The excitement mounted as I prepared for an adventure. Two years ago, we bought tickets for a gig in York for April 2021. Due to Covid restrictions, along with many other shows, it was postponed. But its time has come. Liesel and I planned to make a weekend of it in York, a city that we’ve only visited once in the past.
Well, Liesel is still in Anchorage of course, and I didn’t want to miss the show. I also decided to go by train rather than by car. I haven’t been on a train for well over two years and I thought I’d see what it’s like these days: how many other passengers would be wearing masks? How crowded would it be?
The blue sky was a welcome sight as I waited for the bus to take me into Manchester. The bus wasn’t too busy, and about a third of passengers were masked up. One hundred percent of the driver was not, which I found surprising.
In another first, I caught the train at Oxford Road Station. Despite the cold wind blowing through the station, I did not wait in this rather cute little waiting room.
It reminds me of Thomas Newton’s home planet inThe Man Who fell to Earth, which is strange. That’s today’s first reference to David Bowie.
I read a book during the 90-minute journey to York. Again, about a 33% success rate with face coverings, which is disappointingly low, I feel. Already, I felt I was mentally ticking the box that says ‘don’t travel by train again any time soon’. Which is a shame.
So I’m by myself, but of course I still had Liesel’s ticket. One of my online mates, George, agreed to use the ticket. And George met me in the forecourt of York Station, from where we walked all the way to the concert venue, The Barbican. This was handy because the hotel I’d booked for myself was right next door. Very convenient: almost as if I’d planned it that way. But that was only because all the Airbnb places that I found in York city centre turned out to be actually located in a suburb much further out of town!
George and I ‘met’ online while watching the one time regular Tuesday evening YouTube performances by Jessica Lee Morgan. And, by coincidence, it was Jess that we were here to see tonight, supporting and performing with Tony Visconti’s Best of Bowie. Yes, David Bowie. Sadly, Woody Woodmansey’s not with the band on this occasion, but I knew we’d have a good time anyway.
I checked into my hotel, and we had a coffee before walking back into York Centre. George had pre-booked a ‘meal deal’ at his accommodation, so I wandered around for a while, looking for somewhere nice to dine myself.
I’d forgotten what a pretty little city York is.
The wall surrounds much of the city, and you do feel like you’re entering another realm when you walk through one of these gates. And you sense you might just be under surveillance.
The Sun was still out and it was quite warm, the cold wind had dwindled, but even so, I was surprised to come across some ice sculptures.
Later on, I read up about it here. It says there were 40 exhibits, but over two days, I didn’t find nearly that many. Someone more organised would have looked at a map.
I just happened to glance into this shop window.
The album that we all know as The Man Who Sold the World being sold at last under the name it was meant to have. No, I didn’t seriously consider starting a new vinyl collection. This might be a new remix by Tony Visconti, but I’m not sure my ears could tell the difference! Still, nice to see David Bowie referenced again.
As I walked over the fast-flowing and high River Ouse, I found this old place on the east bank.
Dating from about 1300, Lendal Tower was originally part of the City’s defences, with a defensive chains stretching from here to the Tower on the opposite bank. In 1677 it was leased to the predecessors of The York Waterworks Plc for five hundred years, at an annual rent of one peppercorn for use as a water tower. During the 18th century it housed a steam pumping engine modified to the design of John Smeaton FRS, then a proprietor of the Waterworks. It ceased to be used for those purposes in 1850. In 1932 it was refurbished and now houses the Company’s Board Rooms. So says a plaque on the side of the building.
I dined at The Orchid, a vegan restaurant. Of course, I hadn’t booked, so when I turned up at one minute past opening time, I was told I could eat there as long as I vacated my table by 7.30. I thought, well, if I can’t finish my meal in an hour and a half, then there’s something wrong. Plus, I didn’t want to miss any of the show of course.
And the food was lovely, very well presented and with very friendly service.
Unusually, I took photos before the dishes were empty.
I enjoyed a leisurely walk back to The Barbican where the scanner successfully scanned my ticket barcode on the first attempt. Things are looking up: maybe I should buy a lottery ticket. As I said, it is a very cute little place.
Inside, there were hundreds of people, some wearing t-shirts depicting David Bowie from various eras. And, speaking of David Bowie, one thing I never expected to see was a portrait of him in monochrome Lego.
Jessica’s partner Chris was working behind the merch stall. I met up with George again as well as Sue, another regular at JLM’s Tuesday night online shows. Nice to see people in real life, isn’t it?
Jessica and Chris performed some new songs for about half hour including one which involved audience participation. I don’t think the quality of my singing was improved by the presence of a face covering.
After a break, Tony Visconti’s Best of Bowie took to the stage for two hours of Bowie hits and some surprises. The whole band was spot on, although on a couple of occasions, either the singer, Glenn Gregory, or I, misremembered the lyrics. Jessica played guitar and alto sax, though not at the same time, even she’s not that talented. I am very conscious of not taking too many photos during a show: I used to be quite obsessed with capturing every possible lighting arrangement and every available location of all the musicians. From where I was sitting, and from where George was sitting in Liesel’s seat we couldn’t really see Janette Mason on keyboards, but she did a great job.
Actually, I think most of the audience was singing along to most of the songs. I wasn’t the oldest person there, and there were some teenagers too. So do I have a set list? It’s in my head and I should try and write it down before I forget but then it might already be too late.
Tony Visconti told the story of when they were playing, as Holy Holy, in New York on David Bowie’s birthday. He phoned David up and the whole audience then sang ‘Happy birthday’ to him. Just a couple of days later, they were in Toronto when they heard the news of his passing. They carried on the tour, but I’m sure the atmosphere was very different.
I hung around for a while and had a chat with Jessica and Smiley the drummer before setting off for the comfort of my suite, a whole five minute walk away.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who did a double-take on seeing this thin blue-suited duke hanging around like the rest of us.
What a great night, and I’m pretty sure Liesel would have enjoyed it too. Next time. Anyway, it took a while to wind down and get to sleep.
After breakfast, I set off for my day as a tourist in York. Of course, I had to walk along the wall for a while. Last time Liesel and I did this, it was drizzling lightly, but today, the Sun was out, the sky was blue and the spirits were well and truly lifted.
I admit that sometimes I mess about with my photos for comedic effect. But this photo of Sir Thomas Herbert’s House has not been tampered with.
This old, old, old building really does look that happy.
And, yes, of course I kept a lookout for more ice sculptures.
Sadly, a few had melted by the time I found them, as they’d been placed on the sunnier side of the street .
I quite enjoyed wandering around, but not surprisingly I suppose, the most uncomfortable I felt was at the market near The Shambles, which was really crowded. Other prople were having a good time out on the river.
The only place I visited properly was the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. In fact, I had lunch here before walking around looking a lots of old stuff. Funny how old buildings like this have the same sort of old smell, despite presumably being cleaned with modern chemicals with modern scents.
The place has been flooded a few times over the centuries, and the high levels have all (I assume all) have been marked.
I can’t imagine how much water is needed to reach that high from the river that far away. But I must say, I was pleased to have this place almost to myself on this occasion. I suspect that the art galleries and museums would have been far busier. Liesel and I will return sometime, I’m sure.
Something else that is guaranteed to make me feel good is the sight of a perfect reflection in the water.
In Northenden, we have planters in the main street with flowers and they look delightful. In York, they’ve gone one step further and are growing food for the community.
Sadly, there wasn’t much to pick today apart from a couple of weeds, but it’s the thought that counts.
There is one landmark in York that I’ve nor mentioned yet. Well, here it is: Cliffords Tower.
I was going to bound up the slope like a gazelle but, er, I had my luggage, that’s it. Oh, and there was a fence that I couldn’t climb over.
The train back to Manchester was a bit more crowded as was the bus back to Northenden. Oh well.
Meanwhile, our Alaska correspondent has reported more snowfall in Anchorage. Liesel sent this picture which, it has to be said, made me shiver a bit.
I’ve mentioned my issue with intermittent unjustified shortness of breath before. This week, I visited the GP again and attended hospital for a chest X-ray. I really want to get to the bottom of this now.
Later that day, I started feeling a bit manky. Tickly throat. Cough. Headache. Rough sleep. I didn’t feel up to going out for any of the organised walks and sadly, neither did I feel up to looking after the children this week. Fortunately, I had recorded most of the radio show before I came down with this lurgy. It’s about Communication and an extended mix is available here:
Just when I thought I was getting over whatever the ailment is, the duvet decided to pick a fight with me. I realised I was lying under nothing but empty duvet cover. The duvet itself had somehow migrated to Liesel’s side of the bed leaving the empty husk behind. I tried shaking the duvet back into place but I think I’m going to have to start from scratch. Did I say ‘scratch’? Well, yes. There are in fact two thin duvets at work here, held together with a safety pin in each corner. Except it seems the one in my corner has undone itself and it poked through, threatening to stab me. A small scratch on the arm is bad enough but I don’t need this sort of adventure in the middle of the night, thank you very much. When it comes to battles with inanimate objects, there is no guarantee of victory.