Englandaganza, Stop 5: Newcastle

By: | Post date: June 22, 2008 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Countries

I set off from Oxford to Newcastle (via Brummingham) with much fear of being roasted alive by ale-swigging Geordies. My doom came at the hand of Midlanders, long before I set foot in Newcastle. After judicious use of shuteye on the first leg of my journey, I was preparing to settle back to three hours of blogging, and maybe even some work on the train (on which, once again, reservations meant nothing). I even attempted access to coffee from the servery at the end of the train, only to be shoo’d away by an exemplar of British customer service.

Then, they came.

Six middle-aged raucous blondes and one inflatable male doll called Roger, heading up to the Party Capital of the North for a hen’s party. I’d just scooted across to an empty table for workspace; they couldn’t find an empty table for their booze and crisps, so did I mind if they sat next to me. (That’s one of those trick questions I keep hearing about, right?) Then, they brought out the gin and tonics. Then, I decided to make like a possum and pretend to be asleep for the next three hours. During this time, at least three photos of Roger draped around me (pretending to be asleep) were taken, and at least one raucous blonde perched herself to caw on my shoulder (while I was pretending to be asleep). Not cool. Also not easy to pretend to be asleep, while you’re seething inwardly with the burning hate of a thousand suns.

Of course, the squawking matrons were harmless (beyond perforating my eardrum), and probably quite nice, really (if only you could get them to shut up and put the blowup doll away). The Geordie mum who boarded at York (and who was rather more used to squawking matrons) knew as much, and struck up a rather lovely conversation with the matron on my shoulder, comparing kids. But it is so much easier for Your Humble Correspondent to demonise than to engage with people as humans. Especially when blowup dolls are involved. When we disembarked (“Oh, is he awake then”), the following clenched-teeth exchange took place:

CAWING MATRON No. 3: [Patently mocking solicitude, switches to BBC English] I hope we didn’t disturb your sleep too much. Especially when I was asleep drooling on your shoulder. [Hyuk hyuk hyuk]

NICK: [clenched teeth] OhTheResponseToThatIsNotPrintableInAFamilyNewspaperThankYouVeryMuch.

CAWING MATRON No. 3: … You wot.

NICK: [clenched teeth] OhTheResponseToThatIsNotPrintableInAFamilyNewspaperThankYouVeryMuch.

CAWING MATRON No. 3: [matronly swats at me with her purse, in what I’m sure she thinks is a playful manner]: Trubble with you is, ye taak too fässt.

NICK: [clenched teeth] AndJustAsWellReally.

The day did improve from there. Camilla came into the station looking for me (having been texted to save me from these hens), and save me she did. We café hopped through Newcastle for the next six hours or so; only three establishments were involved (one of them the Laing gallery), as we had a lot of catching up to do. Including, but thankfully not limited to, our shared trauma of not being both academics and in Australia. That’s for another posting though.

The conversation went well enough that I did not even have time to pause and exclaim self-consciously “why don’t I have these kinds of conversations more often”. I’d come to town for the conversation and not for the sightseeing (or the being roasted alive by Midland hens); and Newcastle tended to concur, as it rained all day. Some snaps did happen along the way though.

A very Melbourne arcade:

Tudor-era façade, I’m told:

Four bridges in one:

A long way from Sydney:

Action packed Victorian edifices:

Camilla was right in taking me to the Laing, which featured local artists among others: the 19th century paintings gave you a sense of what was here and lost, when Newcastle was a hub of industry and Victorian can-do energy. Now, apparently, not so much; but in my very limited interaction with the Geordies in t’pub, they were indeed lovely (although flummoxed that we left for dinner after only one pint apiece. Indeed, flummoxed that we left for dinner instead of pints.)

Camilla is leaving town, and the prep for that moves me to a hotel by the station today Sunday. She’d picked an excellent flat while here though. Its centrepiece is the kind of window that inspires you to creative heights (when the roof isn’t leaking):

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