I’ve got to leave old Durham town

Posted on January 31, 2011 by

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I’ve got to leave old Durham town,
I’ve got to leave old Durham town.
I’ve got to leave old Durham town

(Roger Whittaker)

The day I looked forward to for absolutely yonks did not go well. In fact, looking back, the rot set in the day before.

On the way there, excited, I explain my interest in Durham Cathedral. It all began, I tell the Boy Friend (BF), in college. D.H.Lawrence was on the curriculum. You HAVE HEARD of D.H.Lawrence? I ask accusingly.

Mmmmm meant no so off I go on one recounting the Lady Chatterley trial verbatim including the bit when the judge asks the jury if they would allow their servants to read the mucky book.

I then go on and on and, admittedly on, about DHL’s ‘Women in Love’. You HAVE HEARD of Women in Love? I ask accusingly. The film I mean, knowing sure as hell he’d never read the book (print, as he says, not being his medium of choice).

Mmmm meant no so off I go on another one reminding him of Alan Bates and Oliver Reed rolling around in the nud. Anyway, I say undeterred, in the book the protagonist you DO KNOW WHAT A PROTAGANIST IS I ask accusingly? Not waiting for an answer I explain he takes his girl friend to Durham Cathedral and the way Lawrence described it set up a longing to see it for myself.

Interesting he murmurs and I settle back in my seat with a warm glow of satisfaction knowing that I have, like BBC’s Mission Statement, informed, educated and entertained the frog of my dreams.  The warm glow stays as I also entertain thoughts of romance. We are, after all, booked into a hotel. Well, I say hotel. A Premier Inn.

The gigantic hoarding outside offers Rooms From £29. As if. On Mull. In February. Pity mums and dads with fractious kids pulling in. Memo to me. Get on to Advertising Standards Authority. Report the bastards. http://www.asa.org.uk

Something purple comes over the BF when the Purple Clad Receptionist begins the mantra: Yes, Mr Hyde snaps, I have stayed in Premier Inns before. Yes I do know dinner is served in the restaurant and no I do not want book a table. Yes I do know when breakfast is served and no I do not want to order any. Neither do I want a newspaper delivered to my room. Just the key. And not to a disabled room either thank you.

There’s a Morrisson’s across the road he mutters we’ll have one of their breakfasts. Better value. I hope my horrified look says better value maybe sunshine but the romantic weekend I envisaged did not include sharing oxygen with ugly no-hopers.

Ranting prose as purple as the décor: ‘breeze block monstrosity’ he tears off the purple bed cover muttering ‘bet the staff have purple logos tattooed on their nipples’, chucks all signs of advertising in the corner and wedges a lump of cardboard in the thermostat (Premier Inns turn the heating down in the evening).

My warm glow sinks as low as the thermostat as I realise there will be no romance. The air gets distinctly frostier as he plugs in the laptop and says: So. Tell me. Why you want to visit Durham Cathedral?

It dawns on me that his eyes had glazed over within five minutes of leaving the house. He couldn’t give a flying fuck about D.H.Lawrence. He’d been Googling TomTom to find the nearest MacDonald’s.

Never mind. At least he’s taking me. He told me he’s been to Durham and seen the cathedral.

It turns out that both Premier Inn and Morrisson’s breakfasts are surplus to requirements as we sleep through the alarm, fall out of bed and scrabble maniacally to check out before the stipulated mid-day. After his scathing sarcasm the night before what a field day Reception would have if we are late.

In Durham, after completing the stressful game of Hunt The Car Park, he slings the weighs-a-ton-beast- of a- camera round his neck (no wonder he moans about backache) as I ask which way? As if.

Turns out he once had a job on the outskirts and has never set foot in the city let alone seen Durham Cathedral. Pillock. Fuming at his pedantry I stomp off looking for directions. And breakfast.

Greeted by ugly branches of chain stores we head for a Café Rouge All Day Breakfast. All Day where we live but not in Durham. Never mind. Look at that intriguing place opposite. Much better! Sweet. So authentic. Built 1540. Let’s go in.

Bad Move. Local Café For Local People. Paralysed by Tubb’s basilisk stare, we timidly order breakfast. We are the only mugs there. We are also freezing to death. Durham does not do central heating.

With mushrooms? Tubbs offers.

Oooh yes please I beam, so happy at the thought of food at last, I am almost pleasant to the BF.

The front door squeaks open. An apparition with a shopping bag appears silently at the counter. It’s Edward.

You’ll have to go back out Tubbs says, the customer wants mushrooms. You just know she has done this on purpose.

Coffee flavoured water eventually arrives with bacon and eggs microwaved within an inch of life. Tubbs smirks as she relieves us of £15. Dejectedly we pick our way warily along the slimy cobbles up to the cathedral. Pick being the operative word. Pick. Pick. Pick. At least I say in a forlorn attempt to warm the frost Durham is not pretentious. Look. The natives are clearly not interested in fashion.

They are. This is their fashion he snipes.

Yes, Fifties fashion. Fashion by definition implies contemporary fashion…. I trail off having lost the will to live let alone spend the rest of the day with this sarcastic piece of work.

Turns out the camera is surplus to requirements too. DEFINITELY NO PHOTOGRAPHY screams the cathedral notice. Vergers skulk behind pillars waiting to pounce if he so much as even moves in the direction of a lens cover.

We give up on Durham, on the day and on each other as we drive home in silence.  Almost mangling my new boots – bought for this romantic weekend – in the door as I scramble out of the car I run to my front door muttering See You!

Ah romance! Ah Durham! Let joy be unconfined.

Next day, I suddenly remember that the cathedral Lawrence was banging on about was not Durham. It was Lincoln.

To buy this article for publication including photography email: kate.owen@roytrs.com

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