Sunday: A Busy Second Day

Today started well, with a relax on the balcony, a cup of tea and my camera, watching the fishing and tourist boats leave the harbour. Then a bacon and black pudding roll, and we headed off to Alnwick Castle.

This is a lovely medieval castle, with the classic keep structure, where the Northumberland family live. I had a quick look round the state rooms, which appeared to be currently inhabited. For example, the library, with its mezzanine floor to reach the upper shelves, and sumptuous sofas and chairs, also had current-looking photos of the family on tropical holidays, and strangest of all, a red velvet cushion, with a row of remote controls for the TV and DVD, etc.

According to some of the displays, the castle was the host for a schoolful of evacuated high school girls from 1940 to 1943. It looks like they had a high old time, organising country dances and discovering other worlds through bedroom furniture.

As we first entered the castle keep, we were greeted by what appeared to be a troupe of morris dancers, doing a jolly jig, slapping their boots complete with jangling spurs. Then the girls had their turn, and while they danced they sang in a language clearly not from these shores, but from somewhere in eastern Europe.

Then we went on a tour of the castle, led by two local students in robes held together with safety pins, and carrying wands, for the castle was the location for many of the scenes in the Harry Potter films. Also filmed at the castle were the snow-covered horse-ride in the opening sequence of Blackadder, and various other films and series.

The Alnwick gardens were beautiful, with a stepped series of fountain pools, with shady arched arbours leading off. At certain times, the fountains would shower cetain unsuspecting members of the crowd, which was most amusing. The rose garden was a mixture of different scents and colours, depite the blooms being largely finished, and the bamboo maze was an opprtunity for me to tell Mairi again what a versatile and sustainable crop bamboo is.

Then, THEN! when we got back to the house, we were just watching the housemartins and gulls, when there was a commotion down at the slipway. A Landrover came round the corner, lights flashing, towing a semi-rigid inflatable lifeboat. It reversed down the slipway, and the boat was released and headed off out of the harbour, where it went at full pelt north towards Holy Island. After the Landrover was clear, a large caterpillar-tracked water tractor arrived, towing a full size lifeboat (surprise surprise, it was the RNLB Grace Darling). The tractor went down the slipway, immersing sitself up to the drivers cab, and the lifeboat went after the first one. After about 1/2 hour, they both came back. We don’t know if they saved anyone, but Leo said he saw a girl on board. Must be her.

Dinner was a Chinese takeaway, which was fine by me. Cheap Chinese is like McDonalds, greasy, unhealhy, delicious, totally unlike real Chinese food, and exactly the same anywhere in the country.