My weekend at the Nether Springs house of the Northumbria community was restful and fun, in turns. I spent time with friends Pete and Catherine Askew (whom I just saw last month at the simple way family reunion), visiting an enormous secondhand bookstore called Barter Books, cooking dinner and drinking tea. I slept quite a bit, attended a few of prayer offices they hold each day, and got to know the staff and visitors. The daffodils, crocuses, and snowdrops were in bloom, and the wind was fresh and spoke of rain. We saw a brilliant rainbow which truly seemed to end just above Nether Springs .
On Sunday, the Askews drove me to Durham on little back roads -- full of sheep, ancient stone fences, small stone chapels, gorse and heather. We even had to stop and open a gate which crossed our one-lane road. We stopped along the way at Alnwick Castle (see above) where several scenes from Harry Potter were filmed (Quidditch, the Whomping Willow, and Hagrid's hut). To get there, Pete the Anglican vicar helped us sneak behind the rope barrier, saying he'd blame the 2 dumb Americans if we were discovered. We also gleefully acted like children as we jumped up & down on the swinging bridges at the world's largest treehouse at Alnwick Gardens.
After dropping my bags at my B&B on the River Wear, we meandered through Old Durham by the castle & cathedral.
We went to my favorite pub, the Market Tavern, for bangers & mash, beer, and "the best treacle sponge I've ever had," said Catherine. We then wandered back to the Shakespeare Inn, which is reputed to be haunted, for another beer and some great stories about life as a vicar (pastor). Finally, and with reluctance, I put them on the road and headed home to get some sleep. I have a long week ahead of me, but I think I'm off to a good start.
The daily highlights:
Well, we can always start with the food. Old Speckled Hen (it's a beer) sausage at Market Tavern, and a bite of Pete's "mash with mustard." You make mashed potatoes, then mix in some fancy seeded mustard. Oh, yum. Then a fabulous treacle sponge with custard -- that's spongecake with golden syrup soaked into the top, then covered in that yummy british custard, which is like semi-sweet, runny vanilla pudding. And of course, good beer! Seeing all the thousands upon thousands of blooming bulbs along the side of the roads. It was delightful. Meeting new friends at Nether Springs, and seeing new friends who are becoming old friends. Sleeping until noon one day. Laughing about this, which involved a friend of Pete and Catherine's. That first glimpse of the cathedral as we approached Durham. It never fails to thrill me.
The daily highlights: