Make and Mend Print Market

Having been to the Make and Mend market in Grainger market at the start of the month, I decided to brave a crowded, sweaty town centre to check out the print edition – and, typically, my ‘I will not spend any money’ promise lasted about 5 minutes in the face of so many gorgeous goodies. Britt Coxon – who designed the cover of my book Bridesmaid Blues – had a stall there, and there was a nice mix of products – everything from tote bags to zines and comics, artwork and postcards. There was also a table where you could try out crafts.

I really wanted one of the embroidered pictures by Rigantona Designs, but I have no wall space (the perils of rented accommodation) so settled for a couple of postcards instead. I was also very taken with Honeycomb Paints, though I can’t show you what I bought as it’s a present.

I could easily have spent more but since I was already over budget, I restrained myself. I’ll definitely be going back, though.

Advertisements

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…

Glasgow jaunt – city centre and Merchant City

This week saw me back in Glasgow for the first time in 6 years. I love Glasgow, it’s a city that will always own a piece of my heart. It’s where I went to university, where I lived, on and off, for almost 10 years – where I studied, worked, loved (and lost). Like Newcastle, it’s a city that has a memory around almost every corner, and coming back after such a long break felt both familiar and strange. At times it felt like I’d never left, at others, memories leapt out as me, vivid as hallucinations, but they felt oddly distant, like clips of a film and I could begin to doubt I’d ever been there at all.Luckily, I still have plenty of friends in the city, and even more with roots there – part of the reason I was visiting was because an old friend was over from Japan, and I managed to catch up with a Brighton friend who was in town for family matters.Day 1 saw me revisiting the shopping delights of Princes Square and Buchanan Street, where I succumbed to the Vivienne Westwood sale (justifying it because there is no longer a Westwood shop in Newcastle – with terrible timing, it closed just as I moved!) and bought the shiniest purse in the world.Having met my friend R for coffee in the station as she waited for her train back to Brighton, I then went for drinks in Tabac in Mitchell Lane with our mutual friend D. It’s a nice if not stellar bar down a lane that has seen better days (even the presence of art gallery The Lighthouse doesn’t stop it from looking a bit run down). The bar gets surprisingly busy – I returned on Thursday to meet a theatre bod I know online, and it quickly became rammed – but is a convenient place for a quick drink.Dinner was with a bunch of old uni friends in a friendly and laid back tapas bar towards the Merchant City part of town, Brutti Campadres, which accommodated a large group of us – all arriving at different times – with good grace and was surprisingly affordable.I was back in that part of town the next day, meeting my friend E for cake and coffee in Singl End, which I have heard very good things about and which didn’t disappoint. We had a drink in Stereo, in Renfield Lane – another slightly scruffy lane not far from the station, and a surprisingly busy bar that strikes me as better enjoyed by night, as the unforgiving early evening light made it look a bit careworn.Slightly more glam were cocktails in The Citizen, based in the old headquarters of the newspaper of the same name. A bar / restaurant that also apparently does a nice line in afternoon teas (in the Editors’ Suite, which name alone makes me want to try it), they did a very tasty espresso martini, while my friend opted for a gin-based Clydeside St Clements. Definitely a place I’d go back to…

Make and Mend Market at Grainger Market

It’s probably decades since I set foot in Grainger Market, but, like so many places in the city, as soon as I did I was hit with that strange mix of nostalgia and unfamiliarity that characterises so much of my experience now I am back home.

So much of it was unchanged: the butchers and fishmongers that made me, a vegetarian teen, so squeamish. The grocers and the clothes shops and the Marks and Spencer stall, commemorating the chain’s market roots. Newcastle Book Exchange, where you used to be able to buy second hand books then return them for credit towards more, which kept me in the science fiction novels I devoured in my youth. (I didn’t check if they still did the scheme: I really can’t buy any more books this month!)

Scorpio Shoes, which specialises in Doc Marten’s, and which I used to fantasise about being cool and rich enough to shop in (I may very well have bought my first docs there, actually, though that memory has faded – all I remember now is how bloody painful they were to break in). (They now also stock Irregular Choice shoes, so a return visit is very much on the cards.)

Scattered among these old stalwarts now are gourmet coffee and tea shops and artisan bakers – the market has become a bit of a foodie destination. There are also vintage clothes stores and game and comic shops, and a variety of indie outlets.

I was there in particular to see the Make and Mend Market. This monthly event (located next to Oliver’s Coffee, if like me you are capable of wandering round for ages looking – the market’s deceptively big. I knew about this because of the involvement of papercraft artist Britt Coxon – who I have mentioned before, mainly because she did the cover of my book The Bridesmaid Blues.

DxBu-VMWwAADxTA

An array of stalls include card and jewellery designers, natural soaps, art and clothes. It’s not massive, but there’s a pleasing variety of quirky work, and the market now runs a monthly Make and Print Market, too. All the makers I spoke to were lovely and friendly and happy to chat – so why not get yourself along?

Meet the Makers at Fenwick’s Food Hall

I have blogged about Fenwick’s Food Hall before, and though I sometimes miss what it was before its super fancy revamp, it remains a parlour of delights. So I should have known I was taking if not my life at least my wallet in my hands when I decided to, ahem, ‘take a short cut’ through only to discover they were running a Meet the Makers event, where you could try the wares of some of the usual stockists – most of whom were local – and meet the people behind the labels. Well, I had to, didn’t I? For research.

North Chocolates

Drawn by the gorgeous packaging, I have been tempted by North Chocolates before. A local brand of small batch gourmet chocolate, made in Newcastle upon Tyne, all of their bars are gluten-free, vegetarian (many vegan) and the cocoa and cocoa butter used are sustainable and ethically sourced. The prices would match what you would expect from that kind of brand – around a fiver a bar – and they do a gorgeously packaged range called Icons, decorated with illustrations of some of the North East’s most recognisable images.

I got chatting to Bev Stephenson, who runs the company, and had a taste of the Milk with Smoked Salt, which I ended up buying, telling myself it’ll make a lovely gift for someone when, let’s be honest, it’ll end up being a gift for Future Me. You can buy the range in Fenwick’s Food Hall, and get more details here.

(Cyberman Angel from the Love of the North, in the Stack or Whitley Bay).

The Winery by Laneberg Wine

Next up was The Winery, where I spoke to Nick Lane, half of the team that run what is billed as Tyneside’s First Urban Winery (his wife Elise being the other half). I tried three of their 2018 wines: a pleasantly dry rose, and two whites: Solaris, an off-dry that was nice but less to my tastes than the Bacchus – which just won a Bronze award in its category, so I’m not alone in my praise. The bottles retail at what you’d expect for an English wine – about the 16-19 quid mark – so unless you are richer than me you won’t be buying them to neck after a bad day at work, but for a more grown up soiree, they would be a nice choice. The rose, especially, might convert those who think of rose as a cringingly sweet drink.

Hexham Gin – The Northumberland Gin Company

Next on my rounds was Peter at the Northumberland Gin company, who offered me a taste of Hexham gin. A nice, dry drink that was pleasant on its own (with a smattering of lemon peel) or with tonic, he also pointed out that those who like sweeter drinks can mix it to Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade to get a pink gin drink that tastes surprisingly like Turkish delight! Retailing at around 30 quid* a bottle – a bargain for small batch gin – this is definitely on my list for next time my gin loving friend T comes to town. (*ish. By this stage, I was starting to blur on prices).

Old Curiosity Gin Club

Also on the gin front, was this Edinburgh-based company which specialises in botanical gins which change colour as you add the tonic! I tried the Rose gin, which was nice but sweeter than I like my spirits, and the Lavender and Echinacea, which was more my speed, and which went from purple to a light pink when the tonic was added. As well as being sold in Fenwick’s, they run a mail order club (now there’s a subscription box I could get behind) and do lovely gift boxes if you are not sure which flavour to choose.

40 Kola

I’m not much of a soft drinks fan anymore – water, coffee or booze is my sacred trifecta – but I’d tasted so much alcohol by this stage I thought a soft drink was a good idea, so stopped off for a try of local cola makers, 40 Kola – two North East lads by the name of Kieran and Dan. A grown up, sophisticated take on cola, this is definitely worth trying. It’s less sweet than commercial brands, but without that ‘glass-of-wet-dirt-with-an-aftertaste-of-worthiness’ that plagues many of the smaller outfits. It’s not something I would personally drink a lot of, but I can imagine a cold glass on a warm day going down very nicely indeed…

Noveltea

The woman at this stand was so lovely I felt bad for not trying it, but I can’t stand the taste of tea. If you don’t share my unBritish aversion, they do a range of drinks that look great.

Hotspur Gin

I didn’t get a chance to try this or really talk to the guy manning the stall, but they do win props for their impressive stand, the gin is made in Alnwick and the bottle is certainly pretty so would make a good gift.

Punchy

I didn’t think to get a picture of these, but worth including because they do a range of drinks that are available with or without alcohol, so would be perfect for a party where you don’t want your non-drinking friends to feel left out.

All of the above are generally available in Fenwick’s – so why not give some smaller makers your support? And a huge thanks to all the makers who took time to talk about their products with me today!

Like how I write about Newcastle? Why don’t you check out my book.

You can also support my writing by buying me a Kofi. Or hiring me to write stuff. Either’s good.

DxBu-VMWwAADxTA

Game of Thrones Urban Decay set

I used to blame my internet shopping habit on evening wine, but since I hardly do that now, it seems that, no, I have got no excuse for my impulsive buys – but some things are so pretty you know you’d kick yourself if you didn’t buy them. One of these things is the new Urban Decay Game of Thrones range. I’ve been lusting after it since I saw it online, but thought it was sold out, so when it came up on my Facebook feed as available, I couldn’t stop myself from clicking.

And, lord, it is gorgeous. Created with real care and lots of lovely details, it’s an eye colour palette with an incredible range of pigment heavy colours, mainly metallic – the range is so good it would be worth the £40 or so price even without the incredible packaging. The pop up Iron Throne stores flat, or you can leave it standing (the make up is in a pull out drawer) and while it’s bulkier than most palettes – you’re not going to slip it into your handbag – it’s actually surprisingly sleek, and comes with a built in mirror.

Of the colours my favourites are the Dothraki and Winterfell – closest to my usual colour scheme – but there are plenty to try. I think I’m in love!

Bonus: if you are as annoyed as many people with the Game of Thrones finale, you get o reenact your own (dragon not included, sadly).

Spacemasks and stationery – a Liberty shopping spree

Liberty of London is one of my favourite places in the world. When I lived in London, I shopped there regularly – which might make me sound like a millionaire, but like any good department store, it actually caters for a range of budgets. I got a half-price Vivienne Westwood dress that I wore to several weddings (which got me lots of compliments along the lines or ‘ooh, that could almost be a Vivienne Westwood’ from people who clearly thought I couldn’t afford the real thing!), my favourite silver shoes that I destroyed on a walk of shame* home in the rain from a very fancy party, and a gorgeous pair of Ash boots that I wore until they fell to bits and had to abandon in a New York hotel room because I knew if I brought them home I’d never throw them away. I’ve got drunk and shopped unwisely at their ‘card holders’ loyalty nights, and found bargains that I have treasured for years. They sell Ren, one of my favourite toiletries brands, and over the years I have bought everything from a glass of champagne to a pair of knickers under its roof. Usually when my plan had been to do nothing but pop in for five minutes to kill some time before meeting people for a drink.

I’ve bought an endless array of presents there – when something comes in that little purple bag, you don’t need to wrap it, which is good cos everything I wrap looks like I did it with my feet – and given into the temptations of its seriously indulgent chocolate department, but the scene of most of my sins has not been the cosmetics department – although that has done a fair amount of damage to my budget over the years – but the stationery store.

Oh, the Liberty stationery store. If my heaven is anywhere, it’s in a giant bookshop with a good coffee shop and cocktail bar attached, and a door to Liberty stationery hall. Not only do they stock their own iconic Liberty notebooks in print or leather covers (the leather ones are a bit above my usual price range, though I have been bought some by generous friends, and they are luxury incarnate), but an excellent and regularly changing stock of other brands. As well as trying some indie brands (one of my favourite ever notebooks was purchased there, and I hung onto it long after it was used up, whcih I normally don’t do, because the brand went defunct and I’ve never managed to replace it.) I’ve bought (and been gifted) a number of Christian Lacroix notebooks over the year, and indulged in Kate Spade cards and journals (weirdly, they have a better selection of these than the actual Kate Spade store, which is down the road on Regent Street).

Since moving away from London, I’ve visited less often. Most of my trips are business or theatre related, so I tend to avoid the bustle of Oxford Circus and Regent Street for less crowded parts of town. But since I was seeing Betrayal on Panton Street – from which Liberty was a mere stroll up Regent Street on a sunny day – I decided I was overdue a trip. I’m so sorry, dear wallet.

Yup, I couldn’t help but indulge. I used the rationale that I’ve been feeling a bit stalled on my book and some nice notebooks might give me a boost, but to be honest that’s just an excuse: I love fancy notebooks, and I don’t mind paying for them. (An unexpected bit of work funded the spree – I figured I wasn’t expecting the money so why not spend it? This explains a lot about my life). I opted for a larger Lacroix (gold, lined paper – gotta be lined!) and a smaller blue metallic one, as it was a colour I hadn’t seen before. The Kate Spade was a cheat: I actually bought the same one in Fenwick’s a while back, and loved it so much I’ve been itching for a reason to buy another.

The cosmetics department didn’t escape my attention either: I bought a couple of boxes of Spacemasks. If you are unfamiliar with these, they are worth checking out: herbal, warming eye masks that are great for unwinding or relaxing, and though they don’t dent my insomnia – nothing does – I have become a bit addicted to them. (I usually, I admit, order them online from Selfridges, where they are slightly cheaper – plus I pay an annual fee so I don’t get charged postage on each order – but fond as I am of Selfridges, it’s never won me over quite like Liberty has, and you have to support the shops you love, right? Right?)

All in all, an expensive afternoon, then – but there are worse vices for a writer to have…

*I pulled – those were the days! – so it was more of a walk of ‘quite pleased with myself, actually’, but the rain did knacker the shoes.