Saturday 30 November 2013

The Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet at Tullie House Art Gallery

Crosby Garrett Helmet, Photo: PA
Yesterday I went to Tullie House Museum to see the famous Crosby Garrett Helmet which is currently on display there. The Roman helmet was discovered by amateur metal-detector enthusiasts in the small village of Crosby Garrett in south Cumbria in May 2010. It is not a military helmet, but a Roman cavalry sports helmet which was worn for special displays, a bit like the modern day tattoos. These events were called the Hippika Gymnasia - Horse Games - and probably consisted of battle re-enactments from mythology. The helmet covers the whole head with openings for the eyes and dates from the first to third centuries AD. It is one of only three helmets of this type found in this country.

The helmet was in a glass cabinet in the middle of the darkened room, kind of glowing in the twilight, it looked stunning. Up close it is very intricate, with the hair in tight curls and a handsome, youthful face. I felt that feeling of awe I only feel when in the presence of some historical item like this, almost two thousand years old, that is truly amazing and unique and also very beautiful. It's such a treat to be able to see such a treasure in person like this. 

Tullie House Museum started a fund to try and buy the helmet when it was put up for sale in Christies in October 2010, but it stood no chance, as the helmet eventually sold to an anonymous UK buyer for £2.3 million. So it's good that the helmet has come home to Cumbria for this exhibition (only the second time the helmet has been on public display) so that local people can see it in all its restored glory.

The exhibition continues at Tullie House until January 26th 2014.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Restaurant Review - Bijou Brasserie, Carlisle

I'd only been previously to Bijou Brasserie at lunchtimes, but they have now started doing early bird
Photo from Bijou Brasserie Website
midweek meals so we thought we would give it a try.

Fisher Street, Carlisle


Modern decor in muted fawns and blue. Plenty of space between tables for privacy, comfortable chairs and a relaxing atmosphere. Service was good, attentive and we did not have to wait long for the food.

Whilst waiting for the first course we were given lovely chunks of very fresh olive and tomato bread served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Both Glen and I had the same starter, goats cheese with poached pear, pine nuts, pear puree and salad with balsamic dressing. I had not had goats cheese with pear before and it is a wonderful combination! The goats cheese itself was delicious, not as strong tasting as some which I like.

Next came a complimentary middle course, cranberry and orange sorbet. It was really nice, very tasty and really cleansed the palate.

My Chicken Ballotine
For my main I had chicken ballotine with dauphinoise potatoes, buttered spinach, baby leeks and natural juices, there was also a puree but I can't remember what it was (it's my age lol!) but it was delicious. The chicken was moist and tasty, the potatoes gorgeous. Glen had fillet of Lakeland beef with fondant potatoes, haggis balls, buttered spinach and madeira sauce. She said the beef was fantastic and it was the best meal out that she had had in a very long time. We washed our meal down with a lovely light and fruity Chilean Merlot.

We had no room for a dessert, I had a cappuccino to finish the meal.

We had the early bird menu, £18.00 for two courses or £20.95 for three. Glen's beef had a £5.00 supplement. I thought it was excellent value for such good food. They also have special offers on the a la carte menu.

My View
A lovely relaxing restaurant with excellent food at reasonable prices. Want to spoil yourself with some fine dining? I'd definitely recommend you go to Bijou, I rate it at *****

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Durham Lumiere 2013

I've always loved light installations and so when I heard about the Lumiere coming back Durham this year I knew I really had to go. So this weekend my cousin Janet and I headed over to the North East to see the show.

The Aquarium
We arrived just after lunchtime and wandered around the city centre. The oldest area of the city, including the castle and cathedral (a World Heritage site),  is built on a hilly peninsula created by a loop in the River Wear, So that means you keep fit as you wander up and down steep streets. We happened upon the first of the installations unexpectedly in the Market Place, an old-style red phone box which had been imaginatively transformed into an aquarium by Benedetto Bufalino and Benoit Deseille from France.  It was amusing to see such an iconic British item in a place you might expect it but having a very different purpose. Even in daylight it was impressive.  We sat for a while watching the fish nonchalantly swimming as we listened to some musicians playing South American music.

We then wandered around some shops before going for a late lunch at Cafe Rouge on Silver Street right beside the Framwellgate Bridge. Luckily we were given a table beside a window looking out over the river which was lovely. I had goat's cheese salad for starters, coq an vin for main and only had room for ice cream for dessert! All washed down with a lovely Merlot. For a chain restaurant the food was good, I love French style food anyway.

It was dusk by time we left the restaurant and we decided to go up to the cathedral and castle via the riverside path. It was lovely walking along, lit by lights that reflected in the river, the path gently sloping upwards taking the hard work out of getting to the top.

There wasn't a lot of signage to guide you to the installations so we just followed other people who seemed to know where they were going! In places it was quite dark and we were glad of our little torches especially when walking on the cobbled streets. We went into Durham Cathedral's beautiful cloisters to see Dresses by Taegon Kim (Korea/France). They were three very beautiful fibre-optic dresses that slowly changed colour. These creations were stunning as they glowed in the dark, with the cloisters in the background adding to the beauty of this installation.

After leaving the cloisters we came across another installation called (M)ondes by Atsara (France). This consisted of flickers, sparks and lines of lights that seemed to jump about, or follow lines of tree branches, even shoot into the air. This was accompanied by water-like noises. It was ok, but didn't really grab me.

We then headed along the North Bailey and joined a queue to go into the Palace Green beside the cathedral - the Lindisfarne Gospels were recently displayed in the library here.We timed it perfectly, the son et lumiere show, Crown of Light by Ross Ashton, Robert Ziegler and John del Nero (UK), was just starting. This consisted of images from the history of the cathedral projected onto the cathedral walls.  Many of the images were from the Lindisfarne Gospels and seeing them huge on the walls showed their intricacy and beauty perfectly. The projections were accompanied by music from the eras of art that were displayed on the walls and both melded together very well. It was a wonderful show, I loved every minute of it.
Crown of Light

Afterwards we walked back out of the cathedral grounds and headed downhill along Saddler Street. We passed under a large neon installation that stretched across the street that said A PLACE BEYOND BELIEF by Nathan Coley (UK). Apparently this is a quote from a woman on returning to work in a still traumatised new York after 9/11.

 Just beyond this, after turning right down on to Elvet Bridge we saw Elephantastic by Topla Design (France). This installation consists of a huge 3-D image of an elephant projected onto an archway across the street.  The first image you see is a rear view of the elephant which trumpets, flaps its ears and with each footstep a deep, bass thump rumbled out. Smoke came out from under and above the archway.  People streamed under the archway and on the other side was the front view of the elephant. It really was a brilliant creation, I loved it, and judging by the faces of the people around me it was a very popular piece.

Elephantastic 1

Elephantastic 2

Consumerist Christmas Tree
We were coming to the end of the installations we had time to see - there were others further out of town. In the Prince Bishop's Shopping Centre was the Consumerist Christmas Tree by Luzinterruptus (Spain). This was an installation made up of inflated plastic shopping bags in the shape of a Christmas Tree. And strung high across the street there were more illuminated Shopping bags.  I like the thought behind the work, Christmas has become obsessed with consumerism and material things.

On our way back to our bus we passed by The Aquarium once more, surrounded by a throng of people and all lit up, it looked great. Then, when we were nearly back to where we were to get the bus, on a building by the river, we saw Volume Unit by The Media Workshop (UK) Which was a "visual jukebox" with red light pulsing in time to amplified music that you could request by tweeting #lumieredj.

So that was the Durham Lumiere, even the weather held out for us! A fabulous experience, with beautiful and varied light installations and all for free. Not too far too walk, but if you have difficulty with mobility it might not be feasible due to the hilliness of Durham and the many cobbled streets.  The previous two nights had apparently been very busy, but the night we went (the last night of the Lumiere) it was busy but not over so. I definitely would recommend you visit if there is a Lumiere there next year.

Saturday 16 November 2013

U2's Fifth Member Is Leaving

The news of Paul McGuinness selling Principle Management to Live Nation and Guy Oseary taking over the helm as U2 manager is a couple of days old now, but I needed time to muse on the news and I'm still pondering!

The news came out publicly via The New York Times on November 12th. It is not a done deal yet, but going to happen when you consider the statement released by McGuinness in the same article:  “It could be seen as slightly poor etiquette for a manager to consider retiring before his artist has split, quit or died, but U2 have never subscribed to the rock ’n’ roll code of conduct. As I approach the musically relevant age of 64 I have resolved to take a less hands-on role as the band embark on the next cycle of their extraordinary career.

“I am delighted that Live Nation, who with Arthur Fogel have been our long term touring partners, have joined us in creating this powerful new force in artist management. I have long regarded Guy Oseary as the best manager of his generation, and there is no one else I would have considered to take over the day-to-day running of our business.”
The full New York Times article can be read here.

There's no two ways that this is a major event in the U2 camp, McGuinness has been manager to the band since 1978, and there's no doubt he did a good job during those 35 years. I know nothing about Guy Oseary, so can't comment on how well he'll do the job.  But it is a daunting task to try and fill McGuinness'
shoes. And what of the band, they are creatures of habit and it's a massive change for them. I find it very strange that there has not been a single word from them since this news came out.

I can't help but wonder if this is the beginning of the end for the band. There has been a feeling in me of things coming to an end for a while now.  My personal view is that U2 have lost the drive and creativity that made them the "biggest and best" rock band in the world for so long, they are more driven by money than art nowadays. They almost desperately  want to be relevant to the youngsters of today, well that's not going to happen guys.  Live, they still have it, they put on a great show, but even there the last tour ended up almost a greatest hits tour, it was wonderful to hear some of those songs again, but what about the new stuff?

 There's an article from The Irish Times blog here that makes an interesting read. I don't agree with everything written there but it brings up some good points.

A new album is due out in the Spring, apparently with some kind of launch happening during the Superbowl in the US. Maybe they will prove me wrong and blow my mind  and touch my heart and soul with brilliant music like they used to, and no one would be happier than me if they did!

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Bono Remembers Lou Reed

It was a long time coming but now Bono has written a tribute to Lou Reed for Rolling Stone. Even if it didn't have his name on it, is so typical of his style that I would have known it was written by Bono. It's a beautiful, articulate, insightful and moving tribute. 

Singer Bono (R) and Lou Reed talk at the Edun Fall 2006 Presentation during Olympus Fashion Week February 5, 2006 in New York City
Photo Brad Bartlet
It finishes with:

This is how I will remember him, a still figure in the eye of a metallic hurricane, an artist pulling strange shapes out of the formless void that is pop culture, a songwriter pulling melodies out of the dissonance of what Yeats called "this filthy modern tide" and, yes, pop's truly great poker face – with so much comedy dancing around those piercing eyes. The universe is not laughing today.

You can read the full article here