Sunday, 12 June 2016

The York Cat Story

Despite living in York for several years as a student in my early 20s, it wasn't until my eldest daughter went to study at the same university I'd been to, that I discovered the story of the York Cats and the York Cat Trail.

The Cat Trail is a walk through the streets of the city centre spotting the Cats of York, the many cat sculptures hidden and not hidden at all in and on various buildings, roofs and windows.

Cat statues have adorned buildings in York for over two centuries, believed to have been used as a rudimentary form of pest control to discourage rats and mice. Most of those early cats have disappeared or been destroyed though a couple of early examples survive on the front of a former grocers in Ousegate.


The two are the last of nine cats that used to roam across the front of the building during the nineteenth century put there not only to deter rats and mice from the nearby River Ouse but because the grocer thought they might appeal to children.



The cat tradition never quite went away, but it was given a new lease of life in the early 1980s by local architect and cat lover Tom Adams. Resin statues of cats, made by local sculptor Jonathan Newdick, became signature pieces on buildings Adams designed in the city as well as on private homes out of the centre of York.

One of the first John Newdick cats Tom Adams installed was on April 1st 1982 on the front of a building in one of  York's main shopping thoroughfares Coney Street.



Adams installed another of Johnathan Newdick's resin cats on the roof of a building he was doing extension work for in 1984, and this stalking cat has a companion. A pigeon that was put up after the cat was installed by the building's owner, apparently at a cost of just £3 for a rubber pigeon from the local hardware store.

I was living in York in 1984 and passed this building almost daily and never noticed the cat or his companion on the roofline. Not once :/



Some of the Adams cats even have names, this is Chambers, another of Jonathan Newdick's cats that installed in the early 1990s on a legal firm's window ledge.

And there are cats dotted all over the city if you know where to look. Here's a few we've spotted on visits to the eldest child

York Cat Story


But they are by no means all the cats that can be found, I'm still cat hunting on every visit.

If you want to go cat-spotting next time you're visiting York, there's a York Cat Trail map, a cat statue treasure hunt through the city centre, which can be picked up free from York Glass on The Shambles, York's most famous street and home, of course, to a couple of cat statues.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Martin Parr, The Rhubarb Triangle and Other Stories at The Hepworth, Wakefield

Recently I've developed a passion for street photography taking shots of people about their everyday business and documenting the odd, the strange, the unusual or just the beautiful sights to be seen while I'm out and about. Sneakily I've been using my phone camera because well, it would just be too embarrassing to point a camera at someone in the street, wouldn't it?

Not for Martin Parr though. Martin Parr is arguably Britain's greatest living photographer, famous for documenting England's social classes in his work. Currently The Hepworth in Wakefield is hosting The Rhubarb Triangle and Other Stories, the largest exhibition of Parr's work in the UK since 2002. Over 300 of Parr's photographs from collections like The Last Resort (1983 - 85), Cost of Living (1989), Common Sense (1995 - 99) and, especially commissioned for the exhibition, The Rhubarb Triangle are on display at the gallery until June 12.


Part of Parr's The Rhubarb Triangle photo series



The Last Resort, photographs documenting the working classes enjoying leisure time in the seaside town of New Brighton, entirely changed the nature of documentary photography in the early 80s. Parr's work is raw, touching and mesmerising all at the same time, the subjects unposed, unscripted and sometimes unaware that they are being photographed at all. He captures moments of everyday, ordinary lives and makes them extraordinary,


Parr's work is, frankly, inspiring. Both The Boy, an aspiring photographer, and I immediately set to taking shots of people doing what people do before we had even left the gallery




So watch out for us when you're out and about, we might well be lurking around a corner with a couple of cameras.

*Apologises in advance* 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Students First? ....

"The whole point of schools is that children come first and everything we do must reflect this single goal,"  
Academy principal/ Chief Executive

That quote is taken from the Teen's Academy website. The Teen's Academy also emblazons the tagline 'Student's First' on all its literature and its website. Trouble is, it seems those students are very much the last to come first in the current educational climate.

The Teen's school is one of the largest in England and became an Academy in 2009 while the Twins were there. It was one of the first in the country to attain Academy status, and since then has expanded into a Family of Schools featuring a chain of different schools all over the country with the former headteacher, as the chief executive, in control overall.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Adventures on the North Yorkshire Moors - The Story of Beggar's Bridge, Glaisdale.

We spent some of the Easter holidays adventuring on the North Yorkshire Moors in pursuit of The Flying Scotsman, and while we were there we got to explore some of the picturesque villages dotted across the moors too.

We discovered Beggar's Bridge in Glaisdale which as well as being exceptionally pretty has, according to local legend, a thoroughly romantic history.

The story goes that during the late 16th century the poor son of a local sheep farmer called Tom Ferries fell in love with  Agnes Richardson, the daughter of one of Glaisdale's wealthy landowners who refused the pair consent to marry until Tom had made his own fortune.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

A Night Out with The Flying Scotsman

The arrival of The Flying Scotsman back on the tracks after a decade long restoration project caused much excitement at Quirky Kook Towers. 

The Boy has been fascinated with the locomotive since he first saw it during it's restoration at the National Railway Museum as a small boy and it's been a constant presence in his steam engine obsessed life ever since. We last caught up with it's progress when we visited the NRM to see it getting it's final touches before going on the rails last month.

So when we discovered The Flying Scotsman was about to end a week-long stint working on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway on the same day as we set off for a half term holiday in nearby Whitby, we had to track it down.

Silent Sunday



Silent Sunday with MummyConstant

Monday, 7 March 2016

Introducing the Wakefield Creative Girls Gin Club ...

One of my maxims for life is, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, never to join a club that would have me as a member.

Thankfully, like La Rochefoucauld, I have more than one maxim for life and another is: 'Rules are made to be broken.' So I find myself, now, in the club.

No, not that club *rolls eyes*.

I'm in THE club: The Wakefield Creative Girls Gin Club.

But what is this Wakefield Creative Girls Gin Club? you ask. Well. We're girls (of all ages including ones we won't admit to) from, living in, or working in Wakefield.
We're creative; we're artists, writers, designers, educators, communicators, networkers, musicians, photographers, and promoters. And...

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Boy and The Flying Scotsman, A Life Story.

We have a thing about steam engines at Quirky Kook Towers. Well, when I say we. I mean The Man and The Boy have a thing about steam engines and the rest of us spend an inordinate amount of time looking at, and riding on, steam engines while wondering where the shops are.

But there are some steam engines that capture the imagination and The Flying Scotsman is one of those engines. Built in 1923, in Yorkshire of course, and proudly shown in the British Empire Exhibition the following year, it was the first engine to reach 100 mph, during a test run in 1934, and earlier, in 1928, it hauled the first ever non-stop run from London to Edinburgh in just eight hours. Arguably it is the most famous locomotive in the world.

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