Welcome to my blog, I'll be posting articles about my travels, restaurant and hotel reviews and U2-related stories here, plus anything else that's going on in my life that I feel like blogging about! Hope you'll enjoy reading them and please feel free to add your comments.
Sunday, 30 May 2010
A Good Friend, Pottery and Golden Hoards
I've known my friend Debbi for many, many years, but last weekend was the first time I visited her home in Stoke - a city I had never been to. My visit coincided with a short spell of glorious weather (the only one this spring!) and I had a pleasant journey seeing the countryside at its best on my trip to the Midlands.
Debbi was there to meet me at the station and we took a taxi to her home. The first thing that struck me about Stoke was that it was hilly, I'd imagined it to be quite flat. It was also very spread out with large empty areas, it seemed to be a place that was re-building itself.
The area where Debbi lived was very much as I expected, and her home was modern and had a comfortable feel about it and I immediately felt at home there. After a cuppa we went into the city centre which is actually called Hanley, it's all very confusing for an outsider, but Stoke on Trent is made up of a conurbation of six towns of which Hanley is considered the commercial centre and as you travel around you are going in and out of the six towns.
First we went to the Potteries Museum and Art Centre. The main reason I wanted to go there was that part of the famous Anglo Saxon Hoard was there. Unfortunately the really stunning items are now in London (I think that treasures should stay in the area they are found, why should they all go to London?). But there were still beautiful ornate gold items on display, some still with the soil on them, that gave an indication how fabulous the Hoard was. The Hoard was found by a metal detector, it's value is set at around £3.25 million, which wil be shared by the metal detector and the owner of the land the treasure was found on - think I'll take up a new hobby and treat myself to a metal detector!
I enjoyed the museum it was varied and human in scale. Below is a photo of Debbi beside a Spitfire plane - we were both amazed by how small it was.
On leaving the museum we walked into Hanley city centre. On our way there we passed lines and lines and lines of bras attached to fences. We were puzzled by it, thinking it might be some art installation, bit it turned out to be part of Breast Cancer Awareness, so of course it made perfect sense. I did a bit of shopping before we went to a pub and had a delicious cocktail called a Berrypolitan. Then we went to the nearby Portofino restaurant and had a delicious, leisurely meal there.
We then went back to Deb's and popped the champagne ( we know how to live well!) and watched the Amsterdam 360 DVD, it brought back many memories. It was still very warm and we had to have the fan on to cool down a bit, it reminded us of our evenings in our apartment in Nice last year. We chatted well into the early hours before going to bed.
Next day we got up late and I sampled Stoke oatcakes that Debbi had got from a local shop for breakfast. It was nothing like the hard, crisp Scottish oatcakes that I knew, it was more like a tortilla with a cheese and bacon filling. not good for those watching their cholesterol but delicious!
The Stoke area is also known as the Potteries, as once it was a major centre of the pottery industry in this country. Once world famous ceramics such as Doulton, Aynsley, Wedgwood, Minton and Spode were produced here. Debbi herself worked at Spode, which like the others has now closed down. I wanted to go to a pottery museum and Debbi took me to the Gladstone museum. Gladstone was one of the smaller factories and is the only complete preserved Victorian factory. A pottery factory has existed on the site since 1787 and it finally closed its doors in 1970.
It was an amazing place dominated by it's huge bottle kilns, it was almost as if time was frozen, it was like stepping back in time. Everything that was needed to run such a factory was still there, I almost expected the workers to arrive and start their jobs. Working life in those factories was hard, and the average life expectancy was only 45 years. Women's wages were very much lower than men's and in early Victorian days children as young as eight worked there. We are so lucky to live in the times we do - despite its faults it's so much better. There were old photos taken in the buildings on view and I found it fascinating to see the same backgrounds that were still here now, it made the past really come alive
We watched demonstrations of throwing a pot on a wheel, amazing to watch, the man made it look easy - I've tried it in the past and it is very difficult! There was also a woman skillfully painting designs on ceramics. You could have a go yourself if you wanted to.
I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, it was all new to me and very interesting, I think it is great that this place has been preserved for all to see.
We went back to Debbi's and she made me a lovely meal which we washed down with liberal quantities of good wine. We went back in U2-time and watched the Zoo TV DVD, again great memories, they were great times for u2 fans.
Next morning it was time to go home. The visit had flown by, Debbi had made me so welcome and spoiled me rotten - thanks Deb!