We've been filming in Durham all day today and I've found myself increasingly beguiled by the city. We found out last night that considerably fewer than fifty thousand people live in the city, which seems a ridiculously low number. I'm told a further eighteen thousand students live there during term time, which must give it one of the highest student to townie ratios of any place baring St Andrews in Scotland. Our landlady was moaning this morning over breakfast about how busy Durham gets when the students are in town.
We were filming at the university, some of which is situated in the city's medieval castle, up on the hill next to the cathedral. Imagine going to university in a castle? That's surely every Harry Potter fan's dream?
I did a lot of walking up and down hills whilst being filmed today. You can't spend any time in Durham without going up, and then subsequently down a hill. We found a tiny little walkway through an archway in a house leading to a steep set of stairs which cut into the hillside. It was all a little bit "Mrs Tiggywinkle." It turns out that the secret(ish) passage was originally used by pilgrims heading to the cathedral. It had an incredibly eerie atmosphere.
The guesthouse we stayed in turned out to have a pancake cafe attached to it, which made for a somewhat intriguing breakfast. The woman who served us was definitely keener on pushing the pancake side of the menu. "Any pancakes for you?" she asked. "I'll just have poached eggs and mushrooms" I said. "In a pancake?" "Um, no, I think I'm alright..." "How about a nice pancake?" It turns out the cafe was in an old barber shop, which added another layer of surreality to the proceedings.
The day of filming ended on one of the bridges over the river; an utterly tranquil spot where the only sounds you can hear are those of people (the odd intrepid tourist and some of Durham's finest yoots flapping about on the river bank) flowing river water and the wind rustling through a thousand trees. I can't think of another city in the world where this would be possible.
We came home by train and saw Denise, the agony aunt from This Morning, sitting at the train station. She took the same train as us down to London, which I assume means she's on the show tomorrow. It strikes me that Durham is exactly the sort of place where someone like Denise ought to be living. She's always struck me as an incredibly kind and dignified lady. The view of the city from the train station remains one of the greatest in the world. If you ever head up to Edinburgh by train, and haven't yet seen it, make sure you sit on the right hand side of the train (facing the direction of travel.
That side will also give you views of the epic bridges over the Tyne in Newcastle and the equally impressive bridges of Berwick Upon Tweed, as well as offering glimpses of the bruised North Sea and glorious windswept white sandy beaches all the way along the Northumbrian coast and up into Southern Scotland.
I'm now pulling into Highgate station, rather thrilled to be home, but somewhat less keen to consider that I'm up again at 7am for a shit o'clock meeting with Uncle Archie.