Friday, 27 February 2015



At Home: A Portrait, Walter Crane, 1872


Ten minutes to midnight, as the grand East Coast train ticket sale was ending, I decided on a whim to book a £10 day trip to Leeds. I'd already booked York - I did Newcastle last year - and Edinburgh's a bit far, better to fly. So zero planning and research, but I thought a couple of hours immersed in  Atkinson Grimshaw gloaming in Leeds City Art Gallery, followed by a stroll around the Victorian city centre and the market ... and that would be a Grand Day Out.

As Jane pointed out this week, it gets greyer and greyer (and colder and colder) as you go North. And it's a long way to go to discover that the art gallery is as good as closed. It did say on the website that the upper galleries were closed for refurbishment; it didn't make clear that this means the whole **@!** gallery, except for one small room of rather dull paintings (and hardly any Atkinson Grimshaws. But I did like this Walter Crane with the lovely blue tiles.)

Oh, dear ... this left rather too many hours to be filled in Leeds on a cold, rainy day. I had a cup of tea in the rather splendid Tiled Hall (stodgy wraps and dull cake - there's a more promising-looking tea-shop alongside the Town Hall, discovered too late). The Henry Moore Institute next door was filled with clanking and banging; a recording of blocks of marble being hammered and chiselled, so that means it's an Event not a bloody irritating noise from which there's no escape. (I'd left builders hammering floorboards at home. I really, really wasn't in the mood.) 
In another room, a young couple was writhing self-consciously on the floor. This may have been Art. Or else they couldn't afford a room in a Travelodge. It was very banal and very boring so I left. The Henry Moore Institute had taken me all of ten minutes. 

I spent rather longer in the splendid Central Library where I spent hours as a student many years ago without appreciating its Victorian magnificence. All I can remember is hunching over a microfiche reader, ploughing through 18th century newspapers ... head down, so many to get through before closing. 

Five more hours to fill. I went to the museum. (Not a patch on Preston.) I dropped in at the Cathedral. I followed the Civic Owl Trail, keeping eyes peeled to spot golden owls and weatherbeaten stone owls and Art Deco silvery owls. I traipsed around the market where Mr Marks established his Penny Bazaar in 1884. (Not a patch on Grainger Market in Newcastle - but I did buy a sea bass for £1.50 because it isn't a proper day out unless you're worrying about something potentially smelly in your handbag.) I traipsed through posh shopping arcades ... lovely pomegranate tiles but the same shops you get everywhere.  

Unfortunately, Leeds is sadly lacking in tearooms. (After a stand-up felafel lunch and a glass of mint tea on the market - cheap and tasty but not traditionally Yorkshire - I came across this one in the rather down-at-heel Grand Arcade. Too late again; by now, it was time to head back towards the station.) 

No, to be honest, Leeds wasn't a Grand Day Out. It was a Long Aimless Day Out ... without any art.

8 comments:

Gina said...

A pity about your day in Leeds but I love that painting. It was the tiles that caught my eye.

Katharine A said...

It wasn't a grand day out but it made for a good blog post. I like blog posts that make me laugh. Thanks for the heads-up about Leeds. I didn't travel quite as far as you when I turned up at Two Temple Place on a Tuesday, the only day it's closed.

mary said...

It was bad timing, Gina! But those tiles are fab, aren't they?

mary said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one, Katharine! I check for Monday closing, but it wouldn't occur to me on Tuesdays!

Toffeeapple said...

What a disappointment for you Mary. It was an interesting post though, thank you.

Cosy Books said...

I second Toffeeapple...the brutal honesty and descriptions of your pit stops made me laugh out loud, Mary. I wasn't all that taken with a Henry Moore exhibit at the art gallery in Toronto either and picturing you on an adventure accompanied by a sea bass...well, that's me with the giggles on and off today. Hope the fish dinner was delightful!

mary said...

Oh well, can't win them all, Darlene. I did wonder if the writhing couple carried on carrying-on after I left the room! And whether it was more/less pointless without the unimpressed audience of one!

Nicola said...

Worth going for the pomegranate tiles though, they are beautiful!