Righto, time to catch up. My new job is eating my life a little (more on that later) so I’ve fallen behind on blogging, twitter, forums, even the actual news. I have no idea what is happening out there in the world. I missed a Frightened Rabbit gig in Birmingham last night. I haven’t even read a Charlie Brooker column in a fortnight. This is calamity.
I’m splitting this into two posts, one on my last week in Leeds, and one on my first week in Shropshire.
Last Tuesday Jim & I had a day off work so we headed over to Saltaire, which he’d been nagging me to go to for months because OMGWTF it has a funicular railway. Which is coincidentally the same reason that I’d been nagging at him to go to Bridgnorth. I’d be nagging about Montecatini too, if it wasn’t in another country. We do put the FUN in funicular! Unfortunately, the one in Saltaire was closed for repairs the day we went, so we didn’t get to go on it. Still, there were plenty of other things to see: a pub, and a road, and a squirrel. We headed over to Salt’s mill, which is now a sort of arts space-cum-gallery-cum-shop-cum-restaurant complex. It used to be owned by the ridiculously-named philanthropist SIR TITUS SALT. I learnt a lot about Titus whilst I was there, much of which I have now forgotten, but there were a lot of paintings with alpacas in, and he named all the streets around the mill after members of his family which I thought was quite nice. If I had a name as stonkingly excellent as SIR TITUS SALT, I would probably just name all of the streets after myself, but that is exactly why Titus is a philanthropist and I am not.
After a wander around the arts gallery and exhibitions, we went next door to the Early Musical Shop to look at hurdy-gurdies and psalteries and crum-horns. I was squealing like a little girl and rushing about poking at things, which I think aggravated the very stern-looking lady proprietor, as she gave me quite a sniffy look. I thought this was unfair as anyone who doesn’t get excited at the sight of a bass recorder is clearly dead inside, and anyway I don’t see how you can sell something called a HURDY-GURDY and still take yourself that seriously. Jim followed me about while I squealed at a massive row of enormous recorders and said things like “This is porn to you, isn’t it”. Yes James. Yes it is. After sating ourselves with all that porn, we headed to Fanny’s Ale House for a pinto of Maisels Weise. It was a nice little place, and one of the few real ale pubs that my dad hasn’t visited, so worth it just to brag to him about really!
At the weekend we headed up to Newcastle to see LADY ACTUAL FUCKING GAGA. I’ve only been to Newcastle once before, and it was to play a gig, so I barely saw any of it at the time. I found myself quite taken with it this time; everyone was really friendly, the architecture was beaut and it had quite a nice continental-feel to it, probably partly (or entirely) caused by the enormous amount of busking accordian players all over the place.
After arriving, and having a nap, it was time to PREPARE. We had glitter. We had vodka. We had Viva Music’s Top 30 cranked up to full volume on the telly. I’d been fretting over what to wear for weeks (jump suit? leopard print dress? corset?) and in the end I wore a silly flappy dress, lace tights and a mask. Jim went with jeans and a tshirt. I found this unacceptable.
I expect he is still picking glitter out of his chest hair. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the staff at Premier Inn for the vast amount of glitterfug (probably still) covering room 55.
The concert itself was good, but a bit of a disappointment. I was expecting the fans to be dressed in ridiculously flamboyant costumes but, aside from a tendency toward sequins, everyone seemed quite conservative. We were very far away, in seats with “restricted view” (they turned out not to actually have any restricted view really, unless you count the vast amount of space between us and the stage). Gaga was on form, though I wish she’d played the piano at some point, and somehow I even found the 40 foot sea monster that she battled during Paparazzi a little underwhelming; I mean what were its MOTIVATIONS? It just came onstage, bobbed its head about for a bit and then sauntered off without doing anything. This I did not find very realistic.
Thanks to google reviews, we had quite a bit of luck with our restaurant choices; Sachins Punjabi Restaurant is a great indian near to the arena, with more authentic dishes than your bog-standard chicken tikka and lamb rogan josh. You couldn’t even get chips, so it must’ve been properly posh. Pani’s Cafe, which we visited the next night, is a lovely italian where I had swordfish ravioli and limoncello, though I wasn’t sure about the decor; it was a little like being sat in an enormous womb. Which is something I do regularly. The owners are actual italians though, so the food was excellent, and the italian/geordie hybrid accent was interesting to hear! We also managed to find one of the oddest (and most brilliant) pubs I’ve ever been in; Bob Trollop, down by the quayside, was a series of labyrinthine rooms, filled with odd parephenalia, old instruments and papers, huge mill cogs and staircases leading to nowhere. The quayside itself I thought was very impressive, with twisting roads leading down to the river and all the enormous bridges slicing up the skyline. Very odd to see the juxtaposition between the old, grandiose architecture dwarfed by a huge slab of bridge cutting between the buildings.
The morning after the gig we headed over to Whitley Bay to see the sea and catch a glimpse of St Mary’s Lighthouse. We’d been meaning to visit a lighthouse ever since we started accidentally collecting them in the Summer, but in the end we got tired out before we’d reached it and just admired from a distance. I had a nice (very cold and wimpy) paddle though, and we had a happy time examining the rock formations and rock pools on the beach, waiting for the tide to come up and rush through the channels in the stone. Some crows came over and watched with us.
We also made the trek over to Alnwick Gardens, having found a leaflet for it and squeed over it. The gardens themselves were a little subdued because of the season, and it was drizzling, which didn’t make things any more pleasant. We had a tour around the poison garden though, given by a nervous guide who tripped over his words and fiddled with his collar throughout (I think he just wasn’t comfortable with public speaking, though perhaps he’s scared of helebores). The poison garden is kept behind a locked gate with a skull & crossbones on it, and they have hemlock, wormwood and marijuana, amongst other things. Nothing was flowering though, and most of what we could see were stubby sticks poking forlornly out of the ground. Not remotely frightening.
Still, the lack of plants was more than made up for by the cascades, serpent water park, bamboo labyrinth and treehouse. We went in opposite directions in the labyrinth and ended up quite lost before bumping into each other again and then losing the exit; cue much wailing from me that my GPS wasn’t accurate enough to help us out of the maze. I suppose I should’ve downloaded a compass app. The treehouse was amazing; it’s one of the biggest in the world, and has two levels, rope bridges and a restaurant set at the heart of it which is full of twisted branches and fairylights. We went to the cafe and had a lunch of nettle cheese, spiced sweet potato soup and treehouse lager, which is brewed in a local brewery. Unfortunately this was accompanied by Jamie Cullen, but you can’t have everything, and at least it gave us an opportunity to look at a lot of pictures of him and Sophie Dahl standing next to each other and snigger at them.
And after that it was back to Leeds to pack up the rest of my stuff in dwindling light and cart it back to Shropshire, ready to start at my new job on Monday. A week on, my thoughts on the move are still mixed; I have loved Leeds, and the things it has given me, but leaving feels like the right path at the moment.
I do miss you though, Leeds. Especially you, Balti King.
“Now hollow fires burn out to black
And lights are guttering low
Square your shoulders, lift your pack
And leave your friends and go.”