Wednesday, 28 May 2008

  1. Went to the newly reopened Tyneside cinema tonight to see the film Joy Division. Just got back now.
  2. If you want to get a coffee before your film, leave plenty of time. The coffee is great, but the servers are incredibly slow.
  3. Was the mosaic in the entrance there before? I don't remember it.
  4. Take a layer if you feel the cold; I was cold and there was a draft on my feet.
  5. If you like Joy Division - anything from an unenthusiastic 'I don't mind them' to being a huge fan - then see the film. Still on at the Tyneside tomorrow night at 6.05 if you happen to be in the vicinity.
  6. Noone moved till the very end of the credits, where the screen fades to black. The screen was half full and yet there was almost complete silence, all over the final song (Atmosphere) which plays over the first half of the credits, then through the listings of all songs playing. After the screen faded to black a couple of people spoke, quietly, but most people stood up and filtered out in silence. I've never experienced anything quite like it.
  7. I still feel as though someone filled my head with helium and then placed lumps of lead in strategic positions around my body. I've been incredibly tired and sleepy all day and I think that contributed to the film being an almost hallucinatory experience.
  8. Newcastle is my adopted city, my home, but I don't think I realised until quite early on in the film that much as I dislike Manchester - much as I'm from the other side of the Manchester-Liverpool rivalry - that city is still in my blood. Still calls to me.
  9. I'm still a north-westerner.
  10. That really, really took me by surprise, and I'm going to have to spend a few days dealing with it.

I still don't feel like myself.

Monday, 26 May 2008

I got me a laptop

And it is goooooooood.

Thanks to all the advice the other day. It was much appreciated and I feel much better now.

Today has been beautiful. The whole weekend has, just about. I mowed the lawn before and was quite worried I was going to get sunburned. (Although I was only outside a short while and was too lazy when I realised quite how hot it was to go inside for suncream. Bad B.)

back to proper updates soon.

Friday, 23 May 2008


If you don't feel like reading a panicky rant, feel free to skip this. I need to write it, but I don't necessarily need people to read it.


I'm starting to realise that I just can't work in any proper sense in the lounge, with the TV that's permanently on in my peripheral vision. Even when what's on is stuff that I hate, that I wouldn't let people pay me to watch, I take it as evidence that this isn't work time, this isn't time when I should be concentrating, this is faff on the internet time. This isn't important. And the fact that this is also where I do all my paperwork, that bills and letters and magazines are between me and the monitor? Doesn't help at all.

Right now I am listening to a CD quite loud, and I still just had to get D to turn the TV down, because even though it's actually on quieter than we usually watch, I just couldn't tune the stupid thing out.

And no, turning the TV off isn't an option when your darling husband is addicted. And the times when he's reading never coincide with the times I'm working.

Honestly, I could scream right now. I have left work every night this week with the express intention of writing a first draft of my End of Course Assessment (ECA), so I can post it online for feedback by tonight's deadline. So I can sit on it for a few days before I start working on it, polish the living daylights out of it by 3rd June, when I need to send the damned thing off. And have I done it? No. Monday I was ill (and missed the Poppy Shakespeare event I'd mentioned, which I am *so frustrated* about). Tuesday went to the hospital to visit a friend of mine who is now out and better. Wednesday went food shopping and then couldn't concentrate. Last night went to see parents in law. Tonight went for quick drink after work (was home by 7pm or thereabouts; was a friend's leaving do so couldn't miss it entirely) then instead of working I read every new post through google reader. Played bejewelled (I wish I'd never rediscovered that damned game) and tetris (ditto, ditto, a majillion times ditto). And it's half stupid fricking ten and I have done NOTHING beyond half a half-hearted cluster diagram on one of the main characters.

I keep saying I need a laptop, but I can't afford one. First the car, then our bedroom (... have I mentioned that we bought a car and started to decorate our bedroom?). They've left fairly large holes, between them, where before we had a small, tiny, amount of savings. For the first time ever. I was so proud of getting out of debt, so adamant that we were not going to go back there. We wouldn't have started to decorate if we'd realised D's new job would involve car ownership and all the expense that goes with it. But we'd started, and we couldn't leave the room in the state it was in once we'd taken the wallpaper and ceiling tiles off. It had a red and white ceiling for chrissakes. I could barely sleep in it.

I can't even bear to add up how much debt we are in now. It's nothing terribly awful compared to some people, nothing compared to the £12k debt I was in before.... maybe £1.5k on 0% credit cards, which will not take us long to pay off... but.


That puts other plans off, plans I've been desperate to put into being for so, so long.

So what to do? Or, as I posted on facebook earlier, B is wondering if it'd be totally frickin insane to buy a laptop that she totally can't afford or just an investment in her future, a sign she takes it seriously?

I don't know what to do first. To go to bed and get a good night's sleep, wake up early and work then. To just push on and get that stupid torturous first draft out onto the computer? To do all the stuff that needs doing round and about so there are not piles of stuff everywhere to distract me? To write a list of all the works in progress (about five) that are currently coming out of my ears so I can stop thinking about them until I've got the ECA out of the way?

I suspect that sleep is the most sensible option, right now.

Music: The Killers, Sawdust.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

i got...

my highest mark yet for my TMA (yes, my tutor has got the marks out already!). Managed to get a distinction. I was so excited I had to phone Cas and get all excited down the phone at her.

I had a complete crisis of confidence this afternoon. Managed to convince myself I'm nothing special as a writer. I am so proud now, so happy with my mark, and can't stop grinning like a loon. Yay me!


One of my photos from yesterday is photo of the day over at Newcastle upon Tyne Daily Photo. I am VERY excited!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

To any writers out there

This sounds fascinating. I plan to take part.

And Waterstones have a flash fiction competition going at the minute, as linked to by Calistro and.... someone else that I can't remember. Sorry. It's a maximum of one entry which has a max of 600 characters (not words) when submitted online. You can read the submitted stories too. I'm trying not to click through else I'll spend time I should be working reading them all....

Moody photos around Haymarket metro


Work is really in progress now to upgrade the Metro station.

The Metro station is open in the day, but closes at 7.45pm each day.

Looking down Northumberland Street. The clock on the corner of the cream-coloured building struck 6pm just as I took this photo.

Did you spot the outlined castle towers at the top of the lamppost in the middle of the picture? I never see them normally but was really happy when I spotted them outlined against the sky.

Friday, 16 May 2008

I love words.

I'm polishing my last but one assignment for submission; trying to lose another 76 words to bring me within the correct word count and make sure all the words are polished and correct. (I noticed that on the second line I had misspelled 'cheeks' as 'checks'. That has got through about a million drafts and at least three other readers, and obviously the spellchecker wouldn't pick it up, so I'm being supercareful.)

Anyway, I just looked up 'rucksack', to make sure it was totally definitely right. And what do I see but the derivation of the word? It's German, and I love German. Rücken is German for back (ruck is German dialect); Sack German for bag. Rucksack = back bag.

I love words. Languages. Cross fertilisation.

Back to the grindstone for now, though.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

A few of my favourite things.

Well ourmaninnewcastle is doing it as well as Cassandra now, so I'm giving you a list of my eight favourite things about Newcastle.

The Quayside at night has to be right up there. The place buzzes. Walking along the riverside on a summer's evening, just after it's got dark. I don't do it often enough.

Jesmond Dene and the Armstrong Bridge. It always amazes me that there is such a green haven so close to the city centre. Also featuring Pet's Corner. I don't go to Jesmond Dene very often either. A theme is developing....

Sky Apple Cafe is fantastic, as I may have mentioned before. Veggie but comes highly recommended by both veggies and carnivores alike. I prefer it in the evening; it's not cheap, but it's worth every penny.

(I'm getting frustrated. I want to list the rabbits but ourman got their first. In fact, I just want to recite most of his list. The Tyneside cinema... and especially the tearooms, although I do agree that Intermezzo is great too. The Metro. The Coast. It's all fab.)

Bill's Fish Bar in Cullercoats. Much better than the one in Tynemouth that everyone goes to. It's a fair drive from home, but worth it. The staff are great too.

The Great North Run. It's an amazing experience - to run or to watch. I think I'll be watching this year...!

The Turkish Baths. They are fab. Haven't been there for a while either.

The Angel of the North. The first time I saw it for real, I was driving north on the A1. It appears from nowhere and I nearly died of shock. I wasn't expecting it at all. (I'm being rather fluid with my definition of Newcastle here; hope you'll forgive me.) (I've written about it here too.)

And finally, the people. The accent and dialect. I love Newcastle, but without the people, it would have no heart. I love that even though people think I sound posh (believe me I don't), they accept me and know I love the place too.

There are lots of things I should do more of. I need to start incorporating more fun into my life.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008


Cassie over at Newcastle Daily Photo asked what people's favourite thing or place in Newcastle is.

I'm not sure, but this has to be one of them.

I believe it's listed, although I can't find any evidence of that right now.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Dismantling wardrobes

We're in the process of decorating our bedroom at the mo. It's all a bit chaotic. The room was plastered a few days ago and there was furniture everywhere; not everything has made its way back to where it belongs yet, partly because there is still painting to do so it seems a pointless to put everything back and then have to move it again. And the plaster's still not entirely dry yet. It's taking forever.

The wardrobe was one of the last things we moved out of our room, at 7.30am on the day the plasterer was coming round. D leaves for work at 7.50, so we didn't have too much time, but I didn't remember my dad and uncle having too bad a time manoeuvring it in, so I wasn't too worried.

My uncle is big and strong and excellent at spatial thinking, though. My dad's probably as strong as Paul, but I'm in no way as strong as my uncle. We should probably have factored this into our thinking.

We moved it to the doorway no problem and then tried to work out what to do next. Opposite our bedroom is an alcove where the filing cabinet lives (mostly empty, with a huge pile of filing on top - like filing cabinets everywhere). D wasn't convinced the filing cabinet needed to be moved; he thought the wardrobe would swing round sideways, straight into the next room. I knew that that plan didn't have a hope in hell of working, so I quickly emptied the filing cabinet and moved it down the corridor.

We then tipped it sideways and gently moved in through the door, sliding the bottom forwards to try and get it standing up in the hall.

But it wouldn't go.

It took a huge gouge out of the top of the alcove opposite.

I squeezed out of the bedroom into the corridor, through a gap I wouldn't have thought I would fit through, to have a look at the damage. It wasn't bad, but there were no way the wardrobe was moving, except maybe back into the bedroom. But it needed to be out of there before the plasterer showed up. At this point, I was trapped behind it and D was on the other side. I was in my dressing gown (yes, again) and sweat was pooling in the small of my back from the exertion. I'd only been out of the shower ten minutes and already I wanted another.

'Nothing for it,' he said. 'Do you have plans for this wardrobe?'

We're getting new(ish) wardrobes for the bedroom from D's mum, so we didn't need it, but I'd planned to freecycle it. It was old and a bit discoloured but would have been useful to someone. But time was ticking and D needed to be leaving soon. 'Not any more,' I answered.

So at 7.30 the other morning, D took a hammer to the wardrobe and broke it up.

The neighbours will have loved us.

Oh, and did I mention he hadn't got dressed yet? He had been in the shower and was in pants and socks.

I don't mind telling you that part of the story as he told everyone in his work. I'm sure they were thrilled when he shared. Did I mention he's only been there six weeks or so?

Sunday, 11 May 2008


We go round to D's grandparents' house nearly every Sunday. We'll sometimes do some shopping for them and then take it round, put it away and sit with a cuppa. D will often have a cornetto. It's a nice way to spend an hour or two on a Sunday.

Of course, a couple of weeks ago I dropped a tin of soup on his grandma's foot, which to cut a very long story very short, necessitated an ambulance coming out to patch up her foot. I was horrendously embarrassed, but she seemed to forgive me before it'd even stopped hurting.

Today, we sat eating coconut macaroons that I'd seen in the supermarket and had a yearning for. That started a discussion about coconut haystacks, as discussed by the lovely Caroline here. (We've decided that coconut haystack is a regional term for them, by the way.)

This reminded D's grandma of something and she suddenly disappeared into her bedroom, which she does fairly regularly. She appeared a couple of minutes later, brandishing three Be-Ro recipe books. One of them, the newest, was the red one on the right hand side of that link. That was the 24th edition. The next oldest is the 11th edition. The oldest is so old it doesn't have an edition number, but unfortunately it's also missing its front cover, so I doubt I'll ever be able to work out exactly how old it is.

I spent ages flicking through them. The first two don't have anything so accurate as temperatures to bake at - they have to go with high, moderate or low as oven temperatures. One even talks about 'ordinary coal ovens'. Coal ovens?! I suppose bakers had to use something before domestic gas was piped to houses, but I'd never thought about it before.

The books are filled with line drawings of women and little girls and exhortations to teach your daughters to bake.

There's nothing so crazy as marzipan to go on your fruitcakes. Instead, the baker needs to make up 'almond icing' as the first layer to go beneath the royal icing.

'Coconut' is spelled 'cocoanut'.

In one of the books, someone has costed up all the ingredients for the Xmas cake (Xmas cake, not Christmas cake, which surprised me). I can tell you that when the 24th edition was out, it would have cost 19 shillings 6 pence ha'penny.

Just before we were going, as I was taking my mug into the kitchen, his grandma followed me out and asked if I would keep them and not give them away to anyone, and I told her I would love to keep them. I think they're probably worth a bit, especially the middle one, but I wouldn't sell them unless she actually wanted me to. 'The others wouldn't be interested,' she said. D's dad and his brother have married women who don't really 'do' baking. I don't bake much, but I love it when I do. Tonight I'm making fairy cakes for a friend's birthday tomorrow in lieu of a present.

Baking is one of those underrated skills. Because it's seen as a woman's 'thing' - like knitting before its recent resurgence - it's looked down on and scorned. (One of my cousins used to love baking when he was a kid, but his dad wouldn't let him continue with that hobby. I often wonder how differently his life would have turned out if he'd been encouraged to bake. As it happens he drifted for a long time before settling down with a lovely girl.) I think it's important to pass these skills down, to boys and girls. I plan to learn to knit again before D and I have kids. To learn to use a sewing machine. And to pass these skills down through the generations, to boys and girls.

As I was getting into the car to go home with D, I realised that I've just received my first family heirloom from D's family. I feel honoured that it's also a little piece of social history.

If the writing ever falls through, my plan is to start a little tearoom somewhere. Maybe if that happens, I'll use some of these recipes.

Thursday, 8 May 2008


I had an internal interview a few weeks ago.

I didn't get the job. And I'm really pleased about that.

Don't get me wrong; I would have loved the job I was going for. It would have been far more interesting than what I'm doing now, along with more responsibility and room to grow (oh and a lovely salary boost). And I was devastated when I heard I hadn't got it. But I was due to go out walking with a friend and her dogs that night, so I had to put the disappointment aside (and then she fed me chips and wine which always helps). By the time I woke up the next morning, I was feeling strangely positive; thinking about the fact that my course finishes soon and that I have two deadlines in quick succession. Thinking about the fact that I need to work really hard; that the last assignment is 50% of my final mark. Thinking about the fact that while I would have loved the job and know I would have been good at it, it's not my dream job. And it would have taken time and energy that I don't have available for work right now.

I've read a book (highly recommended btw) that says writing immediately on waking up will improve your capacity for writing; will improve the quality of your work massively; will heighten the urge to recast your day into words. So two weeks ago I started writing the second I was conscious enough to pick up my notebook and pen. I've written varying amounts before getting out of bed for 14 days in a row now and I plan on keeping it up nearly every day; only letting myself off if I have to be up much earlier or quicker than normal.

It means that I start my day doing something I love. And that means I start pretty much every day in a great mood. Someone commented yesterday that I'm much happier the last week or so. It's true, I am. I'm writing in the morning, in the evening, through the day. I've used birthday money to pay for subscriptions to writing magazines. Today I bought a load of women's mags that print short stories and I plan to study them, see what they print, see if I can get a story into print. I'm officially in the queue to join Novel Racers. I've started writing a novel.

Being so much happier and writing so much more is making me want to blog regularly again. But therein lies a dilemma.

I started this blog as a place to post my observations about living in the north east, but fairly quickly drifted away from that being the main focus of the blog. I want to get back to that, to open my eyes more and write about what I see. I enjoy choosing what to focus on and what to hide. I enjoy deciding what parts of me I show, what I conceal. But I also want to blog about writing, to write about what's going on in my life as a writer. And I don't know whether to write about that here, on my watching-geordie-life blog, or whether to start up a new blog, for writing talk.

So I will give the choice to you. What keeps you coming back here? What are you most interested in reading about? Would you be interested in reading about my writing life? If so, would you like to keep it all together? Would you keep up to date with two B blogs? If not, would it put you off coming back here if you had to skip past entries about writing to get to the meat, the heart of this blog? Should I start over elsewhere and have a general blog but with twin focii? Is focii a word??

*throws the floor open for comments*

Thanks for any answers you can give.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Snapshots of Tuesday lunchtime.

Students, smokers and office workers everywhere (I suspect mostly the first). Sitting on any patch of green, outside Newcastle University's Robinson Library, outside the Civic Centre. Enjoying the sunshine.

A Chinese wedding party walking down Percy Street. I noticed a girl in a beautiful pinky-purple silk evening dress first and wondered first if there was a graduation ceremony on. She was walking with a group dressed equally formally. A few steps on, though, I saw a stunning Chinese girl in her early 20s, wearing a white wedding dress covered with beading and embroidery. They went into a Chinese restaurant to continue their celebrations. I hope they are incredibly happy together.

A tall goth woman with dyed black hair, glasses and a square face. She was pushing a child in a pushchair on the corner near Wilkinsons, dressed in huge orange-painted black boots, a long purple velvet skirt and a huge black coat, without even looking the slightest bit warm. I couldn't help but respect her dedication.

Four workmen in high viz vest sitting round a far-too-small table outside Mark Toney's, eating ice cream sundaes with ridiculously tiny plastic spoons.

A skinny goth girl with a huge smile wearing a black net top and impossibly high heels walking down the street with a collar round her neck, a bright green lead attached. The end of the lead was being held by the man with her. It was far too short though, and he had to keep his elbow bent and his arm up to keep hold.

The scent of coconut body lotion on warm skin mingled with the sharp smoke of a lit cigarette as I stopped far too close to the girl in front at a crossing in the middle of a road, the scents made stronger by the strength of the sunshine.

The densest patch of daises I have ever seen.

My travel pass expired on Friday and for various reasons I decided not to renew it. If I'd renewed it, I would have got the metro into town. If I'd got the metro into town, I would have missed nearly all of these things.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Book Group Summit: Poppy Shakespeare

Monday 19 May, 7-9pm
Book Group Summit: 
Poppy Shakespeare

Clare Allen (Author)
World Headquarters, Curtis Mayfield House, Carliol Square, Newcastle NE1 6UF

For the fourth annual event, we are delighted to welcome Clare Allen, author of this moving and funny account of life with mental illness, which was shortlisted for the Mind Book of the Year Award in 2007. Clare is a survivor of the mental health system and a strong advocate for the rights of mentally ill people. Please read the book in advance. Note: due to high demand and limited space, please book your place(s) by emailing

I've been meaning to read that book for ages. I've just emailed to ask for a place. I hope there are still places available.

(two hundreth post. wow)