Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors in Tirana, Albania

For a holiday, I wanted to go somewhere off the beaten track, somewhere exotic, but not too far away from the UK. What about Albania, a tiny country in the Balkans of about three million inhabitants? Cut off from the rest of the world (apart from North Korea) after the end of WW2, it was ruled by communist Enver Hoxha with an iron grip for 40 years. It is slowly opening up, but it remains the poorest country in Europe. And it has plenty of interesting doors.

This is one of the 173,000 bunkers built by the Communist regime to defend Albania against invaders. 27 years after the fall of communism, it has been converted into an art gallery, Bunk’Art.
Enver Hoxha’s daughter designed this pyramid as a mausoleum/museum in honour of her father. It has fallen into disrepair, neglected and decorated by graffiti. It is still used as a television station (see the antennae).
Graffiti on the pyramid in Tirana
The centre of Tirana (known as the Block) was reserved for high ranking members of the Communist Party. It is now thriving with coffee shops, hotels and modern buildings. This interesting door is guarded by statue.
The magnificent Skanderbeg Square in the centre of Tirana looks like the perfect place to stage parades of Mussolini’s fascist troops during WW2. Sadly, the Opera was closed for renovation and the doorway was blocked off.
The National History Museum has a wonderful mural of workers, peasants and soldiers through the ages. The doors are just plain glass, unfortunately.
There is a old carousel on the edge of the square. The mechanism is hidden behind this door at the top of the steps.
This is a “bendy-bus” with a concertina between two coaches. Rather cleverly, an artist has added two halves of a piano accordion either side of the junction. The invisible musician’s right hand has been painted on the automatic door. It must make it difficult playing the keyboard when the doors open at bus stops.
Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors in Nepal 3

More doors from the Durbar Square in Patan.

Archway leading to a small courtyard
Lattice-work door
Marigold garland maker
Reminiscent of Durham Cathedral’s cloister
More lattice-work doors
On the other side of the door, a crack of light
Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors in Nepal 2

Sitting on the doorstep of the Royal Palace in Durbar Square, Patan. Great places to hang out and chill with your pals.
The weather was dull, so the shades were not strictly needed.
The central vertical bar of the door behind is called the astragal.
Not even historic buildings are immune from modern graffiti
Modern doors may have spy-holes. These doors have eyes.
Look at the design of the carving above the door.
This door needs a bit more renovation.
Door way with painted surrounds and hanging marigold garlands
The dark blue vehicle behind the statue of the buffalo is a mobile toilet. Men only.
Open door.
Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors in Nepal 1

I went to a wedding last month. In Nepal, just a few thousand miles away. The bride was my boss when I worked in Delhi with Medecins Sans Frontieres in a clinic for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. I spent ten days in Kathmandu, Patan and Pokhara, the three largest cities in the country. There were three ceremonies – Shamanic, Buddhist and Hindu – on separate days, so there was plenty of time for door seeing.

These photographs are from the ancient town of Patan (pronounced “Pah’tn” with the emphasis on the first syllable). The locals also call it “Yala” and the official name is Lalitpur. It is also known as Manigal. Just to be clear. It was severely damaged five years ago in a major earthquake, but the Royal Palaces of Durbar Square have been repaired and several temples are clad with bamboo scaffolding.

This is a small shop, not yet open for business. The doors are typical of Patan, carved dark wood. In front of the steps there is a tiny altar, flush with the brick road, on which the owners place flowers and offerings.
Close up of the door above
An old door in Durbar Square. The lady in scarlet is watching a demonstration.
Above her right shoulder is an orange deity, covered with an orange cloak.
Close up

The door jamb and header have been intricately carved with repeated designs and images of deities.

The jambs often sweep out into the brickwork like wings of the vehicle of Vishnu, Garuda. The King of Patan was the incarnation of Vishnu on Earth.

Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors in Durham

Durham is famous for its magnificent Norman cathedral, sited on a forested loop of the River Wear, next to the castle.

Study bench with a view of the Cathedral

Palace Green, between the castle and cathedral, has lots of wonderful doors. The most famous door on the cathedral has a sanctuary knocker. Unfortunately it was being renovated when I visited, but here is the “dog tooth” zigzag moulding in the door arch. And a poster describing the flaming head knocker. People seeking sanctuary had 37 days to sort out their problems before they faced justice or were banished from the kingdom for ever – transported to the port of Hartlepool to sail to the continent.

Doors on the green:

Durham Coat of Arms and the shield of the Prince Bishops

Around the cloisters, there are more doors of interest. The monks used to do their laundry here and would hang their cassocks on the stone windows. The cloisters were utilised as a location in the Harry Potter films – the quadrangle where Harry magically releases Hedwig the owl from his hands in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, and again in the “Chamber of Secrets” where Harry, Ron and Hermione learn how to turn animals into water goblets.

A modern door

Inside the cathedral, there is a door built into the huge clock.


World bee day

Here’s a carpenter bee buzzing away in Pokhara, Nepal, last week.


Thursday Doors – Lili Marlene

Yes, this is the answer to my question, “Who was the famous daughter of the commander of the Zeppelin which bombed Hartlepool?” Max Dietrich was killed when his Zeppelin crashed in flames into the North Sea less than a mile from Hartlepool.

Pieces of debris were washed ashore and can be seen in the Hartlepool Museum.

Lili Marlene sung by Marlene Dietrich

Outside the barracks, by the corner light
I’ll always stand and wait for you at night
We will create a world for two
I’ll wait for you the whole night through
For you, Lili Marlene
For you, Lili Marlene

Bugler tonight don’t play the call to arms
I want another evening with her charms
Then we will say goodbye and part
I’ll always keep you in my heart
With me, Lili Marlene
With me, Lili Marlene

Give me a rose to show how much you care
Tie to the stem a lock of golden hair
Surely tomorrow, you’ll feel blue
But then will come a love that’s new
For you, Lili Marlene
For you, Lili Marlene

When we are marching in the mud and cold
And when my pack seems more than I can hold
My love for you renews my might
I’m warm again, my pack is light
It’s you, Lili Marlene
It’s you, Lili Marlene

My love for you renews my might
I’m warm again, my pack is light
It’s you, Lili Marlene
It’s you, Lili Marlene

Songwriters: Hans Leip / Norbert Schultze

Lili Marlene lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group


Thursday Doors Hartlepools

Hartlepools – Old Hartlepool and West Hartlepool (no longer referred to as “British West Hartlepool”) again. Pretty bright colours. There are two museums, one for the tow one for the Navy. I like the door advertising money for old rope.

Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors in Hartlepool

Easter weekend was sunny and warm. I drove up to see my aged parents and enjoyed the sea air.Hartlepool used to be a grim town, chemical plants, gasworks, steel industry nearby. But it has been spruced up recently.These doors are all from the old town at the edge of the harbour. Some houses have been gentrified, others are in need of tlc.Hartlepool was bombed by a zeppelin raid during the first World War in 1916. It was shot down and all the crew died. My grandmother lived ten miles up the coast and can remember seeing the zeppelin crash in flames into the sea. The airship captain had a famous daughter. Anyone hazard a guess? Clue Lili. Answer next week.Also, this part of Hartlepool was bombarded by German battleships in December 1914 during WW1 killing 130 civilians and a serviceman, the first to die in action on British soil during the conflict.But during the Napoleonic war, a monkey was washed ashore clinging to driftwood. The monkey was obviously not British and couldn’t speak English, so the locals assumed it was a French spy and hanged it.If you ever want to sample NHS care at the local Accident and Emergency department, go into a pub or bar on a Saturday night and shout out, “Who hung the monkey, then?”

Flying Life Thursday Doors Zambia

Goodbye Thursday Doors

The picket fence and door to the very cosmopolitan Zee World Bar.

My replacement arrived. We had the obligatory sundowners on Kapani Pan (where there had been lions just a few days before). I said my goodbyes to the expats and local staff at the health centre. No tears, just hugs. After my final early Monday morning meeting, I left behind some medical kit for the clinical staff, an electronic thermometer, a thousand candle power head torch to illuminate nooks and crannies, an otoscope which you can’t turn off without dissembling and a few tongue depressors.

It took about an hour to pack. One bag contained 540 origami cranes to be hung at my daughter’s wedding; it weighed less than 2kg. The other bag had my medical kit, some clothes which survived the “Boom” and handwashing of Theresa and a few presents. I travel light apart from technical stuff and electronics.

I had my laptop, mouse, two cameras, lenses, Kindle, music player, binoculars, battery chargers and iPad. This always causes problems at airports because I have to carry them as hand luggage to avoid theft from checked bags. At Nairobi Airport transit, my carry on bags looked so suspicious that I had to unpack completely. The security officer swabbed everything to detect any residue of explosives. I noticed that the screen of my laptop was dusty and asked the officer if he could clean it while he was checking. “Ah, sir, sorry. We don’t offer that service,” he apologised.

At Mfuwe International Airport, the checks were less stringent. I sat in the departure lounge after checking in, chatting to a Naturetrek birding tour party. An airport official interrupted me, “The District Commissioner wants to see you!”

For a brief moment, I thought I was going to be detained. Or perhaps they finally had my plastic Temporary Employment Permit card. But DC Caroline just wanted to bid me farewell and express her gratitude for my work in the Valley. I said goodbye to her and to F who had also come to see me off.

District Commissioner Caroline Mwanza, in a fabulous outfit with a new hairdo. My hair hasn’t been cut for over three months.

The my flight from Lusaka arrived so I went through security again, telling the staff the same joke about my trousers being about to fall down because I had had to remove my belt. “Those with boarding cards for the Proflight to Lusaka, please come to the gate.” Oops, while I was chatting outside with the DC, they had issued boarding cards and I didn’t have one. (Regular readers may recall that on the flight out to Mfuwe, the airline staff gave my boarding card to someone else.) No problem, they just printed off another card and I joined the queue of Chinese tourists taking selfies on the runway by the aircraft steps.

I feel sad at leaving. It is almost my second home now, my sixth visit to Zambia. But it is time to go, to move on. I have lots to look forward to in 2019. Including my appraisal and revalidation.

Sunset in the clouds as we fly over the River Luangwa (just visible bottom right)