Friday, 28 July 2017


It was time for my annual pilgrimage to the North-East to see my old university friend Mike.

I don't normally start these pages with a description of the train journey, let alone the station, but I make an exception here. I started at King's Cross which was notable this time for the bird life. The new entrance has a vast expanse and I guess they have problems with pigeons flying into it. And on this occasion I think they had brought along the ultimate pigeon-scarer - a hawk. It was quite something to see it swooping across the great space.

The second notable feature of this journey was that I went first class. Just a very comfortable journey - and no screaming kids.

Like me Mike is a solicitor, but chose to ply his trade in Newcastle. As his office is near the station, I usually trundle  round to see him after work on a Friday evening. Now first thing I have to say is that my office wins on views (I have a panoramic view over the City from St Paul's to the Globe) but Mike's wins on character (and space) set as it is in an art nouveau building. The tile work in particular is beautiful. If you like that sort of thing. And you should.

So, as is our wont, Friday night meant a walk, a pint in local pub, a curry, another pint and home. And above all a chance to catch up on life the way old friends do.

On Saturday we decided to explore Newcastle a bit. Main target was the Hancock Museum. This is a fine old collection and a good example of a regional museum. Its a somewhat haphazard collection, featuring a good collection of classical antiquities (Greek, Roman and Egyptian) plus a large exhibit focused reasonably enough on nearby Hadrian's Wall, plus a Natural History Collection. Once upon a time, Mike tells me, it was a rather fusty old place, but it has now been renovate to a high standard.

My interest is primarily in the classical exhibits, many of which are really very fine indeed.

The collection of more local Roman exhibits related to Hadrian's Wall is also very interesting. These did include some articles from further afield but which could have been found by the wall, eg cavalry helmets and articles from the Temple of Mithras that actually came from excavations in London, although a lesser temple has also been found up by the Wall.

And then on we went for a top notch lunch, a visit to a historic pub and then more exploration.

Newcastle University masquerading as an Oxford quad

On Sunday Mike suggested we visit Tynemouth on the coast, starting off at the train station, which is a vast Victorian station now rather lacking in trains to justify its its existence. But it turns out to be an excellent venue for a craft market. Being me the craft items I bought were a cap and a couple of indie rock coasters.

Sated with my purchases we headed down to the coast, past the old Priory.

And then, fatefully, we decided to walk the granite pier to the lighthouse. Now in our defence, when we started to do this the weather was what I would describe as persistent drizzle. It was a grey day. But it was nothing particularly nasty, so off we went.

View back to Tynemouth

However, when about half way along it really started to bucket down with rain. We could have cut our losses, but we would have been soaked anyway by the time we got back to the car. So we decided to go all the way to the lighthouse. It was miserable. We were utterly drenched by the time we got back. I would have taken more photos, but the rain was so bad that I didn't even look up let alone try and open my camera lens. I had to get a radiator put on back at the house so that I would have dry trousers and shoes for the journey home on Monday. As you can see, the walk could only be described as exposed to the elements. Of shelter there was none.

On Monday I had a midday train, so spent the morning further exploring Newcastle. A much underrated city. Its Georgian shopping streets are especially attractive.

I stopped for breakfast in the Purple Bear, a basement bar/restaurant so trendy that your cutlery comes in an old tin can. In London I wouldn't have been allowed in due to my lack of top-knot and facial hair, but being the North-East the natives were friendly. My pancakes were decent enough too.

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