Wednesday, 27 February 2008

I'm missing a lot at the minute

There was an earthquake last night. I was awake at 1am, but I completely missed it. I have never felt one and am quite disappointed.

And yesterday was rather windy but I didn't really notice all the destruction that was going on. I was a bit scared that one of the huge trees next to our building was going to fall onto us - that actually happened on my parents' road; a tree below onto a house in a gale. Luckily the house was empty because it was a complete mess afterwards - but other than that I didn't really notice. But the Tyne Bridge and the Redheugh bridge were both closed, which must have caused complete and utter chaos. They are the two main crossing points of the Tyne, if you're driving; if they are both closed you can either go over the Swing Bridge (wikipedia entry) - hardly an option for the thousands of cars trying to make the journey; or travel out to Blaydon to get on the A1. And seeing as the A1 was shut at Morpeth (a few miles further north)... I'm glad I don't drive.

There are actually seven bridges over the Tyne linking Newcastle and Gateshead: the Millennium Bridge, the rail bridge (called the King Edward bridge; trains can use either this bridge or the High Level), the High Level Bridge (which most doubt will ever be open to private cars again; the Tyne bridge, the swing bridge, the metro bridge (aka the QEII bridge, currently the centre of a art lightwork that I have managed never to see) and the Redheugh, which you just have to throw yourself at pronouncing. (I think that is all of them in the right order but am happy for people to correct me if I'm wrong!) But you can only drive over three of them, so as you can imagine, if two are shut - chaos results.

(Incidentally I've never heard about the Great Fire of Newcastle and Gateshead before, but apparently the High Level bridge was a great vantage point. I love wikipedia.)


Caroline's fundraising target for Disraeli Avenue is now £1500 but donations seem to have stalled at £1215. If you haven't read the eBook or donated yet, then please consider doing so? The book is great and the charity she is raising money for is fantastic.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

OK. So if I was to put an entry forward for this, would it be this?
Or this?
Or maybe this?

Friday, 22 February 2008

Veggie delight

I kept having people ask me if I'd been to Sky Apple Cafe for years, but I never got round to going til a year or so ago. Sure it's veggie and I'm veggie, but it's in Heaton too and I didn't see that it could be worth trekking out there. Heaton isn't far, but if you don't drive it's a faff to get to from where I live.

It was when two people who aren't vegetarian but have partners who are told me 'i'm not veggie, but it's fantastic' that I thought I really did want to go. If it's good enough to make meat eaters praise it, I was curious.

I've been in the day and not been all that impressed. It's good but nothing special. But it opens three nights a week as a restaurant and then it's great. The food is fantastic, the presentation is beautiful, and the staff are lovely. Tonight I had a beautiful meal there; starters, main and dessert, just because I could. Starter was a veg and tofu kebab with a spicy peanut satay sauce (I wish I'd written down its name); main was Empanada - a pastry stuffed with veggie chilli, and pecan and banana tart tartin - with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream - for dessert.

Starter: beautiful. The satay sauce was perfect, and it came in an edible little pastry dish, kind of like samosa pastry. I would have been happy with that on its own, so the kebab's worth of stuff to dip in it was a great bonus! Main: lovely, but a tiny bit too much chilli for my liking. Dessert: was nice, but the tart filling was basically three halves of banana with some pecan filling squished between them and enveloped in pastry. It was nice, but there was too much banana, too much pastry, and not enough toffee sauce. Although there is rarely enough toffee sauce in the world. Three of us had that dessert and all of us thought too much banana, too much pastry, and not enough sauce. I told the guy who was clearing out dessert plates and he seemed happy enough to get the feedback. There were five of us out tonight; three veggie, two not, and everyone really enjoyed their food. One of the non-veggies is a dedicated carnivore and even she seemed happy.

The chef has released an eBook called 'The Busy Vegetarian'. It's only £3.49. Not as charitable as Caroline's Disraeli Avenue (see how I work plugs into the most unlikely posts?!) but I'm still going to check it out. This sorbet sounds lovely, although I may cut down the on the lime.

If you're veggie, or know a veggie who you want to treat, or just want a damned good meal, I'd highly recommend you try this place out next time you're in Newcastle.

Oh. Just editing this though to say - don't go on a windy night. Every time the door opened, everything not held down blew off our table. They really need a vestibule area to keep the cold and the wind out.

Thursday, 21 February 2008


I don't know if I'm crazy to even think about submitting something to this.

But it's a good idea, so I'm I'm spreading the word anyway.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Something to watch

I've mentioned before, somewhere, that the City Library in Newcastle has been demolished and that a new one is being built. For those who have already read Disraeli Avenue (hee!) click here to watch the new library being built, or - more exciting - here to watch a time-lapse vid of the old one being demolished.

Monday, 18 February 2008

A confession.

It's eight minutes to one in the morning as I start to write this, and as nearly always on a Sunday night/Monday morning, I can't sleep.

However, this time I think it's more to do with a promise I nearly broke than that 'oh God it's nearly Monday' feeling. (That, and the fact it's freezing here.) Hopefully, keeping that promise will let me sleep.

So here is my review of Disraeli Avenue by Caroline Smailes.

You know that sometimes, opening a book is like discovering a key to another world? JK Rowling did it with Harry Potter. Tolkein with Lord of the Rings. Pullman with the His Dark Materials trilogy.

Not many adults' books manage it in quite such a wholesale fashion - at least, if you discount Star Wars novels and the like. Maybe we're supposed to have outgrown the need to escape our own reality. But Caroline has obsessively woven her universe. Not something fantastical like those three, but just as skilfully done, just as compelling. From the first page of In Search of Adam, the first page of Disraeli Avenue, every detail is precise and true and it swallows you whole.

My confession? I am ashamed to admit it. But the reason I never reviewed In Search of Adam before is that I was scared of it. I was pulled on by the prose. I had to finish reading. It was beautiful. Haunting. Bleak. Beautiful. I cried for Jude. But it scared me. And I didn't know how to explain all that. And I didn't understand yet why anyone who I could tell would want to read.

But now I think I understand. On rereading, when the paperback came out, I started to understand better. I ached for someone to care for Jude. I was glad that in the end, she got some of the answers she needed. But really? I needed Disraeli Avenue. I needed to hear what Crystal and Bill felt. I needed to know what happened next. And from number 30 onwards, the tears started to form. And from when Bill started to speak they flowed. My heart broke for Jude and her family.

It's the tiny details that make this book. The parts where the narratives of different families weave together. Paul Hodgson being jealous of Jude having a dad. Mr Scott riding metro trains, unable to shake one horrific memory. Mrs Smith and her Elizabeth. The local colour; I can hear Bill and his Geordie voice. I can see Disraeli Avenue and its inhabitants.

In Search of Adam and Disraeli Avenue are not easy books. They are not a lighthearted holiday read. But they are beautiful and necessary. People may ask, why write such dark novels? Why choose such terrifying subject matter? But the truth is that this happens. Children out there are going through this now. Denying it, avoiding unpleasant truths, does not make it go away.

Confronting it, bringing it into the daylight, asking why people do these things and why people who know or suspect what is going on do not speak up? That might help to stop these things happening. And by releasing Disraeli Avenue as a free download, by asking those who read to donate money to a charity that helps those who have gone through sexual abuse, Caroline has done her part and much, much more to help protect children and to help survivors of sexual abuse heal.

You don't need to read In Search of Adam to 'get' Disraeli Avenue, or vice versa. But they are stronger as a pair. Each will help you to understand the other.

In Search of Adam is out now at Waterstones, Borders, Amazon and others. Disraeli Avenue is available for free. But please don't let that stop you from donating to One In Four, so named because
'Research has consistently shown that one in four children will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18.' One in Four UK is a Registered Charity (Charity Number 1081726). Caroline's original target of £500 is already met, and the official release date wasn't supposed to be til tomorrow. Let's see if we can double that, eh?

And if you enjoy it, please spread the word. There is no PR budget for either of these releases, so any money raised is through word of mouth. Caroline, her publisher and the cover-designing- person(?!) have all given their time and talent for free. Please email me or Caroline if you want the code to add the widget to your site too.

Thanks for reading.

(I am posting this now, without proofreading properly, because I want to keep my promise. I may revise this review after a night's sleep and an exhausting day. Who can say.)

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Seven positive things meme

Well, everything in my list got at least one vote, so I'll do them all :)

But for the minute, I have complained that I didn't get tagged with a meme and then been tagged for it by John over at cognitive malfunction, so I will be posting seven positive things here first. In no particular order. I think my family and friends come joint first, but beyond that, there is no joy in trying to say running is more important than writing or vice versa, so I won't torment myself by trying. The numbering is just so you really do get seven :)

1) My family. And in there, I am including my husband D, my parents, sisters, grandparents, in-laws... the whole boiling lot of them. I am incredibly fantastically lucky to have such fantastic, supportive, helpful, loving people in my family. I know some people aren't so lucky.

2) My friends. I also have some pretty damned fantastic friends, both
on the internet and offline (incidentally, does facebook count as offline?). Supportive, cheerful, enthusiastic - I am lucky.

3) Writing. Module 3 (poetry) (hey, that rhymes!!!) of my Creative Writing OU course has tried its best to beat it out of me, but I still love writing. I have done for as long as I can remember, although for a long time I didn't bother. But I love putting words together to weave a story and I am at my happiest when I am putting that into practice. Things keep getting in the way of that, but I am getting better at setting time aside and Just. Doing. It already. I am a happier B when I do.

Still generally hate poetry though. With a few notable exceptions - TS Eliot, WH Auden, Edgar Allen Poe, Larkin.

Oh and reading has to come in this section, too, else I'll run out of numbers. I love reading. Anything. The back of a cereal packet if there's nothing else.

4) My job. It's got less and less cheery in the months since I started, but I love the people I work for, I mostly love the people I work with, and I love my line manager. And I love that I am mostly left to work independently without anyone looking over my shoulder. I love that people ask me things and that I can help. I know that bugs some people, but I love to feel needed.

5) The north east. I just love living here. I love the accent, the dialect. I love being so central - coast, country and city are all within 30 minutes or less of my front door. I love being called pet and flower and hinny - I know it's sexist but that's one of those times when I actually feel that we should extend it so we can call men these things, not stop people using them to women. Anyway, it's normally women who use them towards me anyway.

And there is just a lovely air here. The first time I ever came to Newcastle, I got off the train and within thirty minutes had decided that this was where I wanted to be. I left after living here for nearly three years and never settled anyplace til I came back. This is home, now, and I can't imagine living anywhere else.

(I've been drinking. Can you tell?)

6) Running. I've barely run since the Great North Run, but I've been out three times in the last week and I'm back. I love running. It amazes me that I can do it at all. I'm used to being the unfit one, the reader, the indoorsy person. And I still am, mostly; and yet I can run for over an hour and be OK. I can run a half marathon and not die. Although running wasn't quite the right word. And some very fit people die doing half marathons. You know what I mean.

7) Music. Love it. Couldn't live without it. Those certain sequences of notes where you get a shiver down your neck, your back - I don't even know how to finish that sentence. I just know that it would be less of a life without it. I would be able to cope with going deaf, as long as I could keep the memory of how that feels.

If you wanna do this meme, consider yourself tagged! (Caroline, you might wanna, but don't feel pressured if you don't.) In the meantime, pop on over here, donate to One In Four, and download a copy of the best book I am going to read all year.

Yes, I'm going out on a limb with this one. I can't imagine reading anything better in 2008, even though there are still ten months to go. It'll be better if you have read In Search of Adam but if you haven't don't let that stop you. I will be writing and posting a review tomorrow, but in the meantime - get downloading!

Thursday, 7 February 2008


Well, I still haven't updated those links over there *points right*, but I *have* just cleaned up my kinja. There are a lovely load of new sites in there for anyone who wants something new to read.

(Me, faff on the interweb instead of working? Never!!!)

I also just discovered yesterday that one of the Waterstones shops in Newcastle city centre has closed. On Christmas Eve, and I only just found out! According to the linked article, "Waterstone’s – which has another branch across the Monument on Blackett Street – have decided to withdraw from the city centre spot after saying it is “commercially unviable” to have two sites so close together."

But there has been two shops that close together for years. Literally over a decade. How on earth have they only just decided that now?

Anyway, even though they found someone who preferred the old one for that story, I prefer the one that's still open, so I'm happy enough. Amusingly, the shop will be a H&M when it reopens - there is already a H&M store about a third of a mile away, on Northumberland Street. I wonder if in 15 years time they will decide that that isn't commercially viable either.

They make a big thing in the article about how the building is an 'elegant three story listed building', too, but it's not like the building that's left is ugly, is it?

I'm also rather disappointed in Waterstones at the mo, as even though Caroline's book is listed on the website and on the 3 for 2 deal, the Newcastle shop doesn't have any copies in yet. Oh well; they have ten on order. I'll keep going in and asking til they turn up so as many people as possible hear and get curious :)

Next: there are various things I want to write about, so I thought I'd let you have a vote! Choose from:
1. the magic of travelling on the metro
2. bus drivers
3. the Civic Centre
4. train journeys out of Newcastle
(there are more but that's all I can remember right now.) Vote for your chosen one in the comments! If you are nice to me, I may write more than one of them :)

Sunday, 3 February 2008

A signing.

Caroline signing my book.

I was so excited when I saw her. I was kind of scared that we wouldn't recognise each other, but we did.

Caroline writes nice things in books. And writes fantastic books. And I can't wait for Disraeli Avenue and Black Boxes.

(And I managed to resist buying another two books on the 3 for 2 deal. It was hard, so hard, but I did. My reading pile is too high and I have too much work to do.)