Tag Archives: Tea Rooms

Let’s do Coffee #4

Back to reality and so back to my occassional guide on tea and coffee shops. This time it is Rumbletums, one of the few places in Durham I hadn’t tried. My friend suggested we try it because she liked this place which I had heard varying reports of.

As we wandered down the stairs I thought ok….a bit worn looking, but it has some charm. Then we walked through the door and I have to say my first reaction was to turn and immeadiately head out. I do shiney but comfortable coffee shops designed to cater for the Friends generation or pristine tea shops with good quality oak designed for Joanna Trollope readers. This place was neither, it was clean but in a worn kind of way which I know is more popular with people like my dad.

There was a strange collection of objects around the till area which had the air of a Blue Peter bring and buy about it. Then there were a collection of prints for sale, c.1975 around the seating area. The table cloths were white and orange disposable style things rather attractive wood, metal or plastic table tops, or white linen cloths. On these tables lay laminated tourist maps of County Durham which were curled and worn at the edges, like wilting cucumber sandwiches.

This was not the place, I could tell, to be looking to buy a fairtrade caramel latte. So as it was I went for the safe option, an orange juice. Not good or bad value for money it was simply as it was.

So all in all I have to say that this is somewhere I will do my best to avoid in the future…..it simply doesn’t have what I am looking for. Yet, if my father comes to visit I will send him there immeadiately because he will love it. Rumbletums is a relic of a fast fading world which some of us are glad largely disappeared when we were children but others choose to mourn. It truly is an anti-corporate experience, but not in that modern trendy “indy” type of way.

I am aware throughout this blog post my very middle class prejudices have been exposed. Of that I am not proud, but I cannot apologise. It happens I am one of the Friends generation who escapes into either Douglas Coupland or Joanna Trollope, and my tastes in tea and coffee providers reflects that.

(mis)Adventures in Scotland pt 3**warning adult content**

Wednesday afternoon was spent mainly at the GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art). I had particularly gone to look at the infamous sh(out) exhibition. JTL has already blogged about her visit, and I would encourage you to read her excellent reflection aswell as my perspective on it.

Before reaching “that exhibition” I explored the lower floors, encountering first “Echo and Transend“, a collection of abstract art. More beautiful to me than any of the actual art on this floor, even John Houston’s “October Sunset” is the view you get of the backdoor of Boarders, as you walk into the main part of the gallery. Framed between two mock Roman pillars is a thick backdoor with the Boarders sign acting as a header above it. In the glass window above the door hangs a large, circular, Starbucks sign. It is an absolutely beautiful picture representing late modernity.

Anyway, enough of me getting lost in the beauty of contemporary consumer culture and back to the official art. Balcony one contained Rendering Gender, works by David Sherry with Transforming Arts. This was a collection of stuff by a transgender group, exploring their experiences. Three pieces on this floor caught my imagination. The first one was a picture in a set of four images by Sara Griffin. It contained a body wrapped in bandages and strapped to a table in a 1950’s B movie type lab. Superimposed in a kind of pink neon were the words “OF COURSE I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING I’M A GATE KEEPER”. I considered how many things this could be a metaphor for. For a moment looking at it I found my mind focused on my forthcoming trip to Greenbelt and encounters with the “emerging church” & with a slight shudder I wondered. The other two pieces on this floor which caught my attention were both by Kristi Taylor, one film and one text. Totally unrelated to the main exhbition on this floor is a film area showing work by local and international artists. On the day I went it was showing Gobstopper by Roderick Buchanan which was a rather strange piece showing a series of kids in the back of a vehicle holding their breath and being quiet as they went through a tunnel.

Then onwards and upwards to the controversy. I entered “Made in Gods Image“, which is a collection of work created by LGBTI people from different faith communities. Anthony Schrag and David Malone have worked with members of MCC, Quest, Al-Jannah aswell as individuals from a variety of faiths, beliefs and religions (according to the blurb).

To be honest I thought some of it was a bit kak. The photographic stills by MCC were meant to be ironic in terms of reflecting same sex relationships. I just found them ironic for reflecting the nature of Christian am-dram in churches. I did like the Islamic Text in “Two Poems” by annonymous, they were beautifully presented. Also as JTL said in her post the pictures of the life of an ordinary Muslim gay guy were very moving. The MCC did do a think which had within a set of very uninspiring photographs a shot of text saying, “Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light”. If anybody ever sees this on a postcard I would pay v.g. money for a copy.

The Patriots Room by Ian Hamilton Finlay was an interesting take on the whole thing, being influenced by the French Revolution. With heads in baskets on one side and a very basic bedsit room with subversive needlework on the other.

Before returning to talk about Roxanne Claxton’s exhibit, the one which has caused outrage, I will briefly review the rest of Sh(out). The main space on the upper floor had a mixture of art from different mediums. some of it was outrageous and deliberately provocative. I found some of the photography unneccesary and the plastic tree was symbolic of exactly why people mock modern art. Yet arguably the most erotic image in the exhibition I felt was absolutely beautiful. There was a water colour, which you should not open the link of if you are easily offended, “Untitled #115” by Patricia Cronin. It was of two womens hands entering each other as they made love. The way the picture just shows the hands and the crotch area and the delicate colours make it truly beautiful. The fact the genitalia are hidden by the hands means whilst explicit the picture shows the beauty of intimacy. The other picture I appreciated was “The Actresses” by Sadie Lee. It depicts two elderly women in white industrial style underwear on a bed. One is tenderly holding the other, who has her back to her. Whether it is the fact paintings are not as stark as photography or the fact these two pictures reflect intimacy as opposed to raw sex, without relationship, I don’t know but they were beautiful in a way the others weren’t. They were almost out of place amongst the other exhibits.

Then I went back to look at Roxanne Claxton’s work. When I walked into the alcove containing the installation I saw the desecrated bible and felt revulsion. I felt hurt, which I didn’t expect. Then I saw the bible in the box which now has sheets of reflective responses within it on the opposite page to biblical text. Finally I looked at the video of her eating bits of the bible and stuffing them down her top and trousers. I felt very uncomfortable. Then I picked up the headphones and began to listen to the interview she was giving alongside. This was not just an interview, it was a moving testimony. She spoke of wanting to show that the bible is nourishment not something to choke on. I think that if this had been on loudspeaker rather than through one set of headphones some of the reaction to the piece may have been different. Yet the fact remains the images are disturbing and somehow inappropriate.

This is I think my overall feeling about the exhibition; many of the images are provocative and almost confrontational. Yet when you listen, as you can only with headphones to some of the stories accompanying a number of the exhibits, the story and the exhibition alters. This should be, much more clearly, an audio visual exhibition. It would still be uncomfortable but it would be much less confrontational. I know some think the shock factor, the ability to elicit a strong reaction, is what makes good art but…..

My own feelings, as I sat reflecting over a toasted muffin, pot of tea and fix of Rene Mackintosh in Willow Tea Rooms, were mixed. As a queer Christian I have found wholeness and healing through the bible. I have found this through looking at the bible as a whole rather than pulling it apart, as those who would seek to dehumanise me in their pursuit of truth do. It is looking at the whole story of creation and salvation which has healed the pain and enabled me to see myself as a loved child of God, created in his image with my sins atoned blood he chose to shed for all of us. The pain healed has included the injuries to my self-image inflicted by those who focus on certain individual verses. I don’t want the bible pulled apart to nourish, I want it complete to enjoy and celebrate aswell as feed me.

After all the deep art and culture stuff it was good to go and just chill out for the evening with a bunch of the most amazing people I know, and some new friends, at a lovely place called Ad Lib.

A Day Trip to Leeds

Leeds, it appears, is an interesting place to visit. To be honest Third Party and I weren’t too hopeful yesterday when we set out. The trip had been dogged by hiccups, (largely of my own making), from the beginning. To start with I purchased non-refundable train tickets to Sheffield for some reason. I knew I was going to Leeds, but somehow my brain had clicked onto an earlier part of a relevant discussion and got Sheffield lodged in there. Then when I did get the right tickets the whole getting the cheapest ones meant we had to get a train which was, in Third Party’s mind, at stupid o’clock and got us to Leeds hours earlier than we needed. When we got to the station, to find the train delayed, I had a grumpy teenager complaining about her wierd mum whose idea of a good day out involved meeting “freaks off the internet” and that she had only said she’d come “to get out of the dump I’d made her move to”.

Thankfully after a bit of refreshment and an hour or so on the train to undergo transformation Third Party began to become a little more human and the day started to look a bit more hopeful. The first sign we had that things might not be so awful in Leeds was when we walked out of the station and almost immeadiately spotted the Tourist Information store. This contained a free guide which indicated to my daughter that Leeds contains a number of rather good shops and to me that there were some rather good cultural possibilities I might try and get her to agree to.

So it was that we headed off towards the retail centre. Initially we went window shopping in the Victoria Quarter, an area of designer shops that are lovely to look at but impossible, on our budget, to buy from. Then it was off for me to do a bit of “culture”. Now, this was easier said than done. Third Party had made it more than clear when I spotted the art gallery that I might have dragged her around one too many. However, we did manage to find a compromise. The Parkinson Centre, part of the university, currently has a free exhibition Marks in Time which is celebrating the 125th anniversary of Marks and Spencer. Thus I was able to get Third Party to agree to do some history because it was still technically retail. Have to say whilst the exhibition is quite small it is absolutely facinating and a real nostalgia trip. There is a good mix of information and exhibits and you can spend a good hour in there learning and remembering. I absolutely loved it.

Then it was off to Tropical World to meet a bunch of very normal people who had met via the internet, as the human Third Party later admitted. Infact Third Party commented that this was the most normal Ship of Fools meet she had ever been on. I suspect that this is for the very reasons that Auntie Doris identifies in her post, which also has some excellent photographs.

Tropical World was excellent value for money at only £2 for children and £3.25 for adults to get in. It is a really pleasant environment to wander around, although somewhat sauna like if you go on a hot day. One word of warning, though, if you have children who get extremely freaked by flying things this is probably not the place to take them. There are lots of really cute cuddly things to look at aswell though. The only bit I was personally not keen on was the nocturnal area which contained some animal which looked like it had escaped from the set of the Exorcist.

Just outside Tropical World is a gorgeous cafe which I must also recommend because it was such wonderful value for money, and had glorious food. There are not many places these days where you can get two drinks and the most delicious cake and still have some change from £5. Yet here you could.

So in the end I have to say that despite the omens we had the most wonderful day out in Leeds. It is a city which you really can enjoy on the cheap, (they even have a free bus to take you around the city centre – which we used to get up to the university). Also, as A.D. pointed out in her post it is more proof that being part of internet communities adds something to peoples lives rather than being their whole lives. Whilst as a parent I would be wary of my teenage daughter going off and meeting complete strangers of the internet doing it in the safe way she does with me helps develop her social skills and widen her vision of life. To quoteA.D., who put is so well in her post, “It’s a fun way to meet friends, both old and new, and I recommend it.” I’d also add it is an excellent way to go and explore places you might otherwise not decide to visit.

Castle…no tea room!

Yesterday took Surfing Madness and Third Party off to Prudhoe Castle. It’s a reasonably sized and partly intact English Heritage property and so I was looking forward to a scone and cream tea, alas no. This property just has a coffee machine in the gift shop.

So aside from that what was it like? Well, have to say that it wasn’t the most inspiring EH castle I’ve ever visited, but not bad. It was clearly more of an education centre than most properties I visit. The main part of the property had a “play room” type thing with colouring sheets, jigsaws and a giant draughts / chess set. The outbuildings also had a number of Krypton Factor type activities lined up for those with an odd 20 minutes or so to spare.

Went through some gorgeous countryside to find it though and whilst there Third Party took some cool photos.