“Ooh, Newcastle Is So Cool!”

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.

View From The Tyne BridgeI 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.

Rooftops Of Newcastle

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 Millenium BridgeThe 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!

 Grainger Market Weigh House

Anwen Making Mango Chutney

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!

Homemade Curry, Naans and Chutney

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.

Tynemouth Market

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.

 

Sword!

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.

 Monastry and Cliffs

Winter Coast

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!

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For All Those Freaking Out

Great radio usually has human stories at his heart. This couldn’t be more true of Fi Glover’s “landmark” series Generations Apart, which was broadcast on Radio 4 the last two Wednesdays. In the series, Fi gets to know individuals from two very different generations, all from very different walks of life and now facing very different problems.

 

The stories of the people she chose to feature are the perfect representatives for addressing the issues everyone in the nation are familiar with, no matter which generation you are part of. She speaks to the post-war ‘baby boomers’ about what they remember about leaving education, facing the world of work and settling down and establishing a family.

 

That is then perfectly contrasted with individuals born in the 1990s, who have grown up with a huge range of lifestyle options available, in an technology driven global age. However, they are the ones now struggling to find their way in life through this economic crisis.

 

And this was the part which spoke to me the most. Fi speaks to one girl who has a story almost identical to mine, and many of my friends. The girl was a journalism undergraduate in her final year, trying to network her way into the media industry by continuously doing weeks of internships and work experience placements.

 

This is exactly what everyone I know is doing right now, including myself! Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited about achieving my goals when working in radio, and I enjoy being placed in new environments.

 

But it’s scary. Four short months, and then we’re out there in the big wide world! We’re standing on the edge of the void now.

 

Maybe I was just feeling particularly emotional that day, but when I heard Generations Apart and the stories from real people around the country, it comforted me. It’s a reminder that there are people experiencing the same thing up and down the country, and it’s always nice not to be alone.

 

So if you want some comfort, and to hear real stories about the paths in life and what’s important, listen to Generations Apart. Don’t freak out.

 

And luckily, it’s available for over a year thanks to the BBC’s new online archive!

 

Generations Apart

Fi Glover, BBC Radio 4

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01ptzm3

 

 

And if you’re into radio drama, I’ve really enjoyed these adaptations. It’s the autobiography of New Zealand author Janet Frame, who grew up in an interesting time with an interesting family. Her take on the world is beautifully told, taking us through time and locations.

 

An Angel At My Table

BBC Radio 4

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pt998

I Want To Be An Animal

Africa has done it again. The TV programme I mean. The country has obviously done it too by evolving such magnificent landscapes and amazing creatures, but the team behind the show have done a brilliant job capturing the Congo.

I’m sitting in my room, surrounded by notepads, appliances and other objects that indicate my very enjoyable but very human existence. What I wouldn’t give right now to be one of the little fish swimming in the Congo rivers, or one of the colourful birds zipping through the rainforest. Just finding food, keeping out the rain, not getting eaten, what could be nicer?

 

I’m the daughter of an RSPB warden, and we watch a lot of wildlife documentaries in my house, but I’d never seen these birds before!

Picathartes

 

 

The Picathartes looks like it’s been made out of modelling clay, with its disproportionate wings and smooth feathers.

 

 

 

 

African Skimmer

 

And the African Skimmer looks like a child’s drawing of a bird! If that makes sense…

 

 

I’m not usually a big watcher of television, probably because I don’t actually own one and only have my laptop, but I am just massively impressed at the journeys we can be taken on and things we can be shown.

 

I’d much rather see them with my own eyes of course! African expedition, anyone?

‘Snow’ Much Fun

I was smugly satisfied when it woke up and saw inches (well, centimetres) of snow building up in the North London suburban cul-de-sac that my window looks out onto. Looking Out My Door

I love the novelty and the fuss when it snows in the UK, as it just makes the day have a few more adventurous challenges for everyone, and it’s interesting to see how the nation tackles them.

 

But as much as I hate to admit it, a small siren did go off in my head regarding my existing plans for the day. I really must be getting old!

 

My ‘Snow Problems’:

Would I be able to go out and fetch some groceries? I let my food stores dwindle until I had a free day to head to the shops, and there’s only so long I can go with 4 sheets of toilet paper.

 

How am I going to get to and from my social plans? I had to get down to Hackney for the Stand Up Tragedy live night which I’m recording the podcast for this evening. Also, I was looking forward to joining my friends for a birthday bash in KOKO afterwards. I’ve done the night bus in the snow before, and I guess it’s happening again…

 

How many layers of clothes am I going to have to wear? I get cold really easily. Like, really easily. I’m talking tights, jeans, two pairs of socks, vest top, t-shirt, cardigan, big thick hoody, base gloves, Canadian mittens, leopard print fur hat that encompasses my face, huge woolly scarf big enough for two and sub-zero temperature outdoors coat.

 

The most pressing question though was…

 

Which snow animal am I going to build!

As much as my body protests against the cold, I love playing in it, and a regular snowman just doesn’t cut it with me.

 

I headed to the park nearby, and made this little guy!

 

My Snow Bear 2013

 My Snow Bear 2013

My Snow Bear 2013

 

IT WAS SNOW MUCH FUN.

I love a good pun.