Kith and Kin

Another stop on my Metro Challenge today: Monkseaton to see my friend S, for a much belated catch up. We went for brunch to Kith and Kin, a lovely little cafe on the main drag a few munutes from the Metro that he had been to on a previous visit and I was keen to try again. The veggie options are great, the coffee good and the service friendly – and they passed the Tracey Test for brunch by doing my egg just how I asked…

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The Biscuit Factory

Went for a birthday brunch to The Factory Kitchen at the Biscuit Factory, in the newly revitalised Ouseburn. I have been to the gallery before, and liked it, but never eaten at any of the eateries. The Factory Kitchen is, I think, the most affordable, and I will definitely be going back: the grilled cheese sandwich was one of the best I have ever had, and my companion was equally taken with her eggs Benedict. The only downside was it was so filling that even after we took a break to walk around the art and enjoy a pop up jewellery shop (the main gallery also sells some lustworthy pieces), we were still so full that her plan to buy me a slice of cake was thwarted and we had to settle for another coffee instead…

You are here (so are they)

It’s been an odd day today. I blogged over at Dark Dates about how my birthdays are always a bit melancholy, and my weekend has been frustrating due to laptop issues – which always set off a spiral of insecurities about work and money, old triggers that I haven’t quite shake off.

But today also reminded me of one of the reasons I moved. My birthday isn’t till tomorrow, but two different friends popped round with presents (flowers, champagne and notebooks – spot the theme?). One gave me a lift to the supermarket, and as I was coming out of Asda I bumped into some family members who gave me a lift home and also popped in. It sounds like a trivial thing – and it is – but it really made me appreciate the small, and not so small, benefits of being back, of now being in “I’ll just pop round” distance of people I previously saw once every couple of years.

Anyway, it certainly brightened an otherwise frustrating day…

Where We Began – Live Theatre

Home is obviously a subject that has been preying on my mind a lot lately. So I was interested to see Where We Began at Live Theatre the other night, a play made by ‘sanctuary theatre’ Stand and Be Counted. Since returning to Newcastle, I have already been to Live twice and it shows every sign of becoming one of my favourite venues – a welcoming ambience, and a really strong, interesting programme of shows.

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This was my first time in the studio, a compact space for smaller shows, and I admit my night started in a slight grump as my plus one got stranded by Metro cancellations, then my mood not helped by the woman who rocked in two seconds before the start with a party of six and asked me to move seats to make room (hey, lady, if it’s that important your group sit together – maybe don’t wait till everyone else is seated before turning up?) (Yes, yes, I am aware it takes a special kind of privilege to come to a show about immigrants being displaced and being annoyed you have to move from one whole row to another. I’m sure she had a good reason, don’t be so judgemental, blah blah…)

Once started though, the show itself really moved me. A dystopian look at the logical consequences of the hostile environment – why not send ‘em all back? – it was part inspired by the real-life trials of one of the performers, young Londoner Tafadzwa Muchenje, whose life is currently on hold as he seeks the same permanent leave to remain that his family has been given (a family that only came here because we wanted his father’s skills. Not that this country would ever invite people here then screw them over, oh no.). At one stage, he was standing right next to me as he told his story, and it was almost uncomfortably intense (it’s frowned upon to leap from your seat and give the performers a big hug, but lord, I was tempted), and when Greek-born Zoe Katsilerou kept saying, ‘my soul is in Glasgow’ it was all I could do not to join in and yell, “mine too!”

For all my First World Grumbles (even as I type this, I am in the middle of a tantrum about my laptop being slow), I am a lucky person. While I have lived in plenty of places, it’s always been by choice – or, at least, desire. Moving for a man or a job or a dream, some of which worked out, some of which didn’t. I still think of several of those places as ‘home’. Glasgow, where I studied, have friends, and built a big chunk of who I am, has a hold on me that time doesn’t seem to lessen, and the hooks that London gets under your skin are never quite prised free. And though if some post-Brexit diktat decided we all had to stick within the borders of our hometown – because if you are going to adhere grimly to country lines, why not narrow it down still further? – I would be quite well-served by mine (I have family, friends, familiarity, a flat), it would still break my heart to know there are places I could never go back to, whole swathes of my past life off limits.

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I never, really, expected to come back here. Not for long, not for real. I wanted to experience new places, I wanted the space and the freedom to explore who I was away from my mum’s well-meaning but censuring scrutiny, to know what it felt like to strut unfamiliar streets. I’m still unpicking what it means to return. But Where We Began reminded me how very, very fortunate I am, that the decision was up to me.

Where We Began is touring – you can follow the company on Twitter @SBC_Theatre for more details or check their website 

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Fenwick’s Food Hall

As I mentioned in my post on Mason + Rye, I took a detour through the glory that is Fenwick’s Food Hall today. It’s a gorgeous place – light, airy and with a fantastic selection of breads, cheeses, (and I think meat and fish, if you are into that sort of thing…), drinks and chocolates. The chocolates were particularly tempting, and include a range of local brands.

It was redone quite recently, I think – and I have to say that while the refurb has made it more spacious, brighter and shinier, and opened more spaces where you can eat and drink, which is nice, it has lost some of its charm. The old Food Hall used to be more of an eclectic mix: there were a couple of gondolas dedicated to ‘normal’ groceries, so as well as somewhere you could stock up on fancies, there was a decent selection of basics, and a lively queue of old ladies who happily seemed to do their weekly shop there. (I often wonder what happens to these old dears when places like this get all gentrified, and it makes me sad that the cost of ‘progress’ is to push away the folk who have been loyally patronising somewhere for years. I’m looking at you, Red Roaster, Brighton.)

Still, it remains a lovely place, and should I ever want to fritter my rent on artisanal sweets and posh gin – and you know there’s a high possibility of that – I know just where I can go.

Mason + Rye

It occurs to me that while this blog is likely going to be good at fulfilling its main purpose of preventing me getting stuck in a rut – my friends are already sick of me suggesting we go to new places ‘for the blog’ – it might also end up being very expensive.

Take today, for instance. Planning to pick up a cheap supermarket lunch on the way back from barre class, I made a minor detour through Fenwick’s Food Hall (which deserves – and will get – its own post). While there – for your sake, dear reader, not my own – I decided to make a pit stop of one of its fancy cafes, Mason + Rye.

A light, airy space with an array of savouries and sweets and a decent if not stellar vegetarian selection, it looked the perfect place to stop for a coffee, so just a coffee was all I planned to get. (While not crazy expensive, at 5 quid for a cheese sandwich, it’s also not super cheap). However, my inner blogger kicked in when I saw the choices included an intriguing nettle cheese and brown ale chutney mini-baguette, and so obviously, I had to try it. (Had I not just come from my barre class’ hour-long brutal contemplation of my thighs, I might have plumped for one of the impressive looking cakes instead.).

Although around 12.30 it wasn’t too rammed (though the lunch hour rush was starting to kick in as I left), and overall I’d say if you are looking for a civilised coffee stop somewhere in your day, there are far worse places to go.