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Easton 1b

Yesterday Man and I went on a gargoyle hunt. More specifically, we went on a hunt for rude gargoyles.

I like gargoyles and in fact most types of stone carvings. Gargoyles are decorative water dispensers, used to channel excess rainwater off the roof of the church. Grotesques are carvings, they don’t serve any sort of practical purpose and often decorate roof lintels inside or out. Friezes are many grotesques purely for decorative purposes. Corbels are stones that help support the roof – again either internal or external – that can be decorated and many of these decorations are a corbel table. I went in search of a very specific type of grotesque and gargoyle yesterday and found both.

Ever since I first read about the Mooning Men on the Great English Churches website, I have wanted to see some. Now I think I have a pretty good collection of photos but, as always, there are plenty more to collect. The churches I visited are not Churches Conservation Trust churches, these are all in use, and they don’t feature in Simon Jenkins’ 1,000 Churches (but they really should).

We started our little journey at St John’s in Colsterworth in Lincolnshire where we came across a couple of lovely examples of what I was looking for.

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Here we go. He is definitely displaying his bum to the outside world.

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Here he is from another angle. And, if you look closely, he has his head between his legs (wait till you see what some of the others have stored there!!) … and you can see where the rainwater would have spouted from.

 

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This one’s a grotesque (no water spouting from the orifice here) and there is distinct genitalia there. How rude :) This is on the door arch, visible to all the pious parishioners on their way to prayer.

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And what on earth is this one doing! Most unsavoury for a place of worship.

Honestly, I think these are absolutely hilarious – and this was just church number one. I love the way it illustrates how sensibilities have changed over the years. Can you imagine someone building a church now and announcing they were going to decorate it with a man with his bum out and testicles and a (in some cases) penis on display. People would recoil in abject horror.

From Colsterworth we moved on to Ryhall jjst down the road but in the county of Rutland and another St John’s.

Ryhall has a really impressive frieze but that is going to have to wait for another post because this one is just about bums.

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And here we have the bottom scratcher. Quite brazen in his pose, he is looking directly out from the wall and quite clearly scratching his testicles! Also, despite the fact that he is clearly not used to get rid of water, the mason has put a strategically placed hole in his bum. What on earth is he trying to say with this?

Ryhall 1b

This one also has his bottom out, although it isn’t quite so brazen.

Now from Ryhall, we made our way to Easton on the Hill, which took use just over the border into Northamptonshire I believe, where we found the crudest  example yet.

This is All Saints Church in one of the prettiest little villages I’ve ever seen. And, as you approach the south porch of the church, above your head on the tower is this.

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Now there is a local legend that says he is pointing his bum in the direction of Peterborough Cathedral in protest at the stonemason not being paid. But other reports say there is no substance in that and suggest that, like other gargoyles, these Mooning Men were simply warding away sin and evil from the sanctity of the church.

He is certainly a good example though … and worth a look from a slightly different angle.

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Maybe the stonemasons just had a sense of humour? Or maybe, these weren’t thought funny at all but were designed to say ‘ya boo sucks’ to the devil.

From Easton to Oakham, county town of England’s smallest county, Rutland.

It has quite a majestic church – another All Saints.

But adorning the walls of this building, there are another couple of characters who aren’t being very saintly at all.

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Yep, another mooning man with his head stuck between his legs and his testicles on show.

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And another, only this one’s a little deformed … his genitalia is roughly the same size as his head!

Now there was me thinking that English church parishioners in the Middle Ages were a distinctly pious lot. Obviously I was wrong, or the notion of pious has changed slightly over the years, or there is some sort of sacred symbolism here that I’m just not aware of.

Whatever the answer, I had a pretty successful day yesterday as far as I am concerned. I certainly found what I set out to find.

Now the other thing I found, that I really wasn’t expecting and was a huge added bonus, is that every single one of these churches was open yesterday. So I also got to go inside and find out a bit more about them. And, in doing that, I learned about Isaac Newton, Anglo Saxon headstones and a woman called Tampon. So I think each church merits a little, slightly less tongue in cheek, post of its own at some point.

In the meantime, the guy responsible for the website mentioned at the top of this post, Lionel Wall, has written what I think is a very interesting document about the Mooning Men and a group that he calls the Demon Carvers of the East Midlands which, if you feel like it, you can read here.

Incidentally, apparently there are female versions of the Mooning Men … you know I am going to have to find some :)

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This is me. Well actually it’s a painting by Amy Bessone called Faust that was part of the exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery when I visited last Sunday. But by the time I came out of the gallery, this is what I felt I was like.

I started off looking at the exhibits (some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t) but then became more interested in the way other visitors were looking at the exhibits and interacting with them.

Before I knew it I was stalking people around the gallery taking pictures of them looking at the exhibit so I felt a bit devious and, if I’m being honest, a bit like a stalker. But it was still fun.

The Saatchi Gallery is one of those marvelous places that doesn’t care one iota if you take photographs inside. Unlike Westminster Abbey, which charges you £18 to get in and then won’t let you take pictures. I went in February and am still smarting from the injustice.

Anyway, I had a lovely afternoon mooching about the Saatchi Gallery stalking my prey and looking at the exhibits as well.

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Man has a theory that says things don’t exist properly until he’s seen them, which seems to us like a damn good excuse to go on lots of road trips to see as much as we possibly can.

So, adding now to the list of things that exist are two of the most enormous statues that say ‘Welcome to the North of England’.

497bThis is The Angel of the North.

Just outside Gateshead, this huge masterpiece by Antony Gormley stands the height of four double decker buses and has a wingspan the same size as a jumbo jet. That’s Man examining its ankle.

490bAnd that’s Man too, pretending to be angelic :)

It stands 20 metres high and is made of 200 tonnes of steel. It stands on a mound near the A1 where it can be seen by around 90,000 drivers each day and is also visible from the main train route to Scotland.

The area was a former coal mine, reclaimed as green space in the 1990s after the pits closed and the Angel of the North has been watching over the area since 1998.

I really like it.

227bThe second huge sculpture we came across also has a mining history but this has been recently created using the soil taken from a neighbouring new open cast mine.

This is Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North.

If you’re not quite sure what you are looking at, to the left of the feature is her head – you can see her forehead, nose, lips and chin. The path goes across her neck and to the right of that you have her chest. In the far right of the picture, that’s one hand sitting in the water.

It’s probably easier to see from above.

229bThis is the artists’ impression on the information board.

She is 34 metres high, 400 metres long and is made from 1.5 million tonnes of soil. Began in 2010, she was officially opened by the Princess Royal last August and lies in 47 acres of public park. The orange lines you can see in the photo above show the footpaths that wind their way all over her.

She was designed by the American landscape artist Charles Jencks, can be found near Cramlington in Northumberland and has been nicknamed Slag Alice – slag being the term for the waste material produced from a mine.

It is claimed that this is the world’s largest landmass sculpture of the female form. It really is quite something.

And she will be left to mature naturally, changing with the seasons and over time.

230bBut because I’m not remotely mature and that isn’t likely to change over time, I made Man pick her nose … just for fun :)

383bForgive me, for we have sinned. We broke into a church.

Well, we didn’t quite break in, the door was in fact open. The church, however, wasn’t – though, in our defence, we didn’t realise it wasn’t open until later in the day when we saw it with the Church Open sign outside that had been missing when we ‘broke in’.

Am I making any sense at all?

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

All Saints Church at Kedleston in Derbyshire (yes, I know I’ve been to Northumberland but we stopped at Man’s en route home) is next to the National Trust property Kedleston Hall … and we joined the National Trust while we were away on holiday.

It is also one of the Churches Conservation Trust churches that I am aiming to visit as part of my Fifty before Fifty Challenge.

We arrived at Kedleston at around 10am and the house doesn’t open to the public until noon, so we headed straight for the church.

We were following two other couples who walked around the church and then walked off again while I was examining a lovely arch around the south door and looking at a late 17th/early 18th century pun (more on that later). I thought these couples just weren’t that interested in going inside and so I tried the south door, which was open, and went in.

It was dark in there but Man found a box with light switches, so we put them on so we could see. We did turn them off when we left. It wasn’t until we walked past the church later and saw the door standing open, the lights on and a board declaring the church to be open standing outside that we realised it had actually been closed when we went in.

And, while I am at it with the confessions (good for the soul apparently) I have another transgression to admit.

In the chancel of All Saints church are two lids set into the floor. They are wooden and about the size of a dustbin lid and they have rope handles on them. They also have notices on them saying ‘Do not lift the lid, see photograph’. But they have handles on them. I looked at the photographs and they were interesting but did I mention the lids have handles on them?

Yes Ok I lifted the lids, I admit it.

407b 406bAnd this is what we found underneath. Unusual aren’t they?

The two heads are set in quatrofoils sunk into roundels in the floor. Excavations have revealed that they are the only carved part of the slab they are set in: there is no body, arms or legs. They are believed to be late 13th century. The inscription claims them as Richard De Curzon, fifth Lord of Kedleston, and his wife.

All Saints is positively awash with memorials but of all of them, I think I like these best purely because they are something I hadn’t seen before. However, if the lids had not had handles on them and labels saying ‘please don’t lift the lid’, I probably wouldn’t have been tempted to lift them. It all come back to those handles … just too tempting :)

All Saints once served a medieval village of the same name and the Curzon family seat, which has been in the family since the end of the 12th century.

The village has long gone, demolished to make way for the finery that is Kedleston Hall, but the church was allowed to remain, immediately next to the new hall.

No church was mentioned in the Doomsday Book and the first reference to it can be found late in the 12th century.

Like many churches, it has been rebuilt many times over many centuries but the oldest part of the building is this gorgeous south door.

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It has a decorated arch featuring carved beak heads and above the door there are the remains of a carved scene, that appears to be a hunting scene. It’s called a tympanum and there other examples in Derbyshire.

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There’s another great door too – the priest’s door, also in the south wall.

382bThe nail heads show the date to be 1613 and the initials apparently stand for a John Curzon (there were many) and his wife Milicent.

Also on the outside is that 17th/18th century pun I alluded too earlier.

Do you see it?

385bIt’s like that silly Catchphrase programme that used to be on television; you say what you see.

The words Wee shall and a sun dial … wee shall sun dial … we shall soon die. And just to reiterate the point …

384b… just in case there is any confusion.

Heading inside the church where, hopefully, the door will already be open and the lights on for you, you are faced with dozens of memorials to the Curzon family and their loved ones.

The first that you see as you walk through the south door is in the Curzon Chapel started in 1907 and made of white Serravezzi marble. This is Lord Curzon, Marquess Curzon of Kedleston and Viceroy of India, who died in 1905, and his wife Mary.

388bIt’s huge, impressive and kept behind locked metal railings. No touchy feely thank you.

412bAs you work your way down the nave towards the chancel, the church looks bigger than it seems on the outside, a positive tardis.

In the north and south transept, either side of the crossing, lie more memorials.

Here lie more Curzons.

402bSir John (d 1485) and his wife Joan.

396bAnother Sir John and his wife Patience with their three daughters and four sons. This one is from around 1654, you can tell the changing fashions :)

404bThis is Sir Nathaniel and his wife Mary. Their two sons and another child who died as a baby are shown. Sir Nathaniel died in 1785. On the opposite wall of the north transept is a memorial to another Sir Nathanial, this one with wife Sarah. He died in 1718.

The whole place is positively littered with memorials, it really is quite spectacular.

395bThis is another of my favourites, believed to be Sir Thomas, circa 1245. How incredible to have your ancestors of centuries past immortalised in this lovely place.

408bAnd another of my favourites, Sir John (d. 1406). There are traces of paint on him. I’m not sure I would like him so much if he was painted in garish colours, and the poor man is missing an arm.

409bLooking from the chancel down the nave, I like this view. There is quite an unusual font at the end. It’s 18th century apparently and quite elaborate.

386It has feet too that are also detailed.

414bI’ve not seen one like this before.

I am finding I am looking at the fabric of the churches in much more detail now and the more I learn, the more I want to learn.

Two things, however, that perhaps I ought to learn though are that I probably shouldn’t just let myself into places when they are closed and maybe I shouldn’t go lifting lids that say ‘please do not lift’ … even if there are handles specifically for that purpose :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So having got to West Sussex with a camera that didn’t work, I decided I might as well continue on my planned route and visit the other two Churches Conservation Trust churches that I had set out to see for the Fifty Before Fifty challenge: St Mary Magdalene at Tortington and the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Warminghurst.

Like the church with no name at North Stoke, a church at Warminghurst is in the Doomsday Book but the church of the Holy Sepulchre was rebuilt totally in about 1220.

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Here it is, iPhone photos I’m afraid owing to broken camera.

Now this church featured one of my favourite churchy things …

IMG_8205… a three deck pulpit. I love these. You get a real feeling of the power of the clergy when you are standing in one of these looking down on where your congregation would be sitting (yes I did try it out for size). It also had box pews which, as I’ve said before, I just don’t get. But the pulpit was lovely.

IMG_8201Now in this church the box pews were rented out to the congregation according to their social status. The pews without the doors towards the back of the church were the free seats for the poor members of the community.

The Butler family owned the Warminghurst estate throughout the 1700s. In 1707 James Butler had the church remodeled. One of the additions was this painting on plaster..

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It is the Royal Coat of Arms of Queen Anne and, repainted in 1845, it is still in remarkable condition.

There are other famous people connected with the church too. William Penn, Quaker after whom Pennsylvania takes its name, lived at Warminghurst and worshipped here and Henry Shelley, ancestor of Percy Bysshe Shelley, built the burial chapel now used as a vestry.

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And there is a memorial to George Freeman, founder of the Times Educational Supplement.

IMG_8215You can also still see the base of a 13th century double piscina. There are memorials on the wall above it and the piscina was probably filled in when those were erected.

But the most interesting feature (at least as far as I was concerned) was the brass dedicated to Edward Shelley (another Percy relative?)

IMG_8212Here he is alongside his seven sons. On the other side of the brass is his wife with their three daughters. You can see that son number seven has lost his head. This is deliberate and it is because in reality son number seven really did lose his head. Edward Shelley junior brought disgrace on the family when in 1588 he was executed for harboring a Catholic priest and so his head was removed from the brass memorial as well. Now I think that’s a little harsh (but a nice quirky little story).

IMG_8198Now this pretty little place is the Church of St Mary Magdelene at Tortington. Not in the Doomsday Book, it is thought to have been built about 1140 and this is another church faced in the local flint.

But just look at that archway. It’s glorious.

IMG_8183It’s Norman, estimated at 11th or 12th century and, according to experts on this church, because of the changes over the years this archway must have been taken apart and rebuilt three times in its history. It’s in beautiful condition though, and I love the door.

IMG_8190Inside the church is another great archway carved in Caen stone. It’s got those funny beaked creatures on it like the church we found in Tutbury in Staffordshire. I love these things but now I really need to buy a book on church architecture so I can find out what they mean.

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This church is also famous for its stained glass. This is a depiction of St Richard, Bishop of Chichester and it is late 19th century and created by Charles Kempe, famed in stained glass circles. The bottom left had corner of the window features his trademark wheatsheaf.

One of the other things I really liked about this church was this.

IMG_8187A list of the Vicars of Tortington. Now, quite apart from the names, which I love (Wylli, Ballinghall Beath, Duncomb et al)  dear old Robert Bartlett appears to have lived for a very long time :)

I’ve been a bit lax with my blogging recently, there has been a lot going on … busy, busy, busy at work and we are being evicted again! (nice landlord got made redundant and had to sell our house, which I was hoping would take him a long time but sadly didn’t).

However nice letting agent appears to have found us something even better in the same village and at the same price – we are going to meet the landlord and landlady this morning so keep your fingers crossed.

But there is another reason too … I have been sulking, my camera is sick and I’m hoping it’s not terminal.

One weekend a little while ago, on a weekend I wasn’t seeing Man, I decided to trundle out and tick off some more churches for my Fifty Before Fifty challenge.

I thought I’d head south and east a bit to West Sussex. I planned out my route, it wasn’t a particularly nice day weather wise but what does that matter? And I was even organised enough to pack my tripod.

I drove for about an hour and a half, arrived at the lovely hamlet of North Stoke (flint cottage, farmhouse, church) and grabbed the camera. No click, the battery was dead.

I swapped the battery for the spare. No click, that battery was dead too. I was very cross with myself.

But I was in West Sussex, it had taken me a while to get there and I didn’t want to waste the day, so I resorted to taking photos with my iPhone. Not ideal, but not completely disastrous.

Later, when I got home, I tried to charge the  batteries. Both were fully charged. I replaced the back up battery, still nothing. Then I remembered the last time I had used the camera it had been in persistent drizzle and, while my old Nikon was completely robust about a bit of damp, the Canon clearly is not.

I researched on the internet, took out both batteries, removed the lens and the sd card, covered it in a cloth and left it by a radiator … for weeks it sat by the radiator with me testing it occasionally. We have now got to the stage where I can fire it up, reset the date and take one or two pictures before it dies on me again. And that’s after about six weeks of drying out.

So last week I finally conceded and took it to hospital. It’s been sent off for repairs and I am still waiting for the quote (which indicates to me that it could be quite pricey :( ). But I need my camera back. I am not complete without it.

So, back to the church, sadly with photos that aren’t going to do it justice.

The dedication for the North Stoke Church have been lost in the mists of time, so it’s just known as North Stoke Church. Both it, and the village, are mentioned in the Doomsday Book and it is one of a few churches in very close proximity to each other on the curve of the river Arun.

The name Stoke (Stoch in the Doomsday Book) comes from the word stoc, which just means place, or sometimes a religious place.

This cruciform church is looks pretty much the same as it did in the 14th century and there is a lesson in the development of 13th century stained glass windows inside its walls.

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The walls are covered in flints and stones from the surrounding land. There is a blocked priests’ doorway in the chancel wall that dates from around 1240. People were short in those days.

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The inside is bright and clean, walls covered in a cream limewash. But there are traces of wall paintings still be be seen. I would have loved to have seen these churches in all their original glory.

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There is a piscina and also a set of three graduated sedilia, going down the steps. Apparently these were used for the Celebrant, Deacon and Sub Deacon to sit in during medieval High Mass. Again I make the point, these were very small people. Why have humans got taller over the years, I really must find out.

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There is another recess in the south transept. It sits underneath arches and has a carved sheep’s head above it, this was – and is – farming country after all. Experts believe this could have been where the Lord of the Manor sat, who knows.

IMG_8169The glass in this window has been dated at between 1290 and 1310, although not all of it is believed to be in its original position. It is thought to depict part of a scene of Our Lady’s Coronation and some think the guy on the right is King David from another scene. Whatever it depicts its and 800 year old work of stained glass art in situ in a tiny parish church.

IMG_8163This font has been used to baptise the children of North Stoke for more than 750 years. I wonder what the community was like 750 years ago. I wonder who the villagers this church was built to serve were and what their community was like.

According to the Churches Conservation Trust information booklet about North Stoke Church there were just 51 people living in the village in 1961 and there are fewer now. The church was declared redundant in 1992. Not a big enough population to warrant a church.

Now, the population has grown by an enormous percentage and yet these little places are now deserted. I suppose its a combination of more people moving from the countryside to the town, less people going to church and people being able to travel more quickly and easily from place to place.

But I really would love to know more about what these little communities were like.

 

040bWe went to Derby yesterday, what a lovely city.

Unlike me (who is a huge fan), Man is not overly enamored with lists.

However, spurred into action by my Fifty before Fifty challenge, he has drawn himself up a (short) list of things he’d like to do and one of those is to visit every county town in England. We have done Leicester, Nottingham, York, Lincoln, Winchester but not Derby. And, as it is only just down the road, off we trundled (and there is one of my Churches Conservation Trust churches there … more on that another day).

Now car parks might not be the most interesting of blog topics but the car park we found in Derby was so incredibly amazing I am going to have to tell you about it.

Not only did it have a coffee lounge and toilets (that were also clean), it was centrally located, had flashing lights above vacant parking bays so you could find them easily and was properly secure.

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You were issued with a smart card on entry. Each parking bay had a bulb-like sensor on the ground that you parked over and the bays were numbered. Before you left the car park you put your smart card into a machine and typed in the bay number and that secured your car. There were gates on the car park. The only way to open the gates to get the vehicle out was to swipe your card to release your car, pay the parking fee and insert your card in the machine by the exit to open the gates.

And the smart card had to be swiped before you were allowed pedestrian access too.

Miraculous.

On top of that, the car park cost us £3.80 for the entire afternoon.

Miraculous, secure and bargainous to boot.

Derby has a very nice cathedral too (more on that another day as well) but the little street next to the Cathedral is called Amen Alley.

How funny is that?

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We had a quick look in the museum.

It is really well done.

There is a large collection of paintings by the Derby painter Joseph Wright and a a 3,400 year old longboat, which was incredible.

It was found in a gravel quarry in 1998 and is one of the oldest boats ever discovered.

Actually, there was another longboat in the quarry but that was carefully reburied and electronic monitors now check on its condition. If ever it is found to be deteriorating, it will be excavated and conserved.

Another big plus for me is that the museum and art gallery were free to enter.

Now yesterday was damn cold but Man and I did have a wander around the Cathedral district of the city and beyond.

044bThere was lots of interesting architecture, the Market Hall was great, there were quirky shops and lots of cafes and restaurants. I could have explored a lot more but it was freezing.

We came across the first reference to Darwin’s granddad Dr Erasmus Darwin in the museum, where there was a bust of him. And then in the town centre there is a Speaker’s Corner and there is a plaque with a quote from him.

Turns out he was quite a man. He was a physician (George III asked him to be Royal Physician and he said no), a poet, a philosopher, a botanist and an inventor of things as varied as a steering mechanism for carriages that was so advanced it was used in the first cars more than a century later, a canal lift for barges, a copying machine and an artesian well.

He advocated women’s education, married twice and had several affairs that produced at least 14 legitimate and illegitimate children and was a friend of Benjamin Franklin, James Watt, Josiah Wedgewood (Charles Darwin’s other grandfather) and Joseph Priestly.

049bBut he isn’t Derby’s only famous son/daughter.

This building has statues of the hosier and cotton spinner Jedediah Strutt, silk spinner John Lombe,  historian William Hutton and the Lady with the Lamp Florence Nightingale.

I thought I saw a statue of a lion, like the ones outside the Council House in Nottingham.

045bTurns out it was a ram. Well that makes more sense, since an old folk song called The Derby Ram, organisations in the city have adopted it as their mascot, including the football team.

048bI also ran across this guy who persuaded (conned) me into paying £3 for the Gag Mag that helps unemployed people and is put together by student rag week.

He gave me the adult humour edition :)

Now, if you don’t like these, it’s his fault ok? A couple of examples of clean jokes.

Inkeeper: The room is £15 a night, £5 if you make your own bed.

Guest: I’ll make my own bed.

Inkeeper: Great, I’ll get the hammer and nails.

 

Diner: This coffee tastes like mud.

Cafe owner: Well it is fresh ground sir.

Oh, come on … I’m just getting you ready for the Christmas cracker jokes :)

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By the time we left Derby it was dark and all the trees were lit up with little fairy lights.

We will definitely be returning as we only saw a little of it – but the little we did see was lovely. A bit of history, a bit of culture, some friendly people, nice cafes and restaurants and the best car park in the world.

096bAnd the nightlife appears to be pretty vibrant too.