Monday, 29 September 2008

A book signing

On Saturday I got up really, really early.

6am early.

6am doesn't exist on a Saturday, for me.

But I needed to catch a train at 7.30am. Meet up with another observant blogger at Durham (well, that was the plan anyway, although two southbound trains within five minutes from Durham station caused a small amount of confusion that ended with us meeting on Platform 4 at York). Change trains at York and meet my parents off the train for them to take us to Borders at Cheshire Oaks. And meet up with the very lovely Ms Smailes.

Yes, I went to Caroline' signing at Cheshire Oaks. I took cakes and erasers. One of them was even a lighthouse eraser. Me? Try and bribe people to make them *heart* me the most?

(It didn't work anyway. I think a certain t shirt may have stolen her heart....)

And for a certain other blogger, I post this photo and hope it makes you smile and that the roses were as lovely as you hoped:

I didn't talk to Caroline as much as I'd planned to as I didn't want to monopolise her conversation too much. But I did play with her children, and they are very lovely. And I did meet some very very very (one each!) lovely blog people. And I hope to meet them all again soon.

That night, I read my copy of Black Boxes until midnight when I reluctantly put it down, exhausted from the early start. As soon as I got on the train the next day, I started reading again. I ended up changing trains at York, sitting on Platform 5, finishing the book and crying openly. It's that good, and I'll post a review in a few days.

I came back full of enthusiasm for writing and full of gratitude for all my new friends.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

back soon

In the meantime - have some cake (I made it for Macmillan cancer care's big coffee morning) and chat amongst yourselves in the comments. Won't be long!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Want to Win a Wii?

(Alliteration is the coolest)

If so, anyway, pop on over to Sarah *G*'s place. She has a wii to raffle and tickets are only £2.

The raffle is in aid of Kidney Research UK. Sarah, mad as she is, is also running the London Marathon to raise much needed funds for this great charity as her daughter was born with one normal and one Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney. Clickety here for more information.

Click on over, buy a raffle ticket and wish Sarah all the very best of luck!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Meme: stolen from loria

List 10 books you have on your bookshelf that you think nobody else on your friends list has on theirs.
(it's from lj, but i'm sure we can assume it just means people who read your blog, right?)
These are all highly recommended.

Have you read any of them? Go ahead, prove me wrong :o)

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Literary and Philosophical Society

I loved the Lit and Phil.

The tour I'd aimed for (9.45am Saturday) was fully booked, but someone didn't turn up, so they let me on anyway. I'd heard of it before (I'd half planned to go to a Val McDermid launch there at one point but missed it) but didn't know where it was - for some reason I thought it was the opposite end of Westgate Road to where it is. It's actually towards St Nicholas's Cathedral from the station, not towards Fenham.

Confusion notwithstanding, I found where I was going and joined the tour. At first I just stood and listened, but after only a couple of minutes I found myself scrabbling for my notebook and jotting down the most fascinating facts. And they were mostly fascinating.

The Society was formed in 1793, and the building was built in 1825. They own upwards of 155,000 books, but didn't keep a catalogue until 1893. After a party for the centenary of the Lit and Phil, a fire started. Noone knew how many books were lost as there was no record of what they owned.

If you're a member you can borrow books from 1860 onwards. I tremble with excitement at the mere idea.

The Hancock Museum was set up using a collection that had been bought by the Lit and Phil and housed in a small 'Newcastle Museum'. In the end, it outgrew the space available, and was moved to the site of the Hancock Museum, which was named such in 1890 after the naturalist John Hancock's death. Next year the museum will reopen as the Great North Museum. The Society of Antiquities was also started as part of the Lit and Phil.

And they have a Silent Room. How great is that?

Now I just need to find £65 to become a member....

Photos on flickr if you are interested.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Day two

Today I went to St Mary's Lighthouse first. I took a load of photos for Caroline, and then asked for some information about the lighthouse past and present. They brought the manager down, a lovely guy called Adam, and I explained why I was asking for the information and about Caroline's books.

Turns out his partner has read Disraeli Avenue.

I realise it's unlikely, but if you're reading, say hi?

I've put photos on facebook for Caroline, but they will also be going onto flickr soon. Close to two hundred taken today. I've taken more photos in the last two days than I took in four days in Paris.

After that, I went back into Newcastle. Didn't end up doing Dance City; the timings didn't work out, unfortunately, and I've seen it before so I'm sure I can wait until next year. I went to Central Square and Central Square South, though; took photos of Vulcan and Reaching for the Stars outside. (I would never have found Reaching for the Stars without Mike and Cassandra, but I even told some people about it today.) If you ever get the chance to go into either of the buildings, do; Central Square has some amazing sculptures and some pictures of the construction of Vulcan, and Central Square South has some stairs that look like they are hovering in mid air. And a clock showing the time in New York. (I somehow don't think they mean this New York.) I just wish I could have taken photos inside of the buildings.

I really need to find some more of this street art.

After that, I dashed to Haymarket just in time to pick up the last tour of the Civic Centre this weekend. It was amazing. A building that is so ugly from some angles and so beautiful from others, as I said here.

I didn't end up going over to see my mother in law. We went to Asda and his grandma's instead. Was a nice day, but I can't believe it's work again tomorrow.

I can't believe how lucky I am to live in a place with so many wonderful things all around. I can't believe I have to wait a full year to see everything else.....

Thanks again for the heads up, Mike.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Tyne & Wear Heritage Open Days

I was out of the house for 9.15am today. That's pretty much unheard of on a weekend.

So far this weekend, I've
  • done a tour of the Literary and Philosophical Society (aka the Lit and Phil)
  • looked round the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas and climbed the tower
  • explored the Castle Keep
  • visited Bessie Surtees' House
  • been to Alderman Fenwick's House
  • toured the Holy Jesus Hospital
  • been shown round the old Newcastle Breweries' Offices
  • looked round the Friends Meeting House in Jesmond.
I have taken approximately a million photos (possibly a slight exaggeration) nearly three hundred photos (!!!!) which I will post to flickr over the next... fortnight, probably. I don't want to overwhelm everyone! (Incidentally, my flickr photostream is getting updated regularly these days if you are interested.)

I got home to D handing me a glass of fresh orange and a cup of tea and the smell of tea on the go. Just about to eat now. I love my hubby.

Tomorrow I plan to do Dance City, Central Square and Central Square South, the Civic Centre, and St Mary's Lighthouse. Then go to my mother-in-law's house for a meal, hopefully.

And that supposedly major protest in Newcastle city centre about the management of the football team? I didn't see or hear a thing of it.

The Millennium Bridge

I've already posted photos of the Millennium Bridge on Newcastle Daily Photo. Today I'm posting a video. I hope you enjoy it.

If you're ever walking along the Quayside at night, it's worth stopping to watch the colours change.
Beyond the bridge, you can see the lights along the banks of the Tyne. To the left, the streetlights down the Quayside. To the right, the Baltic.

Newcastle is magical at night.

Friday, 12 September 2008

I can't believe...

That I didn't know about this before now. Mike kindly linked me on the daily photo site, but I didn't really read it properly until this evening.

Now I have a huge huge list of things that I'd like to visit and see and do over the next two days. Literally seventeen places that I'd like to get to over two days. It's probably as well that I didn't look earlier, as if I had had time to actually book some of these things in advance... it probably would have been thirty or forty things. The insides of the Tyne Bridge? The Baltic? The Swing Bridge motor room? Jesmond Old Cemetery - including the catacombs under Newcastle? I can't believe I'm missing all these things!

And I've only looked at Gateshead, Newcastle and North Tyneside; if I'd let myself look at South Tyneside or Gateshead... well who knows where that would have ended.

Some of them I've seen before (Dance City; the
Baltic) and some I could see anytime, although I'd maybe have to pay. But the lure of seeing these places for free... and the lure of getting into areas I'd not normally be able to get into... it's delicious.

I know it's rather late, but I'm going to list the things I want to do below. If you'd particularly recommend one, or if you think one will turn out to be rather dull... well let me know sooner rather than later. Because apparently I'll be out rather early in the morning.
I am going to be knackered, come Monday.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Crazy September

On Friday it was wet.

Everyone I spoke to seemed miserable. Bemoaning the grey damp cold. The end of summer. The inevitable decline of the weather.

After work, I went out for tea.

I had a nice, albeit incredibly garlicky, meal with some old work colleagues. We went to El Torrerro on the Side.

The Side is a very slopy street. It was pouring with rain when we left. Streams were flowing down towards the river.

We laughed and splashed and sang our way back to the car park.

This was the view from my car window as I waited at the top of Dean Street to go home.

Saturday was even wetter. Rivers burst. Morpeth flooded. I wondered if our car was going to wash away.

It didn't.

This was taken this morning. Sunlight through the trees.

It was a beautiful autumnal morning.

I've been hearing rumours of an Indian summer.

I didn't believe them, not at first.

But maybe, after the sunshine this morning. Maybe I can.

And I can always hope.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Things and stuff

I am loving posting pictures on Newcastle upon Tyne Daily Photo. I wrote a list yesterday of well over a hundred shots that I want to take and post, including various 'themed weeks'. That will keep me going for well over four months.

I told some friends about it yesterday and my parents today. So I guess I'm public now. This blog is one thing; but a high-profile site like that, that is featured on the local BBC site? I kinda want the credit. Don't hate me.

Don't worry. I do still love blogging here, and the other site will never replace this.

Some more news. As of yesterday, I have started a trial period of flexible working (so Cally's comment was pretty close here). Still full time hours, but worked over a nine day fortnight. This gives me one day a fortnight to be at home and write, when it's quiet and peaceful. The first day is this Friday. I am so excited (I am living in a permanent state of excitement right now). It's good to feel that I'm taking a positive step in carving out space for writing.

If you're bored, why not go play with the new widget for Black Boxes? It's just over there to the right *points* and it's tons of fun.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

so finally...

The announcement.

I'm the new contributor to Newcastle upon Tyne Daily Photo!

I'm really excited about it, and I'm looking forward to taking and posting many more photographs of the great city I live in.

(Sorry to keep you all in suspense. I didn't want to say before Cassandra had a chance to announce it.

It was fun watching you all guess, though!)

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Exciting News!

There is Exciting News afoot!

But I am mean and not going to announce it yet. I'm going to go to the pub with some friends instead. I'm not sure when it's really official so will announce it as soon as I know.

Feel free to speculate in the comments if you'd like though!

(And no Cas, it's not that!)

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

So. Football.

The news filtered through this morning that Kevin Keegan had left Newcastle. (Funny how these things get through even without access to the internet.) It came from the friend of a husband of a friend who used to play for the team, so it seemed fairly genuine. And when we heard a little while later it was on Sky News, that was it. He was gone, less than a year after he'd arrived.

And yet now, noone seems to know what the hell is going on. Is Keegan sacked? Newcastle deny it. Has he walked out? He doesn't seem to be saying, either way.

So far everyone seems to be supporting him. But if he doesn't step forward and say what the hell's going on soon, I doubt that will last much longer.

What I don't get is why Newcastle didn't scupper this rumour as soon as it started this morning. That's what makes me suspicious. If all in the garden was rosy, then I can't imagine they would have let the rumours take on the mantle of fact all day like this. Let the Newcastle fans make such a racket. (And don't these people have jobs? Seriously, every time something happens at the football team suddenly they are all outside St James' Park.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, although the true football fans would find this sacrilegious. Sometimes I forget I'm not a Newcastle fan.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Prompt: use three of the items below in the story.

The words: pen; computer; suitcase; gun; cat; DVD player; phone; half written novel; clock. Instead of three, I used five of them. So sue me :o)

(c) B @ All rights reserved
The biro flew across the room and fell into the corner. Thomas considered letting the computer follow it, but at the last minute settled for kicking it instead. The box rattled in its nest at the bottom of the desk. It did nothing to alleviate his mood.

That bloody novel. He'd been working on it for nearly four years now and it was still barely half finished. So many times he'd decided to give it up. So many times he'd decided to go out and get a life, already. But every single time, it crept back into his mind. Bled into his subconscious like a wound that just wouldn't heal. And then - every. Single. Time - he picked up his pen once more, started making notes, writing details about his characters, and the words would flow.

For all of two days.

And then they would start to dry up once more.

Dust tickled his nose as he scrabbled round for his pen. This was getting ridiculous. He needed to put this stupid novel out of his mind, once and for all.

He would let his pen choose. It could be a pointer to help him decide whether he should try and struggle on, or, well. Whether he should give it up
as a bad job, after all.

Thomas walked over to the cupboard where he kept his most treasured possessions. The picture of his parents, days before they died. The photo of him and Christie, laughing, suntanned, on holiday in Goa. How long ago it seemed now. He'd thought she was happy with him, that she'd enjoyed their holiday as much as he had. But on the last night it had all come out. How bored she'd been when he'd been spending his mornings writing. 'Nothing to do! The first few days were great, but...'

He shut his mind to the memories. This was not the time.

Thomas opened the cupboard, pulled out a polished dark wood box. His
heartbeat quickened as he placed it reverentially on the floor. The pen went into the centre of the floor. He unplugged his computer mouse. That would be for the choice of carrying on. After some thought, he wriggled up into the loft and threw down his battered green suitcase. He needed that third choice, of running away.

He bowed his head and prayed to noone at all for the right answer.

Then Thomas spun the pen. It revolved half-heartedly a couple of times, then came to rest quicker than he'd expected.

It was pointing at the box.

"Thank Christ," he said aloud and jumped. His own voice reverberated in the still air.

He crawled over to the box, undid the latch. Opened the lid slowly, wondering at the contents.
The dull metal.

At last. He could say goodbye to this world. To the people who didn't take him seriously, didn't believe he could make it.

To the blasted novel.

As he pulled out the gun, he suddenly seemed to leave his body. To float up to the ceiling. He watched himself, detached, as he cradled the gun in his arms.

"This would make a great scene in my novel," he thought.

And he snapped back into his body. Grinning, he laid the gun back in the box, and walked back to the computer.

Maybe this time, he thought, it will be different.


OK, I know it's not the best story in the world, but it amused me to write and it got a laugh at the group. I hope you enjoy it too.

A writing group

I've finally found a writing group that meets near me in the evening.

I've been looking for one for a while (I even emailed a load of writerly people I met at a Mslexia focus group to find out a) if there were any out there or b) if anyone was interested in setting one up) but not got anywhere.

But tonight I finally got to one.

It wasn't quite what I expected, though. I kinda thought that one of the points of joining a writers' group was to get feedback on what you've written. There was none of that. In fact, if I hadn't asked the leader, I don't think we would even have told each other our names (....! I was hoping to hear how long people had been going to the group, what their experience was, what they were interested in, but all we got was a list of names that I'll never remember as I have no details to hang them on). Instead, we were given details of this month's competition and two sheets of prompts; we wrote for 20 minutes or so from one of the prompts, then read out our stories. Afterwards, we could each read out something that we'd brought along, and the leader gave us a card with the website for the group on.

It didn't work.

I did enjoy it, don't get me wrong. But I'd expected something more.

Anyway. I quite liked what I came up with. So I thought I'd post it. I will put it in its own post though. Feel free to post feedback in the comments - or not. It's not something I've revised or edited at all, but I hope you enjoy it.