Wednesday, June 5, 2013

UK2013: Bradford

I went to visit my friend Diane, who lives in West Yorkshire. I've never visited this part of the UK before, so I was looking forward to seeing something of the local area.

A train whisked me from Bury St Edmunds (after a nice lunch with friend Rob, in the Cannon Brewery) to Peterborough, then to Leeds, and finally to Hebden Bridge. Diane lives a short walk from the station there, although we took the circuitous route via a nice Thai restaurant by the canal for some dinner :-)

Diane had some places she wanted to show me, and we started the next morning with the City of Bradford, a half-hour's journey back along the train line. I had no idea what to expect from Bradford, except perhaps a good curry.

We found a shop that sold hand-made crafts from local residents. And naturally it also contained this Tardis, because what self-respecting shop doesn't have a Tardis inside?

I was admiring the architecture already and we'd only been there five minutes. This building looks like a church from a distance but from close range it becomes apparent that it was an old merchants' trading hall; the Wool Exchange.

Inside, we have a statue of a prominent local manufacturer and trader, Mr Richard Cobden.

Why is he surrounded by books? Because this is a branch of Waterstone's Bookshop, that's why. And a truly fabulous job they have made of the restoration of this building.

Look at this gorgeous roof! It lets in a ton of natural light. You can see in the previous picture that most of the electric lights are around the edges.

Here's a close up of one of the roof supports. It has beautiful wrought ironwork and a figure looking out over the hall. I'd like to know who the various shields are for; each figure holds a different one.

The outer edges of the hall are supported by stone archways. They are carved in a variety of floral and organic themes.

This one is ringed in oak leaves, while the vertical part shows grapes being eaten by a hungry Gryphon.

This is the outside of the building, with old stonework reflected in the modern glass wall that houses the cafe, from whose staircase/balcony I took the elevated shot showing the whole hall, above.

We took a walk around a bit, mainly up the hill, and I found Bradford to be a curious mix of excellent architecture, housing some very ordinary shops. Waterstone's aside, this is a pretty typical British city as far as shopping is concerned. There were a couple of interesting markets; this being Bradford there is a heavy Indian influence, some of the stalls having beautiful fabrics on sale.

Going back down the hill, we made our way towards the clock tower that had been enticing me all day. This turned out to be attached to Bradford City Hall; a building of this magnificence which I was not expecting to find. I think that somewhere in my brain, I wasn't expecting Bradford to be as big a city as it is.

I could probably have spent all day examining the walls of this place. Too bad it was closed or I'd have had to have gone inside. You can see figures standing on the upper storey of the building - two on the pillars, and two more against the windows; they are every King of England, and they ring the entire frontage and around the sides.

The two figures either side of this most splendid wrought iron entrance gate are Queen Elizabeth (left) and Queen Victoria (right).

Here's a close up of the clock tower, just for kicks.

Moving on past the building (we walked to the right, from the point of view of the previous shots) one crosses over a large shallow basin, with fountains. At the time of day we arrived, these had dry walkways remaining.

Later on, they fill it up more with water and turn it into a visual playground of water and light. Lots of people were playing about; getting their feet wet, too :-) Diane told me that this whole area - Centenary Square - had been renovated over the last few years. Behind us was a row of pubs and restaurants; there was a Wetherspoon's in which we later took refuge for a quick pint. This is all flanked by raised grassy areas that kind of enclose the space and make a counterpoint to the bricks and stone.

Just across the road from all this lies the National Media Museum which we spent several hours in. This houses an excellent collection of animation history, computer history, film and television archives and computer games. You can browse through a large folder of old TV shows and watch them in booths - shows that haven't been on broadcast TV since you were a kid. Very cool stuff.

This is an animation set up for the character 'Morph', who any British folk that used to watch Tony Hart will recognise.

Here's a tiny segment of the computer museum. The computer with the orange keys is a BBC model B (with a whole 64K of RAM), on which I spent many, many hours as a kid, and I still have that machine :-)

They had a whole timeline of machines - computers, phones, games consoles, etc - from very early days right up to modern times. It's interesting to see how the styles of technology have changed as well as the horsepower; especially in the last few years when everything has gone black and silver and tiny and shiny, instead of the large beige boxes we used to know.

And I suppose a town with a Tardis wouldn't be complete without a Dalek ;-)

We emerged after soaking in as much as we could, and visited Bradford Cathedral. It's definitely not one of the most elaborate cathedrals I've ever seen and it was closed by the time we got there, so I will have to speculate what is inside, and no more.

Here's the Cathedral from the opposite corner of the grounds. Only the outer door was open, the inner door was locked.

There were some pretty snowdrops in the gardens, however. The daffodils hadn't quite come out yet; it was too long and cold a Spring, yet.

Remember how I thought we might get a decent curry? Diane knows a good curry house! So we went there - a place called Omar's. They are known for the size of their Naan breads. The portion sizes of the rest of the food are fairly normal - and it was damn tasty food; Proper British Curry, yay! - but check out the size of the bread in this picture. This is supposed to be for one person! Diane told me that if they serve a family size bread, they have to bring another whole table to put it on....!

We ate half the bread and took the rest home. We used it the next day after finding some curry on a market stall in Hebden, but I'm getting ahead of myself there.

There were plenty of trains back to Hebden but we didn't want to be too late, since their frequency drops dramatically after a certain time of night. So we left the curry house and walked back to the train station via the City Hall again. By this time, night had fallen, and the lights had come up.

Coloured fountains play all around the lake. Here's some with a bit of the boardwalk in the foreground.

And some more - gone green, now. They rotated through various different colours at different times.

Finally we got a good look at the illuminated front of the building. Then we dashed to the train station and jumped on a train, just in the nick of time :-)

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