Spider-Man and the Botanist

It was the final day of my friend T’s visit so we decided to have a chill day – she is returning to a packed Edinburgh Fringe schedule. A lazy morning (for me, anyway – she was working on Fringe stuff) was followed by a trip to the Vue in Gateshead to see Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Earlier in the weekend we had watched Into the Spiderverse, which was an utter delight – visually inventive and packed with loads of pleasing comics references and plenty of heart – so I was keen to see how she thought the film compared. Plus I have been dying to try the Vue – since it’s £4.99 a ticket! We both enjoyed it a lot, though I felt a bit like the Marvel Whisperer – having seen it already in Brighton I was on hand to stop patrons leaving before the end scenes, many clearly wondering if Endgame had marked Marvel abandoning their post-credits scenes. (Half the people around me were googling “Far from Home end credits” as the credits themselves were running!)

Afterwards we nipped over the river for a quick drink at The Botanist, as I wanted T to see one of the best interiors in the city, and though I dislike the place when it’s busy – it gets rammed – at 5 on a Sunday it was pretty civilised.

Finally, the night was rounded out by another North East institution: Indian takeaway from Saleem’s, thereby ensuring she returns to Edinburgh full for about a week (as well as being delicious, Saleem’s is not stingy with the portions!)

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Dramatic Cocktails at Lola Jeans

My first time revisiting Lola Jeans in almost a year – and this time I got to try the cocktail that I wanted to try that first visit, but that they had run out of. The Fog on The Tyne features a Newcastle Brown Ale reduction and is delivered in a smoky bell-jar – so looks *very* dramatic. (I was pleased to see it actually just came in a glass, though). My friend had the 5 Shades of Earl Grey, which she also enjoyed (though she envied my glass). I wasn’t keen on their overuse of plastic straws – I think these should always be available, as some people need them, and the ban is ridiculous, but I also think they should be offered, not just supplied with the assumption everyone wants one – but other than that, it was a great stop off for the start of an evening.

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An evening in Ouseburn

My friends L & A were in town this week, so I decided to take them on a mini-tour of Ouseburn as a way of getting out of the city centre heat. We decided to start at Thali Tray, which long-term followers will remember I visited when it first opened in winter. Sensibly they’d switched off the outdoor fire pit, and the courtyard was rammed with diners, but we found a table near the door to get a bit of a breeze.

The food was as good as ever – the menu is limited, but has decent veggie options, and the nan is to die for. They also do a great range of beers, which pleased A, and although our eyes were much bigger than our bellies, which led to some serious over-ordering, we all enjoyed ourselves.

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Then to the Cluny, which on a hot Tuesday night was quite quiet, with most of the drinkers outside. A beer there then we wandered back up to the Tanners Arms, a pub which bills itself as the gateway to Ouseburn and manages to strike the right balance between remaining a proper pub and being part of the increasingly hipsterfied neighbourhood.

Like the Cluny, it’s dog-friendly – and we met a very friendly dog, who basically decided to adopt us for our stay – and pleasingly laid back, with a good range of beers. I was particularly impressed that they’d thought to put suncream on the bar for patrons who might have been tempted to overdo the outdoors in the sunshine. Definitely a place I’d go back.

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Glasgow jaunt – West End

When I lived in Glasgow, it was the West End I called home: over the years I lived in a good half dozen places, ranging from just off Great Western Road to along in a then-pre-gentrified Partick. I studied at Glasgow University, and also worked in the University bookshop, so if any part of the city is etched into my memories, it’s the West End in particular.

Generally that is where I spend most of my visits – in part because that’s where a chunk of my friends live – but this time it was a bit more of a fleeting visit, though enough to encounter that mix of change and stability that is so disorienting.

Still, it’s never a visit to the West End without a mix of eating and shopping, and I did manage that, at least. Lunch one day at the Hyndland Fox, which used to be a Peckham’s, I believe, but now does a very line in breakfasts, and where I indulged my love of a potato scone.

On a different day I also had lunch at Bread Meats Bread – which obviously favours burgers and sandwiches, but which did a very tasty grilled cheese sandwich (which came with FREE CHIPS!), which excited me so much I randomly texted someone a photo of it by accident.

Although I’d blown my shopping budget at Vivienne Westwood, my friend and I did have a mooch around some of the vintage shops on Great Western Road, and Waterstones on Byres Road (a nice addition to the street that wasn’t there in my day), and Papyrus, a stationery and kitchenware store that in my youth seemed impossibly glamourous and expensive, and remains a little treasure trove today.

I did get some serious nostalgia walking past my old flats on Otago Street and Barrington Drive, and seeing some of my old local pubs (particularly Hubbards) so changed, though was glad to see some stalwarts still going strong, not least Caledonia Books – where I bought and sold half my college textbooks – and Ian Mellis cheesemonger, who opened just as I was moving (probably for the best, given my love of cheese and the fact it was just across the road from my house), but whose redolent whiff of cheese hit my like my very own madeleine when we went into the shop…

The Town Mouse Ale House

I’ve spent so much time at Northern Stage recently that I had forgotten there are other places to go in that part of the city. So after our jaunt to the Hancock Gallery, my friend S and I decided to have a bit of a wander. First up was a coffee and a scone at Quilliam Brothers, one of my favourite spots in the city, where S had tea, which enabled me to admire their lovely branded tea cups.

We had planned a bit of a walk but the inclement weather gave me an excuse to try a place I had walked past a few times and been keen on: The Town Mouse. Based minutes away from Haymarket in a basement on St Mary’s Place, it’s surprisingly light and airy for an underground space, aided by quirky but uncluttered decor. (As with so many of the spots round there – my old stamping ground – I spent half my time trying to figure out what it used to be. Veggies restaurant, maybe? I definitely recall there being a basement vegetarian restaurant on that street when I worked at Thorne’s – now Blackwells – as my friend C would sometimes meet me from work and we would have lunch there. The chip shop my friend S and I would pop into on our way home from clubbing before walking back to our flat in Jesmond still seems to be going strong, mind…)

It was surprisingly busy – though not crowded – given it wasn’t even 5pm (but hey, we were there, so who am I to judge). I’m not sure how much I would love it on a Saturday night, but then I rarely love anywhere but my sofa on a Saturday night, so that can’t be held against it. Certainly, on our visit it had much to recommend it.

A charming and friendly barman was happy to let us taste a few things before choosing – and struck just the right note for a pub like this, informed and interested (he patiently answered some of my questions about some of the drinks) without making you feel like a loser if you’re not an expert on rare brews. The stock was impressive (not that I’m an expert!) and it looks like the kind of place where ale aficionados will find plenty to love.

S likes IPA, I prefer lager, so I went for Northern Helles and he had a one of the barman’s recs, and we both enjoyed the place’s laid back afternoon vibe so much we could have happily stayed for more…

Warhol in Edinburgh

As per my previous post, I was in Edinburgh this week. Mainly this was to see a show – Cora Bissett’s excellent What Girls Are Made of – but it also provided a great chance to catch up with friends.

My friend A and her husband moved back to Scotland a few years ago, and I hadn’t seen their new place since, so A & I met for drinks and dinner before the show (an OK-but not-stellar chips and halloumi burger at Red Squirrel, mostly because it was handy for the theatre, though it was a perfectly fine stopping point: friendly staff, very decent selection of veggie options). I stayed the night at their gorgeous house, which gave me major home envy: my room (just one of their guest rooms!) had an en suite, and the whole place was just so lovely and elegantly fitted out, I am now planning to secretly move in and see how long till they notice (it’s a big house – could be a while)…

A and I stayed up chatting till the early hours, so I admit I was more than a little hungover when I went back into town the next day to meet my friend D, through from Glasgow. Still, we didn’t let that deter us from taking in some culture, and decided to head to the Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art.

It’s been years since I have been – I’ve never even set foot in Modern Two – but we started there, keen to see I want to be a machine, an exhibition of Andy Warhol and Eduardo Paolozzi pieces that included many of the famous Warhol prints and movie posters. I’m less familiar with Paolozzi, but his work was a fascinating counterpoint, and the exhibit is well laid out across five rooms, with plenty of explanation as to what’s what and why it matters. It’s also free, which is always a bonus.

NOW at Modern One was more of a mixed bag. A selection of works by Monster Chetwynd, Henry Coombes, Moyna Flannigan, Betye Saar, and Wael Shawky, it covered most of the ground floor, and some bits took me more than others, though as again it was free, I was happy to have a mooch.

D and I then had lunch and a wander, before he had to head back to Glasgow, so before my evening train I met A again for a few drinks in a pub off the Royal Mile (we powered bravely through our hangovers). The pub had a sign on the bar that said ‘those that drink langest live langest’ and at this rate A and I will be around till our 80s…

Holy Moly and the Crackers at the Cluny

Despite the fact that I was still feeling super shonky, dragged my sorry ass off the sofa for a gig last night and as usual, ended up glad I made the effort. After dinner at The Ship (where I tried their ‘fish’ and chips again, in the hope of finding it a little more exciting than last time, and still thought it was a little bland, so lesson learned) L and I went to see Holy Moly and the Crackers at their sold out Cluny gig.

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Since L is the gig maven – most of the bands I have seen so far since moving back have been at her suggestion – it was nice that this time it was my idea, and luckily the band didn’t let me down, putting on an absolutely barnstorming performance. They really are a great act live – personable, energetic and with a real connection to the crowd.

I also couldn’t help being a little pleased that the tour – named after their new album, Take a Bite, had some merch that was pretty much designed for me, so while I usually never buy merch at gigs, I thought this lip balm would make a nice prop for my bookstagram posts. So that’s almost like a work expense, right?*

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*Dear HMRC: I have not charged this as a work expense.