Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A Chilly Visit to York

Blimey! The 27th of January and not a single blog post until today in 2015! Sorry folks! Busy doing other things, but some of those things will form the basis for more entries over the next few days with a bit of luck.

Last Sunday saw our first proper outing of the year when we got into the car and set off across the Pennines to York. Notwithstanding the M62 being a mess of roadworks and speed restrictions, we arrived late morning and decided to go into the excellent York Castle Museum.

This is the famous museum with a street. Shop and other building fronts have been collected and set up in a street setting with the sound of horse hooves and displays of contemporary goods in shop windows. There are also a set of period rooms from the 1600s right up to the 1950s. The final room depicting the 50s bears an uncanny resemblance to my grandparents' living room from that time. I'm never really comfortable with publishing lots of photos from museums so will limit myself to the above and a couple of items that form a more temporary display of toys and childhood, both of which have personal memories for me.

The first was this - a 1950s toy called Ball Mosaic which was as simple as they come. A perforated sheet of cardboard and a small collection of shiny coloured balls that sit on the holes and can be arranged to form patterns or pictures. A sheet of paper shows a few samples to give ideas. And then the child is only limited by his or her (or parents') imagination!

The second item is a John Bull No.6 Printing Outfit. These comprised of a couple of wooden (later red plastic as shown) holders into which you fitted small rubber stamps, each of which was of a letter of the alphabet or a number in reverse. A pair of tweezers was provided to pick up the letters but invariably you would try to pick up a row or a word and squeeze the tweezers too hard, catapulting letters all over the place. Once you had spelt out your message with the letters, you stamped the face of the letters on an ink pad and then on a piece of paper to print your message.

This was a great hit with all little boys who liked to get messy and, I'm sure, a disaster for all mummies of the time who would unwrap this present for her offspring and happily anticipate ink blots all over her carpets, tablecloths and furniture... Luckily the letters soon got lost and the toy thrown away!

In 1969 I used the remnants of my John Bull Printing Outfit to print envelopes for first day covers of the stamps commemorating Prince Charles' investiture as Prince of Wales.

We came out of the museum to a dull and cold day and this view of Clifford's Tower, the keep, and only surviving building of William the Conqueror's castle apart from some curtain wall which also forms the town walls. The mound, or motte, never fails to impress me and the castle has seen some horrendous events in its past. Here in 1190 some of York's Jewish community including wives and families barricaded themselves from rioters in the tower. With either forced conversion to Christianity or, more likely, death at the hands of the mob staring them in the face the men killed their families and set fire to the tower, committing suicide. Those who escaped the flames were indeed killed by the rioters, many of whom owed money to the money-lending Jewish society. Following the massacre, the rioters broke into the Minster and burned the records of their debts.

Here also in 1537 on the orders of King Henry VIII, the leader of the Pilgrimage of Faith, Robert Aske, was executed slowly and cruelly by being hung, festooned in chains from the walls. Without a noose, with no drawing and quartering of his body, he remained alive in his chains until he died of exposure and thirst, this taking days of agony. The good old days eh...?

We had a leisurely lunch in Gert & Henry's, a 16th Century building near the Shambles (shown). Some American girls came down to pay at the counter which was near our table. "How is it still here?" asked one on being told the age of the building. "It was built well..." replied the owner. A biker couple in their late twenties came in for lunch, she being in leathers so tight and well-fitting, that the mere sight warmed me up far more than the excellent food!

The Shambles is a fascinating street to wander down. It contains some very old buildings with overhanging upper storeys that come so close to each other at the top that it would be almost possible to shake hands across the street.

Windows have tiny panes of glass in sturdy frames and street lighting is noticeable by its absence. In fact the only downside is that the street attracts lots of people! But if you go there yourself, you can hardly complain at that...!

We walked the full length of the short street and back again. Then a slightly rash decision to walk through the shopping centre on our way back to the car park.

Walking down Stoneygate we pass Mulberry Hall, another ancient building from 1434.

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