futures. Lesley was a runner in the recent past and like me had been told not to because of health concerns. Her daughter Kersha had recenlty run her first London marathon for charity, the Roy Castle fund and was full of admiration for my project, though it was I that was amazed by her energy to have helped the less fortunate in this way. She loved running now and had plans to be an Olympian one day. I am sure that she could be the next Paula Radcliff if she kept up with her training.
When Lesley had gone I spoke at length with this young woman Kersha about how her life was taking shape, and what were her hopes and dreams. She told me of all things, that she wanted to be able to be working in funeral care. She said that it was a kind of job that was not catered for in normal training programs and that funding should be made available for the proper training of people to work in this industry and be compassionate towards bereaved families. I guess I suppose that it must be a profession that is passed down through families normally as I couldn't imagine why a young person would want to do this, but have great admiration for Kersha's ideas about it and her future plans to complete the training needed to become a funeral director. I asked her if she would be keen to do a brief piece of footage for my documentary and she gladly accepted. (It might be a while till I get the clip live, as the uploading is a problem right now.)
But a huge thanks to Kersha for her taking the time to help me with the documentary, and I wish her every success and good fortune in her plans to become a world beating athlete, and undertaker too.
By the time I left the pub it was about 11.00pm. I was full of energy to walk and the conversations had inspired me to push on with my meager project with new passions. I said my farewells and set off into the night. A few people stopped their cars during the next few minutes to ask me what I was doing walking at this time. They were staggered mostly that I was walking so far. 

I had tried to contact my brother Ben earlier, as one of our friends Ian lives somewhere close to the Angel of the North at Birtley, but I hadn't heard back from Ben. I thought that I was still a days walk off reaching the Monument set on the hill overlooking the A1 motorway, and wanted to see if Ian was up for a random meeting. I thought back and realised that we hadn't been in touch for over 10 years at least.
Some time later I was sure that I spotted the Angel ahead of me. Sure enough I was only a mile away from the Anthony Gormley tribute to 200 years of mining.
It was a nice warm evening, and I had not met any strange people coming out of the pubs or trouble from anywhere, so had kept trekking on. I decided that if it was possible that I would set my tent close to the huge steel erection and sleep beneath its protective gaze. I did indeed find the place quiet and welcoming for a weary traveler, and my tent was up by about 1.00am and I was in the valley of the shadows beneath Angels wings.

As you can imagine, sleep came swiftly and soundly,
Day 36 came quickly to an end.

No comments:

Post a Comment