Monday, 2 November 2009

Off on a jaunt!

Turns out that I have something in common with the artist David Hockney apart from growing up around Bradford. Not artistic ability, clearly, or wealth. But our love of jaunts.

I was reading an interview with David Hockney in the Sunday paper.  He was saying how important it is, as you get older, to try and maintain your spontaneity and your openness to new perspectives. In order to do this, he is very fond of ‘jaunts’. I’ve never thought of my love of jaunts as an attempt at maintaining spontaneity or creativity, but rather as unfettered hedonism. This love of jaunts is something C and I share. As we’ve got older I suspect our ‘jaunts’ have taken on an increasingly ‘Darby and Joan’ flavour. When we first moved to Edinburgh we were so thrilled at the availability of public transport after 10 years in the wilds of Cumbria, we spent a Saturday travelling around the city on buses, making the most of a £2.50 ‘day ticket’. I do wonder at the sight of a middle aged-couple sitting on the front seat of the upper deck of a bus (double deckers – you didn’t get those in our bit of Cumbria!) looking excitedly out of the window. At least we haven’t started taking flasks of tea and Tupperware boxes of sandwiches out with us. Whenever we have taken a packed lunch out with us on a ‘jaunt’, in an attempt to save money, we always end up opting for a nice café instead and bringing our picnic home with us, uneaten. After all, half the joy of a jaunt is the opportunity for a good cake!

Whilst on the topic of David Hockney and jaunts, I should mention that a particularly excellent ‘jaunt’ is to Salts Mill, in Saltaire near Bradford in West Yorkshire - an art gallery dedicated to the work of David Hockney. It’s housed in the monumental Victorian mill buildings of Sir Titus Salt. Salt built the whole village of Saltaire around the mill for his workers – complete with cottages, a reading room, chapels, doctor’s surgery and so on. One of those extravagant schemes so beloved of the non-conformist industrialists of that era - charitable paternalism or economically motivated social engineering – depending on your view! The mill conversion, creating galleries, cafes and shops, has left many of the old mill features intact. I love the unlikely juxtaposition of the great halls, which would have housed the weaving machines and large lumps of redundant machinery, in amongst the art books, the paintings and the chi chi kitchenware and gifts. I was never a huge fan of David Hockney’s LA works, but I love his more recent work now he’s settled back home in Yorkshire – startling, expressionist landscapes of East Yorkshire. The intense and extravagant colours of his pictures and their slightly skewed perspective jolt you into considering landscape with a different eye. Anyway – more info on Salts Mill and Saltaire if you are interested.

I am currently on an extended jaunt, which is a bit of an experiment. I have rented a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales for a week. The first 4 days I am here on my own, and then C is coming down on the train to join me for the second half of the week. I wanted some peace and quiet. I also wanted to reconnect with the landscape of northern England, which I love and which I miss now that we live up in Edinburgh. I will report back on the experiment. I confess, I’m not loving the isolation so far. Not even a mobile phone signal in the cottage! We shall see.

On the drive down I stopped for lunch in Corbridge, in County Durham, near Hadrian’s Wall. Corbridge is a very pretty and historic village. It’s also quite posh – something I hadn’t really realised until I went back this time. It boasts an unusually high quota of independent clothes boutiques, antique and interiors shops, clearly targeting the ‘ladies who lunch’ market.

Corbridge is also the home of what is surely one of the most beautiful shops in the UK. ‘RE’ is a treasure trove of second-hand and new retro-style household items. They have a lot of unusual French goods, which I assume they source direct from French suppliers. They also have really obscure stuff, none of which you need, but all of which looks charming because of the way it is displayed: religious statuary; glass jars of tailors chalks in pastel colours (which I thought was Edinburgh rock until I read the labels!); decorative boxes of matches; a vast array of plastic poppies. It’s very Cath Kidston, but with a lower chintz quotient. My only criticism is that it doesn’t have a café. How can you have such a magnificent array of cake stands, tea pots and tea cosies and not feel tempted to open a café?

Anyway – feast your eyes on these photos – and visit the website if you fancy more domestic eye candy.

French bath stuff and cake stands

Silver rabbit blancmange moulds, wooden rolling pins, wooden bread boards - all vital to any modern kitchen of course!

Every possible size of brown teapot and a small selection of tea cosies

An enormous glass display case of .... glass cake stands - can you see them all?

Lots and lots of lovely boxes of candles

The garden corner

I think I might have got a bit carried away ......