After second, third and fourth thoughts, I followed my heart not my head and booked some last-minute coach tickets to Newcastle to visit my old school friend Anwen at her university city of Newcastle. The tickets were cheap, I’ve never visited any of my friend’s universities before , and I justified abandoning my own pressing deadlines by reading dissertation books on the seven hour journeys! Besides, I’d promised I’d go, and I really dislike it when people pull out last minute so don’t want to be one of them!
So I boarded my Megabus with a well stocked carrier bag of books and dinner from Victoria coach station on Thursday afternoon, in order to arrive around11pm that evening.
Anwen picked my up from the coach stop, and instead of finding a freezing North (I’m a typical Londoner sometimes, I know) there was a bracing breeze and a beautiful city lit up ready for exploring through the next two days.
I didn’t have any plans of things I wanted to see particularly, I just wanted to share in Anwen’s great lifestyle. She’s embraced all her university has to offer, and always seems to have some social gathering, party, cultural night or class to go to. As a marine biology student, she’s part of the dive club, as well as surfing, ex-circus skills, and many more! I’m quite jealous, in a way because even though we have London on our doorstep with all its activities, Westminster University has never been particularly strong on clubs and classes that aren’t really sports orientated. Cheerleader I ain’t.
So I’d always had the impression that Newcastle was sort of like a condensed London, with a similar enthusiastic engagement in cultural and arts events and centres. I was right! The city is laid out beautifully, so cobbled streets lead down slopes to the river Tyne, where you can cross the iconic bridges and visit a number of galleries and museums.
The city is very student friendly too, with the University campus making up a large part of the city centre. I had a lovely two hours on Friday morning while Anwen was in class walking around in circles exploring in the fresh, blue-skied spring weather.
Anwen joined me and we had lunch in Grainger Market, which I was excited to see was the market The Hairy Biker’s did their weigh-ins when filming their Hairy Dieter’s series!
We explored some more, and later that evening I really enjoyed getting to treat Anwen to a homemade vegetable curry with homemade naans and she even made mango chutney from scratch! It was delicious! Everyone in her house is big on cooking, which is really nice too be around, because I love it too!
That evening she also took me and some of her friends to a pub a stone’s throw from their house, which is a real open-fire, real-ale affair. The highlight though is the spontaneous folk music sessions that happen on Friday night. There’s nothing like sipping a pint, warming by the fire, and watching people make magic with mandolins, penny whistles and fiddles.
The next morning was again perfectly clear and blue, if a little windy, so we wrapped up in many layers and headed to the coast! I haven’t been to the sea since spending time at home on Anglesey over Christmas, so I was keen to get some of the salty air.
A half hour Metro-ride-away is Tynemouth, a seaside town complete with ruined monastry, a quaint high street of cafes and an elaborate antiques market right in it’s train station.
Whilst browsing among the odd assortments of crockery, old boardgames and Nazi memoribilia, I came across a great find.
A few weeks ago, I was looking through my one of my poetry collectives, and came across some interesting poems by a poet called W. H. Davies. Here’s a sample of one of his more popular works:
Joy and Pleasure
Now, joy is born of parents poor,
And pleasure of our richer kind;
Though pleasure’s free, she cannot sing
As sweet a song as joy confined.
Pleasure’s a Moth, that sleeps by day
And dances by false glare at night;
But Joy’s a Butterfly, that loves
To spread its wings in Nature’s light.
Joy’s like a Bee that gently sucks
Away on blossoms its sweet hour;
But pleasure’s like a greedy Wasp,
That plums and cherries would devour.
Joy’s like a Lark that lives alone,
Whose ties are very strong, though few;
But Pleasure like a Cuckoo roams,
Makes much acquaintance, no friends true.
Joy from her heart doth sing at home,
With little care if others hear;
But pleasure then is cold and dumb,
And sings and laughs with strangers near.
William Henry Davies
I set about finding out more about this poet. Basically, W. H. Davies was celebrated and supported in publishing his poems by established playwrights and poems of his day (the turn of the 1900s) because they were so simple, joyful and free of the prejudices and influences of popular literary writers and thinkers.
The reason being, W. H. Davies spent eight years living as a tramp riding the rail roads from coast to coast in the USA, before returning to England and attempting to publish his poetry. Once reaching a certain level of popularity but requiring no more riches than it brought him to keep a roof over his head, Davies was encouraged to write the autobiography of his time as a vagrant.
This resulted in Diary of a Supertramp, which I never considered reading until I found it in Tymemouth Market in an edition first published in the 1960s and still with the shillings and pence marked on the cover. It’s beautiful, and I’m going to really enjoy living precariously through him!
Back to Newcastle. A lovely walk along the coast, an evening of fajitas, Pictionary and Richard Ayoade’s Submarine (which I’ve been recommended for a long time and am so glad I’ve finally seen it), it was time to head home back to reality.
I’ve got a busy week this week, but many, many things to celebrate. There are four birthdays, including my own 21st, which means house parties, a great night being spoilt by my boyfriend Haellal, much dancing and making merry, and of course I get to make three birthday cakes! Can’t wait!