It’s been a day of errands today – collect a parcel from the sorting office, droop something of at one shop, another bag to the charity shop and a watch battery in another shop.
Then it was an evening of TV and a night of cookery. It was meant to be the other way round but I got side-tracked at the jewellers (three cups of teas in the office) then the quizzes came on TV.
Tonight I have cooked ratatouille, turned half of it into pasta bake for tomorrow, and am just waiting for the timer to sound.
At that time it will be time to serve a rather late tea and watch the final of The Great Pottery Throwdown. If you ever watch it, read this post to tell you about the tearoom. One of the other posts has some photos of the canal side. I’d like to think I could have been a potter, if only it wasn’t for my lack of application, time and talent.
Ah well, dreams…
The timer just went off. Time to eat.
The featured image shows a clear Spring sky and a fine array of solar panels on the roof of a house. I am slightly ashamed of myself for not having solar panels, but I’m simply not going to live in this house long enough for them to pay their way.
I dropped Julia off at work this morning. The gates into the school car park were open today, as it’s school holidays, so we were able to drive right up to the garden gates and unload plants. Yes, unload plants. We’re at it again, making up gardens from scrounged plants.
After that I took a turn through the countryside between Nottingham and Loughborough. It’s scenic, though unexciting countryside, with some pleasant villages. The weather was a bit dull for photography and I wasn’t on top of my game so there are no photographs today. If there were, they would be pictures of gently rolling countryside with lots of greenery.
The trouble was that I started off mentally listing the things I need to do to set my life right, I’ve been letting things drift over the last few years and need to get organised.
Unfortunately this line of thought has a habit of sliding into thoughts of things that went wrong, things I should have done better and bad decisions I have made. It’s often sparked off by looking at a biggish house and thinking “I could have had one like that if I’d worked harder and planned better.”
However, I enjoyed my life as an unprofitable antique dealer and gardener. I also enjoyed the unprofitable time I spent with the kids. And I have two neighbours who ply me with cake.
All in all, it could be worse.
Eventually, I decided I was lost. Strictly speaking I couldn’t have been lost because I wasn’t going anywhere. That’s often been the subject of some discussion between me and Julia when I’ve been happily exploring country lanes over the years. Just because I don’t know where I am doesn’t mean I’m lost. And if I’ve got nowhere particular to go I can’t be going the wrong way.
After that I succumbed to the lure of the Oxfam bookshop in West Bridgford. It’s been refitted since last time I was here and is much better lit and laid out. This isn’t necessarily a good thing as I liked the poky old shop. In fact part of the experience of buying second-hand books ought to be in the dim, cramped, slightly musty conditions.
By lunchtime it had been a moderate day. We had bought a few pots and photographed a bottle kiln, but the choice was poor and the cafes at two of the shops had closed down.
The success of the day trip was in the balance. Would we have to write it off as a wasted day, or could I, with the help of the trusty tourist map, pull something out of the bag?
Not far away was a group of potteries/shops that we hadn’t visited before, so now was obviously the time to change our habits. After all, we couldn’t make things worse and with satnav, what could possibly go wrong? (Note how I have swung from scepticism to over-confidence in just a few months).
The clue, I feel, is in my use of the word “over-confidence”.
Do you realise that there are still parts of the UK that aren’t accurately served by satnav. I do, because for several years navigating the new course of the A46 near the farm was as tricky as getting out of the Bermuda triangle.
If you ever enter ST6 3PF into your satnav leave your diary free for a few days and take sandwiches. The route was populated by phantom roundabouts and one-way streets that had not been there when the satnav was programmed. I say that charitably, as the signs on the one way streets looked as if they had been there since before satnav was invented. Maybe it’s a hard life being a street sign in Stoke.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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Finally, after photographing some bottle kilns, we found the William Edwards factory shop. This is a small shop on the edge of the factory. It specialises in high quality goods, and is a touch cramped for a fat man. We bought a few mugs for presents and spoke to the excellent lady who ran the shop, who told us that Middleton Pottery was just along the street, and that they had a tea room. See Pies and Prejudice for a fuller account of what happened there. Food was good, there are plenty of activities on site and I’d quite like to work there. However, the shop was even more cramped and pottery was unexciting.
Canal at Middleton Pottery
Weighbridge at Middleton Pottery
Fireplace in William Edwards’s Factory Shop
We’ve been to the Gladstone Pottery Museum with the kids before. It was good, with exhibitions on toilets, a model sewer and drawers full of encaustic tiles. I’m not a great one for fine china (as if that’s a surprise to anyone who reads this blog) and if there are two things I love it’s historical toilets and encaustic tiles. I’m not sure if they are still there, and the website doesn’t seem to say, so check before visiting if that’s where your interests lie. The Middleton Pottery offers a factory tour and Victorian office but also has a few wildlife and sustainability tips. It also has a derelict factory at the end of the street.
Square calcining kiln
Derelict factory in Stoke
Urban decay in Stoke
Finally, thinking we could miss the traffic on the way home, we set off, found another deficiency in the satnav and found ourselves passing the Dudson shop. I nearly carried on, but Julia thought she’d like to look round a shop full of odds and ends of hotel ware. So, U-turn and waste time as traffic builds up…
I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s actually got loads of great (brightly coloured) stuff and it’s cheap. It also had plenty of room for fat people and a cheery woman on the till. I bought more there than we bought anywhere else (as you will see when I start photographing food seriously). No tea room, but they do have a museum on another site. They are also in sight of the Moorcroft shop (I managed to keep her out of that one!) and just round the corner from the Moorcroft museum.
The Moorcroft Museum used to be free, and I see from the website that it still is, which I find an admirable quality in a museum. We will be going back to Dudson, and will doubtless fit a Moorcroft visit in, despite the fact I needed oxygen and a bank loan last time we went to the shop.
All that and we still managed to sneak home before the traffic built up too badly.
We’ve been meaning to go to Stoke on Trent for a while, as time is getting short for the 2016 visit.
We need more plates for our everyday service (the kids, on the few occasions they have washed up over the years have done so with heavy hands) and we often manage to find a few Christmas presents while we’re over there.
Additionally, I’ve been looking for some decent single plates for food photography on Pies and Prejudice and I haven’t had a Staffordshire oatcake for a while (about 20 years now I actually think about it). Now I have a food blog, today seemed like a good day to break the oatcake drought.
Staffordshire oat cake
I also thought I might get some pictures of urban landscapes, as Stoke still has a great stock of old industrial sites.
For once, everything seemed to (almost) go according to plan.
Aynsley provided slim pickings, though we did replenish our everyday service. Portmeirion was also a bit flat, though we did get a few pictures of a bottle kiln.
That’s a bottle-shaped kiln, not one for making bottles, there are 47 still standing, and they are all listed buildings now, though they aren’t all actually bottle-shaped.
3 bottle kilns
Julia and bottle kilns at Portmeirion shop
THe squre one is a calcining kiln
Our third call was also disappointing (so many places seem to be in decline or making their pots in China) so we looked at the map we’d picked up from Aynsley and typed a postcode into the satnav.
That was how we ended up at Middleport Pottery, and that’s a story for part 2.
I ended up in Beeston this morning after I took the wrong road (the Nottingham one, not the Cheshire one – once I see Beeston castle I really have gone wrong!). As a result I was able to eat breakfast (see Pies and Prejudice for more details), drive past a former silk mill (burnt down in the riots of 1831) and have a look at the new tram system.
We were actually on our way to Chilwell (a name you may recognise if you are into the history of shell-filling factories in the Great War) to do some shoe shopping. I need big shoes, have no sense of style and dislike spending money, so it’s off to Sports Direct for a selection of their discounted size 12 Karrimoor shoes.
Having secured my shoes I was then struck by an idea.
It wasn’t the best of ideas, but a while later we found ourselves in the car park at Denby Pottery. It was a visit of mixed fortunes.
They are changing things round so we weren’t able to look round the museum, which is being relocated, and they didn’t seem to have a very good selection of animal models. This was a shame as I like to look round the museum and I was hoping Julia might express a liking for one of the animals as I’m desperately looking for presents for our wedding anniversary and her birthday. Check the 1930s section of this page to see what I mean.
On the other hand they do have a new farm shop run by prize-winning pie makers Walter Smith. They also have meat, black pudding and a fine selection of oils and stuff.
As a result I now have a pie to test and a bottle of Cranberry Balsamic vinegar that is so good I’d be happy to drink it neat.
No pictures today – I originally set off to buy shoes, not photograph them. I really must remember in future.