Wednesday 6 December 2023
It was only about 5pm when I popped into the village on an errand, but there were few people about. The shops and cafés were still open, their lighted windows glowing warm and inviting.
Since I was a child, I've always liked early evenings in winter. I remember travelling home on the bus and peeping into houses from the high vantage point of the bus window. People often seem to leave the curtains open for a while after it gets dark, meaning you can see into their rooms. It was like experiencing a whole series of mini-stories, gleaned from a quick glance into someone else's world. The woman ironing in front of the TV; an old man sitting in a cosy armchair, reading a newspaper; a cat lying across the back of a sofa; two people standing - arguing, perhaps?; someone just arrived home and taking their coat off; a child playing...
Tuesday 5 December 2023
'Transition' seems to be the word of the moment round here. My days (and occasional sleepless nights!) are full of planning and organising to move house, which is looking like it will happen in mid-January. There's a limit to what I can do as I can't really start much packing yet but my head is full of 'stuff'. All the more reason then to take advantage of the occasional crisp, bright, dry day for a restorative walk. The season is in transition too - no longer really autumn but not quite winter. (Although we've had a little snow since I wrote this.)
The photo above seemed to sum that up. A sycamore tree still doggedly hanging on to its leaves, whilst caught in the branches is a flyer for a Christmas carol concert: 'Carols By Candlelight'. Further along, looking back, the same tree reveals its full glory as the low sun catches it.
Meanwhile, in Saltaire village, the canal was so calm that the reflection of the New Mill looked almost more substantial than the building itself.
There is the security point at Salts Mill, with its blue 'Police' sign and attractive, arched windows - though it was the curious, coloured reflection of the window in a puddle that caught my eye this time. If I'd been carrying my camera I could have made more of it, but the phone doesn't have the telephoto reach that I needed.
By the allotments above the Mill, the brave little silver birch tree still has a shower of golden leaves, looking as rich and bright as gold sovereigns against a blue sky. I've been reading that in Japan they name 72 different micro-seasons in an ancient natural calendar, and that sounds about right when you stop to notice the minor but still noticeable progressions of nature.
Transition can be unsettling and make us impatient but better to try to live through it with awareness and joy in each moment, or you end up wishing your life away. That's what I'm trying to remind myself.
Monday 4 December 2023
Sunday 3 December 2023
These are the last leaves of autumn but they did remind me of a wonderful and evocative song, written by Gallagher and Lyle and recorded by the Irish band The Fureys back in 2005, called 'The First Leaves of Autumn'. Do listen to it, HERE.
As the daylight turns to starlight and the season turns to change,
I get the same old answers
but the question still remains.
We shared a brief but magic song,
By the first leaves of autumn,
you were gone.
Not until the rain has touched my face,
Not until the first leaves fell from space,
Not until that moment did I see,
I never realised what you meant to me.
From the days you filled with sunlight,
To the laughter in your eyes,
To the making and the breaking
of the day you said goodbye,
We shared a brief but magic song,
By the first leaves of autumn,
you were gone.
Saturday 2 December 2023
There was quite a crowd gathered for the switching on of Saltaire's Christmas tree lights. It takes place in late November, which always feels a little too early to me, but I think people like to get a festive lift to the spirits when times are a bit tough and there is so much nastiness going on in the world. Music was provided by the Hallroyd Brass Band. I do love a brass band and they certainly gave the proceedings some cheer with their Christmassy music.
Even Santa Claus was there, leading the countdown and having his photo taken. I think he's spent all year growing and polishing his luxuriant beard and hair. It was impressive.
The tree is quite tall but step back a bit and you can see it is dwarfed by the vast bulk of Saltaire's Victoria Hall, built as an educational and leisure institute by Sir Titus Salt in the mid-19th century and still used by the community today.
Friday 1 December 2023
So... the countdown to Christmas starts here! How did that happen? This year seems to have gone by so fast, partly, I think, because it's been so dull and wet here since July. I feel like I'm still waiting for 'summer'. Well, I'm not going to get it now, am I? So I might as well enjoy this last Christmas in my current house, my 25th Christmas here. Do you think I should perhaps adopt a 'silver' theme?
I'm not sure how many other countries have 'advent calendars'. They were a feature of my childhood that my sister and I enjoyed, though in those days they just had little pictures behind each window. Nowadays they are all full of chocolate or small gifts. I've often fancied a Jo Malone advent calendar, full of fragrances, colognes and bath and body treats - but at £350 I won't be getting one! (Anyway, it seems they've sold out.)
Saltaire will be having its annual Advent Windows Festival, so I hope to get out and take a few photos of the displays at some point. Otherwise I shall be knee deep in packing cases as the month moves on. I am hoping to move early in the New Year, if all goes well.
(Actually I just realised that technically this will be my 26th Christmas in this house. But the first was just a few days after I moved in so I spent it with friends, who refused to let me unpack boxes on Christmas Day! Seems I always move at this time of year... )
Oh, and for the avoidance of doubt, this photo is NOT my home, which is filling up with boxes and bubble wrap rather than Christmas decor. I spotted the arrangement on my travels and thought it worthy of a photo.
Thursday 30 November 2023
We finally had a couple of dry days last weekend. Not that it lasted! It was, however, very welcome after so much rain, wind and general gloom. I made the most of it with a Sunday stroll around my usual circuit - park, river, canal. There are small variations in my possible route but it usually works out at around 6000 steps, about 2.5 miles. Even when I move house, this route will still be possible, though it will be bookended by a steep walk downhill and a steep walk back uphill at the end. I'm choosing to see that as a healthy addition to my exercise routine, which will go some way to compensating for the loss of a staircase in the move from house to flat!
My photos are mostly self-explanatory for regular readers of my blog who have 'accompanied me' many times on this circuit.
Winter is settling over the landscape. Most trees have lost most of their leaves, though there are still flashes of gold here and there. There were more folk about than my photos would suggest: joggers, cyclists, people walking dogs. On the river there were several rowing boats. Most seemed to be crewed by people learning how to navigate the river in those long, thin, flimsy craft. There were coaches in some of the boats and at least one chap cycling up and down the riverside path with a megaphone and a safety rope. The river has been in flood recently so it was good to see it calmer and running at a lower level. The rowing club members were taking full advantage.
In contrast, all was very calm on the canal, allowing for some stunning reflections in the still water.
On Salts' sports field, there was a lively football match taking place, though I haven't been able to find any details online. It looked like a proper match rather than a practice and there were a few spectators.
Returning on the home straight, it's always good to see the New Mill chimney and the church reflected in the canal as I arrive back in the village.
Wednesday 29 November 2023
Meandering back from Leeds Dock into the city centre, we crossed the river and walked through the area known as The Calls. At one time it was an industrial area with warehousing for the docks. Industry declined and moved out in the 20th century and the area was regenerated in the 1980s/90s, with buildings converted into offices - mainly media and creative businesses - and residential use. It's beginning to look a little run-down again now. The Covid pandemic seems to have changed working patterns so that many more people now work from home, meaning that footfall in these commercial areas is much less. There are still bars, so maybe it all comes to life at night.
The industrial past is still evident, particularly if you look upwards. The building above with the fine brickwork is called The Old Brewery so I assume that's what it once was. Calls Landing (below) was a warehouse built in the early 1900s to support the adjacent Fletland Mills, which in the mid 1880s was a huge corn mill supplying flour and horse feed. The mill is now, I think, a hotel, though currently 'closed for redevelopment'.
The 'You & Me, Me & You' mural on the side of this historic building is by graphic artist Anthony Burrill, and was completed in 2021. The grey heron mural, by Peter Barber, is designed to submerge and re-emerge as the river levels vary.
Just glimpsed between the buildings, this tribute to the former Leeds United and England footballer Kalvin Phillips (who now plays for Manchester City) was painted by street artist Akse P19.
And finally, I couldn't resist the light and shade on these old steps - and it was a mono outing, after all!
Tuesday 28 November 2023
You know my attraction to colour and I couldn't get enough of the shimmering hues and patterns reflected in the River Aire around Leeds Dock, which to me had a 'stained glass' quality. We walked up to Crown Point Bridge and the light and shadow around there was amazing.
Crown Point Bridge is a Grade II listed structure, originally built in 1842, when this part of Leeds was developing fast. It was made in a Sheffield ironworks, of cast iron in a 'Gothic Revival' style, a single broad span with an ornate parapet and trims. They don't (sadly) make them like that any more.
Monday 27 November 2023
When I'm walking around somewhere like Leeds Dock with my camera, I rarely have a preconceived idea of what I'm going to photograph, finding it better to let the surroundings 'speak to me' and see what catches my eye. Sometimes the collection of images that results is extremely random, though overall it was colours and shapes that were waving at me this time.
The sign made of fancy fonts (above) was in a window near the studio from where the live Channel 4 weekday TV show 'Steph's Packed Lunch' has been broadcast for the past three years. A 'magazine' mix of news, interviews, cookery and consumer advice, hosted by Steph McGovern, it had a shaky start because of the Covid lockdown and I understand it has recently been axed.
When the sun came out, reflections in the water were bright and interesting.
I was intrigued by the reflections in windows too. Inevitably these modern buildings have large areas of glass that mirror complex and repeated shapes and colours.
Some scaffolding with bright netting caught my eye...
as did the swooping shadows of the chain fencing.
Sunday 26 November 2023
In the Leeds Dock area there is an intricate and vibrant rainbow-like sculpture made of multi-coloured sheets of perspex. I find it fascinating, especially when the sun shines through casting vivid shadows around it. I took a few photos and made a collage of them. Guaranteed to brighten a rainy day!
'Look upon the rainbow, and praise him that made it; very beautiful it is in the brightness thereof.' Ecclesiasticus 43:11
'I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.' Genesis 9:13
Saturday 25 November 2023
Leeds Dock is an interesting area. Originally Victorian docks and warehouses, it marks the point where the Leeds-Liverpool Canal terminates and joins with the Aire and Calder Navigation. Goods and commodities were shipped in and out of Leeds and coal was brought in to supply the industries of the 19th and early 20th centuries. By the second half of the 20th century the docks were in decline. Most of the buildings were derelict and have been demolished, to be replaced by contemporary residential and office developments. One of the first buildings to be constructed was the Royal Armouries Museum (top right in the photo above), opened in 1996, which holds the national collection of arms and armour - and is more interesting than it sounds! Its rather alarming figurehead is in the picture below.
The area has failed to take off as a retail centre but some businesses have settled there and the dock itself is used as a marina for canal boats.
Looking back towards Leeds city centre, the tower of the parish church is now dwarfed by skyscrapers.