Leeds April 2011

Never look a gift trip in the mouth.

It’s all about overcoming prejudice.  When it was suggested that I might like to spend a day in Leeds, my first reaction was close to “Great. What’s second prize? Two days in Leeds?”.

I was wrong.  My two days in Leeds this month were entertaining, the weather was warm and sunny, the hotel was good and the food was excellent too.  Can’t think where I got my anti-Leeds (or is it anti-Yorkshire) prejudice from.

I’ve been to Leeds, usually to visit the University, quite a few times over the years, but I think the most recent visit was close to 10 years ago.  My overwhelming recollection is Bleak.  I remember the place being cold and usually wet.  It’s also an inconveniently long way North.  I should clarify that things only qualify as being an inconveniently long way North – in my book – if they involve being in the North of England; Scotland, Shetland, Norway, Iceland fall in a different category.  I’ve never claimed consistency on this point. 

I wound up staying on the 14th floor of the Park Plaza in the centre of Leeds – with a splendid view of the railway station, and far enough above it to not notice any noise – and spent most of my two days around the University.  I was trying to find ways to describe the University campus, and I’m pretty sure I recognise bits of it from late 60’s sci-fi films or TV programmes.  There are huge concrete buildings, fountains, elevated walkways linking the huge buildings and, during the Easter vacation, very few people.  All it was missing was the cast of Doctor Who (I’m picturing the folks from UNIT and Jon Pertwee) .  In the sunlight and with blue skies the campus looks really dramatic – but I bet it’s bleak when there’s a strong north-easterly blowing with some horizontal rain to accompany it.

Leeds April 2011

I guess my conclusion is not to judge places based on distant memories.  It’s always worth revisiting places, particularly if you can arrange to revisit them when it’s sunny.  Next time a trip to Yorkshire gets suggested I’ll ask about the third prize – maybe I’ll get three days in Leeds that time.

Being a tourist

One of the challenges of being at home is that you don't behave like a tourist.

At home there are regular pressures around things like doing the garden, sorting the laundry, doing the shopping and (heaven forbid) going to work. It's no wonder that being on holiday is more fun - there's time to do things like go to museums, sit and watch the birdlife, take photographs, sit in a coffee shop slowly finishing a cappuccino and even (just occasionally) doing nothing. This second set of things are just harder to fit in when I'm at home.

I think it's time to try and get the balance right, or at least better, even when I am at home. I've been taking at least one photo a day for a long time, the last day when I didn't take a picture was 23rd December 2004, but I think there needs to be a bit more than this.

So today is a landmark. For the first time (that I can remember), I've abandoned the gardening and left the laundry and come out to sit in one of the coffee shops in Headington to have slow (large) cappuccino - and a croissant - and to sit and read one of the magazines that arrived this morning and to write a blog post about being a tourist just round the corner from the house.

And to add another image to my occasional Cafes of Headington series.