A Pre-holiday Holiday
Five days after we both completed the last day at our jobs, we were now inhabiting a bardo of our own making, a place between two states of being and styles of work. Time for rituals to mark these changes in our surrounding landscape:~ writing the names of people or states we disliked or wish to leave behind onto pebbles and throwing them into the sea combined with the force of a Vajrasattva mantra behind them:~ on another day writing the people or aspects we liked and would wish to remember onto a thin Japanese paper which became transparent once placed in the bottom of a pot and anointed with water, adding soil, spring bulbs, then more soil before anointing again with water, and perfumed with the aroma of two sticks of incense. Sometime in early Spring they hopefully will grow and bloom.
This was a pre~holiday holiday, a week in which to put down work concerns, catch up with ourselves, and take time to tidy up the house a bit and simply relax. I prepared my workshop to be in readiness for the new work to begin post holiday. Jnanasalin made jams and preserves. It felt like a long weekend with no perceivable end, to be followed, according to our nightmares, by a return to our previous work by desperate pleas for help. So there was a bit of anxious emotional adjustment lingering around. The finite nature of our savings creates a time pressure to crack on with developing Cottonwood, with it a distinct tension. But first, allow ourselves a break, travelling up to Richmond in North Yorkshire for seven days away from all that is familiar in hearth, home and work habits.
Richmond is an attractive Georgian market town, dominated by a huge castle towering over the fast flowing water serpent that is the River Swale. Its an ideal base from which to explore The Yorkshire Dales or Moors, even The Lake District. Having said that, what we did was spend three of our seven days hanging in and around Richmond.
Mainly we wandered about a bit, taking in a couple of lovely riverside walks, either side of the Swale. My favourite was along the old rail line to Easby Abbey which lies about a mile or so out of town. Jnansalin and I are never your purposeful ramblers charging on, walking poles in hand, to the next objective dragging both the willing and the unwilling behind them. We are, however, up for an nice easy strole, a gentle amble along a worn and hopefully well signposted route, motivated by the reward of coffee and cake at the end of it.
The best cafe we found was in Mocha, in Richmond Market Place. From the outside it appears just a high end chocolatier, but it has a small number of tables inside and out. These quickly get full, so you do have to stake claim to your territory when one comes available. Both coffee and cakes were the best in Richmond and district, so it was always worth it.
Finding a good range of vegetarian dishes on a menu in the North Yorkshire appears to be patchy and the results often feeble or unsatisfying. There wasn't a single cafe that could provide even a half good Veggie Breakfast. Most being let down, by over cooked fried eggs, grilled but still uncooked tomatoes or fried mushrooms that seemed to have been numbered and rationed per person. We also failed to discover a local baker who sold danish pastries that weren't doused in a vat of liquid sugar. The Noted Pie Shop, on the market square, wasn't notable for its culinary inclusiveness, for apart from an anaemic looking quiche it appeared to sell nothing but meat based pies.
We did have occasionally quite excellent meals. The Black Lion has a limited range of vegetarian dishes. but Jnanasalin enjoyed a richly flavoursome Mushroom Stroganoff there. On our last full day in Richmond we discovered Duncans Tearooms. A small upstairs restaurant with only a door at street level, it gets five stars and rave reviews on Trip Advisor. Its only open Wednesday to Saturday, so lunchtimes in particular you may have to book. But their menu is broad, ranging from superbly executed standards to rather more unusual fare. I had a creamy Potatoe and Leek Pie that was simply mouth-wateringly delicious, whilst Hubby tucked into a deep and richly layered Mushroom Tarteflette.
Whilst in Duncans Tearoom, I had my best 'overheard' of the entire trip. As we were sat waiting for our main meal, a retired couple came in sitting on a table behind and just to one side of us. Middle class and country tweedy, her voice in particular would've cut a glacier in half, so clear I suspected she might actually want everything she said to be heard. I certainly caught everything darling ' Well, I first read the early novels of the lesbians when I was at university. There's not one mention of sex between them or anything, so its hard to see why they got in such a lather over it. But goodness there was a lot of bitchy conversations between them, it just goes on and on and on... and I had to study this thing, it was so utterly tedious I got extreee..mly bored.'
On a very wet day in Ripon we sought shelter from the whip of wind and rain in Lockwoods. Its a sort of hipster boho bistro I guess, but that didn't put us off. Surprise surprise, from its non-alcoholic cocktails, a starter of soughdough and olives, through to the mains of Butternut & Feta Risotto, dribbled with walnut pesto topped with a tangle of pea stems, it was pure joy from start to finish. Excellent service, timed well, with just the right amount of attentiveness. We left sated and deeply satisfied. Highly Recommended.
Don't let the number of column inches I devote to food lead you to believe that is all we look forward to on holiday. Though everything else does tend to sit in a time limited orbit around when the next opportunity for eating might arrive. This time we tried not to pre-plan our week, attempting to stumble into spontanaity. Well, it certainly felt less pressured. Nevertheless, we managed to take in the marvellous, the historical and the cultural, a few of which are worthy of highlighting.
Many stately homes have first been a castle or abbey which subsequently became an ancestral pile. Raby Castle has always been a house that later applied for a 'license to crenellate', which is something I'd love to think you could still ask for. The current owners of the Raby Estate trace their ancestry back to the notoriously power grabbing Neville family. Raby Castle on the outide seems a classic medieval fortress, has grand and ambitious interiors, extensively remodelled in the Victorian Gothic era. When you enter the Octagonal Room you do literally gasp, nothing in the rooms prior to it quite prepares you. Its the sheer audacity with which the bling has been thrown, plastered or hung around. It bears a similarity in spirit and style to the interior of the Brighton Pavilion, though the Octagonal Room was executed some forty years later, its in close sympathy with the Pavilion's camp ostentation. I loved it to bits.
From being quite young you could never please me more on holiday than to leave me exploring some castle, church, cathedral or abbey. In consequence I've gleefully wandered over countless ruined abbeys in my time. Its never clear until you actually get to a monastic site how much of it will be left, a few walls, a solitary broken window moulding, sometimes only a stone outline in the ground. So nothing quite prepares you for the size, scale, and level to which it is intact, of Fountains Abbey. No other monastic site in England I know of comes anywhere close. Yes, the roof is long gone, all its architectural and decorative flourishes in stone, wood, paint or glass have been stripped away, but what remains, the vaulting, the height of the walls, the clerestory, columns, arches and windows, is all without parallel.
Without fail on visiting a ruined abbey I get a mixture of feelings; great sadness and a silent hankering for what has been lost culturally and spiritually due to the dissolution, plus a fantasy of becoming a monastic myself. How these religious institutions would have fared had they been left alone, is hard to say. A place of true solitude away from the worldly, would be harder and harder to find as the subsequent centuries progressed. Perhaps, even leaving aside the effect of being mugged by the so called English Reformation, the writing was on the wall for them.
Close by Raby Castle lies the market town of Barnard Castle. It too still has its own castle, that has mostly had its crenelation nicked, with only a curtain wall left. What it does have is the Bowes Museum, built like a French Chateau, founded and paid for by the wealth of John & Josephine Bowes. Finding themselves unable to bear children they spent the rest of their lives using their surplus income to build a huge museum to house their art collection. Mostly the art works are second level Italian or French masters, with a couple of Canalettos and an El Greco to raise the quality a bit. Anyway, apart from the 200 year old mechanical swan, the main highlight was the exhibition Catwalking based around Chris Moore's fashion photography. Covering a period from the start of his career in the sixties to the present day, the often iconic photos are accompanied by the actual iconic dresses by Chanel, Dior, McQueen, Westwood etc plus the sculptural delights of Issey Miyake.
There was much about our holiday that was filled with quiet and small delights. Through a small door just off the market place and down a narrow corridor you are taken into this beautifully compact award winning garden. Not much wider than 4 or five metres Millgate House Gardens meander down the hill slope in the direction of the Swale, pausing to create small arbours for garden chairs, benches or tables, and then sidling on its downward path The day we visited was a bit drizzly, the garden bore more of a dripping jungle demeanour with its luxuriant hostas blanketing the ground level catching beads of rainwater. The planting is deceptively but delightfully informal, but then you start to notice there is quite a bit of distinctly structural topiary scattered around. The Georgian house with its balconies overlooking the valley provides its own architectural accent to the splendid garden laid out before it. Its a garden worth taking a look at, anytime of year.
There were hardly any duff venues, but The Richmondshire Museum must get a special mention and the battered wooden spoon. We arrived just as it opened and the lady on Reception was a little startled, 'Do you want to see the museum then?'- 'So, will that be two adults?' She's obviously forgotten exactly what an adult looked like as two middle aged gentlemen loomed into view. Five minutes later she catches up with us to hand us our tickets. The museum, run and set up by volunteers, hasn't been updated for fifty years, maybe more. All the items exhibited have faded or fogged labels originally typed laboriously on perhaps a pre-war typewriter. They're immensely proud of managing to acquire the set from All Creatures Great & Small after it last aired sometime in 1990. We couldn't wait to exit this museum which felt like being locked up in a dusty and heavily mothballed wardrobe.
Working For Ourselves
In most jobs how you schedule your work is constrained by the job itself, your boss, the people you work with, and other stimuli external to you. When you work for yourself all those prompts and responsibilities return home to you. The first thing we had to decide when we returned from holiday, was what our working day and week was, what to prioritise, how Jnansalin and I would work together. All of which was surrounded by slivers of Protestant Work Ethic, guilt about actually having the time to be creative in, and anxiety about making the most of this upcoming year. We found we were pretty much on the same page about products and how we want to revamp our website. So - so far, so good!