St Chad’s Church, Bensham, Gateshead

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Canon dSLR 300D – windows taken without flash 1.60sec/f4.5/400ISO

Here are some architectural details from a church near where I live. St Chad (d 672) was a native of Northumberland and a pupil of St Aiden on Lindisfarne. In 664 he became Abbot of Lastingham in Yorkshire.

The church was built between 1900-1903 by a Newcastle architect William Searl Hicks. It is influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement in design. The windows in the Chapel of All Saints were designed by Caroline Townshend (d 1944) – I think it is unusual for William Blake to be so immortalised. Isaac Walton is to the left of the poet. If you click on the images you can see some of the detail, including Blake writing on a notepad!

The carvings are from the front porch entrance and are in good condition. The winged lion is symbolic of Mark, and the eagle of John among the evangelists. The church is presently having part of its roof re-slated and improved. Although it could never be said to be a beautiful building it is nevertheless a landmark in the area, as it is visible above the many Tyneside flats and other parts of Bensham.

Millennium Bridge, Newcastle-Gateshead


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The unique tilting Millennium Bridge was lowered into place in 2001 using a giant floating crane. When tilting it is a bit like an eyelid blinking. Two concrete piers – not visible on my photo – hide massive hydralic rams, pivots and motors. Each opening takes four minutes. 8 electric motors of 440kw drive the tilting – more power than the fastest sports car. It’s 413 feet wide built to an accuracy of a few millimetres!

It was designed by Wilkingson Eyre Architects/Gifford & Partners and built by Gateshead company, Harbour & General. It is for pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge is lit up with changing colours during darkness. The quayside now is a very popular cultural/leisure magnet with the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art on the right of the photo. The Sage concert hall/music centre is behind me as I took the photo. There are bars and restaurants on the Newcastle side (far side in the pic). There are often open air events here too, including athletic events.

I often do a short circular walk starting at the Sage, walk over the Millennium Bridge, turn towards the Tyne Bridge and walk along the Newcastle quayside (market day on Sunday!) over the Swing Bridge and back to the centre of Gateshead. There are many alternative routes and you can walk towards the coast on the north side. There is also the C2C cycle route.



The Tyne Bridge


I have recently bought a used Canon EOS dSLR 300D camera and this is one of my first photographs taken with it.

[18mm focal length, 1/125sec, f20 and ISO 200.]

I will no doubt be putting other photos on my blog in the future.

The Tyne Bridge, Newcastle is iconic to all who live in the North East. Newcastle Upon Tyne is truly the city of bridges as it has five bridges within half a mile of each other on the quayside.  The newest is the Millennium Bridge which tilts to let boats under.  The Swing Bridge was built in 1868. These two bridges are the only ones which have a mechanism to enable them to move!

The modern building in the background is the Sage Gateshead a marvelous concert hall – the venue for all kinds of music and music education. Just out of sight behind the Sage is the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. Gateshead use to live in the shadow of Newcastle but since the developments on the south side of the river it is now its equal – at least in cutural offerings!

I’ve lived in the NE for forty years and think it is a great part of Britain to live in. Apart from the city-life and cultural attractions it is near the North Sea, the Northumberland coast is an area of unspoilt natural beauty (Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands are definitely worth a visit) , the Cheviots are accessible and the Lake District is a 2hr drive away!


Saving Face


The topic for my writing group is to do some research and base a poem or piece of writing on it. Here is a short story of mine and a summary of the research at the end.
Mabel explained to the new waitress, Lucy – “Whatever you do you mustn’t stare. Just treat them as normal okay?”
Lucy nodded and resumed setting tables. She was seventeen and this was her first day at Mabel’s Restaurant.
Half an hour later a group of five servicemen entered quietly – the first customers. Mabel greeted them cheerily and showed them to a corner table where there was subdued lighting.
“I’ll come and take your orders in five minutes, but first how about drinks?” John, Albert and Tom ordered beers and Geoffrey and Harold red wine by the glass. As Mabel returned to the kitchen the men became more animated and soon were cracking jokes.
Mabel gave the drinks order to Lucy and said, “Remember no staring, just normal service!”
Lucy took the tray of drinks to the men and tried to avert her eyes by looking at the table cloth but it became difficult to keep this up when she was addressed by the men. She’d started by asking, “Now whose is the wine?”
“ That’s me.” Harold said with a lop-sided wink.
“The other one’s mine” Geoffrey added with a slight smile.
As Lucy put the glasses down she noticed Harold’s right hand was a lump of flesh with a stump for a thumb and another for his index finger. However he had no problem lifting the wine to his lips, “Cheers”, he said, “um that’s better, come on chaps lets drink to the future!” After the toast Geoffrey signalled to Lucy who had been about to return to the kitchen.
“What’s your name? You’re new here aren’t you? Lucy gave her name and tried not to look too directly at Geoffrey’s face which seemed to have a piece of loose flesh dangling where his nose should have been. Geoffrey was smiling and said, ”Oh, I’m new here as well so it’s nice to have you on board.”
Back in the hospital Geoffrey was lying on his bed; he was the new boy – it had only been seven weeks since he’d been shot down – over English land fortunately. Instead of re-living the horror of burning inside his cockpit he decided to re-run his hospital experience. While his face had been badly burned in the first few seconds of his Spitfire being hit, further damage was done with the tannic acid treatment he’d received. Dr McIndoe had explained it was the best they could do and Geoffrey was grateful that the surgeon had saved his eyesight. The tannic acid had eaten away his eyebrows but left his eyes intact which was a great relief. He had a special reason for wanting his eyesight saved. McIndoe was exceptional – all the men loved him – he was more than a surgeon; he was friend, counsellor and technician. He’d reconstructed Geoffrey’s face during two separate ops. Geoffrey now proudly sported a plastic nostril. He’d even had his fellow patients in fits of laughter one day when it fell out and rolled out of sight under the bar. He’d also had a pedicle of skin grafted onto his nose bone – this admittedly looked a little unsightly – some of the others called it a sausage as it was pink and soft like the skin of a sausage. Geoffrey didn’t mind – he was just grateful that everything was in good working order and that he could see. He felt a surge of impatience now as he thought about the future. If his eyesight had gone he would have been invalided out of the RAF – never again to fly a Spitfire or even a Whitley –those dodgy machines they called the Flying Coffins because sometimes one of the engines would suddenly cut out.
That was what kept his morale up, that’s what kept him going – he wanted a second chance to get in a cockpit and fly with his gunners.
Flying was very much on his mind as last week they had listened in silence to the PM’s Battle of Britain speech on the radio. Geoffrey wanted to be counted amongst ‘ the few’ – those determined men and women who would attempt the seemingly impossible: the defeat of the German war machine. He rolled over on his bed and reached for the photo of his sister Julie; the last he had heard she was somewhere in Normandy working for the Ambulance Service. As he put the photo down he suddenly had a vision of the hundreds of thousands of casualties of this war. His dream was that the Battle of Britain would save the lives of millions. He only had weeks in which to recover from his injuries and then be discharged fit for action.



My first port of call was a very moving account of the airmen who had been disfigured by fire and had their faces reconstructed by the surgeon Archibald McIndoe. The book is called McIndoe’s Army by Peter Williams and Ted Harrison. The details of the disfigurements came from this book; the characters based on those described in the book with names changed. Surgeon McIndoe seems to have been one of those remarkable people who do an enormous amount of good and leave the world a better place as a result of their lives. Here is one patient’s quote:

He was a god. Really. A remarkable man. Nothing was too much trouble for him when he was caring for the needs of the aircrew he was looking after.

The Guinea Pig Club was a formal club set up with Mr A. H. McIndoe as its first President. The guinea pigs were of course those airmen who had been operated on by McIndoe. They met regularly for social events after the war.

I had to check online to find the date of Churchill’s speech and so set the story in June 1940. Whether Geoffrey would get his wish and fly in the Battle of Britain is up to you the reader! No doubt further research would reveal whether this was possible with some airmen who had been ‘under the knife’.