Rude family from Leeds

My early morning walk today took me to the one corner of the village I’d yet to visit, high above Roxby Manor by Highfield Grange and across the fields. A lovely feeling of being in the open with the wind freezing my fingers off. Ah, bliss.

Across Roxby Manor

And then, just as I was about to climb a stile and start wending my way back, two massive barn owls hove into sight. I sat down and watched them for a good ten minutes before they left to take up their beds for the day. At one point I was only about 20 feet away from one of them as it sat watching. Fantastic and could I just say that these are only the second and third barn owls I’ve ever seen in the wild.

Eventually Mirinda decided to get up and make a start to the day and we set off for York. We’d managed to convince Bob & Claire that the bus was indeed an adventure to be endured so Park and Ride was once more the order of the day. We were off-loaded at Piccadilly again, just outside the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, this time going in.

The Merchant Adventurers began life in 1357 when a bunch of influential people decided to form a religious fraternity. The obvious first order of business was to build a hall…so they did. By 1430 most of the members were merchants so they set up a trading association (or guild). Although still in existence, the Merchant Adventurers are now more like Rotary rather than traders.

Merchant Aventurer's entrance

The hall itself is amazing. From the ground (and even below) up, history can be read in the construction. The bricks at the bottom are of Roman origin, made 1,000 years before the hall was built and re-used for the foundations. Inside the floors slope every which way and defy gravity by remaining in the air.

I’d visited on my previous weasel outing so I concentrated on the bits I’d missed while the Stockwells did the lot. Like the little mouse carved into the Governor’s chair made by “Mousey” Thompson of Kilburn, so called because of his habit of always carving a little mouse somewhere on his furniture.

Spot the mouse

I also found a computer with a Merchant Adventurers’ game on it. The idea is that you are given £50 and you must trade around medieval Europe over a period of six months. I managed to end up with £103½! I was informed what a brilliant merchant I would have made. Possibly true, but I’d have needed the computer.

From the hall it was suddenly imperative we find food so, foregoing a visit to Mirinda’s Japanese shop, we popped into the first eatery we found. This was an OAP carvery rather than the preferable Slug & Lettuce but it seems that needs must so we sat down to a lovely roast lunch. And in the natural manner of such establishments, there was a lot of it! At least it wasn’t cut up into bite sized pieces for ease of mastication.

Dentures still firmly in place, Mirinda & I then left Bob & Claire to their own devices as we headed off for the Japanese shop and the whiskey shop – I’ll let you guess who went to which.

After a bit of shopping, we headed up to the Minster where Mirinda did the lot and I climbed the tower, as this was the only thing I didn’t manage to do last time I was in York with the weasels.

Twin towers of York minster

The door to the top is opened every half hour as there is only one way up and down with no passing. It meant waiting for about 15 minutes. Five of us waited patiently while a rude family from Leeds, impatient to be the first to the top (God knows why) decided they should go first. They created a queue where no queue was required by planting mum and older son right up against the ticket window, eagerly waiting for the ‘off’. Dad (he looked a bit like a ferret) and youngest son sat on the cold marble with the rest of us.

As the time ticked frantically towards 2:15, father ferret was getting a bit toe-y. Again, this made little sense. What did he think it was a race for? The post-Christmas tower climbing sales? A special mention for being the first to the top? A small pile of boiled sweets distributed to the family that managed first place? The rest of us exchanged subtle looks of “What is it with these freaks?” and waited patiently. When the old woman behind the desk removed the sign saying ‘Next climb at 2:15’, the family from Leeds instantly thrust their money at her and headed for the steps without pause.

Wow. 275 steps up and the same back down. All going up a spiral that keeps getting narrower. By the time you pop out at the top you feel like a squeezed blackhead. The girl climbing in front of me was frightened all the way up, occasionally making such comments as “I didn’t think it was going to be like this” and “This narrow passage is making me claustrophobic!” What DID she expect? Escalators? A personal jetpack perhaps? Crazy. The prize for the bravest climber has to go to the tiny little girl walking up with her dad. She was about 6 and only twice the height of the steps but she made the lot both ways without complaint. AND she didn’t stop chatting about the usual 6 year old subjects of jabber, jabber and jabber.

Anyway…apart from all that, the view was fantastic and well worth the tramp up. Something I didn’t like was the cage all around the battlements. There were little holes to make it easy to view and take photos but otherwise I felt like an animal prowling the confines of my metal home. Not sure if it’s meant to protect the people on the tower, those looking up or the Minster council.

View from the top

After descending, I waited for Mirinda (seeing Bob & Claire leaving for Betty’s tea shop) who had been through the church and had just completed the undercroft, and we then set off for York station to pick up our hire car.

A final interesting note about York. In the middle ages, York was a very powerful and prosperous place. So much so that it managed to escape the reformation and most of the civil war, two of the most architecturally damaging episodes in this country’s history! What this means to us, standing here looking in 2007 is that it represents all of its many different eras and cultures, all at once. It is a fantastic mix of all things and all people. With the added luxury of the archaeological remains of Yorvik also on show, the place is unique.

All very nice but…there is a problem with York station. It has two car parks. We searched for ages through the entire car park for our hire car until I returned to the hire place and said I couldn’t find the car. They were a bit concerned and asked if I’d looked in the Hertz bays. I said I couldn’t find any Hertz bays. I was about to throw the key back in their smug northern faces when it turned out there’s another car park, closer and easier to find. Mirinda was not overjoyed. We climbed aboard our Fiat Punto and set out back to Thornton le Dale.

A warning: Anyone thinking of hiring or buying a Fiat Punto, beware. The windows don’t work. Apparently (this is from the guy at Hertz when we returned the car) they fail a lot and you have to rip out the entire dash to get to the wires and reset them. Sounds like crap to me. Mind you, they are the perfect car for anyone who hates fresh air. I guess they’d work well in London.

Back at Thornton le Dale I cooked a splodgy shepherds pie (problems with utensils and containers – the house has just about everything…except a potato masher!), which tasted ok and we then watched the first ep of Ugly Betty.

Then bed. We have an early start tomorrow.

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