Well, the clocks went today. It’s official. Summer is over. Winter is on its way. So this seems like an ideal time to reflect on summer 2014.
For us, for a change, it’s been a lovely, long, hot summer in Leeds with a variety of things happening. The Tour de France set off from Leeds which was a wonderful sight. I think all of West Yorkshire got involved. It was a perfect opportunity to show off our wonderful countryside to the millions of television viewers. As a child in the 1960s and 1970s, cycling was the only sensible way to get around in the London suburb where I lived. Hours were spent cycling to friends, school, parks and out to the country. I remember cycling as being a pleasurable, leisurely activity. Not quite what the Tour de France represents! I still have the bike that my parents bought me when I was 11 years old. It’s rusting away in our garage not having been used for over 20 years. The sensible thing would be to take it to the local tip but for some reason I still hang on to it …
This year, owing to financial restraints, we took our annual holiday in the form of a couple of long weekends in Birmingham, Liverpool and London taken in July, August and September . It was a good opportunity to look round three of our wonderful cities. They are cities that we are very familiar with but they are cities that we never fail to find interesting.
The main reason for visit Birmingham was to see the new library. And what a fantastic library it is! The building is ultra modern with an external façade made up of thousands of metal rings. Inside there are escalators and a glass lift. It is light and modern but not overwhelmingly so. There are clearly some slight problems but it was buzzing with activity. From the 9th floor viewing platform you can see right across the City. The space within the library is very well used and the technology is superb. I loved the idea of having garden space including a secret garden. My favourite room was the Shakespeare room. We also took the opportunity to walk down by the canal, visit the museum and art gallery and generally explore the City on foot.
To be honest, visiting the library was also the main reason for our trip to Liverpool. Are you detecting a theme here? As much as I loved Library of Birmingham, the architecture of Liverpool library was breath-taking. It is a beautiful building, combining the old with the new. When you enter the atrium of the building and look up to the glass skylight, it is an amazing view. It also has a roof terrace from where you get lovely views of the City. However, as much as I loved the modernity of the building, it was the Picton Reading Room that proved to be my favourite room. I could imagine myself sitting there for hours, reading!
We took the opportunity to visit The Walker Art Gallery to marvel at the Grayson Perry tapestries that form The Vanity of Small Differences. There are six tapestries (each measuring 2 metres by 4 metres) that take a look at class differences in modern day Britain. They are truly awesome. In essence they are a contemporary look at Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress, telling the rise and fall of Tim Rakewell as he makes the journey from working class to upper class. If you get a chance to see them, please do. I had seen Perry’s TV series: All in the Best Possible Taste so it was wonderful to see the end result. There was an opportunity to watch the programmes whilst at the exhibition so those that had not seen them could understand the stories behind the tapestries.
The next stop in our culture fix was the Liverpool Tate to see the Mondrian and his Studios exhibition. I have always liked Mondrian’s work without fully understanding them. The exhibition was fascinating, showing how he developed his very distinctive style of excluding curves from his compositions. Apart from the artwork and a copy of his Paris studio, there were a series of letters that he wrote to Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. Fascinating. In an adjoining gallery was an exhibition of work by Nasreen Mohamedi. I have to admit I had never heard of her before but I was impressed with her floating and elliptical forms.
I also took the opportunity to take some photographs from the windows of the Tate. You are not allowed to take photographs inside the gallery but it is permitted to take photos of the views which you would not normally get to see. We did see something bright and cheerful which we were informed was the Dazzle ship. We decided this required closer investigation!
Being sports fans, we took the opportunity to do a tour of the famous Anfield Stadium, home to Liverpool FC. Again, it was very fascinating and steeped in history. There is a certain thrill to see the famous Shankly gates with the words “You’ll Never Walk Alone” standing out proudly. Our tour guides were so friendly and enthusiastic, true Scousers. We took the opportunity to sit in the Kop – the name coming from the Battle of Spion Kop where so many Liverpudlians lost their lives. You can’t help but be moved by the memorial to those who died in the Hillsborough tragedy.
Another awe inspiring art installation can be found at Crosby Beach in the form of Antony Gormley’s “Another Place”. One hundred identical naked cast iron statues spread across the beach and out into the sea. The statues are being continuously eroded by the sea and the effects of weather. I have now seen them several times but each time I am taken aback by the scale of it.
Our final weekend away was to London. Although we are Londoners by birth and only moved away 18 years ago, it was great to take the opportunity to be tourists. We do go back to London on occasions but it’s mainly to see family and friends. We rarely get the opportunity to do the tourist trail. I was very keen to visit the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation of the poppies in the moat at theTower of London. It was breath-taking and very moving. We then went on the cable car from Becton to Greenwich to visit the Tall Ships Festival and were so impressed that we went back a few days later to see them set sail on their way to Falmouth. I love wandering around Greenwich. We found a lovely old pub for a drink and then just went for a mooch. I am always happy in London when I am near the river Thames! Apart from that we did very touristy activities – a visit to the state rooms at Buckingham Palace; a trip on a water ferry, roamed around the South Bank; looked in at the NFT for a restorative glass of wine; went to the V&A etc. It was lovely!! And so nice to be back “home”
So that is our summer holiday activity. We have always spent some lovely days out in Yorkshire and are now looking forward to some autumnal walks.
And of course, there’s Christmas lurking around the corner …..