New Moon Party

One of the things I was determined to do when I moved back to Newcastle was get out of my comfort zone more. I loved living in Brighton, but got so comfy in my little Kemptown Village neighbourhood I became a little insular. When you freelance, it’s easy to use money or work as an excuse not to do stuff – something I am very guilty of. And living in a neightbourhood that has all the necessary amenities right on your doorstep (a grocers’, Co-Op, coffee shops, post office, bookshop and beach were all less than 5 minutes walk, and most of my Brighton friends lived a couple of streets away), convenience often wins out over adventure. Why go anywhere, when I had what I needed right here?

So while I grumble about the lack of handy coffee shops – or, indeed, any shops – where I live now, it does at least force me to go further afield on a regular basis. But what good is that if I still stay stuck in my head?

So when my friend L mentioned a retreat she had gone on, and said the person who hosted it was having a ‘new moon’ party, I signed up with no idea what to expect, only a conviction that I wanted to try something different.

I admit, I was dubious. While a massive sucker for self-help books, I fluctuate between thinking anything new agey is bollocks, or that I should be more open-minded. I have also, as I got older and spent more time alone, become a bit more physically prickly, and this all sounded very touchy feely to me. Nobody really hugs me, since my mum died – yes, thank you, I am aware of how very sad that sounds – and I’ve definitely become more physically withdrawn in recent years. (When I went to review The Art of Cuddling at Alphabetti, which ended with a mass audience group hug, I stayed in my seat, claiming critical distance and that my spiky jewellery might snag on someone’s clothes and we’d be there all night, but really because I didn’t want to get that close a bunch of bloody strangers).

(I only realised after this New Moon party that wearing my Alexander McQueen spiked knuckleduster and my sharp fangs ring might not have been a wise thing when there is hugging and hand-holding to be done, but I also wondered if at one level I did it deliberately – a physical excuse to keep people at bay? Maybe I didn’t go in as open-minded as I thought I was.)

Anyway, come the night, scepticism had turned into a desire for active avoidance. The Metros to Tynemouth, where the event was being held, were off, and I had managed to knack up my back in truly ignoble style (um, standing up from the loo – yay for getting old!), so after an exhausting week I was ready to do nothing more challenging than lie on the sofa and binge watch Ghost Whisperer. Luckily, while I am always happy to bail on stuff I am going to alone – even if I have bought tickets, which explains a lot about my finances – with L going I felt I couldn’t drop out, so, rather nervously, I steeled myself to go and get the damn thing done.

Spoiler alert: I’m glad I did. The party was hosted by Alice Allum of The Be Platform in her gorgeous Tyneside home (I had serious house envy), and about 16 women were in attendance. I won’t give away Alice’s secrets – check out the free resources on her website if you are interested – but the night was a mix of talking, singing and chanting (yes, chanting!), with the goal of using the new moon to set intentions for the coming month, and for life.

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It was a fascinating evening. Listening to a group of women talk honestly – and without interruption – about their fears, hopes and insecurities made me realise how rare it is that any of us have space to do that in our lives. The temptation – and social training – is to jump in and offer consolation, reassurance or contradictions, and it was clear that many of us struggled not to do just that  (“You’re not fat! You are great at your job! You are a wonderful person, no need to be insecure…” etc).

There’s also consolation and inspiration to be had from such sharing. Knowing the woman you think looks gorgeous is struggling with self-esteem reminds you not to judge on appearances; hearing someone unapologetically talk about how much they earn is inspiring if you are feeling bad about putting up your prices. Whatever your take on the more ‘new agey’ aspects, there’s undeniable power just putting a bunch of women in a room and letting them be themselves.

Alice was a charming host, far more down to earth than I thought she would be (she’s not above some well-placed swearing, which I do like in a woman), and the fellow guests were lovely. I was especially grateful for the solicitude of my neighbours, who took pity on my knackered back and kept me well supplied with glasses of water rather than me having to constantly get up!

I left feeling inspired and positive. If nothing else, I got to spend an evening with some great women, and did something new, which I think is a valuable thing in itself. As for the rest of it? I’ll take any bonuses I get!

[I didn’t take any pictures – wanting to be in the moment rather than trying to capture it and all that – but as one of my intentions was to be bolder in owning my talent, I shall sign off with a plug for my books instead…! So…]

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Wonderland at Northern Stage

Another theatre trip this week, to a play I have been dying to see – Beth Steel’s mining drama, Wonderland. This is the third ‘heavy industry’ play I have seen at Northern Stage – the others being The Last Ship and The Last Seam: you can guess the theme from the title.

Wonderland covers much the same ground: the miners’ strike, and the effect it had on its community. It took me a while to get into it – the first half was overlong – but it grew into a piece of real power, and I’m glad I got a chance to see it.

Read my full review here.

Sex at the Tyneside

OK that’s a flashy headline for actually a not very exciting blog! Having seen RBG, the excellent documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at the Tyneside, I found myself back in the very same screen to see the film based on her early career, On the Basis of Sex. 

It’s a charming and insightful film, with a raft of great performances – the leads Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer are real stand outs, the latter simply oozing charm while Jones captures the nervy energy of RBG well – and is very good at illuminating the fact that even so-called progressives often didn’t take ‘women’s issues’ seriously.

Worth your time.

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Beeronomy

It’s been a crazy busy couple of weeks so was very much looking forward to some quality unwinding with my pal M last night, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Not only did the evening kick off well when I bumped into my friend S in Fenwick’s Food Hall – where I was buying a cheeky Galentines treat – and we had a quick coffee and catch up – but M and I tried the recently opened (apparently!) Beeronomy.

I’ve walked past it a couple of times – one of the entrances is opposite the Tyneside – and been keen to try it. Although the food menu is a little lacking for veggies (very grill heavy and the chips aren’t vegetarian, which scuppered any plans to eat there), the staff were friendly and the cocktails good.

There was a two for one offer so I started with my first ever pornstar martini (glad I tried it, but too sweet for me and I am a bit squeamish about seeds – they look like alien teeth to me* – so I didn’t love it, though I could get used to my drinks coming with a prosecco shot). I also had an espresso martini, which was much more to my taste.

For dinner we went to Cote Brasserie again – drawn by their good veggie choices – then drinks at the Tyneside, making use of my membership! All in all, just what I needed to unwind…

* yes, I am weird

No Miracles Here at Northern Stage

Back at Northern Stage on Friday to see another show. I admit I wasn’t in the mood for it – a hectic work week had left me drained, which was evident when I arrived to realise I was still wearing my ‘house cardi’ (the shapeless, warm throw I schlepp around in, never to be seen out of doors), and I had completely forgotten what I was supposed to be reviewing, so stood at the box office for a good couple of minutes going, ‘um… a show?’. Then I tried to get in by confidently showing the usher my Metro card, so all in all not my best night for smoothness.

On top of that, my tiredness made me grumpy with the audience – did the man next to me not realise that jiggling your leg when you are on bleacher-style seating makes the who row move, and was making me seasick? (Why are men ALWAYS so unaware of how their behaviour affects others? Would it kill them to be at least a little in tune withe their environment, the way women are trained to be from childhood? But then, why won’t that woman stop talking all the way through the fecking show? Does she think her voice isn’t carrying right to the front of the stage?) How do SO MANY people need to go to the toilet during a show that was barely an hour long?

Despite these inauspicious factors, I was pretty won over by the show itself. A piece of gig-theatre by local group The Letter Room, No Miracles Here could be dark – it’s about someone planning to kill themselves – but ended up being warm, funny and ultimately uplifting. And short enough that I could get home in time to squeeze in an episode of Ghost Whisperer before bed, which is always good.

Two Trips to the Tyneside

Having had my membership for months and barely used it, as is the way of things this week I made two consecutive trips this week, both to see great films.

[Contains spoilers]

If Beale Street Could Talk was first – the exquisite new film by Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins. A powerful, painfully relevant story of black lives with a strong cast (Kiki Lane and Stephan James as the young couple at the story’s centre were both new to me, but it also features standout turns from more established actors such as Regina King, Colman King and – a long-established favourite of mine – Aunjanue Ellis), it’s a gorgeously shot and achingly romantic film, and one that will haunt you long after you’ve seen it.

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A lot more fun, though still tragic in many ways, was Can You Ever Forgive Me? Based on a true story, it’s smartly written with two incredible turns at its centre in Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant (and, to my joy, has appearances by some of my favourite actors, including Jane Curtin, Anna Deveare Smith and Marc Evan Jackson). (For a more detailed review, why not pop over to Caution Spoilers?)

In some ways it was a jarring combination – it’s a little tough to watch a movie about a white woman basically getting away with her crimes the day after a film that shows a black man incarcerated for something he didn’t do – but both are examples of film-making at its finest.

The Ship Inn and Gangstagrass at the Cluny

I seem to split my time fairly evenly these days between the Quayside (Live Theatre) and Ouseburn – and, following Friday’s snowy visit, I returned in mercifully better climes for a gig at the Cluny to see Gangstagrass.

I was going with my friend L of Raven in a Graveyard – and her parents, who are an absolute delight, and way hipper than I will ever be. It’s not often you see a couple of pensioners getting down to a mix of bluegrass and hip hop – not in my life, anyway – but her folks were long time fans, having seen the band in Edinburgh and the US. (They were chatting away like old friends before the gig – I was impressed!).

Dinner first, and we decided to try The Ship, in no small part because of its proximity to the venue. But it’s a place I have been keen to try for ages, but have so far only managed to walk past when it’s stowed. It’s is an old-fashioned pub – dog friendly, good beer, some board games – but has also successfully established itself as a venue for vegan food. I had the ‘fish’ and chips with mushy peas, which was filling, but not amazing: the chips were great, but the ‘fish’ – tofu wrapped in seaweed and then fried in batter – was a little bland, and the peas looked processed rather than marrowfat: L said she’d had better on previous occasions. Her parents fared better with a pie, gravy and chips that they said was great (and certainly looked fantastic). I’d definitely go back, though – a good range of options, really friendly staff (who were great about my nut allergy) and it’s a lovely space – no wonder it gets so busy.

The gig was in Cluny 1 again – the same place I saw Rob Heron. My only knowledge of the band was that they did the Justified theme, but their hard-to-quantify sound – an engaging mix of bluegrass and hip hop – and their fantastic stage presence made for a great gig, and I’m really pleased L suggested it – part of what I wanted to do when I moved was broaden my horizons, and do more than just go to the theatre all the time, and I’m actually doing pretty well on that. I’ll never be as cool as her folks, though…