Last Tuesday we enjoyed a momentous family gathering. Our Antipodean cousins had crossed the world and we had travelled just a few miles east to meet up in York. (The story behind all this excitement can be found here.) They stayed in the historic Dutch House, reputed to be the oldest brick-built house in York. Their son (at present completing a doctorate at Oxford) had organised the accommodation, cleverly providing them with as much experience of the old country as possible. Every few minutes groups of tourists gazed up at their house - they checked out the bricks and we pretended we were invisible.
The Dutch House is a stone's throw (or a brick's lob) from York Minster which proved to be a perfect place for soaking up Olde English culture, whilst getting acquainted with new rellies. Our cousins were buzzing with the excitement of seeing history in three dimensions and so, as always, were we.
For good or ill, the Minster has changed and no longer has a solemn atmosphere - everywhere the ancient is juxtaposed with the positively brand new.
A clever automaton amused us all for just 50p.
"No Mr N, it isn't a UFO that's forgotten it's way home..."
It was in fact a small, glowing chamber where we could get very close to original sections of medieval stained glass, observing detail usually only seen by long-sighted contortionists.
Down in the undercroft we could see the foundations of this huge building. We shivered at the thought of tons of carved Yorkshire limestone (from Tadcaster) balanced above our insignificant human flesh - like frail gnat's bodies beneath a giant's fickle fingers. Thankfully the Minster's fabulous treasures, displayed on clever disembodied hands, diverted our thoughts...
My second favourite old/new combo on the day was this...
...a parade of delicate and disturbing headless saints, made by artist Terry Hammill in 2004, doing semaphore in their high Gothic niches. What could they be saying?
My favourite is pictured below!
The new Australian and the old English family.