Geordie superstars

I mentioned the Metro mural earlier. Who do you recognise?


Odeon Memories

Walking back to the Metro today, I walked past Stacks, the super trendy new restaurant/bar/culture thingy that just opened opposite the Tyneside. If this was a cool lifestyle blog, I would have been already and taken pictures and reported back – I briefly considered going just for the sake of writing about it, before remembering this isn’t a cool lifestyle blog, it’s the meanderings of a middle aged Geordie who hates crowds and always wants a seat. So, maybe I’ll go on a week day, when it’s less busy, but until then all I can say is it looks kinda nice when you walk past.

But it is also sort of heart-breaking, because it stands on the site of what was once the Newcastle Odeon, and, when that got torn down, an awful lot of my memories went with it. The Odeon was a lovely cinema – one of the old-fashioned movie palaces filled with crimson drapes, not a new, soul-less multiplexes – and it played a seminal role in my movie-going youth.

It should have been the place I saw my first film, except my mum got the timings for Bambi wrong and we ended up across the road at the Tyneside watching The Amazing Mr Blunden instead. But, that mix up aside, it was the scene of many firsts over the years.

It was there when, on a trip when she had actually got the times right, that I realised my mum was an Actual Human Woman with Real Feelings, as she got increasingly flustered over Christopher Reeve’s Superman. ‘He’s so handsome! And tall! And handsome!’

It was the cinema where I saw Star Wars for the first time. And where I saw the remastered Star Wars for the first time. And where I saw the remastered remastered Star Wars for the first time. And where I saw the Phantom Menace for the first time, but let’s skip over that. (It was there I realised a relationship would never work, when my then-boyfriend turned to me as the lights on Empire went down and asked, ‘So, Darth Vader is the bad guy, yeah?’. Funnily enough I went to see one of the reissues with Caution Spoilers – who now WRITES ABOUT FILM, people – and she was similarly ill-informed, but friendship is clearly stronger than romance: the boyfriend is long gone, she’s still around).

It was there I queued for Return of the Jedi (the first time) for FOUR HOURS. Nowadays I wouldn’t queue for four hours if Chris Hemsworth was handing out hugs and tenners.

It was there I saw a Sunday morning preview screening to Desperately Seeking Susan that I had won tickets to, and me and my friend C were the only non-rabid fans there – everyone else was in full lace gloves and crucifixes mode. They took a picture of the queue and it ended up in the Evening Chronicle.

It was there that, on another trip with Caution Spoilers, we went to see Scream. At the very start of it she turned to me and said, ‘I don’t know why I agreed to this, I hate horror’. Which was a surprise to me, as I thought it was her idea. “I hate horror too!” I exclaimed, and we both sat there, petrified, for the whole movie. (I also spent the next few days in terror as CS, with whom I was sharing a flat at the time, went away on business almost immediately afterwards, leaving me to check our bathroom for psychos alone. And I was doubly freaked as I went into work the day after the movie and a colleague exclaimed, ‘Oh! You’re alive!’ ‘Um, why wouldn’t I be?’ I asked, slightly perplexed. ‘It’s just I dreamt you were murdered,’ she explained, cheerily. ‘And it’s funny cos my dreams usually come true…’  Well, THANKS.)

It was there, also, I learned from bitter experience that the worst film for a first date – I’m not kidding, the absolute worst, most terrible, most awful movie ever for a first date – was David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers.

On second thoughts, maybe I’m glad they knocked it down.


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Food fit for gods at Quilliam Bros

Having been thwarted on my attempt to visit Quilliam Brothers on Saturday – it was closed for refurbishment – I was delighted to get a second swing today, when my friends L & A were in town. L is a tea lover, so I knew she would like the range of brews on offer, but what I really had my eye on was the stottie sandwiches. Disappointingly, my absolute favourite wasn’t on the menu – last time I was here I had a ‘Geordie rarebit’, made with Newcastle Brown Ale and possibly the most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my life.

This time I had to be satisfied with the cheese and ham toasted stottie without the ham – though since it was bloody delicious, this wasn’t a hardship. L had the lentil and squash salad and pronounced it good, while A went for the falafel stottie, and was equally impressed. (He was also pleased to be introduced to the Geordie word ‘scran’).

Sated, we had a potter around Blackwell’s bookshop and said our farewells, all of us planning to return.

Happy yoga and bus memories

As well as attending a Barre class, I also signed up to do yoga. Although I am in very unbendy condition, this was less of a challenge for me – I might have let myself go, but I have done enough yoga over the years that I can keep up with the basics. Nevertheless, I was drawn to Happy Yoga because their website promised they were good with unbendy people, and it seemed laid back and friendly. My first impressions were reinforced when I had to cancel my first, prepaid class due to the Metro being off (I’m not quite ready to negotiate the buses yet!) and they agreed to transfer my credit to another class.

Foolishly, I booked a class the same day as my Barre class (what was I thinking?) The temptation to cancel was therefore strong – only embarrassment at doing it twice, and knowing that if I didn’t go I would just be sitting alone in my hotel room made me drag my arse along.

The class and teacher were pleasingly chilled, and I felt better for going, but the walk itself threw up some memories. Happy Yoga is (currently – it’s moving in September) in a building off Carliol Square – next to the fabulously named Flat Caps Coffee, which I have earmarked for a return visit.

To walk to it from town, you have to pass Worsick Street. “Where you used to get the buses”, a friend told me, when I asked directions, and while I nodded, faithfully, I only had the haziest of recollections. Had I even ever got the bus? Didn’t I used to just get the Metro?

Until I got there. It’s deserted now: all the old stalls, such as they were, ripped out, the whole place gutted, home to pigeons and rubbish and questionably parked cars. But oh, now, I remember it. Felling Metro is at the bottom of a very steep hill at which I lived at the top – the bus was often an easier (and, at night, safer) option. How many nights did I wait in that queue? Usually alone – most of my friends lived in different parts of town – buzzing with the excitement of a film, a date, or just being young and alive.*

I expect next time I am there it’ll be luxury flats.

*this is obviously sheer romanticism. I was as grumpy as a teen as I am now – even more so, as a mis-prescribed Pill gave me long-term mood swings and issues with depression. (Thanks, doc!) But let me dream, won’t you?

It’s a beautiful town

One thing people often forget about Newcastle is just how lovely it is. The majesty of the bridges, the silver ripples of the Sage. ‘Grey’s quarter’ is an effort to reclaim recognition for some of the most pleasing architecture in the country, and as I was walking back to the Monument from my aunt’s last night, belly full of pizza and heart full of love after many welcome-back hugs, it struck me how lucky I was to be here.

(If you want to check out some, um, much better pictures of the city, I highly recommend checking out my friend Simon Lowe’s photos. He does some gorgeous pics of the North East and surrounding countryside.)

Geek quarter

Heading to see my aunt last night, I wandered along Grainger Street and discovered, to my joy, that what I fondly think of as the Geek Quarter (home of Travelling Man and Forbidden Planet) seems to have expanded since I last visited. A gift shop called Flying Wizard stocks a wealth of Harry Potter merch, alongside Star Wars, Game of Thrones and the like, and a shop/cafe called Geek Retreat is next to it: a venue that hosts games nights. I am tempted to buy a few notebooks, but refrain, promising myself a return visit.