Stack. As in crack, cave, arch, stack stump! This wonderful piece of nature’s architecture is called ‘ yesamby castle’ & is on the wonderful west coast of Orkney mainland. I AM a geography geek & I love to be by the sea! We spent hours on this amazing stretch of coastline this summer!
#17, Castles. Well not so much just ‘castles’ but they are an historic symbol & so castles it is. I have always enjoyed history, although its not a passion in the way that Geography is. Stories about the past have always interested me since Primary School days & over time, as I have taught some history, historical sources & skills have attracted my attention.
But to begin with castles…. They are an awesome legacy of the past. They had to be built in places that were defendable & that often made them inaccessible. As I write this I can see both Bamburgh castle & Lindasfarne castle. Both hugely important in the history of the north, although it is for its links with Christianity that Lindasfarne is far more important than just a castle. Both castles sit atop cliffs made from the incredibly hard & erosion resistant whinstone, rocks of igneous origin that form the great Whin Sill. They guard the land from the sea & must have been hugely challenging to build. Unusually both castles are habitable. Bamburgh was rescued by Lord Armstrong, the industrialist, in the 19th century, & it’s glories were re-created. Lindasfarne was styled by Edward Lutins & frankly I could happily unpack my suitcase & move in!
I enjoy the ‘what if’s’. What if Charles Edward Stuart had the abilities of William Wallace, for example. How would this have changed Scottish history? If the winds had not changed to favour the Normans in 1066? If the twin towers of the World Trade centre had not collapsed?…….. #16, castles & things historical.
#16, Maps. I told my sixth form group last year that if you cut me I would bleed Geography. They laughed but they understood. Geography & places have been important to me for as long as I can remember. Geography & maps are entwined & I can remember a library book I borrowed when I was perhaps eight or nine that was full of different maps that I loved to look at & copy. I can’t remember when I couldn’t name & find the continents of the world on a globe & certainly taught my son to do the same at an early age. I am horrified when some of the children I teach who are quite widely travelled can’t locate the places they have visited on a map & often say that airports should ask ‘can you point to where you are going on this map?’ before ‘did you pack the bag yourself?’. Maps don’t have to be ‘real’ to be magical. Surely one of Tolkien’s greatest feats was the creation of the maps of Middle Earth? Without them could Lord of the Rings have had its depth of story? The ‘Lone Pine Five’ books I read as a child had maps…of the Long Mynd & the Stipperstones & The Devils Chair. The were part fact & part fiction but enabled me to go I find the places behind the stories.
As a Geography student at university I read a book called ‘Mental Maps’ by Gould & White. It was pioneering stuff back in the late 70’s & explored the notion of the maps we carry in our heads & the psychological forces that help to create them. Ever wondered about the patterns created by, for example, where people sit on a beach, and why they are usually similar? Some of the questions asked by Gould & White make good starters to lessons, questions such as ‘where in Britain would you like to live if you had a free choice & why’. The answers usually mirror the research done by Gould & White over 40 years ago! Favourite holiday destinations, London & Leeds! Although the last group I asked failed to include their home city of Leeds – interesting to wonder why!
The map I have included in the post was drawn by one of my students. Their task was to create or find a map on the theme of ‘impossible places’. The module they are going to study will take them to ‘impossible’ places that people have made ‘possible’ by design & desire to live there. Las Vegas, the skywalk over the Grand Canyon, maybe SouthPole station….! #16, maps!
#15, Waves. Perhaps not an object exactly but for this purpose they count. I love the sound of the waves, I can watch the waves for hours. They are a fascinating thing to try and photograph. In our house we have photographs that we have taken of the waves. We have spent many nights camping close to the beach & with the sounds of the waves to put us to sleep. Tiree, North & South Uist, Barra, Northumberland are all places where big seas meet big skies. As a geographer the shaping of the coast is a source of fascination & the waves are a key agent in that process so #15 is waves.
#14 Hillrise House, our house & home since December 1992. It lay empty when we viewed it & had been empty for 18 months. Our then 2 3/4 year old son stood at the landing window, with it’s views across to Brimham Rocks, and announced ‘I could live here’. It wasn’t a wreck but it was unloved & we went ahead and bought it. It’s like the house you drew as a child. Four windows, a door & 2 chimney pots. It stands in its own little plot of land with a two storey workshop next door. The workshop has been a joiners shop & is now our ‘bothy’. To move from suburban Leeds to the edge of the Yorkshire Dales with our son & two dogs was to realise a dream. Maybe it’s not as remote as we would really like & it’s certainly not near the sea but whilst we are still wage slaves it will certainly do for our bit of ‘Country Living’. It has evolved over time, it’s not a ‘finished project’ by any means but it has been stamped with our style & it’s certainly loved now.
#13. Knitting! Love it! I learnt to knit at Primary School, taught by my Mum & my Great Aunt. I can clearly remember the fear of my first knitting lesson at school. I had learnt to knit but not cast on or cast off & was really worried that I would seem silly! I need not have worried. As two classes of girls were merged together (the boys did ‘handicrafts’) differentiation took place. The older girls who had completed a year of knitting & sewing lessons, sat in two rows. Those of us who could knit but not do the harder stuff, sat in another & those complete beginners sat in the row by the window! I remember then learning the new skills & knitting 20 rows, each with 20 stitches, in yellow double knitting. It made a perfect bathroom carpet for my dolls house. The teacher must have had at least 20 8 & 9 year old’s sat in front of her. I think we must have had to go to her desk if we had a problem. This was in huge contrast to when I tried to teach about 10 pupils to knit in an ‘activities’ week. I never sat down …. Cries of ‘miss, my knitting’s broken….!’.i knitted on & off through teenage years & at university & then not so much until about 5 years ago when the urge to knit hit me again & it has become a big part of my life. I am sure knitting will crop up again between #14 & #100!
#12 my new headtorch. A headtorch is an excellent piece of kit for a) someone who lives out in the country where there is no street lighting & needs to walk the dog on dark nights & b) someone who camps. The first ones we had required 4 AA batteries in a pack on the back of the headband & was quite heavy. This one is an LED light & is far lighter & is just great. #12
#Angel of the North. We don’t live in north east England, we live in Yorkshire, but the north east has been an important part of our life for over 25 years & the Angel of the North symbolises the north east. It also is a superb piece of art work. Our connection with the north east started with some great holidays in places like Albmouth, Bamburgh & Craster. The awesome beaches & big skies are easy to fall in love with. We stayed in holiday cottages & then caravanned & camped. Still do. The next link is Newcastle Falcons rugby club. We have supported Falcons since the club was established. We watched Jonny Wilkinson as a rooky 18 year old! We try & get up to Kingston Park & support the boys when we can. I suppose there was an inevitability that son & heir would choose the University of Northumbria for his degree course. He is now in his third year & counts Newcastle as one of his homes. Another connection? The Great North Run. For the last four years at least one member of the family has taken part in the fantastic race where over 50,000 people run from Newcastle to South Shields. Nice that the Angel watches over of it all. #Angel of the North.
#10 The dog lead. It’s a hybrid & vintage. Some 15 or so years ago we were walking alongside Loch Sheil with our two previous Border Collies, Brith & Glyn. We were coming to the end of a great caravanning holiday in western Scotland. We had gone to the far north, to Durness. We had experienced a heat wave & were taking an evening stroll along the southern side of the loch. Both dogs were wandering off their leads & somehow son & heir, aged about 7, managed to drop one of the leads over the wall & into deep loch water. A replacement was needed & whilst Glencoe (our next campsite) had climbing shops they didn’t have a pet shop & so we bought a climbing tape & used that. Once we replaced the lead on our return home we found that the climbing tape provided a useful extension. Brith & Glyn are no longer with us but Moss the Border Collie, now twelve, uses the lead/climbing tape combo on a daily basis. #10
#9 ….. the polytunnel. We live on an exposed site on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. From our back garden we can see across the Vale of York to the North York Moors, exposing us to easterly winds. If the wind comes from the north it whistles in through the back door. A west wind blows most frequently and blows hard down the hill but it was a south westerly wind that caused our glass greenhouse to take flight & hit the house wall one windy Christmas Eve night! Another glasshouse to nurture young plants was a no-go, so it wasn’t replaced. Around the same time the first ever BBC TV reality show, Casterway 2000 was shown. It showed the casterways living on the island of Tarensey, a small island just west of Harris, in the Scottish Outer Hebridies. On Tarensey, way out in the Atlantic they had big winds & polytunnels! We put the two bits of information together & realised that a polytunnel could be just what we needed. Our polytunnel sits between the house & a stone wall to the west of the house. It has stayed firm in some big big winds & allowed us to do far more than nurture young plants. We have grown salad leaves, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, beetroot, herbs such as basil & parsley, courgettes, carrots, french beans, calabrese, cauliflower and cabbage as well as bringing on thousands of bedding plants. It enables us to protect plants against slugs, snails & insects without too much chemical intervention & to have an ongoing supply of foodstuffs like lettuce throughout the spring & summer. It’s very much my domain, just having a bit of help from himself with the first dig over of the season or any restructuring & I love to retreat to the tunnel either to sew crops or to see what has grown. #9, the polytunnel.