Ripping Yorkshire Again!

The final leg of our great north run saw us in England’s ‘second’ capital  – variously called Eboracum by the Romans, Eoforwic by the Saxons, Yorvik by the Vikings, Everwic by the Normans, then on to Yerk, Yourke, Yarke and finally – York. The city has an ancient pedigree, medieval city walls to march round, a higgledy-piggledy heart and a gigantic Gothic minster dominating the skyline.

York has fascination around every corner – who knew that Constantine the Great was proclaimed Roman Emperor there in 306 AD? But, unsurprisingly, it’s also packed with tourists from just about everywhere. After an hour or two weaving through the international swarm, we were relieved to find a traditional Italian to fill our bellies and rest our tired old hides. Of course, the over-indulgence of the previous three days in Knaresborough might have had something to do with it.

The pasta was delicious as was the hair of the dog that washed it down.

Oops. The naughty little gremlins ran amok this morning and so this post didn’t get shared properly and I’m publishing it again. If you get it twice, then that’s two for the price of one. Cheers!

Ripping Yorkshire

The final leg of our great north run saw us in England’s ‘second’ capital  – variously called Eboracum by the Romans, Eoforwic by the Saxons, Yorvik by the Vikings, Everwic by the Normans, then on to Yerk, Yourke, Yarke and finally – York. The city has an ancient pedigree, medieval city walls to march round, a higgledy-piggledy heart and a gigantic Gothic minster dominating the skyline.

York has fascination around every corner – who knew that Constantine the Great was proclaimed Roman Emperor there in 306 AD? But, unsurprisingly, it’s also packed with tourists from just about everywhere. After an hour or two weaving through the international swarm, we were relieved to find a traditional Italian to fill our bellies and rest our tired old hides. Of course, the over-indulgence of the previous three days in Knaresborough might have had something to do with it.

The pasta was delicious as was the hair of the dog that washed it down.

Tatty and Batty Knaresborough

Tatty and Batty Knaresborough

The heatwave is just a distant memory and autumn is here. The mugging sun has given way to pearly skies and so, before we whack up the heat, roll out the winter duvet and drop into hibernation, we decided on another northern recce. Last year, we spent a few boozy days in Leeds with a whistle stop at Knaresborough thrown into the mix. We were so enamoured with the little town, this time we lodged there for a few days to get a fuller flavour. I was also on a mission to catch up with an old friend I hadn’t seen for more than a decade. She got hitched in nearby Harrogate in 2004 and I attended the nuptials. After our last jaunt, I discovered she now lives in Knaresborough with her beau and assorted kids. I kicked myself for not catching up at the time and I wasn’t about to make the same mistake.

Jack in Harrogate 2003

Me in 2004 – I’ve not changed a bit! And yes, I was a little drunk!

And catch up we did with a vengeance – at a local hostelry when we arrived, for a slice of Victoria sponge down by the river Nidd the next day and a home-cooked lamb roast the evening after. We nattered, we drank, we laughed. The organised chaos of family life was pure joy.

Ramped to the rafters with independent shops and watering holes, Knaresborough has been little troubled by the relentless march of corporate chains dominating most high streets these days. Long may that be so. We also jumped on a bus to handsome Harrogate for a spot of lunch. The Victorian town is uber-elegant but a bit too coiffured for my liking – more set, blow and dry when compared to Knaresborough’s quirky curls.

And so to the snaps…

It rained a bit. Well that’s the north for you. When circumstances allow, we could be looking for somewhere new to lay our cloth caps. The little batty and tatty town is still at the top of the leader board. I might even get a whippet.

Minos, Minotaurs and Mazes

Minos, Minotaurs and Mazes

Manolis, our obliging landlord at the Eleonas Country Village, organised an ancient treat for our last day on Crete. Our evening flight gave us plenty of time for a two-centre Minoan tour – the Heraklion Archaeological Museum and Knossos, the jewel in the Minoan crown.

The cool and well-appointed museum brings together archaeological finds from all over Crete, covering over 5,500 years of the island’s rich and varied history. Unsurprisingly, pride of place is given to the draw-dropping treasures of the Minoans. Let the pictures speak for themselves.

Next stop the palace complex at Knossos, one of the most famous archaeological sites in all of Greece, if not the world. The terms ‘Knossos’ and ‘Minoan’ are lifted straight from Greek legend – King Minos and the labyrinth he used to imprison his son, the bull-headed minotaur. Nobody knows what the ancient Cretans actually called themselves, but judging by the artefacts and frescos, they were obsessed with their bulls.

Experts still squabble over the historical record but there is general agreement that Knossos eventually became the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilisation and culture. The first palace complex was established around 4,000 years ago (with traces going back a further 4,000 years) and abandoned at some time towards the end of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1380–1100 BCE). That’s seriously old.

Knossos today is overrun by visitors and we just added to the number wandering around the site on raised walkways to help preserve the delicate ruins beneath their feet. What people see is a partial reconstruction as imagined by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans who did most of the digging in the last century. Purists dismiss his confection as fanciful at best. Authentic or not, for the average punter, the site is spectacular and evocative in a way unmatched by many other ancient sites. We all queued up patiently to see the ‘Throne Room’. And who wouldn’t?

 

Postcards from Crete

Postcards from Crete

Aphrodite’s Sanctuary

Darkness had fallen by the time we opened the front door of the Aphrodite Guest House at the Eleonas Country Village. Expectations were high and it didn’t disappoint – simple pleasure, tastefully presented. On day one, Liam leapt out of bed and threw open the window to let in a heady scent of rosemary, sage and marjoram and a words-totally-fail-me view. Yes, this’ll do for our week of solitude and Scrabble, cards and cuddles, rest and recharge.

Toddlers on Acid

After two glorious days serenaded by monastery bells and a chorus of horny cicadas, the melody has been shattered by toddlers on acid. They weren’t expected up here in these hills. High-fibre parents encourage little Hugo and Matilda to express themselves in any way that takes their fancy, and so they do – loudly and often. Real life won’t be so obliging when they grow up.

We upped towels and fled to the tranquillity of our patio, dragged out the Scrabble, popped a cork and settled down beneath the canopy of a fat-trunked carob tree. As we supped and scrabbled, a panicky goat suddenly appeared from nowhere and scuttled past. A startled Liam jumped from his seat. Ever the expert sot, he didn’t spill a drop.

The Road to Zaros by Liam Brennan

Day four, and Jack has a case of the munchies. While he lounges under the shade of a carob tree, off I trot in the blistering heat to the local village in search of essential supplies (Pringles, Hobnobs and village plonk). I say ‘trot’. By the time I had negotiated the never-ending ‘road’ to Zaros, with its twists and turns through the hills into the valley below, my old-man legs had packed up, I was more or less blinded by sweat, and delirium was beginning to set in. It’s an indication of how pathetic I must have looked as I wobbled past the village tea house that one of the octogenarian villagers rocking gently in his shaded chair gestured for me to take a seat next to him.

‘Kàni polì zèsti’ (it’s very hot), he mumbled nonchalantly.

No shit, grandad.

I panted an appreciative ‘thank you’ in Greeklish and pointed at my wrist – time was ticking by and I was on a mission. As it turns out, that mission was accomplished in some style. Thanks to the local shopkeeper who steered me away from his dusty stock of imported wine, I staggered back to Jack with gallons of the local rosé, decanted into recycled one-and-a-half-litre plastic bottles at 3 Euros a pop. Not to mention the sour cream Pringles and a stash of chocolate bars. I may have lost half my body weight in sweat and pulled every muscle of my ageing body, but at least Jack was happy. That man owes me. Big time.

Much Ado

We dine late to avoid the over-fussy kids and their over-fussing parents. Food is gloriously no-fuss – hearty country fare, fresh and generous, and all washed down with robust local wine. And Διαμάντι (Diamánti), our waitress, provides a side order of wit and wisdom. On day two, a sparkling trio of West Country Brits emerged from the beige backdrop of pasty-faced, sensibly-sandalled hikers. We shared a joke or three and chatted our way through the honeyed raki. You know who you are and we thank you.

Déjà Vu

Our Cretan idyll delivers unexpected familiarity. If I close my eyes, I’m transported back in time to another land of randy insects, loose goats, old men in tea houses and pine-smothered hills.

In the end, who could tell the difference between a grandma riding a donkey in Greece, Bulgaria or trotting through a Turkish village?

Turkey Street, Chapter 13, Blesséd are the Meek

As I once wrote in a book. Ok, no headscarves or hassle, and the call to prayer has been replaced by the chimes of the local blue-domed monastery, but looking at the following snaps – the first of our Cretan digs, the second of our former house in Bodrum – you get my drift.

Host with the Most

Manolis, our gentle and affable host, runs a tight ship with a light touch – efficient but not pushy, with an ask-and-it-shall-be-given style. All the staff were helpful and friendly, but for us, it was Diamánti – our diamond – who really made our second honeymoon something to tell the metaphorical grandchildren about. It rained on our last day – a summer monsoon to frighten the herd, all snap, crackle and pop.

We took our seats in the taverna with a couple of glasses of white to enjoy the noisy spectacle. Diamante emerged from the bar to present us with a gift. Now that’s never happened before.

Efcharistó.

We never got to eat the fruit of the lotus tree. It must be the only shrub missing from Eden. So we went home, but we’ll be back.

Coming next – Minos, Minotaurs and Mazes

 

The Lotus Eaters

The Lotus Eaters

Greece beckons – seven lazy days round a Cretan pool. As with last year, we’re flying from Norwich’s bijou international airport but, unlike last year, we’ve gone up a notch or two, accommodation-wise. We’re so off the beaten track, there’s no track at all, just a collection of stone cottages sprinkled over the side of a hill with its own spring and a couple of travel awards. And the unpretentious comfort has earned it a sparkling set of five-star reviews. Our sanctuary for the week is the Aphrodite Guest House, close to the bar. Expectations are high.

Although it’s a paradise for hikers and bikers, we plan to do little but sleep, float, eat, sup, read, bonk, play snap and cheat at scrabble. The only exception, I think, will be a trip to ancient Knossos. As one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, it’s bound to be nose to nipple with babbling coach parties. But it’s there and it’s not far, so it would be an insult to give it a miss.

Who knows? We may turn into lotus eaters – from Greek mythology, that is, not the seventies TV series set on Crete starring Wanda Ventham, Benedict Cumberbatch’s mother. According to legend, those who ate the fruit of the lotus tree lost the desire to return home. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Top of the Pansy Pops 2017

Top of the Pansy Pops 2017

Perking the Pansies has recently passed its seventh birthday. It’s quite a milestone, I think. Most personal blogs are lucky to make it beyond the terrible twos. I still write it because I still enjoy it and I’m chuffed that enough punters still pop by to catch up on my news and views, rants and rambles. You make a fading fairy very happy. As it’s the turn of the year, it’s top ten time once again. So, ladies and gents, and those who are both, neither or someone in between…

The glitter ball goes to (drum roll please):

Sticky Fingers and Sticky Knickers

And the runner up is:

Tits with Chicks

The top two promised smut but delivered something altogether more innocent. I do hope visitors weren’t too let down, but this does demonstrate the value of a good headline, the ruder the better or so it seems. The also rans are an eclectic pick ‘n’ mix of danger and disability, dotage and death, beards and biography, civic history and doing the right thing.

The Story of Norwich | John Hurt, RIP | Life After My Saucepans | Praying for Time | A Message from My Husband | That Sinking Feeling | Seven Signs of Ageing | I Beg Your Pardon

In these social media-obsessed times, the most shared post was Home Sweet Home, an image-rich homily to little ol’ Norwich, published while Liam and I were away livin’ the vida loca, Greek-style.

Morris Dancing

And the most popular single image in 2017 (ever, in fact)?

Do we ever learn?

And the most popular old post in 2017?

Gran Canaria, Sex Emporium

Apparently not! 😀

Happy New Year to one and all.