Monday, 30 July 2007

Bookshops and bizarreness

There are two Waterstones shops in Newcastle city centre.

That's not surprising as such. There are at least two Natwests, two Schuh shops, two post offices! No, the thing that isn't quite usual is quite how close they are to each other. If you stand at Grey's Monument, you're halfway between the two, and neither one is more than 30 seconds' walk away. You can see each one from the other's doorway. They both hold pretty much the same stock, and I don't honestly understand why they're both still open.

One used to be a Dillons, and when most Dillons stores were rebranded as Waterstones, I think everyone expected one of them to be shut down. I guess the fact that they're both still open nearly ten years later means they're still both pulling in a decent profit.

D and I try not to go in bookshops in town, for the simple reason it's a damned sight cheaper not to. Our self control goes out the of the window and we're awful for encouraging each other. 3 for 2 offers? I wish they'd never been invented. We'd be a lot richer if they hadn't... but then we wouldn't have so many books. You win some, you loose some.

I'd just go in one store, myself, but D always has to go into them both, just in case he misses something important.

Went in one of them (the one opposite Boots, next to Fenwicks, for anyone who's keeping track; incidentally, the one I bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from at 1.40am on 21 July) on Saturday. I was wandering downstairs, trying to think of reasons not to buy the books I was after, when D turned up, all excited-looking. He wanted to order a book that he'd not expected to be out yet and needed the use of my credit card.

While paying for said book, I noticed a sign behind the counter. It politely pointed out that Waterstones could not give refunds for books that had dedications written in, had prices cut out or scribbled out... I could barely believe what I was reading. I couldn't resist asking the girl behind the counter whether people really tried that crap.

No, not yet, she said, but she was looking forward to the first person who tried. She told me about people who opened CDs that came with books, though, and tried to return them even though the seal was obviously broken.

Then she told us about a book called 'P3n!s P0k3y' (I really don't want the google hits from that) that had been out around Christmas. With a hole. And how if anyone tried to return that, she planned to point and laugh.

Can't blame the girl, really. I was disappointed that the sign didn't live up to expectations, but that story made up for it.

We had some lunch, wandered round town for a while. D looked pleadingly at the other store as we walked past
, the one near the Theatre, so we went in. I was looking at the 'S's when I heard voices coming from my feet. I looked round to see what was going on, and realised the voices belonged to a couple of people standing half way down the stairs to the basement, hidden from view by a wheeled bookcase.

I moved round, working my way through the end of the alphabet, before turning round and noticing that one of said people half way down the stairs was the man I originally worked for in my current job, before he was seconded out and eventually left. Who I needed to invite to my leaving do (more of that anon). So I skulked round til he'd finished and caught him on his way back up the stairs.

I'm still bemused I didn't realise I recognised his voice. It's a lovely voice, soporific and smooth. Great to listen to aurally. Not so good if you need to remember the work he's giving you. He's a real character though and I'll miss him - even though he left he still drops in from time to time.

Waterstones shops. All the good stuff happens in there.

Friday, 27 July 2007


It was a beautiful evening.

I got my assignment done. I don't know that I'll get as good a mark on this one as the last, because 25% of the marks go on explaining why you made the decisions you did, and that isn't my strong point.

Still, this is just the first course. The next one starts at the end of September.

The day before the Great North Run. Interesting timing, eh?

It was a beautiful evening. I hope tomorrow is the same.


The Magpies won 4-1 last night. The local newsreader on BBC Breakfast cracked me up by reporting that Newcastle trounced Celtic. I'm sure that's not the official word for that kind of thing.

Apparently 15 Celtic fans were arrested. 5,000 were in Newcastle, so that's a small proportion, but it's still a shame. The police reported that most fans were good natured and the ones that were arrested were only for minor offences, but still.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

I'd forgotten that Newcastle are playing tonight. It's less than three months since the football season finished, but I forgot how busy town gets when the visiting fans arrive.

I went for a run with a couple of people at lunch. We ran past St James' Park and the Strawberry, saw the fans arriving on buses, heard their cheers. Only 1pm and already they were match-loud.

By the time I left work, the Celtic fans were out in force. There probably weren't thousands of them right outside when I left, but it felt like it. It's a long time since I've walked round a Newcastle in which the away fans outnumber the home ones. It was an odd feeling. The stripes on their shirts were the wrong colour and went the wrong way. It was a relief to spot the black and white stripes in the crowd.

As I walked past the Gate, a Newcastle fan with Shearer's name blazoned on the back of his shirt walked past ahead of me. The Celtic fans noticed it too, and broke out into cries of 'Shea-rer! Shea-rer!'. He turned round, gave a thumbs-up. There was no hint of trouble, just excitement for the match.

Not long now til the new season starts.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Umm. Hi. It'll be pretty quiet round here til Friday when I submit my last assignment.

Back then, promise.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

It was the Newcastle Race for Life today. In fact, there are two of them; the first was this morning at 10.30, and the next starts in 30 minutes as I type, at 2.30pm. The last few have taken place at the Racecourse, which has been mixed - the first couple I did were really good, then I skipped a year, then last year's was awful - completely disorganised, people getting in the way of the start line, noone even seeing sure which way we were meant to go through the start line, a bottleneck over a tiny bridge that only one person could cross at once - pretty bad. I wrote to complain and didn't get a reply, but I'm guessing those problems had a lot to do with the change of venue to Exhibition Park which is also far handier, being right in the middle of town.

I looked at the bus timetable last night and figured out I needed to get the 9.20 bus into Newcastle to have enough time to get where I was going. I put my alarm on for 8.05 so I'd have plenty of time to get my breakfast and be able to digest it before the race started, have a quick shower, get dressed and go.

I found it hard to get to sleep last night, then I woke up at 5.45, then 6.50. After that I have no recollection of anything happening til 9.05am. I don't think I slept through my alarm as it keep going off every nine minutes til you switch it off, but I don't remember it going off, unless I switched it off in my sleep. Anyway, after two minutes of utter panic (should I try for the bus, get the next one and risk being late, phone a taxi?) I decided to go for it. I made and ate my breakfast in superquick time, threw on the clothes that I'd left out the night before in a fit of organised-ness, picked up my running number and safety pins, threw on my trainers (tied the laces at the bus stop!) and ran for it. I left the house 4 minutes before the bus was due, arrived 2 minutes before, and the bus was a minute late.

Go me.

My time wasn't great (my 5k times aren't improving at all, but I blame that on the fact I train longer not faster) - 33m 15, which means I'm going at only a slightly quicker pace in a 5k than for a 10k - and anyway, the course was slightly short because it had to be altered after the recent weather which makes it even worse! Oh well. It was hot, too; I was far too hot by the end and had to walk a good proportion of the last k. But I finished, which is always going to beat staying in bed on a Sunday morning.

I also discovered that tucked away in Exhibition Park (which I'd never been into before) there is a Military Vehicles Museum. I've lived in Newcastle, on and off, for *counts* quite a few years now, and I didn't even know there was a Military Vehicles Museum here. Apparently D knew, but hasn't been since he was very small. It seems to be closed at the minute, anyway, but still. It's amazing what there still is to find, tucked away in corners of the city.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Anyone who doesn't get to see British TV will probably be confused by this post

So there's an advert that I've seen on TV quite a bit over the last few weeks. It's for some Veet hair removal stuff. Now, I go all feminist usually when it comes to removal of bodily hair, but this advert cracks me up.

The woman the ad is focussing on says towards the end 'my legs feel Veet smooth'. Well, there's a geordie word 'reet', which technically means 'right', but is used in many expressions for emphasis. So the ad may say 'Veet smooth', but I hear 'reet smooth', and I giggle to myself.

(I've got a lot on at the mo, so I haven't got much time to post. Might be quiet for the next couple of weeks, but I'll be back around more soon.)

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


This was Newcastle, for me, today:
Walking down Gallowgate, an old man walking towards me pushing a bicycle and singing 'Michael row the boat ashore'...

Looking down at the ground as I walk past Grey's Monument and seeing a tiny paper aeroplane, bright white at my feet...

A helicopter hovering overhead as I walk into town to get some cash before meeting up with friends for tea, not moving off til I've settled down to read a magazine as I wait...

Delicious food to go with the great company...

A golden lining meeting the blue sky and grey clouds as I get off the bus and walk home.

It was a good day, all said.

Monday, 9 July 2007

You know what bugs me? RAS Syndrome. For the uninitiated, it stands for Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome and applies to things like 'PIN number' (Personal Identification Number number) or 'ATM machine' (Automated Teller Machine machine).

I saw a horrible version today. Newcastle's Greenmarket car park has closed down, and there was a sign to say so. 'NCP Car Park closed from 8th July.'

That stands for National Car Park Car Park.


Saturday, 7 July 2007

Turkish baths

You shouldn't need to go to the Turkish Baths to warm up in July, even in Newcastle which isn't exactly known for its scorching weather. But sometimes you just have to admit defeat.

I've honestly no idea how Newcastle Council can afford to keep the Turkish Baths going. They are 'advertised' as the best kept secret in town, but I think they're kind of missing the point. I lived here for three years at one point without even being aware that they existed, even though I went swimming in the same building every so often. I don't remember ever finding out they were there; it's almost like the knowledge seeped into my head. Whenever I mention them to anyone, they always seem to respond the same: 'I've always wanted to go there!'

I don't think they are the most authentic Turkish Baths ever, either, but they're pretty good value. £6.95, or £16.95 with a massage; either way, it includes a swim in the price too which makes it even better. It's a good place to go to unwind, and the sexes get different days too, which helps. Men get Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; women get Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

It was only the third time I've been there, but I enjoyed it the most. Mainly because this time I remembered to eat before I went in - the heat must do something strange to my metabolism, because I'll quite often not have tea til 8.30pm on weeknights, but by 8pm the first time I felt absolutely faint with hunger, and the second time I wasn't much better. I also drank enough water this time to stop me dehydrating.

I went along with a girl from work - there were meant to be a few of us going, but everyone else dropped out. I think we were both a bit nervous about going on our own, but it actually worked out really well and we got on fine with no awkward silences.

The heat doesn't feel too bad when you first go in, but after you've sat there for a while it starts to build up. I can't stand to go to the hottest point for more than a minute or so. Maybe I'll build up a tolerance in time, but I doubt it. I've never been able to stand terribly hot temparatures. I'm better with the steam room, funnily enough, but I do tend to get bored a lot quicker in there. I've never paid the extra for the massage, but I always think I should one day. The heat does seem to melt away any tension or stress, anyway, and I always go out nice and relaxed.

Only problem was that when we left, it was abolutely chucking it down. Now that's typical Geordie weather at the minute.

Friday, 6 July 2007


So the new smokefree legislation has hit the streets of Newcastle as it has the rest of the England and the UK. In town on Saturday I noticed more people smoking than usual on the streets; I wasn't sure if I was seeing them more than I usually would because I was aware that this was the last day they'd be able to smoke inside, or if there really were more of them.

Now, walking round town on my lunch break, I see more and more of them. Groups of smokers hanging around in doorways, breathing smoke into my face. Walking through Haymarket bus station, no staff in sight to challenge them, and when the smoker is a late-teen-early-twenties-lad who looks rough as anything? I'm not going to challenge him myself.

Going to the health food shop on Princess Square the other lunchtime, there were tons of them. A group of five on and round one bench, four cluster round another; the sun shines and they sit, chatting, eating their lunch, smoking their lunchtime cigarettes.

It's the only time I find myself jealous.

Sunday, 1 July 2007


It's past midnight and we've been hearing the rain on and off all night, but right now it sounds like it's coming down in torrents. D goes to the front door, opens it. I hear him say wow.

I follow him to the door, stand behind him and we peer at the rain highlighted in the glow from the street lamps. "It's July," he says, incredulous.