Saturday, November 25, 2006

Baubles, Anglo Saxons and Bede's

I had thought Chris was free today but it turned out that he had his final day in class. Checked out of the hotel and went back to Ouseburn to have a look at more galleries and the Seven Stories children's book centre. The galleries were closed, but while walking Bondi around the back of the Ouseburn canalway (he was off his food and looking for grass to chew on) I spotted a smallish boat, the Sea Song Sang, moored at the back of Seven Stories.

Walked Bondi a bit more in Saltwell Park in Gateshead while listening to a Radio 4 story on "number stations", radio stations presumably operated by government agencies, broadcasting numerical code sequences with computer-generated human speech. Went from the sublime to the ridiculous with a visit to the Metro Centre, a gargantuan retail park, supposedly the largest in Europe, with almost every shop I wouldn't want to visit conveniently located in a sprawling multi-level mall. Away from the eating areas, the filtered air was overly-scented as though I was shopping in a gigantic restroom.

Metro curiosity sated, I turned back towards the east, passing the Angel of the North again, looking like an upended plane, with tail buried in the hillside.

Thirteen hundred years ago, the most brilliant man in Europe was held to be the Venerable Bede, a monk residing at Jarrow. Scientist, historian and teacher, he wrote a great history of his age. Opened in 2000, Bede's World is a museum celebrating his life and works. Bede never travelled far from the monastery that took him in at age 7, but combining knowledge garnered from the monastery library, his questioning of visitors from abroad, and a keen observational sense he wrote of the entire universe as it was known to Western civilization. The scriptorium where monks painstaking copied written works could scarcely keep up with demand for his writings across the Roman Empire.

After touring the museum's galleries, I had a quick look through the model Anglo Saxon farm outside which included some gigantic pig/boar crossbred sows. I think if I curled Bondi up into a ball, he wouldn't have been much bigger than the head of one of these behemoths.
Final stop for the day was near Tynemouth at South Shields, across the river from Tynemouth Priory, where a public sculptural work sits: The Conversation Piece by Juan Muñoz. Set back from the dunes are several scattered clusters of humanoid figures - human from the waist up, globular below like frozen metallic bounce-back punching figures. I recognised these or similar figures from a gallery garden off the Mall in Washington DC that I'd admired during the summer of 2002.

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