Monday, January 3, 2011

New Years in the North

Nik and I went to Newcastle for New Years: I met a cavalcade of his friends, all of whom are full of inside jokes, laughter, enthusiasm, and possibly too much energy. Over two days we were at three different families' homes, played numerous board games (most of which were either collaborative in design or possible to steer towards collaboration, much to my delight), played an epic 2010 quiz, ate heaps of delicious food, and had a wonderful walk right after mid-night through an old, icy train track (sounds dangerous; wasn't).

I thought they were wonderful.

Definitely looking forward to seeing them again and hanging out more, but for now, let's move on to the nostalgia part of things.

In 1994 my family took a trip to England. This was our first big international trip and it was a Big. Deal. We still talk about it regularly and it certainly looms large in my memory. (Can't speak for the rest of us, but I'm pretty sure that sentiment is shared.) One of my very favourite parts of the trip was going to Durham.

Laine and I had just finished 4th grade where we had learned about Castles. (Fantasy novel obsessed 9 year old Casey was very into this topic.) I still have vivid memories of what was probably my favourite project of all of fourth grade: designing and stocking a castle keep. (Combining two of my then favourite activities: drawing and designing things that were theoretically worth money and grocery shopping.)

The train into Durham has a magnificent view of the castle and the cathedral. As the story goes we stood on the platform looking at the castle and my dad told me that is was our hotel. Being sharper than your average rolling pin, I didn't believe him. Once he convinced me that, yes, we really were staying at the castle I'm pretty sure it is safe to assume I started bouncing up and down.

The castle is now part of Durham university and parts of it are used for university housing. Since we were there during the summer, they rented out the rooms to tourists. I remember worn stone staircases, bathrooms down the corridor, a wide hallway with places for me to perch (a windowsill?), creaky wooden stairs on the way down to the cafeteria with banisters topped by "pineapples" carved without having seen the fruit but only having heard a description, and telling my dad all about the arrow loops.

"Cakes, you know those are real arrow loops, right?"

".... !!"

Mind blowing stuff.

Oh, right. Nik. Here's how Nik works into this story- he spent sixth form living in Durham, it's where he met all the wonderful people from the beginning of this post. His mother was working at the Cathedral and so while the family lived in Durham Nik and his brother worked as vergers there. This was excellent for me because it meant that I had an extremely knowledgeable tour guide to lead me around. I was also pleased to meet some of the people from stories I've been hearing about his time working there.

It was a wonderful, wonderful day and because they were the cheapest tickets, when we took the train back to London, it was in First Class. Nice.

L to R: Castle, Cathedral, Me

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