Monday, 12 August 2013

Ashes, Alnwick and Alnmouth

During this brief visit back to England we dashed up to the north east, the day after we arrived back in Yorkshire. A year ago, Mark had bought tickets for the first 2 days of the Ashes test match in Durham, and had booked 3 nights at Lumley castle Hotel, which overlooks the Riverside cricket stadium in Chester-le-St.
Lumley Castle Hotel, Co. Durham
 Visiting the north east is always good as it gives me a chance to catch up with some family members. My grandmother, Alice, was born in Chester-le-St. and although there are not too many relations still living there....there are a few.

Before the cricket even started, we had dinner at the castle, with my cousin Audrey and her husband Len. I was their bridesmaid 54 years ago !
Me, in 1960, behind my cousin Cindy, at cousin Audrey's wedding
Lumley Castle Hotel is fascinating. Most of the building dates back to the 14th and 15th century. Even the renovations date back to the 17th century. Stories of ghosts abound, but generally, it has a very good reputation, service and food being excellent. The decor is “interesting”. In an attempt at authenticity, the bathrooms are a little over the top.....including plastic reproductions of old masters.......not a good idea in my mind. However, as most of the public rooms, as well as the bedrooms , are genuinely very very is a spectacular place to stay.

Bathroom, equipped with plastic old masters

The hotel reception

The cricket was, as always, like a game of chess. We only had tickets for the first 2 days, and things moved slowly, but I am genuinely interested in the way a test match develops, and am very happy to watch hours and hours of not a lot happening. The crowd is always worth watching anyway!
Legends: Michael Holding and Ian Botham

This is what cricket is all about

Men in shark suits......of course.

Men......of idea what they were supposed to be dressed as, but they had a good time

The crowd, including members of the barmy army , creating a plastic glass stacked snake

Me with a couple of Aussie umpires, during the lunch break
Boxing if you needed telling

After our 3 nights at Lumley Castle, we headed further north, to Alnwick. We visited the castle there, and were very impressed by the way it has been developed following its Harry Potter one of the places where much of the Hogwarts action was filmed in the first 2 films. The castle also features in some early Black Adder scenes and in Kevin Costner’s “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves”
The entrance to Hogwarts.....I mean, Alnwick Castle

Broomstick flying lessons

(We were interested to learn that in one scene of the Costner film, a baddie is kicked out of a window by Friar Tuck.....the kicking out scene was filmed in Carcassonne, and the scene of the same baddie, landing, having been kicked out of the Carcassonne window, was filmed at Alnwick) .

After a wonderful few hours, when we decided that we must bring the 5 year old grandsons here, we drove a further couple of miles to Alnmouth. Lesley, another of my cousins lives here, and we stayed with her for our last night in the north east. I have met up with her a few times over recent years, but have not seen her husband since their wedding day 40 years ago. We had a few years of gossiping to catch up on.
The beach at Alnmouth
Cousin Lesley and I, 40 years after my last trip to Alnmouth
My last trip to  Alnmouth, 40 years ago....when Lesley got married. Mum is on her left and I am on her right.

We returned south, the Ashes Test still continuing at Chester-le-St. As I write this the result is still not clear. Mark has just called through to me ( he is watching it on TV as I type) that it is going to be a “ nail biter”.

So, I think I’d better go back into the living room and bite my nails with him.


  1. Wow, wonderful, eclectic post, Janice. What a wonderful place to stay!! (Although I do agree about the bathroom decoration being a tad questionable!)
    Interestingly, I found you much more recognisable in the first photo than in the second, but lovely in both!
    Seeing Michael Holding does remind me of hearing the commentator once saying, during an England/West Indies match: "The batsman's Holding, the bowler's Willie"....he honestly said that!
    And Alnwick Castle makes me ache to come back and visit England. With the children, of course. We must do it. But I want the weather you've had.
    How lovely to have caught up with your family there - nothing beats a good catch up!! Can't wait.

    1. The Holding and Willie incident crossed my mind when we identified Holding, walking past with Botham...what a classic !
      We were very lucky with the weather, although I think I probably looked a bit like the Michelin man watching the cricket... I had so many layers on. It was a bit nippy up on that stand. It has been a great few days, and as I write this..... we have just won the Ashes. So nail biting is over.
      Alnwick Castle ( and gardens...which we did not have time to explore) is brilliant...for children and adults alike. Apart from the Hogwarts stuff....the Percy family history is fascinating and the art collection is incredible...Titians, Tintorettos and Canalettos, Turners and Gainsboroughs....amazing stuff. Jxxx

  2. Great photographs Janice. I'm jealous on two counts - the castle looks a great place to stay (apart from the bathrooms) and I always wanted to be a bridesmaid and never got asked.

    1. I did love that bridesmaid's dress back when I was 5. It was a really unusual turquoise shot silk......completely inappropriate for a 5 year old...but Cindy and I loved them. And yes...the castle was a special place to stay....gorgeous food !

  3. I love that picture from Lesley's wedding. You look amazing!

    1. Dad reckons I look like you in it...not so sure myself. I did love the dress though....x

  4. And I'm jealous too - I love the North-East, and it's years since I last went to a Test Match (the last time was at Lords in, I think, 1975, again an Ashes test, on the day when a streaker ran on to the field and jumped over the wicket, prompting John Arlott's comment later that 'It was the first time I've seen the bails knocked off by two balls at once'! Rude, but hilarious!! I wish that the BBC still had the Test series on TV - I used to enjoy watching the screen with the sound off, and Test Match Special on the radio. Much the best way of following the action. Yes, it was, I think, the inestimable 'Johnners' who made the comment about Holding and Willie (if it wasn't David Coleman)- and the entire commentary team 'corpsed' and couldn't get anything sensible out for quite a while! They're not so funny these days - probably due to PC considerations, sadly. "We shall not see their like again." :-(

    1. I am not the greatest cricket fan in that I'm not into village cricket...or even county competitions. I do, however love international cricket, and although I think one day matches and 20/20s are fun, I love the pace and brinkmanship involved in 5 day tests. The cricket radio commentary has always been a delight hasn't it. I still enjoy it and have to admit, that even when I was at the match in Durham, I was listening to the radio commentary. ( I have to turn it off when Boycott comes on though....because even though he annoyingly often analyses things absolutely on the button......I just loathe his arrogance, his attitude to women and his whole style ! )
      I have had a great few days.....but I think I would have loved to have been at that 1975 streaker test !

  5. A great post, Janice, and it looks like a fun few days. Love the two castles; Alnwick Castle looks just gorgeous, quite the fairytale place. What a little cutie bridesmaid you were back in 1960 - I'll bet you loved it! Oh, and funny pic with the Aussies - hmmmm, we can't take them anywhere.... xx

    1. The thing about the Aussies is that you can take them anywhere Patricia....and they will have a great time, and enjoy themselves, and bring a smile to everyone's face. The crowd at Durham was great... the banter was friendly, people always appreciating their opponent's talent and skill. I do miss Ricky Ponting though. We have plenty of Shane Warne as he is a regular commentator over here now, and of course seems to spend most of his time with Liz Hurley. Jx

  6. Hi Janice,

    Great post. I have always loved cricket. As a youngster I was a member of Glamorgan CCC and spent a lot of weekends with my grandfather watching them play. Tom played cricket (wicketkeeper - he was tall with a long reach and lightning reflexes) since the age of 9 so I became a 'cricket mum' making teas and scoring. His school got to the final of the English schools Bunbury Cup final at Headingly where they were walloped by Millfield school.

    The commentary on Radio 4 is fantastic with Blowers and Aggers taking over frm where Johnners left off. I love the banter and the cake stories. I remember fondly John Arlott, Jim laker and Tony Lewis commentating but perhaps this was for television.

    I caught snippets of the first couple of days on Sky and they had a plethora of ex cricket players in their team, including Shane Warne.

    What a wonderful few days away catching up with family, visiting new places and eventually seeing another England win!

    1. I am very impressed with your cricket credentials Gaynor. I am not nearly so honourable. I love international cricket but have never followed anything more local. Even when my husband Mark played in one of the local leagues, I was one of those stroppy cricket "widows" who bluntly refused to get into making teas for the team when it was "our" turn. Poor old Mark used to have to make his own contribution to take it was often a few shop bought sandwiches and a swiss roll or two ! ( I feel marginally guilty about that now ).
      I , too, love the radio commentary....and Shaney seems pretty good to me. His analysis is based on him being the best there was at what he did I guess...but I love the fact that he just appreciates skill and talent, no matter which side people are on. I'm looking forward to going out to Australia in January, to catch some of the ODIs and 20/20 matches, following the next Ashes series . We have been to Australia for the last 2 series out there, but have decided having Christmas "at home" this year is more important than the Ashes. ( How can I say that ????! )
      Hope all is good with you and you are enjoying being in France again. Jx

  7. Janice, I don't know where to begin. What a fabulous, interesting, post; from cricket to castles to bridesmaids, you have encompassed a "whole lotta years" into a few paragraphs. Wonderful.

    Lesley's wedding picture brought on a wave of nostalgia here. Her wedding dress is very similar to mine, excepting my sleeves were at point rather than tapered, and your hat. All my bridesmaids wore similar hats. Sigh. 1973. I read a bit more about your earlier dresses in your reply to comments. What sweet dresses they were, Janice, no matter the material. Little girls and dressing up, tending to a bride.

    Wouldn't it be grand fun to be at Alniwick with the grands? Didn't you meet Kevin Costner? I'm I imagining that?

    1. I did meet Kevin Costner Penny. I met him in Kohler when the Kohler family hosted a film premiere of a Costner western. It was funny to think of him filming in Carcassonne, where we now spend so much time, and at Alnwick aswell. The 5 year olds will love it. We nearly planned a quick trip with them next week, but realised we have far too much to fit into our short trip back to England, to take another few days out of it to travel north east again. So, it will be next year sometime....when they will be 6....and even more ready for magical adventures.
      Yes, my cousin's wedding was in August '73....the clothes give it all away don't they ? It was a very significant summer for me. I was 18 and it was the summer before I left home to go to university. My mother and I had a wonderful 2 weeks in Northumberland, attending the wedding and staying with various cousins. I recall visiting several night-clubs....mother and daughter having some very very interesting encounters ! Jx

  8. It sounds a wonderful trip...catching up with family and revisiting old haunts. I loved the photographs...all the fashions of the time!

    As you may imagine, it was mention of the Test Match which caught me...trying to follow the play while travelling in distinctly non cricket countries - but unlike you I enjoy the Boycott commentary and dislike Blofield, both the person and his commentary. No cake for him!
    I remember hearing the Arlott commentary...'we have a freaker'....

    And I think the men are dressed as Freddy Mercury...from the video of 'I want to be free'....I think....where he is dressed like this pushing a hoover.

    1. You and Annie have both identified the fancy dressed men as Freddy Mercury. I'm afraid I had no idea, but enjoyed seeing them enjoy their day. I guess Boycott is an acquired taste. I get annoyed when he actually says what I'm thinking....he is so often right, damn him. I'm already getting excited about our next cricket Perth, Hobart and Melbourne for some of the later matches, after the test series finishes in January 2014. getting another "all clear" from the hospital had us logging in and organising flights as an immediate response !

  9. I so enjoyed reading this blog post.Watching how people behave in a crowd always fascinates me.Your photos show how different we all are.Brilliant that you have another cricket trip to look forward to.

    The bridesmaid photo was of great interest.Last month we met up with my cousin who was our bridesmaid---we had not seen her since our wedding day 41 years ago.We had a lot of catching up to do! Maria x

  10. This post has taken me back to when we lived in Northumberland and our boys were young. We lived in Morpeth just down the road from Alnwick - it was the most wonderful place to bring up children with the coast, the hills and lots of castles. We could go out into the countryside and they could make as much noise up on the moors as they wanted and hide in the bracken.
    Love the barrel vaulted ceiling in Lumley Castle.
    Cricket doesn't look anything like it did the last time I went - it all seemed very refined and genteel with cucumber sandwiches and polite hand-clapping.

  11. Living in Yorkshire we always find Northumberland "so near & yet so far! We MUST make the effort to stay for a few days & explore - it looks lovely. Super old colour photos - you look so like your daughter!

  12. Love this much going on and beautiful photos of the Hotel and Castle. Living in North America we don't have any so they fascinate me when I see them.
    Never seen a Cricket game and not sure as how they play it but it sure looks like everyone was having fun....
    You look great in the pic with your cousin.

    Take care....

  13. I came very late to this post, Janice, but it was worth waiting for! A wonderfully varied mix of wedding photos and memories, family get-togethers, marvellous days out and of course the Test Match.

    I will freely admit to having a total blind spot where cricket is concerned. My Yorkshire grandfather was a lifelong cricket fan (being distantly related to the great Herbert Sutcliffe) and tried his best to explain the rules and interest me in the game when I was young, but alas in vain. Being more enlightened than me you obviously had a wonderful time and your photos are great fun.

    On the other hand I love ancient buildings, so two castles in the same post is a treat. :-) If we travel to Scotland via the eastern route, we can see Alnwick Castle from the road, so we really must stop off there one day.

    1. Alnwick castle is a real treat Perpetua. Apart from the Harry Potter connection, which can easily be ignored, the Percy family history is fascinating. The state rooms that are open to the public are fabulous. I was really surprised to find the Titians and Tintorettos....just casually hanging on walls with no particular protection apparent. We didn't have time to look at the gardens properly, but they looked spectacular. So, I think it really would be worth a stop off on your trip north sometime. We're back to France on Tuesday...hoping the garden is looking good. I cant wait to get to my figs, olives and grapes ! Jx

  14. I'm a cricket fan, so I did enjoy this post. I live close to Don Bradmans birthplace. We have a park where all the captains busts are placed. Called 'captains walk'. I must do a post about this. Sue

    1. I love the atmosphere at Ashes matches. The Aussie fans are great, in Australia and over here. We all want "our side" to win, but there is always great appreciation of good cricket, and there is always a great friendship displayed between the two groups of supporters. The captain's walk sounds excellent. I miss Ricky Ponting ! He is such a character. Hugs, Jx